Lee Kerry visits the beautiful Underbank Reservoir for some truly wild pole fishing.
There is something about fishing big, natural, wild waters that really excites me. It’s the rawness of the fishing, the deep water, the uncomfortable banks and the uncaught fish. It’s pole fishing in its purest form and I love it.
I am on the vast Underbank Reservoir at Stocksbridge, just north of Sheffield. This is such a beautiful place to fish and it is very interesting in that the levels fluctuate almost weekly. It also receives little angling pressure, so you never quite know how a session will go. It all adds to the intrigue of the place and keeps the fishing different on every visit.
The Bathymetry Of The Venue
As I alluded to earlier, the water level is constantly changing on a venue such as this. For example, just two months earlier I had a slider fishing session here and fishing at 50 metres would have meant my float being about where my seatbox is today.
When the level drops, it gives you a great opportunity to learn the bathymetry of the lake. Look around the venue when the level is low and it gives you an incredible view of what the lake bed is actually like. The slopes on this venue range from steady gradual ones toward the shallower end, while toward the dam end they are far more severe.
If you plan on targeting these venues, then get yourself down when the level is low. It will give you a great idea of the good and bad areas to fish.
I have chosen an area where the slope is not quite so severe. The peg does get gradually deeper but, compared with the area to my right, it is only a steady gradient. Seeing these slopes also gives you an idea of where and how to feed.
The Feeding Conundrum
The target species are roach, perch and skimmers. This means that it is natural baits all the way because I highly doubt these fish even know what a pellet is.
The peg I have chosen offers around 12 feet of water, which brings its own set of problems. I could loose feed baits such as casters and hemp, but the likelihood is that the fish would come off the bottom to intercept the bait and make them quite hard to catch.
This leaves me with what I consider the best option, using a heavy groundbait to carry my loose feed to the bottom.
Using a sticky, heavy groundbait gives me two distinct advantages. Not only does the groundbait attract lots of fish with its aroma and ingredients, but it is a great way to transport the loose feed to the bottom.
The mix I have chosen is a 75/25 blend of Sonubaits Supercrush River and Supercrush Bream. The River is a heavy, sticky mix that will get to the bottom no problem in the deep water that I am faced with. It just so happens that silver fish absolutely love it too! The Bream is a lighter ingredient in both texture and colour but it adds a strong smell to the mix that I like. It also helps the groundbait break up when the balls get to the lake bed.
A bag of each is enough for this session but if you need more or are fishing in deeper water still, don’t hesitate to add a percentage of molehill soil that has been put through a riddle. This free ingredient adds weight and bulk and is a brilliant addition to a deep-water mix.
Making The Mix
There is nothing special needed when mixing this groundbait. Just ensure it finishes a nice sticky, heavy consistency. I use a drill and whisk to make things easier but doing it by hand will achieve the same results.
It is how I add the bait to the groundbait that is a little different. I could just add loose particles to the mix and blend it all together but I like to be a bit more precise than that, so I measure out everything.
I take a spare bowl and firstly add 250ml (equivalent to a large pole cup) of finely minced worms, then the same of pinkies and casters. I then add five pots of groundbait to the bowl. This gives me roughly eight balls when it is all mixed together, and I am planning on feeding all eight at the start. These feed-rich, sticky balls will go straight to the bottom and give the swim the perfect kick-start.
Making Lee's Mix...
A - Take 250ml of finely minced worms...
B - The same quantity of pinkies...
C - And the same again of casters
D - Then add 250ml pots of groundbait...
E - Whizz it all up together and... Voila!
Cup To Conquer The Slope
Feeding lots of groundbait on big waters usually means one thing – balling it! Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for this but I much prefer to cup my initial feed for two reasons.
Firstly, the slope that we know to be severe makes accurate feeding a nightmare. As much as I trust in my balling skills, when fishing on a slope even one stray ball may end up two or three metres away from the target spot. I find it best to accurately feed via the cup and ensure that the balls are where I want them.
The second reason is that I fully believe that if I am going to catch a lot of fish on the pole then they are going to be there anyway, so there is no need to use the noise to draw them in. I would much rather make sure that my bait was in the perfect place.
Practice makes perfect!
Rigs For The Job
Because my bait and approach is based around catching on the bottom, my rigs reflect that. I have set up a 1.25g carbon-stemmed float that is shotted with an olivette bulk and two No9 droppers. This simple setup gets my hook bait to the bottom quickly while also not being too heavy. In my experience, using a rig that is too heavy will lead to an excess amount of missed bites, so it always about finding the balance and today a 1.25g is about right.
Because these fish are wild and uncaught, I don’t need anything too small hookwise and a size 16 PR 311 is ideal matched to a 0.09mm hooklength.
As much as I want my approach to work, fishing isn’t set in stone and as the session goes on I might need to loose feed to keep the roach interested. This is when a lighter rig will work well.
I have set up a 0.75g float with a bulk of No8s four feet from the hook and have four No10 droppers spread below this. This gives me the option to catch fish on the drop should they come off the bottom.
Both rigs feature fairly tight set No6 elastic. This is essential when fishing deeper water because more fish are bumped with an elastic that’s too light than with an elastic too heavy.
Let’s Get On With It
Enough with the small talk, it’s time to get on with the fishing. I go straight in with a single maggot hook bait and it takes about 15 seconds before I am swinging in my first roach. Second chuck and the same thing happens and I am starting to think about how easy the session will be. Then I have a biteless 20 minutes!
It really surprises me because usually once roach find the bait the action will be consistent.
It leaves me in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. It is clear that the roach were attracted by the initial feeding and perhaps the falling bait is what is creating the interest.
I try feeding some loose casters and hemp with the catapult. This seems to work straight away and I soon catch another 10 roach. Once again, just as I am getting ideas of bagging up, the swim dies and I am left confused.
Casters don't come better than these!
This is the beauty and the challenge of this sort of fishing. These wild fish are not daft and it can take every trick in the book to catch them. But that’s what makes this style of venue so rewarding.
I decide to make up extra groundbait with casters, hemp and pinkies in and start throwing a small ball into the swim roughly every 10 minutes.
All of a sudden the action is prolific. Roach and perch are coming every cast and I have even added three quality skimmers to my net, all on a single maggot.
The water is painfully clear and I think the fish are really on edge and almost need to be forced to feed. The regular small balls are taking the fish to the bottom just long enough to catch a couple before they rise back up in the water column.
It is by far the best way to catch them and it is interesting where the balls are best fed. I am trying to feed the small balls by hand about two feet short of the pole tip. This is to take the slope into account because the last thing I want is the small balls going past the pole tip.
With the feeding now sorted I can get on with catching a good net of fish. Roach and perch are coming regularly but there is no sign of any bigger fish. That is when I notice the odd flouro maggot mixed in with my reds. I decide to slip one on and amazingly catch a skimmer! Thinking it could be a fluke, I root through the bait tub and find another. Astonishingly, I catch yet another skimmer.
I then pop another red maggot on and incredibly there is not a skimmer in sight and I’m back to small roach and perch. In this clear water, the extra colour of the fluoro maggot might just be catching the fishes’ eye. It is a timely reminder that bringing a few options in terms of hook baits is always worthwhile, even if it is just a different coloured maggot.
Happiness is a net of silvers!
I end the day with around 15lb of beautiful wild fish. Each and every one looks brand new and, such is the clarity of the water, their colours are vivid. These natural waters are a lovely challenge and welcome break from the many commercial venues around. I love this place, but there are countless venues such as this across the country and all of them are untapped and stuffed with fish. Why not give one of them a go for some superb pole fishing?