Shallow fishing can produce some excellent rewards

Nathan Mallatratt stalking barbel from the River Idle.
Nathan Mallatratt stalking barbel from the River Idle.
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We have a massive network of shallow rivers and backwaters to choose from but these can at first appear a little daunting to the angler so are often overlooked.

Yet they are full of fish and you can have some great sport catching the main species; roach, dace, perch, barbel and chub.

The question is, float or feeder?

In slow moving water you may be able to get away with using a pole or waggler float but more often than not you’ll have to opt for ‘trotting’ a stick float down the swim.

The market is awash with various stick floats but just choose one the right size to suit the flow of the river, depth and your target species.

For silvers such as roach, dace and perch you need to scale things down to a fine-tipped float around 6 No.4, fishing as light as you can but still being able to get your bait down through the flow. Spread your shot evenly down the line ‘shirt button style’.

For faster flowing stretches you’ll need to step up to a bigger stick float or Avon up to 6BB and bulk the shot in the bottom third of the rig to slow the float down, get the bait down and hold it there for the length of the swim. Purpose-built barbel stick floats are now readily available. These have a thick ‘body’ at the top to give the float extra stability when using bigger hooks and baits.

The key to success is to keep a steady stream of bait going down the swim to attract fish up-stream to your hookbait. Literally feed every time you put-in and run your float the full length of the swim to give yourself the best chance.

If you stop getting bites, allow the float to travel until almost out of sight to pick off any shy fish that are hanging back.

Swim feeders are better suited to deeper rivers. You need to feed heavily so have to use a large feeder but the splashes can often spook fish in shallow water. You could use a lighter feeder up to around 1oz but you’ll have to repeatedly cast to get enough bait in. If possible you could feed up by hand and fish over this with a very light feeder.

I prefer to use float methods, which allows you to cover a much larger area and search-out the fish.

Quite often on shallow rivers, fish are easily spooked so you’ll find it more productive to be fishing away from where you’re stood.

If targeting the bigger fish such as barbel and chub, free-lining is a great way to accurately present a larger bait. Simply pinch a couple of SSG shot or rig putty onto your line at least 2ft from the hook. Increase the weight if necessary to allow you to cast far enough to reach areas between weed beds or under over-hanging trees. Even though you can’t see the fish, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, hidden in weed or under features.

If you have the opportunity to pre-bait your swim, this will give you a massive advantage by getting the fish feeding confidently before you offer a hookbait. If not, and the water’s clear, start the session by offering freebies and only offer a hookbait once fish start to feed.

Free-lining is a great roving method. Simply find the fish, get them taking a few free offering and drop your hookbait to them. Keep out of sight of the fish when stalking them. This is one of the most exciting ways to fish.

Best baits

Silvers: maggots or chopped worm fished over hemp or loose-feed maggots.

Barbel: halibut pellets, paste or boilies fished over feed pellets.

Chub: bunches of maggots, lob worm, bread or cheese.

Tight Lines, Alan Dudhill

If you have angling stories or pictures, email our angling expert alan@pikemaster.co.uk or give him a call on 07815 308463.

This column is sponsored by www.retfordangling.co.uk.