Before starting to fish on an unknown venue, tackle up a quiver-tip rod and attach a loz bomb to the line. Do not bother with a hook at this stage. Cast the bomb about 20yd out, directly in front of you. As soon as it hits the water, place your finger on the spool to stop any more line escaping and sweep the rod around parallel to the bank. You will observe that the tip bends around into a nice curve. It will stay there until the weight reaches the bottom. When it does so, you will be in no doubt, because the tip will relax and drop back as the tension is taken off. Now reel in and repeat the process, but this time begin to count from the moment the bomb hits the water. A bomb falls through water at the rate of approximately 1ft per second.
Count in the following way to yourself: ‘One foot, two feet, three feet, four feet …’ and so on, until the tip relaxes again. This will give you an approximate idea of the depth at that point. Make a mental note of the depth and repeat the operation 5yd further out. Continue to search the swim in this manner and look for any features such as ledges or drop-offs. Fish patrol along features like these and if there is one in your swim, that is where they are most likely to be.
It is not sufficient simply to plumb your peg in this manner along the centre of the swim. The features you are looking for can run out from the bank as well as parallel to it, so you must repeat the process on both the left and the right of the swim. By doing this, you will build up a clear mental picture of the contours of the bed of the swim.
If you find you have a featureless bed in front of you, all is not lost. You can look at the bed itself to see if there are any gravel patches or weedbeds. To do this, simply overcast the swim, hold the rod low with the quiver-tip close to the water and begin to reel in slowly. Watch the tip closely for clues. Its behaviour will indicate the nature of the bed. If that bed is one of soft mud, the bomb will tend to sink into it and the tip will show a series of jerks as first the weight sticks before it pulls free only to stick again. If the bed is gravel, the weight will retrieve smoothly, causing tiny vibrations on the tip. If a submerged weedbed exists, the bomb will snag up, but because there is no hook attached, it should pull free. Sometimes there is a major snag underwater and you will lose the bomb. It is much better to do this than to bait up the spot blindly and proceed to lose feeders and fish in it. Remember, though, that fish are often to be found in the vicinity of these snags.
To be successful in any branch of fishing, you have to fish where the fish are feeding. This simple ploy removes the guesswork and five minutes spent searching your peg before starting fishing can pay rich dividends. Only when you have completed this little ritual are you ready to start fishing.
Of course, plumbing is not restricted to lakes alone. Any water, whether it is still or flowing, or big or small, can be surveyed in this way.
Carp anglers have turned feature finding into an art form and few ever start fishing without checking for hidden features unless they are completely familiar with the swim or are fishing to visual features such as a row of pads, a fallen tree, overhanging bush, island margin and so on.
Having done lots of this myself I have to suggest that a quivertip rod is perhaps not the best tool for the job, a stiffer actioned rod being far better. It depends, I suppose, to how much trouble you wish to go to. Some carp anglers have been known to employ two marker float rods rather than one in order to determine accurately the direction a sunken feature follows. You might not wish to go to that trouble. What I will say, though, is that time spent looking for hidden features is not wasted time.
Once located, a hidden feature might turn a relatively unproductive swim into a hot one.
Though dragging a lead will tell you that a feature exists, it will not tell you exactly where it is unless you use the reel’s line clip to recast to the exact spot. Beware when doing this that a feature found on a tight line cannot be recast to unless you allow for extra line when doing so. Recast on a tight line and the lead will fall short due to there being a ‘bow’ in the line when the lead hits the water. Cross winds exascerbate the problem.
There are many feature finding floats available today. MCF, ESP and Fox all make good ones. The feature float is tied to the end of the line onto which a swivel lead and at least two large beads have been threaded. Cast out, tighten up to the float, then pay off line, one foot at a time, until the float breaks surface. This gives you an accurate idea of the depth. With one hand gripping the rod butt use your other to gently pull the rod back towards the bank, holding it parallel to the ground. You will soon learn to interpret the vibrations imparted through this hand and get a clear idea of whether it is gravelly, siltyor weedy out there.
