Prolonged dry weather usually means low water levels but you’d be mistaken in expecting poor returns. Even in drought conditions fish have to eat to survive and locating them in summer may be easier than you think. to spend a few minutes studying the water’s surface. Look for dark areas between streamer weed beds – natural haunts of chub and barbel. They also shoal downstream of fords in the shallow, well-oxygenated water where the river breaks over stones.
Where the surface is slow the water is deeper and here you’ll find the bream shoals, roach or big barbel. Weirpools are a prime spot for the more
Do your homework Decide before leaving the house what species you want to fish for and choose your venue, tackle and bait accordingly. For example, it is unnecessary to carry a bag of groundbait over a long distance if roach are the quarry. Deep or shallow? Even when the water is low there are still deep and shallow pegs. Should you prefer an easy day of catching bream then head for the deeper areas -where low water summer bream shoal tightly. If chub or barbel are your target then make for the runs or rapids of such rivers as the middle Severn or the Teme. A golden rule when faced with an unknown stretch of river for the first time is robust species on any low summer river. Barbel, pike, chub, perch and carp too all inhabit the pools — which are invariably cooler and contain more oxygen than other parts of the river.
You can catch barbel from right under the weir sill. Legered luncheon meat or a couple of pieces of sweetcorn on the hook can soon put a bend in the rod. Pike and perch hide in slacker water at the edges waiting for an easy meal. A small deadbait is a good bet -although perch chomp at fly spoons quite voraciously too.
Chub are shoal fish which live out of the rush of the sill but where the waters are still fast. A thumbnail sized piece of bread on a size 6 hook suspended under a balsa float is as good as anything. Summertime is best for river bream and if the water is low so much the better – especially if there is a good wind. Bream are a weak, idle fish found well out of the hard flow in the sedate areas of the river. Look for a spot where the river widens slightly for such places are usually the deepest parts. River bream take their time to feed confidently so be patient. A groundbait-filled feeder with either caster or maggot on the hook is the accepted method for taking them, though it is perhaps not quite so enjoyable as a sliding waggler. Chub Low water means less current and therefore less natural food. You’ll often find chub around the margins in deeper parts of the river looking for grubs, insects or worms that have fallen from the bank. They like a roof over their heads too, so overhanging trees are a feature worth trying. Swims where a snag has formed a floating raft of debris are usually a good haunt for chub.
On meandering rivers try a deep run against a high bank. This is where the current carves out mini-caves which the chub love. They aren’t fussy about what they eat – all kinds of baits work – but often chub feed just under the surface and regular feeding with maggots can get them swirling as each pouchful lands. Roach Autumn and winter are traditional times to catch roach but you can still find them in the summer. Roach are nomads and are usually found just about anywhere except perhaps in fast rapids or the main current of a weirpool.
A favourite food of the summer roach is the dark green algae-like growth which lies on the river bed in more steadily flowing parts of the river. While this weed cannot be imitated, it acts as a fish-finding guide. Use fine tackle with seed baits such as hemp and tares as hookbait and feed. Locating barbel on a low river is not too difficult. They are fish which, by nature of their torpedo-like shape, are completely at home in the fastest weirpool rapids. Surprisingly enough, as barbel attain specimen size they become idle, retiring to slower deeper water – usually in the margins. It is interesting to note that where you find barbel in deep bankside swims you always find roach too. Trotting a caster over a bed of hemp under a stickfloat is a skilful and enjoyable method of taking both barbel and roach.
In the middle reaches of the Severn, barbel – much like chub – hide in deep runs between streamer weed or shoal tightly in the intermittent deep holes for which this part of the river is famous. These holes are difficult to detect but if you read the match reports and chat to local tackle dealers you can get to know where the fish are. They are usually at a point where the river deepens before getting shallower quite quickly. The ‘feeder is without doubt the most killing method in such places. Tales of pike attacking keepnets in clear, low water are not uncommon – the obvious reason being that they can see an instant larder of fish. In summer, weirpools are home to the females as they clean up after spawning. Smaller jack pike are found in bays or deeper bankside holes. A slowly retrieved spoon can sometimes tempt fish but a freshly despatched dace – legered or floatfished — is the number one bait.