Meat short might be a commonly used method but to really get the best from it you have to understand how and why it works. Callum Dicks explains.
I remember a few years ago, here on Bolingey Lake, I was rushing to get set up and my meat short line was the last thing I considered. I plumbed it up hurriedly, fed it without thinking about what I was doing, and got what I deserved – an absolute nightmare – foul-hooked fish, line bites, lost fish and ultimately it cost me a place in the festival.
For sure, when you have a lot of fish in front of you methods like meat short and fishing down the margins can be very easy. Feed some bait, hook a fish, land it, and repeat the process. However, the thing to remember is that this only happens when you have everything perfect. You have plumbed up in the right depth of water, with a nice flat bottom, you are feeding the right bait, and the fish are feeding. Whether it be by accident or design, you have everything right.
So how should you go about trying to get everything right every time? Although it is impossible to control the amount of fish that are in front of you, I have found that there are a few simple things that you can do with regard to your plumbing up, feeding and presentation to give you the best possible chance of getting the most from a short-pole line when targeting carp.
Setup And Plumbing Up
If you think that the short pole is going to be a key part of your match, there are a couple of things that you can do with regard to your setup and where you choose to fish to make sure that you really get the most from it. First up, set up as quietly as possible. I will cover later why I believe it is important to start on this short pole swim, but the crux of the theory is that if you go on this line first, you can often nick a couple of fish straightaway.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that you want to disturb this area of your peg as little as possible, so any fish that might be there when you arrive at your peg stay there until you start fishing. This means setting up your box and putting your nets in as quietly as possible. If you are planning on fishing really short, it can even be worth tying your nets back to stop them wafting near your swim and potentially spooking any feeding fish.
Callum uses these Guru plummets for ultra-accurate plumbing up.
If the bottom is suitable, always fish your short line away from you at an angle. Today, this means fishing a top six at an angle of 11 o’clock slightly. The reasoning is that you never want to be playing any fish over the top of where you are fishing if you can help it. If you fish straight in front of you, you will often find that fish splash and come up as you are playing them very close to where you are fishing, which can obviously have a negative effect on your catch rate.
There is a strict caveat with this, though – you have to be able to find a suitable bottom to fish on. This is the most important consideration with regard to where to fish. First up, depth of water. This is very much dependent on the time of year, amount of wind, and clarity of water. Generally, the warmer and more coloured the water and the stronger the wind, the closer you should look to fish to keep the fish on the bottom, where you want them. Likewise, the colder and clearer the water, the deeper you should look to fish.
The main thing that you need to look for in whatever depth of water you choose to fish is a flat, even bottom. Avoid fishing among rocks at all costs. This can cause line bites, foul-hookers and all kinds of problems because your loose feed and hook bait fall between the rocks and the fish upend to try and get to your bait. Indeed, the meltdown I described in my opening paragraph was predominantly caused by this.
Another thing to consider is the make-up of the bottom. Ideally, you want a hard gravel surface to fish on. Silt can cause all kinds of problems, so avoid it if you can. Sadly, this isn’t always possible.
I’m sat on Peg 38 on the right-hand arm of the lovely Bolingey Lake and have found what I can only describe as the perfect short line considering the conditions. Three feet of water, a flat, hard gravel bottom and located about five metres from the bank slightly to my left. The perfect dining table for a shoal of hungry carp!
One final thing about plumbing up and swim location – don’t be afraid to plumb up a couple of potential short lines before you start fishing. I usually like to have a couple of depths and swim locations covered and if I start fishing in one place I will often have another line plumbed up a section past it to move onto later. Again, only if I can find an appropriate area of the bottom to fish on.
I am not going to spend too long talking about rigs because I think the angler has to be confident in the tackle used. For me, this means robust 0.18mm Maver Genesis main line to a 0.16mm fluorocarbon hooklength. I now use fluorocarbon for most of my hooklengths because I find it to be very robust and I seem to get more bites on it than I did when I used to fish with standard pre-stretched monofilament.
Strong elastic and well-tied Dacron connectors are a must for big carp!
