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.
At long last we’ve had some warm weather. That makes fishing shallow the tactic to be on now.
For many, fishing the long pole is the preferred road to go down, trying to catch carp cruising around near the surface. The trouble with this approach is that in very sunny weather, the fish may not want to venture close to the bank and feed directly under the pole-tip.
The solution is to get the float rod out of the bag and fish a pellet waggler. It’s a very positive, busy method that allows you to fish at different depths and ranges to keep in touch with the carp but far enough out to keep the fish confident and feeding well.
When it’s warm, the first few feet of the water will be the quickest to heat up and the fish know this. They’ll come off bottom and very likely not feed on the deck at all. I love this sort of scenario and will often pick the waggler over the pole to catch consistently.
There are a good few rights and wrongs where the waggler is concerned, however. Get these sorted and I guarantee that you’re on for a brilliant day’s fishing this very exciting and non-stop approach!
Why the waggler works
There are a few positives that the float has over the pole, the first being that you are fishing well out into the lake where the fish will be at their most confident.
There’s no pole being waved over their heads, and any commotion on the bank won’t spook the carp. You can also cast further out, closer in or off to one side in seconds, without having to add pole sections.
The combination of waggler and loosefeed hitting the water makes a serious racket, and this is what attracts the fish and helps to get them feeding. Slapping a pole float on the surface just won’t make the same amount of noise!
The right conditions
Unfortunately, the waggler can be prone to suffering with bad presentation in windy weather, although the good news is that the float shouldn’t actually be in the water for that long.
That said, I’d fancy either calm conditions or the wind blowing over my shoulder for the ideal wind to fish the pellet waggler in.
A stiff wide wind is never as good, but much depends on how quickly you are getting bites. If this is only around 10 seconds then this should be just long enough to keep the waggler where you want it. If bites are taking longer, the float can be pulled offline or across the lake too quickly for the fish to take the bait.
Successful pellet waggler fishing boils down to making noise from the float and pellets hitting the water, and it’s for this reason that you need to cast regularly and not leave the float in the water for too long.
My general approach is to feed and then cast the waggler past the area that I’m feeding, leave it for around 15 seconds, then feed again and wind the float back into this feed and give it another 15 seconds. If nothing happens and conditions allow, I’ll feed again on top of the float and wait another 10 seconds before winding in and recasting.
Different ways of feeding
Although the pellet waggler is a positive method, the feeding doesn’t need to be. I’ll fire in only six or seven 8mm Sonubaits Pro Pellets each time I feed. If I put in much more than that it will force the carp down in the water where I can’t catch them.
Half-a-dozen is enough to make that all-important noise but still keep the fish on the hunt. The only change I’ll make to this is that on occasion I will feed two lots of pellets before casting.
This generally happens only when the fishing is good and I know a lot of carp are in the swim.
How shallow you fish the waggler is dependent on the depth of the lake, so on waters that are say, 10ft deep I’ll fish the float set at 3ft 6ins. This gives me the chance to catch carp on the drop as they swim about and see the pellets falling through the water.
I’ll make changes and come shallower only if I get indications on the float but no bites. This tells me the fish are further up in the water. In this instance, I’ll move the float up the line by a foot.
On lakes with 4ft of depth, I’ll switch to fishing between 12ins and 18ins deep.
You have to be able to get your loosefeed to the spot you want it, and this is why 8mm pellets are best. If the wind is over your back you may be able to fire 6mm pellets the right distance but I much prefer 8mm baits, as they also make more noise when landing on the surface.
On the hook, I’ll fish a 6mm pellet. This is a smaller bait that the fish can pick out from the loosefeed. It’s also worth trying something like a light-coloured SonuBaits Band ‘Um (white or orange) as a change bait.
I’ll always go for a loaded float as it won’t tangle and flies much better than one with big shots around the base.
The Preston Innovations Dura Waggler is a beauty, and between a 4g to 6g loading is ample on most commercial fisheries to reach the distance needed.
I use the dive disc that these wagglers come with fitted to the base as this ensures that the float pops up to the surface immediately upon landing and is ready to show up a quick bite. This also makes a little more noise. In terms of the loading it takes, I add enough brass discs to leave all the orange or yellow tip showing. Bites are positive, so you don’t need to dot the tip right down.
Pick the right rod
Short rods rule for the pellet waggler as you’ll be in and out quicker on the cast and also able to pick up the line much faster on the strike.
The two-piece 11ft Preston Innovations Supera Pellet Waggler model is ideal, and I never have the rod out of my hand except when feeding with the catapult.Sometimes, the carp can almost pull the rod in as soon as the float lands.
Attaching the float
I want to be as efficient as I can when fishing the pellet waggler, and so using a reliable attachment system for the float is key to success.
The Preston Innovations Pellet Waggler Kit has everything you’ll need, with a safe snap link swivel for slotting the float on to and float stops to fix the waggler in place and stop it from sliding down the line when you’re bagging up. I also have a Quick Change Swivel between hooklink and mainline to prevent the line spinning up, which will otherwise happen when winding in many times during a session.
Pellet waggler tackle
My mainline is Preston Innovations Sinking Feeder Mono in 4lb breaking strain. If the carp in the lake are very big I’ll up this to 6lb.
For hooklinks, I’ll happily use Mag Store Hair-Rigs, which are ready-tied hooks with a pellet band already fitted. These use KKM-B eyed hooks and my favourite length of hooklink is the 15ins that they come supplied with. On deeper lakes I may need a longer link to put the bait further down in the water so I will tie my own, still using the KKM-B hook but with 2ft 6ins or 3ft 6ins of Powerline. For a size 16 hook I’ll fish 0.16mm line, upped to 0.19mm for a size 14.
Tench fishing season is upon us so we’ve gone to former Drennan Cup champion Dai Gribble to give us his top tips to help you catch a tench this season.
• Refine your hooklink materials
Tench do get caught by carp anglers using thick line and big hooks but a more refined approach is much more productive.
When considering what hooklink material to use, it needs to be strong enough to land big tench. That might mean up to 12lb breaking strain in weedy waters and as low as 6lb in clear waters.
