Lessons From The Champion
Lee Thornton reveals the tactics and mind-set that he uses to stay one step ahead of the competition
As an angler who has been fishing at the top level on the UK match circuit for many seasons, it might come as a surprise that I have never felt I was achieving my full potential. This lack of confidence has led to me being a nearly man on several occasions, both in Fish ‘O’ Mania and Maver Match This qualifiers. I have also been ounces short of a White Acres Festival win, and my biggest disappointment was being runner-up in a Fisho final.
Many people would class the above as successes but being ultra-competitive, I am always looking to improve.
So two seasons ago I decided to devote more time to my fishing and set about improving my overall consistency in how often I win.
Lee believes that specialising in a specific venue or type of venue is vital for consistent success
I decided to do this by chasing the Matchman Of The Year title, to me the hardest in the country to win. You are in competition with every angler on the bank and it rewards consistency over around 80 matches. Unlike the likes of Fish ‘O’ Mania, which in reality is just two good draws. It is also very harsh because once it takes over your fishing, any result other than a frame place makes you leave the bank feeling like the day was a failure, so it drives you to win as regularly as possible.
The first season I finished 8th. Although in the top 10 in the country, I was still a long way off winning and changes needed to be made. Last year I finished 2nd, which is a result I was proud of and, although still quite a way behind winner Andy Bennett, my confidence is at an all-time high and I now frame in around three-quarters of the matches I fish locally.
Information is so easily available these days and the standard of angler is at an all-time high. It is no longer possible to be a jack-of-all-trades and be able to turn up to matches all over the country and regularly win.
Now you need to specialise in styles of fishing and, where possible, venues. This can be commercials, rivers or canals but it must be done to be regularly successful.
Although my apprenticeship was served on natural rivers and drains, I have been a commercial specialist for many years. Since moving to the northwest, this has been narrowed down further to fishing for F1s and ide, with carp present but generally caught as a bonus.
Mastering these styles has been key to many wins over the last two years and I definitely wouldn’t have achieved my consistency if I was switching venues more regularly.
Tips For Champion
1. Use a main line that is strong enough to couple with a hooklength to land the biggest fish. This will mean fewer rigs required.
2. Use softer than required elastic when targeting a mixed bag of fish to ensure fewer hook-pulls.
3. Use stronger than required elastic when big carp are needed. Line breakages are kept to a minimum because elastic never bottoms out.
4. Stick to just a couple of float patterns so you can learn how they behave.
5. Trough practice, learn to fish and feed quickly and accurately.
6. Use a long landing-net handle to net fish first time.
7. Embrace the Short Kit revolution; they are perfect for shallow/speed fishing.
8. Position your gear uniformly every time to aid familiarisation.
9. Use simple shotting patterns that work for you.
10. Rotate lines regularly to keep fish coming through the course of five hours.
11. Keep an open mind at every match.
12. Push your peg to the maximum; you are there to win
13. Maggots in the middle of a snake lake will catch you anything that swims
Leader Of The Pack
To be framing regularly you need to be the angler who everybody is chasing. Generally speaking, once you start winning on a method or a bait, the majority of the field begin to copy or mimic your approach very quickly, so a tactical change only gives you a narrow band of success.
The secret is to be spotting the trends before they happen and adapting quickly through the course of the season.
Although it is important to keep an eye on other anglers to give you clues as to what is happening each week, you need to have the confidence in your own watercraft and decisions to be always fishing your own match. Fishing the same venues week in, week out gives you an intimate knowledge of the lake’s stock and behaviour and will allow you to do things that may seem out of the ordinary to your competitors.
For example, recently at my local venue, I switched to a method I hadn’t fished in 12 months based on a gut feeling in the morning and went on to win twice and come second by 3oz in the next three matches.
I had framed in the matches previous to this, so it would have been easy to stick to what I was doing. However, intuition and confidence in my ability gave me the opportunity to strengthen my performance on these three matches.
Fish Methods Your Way
There are an infinite number of ways to fish and everybody seems to do things slightly differently, even when using the same baits. This can be very confusing to anglers learning the sport but I have come to embrace it.
It is imperative to fish different baits on your terms. I have a way that I am happy with to fish pellets across, paste, maggots shallow, Method feeder and so on. The important thing is to practice these methods so that they become a reflex action.
Nearly all match wins come from the decisions made during the match. Ensuring you are fishing with 100 per cent efficiency because you are well practised in the way you fish allows you to devote all of your concentration on the changes occurring in your swim, how the fish are responding, the weather conditions and timing your lines, rather than the mechanics of physically fishing and feeding accurately.
I've been at both ends of the scale with my tackle, being prepared as much as possible with setting up loads of kit and spares, and also being the hungover angler turning up late and muddling through the match with one rig. I have come to the conclusion that somewhere in the middle is perfect. Over-preparation is definitely counterproductive because it can confuse you, giving you too many options that detract from what is happening in front of you. I have five or six float patterns that I use, but nine times out of 10 only three are rigged up. I also have three or four hook patterns but again I stick to one the majority of the time. By using tackle that I have won loads of matches on, it gives me full confidence that it is not my presentation letting me down. It will be another factor, such as depth or my feeding. Basically, I give myself a psychological edge. It is also an advantage that I am more aware of how my tackle behaves. Using new floats, hooks, elastics takes a while to adjust to and is a variable I tend to eliminate. Over-preparation can also lead to being demotivated due to amount of time required. Limit your tackle to what you actually need and your results will improve.
I also have three or four hook patterns but again I stick to one the majority of the time. By using tackle that I have won loads of matches on, it gives me full confidence that it is not my presentation letting me down. It will be another factor, such as depth or my feeding. Basically, I give myself a psychological edge. It is also an advantage that I am more aware of how my tackle behaves. Using new floats, hooks, elastics takes a while to adjust to and is a variable I tend to eliminate. Over-preparation can also lead to being demotivated due to amount of time required. Limit your tackle to what you actually need and your results will improve.
The biggest factors that affect your results are adapting to conditions and the way in which the fish are behaving/feeding. Consequently, it is rare for me to have a definitive plan of how I am going to fish. All I want to know is what fish are in front of me and what they prefer to eat. The rest I will sort out during the session.
Making definitive decisions as early as possible and, more importantly, seeing it through properly to the end of the match, is the way to perform successfully. Time and time again I have made a decision, changed, and then bottled it when it didn’t work straightaway, only to end up changing back!
Trust your gut instinct; more often than not it is right, and have the confidence that what you are changing to is 100 per cent right.
The last tip is to approach every peg as though you are on a match winner. Keeping switched on and sharp and maintaining a high work rate will see you frame more. By combining all the aspects described with a positive mental attitude, you will be able to capitalise on the mistakes made by others who are on better pegs.
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Alan’s Essential Skills
Alan Scotthorne explains why finer tackle can give you the edge at this typically changeable time of year.
Fishing with really strong gear is absolutely fine in the height of summer when the fish are really lively and active. With a lot more competition for bait, the water will be much more coloured, meaning you can get away with stronger hooks, thicker line and stronger tackle in general.
As we move from winter through to spring, however, things are often a lot trickier. You will have some really good sessions when the carp and F1s feed with a vengeance, but there will be just as many days when they are a lot harder to catch. While the water temperature is still low and the clarity quite high, you have to pay particular attention to your rigs and overall setup. Regardless of the bait, you are using – be that pellets, meat, worms, corn or maggots – fishing with a bit of finesse leads to better bait presentation and will undoubtedly bring you more bites.
The Fine Line
Fishing with a relatively fine hooklength is possibly one of the hardest points to get across to a lot of anglers who target carp and F1s. I cannot blame them because when you are hooking fish that could be 5lb or more it probably doesn’t sound right to use line that is of a much lower breaking strain. For instance, I use 0.117mm Supplex or 0.12mm Supplex fluorocarbon a lot at this time of year. These have a breaking strain of only 2.5lb and 2lb respectively, yet I will happily use either of them for fish that could potentially weigh more than twice that amount.
There are a couple of points that can be made here. Firstly, Drennan line is very accurately stated in terms of diameters but the breaking strains are more conservative than some other lines you may see on the tackle-shop shelves. The breaking strains on Supplex are based on achievable average knot strengths. Because you cannot use line without having to tie a knot, this should be the only way to measure its strength. If you tie a good, well-moistened knot then the breaking strain will, in fact, be slightly higher.
Cover your options and sey up a lighter strung-out rigs, as well as heavier bulked rigs.
