Match Fishing catches up with MAP-backed star Tony Curd for a lesson in tackling the sometimes avoided, but fish-filled areas of a swim – the silt traps.
We have all been there – that fizzing cauldron of wasted match time and effort trying to catch from what can only be described as a Jacuzzi, which gives the illusion of being black with fish but often delivers so little.
As our commercial fisheries mature all of them have areas in each lake where silt settles; whether it is in open water or down the track on a snake-style lake it’s a common area that many avoid due to foul hooking, the Jacuzzi effect or just simply because you cannot catch despite the deceiving signs of fish present. Up until recently I joined this train of thought and almost wrote it off as a bad job, only utilising these areas as a shallow line during the warmer months.
As more and more venues stock F1s on a regular basis, this has forced anglers to keep catching consistently throughout a five-hour match to build a winning weight, and this means having more swim options available to use. For this feature, I have come back to the very peg at Coleman’s Cottage Fishery, in Essex, where fishing on the silt line became clear to me as a true winner during the winter and spring months before the fish move into the shallower water properly.
That particular match I was experiencing one of those matches where I was doing reasonably well fishing my other lines, but I was having lots of quiet spells that usually spell ‘game over’ for winning or even framing on most matches, and I needed a good run of bites to see me over the line.
In a moment of madness, I plumbed up my short line on a swim at around 10 metres down the middle of the lake, tapped in a few pellets and left it alone. Five minutes later a single bubble followed by a cluster meant it was time for a look – dropping in I had a bite immediately and a run of fish followed.
Not only were the fish more settled over the silt, where they felt happy to stick around for longer, they were of a much bigger stamp that I couldn’t catch anywhere else. That match was a success thanks to the change to the silt line and the following matches saw me set it up each time with plenty of success along the way.
A light plummet shows the swin depth, the heavy one shows how deep the silt is.
What struck me as the biggest advantages for cold-water fishing was that it was not only the deepest part of my peg but it was the one area of my peg where I could be a little bit more positive and it was noticeable that once the fish turned up, I could have a prolonged spell without having to move very often. For that reason it became the line I’d leave late and more often than not enjoy a strong finish to most of the matches I was fishing.
While fishing this line is not revolutionary I did come across several stumbling blocks during my initial forays and getting these right made the world of difference to the amount of bites I got and more importantly bites converted into fish in the net.
The first issue I discovered was actually plumbing up in the first place – I like to use heavy plummets as a matter of course and my 30g version saw my rig coming back covered in black silt up to quite a depth, often covering my shot! While this helped me to gauge the depth of the silt it was nigh on useless to get a rig set properly, so some very light 10g plummets were the best bet to get it right initially, ensuring my rig was plumbed up to the bottom of the body of the float. This I feel was quite important, as once the fish started to dig around it gave me that little bit of leeway left or right of my intended area if any silt got moved or gouged out as the fish rooted around.
That leads me nicely into the next alteration I needed to make to my rigs for fishing in the softest areas of my swim – as mentioned, by plunging a heavy plummet into the swim you can get a rough idea of the depth of the softest part of the silt that is most likely to be disturbed as your match progresses. What I like to do is take the depth of this into account and add it to the line above my float. On more than one occasion I have been catching well and suddenly I’m biteless, with plumes of bubbles still appearing. I was fairly sure that the fish were still there, and checking the depth with a plummet revealed the problem. Half an hour before, I had been fishing perfectly plumbed up; now I was six inches off the bottom and on course for foul hookers, frustration or perhaps no bites. So, going forward it became a matter of habit to keep a check on whether the bottom had been scoured out by the feeding fish should my bites suddenly subside – it’s very rare that there isn’t an explanation for everything in fishing and by thinking constantly you’ll soon be ahead of the game!
A shorter line above the float could see your rig rendered useless so I’d always advise using a lash of at least a foot to enable you to adjust your rig as you go on. It also became a great indicator to me when to check for these changes to the bottom of my swim by using very well-dotted-down floats – to the point that if my hook bait became suspended off the deck my float would almost sink from sight and a sure sign that changes needed to be made.
A soft elastic is important to prevent hook-pulls...
... leading to more fish in the net!
