A Complete Guide to Using the Spod, Spomb and Airbomb

A great way to introduce bait accurately and efficiently, many carp and specimen anglers would be lost without their spods and other devices. But there’s so much more to feeding your swim than chucking in a load of bait and waiting for bites.

From a few pouchfuls of maggots, to several kilos of pellets or boilies, there are many ways to do it. Getting it right could be the difference between bites galore and a big fat blank. This month, Dominic Garnett and Andy Parkinson present a handy guide to using spods, spombs and airbombs to best advantage.

What is spodding?

A spod is a special bait-dispensing device, designed to be cast using a rod and line. It’s a cylindrical container with dart shaped fins for accuracy. Fill it with boilies, particles or whatever bait you’re fishing with, before launching to the area you intend to fish. Upon landing, the buoyant nose of the spod rises to the surface, tipping out its goodies in seconds. With practice, and the right gear, it can be great way to bait up.

However, we should also mention a couple of other devices here. The spomb is a great alternative. Rocket shaped and enclosed, it releases bait on impact. Meanwhile, there’s also the new TF Gear Airbomb to consider. Again, a rocket-shaped profile allows the Airbomb to reach huge distances, but this clever piece of kit is designed to open in mid-air, when the angler brakes the cast.

Whichever device you choose, the same tips and principles will apply. For example, the tackle used to cast several ounces of bait is similar whether you use a classic spomb or the latest device.

The pros and cons of spodding

Mirror carp

Andy Parkinson cradles a fine mirror carp, tempted over an accurate bed of bait at distance. Image courtesy of A. Parkinson.

So why use a spod, spomb or Airbomb in the first place? First of all, baiting up in this manner is accurate and efficient when it comes to any substantial quantity of bait beyond a few handfuls. Using a spod, it’s possible to add several kilos of bait in a matter of minutes, should you want to.

Another advantage is that you can bait up at longer range in a manner that can’t easily be otherwise achieved. Even with a powerful catapult, for example, your free baits would tend to scatter over a wide area at long range. The spod, on the other hand, can be controlled to land the same distance every cast, only discharging its contents right where you want them. And while you might be able to fire big boilies 100 yards out, the spod lets you feed even tiny morsels of bait, or those which are the wrong shape or too light to be launched big distances.

When to spod and when not to?

Just because you have the means to dish out a big hit of bait at 100 yards, it doesn’t mean you always should. Spods and larger spombs create quite a lot of disturbance when they hit the water. So when would you bother using a spod, when might you decide to leave it out, and when would an Airbomb make the best choice?

When to use a spod or spomb

  • When you can’t introduce bait by other means. For example, beyond throwing range.
  • When you’re expecting a lot of fish and want to bait up hard (a large shoal of bream or tench, or several large carp).
  • When you’re going to be fishing for a long time.
  • When fishing in deep water (8-10ft plus).

When not to use a spod

  • When you’re fishing at shorter range and could throw or catapult your feed without the extra hassle and splash.
  • When you don’t need to introduce so much bait.
  • When you’re fishing in shallow water (margin fish don’t like a big spod crashing down!)
  • When you’re fishing a shorter session (a lot of bait can take a long time for fish to eat).
  • If the fish are fewer in numbers or easily spooked.

Your decision should be guided by the situation in front of you. If in doubt ask yourself two questions: Do I need to? Will it help make the job easier?

When to try the new Airbomb

The new kid on the block has some definite advantages over its predecessors. The main difference is that the Airbomb opens above the water when the angler checks the cast, as opposed to dispensing bait on impact. Here are some scenarios when the Airbomb would give you a distinct advantage:

  • When you’re fishing shallower water or want to avoid scaring fish at all costs.
  • When you’re casting close to snags such as trailing branches.
  • When you want to loose feed with floating baits.

Equipment for spodding and spombing: Rods, reels, line, leaders

Casting a great big container full of bait is a punishing job. Sure, you can cast the smaller spombs or feeders on your usual gear. But for anything with a large payload (that’s any spod, larger spomb or the Airbomb), you’ll need to tackle up for the job. Too many fisheries have spods in trees due to ill prepared anglers!

Typically you’ll need a spod rod (or possibly a spare beachcaster or similarly tough rod), along with a meaty big pit reel. Load this with at least 30lb braid, very possibly with a 50lb shockleader. This will help take the strain of each cast without that sudden sickening breaking sound as the line parts!

Tip: When using a shock leader for spodding, pay attention to where the knot goes. To have minimal impact on the cast, it should be positioned towards the bottom of the reel spool.

Choosing and loading baits

bait for spods and spombs

Mix it up. Smaller and cheaper offerings help to stretch out more expensive boilies.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

One key advantage to using a spod, spomb or Airbomb is that they will take any sort of bait. Tiny feed particles such as stewed hemp seed, wheat or micro pellets are a piece of cake – and you can now deposit these accurately at distances impossible by most other means!

However most carp anglers these days prefer a mixed payload, which gives carp and other fish a mix of bait sizes. It depends on where you fish and the species you target too. You may, for example, want to include some baits that are too big for roach, skimmers and other fish to eat. Cost is another consideration, with most of us opting to flesh out the more expensive baits like boilies with cheaper bulk feeds (like vitalin, brown crumb, stewed wheat or beans, frozen sweetcorn etc).

In many ways, a mix of bait sizes also helps with the spod or spomb too, because smaller offerings and groundbait such as fishmeal based crumb are ideal for filling the gaps left by larger baits. In fact, a good way to avoid spillage on the cast is to top each spod-load of bait with a layer of groundbait or sticky pellets. This keeps everything stuck down tidily.

Fishtec: loading a spomb with bait

Spombs (above) are slightly different: fairly spill proof but avoid clogging the trigger mechanism.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Spods are a simple case of fill it up and cast. Spombs, on the other hand, have a special opening and closing mechanism. They need loading carefully, so as not to get in the way of the trigger that opens everything up on impact with the water. Done correctly, this makes for an extremely safe and accurate way of delivering bait into the swim (and the spomb also dives less deep and is much easier to retrieve than a spod).

Loading and using the Airbomb

When it comes to loading the new Airbomb, the principles are similar to the spomb. It’s a locking capsule, basically, so provided you don’t overfill it or gum up the locking mechanism, you can load it up however you like. It’s perfect for boilies and particles of all sizes. Here’s our quick video guide showing you how to set up your Airbomb.

The big difference, however, occurs on delivery because you empty the AirBomb before it hits the water. This is done when the angler brakes the cast by pulling back on the rod. This activates the trigger to open the capsule, releasing the bait in a controlled manner.

With practice you can get wicked accuracy and some different effects. You can release just over the water to land your feed quite tightly, for example, or higher in the air for a wider spread of bait. Indeed, on a lot of busy fisheries the carp can grow a little wary of super concentrated beds of bait.

How do I know which baiting device is right for me?

This could depend on several factors. The spod is simple and effective for great distances and deep water. The spomb is tidier though – and smaller ones are great for anglers who don’t want to fork out for a special extra rod. As for the Airbomb – well, you just have to try it! It’s a great way to deliver a large payload with the least noise and water disturbance – and it will easily fire bait into tricky areas under trees or other tight spots.

Don’t discount old school catapults and other baiting methods though; if your fishing tends to be shorter range, no problem. Our recent blog on feeding methods is well worth a look here!

Casting out with a spod, spomb or Airbomb

Fishtec: casting a spomb

Preparing to launch a spomb – smaller models can be cast on regular gear without needing an extra rod.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

So you’re all tackled up and ready to cast out. What happens next? Well, the first cast or two can be where mistakes happen, so take time to prepare. Firstly, if you’re using braid, it will really help to wet your reel spool. Dry braid is more prone to catching the wind and tangling, so you want it to behave itself.

Start then, by casting an empty spod or spomb just thirty or forty yards and then literally dunking the reel in the water as you reel in under tension. This will help to get the braid damp and sitting cleanly on the spool. Even with mono, it’s worth making a couple of smoother, shorter casts and reeling in, just to ensure your line is laying evenly.

