Having spent more than 12 years now trying to work out how to fish a weirpool, Jeff gives his best advice, for all it’s worth.
It was our member, Deanos – that effervescent, jovial, pie-eating darling pin-up of the Castleford Ladies Bingo Association, who raised a serious question the other day on the forums – how do you fish a weirpool? Most unlike him …..
It sounds like a very simple question that only requires a few words to respond with, but to reply with “Suck it and see.” would seem a little curt so here I have put together the sum of all my wisdom (???) of 12 years of fishing the Marlow weir. N.B. this is a private stretch, by the way, so don’t just go along trying it, please.
Just take a look at our weirpool in full, Marlow has one of the longest weirs (all in one length and over 100 metres) on the Thames. Looks nice and peaceful, but it does have a changing mood and in winter (summer too in recent years) can be a raging torrent. Consequently the fishing is very unpredictable and that’s not only me saying that, but anglers with vastly more experience and talent than I will ever have.
What you must first do is examine the pattern of currents and flows. In the diagrams below, the red arrows mark out the current and general flow, the larger the arrow, the stronger the flow. The green line is our concrete bank. You can see that in a flood things change dramatically and where you could be fishing an upstream method one week, after a more rain, casting to the same place would mean you were fishing downstream even though you still cast up the river, if that makes sense.
Here you see left, the normal summer flows, and right, the typical flows of floods and winter.
It’s at these times when I look for the creases in between the flows where two currents meet. It was on such a day when fishing with Kevin Perkins that I landed the fish in the headline shot. A fluke and one that Kevin will never forgive me for, I’m sure, as he swears it was out of his swim, or I put him in the wrong swim and fished the best one for myself. The truth is, it’s so unpredictable anyone anywhere along that length could have caught that fish that day, it just happens there was only two of us and I did it. He’s always welcome to try again though.
As did Colin (McMad) McHardy on one summers day when he fished to the edge of the weir spillage, if I can call it that. It’s where the flow starts off, but there’s a slack on the nearside. He hooked into a fish and had great fun on his Daiwa Avon Specialist 1¼lbs rod, but when he landed her, it was our dear old friend ‘Topper’ named so because the top of her tail was missing. We were beginning to think she was a regular up in the weir, but I have never seen her since.
A couple of years later and Connor, my step-grandson, caught a 9lbs 7ozs fish from the tail of the spillage, almost 10 yards further downstream from Mc Mad’s capture. This is also a popular spot that many of the visiting anglers aim for. Mind you, Barry Horwood, another of our members, casts right across the tail very often and fishes what he says is a hole on the other side, but I’ve seen him catch and blank there and often he’ll then switch to fishing right under the sill.
Connor's barbel at 9lbs 7ozs caught 15th July 2005
There’s simply no hard and fast rules, they’re enchanting places that make you think really hard about what you’re doing, you might strike lucky, but more often in ours, you can wind up extremely disappointed. So, another job to do before casting a line in anger, is to try and establish depths. You’ve all seen those lovely drawings in the weeklies showing a fish picking up a bait off the flat bottom, which is nice and clean with some little strands of weed here and there.
|Frank in his favoured swim just off the main weir|
Nothing could be further from the truth. If our weir was drained and dried up, the landscape would look like a relief map of the Rocky Mountains complete with forests. In the middle by the sluice gates the depths can vary in just a few metres from 6 to 30 feet deep and 9 feet deep to 24 feet deep, and so it goes on. You can sometimes see the effect of this when the gates are fully opened, the surface of the water is referred to as the Dragon’s Tongue. It’s where the incline on the bottom throws the water into the air and down again ready for the next incline, rather like a big dipper.
|Sluice gates and the wash known as Dragon's Tongue
You have to know where the weir bed rises and where it falls off into the depths along with any sudden holes along the way. In a constant heavy current it only takes a slight rift or a bit of weed to give cover behind it, and a fish can sit there all day and never move a fin, so to speak. These are the places you might like to bait up.
I also believe that our barbel, in summer, make their way up the stream of faster water working their way from side to side searching out every last bit of free offerings you’ve laid down. Barbel aren’t so bothered by any fast flows, in fact once caught, ours just get their heads down and shoot off upstream undeterred by the flow. It’s where my loose feed goes and my hookbait, right into a hole within the faster stream of water.
Not that it does me a lot of good at times. As I said in my post on the thread, you have to expect disappointments and lots of them. If you find the fish one day, you can bet your last pound they’ll have shifted the next. I’ve (and all the other regulars) been wondering where the barbel have gone to since the 2007 summer floods and Roger Wyndham-Barnes (who operates a guiding service with his boat) reckons they’re now well downstream. I'm going down there with my boat this summer.
|A lazy, hazy summer's flow - purfick!
You would think, though, that with all that fresh highly oxygenated water coming off the weir that you’d be able to walk across it on the backs of fish, especially as I say, in summer. In fact, one late evening that thought was mulling over in my mind when Frank came up to see how I was getting along. I was fishing right in the weir spillage and I asked him “How many barbel would you reckon there might be in here right now?”
The last word had barely left my mouth when, coincidentally, I had a bite and struck into a reasonable barbel. It took him no time at all to answer “Well there’s one for certain.” I wish it were like that more often, but not always though, because some of the magic is in having the blanks and trying to work out what to do next. In fact, all the blanks make the fish worth ten times more when you do catch one.
|A stormy autumn night, and a filling river
One year I drove to the fishery and threw in about 4 kilos of large halibut pellets over a wide area in preparation for a weekend assault. I went down on the Saturday around 5 o’clock to top the bait up and met up with Kevin Bristow, another member. He told me he’d caught 7 fish that day all on – guess what? – 14mm halibut pellets! Wow, and next day when I went – not a single bite!
There was one year when I have spent 22 visits there and seen not one barbel, the chub and bream have made up for it to some extent, but they weren’t what I was targeting. This last season has seen me catch no barbel at all and yet it started so well, or seemed to. I was fishing pastes and lobworms and catching chub and perch respectively, as well as the odd eel.
|Another few day's rain and ... overload!|
Mentioning eels reminds me of one occasion when Frank had a barbel and I released it for him in a quieter part of the fishery whilst he had another cast. When I came back he was in again convinced it was another barbel at first, but his hopes soon turned to concern as a good eel of around 4 lbs showed itself. I reached for his net and he yelled “Don’t use that net, use yours!” and like a fool I did, but when I asked him why after, he just said “Look at the state of yours now!” Thanks Frank!
Well, that’s some of the tales, the highs and many of the lows. With the pictures, you've seen the weir in some of it's different moods. After 12 years I still don’t know, but it’s a fabulous place to fish (I have to sort out the tickets for next season now) as are all weirs and I hope we can all go on fishing ours until Kingdom Come, but for the life of me, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully understand it. Weirs are pretty much like a woman, and you never will understand them.
(P.S.: Apologies for the sexist remark, but you get what I mean.)
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