Feeding the swim when fishing the long pole is almost an exercise in ergonomics, says DELCAC match star Paul Greest.
To fish and feed properly with a long pole you must set up your seat box so you are sitting comfortably, with both feet flat on the ground. You must also have your bait, groundbait and catapult within easy reach, so you don’t have to turn around, bend down or stretch to reach them. A bait stand close to and just below the top of your seat box is therefore essential.
The obvious way to loose-feed is simply to place the pole in rests, leaving both hands free to use a catapult. The best types of pole rest fix permanently to the side of your box and comprise two adjustable arms. The farther apart these are, the less adjustment you can achieve but the less strain there is on the walls of your pole. To minimize strain, the arms should always be slightly padded and not too narrow.
Although putting your pole in rests might seem ideal, it’s very time-consuming, and if you get a bite while you are feeding you have little chance to strike. Also, when putting the pole in the rests and taking it out again it’s very difficult not to disturb your float. Experienced anglers loose-feed without putting the pole down. One way (assuming you hold the catapult in your left hand) is to sit facing the water and secure the pole along the top of your right thigh with your right forearm. With your left hand, place the feed in the pouch. Then, picking up the catapult with your left hand, fire out the bait by holding the pouch in your right hand and pushing the catapult away from you with your left. This method is quick and has the big advantages of not disturbing your float and of allowing you to strike a bite at any time while feeding, simply by lifting your right leg and pushing down with your right elbow. The only disadvantage is that it can be a bit inaccurate since the bait tends to spread (although this is sometimes a benefit, as when fishing with squatts).
Another way, also sitting facing the water, is to tuck the butt of the pole under your groin and support the pole between the top of your knees (make sure you have a cushion on your tackle box to help prevent damaging your pole). This leaves both hands free to use the catapult. Feeding this way is therefore more accurate, so it is a good method to use when you need to feed a tight area. Having to sit on the pole makes it a slower method, however, and one that can disturb your float. Then again, your pole is always at hand ready for striking. A third way, sitting at an angle to the water this time, is to lay the pole across both thighs and lean forward so that you trap the pole between your thighs and your stomach. This leaves both hands free to use the catapult, but it is difficult to strike if you get a bite while doing it.
Catapults for loose-feeding a long-pole swim should be rigged up with fairly short elastic, to reduce tangling and prevent your firing the bait out too far. They should have cup pouches as these are easier to fill one-handed than flat mesh pouches.
A good way to ensure the catapult is always in easy reach is to sit on it, with the pouch dangling handily over your bait box (one make of catapult is of a flattened design for just this purpose). Some anglers develop the knack of filling the pouch without taking their eyes off their float.
It’s hard to throw balls of groundbait accurately while sitting. To overcome this problem when fishing the long pole, learn the following technique. Jam the butt of the pole in the pit of your stomach or between your legs. Then, supporting the pole with your left hand (assuming you are right handed), get off your box and throw the groundbait ball in with your right hand from a standing crouch. Once mastered, this technique can be deadly accurate.
When you are fishing tight to a feature such as a bush, any small movement of your pole in the wrong direction can be disastrous, leaving your rig in the branches. It’s a good idea in such a situation, therefore, to feed before you position your tackle, or at least to pull your tackle away from the feature before feeding. Speed isn’t essential with this type of fishing, and using the feature as a marker makes it easy to feed accurately.
When extremely accurate feeding is essential it’s best to use a pole cup clipped as close as possible to the end of your pole. Pole cups vary from thimble size to the diameter of a washing-up liquid bottle, but one the size of an aerosol top covers most requirements.
You fill the cup with the feed required, push the pole out very carefully, then turn the pole to tip the feed into your swim. In very snaggy or weedy swims, wrap a rubber band around your pole and tuck your hook under it to prevent your rig snagging as you push the cup out.
Some anglers leave their cups on their poles all the time they are fishing, but this can lead to tangles and makes it harder to hold the pole still when it’s windy. It’s better to clip the cup on only when you feed. Best of all, attach the cup permanently to a spare set of top sections. This also removes the need to tuck your hook under a rubber band wrapped around your pole.
The only time you should leave the cup permanently on your pole while you are fishing is when you need to cup in small amounts of feed very regularly – but use the smallest cup possible to minimize the effect of any wind.
Don’t push your pole out too quickly or it will bounce, emptying the cup on the way out and ruining your careful feeding plan. Also, wetting the cup before putting in pinkies or squatts makes them less likely to bounce out. When the cup is in place and inverted, tap the butt of the pole to knock the maggots out.
When feeding groundbait, reduce the bounce problem by using a similar size cup to the balls of feed and giving each ball a slight squeeze after putting it in the cup.
Whenever you feed with a cup you must make allowance for the distance between the end of the pole and the cup. Usually, by pushing the pole forward when feeding you take this into account, ensuring you put your feed where your hookbait will be.