What you must also realise is that a 5lb carp does not weigh 5lb when it’s actually swimming in the water. As long as there are not many snags to worry about and you tie decent, reliable knots I would be very confident of getting fish in the net with low-breaking-strain hooklengths.
Slim, pencil floats offer little resistance to a talking fish and strike cleanly from the water.
Of course, you have to be sensible when choosing the right strength of hooklength for commercials. I wouldn’t dream of deliberately fishing with 0.075mm (0.9lb) Supplex fluorocarbon just because it is the lightest in the range. However, it is still surprising just how easy it can be to get really big fish in the net on light tackle such as this.
Over the past few years, there has been a massive boom in silver-fish-only matches on commercial fisheries. Carp do not count, so people deliberately fish with very light gear intended for roach and skimmers, matched up with fine-wire hooks and very light pole elastic. I have lost count of the amount of ‘nuisance’ big carp I have seen banked in these events. Unless the fish has been foul hooked it is often quite difficult to get broken, even if you did try to deliberately pull for a break!
You can sometimes find that a carp will pull back less on this light gear and comes to the net with relative ease. I am sure that if you had used more substantial gear and more powerful elastic, the same fish might have fought twice as hard all the way to the net. It must be the extra resistance that causes a fish to pull a lot more the other way, so the stronger the elastic and the more you pull, the more a fish will pull back.
Light, soft, hollow elastics mean you can fish with fine hooklengths, but when matched with a puller bung, land very big fish!
These lessons learned from accidentally catching carp in silver-fish-only matches only serve to strengthen the case that you can catch carp on light tackle, even if you hadn’t planned to.
Now that we have established that you can land carp on light lines I must stress that the key is to use sensible and balanced tackle at all times. In summer I will typically use a hooklength that is anything from 0.15mm to 0.20mm (approximately 4lb to 7lb). When things are trickier, or if I’m targeting both carp and more fickle F1s, I am more likely to use hooklengths from 0.10mm to 0.13mm (2lb to 3lb). Match it to an equally light and soft elastic and I can fish with complete confidence.
Tie hooks to a variety of line diameters so that you can experiment during a session!
Puller bungs and puller kits have played a big part in the ability for us to scale down our tackle. In short, they have completely transformed the way we can play fish. You can now use much lighter elastic, which is really soft and forgiving when you lift into a bite and puts less pressure on the fish. When it comes to netting the fish you can also reduce the amount of elastic with the puller and play fish comfortably with just your top kit in your hand. A puller kit means that there is no longer any need to have several pole sections high up in the air when netting a big carp on light elastic.
Puller kits and light hooklengths go hand in hand with hollow elastic because this stuff is so much more forgiving compared with traditional solid elastic. It is softer and stretches much further, so there is less likelihood of having a breakage should a fish make a sudden lunge. I still use solid elastic, especially doubled-up elastic in the depths of winter, but that’s perhaps a subject for another time. For spring I still recommend you use soft hollow elastic for the majority of commercial-fishery situations.
At this time of year, there are two that I use the most, Drennan Green (6-8) Carp Bungee for general use and even lighter Aqua (4-6) Silverfish & F1 Bungee. This is most commonly used on F1-dominated venues and when a mixture of species such as roach and skimmers is also on the cards. You will still get those bigger bonus carp out on it, however.
Over the years I have fished with a huge number of poles from different manufacturers and that has made me appreciate that they all have different length top kits. This makes things much more difficult when it comes to recommendations because fitting elastic through a pole with a very long top kit will behave in a very different way to the same elastic fitted through a pole with a much shorter top kit.
I am fortunate with my Acolyte pole because there are two types of top kit available. The standard top kits are relatively long, so I can have plenty of elastic threaded through them. This is ideal for playing all sizes of fish, particularly in colder conditions when they are harder to come by. The other is called a Double 2 and this is the same length but allows you to thread elastic through just the first two metres or so. This means I can use incredibly soft elastic but because there is not so much of it inside the pole I can land fish of all sizes relatively quickly. This is more useful on better days when you are expecting more fish.
Complete The Puzzle
Although I won’t dwell too much on these aspects, the final pieces of the jigsaw are the floats and hooks. A slim pole float such as my latest AS5 ‘pencil’ is ideal for continuing the delicate and sensitive theme because you can dot it right down to register the most delicate of bites and it will lift really cleanly from the water on the strike.
The hook is even more important and at this time of year, I typically use a size 20 or 18 Kamasan B911 F1 for maggots, pellets, corn and small cubes of meat. If I am hair rigging baits (yes, you can most certainly still use a hair rig with fine hooklengths) then a size 20 or 18 B911 eyed hook is my choice.
There is another related point that I must stress when you finally need to use stronger tackle in the height of summer. Just because you are fishing for 10lb carp it does not mean you need 10lb line, size 10 hooks and No20 pole elastic to catch them. The only time you will ever need tackle this fierce is for extreme situations. With the advent of puller kits, I actually don't see the need for pole elastic stronger than Pink (14-16) Carp Bungee. I regularly fish for 10lb carp and have hardly ever felt that I needed to use elastic that was any heavier. In fact, I don't know many top anglers who would dream of using No20 elastic on your average commercial fishery swim. By using softer and more forgiving elastic I guarantee you will catch more fish in the long run.
Another reason why we can normally use these light and well-balanced setups is because there are not so many snags to worry about in most commercials. Yes, there will be the odd reed stem or platform leg to deal with, but that’s nothing compared to all the weed beds, obstructions and underwater hazards you might discover if you were targeting big fish on a canal or river. On a commercial, so long as you take your time I would be really confident of getting out fish of all sizes.
Finer tackle can certainly help you to increase the number of fish you hook. And once you have managed to hook a fish, you should take your time playing it. After all, if you’ve gone through all that effort to fool it, you want to make sure it counts and ends up in your net!
Typical Summer Carp Tackle
Float: Drennan AS2 or AS4
Main line: 0.18mm to 0.20mm Supplex
Hooklength: 0.15mm to 0.20mm Supplex
Hook: Size 16 Kamasan B911 up to a 12 Margin Carp
Elastic: 10-12 Yellow Bungee or 14-16 Pink Bungee
Typical Light Carp Tackle
Float: Drennan AS1, AS3 or AS5
Main line: 0.14mm or 0.16mm Supplex
Hooklength: 0.10mm to 0.13mm Supplex
Hook: Size 20 or 18 Kamasan B911 F1
Elastic: 4-6 Aqua Bungee or 6-8 Green Bungee
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Catch More Commercial Perch
Callum Dicks lift the lid on his tactics for targeting a surprise species that could be lurking in your local commercial – specimen perch!
I have had many shocks on commercial fisheries over the years when I’ve hooked what I think is a carp or F1, and just as I pick the landing net up a huge perch appears! Many commercials are actually home to large numbers of these fish. In fact, the current record perch, and several past records have all come from commercial fisheries. Often, these fish are ignored by anglers targeting carp, but with so much food in the way of small silver fish and anglers’ bait, they can grow very big. Spring is often a great time to catch these fish too, and I’ve enjoyed some cracking pleasure sessions targeting commercial stripeys.
You join me at the picturesque Lands End Fisheries just outside Bristol, where I’m hoping to show you my tricks for capturing some spiky monsters!
Where To Target
Features and cover are two vital things to look for when targeting perch. These fish love hiding out under any shade, bankside or water vegetation, or obstacles in the water. They can target their pray from layers like this, and often, such features attract other fish, which are of course food!
Looking at today’s swim, I can see four potential target areas. The first two are my nearside margins. Here, there are branches and brambles overhanging the water and some boards that run around the edge of the lake. The other thing I’d like to find here is a decent depth. Anything over two and a half feet is ideal, so when I slip on a plummet and discover there’s three and a half feet of water right next to the brambles, I get really excited!
I’ve plumbed up two swims with the same rig here, one four metres down the edge to my left, and the other the same distance to the right.
If I find that the depth is too shallow down the edge right next to the cover, I simply plumb up away from the bank, further down the marginal shelf. If there are no obvious visible features, plumbing up on this slope in around three and a half feet of water is a good idea because big perch often patrol this underwater feature.
The next area that catches my eye is the island opposite me. There are two overhanging bushes and right against them the lake is around four feet deep. These are going to be my target areas on the long pole. Despite having loads of open water to target down the centre of the lake, I’m leaving this alone. In my experience, the big perch tend to hug cover, so that’s where I want to spend my time targeting them.
