Is fishing too complex? Are we to blame for making it overcomplicated? Do we spend too much time worrying about 0.02mm difference in main-line diameter or a 0.1g variation in a float’s shotting capacity? Is it still possible to strip back to the basics and still catch fish? We decided to challenge Matrix angler Craig Butterfield to do just that.
We joined Craig at Moorfields Farm Fisheries near Goole, with the brief of catching a net of fish on the most simple of pole methods, the short pole to hand. It was a challenge he was more than keen to rise to, but would it be the tactics or Craig who would be left looking simple?!
Keeping It Simple
I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to today’s session; it’s not often I go pleasure fishing and it’s great not carting a mountain of gear to my peg or having the pressure of needing to deliver a match result!
To keep in the simple spirit I’ve tried to base my attack around tackle and bait that most pleasure anglers would have available to them. I’ve brought with me the new 4.5m Matrix Torque Carp Margin pole, and rather than use it to crunch huge carp out of the margins I’m going to fish it to hand, much like you would a whip.
The great thing about the pole, though, is that I still have the security of the elastic if I do hook a bigger fish. I’m also setting up just one rig. As I’ve never fished the venue I’ve asked the owner and he has assured me that there is an abundance of fish to be caught shallow on maggots and that I don’t have to fish particularly fine for them – music to my ears.
Craig prefers this style of line-to-elastic connector.
My main line is 0.165mm diameter Matrix Power Micron to a 0.145mm diameter hooklength of the same material. I’ve set up a 0.3g float that is just heavy enough for me to flick out to the area I’m feeding at around six metres from the bank. As I’ve been told to expect a lot of bites I’ve opted for a quite robust size 18 Carp Bagger Hook. This strong hook in conjunction with the hooklength should enable me to swing most fish I hook.
Carp Baggers are great hooks that stay sharp!
One thing I must mention is the hooklength I use. When fishing shallow for smaller fish I usually find that competition for the bait is fierce and this in turn forces the fish to come really high in the water in the battle to get to the loose feed first. To allow me to fish as shallow as possible I use an incredibly short 3in hooklength. I can then push my float right down to this, meaning I’m fishing just six inches deep.
I’m using a light size 8 hollow elastic, which gives the perfect amount of cushion to prevent bumping the small fish and also, as I mentioned previously, allows you to swing the fish into hand.
Craig’s line of choice.
You Can’t Beat A Maggot!
Although I’m sure the fish in here see a lot of pellets I still don’t think you can beat maggots when it comes to building up weights of smaller fish on commercial fisheries. In the spirit of keeping things simple I have brought just maggots along with me to the venue. My side tray is home to four pints of fresh reds, all of which I expect to feed during today’s session.
I’m quite confident that I’ll catch shallow but I will always plumb the depth just so I have an image in my mind of how far off the bottom I am if I’m forced to fish deeper.
My starting depth is 18 inches and from here I’ll move my float about until I find the fish. When it comes to feeding I don’t really put any bait in to start the session as feeding a big amount at the start will just encourage the fish to look on the bottom for food, and I want them looking up! I simply start the session by flicking my rig out and follow it with 10 to 15 maggots. I’ll feed this amount to start with and then alter it throughout the session, depending on how the fish are responding.
It takes just 30 seconds for my first bite and a small roach is soon flying towards my waiting hand. Baiting up once again with double maggot my float plops into the water and I barely have time to feed before I get another bite, which I miss.
Several more bites and small roach follow before I hook something that actually pulls back a little; it’s not a huge fish but a very pretty brown goldfish… which really should just be a brown fish! It’s soon slipped into the waiting landing net and carefully unhooked.
Raining in the maggots soon gets the fish competing!
Shallow Up For Success
A couple more slightly smaller specimens follow and I start to notice fish swirling for my loose-fed maggots, a sure sign that the fish are feeding high up near the surface. I’ve actually been missing a few bites and with this in mind I shallow up to around 10 inches.
The response is instant and I’m getting bites as soon as my float hits the surface. I don’t hit every one but my bite-to-fish ratio has certainly improved.
As the fish are swirling for the bait I keep noticing a few bright orange shapes beneath the surface; they look like big goldfish and I’m determined to catch one before the day is over.
I keep putting fish in the net but the match angler in me still isn’t happy with the amount of bites I’m missing. I spend half an hour playing around with depths and feeding but neither makes much difference. I even cut my feed right back to just five maggots at a time but nothing is working. Even trying various hook baits – single maggot, double maggot and even threading the maggot up the shank of the hook – only improves things by a small percentage.
I eventually find that by holding the pole high and keeping a tight line to my float I can respond fast enough to hit the lightning fast bites. I’m now missing around one in four bites… that I can live with, especially considering I’m having to wait less than 10 seconds for a bite on most occasions!
You know you’re getting something right when the fish are hooked like this…
The Golden Ticket!
After 90 minutes of catching a variety of roach, rudd and brown goldfish I eventually hook something slightly better. It pulls several feet of elastic from my pole and I’m delighted when it surfaces to see a flash of orange. I soon have a lovely goldfish laid in the net and it is certainly bright! In fact, the only thing more orange that I’ve seen at a fishery was Matt Godfrey!
Bites, and fish for that matter, are coming with pleasing regularity and I’m well on my way to a great catch. Just as I’m wondering how I’ve managed to get so far into the session without hooking a proper carp, I hook one! Luckily the pole has a puller kit and I’m able to tighten the elastic and still land the fish on the short pole.
I’m concerned the disturbance of playing that carp may have upset the swim but my first drop immediately afterwards sees my float bury and I’m straight back into a run of fish.
The fishing is certainly hectic and I’m really enjoying the session. Eventually, however we have to call a halt to proceedings. I’m surprised when I lift my net out to see just how many fish I’ve caught. I’ve ended up with a great weight that I’d estimate to be well in excess of 50lb.
It has been great to have a day’s pleasure fishing! It is also nice getting back to basics and fishing in very much the same way I did when I started fishing 20 years ago, (although I’d hope my skills have been somewhat refined in that time)! With a lovely net of fish returned to the water it has hopefully shown you that a simple approach on the right venue can work incredibly well. Maybe simplifying our fishing is something we should all do from time to time?
Goldfish like this are a pleasant addition to Craig’s catch.
An outstanding net of fish caught by Craig!
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