Feeder fishing for Stillwater bream

It’s summer and you’ve drawn a peg that gives you a real chance of winning with bream – all you have to do is catch them. Luckily, Paul Greest and Ian Carley are on hand to help.

The first thing to do is to mix your groundbait, since it takes a while to absorb water fully. By the time you have tackled up it will be on the dry side – add more water so it squeezes just hard enough to sink to half depth before breakingup. If it disperses at the surface it’s likely to attract unwanted small fish.

You don’t need any fancy groundbaits -two parts brown crumb to one part white is as good as anything. Bream do have a bit of a sweet tooth, though, so it’s worth mixing in something like Brasem or Vanille.

Before adding the second lot of water, separate some of the mix for use in the feeder. This needs to be slightly dry so that it breaks up when the feeder reaches the bottom — a heavy mix simply stays in the feeder until you wind in. Finally, pass both lots of groundbait through a maggot riddle. This removes any lumps and adds air, making it more active in the water.

Slab tackle

For short to medium range (30-50m/33-55yd) you need a 10-llft (3-3.3m) through-action rod. For greater distances use a stiffer 12-13ft (3.6-3.9m) rod. When it’s very windy you might need the stiffer rod to cast accurately even at medium range.

Reels with long spools are best, for level line lay with no bedding-in. It’s useful, too, if the spools have line clips for accurate casting at range.

Go for a sinking brand of reel line, such as Maxima. For short to medium range use 3lb (1.4kg) line. For distance fishing 2lb (0.9kg) line is better since, being thinner, it casts farther and offers less resistance to drift -but use a 5lb (2.3kg) shock leader to avoid cracking off on the cast.

Most of the time a medium size feeder is best. Small ones are mainly for skimmer fishing and you very rarely need big ones (which can’t be cast very far, anyway). The standard open-end feeder is the most versatile. It can be cast reasonably far, can be filled with varying proportions of casters, squatts and crumb, and offers little resistance on the strike. The frame feeder is ideal when a very long cast is needed. Aerodynamic, with its weight centrally located in the base, it can outdistance any other feeder. It also offers little resistance on the strike. However, it can only be filled with a limited amount of casters and squatts.

The Daiwa Harrier feeder planes to the top on the retrieve, making it useful in swims with snags or steep bars. It can be cast quite far and can be filled with varying proportions of casters, squatts and crumb -but it does offer more resistance on the strike than standard and frame feeders.

Rig specifics

A simple paternoster is best, but it must be as tangle-free as possible . There’s nothing worse than sitting there worrying that the tail might be wrapped around the feeder.

Length of tail Begin with a 90cm (3ft) tail, but if you start missing bites try increasing it to 1.8m (6ft) to give the bream more time to take the bait right into their mouths before a bite registers.

Hooks Use medium wire, micro-barbed hooks, matching the size (16-22) to the bait. Hooklengths Bayer is a proven brand. For bream to 3lb (1.4kg) at short and medium range, use 1.8lb (0.82kg/0.1mm) Ultima, going down to 1.1lb (0.5kg/0.08mm) Ultima on hard days. For bigger bream and distance fishing 1.7lb (0.77kg/0.125mm) Perlon has more stretch to absorb the lunges of the fish and, being thicker, doesn’t twist and kink as much on the retrieve.

Action stations

Breaming can be a waiting game – the fish might turn up at any time – so it’s essential to set your box so you can sit comfortably and maintain your concentration.

Rest the butt of the rod on your knee so it’s always in easy reach. Towards the tip, use a wide rod rest head with several notches so you can get the tension exactly right. You want a slight bend in the tip, to show drop-backs — these occur when the bream swims towards you and are usually unmissable. In really windy weather add another rest under the centre of the rod to help keep it as still as possible.

Finally, a target board is vital to help spot bites. It’s a popular misconception that bream always pull the tip right round, but often they only move the tip half an inch or an inch. Many anglers mistake these bites for small fish attacking the bait but often they are bream, so strike them.

On other days you get lots of taps that you just can’t hit. These are usually liners. To avoid repeatedly striking them, place the rod butt on a rest, sit back and wait for more definite pulls.

Twitch and draw

Most anglers cast then draw the feeder back the length of the tail – the idea being to empty the feeder, straighten the tail and leave the bait in the groundbait. They assume the bait always lands well away from the feeder, but it’s much more likely the tail falls in a heap around the feeder.

Therefore, draw the feeder back only a few inches – just enough to empty it. This way you can be sure the bait is on the groundbait. Also, because the tail is not straight, a bream has plenty of time to get the bait right into its mouth before it feels any resistance.

Twitching the bait can work well, not so much because a bream grabs the moving bait, but rather because it already has the bait in its mouth and twitching the bait either hooks it or scares it into moving. This doesn’t work very often but is sometimes the only way to catch shy bream that mouth and ultimately reject the bait without giving any indication of a bite.

Bream or bust

The classic approach is to put in six or so balls of groundbait and then fish the feeder on top. The trouble is, if bream are already in the swim the initial bombardment usually scares them away (except on the rare days when they are absolutely ravenous) — and they are unlikely to return to your swim. It’s normally best, therefore, not to ‘ball it up’ at the start.

Accuracy at range

The other problem with balling it up is that getting the accuracy required is very difficult more than about 30m (33yd) out. Even at that range it’s hard to land the balls in a tight enough area. When fishing at range, therefore, it’s usually best to stick with the feeder. One thing you can try, though, is balling it up at 30m (33yd) but fishing at, say, 60m (66yd), dropping in at 30m (33yd) now and then to see if any bream have moved in.

It’s also very hard to cast a long way accurately. This is where a line clip is so useful. At the start, aim at a permanent marker and cast to your chosen spot. Tighten up, release a couple of turns and tuck the line under the clip. Now, as long as you get the direction right, you should hit the same spot every time.

Dream or reality?

On most waters a 30m (33yd) or so cast is far enough. A typical match might go as follows. You make five casts in the first 10 minutes, feathering the line to land the feeder without a big splash. Nothing doing, so you start casting in only every five minutes. Forty-five minutes into the match you haven’t had a bite, nor has anyone near you, so it’s a pretty safe bet there aren’t any bream in your swim.

You might as well go for broke and ball it up -you weren’t catching anyway, so you’ve got nothing to lose. That done, you carry on casting, but only very infrequently, so that if any bream do turn up you don’t scare them away again before they have had a chance to settle.

An alternative scenario -you start on the feeder and catch one bream in the first half hour. Around you a handful of other anglers also have one or two bream each. It’s obvious they’re feeding but haven’t settled. So you ball it up before anyone else does!

Sure enough, for the next hour you sit rapless. Meanwhile the other anglers, not wishing to follow your example and scare their fish away, do the worst possible thing – they feed a ball every 10 minutes. Soon they stop catching, the bream move into your swim and settle over your groundbait, and you proceed to bag up…