Bits & Pieces




Did you know that…

Many fish – such as carp, chub and minnow – appear to have no teeth but in fact have teeth in their throats, called pharyngeal teeth.

Lampreys are the most primitive fish in the world.

Fish were the first animals to evolve bony skeletons over 450 million years ago.

Brown trout and sea trout are the same species but it is unclear why some seem to choose to migrate to sea while others stay at home. Some trout appear to leave for sea but then change their minds, and are known as “slob trout”.

Eels only spawn in the Sargasso Sea and then the young fish can take up to 3 years to enter our rivers.

Tench are known colloquially as the Doctor Fish as it was thought that other fish rubbed up against them when injured. The assumption was that the slime of the tench could cure injuries in other fish.

The Environment Agency breeds more than 400,000 coarse fish every year for restocking rivers after pollution or to give nature a helping hand.

Male sticklebacks, like BBC Springwatch’s very own Spineless Simon, build a nest of vegetation to attract females. The males then closely guard the nests until the eggs hatch.

Catfish, a non-native species in UK, has a whopping 27,000 taste buds compared to just 7,000 in humans.

The eel is the only UK freshwater fish that can swim backwards.


Fish Species in the Thames Catchments

Common Bream
Brown Trout
Wels Catfish




Put as many tares as you need in a pan and add twice the amount of water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Lift a few out on a slotted spoon and run them under a cold tap for a few seconds. Give them a squeeze, all of them as one may be cooked but not the rest, to test for softness. You want to be able to NEARLY squash them. If they are not ready first time, keep trying every five minutes. Once they are cooked, remove from the heat and run a cold tap over them to cool them down quickly, or they will continue to cook in their own heat. Once cool, separate into portions and freeze them. Once they thaw out they will be softer as the water they absorb in cooking expands inside the fibres and softens them. Always try and buy good quality, fresh seeds as old seeds may not cook properly.


Waggler Fishing

Strictly speaking a 'waggler' can be any type of float attached bottom-end only. Therefore, it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Because it is attached bottom end only, it flies through the air like a dart and great distances can be achieved. Once this method is mastered, you will have an extremely versatile technique at your disposal, and often produces results when all else fails.
TIP - When casting, the tackle will sometimes land in a heap in the water, causing horrendous tangles, to combat this, just before the float hits the water, gently trap the line coming off the spool with your first finger. The float will slow down, but the hook will carry on past the float, spreading out your tackle in a straight line.

Waggler Types

There are two basic types: straight and bodied, both with or without inserts. They are usually made from peacock quill, sarkandas reed or plastic. They body is made from balsa, cork or plastic. Inserts are made from a thin quill, reed, cane or plastic. The denser the material, the less buoyant it is, and therefore more sensitive when it is shotted correctly. They come in a huge variety of sizes, the trick is to select the right float for the circumstances.

Choosing the right float

There are four considerations to choosing the correct float. They are: Location of the fish, wind strength, water depth and how shy the fish are likely to be. We will look at each of these in turn.

Location of the fish
As a rough guide, if the fish are 3 to 4 rod lengths out, you will need a light-ish float, perhaps taking two or three BB shot. For fish that are further out, a heavier float must be used. If in doubt, err on the heavy side, to make casting less of a strain.

Wind strength
A stronger wind demands a heavier float, especially if the wind is blowing in towards you. Powerful surface drag, and undertow will pull a lighter float out of position. In these circumstances, use a longer float, and using a bodied waggler helps with stability.

Water Depth
Because of the dart-like qualities of the waggler, it tends to penetrate deep into the water. In shallow water this may scare feeding fish out of the area. To combat this, a shorter bodied float can be used to great effect. It will carry as much weight as the longer float, but will not dive as deep.

Fish shyness
If the fish are biting shyly, use a float with a thinner insert this makes the float more sensitive at detecting bites. Insert wagglers are also more useful for fishing 'on-the-drop'.

Attaching a waggler

As already mentioned, wagglers are attached to the line at the bottom only. To aid casting distance and to help prevent tangles when casting, use two thirds of the total weight of shot to lock the float in place. The rest of the weights should be spread down the line and getting lighter nearer to the hook, to help the bait sink slowly and at a steady pace. As each shot comes to rest, you can see the float settle in stages. If the float fails to settle when you expect it to, you will have a bite 'on-the-drop'. The diagram to the left is a typical setup for shy biting canal and small pond fish.

TIP - Use a 'float adapter' to attach wagglers to the line. It is a small tube of silicone, with a small swivel or eye to attach to the line, the waggler is then pushed into it. This makes it far easier to change a float quickly, as conditions change.