As for the actual cast, it’s a case of keeping it smooth and controlled. There should generally be around half a rod length “drop” between the spod or spomb and the end of the rod. Try to come straight overhead with power but no sudden jerk of force. In many ways, the cast is very similar to casting out a rig with a heavy PVA bag attached – smoothly does it! If anything, you can aim a little higher if you’re casting a spomb, because you want it to land nose first and open cleanly on landing. Of course, if you’re using an Airbomb you’ll want a more direct cast which you’ll need to “break” just before the area you want to target. The Airbomb will open mid-air and fire your bait into the desired spot.

To get your casts to land the same distance each time, you could measure the distance and use the line clip on your reel. Many anglers will literally pace out the distances on dry land. Simply walk in a line along the ground, or use two sticks as distance markers. This way, you can be sure that your spods of bait travel the exact same distance as your baited rigs. That said, you may want to allow slightly more distance to your rig because it will sink to the bottom, while your spod or spomb won’t.

Tip: Feather it down!

It’s easy just to lob out a spod and watch it go splat on the water. However, to make a little less commotion and prevent it from diving far under the surface on impact, try “feathering” the cast down. This simply means dabbing your fingers on the reel spool to slow things down as the cast lands, increasing control and lessening impact. It’s also a good habit to get into for casting leads and PVA bags.

Dom Garnett and bream

The proof of the spombing… one of four double figure bream taken over a bed of bait introduced at range, via the spomb. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

For a quick, simple and visual guide to spodding use our infographic below:

Fishtec spodding infographic

Women who cast

More and more women are getting into angling, which is great news for the sport. And as they do, ladies are beginning to make an impact in the professional and commercial sides of the sport too. Here’s a run-down of just some of the female angling stars from across the internet.

Marina Gibson

Marina-gibson1

Marina caught the fishing bug from her mum.

“The fin was a riot of greens, pink-reds and yellows, with distinct lines stretching to a metallic finish on the flanks.” Can you guess what fish Marina Gibson caught when she headed for the headwaters of the Orvis Kimbridge beat during the offseason? Her first Grayling of course. Read all about her experience as she targets the “Lady of the Stream”.

A lady herself, Marina is woman on a mission to change the image of angling and, having given up her career in the City to move to Yorkshire, she now fishes, blogs and guides – ever accompanied by her Romanian rescue dog, Sedge.

To follow Marina, check out her website or Facebook page.

Anne Woodcock

anne-woodcock-new

Fancy a spot of angling ladies? Anne will help you get started.

“I thought my line had got stuck! It was the start of 10 minutes of salmon heaven” writes salmon angler, blogger, business woman and guide, Anne Woodcock, of her fishing adventures on the Dee. If you’re a lady who’d love nothing better than to catch her own tasty salmon, then Anne will help you achieve your goal. The driving force behind Ladiesfishing, she runs not-for-profit fishing days for ladies in both England and Scotland.

A strong voice in women’s angling, Anne is marketing director of Fishpal, the award winning online fishing leads service, and she also contributes to community radio station CVFM’s angling programme, “Gone Fishing”.

To follow Anne, check out her website or Facebook page.

Beverley Clifford

bevclifford

Here’s one I caught earlier.

Determined to do something about the lack of angling instruction events solely for women, angler Bev Clifford set up the Ladies Carp Academy which runs at Pool Bridge Farm Fishery near York. It’s a great opportunity for women to “meet and learn from one another in a social, fun and relaxed environment”, says Bev.

The daughter of a specimen angler, it’s no surprise that Bev grew up to become one of the UK’s top female anglers. She says she “grew up in a house with fishing magazines, books, pictures, stuffed fish everywhere”. A truly inspirational lady, she’s also a team angler for DNA Baits, a member of the England Ladies carp team and works in advertising and marketing for angling magazine, Carp Talk.

To follow Bev, check out her website, instagram or Facebook page.

Bex Nelson

Bex-Nelson

All I want for Christmas is…

Another female angler on the up, Bex Nelson was introduced to angling several years ago by her boyfriend. She says “I’ve really grown with skill and knowledge in the last year or so. I’ve fished for all manner of species but the carp bug has taken hold.” Her best catch so far, 29lb George – an “old warrior”, as Bex puts it, she was hoping to break the 30lb barrier before the end of 2017 – better hurry Bex! Check out her Facebook page to find out if she managed to beat that PB.

To follow Bex, check out her instagram or Facebook page.

Katie Griffiths

Katie-Griffiths

Katie loves her carp.

A designer at Total Carp Magazine, Katie Griffiths has also achieved the honour of gracing the magazine’s coveted front page spot. Pictured with title boss, Dan, she shows exactly what she thinks of his catch! She says: “You know you love carp fishing when you see someone catch their target.”

When she’s not working at the magazine, Katie loves nothing better than to wet a line – something she’s been doing quite a lot since she was first introduced to the sport two years ago. Check out some of the photos on her instagram account and you’ll see that her hobby has grown to become a passion – she says angling always “makes me smile”.

To follow Katie, check out the Total Carp Magazine blog or her instagram account.

Lucy Bowden

Lucy-Bowden

Why not let Lucy help you realise your dream of learning to fly fish?

Always dreamed of learning the art of fly fishing? What are you waiting for? Whatever your age, race, gender or ability, Lucy Bowden will teach you to fish. Dedicated to encouraging girls and women in particular into the sport, since she set up Fishing for Everyone in 2005, Level 2 UKCC Game Angling Coach Lucy has inspired many women to give the sport a try.

From “learning how to set up your fishing tackle, performing basic casts, retrieval techniques, to hooking, playing and safely landing fish,” Lucy aims to help everyone acquire the skills and confidence they need to get the most from fishing.

To follow Lucy, check out her website or Facebook page.

Casting for recovery

Ladies kicking in wellies

Casting for Recovery offers fly fishing retreats for women who’re suffering, or have suffered from breast cancer.

“It was the first time since my diagnosis that I had time to myself to realise the impact of my illness on me, and also to be greatly inspired by everyone there who has survived and recovered.” This is just one of the comments from women who’ve experienced the joy of learning to cast at Casting for Recovery, the charity that teaches fly fishing to women with breast cancer.

If you’d like to find out more about Casting for Recovery’s all-expenses-paid fly fishing retreats, or if you’d like to lend a hand helping to raise funds, just get in touch using the online contact form. The full list of retreats for 2018 can be found here.

To follow Casting For Recovery, check out their website or Facebook page.

Do you know a female angling fanatic who you’d like us to tell the world about? To let us know, just drop us a line on our Facebook page.

Most wanted coarse fishing Xmas gift survey – WIN £100

Fishtec Xmas gift survey vouchers

WIN a £100 Fishtec voucher – complete our simple survey to enter


Choose the coarse and carp fishing gifts you want this Christmas and win a £100 Fishtec voucher.

We’ve shortlisted some of the most popular products for you to choose from in our simple survey below.

To Enter
• Go to the short survey below.
• Add your email address – we need this to notify the winner.
• Scroll and click on the gift you most want in each price range.
• Click submit.

Once submitted you’ll be automatically entered into our free prize draw to win a £100 Fishtec voucher.

So what are you waiting for? It only takes 2 minutes…

Closing date: 5pm Thursday 16th November 2017

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By entering into this free prize draw, all entrants agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

In the event that any entrant does not, or is unable to, comply with and meet these Terms and Conditions and the prize draw information, Fishtec shall be entitled at its sole discretion to disqualify such entrant, without any further liability to such entrant.

The closing date for this prize draw is 5pm Thursday 16th November 2017.

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To enter this prize draw you must be: (a) a UK resident; and (b) 18 years old or over at the time of entry.

This prize draw is free to enter and no purchase is necessary.

Fishtec may exercise its sole discretion to use the winner’s name for future promotional, marketing and publicity purposes in any media worldwide without notice or without any fee being paid.

This prize draw is not open to employees (or members of their immediate families) of BVG Group Limited.

The prize for our Most Wanted Xmas Gift survey is £100 worth of Fishtec vouchers. No cash alternative for the prize stated is offered.

Only one entry per person is permitted.

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Winners will be notified by email. If winners fail to reply within 48 hours, Fishtec reserves the right to pick another winner.

