Since setting up and managing the England feeder team I’ve learnt crucial lessons which have made a huge difference to the way I cast in order to achieve distance and accuracy.
Just as well... after fishing Irish festivals for the first time in ages last year, and with rumours of a Feeder World Championships where we’d have to cast 100-plus yards across a Belgian canal, I realised I needed a really long cast in my repertoire.
I wasn’t alone either. Holding the feeder team trials last year, it became apparent that a lot of good anglers struggle to reach 60yds-plus, and it also surprised me that some don’t realise how far this is.
Believe me, a 60yd-70yd cast is a long way on standard match gear, and once you have to go further than this it’s time for specialised tackle and techniques.
Before you even attempt a long cast, you need to have the right tackle. Choose a rod that will allow you to reach the distance with a little in reserve should the wind increase.
The rod also needs to be fishable at long range, with a tip soft enough to allow you to see bites at distance, and a playing action that will keep fish losses to an absolute minimum. You can cast a beachcaster to the horizon, but what’s the point if you can’t see a bite once you’ve done it?
Line choice is also crucial. Too thick and you won’t be able to get enough distance, too thin and you’ll crack off. I’ve settled on 5lb Preston Power Max for distance fishing now, but when you’re talking 70-80yds-plus, a shockleader is needed to avoid cracking off. This cushions the power of the cast, while the 5lb line gives you the distance.
My shockleader is the same, but in 10lb breaking strain, and runs from the quick-change bead I use to connect my hooklength to the reel itself, so it’s around 17ft-18ft long in total.
When I’m ready to cast I have around 1m of line hanging between rod-tip and feeder and a few turns of my shockleader on the reel spool itself. I know some anglers use braid for distance casting, but I just don’t get on with it. It’s far too aggressive for my liking because of the lack of stretch, and I’d only use it for shy-biting roach on the feeder.
Two things severely hamper the distance of your cast. First, wind direction and strength. If it’s blowing in your face it can take 10yds-15yds off a cast. Conversely, a strong backwind can add that the same amount.
Second, the bigger your hookbait and the longer your hooklength, the more drag will be created as it flies through the air, reducing distance. You can cast 80 yards no problem with a bomb, but as soon as you put a feeder and a tail on you might struggle to get anywhere near that distance. This is why sea anglers clip their baits to the line when they fish beaches.
Make sure you use the right feeder for the distance as well. There are several ‘bullet’ feeders which I now use for going 80yds-plus. These feature the entire weight beneath the frame in a bullet shape and fly much better than a normal cage or plastic feeder. Their exact weight depends on wind speed and direction. For 80yds I use 30g-40g in windless conditions and 50g-60g in a wind. For 100yds it’s time to go for a 50g, 60g or even 80g feeder.
Most of my fishing now revolves around groundbait feeder work with a 50cm hooklength, the minimum currently allowed in the Feeder World Championships. I know in matches and in practice on stillwaters I’d catch more with a shorter hooklength, so my hookbait is nearer the feeder, but I’m reluctant to do this because I want to get totally used to fishing in this old-school style again.
Today I’m on one such training session at my local Southfield reservoir and I’ve picked a comfortable swim with the wind off my back.
You don’t need to put in much bait in winter, so I’ve cast my baited feeder out five times at the start without a hooklength before adding a hookbait of double red maggot.
To be honest, I’m not expecting a quick response but hopefully a few bream will turn up at some point during the day.
I can’t quite believe it when my tip wraps around on the very first cast with a 2lb bream. I actually take seven fish up to 3lb in seven casts, with some of the bites coming before I have a chance to sink the line properly, which shows the benefits of a 50cm hooklength in some situations. However, the shoal quickly disappears and I soon have to wait for bites, catching the odd fish in flurries of activity.
In this situation I’d probably catch more on a Method feeder, but there’s something infinitely more enjoyable about catching fish the classic, international way!
Preston 13ft 8ins Dutch Master
We’re talking extreme distance, and at this range I step up to a beefy 13ft 8ins rod with a 6000 reel. Bigger reels have bigger spools and the line comes off easier for casting. One turn equates to to a metre! I use a size 14 hook – you’ll pull out of fish on anything smaller.
Preston 11ft C Tec
This is a new rod with a little bit more beef than a Super Feeder version, for chucking a bit further. I use a normal 4000 PCR reel. It’s pretty standard gear so you can fish nicely with light lines and size 18 hooks.
Preston 12ft 8ins Dutch Master Method
You need a rod designed for the job, which these long Dutch-style rods have been.
I prefer the Method version to the standard model because it has more of a through action. Now it’s time to step up to a 5000 reel, and you can’t afford to use anything smaller than a size 16 hook.
HOW TO CAST FURTHER
Are you casting correctly?
I do a lot of coaching when I see anglers casting with the rod straight over their head. Instead, you need to go straight over your right shoulder (assuming you are right-handed) and point the blank at the same far-bank target each time to end up in the same place. Grip the reel with most of your fingers above the fitting, as shown.
Short cast (30yds to 40yds)
First obtain the right grip for all casts. Grip your reel with all your fingers above the reel handle, except for your little finger which grips below. This is an easy flick and doesn’t require you to adopt a different position or bring the rod back
Medium cast (50yds to 60yds)
Now you need to hold the rod a little higher, keeping the same right-hand grip and holding the base of the butt with your left hand (assuming you are right-handed). This creates a pivoting point. You should apply more force to the cast by taking the rod-tip lower behind you, but this is still an easy distance to hit with the correct gear.
Long cast (70yds to 100yds)
With your left arm straight, bring the rod right back behind you, holding the butt at the base. Your rig should almost touch the ground (you can get casting mats so it doesn’t catch in the grass). Pull down with your left hand to generate power. Always stand up to cast a distance like this, and be mindful of the bank behind – if it’s high you may have to walk back and stand on top of it to cast.