It’s all too easy to write off catching fish at short range on winter commercial fisheries as a combination of clearish water and low temperatures makes even the most optimistic of anglers resigned to catching nothing a few metres out from the bank.
But according to England star Des Shipp, you’re missing a massive trick by giving a short line the cold shoulders, especially if your venue is home to big, wily F1s that don’t get caught fishing at longer ranges on the pole or feeder.
As a match angler, Preston Innovations-backed Des knows only too well the value of feeding a fishing a swim just 5m or 6m out, even when there’s ice on the water. He’s had many matches that have sent him from zero to hero in a hectic hour’s bagging on a short pole line and the exact same principles apply to a day’s pleasure fishing that might not have yielded much fishing further out.
“Although 6m out is not a natural patrol route for F1s as such, they will still move closer to the bank as the day goes on,” Des advised. “For that reason, this short line isn’t one that you’ll empty from the word go and it may be that you only catch for 30 minutes right at the end of the day but this short period of time can produce 10 big F1s in as many chucks and turn a poor day into something that makes the grinning and bearing of winter worthwhile.”
The right distance
“The first job is to decide where to fish and my general rule is to go around a top kit of my pole plus two sections out, which is around 5m or 6m,” Des explained. “However, there needs to be the right depth here and I’d look for between 4ft and 5ft on a flat bottomed area. If the bottom is sloping at this range, that’s not ideal so I’d keep adding sections until I find a flat spot.”
Nothing but maggots
“I leave pellets and corn for fishing longer and on the short line, I use just maggots, which are brilliant for winter fishing on commercials,” he said. “It’s true that they pull in silverfish, which can be a nuisance but if the roach and skimmers are of a decent stamp, I don’t mind catching them while waiting for the F1s to have a go. I take three pints of red and white maggots plus a few fluoro pinkies.”
All in the timing
“I wouldn’t fish short for at least two hours because firstly, you won’t catch F1s at short range this quickly and secondly, I like to give my long pole or feeder line the chance to build up,” Des explained. “By working out how many bites I am getting when fishing long and how good the fishing is, I can then make the decision as to when I have a look short. By this, I mean that if I am getting lots of bites on the long pole and the fish are of a decent size, this tells me that I can expect to get bites short a lot earlier. If the fishing is hard, it might not be as solid close in.”
Have some faith!
“I’d never write off the short line as in the final hour the F1s can rock up and you can get one every drop in so early on, you may only be having a quick look short before reverting back to the long pole,” he said. “If you catch a few F1s then don’t hammer the peg by staying on it. If the bites then fade, that’s the signal to rest the short line for 15 minutes so that the fish can regain their confidence. If you only catch little fish when you change to the short line then I would also come off it quickly as there’s no point in fishing for them. You’d be better off on the long pole with pellets trying to catch an F1, carp or big skimmer.”
“Because you are fishing at short range, you can feed maggots by hand and this is good for two reasons. It makes you disciplined into feeding all of the time – using a catapult or pot takes longer and it is easy to neglect feeding short when fishing the long pole,” explained Des. “Feeding by hand takes just seconds to do and you can still fish long while doing it. I begin by feeding every four or five minutes with half a dozen maggots but will up this if there are a lot of silverfish present and I think that there’s not much ending up being left in the peg for the F1s. This is the second advantage of feeding by hand in that I can change how much and how often I feed with ease so I may go from half a dozen maggots every five minutes to 50 maggots every 15 minutes. Hookbait is double maggot (one red and one white) or a single red maggot and single fluoro pinkie.”
“I will have two rigs ready for the short line with the aim of catching just as the bait settles and then hard on the bottom,” he revealed. “The trouble with F1s is that even in winter, they will be off bottom slightly but you won’t catch them by fishing off bottom so you need a set-up that lets the bait fall slowly in the last few feet of the swim.”
“In ideal conditions, that rig uses a 4x12 F1 Maggot float shotted with a string bulk of No 10 shot in the final 2ft of the swim but I also have a positive rig with a bigger 4x14 float taking a conventional bulk and two No 10 droppers. This will come into play if the fishing is good and I am catching well.”
“Lines are 0.13mm Powwrline as main to a hooklink of 0.10mm for just F1s or 0.12mm Precision Power if there are carp about. Elastic is 9h Hollo and the hook is a size 18 PR412, upped to a size 18 PR434 if the fishing is very good but it is important to match the hook to the strength of line. By this, I mean that the 412 hook is very light and not as strong as 0.12mm line and so is more likely to break first – the 434 however, is perfect for stronger lines. The rig is then set to be fished around the body-length of the float overdepth but at times I have gone up to six inches overdepth in windy weather or on a towing lake.”
Fish past the feed
“By using 2.5ft of line between pole tip and float, I have the option to flick the rig past the feed should I be getting too many line bites or foul hooking fish by fishing over the feed,” said Des. “F1s are well-known for hanging off the back of the feed and although there may not be many there, you won’t get silly bites either.”