With this in mind I had planned during autumn to return to the river Churnet which, being close to my home, can be fished as and when conditions are favourable for the ever challenging roach.

The recovery of this river over recent years has been fantastic, after continuous pollution incidents during the 1980s and early 90s. A good head of fish has grown on throughout the river, backed by several stockings from the Environment Agency. The end result being that a number of club waters, and numerous free stretches, now provide excellent sport on the right day, with both good mixed catches and quality roach and chub fishing. To date however I have to say that my pursuit of the larger roach (any roach in my mind over the 1lb mark is a good fish) has been restricted to a few after-work trips when conditions have been suitable. From these however fish have fallen to both ledger and classic trotting tactics with a couple of pound plus fish showing up alongside quality chub and perch.

Despite many anglers focusing more on the stillwater scene over recent years, the rivers always grab my attention. It's that extra 'something' and the soothing effect moving water has after the hustle and bustle of work. With my own fishing I am free to make the most of better conditions as and when possible, but as I have found recently this is not possible when teaching someone else. Having caught numerous carp, bream and tench with me over the summer, a couple of clients expressed a desire to get to grips with some river fishing and in particular wanted to learn more about trotting, which they had read about in the angling press.

Now recently the rivers have been going up and down constantly, and understandably this has the fish switching on and off (but mostly off ) as the rivers fail to stabilise. Hence the two trips organised were in less-than-perfect conditions for inexperienced anglers, but thankfully this river drops quickly. On each occasion I peeked over the bridge prior to the 'pupils' arriving, levels were reasonable with the prospect of a few fish.

The first critical point when trotting is rod length, the lightness of carbon rods means that you can hold 13 foot float rods for hours without any discomfort, and this sort of length is what is required for good float control. In fact I would consider the use of longer rods up to 16 feet beneficial in aiding presentation of the hook bait. Anything much longer and the response on striking is seriously affected, resulting in too many missed bites. Using these longer river rods helps to hold the float out from the bank, reducing angles between the rod tip and the position of the float. This means that any dragging of the float across the current (due to the action of the current on the line and end tackle) is reduced. It also enables better control at distance when the float has been allowed to travel perhaps 30 meters downstream in the search for a bite. Having allowed the float to travel such distances, the longer rod then picks up the line faster on the strike when the bite does come.

Both Steve and John had previously enjoyed the use of a centerpin whilst float fishing for carp, so they were quite comfortable with casting out using a confident underarm swing and with playing fish. I therefore had no concerns in starting the first session with these reels rather than the easier-to-use fixed spool. The use of the centerpin was further aided by my choice of floats . I picked small loafer floats holding 4 No. 1 shot in order to cope with the increased flow through the long glide I had selected. Neither angler had problems in handling these rigs, which were set in traditional loafer style with the shot bulked around 10inches from the hook to get the bait down in the flow. I emphasised the need to keep the bait close to the bottom, as the fish would typically stay close to the riverbed where the flow would be slower. (For a great description of flow patterns refer to Paul Garner's articles in October weeks 1 & 2.) Grouping the shot together close to the hook would achieve this. This shotting also aids presentation by stabilising the float in the water and ensuring that the bait travels downstream slower than the faster surface current, further reducing drag and hence improving presentation.

Gradually both anglers became accustomed to running the float downstream and then started to experiment by applying various degrees of pressure to the rim of the reel's spool to trot the float slightly slower than the current, then allowing it to flow freely. This periodic slowing aids presentation by further slowing the baits downstream progress, so that it is more in common with the speed of flow at the riverbed. By experimenting with the pressure applied to the reel and hence the speed of the rig down stream, it is possible to find a pace at which feeding fish will prefer to accept a bait. This will be the pace at which the bait behaves most naturally. This method takes practice, but both anglers caught a mixture of small roach, dace and chub on both trips, and seemed to have the hang of the basics by the end of the second trip.

Hopefully the coming months will provide many opportunities to practice what they have learned and to change their approach in accordance with conditions. Once levels settle down, a medium heavy stick float will suit the type of water they practised on whilst slightly more turbulent water would be better suited to one of the lighter balsa style floats. One thing I would advise to keep constant in fast flowing rivers and streams is the bulking of shot. Spreading out shots evenly is fine for catching on the drop on slow to medium paced runs, but if you need a bait close to the bottom, bulk that shot!

Next month I will look at tackling some of my tactics for approaching flooded rivers.
With recent conditions seeing plenty of high water levels this may be apt, but please remember that all dangers associated with running water are significantly increased under such conditions. I personally would not take youngsters or inexperienced anglers onto the water under such conditions; the fish will be there when the water drops back and in the meantime they can enjoy more consistent sport on still water.

Tight lines!