Wednesday, 17 April 2019

More Bits, Bobs and Tips

Having written about a few things I make or use and tips & tricks a few years ago I thought do should do an update.


Although I find that for 99% of my fishing a red or yellow bristle on my pole floats is fine there are those rare occasions when a black tip will show up better. But I find it annoying when the sun shifts, clouds appear or something else changes and the black may not then be the right colour. Obviously the simple answer is to have two rigs made up with different colour bristles. This though is possibly not practical or something that someone with a limited number of topkits can do.

My simple answer is to only black the top half of the bristle. This means the base colour can still be seen if you remove some shot and thus more bristle is out of the water.
Despite having more bristle out of the water when the red is showing this does not affect bites as you are looking to react when the red disappears, not the whole bristle.

Too Many Expanders?

How many of us are guilty of preparing too many expanders for a day's fishing? OK, I know you can argue that they don't cost much and I admit to being, let's say prudent with money. But I hate waste. So I sorted out a simple method to prepare enough but no too many for a session.

Elsewhere ( I explain that I prepare my expanders at home in batches, with gelatine and keep them in the freezer. I have worked out that 50 expanders, of one size, are plenty for a day's fishing, sometimes even two. Though I always take a full pot to matches (just in case I have a stellar day), leftovers get re-frozen for pleasure sessions.

Counting out pellets each time you want to prepare some is a pain. So I stole an idea from The Boss's occasional job as a dispenser of medicines, specifically pills. Dispensers use a triangular tray marked so that without counting you know how many pills are on the tray. I just used an old cereal box, cut the corner out to produce a triangular tray with a lip round two sides. I then counted out 50 four mil expanders and arranged them in a one layer quadrant in the corner of the tray and drew a line around. I did the same with 6mils.
This means that when filled to the appropriate line, one layer deep, I know I have 50 pellets.


For Summer I will take 50 each of 4 & 6 mil as a mixture in one tub. Winter it will be 2s & 4s.

Spring Clamp

One of the odd non-angling things I carry is a 4 ½ inch spring clamp. Cheap as chips from Wilkinsons and has a few uses. Its main use is as a rod rest either on the edge of a platform, bucket or even top of a keepnet.

As I don't use a footplate or feeder arm I needed something simple to carry that would enable the rod to rest up against and realised this style of clamp fitted the bill. I always have my bucket with me, I find it useful for carrying odd bits and pieces and throwing things like litter into. The clamp sits on the edge of the bucket most of the time so it is easily to hand.

The pictures below show how I use it. And just for interest I have also included a picture showing how I occasionally use a pair of pole over/under rests for a feeder rod.
Note my watch under the rod, I talk about that later.

Freezing Maggots

I only use dead maggots on the hook and so don't freeze in large numbers. The following is about what I do to get a good result when defrosting.

People sometimes complain about their defrosted maggots turning black quickly. To understand why that happens I need to explain a bit of the science of freezing. Essentially you are freezing the water in whatever it is you are freezing. The slower the freezing process the larger the ice crystals that will form, the opposite of course being that faster equals smaller crystals. Large crystals destroy the internal structures of whatever you are freezing, small crystals do less damage. This is why you cannot normally freeze strawberries successfully in a home freezer.

If it takes too long for our maggots to freeze then their internal structures will be destroyed by the large ice crystals that will form and thus turn black on defrosting. The answer to successfully freezing maggots is therefore to get them to freeze quickly. To achieve that I do two things.

First is to freeze in small batches and by that I mean enough for a day's hookbait so in volume terms no more than 100mil. Second is to use either the fast freeze drawer if your freezer has one or place the maggots directly on the coolant channels at the bottom of the freezer.

This way I have never had maggots go black and I don't need to store them in water on my side tray. In fact I will re-freeze the leftovers and they are fine for another session.

I used to put my “daypack” of maggots in small foodbags. Then I realised that the small pots I get mayonnaise in when I order a pizza are the ideal size for a day's fishing.

Right Feeder?

I fished a match a couple of days before writing this and it demonstrated, to good effect, the advice about feeders I was intending to write.

I have noticed on more than a few occasions how using the right feeder can make a huge difference to your catch. In the match I fished I started on a hybrid feeder and had no bites. I switched to a pellet feeder and had one fish. I then tried a banjo feeder and that transformed my match. I started to pick up fish regularly and clawed my way to third. Had I stubbornly stuck to one type of feeder I doubt I would have framed.

So to me it is important to carry a range of feeders both in size and type and be prepared to switch around if you are not catching.

The easiest way to do this is have two feeder rods. You can be changing feeder on one while the other is in the water. In one of my other blog posts I have described my quick change system (  or you can invest in one of the now readily available systems from the major manufacturers. Changing feeders or even to a straight lead takes less than a minute and is well worth the effort.
These are the range of feeders I have in my box at the moment.  I really need to get the other two sizes of hybrid feeders.  Of course really dedicated feeder anglers will carry a wider selection. 

Right Time?

Continuing on the legering theme. I always time my leger casts as demonstrated in the earlier picture and having recently heard Steve Ringer (feeder World Champion) say he does the same. Not only do I then know how long my feeder has been in the water but I can also spot if bites come after a particular length of time. For example, in the match I referred to above bites were coming at around four minutes after casting.

Why is knowing this important? In that match I knew I was wasting time if I had not had a bite after five minutes. It was more efficient to re-cast after five minutes and get a bite some nine to ten minutes after the first cast rather than leave the first cast out biteless for fifteen minutes. If I had not had a bite in this time I had to suspect something was wrong with the feeder or hookbait preventing a bite, so best to re-cast rather than fish on with a poorly presented bait.

Once you have established if there is a timing pattern to your bites you can adjust your casting frequency accordingly. Similarly, if the water has a strong tow then it is pointless fishing beyond five minutes as the groundbait or pellets will have been washed away from your hookbait.

In Winter I like to leave the first couple of casts fifteen minutes and often find bites come between 12 & 14 minutes.  But time seems to drag for me when legering and I can quite easily think that a real elapsed time of five minutes feels like 15. By using a watch I can leave the cast for a true 15 minutes before recasting.

Shot Stopper

I became frustrated with my Stotz holder sliding around in my seatbox drawer and somehow always ending up at the back of the drawer. I came up with a simple solution.

From eBay I got a length of self adhesive flexible magnetic strip. By sticking one part to two sides of the box in a corner and another two to the Stotz holder the holder now stays in place unless I want to remove it.
I did find the original adhesive didn't do the job and so both sets of strips on the holder and drawer have been superglued in place.  This stuff comes in various widths, I would recommend something around 12mm.  This gives a stronger hold between the two strips than the thinner 10mm version.
Also be careful when fitting.  The strips, if lined up against each other can offset slightly due to the arrangement of the magnetic poles in the strip.  So I glued one strip to the Stotz holder then offered up the strip that would go on the drawer, got that positioned correctly then with the strips sticking together on the holder applied the glue and used the holder to press the drawer strips into place.  This gives a perfect alignment and the strongest attraction between the two strips. 


Saturday, 27 October 2018

Keeping Warm (On a Budget)

I realise that many anglers find fishing in the Winter months difficult due to the cold. But for those wishing to get out I thought I would offer my insights into staying comfortable when on the bank. And where possible, not having to spend a lot doing so.  But you cannot cut corners on some of the gear you need.

