Summer Coarse Fishing Tips: How To Beat The Heat

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A beautiful, baking hot day; but is it still worth going fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

While blue skies and sunny waters bring out fair weather anglers in droves, high summer can be a tough time to fish. Dom Garnett has some timely advice to help you stay cool, keep catching and be kind to the fish…

The weather forecasters are grinning; the mercury is rising and the shops are making a killing on barbeques and beer. “What a lovely time of year to go fishing” says just about everyone who doesn’t know much about angling!

Ask most regular anglers, and you’ll get a lukewarm response: high summer can be a challenging time of low returns. Fish, after all, are not always comfortable in the heat. Like us, they find their energy and appetite dulled.

With clear skies and low water levels, the fish also feel quite vulnerable and will either hang around motionless or go missing in the brightest hours of the day. Unlike you or I, they have no eyelids, let alone a pair of shades to lessen the blinding glare!

Should I still go fishing in a heatwave?

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Drought conditions can follow a heatwave. It can be a time of stress and difficulty for nature- and fish become more vulnerable. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When it’s extremely hot, fishing can be a tricky business. That’s not to say you won’t catch, but you might need to switch times, locations or species. Early mornings or evenings are going to be better than the middle of the day, for one thing.

As for species of fish, some respond to heat better than others. Fragile, coldwater species like pike and grayling should be avoided altogether, such is the risk. Carp are perhaps the most notable exception; tough as old boots, they might slow down but can still be caught on the surface or in the margins. Tench and crucian carp are also tough cookies that can tolerate higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels.

Is it worth the risk?

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Carp are hardy fish that can still be tempted on bright days. However, on’t expect them to be on the bottom. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With other species, it’s a case of discretion. After all, just because you can legally target them, it doesn’t mean you should. Barbel are a point in case presently, because as tough as they look, these fish can easily die following a hard fight and a less than careful release. It can take up to 20 minutes of supporting a fish on release, if it is to recover properly.

Is it worth the risk in the first place? Only you can make that call, but when it’s silly hot remember that we have the whole year to fish. If you must go, there are some common sense rules, too. These include using strong tackle to play fish quickly, not to mention supporting them with patience to recover fully before swimming off. Our Beginner’s Guide to Fish Care has lots of great advice to help if you’re unsure.

Summer fishing and catch and release tips in hot weather

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This barbel perished after capture in hot weather. River fish demand extra care and patience on release. Image courtesy of Alfie Naylor.

  • It’s your call if the weather is scorching hot. But if the river is extremely low or you think the fish are vulnerable, why not wait a bit or try something else, like carp fishing or sea fishing?
  • Early or late sessions are often better than the middle of the afternoon, so set that alarm clock or see if you can sneak out after work! Remember though, that even when the air temperature cools, the water will still be hot right around the clock and fish can be vulnerable.
  • Pick shady spots and faster flows for the best chance of action. Fish like shade as much as we do, while shallow, faster flowing water is cooler and more oxygenated than the slacks. Hot weather can change the rulebook, so don’t always expect your quarry to be in the usual spots.
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Make the most of natural shade where you can – fish appreciate some protection from the sun. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Try fishing up in the water when it’s warm. Whether it’s a floating bait for carp, or trickling in casters for roach, summer fish often like their food well off the bottom.
  • Take extra care of the fish if it’s hot. Exhausted fish are particularly at risk, so use strong tackle and play them quickly. Keep them in the water as much as possible and support them patiently while they recover.
  • Avoid keep nets. Keep nets should be avoided, or used only very sparingly for short periods, in mid-summer.
  • Don’t fish for fragile species. Some types of fish, like pike, deserve a complete break; they are extra fragile in the summer and even if you know your craft, you could easily kill one. If it’s crazy hot, you might also avoid species such as grayling and barbel. Again, this might depend on the venue, but for the longer term it’s best that we put the needs of the fish before our own.
  • Target tougher fish. Carp, tench and crucians are all species that don’t mind hot weather and can tolerate lower oxygen levels than their stream cousins. A switch from river to lake might be more productive, not to mention kinder, if the weather is hotter than a vat of vindaloo. Of course, you should still be extra careful with your catch on the bank, because even these fish will be less resilient than usual.
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Fish such as carp, tench (above) and crucians are more comfortable in warm water than the likes of barbel and grayling. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Pack sun block and extra water! Yes, we’ve all done it. Remembered kilos of bait but not taken care of ourselves. The result is a splitting headache or sunburn. Oh, and do treat yourself to a decent fishing hat! A broad-rimmed hat could literally “save your neck”!
  • Try night fishing for carp. If it’s a big carp you’re after, this is a wonderful time of year to go night fishing. Balmy recent conditions have seen temperatures in the high teens, even in the wee small hours! Very comfortable for sleeping out- and the fish will be a lot less wary after dark.

