Many anglers never give ponds a second look and so miss out on the chance of a peaceful day’s fishing with some surprising rewards.
Small, intimate waters where you can easily cast to the middle with light float tackle, ponds are regrettably not as plentiful in Britain as they once were. Urban sprawl and widespread land drainage have seen many of our ponds disappear forever. Enough ponds remain, however, to offer anglers prepared to search them out a relaxing change from larger, more heavily fished waters.
Look for a pond that has both open and shaded water. Such a pond is likely to support a healthy balance of plants, insects and the fish that feed on them.
Avoid water surrounded by trees. Deep shade prevents the growth of plants that might harbour insects and this, in turn, means a lack of food for fish. Equally unpromising is a pond with no shade at all: it may become choked with weed and, in hot weather, even dry up.
With the right mix of plant and insect life, you can find a surprising variety of fish. The most common species in ponds are probably rudd and tench, but you can also find roach, crucian carp, carp, bream, pike, perch and eels.
A mixed catch
Specimen fish are rare in ponds because the fish have to compete for a limited amount of food in a small volume of water. Where food is in very short supply, the fish are stunted. This is also the case when a pond has no pike or perch to cull the small fish and so becomes overcrowded. In a good pond, however, you can expect carp and pike to 7 lb (3.2kg), tench and bream to 3 lb (1.4g) and rudd, roach, crucian carp, perch and eels to 1lb (0.45kg).
In any water supporting rudd, roach and bream, the species tend to interbreed but hybrids are especially common in ponds; cramped conditions allow for only one spawning area, so odd-looking offspring are inevitable.
|Rudd||Lilies, open water||Light waggler or pole|
|Tench, carp, bream||Close to weeds||Lift float; freelining|
|Roach, skimmer bream, perch||Open water||Light waggler or pole|
Signs of life
Many promising ponds are ignored by anglers who don’t take the trouble to study them for signs of life. Using binoculars, you can first study the water from a distance and spot any activity without disturbing the fish. Closer in, wear polarising glasses so that you can look through the surface glare to see what’s below.
Look for signs of feeding fish. Reedmace stems swaying jerkily betray tench, carp or bream rooting between the stalks. Twitching lily pads indicate rudd picking water snails off the stems and undersides of the leaves. Cloudy patches or puffs of muddy water mean tench, carp or bream are sifting the bottom silt for food. Small swirls or spreading rings on the surface give away rudd taking insects and other food items from below.
Feeding tench sometimes send up characteristic clusters of pinhead-sized bubbles. Larger bubbles may mean feeding carp or bream, or they may be pockets of gas escaping from the bottom mud. Watch carefully for a few minutes. If the bubbles keep on coming up from the same spot, they are probably gas, but if they come up from a slightly different spot each time they are almost certainly caused by fish.
There are many enjoyable methods of fishing ponds – all using simple rigs and short casts that provide perfect relaxation for the seasoned angler and great practice for the beginner. Even the depth of the water can be estimated without too much trouble: just look at the plant life in and around the pond for some useful pointers.
In shallow margins you can expect to find reedmace and flowering rushes. As the water deepens, there may well be milfoils, hornworts, pondweeds and water-lilies. Only the deepest area is likely to be clear of weed.
Good baits for all pond fish are bread paste, flake and crust, maggots, sweetcorn and worms. However, delicate tackle is the real key to success in pond work. Try small floats, and line and hooks in keeping with the size of fish you expect. Above all, learn to lose the traditional tiox-on-the-bank, sitting on top of the swim’ approach. Wear camouflaged clothing and soft shoes so you won’t be seen or heard by fish right at the water’s edge. Get your tackle together well back from the bank and keep spare equipment in a shoulder bag to minimize your movements.
If the water is very shallow, freelining is a good method for tench, carp and bream. ‘Cup’ (mould) groundbait around the line above the hook with your hand to provide casting weight and attract the fish. This is a particularly good method on summer evenings when fish move into the margins to feed.
Fish the open water on-the-drop with a small, lightly shotted waggler or pole rig for rudd, roach, skimmer bream and perch. Feed little and often with samples of your hookbait and small balls of sloppy ground-bait to attract the fish.
Another method is to fish on the bottom close to weeds for bottom-feeding tench, carp and larger bream. A simple lift-float rig is as good as any here.
Always go steady on the groundbait when fishing ponds, even if the fish are biting freely. It is easy to overestimate the number of fish and so overfeed them.
In late autumn and into winter, when the fish are less active and the water is usually much clearer, it is often best not to use any groundbait at all, sticking instead to sparing loosefeeding of your hookbait.