Preparing Mashed Bread

Mashed bread is without doubt one of the best weapons within your fishing tackle armoury for chub.  It is tremendously effective at drawing chub into your swim and putting them in a feeding mood.  It can be used in small balls as loose feed or in a cage feeder.  Often it’s a good idea to pop a couple of small balls of mashed bread into a swim 15 or 20 minutes prior to fishing, just to get them mooching about for more.

When mashed bread is prepared correctly you end up with a nice moist, stodgy mixture that once it enters the water starts to break up almost immediately.  As the mash starts to descend down to the bottom, pieces of bread will be breaking away and the ball of mash soon breaks up completely.  It leaves an enticing trail of small bits of mash throughout the water columns.  It’s a method that rarely over feeds the fish due to the size of the bits that break away.

The right consistency is important.  You don’t want it too stiff and neither do you want it too sloppy.  I like to make mine with the crusts still on, the only time that might be different is if I was using it for roach.  Then I might make it much smoother.  However for chub, everything goes in.  So here’s how I make it, but that’s not to say it’s the only way!

  • Get a couple of cheap cut loaves of white bread, preferably thin or medium cut.  This helps the drying out process.
  • Leave the slices of bread exposed i.e out of the cellophane wrapping, until it dries out.  It needs to be completely stale. It must be totally dry and crunchy.
  • Now scrunch up the slices into a bucket.
  • Cover with water and leave for 10 minutes.
  • Tip the contents into a large conical sieve/colander and remove the water from the mixture.
  • Pop a lid on the bucket,
  • On arrival at the water add a little water, until the consistency is right.
  • It’s now ready to use.

I’m lucky enough to have access to a couple of very hot, dry rooms at my workplace.  So it only takes 24 hours to get my bread slices bone dry.  At home, this may take quite a few days.  You could always pop them onto a tray and keep them in the airing cupboard.

I also have access to colanders and sieves.  Again if you don’t, then add the water a little at a time, mixing carefully, until you achieve the right consistency.  This can be done at the waterside quite easily.

What is the right consistency?  Well that’s down to trial and error.  But I would say that on entering the water, you want the mash to start breaking up immediately.  If you are fishing in faster water or it’s bitterly cold, then you can make it just a little stiffer, so that it starts to break down nearer the bottom, which is where the chub are likely to want to feed in serious sub-zero conditions.

My personal preference is to then fish a piece of bread crust between 1-4 inches off the bottom using one of my favourite feeder rods, the TF gear Compact Commercial feeder rod in conjunction with a feeder or just some shot on the line. Crust is a deadly chub bait.  With a few modifications to bait and hook size, it can then be used for roach and even barbel.  Give it a go this winter.

TF Gear Boilies

In the past I’ve gone through periods of making my own boilies, a laborious process, and I’ve paid high prices for ‘specials’ in the hope of finding that impossible dream – the ultimate bait. I used to question the quality of commercial shelf-life boilies but I have learned a vital lesson, nowadays many are good, indeed – very good.

I was given a kilo of TF Gear Amino Active CSL boilies with an order at the Brecon store and they went into the bottom of my bag.  Soon after I was fishing in high water and hair rigged one of the Amino Active CSL boilies, baiting the feeder with a mixture of crushed boilies and a few pellets. I soon caught barbel and chub. Those boilies went on to catch on every occasion I used them, I was impressed.

Earlier this year Fishtec had a cut price offer on their TFG Boilie range and, as I had several fishing trips to France lined up for the year as well as plenty of local carp and barbel fishing, I took the opportunity to stock up. I opted for the Amino Active CSL’s (obviously), Frootie-licious, The Crunch and Yellow Peril boilies. This gave me a wide range of flavours, textures and colours to cover all of my options.

Many anglers bait with a single flavour boilie but I like to mix the size, shape, flavour and colour as much as possible, this keeps the fish browsing around your swim and, as the baits weigh different amounts, it reduces the chance of them guessing which one has the hook attached. Using this method with the TF Gear boilies as well as a few other bits and pieces in the mix, I have had plenty of success on my syndicate lake including four  20’s in one session, as well as with the chub and barbel on the rivers.

To sum up, the TF Gear range of boilies are excellent value and will put plenty of fish on the bank. They are well made and, despite their subtle flavours, are all fish attractors and I will happily use up my stash with compete confidence.

Carp Fishing with Maggots

More and more, nowadays anglers are turning towards maggots during the colder weather and, in the right situation they can be an outstanding bait.

So, let’s first look at why the maggots can be so effective.

