Fishing tight across to islands


Because i have concentrated a lot recently on fishing snake lakes especially tight across towards the far bank which is often called mud line fishing and there is lots of different rigs and bait that works on specific venues . This is a little piece on how i go about tackling them and if you do it right you can be on for a really good day .

Choosing the right time of year to fish this method is essential and it really comes in to play after the first spell of warm weather because the shallow water against the far bank stays warmer for longer which of course attracts the fish .


Where to fish

Fishing against the far bank on lots of snake lakes are usually reed lined and over grown , so the first thing i do is look for 2 or 3 areas where i can get as tight to it as possible and i would then be able to rotate them by taking a few fish from each which could also prolong the catch rate . Maybe a gap in the reeds or a little cut-back area were i would ideally find around 18 inch which i have found to be the perfect depth and with a gentle slope away from the mud bank because if it is to steep then your feed would roll away down the hill .

The advantage with getting tight across as possible is that is where the carp want to be , a good idea at the start of the session is to start in the slightly deeper water at about 2 ft deep before following them up to the mud bank when liners or foul hookers become a problem , as you can usually have a good first hour before later in the session bagging up with carp and f1s .

Nice stamp f1

Nice stamp f1


There is two ways that you can go regarding rigs one is the more delicate style were the fish can follow the bait down in a natural way which works better in slightly colder weather and by working the lighter rig the hook bait mimics the bait falling through the water all the time , bites will normally come just as the hook bait hits the bottom .

The other way seems to be the one in the vogue at the moment which is using heavier than normal rigs tight across in the shallow water because the disturbance that feeding fish make under the water can some times cause the lighter rig to be dragged out of the swim and by using the heavier rig greatly increases the amount of time that you can be fishing .

By positioning the shot close to the hook about 2 or 3 inch away makes for more stability and you need a float that is stable because it helps you to distinguish between proper bites and line bites which can be a problem when fishing in such shallow water , also it makes it quicker for you to see the bite but they are really positive when using this rig when the fish are having it .

Fishing across can be a time in motion exercise with plenty of fish coming your way , so you need to make sure that every thing is at hand and more importantly the roller placement makes shipping in-out a bit quicker . Also the rig line needs to be stronger to with stand a lot of punishment with it rubbing against the far bank all the time and fishing this method gives you the chance of a bonus carp , also there is no need to go over board with your elastic strength because soft elastic allows the fish to swim out of the peg and not bolt in to the reeds .


Lighter rig

I have used a small matrix number 3 float which is a 0.10 gram and the shotting is equally spread down the line this is the rig that i usually start with but when a lot of fish are present then it can be easily wafted out of the swim before the fish manage to find the hook bait .

Heavy rig

This doesn’t look right for fishing in such shallow water but if the island was 30 meters away you would think nothing of casting a 30 gram method feeder to it and expect to bring back a fish every cast .But by using a matrix number three float in a 0.4 weight this allows me to keep the float more stable and stability is the key to catching big nets of fish , i put all my shot just above the short four inch hook length which works like a bolt rig and the first thing you see is your elastic streaming out of your pole tip .

Just a quick thing for you to think about is because you are fishing in such shallow water by using a long length of line between float and pole tip , can stop you spooking the fish or you could paint the top part of your top kit white so it blends in with the sky so the fish can not see it when they look up .



A lot of fisheries go through spells on the in bait to use when fishing and the mud line is no different , so it would be a good idea to find as much info as you can before attending the match but if the info isn’t as forth coming as you would like then a good starting bait to use is maggots because they attract all sizes of fish and work on lots of different venues .

Another good thing to try is big potting up to the mud line with ground-bait , start the swim with a 250 ml cup with 40% ground-bait 60% maggots and then feel your way into the match , by either continuing big potting or kinder potting after every fish to do this you fill it 3/4 full of maggots then cap it with ground-bait and this has the extra benefit of preventing you spilling your pot as you are shipping out .

Using a big target bait like three maggots will hope fully help you avoid the attention of the silvers and when proper fish are in the area the small fish activity will completely stop before the float gets buried properly and your attached to a nice fish .


By feeding after every fish you can usually keep them coming all day but if you are struggling for bites then i trick for you to try is reached for your catty because loose feeding can some times transform your peg by attracting fish into your swim and a way to cut out line bites is when you are tapping out your kinder pot keep it low to the water because even in this shallow water the fish rise to intercept it , to get around this feed balls of pellets or ground-bait almost level to the water to get them to the deck in one piece kind of like trying to sneak the bait in un-noticed .


By doing what i have described above will hopefully get you among the fish and if you can get the fish slurping against the far bank you can be on for a massive weight because you can catch the better fish closer to the island and plenty of them too . hope this helps a view people .


Silver fish fishing by Merce , part 5

In this last blog we share some lessons learned (the hard way), through our match-fishing careers (such as they are, lol). They apply to any type of match-fishing, carp or silvers. You may disagree with some of them, indeed you may think we are talking rubbish, but I firmly believe these are the most important lessons covered in this series of blogs. From a personal perspective, I can trace significant improvements in my match fishing directly to following the principles explained below.

· Go with a plan: do your research in advance of the match so you have a feel for likely target weights, species, methods etc. Then decide the two, or at the absolute most, the three things you are going to do in the match. Choose methods that suit both the venue and you personally ie. things you are good at and/or like doing. 

