Commercial Clinic: On the Silver Trail

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Silver Trail7With Clint’s commercial carping adventures ending with a certain air of satisfaction, it’s now time to concentrate on the up-and coming winter tactics that he hopes will help gain him an Clint’s Silver-Fish Rigs important edge.

WINTER’S on its way and I have now completed the Preston Innovations UK Championship, with some success. If you remember, my task was to fish four matches all over the country without practising on any of the venues but still trying to compete To fish the four events, travelling companion Simon Gould and I covered more than 2,500 miles. So, as you can imagine, there was no way we would be able to practise any of the venues and we set out to do all our practising on local venues.

The last round was held at Woodland View in Droitwich, Worcestershire. It was a venue I had fished before, but that was about eight years ago when I was fishing with Starlets. The old grey matter’s not what it used to be and I’d forgotten most of what I had learnt in those days.

I needed to do well as, after three matches, I was lying joint sixth overall and a section win would put me in the money and would have recouped just some of the cash that Simon and I had spent on petrol, accommodation and drink.

I drew on Back Dean’s, in the middle of the lake, which was not a good start because ideally I needed to be in a corner. Because I’d not been fishing these lakes I wasn’t really bothered where I drew. My plan was to fish positively because I needed to be in the top two in the section to frame. I had to sort out which baits to use before going to my peg, due to the bait limits set for matches on the venue. I decided to feed corn and pellets at six metres and fish big pieces of red-coloured meat over the top.

Problem is, a method like that is fine in principle but when the bites are not forthcoming you wished you had taken chopped worms and casters. However, I was soon into the odd fish and was quietly confident for about 30 minutes before the rot set in. Every time I fed, the fish came up in the water, and every time I came up in the water, I foul-hooked fish. The day just got worse.

My final undoing was when, with about half an hour to go, I hooked a good, double-figure fish but as I shipped back to my No4 section, the fish bumped into another and cut my main line with its dorsal fin. I grabbed another rig and as soon as my bait hit the water the float went straight under and I hooked another fish of about 3lb.

But, you’ve guessed it, it came off at the net. At the end of the match I weighed in 26lb but I needed an extra 12lb to get myself into the top 10 overall. It wasn’t to be this year, but it won’t dampen my enthusiasm for the event as I had a great time seeing all my old mates and giving myself the challenge of competing against the top anglers in the country, even though I live and fish in Cornwall.

So, with another UK Champs over, it’s now time for me to concentrate on my favourite time of the year and, what’s more, my favourite type of fishing. Problem is, I can’t help thinking that by the time you have finished reading this article, you will thinkthat I wrote this feature fishing in the middle of summer. Winter in Cornwall offers what I believe is probably the best silver-fish fishing in the country, as many anglers travel down year after year to fish the matches that I arrange every weekend.

Silver Trail6In my opinion there are two ways in which to approach winter silver-fish fishing. The first is to try and get the fish to feed up in the water. The other is to feed groundbait to keep the fish on the deck. But you need to select a mix to attract the better fish. Firstly, I want to look at the two possible groundbait choices open to you; sweet and active, or fishmeal, when targeting winter silvers.

The first time that I noticed the difference was about five years ago when I fished a Christmas match through the ice. I had a great day’s fishing, catching a small fish a chuck over sweet groundbait thinking that I had won the section and the hamper was mine. But, as I worked my way down the section, I noticed that the fish were getting bigger. At first I put this down to shoals of different-sized fish, but when I looked a bit deeper I found the anglers that were catching the bigger fish had all fed dark, fishmeal-based groundbait. It was this newknowledge that made me think about trying our Cornish bagging mix in the winter.

Designed primarily as a carp mix, it’s about 50 per cent ground pellets mixed with a sweet additive. I believe that the ground pellets put the small fish off, yet the sweetener keeps the skimmers interested. These groundbaits will normally work on well-stocked commercial fisheries. My results after switching to the bagging mix improved no end and I had a very successful winter in silverfish- only events. To demonstrate my techniques, for this session I have decided to target fish on the deck and will be using two different rigs. As the peg is about six feet deep, I set both rigs so that they have a bulk, to get the bait down quickly, and four droppers. Although I want to catch on the bottom, the fish will sometimes respond to bait falling slowly through the water. Because of this, my first rig was loaded with a 1gr float with a 0.8gr olivette as the bulk and four No10 droppers spaced close together.

But for a slower drop of bait, the second rig was a 0.75gr float loaded with a 0.6gr olivette with the No10s spaced further apart. On occasions I will even use Styl leads as droppers, but it would have to be a hard day for me to fish that delicately. A small tip to help you slow your bait down is try and keep a tight line between your connector and your float when flicking out your bait.

