How to Catch Big Canal Bream

The Grand Union Canal in Bedfordshire is a fantastic silver fish venue, yet there are also some seriously big fish too, including carp, perch and bream. In fact, on some occasions you have to make that decision, whether to go all out for the big fish or stick to the consistent silver fish action. In most cases keeping to the silvers is the safer option, yet if you’re on a known bream peg and don’t go for it, you might just be kicking yourself come the end of the match. 

There’s nothing worse than picking a bream flyer and not really knowing how to get the best from it so it’s worth having a few practice sessions and that’s exactly what I’m going to do today, however it’s not exactly the best bream conditions! 

Straight on the bait

These bream rarely come down the track and seem to stick to the shallow water found on the far bank where there is usually lots of bankside cover and shade. Something I have found is usually, if there are any bream in the swim they are straight on the bait. Yet, this doesn’t mean baiting too heavily as once it’s in the swim, you can’t take it out, so it pays to bait cautiously to start with. Bearing this in mind, I’m going to introduce two firm balls of groundbait, whisked and finely riddled, created from a 50/50 mix of Champion’s Feeder Quick Skimmer and an all time canal favourite, Black Roach which contains some dead maggots, fluoro pinkies and a little chopped worm. As for hookbait, these bream tend to come to double red maggot, but it is always worth trying a piece of worm tipped with a fluoro pinkie or a couple of dead maggots if things aren’t happening. I will also introduce another ball of bait after a couple of decent fish, or if a boat has come through the swim, and have found that a small cupful of finely chopped worm can bring a quick response. I also like to catapult a few maggots over the float from time to time, but only do this when there is no flow. 

My favoured canal bream groundbaits

Xitan Microbore elastic, the choice of many.

Cenex Classic Mono line, great for pole rigs. 

"This stamp of fish can be found in many canals."

Keeping it simple

The far bank is 13.5m across and I’m using my trusted Sphere Zero-G F1 for this teamed up with Xitan Microbore Orange which has a 5-7 rating. My rig is kept quite simple, consisting of 0.13mm Cenex Classic Mono with a 4×12 float shotted with a bulk of no 9’s and a short 10cm 0.10mm Classic Mono hook length, to a Sphere Match size 18 hook. Before introducing any bait I had a quick plumb around and found that the top shelf, right under the overhanging cover, to have no more than 2ft 8’ which is where these bream are happy feeding. 

The action continues

It doesn’t take long for signs of fish in the swim and I’m soon lifting into a fish and watching the elastic stretch from the tip. It’s definitely a good bream, one that weighs around 4lb and, as expected, came to the double red maggot. A couple of skimmers around a pound soon follow before once again the elastic stretches and another big canal bream comes to the net, this one coming once again to the maggot. Soon after this I potted some chopped worm in, which definitely encouraged more action. The action continues well into the morning, yet once the sun removes the shade on the far bank and the boat traffic becomes unbearable it’s time to call it a day. It has been a brilliant mornings sport and just goes to show the stamp of fish that can be found in many canals. 


Gary Ford

A nice dark groundbait mix helps the bream settle.

A cup of worms often brings a quick response.

Simple rigs are all that are required.

Sphere Match hooks are perfect for the job.

Gary’s Tackle

Sphere Zero-G F1+

Xitan Microbore Elastic

Sphere Match hooks

Cenex Classic Mono

4×12 Pole Float

Gary’s Bait

Champion’s Feeder Black Roach Groundbait

Champion’s Feeder Quick Skimmer Groundbait

Red and Dead Maggots

Fluoro Pinkies

Chopped Worm

A couple of cracking GUC bream.

Sphere Feeder Ultra Lite Hooks

Have you ever experienced those frustrating sessions when you lose too many fish and wonder what’s going on. Dace fishing can be extremely frustrating, just hitting the bites can be difficult let alone having them fall of soon after. This is almost certainly down to the hook as some patterns just don’t suit their bony mouths and constant twisting in the water.  