TIP - The line between rod and float is best kept below the water surface, out of the wind. To do this, immediately after the cast, place the rod tip under the water, and give the handle on the reel just a couple of very fast turns, this will sink the line. Try soaking your spool of line in a washing-up liquid solution overnight, this will strip any grease of the line, also helping it to sink.



These are the larvae of the 'Greenbottle' and are about half the size of the traditional maggot, being about 6 or 7 mm long. They can be very lively, and when thrown in as free offerings they will quickly bury themselves into the silt. Therefore, they must be fed into the swim often. Do not let them 'sweat' in a closed box for too long, they are masters at escaping as they are able to climb up the sides of a plastic bait box, and wriggle through the ventilation holes. They will find the tiniest space to lie up in and turn into the pupa stage, even the pile of a carpet, (and I am talking through experience here), and in a week or so you will be overrun with flies.


Stick Float Fishing

Stick float fishing is a flowing water method, used on rivers and streams. Pick any swim on a river and it is likely that it is not of uniform depth, speed or direction of current. With a stick float you can present baits at varying depths. You can run it through at the speed of the current, and because the stick float is attached top and bottom ends, you can hold it back hard and it won't go under like a waggler would. It's design enables it to register bites as the bait is sinking, making it an extremely versatile method. 

Stick Float Types and Design

Stick floats, and all running water floats, are designed with the thicker part of the float near the top, and tapers down to the stem. The 'body' of the float is usually made from a very buoyant material such as balsa, and the 'stem' at the bottom is made from a denser material such as cane, lignum, thin wire, alloy or even plastic. It is the combination of buoyant and dense materials that give it stability. There are many different sizes and shapes, and all have slightly different characteristics:- 

Domed Top
Domed top floats have their buoyancy right at the top, making the float less likely to ride out of the water when holding back. They usually have cane or lignum stems.

Pointed Top
Pointed top floats are very sensitive and are good when bites are shy.

Lignum Stabilisers
Lignum stabilisers have a bulge at the bottom of the stem, making them extremely stable. They are easy to cast and ideal for running through at the speed of the flow.

Alloy and wire stemmed
Alloy and wire stemmed stick floats are sensitive and make holding back much easier

Basic Stick Technique
Fishing a stick float correctly is all about presenting your hook bait in a manner acceptable to feeding fish. Whether running through, holding back or fishing on the drop, there are certain things to achieve and others to avoid

Float size As always when selecting a float, never use one that is bigger than you absolutely need. As a guide to correct size use the following:-

3-4ft deep use a 4 no. 4 float
5-8ft deep use a 5 no. 4 float
9-12ft use a 6 or 8 no. 4 float

For swims over 14ft deep, use a different method. The pace of the swim should also affect your choice of float, for faster swims use a heavier float.

Plumbing the depth
You can't use a stick float to run a bait along the bottom unless you know where the bottom is. Accurate plumbing is essential not only for stick float fishing, but for all types of float fishing. 

'Mending' the line
Never let the reel line overtake the float and form a bow in the line, always keep a straight lint to the float. A gently lift and flick of the rod tip should straighten out any bows in the line. If the wind is causing problems with the line, put a no. 6 or a no. 8 back shot about 1ft above the float to sink it out of the way. 

Casting to the fish
Always cast downstream, this will assist greatly in float control. When fish are really feeding, they tend to gather in a small area. Don't waste time trotting your float the full length of your swim, if you know where they are feeding confidently. Casting to the correct area saves time and catches more fish. 


Running through
Running the float through at the speed of the flow is the most natural, though it is not necessarily the easiest way of fishing the stick. It can be very effective in summer when the fish are moving about. The bait should run through just touching the bottom, or only a few inches off, so therefore accurate plumbing is essential. It is a good method for fishing about 15 yards downstream in the main flow. 
Lift and Drop
Sometimes fish can entice fish by making the bait rise and fall as it travels through the swim. Do this by setting your float to the depth of the swim and lightly shotting the bottom 2-6 feet. Checking the progress of the float down the swim every few metres and then letting it run through again causes the bait to rise and fall. How often and for how long you hold it back depends on the flow and the way the fish are feeding. Always experiment until you start to catch regularly. 
On the Drop
Use this method when fish are feeding in mid-water, under your loose feed. Fish this rig off bottom and shot it lightly so that the bait falls slowly through the feed zone. By casting so that the shot lands in a straight line downstream of the float, the bait sinks in a smooth arc. The float gradually rights itself as the shot settle, and is able to register a fish intercepting the bait on the drop. 
Holding Back
When the water temperature is low constant holding back often scores. By setting the float 6-18 inches over depth, and inching it through the swim you can steer the bait straight to the fish. You may only need to fish one or two rod lengths out. A centrepin reel is ideal for this, though it takes a little practice to master. 


