Lee Kerry visits Barnburgh Lakes to prove that some of the best winter fishing can be had on the short pole.
At a time where winter fishing and long pole work go hand in hand, it may come as a refreshing change to you to learn that some of the biggest winter hauls can be taken on a short pole.
This applies mainly to snake lakes, and some of my very best days’ fishing on these popular venues has been taken down the track in the deepest water. Of course there are times where searching for the fish with baits such as bread can be deadly effective. But for me dobbing baits gives the fish the upper hand and I don’t like that – I like to be in control!
So fishing down the track allows me to fish for fish that actually want to feed. It may take me a while to get the fish going, but when the fish switch on, I can really catch well.
Where To Fish
For me this approach works best at a distance that is comfortable to feed and throw bait by hand. This means that fishing just five or six metres is essential and fortunately on most snake lakes, this happens to be in the deepest water.
One thing I must say is that I am happy to fish on the soft silt during the winter. In the summer this soft bottom can be a nightmare to fish on, but during the winter that fizzing effect that can be so problematic during the warmer months is lessened dramatically and I know I can still catch fish on the soft bottom.
For that reason I don’t pay too much attention to the lake bed and as long as the water is deep enough I am happy to fish five metres where I can throw the bait accurately.
Maggots are quite simply the only bait to consider. Of course F1s love baits like pellets but they are not as effective at building a swim, they are better for setting a trap and picking fish off; in fact the deeper into winter we go the less effective pellets can become, so maggots are the choice every time.
Maggots in comparison to pellets take a little longer to get going but they build the swim, and once the fish get a taste for them, other baits can’t compete!
Another reason for maggots is the competition they create in the swim. Small silver fish love them and will almost always be the first fish on the scene. But the activity of them buzzing around and eating the bait will only serve to draw inquisitive F1s into the swim. So if you can only catch roach and skimmers, keep catching them and eventually the F1s will turn up in force.
I alluded to it earlier, but for me you need to be able to feed by hand for this to work. A steady stream of maggots going through the water will draw lots of fish of all species and before long those quality fish can’t resist.
I think it’s important to find a feeding regime that ‘feels’ right. I often hear anglers talking about feeding the small fish off. In my experience that is a load of rubbish as when roach are in front of you, you simply can’t feed them off!
You are better off strictly feeding eight to 10 maggots every two minutes or so and waiting for the F1s to turn up. As soon as they do the roach will vanish anyway and you won’t have fed too much bait, meaning competition will be high. Which in turn leads to the fish being easier to catch.
It’s worth feeding twice when loose feeding maggots, though. I will feed eight maggots and then follow it with another eight immediately after. I find the noise of the initial feed draws the fish and then the second lot the fish actually feed on.
I will set up two rigs for this line to give me two varying presentations. The first is a simple bulk and two droppers that will get my hook bait to the bottom quickly. I like this rig as it means I am fishing on the bottom effectively with a simple and tangle-free setup.
But there are days where the fish will prefer to watch the bait down and a strung-out rig will take advantage of this. Strung-out shot work well and what I like to do is flick the rig out past the pole tip and hold a tight line. The rig will swing back under your pole tip and present the hook bait as naturally as possible. Bites will either come as the rig falls or as soon as the rig settles.
Both rigs use F1 Maggot floats in 4x14 and 4x12 sizes. My favourite hooks for this style are the hugely underrated PR 412, a hook with a slightly long shank that I have supreme faith in for both F1s and silvers.
A nice light 9H elastic completes the setup and keep the small size 20 and 18 hooks in place.
Patience Pays Off
As I said before this is an approach that gets better and better so you need to be patient. F1s in winter take time to switch on and come to the bait, but they will come if you have the faith.
Today I have caught roach of all sizes for a good two hours. I bet I have caught over 10lb of them in this time, which although it isn’t a huge weight, it’s all part of the swim-building process and is a handy bonus in a match situation.
After two hours the roach bites ease up. I haven’t increased the amount of bait and have kept it to a strict eight to 10 maggots. I have seen this happen countless times before and sure enough just a few minutes after the roach slow up, I catch my first F1.
This signals a procession of huge F1s, big golden beauties! And that is another key point, this short-pole maggot approach tends to catch a big stamp of fish and today is no different.
I end up with 27 F1s in the remaining three hours for well over 60lb. Add to that my roach and you have a superb day’s sport. It also proves that there is far more to F1 snake lakes than long poles and dobbing.
Sponsors: Preston Innovations, Sonubaits
Pole: Preston Innovations M90