DACE: Leuciscus leuciscus

Waters: Essentially last running water. Streams, weirpools and gravelly runs; occasionally canals and slow rivers.

Baits: Maggots, casters, hempseed.

Tares, elderberries, bread, freshwater shrimp.

Techniques: Float fishing, leger, feeder-leger.

Small and delicate, the silvery dace is one of the most common of the freshwater fishes. Once known for obvious reasons as the dart. The dace is slim and very swift in its movements. When hooked on line tackle this species puts up a line struggle even though the average weight is no more than6-7oz(170-200g).

In coloration the dace is predominantly silver, with a steely-blue back. The fins are usually a pale yellow, and the caudal, or tailfm, is forked. The dorsal and anal tins are concave. Sometimes an angler brings to the net what he thinks is a specimen dace, only to realise that it is a small chub. Big dace and small chub are very much alike, but the smaller species can be distinguished by the shape of the dorsal and anal fins.

Although dace are sometimes found in deep, slower rivers, they prefer the fast, shallow waters, where they frequent the clear channels between beds of streamer weed. Trout streams hold dace, but they are not encouraged in such waters because they readily take an artificial fly or nymph that has been fly-fished in the hope of catching trout.

Dace swim in shoals which keep together as they chase after food items such as Hying insects and their larval forms, small crustaceans and land insects which fall into the water. A little vegetation, mostly loose pieces of weed, is also eaten.

Dace love the fast, well-aerated waters of a weir stream such as this. These anglers are using float fishing techniques.

The dace is a small fish, but a fighter. The concave edges of the dorsal and anal fins are important identification features.

Because it is a shoaling fish, the dace is a favourite with pleasure anglers and matchmen. An added attraction is that it will often feed in adverse weather and water conditions when other species do not. Helping to keep a flow of fish into the keepnet. The dace has an early spawning period, so it can be fished for throughout the coarse fishing season. Provided the angler fishes his swim correctly and keeps the fish interested by feed. From mid-June, and during the summer months, many big rivers have very little flow, due perhaps to abstraction programmes and other river works. This forces the dace into the middle reaches where they can find a faster flow, which produces a higher oxygen content and. Presumably, carries more food items down each hour.

To catch these fish, use a peacock waggler float, large enough to support two to three AA shots, plus a couple of no. 8 on the line. A 12ft(3.6m)carbon rod with a fixed-spool or closed-face reel, loaded with 2 lb (0.9kg) b.s. Line is ideal. To this add a 1 lb (0.45kg) b.s. Hook length and a size 18 hook.

Since the swim is likely to be in midwater, use a catapult to throw loosefeed maggots out. This is where two sturdy rod rests come in useful, as they keep the rod handle within easy reach as you use the catapult. The golden rule with this kind of fishing style is to fish only as far out as the feeder material can be thrown.

Having cast out continue to feed until bites come, then feed in smaller amounts and at regular intervals. As a guide, use a handful of maggots -about 20 to 30 – with every cast. This will keep the dace interested enough to remain in the swim.

Eventually bites will become infrequent, probably because the dace will be competing with each other for the feeder maggots, ignoring the hookbait. So try sliding the float down the line, to present the hookbait higher in the water. Different depths may have to be tried before you locate the fish again.

Plumb the swim on the line of the ‘crease’. This is where the main river How meets the slacker water, creating a visible line. When you have estabfished the depth, slide the float down so that the hookbait hangs about 6in. (15cm) off the bottom. As before, feed the swim at almost every cast.

On many occasions dace can be caught just by letting the current take the float down the swim. Occasionally it pays to hold the float back slightly making for more direct contact when you strike. By this means better quality fish can be taken.

Dace also feed well when the river is in flood and even when the riverbanks are heavy with snow. At these times the leger style is possibly the best to use. The end tackle can be a small swimfeeder, a standard leger weight or a bomb. When legering, use a 10ft (3m)quiveniprod mounted with a fixed-spool reel loaded with 2 lb (0.9kg) b.s. Line. To this tiea 1lb (0.45kg) b.s. Hooklength fitted with a size 18 or 20 hook.

Even in poor conditions it is best to work the feeder tackle by casting repeatedly to a spot where the feeder will hold bottom on the minimum amount of weight. Bites in these conditions can be hard to detect and even harder to hit, so it pays to be alert and hold the rod at all times.

A fast-flowing stretch of a small, shallow river suits the dace. Float fishing a swim such as this could bring a good catch of fish.

Hold it with one hand on the bun and rest the top joint on the front rod rest. This is comfortable, but also enables you to strike at any movement of the rod tip.

Asa change from a feeder-leger, try a paternoster-type rig with a quick-release swivel. There is no need to change baits, maggot still being the best. Never forget, however, that a bait change can often bring unexpected results.

The great attraction of the dace is that it will feed when other fish are quiet. It is an obliging habit, but it is tempered by their being frustrating when they bite and hard to hook. Despite their small size they are worthy quarry for all anglers.