We’re at that time of year when sweetcorn really comes into its own as a commercial carp bait both for feed and on the hook.
With the carp becoming increasingly active as the water warms, corn is a bait that they will seek out readily for its food value.
But unlike in the depths of winter, when a single yellow grain of sweetcorn can be highly effective when cast around the swim, now you need to feed something too.
However, even with such a seemingly simple offering, you’ll catch more if you use the right type of corn.
Guru’s Adam Rooney is your guide to choosing the right corn…
Maize is a larger, tougher grain than food-grade sweetcorn. I find it is excellent as a single hookbait when casting long distances on big waters, or if the lake I am fishing has an average stamp of much bigger fish.
2) Tackle company corn
Although the most expensive of all the corns, bespoke bait company offerings do bring a number of distinct advantages.
First, the grains are bigger and uniform, as all are graded. This make them perfect of catapulting.
They are generally tougher and more robust, for a better hook hold, and they come pre-flavoured and coloured, so all the work has been done for you.
I use two different tinned corns. For hookbaits, it’s Jolly Green Giant, which is often larger than other tinned corns, although this can differ from tin to tin.
For loosefeed, I have found Heinz to be excellent, as the grains are a little smaller. This means the hookbait will stand out well over the top of it.
If you are looking to prebait an area, or you wish to use a lot of corn, then frozen corn (thawed out, of course) is a cheaper alternative to tinned.
The advantage of frozen corn is that it tends to be softer. In comparative terms, it’s the expander pellet of the corn world.
Rubber corn is resilient to small nuisance fish and can be cast great distances. It’s also soft, so it feels ‘right’ to the fish. I normally use the buoyant type, popped up off the bottom with a bomb or feeder.
There’s no doubt that PVA mesh is easier to use than solid PVA bags – but there are some very good reasons why the bags should get your vote.
Probably the most compelling of these is that the aerodynamic shape of a solid bag, with the rig nestled safely inside, casts much further and more accurately than a stick ever could.
There is more to it than that, though, because the nature of a PVA bag means that it changes the way your bait works too.
The bait literally explodes out of a PVA bag. This is caused by the air that is trapped inside the bag erupting upwards as the bag melts, carrying the particles of bait with it.
This explosive effect gives a much faster and wider spread of bait than a normal stick or feeder.
There’s no point in using an almost neutrally buoyant feed and then plonking a heavy hookbait in the middle of it. Light hookbaits are the answer to not only getting more bites, but ensuring better hookholds too.
Balanced hookbaits that sink slowly and are easy for the carp to suck in are real game-changers. They are also tough enough to use on a bait spike. My general rule is to start with a 10mm bait balanced to a size 12 hook. The gape of the hook should be slightly less than the diameter of the bait to ensure good hookholds, and handily this ensures the bait sinks slowly too.
With the clearer water conditions often encountered at this time of the year I make sure I have a mixture of different coloured wafters with me. Normally I believe a pink or white bait will be the most effective, because it stands out well agains the dark lakebed, but if the fish are being finicky, a change to a darker colour can give them more confidence.
Any flavour in the hookbait will be overpowered by the contents of my PVA bag, so I think it is less important when using this tactic.
MAGGOTS AND CASTERS
Bag fishing is all about making the most of a small amount of bait. I won’t introduce any more at this time of year, relying on accurate recasting to top up the swim.
A well packed bag is about the size of a large hen’s egg, so it’s important to use the best feed you can. Casters and maggots are an integral part of my winter bag mixes. These are normally the leftovers from trips earlier in the season, and I keep them in the freezer until needed.
A handful of bait is all you need to add for a day session. There is no doubt that carp absolutely love these natural baits, and they will keep grubbing around until every one has been picked up.
Using wet ingredients in bags
Most wet ingredients need to be dried to stop them melting PVA bags. The easiest way to do this is to mix them with a small quantity of finely-ground salt crystals. After 10 minutes, sieve off the salt and the baits will not only be dry, but any remaining moisture will be very salty and so will not melt the PVA.
You can add a huge range of different ingredients to your bag mix, but the most important thing is to get the consistency right. Ideally, you want a mix that can be packed down tightly, and consisting of small baits.
A tightly-packed PVA bag will not only cast further and more accurately than a loose one, but is much easier to make.
Micro pellets are another useful addition. I like to use tiny 1mm feed pellets, which can be mixed with a little dry groundbait to fill the gaps between the pellets.
Once you have got the fine base of your bag mix right you can then think about adding a small amount of larger baits to the mix – this should be no more than 10 per cent of the volume.
Although PVA melts very quickly when it comes into contact with water, it is impervious to other liquids, which allows you to really pump up the flavour.
A lot of liquid carp additives will be marked ‘PVA-friendly’. These are a good place to start, as they will be ready diluted to the optimal concentration.
The liquids can be mixed into the dry bag mix, or added to the bag after it has been filled.
This can be a messy job, but I find using a syringe or pipette enables me to get the liquid in with the minimum of mess.
Try adding anything up to a teaspoonful of liquid to your bag to give an instant cloud of flavour around the hookbait.
How to make an explosive PVA bag for carp
By combining micro baits and liquids you can fill your bags with an irresistible mix that won’t feed the carp - in fact it will explode out of the melting bag, covering a dinner plate-sized area immediately and quickly infusing the water with an aroma to attract the carp’s attention.
1) Put a pint of micro pellets into a bait tub.
2) Add a handful of dead maggots or casters to add food value.
3) Put a thin layer of the bag mix into the bag.
4) Place the lead centrally into the partially-filled bag.
5) Almost fill the bag with more bait then place the hookbait on top.
6) Inject about 10ml of liquid into the centre of the bag.
7) Use a piece of PVA tape to tie the bag shut, then trim away any excess.
8) Attach the finished bag to your mainline using a large figure-of-eight loop.
Winter carp fishing on commercials can be a frustrating thing.
Sit on a load of fish and you’re quids in, but if you pick a peg that’s only average in terms of big fish, it can mean a good few hours of numbing inactivity between bursts of catching.
Let’s be honest, we all go fishing to catch a few fish, but the reality in winter is that what we hook every time isn’t always going to be big enough to stretch the elastic or put a decent bend in the rod.
This is where having a swim at short range to catch everything that swims comes in useful.
These fish may be roach and skimmers, but compared to wasting an hour waiting for a carp to turn up, that’s perfectly fine in my book. Indeed, on matches at my local Decoy Lakes complex, having a short maggot line is essential. Not only can you catch silver fish to keep the weight ticking over, but it’s also highly likely that bigger fish will turn up here at some point in the day.
F1s and barbel will be the most likely candidates but carp are also regularly caught just a few metres out in winter, making this short line an absolute must to factor into your plan. It’s also much more comfortable to fish and feed at this range if the wind is blowing.
