First and foremost take particular care during and after floods as banks will be slippery and there are obvious dangers such as faster flows and deeper water. It is never worth risking your life for the sake of a bit of sport – know your limitations.
The next thing to consider before venturing down to the Severn, particularly if you are travelling a distance, is to find out the height of the water (and also the predicted height), whether the river is rising or dropping and the water temperature if possible. The environment agency site link at the top of the page can give you valuable information on levels. It is worth looking at flood warnings and alerts as this can give predictions on heights. Look at upstream monitoring stations as they can give you an idea of whether the water will rise or drop at your choice of fishing spot.
Fishing at Shrewsbury it is worth looking at Crew Green monitoring station and also Buttington as these will give an indication of what the water levels will be like in Shrewsbury within the next 18-24 hours, Heights are important and as an indication, the peak of a flood at Crew Green will give approximately half the rise at Shrewsbury (i.e. 5 meter peak at Crew Green will indicate about a 2.5m rise expected at Shrewsbury within the next day). It is worth pointing out that many of our stretches of water are unfishable above 2.5m, even a 2 meter flood is difficult and there are many pegs where you just cannot fish due to the strength of the flow.
Floods will bring down a whole host of debris and it is always worth bearing this in mind as a fresh flush of water will dislodge branches, vegetation and other debris from the banks. A huge flood can bring down trees and very large logs – BEWARE – always keep an eye upstream, for even small branches can pull your rod in. It is this debris and vegetation that also dictate when fish will feed during a flood, a rising river is ok for barbel but not particularly liked by chub. Too much leaves and rubbish will sometimes put even the barbel off the feed, this happens in particular during the peak as all fish activity seems to cease. Once the peak has passed and the water is dropping again is a great time to fish as the barbel will come on the feed again followed much later by the chub which like to feed by sight and smell to hunt down their prey.
Flooding in the summer is almost always a good reason to beat a path to the river as inevitably this will bring a fresh deluge of water to a predominantly ‘stale’ river. Summer flooding brings down a whole host of food for fish to feed on, in particular barbel will love these conditions and will go on a feeding frenzy. However, it is always worth noting the water temperature and more importantly the trend as floods caused by a cold front usually cause a drop in temperature – barbel do not like sudden drops in water temperature. This can sometimes happen during periods of warm weather during the summer and sport can drop stone dead! On the other hand, a period of settled cooler weather changed by warm frontal rain can be very beneficial to the water temp.
Autumn and Winter floods
The water temperature plays its part here as warm rain from the atlantic will often increase the river temps and although the general trend of the water temps are lower during the autumn and winter this increase can again bring fish on the feed. It is widely accepted that barbel will stop feeding below a water temperature of 8 deg C but during the winter when the water temperature has dropped below 5 C then warmer flood water can be beneficial as it is the rise in temperature that is important, just one or two degrees can make all the difference. Snow melt floods are absolutely disastrous to fishing as salt from roads can get washed in as well as the freezing water temperatures, best to stay at home during these conditions!
Where and how to fish
Everything looks good and the conditions are perfect so where should I go? Well, the obvious thing to say is that if you cannot hold bottom in your chosen spot then move to a different area.
Sydney Avenue is a case in point – you cannot fish anywhere near the weir during the floods, similarly moving downstream, the water is generally shallow and the flow is usually way too fast by the fisherman’s path. You can sometimes fish in the slack at the top of the island (where the beach area is in normal conditions) but all alongside the island the flow will again be too strong. The pegs downstream of the island are the most widely accepted as being likely to produce during floods and generally just dropping a bait straight down the sides can produce a big barbel or two.
Heading downstream, Monkmoor can fish well particularly between the end of the gorge and the top of the island. Again alongside the island is usually too fast flowing, head further down to just above the road bridge or into the ‘boat pool’ area and try just dropping a rod length or two out. As the river bends round this area is very shallow and water will be steaming through here right down under the second road bridge and about half a mile on. The flows from here down to the outfall are a little easier during small floods (no more than 1.5m), however, during bigger floods there is almost a complete lack of bankside vegetation to interrupt flow and even dropping down the edge will be difficult.
Belvedere is almost always a wash out in flood, indeed a lot of the area can be under water and unfishable and the flows almost always make it impossible anyway.
Emstrey is a good area to try, it is particularly noted at the downstream end of the fishery for producing good bags of barbel in the slacker areas behind or between the numerous willows.
Lets look at the tackle needed. it is no good going down with a light feeder rod to fish big floods, big feeders need big gear and faster flows will test your tackle to the limit. Most regulars on the river will have a floodwater barbel rod – generally about 2 or 2.25 test curve that can handle the conditions and is capable of casting 4 or even 5 ounce feeders or big leads. Similarly you will need to fish heavier lines, 5-8lb bs lines will be abraded and damaged in no time, we would recommend at least 10lb bs or even stronger.
Big floods generally mean that fish will be less wary and that can mean big smelly baits will work even during daylight hours. Barbel will be sitting closer in than normal and often a rod length out will be enough but this depends on the swim and where the original bankline is. When there is a smaller flood barbel will be sitting in their normal haunts and you need to get out a bit further, this can be a problem when strong currents pull your bait out of position. A good technique to try is to cast out slightly upstream but then let a big bow of line form downstream this will help pull the feeder tighter to the river bed, also a high rod position helps to keep as much line off the water as possible to reduce the drag. Higher flows mean that if you are using a feeder it will empty quicker so more frequent casts are necessary and pellets will be washed downstream quicker too.
The most important thing to consider is that what is happening on the surface of the water doesn’t reflect what is happening at the river bed, it often means that barbel can happily sit tight to the river bed in what appears to be excessive flows. Also any depression or obstruction, such as tree roots or large stones, can often harbour many fish around or behind it and if you find a tightly packed shoal of barbel in these circumstances then a bumper haul can be on the cards. This is particularly so in the summer, you can get as many as thirty barbel sheltering under one bush or tree!