· Under no circumstances change your plan at the draw, based upon something someone tells you on the morning of the match. The only time you should consider tweaking your plan is when you get to your peg eg. if there is a particular feature in your swim that you weren’t expecting. Even then you should ideally be looking to tweak your plan, not alter it completely. Many, many times in my early career I changed my plans on the day based upon the view of some supposed venue expert, or upon the latest information. I regretted it 95% of the time.

· In deciding which two or three things to do in the match, make sure these are compatiblemethods. For example, it is quite easy to ping pellets or casters at 13 metres whilst watching a quiver tip. These tactics are compatible. It is not easy to ping feed whilst fishing in the margins. So select a combination of methods that work well together, enabling you to be comfortable when fishing.

· In your mind, have your plan broken down by the hour. For example, in hour one you will fish on the feeder. If you are catching you will stay on this until the end of hour two (or maybe even all match). However, if you’ve not had any bites on the feeder after an hour you will come onto the 13 metre line. This disciplined type of approach has helped me enormously on venues like the Glebe where there are endless options, and lots of locals who are on it every week.

· Keep it simple: This applies to your gear as well. Don’t keep buying different types of line, or different types of float etc. Decide on one or two brands of each that you are happy with, and stick with these consistently. This way, you can really learn how each float or line actually performs, how far you can push it etc. 

· Are you fishing to win, or fishing to not lose? This sounds like a silly question but in fact has serious implications. Steve and I have fished for many teams over the years, including Widnes Angling Centre (me), Middlewich Joint Anglers, Whizzo, and Last Cast. Both of us developed a reputation in these teams for being able to scratch fish from the most barren of areas. I think we were amongst the first names on the team sheet every week, and where anglers could be ‘placed’, we were always given the hardest sections. This is fishing to ‘not lose’ and is fine for big team matches, but is completely different to individual open-match fishing, where a riskier, ****-or-bust, ‘fish to win’approach is required. I’d say it took me 5 years to get team fishing out of my system, and to accept that in order to win at individual events you often need to push things a bit harder, and take a few more chances with your swim than you would in team events. Basically, you’ve got to be willing to lose, and in some cases lose badly, in order to try things that equally could see you win. You must also accept that luck plays a big part in match-fishing (as in life). “It’s not fair” is an acceptable phrase from a five year old kid, but it still surprises and amuses me when I hear it from adult match-anglers. 

· Know what to do when the wheels fall off. All match anglers, and I do mean ALL of them, ‘get ragged’ on occasion. What I mean is, they all experience matches where things are not going to plan, you feel you have fed it wrong, your casting is not tight enough, or whatever. The difference between the best and the rest is not that the best don’t get ragged, but that the best recognise when it is happening, and have techniques for dealing with it. Pete was the first person to identify this, and the technique we have developed is as follows. 1) Stop fishing, get up from your box, stretch your legs, have a swig of drink or whatever. 2) Confront the reality of where you are at eg ‘there is only an hour and a half left and I’m miles behind’. 3) Draw a line under what has happened, let it go, re-boot your mind and your day. 4) Set yourself a positive goal for the remaining time eg “If I do nothing else, I’m going to fish like a pro for the last 90 minutes”and 5) Execute your new plan. If you’ve ever seen the film (or read the book) The Hustler you will recognise that this is exactly what the pool veteran Minnesota Fats does when he is on the receiving end of a mauling from young upstart Fast Eddie. They’ve been playing 24 hours non-stop and Fats is very nearly out of luck, out of belief, and most importantly, out of money. He calls for a break, goes to the toilet, and spends half an hour cleaning his hands and finger nails. He returns a different man, and starts to turn the tide of the match, in the process teaching Eddie what it really means to be a winner. The moral is, of course, when things are going against you, you’ve got to break the chain, re-set the parameters, and start afresh. By the way, many times I have re-set my parameters after a poor couple of hours in a match, decided just to concentrate on having a good last hour, only to find that by the end I have somehow dragged myself back into contention. But even if you don’t achieve this, you leave the venue in a positive state of mind, rather than feeling water-licked.

· No man is an island. It is possible that you will become a great angler by keeping your secrets to yourself. Possible, but distinctly unlikely. You are far more likely to get (considerably) better by sharing things with others. It is also much more fun. The vast majority of insights and innovations we have made in match fishing have resulted directly from conversations either in the lodge, in the pub, or in the car on the way to and from fishing matches. It is not necessarily the case that your buddy puts you onto some killer tip or method (although this can occasionally happen), but more the case that they say something that chimes with something you yourself have noticed, and between you it develops into a plan or idea. It can often stem from a disagreement about some aspect, so you need to be robust with each other and argue things out. The key is that you must be willing to share everything with your buddies. Reading magazines, and websites like MFS can play an important part here, but the discussion is the real key. Innovation happens when like-minded anoraks talk fishing endlessly. So find some mates who you can share stuff with. It is more important that they are a) mad-keen and b ) trustworthy, than that they are necessarily excellent anglers. Also, always chat to other successful anglers – most are willing to talk. And when you ask try actually listening to what they say. In my experience, way too many anglers ask ‘names’ how they have caught simply as a prelim to enable them to talk about themselves.