Personally I have no difficulty in fishing in the depths of Winter and actually enjoy breaking the ice on the canal and then catching without the nuisance of boats. Similarly rain does not bother me either. With the right clothing and accessories you can have a comfortable day. But so many Winter days are dry, calm and sunny that you don't have to brave the worst weather in order to go fishing in Winter.

I must mention here that I have not used an umbrella for several years. I just got tired of it getting in the way, water dripping off the rib ends just where it is least convenient and comfortable, the wind never coming from the “right” direction, the constant worry of it taking off, breaking pole and or rod or turning inside out and the extra weight of lugging one around is something I can do without.

Instead I rely on a decent waterproof suit.


I have used SkeeTex boots since they first appeared on an angler's feet. The originals were bright blue because they were made for use in frozen food warehouses. I still recall my first sight of them at a frosty match draw on the river Lee in London. Everyone was laughing at the guy wearing them as they were bright blue and looked ten sizes too big. He had the last laugh though when he explained that he wasn't even wearing socks. I think more anglers than me went home realising that we had just seen a mighty leap forward in Winter angling footwear. I soon acquired my own pair.

In my opinion those early blue models were slightly superior to the current ones we now get. I don't remember ever having cold feet in them. Today, on really cold days I do find my toes get slightly chilly. Though this could be because some forty years have elapsed and perhaps my circulation isn't what it was when I was in my twenties. I am not sure if the inner sole is as good an insulator as the originals. But For 99% of the time they keep me comfortable.

Some find them difficult to walk in, I don't. You just have to adapt.

One thing though is that you don't need thick socks with them, it is better for your toes to have wiggle room.  And always remove the liners and dry them when you get home.  Remove the insole as well to allow the boot to dry.  Nothing shortens the life of the liner quicker than leaving them damp.  And replacements are not cheap. 

The outdoor Winter sportsman is though now well catered for and there are several excellent (by all reports) boots available. None will be cheap but will pay for themselves if you are able to fish more effectively because your feet are not cold.

One last mention about footwear. I have heard excellent reports about socks called Sealskinz. They are said to be waterproof and made for climbers, runners and cyclists. Like all top grade gear they appear not to be cheap (£40+) but if effective may well be worth the initial outlay. A pair may just be on my Christmas list this year (2018). I am told that they come in varying degrees of “warmness”. Not all are intended to keep the feet warm but dry. Apparently you need to look for those with a “5” warmth rating.


I find that with a decent bib & brace I get away with just an ordinary pair of jeans and no need for base layer leggings underneath. I'll mention outerwear later.


I layer up in Winter. Base layer next to the skin is a sweat wicking undershirt of a man-made fibre. Mine was bought several years ago in the USA (Michigan), where in the north of the country they know a thing or two about cold weather. It was, unsurprisingly for me, a cheaper non-brand name make, probably got from a WalMart store or similar. I guess that Under Armour is currently seen as the market leader in such clothing, and have a price tag to match. You may find something similar on eBay for a lot less. I have just done a quick search and found a Gildan brand long sleeve sweat wicking tee for just over £7. I have had Gildan sports socks in the past and they have been excellent so I personally would trust the brand to produce a decent base layer tee shirt.

If the weather is not going to be that cold then I will use a long sleeve “thermal” tee shirt obtained from Asda for £8, I noticed recently Primark doing something similar for £5.

The next layer is a tee shirt or polo shirt. Nothing special.

Depending on the day I will then wear one of three hoodies. The first is a lightweight long sleeve tee type. A thin material but enough to add warmth with the hood up. I have two, both from Lidl and costing around £5. One has an ordinary neck, the other a roll or cowl type neck that can help to keep drafts out.

Then I have a normal jersey hoodie. Thicker and for colder and windy days. Again I use one of two. One is emblazoned with my club name, Osprey, and on the back a stylised osprey print. The second is my hoodie.

Finally I have really heavyweight hoodie that again was picked up in the USA. I have not though seen anything like it in this country.

Outer Layers - Bottom

Despite the fact that I like to save money elsewhere I don't think you should necessarily look to do so with what I consider the most important layer, certainly not if you need waterproof clothing.

For the bottom half it is a decent bib & brace. For several years I used an all in one suit but found that I got too hot on the days when it wasn't so cold or was sunny. Many years ago my then fishing buddy and myself discovered the benefits of wearing an all in one suit. But in those days it wasn't a specialist piece of angling clothing, just a boiler suit. But the difference even that made was noticeable.

My current B&B is Korum and I actually have three. One is older and in heavy rain will let some water through but is otherwise sound and so is used on dry days. Last year in my local tackle shop I was enquiring about a new B&B and they mentioned having some Korum ones that they were knocking out at well below normal price. Reason given was that Korum was changing its logo and had let some shops have the old stock at a good price. The price was so good I bought two.

Using the new one only in the worst weather will prolong its life thus saving money in the long run.

Some anglers have discovered that ski salopettes make decent fishing clothes and can be obtained at a reasonable price from Go Outdoors, and I assume eBay. I have also noticed reasonably priced sailing salopettes in Decathlon. So two shops and sports to check out if you are on a budget.

Again, looking outside our own branch of the sport can deliver suitable clothing at affordable prices. Imax make sea fishing clothing and their Thermal Suit can be had for a price that many of the top coarse brands would charge for just the bib & brace.

Outer Layers - Coats

I use a variety of coats depending on the predicted weather.

If it is not going to be too cold then I have a jacket that has a fleece inner and an outer nylon shell. The nylon helps keep sleeves dry when unhooking fish in the net. It doesn't have a hood but as long as it is dry that's not an issue. It came free with the last pole I bought in 2011 and is now showing signs of its age. Finding a replacement has been difficult.

For colder but dry days I use a TuffStuff Buckland jacket. This was sold by workwear retailers and mine cost less than £30, half the price of a fishing branded similar garment. Searching now it looks like it has been discontinued but I'm sure they will have replaced it with something similar. Designed obviously for builders and the like working outside it has a tough outer and quilted lining though again, no hood. It is as warm as toast. An added benefit is that the front pockets are huge and easily accessed. Great for keeping handwarmers in and your hands in when legering. So if you are looking for inexpensive clothing for fishing in the chillier months then I can say no more than search the workwear sellers on the internet for similar jackets.

If it is going to be wet most of the day then I have a full length, Dryfish coat. Waterproof, hooded and well padded. It is well worth buying a good coat of this type. But if you only wear it a few days each year it will last ages.

If showers are predicted I take my Summer weight unlined waterproof coat and wear it when needed over either the fleece or Buckland jacket.


I use knitted “woollen” fingerless gloves. You are never going to keep your hands completely dry and warm when fishing. I have tried neoprene gloves but for me they are just too bulky and constricting. The knitted ones keep most of my hand warm even if they get wet. The point being that they keep any wind off the skin.


It is amazing how just having something round your neck on really cold days keeps you a lot warmer. I have a couple of polo neck shirts but for some reason a snood seems to work better.

I have two. The first I got is just a tube of fleece that pulls over the head and round the neck. Cost about £2 off eBay. It has a drawstring that allows one end to be closed turning it into a hat if necessary. It also has an added benefit.

There are days when the wind is coming straight at you and getting under your hood. I don't like the constriction of tying a hood's drawstring under my chin but what I have found is that if you pull the hood up and then put the snood on round your neck over the hoodie it tightens the hood around the face without the feeling of being tied up.