Feeding is not separate from, but a major part of the stick float technique. It is extremely important to get it right.
The aim is to keep the fish interested and feeding in the position you want them. Feed too much and you may fill the fish up or make them chase the feed downstream. Too little and they may move upstream to an angler who is feeding more bait.
Always feed downstream about 6-10 feet, and feeding 15-20 maggots or casters twice each cast, a steady trickle of bait can be kept going through the swim. This can encourage the fish (especially roach) to move up in the water where you can get them on the drop. The windier the conditions, the more they may be inclined to come up. Don't be put off if it looks choppy. If you are getting plenty of bites and fish, increase the rate of feed. If bites are few then cut down the amount of feed, but keep up the feed rate. Always keep feeding, even if it is only 6 maggots every other cast, or the fish you do have there will leave.
When choosing a line on which to trot a stick float, always make sure you can cast to it comfortably and feed accurately. Roach have a tendency to hang just off the feed line, so every so often, try running the float just beyond the feed line. If this proves successful, carry on feeding the original line, do not start feeding further out, you will only push the roach beyond casting range. 




Pole Fishing


Pole fishing has now become very popular. A long pole is used and the short length of line is fixed directly to the end of the rod without the need for a reel or rod rings. The float tackle is often very small and sensitive, it is fished very close to the top of pole. This makes it easier for the angler to strike a very small bite indications, since he is in almost direct contact with the bait. Because of the stiffness of the pole, shock absorber of a fine elastic is usually fitted between the pole and line so that, on striking, the line does not snap, and provides a buffering effect when a large fish takes. Poles can be in almost any length from about six meters up to 16 meters. These days, they are usually made from carbon fibre, but some short poles are still made of fibreglass. There are two basic types of pole: put-in and put-over. All this basically means is that a put-in pole has tip sections to slot inside the next section down the pole, a put-over pole is the other way round. WARNING: Always be aware of your surroundings when using carbon fibber poles, making sure there are no overhead electrical wires in the vicinity.


The elastic "shock-absorber" is available in different grades from about number 2 (the lightest) up to about number 20 (the strongest), and must be balanced to the line being used. The elastic must be of a slightly higher breaking strain than the line. For example, there is little point using a 1.5lb BS line with a number 8 elastic, the line would snap before the elastic would do it's work if a big fish takes. A better balance would be a number 2 or 3 elastic with this line. The elastic is threaded through the top 2, 3 or even 4 sections of the pole, depending on the rigs being used, and the size of fish expected. The elastic is held inside the pole sections by a bung at the larger end, and a "stonfo" connector out of the tip. The stonfo has a small hook and sleeve to which the end tackle is attached. The correct tension in the elastic is essential. Too little tension and the elastic will be left dangling out of the pole tip after your first fish. Too much tension and you will bump fish off the hook and the pole tip will be doing all the work instead of the elastic. Tension is applied at the bung end, simple by winding a little of the elastic around the plastic hooks on the bung.  

TIP - Buy as many top sets for your pole as you can afford, and have a different elastic set up in each one, to cover all eventualities.


Pole floats are usually very much smaller, and more sensitive than other floats such as wagglers. Usually, they are made from balsa, with a very fine nylon or plastic insert. If they are shotted to as low down as possible, with just the fine bristle showing so that the tiniest bites will pull them under. They can come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.


End tackle, or rigs, are carried on ready made-up plastic winders to save time and trouble on the bank. They can be bought already made up on winders for something like 3 pounds, or you can make your own up. It is very likely that lines can drop as low as half a pound BS and hook sizes as small as size 22. Weights can also be so tiny for the angler needs very good eyesight in order to see the split through which the line is run. These weights are usually cylindrical with a long split running the full length and are called "styls".  

TIP - to avoid confusion, tackle winders can be purchased in various colours so that a code may be devised by the individual, allowing him to select or replace end tackle of equal balance immediately. 




