A Beginner’s Guide to Eel Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

A 6lb 12oz eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

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

Into the Unknown

My first ever 3lb eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

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

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

Identifying eels

4lbs 7ozs
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

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

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

Feeding habits and baits

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

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

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

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

Eel fishing tackle

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

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

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

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

Bottom bait rigs

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-water rigs

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

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

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

Handling and unhooking eels

A 5lb eel
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

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

Further reading: The Eel Angler

The Eel Angler by Barry McConnell

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

A Beginners Guide to Bream Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

The habits of bream

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

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

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

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

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

Tactics and tackle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baiting for bream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience and preparation

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

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

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

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

The joys of bream

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from our blogger…

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

A Beginners Guide to Roach Fishing

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

Fishtec-Roach1

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

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

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

Where to find roach?

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

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

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

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

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

Roach fishing methods

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

Fishtec-float-fishing-for-roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishtec-large-roach

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

What is the best bait for roach?

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

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

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

Fishtec-maggots-roach-fishing

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

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

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

Tips for catching roach

Fishtec-tips-catching-roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishtec-catching-large-roach

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

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

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

Further reading:

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

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

10 Ways To Feed Your Swim More Effectively

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

Fishtec_Feeding_Tips

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

1. Keep it coming…

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

Fishtec_feed_little_and_often

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

2. Catapult happy

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

3. Pick a marker

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

4. Mix it right

Fishtec_groundbait

Make groundbait into balls.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

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

5. Feeders for accuracy

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

Fishtec_feeder

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

6. Colours

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

7. Don’t scare them

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

8. Top droppers

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

9. Spombs away

Fistec_Spomb

A Spomb from Fishtec currently costs just £9.99.

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

10. Cheat!

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

Fishtec-bream

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

Read more from our blogger…

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

TF Gear Airflo Inflatable Bivvy Latest Videos

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

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

1 Man: £279.99
2 Man: £329.99

The videos below demonstrate the Airflo bivvy in action:

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

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

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

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

For full product specification click here.

10 Great Reasons To Watch Fishing TV!!

If you’ve been watching the latest fishing series to hit the screens in the UK, Carp Wars, you’ll know that TF Gear’s pro angler Dave Lane has been putting in a strong performance!

What you may not know is that the programme was made by a new video on demand service seeking to shake up the world of fishing television in the same way that Netflix is challenging traditional TV channels – Fishing TV.  The service is available as an app for smartphone, tablet and SmartTV, as well as being available on a variety of other set-top boxes and devices, including Amazon Fire TV Sticks.

Fed up with the mediocre, lowest-common denominator programmes on TV, they not only make their own excellent shows and films, but also scour the planet for the very best fishing content available to mankind. There are channels dedicated to every major style of fishing, but in this ‘top 10’ we’ve chosen from The Carp Channel, Coarse and Match Fishing, and Predators.

Carp Wars

Carp Wars

As mentioned above, Carp Wars is one of the shows that Fishing TV have created and produced themselves, and it acts as a brilliant example of the way these guys think about fishing and how to present it on TV.

The concept is straightforward: five of the UK’s best carp anglers and one ‘unknown’ lock horns in a series of one-on-one carp fishing matches, held over 24 hours. After 15 matches the top two anglers go through to a grand final, held over 48 hours at the Etang le Fays fishery in France. Each match is one half hour episode, and with the likes of Ian Russell, Dave Lane and Ian Chillcott taking part it really is a who’s who of the carp fishing world. The series has been airing on Sky Sports, but every episode broadcast so far is available to stream from Fishing TV.

If you like this you’ll also like: Chilly on Carp 1 & 2

Carp Up Close
Join Tom ‘The Machine’ Maker as he embarks on a quest to bag himself a 40lb carp. With narration by Nick Hancock, this sixty minute documentary style film contains some great big fish action and features, among other fish, a huge UK-caught catfish.

If you like this you’ll also like: Year of the Compulsive Angler

The Tuition with Iain Macmillan
In this feature length film professional carp fishing tutor Iain Macmillan offers practical advice and answers to the most common questions that he get asked by his clients. He covers everything from spooling a reel to fish care and plenty in between. Filmed at a private lake and with lots of fish in the net over the course of the film, this is a great watch for anyone hoping to improve their carp fishing.

