Hadrian’s Wall: Whip Crack Away!

This month we are going to take an in depth look into long whip fishing on the countries big rivers. I have been fortunate enough to of had numerous weights up to 86lbs on the method; fortunate in that I live in the right area and fish the right matches to get in amongst big weights of river Dace, Roach Chub and perch! The method does account for match wins nation-wide however, most notably on venues like the Yare, Trent, Tyne, Severn and the mighty Wye. River whip fishing is completely different ball game to still water whip fishing. On the countries pacier rivers, bait presentation is core to the methods success. On lakes, lochs and canals when we need perfect presentation, we usually opt for a pole and short line approach, where river whip fishing is concerned we can still get perfect presentation as long as the fish will come into range; if not then long pole short line will still outscore it just as it did in last years river fest final on a low clear River Severn at Shrewsbury. Tackle Long Whips As I’m sue most readers will already know I use Daiwa Air and Tournament whips for this style of fishing. The new Air is a slightly improved version of its predecessor, the Airity, which again superseded the Tournament, a whip I started using about 13 years ago. These are both still going strong and I firmly believe that these are the best items of tackle for the job that have ever been made and any argument over price is negated by the whips superb action. Responsiveness is so important for this style of fishing and these whips are also bullet proof! They are top 3 telescopic and the rest is take apart this is really important as its always preferable to be able to take a section off when play large fish which are hooked frequently on my local Wye. Not only that but these whips also came to my rescue in this years world pairs where I was able to use them to short line in conditions that rendered a normal pole unfishable helping me win the Daiwa cup! Elastic For me elasticated whips outscore a flick tip for most of my whip fishing. I have tried many different set ups but now firmly stick with grey or white Hydro through the number 2 of my Air whip. To allow this to run properly I use an old school external PTFEbush. It may not look pretty but function is king and an internal bush reduces the bore too much to allow a hollow elastic to perform properly. I’m often questioned about the choice of hollow elastic over solid - the bottom line is it allows me to set it tight enough to set the hook and swing fish but has a vastly superior fish playing action when hooking large bonus fish. I have caught chub over 6lbs, perch over 3lbs and Roach to 2lbs on this set up I have also landed barbel while pleasure fishing, but have yet to land one in a match! Flick tips Having said this, flick tips do have a place though when fishing shallow where they massively outperform elastic. The whip is lighter and faster which is vital for hitting the lightening fast bites you often get when the fish, especially dace come shallow. Also, large bonus fish are a rarity when fishing shallow so the security of an elasticated set up is not required. Flick tips do have more of a place on small fish dominated venues though so although elastic rules supreme here in the west on the fish packed Wye it maybe that flick tips are better for the venues you are fishing as I’ve said if the fish are small and flow is slow! Floats Whip fishing is a simple positive method and my rig tray reflects this, I use just 3 float patterns yet 80% of my fishing is done using a Sensas alberto float. These are a real gem of a float: the line runs directly through the body of them which sets them apart from the rest. Few anglers realise the difference it makes to striking at lightning fast bites but these floats are so direct I’m able to connect with more bites putting more fish in the net. The margins are so fine these days that what many see as a minor detail can become a major deciding factor at the weigh in! I do cut the tips down though as they are a little on the long side. I also give them a coat of yacht varnish to toughen them up a bit as they can take quite a battering over a 5 hr match! Olivette Rigs On most matches I start with a simple double bulk set up. The shotting comprises of an Olivette and about 8-10 no 8 droppers then 3 number 8’s bulked at the loop to a 125mm or 150mm hook length with the Olivette normally about 25-40cm above that. This rig is often brilliant early on in a match and there have been occasions I’ve used it all day, especially when the fish are on the small side and presentation is not as important as speed. Due to the bulk being so close to the hook, plumbing up carefully is important as this rig is best set between dead depth and 75mm over depth. You’ll often find again especially when the fish are of a smaller stamp many of the bites will be hold ups. On many occasions you will find this rig is great early on, but after an early run of easy fish you start to miss bites or worse still bites dry up. The first thing to do at this point is simply split the three droppers and dependant on the way the fish are feeding, sometimes add a little more depth and just slow the rig up a little more: the change can be quite astounding and I have lost count of the number of times that my peg has exploded back into life after these alterations. Bites now are rarely hold ups and become small dips as the float is inched through over the ground bait. The final alteration to this rig is to tapper the droppers out below the olivette and possibly move it further away from the hook. Sometimes I also add a little more depth and slow the floats passage through the swim a little more. This is a great change late on to pick off larger fish but I wont do it if I’m catching small 1-4 oz fish. You have to read the situation though as the simple changes I’m talking about could all be made in the first hr or on some days delayed until 3 or 4 hrs in. Its about knowing what the options