The challenge of fishing weirpools

The combination of rushing water, quiet eddies and swirling undercurrents, which between them are home to numerous species – including barbel, bream and eels – makes weirpools exciting places to fish.

Weirs are man-made structures that regulate river flow. Although they vary from simple walls to complicated designs with several sluice gates, they all have certain features in common. The powerful currents that tear at the river bed create a range of habitats from the boiling cauldron at the outfall to the quiet stretches of water at the sides.

The white water of the outfall is too turbulent for all but the occasional hardy Drown trout, while further on the fast flow is ideally suited to streamlined dace.

By contrast the quieter eddies and Backwaters are the favoured haunts of Drowsing bream and of pike lying in wait to ambush their prey.

Between these extremes, the steady
flows of water play host to a mixed brew of fish, all competing for the food washed into the weir from the main riverway.
Water is always dangerous, but weirpools are especially treacherous places, with their swirling undercurrents, weedbeds and deep basins. The wall of the weir is particularly risky, especially if covered in slippery silkweed.

Diglis Weir on the River Severn in Worcester

Above: An angler prepares to cast a swimfeeder into the basin of Diglis Weir on the River Severn in Worcester, in search of summer barbel and bream. Diglis Weir, which holds large stocks of roach, dace, chub and pike as well, is one of many weirpools around the country that can be fished on a day ticket.

Reading the water

All stretches of water, from a pond to a river, have surface clues that provide a detailed map to the hidden world below. Being able to read the map is part and parcel of catching fish – the better your ‘water craft’ the better your catches will be. The weirpool angler must look at the surface clues held in the current and try to visualize what is going on below.

The bed: you’ll need to know what’s on the weirpool bed to have an idea what sort of fish you can find there. For instance, a fine, soft surface will encourage the bottom-feeding bream, while barbel and roach and known to favour gravel.

Surface boiling indicates boulders o: other large obstructions. The faster th< current, the larger the obstruction on th< weirpool bed. The slowest currents allov sand and mud to be deposited, the fastes only large rocks and boulders.

To find out what’s at the bottom, drag ; leger across the bed to see what it’s made o – sand, gravel, stones or rocks. Plumb the depth to identify runs, ledges and hollows. Undercurrents: you also need a picture of the lower currents. Those on the surface can be misleading, as the slower water belov may move in the opposite direction and an; loose feeding may be well off the mark. clip_image004

Above: This 7½lb (3.4kg) barbel came from the Kennet. Barbel are a favourite quarry of the weirpool angler and a fish that demands strong gear.

The table below lists the fish commonly found in weirpools, together with their likely locations at normal water levels and recommended baits and techniques. The information here applies to a typical weirpool and will, of course, vary from place to place. Remember that in raging floods all fish may seek shelter in the eddies and backwaters.

FishLocationBest techniques
BarbelBasin, tail, run-off, fastish eddiesLegering luncheon meat and lobworms; swimfeedering maggots, casters and hemp; trotting maggots and sweetcorn
BreamBasin, eddies, backwatersSwimfeedering maggots, casters, redworms, breadflake and sweetcorn
ChubBasin, tail, run-off, eddiesTrotting and legering breadflake, luncheon meat, cheese, small deadbaits, lobworms and sweetcorn; floating crust; small spoons, spinners and plugs
DaceRace, tail, run-offTrotting maggots and casters
EelsBasin, eddies, backwatersLegering lobworms and small deadbaits
GraylingTail, run-offTrotting maggots
PerchBasin, tail, eddies, backwatersTrotting and legering lobworms and small fish; small spoons, spinners and plugs
PikeEddies, backwatersSpoons, spinners and plugs; trotting and legering deadbaits
RoachTail, run-off, eddies, backwatersTrotting and legering, breadflake, sweetcorn, maggots and casters; trotting hemp
Brown troutOutfall, race, tail, run-offSmall spoons,
spinners and plugs; roll-legering
lobworms - trout licence needed

Weirs vary in size and complexity of design but all have a number of features in common. Each part of the weirpool has its own type of flow and particular river bed. These determine the kind of fish that live there and the best techniques to use when fishing them .

Use a heavy balsa float with the shot bulked near the hook to beat the surface currents and show if the lower currents are pulling in a different direction.

Fishing the weirpool

Weirpool fish can grow to very large sizes, so don’t use too fine tackle. For example, hooking a large barbel in fast water requires line of about 10 lb (4.5kg) breaking strain, with a strong rod and forged hook to match. Weirpool pike are also tremendous fighters and put their still water cousins to shame.
Lightish gear can be used at the tail and run-off but you’ll be in trouble if your fish sets off up the race.
Reading the leger

Drag a leger across the bottom of the weirpool to determine the nature of the river bed. It will:

  • Bump and jerk across rocks and boulders
  • Grate across stones and gravel
  • Catch occasionally in weed
  • Pass easily across sand and silt
  • Drag heavily but smoothly through mud


Above: The weirpools of the lower Thames are huge. Shown here is Teddington Weir, which marks the upper limit of the tidal river and is host to big shoals of roach, dace and bream.

