Brrrrr minus 6.5c
I am at my best fishing still waters on the pole, tip or waggler and i am still relatively inexperienced at river fishing This being only my second year of attempting to catch on the Irwell.
Whilst its easy on the river to sit behind a quiver tip and feeder i dont find it particularly stimulating and often miss bites as my attention wanders. This business of trotting a swim is all consuming and i am sure its going to take me years to get to a level where i am happy with my degree of competence.
Its so easy in summer to drift your float between the streamer weeds and keep a good flow of loose feed going into the water, sometimes it feels as though the fish are queueing up to be caught.
However, this year i am making a concerted effort to explore more of the River Irwell and fish during all four seasons rather than just the height of summer.
I have now discovered - ITS NOT EASY IN WINTER.
So the best thing to do when you are struggling is go with an expert and sit and watch him build a swim and catch some fish and see how his approach differs from your own.
Thats the reason why i awoke at 5.30am on the coldest morning of the winter so far (minus 6.5c) and drove south past Chester to the River Dee at Farndon to meet with Ray.
Ray has a fantastic fishing brain and a wicked sense of humour.
By the time i turned up at just past 7am, Ray and his friend Dave had already set up and were fishing.It was so cold that the maggots froze solid and the ice had to be cleared from the rod rings after every cast.
The river was about 10 feet deep with a steady pace (no boils or swirlies). Both Ray and Dave were fishing Avon type floats about 10 inches over depth with bulk shot bunched together about 15 inches above the hook. Rays rig was slightly different in that he was using a heavier float and an olivette instead of buched AAA shot, and he also had a number 9 shot dragging the bottom to help him slow the rig down whereas Dave didn't. They both fished about 20 feet out from the bank.Ray was using a 17ft trotting rod whereas Daves rod was only 12/13ft.
Whilst Ray was catching a roach a chuck Dave who was 20 yds upstream wasnt getting a touch.
Dave was feeding loose feed (hemp and red maggots), whereas Ray introduced his feed-hemp, maggot and aniseed and sweetcorn bread crumb based- via a swim feeder (he told me about 5 feeders full at the start of the session and then 2 whenever the bites tail off).
These guys were both so funny, their constant banter and chatter was making me laugh so much i forgot the cold.
Every time Dave loose fed Ray thanked him for feeding his swim.
As the morning progressed only Ray was catching out of the 6 or seven people who were fishing the stretch of river. It was obvious that Ray had either landed on the right peg by luck or had drawn them in by skill. When i asked him, he told me it was his skill - but also that he was a lucky so and so.
Ray was also a kind so and so and invited Dave to come and catch some fish in his swim when it became obvious that Dave was otherwise going to blank.
Dave was getting fish in the same swim, both guys fishing in the same 20yds of river on virtually the same line, Ray still caught at a faster rate the Dave and better quality fish to boot.
With them both in the same swim, it was easy to compare the different styles of bait presentation and why Ray was consistently outfishing Dave - PRESENTATION.
With his longer rod and heavier float he could control his bait in the flow. He could hold back at will and inch the bait down the swim, he could even get his bait stationary if he wished. He could do this as his rod was longer so that the angle of the float to the flow was lighter and therefore didnt swing in towards to near bank as quickly when he was holding back. The heavier float and use of an olivette rather than bunched bulkshot resulted in Rays hookbait not lifting too high off the bottom when he was holding the float back. Dave using a shorter rod and lighter float didn't have the option of holding back as hard as Ken could and this lack of control of the hookbait meant he subsequently caught less fish.
Dont get the wrong idea that Dave is not a good fisherman - he had never fished this water before whereas Ray had, and Ray was also lucky enough to be in the right peg from the start.
As the sun came out and the day slowly warmed up, Ray went on to build a bag of 20lb of beautifully conditioned winter roach, averaging 3 fish to the pound. He also had a couple of chublets, dace and a salmon parr (i think).
I am glad i didnt take any tackle with me as it gave me the opportunity to watch a master at work (Ray runs a Chinese Chippy maybe i could call this post "Master at Wok").
I was back in the office by 1.30pm.
Lesson 1. Fish shoal up in winter and can sometimes be concentrated in very small areas in the river. Mikes winter Irwell reminder - if you dont get a bite within 45 minutes, move to another swim.
Lesson 2. If bites are slow, make changes to depth, shotting and speed of the bait through swim before moving.
Lesson 3. Make sure that loose feed and groundbait is feeding the fish in your swim and not your mates 25yds downstream!
Lesson 4. Use a float that is up to the job. Let your tackle dictate presentation not the strength of the current.
Lesson 5. Dont blame the cold for not catching fish. It was minus 6.5c when i arrived and Ray was catching a roach a chuck.
Lesson 6. Good company keeps you warm.