Long-distance groundbaiting

When ledgering, use two rods if possible. Avon-style rods of 10-1 lft are recommended, with reel line of 3-4lb. Vary the breaking strain of the hook length according to hook size and bait, 3lb being suitable for use with large baits such as flake on No 8-10 hooks, and 2lb for baiting with maggots on size 12-16 hooks.

For concentrating loose feed at distances beyond where you can catapult groundbait accurately, use a swimfeeder. Open-ended swimfeeders carrying loose crumb with bread hook baits and feeder link blockends for maggots, both work extremely well. But when bites are coming quick on maggots, use open- ended feeders only, because of their quicker distribution.

By using two rods you an place one bait where you expect to find roach and use the other rod to explore different spots. Stillwater roach, even when feeding quite well, can move around quite a lot, and so during static periods do not hesitate to cover any fish which rolls on the surface well away from your swim. Reel in one of the rods straight away and get a bait out fast. At times you will be pleasantly surprised by an in-stant catch, with perhaps a couple more before the shoal moves on.

Terminal rigs, as for river ledgering during the summer, should be kept simple. A fixed paternoster with a junction swivel is ideal. During the initial sessions of fishing for a particular shoal, when bites are positive, use a hook length up to 4ft long. Then, as firm bites slowly develop into tiny twitches—a common occurrence with small baits, such as maggots—change back to a short hook link and long bomb link.

For a change of baits to improve the proportion of easy-tohit bites, once the shoal has started to become wary of maggots, try casters, stew- ed wheat, or sweetcorn. But if any bait is used regularly, bites will eventually diminish from firm lifts of the bobbin to tiny I-in jerks and twitches. The roach will be sucking the bait back to their throat teeth without moving off, and then spitting the hook out. When this starts, gear yourself to hitting the fish quickly by having the bobbin on a short 4in drop and your hand ready to strike at the slightest movement. In calm conditions, watch the line where it enters the water, and hit any slight tremble. It takes con-siderable concentration, but can prove very rewarding.

As summer drifts into autumn and then into winter, you will notice a change in the roach’s feeding patterns. On many waters shoals will actually be willing to feed at some time or other throughout the daylight hours, and when the conditions have been mild for several days the feeding spells may last several hours. In cold conditions,. short feed might occur around midday, and then again as dusk falls, petering out as the temperature at night drops.

You just have to fish through a whole range of conditions to find when these feeding cycles occur on a particular water and, as with sum-mer fishing, always be ready to search about with the second rod. Mild, very windy weather with a touch of rain in the air is when stillwater winter roach are most likely to be co-operative. But during cold, windy weather, when the sunlight is bright, you are best to leave them alone.

The roach’s metabolism is slowed by cold, so less food is needed in the winter. Therefore, pin your faith in small baits like the humble maggot, going over to breadflake only in exceptionally mild conditions. Use feeder and groundbait sparingly.

A far better approach can be made when the angler is in the water, either wading where this is possible, or from a boat. A short, light rod—a fly rod is ideal—and a free-running centrepin or light fixed-spool reel with a light line in the region of 3lb b.s. Will enable accurate casting to be achieved with the minimum exertion. Accuracy is all-important, but you should nevertheless aim to use as little lead on the line as possible, and cast the caterpillar under bushes and between reeds or weedbeds from the mid-stream position, with little or no splash.

Time is well spent in watching the surface for movements from a fish before casting to it. The angler can wade slowly upstream and position himself below the fish he has located. Two tail-hooked caterpillars will create sufficient disturbance as they land to ensure that immediate interest is shown, and no attempt should be made to strike until the fish has turned away with the bait—an action that can be judged by movement of the line across the water’s surface.

Dapping in one form or another can also be successfully undertaken in the region of locks, bridges, canal wharfs—anywhere, in fact, where brickwork lines or crosses water. Many insects live or hibernate in masonry, and naturally fall on to the water’s surface from time to time in these areas.

In these days of high cost baits, where a pint of maggots may prove beyond the reach of many younger anglers, the use of natural baits such as caterpillars, flies, earwigs and so on, is a nice way of ensuring a constant bait supply free of charge.

An example of this is where nor-mal Stillwater boat fishing tactics are being used without success. It is the simplest of tasks to collect half a dozen caterpillars and slip one or more on to the hook. No prebaiting is necessary and it is amazing how often the bait meets with instant success, although it may not work again all day. All freshwater fish feed better on food that they have become accustomed to, so if the caterpillars are plentiful a handful should be collected and half a dozen thrown in every few minutes.

A brightly coloured caterpillar provides a marvellous change of bait when stick-floating a river with maggots. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of casters and the chrysalids of caterpillars. A few caterpillars kept in a jar with plenty of air and food will be the basis of a chrysalid farm—but you may not think it worth the trouble.

When small shoal fish are bursting every maggot, the substitution of a big fat caterpillar will give the bigger specimens, hanging deeper and farther down the swim, a chance to take an acceptable bait that hasn’t been pulverized by fry or bleak. It doesn’t seem to worry them if the caterpillar is a totally different colour from the maggots being fed into the swim: these merely attract them in the first place, build up their confidence and excite them into feeding.