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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Here's a brief look at one of Rive’s latest additions to its ever-increasingly popular luggage range.
As roller and accessory bags go this latest offering from Rive is nothing short of what you’d expect from the French perfectionists. It’s well made, stylish and functional. The bag is one of several different products from the latest line-up, which was actually launched in 2016.
If you’re looking for a smart and durable solution for transporting ungainly rollers and roosts then one of these could be just what you’re looking for. It’s large, at 1.1 metres in length, but then many anglers have become accustomed to carrying larger bags and more kit to the bankside in preparation for being able to cope with almost any eventuality.
More likely, though, you’ll be interested in the complete line-up of this luggage range from Rive, which is both smart and functional while also being purpose-designed to cope with the rigours of what we anglers throw at our gear – from being loaded in and out of a van or car to coping with the elements, while keeping your kit inside organised and safe.
The roller bag will allow you to transport two Rive R-Rollers (they’re big ’uns!) as well as roosts and other accessory arms, and the bag features foam lining to protect the contents. The external pocket provides two straps with clip buckles to carry legs or feeder arms. The reinforced bottom, side handles and shoulder strap are there for easy transportation.
Dimensions: 110 x 25 x 30cm
Former World Silver Medallist and Irish team regular Willy Wheeler reflects on the changing face of Irish Festival fishing.
When you talk to a lot of English anglers about the things they associate with fishing in Ireland, you generally hear memories of rugged venues, big nets of bream and roach, and even bigger expanses of water.
In certain parts of the country, and on certain waters, the above is still very much a reality, and these vast waters still have their appeal and diehard fans. But there is also a new chapter in Irish angling, which is winning fans from all over the world.
Forget your big feeder rods, buckets of groundbait and tins of corn, the focus for these guys, and on these waters is getting bites – and lots of them!
Lough Muckno in the County Monaghan area has been a real hub for this style of fishing, and though some big bream weights have been recorded here, the festivals are generally dominated by the anglers who can catch a lot of roach and hybrids, reasonably quickly.
For the pole angler this is great news, as once the weather starts to warm up, the pole becomes the most dominant method, as it is by far and away the most efficient way of extracting a large number of fish quickly.
Again, though, careful thought is required as to how you approach this kind of pole fishing, as it is very different to the traditional ‘gung ho’ methods that many have come to associate with pole fishing in Ireland. Speed and efficiency is the name of the game, but this doesn’t mean you have to fish thick elastics, big hooks and throw bait everywhere. The key is to set your peg up so that you can get and keep a sensible number of feeding fish in your catching area, and use tackle that helps you get bites and land fish as quickly and efficiently as possible without spooking others in the area.
Let’s focus on feeding first – and with what I have said above in mind the key is to attract a volume of fish into your peg, and keep them there. The more fish you can get competing for bait in your peg, the faster and more readily they will accept your hook bait. However, if you feed too much, you run the risk of having fish all over the water column, leading to missed bites and other associated problems.
For sure, sometimes feeding aggressively with a catapult can be the right way to go – but I would argue that this is only really the case when you are looking to catch up in the water. There are signs you will get that will help you know when to come shallow, and I will come on to those later.
The groundbait mix that you choose to use is essential. I typically feed a mix of Sensas Black Magic, Black Roach, and Gros Gardons. Mixed dry, this is quite a sticky groundbait with a lot of attractive power. The aim is to create a carpet of bait that is packed with attractants, carrying a handful of the bait that I plan on fishing on the hook.I them aim to keep fish coming by either loose feeding, or potting in feed-rich balls of groundbait, depending on how the fish respond to my attack.
Three key groundbaits for Willy when tacklings big Irish loughs
Where possible, I like to ball in this mix of groundbait too. The key advantage of doing this is that you draw in fish from the surrounding water. Roach and hybrids, in particular, responded brilliantly to this, as they are drawn into the feed area that you have created by the noise, and held by the mass of particles on the bottom.
Again, when it comes to my tackle, the emphasis is firmly on catching a large number of fish as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to set up three basic rigs, although in a match I will often set up duplicates of each too, in case of tangles.
The first is my ‘bulk-down’ rig. This is for catching fish hard on the bottom and comprises an olivette two feet from my hook, and three No9 or No10 droppers. Mainline choice on all my rigs is 0.12mm Sensas Feeling, and hooklength choice is generally 0.08mm of the same – though I will step up to 0.09mm and 0.10mm if I feel the fish are feeding sufficiently confidently to allow me to do so.
Sensas 3260s and the slightly finer 3210s are Willy's choice for roach when fishing with maggots and casters
Next up is my strung rig, which boasts the same pattern float as I use for fishing on the bottom, but with a shotting pattern comprising strung-out No8, No9 or No10 shot, depending on the size of float that I opt for. When the going is tough, early on in a session, or indeed when I want to try and find out whereabouts in the water column the fish are feeding, this is the rig that I turn to.