I prefer hooklinks that can be cast regularly with little chance of tangling so in most cases I choose mono over more supple braid.
However, I do use braided hooklinks, normally with smaller baits, as their suppleness helps with bait presentation. Braid will lie flatter over weed and be less obtrusive too. By carrying a range of hooklink materials I can tie up what I think will be the best rig for any situation.
• Go smaller with your hooks
On many occasions during the season, and on some waters, tench show a preference for feeding on small baits. Even specimen-sized fish will ignore larger offerings.
Often I will use just two artificial or real maggots as a hookbait rather than anything bigger.
Small hooks are essential for this because they allow you to present maggots in such a way that tench are likely to pick them up as part of the loosefeed.
I’ve used a lot of hooks over the years and have now settled with Korum’s Specimen hooks. I carry them in sizes from a 12 down to a size 16. Don’t worry about scaling down... I’ve caught plenty of big tench on a size 16!
• Carry a selection of feeders
For tench I carry a good range of feeders in different sizes and weights.
I use Korum 2oz Combi-feeders or mesh Combi-feeders combined with a Heli rig for most of my tench fishing, but I’ll opt for a small feeder if I want to feed less.
For distances beyond 60 yards a small feeder can be cast more accurately, too, particularly in a side wind.
When fishing close in, such as at the bottom of a marginal shelf, opt for inline feeders so the reel line can be pinned down easily.
Inline feeders are also better for fishing in heavy weed, as the feeder does not get tangled in it when fished in this manner.
• Use quick-change Heli rigs
The helicopter rig is undoubtedly my favourite rig for tench, as they have brilliant anti-tangle and hooking properties.
They’re also really easy to set up, particularly as I use the Korum Ready Heli Kits straight from the packet!
Start by threading the kit on to your line and tie a feeder on the end of your mainline – job done!
The best bit about them is the quick-change clip, which means you can change hooklinks in a matter of seconds.
I tie all my hooklinks with a figure-of-eight loop at the end. This goes over the clip and is held in place with a small rig sleeve.
• Spombs are essential
I’m a big fan of using lots of small particles. Typically I will feed hemp, a mixture of 2mm Sonubaits pellets -Krill, S-pellet, F1 and Robin Red – plus maggots, casters and chopped worm.
The quickest and easiest way of getting this mix into my swim is with a Spomb.
Tench are inquisitive fish, and I have found that a Spomb does not seem to scare them – indeed, I have often had bites while putting bait in over the top of them.
I like to feed little and often to ensure there is always some bait in the swim, and the Spomb is the perfect way to keep a tench swim topped up.
• Always choose heavy bobbins
The right type or, more specifically, weight of bobbin is crucial for bite indication when tench fishing.
I like to use bobbins fitted with 10g weights as they keep my line nice and tight. This improves bite indication and ensures that the wind does not affect them.
If I’m fishing at long range in very windy conditions, which create a big undertow, I’ll add another 10g weight.
I don’t like the current trend for really short chains on bobbins because many bites are drop-backs.
A longer chain allows the bobbin to fall further, which gives you much better indication.
Few will argue with the effectiveness of the pole for all types of fishing.
It offers pinpoint presentation, feeding and control of the rig at all times – but on commercials, when your target may be fast-biting F1s, it really comes into its own.
So after a good start on the feeder on Decoy Lakes’ Horseshoe Lake, it’s time to switch to the pole in search of the venue’s fast-biting F1s. Averaging 3lb, these are lovely fish to catch but they can be very finicky, which makes using the pole even more of a necessity.
Faced with a lot of open water and a reasonable depth, it can be difficult to know how far out to fish and how exactly to feed. But, as ever in fishing, I like to keep things simple. If I get the basics right, the fish won’t be far behind.
Distance – long or short?
You can fish with up to 16m of pole if you wish but I’d warn against this for a couple of reasons. Your control of the rig at longer distances will not be as good as when fishing closer in, and if the wind does get up during the day, wrestling lots of carbon can be hard work.
With this in mind, I’d recommend fishing 11m out. On every fishery I’ve visited down the years this puts you into the deepest water. This is a comfortable range for rig control and accurate feeding, and it also makes for easy shipping in and out of the pole.
That’s not to say you couldn’t fish closer in than this but, in my experience, the closer to the bank you fish, the longer it will take for the carp and F1s to move here and settle confidently.
I’d reserve fishing just a few metres out for the final hour of a session. Even then, I’d expect only a few bites.
At all times I use two pole rollers. Not only does this make for easier and quicker shipping and unshipping but it is also much safer for your pole. Using one roller can see the pole fall off or tip back and get blown away by a gust of wind.
There’s every chance of hooking a double-figure carp or a big barbel on the pole so I can’t afford to fish too light, even though this will get me more bites in the long run.
That means my rig is made up of 0.16mm Browning Cenex Hybrid Power Mono as mainline, while for the hook I’m happy to use ready-tied varieties. I’ve caught thousands of fish on the Drennan Barbless Carp Maggot pattern. This is coloured red, but it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s a very light hook and so perfect for shy F1s.
These are tied to an 0.14mm hooklength but to my mind the most important part of my set-up is the elastic. Too heavy and you’ll bump fish on the strike, too light and it’ll take ages to land them!
My pick is Browning Xitan Microbore in the 1.9mm grade, which works out at around a No7 to No9 strength in old money. This is set at a soft tension through my pole top kit, and by using a side puller system I can control exactly how much elastic is being used.
Generally I will fish at dead depth with maggots or expander pellets, and the only change to this will be if I switch to a bigger bait such as a grain of corn or a hard banded 6mm pellet in search of a better fish.
In this instance, I’ll go an inch overdepth to play a bit of a waiting game.
Lower the rig in
Chances are that if you lay the rig in and let it fall in an arc, there’s more chance of a roach getting it. By lowering the rig in slowly, as if it were going down a plughole, I know that the bulk of shot will work quicker and bypass any small fish. Be careful to do this gradually, though, otherwise, you may get a few tangles!
Kinder pots rule
If I was fishing for just big carp then I’d definitely feed using a large pole cup to get a lot of bait into the peg. As I’m after predominantly F1s, though, a smaller pot on the end of the pole is much better.