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

A Beginner’s Guide To Float Fishing

Float fishing is one of the most popular methods of angling. Sheringham’s comment that the float is “pleasing in appearance, and even more pleasing in disappearance”, still rings true today, whether you cast a delicate stick float or a pike bung.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in float fishing is making the right tackle choices. But with such a bewildering variety of floats and tackle, where do you start? Dom Garnett steers you in the right direction and shares some of the joy that comes from successful float fishing.

Why use a float?

Chub caught with waggler float

A simple waggler float and slow sinking bait fooled this chub.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Apart from the obvious pleasure of seeing the thing dip, why opt for a float in the first place? The broadest answer is that the float achieves things other presentations don’t. If the fish you want to catch prefer bait in the current, or mid water as it falls, a float is the answer. But for bottom fishing too, the float will often provide greater sensitivity than rod tips or bobbins.

Basic float types 

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The main types of float. Image source: Fishtec

Waggler

Fishtec-Wagglers

A straight waggler, insert waggler and loaded float.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached bottom end only, this is a great all-rounder, especially on stillwaters such as lakes and canals. For more information, see our Beginner’s Guide to Waggler Fishing.

Stick float

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A traditional stick float, modern metal stemmed float and a chubber, for big baits and boiling currents.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached by three “float rubbers” this is first choice for running water. The size and design of float will depend on the depth and strength of the current.

Pole float

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A slim pole float, plumper pole float and small “dibber”
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With no need to cast far, pole floats are delicate and highly sensitive. They are held on the line with tiny rubber sleeves, like stick floats. Above, we have a slimmer pole float for slow falling baits (top), followed by a plumper bodied float for bottom fishing and last, a small “dibber” ideal for shallow margins. For close range fishing these floats also work a treat with rod and reel setups!

Sliding float

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Sliding floats
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Some species of fish demand a bigger, meatier float to support larger baits and cast further out. Pike and sea fish are good examples – ideal for casting into a wind or perhaps suspending a whole fish as bait.

What tackle do you need for float fishing?

There are many rods marketed for various float fishing tasks these days, but what should you use? Start by thinking about what you’d like to catch.

For general float fishing on rivers, canals and smaller stillwaters, a 12 or 13ft match rod will do nicely. A small reel, loaded with 3-6lb line should match this perfectly (lighter line for roach, dace and bits, or heavier for chub, tench or small carp).

For regular tench and carp fishing, a “power” float rod that will handle reel lines of 6-8lbs is better still. Again, at least 12 foot is preferable.

If you’re wondering why such long rods, the extra length helps in several ways. Most of all, it gives you better control, whether this means reaching out across the current or picking up all the slack line when striking into a fish at distance.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t always need to use a dedicated float or match rod to float fish. For young anglers, or those who find themselves in cramped swims, a shorter rod is often more practical. A light to medium lure of 9-10ft will work fine for a little float fishing.

For a spot of sea or pike fishing, a slightly heavier lure rod, or perhaps a stalking or carp rod is ideal. I like slightly lighter tackle than the big ugly blanks and heavy reels generally shoved onto rod rests, which are a bit bulky to hold for hours. A sensible sized reel loaded with heavy mono or 20-30lb braid will stop most sea fish and pike.

Typical Float Rigs 

There are many, many ways to float fish, but these three basic rigs will stand you in good stead for most situations. As a good general rule, the deeper the water and the more powerful the wind and currents, the larger the float you will require.

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Image source: Fishtec

This is a typical rig for trotting a river. The evenly spaced shot give a gradual, even fall of the hookbait. The same principle often works with stillwater rigs – with a string of evenly spaced shot allowing a slow, natural fall of the bait that looks very convincing to the fish.

Bulk shot rig

Bulk shot rig

Image source: Fishtec

If you want to get down to the bottom quicker – because it’s deep, or you want to prevent tiddlers from pinching your bait on the way down – a bulk of shot is the answer. Notice how most of the weights are bunched together, just 18” from the hook. This is a pole rig, but the same is true of all float rigs – and if you begin with a string of evenly spaced shot (as in example one), you can always slide them down the line to form a bulk weight if conditions change on the day.