The only difference in terms of float pattern between this and my bulk-down rig is the stem material – I favour a carbon stem for fishing on the drop, as this allows my float to follow my rig as it falls, so I can read what is happening.
Finally, I set up a shallow rig. This is a rig that I may or may not pick up, depending on how the session progresses, but I always like to give myself the option. This is similar to my strung-out rig, but with a slightly lighter pattern float, and set 18 inches off the bottom. It is worth nothing, however, that even though I always start fishing shallow with a strung-out rig, when a really big weight is on the cards up in the water, I normally find a bulk pattern to work best – so I won’t hesitate in bunching the shots together if I am catching well.
These three float patterns do very different jobs for Willy
In terms of float size, it is all about matching depths and conditions. Today, I am faced with a swim around six feet deep, and there is a slight breeze on the water. I use a 1g float for fishing on the bottom, and a 4x14 rig for shallow.
Read The Swim
Now that I have explained the basis of my attack, I will try to outline how I go about reading the water to find the right way of feeding on a given day. A lot of the decisions that I take will be based on how the swim responds in the first hour of fishing, as knowing what species are in your peg, and how they want to feed is the aim of the game.
Today has perhaps been fairly typical of a ‘roach’ day. I waited around five minutes for my first bite, then caught small roach for the first hour. The fact that there were no hybrids or skimmers mixed in with them allowed me to narrow my vision – I knew that I was targeting small roach exclusively. I also found that the fish responded well to loose feed. By shipping out, loose feeding a pouch of casters, then dropping my rig on top of my bait I was able to catch a bigger stamp of roach. So quite quickly I had formulated a plan and found a way of catching quality roach.
Midway through the session, I felt that bites were dropping off, and my swim needed another boost. To accommodate this, I cupped in three balls of groundbait rich with casters, and after five minutes the peg was as strong as ever. Then, by loose feeding, as I was before, I was able to keep the fish coming until the end of the session.
This all probably sounds quite simple – and it is. You are after catching a large volume of fish, so the more simple and effective you can be, the better. I mentioned earlier that sometimes you may want to fish shallow – and your peg will tell you when to do this. If you get line bites after loose feeding, pick up your shallow rig and try it. If you catch well, you can then adapt your plan accordingly. However, if you catch a couple of fish then nothing, you are better off sticking to a more disciplined feeding regime and trying to keep the fish on the bottom.
It might not be the big baf of brea, that Ireland was once famous for, but with great nets of roach like this to be taken, there is no wonder the Emerald Isle has a new generation of followers!
At all times, there is one golden rule that you need to stick to, and that is to make sure you come back with a fish. Success on this type of venue is all about playing the numbers game, so never be tempted to ‘risk it’, unless of course, you can’t get any bites on the pole. In this scenario, fishing the feeder, is your best option, as it is probably the case that the fish simply don’t want to feed on your pole line.
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Jon Arthur takes to a town lake armed with £3 worth of bait, on a mission to catch a quality bag of roach in far from ideal conditions…
In this day and age it’s easy to get lost in the mist of baits and additives, and sometimes I think we forget how simple and cheap fishing can be! I’m taking to the banks of a Furzton Lake armed with a liquidised loaf of bread and a pint of hempseed – two of the simplest, cheapest but also most effective roach baits on the planet…
A Redfin Recipe!
Roach are one of my favourite fish – I love them! There are probably no two baits finer than hemp and bread for catching them too. These two baits complement each other incredibly well. Bread is a very instant bait. You can always tell if there are any roach in the area because you will get a bite almost first drop-in. Whether you’re fishing on a canal, river or lake, this is normally the case. Bread is really visible with its white colour, and liquidised bread makes a fish-attracting cloud as it falls through the water to quickly draw in fish.
Hemp can be quite different, however. Roach often take quite a bit of time to gain confidence in feeding on hemp. Sometimes it’s half an hour before you get a bite on it, while other days it can be two or three hours, or even more! Once the roach do start feeding on it, though, they become addicted and often end up in a ravenous frenzy. The fish you can tempt on hemp are normally a very good stamp too. The key is to maintain a very rhythmic feeding pattern and keep a constant stream of seed falling through the water. Combine hemp and bread together and you have the perfect roach recipe. Bread is great for starting a session on, while hemp can provide you with a fantastic finish to it with quality fish.
Jon only uses the best looking hookers!
I always cook my own hemp for hookinh. There are lots of varieties of tinned hemp out there, which are great for feeding, but this is often too small and split too much to get on the hook.
1. Soak a pint of uncooked hempseed in water overnight.
2. Place this in a saucepan and cover it with water and bring it to the boil.
3. I always add a pinch of salt and sugar at this stage to enhance the flavour.
4. Once boiling, turn the heat down and leave the hemp to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
5. Keep watching the hemp so that you can see when it begins to split. Sometimes I take out a few grains early because these are ideal for hooking when they have only just split.
6. I always save the oily water that I cook my hemp in. This is great for mixing groundbait with, and I always keep my hemp in this water when on the bank.