I feel the bait choices you make when fishing in these conditions is a very important one to get right and the last thing I ever want is something that magnifies the need for the fish to disturb the bottom any more than is necessary so baits like maggots are out of my approach. Pellets, being dormant, give the perfect effect for these soft-bottomed lakes.
More important than that, though, is how you actually feed your peg, and the best way I have found to start this line is to pot in a very small amount of 2mm Bait-Tech Carp & Coarse Pellets – roughly two small Kinder pots – around 10 minutes before I intend moving onto it. For me, micros are only ever about drawing some fish and continuing to feed them can see you end up in a mess with fizzing and preoccupied fish, so as a matter, of course, I like to change over to feeding 4mm hard pellets instead. These give me fewer items per feed, which are easily picked up by the fish with minimal disturbance and therefore more proper bites! My choice hook bait is always 4mm and 6mm Bait-Tech Xpand pellets, which sit nicely on the bottom complementing the feed perfectly.
What I have found to be a real edge, though, is dosing my Xpands in the new Bait-Tech Juice; once pumped and stored in water certain batches of expanders are prone to breaking down during the match but adding this to them it gives a glaze that prevents them drying out as quickly. I also have no problems with pellets splitting later in the day, and it seems that F1s love the stuff
Setting my tackle up for the session on Pathfield Lake I kept it simple, with positive rigs of 4x16 MAP WD1 floats on 0.15mm MAP Power Optex to an 0.12mm hooklength, finished off with a size 18 B911 F1 hook – I set two duplicates up but they were both fished in the same (5ft) depth on two lines: one at the bottom of the near slope at six metres and one at the base of the far slope at 10 metres. These lines see me on the softest part of the lake bed, which is perfect for early springtime fishing. My shotting pattern was a simple spread bulk of No8 shot spread out at 1in intervals from my hooklength connection. I really do feel the bigger shot give me more positive bites in these situations and also help to cut down on any foul-hooked fish.
Elastic on both rigs was a very soft yellow 5-8 MAP TKS Twin Core; I feel this is very important as we often find ourselves fishing for a mixture of fish on modern commercials and, especially where F1s are concerned, it’s important to use a soft enough elastic to ensure none of these pull off unnecessarily, while still being able to land any carp you may run into.
To kick off I started on the nearer line, which I fed with a big pot initially containing the equivalent of two medium Flexi-Pots of micros with a few 4mms added. Dropping in over the top with a 4mm expander, feeding a small amount of micros with an odd 4mm each put-in, I only had to wait around five minutes before an odd bubble started to appear and it wasn’t too long before the float shot under and the first of an initial flurry of F1s up to 2lb was on its way to the net!
Action was brisk on the short line and I was soon thinking about trying to single out a few better carp. Picking up the potting kit again I cupped around 20 4mm pellets in on the 10m line and went on it 10 minutes later after spying a single bubble – these usually mean carp.
Use one of these to regulate the amount of pellets you feed
Slowly lowering the float into the swim and tapping in a few more 4mms over the top of it the float sharply shot straight under and my yellow elastic was soon stretched across the lake – this was no F1! Sure enough, a 7lb ghostie popped up, which would be a real bonus in a match. This was soon followed up with a 5lb F1!
By switching between both of my lines according to what activity I could see and being careful with the bait I introduced into my peg. This was not only the amount but the size of the pellets, depending on whether there were fish present or not. If there weren’t then introducing micros for a period to draw a few in and feeding larger, 4mm pellets when they were there I didn’t suffer any of the stereotypical issue commonly experienced when fishing a silty venue – I managed to catch consistently throughout my five-hour session, putting around 120lb into my nets on two lines that not many would even bother to give a thought to.
Different? Definitely! Winner? No doubt!
More fish than you could shake a silty stick at!
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Jamie Hughes explains how a single-minded, catch-everything approach can be the key to match wins this winter!
For this month’s feature, I’d like to talk about something that is becoming increasingly popular on commercial fisheries, and a method that I really look forward to using once the weather begins to cool.
Approaching a commercial with a ‘fish for everything that swims’ approach can lead to an awesome day’s sport and is also a brilliant way of remaining consistent during matches when the carp aren’t feeding quite as well as during the summer months.