For some reason, commercial perch love casters. They work particularly well on venues that get fished heavily for carp. Casters make a lovely crisp splash when they enter the water, triggering the predatory instinct of perch. Another great thing about casters is that they don’t fill up the fish because they’re primarily made up of water. You can keep a steady trickle of them falling through the layers, making a constant noise and creating a visual column of feed for the perch to home in on.
I rarely fish with maggots on the hook but they make great feed bait. I think the reason that maggots work so well is that they attract silver fish into the swim. In turn, these attract the big perch. Feeding a large pot of maggots at the start of a session on a swim can be a great way of kicking off. I also think that perch sit over a bed of bait sometimes, without eating anything.
These are my secret baits, that not many people use! I haven’t got a clue why perch eat them, but they do. I have seen several pleasure anglers use them at numerous venues, and they often catch big perch on them. I particularly like using prawns on venues when the water is quite coloured. They are a large, white bait that stands out like a beacon!
You simply cannot leave home without lobworms when big perch are in mind – they love ’em. They make great feed and hook baits and when chopped up release a juicy scent that perch can’t resist. They also offer a lot of versatility; you can use a tiny section of worm on the hook, or a great big full wriggly one!
Negative V Positive
Perch can be very fussy feeders and their habits change day to day. One day you will find that big perch only want to eat tiny baits. A single caster can be the only bait that you get a bite on some days, especially in calm, clear conditions. A small inch section of worm can work a treat too.
Conversely, on other days you will only get a bite on a great big visible bait. I’ve had it before whereby I’ve fished for several hours with all kinds of baits, and as soon as I’ve put on a whole lobworm the float disappears and you’re into a stripey friend!
Big perch sometimes seem to settle over a large amount of feed, while on other days they will only feed over very small amounts. The key to maximising your chances of catching them is to cover your options. As I explained earlier, I have plumbed up two margin swims and two island swims, which gives me plenty of scope for experimentation.
I’m feeding one of the margin swims very frugally, by simply dripping in small regular amounts of casters or a few chunks of finely minced lobworms. However, the swim on the opposite side is going to be fed differently, in case the fish want to feed over more bait. I’m going to kick off with a pole pot of maggots here, which will hopefully get plenty of small fish feeding. I can then drop in with a very selective hook bait such as a prawn or lobworm, which the perch will hopefully gobble! On the island swims, I plan on doing very similar. One will be fed sparingly with a catapult, while the other will be fed more aggressively with larger pots of feed.
Quite wrongly, it’s often thought that perch are easy to catch, and will take any bait when it’s dangled in front of them. However, this is definitely not the case. These acute predators are brimmed to the hilt with hunting senses and having the right rigs to present your bait correctly is vital.
I always set up two; one to cater for small baits such as maggots ands casters and the other for bigger baits like lobworms and prawns. One thing that both these rigs have in common is that they are very light with a strung-out shotting pattern. Perch have huge eyes and once they have detected a bait or some food, they’ll watch it fall and settle on the bottom. The biggest, wary fish won’t even touch it if there’s anything suspicious about it. It’s important to try and make the fall as natural as possible and, once the rig begins to fall, don’t make any jerky movements that will spoil or break the smooth fall.
All my rigs are made on heavy 0.16mm main line, which helps aid a slow and tangle-free fall through the water. However, the hooklengths are all on Drennan fluorocarbon. This is a strong material, but after experimenting with it lots, I’m convinced it catches you more big fish because it is less visible in water. It’s also a great material to use when fishing with baits that easily spin up, like sections of lobworms, because it’s stiff and doesn’t spin up.
Always set your elastics a little tighter than normal when fishing for perch. They have incredibly bony mouths and having a slightly tighter elastic helps set the hook properly.
The fishing has been very tricky to begin with, which is strange because you often get a quick response from perch if they’re in the area. After an hour, all I have in the net are a few roach and a very small perch that has fallen to my caster swim against the island.
I’m remaining confident, however, because I know that predatory fish like perch often have feeding spells and hunt in packs, so I could nail two or three big fish in very quick succession. I’ve set two traps with a pot of maggots, one down the right-hand edge and the other against one of the island trees. I’m really nurturing the other two swims with a regular trickle of casters, and every half-hour or so a 50p-sized amount of finely minced worms to put some scent in the water.
After laying in the light rig over my long swim, the float dinks as the float settles, and as I poise myself for the strike it slowly sails under. After a timed pause, I whack into the fish and there’s no mistaking the sudden judders and head shudders of a perch, as five feet of yellow Maver Hollow stream from the pole tip. After a short battle the first proper perch is in the pan, and at just over 1lb it’s a lovely fish!
Bait Tips For Perch!
A) If you're missing bites, hook your caster like a maggot so nearly all the hook is showing!
B) On difficult days and in clear water; burying the hook brings bites from nowhere!
C) Always hook your worm segment through the broken end for maximum hook-ups!
In quick succession, two more follow. Interestingly, both bites come as the rig settles, which proves the importance of light strung-out rigs. Despite trying the positively fed swim against the island no bites are forthcoming, which urges me to spend more time on the caster swims for the time being.
Dropping on the margin swim, a couple of big roach put in an appearance, before I get a few strange indications as if there’s a carp present. With no proper bites developing, I drop in with the big-bait rig baited with half a lobworm and before it even settles the float is skimming across the surface! I always pause for two or three seconds before striking when using big baits to make sure the fish has taken it properly. This time it has and the switch to a bigger bait over the negative swim leads to another 1lb-plus stripey in the net!
After a blank hour or rotating swims and varying hook baits, I see a small fish plop out of the water over my maggots on the right-hand margin – a sign there could be a dinosaur there! Dropping in with a prawn, I get a few indications before a super-fast bite sees me strike into thin air – oh no! Quickly rebaiting and dropping back in I get a second chance, and this time nail the biggest of the day – a 2lb-plus specimen that angrily comes thrashing into the net! As the light fades, it seems the perch take a liking for prawns, as another 1lb fish and one slightly bigger come from over the margin maggot swim with a small prawn hook bait. Perhaps during their late feeding spree they pick out this bigger, more visible bait?
I’ve ended the session with 10 perch between 1lb and just over 2lb that have made for a cracking day’s sport. Why not break the mould and try my commercial perch tactics at your local water?
Venue: Lands End Fishery
Location: Heath House BS28 4UQ
Day tickets: £7 on the bank
Contact: Mike on 07977 545882
Name: Callum Dicks
Pole: Maver Darkside Three
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Pete Upperton On Carp
We join Middy ace Pete Upperton for a masterclass in finding the optimum depth of water for big bags of carp!
Where do you fish your pellets? I’d hazard a guess that if we asked a survey of 100 people (in typical Family Fortunes style), 99 would reply: “Dead depth.” After all, that is what we’ve written in this magazine hundreds of times, but is this always correct? We joined 2015 Match This winner Pete Upperton to find out why he believes that a change of depth can change your results and even help you top up your bank balance too!
The Orchard Farm carp are almost all in pristine condition!
“We’ve been told time and time again how simple pellet fishing is, and although this is fundamentally true, there are still hundreds of variables from what is considered a ‘standard’ pellet approach. I find that most anglers, myself included, have a default pellet setting. We all use pretty similar rigs, similar shotting and most anglers’ terminal tackle is at heart very similar. By this I mean winter pellet fishing involves lower-diameter lines, smaller hooks and lighter elastic. We all feed using tiny Toss Pots, most of the time feeding micros, and we all fish the same areas of our pegs and present our baits dead depth.
Light but balanced tackle is a must in winter
“With all of these similarities between anglers, it’s not hard to see why venues get bad press for being dominated by the draw bag. A lot of the time the only difference between anglers is the peg, so it’s bound to have an impact on the results.
“With this is mind, I started to look at my winter pellet fishing to try and find ways I could do something different, much like I do with my meat fishing all summer. I looked at everything, my rigs, my bait, where I fish in my peg and my presentation and broke it all down to try and find anything I could alter to give me an edge.
“The important thing to think about, though, is why to change something. Changing something just for changes sake is a bad route to go down. However, if a change makes sense to you, give a try. If it works, develop it further. If it doesn’t, revert to the default and look at another area.”
Change of bait
A single expander pellet is Pete's favourite hook bait for wary winter carp
“When I started to look closely at my pellet fishing, the first thing to look at was bait. Were pellets actually the right bait to be fishing? After a bit of experimenting with other baits, and some poor results, it was safe to say that I had to stick with pellets. I then started experimenting with size. I had some success feeding 4mm pellets rather than micros but it was inconsistent, so that was when I started using SSP micro pellets.