are and bringing them into play at the right time. Its also not unusual however to run through the changes then go back to the original set up. That covers my favourite float and shotting patterns but sometimes an Aberto is just too slim to cope with the pace and boils that you are faced with in these conditions. In this situation, I use the same shotting pattern, but instead use a sensas Danube or if the rig needs slowing right down, a Crallusso Ray flat float. Rays are rarely used with a double bulk, instead I have either 3 droppers or a tapered string of droppers. This is because in the extra flow I’m normally looking to slow the rig down a lot more and fish further over depth which does not work well with a double bulk rig! All these rigs are made up on 0.18mm or 0.20mm Tournament Rig line. Shot Rigs So the other killer rig is a tapered shot rig. All my shot rigs are Albertos made up from 0.4gm up to 2gm. The smaller ones (0.4-0.6g) are for fishing shallow; the rest are fished with tapered shot across the bottom third. This rig is brilliant in slower flows and especially good when your catching well loosfeeding. If the flow allows this rig to fish properly then I will always set one up for later in the match where it can really come into its own. Hooks I’ve tried loads of hooks but have pretty much settled on Drennan Carbon Match in 14’s, 16’s and 18’s and Crallusso 2405 Chika’s from 11’s to 18’s. The Chika’s are brilliant for casters and worm heads while I prefer the carbon match if maggots are the bait. These are all tied to Vespe line from 0.09 to 0.15 Feeding The Groundbait The mix I use has gradually evolved since I started using it back in 1997. It’s become pretty common knowledge now days and consists of 2 parts Sensas Gros Gardons, 2 parts Sensas Super Black Riviere (switched to River in heavy colour), 2 parts crushed and grilled hemp porridge and 4 parts sieved mole hill soil with a medium clay content (too sandy and it won’t bind enough). I never premix this GB the night before as I’m looking to catch lots of fish and while I don’t want a mix that’s too lively, I do want some activity. The science behind the mix is crucial - its not a mix I happened upon because it smells nice; which it does by the way! It’s designed to be fed in small balls every chuck that are quick and easy to squeeze into a hard ball to deliver bait straight to the bottom but then fall apart in 4-8 seconds of hitting the deck. I’m looking at delivering a few casters, grains of hemp, and sometimes bits of worms every chuck straight to the bottom. The fish love all the ingredients in the mix and are usually coughing it up early in the match. To make the grilled hemp porridge, the raw crushed and grilled hemp are soaked overnight in boiling water. This part cooks the hemp and makes it sink. The oils and particle size of the porridge helps the balls explode when they hit the bottom. I’ve tried a tank test without the hemp and it takes up to a minute for the GB to breakdown. The soil is a vital carrier and binder: in fact due to hemp content it’s almost impossible to make a ball of gb before the soil is added! Into the mix I add caster, hemp and worms. Amounts obviously depend on the venue and amounts of fish expected. Lots of anglers add dead maggots or Pinkies but I’ve tried this and found the stamp of fish is generally smaller and I suffer more missed bites. I also have so much confidence not feeding any that I don’t feel the need. I know one of the Wyes best whip anglers Deron Harper feeds lots of live maggot through a very heavy mix which again he has great confidence in and you certainly can’t argue with his results! My usual approach is to feed 4-6 balls at the start, then start plopping in small balls. I’ll gauge how frequently to do this as the match progresses but its usually a ball either every or every other chuck. These balls are only small: about the size of a golf ball The idea is to introduce small amounts of bait to make sure my hook bait does not get overlooked. The only time I will crash in more than 6 balls is in slower flows where I’m not expecting to be able to feed GB again and when I expecting to then loose feed over the top. One reason I don’t hit it too hard initially is I want to catch on this straight away but I will also be topping up from the start. The other reason is if I do hit it hard at the start then I run the risk of running out of GB! I like to give myself the option to re-ball it later on this can work well as can feeding 2 large balls and fishing it out rather than plopping in a little ball every chuck. Its so important to be gauging the response of the fish to your feeding, while people brave enough to watch me may feel I’m just throwing bait everywhere, I’m not as everything is logged and I am always looking to increase both catch rate and stamp. Loose feed On most venues I will at times loose feed over the top of my whip line. Some venues respond well to heavily loose feeding hemp over the top of the swim instead of regular balls of gb. This can be very effective on the Wye if bleak are a problem and it also works really well on the Trent. I usually loose feed maggots however to try and pull fish into the peg. Remember that while I’m focusing on the whip line you will normally have a stick or bolo rig set up to explore further down the swim. Its very common on all venues for the fish to back away off the GB later in the session and a switch to loose feeding an running line is required to keep building a weight. If I’m loose feeding to draw more fish into the swim it will be a couple of large pouches of maggots fed once every 10 or 15 mins. If it looks like the fish are dropping off the GB line and I need to switch to running line then I’ll up this to every run through. Loose feeding obviously comes into its own if the fish come shallow. This happened last year on the Wye when I won the 2 day Festival in February catching 70lbs of mostly dace shallow with over ½ the weight coming in the last 2 hrs. That was not a typical day though as I never