Fast, clear rivers, like the famous Hampshire Avon, with their strong flows and dense streamer weed, are a challenge for any angler, but the rewards are there in the shape of big fish.
Many anglers are put off by the sheer pace of a fast-flowing river. There is also something of a misconception generally that coarse fish don’t like fast water. The truth is that fast water might deter anglers but it doesn’t bother most coarse fish in the least. After all. they’ve been around long enough to get used to it! Even in a flood, when the riveris belting through, you can see fish rolling on the surface in the fastest mid-stream flow.
The very highest reaches of a river are usually shallow and fairly narrow, and rarely have many features. The water is pure and well oxygenated, and may often harbour brown trout, with perhaps a few-dace and minnows.
Moving downstream, the river deepens and widens, and more features begin to appear. The water is fast and clear, and home to barbel, chub, dace, roach, pike and perch, and sometimes even the odd bream.
Which fish where?
Fish are likely to be found anywhere that offers some form of cover and a supply of food. Under overhanging bushes and trees, in the tails of islands, behind bridge supports, between beds of streamer weed and under sheer banks on the outside of bends are all good for barbel, chub and dace.
Other fish, though not uncomfortable in the main stream, prefer slacker water. Eddies, the insides of bends, and junctions between smaller streams and the main river are good places to look for roach, pike, perch and bream, though pike will hold up in surprisingly fast water so long as it is fairly deep. Bream can provide surprises, too, by showing up in swims more usually associated with barbel, chub and dace.
Once the river has grown to a size where you can no longer see the bottom you have to be able to read the surface signs that indicate where the fish might be.
A flat, smooth surface indicates a fl sand and gravel bed. On summer eveni: and nights especially, barbel and chub mo on to these flats to feed.
Boulders, logs and other large obstruct ions on the river bed can be detected DS turbulence a few yards downstream. ThesdSK can be very productive spots for barbel aneP? chub, which both love snags. But they are often the most difficult places to cast to andf’ often result in lost tackle and fish.
Creases – those lines in the surface flow ‘ where fast current meets slower — are good places for all fish but especially chub, roach and dace. The fish hang just in the slacker water, conserving energy, only darting in and out of the faster flow for food.
The most difficult spots to find are holes or slight depressions in the river bed that show no surface current variation. These very productive places, especially for barbel and chub, can only be found by plumbing.
|Summer||Barbel, chub||Fast water||Freelining; trotting; swimfeedering; rolling leger|
|Autumn||Barbel, chub, dace, pike, perch||Main flow||Trotting; swimfeedering; legering; spinning, livebaiting and deadbaiting for perch and pike|
|Winter||Chub, roach, dace, pike||Slacker water, holes, creases, eddies||Trotting; swimfeedering; legering; laying on; livebaiting and deadbaiting for pike|
|Back end||Barbel, chub, roach, dace, pike,|
|Moving back to faster water pre-spawning||All methods|
Fish move to different parts of the river as the year progresses.
Summer Early and high summer, especially hot, dry spells, see most fish activity in the fastest and therefore most oxygenated runs – especially those thick with streamer weed. Almost no water at this time is too shallow, even for large barbel and chub. Stalking visible fish is often very rewarding at this time of year but requires stealth and care.
Autumn Towards the end of summer and into autumn, when showers begin to swell the liver, barbel start to feed in earnest in the main stream as they sense the approach of winter. Swimfeeder tackle with hemp as feed and hookbait (use six grains on a hair rig) is a particularly good method at this time of year, changing to legered luncheon meat if the water colours up followingalotofrain. Winter This season sees most fish move to slower water to conserve energy, but remember this can often be just a depression in the river bed below a fast surface current.
Barbel and bream are the first to be put off feeding by a fall in temperature, but sport in general is usually poor when the temperature is falling. However, all fish seem to sense when a very cold snap is coming and often feed well to build up their energy reserves just before it arrives. The start of a cold spell is the worst time for fishing, with only the odd chub prepared to feed. After a few days of low, stable temperatures most fish apart from barbel and bream gradually begin to feed again. Back end As soon as water temperatures stait to rise – which can be as early as February – the fish react, and by the back end (the last four weeks or so) of the fishing season until March 15, all species can be on the move and feeding.
Fishing fast rivers
Many anglers are wary of fast rivers, often because their attempts have failed. The commonest mistake is fishing too light.
To present a bait properly in heavy flow demands the use of weight; and to hook, hold and land fish in fast, and often weedy, water takes strong rods, lines and hooks. Fish in fast-flowing rivers don’t have time to inspect a bait but must grab it immediately before it goes past, so you don’t need to use light tackle to tempt bites.
Line strengths should be 5 lb – 8 lb (2.3 -3.6kg) for barbel and chub, and 3 lb (1.4kg) for roach, dace and perch. Hooks should be forged, in sizes from 16 to 4.
For floatfishing use an Avon rod and Avon and balsa floats carrying from 3AAA to 6SSG. Bulk most of the shot nearer the hook than the float .
For legeiing you need an Avon quivertip rod, a range of weights from swan shot to 2oz (57g), and a selection of block-end swimfeeders up to 2oz (57g). A simple sliding rig is best.