The second snood is one that can be used as a balaclava as well as an ordinary snood round the neck. On really cold days I have found this invaluable. Wearing both this one and the tube one keeps me snug. The balaclava will go over my baseball cap and so also help keep that secure when windy. This type can be had quite cheaply for around £4 either from eBay of a store like B&M.

Once the cold weather comes these two live in my carryall and so never forgotten.
As for hats I usually wear just a baseball cap.  Main reason is that I find the brightness of the sky, even on a dull day, is distracting.  Also if wet the peak keeps the rain off my glasses.  But if it is really cold then I may wear a beanie type hat.  Of course my hood goes over the top of whatever is on my head. 

Flask & Cup

I have had a cheap Wilkinson's flask for several years. 1 litre and does the job perfectly. Getting a hot drink inside you on a cold day certainly helps.

I only ever take hot water. I know some people prefer tea or coffee, even soup, in their flask. I have never liked hot drinks from a flask so I take hot water and Bovril cubes. That way I can make a drink up as I need it. I prefer Bovril to Oxo as the latter seems to leave a white residue in the bottom of the cup. The added benefit of using just water is that if forgotten the flask does not go mouldy inside!

I always pre-warm the flask before filling with boiling water.

If you do have the problem of a manky flask then the best solution is to use a denture tablet or even two to sterilise and clean it out. Just fill with cold water, add the tablet and leave overnight. And if you get limescale then pour in some vinegar and top up with water again leave overnight.

I take three or four Bovril cubes in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid, along with the Bovril is a small spoon and a piece of kitchen roll just to keep things clean. That container goes in a small lunch bag (came free with a box of cornflakes) and in the bag I also have an insulated travel mug. Once I have dissolved the Bovril on the flask's cup I transfer the liquid to the travel mug and top up with hot water and put the lid on. I find the Bovril dissolves quicker if crumbled into smaller pieces before adding the water.

As any angler knows you always get a bite when you open your flask so the travel mug helps keep the drink hot while you land the fish.


I always have food with me in Winter. Two sausage rolls and a chocolate bar or two. Nothing nicer than sausage roll and hot Bovril. And the chocolate is a welcome treat on a cold day and nice to have when you get back in the car at the end of the session.

Lap Towel

For years now I have worn a towel round my waist Winter and Summer so why specifically mention it in this article? I have found that you can drape the towel over your hands when pole fishing in order to keep any wind off and thus they will be warmer. You can also do the same when legering if your pockets are difficult to access and get hands out of quickly.

I use a small hand or guest towel to which I sew half a bootlace halfway along each of the longer sides and that allows me to tie the towel round my waist. That way you have a double thickness of towel that on busy days can be reversed or folded over to access a drier layer or on cold days provides that bit of extra protection to the hands.


I use the “magic gel” type. The ones that you snap a metal disk in to activate and boil for a few minutes to recharge. They are easily cleaned, no mess and no smell. I carry around six. Each one will last about 45 minutes and are a welcome comfort on cold days.

Be careful when buying them though. The smaller ones only last around 20 minutes. Most of mine are larger and cost around £3 or £5 for two. They come in a red box and the actual handwarmer has “Magic Gel” printed on it in white writing on a black background along with the instructions. Amazon or eBay is where you will find them.


Be careful though, if left boiling on the stove and the water boils away The Boss is not happy with the mess it makes of her saucepan!


Winter fishing, even with snow on the ground and ice on the water can be rewarding. It is worth braving the elements for the sense of achievement of having survived a day in the wild outdoors :-).

Seriously, if you are going out for a pleasure session and it is cold then look for a spot where you will be comfortable. That may be with trees providing shelter from the wind or with the wind at your back, particularly if you are using an umbrella. Note the position of the sun and where it will track during the day. Choosing what will be a sunny spot later will make you a lot warmer than sitting in shade all day.

Also it pays to know where fish are regularly caught when cold. I know that I can go to the canal at Foxton near Market Harborough (Wellingborough club water) and be guaranteed to catch even if I have to break the ice. No point in going somewhere that I will struggle.

If you are not comfortable you will not fish well so choosing the right spot can make a difference.

Having the right clothing, a flask, food and being prepared for the elements will ensure you will be as comfortable as possible in poor conditions.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Beginner's Guide To Pole Fishing - Index

1.  Glossary hopefully all the terms used in pole fishing explained.

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginner's Guide To Pole Fishing Part 1- Glossary

2.  History and Buying a Pole a little background to pole fishing and my suggestions on buying your first pole

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginner's Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 2 - History and Buying a Pole

3.  Elastication part 1 choosing elastics, cutting topkits and fitting a pole cup to a cupping kit

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 3a, Elasticating Your Pole (1 of 2)

4.  Elastication part 2 fitting bush, bung, elastic and attaching a connector or dacron

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginner's Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 3b - Elasticating Your Pole (2 of 2)

5.  Floats and shot I explain shot, Stotz & styls, markings on pole floats and the floats themselves

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 4, Floats & Shot

6.  Rigs and Hooklengths home made or ready made, making up rigs and hooks/hooklengths for pole fishing

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 5 - Rigs and Hooklengths

7.  Shotting the rig shotting patterns and how much shot to use and backshotting

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig

8.  Fishing assembling the pole, handling it, setting pole rollers up, getting the rig in the water, feeding

Simply Fishing, Fishing Simply: Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 7 – Lets Get Fishing

Monday, 27 November 2017

Dotting Down

One of the more common mistakes I see anglers making is not shotting their floats low enough in the water. While I am not advocating dotting a float down to a pimple on every occasion I am talking about having the right amount of float tip showing and not the tip plus half the body, or two inches of waggler. The “right” amount is an individual choice given what is happening on any given day but I am willing to bet that many anglers would catch more by adding a shot or two and reacting to every disappearance.

I probably take things to extremes at times using size 13 shot and occasionally bristle grease (lip salve actually), even on carp rigs, to get the “perfect” amount of bristle showing. There are times though when I will take shot off in order to have more bristle above the water.  But my starting point is always to get the float as low as I can.  Indeed sometimes the weight of the bait is enough to sink the float.

Getting the float "dotted down" is a starting point.  That may not be to a pimple.  I will start a session getting the float as low in the water as I am comfortable with.  As the day progresses I may decide to take some shot off.  One reason, amongst many, may be that I actually want the bristle to catch any wind and move the float.  Or I may dot down to get the float out of the wind.  Dragging bottom or suspending a heavy bait are other reasons for having more float showing.  But these are conscious decisions made for an angling reason.  Not because "that will do".

I fully understand that there are those with poor eyesight for whom dotting down too far would make the float invisible. But not everyone I see failing to shot the float lower in the water can have poor eyes.  I also accept that for many just being out fishing is good enough.  Catching is a bonus.  But I go fishing to catch fish.  I want as much action, in a match or on a pleasure session, as I can create.  Are the people I see really completely satisfied fishing and not catching? 

An obvious question about dotting a float down is “ Why is this important?”.  It has been argued that the resistance a fish feels when sinking 10mm of a 2mm diameter bristle cannot be much more than sinking just 5mm. I would agree. The resistance, while there may be some, is not my main reason for shotting floats lower in the water. For me it is all about spotting bites.

