I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
Rothery on pellet fishing
Love them or hate them, pellets are the number one bait on commercial fisheries. Indeed, at a lot of waters they are even the best bait to fish for the silvers! Although to anglers, they may seem like unnatural bait, to a lot of the stocked fish that have been reared on them from birth, they are probably the most natural bait they ever see.
To detail all the ways in which pellets can be fished in one article would require more space than we have here, as there are almost too many to number. From fishing them fine and light for skimmers on the pole, to mounting them underneath animal gear on the pellet waggler, for small cyndrical chunks pellets are unbelievably versatile.
For this reason we decided to focus on just one kind of pellet fishing, and that is fishing for stockies and F1′s on the pole. To get the best advice on how to tackle these often finicky fish, we joined Garbolino star Steve Rothery on Lindholme’s Bonsai Lake in North Lincolnshire.
“The most important thing to remember when fishing pellet is to make every aspect of your approach as effective as possible. The fish are only small, so if a flaw in your technique is causing you to lose say, one in five fish this will make a big difference to your weight at the end of the day. Ironing out inefficiency is the key to getting the most out of your pellet fishing,” he explained.
You could see this philosophy shining through in every aspect of Steves’ approach. The way he set up his tackle was meticulous, ensuring everything was perfectly placed so that when he started fishing everything would run like clockwork.
It’s a Stake-Out!
He began by staking out his keep net. “How many times do you drop your baited rig in the water ready to ship out, then find it has attached itself to your keep net, meaning you have to repeat the whole process again? By staking out your net at the left hand side of your peg you eradicate this problem, and also give the fish more room, making it more fish friendly as well.”
Next, Steve went on to set up his pole supports. “This is a crucial aspect of effective fishing which is overlooked by many anglers. How many times do you see anglers messing about with their poles at ridiculous angles, or breaking down two or three times unnecessarily? With a little thought at the beginning of the session, they could increase their catches dramatically. A little trick I find useful is to set up my platform and place my holdall over the top. This gives the most versatile pole support imaginable, as the legs are obviously all adjustable. I then place pipe insulation over the legs of the platform to protect my pole.”
With this done, Steve placed another, smaller roller further behind him, so he could ship out to 14.5metres without the pole ever jerking or bouncing. “Although it takes a little time to get everything set up perfectly, it means I can now ship out quickly without having to worry about bouncing the pellet off, or unintentionally emptying the kinder pot.”
Back Of The Net!
Next, Steve set up his landing net, and yet again he had a little trick to make him more efficient. He had collected the base mesh of what was quite a deep pan net and scrunched it up, securing it with a tie wrap. In effect, he had created a large, but very shallow landing net. “The fish in here average 1lb, so it seems daft having a really deep landing net, as you are constantly reaching to the bottom of it to get to the fish. By using the tie wrap, I have created a large but shallow net, meaning it is easier to net fish and I’m not struggling to unhook them once I have done so.”
Having done that, Steve went about preparing his feed pellets. “Here at Lindholme, you have to use the venue feed pellets, and today I will be using two out of the four sizes available. Firstly, the micro pellets. Cover these in water for five to eight minutes before draining in a fine mesh landing net. For the larger, 4mm pellets, simply immerse in water, and drain straight away.
Next, he showed me his hooker pellets. “Today I’m going to be using the ‘Daylite Baits’ 4mm natural soft hooker pellets.” These are a pellet that Steve has developed himself, and he is ultra confident in them. Throughout the entire session, only one came off the hook on the strike without there being a fish on, and (I’m ashamed to admit) that was when he let me have a go on his box.
With bait sorted, Steve set about deciding which elastics to use. “As a general rule, when fishing for small carp and F1′s, a soft elastic is good, as the fish don’t tend to bolt, when you hook them. It also lessens the chance of hook pulls. I will use white and blue hydro today, opting for blue up in the water, and white on my other rigs.”
When sat on his peg, Steve was faced with an island at 14.5 metres. This extended all the way along the bank on which he was sitting. “With all the disturbance on the bank, I expect that the fish will have backed off out there, so I will look to concentrate on fishing out there to begin with. Later on, I hope to catch shallow, and also down the margins depending on how things go” he said.
Steve was very meticulous in the way he plumbed up. First, he found three feet of water, and plumbed a good way along the shelf either side of his peg, so he had an idea of its shape and character. “Its very important to build up a picture of the contours of the lake in your mind before you begin fishing, as this allows you to make better decisions as the day wears on.”
“I have decided to begin today by fishing 14.5 metres, which puts me on the middle of the shelf in front of me. If the wind was bad and I wasn’t able to fish so far out I would it down the edge in an identical manner to the way I will fish in front today.” He lined his pole up with a shrub on the island towards which he would be fishing. When he was in dead in line with it, and his rig was exactly where he intended on fishing, he marked a ‘C’ on the butt section of his pole in Tippex, which was lined up with the edge of his seat box. “As long as I hold it at this point, I know I am fishing where I want to be all the time,” he told me. “It also gives me a point of reference to work to if I decide to move up or down the shelf.”
