Looking for an edge on commercials? Match ace Steve Ringer shows how to boost your baits.
1. Margins – big baits means more bites
When fishing in the edge, one of the hardest things is getting a carp to pick up your hookbait, especially when a lot of them are feeding, .
I would go as far as to say there is nothing more frustrating than being able to see carp in the edge and then not be able to catch them.
This is where a big ‘target bait’ such as 10-12 dead red maggots really comes into its own.
If you think about it there are going to be lots of maggots on the bottom so if I fish just two or three on the hook it’s going to take a while for a carp to find them. Fish a bunch, however, and bites can be instant! That’s how much of a difference it can make.
2. Blow up your pellets
A few years back I was doing a lot of straight lead and pellet fishing but always felt I was missing an edge over other anglers who were fishing the same tactic.
Then one day when I was packing up I noticed a few pellets had fallen under my seatbox. What struck me was the size of the pellets – they had taken on water and were almost twice the size.
This got me thinking as the same thing had to be happening in the water once the pellets had been on the bottom a while. I therefore decided to pump some hard 8mm pellets and leave them in water so that they ‘blew up’ into massive, soft pellets.
Once I got the process of prepping the pellets rightthe results were staggering and I was getting more bites than ever before on my ‘new’ blown pellets!
I had found the edge I had been looking for and ever since that day when lead and pellet fishing I always have a few ‘blown’ pellets with me.
3. Hard pellets - noise is the key
When the fishing is hard and there isn’t a lot happening I am big believer in trying to draw a few fish into the swim and the best way to do so is to make a noise with hard pellets.
I pick up my catapult and ping just 3-4 pellets on top of the float every 20 seconds.
The reason this works is that carp home in on the noise of the pellets hitting the water but at the same time I’m not putting lots of bait on the bottom and risking killing the swim.
Size-wise this tactic works best with either 6mm or 8mm pellets because anything smaller doesn’t make enough noise to help pull a fish or two into the swim.
4. Coloured water equals red meat
I love fishing meat but it loses its effectiveness when the water is extremely coloured.
When this is the case I will take a handful of my 6mm cubes and dye them red. The reason being when the water is very coloured red offers a strong silhouette and gives the carp a bait they can really home in on.
I was always sceptical about red meat in the past but I’ve had good results using it too many times in coloured water conditions for it to be coincidence.
I use Ringers Red Liquid to dye my cubes and will only dye my hookbait meat and not the cubes used for feeding.
5. Foul-hooking? Hemp is the answer
I’m often asked how to prevent foul-hooking carp when fishing meat close in?
My answer is to use hemp. But, and it’s a big but, it has to be used in the right way. If you feed it little and often along with the meat then there is a danger the carp can get preoccupied on it and you won’t be able to catch them.
It’s much better to use hemp purely as settling bait. So at the start I will pot in two thirds of a large 250ml Drennan pot of just hemp to form a bed. Then if I start to catch a few and then start to suffer from foul hooking, I will simply introduce another big pot of hemp to settle them back down again.
6. Feed heavy close in to get out of jail
Every now and again in a match you need a get- out-of-jail card and, while most people use the margins for this, I prefer to fish short on a top kit straight in front of me.
I mix hemp, corn and meat and simply lash it in to create the impression of someone packing up and throwing all their bait in.
I normally kick the swim off with three big handfuls of bait and go straight in over the top because quite often I will get a quick response from a fish within seconds.
From that point on I will keep lashing the bait.It’s an approach that doesn’t always work but it has paid off on many occasions for it to be my ‘go to’ line when things aren’t going to plan.
7. Pack in the particles for bream
The secret to building a big weight of bream is particles particles – casters, pellets, worms etc.
I pile in the particles in the first hour to put a bed of bait on the bottom. To do thisuse a bigger feeder and cast more often.
Then when the bream turn up, perhaps 90 minutes in, I have a lot more bait on the bottom to hold the bream for longer.
8. Corn – two grains are better than one
Sweetcorn is a fantastic bait all year round but it’s particularly effective at this time of year.
The interesting part about corn is that when it comes to fishing it on the hook then I always tend to find that two grains are without doubt better than one.
Loads of times I have caught on corn and alternated between single and double on the hook only to find two grains constantly produced quicker bites and bigger fish.
There are two possible reasons for this, firstly the bigger bait stands out more over the loose offerings so the carp spot it that bit quicker, or it could be that everyone tends to fish a single grain of corn so two grains gets treated with less suspicion.
9. Stand out or blend in?
When fishing the Method or Hybrid feeder there are loads of different hookbaits you can use but I like to simplify things by dividing them into two camps, blend-in and stand-out.
Blend-in baits are those such as hard pellets that match the pellets on the feeder. When the fishing is hard this type of bait takes some beating.
The reason for this is that when the fishing is hard there aren’t many fish in the swim so those that are there can afford to be picky about what they pick up. Hence a blend-in bait works well as it can trick even the wariest of carp.
If, however, there are loads of fish in the swim then stand-out baits such as mini fluoro boilies or bread really come into their own. These work because they are highly visible and give the carp something they can really home in on.
10. Give your meat a double cut
A couple of years back I spent a lot of time at Tunnel Barn Farm fishing meat into the shallow water across to far banks and islands. The problem was I struggled to hold the fish in the swim for long periods when feeding 6mm cubes.
What I needed, of course, was to create a cloud to firstly draw the fish in and then hold them in the swim once they arrived. To achieve this I decided to create a meaty mush by passing around a third of my 6mm meat cubes back through the cutter again, giving myself a feed made up of different sizes which almost exploded on the surface of the water.
This was added to 8-10 6mm cubes in my pot so when it was fed the cloudy mush pulled the fish into the swim and once they arrived they followed the 6mm cubes down to the bottom so I could catch them!
Try to get into a routine where you feed before you cast and then feed again at the end of the run. You can also fit another feed in between, as a steady trickle of bait going through the swim all the time will work much better than just one handful every now and again.
When you’re floatfishing on a river, always cast downstream to ensure that your line is in the correct position to start off with. Cast in front or upstream and you’ll end up with a big bow in the line. Another thing to keep in mind is rod position while you’re fishing. Keep the rod pointing downstream and you’ll hit more bites, as you’ll be able to pick up a lot of line.
Use the venue information in Angling Times to search out new venues. There are loads of good river stretches and maybe now is the time to try new ones.
Another useful source of information is tackle shops. There is usually a wealth of local fishery knowledge inside, so talk to the people who work there and ask their advice on where best to go.
They want you to succeed, because you’ll go back for more bait and kit if you do!
LINE SPRAY AND FLOATING LINE GREASE
Before you start floatfishing on a moving river, treat your lines with silicone spray. It helps to keep the line floating, which in turn improves control and bait presentation. I also use silicone line grease in pacy water where I might be ‘mending’ the line several times during a run. I take a smear from the tub and coat the line liberally for about two metres above the float.
No fish is worth risking your life for, so keep safe when you’re on a riverbank, especially if you’re alone. We’re approaching the time of year when river fishing can be fantastic, so get out there when you can and enjoy it!
While you can buy cheap showerproof clothing from a variety of sources these days, if you want to stay totally dry in the worst of conditions my advice would be to invest in Gore-Tex. Base layers are covered with a Gore-Tex bib and brace, a Windstopper fleece and a Gore-Tex jacket, and I never get wet underneath.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many anglers spend thousands of pounds on kit and then skimp on waders. As far as I’m concerned, any angler who regularly fishes rivers like I do should invest in a pair of neoprene waders. I use the Le Chameau ones which have neoprene lining right down to the toe. Cold feet are now a thing of the past!
GETTING GEAR TO THE SWIM
I now use the largest Riggers platform barrow, the best in terms of design and reliability. Most of the time I use it with a single front wheel but I’ve also now got a pair of rear wheels that I can use if I’m pushing the barrow on hard ground.
Whichever barrow you buy, get one that converts into a platform to allow you to position yourself out in the river. You can then either just use it as a table top or put your seatbox on it.
RODS AND REELS
Think about what you actually want the rods to do and then buy accordingly. Your local tackle shop should be able to advise you on this, or ask the opinions of other anglers if you’re not sure.
The same applies to reels. Think about what you actually need them to do and buy an appropriate size to suit the fishing style. It’s also a good idea to match your rods and reels up so that you’ve got identical kit to use.
One area where I’ve seen a lot of anglers sadly lacking is floats. There are many different situations that you can find yourself in on rivers, yet some anglers seem to want to use their ‘favourite’ float all the time. Take some time out to learn about what you actually need for a given situation and you’ll end up catching loads more fish.
USE THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY WEBSITE
One of the most useful websites ever for river anglers is the one that is provided by the Environment Agency, which gives regularly updated river levels for rivers all over the country. It’s at www.environment-agency.co.uk
Get into the habit of using it in the winter months, especially as it will save wasted journeys if the rivers are high. You can actually time your trips to perfection when you get to know levels at your favourite venues.
Good quality line is vitally important for river fishing. It needs to float, as I can then use it for float or feeder work. I’m currently testing some new reel line, as well as a new clear hooklength and rig line, which I’ve been very impressed with so far. The only way to test lines though is by using them over a lengthy period, as most lines are okay for a few outings.
Use a micrometer if you can and check the lines you are using. The stated diameter can be way off!
Like floats, many anglers just don’t carry enough. Most anglers also don’t have enough additional weight with them to add to the feeder to make it hold bottom. A rolling feeder can work very occasionally but most of the time it will just end up in a snag and be lost. Invest in some add-on weights to make the feeders stay where you want them to.
It’s no use having great kit and then chucking a feeder to a different place every time, so work on your accuracy if you fall into this category.
You can use a line clip, of course, to assist you with this but don’t rely on it all the time, as you’ll often catch more by working an area rather than having everything on exactly the same spot.
When you’re floatfishing in windy conditions, always cast off the side that the wind is blowing to. You’ll get far fewer tangles than you will doing it from the other side in this situation.
Things in my seatbox that I’d hate to be without include small nail clippers for cutting line, hook-tyers, disgorgers, plummets, Tipp-Ex for marking depths on my pole and flat-nosed pliers for fixing shot and crimping hook barbs. Double up on all items in case of loss.
