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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