HERE, in an exclusive for, twice Angler’s Mail Matchman of the Year Dave Harrell gives you the benefit of his immense river fishing knowledge.

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Dave Harrell, rivers ace, gives his top tips in this Angler's Mail web exclusive.

I love fishing on rivers during the winter months. For me there is nothing more enjoyable than sending a float down the current, seeing it slide away and then striking into a big roach or a chub!

There is nothing worse though, than wasting a day because of a high coloured or freezing cold river.  So, before I set off for my chosen venue I always do a bit of homework in advance to give me the best possible chance of success.


It goes without saying that you don’t want to be travelling to a river that is up and coloured, especially if you’re looking to do some float fishing. Sure, there are days when coloured water get barbel feeding but generally it’s not a good thing for other species. I use the Environment Agency website and have found it to be really useful as I can gauge exactly what is happening to a river in the days and hours leading up to a session.

Another site worth using is Farson Digital which has live webcams positioned on rovers all over the country. To use this one just click on the venues of your choice for up to date pictures of the river condition.

Temperature is a key element in winter fishing and when I used to live by the Severn I took it every day and it wasn’t long before a pattern emerged. For instance, did you know that roach often won’t feed if the temperature drops from say 8c down to 5c? If however, the temperature goes up from 2c to 5c over a few days the roach often feed really well.  At present there are no online temperature readings but hopefully this is something that will come.


The key to success on many of the days in the winter months is getting your feed right. On some days this can mean feeding very little, maybe just a few maggots every run down, so don’t blow your chances by feeding too much too soon. You can always feed more but you cant take it out if it’s a day when the fish aren’t going mad.


There should be no such thing as a favourite float in my opinion. I carry loads of floats with me everywhere I go, as I always want to have the flexibility of being able to change things if a particular rig isn’t working. On some days a strung out shotting pattern can work really well while on other days a bulk and dropper arrangement is best.

Always experiment with the way that the float is travelling down the swim. Sometimes you can catch by just running it through at the speed of the current while on other days you will need to slow it down by holding back.


If there’s one method that can get you a bite when everything else is failing it’s a straight lead arrangement. I keep it simple with a free running rig with just enough weight to hold the bottom and the baits range from a single maggot on a tiny size 22 hook right up to a piece of breadflake or lobworm on a size 6.

If you can get regular bites on maggots on the lead but you’re not getting bites on the float its time to try different float rigs, usually bigger and held back.


On many winter days you will find that the majority of fish feed better as the day goes on and I’ve had many big bags of roach in the last hour or two of daylight. Never just expect to fill your net in the first couple of hours. Wrap up warm, take a big flask with you and keep persevering as you might be surprised at how well the fish feed late on after a slow start!

Dave Harrell