had a bite on the deck. A much more common day was when I took 70lbs of all whip caught Dace at Shrewsbury catching on the deck in the first half then as the fish wanted to come up in the water, switched from GB to loosefeed to clatter them late on. On those rare occasions when they come shallow, a constant stream of loosefeed is vital - not too many at a time once or twice a cast! Bait Droppers Using a bait dropper in conjunction with the whip can be deadly. A number of anglers especially on the Trent like to put a carpet of hemp and maggots in through a dropper instead of ground baiting. Again this is not my preferred option but one that has accounted for numerous weights. I do use a dropper to put worms maggots and casters over the top of my GB line though as this is another way of brining the fish back when regular balls of gb are losing their effectiveness. Its also a great way of catching bonus perch and chub too. I will often try the odd dropper of feed to see if it improves either catch rate or stamp - as with many things in fishing you will often get a really positive response first time but may not last. To summarise feeding, just like the rigs its very rare days that you can stick to one pattern all day. Subtle or not so subtle changes are usually required to keep bites coming. Some days no matter what you do bites will fade away but by being proactive with changes and open minded you will greatly increase the days when bites keep coming to the end Presentation This is key to most successful river fishing! Whip fishing is often associated with sacking up on ravenous easy to catch fish, but good presentation is still vital the better the presentation the more bites you will get and the more bites you will hit. There are a few basic rules to ensure you get the best out of your peg. Firstly you need to be able to control your float. That means fishing it either in line or just past the end of the whip as you need to be in full control and direct contact with your float. In very slow flow you can get away with fishing further past your tip but in fast flows you will need to make sure you are fishing in line with your tip. Secondly you need to have control of your rig as it runs over your feed which means you must feed downstream. How much again depends on the flow, but take some time to put you rig through before the start and work out the best point in the swim. At the point you have optimum control on your rig and is where you should feed. While it needs to be downstream, it does want to be quite high to allow you to catch those fish that are hanging off the back of the feed. Also remember you will catch fish above your feed as well! The easiest way to catch is running the float through at the speed of the current and in very slow flows this is often the best way to fish, but in more moderate and pacier swims slowing the rig down is vastly superior. The golden pace is about 2/3rds speed as bites can start to get hard to hit when you slow the bait right up more than this. Its worth starting the match with the rig perfectly shotted, then as you get a feel for how they want it add 1 or 2 no8’s. This will help the rig fish well as its slowed down and also force you to always maintain full control of the rig! In the session this feature was shot, I didn’t realise my rig was overshotted until Dan had a go because I had kept a tight line to the float all through the session! A word of warning with overshotting though as too much and it does become difficult to fish and it’s a good indicator that you need to put a bigger rig on to get the required presentation! Another thing to play with through the match is how you put your rig in. When you want everything to go in and fish as quickly as possible, the rig needs to go in a heap. The float should go in straight on top of your ollivette and everything will go straight down and fish straight away. This is the best way to avoid small fish on the way down and is my favoured way when I’m on a lot of fish. Option two is to lower the rig down into the feed which is great for roach and big perch as they love to watch the bait as it falls through the last 30cm or so. Another option on fast swims is to lay the rig in a straight line “backwards” so with the hook bait is upstream of the float. This will fall in an arc and when you get it right will allow you to slow the float up as the hookbait passes over the feed and comes from behind to in front of the float. Some days this is the only way to get the hook bait fishing for long enough to catch over your feed. If this still isn’t enough time you’ll need to opt for an over shotted round bodied float or a flat float . Striking It might sound odd giving tips on striking but trust me, lots of anglers get this wrong! It is not always possible, but when your on lots of fish, try to leave your rig in if you miss a bite. Your strike need to be fast but short so you hit the float hard but not so much that the rig comes out of the water. Once you master this you’ll be able to give yourself two or three bites at the cherry before running the rig through again. In the last few years this has been really important at Hereford with so many fish present and line bites a real issue. When missed bites are plentiful, being able to master the short jab as I call it, adds lots to your net at the final weigh in! Putting it all together I hope this has given you a good insight into all the nuances of big river whip fishing - the key is to pull them all together. It’s very unusual to fish a whip for the full 5 hrs so the key is when you do it. Line the fish up and you can do an awful lot of damage in short space of time but knowing when to put it down is as important as knowing when to pick it up! You need to constantly think, can I catch quicker? Can I catch bigger fish? Use all the tools in the box to answer these questions! I like to count my fish and watch the clock as this helps me gauge if I am building towards my target weight or if its time to put the whip down and try something else!