Winter Feeder with Jamie Harrison
Tue 16 December 14
With the hectic summer now behind us we are seeing water temperatures plummet and whilst we know many of the venues we are fishing are stuffed with fish, at this time of year it can often seem as though the fish have simply evaporated into thin air! The fish are now much more lethargic and as they aren’t moving around as much as they were, there need for energy and food is therefore a fraction of what it was just a few weeks ago.
Feeding is always a critical factor in today’s fishing and no more so than right now during the winter months. It’s common knowledge that by feeding less at this time of year you stand a greater chance of getting a few bites but all too often we see people who overlook WHAT they are actually feeding rather than the volume. The vast range of commercial groundbaits which can be bought in any tackle are all designed for certain situations and so by understanding what’s in our ‘mix’ we can stack the odds in our favour. A lot of the groundbaits available today have been designed for our commercial fisheries which means they can hold a lot of feed particles designed to hold fish in the swim for longer periods. This is fine when there are a lot of hungry fish in the swim but what happens when your only after one or two fish during a hard, winter session? Some groundbaits are designed to attract fish with little feed content which means if you want to hold fish in the swim then you’ll probably need to add some free samples. Other groundbaits already have a lot of feed in them and it can often be a great tactic in winter to feed just groundbait and rely on one or two fish finding your hookbait amongst the carpet of groundbait.
Recently, I spent 4 Sundays in the open matches at a local reservoir where I decided to only fish the feeder. The venue is full of skimmers and bream and whilst it can be a bit peggy (as with most bream venues!) we found that there was always a fish to be had no matter where we drew. On the last match I was plagued with tiny indications of the tip in for about 5-10 each hour with only 3-4 fish coming to the landing net. I actually weighed 9lb odd which was good enough for 2nd on that bank but how much had those indications cost me? Obviously there were fish in the swim and around the feeder but how could I have turned those indications into fish? Sadly, this was to be the last match on the venue until after Christmas so in a bit to learn where I’d gone wrong I returned to the same peg a week later. To analyse the problem initially I felt my groundbait must have been right as they were obviously over it for short periods. However, was it too course? Were they actually preoccupied with the groundbait itself therefore ignoring my hookbait? So, I stayed with the same mix but riddled every particle out of it creating a really fine mix. The fish would now only have anything I introduced through the feeder to feed on. The first 2 hours was exactly the same as it had been in the match the week before! Tiny indications which never resulted in a fish. The next logical step was to shorten the hooklength. I’d been fishing a single dead red maggot on a 50cm hooklength. I reduced this gradually each cast until it was just 20cm long with little effect.
The next step was to look at the rig. The indications remained so they could only be in or around the groundbait. By this stage I had cut out all freebies so all that was there was the groundbait and my single hookbait. Where they simply ‘mouthing’ the hookbait? The Method feeder works well here but for some reason it hadn’t really been working. A pellet feeder would make sure that any fish feeding on the groundbait could only access it through one end of the feeder and this would also allow me to use a very short hooklength
By keeping the same N-Gauge 0.11 hooklength but 4” long and a size 20 Guru LWG hook I was able to just tuck the hookbait into the groundbait where it could be accessed by any inquisitive fish who came to inspect the groundbait.
In the next 4 casts I had 3 bream! I continued to catch for the final hour of the session without feeding anything but groundbait through the pellet feeder. Interestingly, most of the fish I caught were actually small stockie carp which I guess wasn’t a huge surprise as I was using the Super Method Mix mixed with a little ground pellet.
Bloodworm & Joker is also a good winter bait here and when you see how appealing that looks in a groundbait you can see why you usually end up fishing the same bait on the hook!
It became clear that these cold water fish were simply coming to the groundbait like they do all year round but once they were over it, they must have been simply filter feeding on it without moving. The 4” hooklength must have just been short enough for them to suck the hookbait it, probably just lift their head which then enabled them to hook themselves against the weight of the feeder. After all, we fish for these kind of bites on the pole all the time with double bulk rigs etc so why not emulate that when we are fishing further out with a feeder? Just think the next time we are sat waiting for a bite with a 50cm hooklength thinking there isn’t a fish within 20 pegs, how many bites we are getting but not actually seeing…hmmmm
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