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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James Dornom explains his deadly attack for getting the best from his two favourite commercial bait combinations!
It is a quandary faced by anglers who tackle mixed venues almost every time they go fishing. When a venue is rammed with carp, skimmers, ide, roach, perch and F1s – like Queensberry Lake here at Broom Fishery – the hardest decision that you often have to make is which bait to feed to get the best results.
Here, as at a lot of places, the standout weights are often caught on pellets. They appeal to the bigger carp, F1s and skimmers. However, there’s also a hell of a lot of fish to be caught on worms. Importantly, though, they are often different fish to those that you catch on pellets, such as ide, barbel, chub and big roach. These are the fish that you can use to scratch out a result when you maybe haven’t drawn so favourably.
So if you rule out pellets or worms, you can often be limiting the fish that you catch straightaway, which is why I like to fish both baits where I can. The most important edge that I have, though, is where and how I fish them.
The first thing to consider is where the bulk of the fish are likely to be in this early part of the year – and the answer is out in the middle of the lake in the deepest water. This is probably truer here in Scotland, where I fish, than it is for many because it does take a good while longer to warm up than the rest of the country!
That said, after a cold night the lesson holds true at most places – especially after the disturbance of anglers setting up in a match situation. So it is certainly logical to expect to have to start your day on the long pole.
For sure, worms are better for generating an instant response than pellets are. The amino acids within them naturally help to kick-start your swim, and the fact that there are so many small particles of bait means that you can keep fish grubbing around for a long period.
Pellets, by contrast, are often more of a slow burner. This is partially because of the species that they appeal to – F1s and carp in particular become increasingly active as the day progresses and the water warms up.
So the ideal scenario in my mind is to fish worms in the early part of the session and pellets later. This way you are playing to the natural strengths of the two baits.
The Broom Fisheries ide give a very good account of themselves!
Another clever little trick that I have learnt that helps when fishing with a bait combination like this is to give careful thought to where you locate your lines. Because I believe that worms have a greater power of attraction to small fish, I put this line closer to me at 13 metres and locate my pellet line a couple of sections past this at 16 metres. Another advantage to doing this is that any fish that may back off my worm line as I am fishing it naturally sit back and graze over my pellet line. So when I go on this line they are queuing up and ready to be caught!
James uses the slim pattern for pellets and the bodied float for worms
One thing to be wary of when it comes to fishing with chopped worm in water deeper than about four feet is how you feed it. For example, if you feed it loose you might find it spreads out as it falls through the water, which stops you being accurate.
Also, chopped worm fed neat is very rich in feed content, so for both these reasons, I like to mix my worm and caster with peat and a little groundbait before introducing it to the peg.
My groundbait choice is Ringers Dark, a nice rich fishmeal mix that is dark in colour. I mix this 50/50 with the peat from my worms and this forms the carrier for my chopped worm and caster. I like to mince my worms to a reasonably fine consistency and add one part chopped worm to two parts of my peat and groundbait mixture. I also add a handful of casters to this, which gives me the option of slipping one on the hook and trying it over the top of my mix.
Pelletwise, I use a mixture of dampened Skrettings micro pellets and 4mm pellets. Generally, I kick-start the long line with half a pot containing 125ml of mixed pellets. If action is hectic on my worm line, this would suggest to me that action will also be good when I move on my pellet swim, so I will top it up every half an hour or so to try and ensure that when I move onto the line some fish are queuing up for me. If, by contrast, I am struggling to catch on worms, I will be more hesitant to top up the long-pole line because I expect the going to be more difficult.
Today, the fish have been very obliging, though, and after starting on my long-pole swim I soon find that I am into a procession of small skimmers, with the occasional big ide thrown in for good measure.
Rigwise, I opt for two patterns to do two jobs. For worms, it is a 4x16 bodied Colmic Freedoom pattern. I fish with my bulk around two feet from my hook on this rig, with two No10 droppers. The idea is to get my hook bait down to the area directly above my bait and then my dropper shot aid a slow fall through the ‘killing zone’.
For pellets, a Malman Dolphin is my choice. This is shotted with a strung bulk of No10s starting just above my hooklength. These have a nice visible hollow bristle, which is very stable but also super-sensitive and helps me catch any shy-biting carp or F1s!
The Bait Tray
Soaked 4mm and micro pellets are James' choice of feed on the long line.