· Trust your instincts. Imagine you are at a party and are talking to someone. Then someone else on the other side of the room mentions your name. Your attention will immediately switch to that other conversation (known as the cocktail party effect). But, how could you have picked up on your name being mentioned when you weren’t even listening to the other conversation? The answer is that your subconscious is scanning the environment around you all the time, looking and listening for things that could pose a threat (or an opportunity) for you. Your subconscious is a vital and powerful protective mechanism that has evolved over thousands of years and is one of the reasons that human kind has prospered. When it spots something important (like your name being mentioned) it triggers your conscious mind to focus upon it. Relevance for fishing? Your subconscious can spot patterns long before your conscious mind can identify, let alone explain them. If you get a hunch that the fish may be shallow, or have backed off a metre, or bigger fish have moved in, then go with it. Try something different even if it is only for a few minutes. You will be amazed at how often it is right. Instinct – this is the essence of watercraft.

· Let them worry about you: in my early match fishing days I would go to my peg and try and size up the people either side of me. Were they top anglers? Did they look like they know what they were doing? Did they have good gear? (On this last point, I never found any correlation whatsoever between the cost of an angler’s gear and his/her ability). What will they think if I choose to ball it in? Etc Etc. But years of experience has taught me that my success (or otherwise) has little to do with those around me, and a lot to do with my attitude. So these days I go to my peg, and fish it exactly how I feel. I try to be pleasant but if my neighbours are unfriendly so be it. If they start setting up a method I hadn’t even considered – good luck to them. I’ve got my plan and I’m happy.

· Be yourself: we mentioned this point in the first blog, and we return to it here at the end. Good match-anglers (like good sportsmen, good craftsmen) analyse themselves, work out what they are good at, and play to their strengths. They will certainly watch and learn from others who are excellent, but they take what they have seen and adapt it to suit themselves, adding their own flavour or twist, rather than slavishly following the examples of others. In the words of one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century:

“Find out who you are, and do it on purpose” Dolly Parton

So that’s it folks. We hope you have enjoyed our ideas. It started as an exploration of our approach to Stafford Moor, but has developed into something broader and deeper. Thanks for reading

Silver fish fishing by Merce part 4 , Options

I tend to be quite formulaic in my approach to the SM Festival. Whilst I will play around with different aspects throughout the week, as I only fish the place once a year I tend not to deviate too much from the proven approach described in the 3 previous blogs. That said, you need to keep an eye on possible alternative approaches – over time the fish tire of certain tactics so you do need to keep an open mind. Listed below are some alternatives that we have either tried, or thought seriously of trying.


Pellets for silvers are an obvious avenue to explore, given that pellets/fish meal probably constitute 95% of their diet on a venue like Stafford Moor. Let’s start with some facts: I have seen people put good nets of fish together on pellets in the festival, and I have seen them win odd sections (eg Jim McDowell in our lodge) but I have not seen an angler win the festival fishing pellets all week.

But there are some other facts that can’t be ignored. Two years ago, the ASBO Twins (Jamie Howarth and “Shallow Al” Rutherford) started fishing pellets mid-way through the week, and seemed to get good results. On the last day, Jamie and my brother Pete were in the same section on the far side of Tanners. Pete was walking it mid-way through, so Jamie switched to fishing expanders over micros at 12 metres, alternating between two swims at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. His swims got stronger and stronger, and the skimmers bigger and bigger, until on the all-out they tied with a dead heat on 42lb.

So pellets remain a practical winning strategy. A note on rigs: although I have every confidence in the 99 rig previously described, I wouldn’t use it for pellets. Maybe it’s just been bred into me, but pellets means a light rig, fished at dead depth, with only the merest dimple of the float showing (think F1s). As ever, experiment with moving the bait. It is hard to put into words, but on a cold clear day, faced with a surface like glass, a super-sensitive rig combined with a nice light expander is very hard to beat and just feels fishy.

Given that pellets are their staple diet, why do we ever fish anything else other than pellets? The answer is that, in our experience, if commercial silvers will take maggot (or caster), they seem to switch onto it far more strongly than they do on pellet, therefore providing two huge benefits: 1) they will feed more aggressively 2) maggot is a far more robust bait to fish on the hook (than soft pellet) so the operation becomes easier.

In summary, pellets are worth considering. If someone told me I could only fish pellets all week I would feel disadvantaged, but I wouldn’t think I was completely out of it.

Worm and Caster

To distinguish from our earlier discussion on the use of these baits, here we are talking about chopped worm and caster used in combination, often mixed together in the same baitbox as a slop, and usually fed via a toss pot, with your hook bait lowered down into the feed column. Sometimes bits of corn are added, as is Predator Plus or a similar additive to enhance the red colour. I believe Ian Didcote has done well at the SM Silvermaniac festivals fishing such a mix, and obviously it is a well proven silver fish tactic.

This again could well be the basis of a festival winning method. I think you would face several challenges/questions however, these being: 1) how far out to fish it? 2) how many lines to have? 3) how to avoid too many roach? and 4) is it too fiddly and therefore slow to compete with other anglers who are feeding by hand?

For me, this approach feels most right when the conditions are a bit harder, or such as the venue is quite closely pegged, and your aim is to fish a tight tidy match, and simply keep the fish coming for the full 5 hours. On the upside, this approach is highly likely to pull in bonus perch of which there seem to be a growing number in SM. Mark M had some better perch last year, as did Dave Brittain, and these are welcome weight-builders.

In summary, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if someone told me I had to fish this way all week, but my primary concern would be about getting at the bigger skimmers. That said, those like Ian Didcote who fish it a lot have probably evolved edges to target them along with the better roach.