1. I don't have a preference on wich bread to use when liquidising - something cheap and a little bit old is normally good. This kind of bread is normally a little bit dry and when whizzed up in the blender is goes very fine!
2. Leave the crusts intact when liquidising – it’s all goodness and means you get more for your money!
3. Place three or four slices in the blender at a time. I normally cut mine in half so they hit the blades quicker.
4. Hold the lid and bottom of the blender and make sure you give it a controlled shake to make sure all the bread gets chopped evenly.
5. Place the bread in a bag in the freezer. Once frozen, take it out and, while frozen, blend it again. This makes it extre-fine.
6. On arriving at the bank, I place some bread in a maggot tub and add water a bit at a time until I can form a damp ball – not sloppy, but not compressed like groundbait. You need the bread to sink but break up quickly on, or near to the bottom.
I have assembled two rigs offering different kinds of presentation. There’s a fairly strong wind, making things awkward because it’s blowing slightly across and towards me here.
The first rig is quite positive, a 1g Drennan G-Tip 3 float, shotted with an olivette three feet from the hook with three No9 droppers below. Hopefully, this will be the main rig, especially for bread. This is very stable and allows me to accurately present my hook bait right over the feed. This can be very important at the start of a session, when the fish are right on the bread, homing in on your ball of feed.
The second rig offers a very different kind of presentation, intended more for hemp and catching fish on the drop. Because I’m going to be loose feeding hemp, the fish normally intercept it as it falls. This second rig is made to mimic this feed and features a 0.4g float with No10 and No11 shot strung out in the bottom half. Starting six inches away from my hook is the first No 11, and there are four more spread three inches apart going up the rig. Above these, the No10s start strung out the same.
Both rigs are made on 0.117mm Drennan Supplex and feature either a 0.075mm Supplex hooklength, or Supplex fluorocarbon hooklength. Hook-wise, there is only one for me when it comes to roach – a Kamasan B511. I have these tied from a size 18 to a size 22, and they cover nearly all my natural and stillwater roach fishing. My elastic is simply a No5 Preston Slip through my full top kit.
You join me at the lovely Furzton Lake at Milton Keynes. This is a very big lake that I’ve fished quite a few times over the years. Normally, however, anglers fish with maggots, casters or groundbait on the pole and I’ve always wondered if bread and hemp would work. I’ve got set up nice and comfortably, with my box placed in the shallow margins. When it’s windy like today, getting nice and low to the water is a big help – you get out of the wind, are more comfortable and can present your rig much better. Getting in the water gives you a little more distance too on lakes with shallow margins, meaning you don’t need to fish as far out on the pole.
Top Tip: Cheeky Pinkies…
One little trick that I like to do is place a pinch of fluoro pinkies in my bread mix. You only need a pinch to add loads of colour to the bait and give you another hook bait option. It’s surprising how many big perch, skimmers and hybrids you can catch by fishing with a pinkie over the top of your bread!
To start, I’ve cupped in a large ball of liquidised bread mix and sprinkled half a pot of hempseed over the top. I don’t think the fish will really eat the hemp but it spreads out as it falls and creates a little bit of a grazing area around by feed. I’m going to start loose feeding immediately too; a dozen grains every few minutes.
Baiting up with a 4mm punch of bread and starting on the heavy rig, I get my first bite after just five minutes! The wind is getting really bad already but catching is a real reward! Half a dozen quick fish in the first 15 minutes prove just how instant bread is – even on a vast expanse of water like this, the fish have homed straight in on it!
Jon stores his hemp in a milk bottle, along with all the lovely jucies it is cooked in!
It’s incredibly difficult to present the rig and, as well as the wind, the lake is towing from left to right really strongly. Most of my bites, however, seem to be coming right on my feed. To make the most of this, I need to place my rig in the water well above the feed, some two metres uptow of it to the right. This way, the rig settles just above where I think my bread is on the deck and I can control the rig over this area and just below it, where it’s likely that some of my loose-fed hemp is landing.
The fishing is very steady but really rewarding too. After three or four chunky fish, bites dry up and I’ve been re-feeding with a small nugget of the wetted-up bread mix, containing a few pinkies and pinch of hemp. Slipping a pinkie on every now and again has worked well too, bringing an odd extra bite, but I’m two hours into the session and I’m yet to get a bite on hemp.
Ringing the changes is really important whenever you’re catching chunky roach like this. To keep them coming you can’t afford to be lazy, and after three or four bites you normally need to change something to bring another run of fish. I’m alternating between 4mm and 5mm punches of bread on the hook and I’ve also played around with the depth quite a lot.
Immediately after re-feeding, it seems better to fish about eight inches off the bottom. This is probably because there are quite a few bits of bread floating up and off my feed. After a few fish here, I simply drop back down to dead depth and enjoy another little run of fish there once the swim has settled.