Let us say you have 15mm of bristle showing and the float sinks by 3mm. The difference is negligible and possibly not seen as a bite at all. But with 3mm showing and the float sinks by three there is no doubt that you would see that and should react. Even carp, although aggressive feeders, can give very delicate bites, particularly in Winter.  Bites when it is cold are at a premium and thus you should be shotting the float so as not to miss any.  And I would rather strike a few times at false bites than miss the actual bite when it happens.  Also you are much more likely to react when the float disappears than when it just dips marginally.

On the subject of resistance felt by the fish I have seen bites fail to develop when the fish felt the resistance of trying to pull line above the float through the surface tension. Hence the reason I sink the line with backshot, but that is the subject of a separate post.  So I don't think resistance can be totally ignored, particularly so for thick tipped wagglers.

There is a chance that the resistance shown by trying to sink too much pole float bristle is also a reason for the fish to reject the bait. I don't know but why take the risk when with a little bit of fine tuning we can eliminate it. Certainly if we talk in terms of straight or even insert wagglers the resistance felt in trying to sink two inches of float is considerable – to a fish.

I also hear people say that with more float showing they can read bites.  This comment baffles me. Either it is a bite or not.  The float has dipped or it hasn't.  If it has then I strike.  The only real difference I ever notice is that line bites tend to be different to a proper bite.  Often I know I have foulhooked a fish just from the bite that I still instinctively reacted to when perhaps I shouldn't.  The float's disappearance is all I want to read.  When it does I react.

I think many anglers are frightened of sinking the float too far in case they cannot then see it and more importantly, not see a bite. My answer to that is to experiment, see how far you can sink the float and still see it, and importantly, see when it isn't there. In this context a thicker bristle can normally be set much lower in the water than a thinner one and still be seen. So if you are having difficulty or indeed have poor eyesight then try using a thicker bristled float and get that as low in the water as you can.

I also think that some anglers get close to shotting the float "perfectly" then can't be bothered to take the time, put in the effort or use the small shot required to finish the job.  I accept that for some with limited dexterity or poor sight using size 11, 12 and 13 shot is difficult.   But if you can then I strongly recommend taking the time and making the effort.  It is these fine margins that make some anglers stand out from the rest of us.

Another thing to consider for anyone struggling to see a float is whether you are fishing too far out. People that fish with me regularly know that I don't, as a rule, fish the pole past 10-11m. I often joke that if I want to fish longer then I get the leger rod out. My eyesight is fine (I have an excellent optician), it is just that I have proved to myself over time that I don't need to wield 13m+ of pole in order to catch an acceptable number of fish. And I am talking about both commercials and canals.

People will ask “What about poor conditions?”. My answer is to still get the float as low in the water as possible. The closer the rig is to neutral buoyancy the less it will be affected by any chop on the water. A well shotted float will ride through the peaks and troughs unlike an undershotted one that will bounce up and down. In these conditions I find it better to use a much heavier float. That way the whole rig will stay more stable. It also helps if you use as long a bristle as possible on pole floats. Getting the body deeper in the water will reduce the surface's effect. It is worth investing in a few “windbeater” type floats such as the DT Windbeaters* so as to get the body of the float below the wave base and thus into more stable water. They may not see much use but well worth having for those really poor days.
If you want to understand why then research “Wave Base”. But simply on most lakes with wind created waves water will only be rising and falling in the top few inches. Below that it will be still. The depth of the wave base is roughly half the wavelength. So if the float body is below the wave base it will be stable.

DT Windbeaters. 
May look odd but this type of float, dotted down in a high wind/choppy surface, works well.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the diagrams that are shown in magazines of shotting patterns. I get slightly annoyed that it is made to look so simple. Not that the pattern is wrong but that there is never any mention of fine tuning or trimming the shotting to get the float set as the angler wants. It is impossible that the precise shotting pattern demonstrated makes the float sit perfectly. In my experience even a float set perfectly today will require some tinkering the next time the rig is used. I am, in the main, talking pole floats with relatively fine bristles.

The way I shot my floats is to get the pattern of shot I want at the business end, towards the hooklength. As I use a limited range of floats I do know precisely what shot to add when making the rig so that the float, straight out of the box, will sit almost perfectly but probably needing a little extra shot added for me to be happy. These extra shot are normally added just below the float. This is for three reasons. The first is that they can be used as a tell-tale against the float moving. The second is that they will not interfere with the shotting pattern lower down the line and third they are easy to identify should I want to remove them later.

With stick float fishing it can pay to almost or actually overshot the float.  That way you have to hold it back to prevent it sinking.  This slows the bait right down and can be a devastating method on the right day. Then, if you are dragging line on the bottom you may need the float undershotted.

When fishing a waggler on a river and dragging bottom you will need more float showing to prevent the float from constantly being dragged under.  But you can still shot the float so that it just manages to keep progressing through the swim but show delicate bites.   

*  I have no commercial connection with DT Floats.  I know Dean but that is as far as my association goes.  I thank Dean for allowing me to use the picture from his website

Friday, 8 September 2017

Backshotting Pole Rigs

What Are Backshot?

I call any shot placed on the line between float and pole tip “backshot”. Some will differentiate between shot that do different functions, more about which I will explain later, and refer to trimming shot in addition to backshot. I prefer to keep things simple. So all shot above the float are, to me, backshot.


I now backshot all my pole rigs. Doesn't matter if they are for carp or silvers, deep swims or shallow margins. I feel the benefits mean I catch more fish.

As I see it there are three main reasons for backshotting your rigs. First is that the line can be sunk and remain under the surface thus reducing any effects a wind may have on the float and rig. This means the rig is doing what you want, not what the wind wants to do to it. You have much better control of the float and rig

Second, bites, particularly from silvers such as canal roach, can be improved by the line above the float not sitting on the surface tension. This was demonstrated to me several years ago when fishing a Lincolnshire drain for small roach on a still, bright sunshine Summer's day. My float had a fine bristle, dotted down but with no backshot the line was sitting clearly on the surface. I could see the bristle dipping slightly but not going under as a "proper" bite. I decided to sink the line with a backshot and suddenly what had been tentative dips of the float now became positive disappearances and I started to catch much quicker. The fish could obviously feel the pressure required for them to not only sink the float but also break the line through the surface tension and rejected the bait. That marked the time I started to backshot all my rigs.

Backshotting can also help to speed up the time between the float disappearing and you hitting the bite. More of that later as I show you the various uses.

Basic Set-up

When making up rigs, be they silvers or carp, I incorporate two shot above the float. These are a No.11 and a No.9. The 11 is closest to the float, the 9 towards the pole tip.  Once I have the rig set at the correct depth I will slide the No.11 down so that it sits at a point that is the same distance from the eye as the tip of the float. This shot will, most of the time, register on the float though I have found not as much as the same shot being placed under the float. The difference is minimal but I am convinced real.

The No.9 will sit anywhere from right under the pole tip to a couple of inches above the No.11 and this will be dictated by the weather conditions and how the fish are biting on any given day. Its one of those variables that you cannot make a definitive ruling on. But at no time will I allow the No.9 to register on the float as it will make it sink.

Why No.11 and 9?  I feel the No.11 is a good compromise in that it will not unbalance the float but is heavy enough to keep the line sunk.  The No.9 is just a personal choice thing and has no logic, its just what I use.  It could just as well be a No.8 though I think a No.10 would be too small.  If conditions are poor I may substitute a No.8 for or add it to the No.9.  