If you like this you’ll also like: Carp Coach – Ian Russell

Improve your Coarse Fishing with Kev Green
The title says it all, really. The sadly departed Kev Green shares hints and tips to improve your success rate when coarse fishing in this 10-part series. He looks at a range of target species and tactics, and employs the help of a few friends along the way. In Kev’s own words “The series is all about helping people catch more and bigger fish on venues they can identify with. We are targeting many different species in many different ways”

If you like this you’ll also like: Duncan Charman’s Monthly Thoughts

Fishing with Des Taylor
Des is one of the best known angling journalists working at them moment. In this 10-part series he travels the UK to target some of our most popular species, including predators from the Thames, lake pike and, crucian carp and even grayling.

If you like this you’ll also like: Club Class

Fish of My Dreams
British angler Stu Walker has been dreaming of catching one particular fish, and it isn’t one you can find in your local lake. He’s been desperate to catch an ‘Indian Salmon’ or Golden Mahseer, to give it its proper name. And you can only find them if you’re prepared to go to… yes, India. Stu and his crew head to the Himalayas, to a roaring mountain river near the boarder with Nepal, trekking for hours, camping under the stars and risking attracting the attentions of the local leopards, all for a shot at a trophy mahseer.

If you like this you’ll also like: Welcome to Africa

The Truth about Feeder Fishing
England International match fisherman Alex Bones shares the secrets of feeder fishing, from bombs to PVA, cones to cages. He enlists the help of some of his fishing buddies – the likes of Alan Scotthorne and Darren Cox. Shhhh… the secret is out!

If you like this you’ll also like: The Truth about Pole Fishing

Hunky Dory
If predator fishing is your game then you’re sure to love Hunky Dory, a half hour examination of the strange breed of anglers who are prepared to endure sub-zero temperatures for the chance of catching a musky, the pike’s north American cousin.

If you like this you’ll also like: Musky Country

Dean Macey’s Fishing Adventures
Dean Macey is best known as an Olympic decathlete, but since hanging up the his running shoes he’s been able to focus on his other passion in life: fishing. In this 8 part series he travels the UK and the rest of the world in search of new fishing experiences, whether that’s hunting monster cats in the Mekong, Arapaima in Thailand or barbell on the River Wye.

If you like this you’ll also like: The FishingTV Show

Pike Secrets 1
Want to catch more pike? Then these films are for you. Over two hours expert angler Gordon P Henricksen covers all the things you need to know to improve your pike fishing, including examinations of different lures and baits, underwater footage and hints on how to use pike behaviour to your advantage.

If you like this you’ll also like: Lair of the Water Wolf

How to watch Fishing TV:

Fishtec in conjunction with Fishing TV are giving away a FREE Fishing TV gift card with every order over £20 this month!

The card is worth £5 and will have 20 tokens pre-loaded on it with a unique code – enough to watch plenty of fishing shows.

To get one, simply place an order for over £20 and claim the card in your basket as a free gift.

Fishing TV Gift card – Free with all orders over £20

How to fit a new rod tip eye

We are sure most carp and specialist anglers have broken either a rod tip or damaged a tip eye during their fishing career!

In this blog we look at how to fix a broken rod tip ring quickly and effectively.

What do you need?

1. Hot melt glue (available from any DIY shop)
2. A lighter.
3. Pair of forceps or pliers.
4. New rod tip ring.
5. Sandpaper or Stanley knife.

Step 1.
Separate the damaged tip eye from the rod blank by heating it with a lighter for about 4-5 seconds. This will allow the old glue to release. Once heated up, use the pliers or forceps to pull off the old eye.

Heating a rod tip eye to soften the glue

Heating a rod tip eye to soften the glue.

Once heated pull the old eye off with forceps

Once heated pull the old eye off with forceps.

Step 2.
Get the rod blank prepared for the new eye by sanding the tip section to smooth off any excess glue or graphite shards. This can also be done carefully with a stanley blade.

Step 3.
Use your lighter to melt the end of the glue stick for a few seconds.

Heating up hot melt glue

Heating up hot melt glue.

Step 4.
Apply a small amount of hot melt glue to the prepared tip section.