This peat and groundbait mix helps the worm and caster to the bottom.
A single caster can be a great bait for ide when the fishing is tough...
... but a chuck of worm like this is normally best
Making The Change
Of course, the key to really getting the most of this two-bait tactic is making sure that you move from your worm line onto your pellet swim at the right time. After all, there is no point in sitting and catching small skimmers and ide on worms if there are bigger F1s and carp ready to be caught on pellets!
Again, I tend to use the quality of fishing on my worm line as the gauge as to when to move. If the smaller skimmers and ide are feeding very well on worms, I might be tempted to have a look on pellets after an hour of the session just to see if any better fish are there to be caught.
When I drop on this line, I simply wait five minutes and see if I have a response. If I get one, I will fish the swim until bites dry up before topping up. If I don’t, I will top up the swim with a handful of pellets and move back to the short line. I will then repeat the process sometime later.
On the toughest days, it might be that the long-pole pellet line doesn’t properly get going until the last hour, and even then you might only nick a couple of quality carp or F1s from it.
The cool Scottish water does nothing to calm the temper of the carp.
In a match situation, these fish can often prove invaluable, though, especially if you already have an amount in your net from your early exploits on your chopped-worm line.
On the flip side, if your pellet line is really good, you might find that you don’t go back on your worm line once you make the change and move onto the pellet swim. The key point is that you have your options covered and have somewhere to go should things not go to plan.
Today has perhaps been typical of how a day on my two-bait combo normally pans out. After plenty of bites on worm in the early part of the day, I have ventured out onto the pellet swim and only managed a couple of small skimmers. So I topped it up and kept putting some smaller silvers in the net. An hour later, when I moved back on to the line for another try, the fish were more obliging and two F1s and a small carp came in quick succession. Again, bites dried up so I topped up and dropped back short to keep some fish going in the net, before once again returning to the long line later in the day.
I finished the session with a lovely 30lb mixed bag on one of my favourite springtime tactics. If you fish mixed venues regularly and want a day to remember, you simply have to get out and give this tactic a try.
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Former World Silver Medallist and Irish team regular Willy Wheeler reflects on the changing face of Irish Festival fishing.
When you talk to a lot of English anglers about the things they associate with fishing in Ireland, you generally hear memories of rugged venues, big nets of bream and roach, and even bigger expanses of water.
In certain parts of the country, and on certain waters, the above is still very much a reality, and these vast waters still have their appeal and diehard fans. But there is also a new chapter in Irish angling, which is winning fans from all over the world.
Forget your big feeder rods, buckets of groundbait and tins of corn, the focus for these guys, and on these waters is getting bites – and lots of them!
Lough Muckno in the County Monaghan area has been a real hub for this style of fishing, and though some big bream weights have been recorded here, the festivals are generally dominated by the anglers who can catch a lot of roach and hybrids, reasonably quickly.
For the pole angler this is great news, as once the weather starts to warm up, the pole becomes the most dominant method, as it is by far and away the most efficient way of extracting a large number of fish quickly.
Again, though, careful thought is required as to how you approach this kind of pole fishing, as it is very different to the traditional ‘gung ho’ methods that many have come to associate with pole fishing in Ireland. Speed and efficiency is the name of the game, but this doesn’t mean you have to fish thick elastics, big hooks and throw bait everywhere. The key is to set your peg up so that you can get and keep a sensible number of feeding fish in your catching area, and use tackle that helps you get bites and land fish as quickly and efficiently as possible without spooking others in the area.
Let’s focus on feeding first – and with what I have said above in mind the key is to attract a volume of fish into your peg, and keep them there. The more fish you can get competing for bait in your peg, the faster and more readily they will accept your hook bait. However, if you feed too much, you run the risk of having fish all over the water column, leading to missed bites and other associated problems.
For sure, sometimes feeding aggressively with a catapult can be the right way to go – but I would argue that this is only really the case when you are looking to catch up in the water. There are signs you will get that will help you know when to come shallow, and I will come on to those later.
The groundbait mix that you choose to use is essential. I typically feed a mix of Sensas Black Magic, Black Roach, and Gros Gardons. Mixed dry, this is quite a sticky groundbait with a lot of attractive power. The aim is to create a carpet of bait that is packed with attractants, carrying a handful of the bait that I plan on fishing on the hook.I them aim to keep fish coming by either loose feeding, or potting in feed-rich balls of groundbait, depending on how the fish respond to my attack.
