The temperature has been up and down like a yo-yo over the last few weeks, anything from seriously sub-zero up to a balmy double figures.
Fish, being cold-blooded, are the same temperature as the water they swim in, so even small changes have a massive effect on them.
Whereas warm-blooded animals need to eat more when it is cold, to generate heat, the opposite is true for fish in our rivers and stillwaters.
Therefore, having a rough idea of the water temperature and whether it is rising or falling can have a massive impact on the baits you use. Even a change of 0.1ºC can make a difference to your catches.
Most of the time you won’t even need a thermometer to make your bait choice as if you keep an eye on what’s going on around you the indicators are there to see.
You should be aware that the air temperature is not necessarily a reflection of the water temperature.
For example, a warm day after several snowy ones will see the snow melt and water temperatures plummet.
It might be pleasant to fish, but your chances of catching are reduced because of the colder water. Conversely, a frosty day after several mild ones might yield surprisingly good results.
My bait thermometer has been put together to give you a guide to what baits to use, and when.
Once the water temperature drops this low, sport can be tough as carp will be eating very little, but on well stocked venues with the right bait you will still catch. This is the time to dig out the really bright baits – yellow, pink and white are my favourites – and pump up the flavours by using dips.
Keep your feed to the bare minimum. Often, just the hookbait is enough, as long as you are on fish, and it pays to search the swim by casting around until you find them. While you can catch carp when the temperature is this low, great sport can be had with more cold water-tolerant species, like roach, chub and ide, so it might pay to think about targeting these species instead.
Carp can be caught, but don’t expect to bag-up. Consider fishing for roach, chub and ide instead for a great day’s sport.
Super-bright mini-boilies, hair-rigged corn and bread discs are all really visual and work well for carp in the cold. ‘Blown’ pellets, that have a light colour, can also work, but remember to rely on the pulling power of the hookbait and keep feed to an absolute minimum.
From mid-November until late spring you’re likely to be confronted with water temperature in this range.
Encouraging the fish to feed confidently is what it is all about, and that means getting what you feed, and how much, spot-on. Single hookbaits will catch, but not enough to bag-up, and feeding too much will soon kill a swim so start off with a small amount of feed and keep it going in regularly.
Carp sport can be very good when the temperature is rising, and bream are another species that are quite cold-water tolerant.
‘Live baits’ such as maggots and worms are my first choices. Chopped worm is an exceptional attractor and will keep fish in the swim looking for food. Maggots come a close second, but don’t go overboard on the feed.
A couple of pints is enough to catch a big bag of carp.
If boilies are your thing then look for birdfood-based ones that are easy to digest, and consider using 10mm baits.
I call this the ‘Goldilocks zone’ for carp and most coarse fish. The temperature is neither so cold that it will stop the fish feeding, or so hot that they will start laying up and basking. Most venues will be in this range from about May until November.
I normally switch to dark-coloured baits at these water temperatures as the fish are going to be very active and aware of their surroundings, so a bright bait won’t be needed to attract them.
Carp, bream and tench will be feeding hard in this range, so the Method feeder works really well, and it can pay to bait heavily.
Pellets are my number one choice. The fish will be feeding hard and coarse pellets are the ideal food for them. For bigger carp, fishmeal based boilies work exceptionally well in this temperature range.
Carp, tench and barbel love warm water, but once the water gets this warm its capacity to hold oxygen drops massively, and it can be this instead that stops the fish from feeding. Often the carp will be basking on the top, enjoying the sun’s warmth on their backs. This is when surface fishing, the pellet waggler and fishing with zig rigs – in fact, any method that presents a bait up in the water – really comes into its own.
Carp on the surface and up in the water, also great tench sport early and late in the day.
Floating pellets and dog biscuits, bread crust and Zig Bugs all work well for fishing just below or on the surface. If I am fishing on the bottom then I will normally switch to particle baits, such as sweetcorn, as this passes through the fish very quickly.
GAUGING THE TEMPERATURE
Obviously, most of us will have no idea what the water temperature is going to be before we go fishing, but we can collect a lot of clues from the weather forecast and make a pretty good prediction.
Most TV and radio reports are not precise enough. Much better are forecasts for your local area on websites such as MetCheck.