This ensures that just enough micro pellets are going into the swim every drop-in to catch a fish quickly, but leaving enough to keep any other fish in the area on the hunt. If I big-potted, then I’d be giving the fish too much choice as to what to eat, and bites would be slower as a result.
The bait menu
I’m well aware that Horseshoe Lake is full of small roach, so I can instantly discount maggots as a feed from my plans. Although carp and F1s love them, the trouble you’ll get from small fish won’t be worth the hassle, so that means pellets all the way!
However, if the venue had few silver fish in it, I’d probably go for maggots – it’s all about the species of fish you’re expecting to catch.
My feed is made up of Van Den Eynde 2mm micro pellets that I dampen down before fishing to ensure they all sink. For the hook I’ll start on double red maggot but if roach are a problem, I’ll immediately switch to a 4mm Van Den Eynde RS Elite expander pellet – F1s in particular are suckers for an expander.
Floats – it’s like roach fishing
Because F1s are shy-biters you need to think about the float you are using. Obviously the wind strength and any tow on the lake will play a part in this decision but I like to fish as light as I can get away with. For fishing the pole into open water, I’d be thinking of a float taking between 0.3g and 0.7g. It’s a very similar thought process to the one I use when fishing for roach on my beloved drains and rivers.
I’m a big fan of slim pencil floats and although they may not look it, they are very stable and for this session, a 0.3g DT Floats model will be ample. Shotting is made up of a simple bulk of four No 9 shots plus a single No 9 dropper all grouped in the bottom third of the rig. The bulk is important as I suspect that many of the roach will be swimming around off bottom so I need to get through them quickly. The float is always dotted right down so that I can react to every indication – often all you’ll get from an F1 bite is a tiny ‘dink’ on the bristle. My advice is to strike at everything!
Use a solid pole!
I expect a quick response when starting on the pole and so it proves, with four plump F1s in four drops. Marvellous! However, the roach have also clocked on to the pellets being fed and are doing their best to take the double maggot hookbait at every opportunity. The logical step is to change baits so on goes a 4mm expander. There are good and bad aspects to this, the good being that the roach aren’t interested. The bad is that it’s taking much longer to get a bite compared to using maggots. However, when the float does go under it’s an F1 or a carp.
Tempting as it is to want to get bites and catch quickly, the reality is that at this time of year it often isn’t going to happen. If I could catch an F1 or a carp every five or 10 minutes in a pleasure session I’d be perfectly happy, and that seems to be the pattern of the day. It’s a bit of a wait, but eventually an F1 finds that expander too difficult to turn down.A couple of hours’ fishing fly by and before I know it, we’ve reached that magical time on commercial fisheries when the carp begin to move close in.
On a typical snake lake peg, fishing tight up to the far bank with a bait presented on the bottom can lead to foul-hooked fish.
It’s annoying, and it does the chances of building your peg up no good at all. Is there a remedy?
Most definitely, and it involves fishing shallow. Shallow in 2ft of water? It may sound daft, but far from being the height of lunacy, it’s a tactic that’s given me 200lb match weights from venues such as the Snake Lake at Essex water Puddledock Farm.
This lake has identical-looking swims with a typical 2ft to 3ft of water tight to the far-bank beds of sedge. Although I use the term ‘shallow’, the truth is that I’m going to be fishing at half-depth and looking to catch carp that I can see moving in the swim.
It’s a little bit like dobbing in open water in many senses, getting into a routine of feeding, keeping your eyes peeled and then laying the rig and bait into the path of a carp. Done right, the elastic will be ripped out of the pole with every fish hooked properly in the mouth!
Hold your horses!
My simple plan for fishing shallow is to identify a couple of areas in the peg with sedge or reed cover and fish these – but not from the word go. It takes around 30 or 40 minutes of feeding to get the fish into the area hunting around for the bait. It is vital that you can see the carp moving in the peg to catch them. If there’s no movement, this means there are no carp off bottom and you’d be better off fishing on the deck.
Having two spots gives me the option to rest swims when the fish have had enough, but I will pick one as my main fishing area, normally one that offers easier fishing and feeding, combined with more cover.
When the bites tail off here, I’ll change to my second area. The rest can do the swim a power of good, with the fish returning within 10 minutes of the change.
Many fisheries have a rule on how shallow you can fish, so for this approach so you may be limited. However, in 2ft of water, 12ins or a little less is ideal for putting the hookbait into midwater. I find that you rarely catch carp just inches deep unless they are actively slurping at the bait on the surface.
Bait and feed is hard 4mm pellets, but far from piling in the bait and waiting for the pole to be yanked over I begin by catapulting in 10-15 pellets each time to make some early noise and get the carp mooching around. Once I see a few moving, I cut back to five pellets each time. If this doesn’t work I’ll cut back further to just one or two. Should this draw a blank then I’ll turn to my last resort of a couple of bigger 6mm pellets to make some splash.
Find some cover
The right sort of peg is crucial and I’d want a peg that offers reeds or beds of sedge to act as cover. This will keep the carp feeling safe with the foliage over their heads and also lets me hide the pole tip away from the fish. Try it in a barren swim with just a bare far bank to fish to and it’s never as good.
The float is a tiny 4x8 MAP SF3 pea-type float taking a few No10 shot underneath. This acts more as a sight bob, as when it goes under, the elastic often follows! Lines are 0.18mm Power Optex main to a hooklink of 0.13mm and a size 18 Kamasan B911 eyed fished with a bait band. Elastic is MAP’s TKS Twin Core in the red grade.
Hide the pole!
This is the most important part of fishing this way. Put the pole over the heads of the fish and they’ll clear off, so I try and use those reeds or sedges to my advantage and hide the pole in among them.
I basically look, and once I see a carp moving right to left I tuck the pole behind where the fish is moving from and lay the rig in front of it. The pole tip is never put over the top of the fish! Sometimes I may even rest the pole on the sedge itself.
A crucial aspect of catching specimen fish is to ensure you’re fishing and feeding accurately over the right spot.
Last week I showed you how to set up and use a marker float rod to find hidden hotspots and depths in your swim.
