Catch Everything! - Grant Albutt

Think Small To Win In Winter

Even though I’ve been known as a bit of a carp man in the past, I’ve always had a soft spot for silver fish. The great thing about silvers is that you can get bites throughout the winter and for me as a match angler, that’s the most important thing.

I like to keep the keepnet ticking over with regular additions to the day’s catch. At this time of year, the carp can shut up shop or feed for a few hours, whereas the silvers will feed all day.

This means that in a match, if I target silvers, the F1s and carp will no doubt turn up at some point, giving me a bonus catch.

With the water getting colder by the day, I’ve landed carp in the past using a No5 elastic and 0.08mm line in winter because they’re so lethargic. If you take your time and use the puller kit, you’ll still get them in.

It’s all about fish in the net at the end of the day. It sounds very mercenary, but match fishing is all about who has the most weight at the end of the match.

This means that it’s not really about the fish, just the weight you have of them. So, if you can get a bite a chuck, even if it’s a small fish, it is all adding to that final tally, which will hopefully lead to you picking up money.


If you are planning to go for silvers, make sure the carp in the pool aren’t going to wipe you out and what I mean by this is do some homework on the average size of the carp.

You can then make a more informed decision on how many silver fish you need to catch to still compete. If the carp are mostly ‘match-sized’ in the 3lb to 4lb bracket, as long as I catch my silvers fast enough, I don’t need to put a huge amount in the net to keep up with the carp lads.

Also, like I said earlier, the carp won’t feed for the entire match, so when the carp boys are struggling for bites – usually mid-match – I’m still going strong and hopefully putting a fish in the net every minute or two.

Plus, having a better and lighter presentation, I will have a carp or two at some point, which will back up my silver fish weight nicely. If the pool has a lot of skimmers and bream – my favourite fish by the way – you can really fill your boots, as they are a shoal fish, so will come in en masse.

The other fish that are good to target when silver fish fishing are F1s as they often counted in many silver fish matches.

Here at my Moorlands Farm fishery they aren’t, but at places like White Acres, rather than silver fish festivals, they now hold a Winter Festival where all fish count, apart from carp. So, if you can get a few F1s to go with your roach, perch and skimmers, you’ll start to build your weight very quickly.


When I’m looking to target silver fish I tend to have three lines, although ideally two of those will be throwaways. My main swim will be at nine metres, with the others being at 11 metres and around four metres for the close in line. I choose these lengths as they are just a nice comfortable range to fish and also give me lots of options.

I don’t like to fish my lines too far apart either as I don’t like splitting my fish too much. So it is very rare that I will fish lines at 10 o’clock and two o’clock for example. I also like to concentrate on one line if possible. I often see other anglers with four or five lines going but I think this just gives you too many plates to keep spinning.

You have to constantly top each one up as well as remember how and what you fed on each line. In the heat of a match it is so easy to forget and lose yourself, so you end up feeding the wrong bait or the wrong amount on that line. My mantra is to keep things simple and you won’t go wrong.

This is further added to by the fact that silver fish will feed pretty much anywhere in the swim. They are always in open water as they like to have plenty of escape routes in case of predation, so you can catch well from all and any commercial fishery swims.

No matter what you are faced with, when it comes to silver fish, you can always make something work. As they are at the bottom of the food chain, they are very eager to get to the food first as they know it won’t be long before the bigger fish bully them out of the way.

I think too many anglers neglect silver fish and this will very often cost them the match. The usual excuse I hear here at Moorlands is: “I couldn’t be bothered to set up more rigs.” In the summer especially, here at Moorlands it is very easy to get 30lb-plus of silver fish shallow.

You add this to your carp haul and those silver fish give your final weight a serious boost. Like I said, being in open water and spread like currents in a cake throughout the pool, silver fish are extremely angler friendly and easy to catch, so why would you ignore them?


When it comes to getting big bags of silver fish it’s all about presentation. They are easy to find and catch, but to catch a lot, you need good rig management. I always use as light a float as I can get away with.

Today it is quite windy, but I’m still using a 0.3g FS1, shotted with No11 shot. Having these shot strung out allows for a very slow and natural fall of the bait, so I am also searching all the depth too. I only use bulk rigs when the water is six feet or more deep.

Having a slow-falling strung-out rig greatly enables the catch-everything style fishing I’m looking to achieve. Take the last few fish for example, I’ve had a skimmer, two roach, an F1 and then a lovely rudd. When that bristle goes under, you never know what’s going to be on the end the way I fish.