If you have any queries relating to our terms and conditions please contact: c.thomas@bvg-airflo.co.uk

A Beginner’s Guide to Feeder Fishing

Excellent for a huge variety of bottom-grazing fish, the swim feeder is a useful tool for any keen coarse angler to master. Dom Garnett’s handy guide to feeder fishing is packed with useful tips, rig diagrams and years of practical knowledge that he’s picked up on the bank from other legendary anglers…

Feeder_001

Choose the correct swim feeder for the conditions.
Image source: Dominic Garnett

In the evolution of coarse fishing, the swim feeder has to be one of the all-time greatest angling gadgets. In a nutshell, the feeder attracts fish to your hook, helping you to land real net-fillers like bream, tench and carp.

But what exactly is a swim feeder (often shortened to just “feeder”)? The original swim feeder was simply a plastic capsule filled with holes, designed to release free bait down near the fish as efficiently as possible. Feeders are also used to overcome challenges such as ugly weather and deep or distant swims, where throwing in bait accurately or fishing a float are impossible.

Let’s start our guide by looking at the basic types of swimfeeder and what they are designed for.

Basic types of Swim Feeder 

The Maggot Feeder

Maggot_Feeders_Kamasan (1)

Maggot feeder

Ah, the good old “plastic pig”. These come in various sizes and designs, but all do the same job: they release free live bait on a sixpence, right next to the maggots on your hook. Sometimes also called a ‘blockend feeder,’ the ends are blocked up to prevent the grubs escaping too early. Still mighty effective after all these years.

The Open End or Groundbait Feeder

Open_End_Feeders

Open-end feeders. Be sure to balance your rod and tackle with the feeder size

These feeders are ideal for accurately introducing groundbait into your swim. You simply squeeze your crumb mix in place and cast out. They come in various designs and sizes, from great big beasts that will hold in a current, to miniature models suitable for more cautious winter fishing.

The Cage Feeder

GURU-CAGE-FEEDER

Larger holes release bait quickly creating an attractive cloud for shallow swims.
Featured product: Korum cage feeders from Fishtec.

Quite simply, this is a groundbait feeder with bigger holes. When would you use it? Well, there are times when it is an advantage to release your free bait more quickly, rather than hard on the bottom. This feeder will do just that, creating an attractive cloud to draw the fish in. Ideal for shallower swims and summer fishing, these work beautifully with mashed bread as well as crumb type groundbait.

The Method Feeder

METHOD_FEEDER-PRESTON-new

This can be lethal for most larger bottom grazers.
Featured product: The method feeder from Fishtec.

An ingenious development, this feeder works quite differently to the others. The flatbed design is fixed in place rather than running freely on the line. Simply shape your sticky groundbait (look for a special “method mix” or add an egg or two to render your usual favourite crumb stickier) around your Method feeder. Then you can either bury your hook bait inside or let the hook sit just an inch or two away from the mix. The fish attack the feeder to dislodge the food, unwittingly pick up your bait and tend to hook themselves. It’s a fairly foolproof way of fishing; in fact the only thing that can go wrong is your rod getting pulled into the lake if you’re not right on it.

Further specialised feeders…

The feeders we’ve covered so far are more than enough to keep you busy. However, if you’ve got the bug and want to try some more, there are a few others that are worth a mention.

The pellet feeder is mainly used for commercial fisheries and offers a perfect little scoop of pellets to the fish. The banjo feeder, named because of its shape, is similarly designed to accurately present a tidy little nugget of freebies with your hookbait right in amongst it. Some of these feeders are elasticated, which helps cushion the impact of carp takes, which can be quite savage.

GURU-PELLET FEEDER

Featured product: The Guru Pellet Feeder from Fishtec is spot on for commercial carp and F1s.

And finally – the biggest brutes of the lot – specimen or specialist feeders. These cater for more extreme scenarios, like when you want to deliver a much bigger payload and leave it there for longer periods. They’re also good for big rivers and fast currents. A three or four ounce model that clings flat to the bottom is just what the doctor ordered. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right rod and tackle to cope with one of these though – correctly balancing your rod, line, feeder and hook size is the holy grail of feeder fishing.

Feeder fishing tackle

Once you have a rough idea of the type of feeder that will suit your favourite venue, you’ll need to decide which rod and tackle to use. Sadly there isn’t one rod that will do the lot, although most of your feeder fishing will be with a quiver tip rod – the one with the brightly coloured tip section to help spot the bites when you’re legering (fishing right on the bottom with something weighty like a lead or feeder, as opposed to float fishing). Here are some of your options.

The light feeder or “picker” rod

At the lighter end of the spectrum there are some neat little rods of 7-10ft with nice fine tips. These are spot on for shorter range fishing, on both commercial pools and natural venues. You’d typically match one with a smallish reel loaded with 3-5lb line for roach, chub or bream fishing, and perhaps slightly heavier line for carp and tench. If you want to flick a feeder out 20 yards with perfect accuracy, this is the puppy. Sadly, with the modern stranglehold of carp fisheries, this style of rod is getting harder to find- so be prepared to look around.

Medium/all round feeder rod

Shimano_Feeder_FC-FMASTER-FD-2014

Featured product: The Shimano Forcemaster from Fishtec would fit into the all-round category and covers a lot of bases for less than £40

Next up, we have a longer all rounder. This could be a fair bit longer, say 12 or 13ft, if you’re aiming for the horizon on a big lake or river. Lighter models are ideal for classic species like roach, bream and chub. They work well with lines of 4-6lbs and a good range of feeders, excepting the very heaviest.

Heavy or method feeder rod

If you’re going to smash out a beefy method feeder or an extra large helping of groundbait, this is the rod for you. It can cast weights that would smash lighter tips, not to mention coping with those savage bites you get from carp as they bolt against the weight of a feeder.

You wouldn’t think twice about combining one of these with a bigger reel loaded with lines from 8-10lbs. Heck, if you’re casting big payloads a long way, you may want a shock leader – a thicker last few yards of line to handle the strain of casting big weights without the dreaded crack-off (not a city in Poland but that horrible moment when your line breaks on the cast.)

Which quiver tip?

Feeder_003

A typical quiver tip; this one has an isotope added for night fishing.
Image source:
Dominic Garnett.

Just to confuse things even more, most quiver tip or feeder rods come with a selection of interchangeable tips. Like a full rod, they often have a test curve rating, in ounces. Obviously the higher the number, the stiffer the tip is. Use your common sense to pick the right one: a flat calm lake and shy biting fish would call for a slender, highly sensitive tip. A powerful river and heavy feeder would call for something much stiffer.

Feeder rigs

Running feeder, longer hook-link

Fishtec-feeder1

Image source: Fishtec

Best suited for: Traditional species (roach, dace, bream, tench) and weedy/ clear waters.

For fish that don’t always charge off with the bait, a longer, finer hook-link is the way to fish. This could be as little as a foot to 18” (30-45cm) over a clean bottom. But if fish are shy or the water is weedy, a longer hook-link up to 4 feet helps the bait settle delicately without digging into the bottom. Sometimes using a longer link and bait like bread will earn you extra bites while the bait sinks through the water too.

Semi-fixed feeder, short hook-link

Fishtec-feeder2

Image source: Fishtec

Best suited for: Bigger fish that tend to hook themselves (carp, tench, bream, barbel.) Commercial fisheries & carp lakes.

This is the modern, more typical way to fish on stocked fisheries or natural waters with a good head of bigger fish. To maximize this effect, try a really short hook-link (as little as 2-3”!) Hair-rigging gives the best presentation and hook-up rates, and with a big feeder, heavier line and a bait such as double boilie, this type of rig can also work for larger carp.

Warning! Is your rig safe?

Please beware. This rig comes with two dangers: the rod getting pulled in, or dodgy setups leading to breaks and tethered fish. This is why we call this a “semi” fixed rig. Most modern feeders have a sleeve that will snugly lock your hook-link in place via a swivel. Secure enough to hook fish, this makes the feeder easy to dislodge for a fish should you break off!

The ‘in-between’ rig (running feeder, fairly short hook-link)

Fishtec-rig3

Image source: Fishtec

Of course, we can make good general rules, but there are always exceptions. Some specialist roach anglers use a heavy feeder and short hooklink for distance fishing, just as canny carp anglers will try a longer trace for spooky carp that have wised-up to the classic heavy weight and short hooklink combo.

I was shown this rig by legendary specimen angler Bob James, and it has seldom let me down. It’s dead simple, provided you get the proportions right, and is simply brilliant for barbel, tench and all the bigger species. It’s not as crude as a method-type rig, allowing fish to move off a little more with the hookbait. It tends to work a little like a “bolt rig” – a common set up where the fish feels the weight, “bolts” and hooks itself.

