Easter Holiday Fishing With The Family

children fishing

Hunt for fish, not eggs, this Easter!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

With sunny weather on the cards and a welcome break from work and school, Easter is the perfect time to get children fishing.

The closed season might have kicked in on rivers, but there are loads of waters that are not only open, but really waking up at this time of year.

So where should you start? From having a crack at your local stillwater, to enjoying discounted fishing and special events, Dom Garnett shares eight timely tips to make it an Easter break to remember.

1. Sort out your fishing licenses for free!

Fishing licence

Juniors can get a free EA license under current rules, making fishing even more affordable.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Do children need a fishing license in the UK? Well, the good news is that the system has recently changed to encourage youngsters to take part and make the sport more affordable for families. So, if your kids are 12 or under they don’t need a license at all. If they’re 13-16, they will need to register for a license, but this is completely FREE! You can do this online whenever you have five minutes spare.

You will still need a day ticket on many lakes, but many venues offer these to kids for half price. Typically you’ll be looking at between £3 or £5 a day. Angling clubs are often cheaper still, with heavily discounted season tickets for under 16s.

2. Local tip-offs & smaller, well-stocked fisheries

Easter_Fishing - 4

For youngsters it’s all about getting bites, not catching leviathans like the General, above.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Most of us will get a day or two off work in the next fortnight, but the golden question is where to go fishing? Sure, you can surf the internet for likely hotspots, but nothing beats speaking to locals. Take ten minutes to ask pals in the know, or pop into your local tackle shop for a pint of maggots. They’ll give you tips on the best places to go.

Given a choice of venues, look for smaller, well-stocked lakes. In these places, fish are plentiful and not hard to locate. Unless your kids have done lots of fishing already, size isn’t so important. It’s all about having fun and getting bites. Commercial lakes also tend to be safe and have shelter and toilet facilities.

3. Simple float fishing is best

Unless your youngsters are a bit older and experienced, keep things simple. The best way to get going is often basic float fishing. Whether it’s with rod and line, or a pole, watching a float is fun and gets them concentrating on those key early lessons. Our Beginner’s Guide to Float Fishing has loads of useful tips.

On many day ticket lakes, the best spot is near the bank, or just a little further where the bottom drops away a little (usually not more than a rodlength or two!). Take your time picking swims and get your apprentices to help make the choice by looking for features and fish moving.

4. Fishing basics first

Most kids will be raring to fish immediately, but there are some quick jobs to do first. Include your learners as much as you can and do your best to answer their 101 questions! Always start by plumbing the depth before you fish. If you can show them how to do this, and set up with the hookbait at just the right depth (start with it just about touching the bottom), they will spot bites better and catch more fish, period.

Another (often neglected) key skill is to test your gear and get things perfect before you get fishing. Weight that float carefully, so that just the very tip is showing. Test the drag on your reels too, so that it gives out line with a steady pull. It could be the difference between landing that first proper net-filler and getting snapped off.

5. Ways to get more bites when starting out…

Easter_Fishing

Regular loose feeding and lighter lines are the way to get loads of bites, as this family learned at a friendly Exeter Angling Club event.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

When fishing with kids, getting bites is important. Ok, so fishing is not all about catching, but if you’re going to sustain their interest most youngsters need encouragement. A couple of key lessons will greatly increase the number of bites they get!

One is to use fine line and smaller hooks. Too many beginners don’t catch because they use crude gear. Try small barbless hooks in sizes 12 to 16 to start, along with low diameter lines of 4 or 5lbs breaking strain. Pre-tied hooklengths and ready-made pole rigs can be useful here.

The other essential tip is to feed bait little and often. Not kilos of the stuff, but perhaps a dozen maggots or tiny pellets every three or four minutes. This brings the fish in much better than just the occasional handful. When you are setting up or sorting tangles, this is also an excellent job to give to kids to stop them getting bored. Just try to make sure the bait keeps going in the same spot and not all over the place!

6. Help out, but don’t do it all for them

first fish

Let youngsters practise skills and play fish themselves. They’ll learn from their mistakes.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Perhaps the most common trap for parents and coaches alike is to try and do every essential job going. From tying knots to unhooking fish, it’s often tempting to take over. But if you do it all yourself, how are they going to learn?

A great rule is to do each essential task slowly, but with the message: “you watch me first, then you try it.” You might need to show them a few times and they will make the odd mistake, but this is the best way to learn. Even better, you’ll gradually get more peace when you fish yourself, because they won’t ask for your help every five minutes!

7. Plan B for a bigger fish

As mentioned, getting bites is what it’s all about for most kids who haven’t done loads of fishing. But there’s no harm in mum or dad sneaking along an extra rod, just to try for a ‘bigger something’ in between all the bites, laughs and tangles. The learners are sure to be impressed and it could add extra excitement to a fun day out.

For the ultimate, no-nonsense trick to bag a carp on most day ticket lakes, look no further than the method feeder with a large hookbait (see our guide to feeder fishing). Be warned though – bites are so positive on the method, the rod could get pulled in, so do keep an eye on it! For safety, use a baitrunner type reel in free-spool mode, or set the drag lightly.

8. Make it a social day out or join an event!

family-friendly fishing spot

Most small stillwaters have comfy pegs and family-friendly facilities like toilets.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Being a fishing mum or dad can take patience. It can be tricky to do your own angling and sometimes you’ll wish you had four arms instead of two. This is where a bit of friendly help comes in.

Why not club together with friends or family to make it a social day out? If the weather’s fine, you could always combine it with a picnic. Do warn non-anglers that you’ll need at least three or four hours to make it worthwhile, though. Have a plan B too, so less keen family members can take a walk, or do something else for a bit.

If you want some expert help and even better value, why not join one of the many free fishing events around the country? There are usually various family days and taster sessions for beginners in the Easter and Summer Holidays (be sure to check your local fishing club’s website and Facebook page!). There are also lots of events and discounts available on day ticket lakes all over the country with the Take A Friend Fishing (TAFF) scheme. See if you can find some cheap fishing near you.

Wherever you decide to fish this Spring, enjoy your time out on the bank. Days like these make precious memories and turn keen youngsters into lifelong anglers, so treasure them! And if you do make it out with the family, share some photos on the Fishtec Facebook page, which is always worth checking for news, tips and offers. Don’t forget to check out our other blog posts too, including our Fishing with Children article.

Carp Tackle Buying Guide

Dave Lane carp

Beginner, regular carp angler or pro – here’s your ultimate buying guide.
Image source: Fishtec

Whether you’re a beginner trying to kit yourself out for carp fishing or an experienced angler looking to overhaul your existing gear, the Fishtec team has everything you need.

But with such a huge variety of carp fishing tackle on offer, how do you determine what you need and how much to spend? Here’s the ultimate guide to getting tackled up, from basics and budget gear through to fishing equipment for the lifelong carp addict.

