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Depth Matters

Pete Upperton On Carp


We join Middy ace Pete Upperton for a masterclass in finding the optimum depth of water for big bags of carp!

Where do you fish your pellets? I’d hazard a guess that if we asked a survey of 100 people (in typical Family Fortunes style), 99 would reply: “Dead depth.” After all, that is what we’ve written in this magazine hundreds of times, but is this always correct? We joined 2015 Match This winner Pete Upperton to find out why he believes that a change of depth can change your results and even help you top up your bank balance too!

PU Depth 72 Pete Upperton 16 March 4
The Orchard Farm carp are almost all in pristine condition!

“We’ve been told time and time again how simple pellet fishing is, and although this is fundamentally true, there are still hundreds of variables from what is considered a ‘standard’ pellet approach. I find that most anglers, myself included, have a default pellet setting. We all use pretty similar rigs, similar shotting and most anglers’ terminal tackle is at heart very similar. By this I mean winter pellet fishing involves lower-diameter lines, smaller hooks and lighter elastic. We all feed using tiny Toss Pots, most of the time feeding micros, and we all fish the same areas of our pegs and present our baits dead depth.

PU Depth 59 Pete Upperton 16 March 3
Light but balanced tackle is a must in winter

“With all of these similarities between anglers, it’s not hard to see why venues get bad press for being dominated by the draw bag. A lot of the time the only difference between anglers is the peg, so it’s bound to have an impact on the results.

“With this is mind, I started to look at my winter pellet fishing to try and find ways I could do something different, much like I do with my meat fishing all summer. I looked at everything, my rigs, my bait, where I fish in my peg and my presentation and broke it all down to try and find anything I could alter to give me an edge.

“The important thing to think about, though, is why to change something. Changing something just for changes sake is a bad route to go down. However, if a change makes sense to you, give a try. If it works, develop it further. If it doesn’t, revert to the default and look at another area.”


Change of bait

PU Depth 47 Pete Upperton PF 16 Match 2
A single expander pellet is Pete's favourite hook bait for wary winter carp

“When I started to look closely at my pellet fishing, the first thing to look at was bait. Were pellets actually the right bait to be fishing? After a bit of experimenting with other baits, and some poor results, it was safe to say that I had to stick with pellets. I then started experimenting with size. I had some success feeding 4mm pellets rather than micros but it was inconsistent, so that was when I started using SSP micro pellets.

PU Depth 55 Pete Upperton 16 march 5
The SSP Micro pellets are perfect for winter work!

These are not only slightly bigger than standard micro pellets but they also have a unique flavour, rather than your typical fishmeal. I tried them for several weeks and they turned out to be perfect. The slightly bigger size seems to hold the fish in a tighter area and they seem to sink more consistently, which helps, especially when there’s tow on the water. Unlike 4mm pellets, I caught over them every time I used them and I felt I had my first edge.”

Depth rules

“Once I was confident I was using the correct bait, I started to look at another important part of pellet fishing – swim choice. This was not only where I fished my swim but also how many swims I fished. I found that depending on the stocking, it varied as to how many swims you needed to fish. If it were an F1-dominated fishery then I’d fish more swims. If it’s carp, then the fewer the better. The most important lesson I learnt, however, was that you must feed swims at more than one depth.

Fish in winter, especially carp, will find the warmest water they can and this can be at any depth, sometimes in the deepest part of your swim, sometimes in the shallowest. To give yourself the best chance of finding them you must feed swims at different depths. This may require setting up extra rigs or fishing longer or shorter than usual but it’s something that really can help put more fish in your net.

“One area I’ve started exploiting in winter is the margins. Now, this again depends on the depth but any venue that has a margin that is two feet or deeper certainly has the chance to throw up some fish in winter, especially if there is marginal cover such as reeds.

“The other huge and most important part of pellet fishing I’ve learnt is that dead depth isn’t always right and a change of just an inch can transform a swim that seems devoid of fish into a fish-a-drop swim. My thinking on this actually derived from fishing shallow. Even on days where the fish are ravenous and you’re bagging shallow, altering your depth can severely change your catch rate. So if the fish, even when feeding aggressively, will only feed at a certain depth, then why not in winter, when they have far more time to inspect your bait and be choosy about what they feed on?

“I always start my session at the default of dead depth but I’m always looking for signs that fish are in the swim but possibly not taking my bait. The biggest giveaway is line bites. Tiny dips on your float often get dismissed as shy bites off F1s in winter, but sometimes they’re simply fish off the bottom intercepting pellets as they fall through the water, or just moving about off the bottom looking for food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling people to reach for their shallow rigs but fishing anything from an inch to six inches off the bottom really can bring bites when you can’t get a touch on the bottom. This applies to F1s and carp because both will take a pellet sat off the bottom, especially when fished in conjunction with a light rig fished through the water and micros being regularly sprinkled into the swim.”