I don’t have a problem with people using keepnets as long as they are used properly and fish have plenty of room and depth of water. I also don’t have a problem with catch shots as long as they are done quickly and efficiently.
For a catch shot, get everything set up before you take the picture. Put a weighing mat or an upside-down wet keepnet underneath the net in which the fish are held. Never photograph a catch shot on hard ground.
GROUNDBAIT OR LOOSEFEED?
Generally, the deeper or faster flowing swims often lend themselves to groundbait approaches, while shallow swims tend to be more about loose feeding.
ASK QUESTIONS, MAKE FRIENDSHIPS
Most anglers love talking fishing to other anglers. If you’re visiting a venue for the first time, talk to other anglers there and ask their advice on the place. Not only will you learn a lot quickly, but you can often forge new friendships along the way.
Now that the days are shorter, you will often find that the best catching time on rivers is during the last two hours of daylight. Don’t give up if you can’t catch up for the first couple of hours, as your day could still finish on a high!
RIGS ON WINDERS
Making rigs up at home and storing them on winders will save you loads of time on the riverbank and give you more fishing time instead.
You’ll be more inclined to change rigs to try them rather than staying on a rig you might have started with.
Leading predator angler Dean Brook reveals how he targets the biggest fish on the river...
UNDERSTAND THE VENUE
Rivers are wild, constantly changing entities, so you need to take the time to learn the stretch you are targeting to get the most out of your pike fishing. Ideally, walk the river prior to the season, when the river is low and clear so areas of deeper and shallow water are more easily identifiable.
This reconnaissance also enables you to check out areas of weed or even snags.
Take in the geographical nature of the land. The steeper the sides of the surrounding land, the quicker the river will flood during rain. Plus, the lower-lying rivers also tend to stay in flood for longer. All of these things will affect how the river fishes.
Once you have sussed a length of waterway, it is always best to keep mobile.
I often cover a couple of miles or more in a single session. This means keeping your kit to a minimum but the more water you are able to cover, the more chances you will have of offering bait to a feeding fish.
On rivers, particularly strong, powerful waterways such as the Wharfe, Swale, or Wye, the pike have built up a great deal of muscle mass as they are used to fighting the flow.
So, to ensure you are able to land every one you hook, step up your gear up accordingly. I use either 20lb mono or, ideally, braid. I also use 28lb wire for my trace. River fish are not as pressured as stillwater fish. They are not put off by tackle, so why risk losing them because your gear is too light.
EARLY AND LATE
Low, clear rivers can be the kiss of death when targeting pike because their confidence and cover are blown. This means that especially on days when the sun is bright, either early or late starts are the name of the game. I have lost count of the number of decent-size pike I have caught over the years, fishing at either dawn or dusk.
It sounds time-consuming, but never underestimate the power of prebaiting. The Wharfe where I fish is a big river, and experience has shown that the pike on this type of watercourse are extremely migratory.
By getting the fish used to feeding in a certain area, you can start to either hold them there or intercept them as they are travelling in search of food. No river pike, especially one of the ‘big girls’, is going to turn their nose up at a free meal!
I always use float rigs on the river. Floats are better at giving you early indications that a fish has possibly picked up the bait.
To induce a bite, I often give the reel a couple of turns to twitch the rigs back to the bank. This can act like a trigger to a fish that is in two minds whether to take the bait, as it thinks its dinner is getting away.
ON THE RISE
Often the best time to fish a river for pike is when the water is rising. The prey fish become very active and they need to continually adjust their position in the river due to the ever-changing current speeds.
This leaves them wide open to attack from a predator as they are forced to search refuge from the flood.
Conversely, once the river is in flood, the pike fishing will be next to useless due to the extra colour in the water. You will now have to wait until the flow ebbs and the colour once again drops out before the pike will feed confidently.
On the plus side, if it floods for a while, the fish will be ravenous when the waters do eventually start to go down.
1 How often to cast when fishing the Method is a question I get asked a lot. Every day is different and it pays to vary it during the day anyway. Start by leaving the feeder out for 5 mins at a time and then time how long it takes to get a bite.
If you’re getting bites within a minute then there’s no point leaving the feeder out there. This may change later in the day so have a few longer casts later on.
2 When it comes to fishing for F1 hybrids there are times when your swim might only be 18ins deep, especially against an island but such shallow water can holds lots of fish. When this is the case you want to be getting positive bites and the key to this is to use a heavier than normal float.
I wouldn’t think twice about using a 10 x No11 Mick Wilkinson F1 float shotted with strung out No11 shot with the bottom shot 5ins from the hook and the others spaced at half-centimetre intervals above. This then allows me to get the hookbait straight to the bottom where the better fish are located
3 Regulating the amount of bait you wrap around a Method feeder is an important part of feeder fishing, but one that most anglers don’t even consider. ‘Double skinning’ is something I’ve been doing a lot of in recent years and allows me to pile in more bait per cast, perfect for when the fish are having it. Basically I fill the feeder up as normal then instead of casting out I put another layer of pellets on. This is done by putting more pellets into the mould and pressing the already loaded feeder back into the mould to give it a second skin of pellets and so double the amount of bait on the feeder.
4 To kick off a swim for skimmers and carp I will start by casting at least 10 medium cage feeders full of groundbait and micros to put a bed of bait down on the bottom and get the fish feeding. I’ll then drop down to a small cage feeder to begin fishing because bream don’t like big feeders on their heads while they’re eating.
5 When it comes to using micro pellets on the Method feeder, don’t be afraid to mould them really hard with lots of pressure as you’ll be surprised how quickly they come off once in the water.
6 Commercial fisheries hold such a range of fish nowadays and skimmers and crucians can be just as important as carp. So you need to have the right balance when it comes to elastic. Provided I’m not going to hook any huge carp and am fishing a good mixed fishery then I’d use doubled up No5 elastic set on the soft side in conjunction with a side puller kit so I can tighten the elastic on bigger fish.
7 Paste consistency is one of the most important parts of paste fishing in that the softer you have your paste the more bites you will get. The problem, of course, is that the softer the paste the harder it can be to keep it on the hook. To help with this I mix my paste to a relatively stiff consistency to start with and then tweak it as required throughout the session by dipping the paste in a tub of water before putting it on the hook.
8 It's a simple tip, but make sure you carry a whole range of sizes and weights of Method, blockend, and groundbait feeders ranging from tiny feeders that hold just a pinch of maggots to much bigger versions to get more bait in. This allows you to tailor the amount of bait you feed and also covers you for hitting the spot should the weather conditions change.
9 Meat and hemp is a great combo throughout the summer for margin fishing, but some anglers get it wrong when it comes to the ratio of each bait to feed. You don’t want to feed much meat as this is going on the hook, so to kick off a margin swim I feed three large 250ml pots full of hemp with an odd cube of meat mixed in and because this is normally a swim for the last two hours of a session I’ll then look to top it up with another full pot every 30 minutes, using the same ratio of meat to hemp.
10 I first got my hands on a little bottle of Kiana Carp Goo Almond Smoke Bait Spray this winter and it’s awesome on bread. Fluoro pink in colour with a strong almond-based flavour that leaks off a fish attracting cloud, it also changes the colour of the bread which allows me to offer the carp something different to everyone else casting out standard white bread.
11 When potting in a lot of hemp I want a hookbait that really stands out for the fish to come into the swim and home in on. Meat is best but don’t go down the route of fishing the same-sized cube as you’re feeding. Sometimes a ridiculous-sized bait can catch well and a large 10mm cube is my first choice.
12 On mixed waters with both skimmers and carp I use an 8ins hooklength of 0.17 (6lb) Guru N Gauge on my groundbait feeder rigs. This might seem slightly on the heavy side for skimmers, but it ensures I’ll be able to land carp if I hook one. Hook choice is a size 18 or 20 Guru MWG – light, but tough for both species.
13 Most anglers like to clean their worms off but when fishing shallow water or up in the water I’ve found it better to keep the soil and peat on the worms as this helps to form a cloud which in turn attracts fish.
14 When I fished canals for roach I was always taught to completely bury the hook in a caster but where commercial fisheries are concerned, whether fishing for roach or carp, I like to thread the bait on the hook leaving the point showing as I find I hit more bites this way. If I can’t catch leaving the hook point showing, as can happen, then in my opinion there aren’t enough fish in the swim to make fishing for them viable.
15 Dead maggots are a great bait for margin carp or fishing on the Method feeder and to prepare them I put the cleaned maggots in a large bowl and add cold water until they’re just covered. I then slowly pour boiling water on the maggots while stirring them and once all of the maggots are dead I then add more cold water to prevent them scalding. Drain them and seal them in a plastic bag until needed.
16 When faced with a typical swim, rather than fishing straight out in front I like to fish at a slight angle of either 10 o’clock or two o’clock if we take 12 o’clock as being central. This way when I hook a fish I can steer it away from the baited area and keep disturbance to a minimum. This is important when trying to catch a lot of fish from one spot because playing fish on top of where you are trying to fish is not conducive to a quick bite once the fish has been landed.
17 My running loop feeder rig is a set up that’s caught me lots of fish where allowed and tying it couldn’t be easier. Firstly take a snap link swivel and thread it on to the mainline, then tie a 6ins loop with the snap link swivel trapped inside.
Push the snap link up to the knot and tie three small loops in the big loop below the snap link swivel, trapping the snap link swivel in a 2ins loop.
The series of small loops creates a stiff boom and stops the rig from tangling on the cast. My hooklength attaches to the bottom loop via the loop-to-loop method.
18 Most anglers put the hookbait on the outside of the Method ball believing the fish will come to the hookbait first – don’t! Once the pellets fall off the feeder, so does your hookbait. Put a layer of pellets on first so the bait is in the middle of the feed.
19 When fishing big baits for big fish you need to use strong, wide gape hooks. The wide gape is especially important as this helps you hook bigger baits like catmeat or multiple baits such as double corn or luncheon meat. Even though the bait may fill the hook you can leave plenty of hookpoint showing.