What kind of carp angler are you?

Before we launch into kit, it’s important to know what stage you’re at. If you’re just starting carp fishing, for example, you won’t want to spend too much until you get going. We’ve broken things down into three categories to help you make decisions:

Carp Angler Categories
Beginner
You might be new to the sport, or someone who knows the ropes but can’t get out every week. You could simply be on a tight budget. Whatever the case, you’ll want functional gear that offers excellent value for money.
Regular
You know your stuff and fish fairly often. You wouldn’t class yourself as a die-hard, but you’re keen enough. You might not have cash to burn, but you want decent kit that can handle more than just the basics.
Expert
You live and breathe carp fishing and spend a lot of time on the bank. Your gear has become more specialised over the years. You like kit that’s not only practical, but a joy to use. When you can afford it, you have no hesitation in buying the best.

You won’t necessarily fit neatly into one category – you might fall between two. For example, you could be your first year into to the sport but coming on fast and needing better gear. Or, you could be a carper with bags of experience who needs to watch the purse strings.

Top tip: Carp fishing can get technical at the best of times and some of the kit isn’t cheap. But it’s not a fashion contest and the most important thing is that your gear works for your budget and style of fishing. Many anglers with expensive rods have been out-fished by someone with cheaper kit and better watercraft (or better luck!). If you’re a beginner, start at your own pace. You don’t need the best from the word go, so let your tackle evolve as you learn.

How to choose a carp rod

It’s the most popular impulse buy of all, every angler loves to own rods. But which is the best for your needs? These days, quality carbon blanks have never been better value. The calibre of carp rods available for less than £50 would probably have cost several times that a decade or two ago! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp Rods
Beginner: Daiwa Black Widow G50 Carp rod
Serious rods that still give you plenty of change from £50! These are anything but toy models though. A great range of options too, from 2.75 to 3.5lbs test curve.
Buy now from £39.99
Regular: Nash KMX Carp Rod
For a sleek finish and superior build quality, these rods punch above their weight in the mid-price range. Durable blanks, with a spod rod as part of the set for those who need this option.
Buy now from £69.99
.
Expert: Free Spirit “S” Lite Carp Rods
For ultra light, beautifully sleek rods, this range is a joy to use. A comprehensive selection that really push the standards of design and performance beyond expectations.
Buy now from £159.99
.

Which carp rods will suit you best?

Most rods sound great on paper, but how do you decide the power and length you need? Test curve rating (the amount of strain required to pull the rod tip over by 90 degrees) is one key factor to look into. 2.5 or 2.75lb test curve rods are more forgiving, for example, to play fish at close to mid range. If you’re punching out rigs and very possibly PVA bags at longer range, 3 to 3.5lb test curve rods have greater power.

Length is another consideration. There’s a reason most rods are 12ft; it’s a versatile all-round length for most scenarios. A 13ft may be better still for long casts, say on a tough gravel pit. However, for many anglers who fish smaller waters, the reverse is true and a 10ft rod is great for close quarters and swims with trees and limited casting space.

Finally, how many carp rods do you need? For most beginners, it’s enough to get the hang of using two at first. In fact, on the smaller waters which are ideal for getting the hang of things, a third rod might be overkill. Too much kit makes you less mobile, while an extra lead splashing down and another line through the swim can make it less likely you’ll catch.

Top tip: Rather than just buying the rod(s) you like the look of, think about your local or regular fishing. Although many anglers get hooked on identical rod setups, this isn’t always sensible either. For example, you might want at least one rod in your arsenal that is specifically designed for margin fishing, with a lower test curve and a more forgiving action.

How to choose a carp reel

Ok, so reels are not quite as sexy as the latest rods, but they’re just as important. In fact, as a rule they tend to cost a little more than rods of similar quality. Most reels are measured in numbers, with sizes between 4,000 and 6,000 typical for most carp fishing. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp Reels
Shimano Ultegra CI4 Plus XT-C Reel A Beginner: Korum Rodiac Freespool
Basic but reliable and really smooth, this is a solid starter reel. Excellent value for money for those just starting out or watching the pennies.
Buy now from £34.99
Daiwa Windcast BR 5500 LDA Reel Regular: Daiwa Windcast BR5500
If you intend to fish every weekend, or want slicker long term performance, it’s worth spending a little more. Daiwa reels have top quality gears and parts, and the Windcast is no exception. With a larger “big pit” spool, this model is a good mid range option for those who need to hit longer casts.
Buy now from £79.99
Korum-Rodiac-Reel-A Expert: Shimano Ultegra CI4+
There’s a bloody good reason hardened anglers like Shimano reels. They have the best gears in the world (they also produce gears for top spec bikes). Perhaps this is why they keep going year after year. The Ultegra CI4+ is not just a workhorse – it’s a Rolls Royce. Large spool for long casting, fantastic quality.
Buy now from £219.99

Top tip: standard or “big pit” reel?
Standard model reels are fine for most regular fishing… until you get into long distances and specialised applications like spodding. “Big pit” reels are a bit larger and more cumbersome, but hold more line and are ideal for throwing a heavy lead or spod for miles on venues like large gravel pits. If your typical venues are small to medium day ticket lakes, whether you’re a beginner or regular angler, standard reels should be fine.

Main lines for carp fishing
The best kit in the world is no good if you use a poor quality fishing line. Indeed, even if you buy the cheapest carp fishing rod and reel going, we’d advise you to spend decent money on your line. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Main lines
Daiwa Sensor Beginner: Daiwa Sensor
Looking for a great value line that will fill up at least three reel spools for under a tenner? This is it. For the money, it’s solid stuff – the 12lb or 15lb options are tough enough for most of your carp fishing needs.
Buy now from £8.99
Maxima Chameleon Regular: Maxima Chameleon
Maxima line has been trusted by anglers for generations, owing to its consistency and quality. It’s not the most ultra fine, but boy is it tough and reliable. A single 200m pack should fill one reel spool.
Buy now from £8.99
Korda Kontour Fluorocarbon Expert: Korda Kontour Fluorocarbon
Experienced carpers are now increasingly experimenting with fluorocarbon main lines. Not only are such lines less visible to fish, they also sink and hug the bottom better. However, they take some getting used to and don’t come cheap, so invest with care.
Buy now from £19.99

Choosing hook links and hooks
Now we’re really getting to the nitty gritty. Like main lines, even if you’re a total beginner, there’s no way on earth you should count pennies here because bad hooks and poor rigs cost fish.