Most of the time the No.9 will be held just below the water surface, particularly as the rig settles in the water. The No.9 will sink the line below the pole tip and then encourage the No.11 and line closest to the float to do the same. The following picture shows what I mean
You can see that the No.11 is hanging from the float and thus will contribute to the shotting load while the No.9 is hanging from the pole tip and having no effect on the float.

If bites are being missed because the angler thinks they are striking too late then the No.9 can be suspended above the float and if necessary moved closer so as to tighten the line between pole and float as per the following picture.

Note the slack line between the two shot so the No.11 is still adding to the float's loading.  We can though tighten the line to the float even more.  Useful if fishing for species like F1 carp.

Sliding the No.11 up to sit just below the No.9 increases the weight of this bulk and that can be helpful in a light breeze by keeping the line hanging as straight down as possible.  In stronger winds more shot can be added such as a No.8.  This is placed just above the No.9 so if later it is not needed it can be slid up to the pole tip. 

Ideally you want the bulk and float bristle close together so you can watch both at the same time.  The bristle to spot bites and the bulk to ensure you are keeping the line as tight as possible without pulling the float out of the water. 

By sliding the No.11 up the line it will no longer be registering on the float and shot may need to be added under the float to compensate.

If it is difficult to see the 9 & 11 bulk then adding a No.8 will help by increasing the size of the bulk.  Painting the shot with TippEx or similar can also aid visibility.
A variation of this set-up is to use three No.8 shot strung out from pole to float.  The general idea is the same, to tighten the line between the two.

Fine Adjustments 

I tend to be ultra demanding or critical about the amount of bristle showing above the water.  Sometimes either conditions change during the day or different baits will make a float settle to a different level.  One way of  getting the float sitting as I want is to use some very small shot, typically No.12 or 13 between the two backshot.  These can be slid up or down the line depending on whether the float needs more or less weight.  

In the picture you will see four No.12 shot have been incorporated into the backshotting pattern.  Some will refer to these as trimming shot.
You can slide as many or as few up/down the line as the situation demands.
The original principle is still the same that the shot close to the float will register on it while those under the pole tip will not.
These smaller shot can also be used to shot very fine bristles where, for example, a No.12 is too much and a No.13 too little when added below the float.  Adding a No12 as extra backshot close to the float seems to register slightly less than when on the line below the float. 


Backshotting, as I have said can be used to control the float in a breeze but what happens when we are trying to fish in a high wind?  A No.9, even a No.8 is not going to help at times.  In poor conditions don't be afraid to increase the weight by using a No.6 or even larger.
You will see that the No.11 has been dispensed with and the large shot replaces the No.9.  What this does is create a shock absorber between pole and float.  If the pole gets blown around then instead of jerking the float the No.6 will rise and fall in the water and dampen some of the extreme movement.  It may even help to move the shot closer to the pole tip and place the tip underwater.  Experiment in poor conditions to see what works best for you on the day given the poor conditions. 
This big shot will probably work best with more line than normal between pole and float.  Don't be afraid to have three even four foot of line above the float.  Sacrificing the speed of transferring the strike to the float and then hook will be offset by getting more bites in the first place.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 7 – Lets Get Fishing

First up let me say that I am of the opinion that you cannot fish a pole effectively from a chair. Perhaps because I have only ever used a basket or seat box I just think anyone using a pole while sitting in a chair looks awkward.

Getting Comfortable
If you are going to fish the pole well then like most methods of fishing you have to be comfortable and have everything to hand.

The accepted wisdom is that your seatbox and footplate if you have one should be set at a height that causes your knees to be at a ninety degree angle when sitting straight. I actually prefer to have my box slightly higher than that so my knees are slightly more than ninety degrees.

The following picture was taken in France.  I used to take an old box that fit in the car better than my usual one.

This box has no legs but is an ideal height for me. 
Note the vertical upper right arm. 
Upright back, relaxed position and
not having to hold the pole with the left hand. 

This picture is my usual set-up.  Being right handed the pole is on my right, side tray, topkits and landing net left.   

Everything I should need is to hand or in the box.

I normally sort out my topkits and get them set on the roost before setting up the pole. The less I need to walk about after setting up the pole the less likely I am to trip over it, tread on it or otherwise cause damage.

Assembling the Pole
Once you have box and side tray set then we need to set up the pole roller(s). Do this before you assemble the pole. Position the rollers in approximately the correct position. To start with have the front roller roughly three yards behind you and the rear one maybe five yards further back.

One of the first things to decide is what length of pole you are going to use. I can't tell you as obviously every venue, every day may be different. But as I said in an earlier section, do not try and fish the pole too long to start with. On a commercial venue topkit plus three sections or at the bottom of the margin slope should see you catch fish and at a length that is comfortable to start. Similarly on canals, there may be no need to reach the far bank at first. Rivers are a law unto themselves and you will need to adapt to the one you are fishing. But even on rivers it is often not necessary to go long to catch.

Take the pole and lay the sections you are going to use where you can reach them easily while on your box. I either lay them on the carryall that sits behind me or on the nearest roller.  And trust me it is safer to assemble the pole while sitting.  You can assemble the pole in one of two ways. You can take the number four section then add the five, six and seven etc. while extending the pole over the water. Then when complete ship back onto the rollers. Alternatively work from the butt end and add the sections in reverse order while pushing the pole back on the rollers. I have no favourite and adopt whichever method seems right given the day and the bank I am on, or perhaps how I am feeling.

Never try and lift the length of pole from the thin end.  You will break a section.  Manoeuver the pole with most of its weight on the roller or with the butt on the ground. 

At the end of the day I put the pole away first, normally without having to get off my box.  Again this reduces the chance of accidents.

Setting The Rollers
The following film shows how your rollers should be positioned for achieving a smooth process of shipping in and out. The one one thing we want to avoid is any jerky or sudden movements. This can lead to spilled bait, tangled rigs and in extreme cases a broken section.


Obviously you may have to reach a compromise regarding the exact position of the rollers if you are going to be fishing the pole at different lengths during the day. If that is the case then I would have them closer to you than perfect for the longest length. And if the difference in lengths is going to be great, say five metres and sixteen metres then I would strongly recommend getting a third roller.
But as this is a beginner's guide I will assume for now that you will be using a shorter pole and probably not complicating matters by fishing multiple lengths at first.

If using a longer pole than the space behind allows for the whole thing to be shipped back in one length you will have to break the pole down at least twice when shipping in. 

I will also mention that the pole I was using in the video is the Maver Abyss X.  In section two of this guide I said that you don't have to spend big to start pole fishing.  This pole cost me less than £50.  It was the only pole I used that day and it accounted for around 50lb of fish ranging from roach to 8lb carp, skimmers and crucians. 

Setting Up The Rig
By now hopefully you will be sitting on your box with a topkit or two beside you and a pole sitting within easy reach on its rollers. Now is the time to attach a chosen rig to your topkit, add a hooklength and then attach a plummet.
To me a plummet is THE most essential tool in the pole angler's box after the pole and rigs themselves. To try and fish a pole without a plummet is foolish. You have wasted your money buying a pole if you have not spent the pennies required to get a plummet or two.