Smash it with Roach

Before we get too pre-occupied with avoiding roach and just targeting skimmers, how feasible is it to win a match, or a series of matches, with redfins alone?

There are two recurrent problems with building roach weights.

1) Where have they gone?! More than any other fish I have ever fished for, roach back off very quickly. More than this in fact – they are ‘all over you’ one minute and then simply invisible the next. Many, many times I have thought that my swim is so solid with roach I cannot fail to continue catching for the rest of the match. But then within minutes you start to miss the odd bite, and within 10 minutes your swim is completely barren. Although this is difficult to prevent altogether, there are ways to minimise this happening. The most important thing is to try to avoid completely fishing out one single ‘seam of fish’, and instead try to anticipate their finickyness. So after you’ve caught maybe 10 fish, shallow up a couple of inches, move a metre to the left, change your shotting, or whatever. Obviously it is a risk to change any detail when you are catching, but I have learnt that the greater risk is to keep plundering the same hole (!)

2) They’re getting smaller!! A second problem is where you continue to catch but the fish slowly get smaller. The classic solution here is to fish caster rather than maggot, and there is no doubt that if they will take caster then the stamp of fish is likely to stay larger. This introduces another long-standing dilemma – maggot or caster? As a rule of thumb, if you can get away with caster (if they will take it) then fish caster. However, if they really want the maggot, or if you are in doubt about what they want, fish maggot. Maggot is more reliable, but caster will always win if they are willing to take both. (You probably know this but even when fishing caster, 99% of the time you should have maggot on the hook for its robust qualities).

So are roach a practical festival winning tactic? Chris Haines has had some 30lb+ weights of roach during our weeks there, which was enough to pick up on some days, but again can it win a festival? Maybe, but I’m not ready to target them exclusively for the reasons outlined above.

Tip fishing

About 5 or 6 years ago, I won the practice day match (joint first in fact) fishing the tip at 16 metres. It was incredibly windy, and chucking a 7ft wand seemed easier than battling with a long pole. The problem with tip fishing of course is that if the fish are within range, the pole has far better presentational qualities. So unless the conditions are unusual (eg high winds, fish are far out, or they want it absolutely nailed to the bottom) then by fishing the tip you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

That said, I still fancy having a crack at the festival on the tip. The right gear is essential. There is only one rod for me – The Daves of Middlewich Bite Finder, which comes in two lengths, the shortest of which is 6ft. This is made on a Tri-Cast blank, and is designed for shy fish on slow rivers, specifically the Weaver. The finest tip is incredibly thin. For a SM Festival campaign, I would twin this with a small Drennan cage feeder which I would alternate with a bomb, every two or three casts. This has proved very effective for me on the Weaver, much more so than just chucking out every single time with the feeder. In particular, after having several biteless chucks on the feeder if you then go out with the bomb, you can suddenly get a quick run of fish. Why? Well my theory is that it replicates the ‘feed and leave’ principal we talked about in previous blogs ie. the skimmers don’t like feed crashing in on top of them, so the subtler bomb allows them to move in and graze undisturbed over the pre-fed area. Of course you have to alternate back to the feeder every few chucks to get some gear in, but believe me this tactic works. Inching through the bait also works.

I’m actually getting quite excited writing this (!), and am almost ready to publicly commit to fishing the feeder all week in February. Almost.

Proper Tip fishing

In reading the previous section, how many of you assumed I was talking about quiver-tip fishing? Well I was, and all the above certainly applies to quiver tip fishing. However, I have launched a (probably one-man, lol) campaign to bring back the swing-tip. A few years ago I got bashed up by one of the senior gentlemen regulars fishing a swing tip on the next peg on the Weaver. Complete fluke of course. Until he did it again the following week. I felt he was seeing bites I wasn’t seeing. So I dumped my Direct Mono (to be fair a very good tip line) and replaced it with braid on the quiver-tip. This was better but presents other problems (casting, and losing skimmers when they ‘nod’), and still I didn’t seem to see the bites that this chap did. So I spoke to him and got a run-down. The following week I had made my own swing tips and was ready to go. By then however, the league had finished so I had to wait another year!

Since then I have refined my technique a little, and let me state very clearly – I believe you see bites on the swingtip that you never see on the quiver-tip. By and large this doesn’t matter with carp who rip the rod out of your hands (although I have another theory that it will work for fickle biting carp even on the method, but that’s for another day). But certainly for shy biting skimmers, against a quiver tip, even one set very lightly, they can feel some resistance, but with the swing tip there is almost nothing to feel. And if you believe Archimedes (what did he know after all?) the longer the lever, the more magnified the bites should be. So if you see me on the bank fishing very long swing tips (eg 12 inches) don’t laugh. At least not until I crack off on the cast, which is of course the curse of swing-tip fishing.

The Waggler

Again, the waggler is most commonly considered as a tactic when the fish are beyond pole range, and particularly when there is little wind, or the wind is off your back. (I am talking here of the conventional waggler of course, rather than the PW). I wouldn’t even bother with the waggler if the wind isn’t right because although you might be able to get your rig out there, if your loose feed won’t reach the float then you are a bit knackered. I know you can fire out balls of ground-bait, but as well as being (much) harder than it looks, for me the attraction of the waggler is to get the fish zooming around hunting and competing for each bait, and balls of ground-bait won’t achieve this.