Repeat the depth finding operation to see if there is any change in the depth of water and repeat the pull-back, again feeling for what is on the bottom.
It soon becomes second nature and you will get the hang of finding features. Changes in depth, clear spots in weed and gravel patches are easily identified and located. Silt patches often house bloodworm beds and can be a good location to fish to. Only when you know what is out there can you begin to understand why you are catching fish.
Some anglers cut grooves in their plumbing leads because this will pick up traces of the lake bed, particularly on clay bottomed lakes.
When a potential fish holding feature is located it is important to mark the spot with a feature on the horizon for direction and a mark on the line for distance. This can be done with marker pen, tippex, braid or light pole elastic.
Should you be fishing a lake that is affected by silk or flannel weed, or any other weed for that matter, instead of threading the bomb directly onto the reel line, try using a free-running bead, such as the ones that Fox International produce and tie the bomb to this, allowing for a tail of between 6 inches and a foot, dependant upon the depth and thickness of the weed.
All anglers believe that they can cast well, which is why the casting competition held each year at the National Angling Exhibition is so popular. Queues form as young and old, expert and novice, line up to cast a rubber weight into a bucket and win a prize. The contestants are convinced that they cannot fail and it is this unshakable belief in their ability to perform a simple everyday task that raises a generous amount of money for the Anglers Co-operative Association to help them fight the polluters of our waterways. Even after failing, anglers are still not convinced that the problem lies at their own door. ‘Of course, if I could have used my own rod, I would have won,’ you hear them say. Sadly, the truth is that they would most probably have done no better.
Accurate casting is crucial if you are to achieve any success with feeder fishing. It is a gift that some anglers are born with in much the same way that others have the ability to pot a snooker ball, throw a dart or strike a golf-ball. Unless you have that precious gift, then success will only visit your door if you practise the technique regularly and follow some simple rules.
The first rule of casting is that to achieve the same length of cast, the distance from the rod-tip to the swimfeeder must be the same every cast. If you miss this point, you will never accomplish any degree of accuracy. The actual distance depends much upon how far you intend to cast. The longer that distance is, the more room there is for error. On the other hand, that same longer tail sends the feeder on a higher trajectory and enables it to land more gently on the water. In essence, the further you intend to cast, the shorter the distance should be between the tip and the feeder.
Of course, distance alone is not the only criterion to bear in mind. Direction is equally important. To achieve direction, two things are vital. The first is a good casting technique and the choice of a marker or target to ensure that you cast in exactly the same direction each time. This can be a fence-post or a tree, a church spire or a building. Any permanent feature is suitable. I once learned the hard way on the River Trent at Hoveringham. My choice was a large tree-trunk stranded in the far margins. During the match the river rose slowly and my marker floated gently away so choose your marker more carefully than I did!
Let us assume first of all that you are right-handed that is, you hold your rod in your right hand and operate a reel handle with your left. You have chosen a marker to aim for, have a rod set up with a swimfeeder attached to the line and are ready to cast. Stand square on to your marker, holding the rod at 10 o’clock. Your left hand will be gripping the butt, which in turn will be pointing directly at the marker. The rod should be absolutely vertical and should lie between your eyes and the marker. Ensure that the feeder has stopped swaying before you lob it forwards gently. Release the line as the rod reaches 2 o’clock and the feeder will travel in a direct line towards your chosen target. Point the rod directly at the feeder as it flies through the air so that it can take the line smoothly from the reel with the minimum of resistance.
Provided that you have followed these instructions carefully, you will be able to repeat the cast and each time guarantee that it will be launched in exactly the same direction. All that remains is for you to master the distance you cast and you will have taken your first step towards becoming a successful feeder angler. Throughout this sequence, no body movements should have occurred. All the action should have been in your arms alone.
There should have been no hopping from foot to foot or swaying from the waist. Your shoulders should have remained square on to the target. This is the angler’s equivalent to a golf swing, which sounds very simple on paper or when you watch an expert do it. Practice is the key to success.
Unlike golf, where once you have hit the ball you have no further control over its flight, the angler is still able to exert some influence over a swimfeeder or leger weight in the air and can actually affect not only where it lands, but how it lands by breaking its flight.