Once you’ve found the feature you want to fish, you need to measure the distance from the bank, and then get your baited rods and baiting-up kit (spods, Spombs etc.) to hit the same spot.
This means you’re feeding and fishing in the perfect fish-holding features you’ve found with your marker rod.
Here’s how to do it…
Essential advice for casting accurately
‘Save’ the distance on your marker rod
After you’ve cast out your marker rod and found the ideal hotspot – gravel bar, drop-off, clear patch, depth – start to gently reel in to wind the marker float under the water until it reaches the lead.
It’s vital not to reel too hard as you don’t want to move the lead, and using a really big lead around 4oz will help you achieve this.
When the float is at the lead, ensure the marker rod is in the same position as your rods will be on your pod or banksticks, and place the line under the reel’s line clip. You now have that distance ‘saved’ on the rod and you can use it to mark out your other rods.
Set up other rods
Distance sticks are an invaluable tool in the specimen angler’s armoury. I start by setting my two sticks 12ft apart, the same length as my rods.
I then place the lead and marker float at the base of a marker stick and, letting line off the reel spool, wind the line around the sticks, counting each ‘wrap’ around them until you hit the line clip.
I like to use marker sticks that have toggles on a string running between them, as these allow you to mark the distance precisely.
Once you’ve removed the marker rod you need to do the same thing with your actual fishing rods.
Start by placing your bomb or feeder around the base of one stick and then wind the line around the sticks until you get to the same number of ‘wraps’ as the marker rod.
Instead of clipping up, I prefer to tie a short length of bright elastic to my line which marks the distance to your spot.
You can do the same with your spod or Spomb rods to ensure you’re feeding accurately, although I prefer to clip this rod up using the line clip on my reel.
Mark with elastic
When marking the distance with elastic, I like my line marker to be placed at the tip ring so it’s easy to spot after casting.
If using a marker near the reel, the cast only has to be slightly short for the marker to be on the spool, and there’s also the chance that a marker near the reel can get caught in the bobbin or alarm as the fish takes line on the bite.
The main advantage, though, is that with practice you can stop a cast as you hear the elastic going through the rings.
Tying an elastic marker
I like to use fine pole or marker elastic to mark my lines. I prefer a thin elastic, as this has least impact on the cast.
I use about 5cm of pole elastic and tie it on by creating a loop and passing one end of the elastic through the loop four times. It is just like tying a grinner knot on to the main line.
Pull the ends of the elastic very gently to ensure the knot tightens up neatly. I like to ensure the knot as tight as possible without breaking the elastic – that way it doesn’t move after a few casts. The only way to find out how tight to pull it is by trial and error!
Clip the line up
Although I mark my distance with elastic I also use the line clip on my reel to ensure I’m fishing at the exact range.
Clip up with the line marker about two feet past the tip ring to allow for the slack line that needs to be taken up after casting.
When casting, use the rod to cushion the impact and then follow the end tackle down with the rod-tip until it hits the bottom, then sink the rod tip to help submerge the line as quickly as possible.
Check where the line marker is when the line is tight – if it is short of the tip ring you need the marker further from the rod tip when clipping up, and vice-versa.
Generally, the deeper the water the further the marker needs to be from the tip to ensure that when everything has settled the marker is where you want it – at the tip ring.
Once I’m on my spot I will remove the line from the clip so when I get a run the fish can take line.
Cast at a feature
All the stages so far enable you to cast an exact distance, but the direction of the cast is equally important.
Once you have found the spot you wish to cast to, take note of what is on the far bank as this will be what you need to aim your cast at.
It doesn’t have to be a far-bank marker – a buoy or other floating mark may be better – but beware of relying on anything that can move about!
I like to set my rods up so that they point directly where I am casting. Not only does this improve bite detection, it helps you cast accurately if mist has obscured your chosen mark.
The leaves are finally bursting into life on trees and bushes, and for the canal angler this means big fish become a viable target, be they tench, chub or – on the majority of venues – bream.
From big shipping canals to narrow classic waterways, skimmers and bream abound but they don’t give themselves up easily. Many a time a peg will ‘fizz’ with bubbles but you can’t get a bite, let alone catch a fish.
Patience is important. Bream can leave it late in the day to feed but you must accept that there may just be the odd fish in the swim. The important thing is getting these stray fish to feed and make it worth the time you’re spending fishing for them.
What to feed
Fifteen years ago I’d never have thought that pellets and corn would catch on a canal, but they do now. However, in spring nothing beats a good old chopped-worm-and-caster approach.
This all-out particle attack pulls in big fish and also means that the bait stays put when a boat goes through. Groundbait is good but roach love it, and they can be a pest when trying to catch bream.
If a boat ploughs through, the crumb can be washed a good few feet down the swim. This doesn’t happen with particles. I feed finely-chopped worm and caster in a 25:75 ratio and then add a few dead red maggots in with them. Around three-quarters of a large pole cup goes in at the start.
All in the timing
Don’t be in a rush to get fishing over here. I’ll begin a session fishing squatt short and long for roach. This will take around an hour and a bit, and it is the perfect length of time to let the bream swim settle.
During this time I will also fire a few casters in with a catapult but not too often, as you get a spread of bait when loosefeeding and this can push feed into that far-bank cover where you can’t get a rig in!
When the time comes to fish, I’d begin with a single caster and a single dead red maggot or double caster on the hook. These are super skimmer baits and pick up big perch too.
As a change, or when I know some big fish are on the feed, I will slip on an inch-long section of worm tipped with a dead maggot.
Where to fish
Cover always holds fish, so you have to fish to a bush, an overhanging tree or some brambles or on a featureless peg, tight up to the far-bank tins. However, I wouldn’t feed or fish bang up against the cover as this is somewhere I may want to try later in the day when the fish move. Instead,
I’ll make my bed a few feet away from the cover on top of the far-bank shelf – I’m looking for a minimum of 18ins of water here.
Although you are after big fish close to snags, don’t fish too heavy – 0.12mm Matrix Power Micron mainline to a hooklink of 0.10mm and a size 16 Kamasan B511 hook is more than enough when matched to a grade 6 Matrix hollow elastic.