Being that maggots have little or no smell as far as we are concerned I am guessing that the ‘ammonia’ they give off is in some way attractive to fish and it is this that draws the carp in to investigate.

The colour of maggot you choose does not seem to make a great deal of difference and I choose to mix reds and whites just to give a contrast but I am sure just plain whites would work equally as well.

Obviously, once they find the bait then it appears to be a food source that so closely resembles their natural food, how can they not stop and eat it?

When a few anglers on one lake start to use maggots in quantities of a gallon or more each per session then the natural balance can be tipped and the fish seem to feed almost exclusively on the little wrigglers.

I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or not and I would imagine a carp would struggle to extract as much protein from a handful of maggots as it would from the same amount of boilies so, how they affect weight gain over the winter months remains to be seen.

So let’s assume you’ve taken the plunge and you’re walking out of the fishing tackle shop with a gallon of maggots in a bucket, what now?

Storage of maggots is actually a lot easier than you might think, having used them a bit recently I was amazed how simple it really is. The first thing they need to be is cold, really cold, as this stops them moving and I actually put the whole bucket into my bait freezer for a couple of hours as soon as I get them home. Once they are really chilled down I set about ‘bagging’ them up and I do this in strong freezer bags with no air remaining in the bag at all, this is very important.

You need to be putting between one and three pints of the cold, inactive maggots, in a bag and forcing out all the trapped air before sealing it up tight with a knot or (preferably) a plastic cable tie, maggots (especially if not cold enough) will crawl around a knot and escape, leading to messy fridges and even messier divorce proceedings!

Tightly sealed they will last for ages

Once you have them all bagged up like this they will last in a fridge for days and days on end, as they go into a sort of suspended animation and, although they may look dead they are just waiting for the return of air to re-activate, but they must be kept cold, this is the key.

Once you are ready to use them just open all the bags and tip them into a big bucket with plenty of room, give them a good shake and somewhere between two and four hours later they will be just like new, all wriggling around and full of life.

There are various ways of getting a quantity of maggots out into your swim, obviously the range you are fishing will be a big factor but spodding is probably the easiest way with live maggots. A lot of people are under the impression that they will crawl away when they reach the lake bed but, in reality, they hardly move off at all, especially in the winter when the water is cold.

Use a solid or taped up spod

You will need to either use a solid spod or tape up the holes to stop the bait falling out on the cast. Also it helps to use a small plug of ground-bait to stop spod spill. Remember that maggots are quite an expensive bait and every miscast spod, or spillage is costing you money!

As long as you are confident on your swim choice and not intending to move, then it’s a good idea to put out the bulk of your bait at the start of the session, saving about a third of the quantity for topping up the swim. I think that the carp need to find a big spread of maggots in order to throw caution to the wind and really get their heads down.

So let’s take a look at maggot rigs as, I think it’s wrong to go to all this trouble and then just fish a pop-up boilie over the top, also I think you’ll catch more by offering them something they will eat without even noticing, while they are pre-occupied munching on the maggots.

There is no real reason to deviate too far from whatever rig you usually use and are confident in, by using plastic maggots on a hair you can fish all sorts of presentations, in fact if you pre-tie some on a small sliding ring then it’s so easy to just mount this onto any hook you like.

Plastic maggots are easy to work with and you can create nice little line-aligner rigs by simply sliding one around the hook and over the eye and knot, utilise the kink in the maggot by twisting it around to bring the line off the front of the hook eye to create a flip-rig, this will enhance the hooking properties of the rig no end.

By using the curve in a plastic maggot you can create a ‘flip rig’

For pop up presentations use a simple cork ball instead of a boilie and then super-glue a few real maggots (or a mixture of real and fake) to the ball by doting the ‘blunt end’ of the maggot with glue and holding them for a second or two against the ball before casting.

The indication of a bite when using maggots will be very similar to any other bait but, whenever possible, it’s advisable to use a small drop on the bobbin to let you know if you are being pestered by small fish, particularly if you have live maggots on the hook as you do not want to, when fishing, reel in the next morning to find them all sucked dry by bream or roach.

Luckily the silver fish seem to be less of a nuisance in the winter months and, in deep water, I rarely have any problems with them at all.

One thing that I have found with maggots is that they seem a lot less effective when they are being used over weed rather than silt or hard clean lake beds. I think that this is mainly a presentation problem, as the fish still can be seen rolling and bubbling over the bait but I assume the rigs are not always presented so well and the maggots, by their light nature, will hang at all levels in the weed and the fish will not always need to forage below the weed (where your rigs are) as they might with heavier baits such as boilies.

