Fishing in River islands and bridges

Most rivers have islands and bridges and you can usually rely on these features for at least one or two fish – but there could be some real bumper catches on the cards. is rare for an island to sit plumb in the middle, so the flow is usually greater on one side than on the other. Even on a fairly slow-flowing river, the increased winter flow scours a channel in the river bed which is deeper than average. This slightly deeper water, combined with any food and cover the island might provide by way of overhanging trees and bushes, is what attracts the fish.

Down the sides Depending on the size of the river and its head of various species, you

Any feature that provides either a source of food or cover is attractive to fish, and bridges and islands are ideal in this respect because they provide both.

Islands and islets

Some islands – such as those found on the lower Thames – are surrounded by deep water and are often only accessible by boat. They may be 200m (220yd) or more long, have their sides shored up with steel and even have a few houses on them. Small islands – such as those found on small rivers like Cheshire’s Dane and North Yorkshire’s Swale – may be only just big enough to stand on and surrounded by water mere inches deep. Some are no more than patches of gravel, while others are rich in vegetation. All islands have one thing in common, though. They split the current and create faster water and slacks. This is what makes them so interesting to anglers. Scouring action As the water passes around each side of an island it speeds up. It could find quite a mixture of fish in a fairly small area.

Deep, slow water tight against an island may hold the occasional carp or bream. Large chub often lie under trees and bushes trailing into the water — waiting for insects to drop. Farther out from the island – where the flow quickens — shoals of roach and dace hang in mid-water waiting to intercept food particles as they pass by. If the main stream is shallow and has streamer weed, then you may find chub and barbel.

Large islands usually have plenty of underwater ambush points from which pike and perch can dart out and seize their prey. If you can’t get on to the island, then try fishing close to it from a boat. A bait dropped among the boughs of overhanging trees or by the side of weed beds may produce an instant response from a specimen. A mid-river pool The downstream end of an island is a particularly interesting spot because this is where a slack forms. If the island is a large one then the slack may be quite considerable – almost like a small pool. The slack water allows silt to build up, which in turn encourages weed growth. This is where river bream shoal – especially in winter when they are seeking relief from the floods. If the water is very still, muddy and weedy you may even find tench.

Big pike are lazy creatures and the slack, weedy waters suit them well. From here they can rush out on unsuspecting roach, dace and bleak and snatch them from the ‘ »r stream with the minimum of effort. At the front Because the prow of an island takes the full force of the current there is little shelter here for fish. But if the current is slow enough to moor a boat, then you may be able to trot a float down from the front to reach fish at the sides. Island tactics You can use an island to your advantage in two ways: either by fishing up to it from a boat or from the river bank to catch fish around the island, or by fishing from the island itself.

On big rivers a boat is ideal. It gives you the freedom to explore the water all around the island, using trotting tackle. If you don’t have access to a boat, then you may have to use the weight of a swimfeeder or a leger to help you cast across to the island from the river bank. Remember to take into account the depth and the flow of the river. In order to put your bait by the side of an island it may be necessary to sit upstream of it.

Access to large islands is limited but if you are lucky enough to find one that you can get on to, you could be in for some fun. The great advantage is that it allows you to float fish virtually anywhere you want. You can trot a stick float or balsa float in the main stream of the river, or fish a light wag-gler in the downstream slack for tench, carp or bream. Small-river islets – perhaps consisting of a patch of gravel in the main stream – also offer this strategic advantage. Often you can wade out to them, and although the water immediately around the island may be too shallow to hold fish, you can usually trot downstream into deeper water for species such as chub, dace, grayling and barbel.

Bridges and buttresses

Whether it flows under the arch of an old stone road bridge or the span of a more recent steel railway bridge, the shady water beneath may well be home to a shoal of large chub or barbel. In so much as they affect the fishing, there are really only two types of bridge – those with buttresses and those without.

Single span arch This type has no buttresses but still provides shade and security. The abutments (supporting ends) of most bridges rest on foundations dug deeply into the river banks and for this reason the water close in is usually quite deep. Submerged debris and a good depth of water close to the abutments make an ideal home for eels, ruffe and perch – worth bearing in mind if you are a match angler scratching for a bite. All bridges tend to constrict and channel the flow, causing it to speed up, and maybe the extra flow and depth created is what draws species like chub and barbel into these areas.

In towns it is a fairly common sight to see people throwing half-eaten sandwiches, kebabs (with a little chili sauce) and the remains of fish and chips into the river. Perhaps this adds to the attraction. In some places it is possible to watch fish feeding from the bridge.

Buttresses or piers Wider spans are usually supported part of the way across by pillars. This usually has a very significant effect on the fishing – a buttress acts on the flow very much in the same way as an island. Sometimes the buttress takes the form of a streamlined pier which affects the flow far less, but if the buttress is a blunt one which deflects the flow, then a good slack often forms on the downstream side. This can be a good spot for eels, big perch and the occasional bream. If there is any weed growth, then there are sure to be pike about too.

Tactics Trotting a stick float or balsa through the arches often works well for chub and barbel. If there is a buttress then you could try casting a waggler tight up to it. If the water is very deep then you might have to use a slider.

Fish the slack behind the buttress with a swimfeeder but keep the rod high so that the flow under the first arch doesn’t catch the line and drag the feeder out of position.