The combination of double mini-boilie and small specimen hook is extremely effective – often far better than standard specimen rigs. I believe this is because smaller hooks, such as a 10 or a 12, penetrate with far less force than a carp-sized hook such as a heavy gauge 4 to 8. I’m not sure why, but two smaller boilies often work better than one big one, too.

There are many more specialised feeder rigs you might also try, once you’ve got the hang of it. The helicopter rig is good for tangle-free long range fishing. Heck, some anglers have even used floating feeders, or used a pole to drop a method feeder in the margins for carp. I’m not going to dictate how it’s done; but I would recommend getting familiar with the basics before going too crazy.

Practical tips

Cast accurately, cast often

The whole aim of fishing the feeder is to attract the fish to your hookbait. Two things are really important. The first is to recast on a regular basis to build up the feed and draw the fish in. It’s no use casting out and doing nothing for hours; the fish will just lose interest. Keep recasting at least every five to ten minutes.

The other vital thing to remember is accuracy. If you send free bait in here there and everywhere, the fish will disperse rather than gather in one spot. By all means, try the odd cast on the edge of your feed area. Sometimes the bigger fish are cagier and don’t muscle right into the thick of it. But my best advice is to line up with a marker on the far bank and concentrate on casting repeatedly to the same area. See our tips section below for more advice here.

Feeder_004

A nice bag of fish on the feeder in wretched conditions! With heavy wind and rain, it would have been impossible to float fish.

How to spot bites on the feeder

We’ve already looked at quiver tips, which, as the name suggests, will shudder and twitch as you get interest from the fish. But when should you strike? In my experience it’s best to avoid the tiny little shivers and shudders; these are just nibbles and fish that are testing the bait. Instead wait for the tip to pull round a little further, or to pull forward and hold.

The truth is that you should play it by ear. One day, say when fishing for roach and skimmers, you might hit quite gentle bites and find success. However, if there are big bream or tench in the swim, it’s usually best to follow the classic advice and “sit on your hands” until the tip whacks right round. A lot of the earlier shudders and taps will just be fish disturbing the feeder and brushing the line.

Of course, if you use a semi-fixed rig or shorter hooklength, there is often no need whatsoever to strike! Just stay vigilant, ignore the smaller taps and be ready to pick up the rod when a fish hooks itself. You can’t really miss it – and don’t leave your rod unattended or you’ll feel a right plank if it gets dragged into the lake.

Top 10 Feeder Fishing Tips

  1. Stay vigilant and hang on to your rod. Get in a comfortable position so you’re ready to pick up the rod in a flash (try resting the butt of the rod in your lap).
  1. Always bait the hook first, then fill up your plastic when using a maggot feeder. Otherwise you’ll have maggots falling into your lap as you bait the hook.
  1. Get into a routine of casting accurately and often (you could even set a stopwatch!). Each time you send the feeder out, you are in effect ringing the dinner bell again. Active anglers catch more than the lazy brigade!
  1. Do you suffer from tangles on the cast? If so there are two things you could try. One is the loop rig. Another answer is to use a little anti-tangle sleeve. These slip over any small swivel and help keep everything straight and tangle-free.
  1. Use a snaplink so you can change feeders through the session. This way you can go heavier if the wind picks up, for example, or perhaps switch to a smaller model or a straight lead if you want to cut back on the free feed.
Feeder_005

A nice barbel on the feeder; a two ounce model was needed on this occasion to tackle a wide river swim with a strong current.
Image source: Dominic Garnett.

  1. Try the feeder for carp and barbel in place of the usual leads. It could save you a fortune on PVA bags and is often the better method, because it encourages you to keep casting and attracting fish, rather than just plonking a rig out and waiting.
  1. Your reel’s line clip is the easiest way to keep hitting the same mark with the feeder. If big carp are about this could be a bad idea though… you could try tying a marker with braid or whipping silk to keep track of the distance instead.
  1. A bit of DIY can be handy for improving your feeders. You could make the holes bigger, or tape them up for a slower release of bait. You could also add extra weight. Tinker as you see fit.
  1. So far we have not discussed when NOT to use a feeder. At close range, or in shallow water it could be the wrong method- especially when the fish might be easily spooked.
  1. Last but not least, don’t assume swim feeders are only for general coarse fishing. Virtually every fish likes free food, right? Bigger feeders are also good for sea and pike fishing. Think outside the box (or should that be feeder?) and the results can be brilliant.

For a quick, simple and visual guide to feeder fishing use our infographic below:

More from our blogger…

Dominic Garnett’s books include Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his recent collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines. Find them along with his regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as Kindle e-books via www.amazon.co.uk

River Pollution: How Anglers Can Help

There are lots of ways anglers can help, including reporting anything suspicious Image source: Steffan Jones

There are lots of ways anglers can help, including reporting anything suspicious
Image source: Steffan Jones

All anglers understand instinctively that good water quality underpins every aspect of our rivers’ health. That’s why, a couple of weeks ago, renowned international competition fly-fisher (and regular Fishtec customer) Terry Bromwell took matters into his own hands…

He’d heard reports that a sewage works in south Wales was pumping out slugs of raw sewage into the River Rhondda, and he wanted to investigate these rumours for himself.

Arriving at the waterside, he was disgusted to see the river below the treatment works running milky white with toilet paper and other sanitary products. Lack of recent rain meant that the river’s natural level was low, and he filmed the effluent pumping forcefully out of the treatment works for many minutes before the flow finally abated.

According to his sources, this was happening several times every day, with thousands of gallons pouring into the unfortunate little river each time.

At the time of writing, the official response to Terry’s viral video is still uncertain, but watching something like this is horrifying even if you haven’t spent much of your angling life in the shadow of a notorious sewage treatment works (like I have).

UPDATE: Welsh Water finally took notice of Terry’s video and investigated the pollution. They are now working to fix the issue.

Back to the bad old days?

The River Usk

A tributary of The River Usk was badly affected by pollution in 2016.
Image source: Shutterstock

Of course, this begs the question: after years of improvement thanks to privatisation of the water industry and European water quality directives, is the water quality in our rivers actually getting worse again?

Frustratingly, the answer to that question rather depends who you ask, how ‘worse’ is measured, and even which set of statistics you’re looking at. For instance, the recent drop from 29 per cent of England’s rivers enjoying good health in 2014, to just 17 per cent in 2015, and 14 per cent in 2016, can be explained by a new, tighter ‘one out, all out’ measurement regime.

But if you measure water quality in dead fish and bugs, then yes, it seems clear that many rivers are suffering. And it’s also clear that Terry’s home country of Wales has been hit by more than its fair share of aquatic catastrophes in recent months:

  • In March 2016, a pollution incident on the Llynfi Dulas (a tributary of the Usk) killed at least 2,000 fish over 5km of river.
  • In December 2016, a slurry leak near Tregaron led to the deaths of 1,000 fish on the upper Teifi.
  • A few weeks later, another slurry spill was reported from a tributary of the Towy near Carmarthen.
  • In June 2017 it was the Teifi’s turn again, when a slug of liquid waste escaped from an anaerobic digester at Lampeter.

A nationwide problem

The River Eden

The River Eden is a Special Site of Scientific Interest
Image source: ATGImages

Yet this uplift in agricultural pollution isn’t just a Welsh problem: Wye & Usk Foundation Director Simon Evans has told me that he’s deeply worried by high-nutrient runoff from free-range chicken farms in the Lugg and Arrow catchments.

Meanwhile, having been sounding the alarm about intensive dairy units in the Eden valley for years, England fly-fishing team coach Jeremy Lucas recently captured unmistakeable photo evidence of a slurry trailer dragging away from the River Eden after discharging unknown quantities of waste into the waters of this Special Site of Scientific Interest.

And it wasn’t long ago that environmental campaigner George Monbiot discovered, completely by chance, a constant stream of liquid manure running into the little River Culm in Devon.

To be fair, for every farmer or utility company employee who doesn’t care or can’t afford to implement best-practice pollution management, there are probably a dozen who are passionate about protecting the environment.

