John Bailey: Keep your fishing mobile as winter begins to bite
- Credit: Archant
It's true to say that our waters change faster this time of the year than at any other.
Leaf fall, floods, high salt tides, plummeting temperatures, long nights, keen winds – all drive our fish here, there and everywhere. Fish of all species really can be here one day, gone the next and goodness knows where the third day. Most fish wandering occurs on the big Broads and the tidal rivers, but all our upper rivers and still waters too are subject to constant migrations. If the fish are on the move, as an angler, you are often wise to follow them. Or try to.
Back in the days when I first fished the larger broads like Hickling, the debate was always whether to stick or move on hard days. Move and the thinking was you might find feeding fish, pike generally. Stay, though, and you might find the fish around you might start to feed. It's a dilemma that can drive you crazy and wish there was no such thing as hindsight. Me? I have always been a roamer with a low boredom threshold. If my fishing isn't working, then I am up and off and I reckon over the years the approach has worked more often than not.
Lure fishing can be the route for predators as winter bites and you are not positive where the fish might be lying up. The method gives you licence to explore, to keep on the move and search the water, often successfully. And lures today are just the most glorious creations in themselves. Robbie Northman gave me two Savage rubber trout patterns the other day and you could have eaten them. I tell you, I could smell the slime.
My advice is not to lure fish all day long, but put your all into short, sharp sessions that you can fully focus throughout. Lure fish repetitively and you might as well not bother. Try early or late for pike and perch especially. If you are out dawn to dusk, try lures if there is a change of light values or, of course, if you see predators striking at prey or even rolling on the surface. Every hour, work a lure close to your static dead bait for five minutes. Pike will follow the lure but frequently veer off and pick up a herring instead.
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Try to source lures new on the market that haven't been tried before. When the 15-inch rubber eel patterns came along a few years back they demolished some mighty pike, often from unexpected waters. I remember seeing a '30' hit one sub-surface. It was like Vesuvius was at it again, so furious was the take.
If artificial is not the way to go for you, try a dead bait fished sink and draw. This is so easy, so effective. Rod, reel, 12lb line or suitable braid, one or two SSGs up the line from the trace, and a four- to six-inch dead roach or similar. Hook the bait in the head with the second hook in the flank. Cast and let it flutter to the bed. Retrieve in twitches, letting the bait rise, fall and often rest. A 30-yard cast should take five minutes to fish out. Keep the line slack from the rod tip and watch for it tightening as a pike or perch takes. It's my favourite predator method by far.
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If you are after the prey rather than the predator, trotting could be for you on the rivers. Silver fish move further and faster than pike and can be a nightmare to locate so trotting is the way to cover the water, the method to find the fish. The other day, Robbie and I were on the upper Yare, scouring the stretch for nothing. I guess our stick floats had travelled miles of water, literally, before we found fish. Suddenly it was a bite and a big dace a chuck. We moved into the swim together and had a ball as the sun fireballed its way to the western horizon. Happy days if you are prepared to work for them.
Just a word on Rob Shanks, that excellent Taverham tackle dealer who is not well at all at the moment. A whole load of us miss your tea in the shop, your news, views and especially your advice. I know my own debt to you, Rob, is massive and you have been the reason behind many of my better campaigns over the past years. Along with business partner Dan, you run exactly what a tackle shop should be, the sort of place that is fun and informative to visit. Just get back in there fast, if you will, and carry on the great work. You are missed, my friend.