Stick to maggots
Because you’re trying to catch everything that swims, you need a bait and feed that appeals to a wide range of species. Pellets and corn are too selective at this time of year, so the obvious choice is maggots.
My approach revolves around getting a bite every chuck, and to do that you need to use maggots. One drop-in could catch a small roach while the next could be a hand-sized skimmer and then perhaps a double-figure carp. A few pints of reds are all you need on your bait tray.
There’s no place here for negative feeding, so every minute or two I’ll throw in by hand 30 maggots or so. My thinking is that if the fish are sat there but aren’t interested in feeding then you can trigger a response by sparking their curiosity at a trickle of bait going through the water.
If there are plenty of feeding fish about, though, this amount ensures that enough remains to satisfy any bigger fish after the roach have had their fill.
Best hookbait is a single or double red maggot.
Keep it short
All I get out of the bag for the short line is a pole top kit and two sections. This is typically where you’ll find the deepest water on 99 per cent of commercials. The ideal depth I’m after to make my approach work is 5ft-6ft.
There’s every chance of hooking a few carp along with the F1s and bigger skimmers so you can’t fish super-light.
I’d go for 0.14mm mainline to an 0.10mm hooklength and a size 20 hook combined with softly-set No3-No5. Big fish just tend to plod around when hooked at this time of year, so take your time with them and you’ll bank pretty much anything on balanced kit.
Use a set-up with a bulk of shot for speed and positivity which will catch the bigger fish better. A 0.5g rig with a bulk around 12ins from the hook and a couple of small droppers below is perfect.
1) Use small hooks for big roach
If you spend most of your time fishing for species such as barbel and perch then you’re likely to be using hooks of size 12 or bigger.
As a result, if you start fishing for roach with double maggot on a size 16 it looks extremely small by comparison.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that a size 16 is tiny and that roach won’t be put off by it.
Ask any match angler and they’ll tell you that you’ll get a lot more bites the smaller you can go.
This is due to the weight of the hook and the fact that roach are delicate feeders, quite able to detect something is not quite right even with a size 16 hook.
Yes, you’ll fool the odd fish but drop down to an 18 or even a 20 and you’ll get far more bites.
Smaller hooks have thinner wire and less of it so they weigh less, which means the hookbait reacts more like the free offerings.
Take your time when playing the fish and you’ll certainly end up with more on the bank.
2) Soft cheesepaste for chub
Chub can be caught on practically any bait you can imagine, from maggots to kids’ sweets, but few are as good for catching bigger fish right now as cheesepaste.
Perhaps the biggest mistake anglers make is that they make cheesepaste that is too firm and then cover the hookpoint when mounting the bait.
One of the main reasons for this is that they make their paste in a warm kitchen. Then, once taken outside into the cold, it becomes much harder. Whenever I make cheesepaste I always put it in the fridge afterwards to check the consistency when it is cold.
If I find it’s too hard I add a little margarine, while if it’s too soft I add liquidised breadcrumbs from a fresh white loaf.
I err on the side of it being soft. Most of my chub fishing involves short casts, and I find that I can bury the hook inside soft paste and cast very gently. For longer casts use a small bait cage on a hair to help keep the bait in place.
3) Keep warm... fish longer
Catching big fish is often a game of patience – and few things are more certain to break your resolve to sit it out for the bite from possibly the fish of a lifetime than getting cold.
In the past I have found that it is generally my feet that get the coldest, but there are a couple of things you can do that make a real difference.
Unlined wellies and waders should be avoided – if you really need them, go for a pair with a neoprene lining.
Make sure you pair them with good wool hiking socks. These give a massive boost to your well-being, but be sure you don’t then undermine their thermal properties by wearing them over other socks that are not made of wool.
4) Travel lighter for chub
When roving for chub you don’t need lots of end tackle. In fact, I carry mine in a really small tackle box.
There is no point in taking tackle that you won’t use, so leave the feeders and large leads at home and take just the essentials – SSG shot, float stops or leger stops, a few beads and links and hooks. Just add a pair of scissors and a disgorger and you’re good to go.
By only taking the minimum of tackle you will be far more likely to walk further, and that means you will fish more swims. That in turn means you will almost certainly catch more chub.
Here is everything that you need to know about getting a fishing rod licence in 2019. From where to get one all the way to the different types of rod licence and how long they last for we will be covering all bases so that you know what you will be getting when purchasing one.
Angling is one of the most popular participation sports in England. With a million fishing rod licences being sold in 2017/2018 raising £23 million. In the last full year, sales of rod licences funded 350,000 fish being restocked into rivers, responding to 797 fisheries incidents and installing 37 fish passes amongst other things.
Where to get a fishing rod licence
When it comes to purchasing a fishing rod licence there are a few ways in which you can get one. The first is to visit the official government website and purchase your rod licence online via https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences/buy-a-fishing-licence
This is the only place online that you should be purchasing a rod licence from. The other two ways for you to obtain a fishing rod licence for 2019 is via the post office and going in person to order your licence, the final way is to purchase one over the phone by calling the environment agency on 0344 800 5386
The rod licence options and pricing
There are a few different licence types to look at and decide which best suits you for when you go fishing. There is a Trout and coarse 2-rod, Trout and coarse 3-rod and a Salmon & sea trout rod licence. All three of these licences can be purchased at four different price ranges that change depending on how long you want the licence to run for, with juniors (13 and under) being able to fish for free however for juniors between the age of 13-16 they will need to apply for a junior rod licence which is still free.
See full list of prices below...
When you will need a rod licence
You need a rod licence to be able to fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel in
England (except the River Tweed)
the Border Esk region of Scotland
You must follow national and local rules when it comes to fishing with a rod and line in England and Wales
A 12-month rod licence will last for a year from date of purchase
Make sure that you have your rod licence on you at all times or else you could be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500 when fishing without a rod licence. With the EA checking 63,000 licenses in 2016/17.
Rod Licence Cover Art
This year renowned angling and wildlife artist David Miller painted the images which will appear on the new Environment Agency issued fishing rod licences with the bream on the 2 rod coarse and trout licence, a mirror carp on the 3 rod licence and a sea trout on the salmon and migratory trout licence.
If you want to see more about this year's rod licence then you can check out the the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences
Often overlooked in favour of carp, roach in commercial fisheries can provide a great day’s sport. Commercials can hold quality roach that have grown to a decent size on high-protein carp baits. And, unlike skimmers, roach are reliable feeders.
England and Daiwa ace Cameron Hughes knows the value of these fish on winter commercials. They’ve provided him with double-figure match weights on days when going for carp or skimmers would have drawn a blank, as he explains...
Picking your lines
“I’d have a main pole line at 13m or beyond, where the fish will settle and feed confidently, and I’d expect to catch skimmers here too if the lake holds them.