20 You can catch fish from anywhere in a commercial peg, but I like to look for a particular spot in my swim at the bottom of the near slope, where the bottom levels out and the depth is constant – this is a natural holding spot for fish where food gathers. This is typically around 5m or 6m out and is especially good in the latter part of the session provided you feed it regularly by hand from the word go.
21 When pole fishing, sometimes resting a swim can give it a new lease of life. It’s difficult to come off a swim that you are nicking an odd fish on, so you can drop on one where you know you might not get a bite, but over the course of five hours it’s something that can be worth doing just to keep the one good swim going.
22 Maggots can be a brilliant bait but you can’t fish the same sort of rig that you’d use for pellets as you’ll miss out on a lot of bites. I bin the bulked shotting pattern on my pellet rigs. Instead I use a finer, strung out pattern that you’d normally see on rivers or canals, as even in coloured water I think the fish watch the maggots fall through the water.
23 The obvious place to cast when faced with an island is as tight as possible to the overhanging grass. But it can pay to cast 2ft short to start with before going tight to the bank as this will give you the chance of catching for longer later in the day.
24 Big baits are great on the Method when there are a lot of fish in the swim as they appeal to a fish’s greedy nature.
When there are fewer fish about and they can afford to be picky, a large hookbait can often go ignored. This is when you need to scale down and use small baits that almost blend in with your feed, such as a single dead maggot fished on a small size 18 hook.
25 When bites are few and far between there are still things you can do in order to draw a few more fish into the swim. One such thing is to pile finely chopped worm through the feeder and nothing else other than groundbait to hold it in place. The finely chopped worm releases loads of attraction into your swim without putting in too much feed that could soon fill up the fish.
26 It might look daft but there will be times when fishing with meat that I thread three or four cubes on the hook. It looks like a type of ‘stringer’ that big carp anglers use but I think that its bizarreness means it can actually throw the fish off guard, especially early in a session when they’re not that wary.
27 When maggot fishing I like to fish as short a line as possible between pole tip and float and depending on fishery rules this is often as short as 6ins. The shorter line means I am much more direct on the float – in other words I can hold a short tight line to the float and once I get a bite I’m on it instantly.
28 It might sound odd but when I’m using big baits for proper carp then I like to fish with a strung bulk shotting pattern, even in shallow water. This gives the bait a slow fall and also gives the rig increased stability. This pattern is also extremely versatile and due to the number of shots on the line I can quickly change should I need to put line on the bottom and drag a couple of shots should the need arise.
29 Flavouring dead maggots is something I’ve started to do a lot more of recently.
This is done by firstly killing the maggots and then once they are dead and have cooled I give them a squirt of Mainline Activ-8 liquid flavouring, a real favourite with big carp anglers, which helps to give them a boost.
30 Believe it or not reel choice is important for feeder fishing because a bigger than normal reel will increase your casting distance. Bigger reels have bigger spools in comparison to standard match reels, which allows for better line lay as the coils aren’t so tightly packed. This can put as much as an extra 10 yards on your cast.
31 I catch loads of carp on boilies so that got me thinking why not try crushing a few up and using them in a PVA bag? The great thing about boilies is that there are so many colours available, meaning that the combinations I can use are endless. I will feed them with other baits like pellet.
32 When fishing corn on the pole the best bit of advice I can give is to make sure you always fish at dead depth, provided conditions allow you to do so. The reason for this is so that if a carp sucks the bait in it will register on the float as either a dip or sometimes a slight lift, either of which should be struck at.
33 Often only thought of as a winter bait, worms can actually be best in warm weather and on venues where you’re looking to catch skimmers, F1s, small barbel and carp. A chopped worm feeder cast tight to an island can be lethal.
34 Once your Method feeder has moved for any reason, whether knocked by a fish or moved by a liner, then you need to reel it in. For the Method to work properly you are reliant on a fish feeding on the groundbait/pellets around the feeder and once the feeder has moved your hookbait is no longer in the right place.
35 Slapping your rig on the surface is a deadly way of catching fish shallow.As a rule I ship out, loosefeed three times over the float and then slap the rig in three times in succession. On the third slap let it fish. If the float doesn’t bury I lift the rig and slap it again three times.
36 Too many anglers think that expander pellets are only to be used on the hook but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Waters such as Barston Lakes respond to mashed expanders, which are basically pellets given a blast with a cordless mixing drill to create a rough ‘hash’ of pellet that can be fed either as a ball or loose in a pole cup.
37 When fishing with sweetcorn for carp most anglers tend to fish only a single grain of corn on the hook, but I have caught an awful lot of fish using double hookbaits too. Maybe it’s to do with the colour or simply the sheer size that looks completely different to anything you might be feeding.
38 A good little tip when fishing shallow is to use a Dacron connector. This helps stop your rig from tangling around your pole tip, something which can happen a lot when slapping your rig.
39 Ever thought about fishing a feeder in the margins? This is a great tactic on some waters where the fish can spook away from a pole over their heads. It’s best done with a Method and if you’ve got a platform next to you, cast your baited feeder to the deep hole in front of the peg that has been scoured out by keepnets.
40 Maggots are a great F1 bait and surprisingly for these delicate feeders, a double bait often outscores a single offering so if you’re struggling, try increasing the bait size.
41 Always look at the weather conditions and your target weight to decide how much you need to feed. If conditions are good (overcast with a good ripple on) then I will attack it with more bait. Equally if it’s flat calm and bright sunshine then a more cautious approach normally pays dividends.
42 So many anglers fish with one small pot on the end of their pole but have you ever thought of fishing with two? As a match progresses and more and more fish move into the swim then I will often switch to double potting. This is done to increase the amount of bait I’m introducing into the swim and really push my catch rate up a notch or two.
43 When I’m getting lots of indications on a plastic cage feeder but not many bites I put my hooklength through the middle of my feeder, leaving the bait protruding about an inch below the bottom of the feeder. This way when the contents of the feeder break out my hookbait is in among them.
44 A key part to catching well is to fish a float that offers perfect stability and I reckon the fibre glass-stemmed Mick Wilkinson Diamond is the best all-round pattern for fishing depths between 4ft and 7ft.
45 Groundbait in the margins has become popular in recent years, but feed the mix loose as opposed to in a ball so it spreads out and coats the bottom in the shallow water rather than going down in a solid ball.
46 Wetting your line before casting also helps you to cast further as dry line never casts particularly well. The ‘wetting’ can be done by spraying the line or alternatively soaking the spool to make sure all the line comes into contact with the water.
47 Straight from the tin, luncheon meat is very fatty and can be like handling a bar of wet soap when putting it on the hook. A top tip is to pop the cubed meat in a bait tub of water, which will dissolve the excess fat and make the cubes easier to use.
48 Try giving your paste mix a bit of extra oomph. Crushed hemp can be good to put a bit of activity into the swim, while finely crushed pellets create a bit of added crunch.
49 One trick I have been using to good effect is to pick an out of the way area of the swim but still in the deep water of my peg and then trickle maggots into it. Fish it in the last hour and you’ll often catch some big F1s.
50 Lift, drop, and drag your pole rig around your swim. To do this I simply lift the float around 8ins to 12ins clear of the water before slowly lowering it back in again while for dragging, move your float slowly to the left or right.
51 When skimmers are grubbing around on the bottom picking up small offerings such as micro pellets, they seem to pick up a smaller hookbait far more readily so in this situation I’ll scale right down and use two 4mm expanders on a hair-rig.
52 If you want to cast a long way, give it some welly. Hold your rod properly with one hand on the bottom of the handle and the other around the reel and really punch the feeder out by compressing the rod fully on the backward swing.
53 Just lately I’ve found laying my rig in to be far more effective and to do this I flick the rig out to the side and then hold a tight line between float and tip. This causes the hookbait to fall in an arc and bites come as the float settles.
54 The weight of your feeder is crucial for ensuring fish hook themselves when using short hooklengths so make sure your empty feeder has enough weight.
55 If I'm in doubt as to how I should feed at a new venue I always work two swims – one I feed negatively and the other positively. This way I can quickly work out which is best on the day.
56 I never go fishing on a commercial where bream and skimmers are likely to show without 2mm or micro pellets. They are perfect for adding to a groundbait mix or for wrapping around a Method feeder, but they must be dampened beforehand to make sure they all sink as from the bag they tend to float about.
57 When suffering from lost fish through hookpulls don’t change to a bigger hook. You want the fish to suck in your hookbait in a confident manner and the way to achieve this is to use a small hook so your hookbait behaves in a more natural manner.
58 When feeding baits like meat I’m a big believer in using different-sized pieces so that the fish are hunting around continually. I’ll cube up 4mm and 6mm pieces using a meat cutter and then feed them with finely minced bits for a real ‘Bombay mix’ style of meat.
59 A great trick to try in the last hour of your match is to unclip your feeder and cast as far as you can past your main baited feed area. Big carp can sit back from any disturbance sometimes and you can often pick up a few big fish.
60 Keep your groundbait covered. Dried out crumb can reduce your catch rate as a session goes on, so always keep an eye on your mix and if it dries out add more water or, better still, cover the bowl with damp towel to retain the moisture.
61 Target hookbaits are a must when fishing the Method feeder to create a bait that stands out in terms of colour. For example, an 8mm white bread disc fished in combination with dyed red micro pellets is something that the fish can easily home in on.
62 If bream, skimmers, and F1s are the target, then I add wetted down, 2mm micro pellets to my groundbait mix to increase the food content and give the fish something to grub around on.
63 Don't just think cage feeders are only for groundbait. I use them for feeding 6mm cubes of meat, mushed meat, softened micro pellets, and expanders too. The key for me is their rapid release of the bait when you’ve got fish feeding in your swim.
64 For bream fishing on the feeder at range I now like to feed via a spod rather than making a dozen casts with an open-end feeder. Particles are key for keeping bream in your swim for long periods and I use a mixture of baits that give both attraction and hold the fish. Micro pellets keep bream grubbing around for ages and we all know that they love casters, while chopped worm helps to put a scent in the water. Hemp is an underused feed for bream but they love the oils it gives off.
65 Sweet or fishmeal? That’s the choice we have to make when picking a groundbait for commercial waters and today most bait companies make a specific sweet fishmeal groundbait for the job. Being coarse textured they’re the perfect choice for piling in a big carpet of feed.
