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Autumn is a time of change on commercial waters, because fish become fussy feeders. For a short period stickymag can out fish all other methods, so this month Clint Elliott explains how he prepares and fishes this top tactic.
Well, where do I start this month? If you have been following my articles, you know that I have been writing about my quest to compete against some of the best anglers in the country in the UK Champs and on venues that I have not fished before.
If that is not bad enough, to stand any chance I have had to get to grips with methods that I have long since forgotten or never fished before, so it”s been a bit of a learning curve with limited time available before each match. Last month, I wrote about fishing the Method and spent several sessions getting my head around it.
Well, all my hard work went out the window… as it so often does in fishing. I drew on Willinghurst’s Old Trout Lake, water not normally used in matches!
The lake has a succession of islands and you needed to fish tight over on the Method feeder, but you may have guessed already that I didn’t drew on one of them. Having only open water in front of me, I opted to fish shallow on the waggler, a tactic I have already covered, feeding and fishing 8mm pellets at about 40 yards.The weather was not ideal, as the temperature reached 30ºC at one point in the day and made the fishing rock hard. At the end of the day I was fifth in my section, only losing out on more points by being beaten by those on the island pegs, which looks like stopping me becoming the UK Champ (I wish).
The following round was hosted by Woodlands Fishery in Thirsk. That’s only a 900-mile round trip, for those of you who don’t have to travel very far. The nice part about the day was that the complex is nicely set out, with good food and short walks, but when the wind blows in North Yorkshire you have to strap your wig on. As if things weren’t hard enough, I ended up drawing the ‘section of doom’ with most of the event’s top runners fishing in my 10-peg section. I drew in the middle of the section and all the paste fishing that I have been doing really came into play. The lake was towing hard, which made bait presentation difficult. In fact, I needed to fish eight inches over depth with the float at 45 degrees to get any presentation.
The tactic worked, as I put together a bag of carp, tench and skimmers for a second-in-section net of 76lb. It was a great day’s fishing and the result now puts me 12th overall and only three points off third, so a section win on the last match of the series could see me in the top 10, which would please me no end. Now is the time to start looking at cold-water methods and ways of catching as the fish start to move off pellets and paste. It has long been my opinion that fish, unlike us, know when they need to feed and when they don’t. During summer fish need plenty of protein and oil after spawning and as the weather cools they will store fats for the winter, because they know they may not get much food through the winter months when their metabolism also slows down.
For years White Acres, as with many venues, goes through a period where the sticky-maggot feeder will dominate, but for some reason it only lasts for a month at best. And it always works even when a normal maggot feeder won’t. Anyway, having not fished the method for almost a year, I decided it was time I had better get some practice in before those around me started to get an edge; and I can’t have that now! I’m fishing our in-form Twin Oaks lakes as I want to tackle my first session on this method on a water that is fishing well.
Stick To This Recipe
It helps me see the reaction of the fish to bait, as they have been feeding mainly on pellets for most of the summer season. Once they get onto the bait, I can chop and change both my hook bait and the amount of feed to see what gives the best result. I will admit that it feels strange not having fishmeal or pellets with me, as at White Acres we normally fish these baits all through the winter even in our silver-fish matches. The stickymag method is one of the most basic methods that you will fish during the winter and, whenever I am setting up my gear, I always feel like I should be doing more. When choosing the rod I want to use, I think about the size of the fish that I’m expecting to catch and the size of hook that I will be using,
along with the distance that I’m fishing. My peg today is only 25 metres wide and the biggest fish that I’m expecting to catch will be 5lb, but they average around 2lb. As I’m using maggots mainly, I’m fishing a size 18 or 16 hook. As the peg is not that wide, I’ve gone for a short, soft-actioned rod that helps me cast the short distance but allows me to control a fish. I don’t want to lose it if it makes a beeline for the gap under the platform I’m sitting on. My choice of rod is Preston’s new 10ft Sentient Commercial Carp feeder rod. It comes with two tips, a 1/2oz and a 2oz and, with hardly any tow and such a short cast, I’m using the softer tip. My reel is one of the new Daiwa Certate 3000 versions, but it doesn’t really matter what reel you use.
