A lister, The “Beauty Queen” from Nash’s Church Lake

Simon tells us the full story:

We had originally booked to go to France as we are celebrating my good friend Steve Lavender’s 50th, but given the current restrictions we had a change of plan and decided to book in the UK instead, so we chose to book Nash’s Church Lake.

We were booked on from Monday 29th March, well that couldn’t of worked out better with the current covid crisis and overnight fishing being allowed from that date.  

When we arrived, we had the lake to ourselves, so we had 8 swims to choose from between the 3 of us (Steve Lavender & John Hickton).  When choosing our swims we decided to pick them so that we covered the lake. Talking to the guy’s at the lake it became apparent that it’s not an easy lake and we had our work cut out for us if we were to be successful.

I started with classic corn pop ups on all rods, mainly because of the weed and I wanted to be sure I had a bait well presented. Talking to the guy’s at the lake the following morning, I soon realised I needed to scale down my tactics, so opted to change to a Classic Corn 8mm wafter with the rig pulled through a small PVA mesh filled with the new Classic Corn method ready ground bait.

I love this approach as the PVa bag really explodes out over a dinner plate size area when using this ready made mix, lettgin the fish see a disturbed area they seem to be more relaxed to feed over than just a small bag of hard pellets which can spell out danger.

The rig had been out for around 24 hours on a clear patch and I received a few beeps and the line tightened up, I struck and after a few attempts to get in the weed she was soon coming over the cord of the net. What a stunning fish and one of the A list known as the ‘Beauty Queen’.

The scales went just over 39lb but that didn’t matter with such a stunning fish.

Now just hoping Steve & John can tempt one out now…

It had been a weird old start to the spring campaign, the country in lock down and everyone treading water for months with more important things on their minds than fishing. By the time angling had been given the nod, I felt  the best months of the spring were behind me and it felt like I was playing catch up with the carp.

My home venue ‘The Willows’ had been through a massive reorganisation, new lakes and a new name had lead to a whole different feel about the place. With many of the regulars deciding to try the newly opened ’trout lake’ for some of the escapees which made their way into the lake during the winter floods. I felt I had to grasp a bit of normality where I could get it and decided to stick with the Willows lake for the limited time I had left.

The Willows is a massive spring water, in the old syndicate days I’d hazard a guess that 70% of the fish from the year were caught during that period, the members knew it too and as a result it got massive pressure early on. The Syndicate had long since gone and to be fair, I’m not sure that was a bad thing! New members brought new friends and although day ticket, it still feels like a Syndicate water, there’s some cracking lads down there and between the old guard of myself, ‘Tal’ and ‘Spaniel Paul’, the new guys like the legend that is ‘Blackpool Pete’ and the new kids on the block Kyle, Ant, Tez and Lee, they have really enriched the waters vibe and atmosphere. 

Generally I’d say May was the month on Willows, before spawning you’re looking at maybe five different 50’s to shoot at and some awesome back up 40s! The venue is always busy around this time and it sometimes feels like your competing with the anglers rather than the carp. I’d decided this year the new Classic Corn boilie along with Smokey Jack was going to be the ammunition, particle and method pellet would never be far away and can always tempt these massive fish. With no weed in the lake this year, due to the heavy coloured water left from the winter floods, meant that boilie would fish better than my usual natural and particle approach.

My first session was just a few days after the go ahead was given for angling, dropping into one of my old favourites, Peg 20, where I caught the lady of the lake ‘3 Scale’ from, just short of the magical 60lb mark. Although it was a stop start session, with my son Joe as my fishing buddy, we only managed to have the rods in for 24 hours,  it gave me a lot of information. As usual Kyle fell on his feet and dropped into an area there was no pressure and put a couple of chunks on the bank, action for everyone who dropped in empty areas really showed the fish were getting line shy. Also Kyle and a few more of the boys were all catching on the boilie, the lack of weed normally means the fish move more as the weed can coral them into areas where they are reticent to move.

Two runs and a trailer was the result of that first session, a nice small common lay on the mat and the camera fired into action from its recent Covid break. The fish were moving off pressure and were not holding in any area, long chats with Kyle and Pete lead me down the line of light baiting.

My ‘kill’ spots in peg 20 that had been heavy baited were silent, a handful of bait and the new Classic Corn pillows had provided my action and early runs from many anglers again drove me to the same conclusion, that the building of baited spots wasn’t the one, a bit of a rethink was needed!

With the Willows being closed for spawning, it was 3 weeks until my next opportunity to get a proper session under my belt. No distractions, a good weekend to put a plan to test. Time had possibly run out for the big weights, but due to many strains of carp in the lake, they often go at different times, so I was still holding on to the hope that some of the big girls may not have spawned. 

I rocked up at the gates for 6am, third in the line. Location of showing carp was the plan and a good walk round with Lee and Tony drove us all down swim selections of myself in peg 3, Tony in 4 Lee in 2, excellent trusted guys both sides, meant a nice session ahead, no dramas and time to put the plan in place. Big baiting had gone out the window, the plan was particle soaked boilie, maybe a bit of the new Krill Method Pellets which looked awesome! A hand-full at a time over each rod.

I managed to find the outskirts of a weed bed at 90 yards, running diagonally off the main central bar which splits the lake, baits were set just the other side in a very shallow 3ft, attempting to catch passing carp. By this time they were showing up and down the bar, although mainly just out of reach, I was still hopeful we could tempt a few. 15mm Smokey Jack and 12mm Classic Corn Pillows with small helpings of Particle Blend and CSL Liquid to make up the traps the other side of the weed.

The first few hours was sit on your hands time, fish crashing everywhere, but no-one getting any action, then the dreaded call came! Tony just lost one at 4pm, gutting but all was not lost. The weed line had produced the bite, right we are in the game, pop ups had done the damage, so the attack was getting tuned. Rods were reset, baiting kept to minimum. The other rods, one assigned as a rover and the other on the banker on the infamously named spot in peg 3. 

Saturday morning, a call from Tony, he’d lost another, the poor lad was broken! Lee looked like he’d been on a Monster drip all night and we both couldn’t believe the lack of action. Pete was next on the phone he’d managed a double and the usual kick up the backside from him got me back on track and focussed again. The drums were banging round the lake and the catch reports were filtering through, the odd double from the other end of the lake but nothing. A light baiting approach was the right call! Bite time came and went and Tony had plans so had to leave, Tony’s bad luck turned into my good fortune, reset 10 yards to my right, further up the weed line covering the area between us both, lets get positive. 

At 4pm the line tightened and the Delk started to sing, straight on the fish, the weed line rod had some action, a late attempt to escape and a dreaded line roll, but I slipped the net under a recognisable set of big Croatian Shoulders!  Lee came over ‘is it a proper one?’ he asked, ‘Oh yes!’ I replied. As the net parted we knew it was the ‘Big Leather’ but she was looking massive. After a heart fluttering 50lb indication on the Reubens, a new zero and draining off the sling was a must, which ended with Lee calling the ‘Big Leathers’ new PB weight of 49’10, Boooooom!

I’ve probably caught her more than any other carp in the lake, she does like a bit of caster, but never at that weight and she was in pristine condition! The heavens suddenly opened as we donned our waders and headed into the lake to get the awesome water shots that the big girl deserved, anyone who knows me will know I’m into a bit of photography and poor Lee got a bit of a workout with the camera. Maybe it was a bit of revenge as the Canon 6d was treated to a dunk in the lake. 