66 Any hookbait that has extra attraction will catch more fish and dusting baits is a great option. A sticky liquid additive coats the hookbait, to which you can pour on your chosen groundbait or powdered additive. Give them a good shake to disperse the crumb and the baits are good to go.
67 The biggest mistake anglers make when trying to cast a long way is that they try to cast off a line that is too short. On a 13ft rod look to cast with at least 5ft of line between feeder and rod tip, swing the feeder in front and then as it swings back take the rod back as well. Once the feeder pulls on the rod tip behind me I know it’s in the optimum position for casting. This fluid motion helps with distance.
68 When bites are few and far between there are still things you can do to draw a few more fish into the swim. One tip is to pile finely chopped worm through a feeder with nothing else other than groundbait to hold it in place. The worm, prepared almost to a mush, then releases loads of attraction into the water without putting that much feed into the peg.
69 Bread and maggots, worm and caster – both great, old school cocktails of bait and ones that still work and can give you a very different presentation to what other anglers are using. If I can make my bait stand out from the crowd then I’ll always have an advantage.
70 One of my favourite lines to fish is known as the ‘5m meat line’ and it’s an area where you’ll find big fish patrolling later on in the day. As the name suggests it’s a swim I like fishing with cubes of meat but bizarrely it’s not always at 5m out. Instead I will plumb out from the bank until I find the spot where the bottom levels out and aim to fish here which can be 5m, 6m, or even 7m out.
71 A neat little trick when adding sloped lead weights to your maggot feeders is to reverse the lead so that its bulk is at the top of the feeder. This helps the feeder to fly much better when casting into the wind and also cuts down on tangles.
72 Something you hear anglers talk about is how many turns they have fished, for instance 80 turns. This refers to how many turns of the reel handle it takes to wind the feeder back from the swim. This is useful if I have to unclip as I know exactly how far out I was actually fishing.
73 Ever been caught without a paste on the bank? Mixed correctly, you can form a perfectly usable paste from groundbait and I liberally over-wet the groundbait so it has the consistency of a slop, then after a minute or two the groundbait will absorb the excess water and you’ll be left with virtually perfect paste.
74 You might think that the Method feeder is a positive approach for big weights but there will be times when the fish are finicky and you need a more refined attack. I’d scale down to small baits, such as a single dead maggot or a 4mm pellet fished on a size 18 hook.
75 Most anglers will tell you that the Method feeder is at its best fished either at long range or against an island. It’s just as effective at short range, in fact just off the end of the rod top. Feed a particle-rich groundbait at the bottom of the near shelf and underarm a small Method over the top using use a big bait like corn.
76 Never chop all of your worms in one go at the start. Not only will this tempt you to overfeed the swim but also will see the worms dry out as the day progresses, meaning those
all-important fish-catching juices are lost.
77 Until a few years ago corn skins were something I’d read a lot about but never got round to trying. When I used them they were a revelation, especially for F1s. To make a corn skin simply squeeze the insides out so you are left with just the skin.
78 Carp love spicy baits so it makes sense to use chilli hemp to try and get an edge. If there are 10 anglers in a line all feeding the same bait and I’m feeding something different then my bait will stand out and I’ll catch more.
79 I've lost count of the times when I’ve been fishing the open-end feeder with no sign of a carp only to switch to the Method and get a 10lb-plus fish first drop. Next time you’re faced with a big, mixed venue, start on the open end, and be prepared to switch to a Method feeder later in the day, it can make a massive difference to your final weight.
80 Using a shockleader can make a difference to the distance you can cast. Load your reel with 4lb mainline and tie a 2ins overhand loop in the end. Then take a heavier line, around 8lb, and tie it to the loop using a bloodknot. Wind the 8lb line through the rod rings so you have just one or two turns on the reel once the end of the line is in the casting position. This way you are casting off the 8lb line but once the cast is made you have less friction going through the rings.
81 One problem with fishing worms is that they can fold over the hook point and lead to bumped fish. I find it much better to hair-rig my worms as this means that not only is the hook point always clear but it also means I can get away with using a smaller hook than would normally be the case. This in turn leads to better presentation which should lead to more bites.
82 Bream can become preoccupied with groundbait and pellets and ignore your hookbaits after a while on the open-end feeder, so it can then pay to put on a Method feeder and bury your hookbait into the ball of feed. The fish will suck it in without even realising.
83 On big waters the further out I can fish the more I’m likely to catch, but it’s no good fishing at range if you can’t reach it with your feed. Most anglers feed 8mm pellets but I prefer 11mm hard pellets, which can be fired out that bit further and that gives me a real edge over those around me as I’m always going to be first on the fish. If I feed it well I can keep the fish out of range of my neighbouring anglers too.
84 Think carefully about the type of feeder you’re using because different types give you different bait presentations. Method and pellet feeders are great when fish are feeding tight and coming to the feeder quickly, but if you want to spread out your bait to keep a shoal of fish in the area then you should opt for blocke
85 If you're fishing in shallow water use cage feeders with large holes so your bait can come out of the feeder quickly – the larger the holes the better, in my opinion.
86 Carp can often be attracted to a bait that looks different and my ‘capped’ pellets have caught fish when all else has failed. They are dead simple to prepare and are effectively a hair-rigged hard pellet ‘capped’ off with the end of a dumbbell-shaped high-visibility boilie.
87 When it comes to getting the distance then long rods definitely reign supreme. A 12ft rod will cast a long way but not as far as 13 footers – the longer the rod, the longer the potential cast.
88 Dobbing bread has been very much the ‘in’ method on a lot of snake lakes this winter and that won’t change in spring. One thing I have noticed is that the sloppier your bread is, the quicker you get bites so I carry an atomiser to spray the bread before I punch a piece for the hook. Bread can take quite a bit of time to go soggy once in the water so by spraying it before hooking I am just speeding up this process.
89 Hard pellets are a great bait but I like to take them that extra level and let them swell up even further to what I call ‘blown up’ pellets. I’ll take normal 8mm hard pellets and double pump them in a pellet pump before leaving them overnight in a sealed bag of water. This creates massive, but super soft hookbaits. Here’s how to make them...
A) To prepare the hard pellets put the required amount in a pellet pump and then fill the pump with water.
B) I like to pump the pellets twice, as this will quickly make them take on water and become super-soft.
C) Drain the water off and put the pellets in a plastic bag with enough covering water to keep them wet.
D) Place in the fridge overnight, and in the morning they will have blown up and are ready for the hook.
90 Soft expander pellets can catch picky carp and F1 hybrids on most commercials, but when roach descend on your peg then these baits are pretty much useless. One trick is to punch meat out to the size of the pellet and leave to dry a little in the open air.
They’ll develop a thick outer skin and will then become small-fish-proof while looking like a pellet.
91 Looking for a cheap but effective addition to a groundbait mix for filling it in at the start? Corn is the answer and I’ll often add two whole tins of corn to my crumb when fishing places like Larford Lakes where the carp like a bit of bait. The beauty of corn is that it’s a very visual, large-sized particle bait the carp can easily spot and because it offers a decent reward it will hold bigger carp in the swim for longer. It’s also heavy so stays on the bottom well and won’t be picked off by little fish while you’re waiting for the big fish to appear.
92 Adding extra lead to your feeders is vital for distance and I’ve found one large lead is much better than a couple of smaller ones as it is much more aerodynamic.
93 The question I get asked the most is why do I fish with red groundbait at times? Well, carp seem to love feeding over red mixes in heavily coloured water. It’s also very visible and I can easily spot a red cloud of crumb being kicked up when a carp starts feeding close in over the groundbait.
94 There's only one way to feed pellets on the far bank of snake lakes and that’s with a Kinder pot but I’ve found that tipping them in loose can produce a lot of line bites as the bait fans out as it sinks. By pressing the pellets tightly into the cup the end result is a ball that will ‘plop’ into the water, sink quickly and break up in a relatively tight spot, thus keeping the fish in one spot.
95 When striving for distance I find carbon quivertips are better than glass as they don’t flex as much on the cast as glass and a 2oz or 3oz tip is best.
96 There are times when the fish come straight to groundbait in an open-end feeder and often ignore a hookbait as close as four inches away. The solution to this is to fish it like a Method version, tucking the hookbait in the feeder on a short tail so that when the groundbait is released from the feeder the bait will be in among it.
97 Look in my bag of feeders and you’ll see some Methods that are what I like to call double leaded, weighing the best part of 50g. These are ideal for extra casting distance and keeping the feeder static when fishing on a slope.
98 Even though I may be feeding big 11mm pellets I actually still prefer to use an 8mm pellet on the hook because they’re taken more readily by a feeding carp and fewer fish get hooked outside the mouth, something which can be a real problem on the pellet waggler when using big baits.
99 Light baits, such as pellets and meat, can get churned up all over the place when fishing down the edge. For that reason I always like to use hemp as it is a heavy bait and when fed in bulk creates a great carpet that pulls in the fish quickly.
100 Some Method feeders have long stems attached to them and this helps them to fly through the air with accuracy on long casts. Opt for short stems for fishing tight to features and shorter range.
101 While visibility is no doubt sweetcorn’s key characteristic, it doesn’t give off much in terms of flavour attraction. When the water is coloured after rain I feel it can lose its effectiveness somewhat. A quick squirt of liquid Scopex before letting the grains stand for 30 minutes to fully absorb it all will do the trick.
Look for features
From the bank, waters might look identical but there are underwater features on all venues that make them attractive to fish in cold weather. Find these features and you’re half way to catching.
In summer, fishing to an island can be an absolute winner. In winter, they can be a mixed blessing.
The shallow margin areas probably won’t fish in the morning, especially after an overnight frost which will make the water very cold. So, target the deeper areas at the bottom of the island slope.
If the sun shines strongly, the shallow island margins may heat up slightly and be worth a look by mid-afternoon.
Try not to fish under overhanging trees. The water in the shadow of trees won’t have a chance to warm up with any sun (and nor will you!). You’re also more likely to have piles of decaying leaves and fallen branches laying on the bottom of the swim making bait presentation difficult.
