Despite their diminutive size, many of my local rivers suddenly seem to become filled with superb dace fishing as we head towards the end of the season. I've seen the same thing elsewhere. In rivers as diverse as the Thames and Frome, dace can provide a most interesting days sport when little else will feed. It was Stuart Clough who first tracked dace fitted with tiny radio transmitters during the Winter months and found them moving downstream. Chub and barbel may also make the same migrations, although to a lesser extent. Whilst dace appear to move many miles, these other species often just drop down to the first suitable piece of slow flowing water.

Dace mass in the tidal reaches and unless their path is blocked by weirs a high proportion of all fish move. Certainly the dace populations spread through the middle reaches of my local rivers are pretty sparse, yet come mid-winter and the fish will be massed in a few large shoals in the slightly deeper swims lower down. Look for a light depression in the river bed, bank side cover producing a shadow over the water (although not falling into the water) and a steady flow and the chances are you will find dace.

I spend enough time sat behind a static rod in the vain hope of catching a monster, so although the swim feeder is certainly the best method for catching the very biggest dace, I leave the heavy gear at home and just take a trotting rod. I have recently been introduced to the MAP 15 foot float rod and have been totally bowled over by it. Dave Harrell's experience of fishing the Severn and Warks Avon has obviously been poured into this rod as it is perfect for fishing the more powerful flows of Winter. Couple this with a good quality reel (decent line lay is essential) loaded with a 3lb floating line and away you go. I use a 2lb Wychwood fluorocarbon hook length tied to a size 16 Mustad maggot hook. Hook bait is invariably two red maggots, although a handful of white maggots gives the fish an option.

Float choice is really dependant upon the river. As my local rivers are so small I tend to use a dumpy balsa float carrying just a couple of BB. In deeper, more powerful rivers, a stick float might be OK for fishing close to the bank. But for fishing further out a balsa carrying upwards of 3AA is better, holding line better and not riding up when slowed down. Put a single number eight shot six inches from the hook and make the rest of the weight up with number four and one shot. In shallow swims put the bulk of the shot under the float, whilst in deeper water the bulk goes down to get the bait close to the river bed. Experimentation is the key as each river is different and you will need to work out how to get the best out of each swim. When the dace are in big shoals you don't have to be too precise to catch a few, but to be consistent you will need to refine your approach.

When the fish are really on you can sit and catch them all day long. Remember to keep a dozen maggots going in every cast to keep the fish interested. Generally the fishing is at it's best when the tide is running out. I guess because it is more coloured and there is more food dislodged. Low tide is generally poor, but you will catch a few at other times if you cannot time your trips to coincide with falling levels. The secret though is to keep flexible. Get things even half right and you will get plenty of bites. As the hours whiz by, you will wonder why so few anglers enjoy this superb winter sport.