I have several weather Apps on my phone and the one I tend to use the most often is called WindGuru, because this gives a very precise and reliable forecast.
First, look at the day and night time temperatures. A big difference between these figures normally means the water will chill slightly at night, which will make the fishing harder.
Similar day and night temperatures offer much better prospects.
Next, look to see if the temperature each day is going up or down in the days leading up to your session. This will tell you the temperature trend – rising temperatures, especially in winter, mean the fishing will be better.
When you get to the bank, take the water temperature with a thermometer, and check it regularly to see if it is rising or falling. Most good tackle shops will stock both the older brass thermometers and the latest digital versions.
I prefer the greater accuracy digital variety. Used while I am fishing, this will tell me if the temperature is rising or falling.
Temperatures that are rising, even if only by a fraction of a degree, will mean the fish will be more receptive to feeding and you can use more bait.
The freshwater fish in our lakes, ponds and rivers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but this diversity is not the result of random chance.
Body shape and fin location have evolved to allow the fish to perform and operate effectively in the environments they live.
Living in water is not at all like living in air. There are many specific differences such as the fact that water is 800 times denser than air, so moving in water takes a lot more effort. This particular factor means that fish have to optimise their bodies to allow movement. This situation becomes a lot worse when you consider that in moving rivers and streams, just maintaining position consumes energy.
The main powerhouse for movement comes from a fish’s tail, which acts like a propeller at the back of the fish. Different species have different tail shapes and this is also linked to how and where a fish is moving.
Riverine fish tend to have deep, sharply forked tails, which reduce the ‘drag’ which would otherwise hold the fish back when it moved. The forked nature means that the surface area of the tail is relatively low so there is less surface for the water to stick to when the fish moves at speed. This means a riverine fish in moving water can efficiently beat its tail for relatively low energy input because the drag on the tail is low. However, forked tails generally provide less power per sweep so need to be moved more rapidly to achieve movement.
Shallow forked tails generate more energy per sweep of the tail but create more drag, so fish that generally move around in stillwaters have less forked tails. This allows them to accelerate for short periods with lots of power, but they don’t maintain these top speeds for long because it uses too much energy.
The body shape of the fish also gives a clue as to where it lives. Torpedo-like body shapes are highly efficient in terms of moving in water, so fish that live in fast flowing rivers have this characteristic. Fish like barbel and chub epitomise this body shape and they have evolved to live in rivers and streams. They have low-drag bodies and allow the fish to have high muscle content in their bodies which actually generates the power.
This torpedo shape can be even more accentuated in a pike. These fish rely on their ability to rapidly accelerate to capture other fish. The cylindrical body shape allows efficient movement in water and most of the fins are positioned at the back to provide propulsion for rapid acceleration.
The broader, deeper body shapes such as bream and roach are less suited to moving in fast-flowing rivers but they have other advantages, one of which is camouflage. Their broad scaly flanks actually reflect the light around them, which means their bodies act as mirrors so the fish blends in with its surroundings. This principle, that fish have evolved millions of years ago, is now the same that has been used to design camouflage suits for the military! So the fish has balanced the problem of drag and slower movement against the need to avoid being eaten.
The type of scales and the levels of slime on fish also reflect the types of environment they live in. Tench have small scales with lots of slime and spend most of their time near the bottom and around snags which means they tend to bump into stuff more often.
The small scales are less easy to knock off and the extra slime protects the fish’s skin against damage. Larger scales such as those on roach and rudd are more sensitive to damage but are more efficient as mirrors and therefore give better camouflage in open water.
The lateral line is very obvious on most fish and is part of the fish’s sensory system which allows it to detect movement around it, and to hear low frequency sound.
The level of development of this system is often related to need, so in a fish like carp it clearly runs down either side of the body. However, in a pike, the system also extends to the head.
This ensures that pike are able to detect water movement directly ahead of them and can focus to pinpoint the exact location of their prey.
One of the most encouraging traits of modern fishing is the greater interest anglers have in looking after the fish they catch.
But to ensure the fish you catch are released fit and strong, here is the definitive guide to a fish's internal organs so you can avoid causing any accidental damage.