If north or easterly winds are blowing, make sure they’re off your back – not gusting in your face. High banks are always good to shelter behind. Southerly or westerly winds will be warmer and more productive.
Decaying reed beds
Don’t fish too tightly to reed beds in winter. There will be a lot of decaying reed stems sticking up out of sight below the surface to interfere with your presentation.
Short period fishing
On cold mornings have an extra hour in bed and start fishing a little later than you normally would. On many waters, the fish won’t even think about feeding until the water has been warmed up a little by the sun.
Any spring-fed fishery is well worth fishing in winter because groundwater has a constant temperature. Find out where the spring enters and fish as close to it as possible.
Shallow bays that are sheltered from the wind and receive plenty of sunshine are natural areas to attract fish in winter. The shallow water will warm up quickly in the sun and attract fish like a magnet. If you can get a bait into areas like this, your chances of catching in the cold will skyrocket.
Historically, fish tend to congregate in the same areas in winter. Some specimen carp regularly come out from the same swims at the same time of year. Match winning weights come from the same handful of pegs on the commercials.
Failing all else, ask the fishery owner or bailiff which pegs usually produce in the cold. There will always be a few ‘bankers.’
You'll often read that the deepest parts of a fishery are the ones to fish in winter because they’re slightly warmer.
On some venues, depending on depth, this can be completely wrong so don’t make the mistake of automatically setting up to fish on the bottom and staying at that depth for the full session if you’re not getting bites.
In winter, the two biggest influences on water temperature are wind and sun. These elements combine to create a phenomenon called stratification – layers of slightly different temperature water sitting on top of each other.
These layers – or thermoclimes – are created because the density of water alters with temperature. Thermoclimes are most marked in waters with depths of 20ft or more, and are far less obvious in shallow, man-made commercial waters.
If you are fishing deep water venues like gravel pits, reservoirs and some lakes you’ll often find that the fish often congregate in the slightly warmer layers – which could be anywhere from a foot off the bottom, to a foot off the top.
As a general guide, at zeroºCwater is at its lightest in the form of floating ice. Below the ice will be a layer 15cm -20cm deep at round 1ºC-2ºC. At 4ºCwater is at its densest, so it sinks to the bottom.
Underwater currents caused by wind and wave action can mix up, or push these layers up and down in the water column, making them less distinct, but there will still be subtle temperature differences – and this is where you’ll find the fish.
One of the best ways to locate exactly where the fish are in the water table is to use a zig rig (pictured left).
By using a buoyant bait you can search the whole of the water table until you locate the depth where the fish are swimming.
Many man-made commercial pools have depths of 5ft-6ft and, in the coldest conditions, the deepest water can sometimes act as a fish-holding feature (though not always!)
The easiest way of locating these deeper areas, if you don’t know the venue is to tie a 1oz bomb on to the end of your line, cast in and count down.
The weight will fall through the water at approximately one foot per second. Start counting when the bomb hits the water and stop when you feel it hit the bottom. Counting to five means it’s roughly five feet deep. If you can identify any areas that are slightly deeper than the norm, it’s worth targeting them in very cold weather.
Alternatively, if you’re fishing the float on rod or pole, don’t start off with a bulk of shot to bomb your hookbait to the bottom. Choose a rig with only a couple of tiny No 8 or No 10 dropper shot and a lightweight hookbait such as a maggot and allow it to fall slowly through the water column. If you start getting bites on the drop, shallow up your rig until you find the depth at which fish are feeding.
Want to keep catching this autumn? We reveal a host of bait tips to help you put fish of all species on the bank over the next few months
I keep a selection of many different baits in my freezer, although there are some that I never leave home without.
For static fishing, my favourite baits are large sardines, while the next best are mackerel heads and tails (below). Smelts are great for wobbling, and cast a long distance when frozen. They are also very visible, which does mean that they can be prone to catching lots of small pike.Herring, sprats, launce and trout are also good stand-by baits.
There’s nothing more natural in fishing than a worm and, although they’re not the first bait you’d think of for roach, they are especially productive on commercials in the cold. Nip off the head and fish it like a caster with your hook point out of the side.
If it’s a case of catching fish quickly, you can even land a few fish on each worm before the hookbait needs replacing.
This is a tactic used by a lot of carp anglers. Rather than try to add flavour to the seeds, put a couple of fresh chillies in your pot when cooking hemp, which will give it a spicy boost that’s perfect in cold weather.
It’s almost impossible to flavour your worms, and most of the time you don’t need to, but a sprinkling of chilli powder on top of your chopped worm can impart a powerful scent. This can be a great tactic when the fish have seen a lot of chop.
GO NATURAL WITH ELDERBERRY
Always look to natural baits when the going gets tough ¬ elderberries are a prime example. Hook them in the same way you would tares ¬ and if you’ve got a bush overhanging the river, then you know the roach will feed on them.
USE A BAITDROPPER
If you’re fishing water deeper than 4ft or 5ft or any fast-flowing water and want your feed to hit the bottom in your peg, not yards downstream, then use a bait-dropper. They can be used on the pole or running line and you don’t have to use a carrier such as groundbait, which can attract small nuisance fish into your swim.
A good trick to complement your hookbait is to use the liquid from the soaking process. Leaving the wheat in a warm place for four days or longer produces a thick, milky liquid which carp find really attractive. It can be used to mix up your groundbait for your feeder or for cupping-in.
ALWAYS TAKE A LOAF
Probably the most versatile bait you can get, it’s always worth taking bread with you to the bank. Big and visible, bread can be used as flake for big roach and chub,or punched out into small or large discs for smaller fish.
You can also flavour your slices of bread ¬ add your favourite flavour to an atomiser of water and spray on to the slice to dampen it slightly.
PVA BAG YOUR LOBS
Specimen anglers targeting bream will often use air-injected lobworms as hookbaits, but these big baits can be difficult to cast any distance.
A trick some anglers use is to roll the wet lobworm in groundbait to dry it out so it doesn’t melt the PVA bag, hook it up, and then drop the baited hook and the lead into the PVA bag with a few pellets or dry casters.
This neat package can be cast a long way, and once the bag has melted, the worm is left hovering above a bed of bait.
On small rivers, when fishing with maggots and casters, it can pay to use just a single maggot or single caster on your hook, even if you are fishing for big, greedy fish like chub. This tricks the fish into thinking the hookbait is another free offering.
GIVE THEM FISH
Most anglers don’t realise how predatory chub are. Just like pike and perch, they can be caught on live or dead fish baits. Some huge chub have fallen to small bleak livebaits but one of the best deadbaits are pieces of mackerel.
Use a chunk or a strip of this oily fish on a size 6 or 8 hook.
Small perch will grab at larger pieces of worm then move away quickly from the main feed area, while bigger perch will sit directly over the feed and wait to be provoked into striking at a piece of worm.
A feeding compromise between the two is ideal, so finely chop the bulk of your feed then add four to six larger hooksize segments of approximately 2ins-4ins in length to the feed.
MIX YOUR MAGGOTS
A good trick when fishing for chub is to feed mainly whites and 10 per cent reds and then fish a red maggot on your hook. This will attract the fishes’ attention as it will stand out in the crowd.
Minced steak is a brilliant bait for feeding as small, golf ball-sized balls.
Chop the meat up into small pieces and add some very fine maize to break it up. When you feed a ball into your swim, or via an open end feeder, it will break down, releasing the meat particles. The maize will form an attractive cloud, too.
DON'T FILL YOUR FEEDER
In cold water, maggots don’t crawl ¬ so if you want them to come out of your feeder quicker, then leave some room inside your feeder.
By only filling your feeder three quarters full, you allow water to flow through it and wash the maggots out.
TRY A PELLET STRING
One 20mm pellet can be just too big for the fish to take sometimes, so for most of my pellet fishing for chub and barbel I use strings of smaller, 8mm pellets fished on a short hair.
LIQUIDISED OR PUNCH
Punch crumb has a coarser texture and is slightly heavier than liquidised bread, making it perfect for moving or deeper water, or in bigger-fish situations.
Finely-liquidised bread is a superfine feed best suited to canal fishing and the cloud it produces attracts fish quickly and holds them for long periods in your peg without having to refeed.
LOB IN A FEEDER
Attract fish but don’t give them anything to eat by roughly chopping a lob and putting it inside a small blockend feeder. The fish can’t get at the bait in the feeder, only your hookbait.
WHEAT FOR BIG FISH
Wheat is certainly one of the most neglected of all seed baits, yet it is very cheap and can be very effective for a whole range of species, not just roach.
Soak the seeds in salty water for 24 hours and then boil for around 10 minutes. Take off the heat when the seeds are soft enough to hook. Carp, tench, chub, bream and barbel are used to hoovering up particles, so are less wary of small, loosefeed-sized baits.
FLAVOUR YOUR PELLETS
My pellet flavouring consists of two tablespoons of molasses and half a teaspoonful of powdered betaine mixed into a cup of warm water.
I then put a pint of pellets in a large bait tub, add the liquid to the pellets and shake well so that all the pellets are covered.
After about an hour the liquid will have soaked into the outer skin of the pellets and they will feel slightly damp to the touch. Leave them in the fridge overnight and they’re ready to use.
If you know the fish like your groundbait, then make a paste bait from it. Put the groundbait through a flour sieve to remove any lumps that may impede the hook.
You can use either egg or water to mix the paste, depending on the consistency required. Wrap it around a boilie or paste spring.
Steak can be a great hookbait for chub, but can cost you fish if it’s not hooked properly. Fish a triangle-shaped piece of steak as it won’t flip back over and mask the hookpoint.
SINK AND FLOAT
Bread has lots of advantages over other baits. The most important of these is that you can instantly change the buoyancy of the bait. Just by squeezing the bread to remove some of the airpockets, the bread will sink faster and hold in position. With just a couple of swan shot to balance the bait, it is possible to keep the bread searching for fish right around the swim.
It’s much easier to colour and flavour baits that don’t already have a strong natural colour or smell, so I normally use herring or sprats as the silvery flanks of these fish take a colour exceptionally well.