With around an hour of the session left bites really slow down. Picking up my lighter rig for hemp, I’m surprised to get a sudden bite out of the blue to the far left of my feed area. It’s a better fish too at 8oz – a perfect hemp specimen. This prompts me to try presenting this lighter rig slightly downtow and I manage a good run of these better fish in the closing stages. Eight quality redfins on the seed make for a perfect finish to the session and prove just how important it is to persevere when feeding hemp. It’s also interesting how these were sat right at the extreme left of the swim. They were most likely picking off the odd bit of loose feed and bread crust that pops-up and wafts down to them in the tow. With over double figures of roach in the net on literally £3 worth of bait, it’s been a lovely few hours. Find a local lake, keep your bait cheap and simple and enjoy some budget bagging when you get a few spare hours this month!
Hemp And Bread Secrets
1. The perfect hooker! The grain is still intact with just a small amount of kernel showing
2. Jon generally finds that 5mm and 4mm punches prove the best when good-stamp roach are the target
3. Hemp pinkies and bread - the downfall of many a roach over the years
4. Note how the point of the hook is exposed. This helps Jon convert more bites into roach in the net!
Name: Jon Arthur
Pole: Drennan Acolyte
Venue: Furzton Lake
Location: Milton Keynes MK1 4GA
Day tickets: £7 on the bank
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Alan Scotthorne looks at the pros and cons of netting or swinging a fish in
Whether to reach for the landing net or risk swinging a fish in is a decision that I am sure we have all had to make at some point in our fishing. It is a common dilemma when you’re after small to medium-sized fish such as roach, perch, dace and small skimmers. Usually fish of 3oz to 6oz are what I would class as borderline swingers when you are using standard silver-fish tackle on a typical English venue. When you get to fish around the 8oz mark I think you should almost certainly be reaching for the landing net.
Knowing when to reach for the net and when to swing the fish is key to optimum efficiency
The first thing I must say is that if you are ever in doubt you should always net your fish. However, it perhaps isn’t ever quite as simple or straightforward as that. Sometimes netting every single fish is not really necessary, especially when they are small. Netting fish can sometimes upset your catching rhythm and slow you down. The extra time spent netting could even cost you a pound or two of fish over the course of five hours. On the other hand, risking swinging a fish that then falls off midair can be an even worse predicament, especially if it leads to a tangled rig. Mistakes like that can cost you all-important extra ounces that are often so vital at the weigh-in.
There are clearly other factors that have to be taken into account and, once you’ve decided to swing or net that fish, you then have to consider using the right tackle for the job.
Alan's Elastic Secrets
A central cone helps Alan's elastic run smoothly...
... while a Drennan Tensioner bung helps him set his elastic just right
Spare elastic on the bung means a connector can be changed without rethreading the top kit
Speed is the most obvious reason. After all, in a match situation, we are all trying to amass as big a weight as possible in the shortest amount of time. Another is efficiency, because it can be a bit awkward and time-consuming reaching for a landing net all the time (although if you spend some time on your setup you can make sure your landing net is always in the same place and easy to grab when you need it). Sometimes you can scoop a fish and wish you hadn’t bothered after the hook inexplicably goes into the landing net mesh and causes all sorts of messy problems as you try to unravel it.
Another reason for swinging fish is when you need to extract fish quickly to stop them disturbing the rest of the shoal. Catching perch close in is a great example of this. Even small perch can fight hard and jag around all over your swim if you let them. By stepping the elastic up a notch you can normally persuade them out of the peg much easier and swiftly lift them out. This can really help to prevent spooking any other fish close rather than unnecessarily splashing around with a landing net.
Pike are another reason why trying to get that fish out of the water as swiftly as possible can be better. On my local Stainforth & Keadby Canal, for example, you sometimes have to ship back with a fish on really quickly to make sure a pike cannot grab it! If you are doing this then slightly stepped-up gear is required – stronger elastic, bigger hooks and a more robust hooklength. When I might typically use a No3 elastic to 0.07mm hooklength and a size 22 or 20 fine-wire hook, I wouldn’t hesitate to step that up to No5 elastic to a 0.09mm bottom and size 16 if pike were an issue. You might sacrifice a bit of presentation, but when a hungry predator is lurking you cannot afford to mess around playing fish cautiously. Don’t take control and that fish becomes a pike’s next meal!
Softly-Softly For Skimmers
In some situations, it is safer to net everything you hook, especially on really hard days. It is also good practice when you are targeting soft-mouthed skimmers. A good way to force yourself to net everything is to use much lighter pole elastic. Anything from No3 to No5 is ideal for soft-mouthed skimmers. Going lighter is better for smaller fish and on a shallow venue when you need to stop them coming straight to the top and splashing on the surface. Skimmers don’t have much of a reputation for fighting hard, so there’s rarely any need to fish stronger; you’ll probably just pull the hook out if you do.
The length of elastic in your top kits is a subject that I touched upon last month and is worth going into in a bit more detail. Top kits are not all a standard length between manufacturers, so it all depends on the make of pole that you own. Some top-two kits can be as short as two metres, while others as long as three. Fitting the same pole elastic into either of these extremes will greatly alter the way your elastic behaves. For instance, a No5 through three metres of pole will be much softer and mellow compared with the same No5 through just two metres. The same elastic can, therefore, behave very differently according to how much of it you have inside your pole and I think that is something people don’t always appreciate.
