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If it’s not working, change it!

Darren Cox discovers that subtle rig changes and a positive feeding approach is the solution to catching quality silver fish on man-made venues.

The tactics required when it comes to fishing deep-water, man-made venues such as concrete-bowl-type irrigation lakes and reservoirs, differ greatly from those for tackling commercial fisheries.

Most of these waters in the UK hold very few carp, mainly specimens, so the target species are likely to be roach, perch, bream, skimmers and tench. They are the type of venue where many visiting anglers will make a grab for their feeder rods, as they believe that the best chance of a net of fish is out in the open water. That can often be true, but the depth of water on these lakes can be as deep as 15 feet or more at a long-pole’s length – a depth that most fish will feel confident to feed in, so it’s possible to catch a net of fish on the pole, where you will be able to feed and fish more accurately that with rod and line.

Garbolino’s Darren Cox has just such a venue close to his Stratford-upon-Avon home, namely Snitterfield Reservoir, which is controlled by Leamington Spa AA, and we joined him on the hottest day of the year, so far, to find out about the rigs and feed he uses to target the venue’s quality roach, bream and crucian carp.

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“Mad dogs and anglers…” Darren worked hard in the heat to encourage Snitterfield’s silvers to drop down on to his feed.

 

“It’s a real scorcher, and it’s only mid-morning, so it’s not the best of conditions to catch, especially as I’m looking to target the roach close in, up the slope later in the session,” said Darren, as he set his seatbox down on Peg 11. “There’s not a cloud in the sky to offer any shade, but at least there is a stiff breeze coming from my right to add ripple to the water. That’s going to help a little.”

Darren then pointed out his reason for his swim selection: “With the conditions as they are, I’ve got a small patch of lilies to my right, at about 13 metres, and I’m hoping that it will offer some shelter to the bream.”

He then set about sorting out the three rigs he planned to fish with, starting with the long-pole line, close to the lilies.

“From memory, the water should be around 12 feet deep, but you need to be mindful that the levels on irrigation lakes like this will vary,” he explained. “One day the water can be up the top, and the next three feet down if the farmer has drawn water off for his crops.

“I’m looking to get my bait down to the bottom quickly, so my rig consists of a 1g DC18 float, set on 0.12mm main line, with a 0.8g olivette bulk at around three feet from the hook. I have three No11 droppers between the olivette and the top of the hook link, plus two more No11 trimmers below the bulk. My hooklength is six inches of 0.10mm, with a size 18 Kamasan B911 F1 hook. The rig is attached to 1.5mm hollow elastic.

“I’m going to set up two rigs for a short line, as I plan to fish a little way up the concrete slope. I want to try and pull the roach and, hopefully, crucians in to feed closer,” he added. “The water is quite clear, so I will be looking for a sensible starting depth, where the fish feel happy to feed. Once I find them, I’m hoping that I can bring them in even closer and get them to feed up in the water.”

The first of these rigs was for targeting fish on the deck, and it consisted of a 0.35g DC12H float on 0.12mm mono, shotted with a string of No11s, while at the business end he had a size 18 B911 F1 on six inches of 0.09mm line. To fish up in the water, Darren’s next rig used a 0.1g version of the same float, which he shotted with four No12s, tied on the same diameter line as the heavier setup, and the same hook. Both rigs were on solid No5 elastic.

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A light 0.1g DC12H for casters shallow in mid-water on the short line. 

 

When plumbing up, Darren first located the bottom of the concrete slope – as a reference for his short line – and then two lines were found at 13 metres – either side of the near edge of the lilies, which were exactly the same depth.

“It looks like once you get to the bottom of the slope, the depth remains pretty constant,” he pointed out.

Hook baits for the session were worms, expander pellets and corn for the bream and skimmers, and casters for the roach and crucians. Darren also mentioned that a small expander was also good for a few crucian bites… should they turn up.

“In these conditions, I have a feeling that it might take a while to get the fish feeding confidently on the loose feed on the short line, and possibly the bream too,” he surmised. “I’m going to start by feeding two balls of groundbait and micros, laced with corn, on my right-hand 13m line, and scattering casters on the short line, where the feeding doesn’t have to be too tight.

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A heavy feed of sweet fishmeal and softened micros, loaded with corn for the 13m bream line.