Half fill a shallow tray with cold water and add a couple of teaspoonfuls of powdered dye - pink or red are good as they stand out. Then add flavour. If you’re using concentrated flavours add a couple of teaspoonfuls, or half a bottle if it’s a liquid-based additive. I have been experimenting with baits flavoured with anchovy essence which does hum, but the pike like it!
Lay the baits in the tray so they are completely covered and stick the whole lot in the fridge for about an hour so they have time to take on the flavour and colouring.
ADD SOME LEAM
A good trick some anglers have for catching perch in the cold is to feed black damp leam and chopped worm in a cloud.
Put a small amount of loose damp leam into a dry pole pot and sprinkle a pinch of finely-chopped worms on top and then cup this in.
Carp anglers often complain of catching too many chub or bream when they’re fishing for river carp ¬ so why not take advantage of this?
Brightly-coloured pop-up boilies are a must-have in your bait bag this autumn. They’re easily spotted by greedy fish and will also wave enticingly in any float. Fish them on a 6ins to 1ft hooklength so they sit above any weed on the bottom.
The darker, often floating casters are frequently ignored by most anglers, but can be a great bait for wary fish. That’s because they fall slowly through the water and will rise enticingly up in the water if fish are feeding and stirring up the bottom. Counter-balance the floating nature of the bait with a medium wire hook.
If you’ve not caught after an hour or so of fishing, don’t worry. Keep the feed going in because the chances are that fish are still swimming around and you just need to attract their attention. Even fish hiding out in weedbeds will eventually come out and investigate a steady stream of bait falling past them.
The problem could be something as simple as the light conditions.
Many species, especially perch and roach, only really become confident as the light begins to fade at the end of the day, or when cloud cover arrives overhead.
When rivers are flooded, it can pay you to fish a big, smelly bait which the fish can home in on. Halibut pellets are normally thought of as a barbel bait, but they catch a lot of chub, too. Drill them out carefully and fish them on a hair-rig.
Adding spices such as turmeric increases flavour and also degreases your maggots, helping them sink quicker. It will produce a nice plume or cloud as the maggots escape from your feeder. Simply cover the maggots in the powder and leave them overnight to get a nice coating.
Check your local supermarket for cheesy crust loaves which combine two of the best chub baits of all time.
Hook the crust by passing it once through the back of the bread and then turn it back, making sure that the hook point is clear of the bait to ensure you hook fish cleanly.
MAKE THE PERFECT CHEESE PASTE
Few moments in fishing are as exciting as catching a fish on a bait that you've made yourself. Chub are suckers for a lump of cheesepaste, and here's a great cheesepaste recipe that always seems to produce the goods throughout the colder months...
Start off with a smelly cheese - Danish Blue or Blue Stilton, but any strong-smelling cheese will do.
Remove any rind and if the cheese is really soft you can rub it through a fine cheese grater.
Alternatively, cut the cheese into cubes and microwave on half power until it has melted.
Colour your paste dark red so that it is less likely to scare away timid fish.
Add a quarter of a teaspoon of red powder dye to the cheese and stir in well.
You can add flavours at this stage - garlic oil is particularly good, but take care not to add too much as it is incredibly potent.
To make the cheese into a usable paste it needs to be stiffened up and shortcrust pastry works wonders for this.
It can be bought from any good supermarket for a couple of quid.
Lay the block of pastry on top of a work surface or a chopping board and roll the block flat with a rolling pin.
Once you have rolled the pastry flat so that it is approximately 3mm - 5mm thick, place your cheese mix on to the flattened pastry.
Gently smear it all over the pastry using the back of a spoon.
Make sure the cheese paste covers the whole of the pastry.
Fold in the edges of the pastry and start to form a ball.
Knead the ball to spread the cheese mixture throughout the whole of the pastry.
Seal it in a plastic bag to stop the paste from going hard until it is required.
Any excess can be stored in the freezer in lumps large enough to see you through a typical session.
There’s no finer way to catch fish on rivers than on the float. Here are a few pointers...
The river season is in full swing, and the recent rains of our ‘barbecue summer’ will have helped put them in tip-top condition, so there’s never been a better time to grab a slice of running-water action.
Angling Times got hold of a host of river aces for their floatfishing tips on catching everything from perch to barbel, including the baits to use, the swims to fish and the tackle to get them in the net. The rest is up to you!
Steve Hemingray: European champion
1 Always look for the flow when after chub. The fish won’t be far from this well-oxygenated water, sitting in the slightly slower slack to the side to pick off food. A waggler fished down this ‘channel’ of fast water will waft your hookbait right in front of their noses.
2 Waggler or stick float? The wind will play the biggest part in deciding which method to use, and unless there is a slight upstream wind off your back, which is ideal for the stick, the waggler will be best.
3 Leave a bit of float showing when fishing the waggler as you’ll be running down the peg a long way and need to see the bites. This will also stop the float from being dragged under on any bits of weed there might be, and in shallow, clear pegs you don’t want to be striking all the time because this can easily spook the fish.
4 Always feed slightly downstream of you when fishing the float as chub especially will come right above where the feed is going in. When this happens you must be able to fish here properly and make the most of it. Start with half a pouch of feed and monitor the peg. Never lash it in to begin with though, as you can blow the peg too early.
5 If the river is clear, then bread can be a killer bait and pretty instant in getting bites. The stick float is best for fishing bread as you can slow the rig down to tease the bait into the fish. To do this, just check the line coming off the reel spool with your fingertip. This will pull the float off-line a little, but this is better than having the line in front of the float.
Darren Cox: England international
6 In water coloured by rain, a baitdropper is key to feeding and fishing accurately on the pole when you’re after bream. Dropping in a big helping of chopped worm, caster and pinkie will concentrate a bed of neat feed in one spot and let you drop your rig right on top of this, rather than the random fashion of balling-in groundbait, which gives you more river to cover in a less efficient fashion.
7 There is a school of thought that reckons light-coloured baits work well in coloured water – for instance, white or bronze maggots and lighter coloured casters, but in my experience, dark baits are best. The fish don’t have a problem finding dark groundbait, hemp, caster, worm, red maggots and fluoro pinkies.
8 The flat float can be a killer method to fish on pacy rivers where big bream, tench, perch and eels are the target. However, bites on the flat float are not quick affairs that a normal running rig will produce. Because it’s fished so far overdepth you’ll get a lot of indications on the float before it finally buries, so putting the pole in the rests and almost sitting on your hands is best.
9 River fish are nomadic and even if you’re planning to catch on the pole in one tight area, it’s still worthwhile setting up another rig for trundling a bait over a lot of the swim, or even a waggler. Fish will move upstream towards the feed that goes in, and running a rig through the swim in the early stages of the session will let you pick them off as they begin to move. Once they arrive, it’s time to switch to the more static approach.
10 There is a chance that your swim might fade as the session progresses, and big fish can often be responsible for this. My approach would be to feed some more bait to try to milk the last few fish out of the peg before swapping to a lobworm on the hook. This is the king of big-fish baits, and it might be a waiting game but can produce fish you never knew existed in your river!
Paul Woodward: River Wye match legend
11 The classic chub swim is where the river runs up to a shallow area. This change in depth naturally holds chub, and the angler who runs their bait just into the last stretch of deep water will find the fish. Loosefeed hemp and caster, and keep an eye out for any swirls on the surface, which show that the chub have come shallow.
12 On big, wild rivers like the Wye there’s no point fishing small baits. Three or four maggots or casters, or even a couple of grains of sweetcorn, will catch everything – even the dace!
13 There aren’t many chances to catch barbel on the float, but one way I do it is to fish a long rod with a big Bolognese-type float of around 6g. Fish this up to 3ft overdepth to slow the rig right down, with a banded 8mm halibut pellet, and feed a good pouch of hemp and pouch of 6mm halibuts every run-through.
14 River perch aren’t any different to those on lakes and canals, and snags are prime real estate! A swim with an overhanging tree in the edge holding slack water is the place to fish, flicking a lobworm on a simple bomb set-up underneath. For feed, chopped worm and caster is unbeatable, and if you’re not too proficient with a baitdropper, a groundbait mix will do just as well.
15 Wherever there’s the chance of hooking a barbel or big chub you must fish with tackle that gives you the chance of getting them out. In coloured conditions when big fish are most likely to show, don’t be afraid to step up your hooks and lines; 3lb mainline and a 0.13mm diameter hooklength (around 3lb) with a size 14 hook will give you a fighting chance, while still being fine enough to catch those roach and dace.
Bob Roberts: Trent supremo
16 Don’t go thinking that barbel only feed on the bottom. They don’t! Very often they will drift a few feet up in the water to pick off food, so it can be worth trotting a bait through the peg fished up to 1ft off the deck, ideally small particle baits like maggots and casters.
17 Big, deep rivers like the Trent with a smooth patch of water that runs at roughly walking pace around 6ft deep can prove to be prime barbel territory. Avoid ‘boiling’ pegs where the depth is uneven and the river littered with boulders and snags. Fish will live here, but getting them out might be a different matter!
18 Keep your normal waggler rods at home for big-fish river work. A power waggler rod designed for commercial carp fisheries is better-suited to this type of fishing, using 6lb line fished straight through.
19 The most successful anglers will work their stick float continually on rivers, and over the course of a trot down the peg I will slow the float down to half pace and even stop it completely, presenting a perfectly still bait to the fish. I do this by simply trapping the line on the spool with my finger, or gently dabbing it as it peels off the spool.
20 For summer perch on rivers I think there’s nothing to beat a livebait, but as most big stripeys live near features such as trees and reeds, a floatfishing approach isn’t always best. I prefer a static attack using a float-paternoster set-up fishing with a hair-rigged livebait presented under a large wide gape size 4 or 6 hook. This approach greatly reduces the number of deep-hooked fish you catch.
Korda’s Danny Fairbrass offers 10 tips on getting the best from venues that are tiny by carp fishing standards:
1 Small waters require a certain stealth. However quietly you fish you cannot avoid being very close to where your hookbaits are, and so the risk of scaring the fish is always there.
I have found that small waters that are heavily fished are less ‘spooky’ than ones that see little angling pressure. The fish get conditioned to people stomping around and are less affected by it – by contrast you almost need slippers to walk around little lakes that rarely see anglers.