Sliding float rig

Sliding float rig

Image source: Fishtec

For deeper waters and bigger fish, a sliding float is a great idea. As the name suggests, this setup allows the float to slide up the line (unlike a “fixed” float). This means you can fish depths longer than the rod much more easily without casting problems.

We’ve shown a large float for sea fishing here, but the same principle works for very deep venues where you want to catch roach, tench, bream and other fish. You simply use a bulk of split shot rather than the bullet – and a giant waggler float rather than a bung.

Finer points of float fishing 

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A pike on the sliding float. Don’t assume that float fishing is just for the small stuff!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When float fishing, it always pays to pay attention to the little details! Here are three key things you can do to instantly improve your float fishing:

1. Dip that tip!

Fish are not always prepared to pull inches of float underwater. In fact, many will let go if they detect too much resistance. Dot your tip down as low as is practically possible (as little as 2-3mm!) for best performance.

2. Include a tell tale shot

The “tell tale” shot is a tiny weight, usually positioned six inches or less from the hook. This tiny shot is crucial because when a fish takes the bait, the weight also moves and gives you immediate bite indication. Keep your ‘tell tale’ tiny (size 8-12) and close to the hook!

3. Avoid losing weight

Shot can easily ping off while you’re fishing and will need replacing. Cylindrical weights called “styls”, often sold as “Stotz” come off the line less easily and can be a better choice than traditional shot.

Further float fishing tips

  • Float fishing is an excellent way to test the depth. This is a vital skill to suss out where to fish on any water. Doing this properly makes a huge difference – you want your float set so that the bait is just touching the bottom at first, or just off if you’re trotting a river.
  • It’s usually cheaper to buy floats in bulk when you’re starting out. Mine tend to be bought in twos or threes so I always have spares, but bulk deals are often the best value. Fishtec sells sets of Middy Wagglers for under a tenner.
  • Use a float adapter (above) when waggler fishing and you can change floats in an instant should conditions change.
  • Always hold the rod when float fishing for faster biting fish. If you put the rod down, you’re not in a position to react instantly.
  • Bites don’t always mean the float sinking out of sight. If the float lifts, or “takes a walk” sideways, you may well have a bite too, so strike! You will sometimes get line bites from fish like carp though – where the float behaves peculiarly – and you’ll need to wait for a “proper” bite.
  • As a general rule, it’s often best to use a float that is slightly heavier than needed. This way, you needn’t strain to cast far enough. Rather than casting onto the heads of the fish, it’s often better to cast a bit “too far” and bring the float back carefully.
  • Always stay alert and fish positively. Feed bait and cast often to get more bites and explore your swim fully. An Airbomb mid-air baiting device won’t spook the fish.

A beginner’s guide to float fishing infographic

Read more from Dom Garnett

You can catch more from our blogger every week in the Angling Times, or at his site www.dgfishing.co.uk where you’ll find his blog and various books, including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his cracking collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines.

Coarse Fishing Tips For The New River Season – 16 June

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Sunny weather and hungry fish; what’s not to love about early season river fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

After a three-month break, river coarse anglers will be raring to get out and fish from 16 June. But what’s the best way to get in on the action in the early part of the season? Dom Garnett shares some handy tips to get you off on the right foot…

When is the start of open season for river coarse fishing?

16 June 2018 marks the start of the open season for coarse fishing on rivers. When was the last time you fished a river for coarse fish? Although there are plenty of stillwaters open all year round, there is still a certain magic about returning to running water. For the keen angler, it brings a real tingle of anticipation, to put it mildly!

When the new season opens, will you return to a favourite haunt or try somewhere completely new? Will you simply fish for bites, or go for a net-filler? After a long break and the rigours of spawning, the fish are likely to be hungry, too, and sport can be excellent. Here are my top tips and four ideal species to kick off your river campaign.

Roach

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Roach are a fantastic species to give plenty of bites.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These days they are not the most fashionable species, but for bite-a-chuck fishing the humble roach is a great way to return to the rivers. You’ll find these fish in steadily running water. Look for flows of walking pace and pay special attention to any “crease” where faster and slower water meets.

Tackle and tactics: Try trotting with a light stick float set up, with 3lb line and hook sizes from 14-18. Keep feeding for best results. Maggots are excellent, but if you can get them, casters are superb for picking out the better fish. Failing that, or where longer casts are needed, try an open-end feeder and bread.