The world of hooks and rig materials is too big and complex for a simple summary here. Experienced anglers will seldom want to fish with anything tied by someone else. However, for beginner and regular anglers, ready tied carp rigs can save time and get you going in no time at all. Take our advice, and keep it simple to start with. There are a hundred and one clever setups, but a basic hair rig will still catch. Here is Fishtec’s top pick:

Hooks and hook links
Korda Ready Tied DF Carp Rigs Timed poor angler: Korda Ready Tied DF Carp Rigs
If you want to save time and hassle, these are straightforward and efficient. An aggressive hook angle makes it  likely your next pick up will result in a reel-screaming bite. You might not have the experience of Danny Fairbrass yet, but this is the next best thing to pinching his favourite all-round rig, just as he ties it.
Buy now from £1.99

Which rod pods and bank sticks?
Now that you’re tooled up with rods, reels, and rigs, you’ll need somewhere to rest your gear, primed for a bite. But where should you start? Do you need a rod pod to go carp fishing, or are bank sticks fine?

The answer to this probably depends on where you fish. Rod pods are rock solid in the wind and ideal on hard surfaces where you can’t insert a bank stick. That said, if you’re able to get single sticks into the ground and point your rods at your rig and bait, this is often preferable to a pod. You can space your rods out a little more this way – and get better bite indication too. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Rod pods
TF Gear Banshee Rod Pod Beginner: TF Gear Banshee Rod Pod
Although this is a sturdy, dependable bit of kit, it’s also one of the cheapest rod pods for carp fishing you’ll find. We’ve sold hundreds of these and they’re a popular best-seller.
Buy now for £29.99
TF Gear Cross Pod Regular: TF Gear Cross Pod
This light, but strong and sturdy pod is a versatile choice that can be adjusted really quickly and easily from a standard pod to two sets of posts. It even comes with a free carry bag worth £14.99.
Buy now from £39.99
JRC Contact Rod Pod Expert: JRC Contact SQR Rod Pod
Rock solid and with adjustable height and frame length, this is a tough but refined pod. With a detachable frame, you can also use this as a “goal post” set up (i.e. without the connecting horizontal pars) for further versatility.
Buy now from £59.99

Prefer bank sticks to a pod? If your local venues have soft banks where you can push in rod rests, you might find them a better option. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bank sticks
Cygnet Bank Sticks Beginner/Regular: Cygnet 20/20 Banksticks and Buzz Bars
With the small “Sniper” bankstick starting at just over a fiver, this range is durable and high spec, but not too pricey. That said, they will stand up to regular use and abuse too.
Buy now from £5.50
Korda Singlez Bank Sticks Expert: Korda Singlez Bank Sticks and Buzz Bars
For the serious carper, these components are not only stylish, but optimum quality. Stainless steel and super tough, they should last as long as you do!
Buy now from £12.50

How to choose the right bite alarm
Just like rods, reels and hardware, you get what you pay for with bite alarms. An occasional weekend away is very different to night after night of use from rain to frost to baking hot sun. Unsurprisingly, models with tough components tend to cost more. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bite alarms
Leeda Bite Alarm Beginner: Leeda Rogue Wireless Bite Alarm
Cheap but fully functional, a pair of these will get you off the mark for under £30.
Buy now at £13.99
Nash Siren Regular: Nash Siren S5R
For regular, no nonsense use, these alarms come with good sensitivity and bomb-proof construction.
Buy now at £49.99
Delkim TXI Plus Expert: Delkim TXI Plus
For the best performance of all, these Delkims have awesome features. Using no moving parts, these actually use vibration to indicate bites – and even have an anti-theft alarm!
Buy now at £122.50

Top tip: Bite alarm etiquette and proper use
Why do you need a bite alarm? Well, these devices were originally developed by the great Dick Walker for night fishing, when the angler couldn’t see the bites. They’re also handy on long sessions though, because obviously staring at bobbins for hours isn’t a lot of fun.

They’re not always necessary, so don’t let technology prevent you from trying other methods like float fishing, stalking and using buoyant baits. They can also make an unwanted racket, so do keep the volume down when other anglers are around.

Bed chairs – budget to best
Take it from us, if you intend to night fish regularly, you’re going to need something to sleep on. That old camp bed or inflatable mattress won’t do! Thankfully, bed chairs start at less than £100 these days. Get as comfy as you can afford; your back will thank you! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bed chairs
TF Gear 3 leg bed chair Beginner: TF Gear Chill Out 3 Leg Bedchair
This is about as affordable as it gets for a really functional, comfy bedchair. At under 20lbs in weight, it’s not drastically heavy to carry either.
Buy now at £69.99
Trakker wide flat bed Regular: Trakker RLX Wide Flat-6 Bed
Need a bit more space? Anglers who are a bit bigger will appreciate some extra width and comfort. This tough model fits the bill and will keep going for many seasons.
Buy now at £129.99
Nash Indulgence SS Bed Expert: Nash Indulgence SS 5 Season Beds
Featuring top spec materials, sturdy design and an integrated outdoor duvet, this is just about as good as it gets. The only drawback? You might prefer it to your bed at home!
Buy now at £399.99

Carp landing nets – what to look for
Obviously you’re going to need a good-sized net for your fishing. It pays to be generous too, because a big fish might fit in a small net, but the reverse isn’t true! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp landing nets
TF Gear Banshee Landing Net Beginner/Regular: TF Gear Banshee Landing Net
A serious sized 42” net, complete with handle, this is a reliable set up for under £30 that would suit beginners or regulars alike. Hard to beat in terms of value.
Buy now at £29.99
DL Specialist Carp Net Expert: DL Specialist Carp Net
With a sturdy 6ft handle, quality build and ample space for the biggest carp, Dave Lane’s own brand net is a great option for the experienced carper.
Buy now at £49.99

How to choose an unhooking mat
With virtually every carp fishery in the UK insisting on a decent unhooking mat, you need one of these before you start fishing. A good one will last years, protecting every fish you catch from danger. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Unhooking mats
TF Gear Unhooking Mat Beginner: TF Gear Unhooking Mat
Need a good-sized, well padded option that won’t break the bank? This is one of the best carp unhooking mats for under £20 you could hope for.
Buy now at £16.99
Leeda Rogue Carp Unhooking Mat Regular: Leeda Rogue Carp Unhooking Cradle
With padded sides, this safely cradles a large fish while you unhook it. Also a good idea for those with bad backs who may not like stooping right to the ground to handle fish. And it’s good for photography – kneel behind the cradle and support the fish just inches from a safe landing.
Buy now at £39.99
TF Gear Hardcore Universal Barrow Mat Expert: TF Gear Hardcore Universal Barrow Mat
Designed by Dave Lane, this option is not only the ultimate in carp safety, but doubles up as a handy way to store and carry some of your kit to and from the bank.
Buy now at £79.99

Carp fishing bivvies
If you’re a day session angler, a brolly might be enough to shelter you from the elements. But for most carpers, night fishing is a must and you’ll need a decent home from home to tackle cool conditions and the elements. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bivvies
TF Gear Scout 2 Man Bivvy Beginner: TF Gear Scout 2 Man Bivvy
This spacious set up is as practical as it gets on a budget. A carp bivvy for under £100, that will see you through several seasons of use.
Buy now at £99.99
Trakker Cayman Bivvy Regular: Trakker Cayman Bivvy
For a bivvy at less than £200, Trakker’s Cayman is ideal. A breeze to set up and sturdy enough for the roughest weather.
Buy now at £179.99
Nash Double Top MK 4 Bivvy Expert: Nash Double top Mk 4 Bivvy
This bestseller from Nash is a cracking bivvy for just about anything the British climate throws at you. Among a wealth of high spec materials and features, the extended “hood” of this design makes it easy to go about your fishing and keep an eye on rods in heavy rain.
Buy now at £359.99

Other essential carp gear checklist
Anglers invariably spend the most money on rods, reels and kit that is used to play and land fish. But there are other items that are just as important. From delivering bait, to storing tackle and keeping dry, here are some of the essential items most carpers won’t leave home without:

TOP TIP: Save yourself hassle on your carping trips by getting organised. Why not compose your own list of kit that you need every session? A checklist avoids stress and makes it less likely you’ll turn up without a crucial item!

