How To Fish For Back End Barbel

Landing a winter barbel

A winter barbel
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

Leaves are falling and the nights have drawn in. There’s tinsel and tat in the shops and a lot of anglers have hung up their rods for a few months. But come the first frosts, a group of dedicated anglers will be taking advantage of the fact that the weed has died back, biting insects are a faded memory and the barbel are big!

According to Dan Whitelock, this is one of the best times of year to go out and bag that special fish. Here are his tips and tricks for snagging a good sized winter barbel.

Get to know your venue

Winter barbel fishing can be hard, but it’s also be incredibly rewarding if you follow a few simple methods and invest some effort. For the most committed anglers, winter barbel fishing starts in early summer. By walking the banks, making note of gravel runs, depressions, cattle drinks and snags, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of catching once the floods have cleared the weed and coloured water has rendered the riverbed invisible.

When to go winter barbel fishing

There’s one critical factor when it comes to winter fishing and that’s the conditions. Barbel are synonymous with low pressure, mild air, warm water and steady flow. Group those together and you’re more than halfway towards finding the fish. We’ll come to location and swim choice in a moment, but let’s look first at when to go fishing in order to maximise your chances of catching.

During the summer, it’s a fair bet to say you can pick any day between June 16th and early October and, barring a massive unseasonable flood or freak cold spell, you’ll only have to worry about picking a swim and finding some fish (see our Beginner’s guide to barbel fishing for summer tips).

However, in winter, it’s vital to look at weather patterns and consider the effect on the water – notably the temperature. If the temperature suddenly falls, air pressure rises, the skies clear and a frost forms, you may be wise to seek an alternative quarry.

On the other hand, if there’s been a period of cold weather, high pressure and frosts, followed by a warm southwesterly and falling pressure – this is the time to plan your trip. The rise in temperature triggers the barbels’ metabolism and feeding instinct and they go on the search for food. Couple this with a rise in river levels to wash some food down and you’re onto a winner. There have been entire chapters written on conditions for winter barbel, but if you look at it in a simplified way and fish in the above conditions, you’ll definitely increase your odds.

Of course, barbel being barbel and habitually forgetting to read the script, they do turn up from time to time in the frost and snow. In fact the last two seasons have seen a stretch of the Upper Great Ouse produce barbel over 17 lbs to chub anglers fishing with cheese paste on crisp, clear nights! While it isn’t recommended to target barbel in these conditions, there’s always a chance.

Using a feeder

If you do choose to fish for barbel in low, clear conditions, or you don’t have the luxury of being able to fish at the drop of a hat when conditions suit, then there’s no better way to find winter barbel than with a maggot feeder. I must stress that overfeeding will guarantee a barbel blank. They don’t need much food in cold water to fill themselves up. A pint of maggots steadily fed through a feeder in a swim will suffice for a day’s fishing in really cold conditions.

Pick a swim with a nice gravel bottom, steady flow and good depth and keep hitting the same spot with the feeder. If your swim has a large feature such as an undercut bank or overhanging tree, even better. This approach may entice a lethargic barbel to feed should it be resident, and it’s a method well deployed on venues with a good head of fish such as the Trent, Wye or Middle Severn.

Best locations for winter barbel

A flood is the perfect condition for winter

A flood is the perfect condition for winter barbel fishing
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

A flood is one of the favourite conditions for all winter barbel anglers, but a high river is an incredibly daunting prospect and can put beginners off. I must stress that you need to be familiar with your river here. Flooded fields, steep muddy banks, undercuts, strong currents and rapidly rising levels can be very dangerous. Anglers have died in pursuit of winter barbel so please, be wise, know your river and don’t take any silly risks. It’s a hobby at the end of the day and no fish is worth a life.

When you arrive at the river, go for a walk to find some swims. It’s four or five feet up from normal summer level, the last rain was early yesterday and most of the rubbish has been flushed through. Perfect. A rising river can, and does produce fish, but it can be incredibly frustrating dealing with leaves, weed, branches and flotsam coming down and fouling your line. If you have to fish at the peak of a flood or a rising river, then choose a steady flow with good depth and gravel close in. (Remember your summer homework?) This will enable you to fish with the rod pointing downstream and as low to the water as possible in order to present a bait with minimum pressure on the line. Whilst barbel aren’t the brightest of buttons, they rely on instinct and know what isn’t natural. A bowstring tight line running through their habitat, with a load of surface junk floating seemingly out of place isn’t natural and their instincts will tell them there’s danger.

