Whilst Foot and Mouth restrictions might come into play in a few areas, most of us will have access to at least some of our river fisheries, though I am willing to bet that most anglers will not have their dreams of the last few months realised. The trouble is, it can take the fish a few weeks to settle down and become predictable again. If you learn how to predict the moods of your local river then you can ensure consistent sport right through the summer.

As we still have a close season on rivers the fish have three months to forget the lessons learnt about anglers and their sharp bits of metal before the banks become invaded again. Just because they haven't seen an angler for three months doesn't mean that the fish will be automatically easy though. When you fish a busy stretch of river bear in mind that although you might not always be able to get the swim you want, all those other anglers are contributing to the fish becoming confident on feeding on artificial baits.

A really good example of this is the River Severn, where every summer it takes a few weeks for the fish to really start to respond to baits such as luncheon meat and pellets. Worms and maggots work straight from the off, being almost natural baits. Fish will often be shoaled up tight at the start of the season around the spawning grounds. Often miles of river will be almost devoid of decent fish, whilst a few hot pegs will be flogged to death. Now, I am in favour of giving the fish time to recover from spawning and would not condone that you follow this practice. The other reason for a poor start to the season can be if the fish have yet to spawn. Cool Springs mean the rivers are best left alone for a few weeks if it is consistent sport that you seek. OK, the fish might be carrying a bit of spawn if a few extra ounces is what you are after, but it's much better in my book to give them a chance to fully recover.

So, it is rare for me to start fishing the rivers until the beginning of July. This suits me fine as there are lots of better things to be doing in June, with big tench featuring strongly in my book. Come July the fish will have begun to adopt their normal behaviour and can be relied upon to become a little more catchable.

Through July my favourite form of fishing is to stalk the rivers during the hours of daylight with big heavy baits that can be either free-lined, or fished with a little weight on the line. This is generally sight fishing, with the fish showing themselves well and accepting large baits with only limited caution. What you will notice though, as the weeks go pass, is that the reaction of the fish changes and becomes much more cautious. By the end of July it is often the case that the large bait methods fare very poorly and, although the fish are still visible, they can be very difficult to tempt.

With the long hot days of August the fish can become quite lethargic. They have now had a few weeks of having all sorts of things chucked at them and in the warm water they are unlikely to want to feed confidently in the middle of the day. My approach now changes depending upon the species. For chub, I will go on to very small baits, most often red maggots, fished either with a feeder, or if at very short range, a small float. The idea is to really work the chub up into a feeding frenzy by baiting heavily. A gallon of maggots a day is not unreasonable for this approach, and catches can be large if you find a good shoal of fish.

For barbel my approach is very different. Whilst I rarely fish for barbel at this time of year now, I always found the best approach to be laying small beds of hemp in likely looking spots with some small particle baits, normally in my case, halibut pellets. Early morning can be productive, but the best time for me has always been after dark. I don't fish like this much now as the next couple of months are normally far more effective, as the conditions come to suit the barbel better.

By September we are likely to start seeing a little more rain and the need for a jacket in the evenings. This is the real barbel anglers time of year, when large catches can be made on the particle approach. Use whatever bait you have confidence in, be it maggot, caster, corn, pellet, whatever, the barbel can be caught using this approach. Until Christmas, along with your barbel, you will also catch a lot of chub after dark using this approach, so I tend to fish for barbel, but not be too disappointed when a five pound chub comes along!

What you will notice is that I only find baits larger than a five pence coin effective for three or four weeks, before the fish become wise to them. This might not be the case on virgin rivers, but on the pressured fish that I am forced to target this is such a common pattern that I am sure you will understand what I mean. Don't be a one method angler. Enjoy the big baits why you can, but watch for the falling returns and be prepared to change tactics.

Roll on June 16th!