Step 5.
Slide the new eye into position. Ensure to line it up with the other eyes quickly before the glue hardens. Peel off any excess glue and you are good to hit the bank again!

Once coated in glue slide the new tip eye back on.

Once coated in glue slide the new tip eye on.

A Beginners Guide To Catching Specimen Chub

Man holding large chub

A big chub caught on home made bait

Guaranteed to feed in all but the harshest of conditions, specimen chub are not only widely available, but we are entering the best time of the year to target them. Angling writer and fisheries biologist Dr Paul Garner gives his advice and tips on the best tactics to set you on the road to catching a specimen.

They have brassy good looks, indifference to cold weather, and a presence in venues throughout the country. Chub remain a firm favourite of the river angler, whether they are seeking a big net of fish or that one outsized specimen.

Over the last decade, the size of chub in many rivers has increased markedly, with six and even seven pounders now found in many rivers. A specimen weight of five pounds is attainable to most of us without having to travel too far.

While chub can be caught right through the season, many anglers tend to target them in the winter months. This has as much to do with the fact that they will feed in all but the grimmest of conditions as it does that they will be in great condition at this time of the year.

The natural diet and behaviour of chub

Face of chub

Chub have great vision and a large mouth

Chub will eat almost anything that they can fit into their large mouths, and are much more adaptable than most other fish species. Chub will eat whatever drifts past them, including freshwater shrimp, caddis larvae, terrestrial insects blown onto the water surface, worms, snails, small fish and even frogs. This wide ranging diet might suggest that chub are greedy fish that will be easy to catch, but I tend to think of them more as being adaptable, and very aware of their changing environment. To catch big chub consistently the angler should bear these traits in mind.

River with overgrown bank

This swim at Llanthomas on the River Wye has everything a chub could want

The classic chub swim consists of some overhead cover, maybe a tree canopy reaching out over the water, an undercut bank, bridge, or weed bed. They favour low light conditions, and often they will stray no more than a couple of metres from cover during daylight, as dusk falls they will often leave the cover and may travel hundreds of metres in search of food.

The other key pointer to a good chub swim is the presence of breaks in the current speed. The classic crease, created where faster flowing water butts up against a slow moving current provides the perfect position for a chub to hunt. Resting in the slower flowing water, the fish will nip into the flow momentarily to grab a passing food item, before returning to the gentler flow

My go-to chub tactic

man fishing for chub

Lewis fishes an undercut bank for chub on the tiny River Arrow

There are probably as many ways to catch chub as there are chub anglers, so rather than try and list them all I’ll stick to my favourite. It’s a method that will work just about anywhere, but which is especially effective at this time of the year: legering lumps of paste, and either watching a quivertip or touch legering for bites.

There are several reasons why I favour this tactic. Firstly, you need the minimum of gear. A 10 to 12 foot rod with a 3oz quiver tip or 1.25lb test curve is ideal. A 4000-size fixed spool reel loaded with 8lb line and a few leger weights, size 8 hooks and a spool of 6lb clear line for hooklengths is all you need to carry.

Less is more when fishing paste. I need to be highly mobile, and may fish ten or more swims covering several miles of river in a day session. This is no time for lots of heavy gear.

Ideally, I’ll be fishing a stretch I already know, and will have a plan in mind as to the swims I’m going to fish. This enables me to avoid wasting time wandering the banks, and gives me another vital edge.

Before I start fishing my first swim, I’ll stroll down to swim two and introduce between five and ten fifty-pence sized lumps of paste just on the inside of the crease, or upstream of any cover. The idea being to give the chub a taste of my bait before I fish the swim. If the swims are close together, I’ll do the same in the third spot too.

I’ll fish the first swim for about an hour. The first cast is key, as I like to leave the ledger rig in position for as long as possible. If I’m happy with the cast, I often won’t reel in until it’s time to move. This gives the fish as much undisturbed time to find the bait as possible.

Smiling man holding up fish

Swim number three of the day produced this nice fish

After an hour, I will up sticks and move swims, repeating the process. But this time, I’ll expect any chub that are at home to be already looking for my paste hookbait. Bites can come quickly in these ‘primed’ swims, so expect a chance within seconds of making that all-important first cast.