Over the years there have been many pieces written about combining a carp and silvers approach during matches; usually a case of catching a few lumps to begin with then topping up with a weight of silvers and finishing with a few more big lads late on.
While this is undoubtedly the correct way to approach some venues (generally those where the carp are a large average size), at most fisheries that I visit regularly, such as Weston Pools and Lingmere Fishery, simply fishing one or two lines and catching whatever fish come along for the entire session can be almost unbeatable!
Now, I must stress that for a mixed species approach to work you need to be fishing a venue with a good stocking of different fish. Both of the venues I mentioned are home to a huge amount of carp and F1s but they also have an extremely high population of what I would like to call “alternative species” such as tench, barbel, crucians and, most importantly, ide.
In general, these species are a good average size so catching them for an entire session can still lead to a good weight and with the addition of a few carp a match-winning net can be caught in the easiest possible way.
For demonstrating this tactic I've come back to my usual haunt of Weston Pools and the awesome Canal Pool, where I intend to fish just one line for the duration of the short session.
Now before I go into the usual rigs, bait and feeding details, I would like to go over my reasons for choosing just one line of attack.
Firstly, and possibly the most important factor, is what I wrote about in the October issue of this magazine: COMPETITION between fish is vital if you want to get the most from any peg, so by feeding just one line I should have a much larger group of fish in my chosen area than if I was to feed several swims and split the fish up into smaller groups all over the swim.
Secondly, by having all of my attention focused on the one area it is much easier to gain an understanding of what fish are present in the peg, how they are feeding and the best ways for me to catch them. My theory is that different species of fish will enter the peg at different points in the session and each must be fed and fished for in the correct way.
With the weather still being good my chosen line for the session was at seven metres, for the sole reason that I could feed casters that distance accurately by hand, meaning I can group my feed much tighter than if I were to fish longer and require a catapult to reach the area. As the temperature falls and the colour drops out of the water I would have no choice but to feed my lines further out, as fish would be reluctant to venture close to the bank.
I believe that the tighter I can group my bait the better, as there is less chance of missing out on fish that are hanging off the main feed due to stray baits landing elsewhere. Also, competition between fish is increased as they tussle to feed in the tight area.
Choosing what bait to feed for this method could not be simpler – maggots, casters and worms are pretty much the only three options and I will choose a bait depending on the conditions and how I expect the fish to feed.
The fish weren't the only ones attracted by Jamie's bait!
Possibly the most common choice for feeding short, maggots are my choice in the coldest weather or when fish are likely to feed at all depths. Due to their slow-sinking nature, they work brilliantly in attracting new fish into the peg and help to bring fish such as ide off the bottom on warmer days, where they can be caught faster.
Three maggots make a brilliant change bait.
If I intend on cupping my feed then maggots are my only choice, but when loose feeding they can be a little difficult to group tightly at distance or in windy conditions.
This tends to be my bait choice during the summer when I want to catch fish on the bottom. While they can be brilliant for catching F1s shallow when thrown in a slop, for other species they are best fed in a soil mix and by a pole cup.
These are my choice for today’s session. Casters have all the same properties as maggots, with the added bonus of being heavy. They can be fed very accurately by hand in all conditions and make a lot of noise to attract fish; they also sink faster than a maggot, which helps to keep fish on the bottom.
Fresh casters, and plenty of them!
As always, I have as few rig options as possible but will always have a couple of options to present my hook bait in different ways. In a similar way to how I fish hard pellets for carp, I have a slow-falling rig for when fish such as roach and ide are present in the swim and are feeding through the water. In today’s case, with the peg being five feet deep, this is a 4x12 slim carbon stemmed float shotted with No11s spread throughout the entire rig.
My second rig is a heavier 4x14 float, shotted with a bulk 15 inches from the hook and two No10 droppers. If I am waiting for bites and there are no signs of fish feeding off the bottom, then my time is best spent on this rig as it settles far quicker than the light rig, which saves a lot of time each cast and also is a lot more stable and keeps the hook bait still on the bottom.
Hooks, line and elastics need to be tailored to the size of fish and conditions on the day. Generally, a light hollow elastic combined with a 0.10mm to 0.12mm hooklength and light-gauge wire hook is perfect.