So with a good wind the waggler is an option (as is the slider, but again that is for another day). I would consider the waggler if it was cold and clear, and I felt it was going to be slow going for the first few hours. Often in these conditions the fish will be further out, and firing in a pouchful of caster every few minutes can somehow seem to ‘get them warmed up’. This probably sounds daft but I have certainly caught on the waggler early on in matches when there was ‘not much doing’ on the pole lines. And of course its primary advantage over the tip is that you can fish on the drop and/or with a moving (ie dragging through) bait. Again, fish are funny and sometimes this just seems to produce bites when nothing else will. Ask Tonkin Tommy.

You Decide

So, there are definitely some viable alternatives to the core approach we outlined in blogs 1, 2 and 3. I do believe some of them can be developed into methods that will win the whole festival and not just the odd section here and there. I may even decide to try one all week and see where it gets me.

The next, and final, blog is probably the most important. It concerns how you develop yourself as an angler. See you then.

Silver fish fishing , part 3 feeding , by Merce

There will be 5 instalments in this series. This instalment, number 3 in the series, focuses on bait. The next one will concentrate on alternative approaches to the SM Silvers Festival that we think may have merit, and the last instalment will focus upon you, and specifically upon how best to evolve your own winning approach.

This blog on bait is unquestionably the hardest to write. This is because this area ultimately depends a lot on instinct, guesswork, personal preferences, or what you might call ‘watercraft’. Nevertheless, I will try to distil out the key principles that underpin our bait decisions.

How much?

Most of the time How much bait? is a much more important question that Which Bait? Get this wrong and your match can be over within the first 15 minutes. Below are the factors that should decide how much feed you plan to use in a match.

< ———— Feed ———— > More
Cold < ————- Temperature ——— > Mild
Cloudless < ————– Brightness ———– > Overcast, grey
Dead calm, glass surface < —————- Wind ————– > Blustery, ripple
Clear, can see bottom < ————- Water Clarity ——– > Coloured

The above table is a slight over-simplification, but serves as a useful rule of thumb. If you want the extra detail, here it is: the temperature that is actually the most important is the water temperature and not the air temperature – these two correlate but are obviously not the same. Wind is generally a good thing, but East winds are the least helpful (“The fish bite least when the wind is in the East”). And another reason is the recent stability of the weather ie. a cold-snap the night before is usually a bad thing, but after a few days of sustained cold the fish can acclimatize and bites can pick up. Ultimately it’s as much art as science, but hopefully the above steers will help.

Ok, let’s turn this into some specifics. When the silvers fishing is good at SM expect to get through, in a day, 2 kilos of ground-bait, plus one pint of dead reds and 0.5 kilo of worms on your long (skimmer) lines, and 3 pints of caster on your 5 metre (roach) line.

By contrast, when it is very cold expect to get through less than half a bag (ie 0.5 kilo) of ground-bait, less than a pint of worms and dead reds combined, and maybe only a quarter of a pint of casters at 5 metres.

Just to put this in context. One year on the festival the weather was wet and gloomy. Chris Martin won his section with 76lb of skimmers (hence his site name 76 Trombones, lol). Another year when it was very cold I won the same section (far side of Tanners) with 3lb 7 oz. You don’t have to be a genius to realise you need a lot more bait for the former than you do for the latter.

Below are some real examples to illustrate how your match plan needs to change to take account of the conditions, whilst still after the overall principles in instalment one.

Scenario 1: The weather is bang on: grey, overcast, mild, gusty with a good chop and colour. I’d start with 4 big jaffas fed in a diamond with the far point of the diamond at 12.5 metres, and the near point of the diamond a metre closer to me. I’d also then cup in a pot of loose ground-bait containing dead reds and chopped worm in the middle of the diamond. (I always prefer to be fishing my rig at the back of the feed and not in the middle of the feed table). Be aware that some people do take the mick of me with my diamond formation, but its my peg and I’ll do it how I want lol. So that is how you might start when you are confident of a good day. Meanwhile you will be feeding maybe 20 casters every two minutes at 5 metres to prime your roach swim.

Scenario 2: Its cold, bright and clear, no ripple, the water is ice-fringed, and you can see the bottom in even 2 foot of water when you put your net out. Expect a hard day. These were the exact conditions for the festival last year, and Pete (who won it) fed only one long line most days, putting in only 3 golf balls of feed to start, and leaving it for 2.5 hrs before going on it. (He topped up with an extra golf ball after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours). So, the same ‘feed and leave’ principle, but much meaner with the quantities of feed. Interestingly the caster at 5 metres failed to produce in the first two matches for him this year, so he switched to feeding little pinches of red maggots at 5 metres which worked better. Again, the same principle of ‘little and often’ for the roach, but with scaled down quantities and the more ‘accessible’ maggot instead of caster.

So, how much bait is all about feeling your way into it, tweaking different things to find out what they want on the day. As you know, you can put more in but you can’t take it out, so err on the side of caution.

My hookbait by the way is nearly always (95% of time) red maggot, both on the skimmer and roach lines. Usually single, but sometimes double on the skimmer rig. Occasionally I will try a piece of worm on the skimmer line, or a caster on the roach line, but I have supreme confidence in red maggot, and confidence is what it’s all about – yours and the fishes.