One hook that does suit speed fishing for silvers, especially roach and dace, is the Sphere Feeder Ultra Lite range, not just an exceptional feeder hook but a great maggot pattern when float fishing. These hooks are razor sharp, very light creating the perfect presentation and once in, they stay in!

Available on pre-tied continuous spools containing eight micro-barbed hook lengths in sizes ranging between 8 and 18, these spade end hooks are ideal for silvers and although light are strong enough to land any bonus fish hooked. They are also available in the same sizes loose in packets containing fifteen hooks.    

Colin Sheppard

A razor sharp hook and a great pattern for float or feeder.

I lose very few fish with this hook pattern.

The ideal hook for river silverfish.

"These hooks are razor sharp and very light creating the perfect presentation"

Space Saver Carp Mesh Keepnet

I own quite a few keepnets, but the ones that I find I use more than any other are the Space Saver Carp Mesh models. These modern nets have proven to be really long-lasting and strong, making them ideal for the big carp found in many venues. 

I tend to use the fish-friendly carp mesh version, which is available in 2.5m, 3m, and 4m versions. The mesh has a lovely soft feel which I especially like. The top and bottom rings are made of alloy for added strength and I can report that the mesh shows no signs of wear in the corners – a common area of failure on many nets. 

The variable angle bankstick attachment has also been nicely reinforced and enables me to get the nets positioned perfectly on my footplate legs. 

As the name suggests, these nets don’t take up a great deal of space, and are remarkably lightweight too. For anglers that need to carry several nets you can pack these into a double net bag with room to spare. 

Often an unsung bit of gear that we all use, but one that has been thoroughly thought out to do its job with all of the common weak-points designed out to give a long useful life. 

Available in 2.5m, 3m and 4m lengths.

Jim Hall

I really like the strong bank adjustable stick adaptor.

The carp friendly mesh dries quickly.

"These modern nets have proven to be really long-lasting and strong."

RiverFest Fourth Place for Tom Noton

Browning Hot Rods angler Tom Noton had a brilliant result in last weekends Angling Trust RiverFest final on the river Trent, finishing in fourth place across the two-day event. Here is Tom’s account of the competition.


I’ve been looking forward to this final for weeks. Lots of preparation and hours on the phone to various anglers leading up to what was set to be a very interesting final. I put a lot of hours into preparation on the build up and it paid off. The trent is a special venue and definitely my favourite river. The field of competitors was very, very strong. The Angling Trust RiverFest and Dave Harrell did a great job of running a super smooth online draw the night before each day. I have to say it was great to watch the laptop as the names and pegs were getting drawn out. Here’s how I got on…

Day 1 

Peg A7 in the Ferry Field on the bend. Wasn’t somewhere I fancied much to be honest but I knew the roach were there earlier in the year. I set up the obligatory feeder rods for dace, waggler rods and the pole. The last rod out of the bags was a barbel/big fish rod… fortunately this came into play. After a difficult and incredibly wet first two hours a decent chub showed itself about 3 meters off the trees opposite. Another showed a few minutes later. After a fruitless visit to the perch line I was lining up for the big chuck across with proper gear on! A missed bite first chuck, second chuck I was into chub number one of about 2lb. It was a game of cat and mouse for the next 3 hours picking off the odd chub, biggest 3-4lb. At the weigh in I was super happy to tip 19lb 3oz on the scales. This was enough for 2nd in the Ferry Field behind angling legend Cameron Hughes with an impressive 26lb of roach from the end peg. Well done mate. I felt this was job done for the day as i was really trying to avoid a disaster in a difficult section.