1 - Gills
Gills of fish are for breathing. The gills sit behind the gill cover and, in a healthy fish, appear a bright red colour. The gills are extremely efficient at extracting oxygen from water allowing the fish to function normally. They can extract over 80% of the oxygen in the water passing over them (average person is around 4%). This efficiency comes at a price however. To get the oxygen in, the tissue is very thin, typically just seven thousandths of a millimetre. This makes them very fragile so the gill cover protects them from damage. Rough handling can easily damage them so anglers should try and avoid touching or handling a fish around the gills. The oxygen the fish extracts is used to ‘burn’ the food it has digested to provide the energy to survive.
2 - Swim bladder
This organ stores gas inside the fish. Its main function is to counterbalance the weight of the rest of the fish’s body. This means the fish doesn’t have to swim to stay in the water column. It effectively makes the fish neutrally buoyant. This means the fins can be used to control position with slow precise movement rather than constantly having to work to keep itself off the bottom.
3 - Weberian Ossicles
These are found only in the carp-like fish. They are bone extensions of the spine and connect the swim bladder to the fish’s ears. This connection means that the fish can hear a much wider range of sound frequencies. Fish like perch and pike don’t have these and so have less effective hearing.
4 - Ears
The ears of fish are internal with no connection to the outside world. The reason for this is simply that they don’t need to. Sound travels much better in water compared to air so the sound easily passes into the fish where their ears can detect it. Fish hear much lower pitch sounds than people but are not as good at hearing high pitched sounds. You should remember this when you’re trampling about on the bank or banging in bank sticks!
5 - Heart
This is a blood pump, just like in people. In fish, blood leaves the heart and goes directly to the gills. So when the blood arrives at the gills it is at high pressure and flowing fast. This helps to make the gills efficient in carrying oxygen and food, as well as transporting waste chemicals. The blood then travels away from the gills carrying oxygen to other body organs. However, it also means that if the gills are damaged the blood loss is quite rapid – so avoid handling fish near the gills. The heart sits under the gills usually in the V-shape formed between the two gill covers. This location ensures the heart doesn’t have to pump blood far to get to the gills.
6 - Brain
Fish brains are not massive but perfectly functional for what the fish needs. They are particularly well developed for processing sensory information such as vision, smell and sounds.
7 - Liver
The liver of most of our coarse fish is usually quite big and combines the liver and pancreas together. This organ regulates and processes the digested food. It can also break down harmful chemicals. In coarse fish it is usually connected closely with the intestine. If it gets damaged it means the fish can’t process food properly and they can waste away and die. In coarse fish fed on trout pellets it can also get quite fatty. As yet however, there is no real evidence that this does the fish any harm.
8 - Stomach and Intestine
Predatory fish have stomachs to process the ingested prey. Fish like carp and roach don’t have a true stomach and just have a long intestine. This is because they feed more frequently than predators and their natural food often comes in smaller bits. This means they don’t need a stomach to start the digestion process. Food travels down the gut and is soaked with digestive chemicals to break it down. It’s then absorbed by the intestine and transported by blood to the liver or is stored for later use.
9 - Kidney
A fish’s two kidneys are merged into one and sit right under the spine. The kidney’s main function is to act as a filter and is well developed in all freshwater fish. It basically filters the blood and allows the fish to get rid of all the water that leaks into its body across the gills and through the intestine. The rest of the outside skin of the fish is generally pretty watertight unless it gets damaged. If the kidney gets damaged by disease or pollution, the fish retains water and will bloat up because it can’t effectively get rid of the water.
10 - Spleen
A dark red organ usually located around the middle of the fish. This organ makes and stores blood and also helps to fight off infections.
11 - Gall Bladder
Produces bile which is secreted into the intestine to neutralise acid from the stomach and also helps digest fats in food. It is usually bright yellow or green depending on the colour of the bile it produces.
Carp farming has a long history and most of the carp stocked into UK fisheries are produced in controlled conditions.
The farming process can be split into two basic phases. The first is the hatchery where the brood fish are spawned and the eggs and fry are produced, and the next phase is the on-growing process which is happens in ponds.
In this first of two articles I will look at the how the carp are spawned and the eggs produced.
Brood fish are generally four years old and have developed gonads which are ready to spawn. In the wild, this is governed by temperature. For farming, the process needs to be more timely and so a hormone is used to induce them to spawn.
This means that the whole process is more predictable and fish held in warm water all year round can be spawned at any time throughout the seasons.