To me the starting point for the day is always to plumb up at full depth with a small amount of float showing with the plummet on the bottom.  With that depth known you can then deviate from that. 
Hopefully you will know the approximate depth of the water you are fishing and have chosen a rig that is sufficiently long. Swing the plummet out and mount the topkit on the pole. When doing this always hold the topkit steady and insert the number four section of the pole into the kit. Push it home firmly but not jammed on tight. The reason for keeping the topkit steady and manoeuvring the pole is that moving the topkit around can induce tangles.
Ship the pole out to your desired length or to the spot you want to target. Lower the rig in vertically and note where the float is when the plummet is on the bottom. Lift and lower the rig two or three times so you get a feel for the depth and how far out from dead depth the float is. Ship in and adjust the float as required and ship out and try again. 

Take your time over this process, it can and will have an impact on your whole day's fishing. Get it right at the start and you will reap the rewards later.  Ideally I will look to have the whole bristle showing when the plummet is on the bottom.  Some advocate the bristle and body should be visible.  The important thing is that you know that you have the bait on the bottom once the float has been shotted correctly and settled.

Once you are happy with the amount of float showing then try plumbing up left, right, further and nearer to establish in your mind's eye what the profile of the swim is like. You may find a slope, a drop off or even a snag you can't see. I find canals can be a nightmare sometimes with sunken branches and the like.  You may also want to find a second or even third spot where the depth is the same so that you can feed and fish these different spots during the day as bites may slow on your original one. My aim is that these other spots should be at least two yards away from the first.

Once you have settled on a spot then note two things.  Line the spot up with a far bank marker, or as I do sometimes a reflection of the far bank.  Also note the length of pole.  You don't have to fish with the pole at just the full length of a particular section.  If necessary you can hold the pole with any amount of the final section behind your elbow.  If I do this I will mark the pole with TippEx or tape at the point where my right thumb rests.  On some pole sections I have some tape half way along permanently and this too can be used to set a length.  I just have to remember where the tape is in relation to my right hand or arm.

You should now have a rig with the float set so that the hook is just on the bottom with the bristle on the surface. Now it is time to cut the rig down to the length you are going to fish with.

Beginners often ask how much line should be between pole and float. Like other aspects of fishing, there is no hard and fast rule. The venue (including venue rules), conditions and actual spot being fished will have an impact on this decision. Generally though if we are talking a lake then a good starting point is to have twelve to fifteen inches of line above the float.  On a river possibly more and less on a canal.
On a day with a strong wind blowing you will probably want more line, fishing the margins close in you may have as little as four inches. If you plan to fish an appreciable amount overdepth then allow for this when reducing the length of the rig.

I would now remove the plummet and get my shotting correct. Remember that shotting the rig at home I advised leaving a little more float showing than you will have ultimately when fishing. Now is the time to add shot until you have the amount of bristle showing that is comfortable to see but small enough to detect bites.

At this time I would also mark the topkit with the depth. We do this so that if we move the float by design or accident during the day we can return to this dead depth point if we wish. The hook is hooked to the bottom of the topkit and the rig will now sit alongside it with a small amount of elastic stretched out of the tip. The elastic will be stretching the line by a couple of inches so marking the depth with the rig under tension will give us a false reading. Grasp the connector and pull a little more elastic from the pole to the point where the rig is still alongside the topkit but not under tension. You should see the float creep towards the butt as you do this. Using a marker such as TippEx, Snopake or a chinagraph pencil mark the point on the topkit where the tip of the bristle sits. You now have a reference point for the rest of the day. This can also be transferred to other topkits without the need to plumb up each rig separately if you wish by holding the kits alongside and marking at the same point.

If you wish to fish, say six inches, overdepth then slide the float up the line six inches and re-trim the length of line above if required.

Hopefully now we have a rig that is at the correct depth, length, correctly shotted and so we are ready to fish.

I have written a blog on feeding and could probably write a book and still not be able to tell people exactly how, what, where, when to feed. Probably the most important skill in fishing is feeding. Fishing the pole to me is about accuracy and finesse, and so it is with feeding with a pole. Feeding with a pole can be as precise as you wish using a pole cup or tosspot. Amounts and position can be controlled to the ultimate degree.  And of course this is where noting a far bank marker and length of pole are important.

Apart from the obvious of feeding with a pot on the pole you can also feed by hand and with a catapult. Each method will have its day. What you decide to do is up to you. But, before feeding you really need to understand what it is you are trying to achieve with the method of feeding, the bait you are feeding and the amount.

I tend to feed most often with a pot mounted on the pole be it a cupping kit or tosspot. I just feel that dropping the bait on the same, small spot concentrates the fish where I want them. But there are days when the catapult or by hand come into play.

I will nearly always feed a pole line before fishing it. Sometimes straight after feeding and on other days I may put a leger out for a few minutes to let the fish find and settle on the feed.

Hopefully this initial feed will lead to a few fish and then the question comes of when, and how much, to re-feed. I have to dodge the question and say it really is up to you. Sometimes when fishing a commercial lake for example it may be prudent to take a few fish before re-feeding, but other days may see you needing to feed after every fish. These are skills not restricted to pole fishing and so I will leave the subject there.

One tip for emptying a tosspot of bait like pellets that may have been tamped down.  I have found that if you sink the pot and wait a few seconds for it to fill with water then turn it over the contents come out with little encouragement. There is a demonstration in the following video.
Getting The Rig In The Water
OK, now it really is time to get fishing. We have plumbed up, shotted our float, fed the swim and put bait on the hook. Swing the baited rig out into the water so that the rig lands in a line. Dropping it in in a heap will cause tangles. Mount the topkit on the pole and ship out and get comfortable.

When introducing the rig to the spot you are going to fish you have a couple of options on how to do this. You can lay the rig out so it is in a straight line from the pole tip and let it swing down like a pendulum so the float eventually settles. You can hold the pole rigid so the float gradually settles in the one spot or you can let the float drift in the direction the rig was laid in until it cocks and settles down.

You have the option to lay the rig out in any direction you please. Left, right, away from you or towards you. And it may sound illogical but the direction may just affect whether you get a bite or at least how quickly a bite may materialise. If the water is moving you can lay out with the flow or against, if there is a slope you may wish to have the rig settle so it drags the hooklength up the slope. All I can advise is to experiment and see if one method outscores another.

Similarly you can lower the rig in vertically. You hold the rig out of the water over your chosen spot then slowly lower so that the bait enters the water followed by the rest of the rig. Again, doing this can produce bites that the pendulum method may not induce. There is no way of telling which is correct on the day.

You can also combine the two techniques.  Lay the rig out but holed the float out of the water by a few inches in line with your far bank marker.  After a few seconds the rig will have settled below the float and now you can lower the float and let the bait have as natural a fall as possible for those last few inches.  This can produce a bite immediately so always be ready to strike.
What Next
If you have added backshot then you need to encourage the line between the tip and float to sink. You may have to hold the pole tip to one side of the float and let the heavier shot sink taking the line and lighter shot under. You can then hold the pole wherever is comfortable waiting for the bite.  This could be left or right of the float, upstream or down if on a river. You can hold the float still or let it move with the flow or tow. As you get used to pole fishing you will discover what is right for youb and the fish on the day.

Handling the Pole and Using a Catapult
The following video shows some of the things I have been talking about.  It runs for around eight minutes.