Nuggets of wisdom from accomplished anglers

Will Millard fishing with grandad

It’s important to share knowledge – with fellow anglers and the generation to come.
Image courtesy of Will Millard, pictured learning to fish with his grandad

To get your year off to a flying start, here’s Fishtec’s compendium of top tips from some of the UK’s most experienced anglers.

These nuggets of wisdom have been passed down from parents and grandparents, suggested by fellow anglers on the bank or perfected during years of dedicated trial and error. Some have even been provided by up-and-coming youngsters, keen to learn and share their own knowledge. We know they all work, but we can’t always explain why!

How to catch more fish

dom-garnett-tight-spot

Try fishing tight spots.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Seek out less obvious spots
“One of the best ways to catch more is simply to get stuck into less obvious and less easy spots. Even on a crowded island like ours, a heck of a lot of water is seldom fished because we tend to think of our own comfort and convenience first. Wading, walking long distances and getting into tricky spots are all good ways to access the fish most anglers never get close to.”
Dom Garnett, www.dgfishing.co.uk

Lots and often, or go home
My top tip is from my dear old Grandad who taught me to fish on the mighty Fenland Drains at the age of 4. He said ‘forget little and often my boy, down ‘ere it’s lots and often or go home’. He would then absolutely fill the river in with ground bait guaranteeing non-stop action from shoal after shoal of roach and giant slab-sided bream.
Will Millard. Author of “The Old Man and the Sand Eel” (Released 1st March.)

Have fun with less fashionable fish
“If you’re prepared to target many species, there’s so much fun to be had with less fashionable fish. While carp, barbel and pike often get hammered, others barely get a look in a lot of the time. There is a lot of untapped sport for the likes of roach, bream and even wild trout at present that few of us are capitalising on. Fishing doesn’t always have to be about size or competing with other anglers; enjoying yourself is the only important target and it’s definitely good to be different!” 
Dom Garnett, www.dgfishing.co.uk

Short sharp sessions at dawn and dusk
For me personally, in the depths of winter you must be ready to move to where the fish are showing, so fish light and go for short sharp sessions at dawn and dusk. That, and to always remember: the most successful angler is always the one who is having the most fun!”  
Will Millard. Author of “The Old Man and the Sand Eel” 

Top tackle tip

Fishing rods

Do your rod sections get stuck?
Image source: Shutterstock

Rub a candle around your rod ferrules
I picked this up recently from my best mate Willy Kinnaird of Craigmore Fishery. I’d been having issues with rod sections remaining completely tight at the end of a day’s fishing. A simple candle does the trick! Rub it around the top of the rod ferrules then insert them into the next blank. Twist them full circle a few times then line up your rod eyes as normal and fish. After a good session, the blanks will separate without the worry of snapping or weakening. Thanks Willy!
David Thompson – the naked fly fisher

Top tips for fly fishing

George-Clarke-fish-the-hang

Fish the hang.
Image courtesy of George Clark, A 10-year old star of the future

Fish the hang
“The hang is a method you use at the end of your retrieve. If you’ve had a fish following your fly in, it will often grab if you fish the hang. To do this, retrieve as normal, and when you see your fly getting close to the bank, count to ten. The fly will slow down and drop towards the bottom and the fish may rush out and grab it. As you lift to re-cast, do it slowly. Sometimes the fish will take it before you lift off.”
George Clark, www.flyandlure.org

Don’t be too hasty
“I picked this tip up in my youth and it has added to my catch numbers on both rivers and lakes. After presenting the fly, I retrieved as normal and then lifted the flies and casted again. As I began to use a polarised lens, I could see fish were following the fly to the bank and not taking, only to decide to take the fly as I lifted to cast which would result in me taking the fly straight from their mouth!

I always wondered why fish would do this and I soon learned that as predators, they would stalk their prey whereas the change in direction, movement and speed when lifting the fly would trigger their aggressive predatory instinct in a ‘now or never moment’ and they would make an attempt to take it.

To take advantage of this (each angler will have their own method but this one works for me), once you’ve retrieved your line, slowly raise the rod until the flies reach the surface. Just let them sit for a second then lift the fly out of the water then lift each fly out if you fish a multiple fly cast. If the fish doesn’t take at this point, then repeat your cast. I recently had a fish follow the point fly only to make an attempt at the dropper fly, which was OUT OF THE WATER!” David Thompson – the naked fly fisher.

Sharpen your hook points regularly
“A hook sharpener is possibly the most overlooked piece of fishing kit ever invented. If you regularly lure or fly fish and use the same artificials session after session, I guarantee you will be missing fish every season unless you carry one and regularly re-sharpen the hook points that see most use.”
Dom Garnett, www.dgfishing.co.uk

Theo-Pike-Wandle-dace

A Wandle Dace.
Image courtesy of Theo Pike

Go barbless
“If you need to match a hatch with small flies, but you’re struggling to hook up, it’s worth trying to tie the same-sized patterns on a slightly larger hook (for example, a size 18 or even 20 fly on a size 16 shank). Using very fine, barbless hooks like the Partridge SLD, I’ve definitely found this idea improves my hit-rate with notoriously hard-to-hook fish like dace.” Theo Pike, urbantrout.net

Stealth is the most important thing
“Stealth is the most important thing when fly fishing a river for trout. Half the battle is approaching your quarry with care and attention. If the fish is unaware of danger, it will be much easier to catch. Take your time to get into position, walk softly, wade slowly and make your first cast count.”
Ceri Thomas, Fishtec

George-Clarke2

Try the countdown method
Image courtesy of George Clarke

Find the right depth
“The countdown method is a very good way to find where the fish are feeding. After you’ve cast your line you have to pull it to straighten it out and remove any slack so you can feel any bites. On your first cast, count to five before starting to retrieve. If you don’t get any bites, on the second cast, increase the count to ten so your fly sinks a little deeper. If you get a bite, cast again and use the same countdown as you have probably found the depth where the fish are feeding. Keep counting down until you find where the fish are. 

