Dan O’Neill reports on his latest foray to the River Barrow:

Recent weather has been from wet to cold and from cold to wet, so planning trips was made a little more difficult, but we managed. Sitting under the brolly at the edge of the River Barrow, watching the float while searching for a nice roach sounded like just the ticket. Being under a brolly, the weather could do whatever it liked while I had some nice stew and a cup of tea. There is something about float fishing that really excites me. Perhaps it takes me back to childhood watching a waggler as it slowly made its way down a seam and then gently dipped down to indicate someone was home. Lifting into the indication resulting in some flashes of silver and the mighty red eye coming to the net.

Recently, Anthony and I have been fishing canals mostly. Anthony has now become quite the predator hunter. I usually target roach, dace and the odd perch when Anthony is not looking. Practice is also a lot of what I do with the fly rod using just a piece of wool. I am very happy to be a part of nature and just to be out. When I was younger, my Dad would say the same thing to passersby – “I’m just glad to be out in the air”. Sometimes, it made me frown a little as I took this business of fishing very seriously as an 8-year-old fully fledged extreme angler; how innocent! I now spend most of my time looking at how little I know and how much I must learn.

So, the mighty R. Barrow it was for some canal fishing. I was recently sent some of the Cadence range of coarse rods designed by the man who made my first fishing rod, Mr. Des Taylor. Very excited to try these out for some silvers and perhaps some perch. As we packed our equipment for the day, I went to mix some groundbait. The mix I use this time of year is very simple, and remember, in the winter, less is more; just keep them interested.

3 cups full of soaked layers pellets (Available in pet shops, made by red mills)

1 cup of fine soil or sand (added weight and camouflage)

Half a cup of chopped worms (keep them to half a centimetre in length)

This mix can be doubled if you need more; I use this much and very lightly feed the area. I usually roll it into golf ball sized balls and gradually introduce it. The river you fish may require more so its trial and error, see how the fish react. For our younger anglers, please don’t use Mum or Dad’s favourite coffee cup and be careful with the scissors. Even better, get them to chop the worms for you. Of course, for our older anglers, don’t use your husband’s or wife’s favourite cup either; not a good idea (speaking from experience).

When we arrived, a few fish were showing along the canal, so we knew they were there. I began by putting in 4 rounds of ground bait and then setting up the float rod. Anthony, of course, went straight for the fly rod, setting that up for perch today, so I was banned from fishing for them. Feeling the fish may be a little wary and slow to take, I took my worm sections out of the ground bait mix for hookbait. I passed the ground bait 4 or 5 times before I had an enquiry which I missed, typical. I did, however, hit the next enquiry, which was a nice roach about palm size. Anthony went up a little from where I was fishing and began to cast for perch. He was using the Cadence 10ft 5wt with a floating line, 8ft di5 Poly leader and 3ft of fluorocarbon. Of course, we were pretending to be a small fish fry about 4-5cm. I had quite a few roach with some dace, too. Nothing very big, mostly all palm-sized fish, with the odd one a little larger. Anthony hit some nice perch, again nothing huge, mostly 20-25cm. The real reward for him was that it was on the fly which is becoming his newfound love. I recently received his wishlist of species for 2024, which includes a bass and a wrasse; any help would be much appreciated, anybody!!

We had a lovely stew with tea and a brownie for dessert before heading into the evening, which was slightly quieter, with only a few fish to the net with nothing larger than palm size. Superb day and like most journeys a learning curve for us both.

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