The SSP Micro pellets are perfect for winter work!
These are not only slightly bigger than standard micro pellets but they also have a unique flavour, rather than your typical fishmeal. I tried them for several weeks and they turned out to be perfect. The slightly bigger size seems to hold the fish in a tighter area and they seem to sink more consistently, which helps, especially when there’s tow on the water. Unlike 4mm pellets, I caught over them every time I used them and I felt I had my first edge.”
“Once I was confident I was using the correct bait, I started to look at another important part of pellet fishing – swim choice. This was not only where I fished my swim but also how many swims I fished. I found that depending on the stocking, it varied as to how many swims you needed to fish. If it were an F1-dominated fishery then I’d fish more swims. If it’s carp, then the fewer the better. The most important lesson I learnt, however, was that you must feed swims at more than one depth.
Fish in winter, especially carp, will find the warmest water they can and this can be at any depth, sometimes in the deepest part of your swim, sometimes in the shallowest. To give yourself the best chance of finding them you must feed swims at different depths. This may require setting up extra rigs or fishing longer or shorter than usual but it’s something that really can help put more fish in your net.
“One area I’ve started exploiting in winter is the margins. Now, this again depends on the depth but any venue that has a margin that is two feet or deeper certainly has the chance to throw up some fish in winter, especially if there is marginal cover such as reeds.
“The other huge and most important part of pellet fishing I’ve learnt is that dead depth isn’t always right and a change of just an inch can transform a swim that seems devoid of fish into a fish-a-drop swim. My thinking on this actually derived from fishing shallow. Even on days where the fish are ravenous and you’re bagging shallow, altering your depth can severely change your catch rate. So if the fish, even when feeding aggressively, will only feed at a certain depth, then why not in winter, when they have far more time to inspect your bait and be choosy about what they feed on?
“I always start my session at the default of dead depth but I’m always looking for signs that fish are in the swim but possibly not taking my bait. The biggest giveaway is line bites. Tiny dips on your float often get dismissed as shy bites off F1s in winter, but sometimes they’re simply fish off the bottom intercepting pellets as they fall through the water, or just moving about off the bottom looking for food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling people to reach for their shallow rigs but fishing anything from an inch to six inches off the bottom really can bring bites when you can’t get a touch on the bottom. This applies to F1s and carp because both will take a pellet sat off the bottom, especially when fished in conjunction with a light rig fished through the water and micros being regularly sprinkled into the swim.”
“To demonstrate my tactics I’ve brought the Pole Fishing team to Orchard Place Farm. It’s in good form but the fishing certainly suits those who are willing to work for bites. Looking at the water, the first thing I have to do is decide where my swims are going to be. I have an island in front of me so I’ll fish one swim in the shallow water towards it. To give me another depth I’m going to fish a swim down the track in the deepest water I can find. Finally, I know from experience that the depth in the margins is around three feet, which is perfect for winter margin fishing, so I’ll put another swim here.
“Rigs are kept simple. All of them are made using 0.14 Middy Lo-Viz line to a 0.12mm hooklength and a size 18 93-13 hook. I have a 4x16 Carp Grey float for the deeper water and a 4x12 version of the same pattern for the margins. Over to the island, the 4x12 rigs are shotted with a strung bulk, while the 4x16 rig will be fished initially with a bulk and one dropper while I fish on the deck. Then I can spread the shotting if I feel I need to fish off the bottom.
“Each swim is initially fed with a small amount of micro pellets and then topped up via a tiny Toss Pot. I’m starting over to the island but after 25 biteless minutes, I think it’s safe to say that the fish don’t want to be in such shallow water. Although if this were a match I would be disappointed that this line hasn’t produced, I would still have the occasional look because the fish can soon move into shallower water, even in winter, if the sun comes out and heats the upper layers a degree or two.
“A switch to the deeper swim produces my first bite. It’s a small F1 and it’s nice to get off the mark. It soon becomes evident that there are a few fish in this swim because I’m getting regular bites and indications and I manage to add a few fish to my catch, both F1s and small carp.
"It soon becomes evident that there are a few fish in this swim because I'm getting regular bites and indications and I manage to add a few fish to my catch, both F1s and small carp"
“I keep introducing a few micros, as well as occasionally dropping a few on my other two swims, and as time passes I start to feel that the fish are moving off the bottom. The main giveaway is line bites but also bites just before the rig fully settles. What some people may now do is introduce more feed to try and force the fish down but my thinking is a little different. I’m obviously getting bites, I have fish in my swim, and they seem settled, so why change my feeding? Surely that part of my game plan is working? With this in mind, I spread my shot over the last third of my rig and shallow up four inches.
“This change has a dramatic effect on my catch rate and I’m soon into a fish every drop. I actually shallow up a further two inches so I’m catching six inches off the bottom. Although I’m catching really well on this swim, the fact that the fish ideally want to be feeding shallower than the depth of water I’m fishing in leads me to think that I need to try the margins. Even off the bottom, I’m fishing five feet deep, so it could be that the margins are too shallow but it’s certainly worth a try.
Light hollow elastic and a puller kit mean Pete lands almost everything he hooks!
“First drop-in on a 6mm pellet and the float dips before slipping from sight – fish on! I’m really pleased that this swim has produced because I felt they wanted to be slightly shallower.
“Next drop produces another fish and I actually shallow up so that I’m four inches off the bottom on this rig too. I prefer to fish a 4mm pellet off the bottom because it matches my feed a bit more closely and seems to produce a more positive bite.
“I continue to catch for the rest of the session and I have well over 50lb in just a few hours, most of which have been caught off the bottom.
“I’m sure if I’d fished the session with a standard pellet approach I would’ve caught. I do feel, though, that the fish certainly wanted to be off the bottom and this could have caused a huge amount of problems with missed bites and foul-hooked fish if I had fished on the bottom all day. By altering my depth and presenting a bait where the fish wanted to feed rather than trying to force them onto the bottom, I’ve really upped my catch rate and certainly put more fish in the net.
“Next time you’re out on the bank, assess your peg and be willing to change your depth, be that the area of your peg or your rigs. It’ll certainly catch you more fish this winter.”
A tiny change really can make all the difference to you catches in winter!
Venue File -
Venue: Orchard Farm Fishery
Location: Pearsons Green Road, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6NY
Day tickets: £8, concessions £6
Contact: 07860 608218
Angler File -
Name: Pete Upperton
Sponsors: Middy and SSP Baits
Pole: Middy XP65-2
Bag’em Matchbaits have joined forces with the prolific Larford Lakes.
The deal was verbally sealed just over a week ago and we feel it will be great opportunity for both parties involved.
Caroline Reed Bag 'Em Matchbaits manager signed contracts with Phil Briscoe on Thursday and finalised the deal. Bag 'Em's consultant Ian Giddins also played a big part with initial negotiations with Phil Briscoe at the lakes.
We look forward to working alongside Phil and all the staff at the lakes and also look forward to being fully involved in all festivals, finals and big events that Larford lakes hold.
After six years fishing for Matrix Dynamite Trentmen, Tom Scholey is moving on….
I have Rob Perkins to thank for getting me involved with the then Fox Match Dynamite Trentmen.
I was first invited to join the team in January 2011, after a few good guest performances on the RILMAC league on the Fossdyke – although again, Rob should really take the credit for this as he showed me how to fish the venue!
I still remember my first weekend fishing for the team – it was in the Sensas Challenge at Packington Somers and Barston in March 2011. I was honoured to wear the T-shirt that Rob gave me (even if it was a little too big for me!) My performance, as I remember it, was less than heroic, somewhere near the bottom of the section both days – but things could only get better!
The next chapter was the Division One National on the New Junction Canal. This was a real learning curve for me, as it was my first real experience of summer fishing on a deep canal. Words can’t describe how much I loved it!
For sure, the weights were low, but the fishing was very rewarding, and I learnt so much from anglers like Rob, Adrian Higginbottom and Steve Woollard about tackling this type of venue in the summer. From this point on, I knew that my decision to invest my time in team fishing was the right one, and the learning curve was only just beginning.
Two other memories stand out from that National. The first was just how amazingly, outstandingly awesome Daiwa Dorking are! It was, and still is probably the best team performance I have ever seen. They scored 551 points from a possible 590, if my memory serves me correctly.