If you’re fishing a fast sinking line, like a Di7, count down in sevens every second. If you’re fishing a Di3, countdown in threes every second. If you do this, you’ll always know how deep you’re fishing and will be able to find the feeding depth on your next cast, if you get a bite.”
George Clark, www.flyandlure.org

To catch a trout, cast far out!
“When it comes to sea trout fishing at night: ‘If you’re not losing flies you’re not fishing close enough to the opposite bank’. This is good advice. 99% of my fish are caught from casts that started tight to the far bank. Sometimes people get takes in the middle of the river and this creates misconceptions as the fish has followed it from tight against the bank and taken the fly as it’s swinging around in the current. I’m not saying you won’t catch fish in the middle and tail of pools. But you’ll catch more fish casting tight to the far bank.” Gareth Wilson, Fishtec

Top tips when fishing for carp

Simon-crow-carp

You need good strong tackle.
Image courtesy of Simon Crow

Know your prey
“Big carp are often aggressive feeders and they will not want to miss out if everything else is feeding. Create a situation, either with bait or location, where you can catch regularly and that one big one will always come along in the end.”  Dave Lane

Check your knots and hooks religiously
“Always check your knots and hooks every time you cast out or it’ll cost you fish. I learned this as a young angler from an experienced old boy. I struck into a screaming take from a powerful carp, the rod went over and sprang back almost instantly from my knot snapping. The old fella laughed as it had happened to him as a teenager. Now I check the hook is nice and sharp, and always give my knots a good strong yank. Carp are very powerful and they’ll test your tackle to the limit.” Simon Crow

Top tips for sea fishing

spring-tide

Get to know the layout of your favourite coastal locations during a spring tide
Image source: DD; Wikimedia Commons

Try plain weights
“When fishing from a sandy, snag-free beach it can be an advantage to use plain weights. This is because they will roll around on the seabed and find gullies, depressions and other areas where dislodged worms, shellfish and other sources of food will accumulate. These are the areas which fish will seek out and using a plain weight will allow your baited hook to roll into these places.” Chris Middleton

Vary your speed
“When fishing with a spinner (or any other type of fishing lure) reel in at different speeds, as this will change the depth at which the spinner is drawn through the water. Reeling in quickly will see the spinner rise close to the surface, while reeling in slowly will see the spinner sink deep down. This will increase the chances of locating the feeding fish as the lure will be covering the whole of the water column.”
Chris Middleton

Use your fish finder sneakily
“Just the other day I was out fishing with some commercial bass fishermen. Guys who spend their entire time catching bass on rod and line. Whenever we fished a wreck of a piece of rough ground, they would check their position and direction of drift on the GPS make sure everything was lined up. And then for the drifts themselves they would make sure the fish finder/echo sounder was switched off.

One of them told me he’d heard some recordings made of what echo sounders sound like underwater and how violently noisy they were. He firmly believed bass fishing and indeed any fishing would be negatively affected by running the fish finder during a draft.

I’ve adopted this habit too. And oddly I find it’s especially effective while squid fishing. Kind of makes sense I guess. These are sensitive creatures who are used to the noises of the sea anything unusual, the slapping of waves on a hull or an electronic device is all potentially going to give them the willies.” Nick Fisher

Learn your locations
When there’s a very big spring tide, take advantage of it and go and check out an area where you regularly fish. As the tide goes much further out on a spring tide, gullies, weed beds and other fish-attracting features – which are usually underwater – can often be revealed, allowing anglers to cast next to these areas the next time they’re fishing in the area. Even small rocky outcrops will contain weed, shellfish and other small creatures which will in turn attract fish, meaning that learning the locations of these can lead to more productive fishing sessions.” Chris Middleton

Lugworm-Squid

This lugworm and squid combination is often a winner.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Think scent and colour
While ragworm and lugworm are two of the most effective and popular baits in sea fishing, they can be enhanced by adding a long strip of white squid or silver mackerel belly to the hook. Not only will this add a new scent to the bait, but the squid or mackerel will also flutter in the tide and reflect light, adding a visual attraction to the bait. This can be especially effective for inquisitive species such as flatfish.”
Chris Middleton

Try coloured beads
“Species such as plaice and flounder are attracted to beads and sequins which have been added to hooklengths, and many anglers find that their catches of these species increase when they use rigs which incorporate beads and sequins. Alternating green and black beads are seen as the most effective for plaice as these colours resemble mussels which are a key source of food for plaice. Chris Middleton

WD40 really can fix anything!
There was a belief that cod are attracted to the colour white, with some anglers adding white spoons or attractors to their rigs when fishing for cod, although this has fallen from favour in recent years. Similarly there is a long-running belief in sea angling that spraying baits with WD40 acts as an attractor to fish! Although there is no verified evidence to back this up, some anglers swear by it.” Chris Middleton

Top tips for eel fishing

eel

Eels are some of the trickiest beasts to catch.
Image courtesy of Barry McConnell

Discard touch-legering
“Eels are expert at pulling soft bait from the hook until it’s left bare. You’ll often receive a series of small bites on the indicator which result in a bare hook. This is because the eel has pulled the soft worms from the hook one by one. It has become common practice in eel angling circles to pick up the rod and tease the eel onto the hook by means of touch-legering (standing with rod in hand, pointing it at the eel, and trapping the line between finger and thumb so that the eel can be felt plucking on the other end). This helps to catch some wary eels, but even then, many get clean away with the bait.

Try this. Discard touch-legering and don’t feel/trap the line between fingers. Instead, stand with the rod lightly balanced in the hand and held side on to the water as though quiver-tipping. Modern carbon fibre rods are so light that the eel can easily pull the rod around in the hand in a positive force that is a very strikable bite, that more often results in a hooked eel. If the angler was still feeling the line, in the touch-legering method, they would have felt a pluck and then another worm would have been removed. But in this lightly-balanced-rod situation, the rod is pulled around in the angler’s hand to give a positive, hittable bite. The angler is able to strike while the rod is pulling around. Try it. It works!” Barry McConnell.

Recording for posterity

fish-photography

Image courtesy of David Thompson


Try burst mode shooting
One of the things I see many anglers struggling with is fish photography. I take a lot of shots when I’m out for my social media channels and in particular Instagram which focuses on image content. There’s nothing better than that fish-playing action shot, wildlife shot, or fish release shot. I often receive messages asking how I get so many decent shots. Well the answer is simple – burst mode shooting.

The vast majority of smartphones and cameras have a burst mode or continuous mode shot. By simply holding the shoot button down, it takes a number of photos in one go which allows you to select the best one. This is particularly useful as fish have the patience of a small child when it comes to photography! It eliminates blurry fishing shots and also decreases the amount of time it takes to reset, pose and retake, causing the fish unnecessary additional stress by keeping them out of the water. Encourage a friend to just burst mode from the moment you pick the fish up, to when you set it back into the water for release. You’ll have a wide variety of good angles and hopefully get your good side!” David Thompson – the naked fly fisher.