Nowadays I prefer to use a reel with a front drag, so I can set the clutch. It just gives a little cushion for that final lunge under my feet. Where my line is concerned, I’m using 6lb Korum. I tend to fish a bit heavier than most and I don’t really think that it matters too much. It’s not stopped me bagging loads of fish over the years. It also helps when you need a little extra to retrieve your gear if you were to catch on the far bank; not that I have ever done that! Terminal tackle is pretty basic. In my opinion, the best types of feeders for fishing stickymag are the simple wire cages and the Drennan grip mesh. Both feeders will do the job fine, but the grip-mesh type holds the bait a bit longer.
And if you get bites on the drop or before the bait has dispersed, it could cause a problem as you play the fish or retrieve after the strike. Let me explain. As the feeder hits the water, some of the maggots will break off and disperse but the remainder will take a little longer before separating and escaping. Using a grip-mesh feeder, if you hook a fish before the feeder empties, any bait that is left in it will come out as you play the fish, causing the feed to be released away from the target feed area. The result is that the fish will follow the bait down into the deeper water, away from the bank side features and giving an impression that the peg has died. Using the wire-cage feeder will speed up the time in which the bait leaves the feeder, but your casting will need to be spot on each time. When choosing your hook length, remember that the bites can be quite aggressive so I recommend you step up to a stronger line than you would normally use. I can’t quote you a line strength, as you need to select a hook length to match the time of the year you’re fishing, but I’m using 0.15mm Powerline today.
I’m also using the new Korum feeder bead, as it only takes a couple of seconds to swap hook lengths if I get a break or want to swap the type of hook link I’m using. As I’m fishing with maggots, I like to use a hook that has a crystal bend. I prefer either a PR29 or carp barbless pattern, as these are made from lighter wire and have shallow gapes but, because of the bend on the hook, they tend to be much stronger. Bait preparation is the key to getting this method right. When you go to the local tackle shop to buy your bait, ask for maggots that have no maize on them.
Better still, you want them with the sawdust they came from the bait farm in so that you can clean them off yourself. If they are covered in maize, your bait will turn to mush when you put water near them when preparing them with stickymag powder. To create sticky maggots the first thing to do is remove all the dust from them and put them through a riddle. Next, take a clean container and dip it in the lake. Tip out the water, leaving only the sides of the container damp. I only pour a couple of pints into the container because sometimes the method doesn’t work and, by using only some of my maggots, I won’t waste all of my bait. It is important to make the bait damp enough to take on the stickymag powder, so I need the maggots to be slightly damp.
I don’t want to drown them. It’s always handy to have an atomiser with you when starting this job. Once the bait is damp, sprinkle the binder evenly over the maggots and wait a couple if minutes for it to fully coat the bait. Keep testing the bait to see if it has reached the right stickiness. You will know its ready when you can form a small ball of bait by squeezing it. Remember that the consistency of your bait may change depending on the weather conditions. Hot, dry conditions may require a quick spray with an atomiser to help stick the maggots back together but, if the weather is damp, try to keep the bait under some kind of cover. Another good tip, when fishing stickymag with maggots on the hook, is that it’s always worth having some floating maggots prepared and a change of hook baits, such as worms or corn, available. Today’s session started slowly, but that was to be expected as the fish have been used to pellets during summer. Regular casting soon produces bites and within 30 minutes I’m getting a bite a chuck, although I’m not connecting on every strike. I have a feeling that I’m putting too much bait in on each cast, causing the fish to crash around the swim and give me loads of line bites. I’m foul hooking and losing a few as well, and missing big, pull-round bites.
To counter this, I swap my size 16 hook, two-maggot attack for a size 14 hook with three or four maggots. I’m also cutting down the amount of maggots in the feeder to see if it cuts down on the false bites. The tactic works as I start to catch F1s and bigger mirror and commons almost one a bung, and I encounter far less liners.After another 30 minutes of fun fishing Steve Martin, who is the photographer for this month’s column, decides he wants to take some pictures from where I’m casting, and the next thing I know he’s standing in my swim and asking me to cast in-between his legs. “That’s the end of my fishing,” I think to myself. But on the very next cast I get a bite and for the next 30 minutes, while Steve tries to get the shot he wants, I catch a fish each time. It just goes to show that if the fish want the food they will ignore all that goes on around them. I’m still finding it a little hard to believe it happened! As colder weather is quickly approaching, next month I’m going to look at a cold-water method that will keep you catching.