Just an hour later a nice 20lb mirror quickly fell to the same approach, then the carp slowly moved off away from the pressure.

Although the session wasn’t to produce any more carp, I sat that night reflecting over the capture. I’m not a boilie man by any stretch of the imagination and small baiting again is not really my thing. However, it just goes to show that the anglers around you are sometimes the best source of information and drive you can have, surrounding yourself with positive like minded people can inspire you into doing new things and the rewards are there to be had by sometimes taking a new approach!

Scott Uses…

We pull up to a scorching hot Hayfield lakes to be met by locked gates, a sight which has become all too familiar over the last couple of months with no fishing allowed. But thankfully today is different! Before long Noelie Goforth, who owns the stunning complex, comes up the drive to let us in. The team at Hayfield have been good enough to let us use the complex on one of the days it is currently closed to the public, a time which they are using to get on with any maintenance and ground work, without having to worry about breaching any social distancing rules.

It seems a little strange to see the venue so eerily quiet, as with many of you reading this, the mental image which Hayfield conjures up, are the hugely popular finals such as ‘Fish’O’Mania’ and ‘Match This’ which they regularly hold on the famous Dannie’s Island lake. Today though, we are focussing on the prolific Adam’s lake where we have come to take a look at a slightly different approach to margin fishing which has been serving Spotted Fin and Matrix angler, Katie Crooks well for a couple of seasons now.

On arrival at her peg, we are greeted by a bucket of red slop and judging by the colour of Katies hands, it’s obvious that this is what is getting fed down the edge! Before long she was explaining all about it…

“To make the mix couldn’t be simpler, it’s a case of taking some 6mm pellets, covering them in lake water and leaving them for around half an hour until they start to go a bit mushy. You want them at the stage where you can easily squeeze them into a ball and the outer is nice and soft, but don’t leave them so long that they turn totally to slop!

Once they have reached this stage drain them off and add a good glug of the Liquid Red to dye the mix. Not only does this make the mix more visual, the Liquid Red also has a number of attractors such as betaine added to the bottle which really help to draw carp in from far and wide!”

With the mix ready to go, we asked Katie what the thinking was behind the approach?

“I’ve taken a lot of the thinking from the specimen carp scene, when fishing for big pressured fish, washed out baits can play a huge part! You see it so many times that freshly introduced baits will just get ignored by big carp, they have been caught on them hundreds of times before. It’s not until they start washing out and breaking down that they will confidently eat them. This is exactly what I’m trying to achieve by soaking the pellets like this. The addition of the dye to the mix works on two levels, as I’ve mentioned it is packed with attractors and feed stimulants, secondly it creates an awesome cloud in the water. Again, this helps to attract fish and give them that bit of extra confidence.”

With all the bait ready to go it was time to kick off the peg, three cups of the sloppy, cloudy goodness were soon shipped out bang inline with the corner of the next platform. As the mix hits the water, you can see the attractive red cloud following the bait down, exactly as Katie had explained. A 6mm Catalyst pellet was quickly slipped onto a bait band and lowered onto the spot, it was obvious that the fish were straight on it with the float barely keeping still! Before long though the float confidently buried and the first carp of the day was hooked and played expertly into the waiting net, a long lean common typical of the stamp of fish in Adam’s lake.

With the fish safely returned, it was time to check out the rig Katie was using, “Well it’s nothing too complicated,” she explained, “It’s all about keeping things strong and reliable, I’ve got a nice strong 0.20mm mainline down to a 0.15mm hooklength with a size 16 KKM hook, perfect for banding a 6mm Catalyst pellet. The float is a 0.4g F1 Edge from Warren Peaty, these are mega strong so will stand up to some real abuse and that is finished off with a bulk of Stotz. Couple that rig with a 12-16 rated hollow elastic and you will be able to land anything you are likely to hook!”

It’s clear that is the case as Katie continues to land a number of carp (and the odd bonus crucian and rudd!) as efficiently as anglers three times her age. Whilst playing the carp she remarks how important it is not to panic, ship back keeping the pole tip down and only lift the top kit once you are ready to net the fish. This routine continues for the rest of the day, topping up with a small ball of the red mixture after each carp, it’s clear that the theory is well and truly working.

It perfectly demonstrates that with a bit of careful thinking and two simple ingredients (three if you want to include lake water!) you can give the fish something a bit different to the usual cad pot of hard pellets and experience some epic edge fishing like we have today!

Katie Uses…

For many commercial anglers, winter fishing means one thing… Targeting F1s! These little hybrids, at times can seem like ravenous piranhas eating anything pellet shaped in a ten meter radius, but as soon as those temperatures start getting into single figures and below, they turn into a moody beast that seemingly doesn’t want to eat until the last ten minutes of the match!

To get the most out of any peg at this time of year is all about making the right decisions, using the right rigs in the right areas and most importantly using the right bait. On certain days this might be pellets, other days maggots and often groundbait will play a pivotal role. It’s the latter we have come to look at, how you can incorporate it into your F1 angling to get you more bites during the winter.

To demonstrate we have come to the midlands F1 mecca that is Tunnel Barn Farm, with well attended individual and team winter leagues throughout the colder months, these fish see pressure every weekend, so we have called upon venue regular Matt Bingham to give us all the details.

Groundbait Choices

“Seeing as we are using groundbait, that has to be the first thing to sort once you arrive at your peg, you want to give it plenty of time after mixing to ensure it is in the perfect condition at the all-in.

During the colder months I will almost exclusively use a 50/50 mix of Spotted Fin F1 Dark and Milled Expander. What I’m looking for is mix without too much food value but packed with attraction, which is exactly what this offers. The F1 groundbait has that unmistakable sweet, peaches and cream smell, which F1s love!

The Milled Expander helps make the mix nice and fluffy, plus the fact that these venues are seeing pellets every day of the year, it is a natural food source for F1s so it’s never a bad thing to have some pellet content in the mix.

The colour of the groundbait ends up perfect, nice and subtle to blend in with the silty bottom which most commercials will have. Especially during the winter months once the colour starts to drop out of the water, you will find that those finiky F1s are a lot more comfortable feeding over a more subtle mix. In the summer, you can almost flip that rule on it’s head with a lighter more blatant mix bringing them into the peg a lot quicker.”

Getting Riggy

“Depth plays a huge part at this time of year, as a starting point I will generally look for somewhere between 3 – 3.5 feet, this will vary depending on the venue but normally will be a good few feet away from the far bank.

Rig wise you want to keep everything as light as you can get away with, unfortunately we’ve got some really windy conditions to deal with today, so I’ve opted for a 4×12 Warren Peaty Pukka Float, but in flat calm conditions don’t be afraid to drop down to a 4×10.

The float itself is a nice slim body design which has become pretty much standard issue for those shy biting F1s over the last few years. Couple this with an 0.15mm mainline down to an 0.11mm hooklength with a size 18 SFL hook which is absolutely perfect for a maggot or two!

When it comes to shotting, I am a fan of Stotz meaning I can easily play about with the presentation during the day if needed, but as a starting point a nice strung bulk of No10 Stotz with around an inch between each stot. This gives me the perfect mix of stability whilst still giving a nice fall of the hookbait when you lay it in.