“However, you always need a second line to rest the main one. Mine would be at around 6m, depending on the depth. Around 5ft of water is perfect, and I’d expect this spot to come good in the final few hours of a session when the roach move closer in.”
Laying the rig in
“Many anglers lay the rig in one way all day. That’s okay, but mixing it up will pick off bigger roach. On one drop I may lay the rig in and then, on the next, slowly lower it directly down to the bottom. Another good trick is to flick the rig out past the pole tip on a tight line, holding the pole halfway down the section.
“Then as the rig settles, push the rest of the section out. This maintains a tight line and can work for the bigger roach.”
“I reckon that even in coloured water the roach won’t be keen on moving into this shallower water early on. I’d certainly have a look on my short line after an hour, and if I was getting bites, I’d stay on it until it faded.
“If nothing happened, however, I wouldn’t think about coming back here until around 90 minutes of the session remained. Hopefully by then, it should be solid!”
Light and heavy floats
“Varying your presentation throughout the day can have a big effect on your catch. Just because you’re getting bites on one rig doesn’t mean that a change to a lighter set-up won’t improve things. For the long line I’d set up two rigs taking Carpa Gloucester floats of 1g and 0.75g.
“The bigger float is my starting rig, and this is shotted with a bulk and three No9 dropper shot, whereas the lighter rig takes just No9 shot strung out in a tapered fashion to give the bait a slower fall in the final few feet of the swim. This is the one I’ll change to if I am missing bites on the heavy rig, as this change in presentation can make a world of difference.”
Feeding for different fish
“The two lines are fed differently, as I’m aiming to catch different fish from them, so the long pole swim is fed with four balls of groundbait to create an area for the fish to settle over, while the 6m line only sees loosefeed. I’d expect any skimmers or bream to feed further out, hence the groundbait, while at 6m roach will be the main fish.
“My mix is 50/50 Sensas Super Canal Black and Gros Gardons Noire mixed on the damp side to get down quickly without giving off any particles. Into this I add a few red maggots and around a quarter-pint of casters – enough to hold roach in the peg while keeping any skimmers happy too.
“Around 15 to 20 casters are fed short every minute. If there are lots of fish about I’ll feed less often, but with more casters to keep the fish on the deck.”
Top river angler Dave Harrell has been answering some of your most burning questions. Take a look at see what you can take out onto the bank with you this weekend.
BLOCKEND OR OPEN?
Q) Which is the best sort of feeder for chub fishing in the winter? I’ve got blockend and open-end but I am never sure which to use.
A) I would go down the blockend route with maggots while it’s cold. Chub love maggots, and if they’re hungry they won’t be able to resist! Use a long tail of around 3ft to 4ft if bites are slow.
Q) Is it worth trying artificial maggots? They look so realistic but I’ve yet to use them as hookbait.
A) They’re well worth trying if you are being pestered by small fish, as you know there will always be something that looks edible on the hook. I’ve caught a lot of chub and barbel on pleasure sessions with this tactic, using one or two artificial maggots. Bear in mind that artificial baits are banned in matches but allowed in pleasure sessions.
Q) I keep getting tangles when I use Bolo or Avon floats. I use three or four shots below the olivette but it’s frustrating, as the line ends up in a bird’s nest as often as not! What am I doing wrong?
A) You need to change your shotting pattern for starters. Just use an olivette 2ft from the hook with one dropper fixed 10ins above the hook and it wont tangle.
If it’s windy, always cast off the side that the wind is blowing to, as this, too, will eliminate tangles.
BEST PERCH BAITS?
Q) I fancy doing some river perch fishing before the season ends. What baits should I use?
A) Perch are greedy fish and they will eat all livebaits, but for best results use chunks of lobworm or even a whole one. Perch love them!
CANE OR HOLLOW TIPS?
Q) Am I better using painted cane or hollow tips on my Bolo floats? I always thought that cane was supposed to be the best.
A) I used to use painted cane tips, but don’t carry any now. Hollow tips are the best, as you can see them so much better, especially if there is any sun on the water.
WILL I CATCH BARBEL?
Q) I’ve been following water temperatures on the River Severn matches Facebook page and it’s been between 4°C and 5°C recently. Will I be able to catch barbel with it as low as this?
A) While not impossible, I think you could be in for a struggle trying to catch barbel until the water warms up. You’d be better off targeting chub while it stays cold, and going for barbel when it’s up to at least 8°C.
SPECI WAGG OR TRUNCHEON?
Q) I fish a lot of fast-flowing rivers but I’m confused about waggler choice. Should I use a Speci or Truncheon design?
A) If your swim is fast and shallow (3ft to 4ft) you should use a Speci Waggler, as the short design is perfect for these depths.
If your swim is over 4ft and up to around 8ft deep the Truncheon Waggler is better because it is longer and easier to control, especially if it’s windy.
SHOULD I TRY TARES?
Q) I love catching big roach and had a lot of success with seed baits in the summer. Is it worth using tares on the hook in the winter?
A) I, too, love big roach and have caught loads on tares in the summer months but not in winter. I think you’re better off using maggots or casters when the temperature is down.
Q) I’ve noticed that you use a lot of soil in your groundbait mixes. Why is this?
A) I’ve used soil in my groundbait for many years. It gives the mix weight, which is important if the river is flowing quickly. I add about three pints of soil to two 1.5kg bags of groundbait.
I have to admit that as I drove up the M6 for my latest session at Barston Lakes I feared the worst.
Temperatures had plummeted overnight, and the amount of frozen water I saw on the journey wasn’t exactly filling me with confidence.
However, I was heartened by the sight of the fish in the pond at the fishery swimming around, rather than shoaled up in one corner, and I thought that there might be a chance.
What I certainly didn’t expect was that in just a few hours’ time I’d have taken one of my biggest ever winter catches of over 130lb of carp, F1s and skimmers, in temperatures which never got above 2ºC.
I elected to fish peg 83 on the grass bank area at the far end of the lake, where at least I’d have the wind off my back for a spot of feeder fishing.
Just lately I’ve been having a great run of results fishing the feeder on venues such as Barston and Boddington.
Some might think that feeder fishing in the cold is ‘chuck it and chance it’ and it’s all about drawing on the fish.
In part I’d have to agree – you do have to be on fish to win at this time of year because you can’t catch what’s not there.
But if you are on fish then there are a few little tricks which can make all the difference.
Here are seven simple steps which helped me to my big weight…
Go for small hookbaits
At this time of year every bite is a bonus. With this in mind, I like to keep my hookbaits small, 4mm and 6mm wafters.
I feel that when it’s really cold a smaller hookbait has more appeal. Skimmers, in particular, are great weight-builders and love a mini wafter.
With the water being so clear everywhere, yellow baits take some beating. On top of these I also like to have a few dead maggots with me. As a change bait they can often produce a bite, even on the Hybrid feeder when all else fails.
