Much has been made of London’s inner city revival over the past two decades, around the depressed East End and Docklands, once the throbbing heart of the metropolis. Since then, the region has experienced a re-generation on a grand scale, none more so than the docks on the Isle of Dogs. These once derelict holes in the ground can now boast some of the capitals best fishing, in water up to 30' deep!

Venue Fact File:
Controlling body: LDAC.
Secretary: ?
Membership: ?
Restrictions: Keepnets minimum 10 foot, must be strung out in water. All fish must be returned, except eels, trout, flatfish.
Matches: ?
How to get there: From Tower Bridge take the A1203 (The Highway) towards Docklands. Go into the Limehouse Tunnel and take the Isle of Dogs filter. Go round the underground roundabout till the A1206 sign and follow till you reach Marsh Wall.

Controlled by the London Docklands Angling Consortium (LDAC), it’s a member’s only venue and offers seven docks with nearly 500 pegs, but has an inherent parking problem, as you may imagine as the area's a commercial 'hub', full of office blocks. As well as the massive stocks of bream and roach, the ‘Dogs’ offer a range of species quite incredible at first glance, such as tench, silver bream, dace, rudd, bleak, perch, chub, carp, mullet, bass, eels, flatfish, zander (recommended fishing), catfish (odd big ones) and trout species… yes, trout and there’s always the possibility of a fleeting appearance of an inquisitive grey seal. Dominated by the towering Canary Wharf, this would be a no 'run-of-the-mill' venue visit.

It’s a depressing start to the day, with showers and overcast conditions blanketing the whole of the London area. My journey into ‘the smoke’ was not going to be enjoyable and if that wasn’t enough there was always Ken Livingston's Congestion Charge to contend with! Arriving around 8.30am at Marsh Wall, which cuts the ‘Dogs’ in half, I find Browning’s Dave Vincent, along with a companion, already set-up and tackling bream along a short section of the Millwall Main Dock, opposite the Pride of London pub. I’m quickly let into the pub’s car park, a perk of association with Browning’s master angler. Parking for a normal human being in Docklands is not an easy exercise at best.


altalt I make my way over the busy Marsh Wall road and hop over the wrought iron railings, which seal off the lads narrow fishing compound. After a brief introduction to Dave’s companion, Les Fidlin, who just happens to be his plumbing boss, we mull over the weather implications and why the pump, to his left, has not been in operation yet. Dave explains the significance of this, “there’s a vast amount of water in these docks, as you can imagine, and clarity of water tends to have a bearing on the fishing. There are times when you can look into the dock and see nearly 12 foot down. When the pump is in operation, normally at high tide, it tops up the dock system from the Thames and adds colour, drawing some of the fish up in the water.” Dave adds, “in common with many places the venue does fish better when the water has this tinge of colour. This flow also helps distribute millions of the tiny freshwater shrimps around the dock and usually kick starts fish into a feeding spree.” Unfortunately for us today its inactivity may have an adverse affect on our returns.

altalt These shrimp were in plain evidence today as we peered over the edge. I suppose they would make a suitable additive to the groundbait if you could collar enough. With one of Dave’s small fish nets we manage to scoop out a handful and have a closer look, they are after all lying at the bottom of the dock’s natural food chain. With no pump activity, there’s no colour and no tow, so it’s left to our two plumbers to try and draw the fish in and feed.

altalt Dave explained the normal feeding strategy, “you would arrive and wait for the pump to start at high tide, then ball it in when it stops. Today we’ve waited an hour after high tide, which was at 7am, and when nothing happened we put in three balls each as an initial look because we didn’t want to dump the whole lot in before the pump started up and then have it all distributed all over the dock! We’ve already had one or two skimmers off those first few balls before you arrived. It now looks as though they won’t be pumping today so we can now feed heavily and hopefully draw in some fish”. He adds “I've prepared a bucket full of liquidised bread and punch crumb, which has been knocked-up quite fluffy. The bottom is quite hard so we can lay our feed over a reasonable area, rather than concentrate it in one spot. Also, because of the depth and the fish we’re targeting, we want to keep everything on the deck, we don’t want to generate a cloud in mid-water and risk drawing fish off the bottom. If I were to throw a ball in now it would float for while before gradually descending to the bottom, breaking off pieces in a cloud in the top layers.