It’s worth mentioning that when you’re fishing like this, you will have to make the decision between expanders or maggots on the hook, both have their day but with us being well into January now, maggots are my go-to.

A red and a white on the hook, with a quick spray of the F1 booster. There are plenty of people who don’t really buy into things like this, but I am sold on it, you’re effectively creating a halo of attraction around your hookbait, if it catches me one extra fish during a session then it’s well worth it!”

Baiting Patterns

“Now it might seem a bit strange on a feature about groundbait, but I started the day off just feeding maggots, simply sprinkling 8-10 out and waiting for a bite. The reason for this is it gives you the perfect way to feel your way into the session, some days if you have drawn well and are on a few fish, you can tick over on this all day and not worry about introducing groundbait, but on those tougher days is where it really comes into play.

Although fishing straight maggots did nick the odd fish, bites proved to be very few and far between so it was time to introduce the secret weapon. Now I’m sure the lads at Spotted Fin are hoping I turn around and say I use kilos upon kilos of the stuff, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

A tiny nugget of the Dark F1 and Milled Expander mix with a little pinch of maggots goes into the pot and that got deposited on the spot. Before long I started getting a few small indications showing that more fish had moved into the peg and shortly after a better F1 had confidently taken my maggot hookbait and swiftly made his way into my net.

This is where groundbait is brilliant but can also cause a few problems at the same time, it is one of the very best things at getting fish into your peg, but feed too much and you will have all sorts of problems with foul hookers and missed bites.

So the key to get the best out of it, is working out your feeding pattern as quickly as possible, so in most cases it’s not a case of just feeding a nugget every put-in. The next time I shipped out was with the same pinch of maggots, but without the nugget of groundbait and this is where you have to really pay attention to what is happening.

If you go out and get a bite within a few minutes, brilliant, just keep repeating the process until anything changes. However, if you are sat waiting with little or no indications then this is the sign that your peg has been cleaned out and you need to introduce another small nugget of groundbait.

By going through this process, you should soon be able to work out how often you need to be introducing that groundbait, which will vary depending on the venue, time of year and how well you have drawn. On the day of the feature it was best feeding a small nugget after every two fish, enough to get them coming into the peg but with very few issues of foul hookers.

That is the other side of the coin, the fish will quickly tell you if you have over-fed when you start getting loads of liners and indications which never materialise into a proper bite or even worse, you end up with you foul hooking fish. If this happens it’s simply a case of cutting out the groundbait for a few put-ins and letting the peg settle down.

Once you get into reading all the small indications, you can really control your peg to get the very best out of it.”

Matt continued this routine of feeding groundbait after every other fish, the peg just seemed to get better as the day went on. Within a couple of hours, he had a lovely bag of F1’s with the majority being the bigger stamp, older fish which are notoriously difficult to catch. Next time you’re out in the colder months targeting F1s, be sure to have a tub of groundbait at the ready on your side tray!

Matt Uses…

As anglers, we all have a comfort zone, the sort of venues you can turn up to and no matter where they are in the country, the styles of fishing are pretty much the same. But certain venues like to throw a spanner in the works, often blowing peoples minds before they have even got their gear out the car. A perfect example of this is Barston Lakes, an unexpected oasis in the urban jungle that is Birmingham.

But what is it about this venue which strikes fear into so many anglers, is it the slightly awkward walk past the well dressed golfers as they get ready for a morning tee off, whilst wearing a bib and brace which smells like someone died in it? More likely it’s the daunting twenty-five acre expanse of water that is in front of you, packed full of big carp that are determined to smash you up.

Slightly posher than most ‘club houses’

This is the common theme for most match anglers who get comfortable fishing the smaller commercial venues up and down the UK, where you can sit and fish anywhere in the peg with a pole, when faced with a venue the size of Barston it’s a case of either, “I’m sure I was washing my hair that weekend” or digging out that 14ft Super Mega Power Feeder Rod they paid £400 for an used once!

But thankfully there is another way, catching shallow on the pole! On big venues like this, everyone feels inclined to grab the waggler rod and chuck as far as they can but with a few small tweaks to your normal shallow set up, you can be bagging up in pole range.

Fishing into the wind helps…

We’ve decided to make things a little bit trickier today by picking one of the windiest days I’ve ever seen! The lake resembles the North Sea with whitecap waves rolling past so holding a pole is going to be interesting. So the first thing to do after setting up the pole was to work out where we can fish given the conditions. I don’t want to go further than 14.5m but if I angle myself slightly to the left so the wind is coming straight down the line of my pole it makes life a bit easier. So long as the direction of the wind direction is relatively consistent then it’s always worth setting up like this to give yourself the best presentation and hopefully avoid any crunching carbon!

Next thing to think about is bait, now pinging half a dozen little 4mm pellets every few minuets isn’t really going to cut it! Big water, Big Fish… BIG BAITS!

Just the job!

There are a few reasons for this, first up as mentioned earlier, Barston see’s a lot of pellet waggler or bomb fishing, both of which will see rafts of 8mm pellets rafted into the lake. It’s what the fish are used to eating, like presenting a fat kid with two slices of cake, he’s always going to go for the bigger one given the choice! Next up is the noise aspect, which is like ringing the dinner bell to these big hungry carp and monster F1s. Finally as an added bonus today they are far easier to be accurate with in the wind.

My pellet of choice as always are the Spotted Fin Catalyst version, for those of you who haven’t tried them, the Catalyst is a flavour used within one of the boilies from the carp range. A lovely sweet caramel sort of smell, which is absorbed all the way through the pellets rather than just a coating, which washes off straight away. On any venue that see’s a lot of boilies going in, they just seem to massively out fish your standard plain pellets. To further boost the attraction I give them a quick squirt of the matching booster spray, your hands end up smelling lovely and it seems to help to mask the smell of that bib and brace!

On smaller waters, you could almost guarantee that fish will be in front of you from the off, but on bigger waters the fish have the space to travel around so priming a shallow line is of upmost importance. This is where that noise really comes into play, so by regularly pinging a few 8mm pellets in the area, you can slowly get a few fish interested.

Keep them going in!

In a match situation you would want to be starting off on a rod, a little method or pva bag to try and get a few early bites whilst you prime your shallow line, this could be for a couple of hours before they really turn up. But seeing as today wasn’t a match, I’ve been a little bit lazy and just set up my two shallow rigs to avoid too much kit getting blown down the bank. But it really did serve to demonstrate how a peg can develop.

Starting out, I’ve not even fed anything and just shipped out and started slapping my rig over, if fish are in the area this can be a great way of nicking a quick bite, I was almost proved right as the float buried and a decent carp was hooked, unfortunately it decided to ping off and that was about all my action for nearly two hours.

If you’ve never done it, that’s an awful long time to be sat pinging pellets and slapping a rig over with not so much of an indication! I was beginning to get more than a little despondent, my cameraman was clearly bored and I was beginning to think we might have made a bit of a mistake. With these thoughts running through my head and the lovely bar beginning to sound more appealing,  the float suddenly buried again! Carefully playing in a decent F1, I breathed a sigh of relief as it slid over the net. I pinged another couple of pellets out before shipping out, a couple of slaps and bang! Another decent F1… They had arrived!

They had arrived!