Which Bait?

ground-bait: Any fine fish meal will do. The first time I won it was using Ringers Dark (Green) cut 50/50 with brown crumb. The second time was with Ringers Crushed Expander ground-bait (yellow packet) on its own. Obviously you don’t want a ‘crunchy’ fishmeal with loads of big bits in it. Pete and I always mix it the morning before we have breakfast, because I believe strongly in an inert, dead mix, and it can take several hours for a mix to soak up water into every particle. Riddling it twice after mixing is essential. Steve thinks mixing it in advance is a waste of effort and does his on the bank before the match. Mind you, he also fishes paste with snow on the ground.

Worms: these worked well for the first few years of the festival, chopped and mixed into the ground-bait. Then one year they seemed to be the kiss of death. So much so that the following year I did not even bring any. Cue massive weights on worm. Jim had to get some sent to us midway through the week, lol. 2 kilos will be enough for most weeks.

Red Maggots: These must be dead for the skimmers. The movement of live maggots in your ground-bait will attract unwelcome roach. Prepare your reds in half pint freezer bags. Note that a few drops of water in the bag straight before you put them in the freezer will produce brighter, more rubbery deads. You will also need live reds for when it is hard and you wish to feed them at 5 metres. I also like a few whites in the mix as using them on the hook can sometimes get quicker/bigger fish.

Casters: a couple of pints a day for your 5 metre line is usually adequate. You are probably aware of this but the old trick of putting paper over the top of your casters overnight to turn them all the same colour is no longer regarded as a good idea. You want different coloured casters as the variable fall rates make it harder for the fish to distinguish the one with the hook in.

Pinkies: I always take two pints of mixed colour pinkies, as a ‘get out of jail card’. Hopefully they will sit in the corner of the tackle room unused all week. But if you gave me 5 minutes to catch a fish on a cold day, and my life depended on it, I would spend the 5 minutes fishing with flouro pinkie.

Pellets: I am going to cover these in the next blog instalment when I talk about alternative methods, because I believe if you are going to fish pellet you need to commit to it fully. If things are going well for me at the SM festival, I won’t put a pellet on the hook all week.

Other factors

One observation we have made is that the fishing for silver fish tends to deteriorate as the week goes by. Basically, silver fish don’t like fishing pressure will shut-up shop much more quickly that will, for example, carp. If a lake has been fished every day, other things being equal, the day five weights may be only half of the day one weights. Feed accordingly.

Charting new territory – flavourings and additives

We promised in this blog series to share every detail, and indeed we are doing. There is one new area that we have started to explore in the last 12 months, and that is bait flavourings and additives. Fortunately I was one of the people who won the MFS trip to see GOT Baits flavourings being produced, and it opened my eyes. I hooked up with Trev subsequently and he has provided some prototypes for us to try. It is too early to share any of our thoughts here yet – as I said in another blog the only way to evaluate flavourings and additives is over the medium to long term. That said, some of the results we are getting have made us think. To be clear, our current thinking is that they won’t transform an empty swim into an aquarium, but they can definitely give you an edge. We’ll post more on this when we have firmed up our views.

Ok, that’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about some alternative approaches that could easily win the SM silvers festival including pellet fishing, tip fishing, and waggler fishing (with Tonkin Tommy). See you then.

Silver fish fishing part two , rigs

The 2nd instalment of silver fish fishing by Merce

Skimmer Rig

So the rig works like this. Essentially, you place 2 No9 shot (I use stotz) 1.5 inches away from the hook. You then have the the remainder of your bulk about a foot above this. You set the rig so that the 2 x No9s are just (and only just) off the deck, leaving about an inch of line laying on. When the fish takes the bait and rights itself, it lifts the weight of the 2 x No9s and your float rises like a periscope, indicating it is time to strike. You don’t need to strike particularly quickly, and can therefore afford to have a fair length of line between pole tip and float. You can even get away with a spray bar, in fact I suspect this may help prevent you hitting them too quickly.

When Steve first developed this rig I thought he was nuts. It certainly looks ‘wrong’. Of course, it is simply a more extreme form of the classic ‘double bulk’ rig that has been a long time favourite for skimmer pole fishing. The difference lies in the closeness of the bottom bulk to the hook, and its relative lightness which, combined with a light float, assures a clear lift bite without the skimmer feeling the resistance.

To complete the rest of the picture: hook is a Gama G Pellet Hook to Nylon (HTN) size 20 to 0.10mm line. Mainline is 0.12mm, float is a Hillbilly Billy Bob in either 0.2g or 0.3g depending on depth and wind (although any rugby ball shape float is fine). Elastic is Middy Hi Viz 4-6 (purple) – THE best skimmer elastic ever.

The plummet is your friend

Obviously, for the above rig to work, you need to plumb up accurately. And of course it is no good if you choose to fish on an uneven bottom, as one put-in it will work, whereas the next put-in it will be too shallow or too deep. So you need to find a relatively flat area. That is an absolute must.

Better still is if you can find a slightly raised area, a little (say 4 inches) shallower than the lake bed around it. This means the skimmers can eat off a table rather than eating off the floor, lol.

Worst case scenario is that you have to bring the rig up the shelf a bit towards you and find a line there with a consistent depth left to right. To be clear, time spent with a heavy plummet is an essential investment of time. If you can find a raised, ideally harder area – happy days. Steve will sacrifice distance to find a good spot ie he will fish at only 7 or 8 metres if he finds a nice raised bit. I prefer distance and will rarely come nearer than 12 metres for skimmers, as I believe they like being away from the bank. Yer pays yer money…

A note on HTNs: for top end anglers there is still a level of distrust of HTNs. I think this is based on the fact that some of the early ones had dodgy knots. After that problem was solved, concern swithched to the quality of line they were tied on. For me, those days are gone, and I will use HTNs whenever I can. I will only tie my own if I cant find the right combination of hook size and line diameter (rare). By the way, Gama told me they may be stopping the G Pellet HTNs so I will be swapping to Drennan Silver Fish Barbless, which Pete and Steve use.