If I was fishing bang up against the cover, though, I’d consider changing to a solid No6 elastic so that I can pull fish to safety quickly.
The float is a 0.2g MP6 shotted with a simple bulk, and I plumb up to fish at dead depth. Going overdepth will only lead to the float being dragged under when the canal begins to pull as a boat goes through a lock.
So let’s say you catch a skimmer. Do you feed more? My rule is to feed after every three or four skimmers because if you get one, chances are that much of that initial feed will still be there. Only when I rest this line will I feed again with another three-quarters of a pot of worm, caster and dead maggots.
Much will depend on how many fish are in the peg, though. When there are quite a few you can wait a lot longer between feeds – but if there’s only the odd skimmer about and I’ll be juggling my swims, I’ll be topping up more often simply to try and get that odd fish to have a go quickly and ensure I’m not wasting too much time waiting.
It’s no surprise to me that commercial carp fisheries have been so popular over the last 20-odd years. They offer more or less guaranteed bites, comfortable surroundings and short walks, and a wide range of methods will catch you a few fish.
I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go down the years but to me, there are three approaches that will always catch well in spring.
Over the coming weeks in Angling Times I intend to go into depth to show you how I go about getting the very best from each line of attack.
Pole fishing is hugely popular, and with the quality of tackle now available, you can easily land big carp and barbel with the minimum of fuss.
To kick off, though, I’m going to focus on fishing the Method feeder, arguably the easiest way of fishing for carp. But although Method fishing looks simple, there are plenty of little tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years that add up to a few extra fish in the net at the end of a session. I’m sure they’ll help you catch plenty more in the coming months.
Today I’m fishing the brilliant Horseshoe Lake at Decoy Lakes near Peterborough. It holds a wide range of species and offers a far bank that’s an easy feeder cast away. So let’s get cracking…
Why the Method feeder?
There are lots of feeders to pick from, but I always prefer the Method on commercials as it puts the hookbait right on top of the ball of feed where the fish can get at it quickly.
In terms of size, anything from 20g to 30g will be ample to reach where you need to cast. Most fisheries insist on using inline feeders, so mine will run on the mainline, stopped by a quick change swivel bead that allows me to switch hooklinks in seconds.
The early stages
So, geared up and with bait ready, it’s time to begin fishing. I’ll start off by casting a few metres off the far bank so that if the fish show signs of backing off, I have that bit of extra water to cast into to follow them out.
Clipping up is essential to land the feeder in the same place each time, but I know some anglers are wary of this as a big carp running off on the strike can break them.
If you’re one of these anglers, my advice is to use a large bait band doubled back to trap your line on one end with the other on your line clip. When a fish runs, the band will break first but is strong enough to not pull free when the line hits the clip on the cast.
My rod is positioned so it is pointing almost directly in front of me with just a slight angle.
This way, there’s no danger of moving the feeder by dragging the rod back into position.
I’ll also not sink the line after the cast, as a bite can come quickly and if you are concentrating on tightening up the slack, you’ll miss the indication. There’s also the danger of moving the feeder.
Unless it is blowing a gale, I’ll let the line sink in its own time.
Liners but not bites
Almost immediately I get line bites – sharp jabs on the tip that tell me some fish are in the swim but are not feeding.
Usually, a liner develops into a bite so I’ll leave the feeder out for a maximum of five minutes and then recast. Often, the noise of the feeder landing and the bait being emptied will spur fish into feeding, so don’t wait too long for that next cast.
By adopting this ploy it’s not long before the first classic Method feeder bite arrives, within 20 seconds of the feeder landing.
A plump F1 goes into the net on a banded pellet and a second joins it a minute later. After a run of fish, the peg then goes quiet, even though I can see fish topping. Have they backed off already?
Adding a metre to my cast answers that, as a decent carp nails the pellet almost immediately on the first cast, followed by two F1s and a surprise little tench. That’s 15lb of fish in less than half-an-hour’s fishing and a great start to the session.
But I’m itching to get on the pole line, where I’m sure I’ll empty the lake – you’ll have to wait until next week to see if I can walk the walk as well as talk the talk!
Changing baits can trigger a big response in your swim so by no means stick to the same thing on the hook, especially if the fishing is slow.
My favourite bait is a hard 6mm pellet fished on a band, but a piece of hair-rigged corn or even three dead red maggots can be brilliant. Maggots in particular are overlooked in my opinion, but can be deadly on hard days or if fish other than carp are your target.
Give them some feed
Many anglers will use just micro pellets around the Method feeder but I like to go for a 60/40 mix of micros and groundbait. Only if the fishing was really good would I do away with groundbait and use just pellets – but at this time of year it’s sensible to begin with both until you can gauge how many fish are in the peg and how well they are feeding.
Pellets are Van Den Eynde 2mm with Browning’s new Mussel Green groundbait, which is a strong-smelling, dark fishy mix.
Gear up sensibly to catch carp. That means a robust, reliable mainline to a sensible hooklink material.
My mainline is Browning Cenex Feeder Mono in 9.7lb breaking strain to a 4ins ready-tied Browning Feeder Leader. Hook is a size 14 or 16 to 0.16mm Cenex Hybrid Power Mono.
This balanced kit will land big carp easily and allows me to put lots of pressure on fish without fear of breakage. For rods, a standard 11ft Feeder model will do fine – I use the Browning Sphere Feeder L model.
Where to cast
Before I even tackle up I’ll take a bit of time to look at my swim and decide where I’ll fish.
Obviously a feature such as an island or, as I have today, a far bank are great natural fish-holding spots and should be your main fishing area. I’d also not discount fishing closer in, say on the line where pole anglers fish, as carp will see this area as a reliable source of food and gather here later in the day.
Faced with open water, I’d go for a relatively comfortable distance to cast, presuming that this area is on a flat bottom with little in the way of snags.
Talking of snags, it’s worth making a few casts without a hooklength on up to an island or far bank to work out if there’s any rubbish on the bottom.
Weed and lilies will be starting to grow up now, and although you may not be able to see it on the surface, it’ll do no good if your feeder is landing amid this muck. Try to find a clear spot at all times!