But this new report from WWF, which reveals that more than half of the sewage overflow sites in England and Wales are discharging into our rivers at least once a month (and 14% once a week!) gives us a real sense of the scale of the problem.

Time for us to act

Foam pollutants

Foam pollutants swirling across a river
Image source: Shutterstock

Now, at a time when the impacts of the Brexit referendum make wide-ranging deregulation look likely, it’s time for all anglers to follow the example of the watchful fishermen I’ve mentioned above, and become even more vigilant in our role as guardians of our rivers.

We’re out there in all weathers, we know when something’s not quite right, and as Terry has recently shown us, we’ve got all the power of social media right here at our fingertips if the proper authorities don’t seem to be taking problems seriously enough.

Recent evidence suggests that the courts are now prepared to fine offenders much more heavily – for example, Thames Water was recently handed a record £20 million penalty for repeatedly polluting the Thames.

Better still, recent changes mean that compensation money can now be channelled into repairing environmental damage, via enforcement undertakings, instead of sending it straight to the coffers of the Treasury. And even when long court cases aren’t successful, public pressure can force polluters to invest in improvements like Welsh Water’s new sewage treatment improvements at Llyn Padarn.

How can we help?

Sewage works polluting river

Effluent from sewage works flowing into a UK river
Image source: Silent Corners

So how can we all get personally involved in spotting – and stopping – pollution problems? Here’s a list of ideas I’ve been developing…

Support angling passport schemes

It’s obvious once you know about it, but one of the reasons for setting up these schemes was to incentivise farmers to look after the vital headwaters of many major rivers. If landowners see how much we value these small streams, they’ll look after them better, which benefits everybody in the long term… and of course we can help them to spot potential problems too.

Go fishing in the rain

River restoration professionals always jump at the chance to explore their catchments in the most horrible conditions – taking so-called ‘wet weather walks’ to see where the water really goes when it falls out of the sky, and what it looks like when it reaches the river. With runoff from roads, farmyards, badly-ploughed fields and more, this can sometimes be a real eye-opener.

Follow your nose

If something doesn’t smell right, it’s probably wrong, and you’ll often sniff out pollution before you see it. Another sign of water quality problems is ‘sewage fungus’ – a grey, gelatinous or feathery mass of bacteria which grows in the presence of very high nutrient levels like those provided by slurry or sewage.

Look out for misconnections

On streams and rivers everywhere, many insidious pollution problems are caused by toilets, sinks and washing machines being wrongly plumbed into rainwater pipes instead of foul sewers. If there’s a nasty smell, or if you can see milky discharges, toilet paper or sanitary products in your river, chances are there’s a misconnection somewhere nearby. But on the upside, the local water company should be keen to get it fixed (and it’s illegal for homeowners to refuse).

Get trained as a riverfly monitor

Once a month, a 3-minute kick sample can tell you almost everything you need to know about the health of your local river. Different species of aquatic invertebrates are differently sensitive to pollution, and repeated sampling can locate the source and even provide evidence for a prosecution. Find out more from the Riverfly Partnership website.

Join a local pollution monitoring programme

As well as riverfly monitoring, more and more rivers trusts are setting up networks of local volunteers to spot pollution and help to deal with incidents. Some water companies are recognising the benefits of citizen science too: for example, Thames Water is working in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to run ‘outfall safaris’ and identify problem areas for their surface outfall remediation programme. They’ve also launched a rapid response unit which aims to get to the site of any reported pollutions within an hour.

Make that call!

Wherever you live and fish, keep one or both of these pollution hotline numbers in your phone, and don’t think twice about calling if you spot a pollution problem:

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 0800 80 70 60

Wales: 0300 065 3000

It’s far better to be safe than sorry, and every report helps to build up a picture of what’s going on. Your vigilance really can make a difference.

And if all else fails… be like Terry, and put the power of social media to work for you too.

About the author

Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s also Chair of Trustees of the South East Rivers Trust, and founding editor of urbantrout.net, a website and eco-brand dedicated to the urban fly fishing and river restoration movements. His first book, Trout in Dirty Places, was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012, and his manual on controlling invasive non-native species, The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing appeared in 2014.

A Beginner’s Guide to Eel Fishing

How would you like to try your hand at angling for one of the world’s most mysterious fish? You’ll have to stay up late to bag an eel, but it’ll be well worth the effort because they’re ferocious fighters.

Tempted? Read on as the author of The Eel Angler, Barry McConnell gives the lowdown on this most slippery of customers.

My largest UK eel to date at 9lbs 2oz
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

Perhaps it’s because they resemble a snake as much as a fish, that so few anglers target eels. But wriggly and slimy though they are, they’re also a fascinating creature about which we still know relatively little.

Scientists are almost certain the European eel breeds over 4,000 miles away in the Sargasso Sea – although to this day, nobody has ever actually witnessed them spawning. The tiny elvers drift to the UK on the ocean currents and once here, follow flowing water upstream, taking them inland. They venture up streams, rivers, canals, and ditches exploring every tiny rivulet as they strive to populate our fisheries. Eels even find their way into stillwaters by wriggling through trickling overflows.

A 6lb 12oz eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

The eel is a wild fish that manages its own stocks, populating every type of water including gravel pits, reservoirs, meres, ponds, and glacial lochs. No other species of fish inhabits such a diverse range of habitats making eel fishing an exploration or an adventure into the unknown. While the new age of carp angling has trended towards managed, stocked fisheries which name the biggest fish and tell anglers how many 20s, 30s they can catch, eel fishing is the exact opposite. There is rarely any information available, and often the local anglers don’t even know if there are any eels around or not.

Into the Unknown

My first ever 3lb eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

From vast, 200ft deep, windswept glacial lochs to shallow, muddy, little farm ponds choked with weed, the excitement of the unknown inspires me to fish a wide variety of venues in search of eels. I started on easier waters with a high population of eels and it took me two years to break the 3lb barrier. By that time I had the eel fishing bug, a.k.a. slime fever. My biggest eel in the UK is 9lbs 2ozs.

If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start on waters that are known to hold eels. Here it will be possible to catch a few and learn as you progress. Very big eels are extremely rare and pursuing them may involve targeting waters with no history of any eels ever being caught. Specimen eel angling is only for the select few who pursue this branch of the sport with a level of dedication that borders on obsession. But while not for amateurs, you never know, perhaps (like me) you’ll get the bug…

Identifying eels

4lbs 7ozs
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

The UK rod and line record for the European Eel is 11lb 2oz, but most eels are less than 3lb in weight. I was happy catching two pounders when I started. The eel is slow growing and takes ten years to grow to 1lb in weight. Eels of 4lb and upwards are regarded as specimens and may be 40 years old. A 3lb eel may be 36 inches long and eels over 9lb can be over 45 inches long with a girth like a drain pipe. Young eels are generally an olive-green colour and have small eyes. Larger, mature specimens have a purple-pink-silver hue. As the eel reaches its time to migrate back to the Sargasso Sea its pigmentation turns to a silvery sheen and the eyes grow large like saucers. These are known as silver eels.

There have been problems with a decline in the eel population over the last 20 years. Because of this, in England and Wales, the European Eel is now a protected species and it is no longer legal to take or to kill one. All fish must be returned to the water alive. Scotland has banned fishing for them altogether and so too have parts of Ireland.

Feeding habits and baits

Upon populating a water, eels have the unique ability to develop different head shapes according to the type of food available. If there are lots of invertebrates present, the eels develop narrow heads to enable them to feed on tiny items. If there are lots of fish and fry present, the eels develop wider heads suited to preying on fish. Both types of eels may be present in the same water.

The common lobworm is an effective bait for eels
Image: Shutterstock

Lobworm is the most popular eel bait, and broken lobs (cut one lobworm into six or seven short pieces and put on the hook) is the most effective. Dendrobaena and other types of redworms are also a good bait for eels; they are easier to get hold of than lobs and will keep better in warm weather. Small, 3-5-inch-long fish are a very good bait. They can be used live, dead or cut up into sections. My preference is a dead one, freshly killed with its head snipped off to release more scent trail into the water. The eel has an incredible sense of smell and will scent out the bait.

Eels will feed on a wide variety of food and other baits like luncheon meat, cheese and squid. Mussels and prawns work well too. I find that the pre-cooked frozen ones are best as they are firmer than uncooked ones which helps them stay on the hook. Sometimes they can be just as effective as the old favourites – worms and dead-baits. Many eel anglers bait the swim with dead maggots, but I have been successful without any baiting-up.

