You join me today at the lovely Alvechurch Fishery, on the outskirts of Birmingham, where a margin approach will be my focus for the day. I have sat on the venue’s Horseshoe Lake, known for its hard-fighting carp and barbel, both of which will be targets among a host of other species the lake has to offer.
A Tool For The Job
As exciting as tackling the margins can be it is also one of the most demanding approaches when it comes to targeting a commercial fishery, for that reason I have called on Middy’s sub-£160 Muscle-Tech 600 margin pole for the session ahead, a tool designed specifically for tackling the margins of commercial fisheries. I say specifically, but because of the Muscle-Tech’s slim profile and light weight (just 270g at its full 6m length) it also makes for a perfect whip when used with the provided flicktip.
Of course, I have done away with that today and slipped a No18 Preston Innovations Dura Hollo down the pole’s top-two kit, which does in fact boast an incredible ‘30 elastic’ rating, highlighting just how strong Middy believes this pole to be. And although Middy’s 30-rated elastic isn’t quite as brutal as the rating would suggest, and despite the Alvechurch residents being known for being particularly hard fighting, even the head of big barbel that Horseshoe lake is likely to throw up shouldn’t need that sort of gear to get them tamed as we only just make our way out of spring.
One good thing about tackling the margins is that the fish that reside there are rarely shy, in fact they are usually there specifically to feed. What this means is that unlike open water, or against far-bank cover where fine lines and tackle are needed to trick wary fish on to the hook, targeting the margins rarely needs that sort of approach. Instead, reliability and robustness are my focus of any edge setup.
A Richie Wilson Muddie 0.4g float is a robust and stable pattern that takes plenty of shot; six No8 Stotz set as a bulk above my hooklength keeps things tidy and allows my rig to settle very quickly in the swim both when I drop it in or should a big fish cause a disturbance in the water column. A light rig that takes less weight in the same situation will be affected much more by movement in the swim, and reduce the time the bait is actually presented on the bottom. A heavier float ultimately aids a static bait presentation and allows my rig to be ‘fishing’ for longer.
Using 0.19mm Reflo Power main line down to a 4in hooklength of 0.17mm tied to a size 14 Drennan Wide Gape Carp hook gives a positive, reliable setup that I know I can give some stick to without any one area of the rig letting me down. The Drennan Wide Gape is an incredibly strong pattern that is perfect for big baits, in particular a bunch of maggots, as will be the case today.
The No18 rated Dura Hollo is an elastic that’s going to take no prisoners, and threaded through what is a particularly short top two sections of the Muscle-Tech will not allow the Alvechurch residents to get up steam.
Depth And Cover Matter
In an ideal situation I would hope to find between 12 and 18 inches somewhere tight to the bank when targeting the margins. This is the ideal depth as it will keep line bites and foul-hooked fish to a minimum, as in deeper water fish can have a tendency to come off bottom, which inevitably causes problems.
Cover is also important; I don’t always necessarily think that fishing tight to the cover is integral, but fishing just past or near to reeds, grasses or the next peg’s (empty) platform gives fish an area that they can feel safe. Fishing just past a set of reeds or platform also gives you something to rest your pole on, meaning you are not waving it directly above the swim, which can often spook wary fish.
Today I have to make a bit of a compromise as I don’t have all of the ideal factors at my disposal. The next platform is the Muscle-Tech’s full (excluding the additional extensions that can be bought separately from the standard package) six metres length to my right, in front of which I have a depth of two feet, and offers as shallow a depth as anywhere else in the peg.
Just short of the platform I have a little bundle of branches from a small tree that hangs slightly over the lake; although it doesn’t look appealing it does make for a good rest for the pole, while the platform itself provides plenty of cover for the fish without any obvious signs of potential snags such as supporting legs into the peg that any hooked fish could snag me up on.
With the depth of the swim a little deeper than the 12 to 18 inches that I would ideally want I am quite happy to feed live maggots alone, rather than a more conventional groundbait and dead maggot approach that I would opt for in shallower water. My thinking being that in the extra depth, light, easily wafted baits like groundbait and dead maggots are only likely to cause me problems whereas live maggots are more likely to stay put once on the bottom, and, let’s face it, all fish love them.
Barbel love maggots, just like most other fish!
I will introduce all of my feed through a big pole pot. Unfortunately I do not have a specific cupping kit available today; however, I do have a Mega Cad Pot that will do the job of feeding around 150ml of maggots at a time. My initial feed half an hour before I drop in, however, is done the ‘old-school’ way – a small bait tub half filled is delivered to the next platform and dumped ungraciously into the peg (after all, the idea of targeting the margins is largely trying to convince the fish that you have vacated the venue and that it is safe for them to come and mop up all of your discarded bait).