Commercials are still a bit too cold and clear to poke a tiny rig tight to rushes in 18ins of water.
So while you’re waiting for things to pick up you’ll need to find a spot of deeper water a metre or so further out from the bank – something that Spotted Fin man Andy Dyson calls his ‘secret’ margin swim at his local venue Old Hough Fishery near Sandbach, Cheshire.
Too many anglers go straight into the shallow water against the bank, only to abandon it 15 minutes later with no bites. Instead, spend some time plumbing up and identifying the right place to focus your margin attack, as the former Winter League champion explains...
When to fish it
“Very occasionally you’ll catch here early in the match, but most of the time it’s classic ‘margin’ fishing, the final two hours being the time to concentrate your efforts here,” he explained.
“I try to fish and feed just inches from the edge of the second shelf before it goes into the deep water. That way the fish don’t need to expend much energy to find my bait. I’ll also fish well away from my platform until the water colours up – we’re talking 11m to 13m on the pole.
“This distance puts you in front of the fishing pallet next door and this is where the fish know they’ll get fed from bait thrown in at the end of the day,” Andy continued.
“A marker to line the float up on that exact spot is a must, as going just an inch the wrong side can leave you biteless.”
“If you’ve got the space I would definitely have two of these lines on the go down either side. This not only doubles the chances of catching well but will also let me feed differently,” Andy said.
“Generally I’ll use a small pot and trickle in six grains of corn and a few micro pellets, but if things aren’t going to plan, dumping in a big hit of bait with a pole cup can do the trick. Having two lines lets me do both and decide which is better.
“Feeding will begin after an hour because if things are going well I will have a look on this line after two hours of a match,” he continued.
“In goes a small pot of corn and Spotted Fin GO2 F1 micros, to which I give a good squirt of GO2 F1 Liquid Food. I’ve caught a lot of fish using this stuff and think it can do no harm when every bite is precious.
“Once I begin fishing here I drop in another small pot of feed after every fish, bite or indication as I’m not trying to pull in a mass of fish – and besides, I don’t think the fish want a lot of bait in the first place,” he added.
Fish at dead depth
“It’s crucial to plumb up and set the float at dead depth, not only to prevent line bites when the fish arrive, but to let me know quickly if the rig is off course – should it be an inch or two into the deep water it will sink with the weight of the corn hookbait and I can reposition it immediately,” Andy said.
“Dead depth produces positive bites and, at times, the big F1s can rip the elastic out before you’ve lifted the pole as they move into the shallower water, take the corn and swim off!
“Lines are 0.16mm main to an 0.12mm hooklink, both Middy Lo-Viz to a size 18 Middy KM4 hook – quite big enough for carp.
“My elastic is Middy’s pink grade Reactarcore and my float for here is Warren Peaty’s Pukka model in the 4x12 size.
“This pattern takes a simple strung bulk of shot with two No8 backshots above the float to keep the line relatively tight, enabling me to hit quick bites.”
Corn is king
“For the hook you can’t beat corn, one or even two grains if the fishing is good.
“Pellet just doesn’t seem so productive, and on the match lakes at Old Hough there’s been a stocking of small F1s that just love pellets.
“They’re not the fish I want to catch in the edge, so I do all I can to avoid them and hook the bigger fish.”
Hit & run fishing
“I’ll not spend much time fishing here unless I’m getting bites, as I can spend my time better elsewhere in the peg.
“It’s a bit of a hit and run job, dropping in and catching just two or three fish. And I’m not a fan of fishing here if I feel that only one fish is present. I want a few to be there stirring up a bit of competition. If I only get the odd knock, there’s no point fishing here for any length of time – I’ll catch the F1 that’s there and that’ll be my lot.”
Finding the right spot
“First job is to find the key area to fish and at Old Hough, a lot of the snake lakes actually have two marginal shelves to go at,” Andy said.
“I will use the plummet to find the very edge of the second shelf, which can be two or three metres out from the bank. This offers enough water for the carp and F1s to feed confidently in but, more importantly, allows me to pick them off as they move up from the deepest water in the middle of the lake.
“Chances are the fish won’t move all the way into the very shallow water but by fishing this second shelf, you can pick them off late in the day while other anglers will be trying to catch tight into the bank.
“It’s a waiting game, but I’ve gone from having 15lb in the net with an hour to go to weighing in 80lb of big F1s at the whistle, thanks to a great last burst on the ‘secret’ line!”
So that’s it then. Another river season is done and dusted, leaving anglers with the choice of canals or stillwaters to fish in the coming weeks and months.
For most, lakes will be their pick, especially as warmer weather and longer days see carp begin to feed with gusto.
It’s still a funny time of year, though, as the water won’t have warmed greatly or coloured up but the fish will be willing to feed.
A range of tactics can work, even fishing the margins or (on very mild days) up in the water, so that leaves a lot of choices to be made, not only in terms of the methods to use but also feeding and bait decisions.
To help get you on the right track, Preston Innovations and England man Des Shipp this week reveals 10 top pieces of advice to bag a few carp in the coming weeks on commercial fisheries.
Whether you decide to fish the pole or waggler with pellets, corn or maggots, there’s a little gem or two here to put into operation when you get on the bank…
Hard or soft balls?
I make up a groundbait ball in three ways. A hard ball moulded with two hands will go straight to the bottom, will carry a lot of particles and is ideal for keeping the fish on the deck.
If you’re aiming to catch off bottom, a ball that’s lightly squeezed with one hand will break apart quickly and put a cloud into the swim.
Feeding groundbait loose in a pole cup is the method to go for in shallow water or in the margins when you don’t want the fish to be concentrated in one tight spot.
Dead maggots and groundbait are a brilliant margin combo on waters dominated by carp and F1s, but not so good for roach and skimmers. Instead, I use micro pellets and corn.
The micros are used to pull fish into the peg but when I begin fishing the edge I cut them out and feed just corn. Roach love micros and they’re just the right size for them, so feeding more and more will fail to draw carp in and only encourage the roach into the area. Corn means bigger particles that are heavy and will stay put on the bottom in among feeding carp, whereas micros are too light and will get wafted about all over the place.