An example was the recent Golden rod qualifier on Barston Lakes. In bitter conditions the carp and F1s shut up shop but I managed 11 skimmers for 17lb, all on 4mm or 6mm yellow wafters, to win a 20-peg zone and qualify for the Larford final later in the year.
Pellets early, groundbait late
In the cold it’s all about taking whatever comes along – at the end of the day all the fish get weighed in!
In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that the bulk of the fish that get caught are taken early on in the match, whereas I would say that the last hour at this time of year is more often than not the worst.
Taking this into account, I have been varying my Hybrid approach a little.
I still like to fish pellets early as I feel they are a more positive bait, but the last hour, when bites are at a premium, I’ve been switching to groundbait in the feeder.
On venues that contain a number of skimmers this seems to produce a bite or two from them to boost my weight when others have stopped catching.
Clip up and move
At the start of a match I always like to clip up.
In the cold, carp and F1s like to shoal up, so if I cast and get a bite I like to go straight back to the same spot. Chances are there will be more than one fish there.
Once bites dry up, though, I see no point in repetitively casting to the same spot waiting for the fish to come back. Nine times out of 10 they won’t, and so I’ll look to fish a different spot.
Initially, if room permits, I’ll have a look to the left and right of my original spot, before moving further out.
When moving out more often than not you don’t have to go far – a metre is often enough to nick a bite.
When the new spot tails off I simply move again and hopefully follow the fish.
The secret is to find ‘new water’ that’s not been disturbed and where the fish are likely to feel safe.
Carp are easily spooked, and if I’m not catching I will always look for new water as that’s where the fish are most likely to be.
When fishing mini Hybrid feeders it’s important to think about what elastic to use in the feeder, as I need every fish I hook to end up in the net!
As a guide I will always kick off on the black, heavy elastic because if I am going to catch a carp or two this normally becomes apparent very early on.
However, if I start to catch skimmers I will drop down to the white, lighter elastic as I feel I get fewer hookpulls as a result.
Don’t think you can’t land carp on the lighter of the two elastics, because you can – I just feel the black is more suited to carp whereas the white is better for skimmers and F1s.
Use measuring sticks
I have said this many times before, yet it never ceases to amaze me that anglers still repeatedly cast a bomb to get clipped up at the required spot.
All this does is spook any fish that might have been in the swim and send them dashing for cover at a rate of knots!
I do appreciate, though, that clipping up is important, which is why I use measuring sticks.
Using the sticks I can clip up at the required distance quickly and efficiently with no disturbance to the swim. This way my first cast that hits the water will be my first cast of the match.
A little tip here is never to clip up at your maximum range to start with if you’re fishing into open water.
Try to leave yourself enough room so you can move out two or three times as the match progresses. This way you might get two or three goes at the fish as opposed to just the one!
While I’m a fan of small feeders and hookbaits, I’ve recently discovered that bigger is better when it comes to hook choice, even when fishing for skimmers.
For this reason I’ve been hair-rigging my mini wafters on size 10 QM1 hooks!
My reason for this is that I feel the fish find a bigger hook much harder to deal with when they suck the hookbait. This results in more bites and, importantly, even better hookholds.
I just think we’d be amazed how many fish suck in the hookbait and blow it back out with us being none the wiser!
With a bigger hook I feel this happens much less and I put more fish in the net as a result!
Fancy doing some perch fishing this weekend? Then check out these great perch fishing tips to help you bag more stripey’s next time you’re on the bank. from how to feed to presenting your hookbait correctly. We’ve got everything you’ll need to have a netful of perch this weekend.
Time and again perch are caught on worms from rivers, canals, lakes and drains. A tub of lobworms packed into your bag can result in a chunky specimen or two, even with a thick frost on the ground.
Shakespeare Superteam Bait-Tech skipper Darren Massey knows a thing or two about catching perch from Midlands canals. Not only can they be match winners, but they can turn a tough pleasure session into a day to remember.
It’s all in the timing
“Perch prefer clear water and cloud cover, although towards the end of the day as light levels drop, I’d always back a peg to come good regardless of conditions. They’re like any fish in that they feed best late in the day, so if I can just catch the odd fish building up to those final few hours, that will do nicely.
“Only on swims that hold a lot of fish can you expect to catch well all day, so don’t worry if nothing much is going on early in a match.”
“If I catch then I’ll keep on going until the bites die off completely, which tells me I’ve caught all the perch which are in the area.
“I then feed again, rest the swim and return. Some more fish should have moved in by then and I repeat the process of fishing it out. This way of fishing is very instant, so if you’re waiting five minutes for a bite, don’t waste your time.
“Having that second or third line helps in this instance and I follow the same principles on this, waiting until the bites cease before resting it.
“Re-feeding is done with a pulp made up of a single lobworm and four or five dendras plus some casters – much less than that opening feed as I’d still be wary of overfeeding.”
Don’t rush the strike
“Lift too early when the float buries and you’ll miss it, because perch like to take a few seconds to fully engulf a bait.
“When the float goes, I’ll count to three in my head and then strike hard. If I miss, chances are it will have been a small perch on the other end.
When a two-pounder takes the bait, it doesn’t let go and you don’t miss, believe me!”
Find some cover – or depth!
“It may be that your swim doesn’t boast much in terms of covert that perch love. Boats, brambles, willow trees and even reeds are enough to provide perch with a place to hide in waiting to ambush small fish. If the swim is barren though, all is not lost. You just have to find a reasonable depth to fish in – after all, a lot of big perch are caught on canals by fishing the deepest water right down the middle. Plumb around and look for around 2.5ft to 3ft and you’re in business.”
“If perch are your target don’t fish one spot alone. Often the fish will need to be left alone to regroup after a few have been caught, so having two or even three lines on the go will be of benefit. I’d try and fish these across at the same distance across but spaced several yards apart at angles. I can then rotate lines, nicking a few fish from each before leaving it to settle back down. Separate lines also let me feed each with more or less feed, or totally different offerings.”
Keep the feed minimal
“You don’t have to feed masses to catch perch, and I’d actually warn about getting too carried away and piling in the feed. If you think about it, you’re fishing for maybe half-a-dozen big fish and it would be very easy to fill them up with one big potful of bait.
“I begin by feeding just two lobworms and 10 dendras very finely chopped into a pulp, to which I add 20 or so casters. Finely chopping the worms won’t fill the perch up as rough chunks can.”
Light and heavy rigs
“There’s the temptation to gear up with strongarm tackle when faced with the chance of a 2lb or 3lb fish, but that’s not always needed. A heavy rig is, of course, best but there will be days, especially in clear water or when there aren’t so many perch present, when a lighter rig catches better.
“I’ll set up a heavy pole rig with 0.14mm Shakespeare Mach XT line straight through to a size 13 Kamasan B711 hook and a solid 12-16 elastic for fishing lobworms.