Three key groundbaits for Willy when tacklings big Irish loughs
Where possible, I like to ball in this mix of groundbait too. The key advantage of doing this is that you draw in fish from the surrounding water. Roach and hybrids, in particular, responded brilliantly to this, as they are drawn into the feed area that you have created by the noise, and held by the mass of particles on the bottom.
Again, when it comes to my tackle, the emphasis is firmly on catching a large number of fish as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to set up three basic rigs, although in a match I will often set up duplicates of each too, in case of tangles.
The first is my ‘bulk-down’ rig. This is for catching fish hard on the bottom and comprises an olivette two feet from my hook, and three No9 or No10 droppers. Mainline choice on all my rigs is 0.12mm Sensas Feeling, and hooklength choice is generally 0.08mm of the same – though I will step up to 0.09mm and 0.10mm if I feel the fish are feeding sufficiently confidently to allow me to do so.
Sensas 3260s and the slightly finer 3210s are Willy's choice for roach when fishing with maggots and casters
Next up is my strung rig, which boasts the same pattern float as I use for fishing on the bottom, but with a shotting pattern comprising strung-out No8, No9 or No10 shot, depending on the size of float that I opt for. When the going is tough, early on in a session, or indeed when I want to try and find out whereabouts in the water column the fish are feeding, this is the rig that I turn to.
The only difference in terms of float pattern between this and my bulk-down rig is the stem material – I favour a carbon stem for fishing on the drop, as this allows my float to follow my rig as it falls, so I can read what is happening.
Finally, I set up a shallow rig. This is a rig that I may or may not pick up, depending on how the session progresses, but I always like to give myself the option. This is similar to my strung-out rig, but with a slightly lighter pattern float, and set 18 inches off the bottom. It is worth nothing, however, that even though I always start fishing shallow with a strung-out rig, when a really big weight is on the cards up in the water, I normally find a bulk pattern to work best – so I won’t hesitate in bunching the shots together if I am catching well.
These three float patterns do very different jobs for Willy
In terms of float size, it is all about matching depths and conditions. Today, I am faced with a swim around six feet deep, and there is a slight breeze on the water. I use a 1g float for fishing on the bottom, and a 4x14 rig for shallow.
Read The Swim
Now that I have explained the basis of my attack, I will try to outline how I go about reading the water to find the right way of feeding on a given day. A lot of the decisions that I take will be based on how the swim responds in the first hour of fishing, as knowing what species are in your peg, and how they want to feed is the aim of the game.
Today has perhaps been fairly typical of a ‘roach’ day. I waited around five minutes for my first bite, then caught small roach for the first hour. The fact that there were no hybrids or skimmers mixed in with them allowed me to narrow my vision – I knew that I was targeting small roach exclusively. I also found that the fish responded well to loose feed. By shipping out, loose feeding a pouch of casters, then dropping my rig on top of my bait I was able to catch a bigger stamp of roach. So quite quickly I had formulated a plan and found a way of catching quality roach.
Midway through the session, I felt that bites were dropping off, and my swim needed another boost. To accommodate this, I cupped in three balls of groundbait rich with casters, and after five minutes the peg was as strong as ever. Then, by loose feeding, as I was before, I was able to keep the fish coming until the end of the session.
This all probably sounds quite simple – and it is. You are after catching a large volume of fish, so the more simple and effective you can be, the better. I mentioned earlier that sometimes you may want to fish shallow – and your peg will tell you when to do this. If you get line bites after loose feeding, pick up your shallow rig and try it. If you catch well, you can then adapt your plan accordingly. However, if you catch a couple of fish then nothing, you are better off sticking to a more disciplined feeding regime and trying to keep the fish on the bottom.
It might not be the big baf of brea, that Ireland was once famous for, but with great nets of roach like this to be taken, there is no wonder the Emerald Isle has a new generation of followers!
At all times, there is one golden rule that you need to stick to, and that is to make sure you come back with a fish. Success on this type of venue is all about playing the numbers game, so never be tempted to ‘risk it’, unless of course, you can’t get any bites on the pole. In this scenario, fishing the feeder, is your best option, as it is probably the case that the fish simply don’t want to feed on your pole line.
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