Snake lakes – where to start?
It makes sense to begin fishing across to the far bank on a snake lake, but I’ve found that a few early carp can actually be caught from down the middle in the deep water before the fish spook a little from bankside activity and drift to the far bank.
I’d fish here from the off but not spend too much time if I wasn’t getting bites. When the indications fade, add a few sections and go to the far bank.
Plumbing up on the waggler
To plumb up accurately on the float I use a large 3SSG locking shot designed for fishing with flat floats. Nip one of these on the hook and you’ve got the weight to cast easily and show the depth up nicely – try it with a big plummet and you’ll have a nightmare!
I make the cast to my desired spot and slowly pull the float back by a foot at a time, making a note of any depth changes. This way I can work out if there is a slope running away from an island or a distinct shelf that causes a radical change in depth.
Carp are big fish that eat a lot of bait, so you’ll need to keep the feed going in. This can be done either via a big pole cup or a small pole pot, depending on the fish that are in the swim.
If I am sure that there are only carp present, a small Cad pot trickling in corn or pellets, is ideal on every drop-in, but if a lot of small fish are about, I’ll change to big potting after every couple of carp.
This is because I think the noise of regular feeding actually pulls little fish into the peg, so by only dumping bait in every 10 or 15 minutes, I’m reducing the chances of this happening.
Feed to your bites
The above not only applies to adding more bait when the peg goes quiet, but also relates to how quickly you are getting bites.
If I was only getting the occasional bite but knew that some fish were in the peg then I’ll step up the feed slightly to encourage the carp and F1s to be more confident.
On the flip side, if I was getting too many bites and foul hooking a few fish then this would tell me to ease back on the feed.
We’re only talking here about adding or taking away half-a-dozen micro pellets or a few pieces of corn, but it can make a big difference.
Shallow shotting patterns
It’s almost time to start thinking about fishing shallow but how you shot your rigs should depend on whether you are fishing for carp or F1s. For wary carp a rig with the small shots spread down the line will give the bait a slower fall, giving the fish more time to see the bait and take it.
For F1s, a rig with a small bulk just above the hooklink will convert bites into hooked fish. The solid mass of weight creates a semi-bolt effect and will make a fair bit of noise when slapped on the surface.
When pole fishing on the bottom in around 8ft of water you need a decent strike to set the hook properly, so don’t be afraid of giving it the big ‘un!
Once a carp is hooked, keep the pole-tip low to the water at an angle to prevent the hook pulling and allow the fish to swim off. The worst thing you can do it hold the pole high in the air. This will put too much pressure on the hookhold and also bring the fish up to the surface too quickly, where you won’t be in control.
Balanced kit is essential
Fishing fine is okay but you must balance your tackle. Small hooks and light lines will get you more bites, but your pole elastic needs to be lighter too, in order to prevent the hook pulling or the hooklink breaking.
For general carp work I would fish a size 14 or 16 hook to line of around 6lb breaking strain and a 12 grade Preston Innovations Hollo elastic.
This rule also applies when fishing heavy tackle – using light elastics with heavy line and big hooks will only see the elastic ‘bottom out’ when playing a decent carp and this can cause the elastic to potentially snap.
Cast past the feed
The waggler is a super tactic to search the swim at this time of the year, but don’t be lured into casting right into the middle of the area you’re feeding.
Often, carp will be sat off the back of this feed, picking off particles, so to cash in on this, feed and then cast the waggler a good few metres past this spot.
Allow it to cock and then wind it back into the edge of where the loosefeed has gone in.
You can also do this by casting shorter on to the front edge of the feed zone.
The next few weeks present a challenge for the all-rounder.
With water temperatures still relatively low there is a chance of a big tench or bream, but the best of that fishing is still some way off. Fortunately, Mother Nature has filled this gap, and now is the perfect time to track down big stillwater roach.
The lengthening days are seeing the roach shoals becoming more active. That can be a mixed blessing. On venues with a low stock of big fish your chances of success are improved. Pick a water with a healthy roach stock, though, and you may struggle to pick out the better fish without carefully considering your tactics.
Feeding windows can be short, so it is important to bait lightly.
Often there will be a pronounced feeding period around dawn and dusk that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. In this twilight period the roach drop their guard as the low light levels enable them to feed with less fear of predation.
This gives you your best shot at catching a big roach, but introduce too much feed and you could miss out. Less is more, and a Black Cap feeder filled with maggots, recast every 15 minutes, is enough bait to draw attention to the hookbait.
It takes the feeder this long to empty in cool water – any longer than this and your chances of a bite start to diminish.
Given a choice of one bait for stillwater roach I would have to choose really fresh maggots softened in maize meal. Feed with the darker-coloured red maggots, but have a few mixed grubs, just for more visual hookbaits.
THE DULL APPROACH
With my roach sessions generally being ‘hit and run’ style – short trips coinciding with the key times of day – I like to prime the swim as soon as I arrive to focus the roach where I want to catch them. The feeder is too slow for this. Instead I will introduce just a couple of balls of fine, dark groundbait.
So little feed needs to be introduced accurately, especially if you are fishing at range, so a good tip is to replace your maggot feeder with an open-end feeder and, with the line clipped up, make a few quick casts to get the groundbait right on the money.
It’s surprising how even a dark-coloured groundbait stands out on the lakebed, thanks to the light reflected off the bottom, so I always use a black mix for roach. Stillwater roach can be skittish over light-coloured groundbait, especially in clear water, so it pays to dull down your mix as much as you can.
This dull approach also holds good for my maggots. Although I store them in maize meal, this is riddled off before they go into the feeder. Not only does this mean you can pack more in, and they will escape faster, but I am not leaving light-coloured stuff on the bottom to spook the roach off.
Nothing is more frustrating than having big roach topping in front of you, but their smaller brethren beating them to the hookbait every time. This is a situation when it can pay to use more selective baits and go for a ‘big-fish-or-bust’ approach.
Mini-boilies are the ideal go-to bait in this situation, and a 10mm pineapple bait has caught me some big fish when all else has failed. Lobworms are also worth serious consideration, as is sweetcorn, especially if you are fishing into dark. While you might not get many bites on these baits, when you do get one it will be a fish to remember.