Obviously, there can be no way of making a swimfeeder weighing 2oz, that left the rod travelling at more than 60mph on its 40yd journey, land like a feather although it need not land like a house-brick either.
There are two ways of reducing the disturbance on impact. The first is called feathering down, where your right index finger gently touches the reel’s spool to slow down the release of line. This effectively brakes thefeeder’s forward motion and, as it loses momentum, so it falls on to the water with less disturbance. The second way is to sweep the rod back over your shoulder just before the feeder lands. This also checks its progress by increasing the friction through the rod-rings, thus impeding the delivery of the line.
Keeping your distance
If you adopt the casting technique described, then all that remains for you to gain the desired accuracy is to add distance to direction. In many publications you will find suggestions that involve finding the desired distance and then wrapping an elastic band around the spool so that the feeder is automatically halted when the distance is reached.
While this idea is good in theory, it severely limits the techniques that can be employed when you start fishing. It will only be possible to fish with a tight line to the feeder. In many instances this is undesirable, as you will learn in later chapters. If big fish are resident, you are likely to be smashed off on the initial take with a tight line. Assuming that you survive the bite and the fish then chooses to run, how can you give it line?
By far the best way to ensure that your casting distance is correct is to paint a blob of Tipp-Ex on the line at the desired distance. This will need renewing frequently, but you will have the flexibility to fish any of the more advanced techniques in this book without hindrance and, should you be fortunate to hook a large fish that necessitates giving line, you will be free to do so. As your casting improves and you become more experienced in feeder fishing, it is likely that you will no longer feel the need to use such a guide.
Many manmade waters have island features and to catch fish consistently you must cast very close to them. Line clips enable you to do this without fear of overcasting and snagging the island. When fishing tight to an island at any distance greater than 20 yards you can safely leave the line clipped up because a hooked fish cannot swim away from you and break the line.
When using a line clip a good tip is to wedge a small section of pole elastic into the clip before the line so that it provides a cushion against possible crack-offs through the line being weakened against the plastic or metal clip.
It is not a good idea to fish to hidden features in open water and remain clipped up if there is a resident head of big carp to with which to contend with.
When faced with this scenario, use a marker on the line, clipping up to cast and unclipping immediately afterwards.
How to avoid a crack-off
Casting seems to be fraught with problems for some anglers. Not only do they experience difficulties in casting accurately, but they also seem unable to detect those infuriating little tangles around the end eye of the quiver-tip. If you attempt to cast with such a tangle, there is only one outcome. A loud crack is heard as the line breaks and an expensive swimfeeder hurtles off into the distance, never to be seen again. Occasionally, the consequences are even harsher and the rod-tip itself is damaged.
When I fished at club level, it was such a common occurrence with some members that a group of us developed a little routine. Each time that someone suffered a crack-off, we would all sing a rousing chorus of ‘The Deadwood stage is comin’ on over the hill’ through to its finale of ‘Whip crack away! whip crack away! whip crack away!’ despite the embarrassment it caused for the person who had suffered the mishap, the same red-faced souls could be relied upon to supply us with our wicked fun week in and week out. The famous Nottingham angler Jan Porter describes it as the ‘whip, crack, bosh!’ syndrome.
I suspect that one or two manufacturers of swimfeeders laugh a lot louder than we ever did as they grow steadily richer on the misfortunes of what can only be described as clumsy anglers. There is no reason why crack-offs should ever occur as a result of lines wrapping themselves over rod-tips. To ensure that it does not happen to you when casting, simply hold the rod as described in the 10 o’clock position prior to casting and gently pull the line between the reel and first rod-ring with your left hand. You will know straight away if you have a tangle.
Baiting the hook
Throughout this book you will find chapters on many different legering techniques, which all have one simple rule in common: it is essential to bait the hook every time before you fill the feeder. If you forget to do this, then most of your bait will escape long before the feeder reaches its destination. This rule applies to every chapter and although it will not be mentioned again, please try to remember how important it is.