So, in summary, I do think that maggots can be a very effective bait indeed, although they seem far more so in winter.

Carp like this lovely common just adore Maggots

I think that they can be worth the extra effort but, without doubt they are more expensive, fiddly and time consuming than boilies. I am not convinced at all that the fish gain as much benefit from them nutritionally speaking but they can really turn a blank session into a productive one at times.

Carp Fishing with Zigs

Over the last two years I have really started to appreciate the difference that fishing a bait in the mid-layers during winter can make to your catch results.

In the past I have mucked about with zig rigs and, occasionally, I have boosted an otherwise slow session with a bonus fish or two, but I realise now that I have only ever scratched the surface of the true potential of this method.

I have wasted entire winters sitting on big, deep pits waiting for bites that never came, looking back now, with the gift of hindsight; I could kick myself for not at least trying to fish zigs for a few hours each day. After all, what have you got to lose if you are not receiving any bites on the bottom or, if you are waiting for a specific bite time that occurs once a day, what about the rest of the time, what are the fish doing then?

The truth of the matter is that the fish spend massive proportions of the time somewhere in the mid to upper layers of the lake and are perfectly catchable with the right approach. Personally I think that they are only physically comfortable on the bottom for short periods of time in the winter, hence the short and exact feeding times. There is no set depth (or height) at which a zig is ultimately successful and a bait fished at the wrong depth will produce as little results as one fished on the bottom, basically you have to hit the right level and be prepared to change it when the bites stop. On waters where you are only expecting the odd take, even with the zigs, it can be a leap of faith to change something only a short while after catching on it, changing the depth of a zig can, in the right conditions, bring instant results but, if you go the wrong way, it can guarantee no more action.

The obvious solution to the problem of finding the right depth is to fish all three fishing rods on zigs set at different depths and this, nowadays, is how I generally fish throughout the colder months, at least during the hours of daylight anyway.

I usually fish bottom baits at night, and up until about ten o’clock in the morning, as there is always a good chance of action on the bottom at these times and then wind all three rods in and attach zigs. Nothing else in the set-up need change, it is a simple case of cutting the rigs off and attaching the zigs, even the same areas can be fished and often, if you have being getting any action on the bottom, this is the best plan.

So, what depths are best and when, it’ll vary from lake to lake I’m sure but, in my experience, a good starting point is always mid water.

I find that on lakes with depths of only five or six feet, zigs are not anywhere near as effective, the deeper pits of over ten feet are much better. I just plumb the depth in front of me and start of with one in the middle, and one higher and the other on lower, for example in sixteen feet I would start with zigs set at six, eight and ten feet from the bottom. If I had a bite at eight feet I would then swap one of the other rods to eight feet as well but leave the other to see if the bite depth changed.
Quite why fish take zigs I have no idea, and the strangest thing is that an actual edible bait seems to be the worst thing you can use, plastic, cork, and foam will out-fish a real bait every time!

Tying zig rigs couldn’t be easier really, at the end of the day it’s just a very long hooklink with a simple no-knot arrangement on one end and a swivel on the other, the more important aspect is to pick the correct material to tie it from.

For a hooklink you need something extremely supple, nylon is the beast and as light as you can get away with, a heavy link will drag the bait down and sag in the water, also it obviously more visible. Avoid fluorocarbons as they have a higher density rating in water and are more prone to sinking, low visibility soft monofilaments are the best.
For hooks I still use the old ‘Super Specialist’ because they are fairly fine wire and have the correct specs for zig work; you need a straight (or reversed eye) and a straight point, this gives you a better hooking arrangement.

Rather than mess around with adjustable zigs (similar to a plumbing rod set up) that are prone to tangle, I simply tie up a few different hooklinks and nick the hooks in the top of the bivvy, on the pole sleeve, leaving the links draped over the bivvy, this way I can pick any length I have and attach it quickly with a tucked blood knot to the swivel.

Tiny bits of foam seem to work best.

Bait choice is easy, coloured foam works as well as anything I’ve tried and my own personal favourite is black and yellow mixed, although different colours seem to work better at different times. I would always start with black and yellow and maybe experiment if I thought I wasn’t getting the results I expected.
Plain black is also a very popular and effective bait, strangely enough it is also very good at night, quite how that works I don’t know, a non flavoured, non coloured bait dangling in mid water in the pitch black, but it does!

Small baits seem to be the most effective, really just enough to float the hook is all I use, a small piece of foam can last you the whole winter so it’s very cost effective as well.