A note on elastics: I will also have in my rod bag top kits fitted with Middy Hi-Viz 6-8 (orange). On very occasional days this just seems to work better, especially when it is mega windy (you know, when it is so windy it is actually blowing a bow into your elastic when you are playing a fish!). Bumped fish can be a problem at Stafford Moor (and everywhere else, lol). The rig itself will reduce foul hookers, but you will still bump a few fish. I have a theory (surprise, lol) about why this is…

Strike or lift?

About 20 years ago we were all happily catching fish on White acres festivals when someone called Andy Lloyd came along. He only set up three float rods, each with rigs at different depths, and would drill his pellets, loading them onto the hair jammed with a piece of cocktail stick to counterbalance the weight of the hook. He took the place apart, and the pellet waggler revolution was born. (I know, I know, others may claim to have started it but he was the first I saw). Things have moved on since then, but the West Country remains at the forefront, if you like ‘the spiritual home’ of PW fishing. What is the significance of this? Well I reckon over 80% of the feed the skimmers see at SM is 10mm pellets. Presumably the skimmers either wait for these to dissolve, or mouth them to accelerate this process which makes their mouths hard. Certainly the skimmers at SM have harder mouths than many elsewhere in the country, so don’t be worried to give a fair strike to set the hook.

Skimmers are not the only fruit

The other main rig you will need is for the roach at 5/6m. For this I use a Hillbilly F1 type float (think it might be called a Gazunder – light blue body with mega thin tip), shotted with a strung bulk and a few droppers (max size No 10). Mainline is 0.12 with a Kamasan B510 (this is a maggot hook ie narrower gape) HTN in size 20 tied to 0.08mm line. Elastic is again purple Middy Hi-Viz, with the orange as a back up.

Note on the 5m line: I have observed that more tench tend to show up on this line than on your long swims. Obviously these are vital bonus fish so you need to try and get them in. Where possible therefore, use a slightly heavier hook length (eg size 18 to 0.10mm) if you can get away with it (as ever, lol). Again I use a B510 HTN as hook bait will be maggot or caster, but more of that later.

Ok, that’s it for rigs. This is the first time we have discussed the ‘double 9s’ or ’99’ rig openly, and alongside the ‘leave it to cook’ feeding pattern outlined in the previous instalment, its probably the main differentiator in our approach.

Next time I’ll cover baits. See you then.


Silver fish fishing

This is a copy off a blog that i found on match fishing scene and the writer of it Merce has given me permission to re blog it , i have decided to do this as it’s a very well written and though provoking . It is in five parts and the first one revolves around feeding , hope you enjoy reading it as much as i did .



Ok, we are going to start here as it is arguably the most important factor. The first point to emphasise is that roach and skimmers feed entirely differently. The best way to describe it is this. Imagine you throw some scraps of bread on your back garden. Birds will swoop in, grab a piece and fly off. Seagulls do the same with chips at the seaside. This is how roach feed. Roach feed like birds.

I had an operation on my neck earlier this year and had to take a few weeks off work. As part of my recovery, I went to stay in a hotel in north Wales. There were sheep in the field nearby. I watched them (very closely of course, lol). Sheep graze. They steadily work their way across the field, usually in small groups, slowly covering the ground. They spook easily and don’t like to be disturbed. This is how (big) skimmers feed. Skimmers graze.

Now I know there are exceptions to this (you can catch big skimmers on pellet shallow at the Glebe and elsewhere) but this is an excellent rule of thumb, and completely influences how you should feed for them. Essentially, roach want it little and often. Whereas for the big skimmers you need to leave you swim to ‘cook’. This is the single most important feeding tip we can give. If you want to catch the bigger skimmers at SM (and elsewhere) than feed a swim and leave it to cook. When you go on it the bigger skimmers will have settled.

So from here, you can build an approach to the match. My feeding/match plan works as follows, from the start of the match. I have two swims at 13m, at 10 and 2 o’clock (we will come to rigs, depths and baits later). One (say the right hand swim) is fed with 4 or 5 big balls of feed at the start (ie ‘feed and leave’). I then leave this swim and start fishing the left hand swim, dripping in the feed via a kinder pot. I also start feeding caster by hand at 5 metres for the roach later on.

Nice roach

Nice roach

So on a good day, I’ll spend the first hour catching roach and odd small skimmers on the long left hand swim. After an hour I will then switch to the right hand swim (now hopefully cooked) and ideally catch a big skimmer straight away. At this point, I will then put 4 or 5 big balls into the long left hand swim, so this can start cooking, while I plunder the big skimmers in the right hand swim until they back off (they will!). You then simply rotate between each of your long swims every 45mins/hour – fishing it out, then feeding and leaving it, and then coming back for another spell later as you alternate between the two long swims. Then finally, if the Gods are smiling on you, you come short in the last hour and bag up on dog roach, plus the odd tench, at 5 metres!