Elastic choice is Maver’s Orange 12-20 Dual Core. A robust float that takes line through its body and a strong size 14 hook completes the setup. Strength and durability is the order of the day.
A highly visible bristle and strong construction are important when it comes to float selection.
One area of the setup that does warrant a mention is my shotting pattern. I almost always find that a tapered strung bulk is best because it gives my hook bait a nice slow fall through the water and any hungry carp plenty of chance to suck it in!
Even though you are only planning on fishing short, make sure you have the rest of your pole within easy reach. The fish that you hook on this line can be massive, so you need to give yourself the potential to follow the fish out when you hook them.
Sometimes feeding quietly via a Kinder pot is a lot more effective than throwing bait by hand.
Two pieces of meat hooked in tge way gives ultimate bait presentation.
Reading The Peg
I’m going to talk about feeding next but to give the best insight into what I like to do, I think it is important to explain how I work out the best way to catch on a given day.
At the start of the session, I always like to start on my short line. There are two advantages to this. Firstly, if your peg is solid with feeding fish, you could very well find that you never have to come off this line and catch a massive weight without ever even having to try anywhere else.
More commonly, though, you will find that you are able to nick a couple of fish early on, before the line dies and you have to go long. These two, quick, early fish have proved valuable on many occasions.
Always Kinder-pot four or five pieces of meat in and a pinch of hemp, rather than throwing in any bait to start with. As I say, you are trying to catch carp that are in the area already, rather than draw in feeding fish in this early part of the match.
Hemp is the ultimate carp-holding bait!
Today the plan has worked a treat with an early carassio then a bigger carp. With these in the net, my swim goes quiet and I can start to think about feeding more positively. This means throwing bait but a quick and all too common lesson is soon learnt.
As soon as I start throwing bait I am plagued with small roach and skimmers. This tells me that these are the feeding fish that are responding to the noise of bait hitting the water and that I need to change my approach if I am to catch carp on this line in the early part of the day.
Instead of throwing the bait, I go back to Kinder-potting six bits of meat and a pinch of hemp and sitting and waiting patiently for a bigger fish to find my bait. I also switch to using double 8mm meat on the hook to avoid the attentions of small fish and single out the carp.
This works brilliantly and I catch really well. Because I am the only angler on the lake I am able to keep fish coming for the duration of the session in this way.
In more pressured conditions or a match, for example, the chances are that after a few fish have been caught feeding in this way, they will back off and you will be forced to fish longer to keep fish coming.
Later in the afternoon, though, as light levels start to drop and the fish start to feed, I would be able to return to this short line and catch well.
At this time of day, a different mind-set can be applied. Because you are now fishing for active, feeding carp that are liable to respond to the sound of bait hitting the water, you might very well find that a switch to throwing bait in would bring bites quicker – as the carp hone in on the noise.
Again, discipline and thinking about what you are doing is vital – throwing in bait willy-nilly is likely to lead to line bites. Remember, at all times you need to make your hook bait appear as natural to your loose feed as possible. I like to ship out, throw in meat, then lay my rig over the top, ideally with the hook bait falling through the far end of the feed column.
For today, things are kept a lot simpler and Kinder-potting bait sees a procession of fish coming to the net. I finish the session with over 70lb of carp – not bad in just a few hours’ fishing. Above all, though, it goes to prove just how important it is to think carefully about how you fish lines like this and show how devastating they can be when you get everything right.
Just park of Callum's ton-up catch taken in a couple of hours!
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Catch More Commercial Perch
Callum Dicks lift the lid on his tactics for targeting a surprise species that could be lurking in your local commercial – specimen perch!
I have had many shocks on commercial fisheries over the years when I’ve hooked what I think is a carp or F1, and just as I pick the landing net up a huge perch appears! Many commercials are actually home to large numbers of these fish. In fact, the current record perch, and several past records have all come from commercial fisheries. Often, these fish are ignored by anglers targeting carp, but with so much food in the way of small silver fish and anglers’ bait, they can grow very big. Spring is often a great time to catch these fish too, and I’ve enjoyed some cracking pleasure sessions targeting commercial stripeys.