Proof of the pudding

A common problem with zigs is tangling due to the long hooklinks, that and catching the trees and bushes on the cast, not to mention your jacket, unhooking mat, bivvy or anything else that gets in the way, the solution is simple, a tea mug!

I just position a tea mug about ten feet behind my casting position and drop the hookbait inside, this stops the zig blowing about behind you before the cast and ensures it doesn’t snag up on anything. The bait always leaves the cup perfectly as the cast is made. I tend to cast a bit higher than normal with a zig, using a bigger arc on the cast stops the hooklink wrapping around the mainline and it is imperative to trap the line before the lead hits the water. Trapping the lead a few feet above the water will allow the hookbait to travel onwards, separating it form the lead and cutting down on the chance of it wrapping during the descent, a good zig cast should leave two splashes on the surface, a big one from the lead and a further, smaller one from the bait, and this second splash should be farther out than the lead, indicating that you hooklink has straightened out on impact.

My biggest zig fish, all forty six pounds of it!

Lead arrangement is also crucial, a big lead will tend to tangle more but, if you properly control the cast by feathering and trapping the lead, then the bigger weight will help to ensure that the lead is ejected from the lead release clip as soon as the fish hook’s itself and moves off. A release clip is essential as the effect of having a lead swing around up to ten feet or more from the fish can cause the hook to bounce out again, not to mention problems with weed and snags. I trim the clip right back and set it on the softest setting to make sure it always falls off when a fish is hooked.

The longer the hooklink you use, the more problems you are likely to encounter during the fight, particularly when netting a fish. Basically any hook-length over twelve feet long will probably need another angler to man the net as there just isn’t enough pull left to get the fish over the cord when the lead clip is against the tip ring, even ten feet can be tricky so be prepared. For serious zig angling an extended net handle is a good idea and will be well worth the investment.

Finally, bite indication can be a bit strange with zigs, if you imagine what is actually happening as a fish takes a bait six or ten feet above the lead, the lead can just swing back towards you, be dragged about on a slack line or, hopefully, be taken away from you as in a normal take. To cover all eventualities I fish with the bobbin halfway up to show both drop-backs and forward takes although sometimes you just get a gentle bouncing of the bobbin. Generally if you get any sort of erratic indication that last more than a couple of bleeps there is a good chance a fish is on the end, so be prepared to strike some bizarre takes and indications.


Spring Carp Tactics

At this time of year the carp metabolism is still quite slow but also they’re on the move and looking for food, The three different rigs I’ve got to show all play different parts in getting them crucial bites at this time of the year in the perfect carp fishing feeding zone.

Firstly I’m going to start with what I call the ‘cocktail’ its called this because instead of having one hook bait, it has 3 different hook baits. In this case I have a small piece of trimmed tiger nut a piece of real maize and then a bit of fake white buoyant corn. The reason it gets so many bites is personally because of it visual attraction and its also nearly neutral buoyancy because of the fake corn which makes it so much easier for the carp to make a mistake whilst there feeding. The rig I use is the basic blow back rig and its so affective when fished with a small bag of maize and crushed tiger nuts.

Tip – Although I use maize and tiger nuts in my cocktail, try experimenting with chick peas or maples you could be surprised with your results.

This is probably my prefered way to fish at this time of the year, a small 14mm Celticbaits G-nut boilie topped off with a 10mm glugged pineapple pop-up. The reason I find this so effective is once again because of the neutral buoyancy and also because of the quick leakage of the baits; the G-nut 14mm boilie I’ve been using through the winter months has a great leakage rate, and the carp find it easier to track the baits down. I also fish it with a small bag of crushed boilies, just to give the extra boost of attraction.

Now the third and final rig I use at this time of year is the claw rig the reason I use this is because the hook bait ends being quite big. To show you what I do, I’ve got so pictures of me doing it step by step.

In the picture above you can see there is a 14mm beast feast boilie on a long hair this will become clear as when I add the paste on (picture below).

Now as you can see I’ve added the beast feast paste onto the 14mm boilie and now the fishing  bait has doubled in size and if the hair was shorter then you added the paste you would have to mask the hook, and at this time of the year when the carp are feeding cautiously you cant risk the hook being covered at all.

All I’ve done now is grabbed a handful of of 2mm pellets and 4mm pellets and squished them onto the paste. On the lake bed that will all slowly breakdown and there will be a variety of food signals going off and this will encourage the fish to feed and get grubbing, I strongly advise people to try this!