This whole routine is repeated again and again until either I run out of swims, or it’s time to go home. It can be worth revisiting swims later in the day or after dark if you have a suspicion that chub are present. They often gain confidence as the light levels drop.

Chub paste baits

Chub with large bait in it's mouth

Don’t be afraid to use a big bait for chub

Why paste, and why not boilies, bread, meat, or any other baits that will catch chub? For my money, paste has two advantages. Firstly, it gives out much more attraction than other baits in the cold. Second, and more importantly, the hook can be partially hidden inside the bait, which will ensure that you hit more bites.

Chub have a disconcerting habit of picking up baits in those big rubbery lips, and this can lead to missed bites, especially if you are using a hair rig. Mould the paste around the hook and hey-presto! Most of those pulls on the rod tip will turn into fish on the bank.

Cheese paste is the classic chub bait. Carefully melt some Stilton or other blue cheese in a microwave and mix in breadcrumbs to make a putty-textured paste. A dollop of margarine added to the mix will stop the paste going hard in cold water.

If you want a custom paste of your own then why not use boilie base mix powder and whatever flavourings or additives you prefer. NashBait’s Key, Nutrabaits Trigga and Scopex Squid are all well-proven chub catchers.

Fish hook with cork and paste

I will often use a piece of cork to add buoyancy and to give the paste something to stick to

Paste wrapped around hook

Cover everything except the hook point

There is so much more to write about chub fishing, but that’s about all the space that I have. I’ll leave you with five tips to success, and wish you the best of luck in your hunt for a specimen chub.

Five tips for bagging a specimen chub

  1.  Richard Walker regarded chub as the easiest fish to spook, and I would agree. Once the fish have been alarmed the chances of success are often fatally reduced. Approach chub swims as stealthily as possible, stay off the skyline, and avoid any disturbance.
  2.  Don’t be in too much of a hurry to make your first cast. Feed the swim and leave it to rest for as long as you can bear. This could be an hour or more, but remember that the longer you let the bait do its work, the more confidence the chub will have and the better the chance that your first fish will be the biggest in the shoal.
  3. Chub bites can be easy to miss, as the fish will pick up a bait in the edge of their lips and swim off with it. Wait for a positive bite and do not strike at knocks on the rod tip.
  4.  Play chub quite hard, and try to keep them away from the near margin. Chub have an uncanny knack of being able to transfer the hook to the minutest piece of vegetation, so keeping them away from snags is essential.
  5. Wrap up warm. Chub are one of the few species that can be relied upon to feed in the coldest of conditions, but you have to be comfortable on the bank to last long in such extreme conditions.

Delve deeper into the world of chub fishing

Chub are a fascinating species that can be caught using so many different tactics, and this blog has only just scratched the surface. To learn more about chub, check out the Chub Study Group. As the name suggests, it was established to further our knowledge about chub and chub fishing and have a great website where you can learn more about the species.

About the author

Paul Garner is a fisheries biologist and writer based in the West Midlands. He has been a weekly columnist for Angling Times for many years. The author of two books, Underwater Angling and Scratching the Surface. You can find more articles from Paul on his website at drpaulgarner.co.uk.

A Beginners Guide to Match Fishing

Ever fancied testing your skills in the match angling scene? It can be a great buzz, not to mention a sure way to improve your fishing skills. Dom Garnett has some useful advice and match fishing tips to share, with additional pictures from Jamie Lee.

Dom Garnett fishing on riverbank

They’re not for everyone, but matches add an extra excitement to your fishing.

Although it’s something I do once in a while rather than every week these days, I can highly recommend match fishing as a way of improving your angling skills. Many readers associate my name with humorous fishing stories and my exploits mixing coarse and fly fishing methods; but it is less well known that in my younger days I was very much smitten with match fishing.

My first efforts began as a teenager back in the mid 90’s when I arrived at a canal fishing contest with my ragged-looking seatbox and pole to take on the grown-ups. I learned an important lesson that day: if you’re friendly and ask questions, even the guys who want to beat you will often share information and set you on your way.

On that particular match, I amazed myself as well as the regulars, as my catch of mostly perch and eels scooped a section win – and I instantly understood the buzz of match angling. Nearly thirty years on, I am a more occasional match angler, but many of the lessons stuck and are still with me today.

