Past Master

For this feature I’ve decided to bring you to one of my favourite winter haunts, Shearwater Lake near Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire. It’s not just a beautiful place to fish, it’s also stuffed with roach, bream and some big carp and today I’m going to try and catch some bream and carp on the feeder. The water’s deep here and today it’s got just a tinge of colour, so it will be interesting to see if it’s going to be a bream day or a carp day… or both!
I’d love to catch some carp though, because they’re big, beautiful fish in here so fingers crossed I can get into one or two of them today. Carp normally figure in the matches but if they don’t feed you need to catch bream, and this is how I can catch both on the feeder.

The Swim
As with all winter fishing, swim selection is vital. This reservoir is typical of a man-made lake in that the banks slope down to a deeper channel that runs down the middle of the lake. There’s a rocky ledge though about 30 metres out and you have to be careful when playing fish that they don’t get near this and rub your line against the rocks, which can cause a breakage. The peg I’ve chosen is on the roadside and this seems to be more consistent for big fish than the swims on the opposite bank – I wouldn’t be unhappy to draw here in a match. There’s a good depth of about 16 feet where I’ll be chucking today and that’s at a distance of 55 and 65 metres.

The one great thing about fishing the feeder for bream and carp at this time of year is that everything on the bait tray is dead simple. There’s no need to complicate things when fishing the Method feeder, like I am today, and all you need is either pellets or groundbait to go around the feeder and a selection of hook baits.

Starting with the pellets, I’ve got a mix of 2mm Fin Perfect pellets and Pro Feed 2mm pellets. I like using the Pro Feed pellets because they’re more sticky than the Fin Perfects and help the pellets to mould on to the feeder. The sticky pellets are important on here because like I said earlier, it’s about 16 feet deep where I’m fishing so I need to squeeze some on firmly so they’re still on the feeder when it gets to the bottom. I’ll show you later how I mould the bait round the feeder because this is important. I’ve prepared about three pints of these because I’ll be feeding some at the start of the session with my Feeder Feeda rod.

I’ve also got some groundbait mixed up but I’m hoping that I don’t get to use it today. Groundbait can be massive on certain days but I won’t be starting on it today; I’ll save it for later and put some in if I’m struggling because it can turn things around if the fishing is hard on pellets.

Aside from the pellets and groundbait, all I then have is a tin of corn for using in my initial feed and maybe on the hook. Then it’s just an assortment of 8mm wafters in various colours that I’ll be using on the hook, and some dead maggots to use as hook baits if it’s hard and I need to target the smaller skimmers.

Just like the bait, the rigs I’ve made up for today are very simple, but it’s important to have the right gear. The first rod is my Feeder Feeda rod and I think it’s important you all get yourself one of these for casting in those big feeders full of bait to get some feed down at the start of the session. I’ve got 25lb braid on the reel so I’m not messing about, and that’s tied direct to a large six-hole cage feeder for getting some bait into the swim initially. That’s clipped up at 55 metres.

I’ve then got two rods set up that are exactly the same, but they’re set at different distances. One is clipped up at 55 metres for fishing on the bait I’ll be introducing with the Feeder Feeda rod, and the other is set up at 65 metres for fishing 10 metres past my baited-up line. I won a match here last year doing this and it’s a tactic that I really want to show you today; fishing past your feed in the winter can be deadly and if you read my feature in last month’s fishing, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in going past my feed to catch bonus fish.

The rig itself is identical on both rods, which are 12ft 6in Supera 50g models, and I’ve got 6lb Sinking Mono main line and an 8lb shockleader of the same material. I’ve then got a 45g large ICS Method feeder that I’m using to begin with so I can get plenty of bait around the feeder, which I think you need on large, deep lakes like this. The weather has also been quite mild (but wet) so hopefully the fish will want a bit of bait today. Hooklength is 0.17mm to a size 14 KKM hook and I’ve got a hair rigged bait band on this because my hook bait to begin with will be a single 8mm wafter.

The Session
Before I cast out with the Method feeder, I need to use the Feeder Feeda rod to get some bait into the swim. What I’m going to do is take a two-pint bait tub and half fill it with micros and a few grains of corn and put it all in at 55 metres with the six-hole cage feeder. It will probably take eight to 10 casts to get all the bait in and then once it’s all been introduced, I’ll pick up my rod that’s clipped up at 65 metres and start fishing beyond it.

I let a couple of feeders hit the bottom before I pull on the rod to empty it, and then for the rest of my casts with this rod, I will empty the feeder at about half depth, which creates a fish-attracting cloud of pellets and forms quite a large area of feed on the bottom once they get down. I’ve got a count of seven until the feeder hits the bottom, so I count to three and then empty the feeder to release the bait at half-depth. A lot of the carp anglers that come here fish zigs and spod in their bait so that tells you that the carp like to be off the bottom, so feeding some bait higher up in the water is a very good idea.

I’ve been fishing for about half an hour now past my feed at 65 metres and after all that time with no liners or other indications, my tip flies round and I’m connected to what feels like a carp. You never really know what you’re going to hook on this venue but I was expecting a bream to start with, so it’s nice that I’ve managed to get into a carp for the first fish of the day. They go big in here too and it’s not out of the question to catch a 20-pounder today if they decide to feed. There are a lot of anglers on here today too, so they get plenty of food and on venues where they’re well fed, they grow big quickly.

One really annoying thing today is that the Forestry Commission are doing some management work on the bank opposite me and are making a right racket! There’s a guy with a chainsaw and then two other guys are operating a huge mulching machine, which is so noisy! It’s worth putting up with though because my first fish is a beautiful ‘Maureen the mirror’ that’s into double figures. What a great start!

After that first carp I never had another sign on my next cast, which I left about 15 minutes before recasting, but then a minute into the next cast I get another bite and it feels like I’m into another carp… not what I was expecting! The 50g Supera rod might sound a bit undergunned for fishing at 65 metres and catching big carp, but it’s absolutely perfect for casting and the action is brilliant for playing fish because it absorbs every lunge and really protects that 0.17mm hooklength. I’m fishing an inline Method today, not an elasticated version, so the rod is doing the work of the elastic for me.

Interestingly, I’ve not had any liners so far and I’d expect those if I had fish over the bait at 55 metres. Fishing past the feed is definitely working though, and if I manage to get this fish out it will be two carp in 45 minutes by fishing 10 metres past my bait. This second fish puts up a great scrap near the net before I scoop it and it’s another double-figure fish, this time a dark coloured common.

I’ve been fishing for about an hour now and I’m now playing my third fish, but this one doesn’t feel like a carp this time, it feels like a big skimmer. Maybe the bream are moving in and those two carp were bonus fish, we’ll have to wait and see, but what is interesting is that I still haven’t had any liners indicating there are fish on my bait at 55 metres. It is a skimmer and what’s going through my mind now is do I carry on what I’m doing, or do I have a look at 55 metres and if there are no bites there, do I put in some more bait?

I carry on fishing as I am at 65 metres and on my next cast after landing that big skimmer, the feeder has only been out for just over two minutes before the tip goes round and although I’m expecting it to be a bream, it definitely feels like another carp! It feels like it has more weight to it than the other two I’ve caught so I hope I can get this one out because it definitely feels like it’s a bigger fish.