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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.”
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
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.”
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
“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
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.
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