It also pays to swap the maggot feeder for something less attractive to small fish.
It might seem crude, but a small Method feeder loaded with my dark groundbait mix and topped with a single hookbait has scored for me. The idea is to actually make the bait less attractive to the hordes of smaller roach, while putting it in front of any browsing big fish.
It doesn’t always work, but this is likely to be a lot less frustrating than having constant bites from small fish.
Best bait to keep roach shoals interested
1) Mix two parts Sensas Gros Gardons Noire groundbait with one part crushed hemp to produce an active, dark mix.
2) Add a teaspoonful of hemp oil to a pint of cold water (you can do this with lake water if you prepare it on the bank) and mix well.
3) Slowly add the water to the groundbait until it takes on a firm consistency. Be careful not to over-wet it at this stage.
4) After 10 minutes check that the groundbait is mixed perfectly. It should hold together well when squeezed in your hand.
5) Add a handful of maggots to the mix to give it a small amount of feed, just enough to attract fish without filling them up.
6) Introduce two or three tangerine-sized balls to start your session. Don’t be tempted to add more if the bites start to tail off.
Puller-bungs have transformed polefishing since they first appeared 10 years or so ago, allowing big fish to be landed on much lighter tackle than previously possible.
The simplest form of puller bung features a hole surrounded by non-stick PTFE material.
With the elastic secured here, the idea is to pull the elastic while playing a fish, tightening it in the process so that bigger fish can be tamed and landed. Fit it easily by following this sequence:
1: Thread a diamond-eye elastic threader through the puller-bung exit point near the base of your pole’s No2 section and out through the section’s thin end.
2: Thread the elastic through the diamond eye and pull the threader back until the elastic emerges from the puller-bung exit point.
3: Thread a small bead up the elastic at the puller-bung exit point end tie a large bulky double overhand knot to secure it.
4: Now use the threader again, this time to pull the other end of the elastic through the pole’s tip section and out of the end like this.
5: Assemble your top-two kit and pre-stretch your elastic 12ins at a time. This will reduce elastic droop once you start fishing.
6: Cut the elastic with 3ins protruding from the tip. Now tie a knot close to the end and attach your chosen connector – this is a popular Dacron version.
7: Once the connector is attached, slide the Dacron to the knot, trim the elastic and slide the plastic part of the connector over the knot.
8: The finished connection is neat and reliable. If the elastic hangs out a bit, remove the connector, trim the elastic and attach again.
1) Re-spool your reels
With the river season closing, it’s time to start focusing on stillwater venues.
There are a number of things I like to do before heading for the bank, and one of the first is to re-spool with new line.
In my view, line and hooks are the two most important items of tackle. A fault with either will inevitably lead to lost fish, and in specimen fishing that lost fish could be the catch of a lifetime.
I use a line stripper to remove my old line, which is recycled.
I find the best way to load new line to minimise line twist is to put a pencil through the line spool and trap it between my knees. This enables me to apply slight pressure as I wind it on to to my reels. Be careful not to overfill the spool, as doing so leads to tangles, not extra casting distance!
2) Spend time locating spring fish
In spring fish are often tightly shoaled up, leaving large areas of water fishless.
Don’t therefore arrive at a stillwater venue with a set idea of where you are going to fish.
An hour or two spent trying to find your chosen species is a good investment of your time.
Three things are essential if you want to maximise your chances of locating fish – polarised glasses, a peaked cap or hat, and binoculars.
It’s not just the obvious signs of fish – be they under the water, rolling or crashing out – that will pinpoint where the fish are.
Look for bubbles caused by fish rooting on the bottom, disturbed silt, and ‘flat’ areas0 where a fish has turned near the surface.
Even the slightest sign is better than choosing a swim because it just happens to be convenient.
3) Check your tackle bag
If, like me, you spend most of the autumn and winter fishing rivers it’s likely you’ll not have used much of the tackle you use for stillwater fishing for quite some time.
It makes sense to go through it at home before your first session, check everything is in order and make a list of any items that are missing or running low. The last thing you want is to run out of an essential item on the bank.
As well as the obvious, such as hooks, check for things like scissors and baiting needles.
On my first tench trip last year I discovered I had taken my blades out to replace those I’d lost from my river bag.
Chopping worms with the tiny pair of scissors on the mini Swiss Army knife on my key ring was challenging, to say the least!
4) Get inspired by big catches
Few things fire my enthusiasm to catch big fish more than reading about other anglers’ successes.
In my youth I read books by Frank Guttfield, Peter Stone and Jim Gibbinson and I can still recall some of their stories.
More recently Terry Lampard, Paul Garner and Terry Theobald have all made me want to get out in pursuit of specimen fish.
It’s apparent when you read such books that success is rarely instant and even the most successful anglers have lean spells.
Nevertheless, reading tales about big fish captures will be inspirational. Who knows? In a few years’ time it could be you writing a book that fires up the next generation of anglers!
5) Try close in for perch
Many commercial fisheries have a good stock of perch that are unfished for.
These fish generally ignore pellets and other man-made baits, making anglers oblivious to how many stripeys are present.
In many commercial lakes the perch are largely ignored, and there can be some nice surprises in store.
Often these perch are found very close in, especially if there is some cover nearby.
If you can find an overhanging bush or a reed bed, there’s a very good chance that perch won’t be far away, so introduce a little bait close by and cast a worm over the top – there’s a good chance it will be taken by one of these predators sooner rather than later.
6) Reduce resistance for pike
When deadbait fishing for pike it’s imperative fish feel little resistance. Drop-off indicators are perfect for this.
Adjust them so the line stays in the clip despite any drag from the water but will pull free with the minimum of effort when a pike picks up your bait. With an open bail-arm the pike can then take the bait and feel no resistance.
Use a heavy lead and free running rig and whichever way
the pike moves it will take line off the spool. At this point close the bail-arm, allow the line to tighten and, as it does so, strike.
There’s no need to wait, as the bait will be in the pike’s mouth.
Delaying the strike will increase the chances of a pike ejecting the bait or being deeply hooked.
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.