Carp fry start off very small and incredibly fragile. In the wild, very few make it beyond just a few days.
This early period of their lives has the highest mortality rate with less than one in a thousand fish surviving the first few weeks.
From an economic fish farming viewpoint this level of mortality is far too high so it is necessary to intervene in the fry rearing process and offer the baby fish vital protection to ensure more of them survive.
In last month’s Waterlife I detailed how a carp’s egg is collected and fertilised, once hatched out of the egg, the fry has its own yolk to live on for two or three days.
It then needs to start eating.
Carp fry of a few days old are so undeveloped that they cannot digest pelleted foods.
These first-feeding fry need to be fed on live food, on a farm they are fed on tiny shrimp-like creatures called artemia.
These are also just a day or so old and are less than 0.5mm in size which is just perfect for carp to eat.
These tiny shrimps are hatched in large quantities from dried eggs and then fed directly to the carp fry.
However, artemia is very expensive and so it can only be used for a few days t give the baby fish a healthy kick-start.
Beyond this time the carp fry are then stocked out into freshly flooded fish farm ponds. These ponds will have bloomed up with tiny planktonic animals that are the perfect food for the carp fry.
Once in the ponds, the newly stocked carp start hoovering up these tiny animals and grow rapidly.
Once again, by intervening in the early stages of fish growth and ensuring the baby fish have a ready supply of the right kind of food, fish farmers can dramatically increase the survival rates of the young carp.
After just a few weeks the rapidly growing fish will be big enough to enjoy another change of diet as they can start to eat tiny pellets, this will further boost their growth.
These pellets are packed with protein which further enhances the babies growth and survival rate.
One important factor in feeding these small fish is they don’t have stomachs to store and digest food in, this means they prefer their food constantly drip fed to them during the day.
Automatic feeding machines are often used on rearing ponds to govern the feeding of the baby fish.
Believe it or not, experiments have proved that if the fish are fed the same amount of food spread over the day, rather than in two large meals, they will actually grow better by about 20%.
During the summer period the fish grow rapidly in the warm water. There are often a lot of fish in the ponds and the weight of stock can rapidly increase with the growth of the fish.
Once again this can create a problem as the levels of oxygen available to the fish can be reduced by the sheer weight of carp living in there, particularly at night.
To ensure the best survival rate, oxygen levels in the ponds are carefully monitored and aerators are used to keep plenty of oxygen in the ponds.
Once winter sets in, the specially reared young carp will grow much less but they will already have grown sufficiently well enough in the protected environment of the fish farm to be able to survive the cold.
At a time of the year when the natural mortality rate of fish fry peaks again, the farm-reared carp will be big enough to survive until warmer weather returns.
The following spring, these one year old carp are classified as ‘C1 fish’.
The maximum growth potential of carp is rarely achieved in outdoor pond farms, even with the extra feed and good water quality.
It is only in warmer countries than here, or if the carp are grown indoors with the water being heated and constantly maintained, that they reach their maximum potential.
In a trial at Sparsholt College we have managed to grow carp to 20lb in under two years by feeding them good food in warm temperatures!
Fish mouths differ among species. Knowing how they work helps us catch.
Successful angling is often all about understanding how and when fish feed. If we understand how fish actually take bait into their mouths we can better prepare and present the baits designed to catch them.
Our coarse fish have quite a variety of different methods of taking in food, and so different bait types work for different species of fish. They also have different adaptations to help them take in food. You may have noticed some fish have mouths which telescope out – like carp – while in others such as pike this is not so obvious. However, all fish when feeding form their mouths into a tube shape to get the food in.
To do this they have evolved a really complex set of bones, tendons and ligaments. These all work together to allow the fish to feed more effectively. By simply looking at a fish it would be difficult to see how complex it all is but a fish skeleton reveals all. One of the fundamental problems that all fish have to overcome is how to actually get the food into their mouths. This isn’t as simple as you might first think. The problem is a simple one – the food is in or on the water and the fish’s mouth is also full of water! So how do they encourage the food to move into their mouths?
Most fish use suction as the main method. By sucking in the water around their mouths the food is also taken in. To generate the suction they do two things. First, they expand the inside of their mouths and their gill covers. This creates an enlarged space inside the mouth. The edges of the gill covers remain sealed against the body so the only way the water can get in to fill this new space is through the mouth.