The session

“To demonstrate my tactics I’ve brought the Pole Fishing team to Orchard Place Farm. It’s in good form but the fishing certainly suits those who are willing to work for bites. Looking at the water, the first thing I have to do is decide where my swims are going to be. I have an island in front of me so I’ll fish one swim in the shallow water towards it. To give me another depth I’m going to fish a swim down the track in the deepest water I can find. Finally, I know from experience that the depth in the margins is around three feet, which is perfect for winter margin fishing, so I’ll put another swim here.

“Rigs are kept simple. All of them are made using 0.14 Middy Lo-Viz line to a 0.12mm hooklength and a size 18 93-13 hook. I have a 4x16 Carp Grey float for the deeper water and a 4x12 version of the same pattern for the margins. Over to the island, the 4x12 rigs are shotted with a strung bulk, while the 4x16 rig will be fished initially with a bulk and one dropper while I fish on the deck. Then I can spread the shotting if I feel I need to fish off the bottom.

“Each swim is initially fed with a small amount of micro pellets and then topped up via a tiny Toss Pot. I’m starting over to the island but after 25 biteless minutes, I think it’s safe to say that the fish don’t want to be in such shallow water. Although if this were a match I would be disappointed that this line hasn’t produced, I would still have the occasional look because the fish can soon move into shallower water, even in winter, if the sun comes out and heats the upper layers a degree or two.

“A switch to the deeper swim produces my first bite. It’s a small F1 and it’s nice to get off the mark. It soon becomes evident that there are a few fish in this swim because I’m getting regular bites and indications and I manage to add a few fish to my catch, both F1s and small carp.

"It soon becomes evident that there are a few fish in this swim because I'm getting regular bites and indications and I manage to add a few fish to my catch, both F1s and small carp"

“I keep introducing a few micros, as well as occasionally dropping a few on my other two swims, and as time passes I start to feel that the fish are moving off the bottom. The main giveaway is line bites but also bites just before the rig fully settles. What some people may now do is introduce more feed to try and force the fish down but my thinking is a little different. I’m obviously getting bites, I have fish in my swim, and they seem settled, so why change my feeding? Surely that part of my game plan is working? With this in mind, I spread my shot over the last third of my rig and shallow up four inches.

“This change has a dramatic effect on my catch rate and I’m soon into a fish every drop. I actually shallow up a further two inches so I’m catching six inches off the bottom. Although I’m catching really well on this swim, the fact that the fish ideally want to be feeding shallower than the depth of water I’m fishing in leads me to think that I need to try the margins. Even off the bottom, I’m fishing five feet deep, so it could be that the margins are too shallow but it’s certainly worth a try.

PU Depth 19 Pete Upperton 16 March 6
Light hollow elastic and a puller kit mean Pete lands almost everything he hooks!

“First drop-in on a 6mm pellet and the float dips before slipping from sight – fish on! I’m really pleased that this swim has produced because I felt they wanted to be slightly shallower.

“Next drop produces another fish and I actually shallow up so that I’m four inches off the bottom on this rig too. I prefer to fish a 4mm pellet off the bottom because it matches my feed a bit more closely and seems to produce a more positive bite.

“I continue to catch for the rest of the session and I have well over 50lb in just a few hours, most of which have been caught off the bottom.

“I’m sure if I’d fished the session with a standard pellet approach I would’ve caught. I do feel, though, that the fish certainly wanted to be off the bottom and this could have caused a huge amount of problems with missed bites and foul-hooked fish if I had fished on the bottom all day. By altering my depth and presenting a bait where the fish wanted to feed rather than trying to force them onto the bottom, I’ve really upped my catch rate and certainly put more fish in the net.

“Next time you’re out on the bank, assess your peg and be willing to change your depth, be that the area of your peg or your rigs. It’ll certainly catch you more fish this winter.”

PU Depth 69 Pete Upperton 16 march 7
A tiny change really can make all the difference to you catches in winter!

Venue File -

Venue: Orchard Farm Fishery

Location: Pearsons Green Road, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6NY

Day tickets: £8, concessions £6

Website: www.orchardplacefarmfishing.co.uk

Contact: 07860 608218


Angler File -

Name: Pete Upperton

Age: 33

Lives: Surrey

Sponsors: Middy and SSP Baits

Pole: Middy XP65-2 

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