To go with my very sensitive nylon bristled float, I’m using 1mm Drennan Power Pull solid elastic and it’s equivalent to around a traditional No3 or No4 I’d say.

This is a superb silver fish fishing elastic and when combined with a puller kit, I can land any fish in this pool with ease. You just have to take your time. The only reason anglers lose carp is because they get bored and pull too hard.

The rest of the rig consists of 0.13mm Supplex to a 4in hook link of 0.09mm Supplex, down to a size 18 Silverfish Match. This sounds quite big considering I’m using either a single maggot or double pinkie, but commercial silver fish aren’t tackle shy.

I think the bigger the hook, the harder it is for them to eject it, so the bites are much more positive. To add to this positivity, the rig is plumbed up to be a bristle length over, so around one inch on.


As you’d expect, my bait table is very simple too, consisting of just maggots and pinkies.

You may well be surprised that there isn’t a caster in sight, and although many of the lads down here use them very successfully during the winter and early season, I tend to stick to just maggots and pinkies.

Although, in the summer, I only use casters! Why? It’s just something that works for me. I think that in the colder water, you have to make casters ‘work’ and not all of the fish will eat them compared to a wriggling maggot or pinkie.

It’s a confidence thing for me. Although casters do work very well at Moorlands, pinkies are very good also and maggots are always a winner on any water. I like to use pinkies as a change bait, usually fishing them as a double. I also never use dead maggots when silver fish fishing on the pole. On the tip, yes, but never on the pole.

I’m looking to build up the silver fish matches here at Moorlands, so by encouraging anglers to use live baits instead of the more in vogue ‘dead reds’, the silvers are really responding, and the competitors are all catching well.

In essence, unlike other tactics, in this instance I’m actively looking to get ‘bitted out’, so that I get a bite every 30 seconds if possible. Dead reds aren’t as instant I find, although for skimmers and bream on the tip, they are deadly! Really, effective silver fish fishing is speed fishing.


Groundbait is so rarely used in winter and early season as anglers tend to use pellets, so they have what is called a ‘clean swim’.

Silver fish love groundbait though, and they like to sit over a bed of groundbait that is full of smell, taste and attraction.

The other thing is that here at Moorlands, groundbait has never been allowed in its 40-year history, so I thought, let’s bring it back! I do limit it and it can only be fed from November through to March. And it has made a big difference to the silver fish fishing here.

Being a crumb, so having a much larger surface area, it releases its flavour and attraction much quick than pellets do as they need time to break down.

My mix is a 70/30 combination of Dynamite Baits Black Milled Expander and Dark Silverfish. I think it is a myth that silver fish don’t like fishmeal.

Skimmers in particular love it as do roach. I think, they don’t get a look in in the summer as the carp and F1s beat them to it. I have also added a few micros just to help hold any bigger skimmers and F1s, but their addition is not essential.

Fishing For Silvers

To kick off my lines, I feed a ball of pure groundbait with around a dozen maggots and pinkies.

I will generally start on my 9m line, having the 11m line to have a go at if the fish back off. Ideally, it will be great to catch on the short line, but being so close to the bank, it is rare to catch lots on this line in winter.

This means that my main and usually only line – if all goes to plan – will be the 9m line.

If bites slow or stop, there are only two reasons in my book. Either a much larger fish has come into the swim and bullied the silvers away, or they have eaten everything you have fed.

My first action will be to top up the line with groundbait and loose feed. This will see me either quickly catching the larger fish or the silver fish coming back on the feed very quickly.

If neither of these things happen, I will then go on to my longer or shorter line, leaving the main line to settle. Ideally, the long and short lines are throwaways, which won’t be needed. If I can make my main line work, it’s a very simple and easy day’s fishing, with plenty of bites being the reward.

You may also be surprised by the fact that I don’t use a catapult either. At this time of year, I want to concentrate the fish on the deck where they are easier to catch.

A catapult would just see them spread all over the swim, which will just make things harder for me. In the summer, when they are all shallow it’s a different matter, but in this instance, it’s a non-runner in my eyes.

Following these few simple rules has seen me put well over 30lb in the net in just a few hours. But, more importantly, I haven’t even seen a carp, let alone caught one.

It just proves that you ignore silver fish to your peril this winter. If you ignore them, you are not only costing yourself bites and plenty of action, but you will also miss out on winning the match as you won’t have any back-up weight.