How to Start Match Fishing

Before you even begin to enter competitions, it’s important to consider if you’re ready for it. You needn’t be a champion, but matches are no place for a complete beginner. A good rule is to start by looking for matches fished on venues you know and where you are confident of catching fish.

There are two main types of match to enter: a club match and a so-called open match. Open matches tend to be held on well-stocked day ticket fisheries these days, and are called ‘open’ because they’re open to everyone.

Entry fees and prizes can be high. The money involved may draw some very skilled anglers, as well as locals who know the water like their own back yard. Not ideal for someone starting out.

Dom Garnett with net full of fish

Matches are won on weight of fish, rather than numbers or individual specimens.

A club match is likely to be a far better first experience. These are held by local fishing clubs, often on more traditional waters like rivers and canals. They’re usually friendlier, involving fewer anglers and lower entry fees and prizes.

Lower prizes mean that the anglers tend to be more helpful and the atmosphere is more relaxed. There will still probably be some very good local anglers, but you have a realistic chance to compete on club level.

Match Fishing Methods and Waters

Man sitting by lake fishing

You’ll need to be versatile to compete in matches; but pole fishing is often essential

One of the first rules of match fishing is that you must be prepared to adapt your methods. It is no use fishing the waggler if all the winning weights are coming on the method feeder, for example.

Of all the methods you’re likely to need to compete, the pole is probably the most important. This is simply because it offers unrivalled finesse and presentation at shorter distances. That said, local club matches might just as easily require you to catch on the stick float or the method feeder, or use baits that you wouldn’t normally consider.

In short, match fishing will quickly challenge your skills and force you to improve at various methods. You’d be sensible to pick matches that suit your strengths at first, but you’ll need to be a good all-rounder if you want to develop.

Match Fishing Rules and Essentials

So how does a typical fishing match work? You must let the organiser know you want to fish. You’ll need to book a place, and pay an entry fee. The entry money from each angler goes into a pot, with the winner and runners up getting the prize money.

There may also be “optional pools”. These are additional prizes you can compete for, if you are feeling confident.

Matches are usually organised into groups of anglers called “sections”. For example, a match of 24 anglers might be divided into three sections of eight. This ensures some fairness, because even if you draw in an area where it is very difficult to win outright, there will still be a prize for beating your neighbours.

Every match has its own rules, so do familiarise yourself with these. If you fail to do this, the official regulations could lead to disadvantage or even disqualification to you!

One classic example I can think of is a local club with a special rule on pike. In most club and open matches, pike don’t count. But my local club’s canal has so many tiny jacks, they include these in the tally.

In one of the biggest annual matches, a visiting angler caught a pike of 5-6lbs. Not knowing the rule, he immediately released the fish that would have won him the whole event! The moral is simple: know the competition rules!

The Draw

Before the match, you’ll be allotted a numbered spot (better known as a “peg”) at random. The draw is always exciting. You can try to be early or late in the queue, but most of us like to be early, because this way you have a chance to draw any peg still available in the match.

Cross your fingers and go for it. Ask the other competitors where your peg is if you’re not sure, and if it is a good spot. You’re likely to get different opinions, but don’t despair if it isn’t a “flyer” (the term match anglers use to describe a really good mark where you have a chance to win the match).

You might also draw a lot called the “scales peg”. Each section requires an angler to act as an official at the end of the match who will weigh each competitor in the section.It is an extra responsibility but it’s also a good way to see what’s being caught, and chat to other anglers at the end of the match. Do point out to others if its your first time, because they are sure to help you out.

Starting the Match

Fish bait being added to water

Accurate baiting up is a must, but you must only feed once the match has started!

In the time before the match starts, set your tackle up, get comfortable and carefully assess your peg. Plumbing the depth is a vital step here, both to suss out where the fish might be and to get your float rigs set at the perfect depth.

Every match will have an allotted start and finish time, signalled by a whistle, hooter or a good old fashioned cry of “all in!” or “that’s it!” to start or end proceedings. Before the opening signal you must not bait your hook or introduce any bait at all!

Once the match starts, most anglers will start by feeding some bait. You can certainly overdo the amount you put in, but it is usually good to be positive, not to mention as accurate as you can be. More on this in our tips section!