After this initial feed I will look to top up via the big pole pot every few fish, or if I feel I have gone a while without any indications. This, again is to help keep the fish pinned on the bottom rather than coming up in the water, a likely occurrence if loose feeding by hand.
Quick To The Feed
After a quick chat with the venue owner and staff over a bacon butty and cup of tea I am itching to get back to my peg and see what is waiting for me. The conditions today are arguably as ideal as they could be for focusing on targeting the edges for the entirety of the session with a dull, overcast sky. Of course, fishing in this way is usually done so late in the day and should it have been bright sunshine today I feel I may have had to wait much longer for the fish to gain enough confidence to come into the edge.
As it happens that is not the case today and after 10 minutes and a couple of small indications I get a positive bite as my first fish of the day has taken a fancy to my hook bait of six red maggots. It isn’t the carp or barbel I expected, but instead a big skimmer of around 3½lb leaps out of the water in typical commercial-skimmer style – a positive sign in these early stages and an indication that these fish know they need to get to the feed quickly before the bigger specimens of the lake come and snaffle the lot.
This beauty couldn’t resist Jake’s maggot edge attack.
My next drop in again results in a nice skimmer upwards of 3lb, followed by an ide of a pound. Shortly after that a small dink of the float is met with a quick lift of the pole and the first fish of the day that is really looking to test the Muscle-Tech 600 pole is hooked.
I must confess, I was a little worried about the short length of elastic that I was able to thread the top two sections of the Muscle-Tech up with before the days session; however, it becomes evident how this ties in with the construction of the pole.
Holding the pole’s butt section is a little like holding a standard No4 section of any other pole, such is its slim-line profile. Its sections feel incredibly strong but it is the action of the pole once a fish is hooked that aids how the pole works. Its Power-Arc Rapid Hold Action helps to absorb the lunges of any hooked fish and effectively softens the pressure on both the fish and your rig, which in turn will lead to fewer hook-pulls and breakages. I am able to use the action of the pole to guide fish away from areas of the peg I don’t want them to go, before shipping back and really getting them under control on the top kit.
Jake was able to use the Middy Muscle-Tech pole to steer fish away from danger.
The top kits provided with the pole are reinforced ready to be fitted with side pullers, although I have decided against doing that today. When using elastic of this strength I feel there is no need in strengthening it any further by stripping elastic from the kit.
After a short battle my first barbel of the day is slid over the net, but not before it tries to get under my platform and between my nets in very typical barbel fashion. Like all of the fish here at Alvechurch it is a fit and powerful fish, and around 3lb.
The next 90 minutes see me put a good run of fish in the net, with more barbel, carp averaging the 5 to 6lb mark, including a stunning ghost carp that the venue holds a few of, as well as the odd skimmer and ide that also get in on the act, albeit when the carp and barbel seem to have vacated the peg.
A full pot of maggots tends to do the trick in drawing the bigger fish back on the feed. With each fish hooked I am able to push the Muscle-Tech that little bit further than before, but no matter how hard I pull nor how hard the fish pull in the opposite direction, no one element of my setup lets me down.
Although the sport to this point has been thick and fast I soon hit a ‘small’ problem when a hooked barbel finds a hidden snag in the peg. Strangely the obstacle is located in the open water in front of me, so at first I am unable to identify exactly what it is. I eventually free the fish from the snag by dragging it up the nearside shelf and off the lake bed before netting what is probably the smallest barbel I have caught today. The obstacle, on the other hand, is actually a large part of a recently chopped down tree, and the venue’s staff are quickly on the case and return shortly after in a pair of waders to get it out of the peg.
Unfortunately the commotion caused puts paid to any fish willing to feed in the peg, but with around 80lb of Alvechurch’s finest already in the net there is more than enough to get the day’s catch shot, even if the session was cut short.
The Middy Muscle-Tech 600 is yet another impressive piece of kit to come out of the Middy stable, offering everything you would want from a pole for targeting the margins of commercial fisheries where big, hard-fighting fish are the target. Although not the only integral part of my setup today, the session just goes to show the importance of having reliable gear when targeting the margins of commercial fisheries, and the Muscle-Tech 600 is certainly up for the task!
Part of Jake’s haul during what ended up being a relatively short session at Alvechurch.
Middy Muscle-Tech 600 (6m pole – single kit)
Middy Muscle-Tech 600 (+ extra two-kits)
1m parallel extension
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