First of all I will look at the centrepin reel and the techniques and uses we can use one for. The centrepin reel, or Nottingham Reel, so-called due to the fact that its modern coarse fishing design was invented in Nottingham for use on the Trent, has a variety of uses not just in rivers but also on stillwaters. Its sensitivity and the feeling of being in direct contact with the fish put it above the fixed spool reel in some situations.

First of all though we need to look at how to use the centrepin, how to load line on it and how to cast with it. Centrepin reels do not need to be loaded with much line mainly because we will not be casting a long way with them and also because even the longest trot will only be 30 yards or so and hopefully we will not hook a fish that will strip more than 50 yards of line off the reel on its strongest run. There is another reason why we do not want too much line on the reel and that is because with too much, the line will begin to bed in and so will stick when using the current to set the reel spinning as we trot. This will result in very poor presentation.

So 50 yards is maximum, though really 30 yards is the amount we need. Depending on the venue to be fished and what we are fishing for will decide what line to use. If we are in a match and are after small roach, bleak etc then line of 2lb bs will be fine, this diameter of line will result in a very smooth trot and perfect presentation for these types of fish. If we are likely to encounter the odd chub then perhaps upping to 4lb bs will be sensible. Whatever, it is not until we get to around 6lb bs that we need to perhaps look at alternatives as the line diameter will start to effect the smooth spin of the reel and hence presentation.

Fortunately coarse fishing techniques have gone full circle and when our forefathers first used the reliable Nottingham reel the only lines available were plaited silk, in effect braided line. These lines were ideal for the centrepin as they had no stretch and were thin and strong ensuring perfect presentation. Of course those early lines had their faults and were not reliable, especially as you had to wet them before use and then make sure they were perfectly dried out after use. Now though we have modern braided line.

Braided line has the strength and low diameter we need for centrepin fishing. It has no stretch so it enhances one of the best things about centrepin fishing, sensitivity and being in direct contact with both float and fish once hooked. With these low diameter braids we can load the centrepin with 50 yards of line with no loss to the smooth spinning of the reel and presentation. A 15lb bs braid can have the diameter of a 6lb bs mono.

Whilst in theory there are three ways of casting with a centrepin, the only really easy way is using the Loop Cast. With this technique, the line lying between the rod rings are plucked out by the fingers of the left hand and stretched back away from the body. As the loops are gathered in the left hand the right hand controls the spin of the reel. Then the rod is swept back and the cast is made as normal. As the rod reaches 45 degrees, the loops of line are released and the line is shot forward. Quite long casts can be made this way and experience will show how many loops of line are needed for the length of cast required. This technique is both accurate and repeated casts of the same distance can be made during a session time and time again.
So now we have the reel loaded and know how to use it. What can we use it for? On rivers some sort of trotting technique is ideal for the centrepin and the great thing with a centrepin is that the reel does all the work. It is best to choose a swim that gives us access to a good glide downstream, a small promontory is good or the end of the outside of a bend in the river. I really like getting 'as one' with a river though, so I like to use a pair of waders and stand in the river in the edge and trot down from that position; generally I choose a weedy or reedy margin to shield by presence from the fish. Choosing swims like these mean there is little need to cast, the float can be just flicked into the current that takes the float away downstream. As the line tightens, gently start the reel to rotate and as long as the current is strong enough, the reel will turn on its own as the float and line is pulled along by the current.

To retrieve the float at the end of the trot, instead of turning the reel with the handle and winding in like a madman (no gears and ratios on centrepins mean that retrieving line is slow) instead, ‘bat’ the edge of the drum of the reel to make it spin in the opposite way to the trot and the line will be retrieved a lot quicker.

When a fish is hooked the fun begins. If you are used to fixed spools then it comes as a pleasant surprise and a shock using a centrepin. The feel of the fight will be different, you will feel much more in control, and the gaining and loosing of line will be exciting and frightening at the same time. A word of warning, never ever try to backwind using a centrepin or you will end up with a huge tangle of line and a lost fish. Instead control the amount of line taken by the fish by applying pressure in the drum of the reel with the thumb of your right hand, using it like a clutch. Obviously retrieving line with a fish attached we will need to use the handles of the reel.

The various forms of float fishing in river can be approached with a centrepin, long trotting, stret-pegging and laying on. All involve being in direct contact with tackle and fish; only use of a centrepin can really do this. Later on in this series I will talk about use of the centrepin reel for bigger species, pike and carp, and also the use of the centrepin in stillwaters.

Have fun!