This of course was no joking matter, but from a river anglers perspective it was dammed inconvenient. As portrayed very graphically by the media, floods were everywhere, but most that hit the headlines concerned areas affected by sustained floodwater over several days and more. There were of course many other floods occurring; flash flooding, where waters rise quickly and subsequently peak then drop rapidly. These two opposites highlight the key characteristics of a watercourse. They should be considered when approaching a river with a view to making the most of your time on the water.

Being, as I am, situated on the border of the Peak District, I have prime examples of both water types within thirty minutes of home. The river Churnet as mentioned last month for example begins life in the Peaks at a high altitude and with a large water catchment has a relatively steep gradient. Cutting through valleys for the whole of its length, covering farms and woodland, the rapid run-off brings water levels up within hours by as much as three to four feet. Such rapid rises are unsustainable for the rivers size (in comparison with large rivers such as the Wye and Severn) and it drops back equally quickly, often being well within its banks twenty-four hours later.

The opposite is true for several streams and small rivers such as the Sow as we move southwards towards Stafford. Here the surrounding landscape is relatively level in comparison to that which surrounds the Churnet. Consequently, the rivers and streams rise much more progressively. The result of this progressive rise however is that the water height takes both longer to peak and also remains high for substantially longer, due to the slower run off rate.

Having looked at why such differences occur, it is important to then realise the effects of these conditions on fish populations within the two variants. My own experiences on various rivers have led me to approach fishing the two variants differently, though not so much in terms of tackle, and on the water tactics, but in my timing. When I refer to timing I am considering my arrival at the river during specific stages of higher than normal water levels. For instance, knowing that it had rained hard late the previous day I would head for the Churnet, confident that the fish would be feeding with the level rising.

This contradicts what many texts suggest, but it is my belief that fish populations in such waters rapidly take up more protected lies. Such action is not inconcievable where waters move up and down rapidly on a regular basis during prolonged periods of wet weather. Having taken up such lies, the fish are in ideal positions to take advantage of a bounty of food swept downstream by the rapidly rising torrents. The resulting action being that as the levels rise, a feeding spree is triggered. As such waters begin to recede however sport dies away, especially as levels become more normalised. This I believe to be due to the speed at which waters recede back towards normal levels, with fish populations concerned with altering positions and not being left high and dry rather than feeding.

Conversely, the lowland stream exhibits the classic fish activity period, where I would look to arrive as water levels receded. In this case fish populations may not rapidly adjust to rising water levels, resulting in a slower but steady migration of fish into more protected lies as currents strengthen. Hence there is no rapid increase in fish activity due to the slower rate of adaptation to changing conditions. Once the water level stabilises however, fish activity is found to increase, as by this stage species have settled into both protected lies and the water conditions. Additionally, the slower run-off rate means that the associated bounty of food worms and other naturals evicted from their homes by the flood-water are brought to the fish in a prolonged steady stream. Such periods of bounty are much shorter lived in the case of flash flood rivers, hence the fish population there takes advantage early on.

Once this concept is understood and you have highlighted a variety of waters exhibiting these characteristics, you can fish both as the rivers come up and then recede - according to the river type - and benefit in both cases with better catches.

Having looked at river characteristics here and established the best times to visit, next month I will discuss the favoured lies and tactics for catching the better than average fish under flood water conditions. In the meantime should anyone require further information contact me at

Merry Christmas

Steve Yeomans