Chub

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Chub can be caught on all kinds of methods, but float fishing is especially good fun.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These fish reach a good size even on quite small rivers and are active and hungry right now. They love spots with cover, such as weed rafts and overhanging trees. That said, when it’s scorching hot you’ll also find them in shallow, well-oxygenated water. They can be spooky, so approach with care.

Tackle and tactics: Perhaps the best thing about chub is that they respond to so many methods. Trotting or legering with bigger baits is a good tactic. Loose feed regularly and they will come well off the bottom, too. Waggler fished maggot is excellent, but they also love the splash of the pellets you might usually use for carp fishing! Lines of 4-8lbs are typical, with hooks from 12-18 depending on the method, size of fish and snags present.

Last but not least, if you can get close to them, a free-lined piece of bread or a worm is fun – or you could try my favourite method – fly fishing. Amazing fun in clear water!

Barbel

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Barbel are among the most exciting fish to battle on running water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For those after a real net-filler, these powerful fish are what summer fishing is all about. Some anglers automatically look for deep holes and slacks, but this is often a mistake as they are very tolerant of even quite strong currents, especially early in the season. Look for water with a decent flow and depth, preferably with with cover not too far away. Rather than guessing, don a pair of polarised glasses and take a walk – you may see them rolling and flashing as they graze the bottom if the water is clear.

Tackle and tactics: For many anglers, legering gear is easiest. Try a heavy swim feeder and a hair rigged bait on a hooklength of just 10-12” for a bolt rig effect. Meat, double 10mm boilie and pre-drilled pellets all make great hook baits. They are not desperately line shy, so tackle up tough with at least 10lb breaking strain.

However, the most fun way to catch them early on is trotting. In the early season they are active and more inclined to be in shallow to mid depth swims, too. Fish as you would for chub and roach, throwing in bait regularly, but step up to stronger line and hooks!

Bream

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A river bream from an urban weirpool. Find the shoal and you’ll have a busy session.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

It’s a shame more of us don’t target these fish. Many larger rivers have a healthy population and those you find in running water fight a lot harder than their stillwater cousins. Look for them in deep, slow areas, such as wide river bends and the less turbulent parts of weirpools.

Tackle and tactics: It has to be the quiver tip, with a large feeder and baits such as corn, caster and bread. Lines tend to be 4-6lbs and obviously lighter gear will give you better sport than specimen tackle. Take plenty of bait and feed generously too, because these fish can eat for fun when you find them in large numbers.

Top tips for coarse fishing in the early river season

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Check your licence.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

    • Check your gear if it has been a while since you fished. You might want to respool with fresh line, in particular. The time to ponder if you needed a refresh is definitely not when you’re playing a big fish!
    • Renew your licence! If you haven’t fished for a few months, be sure to buy your new licence. These days, they run for a year from the day you buy them, offering better value for returning anglers.
    • Get up early if you can. You’re more likely to get your favourite spot and if it’s hot, you may well find that the best fishing is before the sun gets too high in the sky.
    • Prebait if you live close to the water to get the fish lined up for you. They won’t have seen bait for many weeks, so it’s good to get them used to your chosen offerings again.
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Get the fish used to your bait.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

  • Go with the flow in the early season and try trotted, moving baits, even for the likes of barbel. The fish are sure to be active now and they like steady flows because these areas have more oxygen on a hot day. Maggots are hard to beat, or try something bigger if minnows are a pest.
  • Handle your catch with care on hot days. In warm water fish fight harder and get stressed quicker. Always handle with wet hands and keep them in the water as much as possible. Use that keep net for shorter periods only, or better still leave it at home.
  • Wade in! I’m often surprised at how few coarse anglers own waders. These are brilliant for summer fishing, allowing you better access to the water. They’re also good for your catch, as you won’t even need to take it onto the bank to unhook and release it.

Find further inspiration for the new river season…

Last but not least, do also keep an eye on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog, where I will be asking star anglers from John Bailey to Sam Edmonds for their favourite rivers and tactics to try in June. In the meantime, tight lines to you all and here’s to a glorious June 16th!

Read more from Dom Garnett every week in the Angling Times and at www.dgfishing.co.uk

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

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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

Terms and conditions

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.

The winner will be notified by email, within 30 days of the closing date.

The entrant must provide a valid email address to enter the prize draw.

Email addresses will be used to notify the winner, and may occasionally be used for notifying the entrant of future promotions by BVG Group Limited.

Your details will not be shared with or sold to any third party companies.

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.

The winner will be chosen at random by Fishtec.

The judges’ decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

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.