It is really popular these days to have pole elastic fitted through a full, long top-two kit. However, for a lot of my out-and-out silver-fish work I still only thread elastic through the long tip section of my Drennan Acolyte pole. This means I can have a really soft and forgiving elastic to cushion the strike, but the power can kick in relatively quickly. This allows me to control and guide any better fish in a lot easier than if I had the same elastic through a full top-two kit.
The main advantage of this setup is that it enables me to swing in slightly better fish and still be in control. If I were to attempt to swing in the same fish with more pole elastic the process becomes a lot more unpredictable because there would be a greater variation in the height that a fish came through the air. This makes it much more difficult to anticipate exactly where the fish will be when I need to catch it. Small points like this can make all the difference over the course of a session and ultimately help you to be much more efficient.
Incidentally, the top section of my Acolyte is 1.45 metres and a top two is 2.89 metres. You can elasticate these wide-bore kits as they come but I prefer to chop them back around 10 centimetres further to accept a 4.5mm internal Drennan Super Slick PTFE Bush. This allows me to use a wider range of elastics and still have all my kits the same length.
Elastic soft enough to stop you bumping roach but meaty enough to tame bonus skimmers like this is a must!
I normally like to have plenty of elastic coming out of the tip when I connect with a bite. This helps to set the hook and then cushions everything when I am shipping back. By having several feet of elastic coming out on the strike it also buys you a few seconds to do other things, such as throwing or catapulting bait immediately after hooking a fish. If you tried doing this with stronger elastic the fish would come straight to the top, splash around and potentially come off while you fumbled around to feed.
"I won't hesitate to stand up to catch or net fish if I ever need to. You have to do what's necessary to make sure that fish ends up safely in your keepnet."
The more elastic you fit the softer it will become, so always bear that in mind if you decide to use less of it in your pole. For example, a No5 elastic through two sections will behave very similarly on the strike to a No3 elastic through just one section.
If you are faced with the occasional better fish on the end that is a potential swinger, a little trick you can sometimes try is to leave an extra pole section on before lifting the fish out. This should hopefully compensate for the extra elastic and enable you to swing the fish swiftly to hand. So, if my pole rig corresponds to the top two sections of my pole I might unship another section longer and swing the fish in with three sections of pole. It can sometimes take a bit of skill and judgement to do this properly but it’s quite an efficient way of catching on certain days.
I must add that I won’t hesitate to stand up to catch or net a fish if I ever need to. You have to do what’s necessary to make sure that fish ends up safely in your keepnet.
I have already touched upon the importance of stepping up your tackle if you are expecting to swing fish in. As soon as a fish leaves the water its downforce is increased and puts greater strain on your hook-hold. You therefore need to ensure that you have a big enough and strong enough hook and sufficient elastic to cushion the fish as it flaps around. If you are using an ultra-fine-wire hook and gossamer-thin hooklength then a landing net needs to be on standby all of the time.
It can pay to have a couple of rigs set up – one for catching normally and one for a red-letter bagging day. Being prepared to step up a gear can help you to really capitalise on a peg full of fish. Failing that, just make sure you have plenty of spare hooklengths tied up so that you can quickly switch to a sturdier arrangement if you think the fish will accept it. Even one hook size up can make swinging in those better fish so much easier.
Even when I am targeting better fish that all need netting it is still worth experimenting with the amount of elastic in your top kits. For instance, last winter I had a lot of success with our lightest Drennan 4-6 Aqua Bungee hollow elastic through a full top-two kit. This was ideal for catching a mixture of F1s, small carp, skimmers and silver fish on tough days when every ounce was vital. However, when it warmed up I felt I was lacking control with this setup and sometimes had far too much elastic coming out. As the fish became more energetic it was taking longer to get them up to the net, even with a Side Pull Kit.
I overcame this problem by using the same elastic through a Drennan Double 2 Side Pull Kit instead. These are exactly the same length as my standard kits but with an extra joint in the No2 section. This enables me to elasticate just one and a half sections of pole (approximately 2.1 metres). This new arrangement still offers plenty of shock absorption but with much-improved control at the netting stage. There is also still a side puller slot for even greater control. Again, this is a good example of being able to control the amount of elastic you have in your top kits.
Whether to swing a fish or not is a decision we all get wrong at times. On several occasions, I have had my wife Sandra tell me off for trying to gamble and swing a fish that could have been costly had it come off! However, it all boils down to confidence and experience, plus having the right tackle for the job. Being a bit more positive and having the courage to attack has definitely won me a few matches over the years. It’s all about sizing up the situation and knowing what the right thing to do is on the day. Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought and the next time you hook a fish you’ll know exactly what to do.