TOP TIPS for fishing silty bottomsTTdropperstopper4998.jpgTTdropperstopper4998.jpgTTplummet5010.jpgTTplummet5010.jpg 

Left: When using a bait dropper in silty water, use a cable tie around the weight at the base. This will help stop the droppers’ weighted stem from sinking too far into the silt.
Right:Take a small strip of lead and pinch it round a piece of foam. This will stop the lead from sinking to deep in the silt.

altaltTo overcome this problem I add some small stones to help the balls sink more rapidly, thereby avoiding any unnecessary cloud. These balls will break up at around two-thirds to three-quarter depth, laying a carpet of feed over an area approximately one square metre… a nice dinner table for the bream, I hope. We don’t need to add too many stones to the feed because 'no pump' means 'no tow'. On some continental matches were the venues have a powerful tow or flow, we would add quite a lot of stones in order to compensate and keep our feed in the right spot. We’re using some gravel type stones which you should be able to get hold of at your local aquarium or garden centre”.

altaltaltaltDave has already plumbed up and found 20 foot at the end of his 7m Browning Carboxi Advance rod. Further round Marsh Wall, towards to exit of the dock, there are depths running to 10 metres. His Simtek STR730 reel is loaded with 4lb Maxima and a peculiar looking 6gr float is attached to it! It has an elongated slim body, an extremely long and thin bristle and a short stem. There were two offset line guides, one at the top of the body and the other at the end of the stem. The bulk shotting is made up of three swan and 2AAA shot, approximately five foot from the hook with 2BB and another BB shot acting as droppers. These run down to a size 20 swivel, to which an 0.13mm hooklength and size 14 Kamasan 911 hook is attached.

TTlineblacking4993.jpgTTlineblacking4993.jpgIf your slider knots loose and moving up and down, take a black felt tip pen and blacken the line either side of the knot to stop it slipping.

I notice a float tube in Dave’s bag with a number of similar looking floats and ask why some are much larger. “The bulk of these floats are home-made and cover some of the greater depths encountered on the docks. The original float was made by Sensas and brought over from France by Eric Lubin on a head-to-head session we did with him on the venue. Normally we used the traditional slider or sensitive pole floats, where pegs allowed for the pole. Well, when Eric produced this strange looking float and displayed its incredible sensitivity and stability we quickly cottoned on to its potential and started to develop our own models. Some of these required beads as stoppers because we made slightly larger eyes, which would allow for easier line passage in the deeper pegs. As you can see that original Sensas float spawned some unusual offshoots, which are a very specialised indeed”, he explained.

altalt Dave explained some do’s and dont’s of casting when fishing this style. “You cast the rig past your spot, laying the line at an angle, holding the line steady. The float is then drawn towards you as the bulk pulls the line through the float’s offset rings. If you where to drop directly onto your spot, then the rig will fall down in a straight line, causing tangles when it reaches the stop knot. This happens because the bulk is obviously heavier than the droppers, so consequently they are the first down, with the droppers and hookbait following directly above. These then fall down onto the bulk causing wrap-ups! Therefore, always let the rig descend at an angle to avoid this. It’s always worthwhile, even after missing a bite to come back out and repeat the casting process again otherwise the same wrap-ups could occur as the rig re-sets”.

altalt“Look, Les has a fish on, you might want to take a shot of it as he doesn't normally get too many!” Dave quips, as he adds some casters to his mix”. “These will help pull in the roach, which in turn should attract more bream. We then squeeze the balls, not too hard, into grapefruit size (baby's heads) and let the stones do the work of taking the bread to the correct depth before allowing the feed to break up. Our feed is white, but at this depth I don’t think colour is an issue, especially as our main hookbait will be bread pellet”.


Dave deposits four of these baby’s heads in his swim, right over the tip of his rod and repeats the procedure for Les. “Right, lets see if we can catch some bream”, he says.

altaltThe hook is baited with a generous pellet of punched bread from what looks to be a cork stopper. Dave describes his home-made punch, “it's specially adapted from one of my large river punches with a cork stopper as a hand grip so these pellets are a lot bigger than your normal punch pellets because the bream here do like to suck a big pellet in. They can run to nearly 6lb (2.5kg) with the average being about two and a half pound (1kg+). Being larger than normal, the pellet tends to be more visible in the depths”. Dave positions the rig and settles down.

“Something took that on the drop, he mumbles, adding, “it’s seems we may have pulled them off the bottom for a short while”. “The problem is when fish come up you get too many liners, so it’s important to let them settle down on the feed”.

altalt We can see constant indications on the float as fish mill around the feed, coming onto, then backing off the bottom, causing Dave’s strange looking float to sometimes lift and then dink slightly under the water. I’m assured this float is extremely sensitive at these depths. “Don’t worry”, Dave says, “when they take the bread, that float bolts off!”

altaltWe start picking up fish to 2lb spasmodically but false indications plague us. An hour passes and both anglers are netting fish, although Les’ catch rate is below that of Dave’s, something to do with mobile phones and work I believe! One of the perks of Dave’s job is having a boss who’s not only a good mate, but who’s also a fishing ‘Nut’... don’t we all wish!

