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Clint Elliott explains how he prepares for venues that are too far away to practise on – over the last six months I’ve been treated to the best cold weather fishing I’ve ever had!
I fished my first silver-fish festival at White Acres, and my team-mate, Bob Yeomans, and I won the winter pairs, while the shop team was second in the winter league in our first year.
Over the next few issues I’m going to explain how you can sort out the tactics needed to fish on a venue you are unfamiliar with. I’ll explain how you can find local venues that are similar to the lakes that you will be fishing, and how you can make the most of your practice sessions. The main issues I’m looking at are the species and, most importantly, the size of fish and depths of water, along with the baits used on the venue. This should allow me to become familiar with the tactics I need before I use them in battle. After all, a carp doesn’t know whether he lives in the
Midlands or Cornwall. That said, I must admit that the climate is much warmer in Cornwall, keeping water temperatures higher and causing the fish to feed more voraciously for longer. But, as I see it, a carp is a carp and still has to eat.
Spoilt for choice
Being based in Newquay, I’m fortunate to have a number of nearby venues that are similar to those big commercials that hold big events in the Midlands, north and south. As well as the pools at White Acres, waters like Gwinear and Mawgan Porth are ideal pools where I can get to grips with the methods I need to perfect if I’m going to be a real threat. The first match in the series is at Heronbrook near Stoke-on-Trent, and there’s no way I can practise at the venue. To make it worse, the match will be held across four lakes. To sort the methods I will have to rely on other sources of information, like quizzing friends on the phone.
I still have a few contacts from my days when I fished for Starlets. I will also spend some time on the Internet, where websites like www.total-fishing.com and forums are great ways to source information about how venues are fishing and what baits and methods are dominating. Don’t forget the angling press either. But remember, the reports could be two weeks or more out of date. I have an ace up my sleeve as well. Ex-Midlanders Adam Wakelin and Andy Dare have recently moved to Cornwall and will be my travelling companions for all four events. Even better than that, Adam has recently become engaged to my daughter and started work in the tackle shop at White Acres, and if he gives me duff information he’ll know about it!
Pellets and running line
The method I’m going to look at this month is bait presentation when using pellets on a running line and fishing on or off the deck. At some of the waters in the UK Champs I’m going to need to do this efficiently. However, to be honest, it’s not a method I’ve really mastered. Since I arrived in Cornwall, I’ve seen many different ways of attaching pellets and most of them look okay until you wind in. On many occasions the pellet has slipped around the bend of the hook, making it harder to hook the fish.
It was about two years ago that Des Shipp showed me the way that he attaches his pellets, which at the time was probably the best I had ever seen. The problem is, it means many hours gluing pole elastic into pellets at home. Luckily, some clever chap has come up with a similar method of drawing a tight band into the pellet (see top tip). I can drill my bait at home with the aid of a big magnifying glass (my eyes aren’t what they were) and load them on the band on the bank. Much better!
My first session on waggler and pellet sees me popping down to Peg 5 on the complex’s Eery Lake, a swim just off the end of the island that I have not fished for a couple of years. The peg is perfect for fishing the waggler. It’s about 30 metres wide and only four feet deep just off the island, but it slopes down to about seven feet, giving the fish a perfect area to hold up. It’s also my first chance to use my new Preston Innovations Sentient waggler rod, so I am keen to get started. It’s probably not the best day for fishing the waggler, as there’s a cold, northerly wind blowing in across the distant hills and the heavy gusts could affect my casting.
My plan is to fish with a loaded float on my 5lb Korum reel line (see panel) with a single No8 dropper shot above the bottom loop, because I don’t like to add any shot to my hook lengths. As an 8mm pellet is quite heavy, sensitivity will be most important, because I don’t think that the fish will be pulling the rod off the rest in this weather. As for my terminal tackle, I have spent many hours over the winter flicking through the many trade catalogues looking for float attachments, and I have finally come up with a robust connector. The Stonfo connector from Sensas is my choice, as it will still stay fast on the line without slipping, even on a long chuck, when using floats up to 20gr.
If you plan to fish pellets in a match, it can pay you to get hold of the bait that is used on the venue rather than using a product they may never have seen before. In some cases you will only be able to use those provided at the fishery, so make sure you get a copy of the rules before you go.