He then plumbed up to his left, and found a spot that was exactly the same depth as his centre line. He marked this as an ‘L’ on his butt section, before repeating the process to his right hand side. “I don’t intend on fishing these other two lines unless it gets really hard” he told me. “It’s better to plumb them up now though than risk disturbing fish with a plummet later.”
His rig was very straightforward. A 4×12′ Drennan Carp 1′ float set to 0.14 Silstar line, and a Tubertini 801 size 18 hook. In terms of shotting, a small bulk of stotz around 8 inches from the hook, and a tiny number 12 dropper completed the set up. His float was dotted to a pimple, which allowed him to detect every single movement of the bait.
Next, Steve bought out an array of home made kinder pots to attach to the end of his pole. The time and effort that had gone into making them was obvious, and he had all manner of shapes and sizes available. There were some with lids on and small holes in, designed for drip feeding maggots in the colder months, and even some with two pots mounted on a ridge of carbon. These were designed to allow him to feed pellets and ground bait at the same time. For our feature however, he mounted one bottle top sized pot on his pole.
“There’s no point feeding too much to start with when pellet fishing, it’s far better to feed lightly and feel your way in, otherwise you run the risk of getting too many fish in your peg. When this happens, you simply end up getting line bites, and ultimately foul hooking and spooking fish.”
Steve began by filling his pot with pellets, and pushing them down, so they only filled half the pot. Then he filled the remainder up with looser pellets, only giving these a light squeeze down. Next he shipped out over his centre line, and emptied his pot, before laying his rig gently over his feed. The float dipped twice with what were quite obviously line bites, before it buried and Steve lifted into his first fish of the day. “Its very important to lift not strike when pellet fishing, as otherwise you end up striking the pellet off, or worse foul hooking fish,” he warned.
Next put in, he was confronted with what were obviously more liners, and rather than sitting on the problem, Steve decided to do something about it. “The fish are obviously higher in the water than where I am fishing, hence the liners. To combat this, I will fish higher up the shelf, and hopefully eradicate the liners.” He shallowed up six inches, and with the aid of his 16 metre section fished past his initial feed, depositing another small pot of pellets higher up the shelf with his kinder pot. His bites were suddenly a lot more positive, and he had three bites and three fish in three puts, depositing a small kinder pot after each fish.
Return Of The Liners!
After this flurry of bites however, the liners returned, and again Steve took six inches off the depth, and pushed further up the shelf. It was fascinating watching the pace at which he read what was happening and made the changes. Again the shallower rig produced a run of fish, and then the liners returned, prompting him to make yet another push further up the shelf. Now he was fishing around ten inches deep, and he had a good run of seven or so fish before bites stopped altogether. “The fish will have spooked and moved back down the shelf now. At this time of year, the water is relatively clear, but in the warmer months you could catch at the top of the shelf all day.”
He re-fed his line at the top of the shelf, and decided to fish up in the water on a line at 13 metres to his left. “I could carry on catching on that line further down the shelf, and then I may have to follow the fish about again later in the day, but basically you have now seen my approach on this line, so I will show you another way to catch stockies away from the main killing zone, which could be useful if you wanted to rest the main line at any part of the day.
With that Steve picked up his catapult, and began flicking a few pellets over an area the size of a dustbin lid at 13 metres. After five or so minutes he went over it and using the same rig as he had at 14.5 metres, had indications on the float straight away. “It’s now a matter of repeating the process I did on my far bank line. I’ve just got to keep shallowing up until my liners turn into proper bites. Its sometimes more difficult to eradicate liners when fishing shallow however, as fish at times can be swirling at all levels, but there are tricks you can adopt to help you increase your bite to fish ratio.”
Steve shipped back and fetched out a purpose made shallow rig. This included a homemade, self cocking dibber. “All I have done to make this is got the body of a 0.1 Garbolino dibber, and fit it with a wire stem to make it self cocking” he revealed. Again his mainline was 0.14 Silstar, and a Tubertini 801 hook completed the rig.
“There are many advantages of having a self cocking float when shallow fishing. Firstly, there are no shot for fish to brush against or try to eat that cause liners, which as an added bonus means you can deepen or shallow up without having to move shot on the line. I also believe it lets the bait fall naturally through the water, meaning bites at times can be vicious.”
Another trick Steve showed me which helped convert his liners into bites was to keep the line between float and pole tip tight, but not strike, which in effect created a bolt rig, as the fish hooked themselves against the elastic. Constantly lifting and dropping allowed him to tempt a bite every drop in.
With four hours gone, and around 70lb in the net we decided to call it a day. Steve had put together a fantastic net for the camera, showing just how devastating a bait pellet can be. “I hope I’ve proved today that there really isn’t anything complicated about this style of fishing. It’s just a matter of feeding to your bites, and fishing where the fish are. Keep everything simple and efficient, and you too could be bagging up on pellets”