With anglers paying for groundbait, leam and joker for matches on the Stainforth & Keadby, James Dent has been taking the venue apart with three much cheaper attacks.
For someone who doesn’t know the venue, to walk the bank while a match is going on here on the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, you would think that to compete you need to catch a roach every throw in for five hours.
For the anglers who choose to fish in this way there is generally one outcome – the fastest and most efficient wins – which is why anglers like Matt Godfrey, Lee Kerry and Sean Ashby are so hard to beat.
Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own at this type of fishing but there is another way of fishing venues that are full of fish, like Thorne, that can often beat the numbers merchants, and that is targeting quality fish. Over the last couple of years, baits like casters, hemp and breadpunch have won far more matches than other baits and the great thing about them is that they are all really cheap. So, not only do you have more chance of winning on these natural baits but they don’t break the bank either.
The first thing to get across about this more selective fishing at Thorne is that it pays to be positive. You are fishing for 12lb to 20lb for the chance of a prize, so even if you catch good-stamp fish you will need at least 60 to guarantee a pick-up. This is no place for negative feeding and light rigs that take ages to settle. You have to feed and fish confidently to catch the kind of weight that you need.
Three different floats giving three modes of presentation.
You also need to catch all day, which is why I like to feed a variety of baits, some of which work well early and some of which are better as the day goes on.
The most instant bait in my attack, which I will look to catch on for the first hour, is breadpunch. I feed this on a short line at six metres, introducing a single ball that just fits inside a 250ml pot, before I feed any of my other lines. The ball is heavily laced with gravel and hemp, so sinks straight to the bottom and breaks up there. The upshot of this is that I can fish a nice positive 0.6g rig over the top of my bait, bulked down with positive droppers, meaning bite registration is fast and clear.
James always kick-starts his hemp line with a big pot like this.
Big, heavy balls of bread are the order of the day
Loose feeding sporadically helps to draw more fish in.
After feeding this I pot in casters on two lines, one at 14.5 metres out in front of me and another down the edge towards a boat that is moored up to my left. Rigs for this are similarly positive. No strung-out kinky rigs for me; my standard shotting pattern is a bulk around 20 inches from the hook, with three No10 droppers between my bulk and the top of my 20in hooklength.
I am a big fan of pole sticks for caster fishing. The pattern that I am using today is handmade by Mick Bassett. It says 4x12 on the side but it takes more like 0.4g (4x14 weight) of lead.
The great thing about pole sticks is that they are either there or they aren’t. Their domed top means that you tend to see a very positive indication and can also hold your bait very still against surface skim or tow. Hookwise, it’s a Kamasan B511 in a size 18.
James wins at Thorne by sorting out quality fish like this!
Finally, my hemp line. This is fished at 14.5 metres at an angle away from me. I expect that this will be the last swim that I catch on because it often takes a while to nurture the fish into feeding on hemp. When they do, you can often really clatter them.
Floatwise, I opt for a MAP WD3, or should I say, two of them. One of them has a standard wire stem as is supplied, and the other I doctor to feature a carbon stem. Each stem serves a different purpose. When the fishing is good, and I want to get the bait down quickly, I use the wire stem. This is also my choice if there is any amount of skim or tow on the water.
By contrast, when the fishing is more difficult and I think I might catch on the drop, I use a carbon stem. With this, I am able to hold on to the float and give my bait a slower fall through the final couple of feet of water, while still being able to read the indications on my float if any fish should intercept my bait on its way down.
Many anglers believe that loose feeding via catapult is the best way to feed baits like hemp and casters. After all, roach respond well to the sound of bait hitting the water and will happily rise up and feed shallow on some days.
For sure, regular loose feeding with casters could probably cause them to do the same thing here on the Stainy. However, because I’m trying to be selective and sort out the bigger specimens, while at the same time catching relatively quickly on any one of a number of lines, to loose feed casters isn’t the most efficient way of feeding.
I find it much better to simply pot in a quantity of casters, then fish over the top of them until bites dry up. Depending on whether I think that all the bait has been eaten or the fish have just backed off, I will then either move swims or top up with a similar amount of bait before returning to the line later. Because I have two caster lines I am able to rotate between them in this fashion.
When it comes to hemp fishing, my theory is similar in that I aim to feed with as little regularity as possible to keep the fish close to the bottom. This means introducing a full pot of bait at the start, then loose feeding only when I feel I need to to get a response. This might be every time I ship out, or every four or five fish, depending on how they are responding.
Importantly, I always like to feed a good pinch of hemp when I do loose feed, so even if some fish do move up in the water to intercept it, the bulk will get down to the bottom and keep most of them down there with it.
Working The Lines
This session couldn’t really have gone any better. After starting on breadpunch, I enjoy a run of dumpy roach fishing a 4mm piece of bread slightly off bottom. With 40 minutes of the session gone, I am still catching well on bread but with the possibility of some better fish on my caster swim when I decide to have a look on this line.
I go on my long caster swim first and five 4oz roach in as many put-ins are my reward. This line goes quiet after this flurry and because it is apparent that the fish are swimming around and feeding quite well, I think it best to top up the swim before having a look on the margin line.
All the while I am firing a pouchful of seed over my hemp line every 15 minutes or so to try and build the fishes’ confidence for an extraction later in the day!
I am pleased to find that there are a few fish feeding on casters on my margin swim, including a welcome perch of nearly 1lb. As with my edge swim, I am able to take a few fish from here before bites dry up and I go back out onto the long line again.
By rotating between these two caster swims I’m able to keep dropping chunky roach in the net. With my bread line still primed as a back-up swim and the promise of better fish later on the hemp, I feel I have my options covered.
Sure enough, halfway through the session I drop in on the hemp line and catch four hemp roach in quick succession. These are all 4oz to 6oz and considerably bigger than the caster fish. However, they never really seem to settle. On some days when the hemp really works, you can go on this line and catch a fish every single put-in. On other occasions, though, like today, you have to catch a few fish on it and then be prepared to rest the line and wait for them to regroup.
I end the session with well over 12lb; probably about 80 quality fish making up that weight. As long as you cover your options, feed a number of swims and be prepared to rest and rotate your lines, targeting quality roach can be just as reliable as a small-fish attack. It gives you more chance of winning the match and it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a boatload of bloodworm, joker and groundbait!
0.6g Rive 259
Bulk 14 inches from the hook, and two No10 droppers
Size 20 Kamasan B511
0.3g MAP WD3
Bulk 24 inches fromt the hook, and three No10 droppers
Size 20 Kamasan B511
Mick Bassett Pole Stick
Bulk 24 inches from the hook, and three No10 droppers
Size 20 Kamasan B511
Angler File -
Name: James Dent
Sponsors: MAP, Sensas
Pole: MAP TKS 901
Venue File -
Venue: Stainforth & Keadby Canal
Day tickets: £3
Controlling club: Thorne DAA