Cheese paste (Recipe From Keith Arthur)

  1. Crumble your Danish Blue and pour on a very small amount of hot water and mash until you get a thick creamy consistency.
  2. Then add liquidized breadcrumb and mix thoroughly to form a putty-like feel. You can add colour or flavour at the cream stage if you like, some add horrible fishy smells, Mature Lobster and the like, if not nothing will be fine.
  3. Roll into a ball and wrap in foil, then cling film, then a plastic bag, then a box, you don't want it to escape!
  4. Leave in the airing cupboard for 48 hours, put it in your tackle box and leave it. When you need it, unwrap at arm's length and you will see it has formed a life of its own. There will be a brown/green mould on the outside and the paste itself will be a very pleasing pus colour.
  5. Mould a Big lump (cherry size) around a leger stop on a hair below a size 6 minimum hook, tied to 6lb minimum line no more than 4 ins from a lead that will not move in the flow. Heave it and leave it.
  6. Each cast should last at least 30 mins, longer if you are brave enough. If there is a chub within 20m of your bait at any time during the day, you will catch it.



Pole Rigs

Want your rigs all the same length without guessing or measuring. Then use the table below for an easy way of making your rigs up at home by using the winder only. Most winders will have the length embossed in mm on them. 

  Rig Length
Winder Length mm   5m 4m 3m 2.5m 2m 1.5m 1m
220 Turns--> 23 18 14 11 9 7 5
200 25 20 15 12 10 8 5
180 28 22 17 14 11 8 6
160 31 25 19 16 12 9 6
140 36 28 21 18 14 11 7
120 41 33 25 21 17 13 8





Maggots are a very popular and traditional bait, they can be bought in many different varieties. It is also fairly cheap, about £3.00 a pint. 
It is important to buy fresh maggots, they will last longer and have a dark 'feed' spot clearly visible.

Maggots are the larvae of the Bluebottle and are the largest of the 'true' maggots, they are about 10 to 12 mm long. There are probably more fish caught on maggots than any other bait. What fish could resist a large juicy maggot, wriggling enticingly on the bottom of a pond or lake? Maggots can be bought in different colours, white, orange or 'bronze', yellow and red. Red maggots appear to be particularly effective for perch and bottom feeders such as bream and tench.
Hooking - All of the types of maggot are hooked in the same way, they have a fat end and a pointed end. At the fat end, there is a fleshy lobe of skin, the hook should be just nicked through this. Don't use too big a hook, otherwise the maggot will burst.

Maggots can be made to float, pour just enough water to cover the bottom of a plastic container, and let a dozen or so maggots crawl around in it for about 10 minutes. They will start to take in air so that they will float. Do not put too much water to cover the maggots or they will drown.




Whips are short poles, going from 2 metres up to about 6 metres in length. They usually have telescopic sections, which means that they are fished at full length and cannot be broken down when landing fish. Therefore the rig length must be just short of the length of whip being used. This is to allow for the weight of fish being swung in, because the tip will bend, adding extra length. This method of fishing is a speed method, usually directed at lots of small fish which can be swung straight into your hand. Generally, there is no elastic used and the end tackle is connected straight to the tip.  




Jelly Pellets

We've all heard about them, so how do you make them! Expanders are good, but you spend more time re-baiting than fishing. This is where Jelly pellets come in. They stay on the hook better so you spend more time fishing. Below is a step by step how to make them.

Dissolve a pack of jelly in boiling water into a cup. Strawberry and Orange are good flavours.

Half fill the pellet pump with expander pellets.

Pour the dissolved jelly into the pump while the water is hot

The jelly water should cover the pellets.

Pump and release the pellet pump until all the pellets have sunk.

After a couple of minutes pour out the excess liquid back into the cup.

Line a container with a paper towel and pour the pellets into the container.

Seal the container and refrigerate overnight.

You now have the perfect Jelly Pellets.

Use the excess liquid for different size pellets.




Casters are the pupae of the Bluebottle, the skin of the maggot goes hard and forms a shell. As the age of the caster increases, so does the colour, from light beige to an orange to a reddish brown, and finally to a dark brown. Casters are best used up to and including the reddish brown stage, after that they become "floaters", although in the right circumstances even these can be useful. For example, to catch rudd off the surface, but beware, the wind will carry your free offerings away, and the fish with them. Casters are a particular favourite of the tench, but is also particularly good at sorting out the better roach too.
Hooking - Use a small enough hook to be buried inside the shell of the caster, and push the point of the hook out through the side, so the point is not masked at all.



These are the smallest maggot used for fishing, being about 4 or 5 mm long. They do not wriggle as much as the maggots above, and because of this, are mainly used as an attractant or a groundbait. They tend to lie on the bottom, and move about very slowly. Squatts too are escape artists, and must never be allowed to get damp.