When the chips are down in the depths of winter, there’s a bait I always turn to for F1s and that’s maggots.
From Tunnel Barn Farm to Hillview Fisheries, I’ve enjoyed some great results since the turn of the year fishing and feeding maggots, even when there’s ice on the water and the added bonus is that a pint or two of reds will also catch me vital weight-building silverfish while I’m waiting for the F1s to arrive.
However, this best of both worlds isn’t always the right way to go about things, especially if the peg is full of tiny roach. The silverfish have to be of a decent-enough stamp to make fishing for them worthwhile but you have to accept that there will be days when there’s only tiny fish to be caught - in this instance, I’ll reach into the bag and break out pellets.
True, pellets are more selective and you wait a lot longer for a bite but you’ll bypass the little fish and know that when the float buries, it’ll be an F1 or a decent skimmer. However, I’ll rarely try and turn a maggot line into a pellet one – instead I will begin a new line a few metres away and feed just pellets. This always seems to work better than trying to catch off one line that’s already full of little roach and skimmers!
On a cold, misty day at Hillview Fisheries in Gloucestershire, low water temperatures combined with a never-ending stream of half ounce roach knocked the theory of catching a big bag of F1s on maggots on the head. Feeding a dozen maggots with a small pot every drop in at 13m only seemed to encourage more little fish into the swim without a sign of an F1. Not ideal but not a disaster either as I had pellets in my bait bag! Yes it was going to take longer to catch but the pay-off would be something that pulled back when I got a bite. All it needs from the angler is a bit of patience.
With the decision made to switch to pellets, how does the feeding change? Not much to be frank and I will still begin using a small pot introducing eight or nine dampened Fin Perfect 4mm pellets every drop in. A 4mm pellet is the ideal size for winter F1s and I also have a catapult on my tray in case I need to begin firing in bait to make a bit of noise to encourage the F1s to investigate.
Band on the hook
A soft expander pellet will simply be ragged off the hook by tiny skimmers and roach so that means using a hard pellet for the hook. A hard 4mm Fine Perfect to complement the feed is just the job and I fish this in a small pellet band but rather than tying up a hair-rig with the band tied to it, I simply slip the hook through the band and then slot the pellet into place. It’s not strictly hair-rigged but I find this way of fishing quicker and get no less bites doing it.
Two rigs for one job!
The maggot rig that I have been fishing with to begin the session can also be used for pellet work with just the addition of the pellet band. The float is a 4x12 F1 Maggot from my new range, which is light enough to give the pellet a slow fall through the swim because I’m convinced that F1s and skimmers in winter sit a foot off bottom and watch it fall in the final few feet of the swim before taking it. Use a heavy float and the bait will bomb down too quickly and you’ll miss out on so many bites.
Lines for this rig are light in keeping with the conditions, so that means 0.13mm Powerline main to a hooklink of 0.10mm to 0.12mm Precision Power depending on how hard the fishing is, and a size 18 PR434 hook, which is a very light hook but still capable of landing a bonus carp when used with 9h original Hollo elastic. I set the rig to fish slightly overepth, plumbing up so just the float body is above the surface, being sure to dot the float down well and strike at every dip.
Lowering it in
Because the fish watch the bait it is important to gently lower the rig into the peg rather than being in a rush to get the float cocked and ready for action. I’ll lay the bottom half of the rig in and then lay the upper half of the rig complete with float in the opposite direction over the top. This means that there is no tight line as the rig settles and so the pellet sinks naturally giving the fish time to pick it out and take it. A strung bulk is ideal for this, situated in the bottom third of the rig.