It always surprises me how close the fish will patrol on this type of lake. It is almost as if everything has been scaled down: the smaller the water, the closer to the reed beds you need to cast, or the further under island margins you need to be.
The more you fish such waters the better your close-range casting will get. I tend to overcast on the first session and end up putting the rig in the trees, but after a while I ‘get my eye in’ and start dropping it right next to the features.
Without doubt, the easiest way to scare a patrolling fish is with a visible line stretching out across the swim. This is why I use fluorocarbon mainlines whenever I can. Our new fluorocarbon called Kontour is out this spring, and like all other ‘carbons’ it sinks like a brick and is almost invisible underwater. I recommend 12lb-15lb. All ‘carbons’ are more wiry than normal mono,making them harder to cast, but they are more abrasion-resistant.
3 Flying Backleads
An alternative to slack lining is a flying backlead. The smaller this is, the further it flies back up the line on the cast. The Safe Zone version can be taken off the line without having to cut it, and the smallest size is 4g, perfect for small waters. The flying backlead must sit on top of some rig tubing or a leader for it to fly back on the cast. The further apart the lead and flying backlead are before casting, the further the backlead will come on the cast. If the two are touching, the flying backlead will not fly at all!
4 Slack Lines
Even if you are not using fluorocarbon, still try to slacken off as much as possible after casting and sinking the line. Leave it slack for a few minutes without a bobbin on and you will see it sinking lower and lower in the water. Pay more line off the reel and only when it stops sinking and is hanging totally slack (right) should you put on the lightest bobbin possible, again leaving it hanging slack.
5 Small hookbaits
I keep hookbaits small unless there are lots of bream, tench or roach present – little dumbbells or chopped-down boilies tipped with corn seem to work best. And when I am feeding I try to keep my baits small, either 14mm or even 10mm boilies if I can get them
I feed quite lightly, putting in just enough to ambush one fish as it swims by. The only time I will spod is during the summer, and then I use the smallest Mini Skyliner because it makes the least splash.
Backleads are slid on the line after casting, but make sure the mainline is slack before this is done and use the smallest one you can to reduce the risk of moving the lead as it slides down. If there are weed beds or bars in the lake don’t bother with backleads – they only really work on flat bottoms like the ones found on silty waters.
As with all carp fishing, location (fishing the right swim and the right spot in that swim) is the most important aspect of small-water success. With many nooks and crannies to target it can be easy to miss a large group of fish, especially in winter.
The very best indicator at this time of year is where the fish have been getting caught from. If one end of the lake has not done a bite for a while they are probably not down there – carp tend to drift away from angling pressure, so fishing round the back of an island that has been fished from the front can often score.
Similarly, bays just off from where bites have been coming are a good bet.
8 Baiting Spots
It never hurts to pre-bait a few spots nearby and go back and check them to see if the carp are ‘having it’. Broken boilies and pellets are my top choices for these areas. Obviously, make sure you are not infringing on other anglers’ spots and keep checking them regularly, as the carp will often show few or perhaps no obvious signs until you are right on top of the spot. Even then a super-wary fish can feed without moving any water – the odd bubble, quivering reed or lily or cloudy water will be all that gives it away!
9 Small Running Leads
My number one choice of lead system is a small running inline type fished on a standard Safe Zone leader. I remove the hard insert and slide the lead on the leader after I have cut the ring swivel off the end. I then slide on two small 4mm rubber beads and a Kwick Link – this allows me to quickly change the hooklink and looks super neat before casting. I often slide another 4mm bead on to one of the tungsten collars up the leader to work as a back stop to further startle the fish.
Either way, this rig acts totally differently to a standard lead clip and really fools them. If the bottom is hard I keep hooklinks short, say 3ins-6ins, and I prefer bottom baits to pop-ups.
10 PVA Sticks
Small bags or PVA sticks work everywhere, and on small waters they can be enough to stop a patrolling carp in its tracks without the need for free offerings. The added advantage of the stick is that you can add wet ingredients like tuna, which the carp love. By pulling the hook inside the stick you stop any risk of it getting snagged in the bottom as it comes to rest. Often a fresh bag or stick can get bites after long periods of no action.
1 Maggots aren’t the most exciting of baits, but you can boost their pulling power with essential oils. A couple of drops on a pint of maggots transforms them and roach just can’t resist. Top choices include geranium, aniseed and tea tree oil.
2 It might be cold but you can still catch roach on the drop, especially in heavily-stocked commercial fisheries that aren’t too deep. A float or pole rig with only a few small shots spread out down the line will let you present a slow-sinking bait.
3 Try presenting your hookbait at differing current speeds on rivers. This may be half pace or it may be the merest of trickles along the riverbed and the pole is the best method to achieve this, especially when you run the bait over a bed of groundbait.
4 Few fish alive won’t turn their noses up at a worm and the roach is no exception! You’ll need to use a small piece of worm to catch well, most anglers favouring the head of a worm or the tail of a lobworm. Worm works particularly well on rivers carrying colour after heavy rains.
5 What’s the best time to fish for roach? Experts agree that the last hour of daylight and the first hour into dark are the prime times as roach lose some of their inhibitions and really get their heads down. This is especially true of the biggest roach in the shoal.
6 Roach are delicate feeders and can easily spit out a bait if they feel the weight of the hook. That makes a fine wire pattern essential and good choices for the pleasure angler include the Kamasan B511, Mustad Canal Seed and Drennan Fine Match.
7 River roach can sometimes be sitting right at the head of the swim following an hour of constant feeding and the angler who casts slightly downstream can miss out on a few extra bites. Halfway through the session, try casting just a few yards upriver.
8 Fast taps on the quivertip when legering can come from roach eager to snatch the hookbait. Convert these taps into fish in the net by lengthening the hooklength, often up to 5ft! This gives the fish more chance of taking the bait properly without feeling resistance.
9 A great river angler’s trick to winkle out a big roach is to rig up a very light link leger, often as little as 2SSG and cast this downstream but only a rodlength or so out from the bank.
10 They may be bold in summer, but roach on a commercial when the cold strikes can give very delicate bites and a fine-tipped pole float or insert waggler lets you see every indication. You must make sure the float tip is dotted right down to only a speck.
11 River roach are not unlike chub in that they will seek out a part of the swim where a slack area meets faster flows, known as a crease. You will see this above the water on the surface as a ‘boiling’ area of disturbed water. This allows the fish to sit in the slack and dart out to pick off food carried by the current and makes for the number one area to present a bait. Bends in the rivers are particularly good areas to find these features.
12 Moods of roach change and on some days they will only take a bait held still while on others they’ll happily chase their meal down the peg. That makes the stick float a very good method for slowing a bait right down or trundling it through at full speed. The pole also allows you to do this, but only at the limit of its length.
13 For picking out a better stamp of roach there’s little to beat hempseed as a hookbait, but hooking the grains can be the stuff of nightmares. Enterprise Tackle makes fake hemp, a plastic seed that is simple to hook and is a great dodge to use when the fish are feeding well.
14 Town centre stretches of river are classic roach magnets in winter as they tend to have water temperatures that bit higher than in the countryside and they also offer protection from predators and easy meals from the public feeding bread to the ducks.
15 On clear rivers, roach will often sit well down the peg away from the bankside commotion and you’ll need to feed to attract them. A few maggots or casters loosefed every minute or so will create a steady stream of goodies travelling down the peg and draw in the fish.
16 Commercial fisheries see a lot of competition for food from their stocks, but roach will happily feed at short range, making for a comfortable session. A pole line of 6m will be enough, providing it is into the deeper water at the bottom of the marginal shelf and you can also feed this by hand, caster a good bait for picking up the better stamp of fish.
17 Extra water doesn’t mean no bites, especially where the roach is concerned. You will need a different approach, though, and one of the more recent innovations is the flat float or lollipop. This allows you to nail a bait hard on the riverbed and keep it perfectly still, just the job when used in conjunction with a baitdropper. Bites will be very slow and deliberate, though, so don’t strike at the slightest indication.
18 Groundbait is a great way of concentrating roach in your peg but in clear water conditions, it can be a non-starter. Faced with this, a baitdropper is the best option, allowing you to deposit a large pile of hemp, casters of chopped worm in one spot. This is especially deadly when fishing the pole. All you need is a baitdropper, a pole top kit with strong carp elastic and some strong line.
19 You can prebait for roach, especially on narrow rivers where you might only catch a couple of decent fish per swim before moving on. Mashed bread is the feed for this job, introducing two or three tangerine-sized balls into each swim. It’s then a matter of fishing a light leger or a stick float with a thumbnail-sized piece of breadflake on the hook.
20 Breadpunch is a fabulous winter roach bait when combined with liquidised bread, especially on clear canals and rivers but it can be an error to feed it as a ball, especially in shallow water. Faced with around 3ft, a better option is to feed the bread loose, which creates an instant cloud as it hits the water that attracts the fish.
21 When your river peg goes quiet after a run of roach, a bold approach can pay off. Some anglers even ball-in another six to eight balls of groundbait in an attempt to kick start the swim. This bombardment makes a noise, known as 'ringing the dinner bell' and will squeeze out a few extra bites.
22 Roach are one of the few species to feed consistently off the bottom in winter whether on a river, canal or lake so when you’ve plumbed up on the float or pole, begin the session by presenting your hookbait an inch or two off the bottom. This works particularly well on canals where the bottom gets disturbed by boat traffic.
23 You can catch roach one a cast when you find them in numbers and this is the time when the whip should make a rare outing. The whip will catch up to four fish to the long pole’s one and in ideal conditions ¬ a light wind off your back ¬ can put together a frightening weight of fish. There’s no place for light rigs, though, with a float over 0.5g a must.
24 Winter roach can be spooky creatures and often won’t stay in one spot for long. One great trick is to cast just past where you’ve fed, especially if bites have tailed off. Not only do the fish back off here, but they also tend to be the bigger ones in the shoal. Don’t be afraid to cast as far as 3m past the feed area.
25 Coriander might normally go into a curry, but it makes a fantastic additive for roach. It has been used by the England team as part of their groundbait mixes on foreign venues dominated by the species. All you need is a jar of the dried herb, adding a couple of teaspoons to your dry mix. This provides a highly aromatic scent to the crumb.