One of the most productive areas of the weirpool is the tail. Regular feeding here can draw fish from the eddies and basin. These areas usually have a clean gravel bottom, giving you a choice of leger, swimfeeder or float. A great day’s fishing can be had by trotting maggots or sweetcorn during the day then swimfeedering maggots for an hour or two at dusk. All manner of fish can be caught this way. If the current over the tail is turbulent you’ll need a chunky balsa float taking several swan shot. In smoother currents use a stick float.

If you are lucky enough to have the weirpool to yourself you can rove it with a rolling leger and fish from any number of different points. Use a main line of 8 lb (3.5kg) and have 6 lb (2.7kg) and 3 lb (1.4kg) hooklength line with you. Take a range of baits such as lobworms, cheese, luncheon meat, breadflake and sweetcorn. Finally, if you have a selection of leger weights from
3.5 to 42.5g with you, you are set up to catch every type of fish in the pool except pike – and even they will occasionally take lobworms. Bites will vary from the rod-slamming takes of barbel to the gentle plucks of wary chub. Night fishing, if allowed, can be productive – particularly for barbel and eels. Barbel respond to luncheon meat legered in the tail and run-off. A small deadbait legered in an eddy or in the basin may tempt a big eel.

Where to fish: a selection of the best weirpools

The Royalty weirpool on the Hampshire Avon is home to some huge barbel and chub, and produces to heavily fed maggot tactics.

For permits contact the West Hants Water Company, Knapp Mill, Mill Road, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 2LU (Tel. 01202-499 000).

The run-off of the weirpool at Throop on the nearby Dorset Stour has some great gravel runs between streamer weed that are packed with chub and barbel. Permits are available from The Manager, South Lodge, Holdenhurst Village, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 0EF (Tel. 0202- 395 532).

Aldermaston weirpool on the Kennet in Berkshire has some superb roach, dace, barbel and chub fishing. For permits contact the Old Mill, Aldermaston, Berkshire RG7 4LB (Tel. 01734-712365).

The Kings Weir fishery on the Lea in Hertfordshire is famous for big catches of chub and barbel. Season tickets can be obtained by writing to: National Rivers Authority,Thames Region, RO. Box 214, Reading, Berkshire RG1 8HQ.

Diglis Weir in Worcester on the Severn holds good stocks of many species including pike, barbel, chub, dace, bream, roach, trout and salmon. Day tickets are available from Alan’s Tackle

Shop, 26 Malvern Road, St.

John’s, Worcester, WR2 4RU (Tel. 0905-422 107).

• Tewkesbury Weir on the

Severn in Gloucestershire is only open for coarse fishing between October 1 st and

January 2nd due to the salmon season.

Below the lock, however, is the lock cutting which is packed with chub, bream, roach and very big pike.

Barbel tend to stay in the weirpool. Here normal open/ close season times are applicable. Day tickets can be bought from: The

Lockmaster, Upper Lode

Lock, Forthampton,

Gloucestershire, GL19 4RF (Tel. 0684-293138).

• The many weirpools on the Thames are well worth exploring. Smaller upper

Thames weirpools are a delight to fish and contain

many big specimens including barbel, perch and pike. The weirpools on the lower river are massive and contain some huge shoals of fish. On the Thames you can fish all the following 18 weirpools with just one permit: Grafton, Radcot,

Rushey, Shifford, Eynsham,

Sandford, Clifton, Goring,

Shiplake, Marsh,

Hambledon, Hurley, Marlow,

Bray, Bell, Shepperton,

Sunbury and Molesey. For this superb value for money permit, contact the National

Rivers Authority, Thames Region, P.O. Box 214,

Reading, Berkshire RG1 8HQ.

There are many other weirpools dotted throughout England that provide very good fishing.

Indeed, far too many to list here.

Each regional water authority has details on the whereabouts of these and can tell you where to obtain permits and what type of fish you’re likely to catch.


Although there are no barbel or chub in the

Republic of Ireland, the weirpools scattered throughout the country provide excellent fishing for many other species, notably pike, perch, bream and trout.

During the summer and autumn months and in dry spells in winter all areas of a weirpool can usually be fished. In high summer, when the main river is low, weirpool fishing is particularly rewarding. The highly oxygenated water attracts fish from the staler water downstream. In winter floods, however, it is often only eddies and backwaters that are fishable.