The float disappears! Glory-be our first bite on the pole. Smartly lift the pole or move it sideways away from the float to set the hook. This movement does not have to be violent. Even with five metres of pole in hand a small movement at your end will result in a large movement at the pole tip.
I find that the shorter the line between pole and float the less violently I strike.
There is certainly no need to have the whole rig come flying out of the water if you don't hook the fish. You should be aiming to have the float come out of the water and not much more of the rig.

If you are fishing under overhanging vegetation then you will have to strike sideways or even by pulling the pole towards you. 
Having hooked the fish there is no need to rush anything. Take your time and let the elastic do its job. First thing to do is assess the size of the fish. If small and using light elastic you can start to ship backwards allowing the elastic to take care of playing the fish and bringing it to within swinging or netting distance. Once shipped back to the point where you can grasp the butt of the toopkit remove it, again by removing the pole form the kit not the other way round. You can now net the fish or swing it to hand if small enough.
Larger fish will require some playing.
As long as you have chosen the right strength of line and appropriate elastic you should have no problem with larger fish. Let the elastic do its work. If you are used to playing a fish on rod & line then the pole is not much different. Side strain is still your friend in trying to turn a larger fish. But instead of reeling in we will be shipping the pole back and eventually grasping the topkit.
This is when having correctly positioned pole rollers helps. You should be able to ship back and land on the front roller without having to look at it. Then gradually ship back until you can grip the butt of the topkit. As with mounting the kit, remove the pole from the kit, not the kit from the pole. And never, no matter what, point the pole at the fish. A large fish will pull the topkit or even more sections from the pole. And I have seen people have to go swimming to retrieve sections of pole lost in this fashion. With a bend in the pole the sections will lock in place.
With a fish that is determined to run try dipping the pole tip underwater, even by a couple of feet. This technique is very effective when playing fish on the topkit. I believe that the fish is comfortable on the bottom and as long as you are not trying to pull it up in the water it will succumb to the elastic's pressure. As the fish nears you then raise the topkit and if necessary let the fish run again and bury the tip under the surface again. Repeat this a few times and the fish will tire and be ready to net.

There is no need to rush a fish to the net. Ignore what you have seen experienced pole anglers do and take your time.

I will also mention that you don't just lock your arm and wrist solidly when playing fish.  I advocate what I call a soft wrist and elbow.  Perhaps this goes back to my days of fishing rod & line.  If I am playing a fish, and it need not be large, I will use the wrist and elbow to let the pole tip follow a lunging fish.  This may mean that no more elastic is taken from the pole but the tip just travels a with the fish and towards the surface.  This is one way I manage to land small fish on heavy elastics.  Obviously if a larger fish is determined to run then I will hold steady and let the elastic do its work and use the technique I described above of burying the tip underwater. 
Lift & Drop or Leave Alone
Pole anglers tend to fall into two camps. Those that will lift a couple of feet and lower the rig back in if they have not had a bite after a few minutes and those that believe the bait should be left for the fish to find. Where you end up in this debate will depend on your own thoughts and experience.
Final Thoughts
I think I have just about completed my mission. Just a couple of things that didn't seem to fit elsewhere.
Lubricating elastic – I just get water into the topkit and let that do the lubricating. You can use a proprietary lubricant or diluted hair conditioner. But I believe these just wash out on a busy day.

Changing Elastic - Check your elastic for wear regularly.  You will find that eventually the elastic at the tip of the pole will start to wear.  There is no point in risking lost fish for a couple of pounds worth of elastic.  So when you notice the elastic deteriorating either change the whole thing or unwind the spare elastic you may have stored on the winder bung and re-fit the connector on a sound piece of elastic.
Pole care – Take care of your pole. It should be washed inside and out with warm, soapy water every now and again. Take care not to get grit or dirt in the joints. Apart from that don't jerk it around, sudden shocks will break sections. And don't store it wet. It won't harm the pole but it will be unpleasant next time you come to use it.
And that I think is it. Enjoy your pole fishing and if you have any questions myself and the other folks on will be happy to supply answers. But be prepared for a range of opinions.

I will leave you with one of my favourite catch shots

Remember fishing should be fun.  Tight lines and stretched elastic.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig

Let me start by explaining that what follows assumes that most of the time no shot is being put on the hooklength. I know that many do put shot on the hooklength, I don't. Reason being that it is quicker to change hooklengths if you don't have to add shot as well. And in match fishing even a couple of wasted minutes can be crucial.

In the following descriptions the final shot, that closest to the hook, will nearly always be sitting touching the knot that joins the hooklength to the rig. If you are using a loop to loop connection then it will sit just above the loop in the main line.
Understanding Underwater
When talking of shotting patterns I think it worth considering what happens underwater and out of sight.
In absolutely calm conditions on a stillwater the rig should hang vertically under the float. But many situations arise that means this isn't the case. We could be fishing a river, a lake affected by surface skim or undertow, a canal that is moving due to an overshot or opening lock gates.
What many people fail to understand is that water, even in a fast flowing river, does not move at the same speed from surface to bottom. The effect of drag imparted by the lake, canal or river bed means the lower layers of water move slower than the surface. Or, if there is an upstream wind, the surface may give the appearance of moving slowly if at all compared to the water a few inches down. On a lake a wind may create an undertow where the main body of the water will be moving in the opposite direction to the surface being blown by the wind.
Scientists have discovered that the average flow rate of a river is located at seven tenths of the depth. So on a river ten foot deep the average flow will be seven foot below the surface. For us as anglers this means we have to combat the tow for most of the depth in order to present the bait in a natural fashion on the bottom when the water is moving. Within a few inches of the bottom the water will be moving very slowly if at all.
With this in mind you can see, in part, why we end up with varying shotting patterns and different float loadings for similar depths.
This is the name given to the final few shot, normally spaced out, closest to the hooklength. The number and size of the droppers will depend on conditions and personal choice. The same for spacings. There is no one correct answer and really you have to experiment to find what you think works for you, the venue, the conditions, the species and even the bristle of the float we have chosen.

One piece of advice I was given and I can understand is that dropper shot, or the last dropper should register on the float. So in general, the thicker the bristle the heavier should be the droppers.
But as ever in fishing, there are no rules, only guidance.

Shotting Patterns

There are a few different ways of shotting a rig.

Bulk & droppers

Spread bulk

Double bulk

Strung out

So which to choose?

Bulk & Droppers
I would guess it is fair to say that the most popular or widely used will be the bulk & droppers pattern. Basically as it says, you have a bulk of shot or an olivette with a number of small shot below that.

I cannot tell you for certain why this is the most popular. I think people assume that it will get the bait down to the fish quicker.

Here I have to digress into a little science. Galileo theorised and later experimentation proved that the speed of a falling object is not influenced by its weight (mass to be precise). So in theory just because the shotting under the float is bulked together should not impact the speed at which the rig “settles”.

Galileo's theory was finally shown to be correct on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

And for a video

And yes I know that the line will act as a parachute and impact the speed of the shot falling through water. I'm only saying that people assume the rig settles quicker when a bulk is used. You believe what you want to believe and in time will develop confidence in what you do as regards shotting a pole rig. Lowering the rig vertically will remove the influence of the line and this means we can, I think, place our faith in Galileo.  I'll talk more about this when we go fishing.

The bulk can be made by using an olivette or a string of shot. I would probably use No.6 shot though others would tell me that these are too large.