 

“I don’t want to fish either lines until they have had time to settle, so my left-hand 13m line is going to be my ‘catch all’ line, which I will lightly feed with chopped worms and casters with a little groundbait, and fish from the off to see what turns up.”

He then added that due to the strong left to right breeze, he planned to feed and fish his one short line to the right, as it was easier to control the rig with the surface pull on the water, as it allowed him to stay in direct contact, by holding the rig back, and so hit the bites better. Fishing this line also ensured that he fished his rig away from his pole tip, which eliminated any shadow from spooking the fish, as they fed up in the water. If he had looked to fish a short line to his left, the rig would drift under the pole tip and its shadow.

The session started with Darren feeding two balls of his bream feed on the right-hand long line and a small helping of his chopped worms and casters mix to the left. He then shipped out a small worm head over the choppy, and once it was fishing, he started to loose feed casters to his right.

Fishing five inches overdepth, Darren hooked a few roach early doors. However, he suffered a few lost fish, which he believed was due to his rig being a little too sensitive, so that when he struck he wasn’t getting a good hook-hold. To counter this, he removed a No11, so that the float’s bristle sat higher out of the water.

“The fish should now ‘hang themselves’ before I strike,” he laughed.

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On caster, shallow – awesome! 

 

A few more roach and the odd perch were netted before Darren switched to the corn line. By this time the crosswind had become stronger, which added a lot of surface drag on the water. This made it difficult for him to control the rig against the pull, so he added two No8 shot above the float, which sank the line between the float and tip, which in turn countered the tow and added stability to the rig.

Now able to hold the rig steady, the bites started to improve, and after a few good roach Darren connected with a better fish, which again threw the hook while he played it. This prompted two changes to the rig. First he switched to a size 16 hook, as he realised that the smaller hook wasn’t setting right with such a big hook bait. He also reset the depth so that it fished just an inch over. This would help to register the bites more quickly, and any lift bites more clearly, before a fish had the chance to drop the bait.

Frustratingly, another 30 minutes on the corn failed to produce a bigger fish, just a few roach and a small skimmers, so Darren switched to his caster line to see if the roach had moved in on the shells. They hadn’t, but small perch had, and for the next hour – be it on the deck, or on his shallow setup, he plundered what could only be referred to as a ‘nest of wasps’!

A few roach did muscle in, so to try and pull more into the swim and put the perch off, he decided to cut down on the casters and add some hemp to the mix.

It was a good move, as the ratio of roach to perch improved, but, and Darren put it down to the conditions – it was now stupidly hot – the silvers were not settling on the feed, so he wasn’t able to put a string of fish in the net, either by concentrating on the deck or fishing shallow. There was, however, a short window when a small cluster of cloud masked out the sun, and that seemed to encourage the fish to feed. It was then that he latched on to three crucians on his shallow setup.

Once the cover disappeared, Darren decided to look again on the 13m line, this time with an expander on the hook. The result was a few better roach, and convinced that there were fish close to the lilies he poured in a big pot of corn to see if a positive move would get the fish interested.

He left the line for 10 minutes, while he tried to catch short again, but when it became clear that that line had all but died he switched back to the corn, where he picked up a 10oz roach on the first put in. More better-stamp roach followed, plus a small skimmer and then a bream. Bites slowed again after a run of good fish, so Darren topped up with another pot of corn, and after a short lull in the action he netted a tench and a big hybrid, plus more quality roach. One last feed produced a flurry of nice roach to finish off the session.

“I’ve managed to get a nice net of fish in the end, but I had to make a few changes to my rigs and my feed today,” explained Darren. “The groundbait option didn’t seem to attract the fish on my 13m line, but a big helping of corn definitely did the job.

“The wind was a bit of a problem, as it affected my light, shallow rig, and I was missing too many bites, as the presentation wasn’t right,” he continued. “It was better when I fished on the bottom, but I had to keep looking either on five or six sections, so I could try different depths, and that meant adjusting my rig all the time.

“The conditions were really hard, but as I expected there were fish under the lilies,” he added. “It was all about the feed once I had a stable rig on the long line.”

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A cracking catch, considering the weather; by continually ringing the changes Darren kept fish coming to the net.

 

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