You join me at the picturesque Lands End Fisheries just outside Bristol, where I’m hoping to show you my tricks for capturing some spiky monsters!
Where To Target
Features and cover are two vital things to look for when targeting perch. These fish love hiding out under any shade, bankside or water vegetation, or obstacles in the water. They can target their pray from layers like this, and often, such features attract other fish, which are of course food!
Looking at today’s swim, I can see four potential target areas. The first two are my nearside margins. Here, there are branches and brambles overhanging the water and some boards that run around the edge of the lake. The other thing I’d like to find here is a decent depth. Anything over two and a half feet is ideal, so when I slip on a plummet and discover there’s three and a half feet of water right next to the brambles, I get really excited!
I’ve plumbed up two swims with the same rig here, one four metres down the edge to my left, and the other the same distance to the right.
If I find that the depth is too shallow down the edge right next to the cover, I simply plumb up away from the bank, further down the marginal shelf. If there are no obvious visible features, plumbing up on this slope in around three and a half feet of water is a good idea because big perch often patrol this underwater feature.
The next area that catches my eye is the island opposite me. There are two overhanging bushes and right against them the lake is around four feet deep. These are going to be my target areas on the long pole. Despite having loads of open water to target down the centre of the lake, I’m leaving this alone. In my experience, the big perch tend to hug cover, so that’s where I want to spend my time targeting them.
For some reason, commercial perch love casters. They work particularly well on venues that get fished heavily for carp. Casters make a lovely crisp splash when they enter the water, triggering the predatory instinct of perch. Another great thing about casters is that they don’t fill up the fish because they’re primarily made up of water. You can keep a steady trickle of them falling through the layers, making a constant noise and creating a visual column of feed for the perch to home in on.
I rarely fish with maggots on the hook but they make great feed bait. I think the reason that maggots work so well is that they attract silver fish into the swim. In turn, these attract the big perch. Feeding a large pot of maggots at the start of a session on a swim can be a great way of kicking off. I also think that perch sit over a bed of bait sometimes, without eating anything.
These are my secret baits, that not many people use! I haven’t got a clue why perch eat them, but they do. I have seen several pleasure anglers use them at numerous venues, and they often catch big perch on them. I particularly like using prawns on venues when the water is quite coloured. They are a large, white bait that stands out like a beacon!
You simply cannot leave home without lobworms when big perch are in mind – they love ’em. They make great feed and hook baits and when chopped up release a juicy scent that perch can’t resist. They also offer a lot of versatility; you can use a tiny section of worm on the hook, or a great big full wriggly one!
Negative V Positive
Perch can be very fussy feeders and their habits change day to day. One day you will find that big perch only want to eat tiny baits. A single caster can be the only bait that you get a bite on some days, especially in calm, clear conditions. A small inch section of worm can work a treat too.
Conversely, on other days you will only get a bite on a great big visible bait. I’ve had it before whereby I’ve fished for several hours with all kinds of baits, and as soon as I’ve put on a whole lobworm the float disappears and you’re into a stripey friend!
Big perch sometimes seem to settle over a large amount of feed, while on other days they will only feed over very small amounts. The key to maximising your chances of catching them is to cover your options. As I explained earlier, I have plumbed up two margin swims and two island swims, which gives me plenty of scope for experimentation.
I’m feeding one of the margin swims very frugally, by simply dripping in small regular amounts of casters or a few chunks of finely minced lobworms. However, the swim on the opposite side is going to be fed differently, in case the fish want to feed over more bait. I’m going to kick off with a pole pot of maggots here, which will hopefully get plenty of small fish feeding. I can then drop in with a very selective hook bait such as a prawn or lobworm, which the perch will hopefully gobble! On the island swims, I plan on doing very similar. One will be fed sparingly with a catapult, while the other will be fed more aggressively with larger pots of feed.