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Lessons From The Champion
Lee Thornton reveals the tactics and mind-set that he uses to stay one step ahead of the competition
As an angler who has been fishing at the top level on the UK match circuit for many seasons, it might come as a surprise that I have never felt I was achieving my full potential. This lack of confidence has led to me being a nearly man on several occasions, both in Fish ‘O’ Mania and Maver Match This qualifiers. I have also been ounces short of a White Acres Festival win, and my biggest disappointment was being runner-up in a Fisho final.
Many people would class the above as successes but being ultra-competitive, I am always looking to improve.
So two seasons ago I decided to devote more time to my fishing and set about improving my overall consistency in how often I win.
Lee believes that specialising in a specific venue or type of venue is vital for consistent success
I decided to do this by chasing the Matchman Of The Year title, to me the hardest in the country to win. You are in competition with every angler on the bank and it rewards consistency over around 80 matches. Unlike the likes of Fish ‘O’ Mania, which in reality is just two good draws. It is also very harsh because once it takes over your fishing, any result other than a frame place makes you leave the bank feeling like the day was a failure, so it drives you to win as regularly as possible.
The first season I finished 8th. Although in the top 10 in the country, I was still a long way off winning and changes needed to be made. Last year I finished 2nd, which is a result I was proud of and, although still quite a way behind winner Andy Bennett, my confidence is at an all-time high and I now frame in around three-quarters of the matches I fish locally.
Information is so easily available these days and the standard of angler is at an all-time high. It is no longer possible to be a jack-of-all-trades and be able to turn up to matches all over the country and regularly win.
Now you need to specialise in styles of fishing and, where possible, venues. This can be commercials, rivers or canals but it must be done to be regularly successful.
Although my apprenticeship was served on natural rivers and drains, I have been a commercial specialist for many years. Since moving to the northwest, this has been narrowed down further to fishing for F1s and ide, with carp present but generally caught as a bonus.
Mastering these styles has been key to many wins over the last two years and I definitely wouldn’t have achieved my consistency if I was switching venues more regularly.
Tips For Champion
1. Use a main line that is strong enough to couple with a hooklength to land the biggest fish. This will mean fewer rigs required.
2. Use softer than required elastic when targeting a mixed bag of fish to ensure fewer hook-pulls.
3. Use stronger than required elastic when big carp are needed. Line breakages are kept to a minimum because elastic never bottoms out.
4. Stick to just a couple of float patterns so you can learn how they behave.
5. Trough practice, learn to fish and feed quickly and accurately.
6. Use a long landing-net handle to net fish first time.
7. Embrace the Short Kit revolution; they are perfect for shallow/speed fishing.
8. Position your gear uniformly every time to aid familiarisation.
9. Use simple shotting patterns that work for you.
10. Rotate lines regularly to keep fish coming through the course of five hours.
11. Keep an open mind at every match.
12. Push your peg to the maximum; you are there to win
13. Maggots in the middle of a snake lake will catch you anything that swims
Leader Of The Pack
To be framing regularly you need to be the angler who everybody is chasing. Generally speaking, once you start winning on a method or a bait, the majority of the field begin to copy or mimic your approach very quickly, so a tactical change only gives you a narrow band of success.
The secret is to be spotting the trends before they happen and adapting quickly through the course of the season.
Although it is important to keep an eye on other anglers to give you clues as to what is happening each week, you need to have the confidence in your own watercraft and decisions to be always fishing your own match. Fishing the same venues week in, week out gives you an intimate knowledge of the lake’s stock and behaviour and will allow you to do things that may seem out of the ordinary to your competitors.
For example, recently at my local venue, I switched to a method I hadn’t fished in 12 months based on a gut feeling in the morning and went on to win twice and come second by 3oz in the next three matches.
I had framed in the matches previous to this, so it would have been easy to stick to what I was doing. However, intuition and confidence in my ability gave me the opportunity to strengthen my performance on these three matches.
Fish Methods Your Way
There are an infinite number of ways to fish and everybody seems to do things slightly differently, even when using the same baits. This can be very confusing to anglers learning the sport but I have come to embrace it.
It is imperative to fish different baits on your terms. I have a way that I am happy with to fish pellets across, paste, maggots shallow, Method feeder and so on. The important thing is to practice these methods so that they become a reflex action.
Nearly all match wins come from the decisions made during the match. Ensuring you are fishing with 100 per cent efficiency because you are well practised in the way you fish allows you to devote all of your concentration on the changes occurring in your swim, how the fish are responding, the weather conditions and timing your lines, rather than the mechanics of physically fishing and feeding accurately.
I've been at both ends of the scale with my tackle, being prepared as much as possible with setting up loads of kit and spares, and also being the hungover angler turning up late and muddling through the match with one rig. I have come to the conclusion that somewhere in the middle is perfect. Over-preparation is definitely counterproductive because it can confuse you, giving you too many options that detract from what is happening in front of you. I have five or six float patterns that I use, but nine times out of 10 only three are rigged up. I also have three or four hook patterns but again I stick to one the majority of the time. By using tackle that I have won loads of matches on, it gives me full confidence that it is not my presentation letting me down. It will be another factor, such as depth or my feeding. Basically, I give myself a psychological edge. It is also an advantage that I am more aware of how my tackle behaves. Using new floats, hooks, elastics takes a while to adjust to and is a variable I tend to eliminate. Over-preparation can also lead to being demotivated due to amount of time required. Limit your tackle to what you actually need and your results will improve.
