It is true to say that 99 % of river racing is carried out downstream, with bites being signaled by the quiver tip pulling round. Much of the time, however, an upstream presentation is superior, for example when dealing with jabs on the rod top which prove difficult or impossible to hit, the kind of indication common with roach at short range. The upstream presentation will see all resistance removed when the fish pulls the bait downstream, so it holds on to the bait for that vital few moments longer.
A second major advantage of river racing is that it can automatically locate a hot spot in a swim, by periodically shifting the lead so that it bumps down the flow. Natural obstructions such as rises in the gravel bed and weed roots will halt the progress of the lead.
When racing downstream, most anglers sit upstream of the swim and fish each area in turn by casting across and down to it, and this simple method catches fish consistently. However, there are weaknesses associated with a succession of down and across presentations. First, as you cast to each area, in turn, there is the initially alarming effect of a lead plummeting into the swim. Obviously, the fish soon recover their composure if they are feeding hard, but it is nevertheless a frightening effect you can do without. You may decide to cut down the amount of casting by rolling the bait into position rather than casting directly to the swim. You can do this by casting to the far bank, fishing that side for a while and then, by lifting the rod point, encourage the terminal rig to roll across a river to search other areas. Although this minimizes disturbance, the tautness in the tackle means that, when the bait rolls into midstream and then into the near bank, it does so in an arc across the flow. This is highly unnatural and could be enough to dissuade a suspicious fish from intercepting the bait. Also, the bait will only ever fish on the line of each arc, and in a big swim, this can mean a lot of water being unfished.
Upstreaming river racing overcomes these objections. Sit at the furthest downstream extremity of the swim and cast two yards above the upstream point of the swim on the far bank. After the lead has settled, the intention is to work the bait progressively down the flow, allowing it to settle for perhaps five minutes and then repeating this at intervals down the run or where a natural feature halts the lead’s progress. To do this, the rod point is lifted, and a little line is drawn which dislodges the lead so that it bumps downstream into the required position. That is the first difference to note. The lead bumps downstream in a straight line rather than moving in an arc because the upstream presentation has allowed the creation of slack line when the lead is disturbed.
Upstreaming is vulnerable to false bites if there is much flotsam in the river. It takes very little drifting weed to dislodge a critically balanced terminal rig. If this is a problem, and it is quite likely to be so in a flood, put more lead on than normal, and try to ignore the rubbish hitting the line. A bite from a big fish will still be obvious. These conditions are ideal for barbel, and you won’t mistake bites from those.
Written by: Josimac