There is an old saying in angling: “Think it, do it!’ and it’s the angler that’s quickest to react to a change in conditions, or how the fish are feeding, who often gains an edge when those around him/her may be struggling to put a run of fish together. That’s exactly how things panned out when we joined Drennan North West ace Lewis Breeze for meat fishing session at Old Hough Fishery, near Middlewich in Cheshire.
Lewis planned to fish for carp on the deck, and had set up his rigs to fish a short line – top two, plus two – down the track, and a long line at 14 metres, at the base of the island, which because of the steep slope, was about 12 to 15 inches off the far bank.
The aim of the session was to show how, by fishing meat, you could eliminate bites from smaller fish when you needed to target the bigger carp to put yourself in with a chance of doing well in a match or session.
“Expanders and pellets are good for catching F1s and smaller fish, but I have worked out that once the water warms up, meat definitely outfishes pellets when there is an abundance of mirror and common carp in a pool,” he explained.
Fish don’t always behave as you expect them to.
To fish the meat on his deep-water short line, Lewis had set up a rig that consisted of a 0.5g Tim Moores float set on 0.15mm mono, which he had shotted with a spread bulk of nine No10 Stotz positioned just above the hook link, plus a No12 Stotz placed directly below the float’s stem to ‘lock the depth’. The hook link was five inches of 0.13mm mono with a size 16 Drennan Wide Gape Pellet hook. For the far-bank line, the mono and hooklength were the same, but this time the float was a 4x12 Tim Moores ‘Slim’, which had a spread bulk of seven No10 Stotz and a No12 Stotz below the float.
The lake for the session was the fishery’s Upper Benbo pool, which is a canal-type water where the island features reeds, lilies and overhangs, so there is plenty of potential for a disaster if you don’t draw the fish quickly off the feature.
To achieve this, Lewis explained that he had specific top kits set up, which had a short length of Preston 13H Hollo in the top section only, so that as soon as a fish is hooked, the tension on the elastic would enable him to prevent fish from darting into the snags. Well, that was the theory.
“There is no ‘pulla’ setup involved with these top kits, so I have to allow the elastic to do the hard work,” he explained. “There is a downside, as if I hook a really big specimen there’s a chance that the elastic could max out and the hook pull out, or worse, the rig breaks.”
However, there would be no such issue with the short-line rig, fished in the open water, where Lewis’ top kit for this line had a softer 11H Hollo fitted with a ‘pulla’ setup.
Bait and feed for the session could not have been simpler, as Lewis had prepared three tins of meat – cut into 6mm cubes – and a few pints of home-cooked hemp. The particles are a great choice when you want to keep the fish feeding on the deck, as they don’t break down into a mush like hard pellets do. He had also punched out some 8mm meat pellets, as an alternative for the hook if he is constantly troubled by small fish at any time during the session.
“You can never completely eliminate the small-fish problem,” he commented.
Lewis then raised the point that with the island slope being such a steep incline, any feed he put in would all fall to its base, and with a concentration of food in a small area there was always a chance that too many fish would compete for the freebies, and the chance of foul hooking fish would increase. In an attempt to avoid this, he had bought a small bag of old meat cubes that had been frozen and then defrosted, which he then pushed through a riddle to create a mush. This would then be mixed with some of the hemp, which when fed would settle on the slope to create a bigger carpet of feed.
A Old, defrosted cubes are the ideal choice for mushing.
B Put the meat through a fairly fine riddle – twice if you want.
C The broken-down feed will add plenty of taste to the water.
D Add a little hemp and the feed is ready to go.
“The mushed-up mix also gives off a good flavour trail, as the fat breaks down in the warm water, which is why meat is a good summer option,” said Lewis.
He also commented that the short line would be a fall-back option, which he would leave for a few hours and fish when the far line needed to be rested. He added that if he could catch on that line he would be able to put more fish in the net quicker by fishing shorter.
“I’m going to feed the short line with a big pot of hemp and half a pot of meat, and then loose feed a few cubes over the top regularly,” he explained. “On the long line, I’ll feed very little over the mush. I’ll just drip feed a few cubes from a Toss Pot.
“I’ve also plumbed up to fish three lines on the island – one straight across, and lines to the left and right, but I’ll only feed and fish one line at the start, as I don’t want to spread the fish out,” he added. “The two other lines look quite snaggy, so I want to try and catch close to the cleaner part of the bank. I’ll only look on the other lines if the fish pull away from my main line.”