Of course, it never works out entirely as you’ve planned but outlined above is the overall strategy, and more often than not is how the match will pan out. If you need any final proof of the roach vs skimmer difference, think about this. When fishing on these venues if you get a bite as soon as your bait has hit the deck, it will almost always be a roach. But if you bait has had chance to settle for a minute or two, the odds are the bite will be from a proper fish. The roach move more quickly than the skimmers, and will chase the bait down to the bottom. Skimmers however like time to find the bait, inspect it, and then take it. Because of their shape, they do this in a certain way, which is why the rigs are important. We’ll cover that next time.

Skimmers therefore are shy biters – perhaps only crucians and winter F1s are more gentle biters. However, skimmers have one outstanding feature that you can use to ensure you get unmissable, plain-as-day bites – their body shape.

Hold your hand up in front of you, palm facing. That’s a 6oz skimmer that is, with your middle finger (the longest one unless you live near Herbie, lol) representing its mouth. Lower your hand, bottom-edge downwards, until is just above the table in front of you. You are now a skimmer hovering above the lake bed. Imagine there is a piece of corn on the bottom that you want to eat – bend your arm down to pick it up with the tip of your middle finger, and your elbow will go upwards. That is how skimmers feed, they up-end themselves to pick up the corn and then level themselves to eat it. This gap between where they take the bait and where they munch it can be your passport to clear bites.

Fishing your peg


With the weather being a bit dodgy this weekend which has prevented be from getting on to the bank , i have decided to write a little piece on how i approach my peg in a match situation , although it by no means a definitive answer but it might help a few people .

Arrive at your peg

When you get to your peg and if your anything like me you would have already done your research on the best tactics , target fish and weight needed to frame . But it is still a good idea to sit on your box for a bit to see which areas to set up your swims and maybe the fish might give them self’s away because f1s normally top where they are feeding happiest and barbel usually leap out of the water .

Set out your gear

When you are getting started in to your peg it is important to have everything to hand because you don’t want to be getting up every five minutes while trying to fish to pick things up , another thing to get right is a level box as if it isn’t you will end up with a bad back after holding the pole for such a long time , pole roller placement helps too especially when fishing at range , regarding preventing tangling rigs , spilling bait or more importantly broken sections .


Choosing the correct one for the day is all dependent on the conditions faced with ie wind-rain requires a heavier than normal rig or sunny-calm you may get away with a lighter rig and also which bait , fish you intend targeting . I always find it beneficial on using a pattern of float that you are used to and can read every little indication on the float .


The required bait for the day tends to change on most venues month by month if not week by week so it can pay off to look at the latest match results to see whats doing the business at the moment . Start preparing the bait required but be aware of any bait bans or bait limits if any on the water , the amount of bait depends on your target weight for the day but do try to limit your bait options because to many on your side tray can confuse you during the day .

Plumbing up

After picking the areas you intend fishing and try to find a flat , clean of debris place to fish , if you intend fishing an area on a slope don’t target the bottom of it because this is usually where it is the most silty and can become problematic as the day progresses with fizzing and foul hookers . Try not to fish to far out because you will not be able to follow the fish out if they back off and you also want to be comfy as you will be their for a while , try not to set your swims up to close together as it could end up splitting the shoal .

When plumbing up take your time as it is a very important part of setting your swim and i have lost count of the times i have ended up fishing over some sort of snag , always mark your pole and when you find a place that suits , put a shot under the float to mark dead depth then if conditions change and you need to put some line on the deck you always have that shot as a reference point to go back too .

Starting off

To have a chance of doing good in matches these days you really need at least two swims to catch well from because its very rare to catch enough from only one all session . Their are 3 or 4 main areas to target and these are ;

tight across

far shelf or open water

bottom near shelf


Choosing which of these that will work for you on the day and when to target them at the correct times is all you need to do .

Initial feed

This is what you use to kick start your peg and depending on the time of year , bait using, target fish , getting this correct can make or break your match so getting it right is very important . As you know their is a few main ways of feeding ;

kinder pot

big pot


Feeding patterns 

This is what separates the average club angler from the very top anglers and choosing what is the best on the day , comes with lots of practice and obviously the more you fish a venue the more you learn its moods , although what you have learned usually can be transferred to other similar waters .

Decision time

You have been catching well but it has started to slow down , what should you do next ?

1 , stay were you are and keep putting the odd fish in the net , but by working hard changing shotting patterns , depths and how you lay your rig in can catch you a few extra fish .

2, change how your feeding to try and get the fish back in the swim by increasing , decreasing the amount of feed , you could also try a big pot or maybe a different hook bait .

3, start feeding a new line in case the above options doesn’t work and its better to do this before your original swim starts dying on you but this is not always possible . But doing this gives you the option of picking up a few fish from both lines .

Playing fish

This depends on the methods you intend using but as a rough guide when using the pole ;

When you hook the fish let it swim out of the area you are fishing so as not to disturb the shoal . When you get it on to the top kit keep the pole tip low and strip the elastic through the pulla kit , till you see your float , then raise the pole tip and get the fish on the top and net it . Sounds oh so simple but take it from me it requires a lot of practice to get it right .

All the above is a very rough guide and can change from day to day and the angler that keeps one step ahead , puts the work in will always do better than those sitting it out fishing one line all day . You can read all the latest fishing magazines recommending the best tactics , equipment , areas to target , best bait etc and they are all a very good read . But i have never seen an article telling you how to feed a swim because their are so many variables required that it would be almost impossible to write and to be honest their is no better way to sort it out than on the bank fishing .

I would be very interested in peoples views on what i have written , thanks for reading .