The Main Event

During the match itself, concentration and the ability to read the peg are vital. Few match anglers have only one plan, because even a usually reliable tactic might not go as planned on the day. This is why anglers tend to fish several different “lines” in the same swim.

You might try a short line at just four metres to start with, for example, but also put some bait further out. Really skillful anglers will sometimes juggle as many as six different areas, moving between them when bites dry up in each patch.

Contests tend to last four or five hours, but shorter evening matches are also popular in some areas. Keep track of the time, and plan an overall strategy. Five hours is a long time, and on most venues you’d be very lucky to keep catching for the whole contest from just one peg.

Anglers with catch net

Catches are weighed at the end of the match. Now is a good time to see what has been caught and ask your fellow anglers a few questions. (pic: Jamie Lee)

Match Fishing Tips

The world of match fishing is a varied and challenging one, but some golden rules apply to most matches.

  • Perhaps the best tip is not to be too disheartened if you fare poorly at first.
  • There is a lot to learn, but by listening carefully, asking questions and watching others, you are sure to improve. And even if you don’t become a regular match angler, I guarantee that the experience will make you better at fishing.
4 fishing rods

Preparation is key in matches. Here, an angler has set up several rigs- marking accurate depths in correction fluid is a classic match angler’s tip (pic: Jamie Lee).

  • You can learn a lot just by watching skilled anglers at work. It’s not as much fun as fishing, but just doing the rounds at an event, or perhaps even going to a contest as a spectator can be a great way to pick up tips and learn new skills.
  • Little details count for a lot in match fishing. Whether it is having your float dotted right down, feeding bait accurately, or practicing unhooking fish and rebaiting quickly and efficiently, the small things add up.
  • Always think about where you can improve or save time, even if it seems quite a small difference. In the end, no match angler has a magic wand. But the competitor who does lots of things a little better than the average angler will gain a big advantage!
  • Practise very much makes perfect in match fishing. Even when pleasure fishing, you can be trying out different rigs, baits and approaches. For example, what happens if you step up your loose feed? Can you tempt different species by making your rig sink faster or slower? Does a change to a bigger or different bait result in a better stamp of fish? Keep asking these questions and your results will improve.
  • Perhaps the most important skill in match fishing is feeding. Doing this accurately is crucial. Feed too much and you could kill the swim; feed too little and the fish might go to someone feeding more aggressively. Do experiment and try to gauge what the fish want on the day. Usually little, often and accurate is a good way to start.
  • Presentation is another key part of match fishing. Finer lines and smaller hooks tend to earn more bites. You don’t have to fish with gear that risks a break off every other cast, but it is worth refining what you do. Get into the habit of using lower diameter lines and smaller hooks than you might for a pleasure fishing bash. For shy-biting fish, it can make a huge difference.
Fish in net

Cute presentation is a must, because it will get you more bites.

  • Think about your swim and the different areas or “lines” you fish carefully. By keeping these at different angles, well away from each other, you can avoid inadvertently spooking your quarry as you play a fish. For example, if you have a line simmering nicely at five metres to your right, the last thing you want to be doing is dragging fish through it every time you get one on your ten metre line.
  • Keep a diary and note down your mistakes and successes and what you learned each match.
  • Last but not least: the best thing about match fishing is that you never stop learning. Do chat and compare notes with others, while reading all that you can. Sources like Angling Times and Match Fishing Magazine are excellent, not only for match results but for tips and advice from the best, such as Dave Harrell, Steve Ringer and Bob Nudd.

Further Info

For more features, photography and a range of books and gifts, check out Dom Garnett’s new website at www.dgfishing.co.uk. For match reports and results, head to simplematchfishing.co.uk. And if you’ve got any good match tips or stories to share, let us know on our Facebook page.

A Beginner’s Guide To Commercial Fisheries

Perch

Perch are plentiful in many commercial fisheries

Commercial fisheries provide accessible sport for a whole range of popular species, while offering consistent fishing for everyone.

Read this great advice and top tips on fishing day ticket lakes from author and angling coach, Dom Garnett, to get you started.

Commercial fisheries are some of the easiest and most accessible locations of all. This is especially true for those who are newer to the sport, or returning to angling after an absence.

But even experienced anglers will visit them for a bite-filled day out. When rivers are flooded or the going is tough on so called “natural” waters, day ticket lakes provide welcome and consistent sport.