This pattern continued for the rest of the day, but just to reiterate… Don’t sit there for two hours without catching anything, but it was the perfect example of how your swim can suddenly switch on. It’s a case of keeping the faith, having a quick go ever so often, then once they turn up you can really do some damage and put a big weight together.

Gear wise, as always I never like to go over the top, a nice soft yellow Garbo Fighter Elastic which is a 10-12 rating. As Barston is relatively shallow the first run from carp can be a bit wild, this gives them plenty of stretch to tire themselves up whilst slowly powering up. If you start going up to elastics which are in the 20+ rating which many seem to like to do on big fish venues, all you end up with is a load of unwanted disturbance in your peg and often rigs blowing up. So the key with the softer elastic is just let them leave the swim nice and calmly, re feed to settle any other fish down again and start shipping back. Keep the pole tip as low to the water as possible and nine times out of ten they will just follow you in like a dog on a lead. Tension up the elastic using the puller and once they are close enough, lift the kit and net them first time!

Into the net…

You do get the odd one that doesn’t read the rules, but once you get used to it, you can easily land some massive great carp with very little hassle on light gear.

Rig wise was a slightly modified 0.2g Garbo DC C41, by cutting it down it makes the perfect shallow float and I use it for all my mugging too! 0.18mm hook length and a nice strong size 14 hook to match the 8mm pellet and you are good to go. I do pinch on a single shot just below the float to cock it slightly, but other than that I don’t have any other shot down the rig, I find you get far more fish with the slowest fall possible. Don’t forget to account for the extra weight of the 8mm pellet too, if your rig is perfectly dotted down before you put your bait on you might find you are getting a lot of bites just at the pellet reaches full depth!

Slightly modified…

So it really is as simple as that, grabbing a couple of bags of big 8mm pellets, then using the same sort of gear you would use on any other commercial, you are ready to have an awesome last couple of hours of your match at these big carp waters. Just remember to keep priming that shallow line whilst you fish elsewhere, keep having a quick look every half hour or so and get ready once they do arrive!

It didn’t take long to build the weight when they arrived!

Dan White uses…

The King of Clubs in Ireland is a competition close to my heart as I won it on my first visit back in 2007, as much as winning the event, the fantastic scenery and fishing created some great memories, I fished the event again in 2008 but had not been back since.

This year I decided to have another go on this festival and was looking forward to revisiting some of the sections I had fished back in the day.

My base for the trip was the Anglers Rest pub in Ballyconnell, which is spot on, offering accommodation and food including the biggest steaks in Ireland! I stayed here in 2006 for the first time with England for a four nations event and have been mates with owner Francis McGoldrick ever since.

The King of Clubs venues are all lakes around the town of Arvagh on the Gowna and usually offer a lot of pole fishing for roach and hybrids with the feeder coming into the tactics a bit less than on some other Irish festivals, that’s what I was hoping anyway, here is a run down of the brilliant days fishing I had during the week.

Day 1

Gullado Cross Peg 4: Gullado Cross is a lovely straight section with parking behind the pegs and I was fortunate to draw here on the first day as I had practiced peg 5 the day before and caught a lot of small roach. Nigel Franks had practiced on my peg and fished the feeder but the skimmers hadn’t shown in numbers so it was an easy decision for me to focus on roach tactics.

Concentrating on two lines at 11m and 5m I ended up catching 15kg 230g of small fish, the best line was 11m. Initially I fed 6 balls of Spotted Fin Dark Roach ground bait at the start containing a mixture of hemp, caster and a small amount of chopped worm. Topping up this line with regular balls of the same mix using the pot and then catching a run of fish before re-feeding was my chosen tactic, I have done well before fishing like this but it can attract a smaller stamp of fish compared with loose feeding casters but on this occasion I won the section and was second on the day overall giving me a great start on the weight festival.

Day 2

Derries Peg 10: Well this is an interesting section the depth varies massively along the short section. Peg 9 is the end peg and together with 10 is pretty deep the pegs to the right 11,12,13 are shallow. On my long pole line I had about 18ft at 13m and yet next door peg 11 had 9ft! 

A lovely net!

I wasn’t sure what to do here exactly and decided to fish in 9ft of depth which was at 6m and then feed a long line, again potting in a sticky rich mix, where the bottom was flat at 13m.

I had a good start but not as good as Gavin Butler on peg 9 who was slaying roach on a 5m whip but the pegs to my right were not catching that well. After and hour and a half my inside line dried up and I was forced onto the long pole but fishing in such deep water was very slow and with Gavin still catching well and Simon Godfrey now bagging on the long pole I was not enjoying the match at this point! 

I had to ignore what was going on each side and just carry on. As it goes the last 2 hours of the 6 hour match were pretty good I caught a lot of hybrids and chunky roach on a 2g rig and despite the depth casters were the best bait which caught me out as I had been trying to catch on worm heads. At the weigh in Gavin put on a well deserved 21kg 760g, his tactics had been spot on chasing the fish out as the day went on. I had 15kg exactly and Simon Godfrey weighed 11kg 850g with his peg drying up late on as the fish backed away. Another great days fishing and one to remember, a few ups and downs but ok in the end!

Day 3

Killykeen Forest Peg 8: This is a prolific section and really you need a decent weight here to do any good in the festival with the pegs each end doing well in the previous two days. I was not that happy to draw peg 8 in the deep middle part of the section. After negotiating the steps down to the peg I was faced with some breath taking views, one of the best looking lakes I have fished for sure.

Another 15kg day…

The pole line was very deep and shelving away all the time, I spent a bit of time plumbing up and convinced myself that I had found a couple of flat spots at 5m (9ft) and 7m (double deep!) but in reality it didn’t plumb up very well at all, full of boulders and shelving away all the time. I prepped a feeder line at 27m and my gut feeling was that I was going to be fishing that to do any damage. 

Ten big Guru feeding feeders of Spotted fin Dark lake were launched out on the feeder line at the start and after a pretty fruitless start on the pole I went out and had a really nice days feeder fishing.

Plenty of Hybrids from 6oz to and pound and a half plus some good skimmers up to 2lb made it an interesting days fishing and I was quietly pleased to weigh in 15kg 430g which won my section and although not up with the 20kg plus weights caught in the low numbers was still a good weight. Gavin had sacked up again with another 21kg and was now looking favourite to win the festival, I had been in the top 5 since day one and was really enjoying the fishing.

Day 4

Kevins shore peg 11: I fished this section in 2007 and had a great weight of skimmers on the pole but the levels had been low and with the hot weather the quality fish had moved in close that year.

The weather was pretty windy on day 3 and I had another deep peg to contend with and also hybrid expert and serial festival winner Kevin Johnson on peg 10 next door so it was going to be tough. With the strong wind and deep water I knew I had to catch short to make things as easy as possible and after 40 minutes on the long pole I came in to a top 4 plus 1 section where there was fortunately plenty of bites from roach and small hybrids. By throwing in small balls of gb every drop in I had 220 fish for 14kg 680g using a 1.5g rig and hooking maggots for most of the match but switching to casters late on. 

By the end I had got through 5kg of ground bait and a gallon of hemp and caster. Interestingly heavier floats were not as good despite the depth and wind. Kevin did his thing and weighed in 16kg 330g of chunky fish including some nice hybrids to win the section. I was happy with my match and this put me up into 3rd place overall just a few hundred grams behind Simon Godfrey but 5kg behind Gavin Butler who had another good day weighing in just under 14kg.