Andy Findlay is one of Britain’s best ever swimfeeder anglers. He’s innovative, understands carp and how to catch them in the cold. Now he’s revealing his secrets...
As heavy cloud scudded overhead Andy Findlay’s feeder rod lurched into a wide pulsing curve.
Despite stormy winds whipping the surface of Lake 2 at Leicestershire’s Makins fishery, ‘The Fin’ was in serious carp ‘bagging’ mode.
For three hours every cast bar two had yielded a bite and he was sitting behind a huge keepnet containing 50lb of carp.
Slipping the mesh under another battling 3lb mirror, there was no doubt the swimfeeder expert had got his winter approach sorted.
You see as far as Andy Findlay is concerned winter is not a time to fear - it is simply a change of season that needs to be thought about and prepared for.
In a nutshell, as the weather gets colder and catching fish usually gets tougher, Andy implements a series of changes to his swimfeeder tackle and techniques that are solely designed to keep the bites coming.
In this feature he reveals 10 of his most important fish-catching tips for the months ahead.
None of his ideas require you to spend a fortune on new tackle, or learn skills that would test the best anglers in Britain.
His ideas are simple to learn and easy to implement but they are fabulously effective.
Our message to you is simple – don’t worry about winter, just follow Andy Findley’s advice and you’ll keep the fish coming.
1. ACCURATE CASTING
CASTING accuracy is absolutely vital in winter.
During coldwater conditions fish don’t move around much, don’t expand energy and don’t require lots of food, you must concentrate the reduced feeding activity in one area.
Put simply if your casting accuracy is shot to pieces fish can have free meals a long way away from your hookbait.
By contrast, if your feeder always lands in the same area all your feed will be concentrated there and the fish will be drawn towards the hookbait. You’ll get more bites.
To boost his casting accuracy at the start of the session Andy threads his line through the rod rings then ties it to a small leger weight.
He then casts to the spot he wants to fish, when he’s happy it’s landed correctly he slips the line in the clip on reel spool. The leger is then replaced by the swimfeeder.
As long as he aims his cast at the same far bank feature to get the right direction, the distance of every subsequent cast will be fixed by the line pulling tight into the clip.
The feeder will land in the same place every cast.
At Makins Andy displayed the value of accurate casting.
“I’ve picked this swim because it is opposite an island with deep water running right up to it,” he said.
“Carp shoal up in winter and in this lake they pack into a few of the deepest areas near the islands.”
Replacing his leger with his feeder rig Andy’s first cast was fired at the island.
With his rod pointing skywards, to allow the carbon to cushion the feeder as the line pulled tight, Andy also dabbed his finger on the line pouring off the spool as the feeder neared its target.
Within a split second the line pulled tight, the rod tip arced and the small feeder gently flopped onto the surface.
It had landed three feet from the island margin.
“Perfect,” he said, “that’ll get a bite...” Sixty seconds later he was playing his first carp of the day!
Clipping up does have one drawback though. If you hook a really big fish that sets off like an express train, it can snap the line in the clip.
You’ve got to be prepared for this eventuality and it was noticeable Andy always kept a sideways bend in his rod and never allowed it to point directly at the fish.
If a big carp did suddenly take off round the island he could let the bend in the rod absorb the power long enough for him to quickly unclip the line as it came off the spool.
2. SHRINK YOUR HOOKBAIT
WHEN feeder fishing in summer, Andy uses hefty hookbaits to avoid the attentions of voracious roach and skimmer bream and select the bigger carp. In winter he turns this logic on its head.
“Big baits just don’t produce in winter,” he explained, “not only do the fish not want such a big meal but it also makes it harder to fine down the size of your hooks and lines. In winter I use really small punches of meat.”
To demonstrate the difference in his approach Andy punched out a typical summer hookbait using a 11mm Korum bait punch.
Then he got the two smallest sizes of punch available, 5mm and 7mm, and cored out some typical winter baits.
As the photo (below) display, the contrast is stark between the big summer bait and the mini winter offerings.
3. BE VISUAL
IN addition to being cold, Winter stillwaters share one other key characteristic – they go clear.
Pools that have had heavily coloured water all summer tend to fall clear at this time of year as feeding activity reduces in cold weather.
This greatly helps fish to feed by sight and to take advantage of this Andy makes greater use of a highly visual bait - sweetcorn.
As the sequence shows, The Fin has a specific way of presenting his hookbait. Rather than hooking his bait or stacking a couple of grains on top of each other, Andy threads the bait on his hair rig sideways.
As he explained: “Two pieces of corn laying flat on the bottom look identical to the freebies and maximises the visual appeal. The flat sides of the corn shine up from the bottom of the lake and the fish home in on it.”
4. SCALE DOWN HOOK SIZES
WHEN fishing commercial stillwaters in warm weather Andy doesn’t take chances - he uses size 10 or 12 Preston PR27 hooks. But in winter such a large hook lacks finesse.
According to Andy, the failure to scale down hook size is one of the most common mistakes anglers make: “Lots of people just don’t realise the difference hook size can make. When you’re using smaller hookbaits and the fish can inspect your rigs more easily, you must reduce your hook size.
“Instead of using a size 10 and a big punch of meat I’ll scale down to tiny pieces of meat hair rigged beneath a size 18 PR27. Believe me, smaller hooks mean more bites.”
5. CUT YOUR HOOKLINK DIAMETER
IN recent years a trend has emerged whereby hooklink lines tend to be quoted in terms of their diameter rather than the breaking strain.
The reason for this is that top match anglers have recognised that finer diameter line produces more bites.
While it might seem pointless to scale down from 0.19mm diameter line to 0.13mm, Andy is certain it makes a difference to catch rates: “Not only is thinner line less visible,” he said, “but the thinner diameter helps the hookbait act more naturally.”
6. REDUCE YOUR SWIMFEEDER SIZE
EACH swimfeeder you cast out dispenses a quantity of feed into your swim.
In summer, when fish have a ravenous appetite, using a large open-end or Method feeder is a favourite tactic for ‘The Fin’. Within reason, the larger the pile of groundbait he injects into his swim the more fish he catches.
In winter Andy reverses this thinking. When fish aren’t so hungry he cuts back the supply of food to increase the chances of one picking up the hookbait.
As the photos show (above and below), swapping from a large feeder to a small one dramatically reduces the feed you inject into your peg.
In the case of a Method feeder (above), by replacing the large Korum in-line feeder he uses in summer with the small size model, he more than halves the quantity of bait he introduces each cast.
When using his favourite winter tactic - the openend feeder stuffed with soft pellets - Andy also dramatically reduces the availability of free offerings.
In summer he uses a large cage design packed with well over 100 pellets, but by reducing the size of his feeder to a mini Drennan model he cuts the number of loosefed pellets to around 50.
7. USE A LOWER BREAKING STRAIN MAINLINE
WHAT difference can reducing the breaking strain of your mainline possibly make to your catches on the feeder?
Surely it’s the hooklink line at the business end, right next to the hook, that makes the difference?
While the diameter of the hooklength is vital Andy Findlay also believes the mainline makes a difference, not because the fish will be scared of it but because it is easier to cast accurately.
In summer, when he’s casting big swimfeeders, The Fin uses 6lb breaking strain Maxima monofilament.
It is a resilient, stretchy line that withstands the punishment of casting a heavy, loaded feeder.
But 6lb mono is a large diameter line with significant resistance as it flies through the air. In windy conditions especially this means the feeder can be dragged off line when it is cast at its target.
As Andy stressed at the start of the day, casting accurately to concentrate all the bait in one area is essential in winter.
To help him do this he respools with 4lb mono at this time of year.
Not only is it tough enough to withstand casting the smaller feeder, but the reduced diameter also slips through the air more slickly. This helps him accurately arrow the feeder at his target area.
8. BALANCE YOUR ROD
TALK to top anglers like Findlay, Nudd, Scotthorne or Hayes and they’ll often mention that they ‘balance’ their end tackle with their fishing rod - what on earth does this mean?
Put simply the term ‘balance’ is the principle of matching your hook size and line strength with the action of your rod.
For example, if you are using a big hook with large baits for big fish you should also use higher breaking strain lines and powerful rods that can cope with large specimens.
In summer, when he’s using strong hooks and line Andy feeder fishes with an old Preston barbel rod boasting a 1.75lb test curve. But in winter this quest for ‘balance’ necessitates a rod change.
Using the barbel rod with a size 18 hook and 0.13mm diameter line (approx 4lb 12oz breaking strain) is a recipe for disaster - the rod is too powerful for the line and hook. Lost fish would be inevitable.
Instead when Andy switches to lighter lines and smaller hooks he swaps over to a Korum V2 12ft medium carp feeder rod.
Available for around £90-£100 the rod is much softer and more forgiving. It allows the angler to fight a fish without placing excessive pressure on the light line or tiny hookhold.
“You don’t need to buy loads of different rods, the barbel rod and the V2 meet all my feeder requirements from summer through to winter,” the 36-year-old Barsby angler explained.
9. CHANGE YOUR GROUNDBAIT
IF you are using an open-end or Method feeder, then winter is the time to think carefully about your mix.
In summer anglers often use groundbaits containing pellets, corn and other chunks of feed to keep the carp scoffing.
But in winter such a ‘heavy’ food groundbait can be too rich for fishes limited feeding activity. Their appetites are satisfied by the groundbait before they eat the hookbait.
To combat this Andy switches to a fine textured groundbait containing lots of smell but not much food.
10. HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE HOOKBAIT
MAGGOTS are a useless hookbait for catching large fish on many commercial fisheries in summer.
The ravenous shoals of small roach, rudd and skimmers that populate most mixed fisheries will pounce on a maggot within seconds of it hitting the water.
But in winter the huge ranks of really small fish dramatically reduce their feeding intensity, this gives anglers the opportunity to use maggots to try and tease a bite.
In winter Andy often relies on dead maggots.
“I rate dead maggots in winter,” he said, “two or three dead grubs on a size 20 PR 27 hook is a visual bait that carp like eating.”
NOW TIE ANDY'S FEEDER RIG...