Secondly, probably the best piece of team fishing related text banter I have ever seen, courtesy of the then Dorking ace, Dave Harpin. Bear in mind that Barnsley were out-and-out favourites to win, and their angler Lee Kerry had been doing very well in practice matches.
The text message read: “Fuel: £50; bait: £50; accommodation in Doncaster Travel Lodge: £110; the look on Lee Kerry’s face after the match today? Priceless!”
I think I finished 17th in my 59-peg section but, crucially, the team finished eighth and we qualified for the World Club Classic on Newark Dyke.
In fairness, I probably shouldn’t have been fishing this match on merit, as back then I was a very inexperienced river angler, but the team was short, so I was drafted in. Another steep learning curve ensued – the first day I was fishing for barbel on the flat float, and had a great view of the eventual event individual winner, Tim Nash who caught four barbel as I recall.
Sadly a few small fish were all I could muster. The second day, things got a bit better as I drew the bottom end of the match length and caught 2kg 900g of roach on bloodworm for decent team points. The key, though, was that all the time I was learning.
That winter gave me my first taste of the Soar Valley Winter League – and I must say I fell in love with the fishing. A more varied, interesting, fish-filled river you will struggle to find – and this is somewhere else that has played a key part in my development as a river angler. We finished second in the league and went to Makins Fishery for the Semi-Final.
Being brought up on commercials, I was at home here and was pleased to finish second in my nine-peg section after a nice day’s pellet fishing on a frozen Outer Avon, although sadly the team didn’t make the final.
The next year I was pleased to take part in the Commercial National for the first time. It was split over Heronbrook and Cudmore – so we decided to split the team, with half of us practising Heronbrook and half Cudmore. As Sod’s law would have it, I practised Heronbrook all week, and drew Cudmore!
Still, thanks to some good info from the lads, I managed to come fifth in my 22-peg section, which helped the team to second overall – a result we were very proud of.
Looking at the team picture from this match, I am reminded of another aspect of my time at Trentmen – the quality young anglers that myself, Rob Perkins and Lee Wright brought in.
I became involved with co-managing the team in early 2013 along with Rob Perkins, and then later with Lee Wright, before stepping down early last year and handing the reins over solely to Lee.
In that time, Cam Cross, Greg Cooper, Ricky Marshall, Chris Greensides, Tom Potter, Kayleigh Smith, Adam Dowd, Matt Parkin and Jordan Holloway have all passed through the ranks of the team, with some sticking around and others moving on. If nothing else, I like to think I have a good eye for talent as these anglers have all achieved great things after signing for Trentmen, and all still fish competitively at the highest level.
The Fondest Memory…
My favourite competition that I fished in with the team was definitely the Preston Innovations World Club Classic on the Great Ouse at Littleport. I’ve never seen anything like this competition before, and I’m not sure I will again. In the weeks leading up to the event, the match length was best described as patchy, and though we managed a few fish, there wasn’t a great deal to be caught, with big areas seemingly devoid of roach.
There were two official practice days right before the competition weekend, though, and it soon became apparent that things were changing. It seemed a lot of roach had moved into the length and were on the feed!
Sure enough, the contest turned into one of the most prolific and fair team events that I have ever fished. Drennan Barnsley Blacks dominated the event on day one, winning four out of five possible sections. I was, in fact, the only non-Barnsley angler to win my section – narrowly pipping Simon Willsmore with just over 7kg of roach.
The second day went well too, and although Callum Dicks did beat me for the section win by a very narrow margin, I was delighted to be the only non-Barnsley/Dorking angler towards the top of the leaderboard. The team finished in third place too, and so secured a brown envelope, which made all the hard work worthwhile.
I suppose the thing that made the event such a special memory for me was the emphasis I had been putting on improving my natural venue fishing, and to put in such a good result on a fair venue and match had the cheeks glowing a little. I even made it into Steve Collett’s Anglers Mail column!
Is It Worth It?
One conversation that I have had more than a few times is “Is team fishing worth it?” And my answer is yes – it is definitely worth it. Many minds are better than one, and the amount I have learnt off anglers like Rob Perkins, Adrian Higginbottom, Lee Wright, Steve Woollard, Pete Scott and Dean Cherrington over the years is massive.
It is also a lovely feeling to be pushing towards a greater good. Fishing team matches (or leagues, or festivals for that matter) is so much more enjoyable to me than open matches or big-money qualifiers. You know that every fish and every potential point counts, and there is a lot more to this kind of fishing than there is in simply fishing to win.
The skills that you pick up are invaluable. Although it is an individual competition rather than a team event, I am certain that I wouldn’t have won the Drennan Knockout Cup back in 2015 if it wasn’t for the stuff that I learned at Trentmen.
Also, if the team happens to be sponsored, this can be a very valuable attraction to some anglers. Matrix and Dynamite have sponsored Trentmen very generously in the time that I have been there, and continue to do so.
So Why Leave?
Given all the positives that I have just mentioned about team fishing, I guess you are thinking it is a strange decision for me to be leaving the team – but I think it is the right one.
Firstly, this is going to be a very big year for me, leaving my current role at Match Fishing, and setting up my own business – Catch More Media. Time will be at a premium, and I am not sure how much time I will have to invest in team fishing, so this is a consideration.
They say that money is the root of all evil, and this has played a part in my decision too. Unless you are one of the very few teams who receive a cash sponsorship, funding the team is a massive challenge.
Without a doubt, this was the single most contentious topic that I had to deal with as co-captain, and we lost several good anglers as a result of the decisions we made. But the simple fact is, as captain you can’t please everyone all of the time.
Alongside being a very good friend and a brilliant angler, the current captain Lee Wright is one of the kindest, most selfless people I know. Everything he does is with the best intentions of the team at heart, but as I said before, you can’t please everyone all the time. And on this occasion, I don’t agree with the route he is taking the team down with regards to subs.
And the final reason? I just feel it is time for a change. Match fishing is such a wonderfully diverse sport now that you simply cannot do it all, and fishing for a team does eat up a lot of your year. Also, because a team generally has a geographical base (Trentmen’s being the north Midlands) you tend to find yourself fishing the same venues year on year.
But will I ever return to team fishing? You bet, I find it so enjoyable I’m sure I will be back fishing for a team before long!
Feeding a swim correctly is a vital aspect of angling. Jordan Hall manages King’s Pools near Wolverhampton, where we caught up with him to gain his insight into when to use a pole pot or a catapult.
The seasons are changing now and it will become more and more difficult to tempt the fish we pursue. Feeding patterns and feed quantities must be reduced and it’s important to bear in mind just how we deliver feed to a swim. Should it be catapulted out, or deposited with a pole pot?
Making the correct decision can make or break a day’s fishing or cost you a match, so first of all, let’s examine some of the advantages of using a pole pot.
Pots and catties both have their place.
A great advantage of using a pole pot is that they allow you to feed all manner of bait, from micro pellets and single grains of corn to maggots or even pinkies. Some baits, like pinkies, you would struggle to catapult, especially on windy days, so a pot is certainly a winner in such circumstances.
Following on from that thinking, of course leads me to suggest that pole pots offer far greater accuracy when it comes to grouping bait in a tight spot. A pot allows you to feed right over the top of your float, whether you are dripping feed or simply dumping one large hit of bait to the fish.
When fishing awkward swims, particularly tight over towards the far bank, or fishing a very long pole out the range of a catapult where you need to be able to place your rig in small cutouts on the far side, a pot allows you to precisely deliver and place feed right over the top of where your float is.
Potting can be better when fishing close to the island.
In the colder months, especially when trying to concentrate fish in one or two spots, a pole pot will ensure that you don’t spread the bait out too much, keeping the feed, and the fish, much tighter.
Using a much larger pot will of course, allow you to introduce a large volume of bait all in one go to draw fish into your peg, whether that may be on along the far bank or down the edge.
Jordan's record is simply phenomenal.
On the face of it, it sounds like feeding with a pole pot is totally advantageous. However, using a ‘traditional’ catapult still offers its own benefits. For example, using a catapult creates a larger area of feed for fish to come graze over. If you have a lot of fish in the swim the spreading the feed ensures that once hooked a fish does not tend to spook other feeding fish, which can happen if you have them concentrated in a very tight area, when using a pot.
Baiting frequency can be increased when using a catapult. It allows you to keep an almost constant trickle of bait falling through the water to help draw and attract fish, often hopefully resulting in more bites and landed fish.