Day 5

Rockfield peg 15: So the last day, with the top 5 anglers in the festival being a bit ahead of the rest of the field I knew anything over 10kg was going to give me a very good chance of top 3 in the festival and with Gavin so far ahead in first a place was the best I could aim for. 

I haven’t fished Rockfield Lake before it seems to be an out and out roach lake, or at least I was on this day. Conditions had changed from the overcast/wet warm conditions we had been experiencing every day to clear sunny conditions but with a chilly wind and the start to this match was quite strange. I potted in 2 lines, 5m and 11m with the dark roach mix and caught straight away at 11m but after catching 25 nice roach quite quickly the fish disappeared completely! 

I must admit at this point I was not sure what to do I had a feeder ready but decided to stay on the pole as the fish surely had to come back in. I started loose feeding pinkies regularly, this was my back up plan as it can be a surprisingly good method in Ireland. After about 20 minutes I started to get an odd bite from roach and slowly the peg built up nicely. 

Sticking with the pinkies with the sun now warming up the water i was now soon catching well but a small stamp of fish, by counting the fish and gauging there size I felt that anything over 200 fish would give me 10kg plus despite the small stamp. I ended on over 250 fish for 12kg 750g.

Possibly there was a bigger weight in the peg if i had changed tactics after the fish had arrived but it was almost like a team match where I had to just do a job to get a result, i had tried short with casters briefly but as I was in a nice rhythm at 11m I stuck at it. 

Tony Hopkins won the section narrowly from Gavin on pegs 12 and 13 with 14kg weights and Gavin had clearly done enough to hold on to top spot in the festival for the second year in a row, top angling and well deserved!

My closest “rival” Simon Godfrey had caught 10kg from a feeder peg at Gulladoo narrows and had two late bream so I had leapfrogged him into 2nd place but one more bite for Simon and it could have been the other way around.

What a great festival, the fishing had been outstanding and together with the good atmosphere and half decent weather plus the bonus of the van parked by the peg most days it had been a really enjoyable week.

If you prefer pole fishing to feeder tactics the festivals in the south of Ireland on the Gowna system are probably the ones to go on, the match was run by the Breffini arms hotel and details can be found on there Facebook page for next years events, fingers crossed I will be there.

The presentation night was well run and with some local crystal and good cash prizes well spread about there were a lot of happy faces.

Presentation night.

Ground bait wise I stuck to the two new spotted fin Go2 Naturals mixes all week, pretty simple really I used the Dark roach on the pole and Dark lake on the feeder. 

The roach mix can be very made very sticky so I initially mixed it on the dry side in the morning, then as I was using it I was generally adding hemp and casters which were both in water in the bait box and some chopped worms another wet bait. By keeping the mix dry knowing I was going to add wet baits to it I ended up with a nice sticky mix containing a lot of bait, on day three I fed over a gallon of bait through the ground bait to attract and hold the fish.

When used over wetted and sticky this ground bait is also not that active which is perfect for attracting a better stamp of fish and keeping them near the bottom, the last thing you want are particles flying up through the water column and small fish chasing them around its better to have quality fish grazing on the deck, it makes them easier to catch as well.

For the feeder fishing on Wednesday I mixed up 2/3rds of a 2kg bag of Dark lake but mixed it really dry for use with a window feeder. Mixed like this the ground bait remains quite active sending particles up into the water column from the feeder to attract the hybrids a fish that live in mid water generally and it also comes away from the feeder quickly releasing the casters and worms from inside the feeder. Dragging the feeder along the bottom for a foot or so was a good tactic on the day helping to release the bait and creating a bit of activity.

It was nice to have just one ground bait for the pole and one for the feeder, no need to combine them with anything else and by putting the unused ground bait in the bait fridge overnight it was still good to go the next day.  

Simon Used…

Catching a big weight of commercial silver fish is all about getting your timing correct. There are often two groups of commercial silver fish and they are those that are quick to snaffle up any bait that is introduced into the lake, and those that bide their time before making their move.

Unfortunately for us, the first group are generally the smaller, more aggressively feeding roach that many commercial venues house, and the second group are species such as skimmers, bream and tench.

What a stunning venue The Riddings is!

Now, I say unfortunately… in reality I don’t actually mean that as these smaller fish are just as important to this approach as the big ones, and will actually take up more of your time. That is because to do a weight of smaller roach is an out-and-out numbers game that requires you to work hard and adjust things to speed up your catch rate. Alternatively, to do a similar weight of skimmers and bream, far fewer fish are needed.

Why not just sit it out for the skimmers and bream you ask? Well, doing so will simply reduce your chance of catching too many of them, that’s why. Bream are relatively shy feeders at the best of times that need all sorts of encouragement to hang around. Feed some bait and they will come, but if they sense any sort of danger they’ll be out of there quicker than you can imagine.

Keep that short line topped up…

You have to bide your time, and what better way of doing that is there than filling your net with the species that is willing to feed… roach.

Cane-Tipped Floats

When targeting silver fish on commercial venues with baits such as maggots and casters then a cane bristled float is my choice every time. Cane tips offer the ultimate in sensitivity and when dotted down present little to no resistance when the fish picks up your bait, which can be a massive advantage over buoyant hollow bristle alternatives.

Whether used in conjunction with a full depth rig and a strung-out shotting pattern or when deploying up in the water tactics as I am today, cane bristles are my preference.

Cane tips for ultimate sensitivity!

I’ve opted for a 0.3g Dot ’Em Down Carbon Cane for the deeper of my shallow rigs, set at three feet, and a 0.2g version of the same pattern for half that, at a depth of 18 inches. To keep things comfortable and allow me to feed this by hand this line is located at a 5m distance.

The 3ft rig features strung No10 Ballabeni shot down from the 6in hooklength up and comprises a size 20 Gamakatsu LS-2260BB hook tied to 0.10mm diameter Milo Krepton Fluorocarbon. I can lay this rig in and hold tight to the float as it settles in order to spot any indications on the drop; if I’m having my bait intercepted a lot then that’s when I’ll look to pick up the shallower of the two rigs.

Strung out No10s…

The lighter rig is set at 18 inches deep and features a bulk of shot set at half depth that I may choose to move around throughout the day to alter the fall of my hook bait; all other components remain the same with all my rigs tied up on 0.16mm Milo Mainline.

Hollow Bristles

While cane bristles are incredibly sensitive, they do have their negatives. The first is directly linked to one of their greatest attributes. Being so sensitive a cane bristle is suited to fishing with light baits that have little effect on the float in regards to shotting. However, when using larger hook baits or dealing with any tow that could encourage the float to get dragged under, a hollow bristle is a much better option. The hollow bristle offers its own buoyancy, which helps it stay suspended even when supporting larger baits like corn or worms. They are also much more visible, which can be another negative of cane.

For this reason on a longer pole line (13 metres) where I am looking to be more positive in my approach, targeting larger fish with bigger hook baits over a bed of sweet fishmeal groundbait, I will use a more stable pattern with a thick hollow bristle. A 0.6g Dot ’Em Down Tear is my choice and while main line and hooklength diameter remain the same, a slightly stronger size 18 Guru SLWG is preferred, while shotting is a bulk and two droppers.

