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Shallow Hauling

Now summer is here the fish will often be found up in the water, where Darren Cox is waiting to catch them.

Picture the scene: The sun is out and a gentle breeze ruffles the lake’s surface. There are lots of fish cruising around the lake; you can see the dark shadows just under the water with the odd fish surfacing to take something floating on the top.  For sure the fish will be active and on the hunt for food, although they are still often very wary and won’t venture too close to the bank and the disturbance from anglers… but they will be hungry!

This is where shallow fishing on the pole comes into its own. When the water is warm and the sun is out the fish don’t want to be on the bottom, so there is no point trying to catch them there. Yes you will still catch some fish on the deck, especially if you feed enough to push them down for a while; they will follow heavy feed to the bottom, eat and then rise back up in the water where they really want to be, so why not feed to catch them there?

There are a few key things that you need to get right to catch shallow; master them and you will find it easy and have a great day’s fishing.

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You catch all sorts and sizes when fishing shallow.



It is important to select the right floats. A short, compact but buoyant float is important, and also one you can see. I usually opt for a Garbolino DC7 in 0.2g to fish up to three feet deep or 0.3g for ‘deep shallow’ fishing up to four feet. These are very robust dibber-style floats but with a thinner balsa tip that is more sensitive and offers less resistance to fish when they suck the pellet in.

If light conditions are poor then I will opt for a Garbolino DC6T, which has a thick hollow plastic antenna. You can see these floats in most conditions, especially when fishing into the sun. Both floats are strong and will cope with the strain they must take when shallow fishing.

I normally tie my rigs to heavier line as this dramatically reduces tangles. I use Garbo Line in diameters 0.16mm or 0.18mm. This thicker and stiffer line also gives me a more direct contact with the hook and helps me get more hook-ups from bites. Sometimes thinner doesn’t mean better! I may still use small hooks and light hooklengths but the thicker main line won’t do any harm at all.

Hook choice is usually the ultra-reliable Kamasan B911 in sizes 16 to 20, depending on the size of hook bait I intend using.

These floats only take a few No9 or 10 shot so there is no need to be complicated. I use three different configurations and the first is to have the shot spaced out evenly. This is what I use when I feel the fish are at different depths, often at the start of the session. This way I can catch them ‘on the drop’ or as my rig reaches its maximum depth. This is my ‘find the right depth’ rig.

Once I feel I know what depth the carp are feeding I will set my rig to that depth and then move all the shot together in a small bulk that sits just above my hooklength, normally 150mm from my hook for carp and 100mm for F1s. This becomes my second shotting configuration.

The final one is to have all the shot right below the stem of the float. This is a good way of catching fish that are feeding very shallow and almost on the surface, or for fish that are very shy. With all the shot under the float the hook bait acts as naturally as it possibly can and fish will often take it, turn and hook themselves as they feel no resistance until the whole rig straightens up and they bang against the elastic. 

All these patterns can be covered with one rig but I usually set up multiples so I can switch much quicker and also try different hook and line sizes.

ALEX, may be worth doing the 3 diagrams as above?



Your elastics should match the size of hooks you are using and the average size of fish you intend to catch. Small hooks generally mean softer elastics will ensure less hook-pulls. With size 16 and 18 B911 hooks I will opt for Garbolino Bazookarp 2.1mm red hollow, or even 1.8mm if I am fishing for very small F1s, but if you are using a stronger hook such as an MWG for big carp then I would marry it up with Garbolino Bazookarp Green 2.3mm. This setup will land most fish in open water. This way the tackle is always balanced and maximises your chances of landing all fish hooked.

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Red Bazookarp does the job for most of Darren’s shallow fishing.



Depths to fish depend on species, weather conditions and overall depth of the lake. The deeper the water, often the deeper I fish shallow, especially where big mirrors and commons are concerned. Also when the weather is a little cooler you sometimes catch more fishing slightly deeper.

If you are not getting bites then go deeper until you do. If you are getting bites and no fish then this normally indicates liners, which means you need to shallow up. Once you find the correct depth you will get more true bites and catch more fish without spooking them too.

F1s often feed extremely shallow so be mindful of this if they are the main target. With regular feeding they will often feed six inches deep, especially if there is competition for food. They also respond better to smaller hooks and thinner diameter lines as they are much more fickle feeders than true carp. I treat them like roach as I believe they are very sneaky at times, but get the rig right and they are easy to catch, as long as your feeding is correct.

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On warmer days if you go too deep you will miss out on fish like this. 



Feeding is the number-one priority. Get this right and the fish will sit under your pole tip all day; get it wrong and it doesn’t matter how good your rig is, you just won’t catch!

The two critical factors are how much and how often? I always work on the principle of feeding as little as I can as often as possible. This way you are more likely to keep the fish at a much shallower constant depth feeding three pellets every 30 seconds than if you feed larger amounts less frequently, as the fish will follow feed down if there is more feed than fish to eat it.

For 95 per cent of my shallow fishing I use pellets; they are the easiest things to fire out of a catapult, they make a wonderful ‘plop’ as they hit the water and fish are most certainly attracted to this.

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Keep feeding those pellets, even when you’re playing a fish.


There are also a few tricks to get more bites. By flicking your rig over you can make a slapping noise that mimics that of pellets hitting the water; this tricks the fish into thinking you have fed again and they search for them. Your hooker is the only one available so it gets eaten. By ‘mixing’ it up, slapping and feeding you can keep the fish keen and eager for feed without them becoming too wary. Also the odd tap of the pole tip on the water attracts the fish too!

Feeding with a catapult while holding your pole is easy with practice. You need to ensure your setup is right and have your bait tray very close and the correct height so you don’t have to reach for bait every time you feed. It’s constant and means keeping your catapult in your hand at all times while fishing. Only practice makes perfect and there is no short cut to this I’m afraid.

IMG 3393

Darren likes to feed “as little as I can as often as possible.”


How far out?

I normally fish as far out as I feel comfortable on the day and according to wind conditions. I wouldn’t fish any shorter than 13 metres in open water and would feel more comfortable at 14.5 metres, especially if others around me are fishing long. You must fish where the fish feel most comfortable and then you will catch a lot more.


The Session

I have had a lovely session here at Hill View Lakes, near Tewkesbury. These pools are stuffed with fish and today they would not feed anywhere except shallow for several hours. My best rig was with all the shot under the float as there wasn’t much ripple and the carp were very wary, but they were feeding well and were there to be caught with careful and constant feeding.

Feeding four to five pellets was the best option and the fish didn’t appear to like me slapping my rig on the water. Simply lifting and dropping the rig so that my hook bait fell through the water with my loose feed was the best way to get a bite. It took me around an hour of experimenting with different depths and shotting, but once I found the solution I caught steadily all day and amassed a lovely net of carp.

With the right shallow approach you can have a great day’s fishing, and if you are in a match you can put a good weight of fish in the net before they get very confident and come down the margins for the last hour. It’s a great weapon to have in your armoury and with practice it’s deadly!

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Not a bad day’s work in the sunshine!


Angler file

Darren Cox

Age: 50

Lives: Stratford-upon-Avon

Sponsor: Garbolino

Pole: UK1 Accomplice Pro


Venue file

Hill View Lakes

Location: Cherry Orchard Lane, Twyning, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire GL20 6JH

Day tickets: £8

Contact: 07840 579087/01684 296719


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