Dave Lane Carp Fishing Diary

Welcome to my new blog, hopefully I’ll be keeping you updated every two or three weeks on how the fishing is progressing and anything of interest that comes out of TF Gear to make your angling either more productive or just a lot more comfortable.

As the months go by I’ll share any tips and methods that are giving me an edge at the time and post photos of special captures as I go. Obviously you might have to bear with me a bit as we start because December is not exactly the most productive month of the year and, to be honest, January is usually even worse!

As I do every year, I have moved onto a water for the winter, one that will offer me a bit more chance of a bite due to the higher stocking level than my normal sort of low density summer waters.

This year I am on Monks Pit in Cambridgeshire, a twenty acre deep, and incredibly clear, water that I have fished for the last couple of spring seasons and a little bit of last winter.

As you’ll no doubt remember, last winter was practically a write off for at least two months as most of the lakes in the country were frozen solid and, the way things are going so far, it might turn out the same again this year, but lets hope not, eh?

I started my Monks sessions a couple of weeks ago now using a combination of maggots on one rod, boilies on another and also fishing zig rigged foam in mid-water; I have started to rely more and more on zigs over the last couple of winters, although quite why the fish would want to eat a little bit of old ‘flip flop’ suspended halfway up in the water I have no idea, but they do!

It seems to me that the colder the water and the higher the air temperature (often the case on a bright winters day) then the more time the carp spend lazing in the mid-layers of the lake. This is more pronounced on the deeper lakes and anything over ten feet deep is ideal for a bit of winter zigging. To put it into perspective, last year just after the ice thawed, I started back on monks and throughout March and early April I caught my first seven fish of the year, all on zigs without a single touch on the bottom baits so there is definitely something in it.

I do like to keep an open mind though, just as well really because I have yet to get my first bite on them this winter but the fish still seem well willing to feed in a more traditional manner.

The last session I had before the snow fell I managed to get two bites in forty eight hours, which isn’t that bad considering we had had some really bitter frosts and biting Northerly winds.

The first one came to a 360 rig fishing plastic maggots over a bed of about five pints of mixed red and white crawlers that I’d spodded out about ninety yards, a feat that left me suffering from frost bitten fingers and covered in groundbait dust from the plugs I use to stop ‘spod spill’. I refuse to go to all the effort of spodding only to see half the bait fall out after about ten yards so I mix a bowl of groundbait up and just poke a little in the back of the spod, I also leave a little water in the front of the spod if I’m using maggots to add enough weight for accurate casting.

There’s something about maggots in cold water that carp just seem to love, and a mid afternoon, thirty one pound common just went to reinforce the theory further.
It’s a great feeling to get off the mark when you either fish a new water or return to one you haven’t fished for ages, particularly in winter as it starts to paint a picture for you of bite times, feeding patterns and spots. Winter carp tend to be creatures of habit and the more of their habits you learn, the more fish you are likely to catch.
The other thing I never ignore in the winter is a showing fish, just the sighting of one carp can turn a session around and the next morning while I lay there in my nice toasty warm prototype sleeping bag, staring out over the swim, I saw a nice sized mirror just silently slide up through the surface and disappear again just as stealthily. Braving the nasty wind I leapt out and wound in two rods, one on a snowman and the other on a six foot zig; placing one a few yards each side of the fish.

It should have been the perfect move, it so nearly was when two hours later the snowman rig was picked up and I struck into a heavy old lump that plodded around in the deep water in front of me. For about three or four minutes he chugged up and down, nice and slow and nice and heavy and then, for no apparent reason, the hook just fell out again!

I hate losing fish at any time of the year but, in the winter it always seems worse, probably because they don’t come along half so often.

So it was a mixed session really, success followed by failure but, all in all a lot better than a straight forward blank, which is exactly what my next trip out was. To be fair though, between one visit and the next the weather took a massive turn for the worse and everything was like a Christmas card scene when I next turned up. I almost turned back on the way there because the snow was so savage but I am desperate to catch a thirty in the snow, maybe next week?

Hopefully, in the next few months I should also have some new fishing tackle to show you, I am currently working on a whole range of fishing rods that I am confident will be the best yet, I have used the early prototypes on the big pit I’ve fishing this Autumn and hitting distances of over one hundred and thirty yards with fifteen pound line, which is great, but the beauty is the playing action. It’s not often you find a blank that can marry distance casting with a good fish playing experience but these kiddies really hit the spot. I should be getting the first set of finished samples any week now and I can’t wait. There are loads of other goodies in the pipeline as well, but more about those in the weeks to come, for now I’m going out there to de-ice the truck as I can feel that snowy backed thirty coming on!