A hollow bristle for the long line…

I also opt for a hollow 5-8 rated elastic rather than the solid N05 used short. It’s around seven feet deep here so something to set the hook properly is important.

Bide Your Time

As I have mentioned, it is important to try and let the bonus fish line settle before dropping on it and potentially risk spooking the fish that are there. There’s no way better way to occupy some hungry skimmers than giving them a nice big bed of bait to graze over, and that means groundbait.

My choice is a 50/50 mix of Spotted Fin Dark Super Blend and Sweet Super Blend. The Super Blend groundbaits use the highest possible quality of ingredients and these two together create a lovely fluffy combination that skimmers and bream love. The Sweet Super Blend is a lovely sweet fishmeal groundbait that offers a lot of attraction while the Dark Super Blend darkens the mix off to my desired shade. I’m a big fan of darker mixes for silver fish even during the warmer months, and whether that is on a natural or commercial venue that doesn’t change.

Sweet and Dark Super Blend…

Once mixed to a fairly damp consistency I like to add a good helping of dead maggots and casters, along with a few grains of corn. I want both the mix and the bait I introduce to be inert on the bottom rather than popping off all over the place or digging into the silt should I have introduced live maggots. Skimmers and bream have a tendency to tear up the lake bed at the best of times so I’ll do everything in my power to help prevent encouraging that!

Four balls are softly squeezed before cupping in – I want them to break down quickly and create a carpet of bait and will be left to settle for 40 minutes plus.

Four balls to kick things off…

In the meantime I have been loose feeding casters regularly by hand. I have not set up a deck rig short as I simply don’t believe I could catch quickly enough for my liking doing so, and in these warm conditions the roach will  compete for bait in the upper layers almost instantly. I’m right to think this would be the case as I’m soon catching a dumpy roach every single drop in on the 3ft rig. It’s a case of constantly laying the rig back in as hanging it mid-water simply isn’t producing.

After half an hour of quality sport short I start to see a few pimples coming up on the long line, which indicates that I should probably start thinking about having a look. There are clearly plenty of fish there but that fizzing is usually a sign of the fish searching beneath the groundbait and rummaging into the silt below. Dropping another little ball of groundbait packed with dead maggots and casters is usually just enough to concentrate them on picking out the bait within rather than sifting through the silt, and following it straight in produces the goods. A 12oz skimmer on my first visit is a great sign and is then followed by a better fish of 2lb. I manage another two fish before I begin to suffer a few strange indications and the peg begins to show signs of fizzing again. This is where having the two lines really begins to pay dividends.

The roach sport was frantic!

Chop and Change

Dropping another feed-packed ball of groundbait into the peg and returning back short sees me top the net up with another couple of pounds of roach in the next 20 minutes before looking back long. I manage another quick run of three fish before I begin to experience similar signs and the process is repeated, each time putting a few roach in the net before going back out long, where I even manage to hook and land a carp among some skimmers and bream later in the session.

At the end of the session I have upwards of 35lb in my net, with the two contrasting approaches working hand-in-hand. Approaching the peg in either of the two ways would undoubtedly have seen me catch a few fish, but by giving myself the best of both worlds I have been able to be patient on the long pole line where bonus skimmers have been the target, while filling in the gaps with a quantity of smaller fish at short range. This has allowed me to maximise my peg’s potential by reducing any periods that I wasn’t putting a fish in the net. 

Better still, all it has required is a couple of pints of maggots and casters and two half bags of groundbait!

A great days fishing!

Matty Uses…

“Roach for show, bream for dough,” so the saying goes, and those words certainly ring true on the Grand Union Canal. When you check the match results on most canals across the south of England you cannot fail to notice that the frame places are dominated by bream and skimmer weights; approaches must be focused towards the bronze beauties if you’ve any hope of producing the goods, with roach tactics very much a back-up on those particularly tough days.

I have brought the Spotted Fin cameras to the Ivinghoe length of the Grand Union, not far from Leighton Buzzard, to hopefully put a few fish in front of the camera and demonstrate the tactics needed to compete here. This length is used throughout the year for several leagues and club matches and I rate it as one of the best venues on the cut.

What a stunning stretch!

As well as being invited down for the purpose of today’s feature, today’s mid-week session also doubles as a sneaky practice for myself ahead of the weekend’s final round of the Sensas Individual Canal League here, so I am keen to target the bream and skimmers and try out some different ways of feeding to see what’s best. I haven’t caught many for a while on the canal and it will be nice to brush up to see what’s working well and get a feel for the venue – maybe even discover a little edge heading into the weekend’s event.

Avoid The Traffic!

Before going into feeding and tackle, the most important thing to decide is where to fish in the peg for these fish, and when. Due to the heavy boat traffic the skimmers and bream are usually caught on the far bank, sometimes literally touching the overhanging brambles or even the bare bank if it is exposed. Today I have about 17 metres to go at and have decided to fish at 14.5. It’s two and a half feet deep here and quite flat, so looks ideal.

14.5m was Simon’s starting point

Importantly it is far enough over to keep me away from the main boat channel down the middle of the canal. I can always push over to 16 metres and follow the fish later into the day too, which can work well.

Regarding when to fish for skimmers there is no messing about, or even priming the lines, you need to go straight on them. No wasting time, these fish usually show in the first phase of the match or session and if you haven’t had any in the first hour you could have an uphill struggle to put a good weight together.

Although there are fliers on any length, generally with fish-holding features you have to give yourself a chance wherever you draw and if you are lucky enough to nail a few quick lids you could be well on your way to a brown envelope – where there’s one there are very often many!

Current Trends…

Word has it that fishmeal groundbait has been producing the goods at Ivinghoe, so I am definitely going to feed that on one line; it is important to do some research as it quickly steers you in the right direction. Even if you have your own ideas, those of other anglers can always help to hone your approach.

Simon’s mix for the session…

My chosen mix is Spotted Fin Sweet Superblend and Milled Expanders mixed 50/50, fed in conjunction with dead maggots and pinkies plus some micro pellets. Fish are well used to fishmeal here as both coarse and carp anglers have been using it here in abundance in recent years. This will be fed at 14.5 metres to my right with the natural draw of the canal flowing that way. To my left at the same distance and depth I am going to feed chopped worms and casters with a few dead reds and pinkies mixed in, a bit more of a standard canal bonus-fish approach.

Tackle-wise I have opted to set up a solid No6 elastic through the long No1 section of my Rive R16 match kit, this is set soft but gives me some power in reserve if I need to apply some pressure. A 0.3g Rive float with a hollow tip on 0.14mm main line with a strung-out shotting pattern is combined with a 0.10mm hooklength, which is 20 centimetres long and paired with a wickedly sharp Guru Feeder special hook. I feel this gives me a balanced setup and with no snags around this should deal with the skimmers and bream.

I have also set up a carp rig with a small dibber float on 0.20mm direct to a size 12 Kamasan Animal hook. Heavy elastic completes the setup and to be fair this rig has done me proud over the years as much for bream as carp!

Making Changes

To kick the swim off I am not going to pile bait in, I am looking for a quick response and will be topping my two lines up early in the session. Half a pot of chopped worms, casters and a few maggots and pinkies go in to my left-hand 14.5m line. I don’t mince the worms as there is always some movement on the water and I don’t want the bait to disperse and spread too much.