The noise factor of pinging bait over the top of the float will once again draw fish into a feed area. I’d suggest that all fish respond to noise so it’s always worth pinging some bait over the top if nothing seems to be happening. It’s amazing how many times you can go from catching nothing to gaining a bite every put-in just from the noise of bait hitting the water!
Of course, using a catapult can also save you a lot of time! Rather than shipping in and out to refill your pot, simply pinging some bait over with a catty will definitely save you time during a match and that’s something well worth thinking about when a lot of fish are to be caught.
Catapulting bait is also a great way to get fish to compete shallow for feed, and be able to keep a steady fall of bait through the water that will entice the fish to come shallow. This can be a deadly tactic in the summer months when the fish tend to want to feed higher up in the water column. Pinging is the number-one way to get the fish up and feeding strongly.
There's a time and a place for both methods of feeding
A Time And A Place
Here at King’s Pools I recently weighed in 192lb of F1s to win a match. They were caught shallow, by pinging maggots across to some lily pads. The fall of maggots all day through the water managed to draw the fish up and compete against each other for food. I think this approach was a lot better than if I had just decided to pot a few samples in.
Also, because the bait was spread over a fairly broad area, the fish kept coming since I wasn’t spooking them as much, allowing me to catch more and for longer. Definitely, something that wouldn’t have happened if I had fed via a pot!
By contrast, I can recall a match I won at Heronbrook. Now for those of you who know this venue it’s notorious for being very windy at times, so the option of using a catapult was out of the window because the bait was going all over the shop! So a simple approach of dripping in maggots and pellets from a pot, keeping things neat and tidy, proved best on the day and was enough to bag me 33 F1s for 78lb. The pot was essential that day because the wind was too strong for anything else. It allowed me to place my lose feed directly over me hook bait.
There is no one 'ultimate' way to feed. Both styles have their day.
As you can now understand, there is a time and a place for both methods of feeding, and picking the correct one, or even combining both is essential to winning, or having a productive pleasure session.
On The Day
Today’s session for the cameras got off to a slow start, to be honest. I opted to begin by potting down the middle and pinging to a tree on the far side. I’d suggest that this two-pronged approach to feeding is always a good tip if you don’t know what to expect. I like to start off keeping everything neat and tidy with a pot, then you can feel your way into the day. There’s nothing worse that blasting in loads of bait and destroying the peg, so I play a cautious game, especially in colder months.
After a while I swapped from potting to pinging just to see the response, but it proved no more productive. I think the bright sun, time of day and a chilly breeze weren’t helping my cause either! I kept experimenting with shotting and depth, and soon the fish started to respond best to a small hit of micro pellets tapped in on the far-bank line, feeding for just one fish at a time.
In the end, the best feeding approach proved to revolve around keeping things neat and the use of a pot was best. The pinging line produced some fish, but not enough and of no better quality.
A two-pronged feeding approach can pay off
In conclusion, I would have to say that there is no ultimate right or wrong way to feed. Both pinging and potting have their merits and can be as effective on their day, so keep an open mind and learn from your experiences and those of fellow anglers.
King’s Pools, Shareshill, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV10 7JP.
Name: Jordan Hall
Amer Jawad was asked by Pole Fishing magazine to fish a venue he knew nothing about, with the even tougher task being that he could only use a pole.
Sponsors: Rive, Champion Feed
Pole: Rive R16 Professional
The obvious and easiest choice would have been a venue where only a pole was really needed to reach the far-bank vegetation and be able to cover all my options. But to give my approach some really strong credibility, I chose a venue where mostly rod-and-line work is required for the match-winning weights.
Headfen Lakes Fishery, near Ely in the heart of the Fens, is a place I had never been to and knew very little about. It has three main waters: two snake lakes, which I wanted to avoid, and a bigger pool (Trev’s Lake) which is also deeper than your average commercial venue in that it averages seven feet deep, with margin depths of three to four feet. The lake’s main feature is an island and this sits some 25 to 30 metres away from each of the well-built platforms that circle the lake.
On arriving at this popular fishery my choice of lake was very busy, so much so that I actually thought there was a match on! My concern was that so much bankside noise and pressure around the lake may well push the fish further over to the island, making the pole lines that bit harder to work.
As we are heading into the cooler months now my first thought was about bait. Even though this was a warmer than average day for the time of year I felt a more cautious approach was a safe bet. Anglers often think very differently about bait choices and bait quantities, but I find it’s best to consider the time of the year I’m fishing (water temperature), the baits I have more confidence in using and the water depths.
Other things to consider when looking at bait selection are target species and fish sizes, and the expected overall target weight you are aiming for.
Baits always tend to go through trends; sometimes the fish respond to baits for a few weeks or even months, then decide that’s it and we struggle to make those baits work. Sometimes I have had it where a bait seems to be attracting little attention, then later on in the session it switches on.
Today I kept things very simple, with pellets in 2mm, 4mm and 6mm sizes. My aim was to feed these dry, straight out of the bag, in the deep water. Also, a kilo of dendrabaena worms and four pints of casters would catch everything that swims! I also had meat for the deep margins. Most would think maggots would have been a good choice as they seem to catch everything, even on the toughest of days. Today, with the water depths I was confronted with and a big small-fish population, I left these out in favour of heavier, more protein-rich baits. I also forfeited any use of groundbait; again I wanted to keep it simple and felt it didn’t have a place on my pole lines.
The bait choice was targeted at anything that swims!
I maximised the length of my Rive R16 Professional pole and took out the full 16 metres to cover all the options in my chosen swim. I have an aerator at 11 metres to my left some five metres out from the bank, where I felt I could catapult 6mm hard pellets and fish a rig through the water. At six metres I was at the foot of the nearside shelf, an area I felt I could throw meat or hard 6mm pellets.
At 13 metres slightly at an angle to my left I found a firmer bottom in seven feet of water. Here I felt confident a big-potting approach with worms and casters would work, as there was less chance of liners and fizzing when fed on the firm bottom.
Lastly in the deep margin to my left the bank was very uneven, so I could only see my float close to the margin at around eight metres. This was too far to be able to feed by hand, so I thought I would leave this line alone until the last two hours of the session when the fish were more likely to come close to the nearside in search of food.
So, three main lines of attack and one ‘throwaway’ line, at eight metres down my left margin. Why I didn’t pick a shorter margin line, which could be fed comfortably by hand? Well I’ve watched fish feeding in shallow water and one thing I’ve always noticed is how they have the ability to push feed around, especially when there is more than an odd fish. Most of the feed gets pushed into the edge or up the shelf, even if it’s been fed say a metre out from the bank! So I try to get my feed as close to the bank as I can, even if it means trimming the vegetation to do so, assuming you are allowed.
I also get far few liners and foul-hooked fish by getting as close to the bank, as long as it’s like today’s margin and is deep enough.
Now for the rig choices. For the 6m near-shelf line I would start on meat, and I used a 4x14 MW Plinker with a simple small bulk of No10 shot and two No10 droppers tied to Rive 0.16mm rig line and 0.14mm hooklength. Hook choice was a Kamasan B911 size 16.
On the 13m chopped worm and caster line I used a 4x16 MW Plinker float, again simple shotting of a bulk of 10s and two No10 dropper shot, tied to the same line, hooklengths and hook. The 11m pellet rig was again a 4x14 MW Plinker with a semi-strung bulk for a slower fall as I was loose feeding pellets on this line and wanted the rig fishing through the water. The rig I set up for the margin was a 4x14 MW Margin float; bigger than normal, but it’s a deep margin and I prefer a bigger float that doesn’t get pushed around when the fish do arrive. It’s much more positive.
Pole elastic choice for today was Rive 2.3mm hollow for my open-water rigs and 2.5mm hollow for the margin swim.
Amer used this pattern of float on three of his lines
The main aim of any fishing session is trying to gauge how and what the fish want on the day. I’ve started by playing it very simple in the hope I can get a response and from that I can gauge my next move. It’s like a game of snooker in that a player lines their next shot up; I think the same about my next fish or even where it will come from in the swim. Hence the different target areas of the swim today, and as it’s a new venue a gauge of what they prefer to eat.
Amer fed and fished a long margin line, which came to life when he found the right feeding pattern
I kicked off with a third of the big pot with meat fed at six metres; just because the pot holds 250ml of bait it doesn’t mean you have to fill it! I then fed the 13m line again with roughly a third of a 250ml pot of worms, casters and a sprinkle of 2mm micro pellets, and I was ready to start.
