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Keep Your Options Open!

Browning-backed Jim Hall explains how keeping your options open will ensure you won’t want to pack up at the end of the day…

I have long been an advocate of getting the most out of any swim. I see no benefit from having days where I have set my stall out to catch carp when they simply aren’t playing ball. Similarly, on a day that silvers don’t want to feed, there is no point wasting your day targeting them either!

Luckily, by following an approach that allows me to target any species focusing on a few lines in my swim, I am able to find out which species is going to be the most prominent on any given day. In fact, more often than not, doing this allows me to keep putting fish in the net throughout the session and by focusing on areas of my swim at the right times I can maximise my catch rate.


The Venue

You join me at Aston Park Fisheries in Sheffield. It’s a new fishery that over the last few years has established itself as one of the north’s leading venues.

It consists of seven well-stocked lakes that are home to a variety of species. In particular, Aston Park is getting a reputation for its mixed-bag weights of ide, carp and F1s. For this reason it makes it the perfect venue to come to and demonstrate how not disregarding certain species can ensure you keep the fish coming all day.

I have settled on fishing Butts Lake – a 50-peg canalised water that’s 13 metres wide, with depths of two feet on the near and far shelves and five feet down the central track.

With temperatures approaching 30ºC on what has turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, I would ordinarily expect the fishing to be particularly hard. As I approach the lake it is flat calm, with the sun beating down hard on the surface.


Where to target

My plan is to target three areas of my swim. This will give me plenty of options throughout the session and I will be able to establish where in the swim the fish want to be. The weather is going to play a part in this and if I were a betting man I would predict the fish are going to be in the shallowest water they can find to make the most of the warm weather.

Knowing what species reside at any venue you visit is important to which bait choices you make. Although a bait known for catching carp, I have found that ide, especially the big ones, also love meat. By fishing meat, and not a bait like sweetcorn or pellets that can be a bit more species specific, I can ensure that I am not ruling them out on this line, and if the carp aren’t playing ball I can still expect bites.

I have therefore opted to fish meat in two areas of the swim – tight over to the far bank where I have a depth of two feet and a line at a top kit and two sections (2+2). For accuracy I will feed my far line via a Cad Pot, whereas my short line I can comfortably feed by hand.

I have also set up a shallow rig. This is what I expect to catch the highest proportion of fish on throughout the day. I have positioned this slightly to my left and down the middle of the lake to ensure I can hook the fish and steer them out of the swim without disrupting it too much, but also to ensure it is at a comfortable distance to feed casters by hand.

IMG 9886

Jim’s shallow line is located down the centre of the lake.



My float of choice is an F1 Slim for both meat lines, with a 0.2g carbon-stemmed version for the shallow far-bank line and a 0.3g wire-stemmed version for the deeper line at 2+2. A simple strung bulk and two dropper shotting pattern keeps things simple and a size 16 B911 tied to a 0.12mm-diameter Browning Hybrid Power Mono hooklength completes the setup. All of my rigs are made up on 0.14mm main line of the same material.

A Drennan Crystal Dibber in 0.2g is used for my shallow work, again a 0.12mm-diameter hooklength but this time a size 16 Guru LWG hook is used tied with a knotless knot and incorporating a band on a hair rig to allow me to band a single caster. Shotting is a simple bulk above my hooklength, which helps reduce tangles and aids with self-hooking.

My elastics come from the Browning Stretch 7 range, which I now use religiously. I have opted for the pink, graded as a 4+ for shallow, 6+ rated blue for my meat line at 2+2 and my favourite of them all, the 8+ graded yellow for my far-bank line. All of the range is extremely soft but power up well used in conjunction with a puller kit.


The Session

The far bank is always a good starting point. It is a natural fish-holding spot on canal-style lakes, away from the hustle and bustle of anglers and commotion caused by them, and often with the added benefit of cover in the form of reeds, which the fish will be seeking in the 30ºC heat.

I start by shipping across with a small Cad Pot filled with meat and hemp and a single cube of meat on the hook. A single feed is all it takes for me to get my first bite of the day and a carp of around 1lb soon graces my net.

IMG 0003

Meat and hemp is a brilliant bait combo!


I continue in a similar manner for the next hour, catching a good mix of small carp, F1s and ide, alternating between a single and double cube of meat while continuing to prime my short lines. Although there have been the telltale signs of fish swirling on the surface whenever I throw a handful of casters in, I resist the temptation to switch lines at this early stage. It is important to allow your lines to develop to ensure you will catch for the longest time possible and by doing so reap the rewards when you do eventually decide to drop onto it.

IMG 9873

TOP TIP - Jim removes a blade from his meat cutter to give him a good option of single and double cubes of meat to use as his hook bait.


After 90 minutes of regular action over to the far bank, bites have started to fade away, with ide being the only fish I seem to be catching now. This gives me a good opportunity to rest my far line and allow a few fish to settle back over it.


Non-Stop Action!

It’s at this point that I feel I would catch much more quickly on my short line and, looking at the swim, I could tell it was full of fish… I wasn’t wrong! I drop my rig among my loose-fed casters and start to catch an ide of between 4oz and 1lb every drop-in, most of which are hooking themselves against my 4+ rated Stretch 7 elastic, which is absolutely perfect for the stamp of fish I am catching.

I continue to feed my other lines while catching fish from my shallow line. This ensures that, should this line go quiet, there should be fish waiting for me elsewhere in the swim, continuing to keep my options open.

As it happens, the fish just keep on coming. I get into a nice pattern on my shallow line of feeding as I hook the fish, again as I am about to ship out, and then finally when I drop my rig into the water. At this stage I am feeding 15 casters three times a minute and hooking a fish within five to 10 seconds of my rig being in the water. If I don’t get a bite I simply slap my rig back in; the swim is absolutely black!


Pole Perfection
It is worth noting how confident I am in my pole and the top kits I use in conjunction with it. My pole of choice is the Silverlite 10-12, Browning flagship competition pole. I use short kits taken from a Z14, which are fully compatible with the Silverlite. I feel these short, stiff kits along with the brilliantly stiff action of the Silverlite mean I hit every single bite, especially important for shallow fishing but superb for F1s in general. I use this pole for all of my commercial and natural-water fishing with utmost confidence and despite being regarded as a silver-fish pole it definitely handles everything I throw at it!

IMG 9834

Short Kits taken from the Z14 complement the Silverlite brilliantly!


It Won't All Always Work…

Although I’m confident of catching on my shallow line all day I need to see if there is anything waiting for me on my other lines. To my surprise, my 2+2 meat line isn’t as productive as I had hoped and although I manage a couple of carp along with a few ide, it is clear the warm weather has meant the fish want to be in shallower water and my other lines are producing much more quickly.


Positive End To a Great Day

I finish the day with another good run of small carp across to the far bank, again finding a double cube of meat works best, and with that reluctantly call it a day. I could stay for the rest of the day and I’d be confident that by rotating my lines and keeping my options open I would carry on catching every drop-in!

Commercial fisheries like Aston Park offer superb fishing and by using tactics that keep your options open you will ensure you have an action-packed day every time you are out on the bank. This is my first visit to the venue and I am kicking myself not to have been before, it has been fantastic catching from start to finish!


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