How much of the float's loading should be in the bulk? No hard and fast rule but I would actually work from the opposite end and ask what droppers do you want. For example if I wanted to use three No.10s as my droppers I would put these on first then make most of the remaining required weight my bulk.

When forming a bulk it is worth incorporating two or three smaller shot like No.10s at the bottom of the bulk. This means that if you wish you can slide these down and increase the number of droppers or double the existing ones up to make them heavier.

Also I would leave a small amount to be added on the bank as you can never predict the exact requirement for the conditions on the day. I nearly always have a small shot immediately below the float stem to act as an indicator in case the float slides up the line. In the main this is also where I add any extra shot required to finally trim the float down when in use. Similarly I add backshot above the float and this also marks the float's position on the line. But more of backshotting later.

Where should the bulk be? Anywhere from just below half distance to possibly all just above the hooklength if no droppers are being used. Conditions, experience and target species can all play a part in making this decision. As a starting point I would recommend 12 to 15 inches above the hooklength.

Spread Bulk
Some anglers like to spread the shot making up the bulk out over a short distance. Let us assume we are using five or six No.8 shot as our bulk. These can be spaced out around half an inch to an inch apart.

I think the main reason this is used is because it is pleasing to the eye. If you hold the rig top and bottom at an angle the spread bulk forms a nice curve where a compact bulk would form an angle.  Because of the hinge effect between each of the shot it also means the fish only has to move a small portion of the bulk for a bite to register rather than the whole thing.

Again, experiment yourself and see if you prefer a spread bulk to a compact. Or more importantly, what do the fish prefer?

You can still have droppers below the spread bulk.

Double Bulk
This is a pattern that I am told is favoured by anglers targeting skimmers/bream.

As the name suggests you split your bulk into two. The main bulk will be around 18 inches from the hook with a small bulk, possibly as little as two No.10s two inches from the hook. This is not a shotting pattern I have ever used as it entails putting shot on the hooklength. But it may be something you wish to try.

Strung Out
This is, I have to admit, my normal pattern for stillwaters. I switched from using a bulk & droppers a few years ago on a day when it seemed fish were rejecting the bait when feeling the bulk. Bites improved that day and I now use this pattern most of the time.

Why do I think it works? I believe that while you have all the benefits of the weight of shot, i.e. 0.5g, you have the sensitivity of a lighter shotting pattern near the hook. And remember Galileo, a single No.6 should sink as quickly as a bulk of them. Certainly I do not notice any great delay in the float settling.

On my 0.5g standard commercial rig I will have three number ten droppers and then four No.6 shot spread up the line. In favourable conditions the first No.6 will be within a few inches of the float and the rest spread evenly and the final No.10 just above the hooklength. If there is a tow or I just feel I need the shot more closely spaced I will slide everything down so the first No.6 is at around half depth. The droppers may then only be an inch or two apart.

I suppose I really should use No.8s instead of the No.6s. But I find I still get bites and shotting with three No.10 and four No.6 easy to remember. I have been experimenting with No.8s on my Winter commercial rigs. Again just a thought that the slightly better look of the rig may help bite detection when it gets tough.

On my canal rigs with a 0.2g float I will use a string of six or seven No.10 shot again starting just above the hooklength and spread as far apart as I think the day demands. Although I may occasionally swap the bottom No.10 for a No.9. The slightly heavier shot as the last dropper will, hopefully magnify the effect of a fish moving it. Combined with a very sensitive bristle I think this improves bite detection. But its only a theory.

A variation of this shotting pattern is to gradually reduce the size of the shot as they get closer to the hook. This looks to overcome the faster water nearer the surface and give less weight in the lower depths where any flow will be less.

How Much Shot?
I am lucky in that I have a couple of water barrels in the garden and so I can shot floats in them. But if you haven't got that facility you can use a tube or cut down pop bottle filled with water to help shot floats at home.

But using tap water or even rainwater will not fully replicate actual water conditions when fishing. So if shotting this way at home then allow a little leeway to add shot on the day.  I normally leave the whole bristle and possibly part of the body showing when shotting in a barrel. 

Another thing you can do is use an app to calculate the shotting given the stated loading of the float. So without access to water you can still shot floats at home with a degree of confidence that they will be nearly correct when first used. But still leave a small amount to be added on the day.

Shottafloat is a phone app that will convert the 4xNN markings on floats into a weight in grammes and then also suggest how that weight can be made up using shot.

The Hardy online calculator allows you to play with various combinations of shot and styls to arrive at a certain weight.

How Much Bristle
One mistake I see many inexperienced pole anglers make is to have too much float or bristle showing. People worry that if “dotted down” too far they will not be able to see the float when settled and thus will miss bites. As long as the bristle is still visible then you will see the bite when it comes. Eyesight, distance and bristle thickness will all play a part in deciding just how much to leave visible. But trust me, you can sink a float lower than you may imagine and still see bites, even with a chop on the water.

The picture on the left shows a float as I would expect to shot it at home. 
Note that it has settled with all of the bristle and some of the body above the surface. 
The picture on the right shows  the same float with an acceptable amount of bristle showing.  Personally I may still add some more shot (No.12)
to at least halve the amount of bristle above the surface.
The No.11 backshot is keeping the line near the float underwater as I will explain later.

When there is a chop on the water many will try and have more float showing. In my opinion this is wrong. I still try and dot my floats down. What I am looking for is the float to ride through the peaks and troughs, not up and down with them. The best way to achieve this is to have a heavier float and little bristle showing. Yes it will disappear as each peak passes but you will soon see the rhythm, strike when that rhythm is interrupted. It may not be a bite every time that happens but I would rather strike at false bites than miss the one when it happens.

I have said that I dot my floats down most of the time. But there are days when you may need more showing. In the main this will be days when you are being troubled by small fish or fish brushing the line are causing false bites. So if you are getting bites and not hooking fish you may wish to try taking some weight off and having more bristle showing. You will get fewer indications but those you get should be proper bites where the float disappears.

After an experience that showed me the importance of backshotting I now add backshot to most if not all of my rigs.

Backshot are shot that are added to the line between the pole and the float. They serve two purposes. The first is to sink the line, they can also be used to trim the float sinking the bristle to the precise level the angler desires. Being above the float they can be moved up the line to reveal more bristle if desired.

The effect of sinking the line is twofold. It stops any wind affecting the line and moving the float around. This will improve the control you have over a pole float and improve presentation.  Second it can improve bite detection because the fish do not have to pull the line through the surface tension. And that resistance can be considerable particularly to small silvers.

The way I backshot most of my rigs is to add a No.11 near the float (as in the picture above), I set this on the line level with the tip of the bristle when the rig is suspended. A No.11 will keep the line sunk but not unduly unbalance the float. I then add a No.9 near the pole tip. This shot helps sink the line from pole to float initially but being near the pole tip will not affect the float. The size and position of this shot can be changed depending on conditions. When windy it may be as much as a No.6.

If you wish you can add a few (I add four) No.12 or 13 shot that can be slid down to the No.11 or up to the No.9 depending on whether you want less or more bristle showing.

Get the shotting right on the day and you will increase your catch. And so it is worth taking the trouble to get this element of your pole fishing spot on. Those that don't take the trouble, make the effort, will catch less.

So with rigs made and shotted lets go pole fishing.