Eel fishing tackle

The joy of fishing for eel is that it is a powerful fighter. It will swim backwards and pull strongly against the rod in a tug of war. A strong rod is necessary to move a big eel and specimen hunters prefer 2 ½ and 3lb rods. It is possible to land eels on lighter rods and so don’t despair if you only have a 1.5lb rod. That will do for starters.

Lines of 10lb to 15lb are matched to the job and a wire trace is necessary for big eels and wide-mouthed eels as their teeth will slash through softer hook-length materials. The eel’s eye is very close to its lip and because of this, hooks size 6 is the best size. Any bigger and the gape of the hook is so wide that the point can penetrate the eels eye and cause damage. Any smaller and you risk pulling out of larger, hard-fighting fish.

A size 6 hook is the perfect middle ground for safe eel fishing
Image: Shutterstock

Barbless hooks are used with fish baits and a piece of elastic band can be added to keep the bait on the hook. With worms I prefer a micro-barb hook because having crammed a barbless hook full of worms, they keep wriggling off as I try to put a piece of elastic band on! A large landing net is necessary as eels are long fish. To land an eel with a smaller net you have to get its tail into the net first the eel will back into the net. This can be difficult but is achievable with a bit of practice.

Bottom bait rigs

A basic free-running ledger rig
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

Simple free-running ledger rigs are standard when fishing the bait on the bottom for eels.

On loosely presented set ups, eels have a habit of backing up a few inches and swallowing the bait without the take registering. To deter this, and to reduce the chance of a deep hooking, it’s best to keep the hook length short and the line tight to register each movement. An instant strike will also reduce the chance of eels swallowing the bait. Even after taking all these precautions, some eels will still be deep-hooked when using a basic free-running ledger rig.

The basic ledger rig converted to a semi-bolt rig
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

Further steps to reduce deep-hooking include the semi-bolt rig. This is a basic link ledger with an extra bead and a stop knot added. The principle is that the eel has a short distance of free-running, low-resistance until the stop-knot butts up to the bead, hopefully pricking the hook into the fish before it has swallowed the bait. It is fairly successful but not 100%. Other anti- deep -hooking systems currently being field tested by National Anguilla Club members include the use of circle hooks, semi-resistance rigs, and of T-bars or gobstoppers fitted to the trace just above the hook, to preventing the eel gorging the bait.

Mid-water rigs

The Dyson Rig for fishing in mid-water
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

Another popular and very effective method is to present the bait in mid-water using an off-bottom rig. The Dyson rig is preferred by most eel anglers. This resistance-free and adjustable rig presents the bait above the lake bed, and can present it abovevoiding weed growing on the bottom, it is also resistance-free and adjustable. A rotten bottom is essential with this rig, so that if the lead gets stuck, the weaker line will break and the rig can be retrieved.

Eels tend to shy away from resistance and may eject the bait if things don’t feel right, therefore free-running rigs, along with lightweight, resistance-free indicators are preferred. A simple lightweight bobbin hanging on the line between reel and butt ring will suffice, or better than that is the purpose-built, resistance-free, adjustable indicator, The Rollover Indicator, as used by most of the leading eel anglers today. Available from www.zandavan.co.uk where a video can be viewed showing how it works.

Handling and unhooking eels

A 5lb eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

The eel should be handled gently so as not to stress the fish. An unhooking mat and damp hands are the order of the day. Calmly lay the eel on the mat; treat it gently so it stays calm and is easier to unhook. If an eel has swallowed the bait, do not shove a disgorger or forceps down its throat. The throat is obviously narrow in such a thin fish and the eel has all its vital organs and main arteries at the back of its throat where any poking around may injure the fish which may then bleed to death. The best option is to cut through the trace, leaving the barbless hook in the eel which will usually be able to work it loose and spit it out.
The eel is largely a creature of the night and though you can also catch one in the day-time, it is best to stay on into the hours of darkness to get the better sport, to get the ‘feel of the night’, and to enter the world of the true eel angler. Those of you that get the eel angling bug may care to join the National Anguilla Club where you can meet like-minded eel angling fanatics who strive to improve eel angling techniques and conserve the eel.

Further reading: The Eel Angler

The Eel Angler by Barry McConnell

If you want to read more on this subject I have written a book The Eel Angler, published in 2012. It tells the story of my eel angling learning curve, the progression from beginner to specialist. It’s a big book and includes chapters on Australia and New Zealand where eels over 20lb were landed. It is a full-colour book with lots of photos and has received some top reviews. The last few are still available from www.zandavan.co.uk. Also available is my latest book, Channel Zander, published in 2017.

A Beginners Guide to Bream Fishing

Familiar right across the UK, the common bream is a net-filling catch for match, pleasure and specimen anglers alike. Here, Dom Garnett provides handy tips and advice on how to catch them.

Abramis brama, or the common bream
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Of all the coarse species you might find in your local waters, bream are perhaps the most common “net-sized” fish of all. They bite well and grow to a good average size; and while they have a reputation as weak fighters, they are a different prospect on light tackle.

There are, of course, different sorts of bream, but for our purposes we are dealing with Abramis brama, the common or bronze bream of freshwater. This is occasionally confused with the silver bream, which rarely grows much more than a pound and looks rather like a young common bream or “skimmer”. However, the silver bream is less widespread, has darker fins, and a proportionally larger eye.

A really ancient-looking canal bream, just an ounce under seven pounds
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

I guess you could say the bream is a bit of a love or hate fish. They’re lazy, lolloping things. They seem to live half their lives in slow motion, and enjoy stealing baits intended for carp. But I have always appreciated them. As a kid, they swallowed up whole summer evenings, and a good one was a fish to be prized. Catching a really big one is a great challenge – and those over ten pounds take on a whole new majesty.

The habits of bream

Common bream are fish with very specific habits – useful to help us find and target them. Firstly, they are bottom dwelling fish- as you can see from their body shape and downturned mouths. They are also a fish that form shoals of anything up to a hundred or more strong, meaning that they can be caught in great numbers. Where you find one you may well find many, and as even modest adult bream weigh three to five pounds, there could be a large catch on the cards.

Most of the time the bream is a fish of deep, slow water. On rivers, you can expect them in slacks and gentle currents with good depth. On stillwaters such as lakes and reservoirs you will often find them further out from the bank, in the deepest water. They’ll feed over both silt and gravel, where they’ll grub for bloodworms, snails and other natural food.

Dour, overcast conditions tend to provide good bream fishing
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Bream are fish that patrol regular feeding routes in order to graze. Not that they eat all the time; dour, overcast days tend to be most productive. You may even see them rolling at the surface late in the day, and night fishing is also a good plan for the really big ones. The trick is finding where and when they feed, because once you do they can be easy to catch in numbers.

On more open waters, another good tip is follow the wind. Breezy conditions are ideal for bringing them onto the feed. On large lakes you will often get a good catch by fishing with the wind in your face – a deep bay with the wind blowing into it is the ideal spot to catch bream.

Tactics and tackle

Since they don’t fight especially hard, the angler who targets bream will want to use sensibly light tackle to get a decent bend in the rod. Various tactics work.

You could use pole or waggler tackle where distances aren’t too great, but the most common method for bream is probably the swimfeeder. A large open-end groundbait feeder or method feeder is ideal. A quivertip makes ideal bite detection, although specimen tactics with two or three rods can also be employed if the fish are large and there’s a long wait between bites.

Open-end groundbait feeders are ideal when targeting bream
Image: Shutterstock

Just occasionally, other tactics work too. Clear summer rivers can make for exciting stalking tactics. It’s lovely watching them feed, and simple baits like corn and bread are easily spotted on the bottom as you watch the fish home in.

Slightly stranger tactics have also been known to work. I’ve had accidental bream on lures, as well as some (by design) using sinking flies! Again, rivers are the best place to try this, where the bream tend to be more keen-sighted and active.

Bream can be finicky on occasion, but you’ll get plenty of bites on sensibly light tackle. Typically, hook sizes from 10-14 are used, although you could go a bit larger for the biggest specimens, or finer for skimmers. Main lines are typically 5-10 pounds, with hook lengths from 4-8lbs as a rough guide. As I’ve said, bream are not incredibly strong or line shy and your main reason for fishing heavier could be the risk of hooking a big tench or carp.