Accessible, bite-filled fishing

Roach

Roach are present on most commercials and offer sport all year round.

There are many kinds of day ticket fishing lakes across the UK. Many “commercial fisheries” have certain characteristics in common. They’re generally man made, relatively small in size and with high stocks of fish, from small roach and perch to larger carp. They often have better access than natural waters, with well-marked spots or platforms to fish from.

‘Traditional’ anglers may scoff, but these safe and relatively easy fishing lakes have several advantages. For one thing, you tend to pay by the day. There’s no special membership is, and discounts are often available for juniors and pensioners. Anyone can fish these waters.

They have plenty of smaller fish to keep kids happy, while those less mobile won’t have to carry gear for half a mile to get a decent spot.

Many anglers (and their families) also appreciate the fact that a lot of them have toilets, shelter and even somewhere to buy tackle and a cup of coffee on site.

However, in our discussion of “commercial” lakes, we should also add that there are a great variety of other venues that also share similar characteristics. The same tactics and advice discussed here will also ring true for many other locations, including park lakes, village ponds and small stillwaters run by fishing clubs.

How to fish a typical commercial style fishery

Angler with fish in net

You should have no problem finding fish in a commercial lake

Perhaps the best thing of all about day ticket lakes is the sheer number and variety of fish present. Unlike on a river or a big reservoir, you should have few problems finding the fish and getting bites. But just because there are plenty of fish to catch, it doesn’t mean that you can simply turn up and cast anywhere.

The first step to tackling a commercial lake is to do a little homework and have a good look round. Chat to the owner and other anglers; these fisheries tend to be friendly places where regulars will share advice. Sources such as websites and forums are also handy. They can tell you a lot about the best areas to fish and which baits and tactics to use.

Hot Spots and Features

Angler near bank

You needn’t fish far out on a commercial. Sometimes the bank itself is a good feature.

Not all “swims” (the term anglers use for individual spots on the lake) are equal on any lake, so it’s always a good idea to have a walk round and a think before you set up.

It’s true that some lakes can look rather bare or uniform, but many have tempting features such as islands, overhanging trees or lily beds. All of these will hold fish. You may also see obvious signs on a quick walk round, such as fish cruising or clouding the bottom as they feed.

Other features are invisible at first glance. For example, the depth can vary greatly- and areas that offer something different or a sudden change can help you find the fish. The shallows or “margins” can be a great place for summer fishing, for example, when fish such as carp and tench will come very close in to feed. But when it’s colder, the fish might be holding a little further out where there’s deeper, warmer water.

Ready, steady, fish

Angler on bank

There’s no need to cast miles out from the bank on a commercial lake

So you’ve found a spot you like the look of. You might already have seen signs of fish. But how should you start fishing? Another nice thing about commercials is that various different techniques will work. Nine times out of ten, however, my advice would be to try float fishing first, whether you try rod and line tactics or bring a pole.

The float is a great way to get plenty of bites. It’s also an ideal method to test the water’s depth. This is the most important task of all. See our Beginners guide to float fishing to learn how to do this correctly, along with other useful float fishing skills.

The fish will seldom be far from the bank on most day ticket lakes, so don’t feel you need to cast miles out. Often, you will be fishing within two or three rod-lengths of the bank.

Many lakes have shallow water at the edge and then a shelf or slope where things get deeper, dropping from say two feet to four feet of water. This is an excellent place to start, because the fish love this “drop off” where food tends to collect.

Which Tackle is Best for Commercial Fisheries?

Angler with fish in net

With balanced tackle, you’ll still land that bonus net filler.

A common mistake I see on commercial lakes is anglers using thick line and large hooks. These can make the fish suspicious. By far your best bet is to tackle up with balanced tackle with the finesse to get plenty of bites, but enough power to do battle with bigger fish.

For most pleasure fishing I would recommend a float or match rod, 4-5lb strength main line, and a finer hook length of 3-4lbs strength. For pole anglers, a size eight, or light to medium hollow elastic would be sensible to deal small carp as well as bread and butter species like roach and perch.

Hook sizes will depend on bait, but typically you won’t want to go much smaller than an 18 or bigger than a 12. Most commercials insist on barbless hooks – and that you have a soft unhooking mat to lay larger specimens on without damaging them.

