Fishing Rapids and Glides

Two fish-rich features of many rivers, the glassy smoothness of a glide is favoured by chub, roach and barbel, while the turbulent clarity of rapids appeals to big dace and chub

Of all kinds of river swim, glides are probably the most predictable. In the typical glide, the current is medium paced, the depth is uniform, and, just as important, the surface of the water, in wind-free conditions, is silky smooth with no sign of boiling or turbulence. Such swims occur on the slower stretches of faster rivers, like the Kennet, the Dorset Stour, and the Hampshire Avon. In addition, entire stretches of slower rivers such as the middle Thames or the Great Ouse, can be considered as one big glide.

Plant life

Glides come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the dimension of the river in question. Depth can vary between 3ft and 10ft; anything deeper comes into the category of deep hole or run, anything shallower is better described as shallows.

A wide variety of plant and animal life inhabits glides, in turn providing a natural larder for fish. Milfoil, mare’s-tail, starwort, dropwort and water buttercup are common and make the ideal habitat for water insects. Bloodworms, small snails, pea mussels and water lice live in the small quantities of silt which collect around the plant roots.

What fish favour this type of habitat? Well, very few fish do not. Chub, roach and barbel, in par-ticular, regularly frequent glides. In summer, look for a glide close to your own bank that is arched over with bankside undergrowth, trees or bushes – such swims are ideal for fishing natural insect baits, seeds or berries. In winter, big pike lie in slower pockets of water adjacent to the glide, waiting for the roach and picking off peripheral members of a shoal without scattering it. *\

As well as the variety of species, another attraction of glides is the number of fish – especially large ones – you can expect to catch. Whether a glide is in a big or small river, it is likely to be more productive than other smaller pockets of water. These smaller swims are good for the odd fish or two, but glides are natural shoaling areas for most river species and can provide several fish in one session. Fishing a glide on a big river takes time; do not keep shifting from one spot to the next. On small streams, however, you will be able to cover two or three glides in a day’s roving.

Summer study

Even if most of your fishing is done in winter, it is a good idea to study a prospective swim in summer when the water is clearer and you can really get a feel for some of the river’s secrets. On the Dorset Stour, for example, there are many big glides where there is an even flow and depth for 20-30 yards – ideal trotting swims in the winter when the frosts have killed off the weeds. In summer, however, a static or rolling ledger is the best way of presenting bait among weed patches.

On smaller rivers, a glide may be only as big as your dining room table, but may still be an attractive and exciting proposition. A small stretch on the upper Windrush has all the features of a promising small river glide. It is about 8ft long and 4ft wide, while the average surrounding depth is about 3Vfeft. Although fish can be taken on float fished moving bait, light ledgering is often better when seeking bigger specimens in such swims. Constant casting and retrieving do not catch big fish.

As glides are such reliable places for finding good fish, concentrate on them when confronted with a new stretch of water. If you do not know what is in the water, fishing a glide may produce some very pleasant surprises indeed.

Foam-crested rapids

To many anglers, rapids conjure up visions of turbulent, foam-crested waters rushing over large boulders. Good game water perhaps, but hard-318 ly the place for coarse fish which, as a rule, do not like turbulent water.

An exception to this rule are the chub and dace – big ones too – which often lie in very fast, and us.ually shallow, water in summer. To extract fish from swims less than 1ft deep requires a great deal of stealth and tenacity, as the water is in-variably gin-clear. Often it is a case of them seeing you, but you not being able to see them. Obviously, a low profile and a pair of polarized spectacles are important but, even so, there will still be ‘invisible’ chub and barbel, camouflaged against stones or weeds.

Fishing these very fast swims requires one quality above all else – confidence! You can peer into fast gravel or weedy runs until you are blue in the face and not see a trace of a fish (barbel are particularly hard to spot). But keep reassuring yourself – they are there, even if they lie well-hidden.

A recent experience of mine on the Kennet provides a good example. After a few hours fishing a deep swim without a catch, I moved to another stretch that I had looked at on dozens of occasions, but always dismissed as much too fast for barbel. It is a very fast run, about lft deep, flanked by streamer weed on either side and you can count almost every stone on the bottom. The stones look black, but in fact are covered with green algae, which is good fish food.

First of all, out came a little gudgeon (not reputed to live in fast water) then, on my second strike, I turned over an invisible barbel of 6 or 7 lb, only 4ft to my left. Its bright orange pectorals were unmistakable as it shot upstream in front of me.

Quirks of current

The other thing that really surpised me was how little lead was needed to hold bottom – only V-ioz when it looked as if loz at least would be needed. Understanding quirks of current like this is an important facet of reading rapids. In this case the current was pushing downwards onto the line and terminal tackle. Turbulent swims push upwards, requiring more lead – but fish dislike them anyway, so why bother?

Fast shallows on rivers like the Kennet abound with water buttercups, water moss, and dense pond-weed – three different species, although anglers tend to lump them together as ‘streamer weed’. All are full of natural food like freshwater shrimps, small snails, and caddis fly larvae in summer, but the fish can be weaned to take other baits, such as maggots, sweetcorn or even meat. The occasional weed-free depression, run or pocket surrounded by weed will produce fish, particularly at night. Though fish are said to avoid the carbon dioxide produced by weeds at night, practical experience does not seem to bear this out. The leaping and crashing of barbel in the weedbeds along the Kennet shallows, for example, are common night-time sounds.