Day 2

I was desperately hoping for a draw at the bottom of the rack where lots of fish had been showing the day before. Fortunately it was a good one in the shape of B68. Charlie Gooch had done the business off it the day before so after a pep talk on the phone I was ready and raring to go. I set up the kitchen sink for this. Feeder looked good with about 10 inches of flood water coming in. Pole was a little quick but fishable. Then I set up stick floats and whips. At the all in I chucked in six balls of ground bait and started on the feeder. A decent first hour saw me catch around 3-4lb of dace and roach. I tried the pole and caught straight away but then began missing bites. Alternating rigs and the long whips I kept a few fish coming but it didn’t feel quite right. Loose feed seemed best, but they were out of range beyond my ground bait. I lost my way mid-match a little, but came back strong on the stick float. Dave Harrell put it nicely saying that I ‘needed to turn the screw’ and with that I got out my biggest screwdriver and started to loose feed heavier and finished really well on the stick catching a good 4-5lb in the last hour. A day of ducking and diving saw me tip 20lb 9oz on the scales. 

I was chuffed with this in the end and felt it was enough for the frame. I was delighted to find out this was enough for 4th overall in the competition and a nice payday. Just ounces in front of my hero Wayne Swinscoe and agonisingly close to 3rd but Darren Frost pipped me by ounces – awesome display mate. A big well done to my mate Clive Fletcher finishing 2nd, simply brilliant. A well deserved win to angling legend and good mate Paul Cannon who stamped his authority on day 1 with a smashing bream haul. Well done that man. A worthy champ.

Now that’s all done with a special mention to a few people who helped me with everything on the lead up and during the match. MASSIVE thank you to Mark Halksworth who sat behind me all the way. There is nobody better for the job when it comes to river fishing, the man is brilliant and his knowledge of the river is second to none. I couldn’t of done it without him. Not forgetting team mate and best pal Craig Halksworth for being a top mate as per usual. Also my girlfriend for putting up with endless fishing chat 

Top bait as always from Nathans of Nottingham. Cheers Ben Dutton lad! 

It has been a great year so far, hoping to keep it going.

Tom with a lovely catch from the Trent on a practice session for this years RiverFest final.

"I was chuffed with this in the end and felt it was enough for the frame."

Targus Seatbox

I recently started using the Targus Seatbox. I’ve had it about a month now, and to say that I am impressed with it would be an understatement. It is a really fantastic piece of kit. I am not a small bloke, but this box, with its sliding footplate, are absolutely rock-solid. 

I have been fishing here at Decoy Lakes at 14 metres all day and the box just doesn’t move, making fishing long so much more comfortable, with no rocking or movement. 

The frame is a really chunk ‘Z-style’ design that is super-stiff and gives loads of room to add trays both above and below the frame. It is a cassette-style box, so you can fit up to five trays below the frame and as many as you need to get the right height above it. I’m a tall guy and I use two shallow and one deep tray on top of the frame to give me the right seat height, less than I have used on other boxes, which I like. I would rather be able to mi and match the trays I have in the cassette system below the box, than have to use them to get the seat height right. 

Really chunky 36mm legs are fitted all round and these are all double-extending, ideal if you are faced with uneven banks on rivers and lakes. The big handwheels make tightening up the legs  easy as they give you plenty of grip. 

A small detail, but one that I have come to appreciate, are the spirit levels on the back and side of the frame. These make getting the box set perfectly level so much easier and ensure that I am sitting properly every time. 

All in all, this is a fantastic box that ticks all the boxes for me. 

Jon Whincup

Super Stable design, even for larger anglers.

Plenty of room for the cassette system underneath the frame.

Integral spirit-levels make getting the box level really easy.

The large handwheels make adjusting the legs very easy.

The perfect box system.

Strong Z Frame.

"All in all, this is a fantastic box that ticks all the boxes for me."

Tench on the Pellet Cone

Picture the perfect tench morning in summer and you will imagine mist swirling above the water as the first rays of sunshine push through the trees and small pin prick bubbles erupting on the water’s surface, well that’s not what I’ve been blessed with this morning! Storm Francis has other ideas with howling winds of over 50mph as well as constant heavy rain, joy, and to make things worse I forgot to put the brolly in the car. Anyway, I rarely fish under a brolly and anyone braving these conditions will usually be rewarded with plenty of action and this venue, Harris Lake controlled by Godalming Angling Society, rarely disappoints as it’s full of tench and crucians. 

