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.


  1. Hi Neil I have a question about plumbing up! You say that you plumb up to dead depth and then shot the float to the required bristle lenghth! Would that then not take the float over depth?

  2. Yes and no. It will depend how much float was showing when plumbing up. If you have the float slightly undershotted but plumb up so that only a small amount of bristle is showing with the plummet on the bottom you will need to add shot to sink the float to that same level thus taking the hook to dead depth. I explain an alternative method of achieving dead depth in my blog on Winter Commercials, halfway down the page under the sub-heading "Calm Conditions". I don't have a problem if the hook is an inch or so ovedepth. But I do believe achieving close to dead depth when fishing expanders is important, but not necessarily every day. Its a starting point to be adjusted if you are searching for bites. For example, with corn skins I will try and fish slightly under depth as I want the skin moving around and attracting attention.