Our popular general coarse fishing blogger, Colin Mitchell, is back exclusively for the Angler's Mail website - asking why are the river banks so empty? Is river fishing dead?

SOMETHING is wrong with the art of angling!

Despite poles and rods made with space-age technology, accessories that are also out-of-this-world and baits that quite simply the best-ever, fishing is not quite right…

Puzzled! Well here is why…some of the important skills of angling appear to be getting lost forever. Not only is this very sad it’s also a tragedy that will impact on future generations of anglers.

Many anglers realise that river fishing is now a poor second or third choice to commercials and stillwaters.

But are you aware of just how little fishing is being done on some flowing waters?

Few anglers of all kinds on rivers

Most days and weekends there are vast sections of the lower Thames – and possibly the upper river too – where you will find very few anglers.

It’s not because there are no fish, far from it in many areas where there are numbers of specimens both big and small. And from what I am told this situation is repeated on many rivers across the country.

I’d just put it down to newcomers and young anglers being weaned onto commercials. Wrong! One veteran angler who I have always looked up to recently told me that he hadn’t fished flowing water for ‘years’. I think he meant more than five years too…I was shocked.

This is a match angler with a big pedigree who has won competitions on different types of venues with many methods. Now he is hooked on commercial carp fishing. He looked at me in disbelief when I said I was going to fish a club match on canal.

Goodiford action-3

Of course loads of anglers have switched to bag up lakes.

I also bumped into a ‘younger’ angler in the tackle shop who has probably been fishing around 15 years, mostly on the match scene. Now here’s an even bigger shock for you – he had NEVER fished a river.

That’s right, someone I would call a pretty experienced angler who had not dangled a line in flowing water. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good angler at what he does. But I reckon if you moved him off the four or five venues he visits regularly he will be lost.

In the not too distant past good match and pleasure anglers could fish anywhere and catch fish. Species and type of venue didn’t matter to them – they still caught. I think it’s getting to the stage where this will no longer happen.

It’s all about the walks

Also in the local tackle shop was an older angler who had bought a handful of stick floats (these are things you fish on your line in running water!) and he was waxing lyrical about a stretch of local river. Good on you!

I won’t mention where he was fishing because he deserves these spots to himself having put in a bit of work – and walks!

And there’s the rub. Walks! Very few anglers will now walk very far for their fishing. I was always taught that the longer walks usually meant the better pegs – the ones that didn’t get as much pressure.

Ibsley sunset-3

Has the sun set on walking to far off river swims?

I don’t know the answer to getting anglers out of their comfort zones and fishing a variety of venues. I don’t know if anyone actually cares that some waters are never fished.

But I think that by restricting yourself to a handful of venues you miss out on enjoying the full benefits of angling, appreciating different surroundings, watercraft, a variety of species and learning new tricks.

Skills learnt on any venue can often translate across to another water, even if you have to tweak them a little.

Carp are in rivers too, you know

Carp have of course taken a lot of the ‘blame’ for the slump in other avenues of our sport. Many big fish and match anglers have almost become obsessed with the species, almost to the point of wearing blinkers to other fish.

I find it sad that some of these guys look on other species as ‘vermin’ even if they land something like a massive bream, tench of barbel. Well let’s open up a new door to all of the carp anglers who are not in the know…BIG carp don’t just live in stillwaters!

There are many monster carp in a lot of rivers. There is a list here on the Angler’s Mail website detailing a load of quality river carp venues (click here).

BHM Thames river carp copy

A big Thames carp for Guru tackle man Ben Hervey-Murray.

I know some anglers who target the big carp of the Thames. Not easy fish to catch but imagine landing a 20, 30 or even a 40 from Old Father!

Smiling in disbelief? Well believe me I know fish of that size – and potentially bigger – do live in the Thames and I have seen pictures of some of them. And recently I’ve been told or seen double-figure bream and massive roach from the river.

You may remember last year how a monster catfish was landed from the lower reaches. So just what hidden secrets does the Thames and other flowing waters hold? You can find out the answer yourself…

Blog The Master

CAUGHT a big fish from a river, lake or canal? Email pictures to: anglersmail@timeinc.com and you could star in Angler’s Mail magazine. Be sure to read the mag each week for top tips, latest hotspots and more!

  • bankside treedecorator

    I fish rivers almost exclusively when the season is open but my main problem is that it’s unclear who owns which stretch of water. Rivers are often far away also. Not only this but a few big clubs own huge stretches of river and I know for a fact that not only do they hold the rights to 1 bank but also get the opposite bank and stop fishing on that side to make it more ‘exclusive’ for their members. There are many problems with river fishing and it isn’t just down to a lack of want from customers. The industry and so called reputable fishing clubs need to sort themselves out. Stop the self interest. Start publicising. Split up the bigger organisations or allowed day tickets.