Simply devastating

The more commonly used method feeder has been extensively used here, it still produces but the pellet cone, rarely used or mentioned these days, is simply devastating and anglers in the know are quietly ripping this place apart. Rules are rules and on this venue rigs have to be running so with a wind that’s really gusty I have decided to use a small Quick Change bead running on my 6lb Black Magic Gold mainline as this will allow me to change the weight of the lead quickly when the wind gets up allowing me to keep hitting the same spot every cast. I’ve also included a short two-inch twirl section to create a boom which almost eliminates tangles and added to this is a small Feeder Connecter Swivel onto which my hook length is attached. This hook length, which is again two-inches long, is created from Cenex Fluoro Carbon in a 0.15mm diameter and has a size 16 Sphere micro barbed hook attached knotless knot style to leave a short hair onto which a buoyant plastic corn stop is attached. As for my rod, well you will be hard pushed to find one better; it’s the 10’ Sphere Bomb teamed up with a Sphere MgTi 940 reel. 

I’ll take any weather when specimen crucians are gracing my net!

The rig, fiddly but highly effective.

Once in, they stay in. 

Accuracy is key when fishing the pellet cone. 

"the pellet cone, rarely used or mentioned these days, is simply devastating"

Critically balanced bait

As for bait, it really is very simple, 2mm pellets in the cone and plastic corn for hookbait. Many anglers have a fear about using plastic baits but with the cone they are deadly as when the pellets break down around, the bait sits right in the middle of them waiting to be sucked up from a passing fish. The reason for using a buoyant bait here is it removes the weight of the hook, making the bait very light and when a fish sucks up the pellets the hookbait is also engulfed, however when the fish lifts up, or tries to blow the plastic bait out the inevitable happens and the hook, more often than not, takes hold in the bottom lip. It does take time to get a critically balanced bait and its worth spending some time at home to get the perfect combination but get it right and you will see a massive upturn in your catch rate. Small micro pellets and plastic corn rarely fails but on the odd occasion real corn, or plastic maggot/caster seems to produce more as does 4mm pellets so it pays to always have these with you as backup. 

The perfect pellets

Getting the perfect micros pellet consistency for the cone comes with practice, but in short, mix a few up at a time and just sprinkle them with a little water, mix, leave for a few minutes and repeat a couple of times. A little tip is to add some sweet flavoured syrup to the water as this helps stick them together and stay intact when casting. Mounting the cone of pellets is simple, just press the 2mm into the cone firmly, push a baiting needle through these, attach the hook length to the needle and pull through so the hook point embeds into the pellets before pushing the pellets out of the cone and attaching the hook length to the Feeder Connector Swivel. 

Repeat every couple of minutes

Accuracy is key so you will need to use the line clip on the reel and once the rig hits bottom do not move it, just tighten up so that there is a slight bend in the quivertip. Repeat every couple of minutes until the bites start coming. Today it’s taken around an hour to start getting indications that a few fish have arrived, and the first fish to make a mistake is this 4lb tench which is quickly followed by a couple more before the crucians turn up. It might be raining hard and blowing a right hurricane but with fish gracing my net regularly I’ve hardly noticed it.

Andy Blay

2mm pellets and plastic corn rarely fails.

Fluoro Carbon hook lengths, that little edge.

Nailed in the bottom lip.

Andy’s Tackle

Sphere Bomb Rod

Sphere MgTi 940 Reel

Black Magic Gold 0.19mm (6.60lbs) Mainline 

Cenex 0.15mm Fluoro Carbon Hook Line

Sphere Match size 16 Hook

1.1oz Bomb

Small Quick Change Swivel

10mm Feeder Connector Swivel

Xitan Medium Super Stopper Oval


Andy’s Bait

2mm/4mm Pellets

Plastic Buoyant Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Corn Syrup Sweetener

The first tench of the session.