Some fish such as carp are very good at this and enhance the effect by having mouths which protrude in a long tube. However, it’s not simply forming the right type of tube with their mouths that makes this work. The power of the mouth pump itself is very important and this is due to the size of the gill covers and how the inside of the mouth is set up. Carp have a very powerful pump which is very effective at sucking in food from very deep sediment.
So the shape of the mouth and the pump creates a directionally focused water current where the food is taken. It also allows them to dig down into sand and mud and suck up food items buried quite deep.
Fish can also reverse the water flow and so blast water into the soft sediment to reveal food hidden underneath. It also allows the fish to extend its mouth to pick up food away from its head. This form of feeding is very common in carp and gives the characteristic ‘blows’ seen in shallow water as the sediment is blasted from the bottom by the carp.
One of the main reasons for using a hair rig is that carp are very good at blowing stuff back out of their mouths if they don’t like it. So a normal bait, with very little of the hook showing, can be blown back out without hooking the fish. The fish has sucked in the bait and blown it out before you’ve had a chance to strike! But, with a hair rig, the hook is free to make contact as it’s on its way out!
Fish that don’t have protruding mouths have to get much closer to their food before they can suck it in. Carp are certainly the best at digging down into the bottom ooze with tench and bream next.
Carp and fish related to them have a special filtering mechanism at the very back of their mouths called the palatine organ that allows the fish to sort out food from the mud and stones they suck up.
This, however, isn’t the only way that fish can get food into their mouths. Perch, for instance, can rely on a very strong suction and large mouths to suck in their prey. This draws in the prey to the back of their mouths where it can be trapped. This very powerful suction is enhanced by large gill covers as well. They can also engulf their prey, accelerating quickly and opening their mouths at the last second. The perch flares its gills open at the same time to allow water to flush straight through the mouth as the prey is swept along with it. Many anglers will have noticed that perch will often be hooked towards the back of the throat because they suck the bait up so strongly.
So knowing how fish feed helps us present baits in the best ways to catch them.
Suck and blow - How fish feed
A rapid fall in water temperature is the worst scenario for winter fishing.
Fish hate rapid temperature change and, when a sudden cold snap kicks in, most species tend to go right off the feed.
Dr Mark Burdass says: “When water temperature falls below 4ºC most of our coarse fish shut down. Some native species like pike and chub will feed intermittently but non-native species like carp are particularly affected.
“At a temperature of 4ºC the affected fish will often shoal together in the warmest spot they can find and stay there virtually dormant.
“Locating these fish is vital because no amount of groundbaiting will draw these fish to you. For the best chance of catching you have to find them and drop a bait right on their noses.
“These fish don’t actually need to feed, but it’s like tempting them with a sweet. Put a bait right in front of them and one of them will eventually eat it.”
Mark, a lecturer in fish science and behaviour at Hampshire’s renowned Sparshalt College, explained that, in these conditions, fish location and the use of visual hookbait like sweetcorn, is far more important than heavily flavoured bait.
Fish will feed slightly more freely in a prolonged spell of cold weather where water temperature has remained constant. They will move for short periods to find food.
Best times to fish
1. Water temperatures above 6ºC and weather is settled
2. Water has been 4ºC for four or five days
3. In the afternoon, when the sun has warmed up the shallow areas of a water
4. When water temperatures begin to rise, no matter how cold it has been beforehand
5. When wind swings into the south or west and brings slightly milder weather.
Feeding temperature guide
6°C – 7°C Fish feeding moderately well
4°C – 5°C Fish still aware and feeding intermittently
2°C – 3°C Fish becoming dormant. You’ll struggle!
1°C – 2°C Fish virtually inert
Many match and specialist anglers now carry a thermometer.
Water temperature will dictate how much – if anything – they’ll feed. They also want to know if the water temperature rises during the session. A temperature rise – even by half a degree – will spark fish to feed.
There are a number of angling thermo-meters on the market, including the highly sensitive, digital Rivertherm model (below) capable of measuring both air and water temperature.
Alternatively, get a metal-cased thermometer (above) designed to be pushed into the ground to record soil temperature. Tie a length of cord to it and and lob it in.
All fish respond directly to the weather and different species feed more keenly than others in the cold.
