Commercials Part 17 - The Matchman's View #2
By 13/07/2006 09:38:24
Sean O'Farrell concludes his 'Matchman's View' with a look at margin fishing in detail and getting an edge
Sean O'Farrell concludes his 'Matchman's View' with a look at margin fishing in detail and getting an edge
Commercial Fisheries Part 17 - The Matchman's View #2LAST WEEK I looked at the approach to match fishing commercials, this week I'll look at
Margin Fishing in Detail and Getting an Edge
Whilst carp love to patrol islands and far bank features they also do the same round the nearside margin, picking up discarded bait. Although it may take a little time before the fish move onto your margin bait, once they arrive, they've come to lunch and are often oblivious to your presence. Big, big weights can be caught here and very often anglers can double the previous four hours weight in that last critical hour. It's quite mad but large fish, often doubles, can be caught in less than two feet of water, which is why it's such an important catching zone in matches.
'Down the edge fishing' is particularly effective when there is a nearside feature within range - a bush, a tree stump or some aquatic planting, simply because the fish love to sidle up to your bait under the cover of the feature. Often the first indication of fish is the swirl of a tail pattern in the water as a fish stands on its head to feed or turns away having hoovered up your pellets or corn.
Whilst it's desirable to fish to a feature, it's not always necessary and I've caught respectable weights of fish in just half a metre of water fishing along a bare clay bank without so much as single twig sticking up! Once the fish find your bait it doesn't really matter where you catch them, as it becomes a race against time to see how many you can successfully get out in the time remaining. I don't think there is a match angler alive who, given another hour, couldn't "have doubled my weight" at some time or other.
Fishing Close in Requires Several Key Attributes of Tackle, Bait, Confidence and Concentration
One of my favourite baits for margin fishing is chopped worm and caster. Unfortunately a kilo of dendrabenas will set you back between £ 12 and £ 16 dependent on where you buy them. It's not uncommon to feed 1.5 kilos in a five hour match so the potential rewards have to be worth it in my book. £ 15 to enter, £ 20 worth of worms, £ 6 for two pints of caster as well as back up baits like pellet, corn, meat and maggots, etc, can look rather daft if all you can win is £ 50! And remember there can only be one winner! It's not surprising that pellet fishing has revolutionised this type of fishing with a bag of feed pellets costing £ 2 and a tub of hookers about £ 3 (and you take most of those home for another day too).
When fishing the edge it's very important to plumb up carefully and find out where the depth changes. I often set up two margin rigs, one for the left and one for the right as profiles can vary dramatically. One of the absolute killing zones is that point where the nearside shelf falls away into deeper water. That's where Mr Carp will come along and if he smells something attractive he will venture up to sample it. That's why a bait draped over the lip of the shelf can be absolutely deadly - particularly worm, meat and corn.
Because the bait is being fished on the bottom your float doesn't have to support the weight of the bait and a fairly light float like a Preston PB2 4x10 or 4x12 used to be a favourite choice. That said I'm increasingly seeing many of my fellow competitors switching to bristled floats like Durafloats. It's a personal choice and I favour short, fairly light floats with a bristle that doesn't cost the earth simply because no matter how good you are rigs will be trashed and I'm mean!
Once I've plumbed up and noted where the drop-off is, I generally add a little depth so that when I drop the bait on the spot I can ease my pole back towards the bank, leaving the float as close to the bank as possible. The reason being that I want the line to follow the contour of the bed as much as possible. Line hanging vertically will result in fish swimming into it, giving false line bites and will result in foul-hooked fish which will result in lost fish and/or being smashed up and having to re-rig.
On the subject of having to re-rig, I always mark the depth on my pole section in Tippex and always tie at least three or four identical rigs in preparation.
To fish the edge successfully one should aim to fish as far away from your peg as the next angler will permit and if you have a spare peg next to you, so much the better because everyone moves their feet and the vibration caused can be a factor. But if the next peg is occupied, you can only fish half way to your opponent and you must ensure no bait goes their side of the imaginary dividing line or there will be words! I like to agree the divide with my fellow competitors beforehand because that way there will be no misunderstanding and they know I mean business and won't be a pushover for any dubious encroachment.
Most anglers these days use a cupping kit and I favour a big pot so that the guys either side can't see what or how much I'm putting in! It's very important to keep the bait going in on a regular basis - it's no use feeding a pot of bait at the start and expecting the fish to be cooperative and wait for the next instalment an hour or two later. This is particularly true when fishing chopped worm. It is vital to feed a small amount every 10 or 15 minutes of really finely chopped worm - remember you don't want to feed them you want to attract and hold them. Ideally you want all those lovely wormy flavours permeating the water and drifting on the flow of the pool so the carp will follow them to their source, at your peg. Even if you are feeding dampened pellet you need to feed regularly and don't underestimate how much they will eat - a hungry fish will demolish a tin of corn in no time. Feeding is the key and a little, cupped in often should get the fish to you and then remember to continue feeding as you catch as you WILL lose them.
