Highfield’s Vinnie Smith lets you into some of the secrets that have made long-range legering a winning method on large still waters such as his local Elton Reservoir.
Accurate long-range casting and feeding take a lot of practice. Even if you are accomplished, it is easier, and therefore faster, to catch fish closer in. But there are days when the fish won’t come close in. Under these conditions most anglers either give up or carry on in the same old way — unsuccessfully. That’s when the angler who has mastered long-range tactics scores.
Swingtip or quivertip?
For medium-range legering — up to distances of about 50m (55yd) — the question of whether to quivertip or swingtip is answered largely by personal choice. But for really long-range work, quivertipping has disadvantages.
Because a quivertip is an extension of the rod, it has to withstand part of the casting force. As the casting weight increases the tip is put under increasing pressure. If the weight is particularly heavy, then, unless the tip is sturdy, it may break. The problem with a sturdier – stiffer – tip is that it is a less sensitive bite indicator. Also, a quivertip must be set parallel to the bank, reducing the striking arc and making it more difficult to hit bites.
A swingtip, on the other hand, takes none of the casting force. This means that no matter how heavy the leger is, the tip can’t break. Its ability to register bites is in no way linked to its ability to cast. So even with a weight of 2oz (57g) at a distance of 100m (110yd) it should, in theory, remain as sensitive as it would with Koz (7g) at 30m (33yd).
Hardware for distance
You need specialist tackle for long-distance casting. It’s no good using conventional leger gear, casting a bit harder and hoping for the best. This results in short, inaccurate casts, with the risk of snap-offs and possible injury to other people. Rods and reels For distances up to about 70-80m (75-85yd) you need a rod that is roughly (3.5m) long with a TC of around 2lb (0.9kg). Rings that have a fairly large internal diameter are best because they allow a shock leader knot to pass through unhindered. At one time it was necessary to modify carp rods to take a swingtip but now you can buy rods which are quite capable of doing the job. Although these are designed to take quivertips you can modify them by whipping on a threaded end ring to take a swingtip.
Retrieving even moderate-sized fish — such as an 8oz (0.27kg) roach – over long distances in deep water puts a reel under considerable pressure. So choose a smooth, sturdy reel with good line lay – ones with ball bearings are best and a tapered spool helps to put extra distance on your cast.
For casts beyond 80m (85yd) use a longer rod. Again it is no use just using the same length of rod with a heavier weight and casting harder – it won’t work. Although the rod needn’t be any beefier, what you do need is that extra little bit of length to provide the leverage to accelerate the lead over your head. A 13ft (4m) rod converted to take a swingtip is ideal. Use a bigger reel with a slightly larger spool to give you that extra distance.
Leads and main lines Choose your casting weight to suit the range at which you want to fish, and the strength of line to suit the weight you intend to cast.
Remember that just because one weight is heavier than another, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you can cast it farther. Aerodynamic shape comes into play here. So for example, all other things being equal, you won’t be able to cast a 2oz (57g) swim-feeder as far as a Vaoz (43g) lead – simply because swimfeeders are not as streamlined as Arlesey bombs.
You are allowed to use lead weights above 1 oz (28g), so an Arlesey bomb of l’/soz (32g) is a useful weight. Lead is considerably denser than the non-toxic metal substitutes. This means a lead bomb of 1 ½oz (32g) is quite a bit smaller than a non-toxic bomb of the same weight – allowing you to cast it much farther.
The actual weight you use depends on the weather conditions on the day. If there’s a wind from behind you can get away with far less than if there is a wind in your face. You need more weight to beat a side wind than when conditions are calm – it’s common sense, really.
With weights up to about l!4oz (35g) you can get away with 4lb (1.8kg) b.s. main line, but for heavier weights (when it’s windy, for example) use a shock leader. Because the shock leader takes the casting force, you can get away with a much lighter main line. So a typical combination might be a leader of 8-10lb (3.6-4.5kg) and a main line of 3lb (1.4kg). Lighter main line creates less resistance in the air and water, which means that you can not only cast farther, but see bites better too. The leader should be long enough to leave about three or four turns on the spool when you have the weight ready to cast. Tie a neat leader knot, cut the ends close and make sure the ring on your tip is large enough for the knot to pass through unhindered.
Hooks and tails Fishing at range doesn’t necessarily require the use of larger hooks. It all depends on the species you are after and the bait you are using.
For big fish/big weight venues – such as Lochs Ken and K1 lb irnie in south-west Scotland – you may be able to use a forged size 14 or 16 hook. But on some of the harder English venues such as Alton Water, Elton Reservoir, Hollingworth smoothly and directly overhead, letting the tackle do the work. Releasing the line at just the right moment takes practice but you should aim for a trajectory of about 45°. To cast accurately, pick a marker on the far bank. Don’t choose cows because they are apt to wander; similarly, anglers fishing opposite tend to get bored and retire home for an early supper. So go for something more enduring, such as a tree or building, line the rod up with it, then cast towards it. Judging distance correctly is difficult, but after repeated casts you should begin to get an idea of where the target area is. Feeding With practice you can use a powerful catapult to feed groundbait laced with loosefeed extremely accurately. Use your marker to line up. Don’t put the feed at the extremity of your casting range. It’s better to put it closer in and to cast beyond it. You can always wind in a bit to see whether anything has moved over the top. But if you put it too far then it is a strain to reach. For example, if you are fishing at 70-80m (75-85yd), put in the feed at about 65m (70yd).
If you want to introduce only small amounts of bait, then use an open-end or block-end feeder. This way you can be sure that there is some feed close to your hook.
Lake, Pennington Flash and Rudyard Lake you may have to go down to a size 18 or 20 -or even smaller.
Match the breaking strain of your tail -hooklength – to the hook size. As a rough guide tie size 14-16 hooks to 2-3lb (0.9-1.4kg) line and size 18-20 hooks to l-2lb (0.45-0.9kg) line. Long-range legering with a tail of less than 1 lb (0.45kg) b.s. is not advisable because you risk breaking off.
A tail length of between 1.07-1.2m &A-4ft) is a good starting point. You can then vary the length to suit the bites. Roach are often less of a problem than skimmers because they frequently take a bait and swim away with it – giving a good indication on the tip. Sometimes a very long tail of 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) can produce some excellent on-the-drop bites. Skimmers, on the other hand, often pick up a bait and hardly move at all. Here a much shorter tail gives a better chance of what little movement there is registering on the tip.
Since big bream usually need a bit of time to take a large bait into their mouth it often pays to use a long tail so you aren’t tempted to strike too soon.
Casting and feeding
Accurate casting and feeding are essential – and the most difficult parts of the long-range technique to get right. Casting The secret of a long cast is to cast