JAMES ROBBINS fished his heart out on the recent RiverFest Final on the River Wye at Hereford, finishing a creditable 20th overall from the two fairly mediocre pegs that he drew over the weekend. On the second day, the river was carrying 10 ft of floodwater and James knew the only way to fish was by using pole feeder. “It’s a devastating method when river fishing in floodwater conditions, as you can fish effectively when many other methods fail. The Shakespeare Superteam use it to great effect on the many river winter leagues when the rivers are in flood,” James explained. “Using a pole feeder means that you can concentrate your bait and feed very efficiently in powerful and turbulent swims. You can place your rig accurately on the edge of the swim and hold it in position far longer than when using a standard feeder on a running line. And being so direct, you do hit more bites overall, too. “It really helps to ensure that you are fishing in a clear spot in the swim as well, and the regular, accurate feeding maximises the chances of catching, and indeed building a weight of fish. On the Sunday of the RiverFest final, I think I surprised a lot of people with what I caught. You can see the size of some of the roach in the catch picture – close to 2 lb, some of them!” James recounted as he settled into his swim on the River Wye near the old railway bridge at Belmont.
FISH THE CREASE 12:00 Due to work commitments, James only has a limited time to demonstrate the method today. “I’ve got a feeling I should have gone to peg 92, one above where I drew on RiverFest. However, locals have advised me to try here, so I will give it a go as it has form for producing decent catches of roach under these conditions. “When fishing in floodwater, my main priority is to try to place the feeder on the crease between the slacker water and more powerful flow. This is where I think the fish will be holding up, to escape the powerful water. It’s quite close-in really, but it makes sense for a fish to hold up in slacker water, so as not to waste precious energy. We can take advantage of this behaviour with this simple approach. “On the RiverFest final, this crease was only at five meters, so I fished five meters to-hand. Sometimes it’s necessary to fish further out with a pole if the swim is too shallow or snaggy close in. “However, my golden rule with pole feeder is only to use it when the river is really nasty and when a pole float or feeder simply cannot be fished, due to the excessive flow and turbulence. You could say that it is a method of last resort, but it certainly pays to try it!” James comments as he sets up.
START LARGE 12:10 It’s important to ensure that you have a good selection of purpose-designed pole feeders in different weights and sizes. “The feeder needs to be heavy enough to hold in position with the line held directly to the pole tip above it. I normally start with a big feeder and change to a smaller one or even a flat lead later in the session if the fishing is really hard. “These feeders have a round weight on the end. They’re attached to your rig via a loop and a swivel. The feeder sits flush on the bed of the river,” James explains.
KEEP FEEDING 12:15 “It’s important to keep feeding by re-filling the feeder at least every 3-4 minutes. This ensures that a steady stream of bait is introduced into the swim and this will hopefully attract and hold feeding fish long enough to catch them,” James suggests. “The groundbait needs to be fairly heavy and coarse, this means that most of it will get to the bottom with the feeder and disperse from the feeder easily. Also, the coarseness will ensure that it won’t be washed away easily, out of the swim. “I like to use Sensas Grilled Hemp and River, mixed 50/50. I don’t riddle it, as I think the lumps help keep it in the swim for longer. I have the same theory with the loosefeed included in the groundbait. I usually feed only big segments of worms with the groundbait. I don’t chop the worms up finely,” James adds.
LOBS FOR FLOODWATER 12:30 “Worms are a well-proven bait when fishing flooded rivers. The fish seem to feed actively on them, and the smell from chopped worms is a powerful attractant, something that is important when the river is heavily coloured “I like to chop my worms and add them to the groundbait only just before I introduce it through the feeder, rather than chop a load up then add it each cast. I think this maximises the smell, and also means that I can regulate what I’m feeding each cast. Sometimes I up the amount of chopped worms; sometimes I up the amount of groundbait. I only feed groundbait if I am missing bites. “My hook bait is nearly always half a lobworm on a size 8 hook; it’s a positive method, and anything worth catching in a flood will eat a lobworm! I’ve caught roach, chub, bream and barbel on this method,” James indicates.
POLE FEEDER PLACING 12:35 James demonstrates the steps involved in the process of fishing pole feeder: 1. He loads the feeder and lowers it gently but purposely directly below the pole tip. 2. If it is necessary to ship out to reach the desired spot, he hooks the feeder over a cable tie on the pole until it’s out over the correct spot. 3. James likes to set the rig so that the tip is only about 6 in. above the water. 4. He will then hold the line fairly tight from the pole tip down to the feeder. “I prefer to hold the pole rather than use a rest or bump bar. This means that I can feel the bites better and also sometimes distinguish between bites and leaves or weed hitting the line. I think it also makes me more active and more willing to lift and lower the feeder off the bottom by a few inches when I’m waiting for a bite,” James adds.
PATERNOSTER RIG 13:40 It has taken a while, but James is now getting bites and tempting a few small perch and roach. “I’ve experimented with different rigs over time, but prefer a simple paternoster. I think it gives the fish some slack line to take the bait without feeling anything, then hook themselves against the weight of the feeder. “I use strong main line, such as 0.26 mm Mach XT, with at least a 0.20 mm hook length. Hooks are Gamakatsu’s LS 2210s, which are very strong and sharp with a wide gape, but not too heavy in the wire gauge – perfect for fishing with worms! “As with all feeder fishing, I will experiment with the length of the hook length, but seldom fish it over 4 ft long, though sometimes it’s as short as 1 ft,” James recommends.
BONUS PERCH 14:10 James has had some snag-ups on the feeder, which have proved annoying and cost him fishing time. “I am beginning to think that I should have followed my instinct and gone back to peg 92 or 93! However, I will soldier on!” he announces defiantly. His persistence soon pays off, and he is rewarded with a fine perch close to 2 lb – a typical lobworm-loving creature. “That just shows the kind of bonus fish that this method can secure. It’s worth lots of points in a team match when everyone is scratching for bleak, for example!”
PLASTIC FLOAT TIP INDICATOR 15:00 Time is moving on quickly, and James adds a few medium-sized fish to his net. “Typically, I use a short section of Black Hydro elastic through the tip section of my pole only.
You don’t want too much elastic or soft elastic, as you will end up ‘playing’ the heavier pole feeders in the flow! I like to set my elastic so that a small amount – four inches – will protrude from the pole tip. This seems to cushion the power of the water and any debris that may hit the line. Also, it can show up bites.“I like to add a plastic float tip to the main line to act as an additional indicator, and to set the rig so that it is holding just in the water or slightly above it.
If I think the water is really turbulent and the hook bait is not keeping on or near the river bed, I place a No.4, six inches from the hook bait,” James recommends.