Barbel like a nice steady flow. A boiling, whirlpool of a back eddy is a waste of time. All that river junk spinning about over their heads just isn’t comfortable. What you’re looking for is the classic crease swim where fast water meets slow, at least five feet deep with a nice clean bed on the edge of the main flow. This is where the fish will be holding up, waiting for food to wash down and settle. The summer cattle drink is perfect here.

Another great swim is the back of a raft behind a fallen tree where the flow steadies and food collects. The inside of a bend will often provide a good holding spot in the highest of floods. Couple this with the gravel bed that you found while walking the banks in the summer and you’ve another good swim to fish. Any depression or depth change is a key spot to fish and again, the summer legwork with a plumbing rod or fish finder will pay off. A fast walking pace or slower is ideal.

It pays to keep mobile

Assuming you’ve got several of these swims on your venue, you’ll need to decide how to approach them. In winter, it pays to keep mobile. The fish tend to hold up so if you’ve sat for three hours and not had a bite, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re simply after a fish that isn’t there. An hour in a swim is more than enough. Ten minutes in the right spot is much better than ten hours in the wrong one.

When it comes to bait and baiting, forget the baiting part. You’ll be filling fish up and decreasing your chances of your hookbait getting taken. A big, smelly single bait will out-fish a load of free baits in flood conditions. The critical factor is where to swing out that bait. If your swim has a really long run, then it’s simply a matter of starting at the head and moving down ten or twenty yards every half hour or so. Trundling or rolling a big lump of luncheon meat is worth a go here. You could give the quiet swim behind the fallen tree an hour, but after that it’s worth a move. You can’t catch what isn’t there!

Best bait for winter barbel

Don’t overthink your bait. Barbel are incredibly stupid. Put some food in front of them and they’ll eat it until they’re full. In a flood, the latest fancy bait won’t catch any more fish than a chunk of luncheon meat or a lobworm. In coloured water, a decent chunk of meat, a paste wrapped boilie or a big old lobworm are the top three baits. Don’t get bogged down in worrying about choosing the ‘’right’’ boilie for winter barbel. Conditions and location are far more important.

One bait that isn’t so effective in winter is the pellet. The oils inside them are no good for the fish in cold conditions and they don’t break down. Leave them at home until the summer. In low or clear conditions then feeder fished maggots are hard to beat. Small boilies fished with a small stringer of half a dozen freebies are also very effective but again, don’t overfeed these as you’ll ruin the stretch of river for several days.

Should you pre-bait for winter barbel?

Pre-baiting can work to an extent, but bear in mind that if you’re fishing a popular venue, the chances are there’ll be several other anglers filling up the swims and the barbel won’t be hungry when you come to fish. Small river venues are particularly vulnerable to over-baiting.

Think about this: if an angler walks a stretch of a few hundred yards, picks out the best six classic winter swims and throws a dozen boilies in each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning ready for his Saturday session, he’ll be full of confidence when he turns up and puts his boots on. Quite rightly so.

If a couple of local retired anglers are fishing on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday while it’s quiet and throwing in a few freebies to ‘’get them going’’ that’s another load of food gone in. Add three or four more anglers to the mix and by the weekend that’s several kilograms of highly nutritional food that’s gone sailing right into the barbel’s homes. The two or three barbel that are resident in each swim will each eat half a dozen baits and then hold up to digest for a day.

The angler goes home Saturday night frustrated at the rubbish new bait that he paid £12 a kilo for and tries another that’s supposed to be better. The cycle continues, and the stretch gets a reputation for being hard or devoid of barbel! The odd, greedy big double gets caught, more anglers turn up to catch it from that snag swim and the process snowballs.

It’s been witnessed first hand on the Great Ouse, Ivel and Nene over the years. Please think about what you’re throwing in the river, especially during the winter. Less is more, I promise!

Tackle for winter barbel

playing a winter barbel on a centrepin

Playing a winter barbel on a centrepin
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

It’s important to have the right tackle for winter barbel fishing and it must be up to the job. Strong hooks, strong line and powerful rods are essential. For big rivers in high flood conditions, a stepped-up barbel rod with a test curve of around 2lbs is ideal. It’s very rare and completely unnecessary to fish with anything heavier – you’re fishing nice and close in on most occasions, especially in a flood. You need that progressive action to absorb the powerful lunges in the flow – if you start using carp rods you’ll get hook pulls.

On smaller rivers you can get away with slightly less. I prefer an 11ft rod with a 1.75lb test curve for my winter fishing. It’s light enough to present a bait close in on local rivers, but has enough power should a big barbel take the bait and move out in to the flow.