Looking round the lake nearly everyone was feeding pellets and fishing the bomb or Method feeder. I was quite happy with my starting approach, especially when the float flew under and a nice 6lb-plus carp was netted! I like to start short as I feel it always gives me a good gauge as to what’s happening on these types of wider, deeper venues. Then a missed bite, then nothing. I hand fed a few cubes of meat but bites were hard to come by, so maybe it was a line that might come good later on in the day.
A quick look on the pellet line at 13 metres and a few small skimmers but no sign of any quality fish. I kept pinging pellets here in the hope they would arrive and I could find at least a couple of good lines to rotate before I tried my margin swim late on. On went nearly a whole dendrabaena. A run of small perch and skimmers weren’t what was planned, so I fed a bit more bait as I was wondering if the first pot wasn’t quite enough bait to draw in bigger fish.
I once watched a shoal of small dace off a bridge on my local river, then fed a big handful of maggots and watched as not one maggot made it anywhere near the bottom! I often think of that day when I’m fishing and use that experience to gauge how much bait I should be feeding. I think of this as “when is the right bait the wrong bait?” I know this sounds like a contradiction, but it means it’s the right bait fed in the wrong quantity.
This saying came to be proved true as my next pot of feed was a bigger quantity of bait (two-thirds of a pot) and a carp of about 5lb was netted! I started to feel I was getting a picture in my head as to how I should be feeding and it was a case of when do I look at other lines and ways in which I can rotate to keep them coming for at least the two to three hours before I tried my margin line.
I had to wait 15 minutes or so before I had another bite and this was from a bream of around 3lb, so a welcome fish but still felt I could catch more carp. I potted in more casters than worms, with a few micro pellets this time and left it for five minutes as I looked on my short line. Nothing came there, so back out to the worm and caster line and straightaway I hooked another quality carp of similar size to the others. I was now hoping I could catch two fish off a feed. Another bite and fish on – now I was happy with my plan and kept thinking about the right bait but fed wrong!
A big piece of worm was best and what was pleasing was the feeding pattern also kept the fish deep and didn’t cause me to foul hook any or get plagued by small fish and liners. The pellet line was just non-existent, but I was pleased I tried this line as it meant I could discount things in my head and concentrate on what was working instead of flogging a dead line. Similarly with the meat line, but here I felt maybe late on I could catch from this line, especially if the margin swim didn’t come to life.
My approach to catching everything that swims, with my main bait choice being worms and casters today, proved right, as my next two fish were a 4lb chub followed by a 4lb bream! The swim just got stronger as the session progressed, with more carp coming to the net. Listening to anglers nearby it was interesting as they could be heard saying they hadn’t seen so many fish caught out of the deep water, as they watched on!
Sometimes having an open mind as opposed to following the herd can bring greater rewards. If there’s one thing I have learnt in fishing is that it’s best to use foresight than hindsight.
First Fish of the day - seems like Amer's got it sussed!
The session had gone so well I was forced to try my margin swim a bit earlier than planned. I potted in a full pot of cubed 6mm meat close to the bank at eight metres. My first thought was the aerator about five metres away, directly in line with my margin swim. A big fish could easily take me into it and snag me. With this in mind, I positioned a second pole roller directly behind me so I could ship my pole back very fast if a fish was hooked. At least this would give me a fighting chance!
I went back out for a few minutes before I saw a swirl in the edge where I had fed the pot of meat. I didn’t waste any time as I lowered the margin rig in and missed the bite straightaway as a fish bow waved out the swim!
Another pot of meat and I felt I had to let the fish settle into a feeding pattern before I tried for another. After one last carp long I felt it was time to really give the margin swim a good go. I lowered the rig in and another missed bite, which looked like a liner. The fish again swam out with a big bow wave in its wake! The big pot didn’t feel right, but I felt the bait was right; the quantity was right, the way I was feeding it wasn’t! Again the right bait but fed wrong.
This was the initial feed on the 6m line. [INSET] A few pellets were also fed on the longer lines
With this in mind and my first thought of a preferred feeding pattern was feeding by hand. The next best thing was a Kinder pot, drip feeding 15 to 20 cubes of meat and lowering the rig in… and bingo! It was a fish every time, I netted my best fish of around 10 to 11lb and made this the last fish of the session as I had amassed a net of 25 carp, none of them much below 5lb, a 4lb chub and two big bream around 3 to 4lb.
With my fish weighing around 120lb, on arriving home I felt the need to look back on the venue’s recent match results: 40lb made the main frame the week before and 60lb was a very good average weight. Oh, and most fish were caught on the bomb and pellet! Maybe now the pole will come into play?
Amer's pole-only approach caught everything - including this bonus chub!
Venue: Headfen Lakes Fishery
Carlisle Farm, Main Drove, Little Downham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2ER
Tel: 07971 574375
Rob Wootton takes the PF cameras to an idyllic stretch of the River Wye, in Herefordshire, for a running-water adventure.
My brief was to catch quality fish from an idyllic-looking stretch of river, so my first job was to find a venue that fitted the bill! Plenty of rivers up and down the country offer good fishing for big fish, but local knowledge is hugely important to find a peg or area that holds a lot of them.
Rivers aren’t like commercial fisheries where the fish generally move around quite freely in an often featureless lake, they are a totally different ball game – trees, gravel runs, extra flow, moored boats, deep holes and undercut banks all hold fish at some point during the season and make things even more confusing.
Docklow Pools' stretch is simply a feast for the eyes
Rivers are often an ever-changing environment with floods and strong winds adding extra hiding places in the form of fallen trees or scoured out riverbeds. My initial thought was to take Pole Fishing to my local River Soar; there are plenty of big fish there, but to be honest I fancied a change and in my opinion half the enjoyment from fishing comes from sampling new challenges.
A quick phone call to Jonathan Bozward at Docklow Pools revealed that the stretch of the Wye that Docklow owns was fishing well. It’s a long way from my Leicestershire home but Jonathan assured me that the trip would be worth it; he hasn’t let me down yet, so the van was loaded and I set off for Hereford.
On arriving at the river’s edge I can’t believe how nice the place looks – slow and deep stretches intersperse with fast-flowing shallow areas, which the many canoeists using the river seem to love, and if I wasn’t excited enough before I certainly am once I’ve got the trolley loaded and am making my way to the peg that Jonathan has suggested.
The ultimate baitdropper combo for bigger fish.
It looks perfect for the pole; slower and deeper water means that I’ll be able to get some sort of decent presentation in the confines of my swim, which is obviously important when I’m using a pole with a limited reach rather than a rod and line. Plumbing up I find about five feet of water at seven metres and I reckon that this could be the ideal area to target those bonus river fish – far enough out to be away from any bankside disturbance and also just into the main flow of the river. By fishing at this shorter range, I also hope that I’ll be able to control my feeding and rig presentation a lot easier.
oily hempseed - the 'magic' attractor?
I plan to attack the swim with a static bait approach – by feeding predominantly with a baitdropper and using a flat float to present the hook bait I should be able to keep the fish grazing on or near the riverbed, where they’ll be easier to catch. The rig itself is a 10g Cralusso Shark float made up on 0.20mm Shimano Exage main line – the shotting is simply a 10g olivette with the droppers being No8 Stotz. I use these smaller Stotz as they are kinder to the line than larger weights and I’ll simply push two or three together to create a larger dropper. The hooklength is a 1m length of the same 0.20mm Exage tied knotless-knot style to a mega-strong size 12 Guru MWG hook.
To attach the hooklength to the mailine I like to use a small swivel; this helps to stop the bait spinning in the flow, which must look unnatural.
As I’ve mentioned, feeding for the day will mainly be carried out with a baitdropper and to go through that I’ve brought with me a classic big-fish bait menu – hemp, casters and worms, and plenty of each, will be my feed with a few halibut pellets as backup. You just can’t ignore pellets on rivers as they have become the staple diet of many species due to the amount that get thrown in by specimen anglers.
My target species for today are chub, perch and I’m hoping that a barbel may put in an appearance at some point. All three of these species are greedy and require plenty of feed to hold them in the swim so I kick off the session with four large droppers of bait, two crammed with a caster and hemp mix, and because perch tend to be very quick on to the feed I’m feeding two droppers full of chopped lobworms.
River perch - exquisite
My experience of perch is that they generally feed very early in a session as they gorge themselves and become full very quickly, so I fully expect to catch most of my stripeys pretty early. Half a lobworm is my opening hook bait and by using a spray bar and setting the rig a foot or so over depth I can make sure that the hook bait stays still on the bottom.