This will slow down your dropper shot as they descend through the layers. But be careful because you might start to catch smaller fish that intercept your bait on the way down. If this is the case you can either switch to your heavier rig or try moving the bulk on your light rig a little further towards your hooklength. If, like me, you adjust the shot several times during a session to help encourage more bites, I recommend you use slightly higher-rated line strength as every time shot is moved up and down the line it causes friction, weakening the line. If I used 0.10mm straight through, I could end up changing rigs all day.

Silver Trail51. Your groundbait is important if you want to target bigger winter silver fish, so try a fishmeal-based mix with added sweetener.

Silver Trail42. Winter groundbaits are used to attract fish to your swim, so remove all the large particles to avoid overfeeding the fish.

Silver Trail33. In mild winter conditions the region’s silver fish go on feeding sprees, so don’t be shy with the free offerings.

My rigs for this session are set up on 0.13mm Powerline with a 0.10mm hooklength. By using a light, hollow elastic I create the correct balance of tackle to cope with a good-sized tench or bream without cracking off. Hooks, like line, are always a personal choice. I go for a wide-gaped pattern every time, as I like to have the point showing when caster or chopped worm fishing.

As for baits, at a time when most anglers are thinking about bloodworm and joker, we are lucky enough to still be able to use chopped worms, casters, soft micropellets and even corn to catch silver fish. Most Saturday opens held at White Acres are won with anything up to 50lb of roach or skimmers, so you still need to attack your peg. For this session I’ve elected to fish Peg 9 on Pollawyn and to start off I’m feeding three balls of bagging mix that I’ve put through a flour sieve to remove any large particles and bits of bran.

Once mixed, I then lace this with a generous helping of casters, micropellets and some corn,all of which I will use on the hook, starting with my top choice, casters. A strong, cold breeze is blowing towards the area I’m fishing, creating a tow in the water. This prompts me to make a grab for my heavier rig, which I set at dead depth. The fact that the lake is towing has also prompted me to feed the swim with hard balls of groundbait only, as loose feed will drift away from my initial feed and spread any feeding fish over a wide area. I’m a great believer in letting the bait trip through the peg, as I like to explore the whole area.

Clint sets out his bait table with the goodies he feels will attract more silvers than carp.

These days, soft pellets are
scoring over traditional baits on commercial venues in winter.

Silver Trail2Sometimes, when the water is towing, you can catch up to two metres away from your initial feed. It isn’t long before I’m getting telltale clues that I have fish in the peg but I foul hook my first fish, a sure sign that I needed to change my tactics slightly as the rig is tripping through the peg too fast. Skimmer bream are notoriously fickle feeders and will ignore quickly moving bait, so I adjust my rig so that it’s about three inches overdepth and hold the float back so the bait is static over my feed area. This results in an instant bite and the first skimmer is netted.

Silver Trail 1After that first, welcome skimmer I catch three more and I’m confident I’m in for a good session on the silvers. However, the next put-in produces an unwanted carp. This puts a dampener on things as, more often than not, a carp charging through your peg will soon put feeding skimmers off and will even spook them. It’s at times like these that your next decision could make the difference between success and failure in silver-fish events. Do I re-feed and chance more carp coming into the peg, or do I wait and see if the skimmers come back? I gamble on re-feeding, as the weather is still not freezing cold and the fish are feeding well, so I’m guessing that they will take a bit more feed.

My gamble pays off, taking only five minutes before the skimmers return to the feed. But bites are taking a long time to develop on the caster. To try and quicken the bite rate, I go through a range of baits but it’s not until I change to a soft pellet that the fast, positive bites come and I’m netting a regular succession of quality fish. Time restraints have allowed me to fish only a short session, but with a number of silver-fish events on the horizon, the trip highlighted a number of key points. The first is to be prepared to look outside of your main feeding area and explore the peg when the water is towing. More often than not the fish will drop off and feed away from your initial feed, as particles are pulled along in the water.

Secondly, when there is tow on the water, don’t be frightened to put a bit of line on the bottom and hold back as it prevents you foulhooking fish, encourages fickle feeders to get their heads down and will give you a more positive bite. The one disappointing aspect of the session was the fact that the best bait I used was, by far, the small, soft, hooker pellet. Even in cooler conditions, fish here at least seem to just home in on these baits rather than eat more traditional ones such as worms and casters.

Clint’s Winter Silver-Fish Tips

Be prepared to try away from your main feed area and let the
float go with any tow
If the water is towing, going overdepth and holding back can
induce more-positive bites.
Don’t use very light rig line as you may well be moving
your shot about a lot.
Dark, fishmeal-based groundbaits appear to attract bigger fish.
Add some sweetener to this mix if skimmers are your targets.
Let the rig settle on a tight line so that the droppers work properly.
Clint likes wide-gaped hooks when fishing casters or worms.
Clint uses a light, hollow elastic so that silvers don’t bump off,
but he has a balanced rig should he hook a big fish.
Don’t be afraid to feed and fish soft pellets in warmer spells in winter.
On waters holding carp, re-feeding is a gamble if you are after skimmers.

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