Pike and chub are two of the main target species when the frost is crunching underfoot.
Here’s our temperature guide to Britain’s most popular fish.
Carp are a warm water species and only grow and reproduce in water temperatures of 15ºC, and above. They can be caught all year round but feeding activity slows down from the first frosts. From this point carp become far less active and often shoal up in the warmest areas, or seek out warmer thermal layers (thermoclimes). Locating fish is key as there may be large areas in lakes and commercial pools devoid of fish. If you do locate them, they may only feed for short periods. Below 4ºC, carp are generally unwilling to feed.
An iconic summer species. In colder water conditions – from late October to April when water temperature dips – the tench slows down its body mechanism and effectively hibernates. It has little or no need to feed.
There are exceptions, notably in heavily-stocked commercial pools where some tench occasionally continue to feed through moderately cold weather.
Roach are one of the few species that will feed freely throughout the cold weather.
Like most other species, roach won’t feed following sudden water temperature drops of more than one or two degrees (after a hard, overnight frost, for example.)
However, in periods of sustained cold weather, the roach is a good target for the angler as it will compete for food up in the water.
More active in summer than winter as they digest their food quicker, and therefore eat more often. Some specialist perch anglers maintain that big stillwater perch rarely feed when the water temperature falls below 4ºC (39ºF.)
Perch in rivers feed harder throughout the colder months because running water tends to have a more stable temperature that is less susceptible to large fluctuations you get in stillwaters.
Bream are very much like carp and can be caught through 12 months of the year, though sport does tail off in the colder months.
Well known as a shoaling species, bream move around more readily than carp when water temperatures dip and location is again the key issue in catching them. While carp tend to stay shoaled in the same areas in colder months, bream will move about from day to day, or week to week.
The chub is the king of cold-water species. Chub stuff themselves with maggots and casters on the coldest day. Many day ticket commercial pools now stock chub to keep anglers catching throughout the hard winter months.
Chub can be caught at all depths but, if you fire in bait regularly, they will come up in the water to compete in snatching slow-falling freebies like maggots.
Sudden falls in water temperatures are guaranteed to knock barbel sport on the head, both in rivers and commercial stillwaters.
Barbel will feed happily in cold-water conditions, providing the water has been at a settled, low temperature for a period of days.
Just as barbel stop feeding in response to a cold snap, even a tiny rise in water temperature can spark them into feeding furiously, especially if it is coupled with a rise in water level.
Another warm water species, the rudd is at its most active in the spring, summer and autumn. As soon as water temperatures nosedive, the rudd’s metabolism slows down.
Rudd can still be caught in winter, especially on heavily-stocked commercial pools, but they aren’t worth targeting.
These powerful predators won’t expend lots of energy chasing a meal, but if you drop a bait on a pike’s nose, or inch it past it, it will swallow it.
Big static sea deadbaits that leach off loads of flavour, or lures worked slow and deep just above the holes in the weed where pike like to lay up, are favourite.
Livebaits (where allowed) tethered below a pike bung or under a slow-moving drifter float, will also produce big fish.
Weather can be the single biggest factor in deciding if you’ll have a good day’s fishing – or suffer a bad one.
Weather conditions will dictate if, when, and how hard the fish feed, and will also have a huge bearing on the comfort of the fisherman on the bank.
A wet or cold angler can’t be expected to enjoy his or her sport – even if the fish are biting well – but pick your day and plan your trip correctly and you’ll have a great time.
By following just a few simple rules you can turn a potential blank into a late season success to put the smile back on your face.
The weather is the number one topic of conversation for most UK citizens, but how many of us really know how to decipher the forecasts? Next time you see those big charts the weathermen use at the end of the television news, have a close look at the pressure – or synoptic – charts and interpret the ‘squiggly lines’ by looking out for the following.
Atmospheric pressure is the force of the air pressing down on the earth’s surface and this pressure has a direct influence on the weather we receive, depending on if it is increasing or decreasing.
Atmospheric pressure is measured in inches of mercury in a barometer, or in millibars (mb) on maps.
In this country, our air pressure is typically somewhere between 980mb (low) to 1030mb (high.)
Points of the same pressure can be joined up to form lines called isobars. These form rings around high and low pressure centres.