I also have three or four hook patterns but again I stick to one the majority of the time. By using tackle that I have won loads of matches on, it gives me full confidence that it is not my presentation letting me down. It will be another factor, such as depth or my feeding. Basically, I give myself a psychological edge. It is also an advantage that I am more aware of how my tackle behaves. Using new floats, hooks, elastics takes a while to adjust to and is a variable I tend to eliminate. Over-preparation can also lead to being demotivated due to amount of time required. Limit your tackle to what you actually need and your results will improve.
The biggest factors that affect your results are adapting to conditions and the way in which the fish are behaving/feeding. Consequently, it is rare for me to have a definitive plan of how I am going to fish. All I want to know is what fish are in front of me and what they prefer to eat. The rest I will sort out during the session.
Making definitive decisions as early as possible and, more importantly, seeing it through properly to the end of the match, is the way to perform successfully. Time and time again I have made a decision, changed, and then bottled it when it didn’t work straightaway, only to end up changing back!
Trust your gut instinct; more often than not it is right, and have the confidence that what you are changing to is 100 per cent right.
The last tip is to approach every peg as though you are on a match winner. Keeping switched on and sharp and maintaining a high work rate will see you frame more. By combining all the aspects described with a positive mental attitude, you will be able to capitalise on the mistakes made by others who are on better pegs.
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Alan’s Essential Skills
Alan Scotthorne explains why finer tackle can give you the edge at this typically changeable time of year.
Fishing with really strong gear is absolutely fine in the height of summer when the fish are really lively and active. With a lot more competition for bait, the water will be much more coloured, meaning you can get away with stronger hooks, thicker line and stronger tackle in general.
As we move from winter through to spring, however, things are often a lot trickier. You will have some really good sessions when the carp and F1s feed with a vengeance, but there will be just as many days when they are a lot harder to catch. While the water temperature is still low and the clarity quite high, you have to pay particular attention to your rigs and overall setup. Regardless of the bait, you are using – be that pellets, meat, worms, corn or maggots – fishing with a bit of finesse leads to better bait presentation and will undoubtedly bring you more bites.
The Fine Line
Fishing with a relatively fine hooklength is possibly one of the hardest points to get across to a lot of anglers who target carp and F1s. I cannot blame them because when you are hooking fish that could be 5lb or more it probably doesn’t sound right to use line that is of a much lower breaking strain. For instance, I use 0.117mm Supplex or 0.12mm Supplex fluorocarbon a lot at this time of year. These have a breaking strain of only 2.5lb and 2lb respectively, yet I will happily use either of them for fish that could potentially weigh more than twice that amount.
There are a couple of points that can be made here. Firstly, Drennan line is very accurately stated in terms of diameters but the breaking strains are more conservative than some other lines you may see on the tackle-shop shelves. The breaking strains on Supplex are based on achievable average knot strengths. Because you cannot use line without having to tie a knot, this should be the only way to measure its strength. If you tie a good, well-moistened knot then the breaking strain will, in fact, be slightly higher.
Cover your options and sey up a lighter strung-out rigs, as well as heavier bulked rigs.
What you must also realise is that a 5lb carp does not weigh 5lb when it’s actually swimming in the water. As long as there are not many snags to worry about and you tie decent, reliable knots I would be very confident of getting fish in the net with low-breaking-strain hooklengths.
Slim, pencil floats offer little resistance to a talking fish and strike cleanly from the water.
Of course, you have to be sensible when choosing the right strength of hooklength for commercials. I wouldn’t dream of deliberately fishing with 0.075mm (0.9lb) Supplex fluorocarbon just because it is the lightest in the range. However, it is still surprising just how easy it can be to get really big fish in the net on light tackle such as this.
Over the past few years, there has been a massive boom in silver-fish-only matches on commercial fisheries. Carp do not count, so people deliberately fish with very light gear intended for roach and skimmers, matched up with fine-wire hooks and very light pole elastic. I have lost count of the amount of ‘nuisance’ big carp I have seen banked in these events. Unless the fish has been foul hooked it is often quite difficult to get broken, even if you did try to deliberately pull for a break!
You can sometimes find that a carp will pull back less on this light gear and comes to the net with relative ease. I am sure that if you had used more substantial gear and more powerful elastic, the same fish might have fought twice as hard all the way to the net. It must be the extra resistance that causes a fish to pull a lot more the other way, so the stronger the elastic and the more you pull, the more a fish will pull back.
Light, soft, hollow elastics mean you can fish with fine hooklengths, but when matched with a puller bung, land very big fish!
These lessons learned from accidentally catching carp in silver-fish-only matches only serve to strengthen the case that you can catch carp on light tackle, even if you hadn’t planned to.