“However, there’s also a lighter set-up with 0.12mm XT straight to a size 16 Sensas 3405 hook and a doubled No6 solid elastic. This is for fishing casters or pieces of dendra worm when the perch aren’t going mad and need a more refined presentation.
“Both rigs are shotted with four or five No9 shot evenly spread around a foot apart. This ensures a slow fall of the bait through the water, as I’m positive that perch watch the worm fall past them and then take it. I’ll lift and drop the rig regularly when fishing to help inject this movement, and a bite often comes just as the worm hits bottom again.”
Fancy catching your target fish this weekend? Then check out these great specimen fishing tips from Drennan Cup winner Dai Gribble.
1) Seek out specimen roach
To track down big roach, look at match reports from the rivers or lakes you are thinking of targeting.
Match anglers invariably catch them if they are present, and unlike many specimen hunters most are free with information.
As well as match reports, your local tackle shop will provide valuable clues as to which stretches are likely to produce a magical two-pounder.
Knowing big roach are present where you are going to fish is a big step towards catching one!
Not being tied to the classical match fishing window of 10am to 3pm you can fish at dusk and dawn, prime feeding times.
2) Pack maggots for slow release
There is no better way of catching river chub than with maggots in a blockend feeder.
Ensure that the maggots are loosely packed so some exit the feeder on the way down.
These maggots will be swept downstream and draw fish in.
Later on, pack the feeder more tightly, so most of the maggots are still inside when it reaches the riverbed. They will then exit the feeder close to your hookbait.
Lots of maggots in a relatively tight area will drive the chub into a feeding frenzy and make them less wary of your hookbait. The shoal is also less likely to spook when you do hook a fish.
3) Smaller baits for day barbel
Barbel will feed all winter and any slight rise in river temperature is likely to turn them on. This is a good window of opportunity to target them, particularly on well-stocked fisheries.
Most of the weed in our rivers will now have died back, which means that unless you are fishing close to snags such as large boulders or overhanging trees you can scale down your terminal tackle and mainline.
This will almost certainly guarantee more bites.
Barbel have amazing senses and can easily find a small bait such as an 8mm Sonubaits Pellet O, even if it’s less obvious than a big boilie or a large lump of luncheon meat.
By using finer end tackle there is a good chance you can catch through the day rather than sit waiting for dusk in the hope that a much bigger bait will be taken.
4) Float your line on rivers
As the season draws to a close there’s every chance conditions will be ideal for trotting a float.
With most of the weed gone you can run a float downstream in swims where, for much of the year, trotting would be completely impossible.
No matter what species you are targeting, if you are using a float attached top and bottom, such as a stick or Avon, one thing is essential – your line must float.
A lot of popular floatfishing lines do just that, but all will benefit from a quick squirt with a silicone spray.
The additional buoyancy afforded by a spray makes controlling the float and mending the line far easier.
This in turn will help you trot your float through more fluently, which will lead to better bait presentation and more bites.
Well-oxygenated and containing a variety of fish species, weir pools are among the best features along any stretch of river – but at first glance they can seem daunting places to tackle.
Powerful flows generating white foam on the surface, unseen snags, weed and variable flows and depths all present a challenge to the angler, but the fish which live in a weir are pretty predictable when it comes to seeking out where they live.
1) Target ‘crease’ for Chub
Chub love to sit just out of the main current, ready to spot food items carried their way by the flow. ‘Crease’ swims, points where fast water meets slow, can be productive – chub will often dart out and grab a meal.
Try a static bait fished to the edge of the crease, using a bomb or small maggot or cage feeder and a sizeable bait that the fish can’t miss. A bunch of maggots is good if small fish aren’t a problem, otherwise a lobworm, breadflake or a 10mm halibut pellet will do the job. Use the feeder to get some bait down before you begin to fish. A waggler, stick or Avon float can also work, trotted past the slack.
You can loosefeed, but make sure it goes in well upstream so it hits bottom where the fish are.
2) Find Roach, dace and pike here
Roach and dace cope well with fast currents and can be found in the fast water run-off. Pike won’t be far away either, especially if there is a deep hole nearby to attract prey fish.
Use a stick float or waggler to catch the small fish, finding a clean-bottomed run to trot the rig 50 yards downstream. Keep a steady stream of maggots, casters or hemp going in every trot. You’ll soon work out where the feed is hitting bottom as this will be where bites come from.
On the hook go for single or double maggot and set the float to just touch bottom. Alternatively, a small maggot feeder will present a still bait if the pace and flow are too swift. This method can also pick up bonus fish such as chub or big perch.
3) Bream love slack-water areas
Just below the weir sill the water may look turbulent, but on the bottom it can be quite slow-moving. Big bream often populate these areas, getting away from the maelstrom of the main weir and picking off natural food.
A feeder will be the only sensible tactic, and bream love groundbait, so go for a cage model packed with crumb and a good helping of chopped worm, casters and/or pellets. A whole worm is the king of hookbaits for bream.
Pick a feeder carrying a loading of 1oz or more to start, and be prepared to go heavier, if needed, to hold bottom. Cast the feeder into the head of the weir and it will sink to the bottom where the slower water is. Fish with the rod in the air to keep as much line off the turbulent surface as possible.
4) Get tight to the weir for Perch and barbel
The two species most likely to be found directly under the weir itself are perch and barbel. Both benefit from the back eddies created by the pool that will bring food items their way.
For barbel, it has to be the straight lead using a big weight to anchor the bait in the flow. Give the fish a bait they can’t miss – a fishy or meaty boilie or pellet between 10mm and 16mm, or even an old-fashioned piece of luncheon meat or a lobworm. Use a safety lead clip system if possible, as this will allow a fish to escape should you lock up in a snag. Also ensure your tackle is up to the job – that means a minimum of 12lb line and a size 8 hook.
To loosefeed, a PVA bag packed with pellets and chopped boilies will ensure a patch of feed around the hookbait but be sure to thread the bag down your hooklink – simply nicking it on to the hook will see the bag ripped off by the flow long before the rig settles.
If perch are your target, then investigate back eddies or slightly slower water to the side of the main sill, which is a super ambush point for perch.
A legered lobworm will sort them out, but a brilliant way to locate the perch is to cast around with a lure rod and a small jig. This will locate any fish in the pool and you can then cast a legered worm, loosefeeding red maggots, to try to catch a specimen.
Here are some of the best pike fishing tips that we could find to help everyone from the novice angler all the way to the experience piker.Take a look at these great pike tips to help you catch more next time you’re on the bank.
We have gathered some of the best pike fishing tips from Dave Horton who landed one of the best hauls of big pike in recent history consisting of five fish for over 150lb!