The feature-lined island on Upper Benbo pool provided most of the day’s action.
With both lines fed, Lewis shipped out a 6mm cube of meat to the far bank, having first loaded his Toss Pot with 10 cubes of loose offerings, some of which he sprinkled in before dropping the rig over the feed. There were signs of fish almost immediately, but it was from small fish mithering the hook bait, and it took around five minutes – keeping the odd free cube of meat dropping in the water – before Lewis connected with his first fish, a small mirror. This was a good sign that the carp were being drawn to the feed.
The 10 minutes that followed that initial carp saw Lewis struggle to hit the bites. He surmised that it was either small fish pecking at the meat or, possibly, line bites, as he had already seen signs of fish close to the surface when he trickled in the free offerings.
To try and eliminate the problem, he decided to switch to an 8mm punched meat pellet hook bait, which resulted in two more bottom-feeding carp quickly coming to the net, but with the fish swirling on the surface each time he dripped a few cubes into the water, Lewis concluded that a lot of carp were feeding up in the water, and so he made the decision to set up a shallow rig.
Punched 8mm meat pellets were Lewis’ alternative hook baits.
This consisted of a 0.1g Tim Moores Viagraz float, set on 0.15mm line with a size 16 Drennan Carp Match hook tied on with a hair-rigged bait band. The rig was shotted with two No10 Stotz, and set to fish six inches deep. He pointed out that he preferred to fish a float with a nylon stem, as he found that wire-stemmed floats had a tendency to twist round and tangle when fished on a short-line rig. The setup would also allow Lewis to fish a little closer to the island, and with eight inches between the float and pole tip he would be able to lift and drop the rig without the fear of snagging on the overhanging vegetation.
The change in tactic was an inspired move as Lewis started to catch from the first put-in, and due to the setup of the short-line tactic the fish hooked themselves, so he was quickly able to guide the fish out into the open water – away from the snags – without striking and risking catching the overhangs.
Lewis caught fish consistently throughout the rest of the session on the shallow setup, and only switched to his short line when the bites started to slow; here he re-fed a little of his meat mush and hemp, and allowed the line to rest for 10 minutes. The deep-water line produced a few skimmers, the odd ide and a tench, plus a small carp.
Not the biggest fish in the lake, but small carp dominated Lewis’ near-100lb catch.
“I might have made a mistake by loose feeding the short line, as I expected to get a few more carp from it,” he commented. “It might have been better to have just fed a potful at regular intervals to draw in the carp.
“The noise from the loose-fed meat seemed to attract everything else, and had I been relying on the line later in the session it might not have produced the fish I would have expected to catch,” he added. “However, the session has turned around completely from how I planned to fish, so the short line not producing would not have been a complete disaster this time.”
The long line recovered after being rested and the fish kept coming. However, to increase his catch rate Lewis made a few subtle changes to his rig. He found that the bites came more quickly if he set the shot so that one was sitting directly below the float stem and the other was halfway between float and hook. The switch to the hair-rigged meat pellet also meant that the bait remained in place if he missed a bite, as the hook wasn’t pulling through the soft bait, which it would have had it been placed directly on the hook. Lewis also discovered that if he ran out of loose feed in the pot, if he scooped up and poured in a little water this also helped to attract the carp, and by the end of the four-hour session he estimated that he had close to 100lb.
Hair-rigged meat pellets were the best hook option for Lewis’ shallow attack.
“Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t expected to catch the fish shallow today,” Lewis explained, as he cleared the decks before getting the catch pictures taken. “My plan was to fish a completely different session, but that will have to wait for another time.
“The more I watched what was going on over on the long line at the start, the more I realised that the fish were up in the water, and that all I was going to get were line bites if I continued to fish on the deck,” he added.
“I guess this has been a good demonstration that if you see something happening that’s different to what you expected, and you think that it might be a good idea to change what you are doing, you need to make the change. If you don’t do anything about it, you’ll regret it when it all goes wrong and the rest of the field give you a right battering!”
It’s a great haul of fish taken on meat shallow… although that wasn’t the plan!
Team: Drennan North West
Sponsors: Sensas, Dave’s of Middlewich
MF says: Quick-change artist!
The Old Hough Coarse Fishery
Where: Forge Mill Lane, Warmingham, Middlewich, Cheshire CW10 0HQ
Tel: 07976 381996
Day tickets: £6
Words and photos: Steve Martin
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