In a fairly small area, river confluences provide a range of habitats for various fish. Andy Orme explores them.
The whiff of frankincense and sweat in the bazaars and souks, the barter and baksheesh, the whirling dervishes, nomadic Berbers and houris – Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, is a place of great variety and hubbub. Desert is all around but here the White Nile meets the Blue Nile and the mighty confluence of two waters draws all kinds of people to the relative wealth and security of the city. But it’s not only people who gather at river confluences. Wherever two flowing bodies of water join you nearly always find an underwater wealth of fish.
Nile perch may be few and far between in the suburbs of Khartoum, but in Britain, if you take your tackle down to a river junction, you’ll find perch all right — not to mention a healthy range of other fish besides.
Large rivers join with large rivers, gushing streams enter slow rivers, deep, slow ditches meet chalk streams. Each of these types is subject to fluctuations of character that affect fish movement.
Changes in the speed of the current influence the type of bottom, amount of weed growth and oxygen concentration.
After heavy rain, conditions alter yet again as the flow increases.
There are seasonal changes too. Many fish change their habitat preferences in winter, finding conditions to their liking at the junction of two rivers or streams.
Three types of confluence swims are fairly common: the first is where a fast flow meets a slow one; the second is where a slow ditch-type stream enters a fast-paced river; and the third is where two rivers, which are similar in size and pace, join each other.
The most interesting swims of all are those where a fast flow meets a slow or moderately paced one. This creates great variation in local conditions so many different species of fish can be found within a few metres of each other.
At junctions of this kind a slack often forms below the confluence. The fast water also scours out a deep pool.
The bed of the slack is silt, sand or loose debris and that of the fast pool is likely to be gravel, stone and boulders.
Species preferring slow or still water, such as roach, bream, perch and pike, live in the slack. While nearby in the fast pool chub, barbel, dace and trout abound.
These swims are particularly interesting in the early summer because many fish enter the fast shallow stream to spawn. When the coarse season opens in June plenty of fish remain in the fast water. On hot summer days the well-oxygenated fast water attracts fish from the slow areas of the main river.
Trotting the main pool with maggots or casters can produce a bumper mixed bag of fish. Regular loose feed on the surface and bait fished at a shallow depth picks up chub and dace. Deeper feed and fishing depth may score with barbel. 159 /^COARSE
During high water flood conditions the reverse may be true. While the main river and fast stream turn into raging torrents, the slack created at the junction may be packed with fish. Food settles in the slack and the fish feed avidly. Chub, barbel, roach and bream are particularly likely to be caught at this time.
Leger baits such as luncheon meat, lobworm, bread and Danish Blue cheese for a mixed bag.
In the slow lane
Where a slow, deep ditch enters a faster-paced river you can expect to find predators such as pike and perch waiting to ambush their prey.
If there are no predators to contend with, roach, big chub, bream and even tench and carp may be present.
Such ditches are often overgrown with weed and may contain many snags. Don’t be put off, because the fish love this cover.
If there is some clear water, lure fishing can be great fun. Surface plugs are taken with spectacular ferocity and, if the ditch is a shallow one, a hooked pike or perch bolts all over the place.
Freelined deadbaits dropped into holes in the weed cover score with the predators and may also pick up a big chub. Freelining with lobworms, luncheon meat, bread and Danish Blue cheese can also produce the goods, but if there are snags and heavy weed growth about you may need up to 8 lb (3.6kg) line to cope.
Such ditches are often shallow and so it is vital to creep up to your swim. If necessary sit 3-3.5m (10-12ft) back from the water’s edge with only a few inches of rod tip poking out over the ditch.
In winter flooded ditches are often the very best swims on the fishery. With the main river tanking down, several feet up and carrying masses of flood debris, a ditch often provides a haven for hordes of fish. Even if the ditch water itself is darkly stained with mud, fish pack into it, lying shoulder to shoulder.
Depth doesn’t seem too critical at these times. Only 60cm (2ft) of water may be enough to shelter many fish. In mild weather you can enjoy fantastic roach andbream fishing. In very cold weather you may still pick up some roach, but the chub are a better bet.
Keep some distance from the area you are fishing. This way you can fight and land a hooked fish well away from the shoal and keep swim disturbance to a minimum.
Sometimes in winter, when the main river is high and coloured, the water in ditches remains clear. If you are lucky enough to encounter this, get your pike gear ready immediately – these predators enter the ditch to feed on the shoals of other fish.
If such conditions occur in February or early March you are in with a chance of catching the biggest pike in the river – huge females entering shallow areas in preparation for breeding.
Spit and shelter
Two rivers of similar size and pace often meet to form a spit of fine gravel and sand. This creates an area of sheltered water below the confluence which, in summer, may be heavily weeded.
Such swims are superb for trotting — loose feed maggots, corn or casters regularly into the run bordering the spit. You don’t need to cast very far so a centrepin reel is perfect for the job of controlling the float. Depending on the pace of the current, expect to catch roach, dace, perch, chub and barbel from these swims.
Occasionally a pike occupying the sheltered water may attack your keepnet. Keep a spool of strong line and wire trace handy just in case.