The Essex based anglers pike weighed in at 36lb 8oz, 32lb 8oz, 29lb 8oz, 29lb 4oz and 23lb 12oz.
it’s safe to say that Dave is no stranger to pike fishing, having spent the majority of his angling career chasing them throughout the British Isles and Ireland, claiming “It’s my thing!”
His record is nothing short of exceptional either, having landed 30 pike over the magical 30lb mark, topped by a personal best of 37lb 4oz. He’s had 100 pike over the remarkable 25lb-plus mark, and is only one fish shy of 300 20lb-plus fish to his name, although we’re sure it won’t be long until he breaks the barrier!
We asked Dave to put together a few monster pike tips, to help you catch one! As you will see, it’s paramount to be first…
1) Arrive First!
“Whether it means arriving first, or being the first to fish a venue. In the case of Chew, I had arrived early to secure the spot I wanted, I also purchased the predator ticket so I could be first on the venue after the eight week shut”
2) Fresh is best!
“Ensure your bait is in first class condition and as fresh as possible, don’t skimp on bait as it’s the final piece of the jigsaw, the difference between a successful picture and an unsuccessful one. I highly recommend online baits UK”
3) Get your bait out quickly!
“Big pike feed in short sharp spells, when you catch a fish get a bait back out straight away, a prime example of this is my recent session, where three of the pike fell within a 30-minute feeding spell”
4) Position your bait carefully!
“Positioning your bait in a manner that any moving fish will approach it first, will result in you having the greatest opportunity to catch it. On popular venues it pays to be at the end of a group of anglers, rather than in the middle”
5) Be prepared!
“I often think I make a lot of my catches long before I wet a line, I like to be completely prepared. Being in the right spot, at the right time, with the right kit, bait and mind set, only occur through preparation. This haul of pike didn’t happen by accident!”
Pike Fishing Near Me | Where can I catch pike
Wondering where is best to go pike fishing this weekend? Then you might want to take a look at our Fishing Near Me page. We’ve got loads of listicles for every species including pike! So if you’re stuck on where to fish then take a look as we can guarantee that you’ll find a river or lake near you, that is stacked with big pike! Click here to see more.
More pike fishing tips!
Not had your fix of pike fishing tips and want more? Then head over to our pike species page where we have everything from tips to tackle and venues. Everything you would want to prepare yourself for your next session is here so head over and take a look. Click here to see our species page.
Pike fishing on rivers can be a little tricky, to help you tackle these very tricky venues we've put together some of the best pike fishing tips for river pike so you can catch more when out on the bank whether you’re an experienced pike angler or decided to try it for the first time, we’ll have you covered with these great pike tips.
1) Understand the river
Rivers are wild, 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 allows you to check out areas of weed or even snags. Take in the geographical nature of the land too. The steeper the sides of the surrounding land, the quicker the river will flood in the rains. Plus, the lower-lying rivers also tend to stay in flood for longer. All of these things will affect how the river fishes.
2) Keep mobile
Once you have sussed a length of waterway, it is always best to keep mobile. It is often best to 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 finding a feeding fish.
3) Gear up!
On rivers, particularly strong, powerful waterways like 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 everyone you hook, step up your gear up accordingly. Use either 20lb mono or ideally braid. It's also best to use 28lb wire for my trace. River fish are not as pressured as stillwater fish, so they are not put off by tackle, so why risk losing them due to too your gear being too light.
4) Early and late
Low, clear rivers can be the kiss of death regards pike fishing, as 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. The amount of decent-size pike that have been caught over the years, fishing at either dawn or dusk is incredible.
It sounds time-consuming, but never underestimate the power of pre-baiting. Rivers such as the Wharfe and Trent are big rivers and experience has shown that the pike on this type of watercourse are very 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!
6) Twitch your rig
Always use float rigs on a river. Floats are better are giving you early indications that a fish has possibly picked up the bait.
To help induce a bite, one of the best tactics is to give the reel a couple of turns to twitch the rigs back to the bank. This can be like a trigger to a fish that is in two minds whether to take the bait, as it thinks its dinner is getting away.
7) 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 good while, the fish will be ravenous when the waters do eventually start to go down.
PIKE FISHING NEAR ME | WHERE CAN I CATCH PIKE?
Wondering where is best to go pike fishing this weekend? Then you might want to take a look at our Fishing Near Me page. We’ve got loads of listicles for every species including pike! So if you’re stuck on where to fish then take a look as we can guarantee that you’ll find a river or lake near you, that is stacked with big pike! Click here to see more.
MORE PIKE FISHING TIPS!
Not had your fix of pike fishing tips and want more? Then head over to our pike species page where we have everything from tips to tackle and venues. Everything you would want to prepare yourself for your next session is here so head over and take a look. Click here to see our species page.
Chub are one of the best species to target on the rivers, especially when it’s cold. To help you land a specimen chub next time you’re out fishing on the bank, we’ve put this handy guide with great tips from top specimen angler Phil Spinks.
The real beauty of winter chub fishing is that it requires so little in the way of kit to be successful.
Travelling light with just a rod, a landing net, bait and a few items of tackle is such an uncluttered and enjoyable way to catch fish.
By staying mobile and hopping from swim to swim, it’s possible to search out all the best spots where the fish might be holed up.
To set you on the right path, this week we’ve picked the brains of specimen angler Phil Spinks. Here are the top spots he looks for when targeting chub.
Rafts that build up against fallen trees or snags offer cover and free food to the chub.
The still area of water adjacent to the main flow is a classic hotspot. Being out of the flow, it is also easy to bait up.
Anywhere a small stream or ditch joins the main river will be a regular hangout for any chub looking for an easy meal. They are drawn to the sound, movement and extra oxygenation.
Any trees or bushes hanging over the water are always worth a cast. Chub always love a roof over their heads.
Undercuts can reach for several feet under the bank and are well worth exploring with a bait.
Depressions in the riverbed offer the fish shelter from the flow, and are also areas where natural food collects
Best Chub Fishing Baits
We went to bait expert Paul Garner to get his views on what the best baits for chub are. Take a look at what he had to say here
Chub Fishing Venues to visit
Want to know the best spots to go chub fishing this weekend? Then take a look at our fishing near me page which has loads of chub fishing venue guides.
River fishing pro Dave Harrell answers some of your burning river questions!
Q) I fish a deep river where it’s hard to get loosefeed to the bottom. What groundbait mix would you recommend in winter?
A) I use groundbait a lot in the winter and my mix is simple. I use differing parts of Bait-Tech Pro Natural Original with molehill soil.
If there are a lot of fish, I mix 3kg of dry groundbait with 1.5 litres of soil. If the fish aren’t as plentiful, I use even more soil, as this will just get the loosefeed down rather than feeding them. My ‘difficult days’ mix is 1kg of Pro Natural Original to three litres of soil.
HOW MUCH LOOSEFEED?