The right-hand groundbait line gets two balls of overwetted mix but no worms, just the micros and dead maggots and pinkies. I haven’t fed a roach line today and just want to fish for skimmers and learn as much as I can for the weekend’s match.

Trying different feeding patterns

Baiting up with a dead maggot and pinkie combo I ship out and drop in on my worm line; nothing happens for 10 minutes but then after a quick dink of the bristle I am rewarded with a 3lb bream, a great start! Two more nice skimmers follow suit but then a small perch and gudgeon signal that the better fish have backed off in the shallow water and a top-up is needed.

A third of a pot of the chopped worm mix goes in, a nice positive feed with the coarsely chopped worm sinking straight down. It’s important to avoid feeding this mix when the canal is moving as all of that attraction and scent you have introduced will simply be taken down-tow and as a result take the fish with it!

Moving over to the groundbait line nothing much happens, which surprises me so I top it up but this time introduce some worms to the mix. Back on to the neat worm line a nice run of good skimmers show up but once again they back off and the small fish move in, another top-up is called for.

Ringing the changes…

This time when I switch to my groundbait line there are some fish there; I catch three quick bream off this line along with a couple of skimmers then the by now familiar pattern of small fish appearing means more feed is needed. Interestingly with each top-up of groundbait I manage to catch more fish than I am able to on the neat worm line, with the combination of groundbait and worms seemingly holding the fish a little better than the worms alone. Switching between the two lines has proved important and doing so has ensured I have been able to keep fish coming and is the pattern for the rest of the session.

A lovely four hours later I have caught about 35lb. Introducing worms on the second groundbait line certainly had a positive effect and I have caught on both lines really well. Interestingly it has been almost solely better bream on the neat worm line before fading, whereas the groundbait line would produce some better fish followed by some smaller skimmers.

Working it out!

My setup has worked perfectly, with only one fish coming off. The only slight tinkering I have done is to add two No11 Stotz as back shot above my float – one level with the bristle and one bang next to the eye on the float. This has improved presentation when the wind has got up and put a skim on the surface, allowing me to keep my rig dead still.

Practice Makes Perfect!

All in all it’s been a fantastic day’s fishing in great surroundings and the best day’s skimmer fishing on the canal I have had for a long time. More importantly, I feel I have formulated a good plan for the upcoming weekend, which is where I thought I would conclude the article… although I had caught 35lb and had learnt loads I was under no illusion that the weekend would be that easy – increased angling pressure in the match and more boat traffic would knock back the weights.

I actually drew about 10 yards from where I had fished midweek, which was great and set up in a similar manner to the practice session. The only difference being that I put the worm line further over at 16 metres due to loads of boats coming through before the match started. I also fed a squatt line at 11.5 metres; this was my back-up ‘catch everything’ line, which was not necessary for the feature itself.

Please don’t fall off!

I had a great start taking a 2-pounder from the neat worm line before the small fish moved in and I topped it up. Two smaller skimmers from the groundbait line followed; I had again fed with the same mix as in practice but including worms from the start. These fish were a worthwhile addition before I moved back to the worm line.

A foul-hooked fish came off midway back then I nailed a 2lb-plus hybrid, so with close to 6lb in the net after 40 minutes I was certainly sitting pretty, especially as not much had been caught elsewhere. Another half hour fishing for skimmers was fruitless, the golden spell was finished but I felt I had made the most of it, albeit I had lost that foul-hooker.

By switching to my squatt line for the rest of the match I ended up with 15lb 3oz, which was good enough for maximum section points and second overall on the day, the match being won on Peg A1 with 17lb and 12lb was third.

So, lessons learnt in practice proved their worth, the correct setup and feeding plus feeling confident produced a good result and a nice end to the league.

Practice makes perfect!

Simon Uses…

Margin fishing can become a bit predictable at times, hoofing in half a dozen cups of groundbait half way through the match with a nice standout hookbait over the top. Fish are so used seeing this every single day it’s hardly surprising that it is no where near as effective as it used to be! Often you will end up with a peg full of fish, but this is where groundbait has it’s issues, the fish can become preoccupied, the float is dancing all over the place, tales wafting around but no proper bites and those which you do hook are often not in the mouth! The result is a frustrating last hour of the match with not a lot of weight being added to the net.

It was with this in mind that Dan White invited the Spotted Fin cameras down to the awesome Viaduct fishery, home of some rather large carp, to show off a tactic that he had christened ‘mushy pellets’…

All you need for a great days fishing!

“I’ll be honest here and say that I discovered this method by accident, I had been fishing in torrential rain all day and my tub of 6mm pellets had turned into a bit of a mush! Being that I hadn’t brought any more with me it was a case of making do, so on my first go down the edge, I cupped in a bit of this mush and lowered my rig over the top. A couple of small indications and then the float buried, before long a decent carp was in the net. This carried on for the rest of the match and a good last hour put me well in the money. I chatted to a few other anglers after the match and as usual most people had a fair share of foul hookers down the edge, but other than one fish, which I had got a bit excited on the strike, every other fish was hooked perfectly.

This led me to having a bit more of a play with the ‘mushy pellets’ and after a bit of trial and error, I believe in most situations, this will be far more effective than the traditional methods of big potting groundbait!

Soak some 6mm Catalyst Pellets….

Preparing the mushy pellets is as simple as opening a bag of 6mm Catalyst pellets and covering them in water, just as you would do with micros, then set them to one side. After half an hour or so, they will have soaked in all of that water and the mushy mess you are left with will be perfect!

The soft outer will kick off a cloud of attraction the moment it hits the water, but the majority of the mix is still larger food items to prevent the fish getting preoccupied like they would with groundbait or micros.

How you feed the line is quite important, I use a combination of potting in the mush and pinging hard pellets over the top, we all know how important noise is in attracting fish so you can use this to your advantage to get fish into the peg.

I like to kick-start the peg about half way through the match with a big pot of the pellet mush, more often than not this will be the only time I get the big pot out. I will then ping half a dozen hard pellets every 10 minuets whilst fishing another line to keep drawing fish into the peg.

Once you have done that for an hour or so, if you are going to do a decent weight, then your peg should have plenty of fish in, so now is the point to become a lot more regimented in your feeding.

Start off by pinging half a dozen hard pellets in twice, this is to ring the dinner bell so to speak. Then you can load your tosspot, I like to put in three or four hard pellets first, followed by a small dollop of the mush, the hard pellets just prevent it all from sticking in the pot. Ship out, drop in the mush and lower in your rig, you want it to fall to the deck in a clump with the fish following it down and hopefully before long you will be getting a nice clean bite.

Once you hook the fish, I like to leave the peg to settle down whilst I focus on landing the fish and as soon as I get him in the landing net, I ping the same amount of pellets to draw the fish back in. Top your pot up with mush and repeat the process.

This process of catching a fish, resting the line, pinging to draw the fish back in with noise and feeding the slop to draw them down works perfectly, especially for those big carp which have seen it all before. It is all a lot more controlled than having a peg full of 10lbers, hooking them in the tail and trashing a load of rigs!

Another blob of mush goes in…

The gear you use is also important, I don’t like to go too heavy even with big fish. For the feature I’ve used 0.20mm mainline to a 0.16mm hook length and most importantly a nice soft elastic in the shape of the Garbo Fighter Elastic in a 10-12 rating. You can gently guide the fish out the peg in a controlled fashion which helps to prevent spooking any other carp in the area.”