When fishing pellets on a bait-band hair rig, Clint recommends that you drill the hole through the side of the bait so when it’s mounted it sits at the back of the hook, leaving the point clear.
When fishing a heavy waggler, up to 20gr in some cases, Clint advises you use a robust float connector like the Stonfo version from Sensas. It grips the line and prevents the float slipping down the line, even on the most violent of casts.
Hook-wise, I prefer a Preston PR28, my favourite summer bagging hook, when fishing a banded pellet. But when I need to switch to a hair rig I use the PR27 pattern, which is an eyed version. The other plus side to these patterns is that they are very sharp. When a fish darts in to take the bait, you want a clean hook hold because, when bites are scarce, you need to connect with every fish. I’m using a wide-bodied waggler rather than one of those splasher-style models. I’m not counting on the float to do the fish attracting today. To start with I’m using a homemade 4gr dumpy-type float, which has been balanced for waggler fishing, so very little of the tip is visible when it sits in the water.
On the pellet band I’m using 8mm pellets and will feed 5mm, 6mm or 8mm pellets around the float, wind permitting. But it hasn’t taken me long to realise my float choice is not right, and a heavier, longer float is needed. It is always better to use a slightly heavier float than you need, as it will aid accuracy in casting and help you sink the line against the weight of the float. I have stepped up to an 8gr float, which is unfamiliar ground for me, as I wouldn’t think about using an 8gr float on the pole! There are a lot of these on the market, but I prefer to use those that allow me to add or remove the brass discs so that I can set it to be really sensitive.
As the wind is a factor, I’m feeding four 8mm pellets each time I cast. As I said earlier, when fishing the waggler in open water, I’m not relying on the splash of the float to attract the fish. I’ll overcast a short distance and, depending on the size of the fish, clip up so I land in the same spot each time. When fishing to a feature I’ll always clip up, as the fish has very few options as to where it can run, and you can normally turn it before it races off too far. After the floats lands, I feed before drawing my bait over the area. If I don’t get a bite in two or three minutes I will feed again, ensuring I don’t overdo it. I find too much feed attracts the roach into the peg. It takes a while, but after 45 minutes I get the first indications of fish arriving, and a few moments later I’m playing my first fish. It’s a good fish and although the conditions are still not ideal, because the fish are not keen to come up from the deeper water, I’m starting to gain confidence as the cobwebs start to clear.
To try and encourage the fish I increase the feed rate each cast and continue to get little knocks, which could be from roach.
I also get the odd dip, resulting in a couple of missed bites, and ‘bumped’ fish. It’s not easy to read how the fish will react to the feed, and the time of year and venue often dictate my feeding attack.
Today the conditions are hard. If I was fishing a water with loads of small carp, all competing for food, I would feed more, even feeding groundbait from the off and small balls each cast if the fish were having it. The bites are slow in coming, but as I watch my float I can see plumes of mud under the surface, created by carp feeding on the bottom, so I know they are still interested in the loose feed. It’s a long wait, but I finally get another two decent fish before I have to end what is a short session.
Although I’ve not caught many fish, I’m happy that I have worked out a method to present a pellet at range on the running line and hit the bites in unfavourable conditions. There would be occasions, again when the conditions were right, when I would still feed pellets, but small ones, and use maggots on the hook. During winter I found that I could catch more carp if I fed nothing at all. Four maggots, waggler fished on a size 16 hook, made enough of a splash to attract the carp to the bait.
However, if I fed anything the roach would turn up. Prior to Heronbrook, I’ll spend time at some of my local lakes, like Gwinear, which now enforces a meat ban, making pellets a must, fishing Tuesday and Sunday matches. I have plenty to do on the big waggler and have only just started to get to grips with a method that I believe will play a big part in my fishing this year. I’ll also need to hone my paste skills, so a visit to Mawgan Porth is on the cards, but I will cover paste another month.
Both venues are within a 15-minute drive of White Acres, where I work. Hopefully, with my continuing preparation of sourcing various, but important, items of terminal tackle, and investigating and trying the methods and baits I need to perfect, will put me in good stead for the summer. I’m sure we will all learn a lot along the way.
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