Q) When floatfishing on rivers in the winter I struggle to keep bites coming. Could I possibly be overfeeding the swim?
A) In the cooler months two to three pints of feed is usually more than enough on most venues. I have fished matches and fed every cast but still not used a pint. A rule of thumb is feed light to start and feed to the response thereafter.
Chub and dace will eat a lot more feed than roach, so species also dictates how much to put in.
Try to ration yourself by measuring out half-pints into your bait tin rather than having all your bait out from the start.
What size hooks for chub!
Q) What size hooks should I use for chub? A friend told me I’d catch more on a size 20 than a bigger hook!
A) Chub have very big mouths. While I’ve caught them on huge baits intended for barbel, I’ve caught many more on a small hook with maggots. Always match the hook to the bait. For single maggot use a 20, for double maggot an 18 or 16, and for three or four maggots use a 14 or 12.
REEL & LINE?
Q) I want to do some feeder fishing for chub on the River Thames. Can you recommend a good reel and line combination?
A) I’m a big fan of Daiwa reels, and I use a TDR 3012 for this sort of fishing.
Use it in conjunction with 8lb (0.24mm) Pro Feeder line. This is a sinking line, which you can get down under the surface quickly.
How do I plumb the depth on a river?
Q) How do I plumb the depth on moving water? I struggle because the float keeps getting dragged under!
A) Plumb before you put a rig on. Fix a small top-and-bottom stick float or balsa on the line and tie a heavy plummet or bomb to the line.
With only the one weight to work with you’ll find the depth much quicker. Try walking downstream, plumbing up every couple of yards. Do this for at least 30m and you’ll find just how deep the swim is.
WHY DO I KEEP LOSING FISH?
Q) Over the past few months I have been bumping loads of grayling off. Can I do anything to stop this happening?
A) Lost fish can be a real frustration at times and, unfortunately, it’s very rare to hook a lot of river fish in a session and land them all. The problem is, the fish use the current to their advantage and twist themselves off the hook.
A few things you could try include finer wire hooks, bigger hooks and softer rods.
All these things can help you to land more fish.
Specimen fishing expert Dai Gribble gives out four of his best specimen secrets from using the birdlife to help you catch pike all the the way to trying just a single hookbait!
1) Choose your targets wisely
At this time of year it pays to target fish based on prevalent conditions.
Certain species are much more likely to feed in the cold. On rivers this means grayling or chub when the rivers are low and temperatures are near-freezing.
Grayling above all others will provide good sport at such times. In the past I have had to pack up because of ice forming in the rod rings with grayling still feeding.
If you’re made of stern stuff, applying glycerine to your rod rings with a cotton bud should stop them freezing, but personally I find when it gets that cold a good book or football on TV are more appealing.
2) Grebes will help to find pike
Great crested grebes are one of our most iconic birds on stillwaters. Not only are they beautiful, but because they feed almost exclusively on small fish they give the angler a big clue where bait fish are in a lake.
If a family of grebes keep diving in the same area it is a sure sign that there are plenty of small fish in the vicinity. The good news for the angler is that if the grebes have found them, pike and perch will have done so too.
It’s not foolproof, but if you’re not catching where you are fishing a move to the area grebes are feeding is well worth considering.
3) Try a single hookbait
Fish are cold-blooded and slow up the colder it gets. This means they need less food, so you need to feed more cautiously.
If the fish you want to catch is only going to eat one item, be sure it’s the one with a hook in it!
Unless a river is in flood and heavily coloured, fishy will generally be aware of something appearing in their environment fairly quickly, if not instantly.
Take advantage of this by giving loosefeed a miss and casting out a single large, smelly hookbait – cheesepaste (above) is best.
As ever, be as quiet and stealthy as possible and often your rod-tip will pull round in a matter of minutes or even right away.
If you get no action you can introduce two or three small pieces of cheesepaste and come back later after trying other swims.
4) Keep an angling diary
Keeping a diary may seem like hard work, but it’s worth it. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail for every trip, but the more you record, the more you will get out of it.
Recording catches, weights, bait, conditions, rigs, swim details and memorable moments will serve two purposes.
First, it is great looking back at a diary at a later date, and second, it will help you build up a picture of the waters you fish. This, in turn, will almost certainly lead to improved catches.
I referred to my fishing diaries a lot when writing my book recently and I was surprised how on some occasions I had remembered things wrongly from years ago – I have to assume I wrote things correctly at the time! It’s only natural that you will forget the small details.
Perch fishing has grown massively in popularity over the past few years, to help you stay on trend and make the most from your perch fishing ventures we have put together seven top tips to help you catch more perch. Take a look at the tips below and see what you can implement on your next session.
1) This species will react to movement of the bait so if your fishing a static bait, keep twitching it because this will often induce a bite from a perch.
2) Attract silver fish and big perch will follow. Try introducing a few maggots or a couple of balls of groundbait before making your first cast. Perch love to investigate and the sight of feeding silverfish will peak their interest.
3) Don’t use a rod that's too stiff in the tip. This species will shake their head under the rod tip. you will also want a tip that's very responsive as perch can be very finicky when it comes to bites.
4) Perch have bony mouths so use a big, strong hooks because hook ‘pulls’ are often the main cause of lost fish and will shake their head while hooked.
5) Drop shotting is a devastating tactic for catching big perch. This will often get you a bite when all other methods fail. It has become a very popular tactic in recent years and makes going out for a couple of hours very easy as you don't need much kit to be able to catch.
6) When fishing worms in coloured water try cutting two lobworms in half and hook four broken pieces. This gives you maximum attraction from the release of the baits juices.
7) Try using flavourings and colourings to make any small deadbait stand out.
Barbel fishing has really grown in popularity in recent seasons so if you’re just starting out on your barbel fishing adventure then you’ll want to look at these great tips from Drennan Cup winner Dai Gribble who has landed many specimen sized barbel over the years. He’s got you covered and with the help of these great tips you’ll be able to catch a barbel next time you are out on the bank.
1) getting the right FEEDER MIX for barbel
There’s no doubt that pellets are a very effective bait for barbel, and my feeder mix reflects this.
You’re looking to create a potent-smelling mix which can draw fish into your swim, and one that will keep them there for the maximum amount of time.
I use Sonubaits Barbel Pellets mixed with Hemp and Hali Crush groundbait – both of which have been purposely designed for river barbel fishing – and I will mix them in a ratio of around one part pellets to three parts Hemp and Hali Crush.
Small particles are best for keeping fish in your swim for longer and I like to use a range of sizes of pellet from 2mm up to 6mm so the fish don’t get preoccupied with one size of bait.
The pellets will slowly get washed downstream by the current, creating a bed of bait, while the finer particles of the groundbait will be washed further downstream, giving off a trail of attraction which will draw fish up towards the bed of pellets.