Pole Cup Set

This set of two large Pole Cups have a tremendous capacity and I find then especially useful at the start of a match when I want to introduce a good helping of feed to an area in the swim, a throwaway line so to speak, which can be left unhindered till the last hour of the match whilst feeding other lines on a little-and-often basis with the Mini Cups. 

The cups are supplied with pole tip adaptors with a standard screw fitting to suit Browning and most other poles. I already had screw adaptors fitted to my feeding kits, which as expected fitted through the cups and secured with the screw supplied. 

These cups hold an incredible amount of bait, 250 and 175ml which is great for activating a line without having the need to ship in and out more than once; they are also great for measuring bait. 

A great addition to my armoury when I want to kick start a swim quickly, efficiently and stealthily at the start of the match or for topping a line up when the fish are really having it!

Ryan Lewis

These large pole cups compliment the Mini Cups. 

Supplied with pole tip adaptors with a standard screw fitting.

Great for kick starting a line with a good helping of feed.

"These cups hold an incredible amount of bait"

Sphere Classic Hooks to Nylon

Hooks have always been somewhat a very personal subject when it comes to my fishing, find a pattern that you’re confident with and you stick to them. Trying something new is never easy and rarely feels right, however since the Sphere hook range was introduced, and having a trial batch sent to me, I have to admit to being instantly impressed and converted. 

The range consists of six varieties, Match, Ultra Strong, Ultra Light, Beast, CPS LS and my favourite the Sphere Classic. All these hook patterns have different applications, yet the Classic is what I would call an all-rounder. It’s a barbed hook with a long shank, great for pole or feeder fishing, with a great hook-up rate. It’s also a light hook, but this doesn’t compromise on its strength. A great big fish, pole and feeder hook that comes tied to high-performance monofilament, or loose in packets of fifteen. Sizes ranging between 12 and 18.

If you’re looking for a great all-round hook then look no further!

Gary Ford

The Sphere Classic Hooks to Nylon – brilliant!

A great all-rounder, pole, float, feeder or simply hit and hold.

Pre-tied on unique continuous rolling lengths.

Remove a hook length and simply place the next hook in a spool positioning point.

"If you’re looking for a great all-round hook then look no further!"

Black Magic Gold Power Elastic

Many of the commercial venues that I fish have bigger than average carp in them and quite often the swims have a few snags around that can cost you fish. In these instances I use Black Magic Gold Power Elastic, as being pure Latex it powers up really quickly after setting the hook, turning those potential match winning lumps away from the snags and into the waiting net. 

It is a great quality elastic and great value too. 

Available in four ratings in 6m lengths –

Green 1.4mm – 10 rating 

Blue 1.8mm – 12 rating

Purple 2.2mm – 14 rating

Orange 2.6mm – 16 rating


Gary Ford

Quality elastic and great value.

Power Elastic is especially good for bigger fish.

"being pure Latex it powers up really quickly"

Catch Silver Fish on Slow-Flowing Rivers

Slow flowing rivers, such as the Cam, where I am today, are the home of many of the summer league matches that I fish with Browning Team Wickford. Although there are bonus fish to be caught, the great thing about rivers like this is that they are teeming with small fish at the moment. This makes them very fair venues for team fishing. Virtually every peg will produce plenty of fish, meaning the tactics used will have a significant impact on the result, rather than a few flyer pegs dominating the results. 

My first aim when fishing any team match is to get a fish in the net, and get some points on the scoresheet. Once this is achieved it is a case of knuckling down and trying to catch as many small fish as possible, whilst still having the occasional look for a bonus fish further out. 

It pays to fish as close in as possible, as this speeds up landing fish, but without compromising finding the right line. On this stretch of the Cam the bottom levels out fairly quickly and I am able to fish comfortably at around 7-metres in the knowledge that the bottom is flat and I am beyond the marginal shelf. 

