Fishing Methods for Catching Dace

The depth at which dace are to be caught depends on the nature of the swim. If it is free of weeds the fish are to be found either around mid-water facing upstream, or searching the gravel for insects. In swims containing much weed, however, they are often found near the surface. Where weeds fringe narrow, fast-flowing runs, the dace will be found in the runs ready to intercept any items of food which come down with the stream.

The best way of fishing with a maggot is by swimming the stream with float tackle. However, before tackling-up, consider what the conditions are, the level of the river, strength of flow, colour, and so on. Then choose the line strength and size of float, and decide on the shotting arrangement. If it is a deep swim, use a float capable of supporting sufficient split-shot to take the bait down to the fish. Don’t put the shot all in one bunch but spread them out along the cast, placing the larger shot nearer the float, and making the lower one near the bait a tiny dust shot.


I prefer to start fishing deep. First of all it is necessary to use a plummet to ascertain the depth of the swim. The float can then be set so that the bait, in this case a maggot, will swim just clear of the bottom. It is possible to experiment by pushing the float down the line periodically and thus raising the hook until a taking depth is found.

The dace’s nature compels it to dart and grab at almost everything resembling food that comes down with the current. So if you present your bait so that it travels as naturally and unhindered as possible it should entice a fish to take it.

With maggots as hook-bait, it is essential also to use them as ground-bait. They can either be thrown in loose to attract the dace, or mixed with some softish ground-bait mixture and tossed in at the head of the swim. If the stream is fast, calculate just how far upstream this must be put in for it to reach the swim at the right level along the path over which the maggot-baited hook will travel.

As quietly as possible, cast the tackle in slightly upstream, and, as the float rides through the swim, follow its journey by pointing the rod tip at it, avoiding slack line between float and rod tip. In this way you will get a quick and direct strike. Since a dace can eject a bait instantly, it takes a sharp strike to hook your fish.

I normally start by putting two maggots on the hook, and delay baiting with single maggots until the dace begin to bite short, nipping the ends of the bait. This is a sure sign that their appetites are becoming satisfied. You can also try nicking the point of the hook carefully in the skin at the maggot’s middle, which should bring more definite bites. Occasionally, let the tackle trot a few feet below the normal limits of the swim and then hold the float back. This causes the bait to rise in the water and waver around attractively with the current.

On some rivers, notably the Thames, it is essential to get the bait down past the bleak shoals if you want to catch a sizeable dace. A typical Thames matchman’s tackle arrangement consists of a quill float, shotted immediately below the ring and shotted again about 30 cm (12 ins) from the hook. Some anglers add an extra dust shot 5-7.5 cm (2-3 ins) from the hook to assist the bait in getting quickly down past the small fish. The hook size favoured by some is 16 or 18 with single maggot bait, though I prefer a larger size (14 to 16) with a single maggot.

As well as correct spacing of split-shots, correct weighting is needed to sink the float so that only about 1 cm (j,; in) is showing above the surface. This rig, used with a long rod, can yield a good bag of fish, but you will need to strike smartly. With the longer rod the line can be kept fairly taut between float and rod tip, so that as the float dips the rod can be given a quick flick to hook the dace.

Stret-pegging is a method worth trying in swims which have fair depth with a medium to slow current close to the bank, and one with which you are likely to pick up the bigger fish, because you can manoeuvre the float and search thoroughly all over the swim.

A large quill float capable of carrying four to six medium-sized split-shot is fitted to the line. Again, the shot are best spread out along the cast and not bunched in one place. The lowest split-shot should be 30-45 cm (12-18 ins) from the hook. The exact shotting arrangement depends largely on the type of swim and river conditions, and adjustments should be made after a trial cast or two.

The plummet is used to check the depth,and the float adjusted so as to allow some 30-45 cm (12-18 ins) more than the depth of water in the swim. Once this has been done, and just before starting to fish, take up a position at the head of the swim, and then throw in a little ground-bait. This mixture should have a base of well-mashed bread, which will sink fairly quickly. Maggots thrown in loose should be thrown some way above the swim if they are to be of use. The ground-baiting rule to observe throughout the day’s fishing it ‘little and often’.

The hook may be baited with a redworm, the tail of a lob-worm, maggots, or the white crumb from the inside of a loaf.

Long casting isn’t necessary, so cast in with an underhand swing. With the rod held directly in front of the body allow the tackle to trot a few metres down the swim. Then, holding the baited tackle there, let the flow of water raise the bait off the bottom and waver it about alluringly. If, after a moment or two, no bite is registered, work the float tackle a little further down the swim and hold it still again. The tackle can be worked all over the swim in this manner, and you should pick up a few of the bigger dace.

If the dace in the swim are of good quality, In have sometimes found it pays to use a slightly larger bait than usual and not to hurry the strike.

When using hempseed as a bait, ‘swimming the stream’ is the best method. It is a mistake to use split-shot on the tackle when hemp fishing, since dace often bite at the split-shot in mistake for the hempseed. A thin lead wire coiled neatly on the cast will be more satisfactory, though you’ll have to use one small split-shot to prevent the coil from slipping down the line.

Using hemp you will almost certainly get bites which, although numerous, will be very quick. It takes great skill and concentration to strike them, so every sizeable dace caught on hempseed is well-deserved.

Legering a bait on the bottom often catches the larger dace, but the bait should have movement to attract the fish. Red-worms are lively bait here, but maggots are also effective especially when they have been put in the swim for some time.

For legering, the best terminal tackle is as follows: a small Leger weight, bullet, flat head, pear-shaped lead, or Arlesey Bomb. The weight is stopped from sliding right down to the end of the line by pinching on a split-shot.

During the summer, dace may be seen rising freely to take flies from the surface. This is the time to take a fly-fishing rod with you and fish the rises. But if you want a couple of hours fly-fishing, then fish the water whether the dace are rising or not. Fished dry or wet, an artificial fly will account for grand dace — but sometimes they take with lightning speed and you will need sharp reflexes to match them.

The selection of fly pattern is not so important as size. Use tiny hooks at first, but as the sun goes down and the dace start to rise everywhere, you can increase the hook size with good effect. With dace there is no need for exact imitation, for they will take almost any fly. As a guide the following short list will be useful : Coachman, Peter Ross, Greenwell’s Glory, Black Gnat, Wickham’s Fancy, Alder, Red Tag, Dark Olive Quill, and Coch-y-bondhu.


The dace is quite common in England and Wales but is not found in Scotland or Ireland (except in the river Blackwater). The rivers which I know are likely to produce large fish are the Kennet, Windrush, Suffolk Stour, Dorset Stour, Lower Thames, and Hampshire Avon.

Though of no great size the dace is a sporting fish that can be caught at any time of the season. It can be a useful quarry for match anglers, especially if the competition is held on a river not controlled by size limit. A great number of angling competitions have been won by the angler with a good bag of dace. Such a winner deserves his congratulations, for a match angler has to be skilful to end the day with a netful.

15. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Coarse Fishing, Dace, Fish | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Fishing Methods for Catching Dace


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