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