Dave Harrell How to scale down your baits and get more chub action
How a particle approach is trouncing pellets on the rivers right now
ACOUPLE of weeks ago I mentioned anglers on the Severn scaling down in terms of pellet size.
The days of catching big weights on big pellets when the river is running clear seem to be a thing of the past, and competitors in the matches at Bridgnorth and Bewdley are now using 6mm and even 4mm pellets as hookbait.
A conversation on the phone with my good friend Bob Roberts a few mornings ago revealed that anglers on the River Trent are doing a similar thing during daylight hours in pursuit of barbel and chub.
“It’s as though people have forgotten about maggots and casters for feeder fishing,” he said.
“I had a walk along a stretch of the river recently and saw a long line of anglers looking skywards towards motionless rod tops, and every one of them was using pellets in the feeder and a bigger pellet on a hair rig as hookbait.
“Hardly anyone had caught, and this was around 3pm. It seemed like they were happy to wait around until the evening in the hope that the fish would turn on.
“I fished lower down the river with maggots and had a really good catch of quality chub and several good barbel. While the rivers are running clear, I really do think that anglers need to have a more open-minded approach to their feeder fishing.”
I agree with Bob’s sentiments wholeheartedly, because I’ve witnessed exactly the same thing happening on the Wye and the Severn in recent years.
As our conversation continued, Bob told me that he was going for an afternoon session on the feeder that same day. “Come and share the session if you fancy it,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of bait and I’m only going for a couple of hours, but you’re welcome to have a chuck on my gear!”
I was soon making my way up the M1, and an hour-and-a-half later I was on the bank with Bob. The swim he had chosen looked lovely, despite the river running
very low and clear.
There was a good flow on the river while the nearside was almost still. It was pretty obvious where the feeder would be need to be.
Bob set up a Daiwa 1113P at 11ft and coupled this with 5lb line direct to a size 16 Gamakatsu Power hook. In between was an old Thamesley green blockend feeder. These used to be firm favourites with Trent anglers but aren’t available now. Bob explained that he’d stocked up years ago and still had loads left.
While I know these feeders worked well and once used them myself, these days I prefer the Kamasan Blackcap feeder.
They’re available in three sizes and it’s now possible to obtain add-on leads up to 5oz for them.
Bob’s swim on our Trent afternoon didn’t require anything like that sort of weight, and one small 1oz strap lead was all he needed to hold bottom.
“Let’s time it to see how many fish we can land in two hours,” he said. “Start the clock!”
Bob had got about six pints of bronze and red maggots with him and it didn’t take long for him to demonstrate that maggots in the feeder still have a part to play on the Trent. Three accurate casts to the far side with a tail of around 2ft 6ins and left in only 30 seconds put some bait in the swim quickly. The fourth cast saw the rod-tip jump back then pull forward as a chub of around 6lb hooked itself!
Over the next two hours we shared the rod and caught 27 chub between us. The smallest was about 2lb while most were in the 3lb bracket, with a few four-pounders. It was a red-letter couple of hours and one of those sessions when Bob didn’t need to change anything. To be fair such days are few and far between, but there are many things you can do to keep bites coming.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Too many anglers regard blockend feeder fishing as a ‘chuck it and chance it’ approach, but there is much more to it than that.
For starters, you need to think about feeder size. A big Blackcap feeder holds a fair bit of feed, which is great if there are loads of fish in front of you. If there aren’t, you should be using a smaller one.
Make sure there is enough weight to hold bottom.
Next, you need a rod strong enough to cast a loaded feeder to where you want it to go. I use rods from 12ft-14ft and have several different actions to suit weight, distance, line strength and hook size and type. It’s vital that all these variable are considered or there’s a fair chance you will end up not reaching the distance, not holding bottom and cracking off when a big fish hooks itself.
If you want the bait to come out of the feeder quickly, enlarge the holes with scissors. This will make a big difference if there are a lot of fish homing in on the feeder soon after it has landed. When this happens you want the bait out of the feeder and on the bottom in the same area every time.
In the depths of winter, when you’re waiting a long time for bites, you often want the exact opposite of the summertime ‘fast release’ feeder. By taping up all the central holes the bait can only release through the caps.
To slow this escape down even further with baits like maggots, cram the feed into the feeder before you put the top cap on.
Tail length is vital when you’re using hookbaits such as maggots and casters. If there are a lot of fish in the swim, try using a tail as short as 6ins. On other days, especially when it’s cold, a tail length of 5ft or even 6ft might be needed. The key to success is experimentation, so next time you find yourself in a feeder fishing situation, try these little tricks.
I guarantee they will work!
Bob and I took Trent chub to over 4lb.
...and maggots are still well worth using.
Hemp and caster makes great feeder fare...
My large collection of Blackcap feeders.