The key to making the most of my peg is to be using the correct rigs at the correct times, depending on what species are present. The amount and timing of my loose feed also needs considering carefully. For this session I planned on feeding everything by hand and began feeding around 10 casters every 30 seconds; this allowed me to pull lots of fish into the area without giving them too much feed.
For the first period my light rig was ideal and several chunky ide were caught just after the rig had settled. I find that at most venues ide are first on the scene and just like perch, gorge themselves on as much bait as possible. This seemed exactly the case today as after 45 minutes I have a good weight but bites quickly slowed, the ide disappeared and were replaced with some crucians, carp and barbel.
Swapping rigs allowed me to make the most of this change, as did cutting right back on the regularity of my feed and a pattern quickly emerged, showing the ide were continually re-entering the peg in small groups throughout the day. Their arrival was signalled by several missed bites on the heavier rig, but by swapping over to the slow-fall rig I could catch several before they backed off and the other species moved back in.
A nice bagful of ide, with a good helping or barbel F1s and carp mixed in.
On the day it was also vital that I fed in the correct way, depending on what rig I used. Ten casters every 30 seconds was right for the light rig, while changing to 30 casters every two minutes was far better and stopped any false bites when using the heavy rig.
In just a couple of hours, I put together a decent weight that would be well on the way to a winning weight here at Weston. I swapped rigs several times over the session, which I believe has maximised my fishing time and also made the most of the short feeding spells of each species. Of course this method isn’t the way when large weights of carp are needed to win, but in the tricky days of autumn you will more often that not outscore those applying a more selective approach and without doubt have a much more enjoyable day’s fishing.
Angler File -
Name: Jamie Hughes
Sponsors: Map, Bag 'em Matchbaits
Venue File -
Venue: Tri-Cast Weston Pools
Location: Weston Pools, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 9ER
Number: 01691 671812
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England ace smashes Lindholme league.
England International, and MAP backed super-rod James Dent has won the inaugural Lindholme Lakes Natural Baits league, by a comfortable two point margin.
The league – which was contested by some of the UK’s top rods, held its final round in fine conditions last Saturday. Anglers taking part included Alan Scotthorne, Matt Godfrey, John Allerton, Nick Speed, Mick Vials, Tom Scholey, Lee Kerry and Emma Pickering – making it among the most prestigious leagues in the country.
With anglers dropping their worst result, the league was far from a foregone conclusion with some competitors leap-frogging others on the table on the strength of their dropped score.
One such angler, who managed an emphatic comeback was James’s England stablemate, and Guru backed ace Matt Godfrey. Matt was able to drop a near-disastrous eighth in section and finish with a ten point total from his other five results.
Sean Cameron took third place, after a mega- consistent league, dropping a fourth in section to finish on eleven points.
On the day, it was Browning ace James Hall who made the most of the previously unproductive peg 70 on Bonsai, to win with a fine 36-15-0 net of skimmers and F1s. James caught skimmers and F1s on maggots fished over groundbait.
Tom Scholey, who co-organised the league with Matt Godfrey and Lee Kerry said: “We are really happy with how this league has gone, and the calibre of angler that it has attracted certainly made it among the most prestigious winter events in the country. The thing that has really got people talking though is the payout – James picked up £1,000 for winning the league, and ninth place picked up £150, so there was impressive money to be won for anglers who performed well.
“This is thanks in no small part to the generosity of venue owner Neil Grantham, who offered us discounted pegging, which allowed us to boost the payout considerably. The dates for next year are booked already – with the first round of the league taking place on the first Saturday in January, and running for the next six consecutive Saturdays.
We have already secured two of Lindholme’s finest lakes – Bonsai and Laurels for all these dates, which should make the fishing even more prolific than it has been this year.”
With places limited to 50 anglers, anglers are advised to book on with Lee Kerry on 07739 342929, Matt Godfrey on 07917 711722 or Tom Scholey on 07971 620489 if they want to be sure of a place next year.
As with this year, the Natural Baits League will be pole only, float only, with a 16m limit, and carp will not count. Allowed baits are maggots, casters, worms, pinkies and up to 2kg of groundbait.