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!
Fantastic fish and a thoroughly enjoyable way to catch them.
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.
There’s no room for complex shotting patterns.
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!
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
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.
Throw balls of groundbait by hand.
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.
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