What are the Best Baits for Commercial Fisheries?

Pink and white maggots

Maggots will bring plenty of bites

Another great thing about day ticket lakes is that many baits will work, including many that are cheap or even free. The first I would try is the humble maggot, simply because no other bait will get you more bites from all species. A few worms from the compost heap are also a great shout, because fish of many kinds, including the bigger ones, love them.

Other baits high on the list would be sweet corn and bread. Pellets are convenient, and ideal to use both thrown in to attract the fish and to catch on. Hard pellets don’t go on the hook though, so you’ll want some soft pellets for the hook or a packet of “pellet bands” to hold the harder baits in place.

It’s always a good idea to bring more than one type of bait, because you might find one works better than the rest. It’s also sensible to take a few bigger baits, like larger pellets or chunks of luncheon meat, in case you are getting lots of tiddlers and want to try something that only a bigger mouth can manage.

Whichever choices you make, be sure to throw in some bait too, besides just using it on the hook. Anglers call this “loose feeding” and it can make the difference between getting the odd bite and catching fish all day. The reason is that bait thrown into the water will attract more fish than just casting out with a single offering.

You don’t need to go crazy, but it is worth throwing in small amounts of bait every few minutes. If you do this often, the fish will start to compete for the bait and you’ll get lots of them in your swim.

Do try and be accurate and keep casting and adding bait to the exact same spot, because this will draw the fish to one area, rather than scattering them everywhere.

8 top tips for fishing commercial lakes

Angler on lake bank

Late afternoon when everyone else has gone home can be a great time to fish

  1. Float fishing is a great method, but one common mistake is to have too much float showing. You should apply shot until just the coloured tip is showing. If too much float is sticking out of the water, the fish will struggle to pull it under and will often reject the bait before you have a chance to strike.
  2. Many anglers will find a comfy spot and sit in it all day. This is fine if you’re getting bites, but never be afraid to move if you’re not catching. It might take you a little trial and error, and several sessions, to work out the best spots on any lake.
  3. Always test the drag on your reel BEFORE fishing. The drag is the mechanism adjusted on the back or front of your reel that controls how easily line will be let out when a fish pulls hard. Avoid making it very loose, but it should start to click and give out line well before you risk getting broken off. The worst time to adjust it is when you’ve just hooked a big fish!
  4. In case you get that surprise monster, never leave your rod unattended on the bank. If you’re several yards away, or not paying attention, your rod could be pulled into the lake. I have seen this happen more than once!
  5. A lot of anglers will pack up in the late afternoon and go home for tea, but the best time to fish on many commercial lakes is the last hour. As the light drops, the fish tend to feel safer and more confident. They also get used to anglers throwing their leftover bait as they leave! In fact, I’ve seen locals turn up just as the regulars are leaving, and go from swim to swim catching lots of fish where others have just finished.
  6. If there are two of you fishing, try different baits and methods side by side. It’s a sociable way to fish, and great for working out the best tactic on the day.
  7. Be gentle with your catch. On commercial lakes, fish could be caught several times in their lives. They deserve our respect. Always handle them with wet hands and never hold them while standing up or walking around. The safest way to return a lively fish is often to simply lower it back in the landing net, so there is no risk of dropping it.
  8. Whether you read paper magazines or online articles, there is plenty of handy information out there. However, little beats a session with a coach if you’re starting out or returning to the sport. In the space of a few hours you can learn good habits and techniques that might take you several seasons to figure out on your own!

Further tips and top angling reads

We hope the advice in this blog comes in handy on your next session. However, the subject of tackling commercial fisheries is a broad one, so here are some useful links to give you further food for thought. Enjoy your fishing, and remember to share your commercial fishery catches on the Fishtec Coarse Fishing Facebook Page.

Angling Times: How to Catch Roach From Commercial Fisheries

Fish on Friday: Top Tips for Carp on Commercial Fisheries

Anglers Mail: Top 5 Winter Baits for Commercial Fisheries

More from our guest blogger:

The author of many articles and acclaimed fishing books, including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his latest collection of angling tales Crooked Lines, Dom Garnett is a qualified angling coach based in Devon. Find more words, photography and his regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk

All images copyright Dom Garnett