Video stills make great photos
“Some anglers are gadget freaks and like to take photos with waterproof cameras but still have issues with underwater shots and clarity. Fish shots can be blurry with any movement. This is partly to do with single mode shooting. So a small tip that I discovered by accident is that by shooting a video instead, you can take ‘stills’ off the camera (or laptop). Given that most cameras now shoot in HD, the picture quality will remain quite high. This one has been a lifesaver and saved me from having to retake a photo, a gazillion times!” David Thompson – the naked fly fisher.

We’d love to hear your nuggets of wisdom. Please do come over to our Facebook page and share yours.

Operation Leviathan – Fisheries Enforcement with the Angling Trust

Is your fishery under pressure from illegal angling? Is poaching rife and are people taking fish from the water? Is your club stretch being vandalized and litter being left indiscriminately? If so, there is hope. Introducing Operation Leviathan.

Prominent anglers Gareth Johns, Iain Barr and Medi Treharne showing their support for operation leviathan

Prominent anglers Gareth Jones, Iain Barr and Medi Treharne showing their support for Operation Leviathan at the BFFI show.

What is Operation Leviathan?

‘Operation Leviathan’ is the name of the multi-agency partnership including the Environment Agency (England), Natural Resources Wales, Police forces across the west of England and Wales, The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Angling Trust and angling clubs to work together against fisheries crime, fish theft and illegal fishing. In the East of England, there is an identical project that goes under the name of ‘Operation Traverse’.

The main purpose of the operation is to increase confidence amongst anglers to report incidents of  illegal fishing to the EA or NRW on the national hotline 0800 807060 and/or the police as appropriate.

The lack of information coming into the authorities has been identified as a major weakness in dealing with widespread ‘poaching’ on rivers, lakes and canals across the country and consequently, the problem is not recognised in many areas.

This has led to anglers becoming frustrated when they see fish being illegally removed from the water, fixed lines being set to catch fish illegally and irresponsible or anti-social fishing taking place on their waters, making them feel unsafe.

All of these things led to the formation of the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) in England, managed by the Angling Trust to provide more ‘eyes and ears’ out on our waterways.  It’s a bit like ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ for fishing!

In England The VBS work closely with the EA and our volunteers are often invited to join them on patrols.

In Wales, the representative body for anglers is Angling Cymru, who do not have an equivalent VBS. Therefore, in Wales, anglers are solely dependant on the NRW to address issues directly without the support of a volunteer force. The Angling Trust are supportive of a Welsh VBS to work alongside the current organisation in England.

VBS is developing and in the South East of England there is currently a pilot project, in which carefully selected Voluntary Bailiffs are empowered to demand rod licences and deal with certain fisheries offences . This is called ‘Phase 2 VBS’ where volunteers are embedded in Environment Agency (EA) teams, with whom they work and directly support.  They are supervised by EA team leaders and are subject to the EA Codes of Conduct. This pilot is currently being evaluated by the EA pending their decision as to whether the initiative will be rolled-out nationally.

Interested in joining the VBS service? Find out more here.

The main message of Operation Leviathan is for all anglers across the UK to phone the emergency hotline number 0800 807060 to report illegal fishing incidents.

This gives you options to speak with the fisheries authorities covering different parts of the country.  It is crucial anglers report incidents and information about illegal fishing so that the EA (England), NRW (Wales), Loughs Agency (N. Ireland) etc.. can take the necessary action! Without this, the authorities won’t know there is a problem and no action will be taken.

A quick guide to the law

For information regarding Operation Leviathan and fisheries enforcement, please get in touch with Kevin Pearson. Mob. 07495 433620 Email. Kevin.Pearson@Anglingtrust.net

10 Reasons You Need To Join The Angling Trust

Are you a member of angling’s most important organisation? If not, there’s no time like the present to join Angling Trust & Fish Legal, says Dom Garnett. With more threats than ever to the fish and fisheries we depend on, there’s never been a greater need to support the future of the sport you love. Here are ten excellent reasons to get involved, from protecting fish stocks to superb member benefits.

1. Because we’re stronger together

Angling_Trust_Blog - 1

Game and coarse anglers meet on the bank. Angling is stronger when the different branches unite!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Does it sometimes feel like fishing has too little say as a sport, given how many of us are out there? In the past, we tended to split up into many different groups, fighting our own little corners. The Angling Trust is the only body to bring everyone together, from sea anglers to carp fishers. The result? A more powerful voice and real progress for us all.

2. To inspire the next generation of anglers

Angling_Trust_Blog - 2

Angling Trust coaches have inspired thousands of youngsters to go fishing.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Perhaps the most important reason of all to join the Trust is to inspire and encourage the anglers of tomorrow. By giving quality, affordable training to coaches in sea, coarse and fly fishing right across the UK, we can bring in the new blood that fishing depends on. You might even want to get involved yourself.

3. To get discounts on tackle, day tickets, bait and more…

If you thought that joining the Trust was all about supporting fishing and doing the right thing… well, you’d be correct, but it’s also more than that. Members also get some cracking discounts, whether that means tackle, bait or the latest fishing books for less.

4. To help fund projects and bring angling into the community

Even in times of austerity, there are funds available to strengthen the vital work done by fishing clubs and organisations. The Angling Trust works hand in hand with a range of brilliant projects to bring the positives of fishing to communities right across the UK.

5. To fight polluters and restore fisheries

Angling_Trust_Blog - 3

Without Fish Legal, many cases of criminal pollution would go unpunished, with no compensation to restore damaged waters.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Have you ever wondered who puts things right when waters are polluted or damaged? In so many cases, it’s Fish Legal, which you support by joining the Angling Trust. With Environment Agency success rates for prosecuting offenders and getting compensation as low as 3%, Fish Legal is not just important – it’s vital!

6. To make sure angling isn’t ignored by the politicians

Even if you consider current politics as dirty and divided, it’s absolutely vital that fishing is brought to the attention of decision makers. The Angling Trust works tirelessly to communicate and lobby key figures at local and national levels, effecting real change. Never mind Facebook rants, the Trust takes coordinated action on the issues that matter to you.

7. For healthier seas, rivers, lakes and ponds

With threats like pollution, over-abstraction, hydropower, overfishing and habitat destruction, it’s crucial that angling is represented in discussions about the future of our waters. We can’t win every battle, but without an organised body to represent thousands of anglers, who will fight for change and sustainability?

From protecting marine fish populations, to working directly with policy makers and groups like WWF, the Angling Trust makes sure we are heard. Find out more about some of the Trust’s current campaigns.

8. To educate European anglers and reduce poaching

Building_Bridges.asp

Image courtesy of the Angling Trust.