Rigs are best kept simple – a running rig with a lead to suit the conditions is all that you need. A lump of plasticine three feet behind the running ring will pin everything down nicely. It’s best to fish with the rod pointing downstream and almost parallel to the bank to minimise line pressure and bottom weight required. Bites are still unmistakeable!

Don’t spook the fish

One final point that’s often overlooked in winter barbel fishing is stealth. Maintain the same quiet manner on the bank that you use in the summer. Even in a flood, the fish are looking up into the light and can see movement and silhouettes on the skyline.

In the same vein, vibration can ruin your day before you’re within twenty yards of your swim. Next time you’re in the bath, lay back with your ears underwater and gently tap the side with your finger. It’s surprisingly loud. Sound is magnified and travels well in water. A barbel’s senses are far more advanced at detecting sounds and vibration in the water than the human ear. Bear this in mind when you dump your rucksack in the swim, unfold your chair and shout to your mate upstream.

So there we have it, winter barbel fishing in a nutshell. A river in winter is a special place to be. The birds are easier to spot without all the foliage and there’s a unique and peaceful atmosphere that you don’t get in the warmer months. The fish are much bigger than in the summer, the riverbank is a much quieter place and the rewards are great. Enjoy your fishing and tight lines!

More about the author

Dan Whitelock grew up in the North Bedfordshire countryside and learned to fish on the famous Upper Great Ouse above Bedford that ran a few miles away from his home. He started barbel fishing at the age of thirteen and has an impressive list of fish to his name from the Ouse, Ivel and Nene. He devotes a lot of spare time to his local angling club and maintains a healthy balance of fishing for all species, photography, family and work.

Early Autumn Carping – With Simon Crow

After the recent summer heatwave, cooler September temperatures are a godsend for carp anglers. Here, Simon Crow shares his top tips for early autumn tactics including watercraft, rigs and bait.

How to succeed in September

A big smile and a September-caught UK 50-pounder

A big smile and a September-caught UK 50-pounder
Image courtesy of Simon Crow

Autumn is one of the best times for catching big carp. Perhaps not quite as good as spring, but certainly the next in line. It’s a time when the carp begin to group up. They start to get agitated and competitive amongst themselves. They know winter is on the way and they head towards the areas they know they’ll find food.

The need for plumbing and searching out the hot spots becomes more obvious in September than at any other time of the year. Generally, results can be a bit hit and miss coming out of summer because the fish will have been bombarded with baited rigs in the preceding months. But, if you track down the spots they visit regularly, you can certainly sneak out a few good fish.

A well-planned pre-baiting campaign will help overcome any shyness built-up by the carp, but a good plumb around now will uncover all sorts of new clear areas, especially those which have been covered by weed throughout the summer. These may only be a few feet across. One of the best ways of uncovering them is with a boat and some sort of looking glass, but not all venues allow anglers to do this so it may be necessary to have a good cast around.

I use two rods to do this thoroughly – the first armed with a simple marker float set up, and the second loaded with a baited rig. I’ll cast the marker out to the area I want to check, and then follow it with the rigged rod, taking note of anything I bring back on the hook. I’ll cast all around the marker, giving the rig plenty of time to settle on the bottom, before retrieving it and moving my attention to another area. I will take note of anywhere clean, especially spots which are several inches deeper than the surrounding area, or where the lead comes back caked in clay.

Presentation

You might endure a few blanks before you get the one you want

You might endure a few blanks before you get the one you want
Image courtesy of Simon Crow

September brings a lot of fallen leaves which can cause problems with your presentation. Even when fishing over my pre-bait I generally switch to pop-ups at this time of the year, not wishing to risk having my hookbait hidden underneath an obstruction. Presenting bait an inch or so off the bottom is ideal, usually critically balanced, but occasionally over-shotted, especially if I’m in shallow water and there’s a strong wind.

Generally I shorten my hooklinks for pop-ups, usually down to 6-8 inches. I think carp, especially pressured ones, tend to approach pop-ups by placing their mouth right over the top of the bait rather than hoovering up. A shorter link gives them less margin for error here, especially when combined with a heavy lead of 3-4oz.

Bait

Strong smelling fishmeals are my choice of bait for September

Strong smelling fishmeals are my choice of bait for September
Image courtesy of Simon Crow

Half a dozen or so freebies on a stringer alongside the hookbait would be my first line of attack in September, perhaps with a light coating of pellet just to increase the attraction. I always find mimicking nature is the best option, which is why I like to keep everything as tight as possible (similar to how the fish would find bloodworm beds). Early autumn hot spots tend to be quite isolated, so there’s no need for heavy or broad scatterings of bait just yet.

