Fishing the long pole to hand on rivers

Match star Jan Porter is an acknowledged expert at fishing the long pole to hand on rivers. Here he explains how to get the best out of this highly effective method.

When you are able to draw fish up a river swim on an inside line, swapping your stick float rod for a long pole to hand set-up can greatly improve your catch rate. This is especially true when there is a slight downstream breeze, because the pole allows better float control and, therefore, better bait presentation.

If you have never tried it before, fishing a long pole to hand – fishing with the same length of line as length of pole – is a daunting prospect. However, by working up in stages from, say, 7m (23ft), you soon find it relatively easy to fish comfortably and confidently at 11m (36ft).

Conditions musn’t be windy, however, otherwise you cannot hope to control your tackle properly. When there’s anything more than a breeze, you are better off using a rod and reel set-up.

‘Casting’ poles

When after roach, dace, skimmers and small chub in fairly open water, the ideal pole for long-lining is a fully telescopic one with a fine, soft flick-tip. Fish up to 3lb (1.4kg) or so can be landed with this kind of pole, but it’s really best suited for fish up to about 1 lb (0.45kg).

Such poles are very popular on the Continent (where they are called ‘casting’ poles), but they are very hard to obtain in Britain. They are extremely light and have a lovely soft action that is perfect for casting light float rigs.

Really they are like giant whips, and on days when small fish are feeding on the drop and flashing at the bait, they are the perfect tool. Being so light, they are easy to handle and a joy to use.

Generally you use ½ lb (0.68kg) main line with this type of pole – with, of course, a weaker hooklength, so that if you get broken up on a fish or snag you only lose the hooklength, not the whole rig.

Poles apart

Assuming you can’t get hold of a ‘casting7 pole, you can still successfully fish to hand with a take-apart pole with internal elastic – and because of the elastic, you can use it for fish of all sizes up to around 4lb (1.8kg).

The nature of the swim and the size of fish you expect dictate the strength of elastic to use, and whether to have it running through just the top section of the pole or through the top two sections.

For fish up to 1 lb (0.45kg) or so in fairly open water, use Zim No. 2 or 3 (or their equivalents) through the top section only. For bigger fish – chub, usually – in snaggy swims, use anything from Zim No. 4 to 8 (or equivalents) through the top two sections.

Line strength must balance the elastic. With No. 2 or 3 elastic, l/2lb (0.68kg) main line is not too light. With heavier elastic, use at least 2lb (0.9kg) main line. As ever, always use a hooklength that is weaker than the main line.

The ideal take-apart pole for this method has put-in rather than put-over joints, as such a pole tends to be much slimmer, and therefore more manageable.

Put-in joints don’t locate as smoothly as put-overs, but this doesn’t matter when long-lining because it isn’t necessary for you to unship the pole each time you catch a fish or rebait the hook.

Floats and rigs

Sometimes you can catch on the drop; at other times the fish want the bait near the bottom. To cover both eventualities, set up two rigs: one with an Olivette (accounting for around 75% of the total loading) plus a few droppers; the other with shot or Styls strung out shirt-button fashion.

Usually it pays to fish with the float very slightly overshotted and held back to slow the bait slightly.

Olivette rigs On slow rivers such as the Warwickshire Avon, use 0.5-lg floats with dumpy teardrop-shaped bodies. On faster rivers like the Trent, use 0.5-3g floats with dumpy inverted teardrop-shaped bodies. Shot or Styl rigs On both fast and slow rivers, use 0.5-0.7g floats with elongated rugby ball-shaped bodies.

Pole prowess

It’s very important to be comfortable when fishing a long pole to hand, otherwise you won’t fish effectively. Depending on the nature of your peg, you sometimes feel most comfortable – and fish most effectively -standing rather than sitting.

The biggest mistake you can make is trying to fish too far out. Let’s assume you are fishing 8m (26ft) to hand.

If you try to fish 8m (26ft) out, your float can only run down the swim for a few feet before it starts to arc in towards the bank across the line of feed, presenting the bait unnaturally. It’s much better to fish some 4-5m (13-16ft) out, so you can run the float and bait down the swim in line with the feed for much farther.

Feed them up

In fast rivers it pays to feed slightly upstream, to concentrate the fish about halfway down the swim, within easy reach. In a match, though, don’t feed too far upstream, or you risk losing your fish to the angler on the next peg up! Every now and then, drop the float in upstream too – it’s surprising how often you can pick up a fish in front of you, ahead of the main shoal.

Casting techniques

Telescopic ‘casting1 poles are flexible and relatively easy to cast with. Take-apart poles are much stiffer, which makes them much harder to cast with. Some anglers have even snapped their take-apart poles when trying to cast with them, but this shouldn’t happen to yours as long as you don’t try long-lining with it when it’s windy, and you don’t try to force your rig out with a great ‘whoosh’. method to use with Olivette rigs. The underarm cast is more difficult. It requires a deft flick of the pole at just the right moment to punch the float rig out. This is usually the best technique to use with Styl rigs.

If you cannot master either of these techniques, you can sometimes get away with swinging the rig out sideways.

The overhead cast is easiest. Hold the pole vertically in front of you, wait until the float rig is hanging still, then smoothly push the pole forward so the rig loops out over the water. This is usually the best