Do you ever find yourself fishing the same venue everyweek? Maybe because it’s local or maybe because you feel you know it well and it gives you the best chance of a nice net of fish? There are some fantastic venues out there, though, that offer some brilliant sport if only we’d be willing to put in the effort.
The great thing about being a match angler is that quite often it forces you to fish places you otherwise wouldn’t visit. Take today for example, when we’re on the River Thames. It’s around 170 miles from my house and I had to get up really early to be here.
So why have I gone to all this effort? Well the simple reason is to practice for a big match I have on this stretch of river, but as far as I’m concerned practice is just another word for fun! Match fishing is a serious sport, especially with more and more big-money events available to us these days, so sometimes it’s nice to just have a day out without the stress or pressure of a match and just enjoy your surroundings, enjoy the day and hopefully have a bit of fun in the process.
The stretch of river we’ve come to today is at Culham, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, and my first impression is that it looks perfect. The sun is shining, the river has just a touch of colour, the flow is steady but not fast by any stretch of the imagination, and what’s more I can have a paddle in the shallows and get my box set up in the water.
I’m not quite sure what it is with being sat in the river’s edge, but I always feel happier surrounded by water. It’s almost like you’re a bit more secluded and more part of the river than the land; anyway, we’re getting a bit deep and I don’t want to come over all emotional!
With all of my tackle positioned in the water I set my rigs up and have a plumb around the swim. There are no big drops, just a steady slope from the bank to around 11 metres where it becomes pretty flat right out to my limit at 16 metres.
As I want to target some better quality fish today if possible I’m going to fish fairly long. I know there are ‘millions’ of bleak in the area and these will be normally be found closer in, so by fishing further out I’m hoping I may be able to avoid them to some extent.
My main line is going to be at 13 metres. Directly in front of me I’m going to feed groundbait packed with casters and pinkies and I hope to catch roach and skimmers here. Further downstream, still at 13 metres, I’ll pot in a cup of hempseed to lay down a nice bed and then loose feed hemp heavily over this line in the hope of some bigger roach.
Finally, at 16 metres I’m going to fish worms. I think my best chance of a bigger bream is right out in the middle in the main flow and here I’ll feed lobworms and
casters, but rather than use a baitdropper I’m going to mix my worms and casters with molehill soil and cup it in. This helps it get to the bottom before quickly breaking down, releasing the tasty freebies.
The caster and worm mix is added to the groundbait.
I’ve set up a range of rigs today, from a light 0.5g rig with strung shotting for fishing hemp to a 2g rig for worms and maggots. All of my lighter rigs for fishing maggots and hemp are tied using 0.10mm Power Micron to a lighter 0.08mm hooklength. My hook choice is a size 18 Matrix Silver barbed as I’ve found this to be the perfect roach hook for maggots and hemp.
The 0.5g rig, as I mentioned, has strungout shotting while the 0.8g, 1.25g and 2g rigs I’ve also set up carry an olivette and droppers. All of my roach rigs are made up on top four kits and my elastic choice is size 5 Stay Fresh solid elastic.
My heavier worm rig carries a size 6 solid elastic, which should help to tame any bream I hook. The worm rig is 0.14mm to a 0.12mm hooklength and a size 14 Super Match hook. This may seem quite large but it soon gets lost in a big section of a lobworm. As I want to hold my worm hook bait quite still I’ve set up just the one float, and that’s a 2g with a nice visible tip that won’t get dragged under.
I start the session cupping in the bait on all my lines; six balls on the 13m swim plus a cup of hemp downstream and two balls of soil and worms at 16 metres. There does seem quite a bit of boat traffic about today with it being summer and the holiday season, but due to the depth I really don’t think it affects the fishing at all. I actually think it adds to the atmosphere of fishing the Thames, seeing the rowers training and the holiday boats passing.
Starting on a single maggot at 13 metres over my groundbait with a 0.8g rig I ship out and lower it in, and I find that the rig fails to settle thanks to a greedy little bleak. The next I’ve drops all result in the same outcome and I’m forced to reach for my 2g rig to try and get the bait through them as quick as I can. This works occasionally and I find that one out of every three drop ins will make it to the bottom and my reward is usually a small roach or skimmer.
Tiny bleak were a 'problem' early in the session.
This isn’t quite what I was planning and I think the only option is to look to fish either worm or hemp, both baits the bleak aren’t so interested in. As it’s so early in the session I don’t think that the roach will be feeding well enough on the hemp yet so I pick up my worm rig, impale a big lobworm on my size 14 and ship it out to 16 metres.
It doesn’t take long to get my first bite; it’s only a small perch but at least my bait is getting to the bottom, giving me more confidence that a better fish can get to it.
A few smaller perch follow before I hook something that feels slightly bigger. Carefully shipping back I’m delighted to see a skimmer surface and slide into the waiting net. It’s not huge but it’s nice to see a few are about and feeding. Having given my worm swim another hour no more skimmers have shown, despite topping up a couple of times. I decide to feed two more balls and then switch to my hemp line that I’ve been carefully priming for the last 90 minutes.
A single grain of hemp – the roach couldn't resist.
Slipping a grain of hemp on my hook I’m quite excited – the river certainly looks hempy* today! (*Hempy – a non-scientific term used to describe a river that looks bang on!) I’ve picked up my 0.8g rig to get the bait down quickly and then give it a slow fall through the last two feet. First drop and I get an indication before the #oat slips from sight and a nice 4oz roach is netted. It’s certainly a good sign and I just hope there are a few more about.
I actually miss a few bites before I get my next fish and rather frustratingly the bait still isn’t getting to the bottom. I pick up my lighter rig and shallow it up to three feet, slip on a grain of hemp and I soon find the culprits – small 1 to 2oz roach that are grabbing the bait on the way down.
With this in mind I pick up my 2g rig and move my droppers so they’re double droppers, and hope this will help get the bait to the bottom quickly.
This small change makes a massive difference and I’m soon catching a roach every run through, with some quality roach well over 8oz. Due to the amount of small fish I’m feeding really heavily and after just three hours I’m running out of hemp… and I brought two pints!
With my bait supply getting low I spend the last half-hour looking for a bonus bream, but all I can catch are small perch and skimmers. Facing a long drive ahead of me I rather reluctantly pack up. I’ve had a really enjoyable day and it’s been well worth the time and effort travelling down here. Lifting the net out I think I have around 15lb, but as it’s not a match the weight isn’t really important.
The important part of today was to have a nice day’s fishing and I’ve certainly done that; in fact it’s been one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in a long time.
I know we can all be a little lazy at times in our fishing but there are some brilliant, magnificent and simply stunning venues around the country that can all be fished with a pole; it’s just up to us to find them and then enjoy them.
A fantastic net of fish from a fantastic stretch of river.
Like what you see?
Or buy a single issue