Here Paul Garner shows exactly how to effectively fish a feeder and cast your bait as close as possible to islands that can be found on both commercial fisheries and natural lakes.
Fish scientist, specimen angler and Dr Paul Garner explains why fish are drawn to islands, and how to maximise your catch by feeder fishing them correctly.
Paul said: “Islands are both natural patrol routes, and holding areas for fish as they offer food and cover. Cast anywhere towards an island and, sooner or later, you’re likely to catch a fish. The trick is to keep those fish coming throughout the session. To fill your net you must be able to interpret island features, and learn to cast accurately to them.”
Overhead cover cuts out light and makes fish feel more confident out of sight of possible threats – including anglers!
Islands offer all kinds of cover from the smallest tuft of overhanging grass, to mighty willow trees pushing well out over the water. The closer you can get a bait to these fishy sanctuaries, the better the chance of getting confident bites.
Other fish-holding features to watch for are shallows often found at the end of islands where fish will bask in warm weather, small bays or ‘cut-outs’ in the island bank, ‘rat holes’ and protruding reed beds.
Paul has brought the cameras to the scenic and fish-filled Brockamin Pools day-ticket fishery near Worcester.
He’s opted to fish the Lower Pool in a swim that offers him half a dozen different fish-holding features on the island within comfortable casting range.
Each of the Island features will definitely hold fish but Paul is especially interested in any ‘canopies’ formed by dense vegetation like pampas grass that grows out from the bank and leans over the water creating a protective, shady overhead canopy where fish feel safe.
This canopy can protrude over the water for several metres and form a sanctuary for a surprising volume of fish, especially on heavily pressurised waters.
It’s impossible to get bait under these island overhangs, but the closer you can get your feeder to them, the more fish you will tempt.
You can use either a cage feeder, or a flat-style Method feeder, to fish to islands. Both types have their advantages.
Flat Method feeders cast further, and more accurately, especially in a crosswind. A short hooklength can be buried in the groundbait so they are less prone to tangling if you accidentally overcast and catch overhanging vegetation. In clear water, burying the hook also helps get more bites.
Flat feeders are better at letting fish, especially carp, hook themselves with the ‘bolt’ effect and produce ‘unmissable’ rip-round bites on the quivertip. Also, flat feeders don’t roll as much when they land on steep underwater island slopes.
Cage feeder rigs are much more sensitive to bites than flat feeders because there’s far more movement in the long hooklength that’s connected above the weight of the feeder. Shy-biting fish can pick up the bait and move freely without feeling resistance. This rig should be used when delicate biting species like roach, bream, skimmers and F1 carp are expected. Cage feeders are arguably easier to load than Method feeders and Paul’s using one here.
You can use the same groundbait ingredients for the cage and Method feeders but each must have a different texture for best results.
The cage feeder mix should be light, fluffy and barely damp so that it expands and explodes out of the cage once it hits the lake bottom.
The Method mix is more ‘claggy’to stick to the Method frame and stay intact until it hits bottom where carp will attack it.
The difference between these textures depends entirely on how much water you use to mix them with. The more water you add, the stiffer/stickier the groundbait becomes.
You need Hemp & Hali Crush, S-Pellet, Crushed Halibut Pellet and Tuna Dip
Fill a two-pint bait tub with Sonubaits Hemp & Hali Crush
Now add two pints of S-Pellet groundbait to the Hemp & Hali crush
Thoroughly mix the groundbaits together in a groundbait bowl
The mixed light and dark coloured groundbaits should look like this
Add a dollop of Tuna Dip to the water used to mix the groundbait
Use your fingers to mix the Tuna Dip and water before adding to the mix
Add Tuna Dip water a little at a time. Don’t overwet it!
After mixing, add a good handful of Crushed Halibut Pellet feed
The finished mix should be light and fluffy and just damp, not wet
Paul never begins a session casting tight to an island. He always starts three or four metres short in deeper water, where it is far easier to cast to.
He reckons you can always try and tempt a few fish away from the island to your bait, but if you go straight in tight to the island in shallow water and spook the fish, you risk ruining the session before you’ve even started.
Also, once you’ve put bait close to the island, it will be a lot more difficult to cast shorter and pull the fish away from the island.
Fish hooked a few metres away from the island bank can also be played with minimal commotion so they don’t spook fish laying tight to the island.
As the day progresses, the fish will naturally become more cautious and retreat to the island where they feel safer. This is where the angler with the knowledge and casting ability to follow them tight in will continue catching while other anglers sit without a bite.
If he’s not catching fish, or getting line bites (where fish are accidentally swimming into the line), it’s time for him to cast closer to the island bank.
Paul told us: “There are days when you have to be really close to the island bank to catch – you almost have to put the feeder up a rat hole before they’ll have it. If you learn to cast this accurately, you could be the only bloke on the lake catching consistently!”
Doing the ‘creep’
The best way to cast close to an island is to do the ‘creep’. Simply cast an empty feeder towards the island but deliberately undercast, allowing the feeder to fall five or six yards short. (The feeder has to be empty so that you don’t spread feed all over the lake!)
Now open the bail arm and pull off an extra yard of line. Trap the mono under the reel’s line clip at the point where it comes off the spool and recast. Use your finger to ‘feather’ (slow down) the reel line just before it splashes down. This will prevent the line hitting the line clip with a sudden, jarring impact that could weaken the line, or even cause a crack-off.
Keep repeating the process until you’ve ‘crept’ right up to the feature. Your last couple of casts should advance by a foot at a time, not a yard.
Now when you cast, your feeder cannot travel further than the line clip, so you can’t tangle in the overhanging vegetation.
Now you’ve ‘crept’ up tight you’ll be okay catching small fish. But, if a big carp runs you have a problem. Because the reel line is trapped behind the line clip, you can’t give line and will get snapped. So, you need to master the ‘lifesaver’.
This is a way of casting tight to the island, yet getting three or four turns of mono back on the reel. This extra line is often enough to save your life.
Once you’ve done the creep and clipped up, pull off an extra 2m of line and re-clip. Use the picture sequence above to learn the technique.
It takes some practice, but it’s a top skill to master.
The ‘lifesaver’ method to avoid crack-offs
1. Bring the rod squarely behind your head at this angle and aim at your chosen far-bank marker
2. Follow the cast through with the rod to this angle and begin to ‘feather’ the reel line with your fingers to slow it down
3. Now, bring the rod back up, all the time still feathering the reel line as the feeder hits the water
4. Continue bringing the rod back to this angle where you will feel it hit the line clip. Now quickly drop the rod tip and reel surplus line back on to reel