When margin fishing it's usual to fish three or four sections of pole. Even if your target area is near its useful to have a section attached and sticking out behind you. This is because margin bites can be very fast affairs and the reaction from a hooked fish can be spectacularly quick and whilst the fish is taking elastic you will need to add further sections. Having one up your sleeve so to speak helps, as does having the rest close to hand. Fast bites in the margin are easily missed so learning to fish with just 6" of line between pole tip and float is to be recommended as it will result in an almost instantaneous setting of the hook plus it minimises the possibility of getting tangled in the bank side vegetation.
Similarly it is important to balance elastic, line and hook strength for this type of fishing, as the effect a bolting carp has on inadequate tackle is extreme. I rarely fish less than 14 or 16 solid elastic in the margin and personally don't like the effect created by fishing heavy, large diameter hollow products with their super large bushes and connectors. Daiwa Black Hydro is about as brutal as I go - it's rated up to 16 and I find this adequate for most situations.
Hooks too represent an area of great personal preference. Mine is for a brand no longer available under the name Gamakatsu. I was recommended them a few years ago and see no reason to change. I have a stock of unopened packets from 18 to 12 in 2260 and 2280 grade which I add to every time I go into a new tackle shop and ask for them on the off chance they've still got some in stock. The point here is to find a hook you have confidence in and stick to it. There are lots of wide gape, short shank round bend barbless hooks about so try a few and settle on one you believe in. I only stray from this pattern on commercial waters if I fish a hair rig and then I buy ready tied ones because I'm lazy!
I always fish straight through from connector to hook to 0.14 or 0.16 lines and invariably add a dab of superglue to the knot on the spade as I think its better to be safe than sorry and come back with a curly tail caused by a badly tied hook.
Margin fishing tests every element of you and your tackle to the full. That initial adrenalin rush when you battle to stop a fish getting into the nearest snag is something I never tire of. For those of you that pursue specimen fish at distance on appropriate tackle it will prove a very different experience - I guarantee it.
Other Prime Catching Zones
Switching attention to the other prime catching zone straight out in front of you can also provide winning weights. Whilst carp like to patrol islands and the near side it is a fact that there are still massive quantities of them just swimming in clear water at various depths. The trick to success is to bring fish to you and hold them there.
In these circumstances one needs to employ several different approaches. Although man made fisheries are not particularly large in area, sometimes to find fish at distance a waggler fished shallow is the answer. Feeding maggots or casters with a catapult can work but can also put fish off. Often just the float landing is enough to attract a feeding fish. It's reasonable to start with the float set at between two and three feet. A bite soon after the bait has landed would indicate the fish are sitting shallower. With this method it is essential to change the depth until you find where they are inclined to feed. A lot of anglers will employ this method for about half an hour at the start of a match whilst other lines are awaiting activity.
One of the deadliest methods of catching large quantities of carp is to fish with a pole up in the water. Fishing from 11 m to 16m with a shallow rig can be a most rewarding experience. With a hooker pellet for bait, a short length of line between pole tip and float and the rig set at about 12" to 18" the action can be fast and furious.
Constant feeding of small quantities of dampened feed pellets is the order of the day. Feeding fish are attracted to a constant stream of falling bait, lose their natural wariness, and feed with abandon often hooking themselves in the process. With no snags in open water it's relatively easy to play and land them quickly.
The technique does require practice and will result in tangles and the occasional foul hooked fish. If your quarry is F1 carp this method can be fantastically good but will result in missed bites and feeding rates and quantity will need to be varied to make the most of the swim. Sweetcorn and meat can also be fished in this manner too. A very soft hooker pellet can be easily robbed off the hook so a firmer hook pellet needs to be used. Gelatine infused expander pellets work well, but their preparation is something of a black art which once mastered will add to your confidence in this method.
Fishing this style can work almost any time but undoubtedly it's best in the warmer months. As colder weather bites and the margins become clearer, the fish retreat to deeper water and unless your fishery is stocked with F1's, which tend to feed all year round, different match tactics need to be employed with lower match weights expected.
Certainly a feeder (if allowed) or a running leger can be effective in cold weather. Bait technology is improving constantly and cool water pellets with lower oil content can be effective as can single bait fishing, where no loose feed is introduced, can catch enough winter carp to bring success.
I have fished matches where nearly all the competitors have fished with minimal feed, used maggots in a feeder or fed very sparingly and they've been rewarded with sporadic fish. One competitor has fed big pots of corn and fished a single grain over it and ended up 20lbs clear at the weigh in! And that was in foul weather at the end of December.
Sometimes it pays off to do the unconventional thing and go against the perceived wisdom. Perhaps it's down to the fact that even in the depths of winter, the urge to compete for food, in heavily stocked waters remains the primary driver for the eating machines we call carp.
I'm hope I've illustrated why 'commercials' are attractive to match anglers and just how they develop techniques to achieve their goals. Match angler or pleasure angler, there's always plenty to learn, and it's great fun doing so.
Next week: The Conclusion