Bagging winter silvers

Words: Amer Jawad. Pictures: Lloyd Rogers

‘Welcome to my City centre winter haunt’

Amer Jawad visits one of his favourite winter spots (it’s also free to fish) and bags-up with a variety of species, including roach, chub and bream…

I woke up to a very mild winters day and it was hard to believe we were just one day away from January. I decided on a trip into my local Cambridge city centre. No, not a shopping trip but to seek out the winter migrating river Cam silvers…


The Cam is a river I know only too well as I live only 15 minutes away from its banks. During the warmer months the river in these parts gets packed with punts, boats and masses of tourism. So it’s probably best avoided then and targeted when others prefer to shop or stay indoors.

A large part of the river through the city centre is inaccessible to anglers as it runs through the private universities, but find some sheltered back waters and you are in for a treat, one of which I am on today.

The river here is only about 25 metres wide and 100 metres below a weir so the flow here is perfect for my favourite stick float and waggler fishing. The river has a slight tinge of colour but it’s a very shallow stretch of water, at only 3-4ft deep right across the river some would think it’s better to find deeper water in the cold months. It’s not always the case as during the winter vast shoals of fish seem to find the shallow, sheltered areas are better than the deeper water. My target species are roach and chub but you can always expect the unexpected here!


I have set up two rods for today’s session, rod one is my stick float rod and is a Rive R-Design 13.2ft rod which aids control of the float plus it’s got a slightly more tippy action. The waggler rod is again an R-Design model but a slightly shorter 13ft version. The reel lines are 0.16mm line for the stick float and 0.18mm for the waggler. Hook choices are both Guru hook patterns. Size 18 Match Special for the bread and Guru Feeder specials in a size 18. Hook lengths are Guru N-Gauge 0.10 on the stick and 0.13 on the waggler line. Float choices are DH 4×4 alloy stick with a bulk of 8’s and 3 x 9 droppers. A Drake 3 AAA waggler with a spread of number 10 droppers.

With the two for-mentioned species in mind I choose two lines of attack. Line one is a stick float which will be fished just short of mid river. Line two is my chub line and just off the far bank at 22-24 metres over. The stick float line I will fish bread punch, the far side waggler line I will feed steadily with casters. My reasoning for bread on the float is that these city centre rivers see a lot of bread fed into them as people feed the ducks. One other point worth mentioning is the size of the roach that live in this river. The average stamp of fish is well above what we see on canals or my local drains. So bread always seems a better winter bait than the smaller maggot baits.


Feeding couldn’t be any simpler. I start with a golf ball sized ball of liquidised punch crumb thrown slightly upstream of the float. I will look to catch as many fish on this line and one ball feed as I can before feeding again. All the time I feed this line I’ll catapult half pouches of casters over for a later move as I search out a chub or two.

Not only is bread a great winter bait, but as Amer was only using around one slice per hour, it also works out very cheap too!


Usually bread is quite an instant bait so I expect a bite within at least the first 5-10 minutes, and the start didn’t disappoint! Second trot through I hook a decent roach of about 6 oz, this was followed by a string of similar sized fish before it slows up. Now sometimes this is a sign that more feed is required but can also often mean a predator has scared the fish off. Throwing another small ball of crumb out seemed to have the desired affect but not from a roach as my strike is met with a thud! Soon after a 3lb bream is in the net! Not what I was expecting at all but a welcome bonus.

A few more roach later another thud! Bream number 2 and bream number 3 came to the net!! Obviously a few bream about as the weather is so mild for the time of year, so picking a running line also seems to be the right approach as I can search out these fish as I trot down the swim. Playing them on a rod and line is also making life much easier than on a pole, plus less risk of spooking the fish in the shallow water.


As my stick float line goes quieter after that flurry of bream, I use the time to switch for a look over on the waggler line. Normally if there are any chub about they will hit the casters quickly. After a couple of runs through I get no bites, this is surprising given the time the line has been nurtured. A change to the depth as I started just off bottom, adding depth to just tripping bottom soon sees my float slowly pull under but not from a chub but a decent and welcome roach. I decide on working this line a bit to get a feeling of what response I get, it soon becomes apparent that it’s only roach. It may seem like i’m being picky but it also gets me thinking I need to up my feed. I start feeding a bit more positively as I double catapult casters to gauge the response. Ten minutes later a nice chub finds the net! I am very pleased with the response as I am still catching a few roach which are also increasing in size.


Well things couldn’t be going any better, and without wanting to sound like everyday is like this, I found more bream, but now on the waggler line too! The increase in bait has pulled those bream in and I manage another 5 slabs to 4lb on the waggler! To say today has gone well is an understatement, but it really has been that red letter day out.

What today has taught me though, is that it gives you confidence to be more positive. It gives you confidence in the tackle you choose and that you really never know what to expect from these city centre waters when the temperatures plummet!

A bit of history as well as fishing…

Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge.

Amer fished near an interesting bridge – The Mathematical Bridge – this is the popular name of a wooden footbridge in the southwest of central CambridgeUnited Kingdom. It bridges the River Cam about one hundred feet northwest of Silver Street Bridge and connects two parts of Queens’ College. Its official name is simply the Wooden Bridge[2] or Queens’ Bridge.[3] It is a Grade II listed building.[1].

The bridge was designed by William Etheridge, and built by James Essex in 1749. It has been rebuilt on two occasions, in 1866 and in 1905, but has kept the same overall design. Although it appears to be an
arch, it is composed entirely of straight timbers[4] built to an unusually sophisticated engineering design, hence the name.

The original “mathematical bridge” was another bridge of the same design, also commissioned by James Essex, crossing the Cam between Trinity and Trinity Hall colleges, where Garret Hostel Bridge now stands.

The arrangement of timbers is a series of tangents that describe the arc of the bridge, with radial members to tie the tangents together and triangulate the structure, making it rigid and self-supporting. This type of structure, technically tangent and radial trussing, is an efficient structural use of timber, and was also used for the timber supporting arches (centring) used for building stone bridges.[6] Analysis of the design shows that the tangent members are almost entirely under compression, while the radial timbers are almost entirely subject to tension with very little bending stress, or to put it another way, the tangent and radial elements elegantly express the forces involved in arched construction.