Baiting for bream

Bream don’t tend to be super fussy about what they eat and lots of baits will work. But you do need to feed plenty if you are to catch a good net of fish. Bream can eat a lot; and if you imagine that even a modest shoal of bream could be a dozen strong and average four or five pounds, you need plenty of food to keep their interest for any length of time.

Groundbait is a must. You can bulk this out with plain brown crumb to stop things getting expensive, but several kilos may be required for a serious session, and prebaiting is also an excellent idea.

You should try to include a variety particle baits in your mix, too. Frozen sweetcorn, or bulk items like buckwheat and rice are nice and cheap, should you want to bait up for a really big catch. If you’re settling in for a day session, you can use less feed. A couple of kilos of groundbait would still be a good idea, along with three to four pints of free offerings to get them used to your hookbait.

Hook baits for bream are varied, but don’t feel you need expensive or special kinds. Sweetcorn is excellent and avoids tiny fish. Maggots are good too – and for bream, dead maggots are often better than live. Four or five on a size 10 hook is a cracking bait. Worms are also excellent, especially redworms and you can use two or even three, broken and tipped with a caster. I almost always add chopped worms to my groundbait too, because they attract bream like nothing else.

Worm and caster is a great bream bait
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Aside from these, several alternatives are also worth having. Bread works brilliantly in clear water or anywhere you might be lucky enough to stalk the fish. Pellets and boilies are also now part of the bream fishing scene – and anywhere that sees lots of these baits introduced for carp is likely to produce good bream on them too. Double 10mm boilies have worked very well for me, as have cocktails such as a boilie tipped with a worm.

Patience and preparation

Bream fishing is often a waiting game. If the fish are around and hungry, sport can be hectic. But until they move in, you must wait. It is usually best to bait up accurately first and then fish over the top, rather than feed on top of the fish.

They can take a while to arrive, but it’s rare to catch just one bream when they do
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Prebaiting is often a good idea too, and accounts for some of the really huge bream nets of a hundred pounds and over. Go for cheap feeds, be positive and accurate, and you could have a truly memorable session on your hands.

Once bream are in your swim, you will often get line bites. These can be a funny sideways movement on the float, or a sudden bulge and then drop back on the feeder. With practice, you can spot most of these and wait for a true bite. Usually deliberate and unmistakable, you will see the float plod under decisively, or the quiver tip wrap right round. With specimen gear, the bobbins will lift and hold – although you may also get repetitive little lifts or ‘funny business’ if a fish tries to rid itself of the hook rather than charging off. If in doubt, lift and feel for the fish.

The joys of bream

It’s fair to say that not everyone loves bream. On heavy tackle, they don’t do a lot. But on a light rod, or in a river current, they put a nice bend in your gear and are lovely to catch.

Other things about bream are less appealing. They are one of the slimiest fish going and will really skank up your nets! This slime can also clog up your hook length, so do clear it off after each catch.

Bream are quite docile on the bank, but deserve respect like any other fish. Do treat them to a well dampened unhooking mat if you don’t want to find out about their legendary sliminess, and if you are retaining them in a keepnet, pick a large model and stake it out fully. They can suffer in hot weather too, so do be mindful of how long you retain them.

A fine double figure bream. These can be old, precious fish so treat with care
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

The size of a true “specimen” bream really varies. For those fishing large pits and reservoirs a double figure fish is the challenge, and these are amazing looking creatures. Across many of our rivers and smaller waters though, a six-pounder is a good fish, and one of seven or eight could be a really ancient specimen, so don’t be blinkered into thinking that only a “double” is a big bream – it depends on the venue.

Wherever you find bream though, enjoy them because they are one of our classic coarse fish. And while they’re not as fashionable as carp, they will give you some great sport on lighter tackle. Happy bream fishing!

More from our blogger…

Regular Fishtec blogger Dominic Garnett is also an Angling Times weekly columnist and author of several books including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his most recent book of angling tales Crooked Lines. You can find more of his words and photography, along with signed editions and fishing gifts at www.dgfishing.co.uk.

A Beginners Guide to Roach Fishing

A common yet challenging catch for most of us, roach are a viable target for any angler. Dominic Garnett offers a host of tips and advice on how to catch this attractive species.

Fishtec-Roach1

Beautiful, obliging and found all over the UK: what’s not to like about the roach?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Is the roach Britain’s most undervalued fish? In the midst of current mania for carp and other heavyweights, many anglers appear to have forgotten this humble species. And yet once upon a time it was very different. In the early 80s, when I first began fishing, everyone fished for roach. They were common as muck, but fickle and fast biting enough to test the angler. In my case, the species has a lot to answer for, because a Thames roach was my first ever catch.

Alas, how times change. These days I see fewer and fewer anglers trotting or tip fishing for roach, dace or bream. Carp and predator anglers now dominate. But what cracking sport (and vital skills!) they are missing out on in their hunt for bigger, more fashionable fish. Not that I’m complaining – because this neglect means that we live in an excellent period for roach fishing. Indeed, much of the time you will find yourself fishing for roach with little or no competition from other anglers.

Where to find roach?

A pole angler plays a nice sized fish; roach are often common on manmade lakes.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Although roach have diminished in some areas because of habitat loss or predation, they are still incredibly widespread across Britain and indeed much of Europe. Their great adaptability explains this; they are equally adept at living in still or flowing water. They also have an incredibly wide diet and feeding habits, from grubbing through bottom weed to rising for insects.

On a majority of stillwaters, roach are not only present but widespread. On smaller commercials and canals, try fishing just down the “shelf” where the shallow water of the margins drops away deeper. On larger lakes, you may find them anywhere – from near the bottom to topping at the surface. Look for signs of them swirling and rising early and late in the day.

For many traditional anglers though, the spiritual home of roach fishing is on a river. You are likely to find them in good numbers too; but while they inhabit a variety of swims they do seem to like a healthy flow. Whether it is a steady run of water with reasonable depth or the lively, oxygen-rich waters of a weirpool, you will tend find them in or near the current.

Another classic place to find them is any “crease” on the river (a term we use to indicate where faster and slower water meet). Roach love these areas because the current provides them with food and oxygen without them having to battle against the quickest currents.

Roach fishing methods

So, once you have an idea where to find them, how do you catch roach? The methods are almost as varied as the venues themselves. For most anglers, float fishing is the most enjoyable method of all. Pole fishing is very popular on canals, ponds and other stillwaters and allows the use of sensitive floats and delicate tackle. That said, the waggler is also a good all round method with rod and reel.

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A sensitive float fishing set up is fun and effective for roach.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

On rivers, perhaps the most enjoyable technique of all is stick float fishing for roach with a match rod and classic centrepin reel (although a fixed spool is also fine). Using the current to gently trundle a bait to the fish is fun and effective, while you throw in regular helpings of bait to encourage the shoal.

On larger waters, or indeed tricky river swims, legering is also a key roach fishing method. A simple open end or maggot feeder is a good ploy for larger specimens, especially. It’s fair to say that the larger roach tend to sit closer to the bottom than their younger mates, hence legering can be quite “selective”.

Whichever method you choose, roach are no suckers for crude gear. On numerous occasions, while coaching or just watching from the bank, I’ve seen youngsters or beginners struggling because they were armed with thick line and large hooks. Switching to fine line and smaller hooks is usually enough to lose the frowns and see their fortunes change quickly!

As roach are quite sensitive fish and not the hardest fighters, you can get away with pretty light tackle. Reel lines are typically three to four pounds, with fine hooklengths of two to three pounds strength. Keep hooks smallish too; for winter fishing and finicky fish, a size 20 or 22 wouldn’t be too tiny. For a big roach though, a fine wire 10 or 12 hook would not be too big. It’s all a matter of bait and context.

Last but not least, you should never be blinkered into using just one tactic for roach. There is no single “perfect” method, just the best for the conditions and location you are fishing on the day. Some of the most enjoyable roach fishing I’ve ever had has been using fly tackle and small nymphs or dry flies; brilliant fun and often effective when other methods aren’t working. Equally though, if you have your heart set on a big roach and fish large waters such as gravel pits and reservoirs, you could try scaled down specimen tactics.

