Fenland angler Paul Goult loves watching a swingtip rise to the gentle tune of a big drain bream. Here he reveals how to fish for bream at his favourite Middle Level in Norfolk...
Fen drains are 350-year-old man-made waterways, cut out of the surrounding marshland so that it could be converted into agricultural land. They also help to prevent flooding. They can be found nationwide, but the most numerous are in the East Anglian Fens.
Many anglers dismiss drains as a waste of time because of their apparently featureless appearance. Nothing could be further from the truth! With huge shoals of roach and bream, specimen tench and some enormous pike and zander, drains can easily throw up a redletter day, especially for those anglers prepared to put in the time to locate the fish and perhaps prebait as well.
Fishing on the King’s Lynn AA controlled stretch of the Middle Level Main Drain, Paul Goult was here to show us the quality of fishing that the drains has to offer and to put the Fens back on the angling map. Having fished this stretch since he was 12 years old, Paul has more than enough insider knowledge, and armed with his trusted quivertip and swingtip rod, he set-off in pursuit of some Fenland bream dreams.
“I just love the challenge of the drains,” says Paul, “Especially if you’re prepared to put the time in.” This is one of the most important tips Paul gave us.
The very fact that most drains are fairly featureless means you have to focus more on the little that is there. For example, pump houses are excellent places to target. They cut out a gully in the bottom and oxygenate the surrounding water – a classic fishholding feature. Other features worth targeting are lily pad beds or reed fringed banks. Another feature that can be excellent, especially for bream, is any spot where lines of gravel cross the drain – here the bottom can be heavily contoured. These spots tend to be rich feeding grounds, very attractive to all manner of species. Such areas can be difficult to find, but with the help of a local angler or a local tackle shop you will soon be put in the right direction.
Anywhere that was a hot spot in targeting today. Bream are creatures of habit, and tend to frequent the same places year in, year out.”
“The best time to target the huge bream shoals is after they have spawned – early July onwards, up to around about mid-October, just before the first frosts,” says Paul. As for the best time of day, during the summer Paul starts his sessions early in the morning soon after first light. As the colder nights set-in, you dont have to get up quite so early.
Here, a 10am start is all that’s required.
Tactics on a drain can vary considerably depending upon the species that you’re targeting. For this session Paul had his sights set firmly on bream and so was looking to lean on a leger approach. After catapulting in six balls of groundbait, he generally starts with a simple bomb rig, combined with his trusty swingtip rod – a little used tool these days. With this method, Paul will also continue to fire two or three balls into the swim every hour. If the bream are being a bit awkward however, Paul will swap over to a feeder rig. “This can be a great way of pulling the fish in,” says Paul, “Especially when they’re really having it!”
Unlike a canal, most drains are deep, around about 13ft-14ft, with very steep sides. Due to this depth, the casting of a feeder or bomb won’t tend to spook the shoal, even if you’re casting every five minutes. This is further helped in that all drain fish are wild, with most having never seen a bait before.
Fishing the tip
Swingtip fishing these days has sadly become a bit of a forgotten art, but there is simply no bite indication system more sensitive – a belief strongly held by Paul. “I was brought up fishing the tip. It’s a fantastic method and much more sensitive than even the lightest of quivers. The other advantage is that the bites are unmissable, as the fish feels no resistance,” he says.
One of the main problems when bream fishing is line bites. This is amplified when the shoal is particularly large. With a quivertip it’s easy to mistake line bites for actual takes. This can lead to foulhooked fish and a spooked shoal. The advantage of the swingtip is that it increases the time for a bite to develop, particularly when using long tips like Paul.
“With a line bite, the tip may rise half way up and then come back to rest,” says Paul. “If it is a genuine take, the tip will rise all the way to the top and the rod will start to shake. Now is the time to strike!”
How do I fish the swingtip?
End tackle: Generally used with a straight leger set-up. The leger itself needs to heavy enough to avoid tangles and wraparounds if the tip bounces on the cast. Therefore look to use a lead of around about 1oz-11 ⁄2oz.
Set-up (A): The correct positioning for the tip is 20 degrees from the vertical, with the end of the tip just touching the water. This allows the tip just enough movement to indicate drop-back bites as well as forward takes.
Casting (B): Swingtips can be difficult to cast for the novice, but with a little practice it soon becomes second nature. Before making the cast, look to see that everything is clear and that the lead is hanging from the rod tip. Once the lead hits the water, keep the line slack to allow the lead to fall straight down. Keeping the line taut will swing the lead out of position.
FOR his session today, Paul is using both a swingtip rod and a quivertip rod.
The swingtip rod is 12ft in length. This is fairly long for a swingtip rod but ideal for the drains because it allows you to reach over nearside weeds and to pick up line quickly on the strike – some of these drains require casts of 40 yards or more.
The tips that Paul uses are also longer than standard. “I prefer longer tips,” says Paul, “Because they allow you to read line bites more easily and allow more time for the bite to develop.”
One disadvantage of using a longer, larger swingtip is that they are more difficult to cast. It is therefore necessary to use a larger bomb than normal to avoid the tip swinging back on the cast and cracking off.
Paul’s quivertip set-up is slightly heavier than an average bream set-up, being a Preston Innovations Carbonactive 12ft feeder rod with the medium tip inserted. This is rated at around 2oz. “Slightly heavier tips are needed on the drains,” explains Paul.
“When the drain is run off, it’s surprising how much movement there is. Combine this with a little wind and it soon becomes obvious that a 1oz-11 ⁄2oz tip is just too light.”
As drains tend to be relatively unfished these days, it’s a good idea to formulate a plan of attack. The first time that you target a particular swim, it’s always a good idea to prebait in order to pull the shoal in. Generally Paul prebaits a couple of times before fishing. “I’ll prebait one night, then two nights later, looking to fish the following morning.”
When prebaiting a swim on the drains, don’t be shy. The bream shoals can be huge and it won’t take long for them to eat half-a-dozen balls and move on. Paul balls in around 12 kilos! “For prebait bait I use pure brown crumb. During the session I add 25 percent Van Den Eynde Pro Gold. To this I also add a pint of casters, half a kilo of Dynamite Baits 4mm trout pellets and two tins of sweetcorn.”
1. Pour the sweetcorn and juice from its can into a polythene bag.
2. Add a few squirts of your chosen colouring or flavouring.
3. Powdered colouring can also be added – you only need half a teaspoon for a can of corn.
4. Blow into the bag, agitate the corn, and leave in the fridge overnight.
The addition of a bait additive to your mix can give you a great edge. Bream tend to have a very sweet tooth and with this in mind, Paul likes to add Sensas Aromix Bremes into his groundbait mix.
Around one third of a bottle is added to the water and mixed prior to being added to the groundbait.
“Another additive that I rate very highly,” he says, “is Van Den Eynde sweet liquid molasses. It’s a fantastic addition to groundbait and also a great additive to use with sweetcorn.”