Because of the thick weed growth in the river at this time of the year it is important to bring a weed rake and spend some time clearing the area that you want to fish. I would say this is necessary on the majority of swims in the summer. Fortunately, the disturbance doesn’t put the fish off, and by the time I start fishing they will be back. 

Pinkies and hemp make up my feed with a maggot hookbait.

An initial bed of groundbait will draw and hold my target fish.

Cenex Classic Mono is my choice for rigs and hook lengths.

"It has been a bite almost every put-in from small roach, perch, and dace"

To kick the swim off and lay down some feed in the area I want to catch from I start off with a few balls of groundbait made using a bag of Champions Choice Black Magic, half a bag of Etang, and some Champions Choice Krazy Sweetner. This is mixed fairly sticky as the river is around seven feet deep and I want the balls of groundbait to get to the bottom before breaking up. This helps me avoid the bleak and tiny fish that are generally up in the water. Added to the groundbait are a few dead maggots and some hemp to attract and hold the roach. To begin with I put in eight tangerine-sized balls of groundbait to lay down a carpet of feed. 

After the initial baiting up I feed around 40 grains of hemp every put-in, which is around two minutes, and about 20 pinkies every couple of runs through, just to keep some bait falling through the water, creating some activity. Most of this I am sure will be mopped up by the bleak, but enough will get through to keep the roach interested.

My hookbait is a bronze maggot, which tends to pick up a slightly better stamp of fish than pinkie. In practice this has proven to be the best hookbait colour as the water is quite clear. As I am feeding hemp I will also try hemp on the hook later in the day, although this can be quite hit and miss. Some days the roach will be feeding hard on the hemp, whilst on others it can be completely ignored. Once again though, hemp does tend to pick up a better stamp of fish. 

I have set up a few slightly different rigs, each of which presents the hookbait in a slightly different way. All of these are set up on no.3 Cenex solid elastic, running through my Xitan SLKP 4.5mm top kits. These are ideal for catching small fish on light lines and small hooks. I have this rigged fairly tight so that I can easily swing in small fish. 

My rigs are made up using 0.10mm Cenex Classic Mono to a four-inch 0.08mm hooklength of the same material. This is a lovely clear line, with great knot strength and an accurate diameter, which allows me to fish fine as the water is relatively clear. To match the single maggot hookbaits I am using a relatively fine wire size 20 hook. 

There is only a light flow on the Cam at this time of the year, but the river is relatively deep and it can be windy here out on the edge of the Fens, so I am using a 4×14 float with 10 no.9 shot strung out evenly. The float has a very fine tip to show the bites well, plus a slim body and wire stem for extra stability. The strung out rig will catch fish as the bait falls through the water, which is often how they want it presented.

The problem with a slow-sinking hookbait can be that it picks up too many bleak. If this becomes a problem I swap to a rig with the no.9’s bulked around 12-inches from the hook. When the fish are feeding really well and I need to get the bait down as quickly as possible then I will swap to a rig with the bulk at four-inches from the hook. It pays to experiment with these different permutations to see how the fish react, as on some days they want the bait falling through the water, whilst on others they want it nailed to the deck. 

Today I have been practicing with some of my fellow Wickford team members and we have each been fishing a slightly different approach. The bigger fish haven’t shown, which in some respects is a good thing, as these are less likely to have an impact during match conditions. It has been a bite almost every put-in from small roach, perch, and dace, which has kept us all busy. I’ve had the odd net perch, which has boosted my weight a little, but it has really been a case of catching as many fish as possible – a style of fishing I really enjoy. We have learnt a few little things today that will hopefully serve us well in the upcoming summer league matches, on what has to be one of our favourite venues. 

Paul Hyde

Add a sprinkling of Crazy Sweetner to your groundbait.

Bonus perch are always welcome.

A catch like this is worth good points in a team match.