It doesn’t stay still for long, though, as a perch takes a liking to the hook bait. Bites from perch are unmissable, as a fast dink is followed by the float slowly sliding away before I lift and my ‘pingy’ purple Hydro sets the hook.
After every couple of fish I feed more bait via the dropper and after an hour I get my first sign of a decent fish in the peg – a strange bite and I lift into a good fish for just a few seconds before I pull out. The large scale on the hook proves the fish was foul-hooked and the scale looks very chub-like. That foul-hooked fish seems to unsettle the swim and I struggle for the next half hour, so I pick up the catapult and start firing large amounts of hemp into the swim just to make something happen.
It works, and after 10 minutes of feeding heavily chub number one hits the net, only a small one but a welcome change from the perch I had been catching. That small chub signals the start of a run of them, no huge fish but quite a few of around 12oz to a pound, then the session is improved by a cracking three-pounder that puts up a great scrap in the flow.
The action quickly comes to a halt during the afternoon – while I have been fishing the river level has risen by around two feet (quite a common occurrence on this type of spate river); this rise in water level and increase in pace has not only put the fish off but it has also made pole fishing at even short range very difficult, so after a great selection of quality fish we decide to call it a day.
One comes to the net for Rob!
It’s a shame that I’ve not latched into any of the Wye’s really big fish or the barbel that this river is famous for, but I can’t grumble at the fish I’ve caught in such idyllic surroundings.
Bob Nudd uncovers the method that got him selected for his first World Championship back in 1984, and still works well in UK pole fishing these days!
The pole-to-hand method involves using a pole with a rig the same length as the pole. For example, if you have a pole 10 metres long, your rig will be as near as damn it 10 metres long too. This means that you don’t have to ship the pole in and out, and it is simply used as a lever to swing the rig into position and swing fish out, straight into your hand – hence the name of the method!
Where It Started…
Fishing the pole to hand is a method that can be truly devastating when used in the right situation. In Ireland, where I spend many months of the year, it is used a lot to catch big bags of roach. It is there that I got the art of fishing pole to hand down to a tee; during the 1970s and early 1980s I was able to win many Irish festivals, the most significant of which was in 1980 when I beat my idol Kevin Ashurst in the three-day Bass festival at Fermanagh.
It was on the back of my success fishing this tactic that Dick Clegg noticed I had a skill that he was after and consequently picked me for the 1984 England squad for the World Championship that was to be held in Switzerland. There, fishing for dace to hand was apparently going to come into play; in the end the tactic wasn’t used but the team gained a silver medal and from that point I remained in the England squad for the next 20 years!
Instead of using elastic, a material known as Powergum is used through the tip section. This has just a few inches of stretch, which is enough to ensure fish are not bumped on the strike, but powerful enough to help swing the majority of fish in. If you were to use elastic, it would stretch far too much and you wouldn’t be able to swing fish to hand.
This method can be used on virtually any venue. It is best when there are plenty of fish to target, as it has a lot of efficiency benefits. You don’t spend time shipping in and out, or breaking down pole sections. It is also favourable on deep venues when there are a lot of fish about, as it can be awkward taking off just one or two sections of pole to swing in or land fish.
The long line allows you to run the rig through the peg, meaning it is ideally suited to rivers or big lakes with a tow too.
Ireland is also home to some of the best roach venues in the world, and is where I served my pole-to-hand apprenticeship. In more recent years the water clarity in Ireland has become much clearer, meaning to catch bream anglers are having to fish much further out. This plays into my hands, as the pole to hand is a fantastic way of catching roach and you can still amass a big weight of these fish by fishing close in. In 1978 I caught 166lb 9oz of roach on pole-to-hand tactics, which at the time was just 2oz off breaking the world record!
Luckily, I don’t need to travel too far to remind myself of such fantastic roach venues. Living in March, in Cambridgeshire, means I am within a comfortable drive of the absolutely fantastic River Yare, which is where I have brought the Pole Fishing team today to show them some of my pole-to-hand expertise.
All of my pole-to-hand rigs follow the same basic principles. At the terminal end, my shotting pattern is an olivette and three dropper shot. There’s no scope for complex shotting as this can cause unwanted tangles. The use of an olivette is vital, as this solid weight is easy to swing out and get the rig into position.
The weight of float that I choose to use depends on the conditions, depth and tow or flow. Today I am using a 2.5g float. This is heavy enough to swing out into position, and allows me to comfortably run the rig through the swim, even when I’m holding back on the float to entice a fish to take the bait as it slows down.
I always have my rig set approximately 18 inches shorter than the length of pole I am going to fish; this accounts for the bit of stretch that my Powergum will allow for and the flex in the pole, meaning I am able to swing the fish in at around chest height. The idea here is to have this as comfortable as possible.
The Finesse Element…
Rather than a standard loop-to-loop connection I prefer to attach my hooklengths using what I call a twisted figure-of-eight knot. This creates a single knot rather than the three that a standard loop-to-loop comprises, meaning fewer weak spots in the rig, and gives a much smoother fall of the hook bait into the swim. My rig is completed with a hooklength made up using Browning Cenex line in 0.135mm diameter tied to a size 16 Kamasan B512 hook. This is a red, wide gape pattern perfect for hooking double maggot, caster or a head of a worm.
Using Powergum is an important part of pole-to-hand tactics. Using a standard elastic would allow the fish to swim around the swim and in the majority of cases mean you have to net the fish rather than swinging them straight to hand. This adds extra time when landing each fish. Powergum also allows me to lift the fish straight out of the swim when I hook them, giving pike little chance to get hold of them. This is something that can often be a problem, especially in Ireland!
The name is or real... Not a joke honestly!
My first feeding option is to ball in around a dozen balls of groundbait and fish over the top of the bed of bait I put down. This tends to work well on stillwaters when you can get large numbers of fish grazing over a bed of bait.
The second option is the one that I have gone for today. This involves feeding single-handed balls of groundbait packed with casters very regularly – often every drop in. I find this method of feeding seems to draw in the better fish, allowing me to feel my way into the session and build the swim throughout the day. What you will tend to find by doing it this way is that the fish you are catching will gradually increase in size as the bigger, wiser fish gain more confidence. It’s also a favourable technique in flowing water like we’re fishing today, as it ensures that bait isn’t washed away, and there’s always some fresh feed settling on the bottom.
Ordinarily I will always set two side trays up on my box, one to my left as normal, and one to my right. This allows me to have everything I need close by and means I have my groundbait close to my right hand so that I can create one-handed balls that I will feed every drop in. I say ordinarily, but today I managed to break my second tray while trying to salvage my mobile phone that I dropped into the river!
The Right Mix
Fantastic fish and a thoroughly enjoyable way to catch them!
For most pole-to-hand situations, I favour a relatively heavy, sticky mix. This is needed to ensure your bait is getting to the bottom and particles are not being dragged out of the swim due to the tow. The last thing you want is to be giving the guy downstream all of your fish! Van Den Eynde Supercrack is a mix I use a lot for this sort of fishing and has all the qualities needed to attract roach and hybrids into the swim.
In shallower water, or if I want to create a little more cloud to pull in fish, I’ll simply feed the balls a little softer and not squeeze them as hard before I introduce them.
By swinging the rig out slightly upstream it straightens out by time I have reached the area of the swim I have been throwing my feed, and is running on the line of my pole tip. My aim is to have the rig running through the swim in a straight line, right over the feed area. This ensures I am not missing out on any fish that are sat right on top of the fed area and also means I can have a tight line to my float when the rig is where I expect to get bites.
The flow determines how I am able to present my rig. Today I am able to let the rig run through with the tow and I am finding I am getting bites consistently around two metres downstream from where I am throwing in my balls of groundbait. Other days may see me needing a heavier rig to allow myself to hold the rig back and inch the rig through the swim.
The day has developed into a brilliant session, catching what must be close to 20lb of pristine River Yare roach. I have had a fish almost every run through on the pole, including roach exceeding the 1lb mark! Double maggot has been the best bait on the day with a switch to the head of a worm seeming to pick out the odd better fish later when things really hotted up. I’ve certainly enjoyed it, and with some basic tackle and these tactics, you can enjoy catching nets of fish like this on my favourite method.
Getting on for 20lb of pristine River Yare roach!
Sponsors: Browning, Van Den Eynde
Pole Fishing says: Our angling hero
Langley Pump stretch
More information: www.riveryare.co.uk
Contact: 07990 572729