With more European anglers than ever living in the UK, it’s crucial that those from other cultures are made aware of British laws and the importance of catch and release fishing. Along with better information and signage, the Building Bridges project has been a huge success, bringing anglers together to create better understanding and create a clear message.

9. To put more bailiffs on the bank and protect fisheries

Whether it’s the theft of carp, pike or threatened populations of salmon, our fisheries need protection. As important as the police and Environment Agency are in this, they need information to target their scarce resources. Set up directly with Angling Trust, the Voluntary Bailiff Scheme (VBS) has been an innovative and effective answer to provide really valuable intelligence and help the police tackle waterside crime. Nearly 500 volunteers have been recruited and they are making a big difference.

10. To combat predation and invasive species

Cormorant_Watch.asp

Image courtesy of the Angling Trust.

With populations of creatures, including cormorants and goosanders, rising to alarming levels in some areas, there has never been a greater need to campaign for sensible measures to protect fisheries and, where necessary, reduce numbers of predators. The Angling Trust is one of the only major organisations that campaigns for this on a national scale, using an evidence-based approach with projects such as Cormorant Watch.

Don’t delay, join the Angling Trust today!

At just £29 a year (or less for OAPs and young anglers), membership doesn’t cost a fortune and makes a huge difference to the sport you love. In fact, for the sake of all the great work the Angling Trust and Fish Legal do, it’s an absolute bargain! It’s easy to get onboard too; all you need is five minutes to join online or call directly on 0343 5077006.

The Green Menace – Invasive Plants

Giant-hogweed-warning

Invasive non-native plant species can quickly take over and spoil local fishing spots
Image source: Lance Sagar

If you haven’t settled on a New Year’s Resolution yet, why not make 2018 the year you start your very own fightback against alien plants like Himalayan Balsam, Giant Hogweed, Floating Pennywort and Japanese Knotweed?

Invasive non-native plants like these can cause real problems for your favourite stream, river or lake – and even spoil your fishing season completely. And while some of their worst effects don’t become visible until the spring and summer months, it’s never too early to start planning your campaign against them…

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan-Balsam

Himalayan Balsam can destroy bank-side structure causing erosion
Image source: Shutterstock

Also known as Policeman’s Helmet or Poor Man’s Orchid, Himalayan Balsam is probably one of the most widespread invasive plants in the UK. But the good news is that it’s also one of the easiest to tackle.

It’s very shallow-rooted, which is why it’s so damaging when it dies back in the winter (after shading out all the native plants and killing their root systems) and lets seasonal spates dump all the bankside soil into our rivers as silt.

However, it’s easy to pull up or strim from May onwards. Just make sure that each stem has been snapped below the first node, then pile up the plants somewhere dry and shady to desiccate. Start as far upstream in your river’s catchment as you can, to stop seeds floating down to recolonise areas you’ve already cleared.

For best results, you should plan to revisit each infested area once a month until around October, to pick off later-germinating plants which will otherwise produce up to 800 seeds each, causing even more problems next year. Monnow Rivers Association volunteers have successfully applied this approach for a number of years, even asking visiting anglers to pull up 50 plants as part of their day on the water.

For more information about Himalayan Balsam, visit the GBNNSS website.

Giant Hogweed

Giant-Hogweed

Removing Giant Hogweed requires careful handling and protective eyewear
Image source: Shutterstock

Once made famous by Genesis in their song ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’, this highly dangerous plant is steadily rampaging along the banks of urban jungle rivers like Manchester’s Irwell.

During the 70s, 80s and 90s in Northern Ireland, it turned whole rivers into no-go zones every summer. Each hair on its towering, purple-blotched stems holds a bead of phyto-phototoxic sap, and if you get this on your skin, any exposure to sunlight will produce blisters and third-degree burns which can keep coming back for years.

In the past couple of years, volunteers from the Mersey Rivers Trust have started spraying young giant hogweed plants from around March onwards. If you don’t want to use chemicals (not least because you’ll need permission from the EA to use them near water) you can stop older plants from seeding by cutting off seed heads into a bin bag and incinerating them carefully. You can also dig out young plants by cutting their thick tap roots at least 15cm below ground level with a sharp spade.

Always wear full personal protective equipment when you’re working on Giant Hogweed, including eye protection to stop squirting sap and prevent permanent damage to your eyes.

For more information about Giant Hogweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Floating Pennywort

Floating-Pennywort

Floating Pennywort can completely choke waters in a very short space of time
Image source: Crown copyright, GBNNSS

First found in the wild in the UK as recently as 1990, Floating Pennywort spreads over still or slow-flowing water a rate of 20cm a day, so it’s a particular problem on canals and impounded areas behind old mill weirs.

At first, in some of these straight-sided brick and concrete areas, it can even look like a welcome addition of soft green structure. But it soon makes fishing and boating impossible, shades out native plants, and increases the risk of serious flooding.

Treating fully-established infestations in deep water can cost thousands of pounds, but if the water is shallow enough to wade safely, it’s perfectly possible to clear smaller areas by hand. Gently follow the fleshy stems back to where they’re growing out of the bank, and pull them up by the roots, leaving all the foliage safely on the bank to compost down. Best practice also includes setting nets all around your working area to stop small pieces of stem and leaf from floating off and starting new colonies of their own.

To start dealing with the other plants in this article, you’ll need to wait a few months until spring or summer. However, if you’ve noticed Pennywort on your patch, winter is a good time to tackle it, when growth is slow, frost has driven the leaves below the surface of the water, and the plant’s total biomass is lowest.

For more information about Floating Pennywort, visit the GBNNSS website.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese-knotweed

Japanese Knotweed has heart-shaped leaves, bamboo-like stems and white flowers
Image source: MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons) – own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Once loved by Victorian gardeners for its bamboo-like stems and pretty, lacy flowers, Japanese Knotweed is one invasive species that’s best left for the experts to handle.

Having evolved to grow through hardened lava on the slopes of volcanoes like Mount Fuji, it makes short work of tarmac and concrete, and can destroy dams, paths and boat ramps – even fishing huts if it sprouts up through the floor. New plants can regenerate from thumbnail-sized pieces of stem or root, so even the smallest fragment is classified as controlled waste.

As a result, it’s best not to touch Japanese Knotweed yourself at all – instead, you can make a real difference by noting its location and telling your local council or rivers trust. They’ll send a specialist to treat it with glyphosate in late summer or autumn, when the plant is drawing nutrients (and thus any pesticide) back down into its deep root system. The Wye & Usk Foundation has already scored some notable successes in clearing Japanese Knotweed from the Afon Lwyd in this way.