We start to experience what all bream anglers are prone to, fish which go off the feed for no apparent reason. This prompts a change of tactics. Dave moves down to an 0.11mm hooklength and a size 16 hook, which he assures me can be done quite safely as there are no snags here, also because you’re fishing directly over the fish they don’t tend to run off too much, therefore the need for heavier lines would only be for bagging purposes. Dave switches from bread to double red maggot, hoping to spark a more positive response. He also drops in a few more balls of feed. This scale down seems to produce the required response with a nice silver bream and a 4lb+ bream coming in quick succession.

There are continual signs of feeding fish with bubbles coming up in both Dave’s and Les’ pegs. Dave adds a cautionary note saying, “bubbles don’t always mean that the fish are feeding, they may just be swimming vigorously over the bottom, which in turn discharges bubbles from the sediments. You need to try and establish, and understand, just what the fish are doing over your feed… not always easy, especially in 20 foot of water”.



The constant movement on the float is also a continued distraction, which Dave explains is often caused by fish scuffing across the small swivel above his hooklength. This automatically exaggerates movement on the floats sensitive bristle, “it doesn’t take much, but when we do get a positive bite it will be so obvious rather than any little touches” he says. “Fishing on the docks is quite a simple procedure, providing you can see the bites. We’re catching decent size fish, but are still missing some bites, if we had a normal bottom slider set-up then you wouldn’t see most of these bites” he adds.

The depths encountered on the docks prompts me to pose the question of balling-in versus a bait dropper. Dave responds by saying, “they do use a dropper here, but normally the groundbait can be the more effective method as it tends to spread the feed over a wider area offering a greater attraction, while the ‘dropper’ keeps your feed precise and concentrated for those harder days. Sometimes when they’re not having the groundbait we also loose feed and catch roach shallow on the deeper pegs. The previous year I won a match with 18lb of roach, caught at half depth in 10 metres of water… that’s SIXTEEN foot deep!

A steady run of fish keep coming to the net over the next couple of hours when Dave hits something that motors off towards the middle of the dock. “I thought these fish stayed in the area” I sarcastically comment. This fish was not about to be give in easily. “It must be foul-hooked” Dave says. After several minutes it surfaces and all becomes clear, the fish, a bream of about three and a half pound, is hooked in the side fin, no wonder it went ballistic. It’s also noticeable that these dock bream fight much harder than their commercial counterparts, even went they’re not foul-hooked.

altalt It’s now past two o’clock and the fish have started to get 'iffy' again, especially in Les’ peg. The crumb has long been used up so now the only source of feed is about a pint of red maggots. These can’t be fed conventionally as they would draw roach into the upper layers, which is no good to us, so it seems that a bait dropper is the only form of food distribution.

Unfortunately Les doesn’t have one, but Dave does, and graciously loans it to his boss! Les deposits two full loads of red maggots and recasts. We don’t have to wait to long before the top-up bringss Les’ swim back to life and a 2lb bream comes to the net. More fish follow and as Dave’s swim starts to suffer a similar fate he decides to follow Les’ lead and put two good drops of red maggots into his swim. The response is immediate. We get back into the rhythm of picking off bream to 3lb, which had previously backed off a little. However our time is running out, not too mention the maggot!


Today the lads have used about 25 litres of dampened crumb for the two swims and could have got through more. These depths certainly mop up the feed! Another good ploy would be to fish a hard ball a chuck, but that would have certainly added even more to the groundbait cost.

altaltaltalt We review the timid nature of the fish, regarding the numerous liners, which seemed to have plagued both anglers. Dave believes it’s the erratic weather causing spasmodic feeding, “this place is no different to others in that respect” he says. Another factor could be that the bream look to have just come back from spawning, which can certainly account for some scatty behaviour!

There have been fish in and around both swims all day and its clear that the amount of crumb needed had surpassed even Dave’s original assessment. We can only imagine the amount of fish lurking in these depths.

The day had eventually turned into a bright and productive day, far removed from when I first arrived in miserable conditions but the time was now approaching 3 o’clock and if the rush hour was to be avoided I needed to gather our spoils for some parting shots.

altalt Because of the unusual nature of the venue we had limited space available and NO grass, unless you count the odd tuft protruding from the pavement! We laid down some spare nets and soaked the area and fish before viewing our prize catch, fifteen skimmers and bream with the odd sprinkling of roach, about 35lb in all, not bad for an inner city dock on an ‘iffy’ day, by the side of a road! Les produced a similar catch and considering the lack of pump station action, the depressing weather and late spawning activity we felt that the venues reputation remained intact.

Most anglers around the region may be totally unaware of the vast potential these rejuvenated docks hold. The fishing here is excellent, if a little unconventional, and £ for £ offers those looking for something different incredible value for money.

Not only has the infrastructure of Docklands changed forever, but also the fishing.