The pros and cons of the river close season always generates heated debate amongst anglers and although I’m one of those who believes it should be abolished – or rather the power to decide should be given to the fishery managers and owners – I do really enjoy the break.


These days I rarely fish stillwaters so for me, unless I cast a fly, the break from fishing is a total one but it is the time when I do a lot of preparation for the forthcoming season in terms of venues, tackle and bait and this year is no exception.

As far as venues are concerned I’m no longer into chasing huge individual fish but I do want to catch a LOT of fish – and by doing so you can be sure that more than a few lumps will be amongst them! The close season usually sees me out and about the stretches of river I intend to target come June as it’s the ideal time to do a bit of fish spotting and a bit of feature spotting too as so much more of the river is visible at this time of year and that can give you vital clues as to where the fish may be later in the season.

Of course this year it has, so far at least, been somewhat unpleasant to be out walking the river banks and even if you were willing to brave the conditions there was not a lot to be seen – and even though it is finally beginning to feel a little more spring-like it could well be some time before the barbel begin to group for spawning and the opportunities to do some serious fish watching (providing your river has some degree of clarity) materialise.

As far as tackle is concerned I do like to adapt and tie my rigs to suit the fishing situation I find myself in on the day as every session is different but there are rigs I know I will use regularly so I spend a fair bit of time preparing hooklengths; it’s a bit of a mind numbing chore but by doing it in the close season it buys me a bit of fishing time once the rivers are open. And on the subject of rigs if you haven’t yet worked out that to be most effective chub hook lengths generally need to be as short as possible and barbel rigs as long as possible then it’s time you started to experiment!
Bait is my final close season preparation and although I have been playing with them for some time now this is the first season I shall be attacking the river with the new Enterprise Pellet Skins – even though I rarely, if ever, actually fish pellets on the hook!

If you have yet to see them the skins are hollow, nicely realistic artificial pellets sized to take 4, 6 and 8mm pellets and they are soft enough to be side-hooked or hair-rigged. Once encased the breakdown time of the real pellet inside the skin is greatly enhanced, they are protected to a considerable degree from bait-robbing crayfish and ‘nuisance’ small fish. For me though, although the skins provide a quick and highly practical method of attaching hard pellets without the need for drilling or bait bands, their main use is going to be as a paste carrier, which will enable me to create a unique hookbait.

Although I don’t use pellets on the hook (I like to be different, being different catches more fish than following the crowd!) I’m well aware that barbel love pellets and they know exactly what they are. Hence having a pellet skin filled with my own personal paste gives me the best of both worlds. With my hair stop concealed neatly inside the pellet skin it is a simple matter of filling the skin with a piece of paste and casting out, better still the pellet skins are buoyant so neutralise the weight of my hook and give perfect presentation – no more fiddling around trying to hair rig and smear bits of paste around a sliver of cork – fishing paste has never been simpler and, I suspect, never been more effective.

I’ll let you know!