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Don’t be blinkered; this cracking roach of 1lb 9oz was fooled with a wet fly.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

What is the best bait for roach?

Because roach have such a wide diet, the range of bait you can use is pretty big. On many rivers and canals where there is public access, my number one bait would be bread. It’s a brilliant, highly visible bait that fish will readily accept just about anywhere, whether you liquidise a fine feed and use punch on a tiny hook, or mash up a few slices for feed and use a good pinch on a bigger hook.

A close second would probably be maggots or casters. Maggots are a great all round roach bait and by feeding them in regular, small quantities, you can get roach really queuing up for your hook bait.

Casters come in handy for picking out the bigger roach. Indeed, where maggots attract every tiddler going, casters are subtler and deadlier for their bigger relatives.

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Casters can help pick out the better roach where little ones demolish maggots.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Other classic roach baits include several less fashionable offerings. Hempseed is one of them. Feed this steadily until the fish become confident – there are days when it is unbeatable for good-sized roach. Elderberries are even more old school, not to mention free to gather and brilliant in late summer!

As for other baits, the list goes on and on. Worms are highly underrated and a whole redworm or half a lob can pick out fine roach. Last but not least, if you go roach fishing where carp angling is popular, small boilies, pellets or hair-rigged corn are all worth a shot.

Tips for catching roach

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They’re not always massive, but roach are delightful fish to test your angling skills
Image: Fishing with the General

What is the secret to catching quality roach in significant numbers? The crucial factors are fishing in the right spot with good presentation, and feeding regularly to get their confidence up. The feeding is especially important, because it is this that draws fish into your swim and, done correctly and consistently, will steadily encourage bigger fish to drop their guard.

It can be a challenge hitting roach bites, admittedly, so it always pays to be alert and to experiment. Bites can be fast or downright sneaky, so don’t always assume the float needs to go right under before you strike! Generally, although you can leave the tiniest shivers, if the float or quiver tip pulls and holds, you should strike. Don’t be afraid to experiment though- because you might need to hit bites early one day, let them develop a little more the next.

While little roach can be suicidally bold, the bigger ones definitely take more skill and patience. They tend to hold deeper than their shoal mates, and are more cautious, often keeping more distance from threats than their smaller pals. Try casting to the edge of your “feed area” every so often to bag a bigger one. If you are trotting, you are likely to hit the better fish right at the end of each “trot”, since they are likely to hold back a little more cautiously, rather than charging up for the feed like the little ones.

Timing and conditions are also crucial with roach. The good-sized fish dislike high light levels, for example, especially in clear and natural waters. Overcast days will tend to be better than bright, clear conditions. Many anglers could also catch better roach by changing their clocks. The best time of day to fish for roach is very often the last hour of light, when the shyer fish get a bit bolder and are less spooky.

Small roach can be easy, but catching the better ones or amassing a large catch takes skill and practise. A little context should also be applied here too. Big roach are never evenly spread and some regions are better than others. It took me many years to catch my first two-pounder.

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Fish of dreams: This two-pounder took legered bread flake.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

To this day, I would consider any roach of a pound or over an excellent fish, wherever you find it. A two-pounder is the fish of a lifetime for most of us, while a three-pounder is an absolute wonder that most of us will never see.

Let’s not get carried away with specimens and figures though, because roach fishing proves that fishing isn’t just about pounds and bragging rights. Indeed, I may have targeted much bigger species since my early years on the Thames, but would still consider a good day’s roach fishing among the greatest pleasures in angling. Size really isn’t everything, and these are wonderful fish to sharpen your reflexes and angling skills.

Further reading:

If you’re interested in finding out more about roach fishing, there are some excellent sources to try. For those who want a more thorough understanding of the species, Dr Mark Everard’s The Complete Book of the Roach is a good read with further advice. Should you want to try and catch roach from your local towpath, or indeed try fly fishing for the species, our blogger’s books Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and the Amazon Bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish are also well worth a read.

You might also find some of the author’s other Fishtec articles useful, including Dom’s Beginner’s Guide to Canal Fishing and 10 Ways to Feed More Effectively.

10 Ways To Feed Your Swim More Effectively

The way you introduce bait when fishing can be absolutely key to success. Dom Garnett has 10 top tips and suggestions to boost your catches.

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Smart, accurate feeding can make the difference between the odd fish and a full net.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

1. Keep it coming…

All too often, anglers dump a load of bait in, wait, and that’s it. Try feeding less but more often. The sight and smell of bait falling in regularly is attractive to fish. A steady supply gets them competing and entices new fish to come and explore.

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If in doubt, feed little and often to draw fish and get them competing.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

2. Catapult happy

Catapults are very useful for pinging feed out, but do get the right one for the job. Try squeezing the pouch to concentrate your free offerings. Accuracy counts!

3. Pick a marker

Talking of accuracy, it’s no use throwing in bait everywhere. Pick a marker on the far bank, such as a tree or platform, to improve your aim.

4. Mix it right

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Make groundbait into balls.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Groundbait is a superb way to get bait in a concentrated area. Don’t do it slapdash though. Consistent feeding calls for consistent groundbait. Make it evenly and thoroughly so it can be formed into balls. Wetting your hands at the end to make a “skin” on each ball helps keep balls of bait together.

5. Feeders for accuracy

Rather than throw your bait willy nilly, a feeder offers great accuracy at distance and does the regular feeding for you. If you’re fishing a bomb or carp rig, you could always unclip the lead and attach a feeder to give them a few payloads. If the water is deep, you can also try taping up the holes of your feeders to release the bait right on the bottom (as shown below).

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Taping up your feeder will allow bait to get right to the bottom of deep water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

6. Colours

As a rule, fish have less trouble finding bait in clear water- and can even spook if you go OTT, so try dark groundbaits and simple offerings like bread. If it’s murky and muddy, you can try brighter groundbaits, such as red or orange.

7. Don’t scare them

Occasionally, it’s better not to feed! If you suddenly see fish in your swim, avoid smashing free offerings down on their heads. It’s often better to cast just one bait or add a small handful rather than charging in.

8. Top droppers

If you regularly fish running water, especially deep rivers, a bait dropper is excellent for getting the feed to the fish without being swept all over the shop. That said, if you fish a stillwater full of “bits”, you might use one to get small baits like hemp and maggots straight to the bottom without getting picked off!

9. Spombs away

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A Spomb from Fishtec currently costs just £9.99.

Spods are great for launching loads of bait out quite accurately for carp, but are a bit big and unwieldy for other anglers. A spomb is the answer! These neat devices will cast on a regular barbel rod and are fantastic for fast, neat baiting. Also fun to use, they cost just a tenner from Fishtec.

10. Cheat!

Of course the ultimate way to feed accurately is to bend the rules a little. A pole cup is one excellent way to feed (even if you are not fishing the pole). PVA bags are another great shortcut to tight feeding (just see any carp magazine in the history of time). Heck, use a bait boat if you must!

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A large bream on the method. Big catches of this species often depend on feeding accurately and generously to hold the shoal in your swim.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Read more from our blogger…

You can catch more from Dom Garnett in the Angling Times every week, or through his various books and regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk.

TF Gear Airflo Inflatable Bivvy Latest Videos

Inflatable carp fishing bivvies are well established on the continent and are now making inroads in the UK market. These bivvies offer unparalleled ease of erection and also perform extremely well in high winds, where conventional pole bivvies are at increased risk of being damaged.

The new Airflo bivvy from TF Gear is an affordable inflatable fishing shelter that is proving to be a popular and best selling item of tackle at Fishtec. Both the 1 and 2 man versions are extremely roomy, with a built in groundsheet to help keep the insects out. They pack down very quickly into a short length bag, making them handy for fitting in any sized car boot.

1 Man: £279.99
2 Man: £329.99

The videos below demonstrate the Airflo bivvy in action:

Definitive proof that the Airflo bivvy can be inflated in under 60 seconds.

Airflo bivvy air poles are rock solid and tough; they cannot be over inflated or burst as the demo shows below. They are also highly puncture resistant and repairable.

A shorter length bag than a normal bivvy makes for ultra easy transportation to and from your swim.

For the full low-down on the blow up TF Gear Airflo bivvy, the video review below by Hassan Khan of Carpology magazine is an essential watch.

For full product specification click here.