For more information about Japanese Knotweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Other tips for fighting invasive, non-native plant species

  • Download the PlantTracker app, and start submitting geolocated photos whenever you see one of these invasive non-native plants.
  • Find out if your fishing club or local Rivers Trust runs an invasive non-native species programme – if not, volunteer to help them start one.
  • Get to know the Check, Clean, Dry protocols – these will help to stop you accidentally spreading alien plants as well as invasive shrimps and other invertebrates.
  • Always try to get the landowner’s permission before starting to tackle Invasive Non-Native Species of any kind. If you plan to use pesticides like glyphosate anywhere near water, you’ll also need consent from the Environment Agency or SEPA.

Author Profile

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

5 Grayling Fishing Tips

Crisp, cold winter air with frost on the ground can mean only one thing – grayling time! Fishtec’s Ceri Thomas shares 5 top grayling fishing tips for success on the river this winter.

The grayling

The grayling – a winter loving fish.

1. Find the shoal for action. Grayling are a naturally gregarious fish – find one, you will find more. Grayling shoals often live and grow to maturity their whole life in the same pool or run in a river – so if you want a quick start to the action, head to where you found them last winter, they could now be even bigger.

2. Want a specimen? Cover ground and explore. BIG grayling are much more solitary than standard size schoolies and are found in smaller pods of 2 or 3. You won’t often find them mixing with their smaller brethren, so if you are catching lots of hand sized ‘shots’ then don’t linger.

A decent grayling, part of a small pod of big fish.

A decent grayling, part of a small pod of big fish.

3. Be strike happy – Whether you are drifting a strike indicator, watching a french leader, or a dry fly with a nymph suspended under it, if you see ANY stop, twitch or subtle movement then strike! Yes, this could be the bottom or a leaf, but often it is a fish and striking finds out for sure.

If you see the leader stop then STRIKE

If you see the leader stop then STRIKE

4. Keep things sharp – Hook points suffer when grayling nymphing, which usually requires fishing your flies hard on the deck. Checking and then maintaining a sharp hook point can be the difference between success and failure – so invest in a hook sharpener and use it, regularly!

5. Red, purple or pink – catch like stink. Use of flies with bright colours as trigger points can often result in a red letter day, IF the fish are keyed on them, they will often actively and aggressively seek them out. It pays to always have a ‘trigger’ nymph as part of your team of flies, alongside some more naturalistic patterns.

Grayling flies with trigger points can work wonders

Grayling flies with trigger points can work wonders!

For more grayling fishing tips, be sure to check out our comprehensive Grayling fishing guide here.

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.

10 Summer Holiday Fishing Tips

Off on your travels this summer? Whether it’s a dedicated fishing break, or just a rod snuck away on a family holiday, a lot of us will be on the road this summer. But if you want to get the best from your trip, you’ll need to be prepared. We’ve asked Dom Garnett for some timely advice. Here are his top 10 tips for the travelling angler.

Fishtec-holiday1

Successful fishing abroad just takes a little careful planning.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

1. Make a list

Once you’re on the road, you can’t nip home, so be prepared. Make a list of all your basics, from rods and reels to lures and cameras. It’s worth doing just for peace of mind, and you’ll be able to use your list again next time.

2. Protect your neck

There are things that save your neck time and again on long haul fishing trips. I always store a few essentials in the boot and they come with me on any holiday: Bottled water; a hat (wide brim is best); sun block; spare socks and a towel. Get a simple first aid kit too.

Fishtec-holiday2

Local tackle shops might not be what you expected, so be prepared!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

3. Map it out

Mapping out where you’re going will save you time and hassle when you get there. The internet is a great resource for maps, postcodes and so on. I tend to go low tech on holiday and have them written down too – if you’re in the middle of nowhere with a poor signal, a hard copy beats Google every time. Maps and directions can also be screen-shotted on your mobile phone, as can fishing licenses and addresses.

4. Be social

We live in a brilliant age for networking with other anglers. I’ve been on a lot of fishing trips simply through making friends on Facebook, messaging a blogger, or following up a conversation. So be friendly. Ask questions. You may get some great advice, or better still make a new friend.

Fishtec-holiday3

An American smallmouth bass, from a summer road trip.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

5. Bait’s motel

Don’t court disaster by travelling with too much bait, or filthy live stuff. It can smell worse than election expenses in a hot car. If you want to take maggots, worms or other fresh bait, it needs to be put in a cooler bag or box, and well packed! Boilies, pellets and groundbaits are much easier to manage. If you’re flying, get your bait when you arrive.

Fishtec-telescopic-lure-rod

Featured product: Savage Gear Tele Finesse Lure Rod from Fishtec

6. Travel light with lures and flies

If time is limited, or you’re juggling fishing with family time, lure fishing is probably my favourite method. A travel rod and a couple of boxes of lures take up little space and you can sneak in short sessions whenever the chance arises.

Fly tackle is similarly light, with a fly box or two weighing next to nothing. Chris Ogborne’s recent blog for Turrall has some great recommendations for hitting wild rivers and the coast this summer.

Fishtec-holiday4

Invest in some travel kit that won’t take up much space.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

7. Rods, bags and customs

Airport staff can be an utter pain when it comes to taking fishing tackle on holiday. They like slapping on extra charges, or going right through your things. Be polite though, and above all be prepared. Lures, scissors and bait can raise their hackles if included in hand luggage. Have everything well organised, smile and they shouldn’t give you too many problems.

Rods need to be well packed, padded and in tubes if you are on a long haul flight. Many airlines will insist that they go in the hold luggage, so do pack well. I swear they play football with some of the cases.

Fishtec-rod-tube

Featured product: Airflo Multi Fly Rod Tube from Fishtec

8. Get a Guide

There is no substitute for local knowledge and guides are worth their weight in gold. OK, so you might not fancy paying extra. But a guide can save days of guesswork and put you right on the fish. Furthermore, the new skills and knowledge you pick up will last for more than just a day.

Fishtec-holiday5

Local guides offer know-how and experiences you’ll never forget.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

9. Water-tight packing

Wet gear or water-damaged kit are bad news on any journey. Bring a large zip or plastic bag to store pongy nets and always take a waterproof hike bag for your phone and camera. I always wrap things like cameras in bubble wrap for the long haul.

10. Go boldly forth…

Finally, my last tip is to be brave, try something new and challenge yourself. There are so many amazing countries out there and not all cost the earth to travel to. Look for cheap flights and anything is possible. The same is true in your own country. If you haven’t already, why not try your hand at the Wye Valley and the Norfolk Broads. Or the Scottish Highlands and rugged coast of Cornwall (see last year’s blog on our top UK fishing destinations for five great options closer to home).

Fishtec-holiday6

Jason Coggins fishes the Isle of Skye. You needn’t travel far to find good fishing.

More from our blogger

Read two-dozen great angling tales from Dom Garnett in his most recent book Crooked Lines. With original illustrations and travels from Arctic Norway and the streets of Manhattan, it makes great summer reading. Find it at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as a £4.99 E-book for your tablet or Kindle at www.amazon.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.