Leaf it out!

Severn Painting

Leaf it out!
At this time of year leaves are the bane of any river angler. They clog your lines up, snag on your hooks, and the fish don’t really like leaves banging off them all the time, and it can put them down. Leaf fall can be unpredictable, it can happen in October, or all the way into December, if we have a warm year. Usually the worst of it occurs after strong winds and then a rise in river levels, this is because the wind blows them off the trees and stock-piles them around the banks, then when the river comes up it flushes them all through.


Lure fishing can be difficult in conditions like these, but there are somethings you can do to prevent leaves clogging everything up, and you might even catch a few.
Firstly, it may seem obvious, but try and fish where the leaves aren’t. What does that mean? If you watch any river for long enough you will see the flow lines, most debris will run down these flow lines so stay away from them or rather, fish on the edges of them.

If you have access to a boat it is possible to fish in the flow lines, if you know what to do. Zander will be in the flow, even if there is a tsunami of leaves wafting down, it’s just difficult to fish for them against the flow in these conditions. So you need to fish with the flow – something that I wouldn’t usually advocate in usual conditions as it’s not as effective as going upstream.

What you need to do is manoeuvre the boat to the flow line and drift down with the current, fishing vertically. This is easier said than done in most instances – with a cross, or downstream, wind your boat can drift down faster than the current, and not only will the lures not work as well, but they are more likely to pick up debris again. In these circumstances, with a bow mount you can set it against the flow at a minimal speed, to slow the boat down and keep it straight to the flow. What you are looking to do is present your lure as vertically as possible in-between any leaves in the water. In truth most of the leaves will be in the surface layers anyway, so it works quite well – as you are not pushing through them as you would if you were going up-stream.


Contrary to what would seem obvious, I have found bright lures rubbish during these conditions. I know it doesn’t seem right, as a bright lure should stand out the most amongst all the debris coming down, but, from experience, they don’t work overly well. It is much better to use a natural fishesque colour, and for bizarre reasons I have found browns to be especially good when the conditions are like this – which is really weird as you would expect most leaves to look brown or yellow in the water, and surely the fish don’t chase each of these!
I can only assume that as well as the leaves that comes down there must also be a lot of waste plastic in bright colours that the fish see – hence why they don’t like bright lures when it’s like this? It’s only a guess, but on the first few floods you do seem to catch quite a few plastic bags and other things! I’ve also done well on lures with exaggerated tail action rather then body roll, such as the Zanderteeze. Again I suppose that is because leaves roll in the water while real fish kick there tails!

Zander Teeze_01

Bait fishing is more difficult when it’s like this, and in most circumstances it is easier just to fish in the slacks – this will be where the pike will be anyway, but it’s hard targeting zander with baits until its flushed through a bit.

In the worst leaf fall conditions, it can be better just to fish elsewhere until its gone through, most big lakes and certainly big reservoirs don’t suffer with this phenomenon as much as a river.

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