What I have learned and what I need to improve on
Two years of coarse fishing have flown by and I am sitting down today to think about one aspect of the sport where I still need to improve, using feeders. Let’s start off with the bigger picture here, I have no intention of trying to become some sort of expert, just a regular guy who would like to be more confident when using this rig. Here in Ireland the use of the feeder is a big part of the coarse scene with the top anglers catching enormous bags of fish on it, usually on the bigger loughs and rivers. My fishing is based around much smaller loughs and ponds so my horizons are much more limited.
Let’s go back in time a couple of years to when I started to fish for roach and bream. I bought a mix of new and second-hand gear and the feeders I started out with were a batch of pre-owned ones of various sizes and designs acquired from eBay. About twenty in total, they made a good starting point for a complete novice like myself and I read up on what these feeders were and how they might be used. Like a sponge, I soaked in the advice from YouTube videos and assorted websites. What jumped out to me was the complexity which this form of bottom fishing had assumed. My ignorant initial thoughts that this was just a fancy weight that allowed you to add bait to a swim were replaced by a realisation of how much I didn’t know. Reading up on a subject is all fine and dandy but I believe the only way to really learn is to get out and do it. So off I toddled to an assortment of venues and fished with the feeder on most occasions. On most occasion I failed to catch very much on said feeders.
I am becoming a tad frustrated with myself over this. I have fished all my life, I can handle all types of gear with reasonable proficiency and have access to good stillwaters with a healthy head of fish. Bait is a bit of an issue for me but I can usually put my hand on worms, maggots and the range of baits from the supermarket. My target species are tench, roach and bream. So, no commercial fisheries and little in the way of running water, no carp, chub or crucians, no fancy dan processed boilies, wafters and what have you. On the face of it fishing the feeder should be easy and productive. Wild fisheries, natural baits presented on the bottom to lots of eager bream, roach and tench.
This is where it all started to get very confusing. In a nutshell, some days I haul fish out on the feeder but on others I fail miserably to catch anything, it is as black and white as that. I have to be open and frank here, I much prefer to fish the waggler, I love the visual aspect of that branch of the sport. Our rules here in Ireland allow the use of two rods at any one time so it makes perfect sense to lob out a leger or feeder while fishing the float on the other rod. I have come to the conclusion that this is the root cause for me being so slow to pick up the intricacies of the feeder, I don’t concentrate on it enough.
A typical session will see me rig the feeder rod with either a cage feeder or a maggot feeder, usually a 20gm size. My normal rig is a twizzled boom to a hook length which can vary from 6 to 20 inches. Hook size is usually a 10 or 12 but I do go as small as a 16 if I am after smaller fish. When fishing for tench I often use a hair rig. Bait is either maggot or worm. On the waters I fish long casting is not necessary (at least I think so) and I rarely go much beyond 30 metres out. Often it is just a gentle lob as close as I dare to nearby weeds or rushes. And that will often be that for the whole session. I vary bait sometimes, swapping between maggot and worm but most days that is the extent of my changes. I used to be more adventurous but saw no big improvement in catches so these days I have drifted into the lethargy of just leaving it out there and hoping for the best. Not that such a lazy approach has not borne fruit, some of my best fish have come to the feeder which has been neglected for 20 or 30 minutes!
So what do I need to do to become more consistent with the feeder? I am open to anyone’s assistance here but these are the variables I think I should work on:
- Casting. I strongly suspect I have to be more accurate when casting the feeder and that I don’t get the benefit of dropping the feeder and bait into a tight area every cast. Up until now I have not clipped down my line so I am casting to the same distance, a trick I see most other anglers using. As Bart might write on the blackboard ‘I must clip my line so my distance is consistent’.
- Feeder size and design is maybe another variable to think about. Should for example cast out 4 or 6 large open end feeders full of groundbait to feed the swim first and then change to a cage or maggot feeder after that to keep a steady stream of feed going in? I suspect I have nothing to lose doing this.
- Choice of hooklength gives me enough worries to keep me awake at night. My current way of judging how long I need is based on whether I pop up the hook (shorter) or leave it lie on the bottom (longer). My shortest hooklengths are about 4 inches and they go right up to about 15 inches. On balance, I reckon the longer length possibly catches me more fish. The lakes I fish are all natural and have silty bottoms and I worry that my feeder and even the baited hook sometimes just disappear into the sludge. I think I will try longer hooklengths, up to a couple of feet or more, next year. My concern is that you lose bite sensitivity my going longer but that could just be my imagination. While I am on about hooklengths I generally use 4 pound mono most of the time, moving up to 6 or 8 pound if I know there are good sized tench in the lake I am fishing. I have suffered a few breakages using those lines so I am upping line strength next year with 6 pound my standard feeder hooklength and keeping 8 pound for the tench.
- Bait. Do I break my habits and try other baits? I bemoan the lack of bait suppliers close to me but I can order boilies, pellets etc on line. Other anglers swear by them so I am willing to give them a try. Just having a few in my tackle box gives me more options than I currently have so next season I’ll try them out. Which ones do I try? There are so many pellets and other goodies to tempt the angler let alone the fish. I will do a bit of research and try to find some that are not too garish in colour or flavour. That means investing in a banding tool but they are cheap to buy. Even this tight Aberdonian can lash out a fiver or so for one.
- I do have a notion to change from mono line to braid on my reels for feeder fishing. Braid keeps you in much better contact and it could be that I am missing lots of bites due to the elasticity of the monofilament. I’ll mull that over for now but I like the idea of ten pound braid on my reel.
That is about as much as I can think of for now. I don’t own a super-duper specialist feeder rod nor a three hundred quid reel to go with it but I really can’t imagine such an investment would result in a quantum leap in my feeder fortunes. More accurate casting, flexibility in bait choice and a willingness to ring the changes are where my thoughts are now but if any of you seasoned coarse anglers have some other ideas I’d love to hear them.