Now that we have established that you can land carp on light lines I must stress that the key is to use sensible and balanced tackle at all times. In summer I will typically use a hooklength that is anything from 0.15mm to 0.20mm (approximately 4lb to 7lb). When things are trickier, or if I’m targeting both carp and more fickle F1s, I am more likely to use hooklengths from 0.10mm to 0.13mm (2lb to 3lb). Match it to an equally light and soft elastic and I can fish with complete confidence.
Tie hooks to a variety of line diameters so that you can experiment during a session!
Puller bungs and puller kits have played a big part in the ability for us to scale down our tackle. In short, they have completely transformed the way we can play fish. You can now use much lighter elastic, which is really soft and forgiving when you lift into a bite and puts less pressure on the fish. When it comes to netting the fish you can also reduce the amount of elastic with the puller and play fish comfortably with just your top kit in your hand. A puller kit means that there is no longer any need to have several pole sections high up in the air when netting a big carp on light elastic.
Puller kits and light hooklengths go hand in hand with hollow elastic because this stuff is so much more forgiving compared with traditional solid elastic. It is softer and stretches much further, so there is less likelihood of having a breakage should a fish make a sudden lunge. I still use solid elastic, especially doubled-up elastic in the depths of winter, but that’s perhaps a subject for another time. For spring I still recommend you use soft hollow elastic for the majority of commercial-fishery situations.
At this time of year, there are two that I use the most, Drennan Green (6-8) Carp Bungee for general use and even lighter Aqua (4-6) Silverfish & F1 Bungee. This is most commonly used on F1-dominated venues and when a mixture of species such as roach and skimmers is also on the cards. You will still get those bigger bonus carp out on it, however.
Over the years I have fished with a huge number of poles from different manufacturers and that has made me appreciate that they all have different length top kits. This makes things much more difficult when it comes to recommendations because fitting elastic through a pole with a very long top kit will behave in a very different way to the same elastic fitted through a pole with a much shorter top kit.
I am fortunate with my Acolyte pole because there are two types of top kit available. The standard top kits are relatively long, so I can have plenty of elastic threaded through them. This is ideal for playing all sizes of fish, particularly in colder conditions when they are harder to come by. The other is called a Double 2 and this is the same length but allows you to thread elastic through just the first two metres or so. This means I can use incredibly soft elastic but because there is not so much of it inside the pole I can land fish of all sizes relatively quickly. This is more useful on better days when you are expecting more fish.
Complete The Puzzle
Although I won’t dwell too much on these aspects, the final pieces of the jigsaw are the floats and hooks. A slim pole float such as my latest AS5 ‘pencil’ is ideal for continuing the delicate and sensitive theme because you can dot it right down to register the most delicate of bites and it will lift really cleanly from the water on the strike.
The hook is even more important and at this time of year, I typically use a size 20 or 18 Kamasan B911 F1 for maggots, pellets, corn and small cubes of meat. If I am hair rigging baits (yes, you can most certainly still use a hair rig with fine hooklengths) then a size 20 or 18 B911 eyed hook is my choice.
There is another related point that I must stress when you finally need to use stronger tackle in the height of summer. Just because you are fishing for 10lb carp it does not mean you need 10lb line, size 10 hooks and No20 pole elastic to catch them. The only time you will ever need tackle this fierce is for extreme situations. With the advent of puller kits, I actually don't see the need for pole elastic stronger than Pink (14-16) Carp Bungee. I regularly fish for 10lb carp and have hardly ever felt that I needed to use elastic that was any heavier. In fact, I don't know many top anglers who would dream of using No20 elastic on your average commercial fishery swim. By using softer and more forgiving elastic I guarantee you will catch more fish in the long run.
Another reason why we can normally use these light and well-balanced setups is because there are not so many snags to worry about in most commercials. Yes, there will be the odd reed stem or platform leg to deal with, but that’s nothing compared to all the weed beds, obstructions and underwater hazards you might discover if you were targeting big fish on a canal or river. On a commercial, so long as you take your time I would be really confident of getting out fish of all sizes.
Finer tackle can certainly help you to increase the number of fish you hook. And once you have managed to hook a fish, you should take your time playing it. After all, if you’ve gone through all that effort to fool it, you want to make sure it counts and ends up in your net!
Typical Summer Carp Tackle
Float: Drennan AS2 or AS4
Main line: 0.18mm to 0.20mm Supplex
Hooklength: 0.15mm to 0.20mm Supplex
Hook: Size 16 Kamasan B911 up to a 12 Margin Carp
Elastic: 10-12 Yellow Bungee or 14-16 Pink Bungee
Typical Light Carp Tackle
Float: Drennan AS1, AS3 or AS5
Main line: 0.14mm or 0.16mm Supplex
Hooklength: 0.10mm to 0.13mm Supplex
Hook: Size 20 or 18 Kamasan B911 F1
Elastic: 4-6 Aqua Bungee or 6-8 Green Bungee
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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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