2) The perfect barbel Hookbait
For big-river barbel I use pre-drilled 6mm or 8mm Sonubaits Pellet-O’s and attach them with a Korum pellet stop which pulls back slightly into the pellet.
This needs to be taken into account to ensure the hair is the right length – always tie the hair a little shorter than you think you’ll need, because the pellet stop will extend it.
I find the easiest way to get it right is attach a pellet to the hair before tying the knotless knot, as this will ensure the hair is exactly the correct length.
I like to take a selection of hookbait flavours and colours with me to the bank, as this allows me to experiment during the course of a session.
In terms of flavours, I’ve caught particularly well on crab, halibut and krill-flavoured pellets.
A great trick to try is to glug your pellet hookbaits in Pellet Oil. This toughens them up, and that way they’ll last longer on the hair.
3) The best Tackle for barbel
I like a 12ft rod, as it helps keep the line out of the flow ands hold the feeder in position.
A freespool reel, set correctly, eliminates the risk of a barbel pulling a rod into the water.
Most times I prefer a single rod but if bites are hard to come by I’ll fish a second on the same line, a few yards further downstream. I fish it with a straight lead rather than a feeder, as I don’t want spread bait around the swim, preferring to stick with one baited area.
Plenty of bait will be carried past this downstream rod and the hope is that it will pick up fish reluctant to move over the main baited area.
Want more barbel fishing tips?
Hungry for more tips about barbel? Then make sure you check out our barbel species page, which has tips from loads of professional anglers to help you catch more next time you’re on the bank. Click here to see more tips.
Fishing Near Me | Where to catch barbel?
Don’t know where to go fishing for barbel? Then don’t panic as we’ve got you covered with our Fishing Near Me page, we’ve got loads of venue listicles on every species so you’re guaranteed to find somewhere to fish. Click here to see more
Without doubt one of the most effective methods on small commercial snake lakes when it goes cold is a tactic known as ‘dobbing’ bread... and it’s working right now!
At this time of year you’ll find that carp and F1s will shoal up into sometimes quite large groups and show very little interest in moving far to feed on your baits.
However, if you can ‘dob’ a bait right in front of their noses they will often just suck it in, as it’s an easy meal they don’t have to work very hard for.
The hard part, though, is finding the fish to start but once you do, they’re generally not too difficult to catch due to the large numbers of fish there can be in a shoal.
This depends a lot on the size of fish I’m looking to catch. If it’s all carp I might start off on a 10mm punch because I believe a slightly bigger bait is easier for the fish too see. Carp tend to have big mouths so a 10mm piece of punch isn’t that big.
If I’m looking at a mixed bag of carp and F1s then I’ll kick off on an 8mm piece of punch as a good starting middle ground. If I start to miss bites I will quite happily drop down to a 6mm punch. F1s have small mouths so dropping down a punch size can make a big difference in terms of the bite-to-fish ratio.
Once you start fishing and find a few fish the first thing you’ll need to do is work out what depth they are sitting at.
Normally, at the start, I will have a quick plumb up of the areas I want to fish prior to fishing to get an idea of the depth in front of me.
Finding the right depth
Once this is done I mark the depth on my pole and then take 4ins off the depth of the rig by sliding my float down.
This then means when the float settles I’ll be fishing 4ins off the bottom. I always prefer to start off fishing relatively deep as this way I can cover more water as the rig falls through the layers.
Today I’m at Guru Makins and I started 4ins off bottom, eventually finding the fish thanks to a few indications.
Unfortunately the first fish was foul-hooked and so I shallowed up the rig by another 4ins and went back into the same spot.
Sure enough, the next fish was hooked properly and, after a couple more fish from the same area, I felt I’d found the depth they wanted to sit at on the day – sometimes it really is that quick!
If I’d still been getting indications and no proper bites after changing the depth then I would have shallowed up further until I found the fish.
Starting your session the other way around – starting shallow and then going deeper to try to find the fish – doesn’t work, because the deeper rig is the key to helping you spot indications to start with.
The best bait – bread!
I’m often asked why bread is such a good hookbait for dobbing. I think it’s mainly down to colour. The water on most commercials tends to go very clear in the cold, so white bread is very easy for the fish to see.
I think texture is massively important as well. Once bread has been in the water a minute or so it becomes very soft, which makes it easy for a fish to slurp in with minimal effort.
When dobbing bread I get very few instant bites – say, within 10 seconds of putting a new piece of bread on – yet as soon as the bread becomes soft I get that bite.
Fresh is best
Having tried most bread on the market, if I had a choice it would always be Warburtons Extra Thick – the one in the orange bag.
I always try and get the freshest loaf possible, too, because this way it’s softer and extremely rubbery, which helps ensure it stays on the hook long enough for me to get a bite.
I used to mess around microwaving the bread to make it more rubbery, but now I just prefer to get a fresh loaf and use that.
The only time I’d consider microwaving bread would be if I couldn’t find any fresh and had to use a loaf that had dried out a bit.
Avoid the hotspot
Where you start fishing is crucial to success, and there is always a temptation to go straight to the most likely-looking spot for a fast start.
The problem with this is if this spot isn’t straight in front of you then you risk pushing the fish straight out of your swim.
Therefore, I always prefer to start off straight in front of me and then work to the left and right of my area, which I’ve found gives you more goes at the shoal.
What tends to happen is you find a pod of fish and catch a few before bites slow up because the shoal has become spooked and has moved.
It’s really all about finding them again and normally they don’t go far – one metre or two metres at most.
Additives and flavours – do they work or are they a waste of time? Anything that gives me more chance of getting a bite has to be worth investigation.
Much of my winter fishing revolves around the feeder, and in coloured water I work on the principle that if I can get the fish to find the micro pellets around the feeder then they should take the hookbait next to it. To achieve this, I pack a couple of flavourings in my bag – Ringers Chocolate Orange spray and stick mix liquid.
Once my micro pellets are perfectly dampened for wrapping around a Hybrid feeder I’ll douse them in a five second squirt of stick mix liquid.
The end result is pellets that smell lovely and which will put out a scent for the fish to locate. My hookbait is straight from the tub – if I can get the fish to find the micros, they’ll soon take the bait!
In coloured water it has to be a bayonetted Ringers Allsorts which are fluoro pink, yellow and white. I also have a tub of the old faithful Chocolate Orange wafters on the go too. I throw one of each into the water at my feet, see which one is the most visible, and use that.
Generally, this means pink or orange. For hookbait sizes, an 8mm will catch everything but if I was after only carp, this would change to a 10mm or 12mm bait
Using groundbait around a Method or Hybrid feeder has fallen out of fashion but it does give you another way of putting more smell into the water and it can be very good for getting a pull when the fishing is hard.
I use a ratio of one third groundbait to two thirds pellets and go for Ringers Original fishmeal mix in dirty water, changing to Ringers Dark if the water is a little clearer.