Another good carp in the net!

Dan put his theory into practice during the session at Viaduct, after building up the edge for a couple of hours, he put his regimented feeding pattern into practice and was steadily catching decent fish for the remainder of the day. Certainly food for thought next time you draw a decent margin peg!

Dan White Uses…

We travelled up to the lovely Old Hough Fishery, deep in the Cheshire countryside, on what was supposed to be a lovely warm day. The ever-unpredictable British weather had other ideas though, throwing a deluge of rain and gale force winds, making the two acre lake known as ‘Big Max’ resemble the North Sea with white cap waves lapping the bank!

Not to be deterred, we met up with Spotted Fin’s Gareth Gibbons, who has been gaining a bit of a reputation, as a paste expert in recent years, so we thought it was time to catch up with him and find out exactly how he does it.

“We all know how much fish love groundbait” began Gareth, “normally this will be down the edge or around a feeder, paste fishing is just an extension of this meaning you have the same awesome attraction but in a form that you can use on the hook in open water!”

“After saying that, it’s not a method you can use all the time, the venue and time of year has to be right. Ultimately it’s a method for targeting the big fish so carp, large F1’s and even the odd bream should make an appearance today. But anywhere with a decent head of bigger fish, where allowed, paste can be a devastating method. The time of year is also vital, my general rule is once the temperatures start hitting a steady 15oC during the day then I will start giving it a go.”

You don’t need loads of bait for this!

With that Gareth unzips his bait bag and starts rummaging around, it’s time to get messy and mix up some paste…

“Preparing paste couldn’t be anymore simple, the key point is getting the right groundbait to begin with as they are not all suitable. My choice for today is the GO2 100% Milled Betaine, which as the name suggests, is made from just crushed pellets, no nasty fillers! This means it is packed full of attractors and oils, perfect for holding those big old carp. It has been milled into a nice fine mix with no lumps meaning that the finished paste is lovely and smooth, just how it needs to be.

All you need to do it take equal parts water and Milled Betaine, a pint bait box of each, then mix them together and you will end up with what looks like a thick pea soup. At this point you may be thinking that it is ruined, but give it a good mix and set it aside for 20 minutes whilst you set up the rest of your gear. In that time all that crushed pellet will have taken on the water and you are left with the perfect paste ready to be fed to those hungry carp.”

“With the bait ready it’s time to look at rigs, they are a bit different to any other pole rigs you are likely to use, but it although it might seem like a bit of a crude method, each element needs to be thought about to get the most out of it. If you get it wrong then you will have a frustrating day of missed bites and not many fish in the net.”

“As with all my fishing, I like to fish as light as possible and even though we are fishing for some big carp today, well into double figures, I will still keep it all relatively delicate. No spools of 0.25mm line here! There are lots of factors to take into consideration including the depth, tow and visibility when deciding exactly what to use but here is what I’ve settled on for todays session.”

Nice and strong with a long bristle!

“Starting with the float, I’m a fan of a round or pear shaped body as it’s a lot more stable, so I’ve opted for the ‘Peaty Pastes’ which are from the Warren Peaty Range, in my mind these are perfect. They feature a long tip which is essential when fishing paste, we’ll go into that in a bit more detail later but the last thing you want to be doing is striking at tiny little dinks and having to re bait all the time. They are also without doubt the strongest floats I have ever used, which is always a bonus as these rigs will take some stick if you start bagging a 10lber every put in!

As we’ve got quite a bit of a crosswind today I’ve gone for a 4 x 14 just to aid with the presentation, if it was flat calm I’d have no issue in going lighter. This is on a 0.17mm mainline down to an 0.13mm hooklength, nice and balanced and in an open water situation like today, there isn’t a fish swimming which you wouldn’t be able to land with a bit of patience. The rig is finished with a nice big hook, a Preston XSH-B in a size 12. These are nice and strong, specifically designed for big fish, hook size is important as l use a large piece of paste and need the hook to be able to penetrate the paste and hook the fish”

With balanced gear you can land anything!

Looking at these rigs, it’s clear that although they don’t have loads of components and fancy shotting patterns, every piece is there for a reason. One thing, conspicuous in there absence, are shot, not a single one anywhere on the rig. Gareth explains…

“I’ve seen all sorts of paste rigs over the years, some use a couple of shot to half cock the float but personally I don’t see any reason to. You use the weight of the paste to cock the float so a bite will be one of two things, the float flying under or lifting up out the water like a missile if the paste has been dislodged. The shot doesn’t add any benefit so I’ll fish without them.”

With the rigs covered, the Milled Betaine has magically turned from a soup into the perfect paste it’s time to get down to the important task of catching some fish!

“Plumbing up is the single most important factor in my opinion whilst paste fishing, you want to be using a large 30g plummet and plumb your float to how you would like it to look when you have paste on the hook, I tend to have around 3cm of bristle showing.

To kick-start my peg I feed 250ml of 6mm Catalyst pellets, these are an excellent holding bait and complement the Betaine paste perfectly. Wherever possible I like to let my paste line develop by feeding it two or three times to let the fish build their confidence, during this period l would fish either a different line on the pole or chucking a feeder.

Kick off the peg with a pot of 6mm Catalyst Pellets.

Big fish are quite good at giving themselves away when feeding on the bottom so when l see some form of sign be it colouring up of the water or bubbles caused by disturbance on the bottom I would then look to start fishing this line.”

“I’m not shy when using paste l like to use a piece the size of a 50p, the paste should be flattened with your thumb on the palm of your hand and hook placed in the middle then mould the paste round the hook. The paste then is placed in a pole mounted pot, when shipping out make sure the rig is shipped smoothly to avoid any unnecessary tangles, when tipping your paste out you must tip it to the side the rig is hanging or you will end up tangled!

When the rig first enters the water the float will dive under, give it a few seconds and once the slack line has pulled tight the float will sit in the position you’ve plumbed up to. Then it is a case of waiting for those positive indications; ignore any small movements, inevitably if you have a number of fish about you will get liners as they attack the paste, but sit on your hands and wait until it flies under at a rate of knots!”

Before long Gareth is striking into the first proper carp of the day, at around 8lb it is soon tamed on his balanced gear. A couple more follow with no more bait being introduced to the peg, the next fish powers off at high speed before the hook pulls, obviously foul hooked so it was time to look at re-feeding.

The first carp of the day!

“You need to judge this as your session progresses, I will feed straight pellets on the initial feeds to kick start the swim, then in an ideal world the only feed going in after that will be the paste on my hook. Remember that every time you ship out a new piece of paste, you are adding a bit of bait to the peg. So you will always have some attraction in the area.

If you do start getting foul hookers, my first thought it always to check the depth, if you are fishing on a silty bottom then often the carp will have scoured it out, so a quick check of the depth and raising the float an inch or two can often solve it. If not then re-feeding with pellets to pin them back down to the bottom will be the next thing to try”

He follows this routine to the letter, catching two or three fish, a selection of large carp and F1s, off each feed before having to feed a pot of pellets to settle them down. The average stamp of the fish during the session is very impressive and it’s obvious how this method wins so many matches during the summer!

Just a few of the carp Gareth caught!

Gareth Uses…