If you’ve been targeting a venue with the same bait throughout the season, you may have lost a bit of faith with it during August as the catches dropped off. That’s the nature of carp fishing, but have confidence in your efforts because now’s the time that they will really come through. The carp will recognise established bait now, more than any other time of the year.

Stick with it

The pre-baiting pays off with my target northern common of 38lb

The pre-baiting pays off with my target northern common of 38lb
Image courtesy of Simon Crow

Last year I’d been piling bait into my target venue since April, and despite having a rough couple of weeks fishing in August, things picked up in September. It was hard listening to the advice of angling friends that my target prey wasn’t on my pre-bait, but catching new fish boosted my confidence and proved that sticking with it was the right choice. I went on to land the one I most wanted – at a healthy 38lb!

September is a brilliant month to go carp fishing. You might experience a few blanks along the way as it’s very much a transition period between summer and autumn. However, stick with it and believe in what you’re doing. The results are there for the taking if you put in the graft. It‘s the start of one of my favourite periods of the year, when the fish are beautifully coloured and the big ‘uns love to have a feed.

How to get kids into fishing

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Bex Nelson is the inspirational angler behind Bex Nelson Fishes, a Facebook page with a rapidly increasing following. Not only a keen advocate of the sport who encourages everyone to get involved, she’s a passionate ambassador for getting kids hooked as soon as possible.

Here are some of her tips for sharing your love of fishing with children. After all, it’s our responsibility to vouchsafe the future of the sport we love by introducing it to the next generation…

Fishing is the new cool

Fishing is cool for teens!

Fishing is cool for teens!
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

The one regret I have in life is not going fishing when I was a child. I did a little bit of float fishing with my Uncle, a match fisherman, but that was all. Then I met my partner who has been a very keen angler since the age of 6. The first time he took me fishing we went to a lake and caught 17 fish in one day. I loved it! And this is where my passion for this incredible sport was born.

There are more people fishing now than ever before. It’s a cool sport these days. Celebrities champion it on the television – even actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson loves fishing so much that he had a lake built on his farm. It’s fantastic seeing more females and children on the banks as well and I love to inspire anyone and everyone to get into fishing – there’s just so much to love about it.

Getting kids involved

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

I recently enjoyed a fishing session with a young girl of 11 years old called Ellen. She managed to catch her first fish on the surface, and as I stood back and watched her play the fish, it looked as though she’d been doing it all her life. But more important than that, her passion and willingness to learn from other anglers was amazing. She was such a joy to fish with!

Now it’s the summer holidays, there’s plenty of time to get your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces out in the open and away from the Xbox. You don’t need anything expensive – just a good value rod and reel, a few hooks, floats, net and a mat. Get youngsters to help you prepare by making the ultimate mix of bait – kids love getting their hands dirty and will happily get stuck in!

Choose your battles

Fishing at Anglers Paradise

Fishing at Anglers Paradise
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Choose a lake which has plenty of fish. In the early days, the last thing you want is to have them sitting behind a couple of rods with nothing happening. Keep plenty of bait going in to make sure you get lots of quick bites. I’ve found that even when the fish aren’t biting, kids love to get the net out and try and catch a big fish that way!

Talk to youngsters about the behaviour of fish, get them involved in reading the ‘clues’ or signs on the lake, encourage them to try and think like their quarry and explain why you love the sport. It will interest them more than you might think. Watching their passion for fishing ignite is one of the best ways to remember your own. So sit back, enjoy the view, and don’t forget to capture the moment on camera for posterity! (Check out Dave Lane’s advice on taking great photos for some top tips.)

Next time you head out with your tackle, don’t leave kids at home. Make it a family event where everyone gets involved. Kids love a competition, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of a fish on the line and an ‘epic battle between two warriors’ to teach children to appreciate these ancient creatures.

More about the author:

Bex Nelson manages the Facebook page Bex Nelson Fishes. Got a query? New to fishing? She’s more than happy to answer questions about her own journey and offer tips and encouragement to anyone just starting out.

Summer Coarse Fishing Tips: How To Beat The Heat

Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 2

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 

Fishtec's float fishing guide - floats

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

Fishtec-stick floats

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

Fishtec - pole floats

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

Fishtec - slider float

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 

Fishtec - pike caught on sliding float

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.
June16-Fishing-Tips-2

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

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.
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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 dgfishing.co.uk or as Kindle e-books via www.amazon.co.uk