Colin Mitchell discusses how a few inches in depth could make all the difference in his popular Angler's Mail blog. Click the social media icons to share with your fishing mates online.
WHEN sport is tough just a small variation in how you fish can make the difference between blanking, catching a few or getting a net full of fish.
You are now thinking about hook size and line diameter and scaling down both – but there is also one other very vital element to consider. In fact I think this can have a bigger effect than what you are using as end tackle. You need to find underwater features. Plumbing up now can be more vital than at any other time in the year.
Fish don’t always live on the bottom, not even in the depths of winter. They will move up and down in the water depending on where the water temperature or light conditions suit them best. But having a mental picture in your brain of what the bed of the lake or river is like can make a massive difference in your catch rates.
Remember: just a few inches can be crucial
Let me give you a few real life examples to prove the point. Recently my cousin and his mate went to one of our favourite lakes that’s stuffed with carp and bream. The secret usually is to feed steadily and fish pretty close to the bank, even during the winter. The fish can usually be guaranteed to go to the bottom.
My cousin chose a nice swim we know has form and had a great day’s fishing. His mate, just a few swims along, failed to catch. My cousin couldn’t understand what went wrong as he said they both fished exactly the same. I told him that his mate probably hadn’t quite fished the same…
Now, here’s what happened at the same lake, just along the bank from where that pair fished, when Music Mike and I fished there a week or so earlier. I caught from the off and Mike got off to a steady start. But then Mike’s fish dried up a little whilst I just kept on motoring.
The difference was just a few inches in depth! I’d plumbed and found a whole series of ledges. Normally the fish are on the first ledge, right next to the bank. But with the weather being a bit colder and the water slightly clearer they had dropped down – just three inches deeper – to the next ledge.
Mike, who had plumbed up and found the ledges, adjusted his rig and copied what I was doing and was back in again. I reckon my cousin’s mate had just been on the wrong ledge. A couple of inches difference had made all the difference!
I had a similar thing happen on the Wey Navigation, a flowing canal, during a match a few years ago. All of the stretch looked the same except for a few moored boats, which I obviously didn’t draw on!
I kept plumbing my swim to find the ledges only to discover none on the inside and a very gradual slope about three quarters over. Cutting a long story short I found the fish wanted to feed half way up the slope across the canal. They wouldn’t move anywhere else, deeper or shallower.
I had to feed very carefully to this spot and my rig had to just trip bottom by an inch, moving through very, very slowly. Every time I got it right I caught, mostly skimmers with a few roach. No one else round me really caught and I won the match.
A good angler below me actually came up to see what I was doing but he couldn’t see those very minor details about depth that made all the difference. He went back to his swim, thought he was fishing the same as me, but didn’t catch much. It was those few inches of depth variation that won the day.
Finding them in deeper water
Last week, as I was on a roll having thought about all of this, I went onto the local canal looking for perch on the chopped worm as it appeared too cold for anything else to feed.
First drop in I caught – a nice roach! Ok, that was a fluke and after just one more fish, a perch, in a swim I had fancied to produce I decided to move. This time I figured that as it was a bright day the fish wanted a bit more depth, which they would get above the lock I was fishing below.
I moved the 50 or so yards ‘upstream’ and plumbed up so I fished just the far side of the deepest channel – having decided that the bit of sun that was about might have encouraged the fish to go a bit shallower into slightly warmer water.
I fed a pot of chopped worm and then finished off getting my kit all to hand. First put over produced… ok I admit another roach!
But then the perch arrived, more roach and a big rudd before the swim died. I’d done nothing wrong – a pike moved in and also took a fancy to the worm bait. With the hook nicely lodged in the pike’s scissors I landed another bonus fish!
Did I get it right or had I been lucky? Well… the guy down the bank who had tried down the edge and down the deep middle channel failed to catch and his gear didn’t look too wrong to me!
So make sure that you have a plummet or two and that you use them wisely. A good few minutes spent working out the contours of your swim and then using these when placing your bait could make a bad day a good one.
A few inches difference in depth – deeper or shallower – could make the difference between bites or no bites.
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