Quite wrongly, it’s often thought that perch are easy to catch, and will take any bait when it’s dangled in front of them. However, this is definitely not the case. These acute predators are brimmed to the hilt with hunting senses and having the right rigs to present your bait correctly is vital.
I always set up two; one to cater for small baits such as maggots ands casters and the other for bigger baits like lobworms and prawns. One thing that both these rigs have in common is that they are very light with a strung-out shotting pattern. Perch have huge eyes and once they have detected a bait or some food, they’ll watch it fall and settle on the bottom. The biggest, wary fish won’t even touch it if there’s anything suspicious about it. It’s important to try and make the fall as natural as possible and, once the rig begins to fall, don’t make any jerky movements that will spoil or break the smooth fall.
All my rigs are made on heavy 0.16mm main line, which helps aid a slow and tangle-free fall through the water. However, the hooklengths are all on Drennan fluorocarbon. This is a strong material, but after experimenting with it lots, I’m convinced it catches you more big fish because it is less visible in water. It’s also a great material to use when fishing with baits that easily spin up, like sections of lobworms, because it’s stiff and doesn’t spin up.
Always set your elastics a little tighter than normal when fishing for perch. They have incredibly bony mouths and having a slightly tighter elastic helps set the hook properly.
The fishing has been very tricky to begin with, which is strange because you often get a quick response from perch if they’re in the area. After an hour, all I have in the net are a few roach and a very small perch that has fallen to my caster swim against the island.
I’m remaining confident, however, because I know that predatory fish like perch often have feeding spells and hunt in packs, so I could nail two or three big fish in very quick succession. I’ve set two traps with a pot of maggots, one down the right-hand edge and the other against one of the island trees. I’m really nurturing the other two swims with a regular trickle of casters, and every half-hour or so a 50p-sized amount of finely minced worms to put some scent in the water.
After laying in the light rig over my long swim, the float dinks as the float settles, and as I poise myself for the strike it slowly sails under. After a timed pause, I whack into the fish and there’s no mistaking the sudden judders and head shudders of a perch, as five feet of yellow Maver Hollow stream from the pole tip. After a short battle the first proper perch is in the pan, and at just over 1lb it’s a lovely fish!
Bait Tips For Perch!
A) If you're missing bites, hook your caster like a maggot so nearly all the hook is showing!
B) On difficult days and in clear water; burying the hook brings bites from nowhere!
C) Always hook your worm segment through the broken end for maximum hook-ups!
In quick succession, two more follow. Interestingly, both bites come as the rig settles, which proves the importance of light strung-out rigs. Despite trying the positively fed swim against the island no bites are forthcoming, which urges me to spend more time on the caster swims for the time being.
Dropping on the margin swim, a couple of big roach put in an appearance, before I get a few strange indications as if there’s a carp present. With no proper bites developing, I drop in with the big-bait rig baited with half a lobworm and before it even settles the float is skimming across the surface! I always pause for two or three seconds before striking when using big baits to make sure the fish has taken it properly. This time it has and the switch to a bigger bait over the negative swim leads to another 1lb-plus stripey in the net!
After a blank hour or rotating swims and varying hook baits, I see a small fish plop out of the water over my maggots on the right-hand margin – a sign there could be a dinosaur there! Dropping in with a prawn, I get a few indications before a super-fast bite sees me strike into thin air – oh no! Quickly rebaiting and dropping back in I get a second chance, and this time nail the biggest of the day – a 2lb-plus specimen that angrily comes thrashing into the net! As the light fades, it seems the perch take a liking for prawns, as another 1lb fish and one slightly bigger come from over the margin maggot swim with a small prawn hook bait. Perhaps during their late feeding spree they pick out this bigger, more visible bait?
I’ve ended the session with 10 perch between 1lb and just over 2lb that have made for a cracking day’s sport. Why not break the mould and try my commercial perch tactics at your local water?
Venue: Lands End Fishery
Location: Heath House BS28 4UQ
Day tickets: £7 on the bank
Contact: Mike on 07977 545882
Name: Callum Dicks
Pole: Maver Darkside Three
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