Roach fishing tips | Fish a short line to catch more roach

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.

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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.

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Positive feeding

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. 

Balanced tackle

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.


Positive rig

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.