Isobars (squiggly lines) join areas of equal pressure, in the same way contours on a map join areas of equal height.
● An area of high pressure (an anti cyclone) means settled weather; an area of low pressure (or a depression) often delivers wind and rain.
● Wind direction generally parallels the isobars, travelling anti-clockwise round a ‘low’, and clockwise round a ‘high’ (the opposites apply in the southern hemisphere.) The closer the isobars on a weather chart, the stronger the winds.
The heavier lines with small triangles or semi-circles drawn on the leading edges indicate weather ‘fronts’ – a weather system that’s being pushed towards, or away from, the British Isles.
A cold front is the front edge of a colder air mass. It means cloud and a narrow band of heavy rain followed by colder temperatures. It is indicated on the weather charts by small black triangles. The triangles point in the direction that the front is moving.
A warm front – or the front edge of a warm air mass – generally means cloud and an extensive band of drizzle or heavy rain is on the way. It is indicated on the weather maps by black semi-circles that point in the direction the front is moving.
● Low pressure areas are more likely to produce clouds and rain.
● High pressure areas usually mean settled, sunny weather.
● The perfect time to fish most stillwaters in the UK is when a low pressure system is coming in from the Atlantic. This means it will be mild, windy, full of cloud and probably wet, due to the westerly or south-westerly air flow. If you see this weather pattern coming up, get out there because the fish will be getting their heads down to feed.
What forecast conditions mean at this time of year
SUN is good at this time of year as it will heat up the top layers and shallower marginal areas of a fishery.
Target these shallow areas in the afternoon when fish have moved into them to feed.
RAIN can be good if it is mild and warm and brought from either a westerly or south-westerly direction. It can add colour to the water and spark fish to feed.
FORECAST WIND NORTHERLY
or easterly winds are bad at this time of year, especially if they carry rain. They will send air (and water) temperatures tumbling, putting the fish off their food and making fishing uncomfortable for the angler. In these conditions try to find a sheltered swim with the wind off your back. Never fish at the end of a pool with a north or east wind blowing directly in your face. Water temperatures here will be the lowest in the lake.
Remember: The power of the wind (wind chill) can reduce air temperature by 10 degrees C or more.
A SUDDEN, hard overnight frost is likely to put fish off the feed. They may eat angler’s baits in the mid to late afternoon when they have warmed up or acclimatised. Look for the deepest (and warmest) swims to fish in frosty conditions.
FORECAST THUNDER STORMS
OPINIONS are mixed as to whether fish are affected by thunderstorms. We here at IYCF have had some great fishing straight after the most violent thunderstorms. Remember you must be careful in electrical storms. Carbon is an excellent conductor of electricity and you should never use or hold a pole or rod during thunder and lightning storms.
PROVIDED you have proper clothing and shelter, snow can be good at this time of year. Snow can indicate either a slight rise or fall in air temperature. Snow following a sustained period of frost indicates rising temperatures that could switch the fish into feeding. They have to feed sometime – even in cold weather.
Photographing a good fish you’ve caught in the snow, will also give you a souvenir you’ll never forget.
Old sayings: Is there anything in them?
TRUE: Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in morning, shepherds warning. Weather fronts often approach the UK from the west, so a red sky at night means it’s clear to the west (you can see the sun going down) and the cloud is clearing from the east. A red sky in the morning illuminates clouds to the west, so predicting bad weather.
TRUE: Mackerel sky and mares’ tails make tall ships carry low sails. The build-up of cirrocumulus cloud (mackerel sky) can often indicate a front approaching, carrying wind and rain.
TRUE: When the wind is in the west, the fish bite the best. When the wind is in the south, it blows the bait into the fishes mouth. When the wind is in the east, the fishes bite the least. When the wind is in the north the fish don’t go forth. South and west winds are warm and mild. North and east are cold and put coarse fish off the feed and make them lethargic.
TRUE: When smoke descends, good weather ends. When a low pressure front is coming, bringing rain, smoke from chimneys will fall.
FALSE: If cows lay down in the fields, it’s going to rain. Rubbish. They’re just tired and chewing the cud!
Reading the clouds
WATCHING the sky can give you a great indication of what kind of weather to expect – if you know what to look for.
The kind of clouds above you can accurately tell you what to expect. Here’s the IYCF guide to clouds, and their meaning.