With just two hours remaining of a session on a commercial fishery it’s tempting to stay on a line further out.
After all, you’re catching well – but the truth is, you can’t afford to ignore the margins, where you can bag up big-time.
Bigger carp, F1s, barbel and tench will all lose their inhibitions in these closing stages and move really close in, often just inches away from the bank, to feed.
This close-range fishing is not only easy to do but is great fun too, watching a big fish churning up a foot or so of water before taking the bait and roaring off.
In matches, this switch to the margins can often see you go from nowhere to victory.
When pleasure fishing, it offers the chance to potentially catch a personal best, or certainly something well worth getting the scales and camera out for.
So, after catching well on my long pole line on Horseshoe at Decoy Lakes, it’s time to take a look in the edge and see who is at home. I get the feeling it could be a bit solid!
In a match, I wouldn’t expect much to happen in the edge until the final two hours, but for a pleasure session, with less pressure on the lake, you can catch much earlier.
I’d certainly try here right at the start to see if any fish are milling around – if not, there’s no real damage done but if there are, it makes for a lovely start to the day. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes fishing the margins early on.
Did it work?
Of course it did! After catching plenty of F1s and carp on my 11m line, I felt confident that the fish would venture into the edge, and within two minutes of beginning to feed against the platform to my right-hand side the water had coloured up, showing that some fish were about.
Seconds later the float yanked under and carp number one was on. With it safely netted, I was back out, a pot of 4mm pellets was tapped in and down went the bristle again, this time a bite from a lovely barbel. Every drop-in resulted in a bite or a fish landed and with no roach about, I switched to four dead red maggots on the hook.
I panned four barbel in a row before the carp and F1s returned, along with a surprise big skimmer.
In less than an hour I’d caught 50lb of fish but, more importantly, enjoyed the adrenaline-pumping action that margin fishing never fails to deliver!
The perfect margin peg
If you’ve got the pick of the swim on your lake, do yourself a favour and choose a peg that gives you options in terms of cover. Carp love a feature to feel safe feeding close to – this may be reeds or lily pads but be aware of fishing too much of a snaggy area, as you may struggle to land what you hook.
There’s nothing wrong with a bare bank but whatever peg you pick, it will have one feature that’s guaranteed, and that’s the fishing platform of the swim next door.
This gives the fish cover and, more importantly, they associate it with food. Anglers will regularly throw unwanted bait into the spot in front of the platform when they pack up. The carp know this, and will pay a visit to this area every day to see if a free meal is on offer.
Distances and depth
As was the case on the long pole into open water, don’t make things hard for yourself by fishing 13m of pole down the edge.
In fact, my favourite distance is around 5m or 6m. I can feed accurately here, sometimes by hand, but still keep my rig well away from myself. I’d say 10m or 11m is about as far as you need to go if you can’t catch closer to you.
You may often hear anglers talking about ‘finding the right depth’ and for the margins, this means around 2ft or 18ins of water. Any deeper and there’s the chance of the fish coming off bottom to
get at the feed, which can result in foul-hookers.
I set my rig to around 2ft and spend some time until I find that depth. This may be 1m away from the bank or tight up against it. Either way, I’m not concerned.
The right rig
Margin fish are big, but we’re not yet at the time of year where really heavy tackle is needed.
I’ll fish a mainline of 0.18mm Browning Cenex Hybrid Power Mono, while for hooks, I use the same ready-tied rig that featured on my Method feeder, Browning’s Feeder Leader made up of a size 16 or 14 to a hooklink of 0.14mm.
Elastic is stepped up to deal with the bigger fish and is Browning Xitan Microbore 2.5mm, roughly a grade 11-13. Small floats are ideal for very shallow margin pegs, but in 2ft, I need something a little more substantial and fall back on the 0.3g DT Pencil pattern that I was fishing on the long pole. Shotting is a simple bulk of No9s.
This will be fished a couple of inches overdepth when fishing hard pellet, just in case my rig ends up slightly down any marginal slope.
Time to feed
When it’s time to fish the edge you’ll need to feed it.
You can use a big pole cup to dump in lots of bait in one go, but I believe this is a tactic to save for high summer, when the fish are really hungry and feeding aggressively.
For now, you’re better off going down the second route of a small pot on the pole, introducing a small helping of bait each time to try and get one or two fish into the area willing to take the bait.
Groundbait and dead maggots are a great margin feed but if there are a lot of roach in the lake, as there are in Horseshoe, it can actually be the worst thing to introduce. Besides which, groundbait can only be used in a feeder at Decoy!
Pellets always catch bigger fish, which is what you’re after in the margins, so I’d feed 4mm hard Van Den Eynde pellets and use a banded hard 4mm or 6mm pellet on the hook. I wouldn’t discount maggots, though, and if I was catching steadily and few roach were about, three or four deads on the hook would get a much quicker bite. Barbel absolutely love them, too.