In his popular weekly blog for this Angler's Mail website, Colin Mitchell talks changing tactics for the colder weather. There are sound autumn fishing tips here, which will also help you as we head into winter.
WHEN you get up in the morning there’s now condensation on your car and there is a distinct coldness in the air.
The swims that were once productive in the warmer months may no longer contain fish – or they could be a different species. The heavy tackle that worked then may no longer attract bites. And the baits you couldn’t fail to catch on could be next to useless.
The next four to six weeks could offer a big challenge every time you go fishing. But they may also give you some bumper catches!
What’s needed is a little thought and an acceptance that the weather is on the change. This is the time of year when the fishing rule book can often be thrown out of the window.
We’ve lost the heat but it’s not yet the consistently cold weather when we know fish will enter their winter haunts and settled weather will give good sport. If the venues you fish still have coloured water, you are on course to still get good catches. The cold air won’t penetrate them so easily – and the fact they are coloured probably means they are still stuffed with active fish grubbing around for food.
Hooks and lines
Scale down your hook and line size a couple of notches but if you pole fish also remember to go a bit lighter on the elastics to match the end rig. If the water is clear or is clearing then you may have to scale the hooks and line down even further.
Start off in both cases by being sensible. If you fished a 14 during summer, go down to a 16 first. There’s no point going straight to a 20 or 22 hook and bumping off the first fish you lose. When fish are a bit more cautious a lost fish can do untold damage to your swim. It might even wreck it for the session.
Likewise, if you were on 6 or 7lb line drop to a 4 or 5lb – but make sure that you reap the benefit of this by checking the diameter. It’s no use just scaling down a breaking strain or two if the diameters are the same! If you use the same brand of line all the time you can be certain the thickness will drop with breaking strain.
Baits and feeding
But the crucial thing, as with all fishing no matter what time of year, is feeding.
Just because you are getting no bites don’t stop feeding. You need to feed regularly so the fish get used to seeing bait go into the water, and so that they stay put and feed once you get them into the swim. Just take it steady.
Feed groundbait – preferably dark in clearer water – sparingly and just drip feed pellets, maggots of casters every few minutes. If you get more bites you can up the feed rate. But you can’t take out what you have already put in.
Pellets, corn and meat will all still catch on commercials. But this is also the time when natural baits like maggots, casters and worms come into their own.
For the first time in many months I could only get one or two bites on meat. I have no doubt that was due to a sudden fall in air temperatures overnight. But a change to potting in just a few micro pellets and a sprinkle of live maggots with two red grubs on the hook soon brought a change of fortune with plenty of skimmers, crucians and three nice tench. First drop in with a worm brought a perch. And every time I put on a wriggle I got a stripey!
My bait tray for the next few weeks won’t have a lot of bait but it will have a vast assortment and I will chop and change quite regularly to keep in touch with the fish’s feeding tastes. And don’t forget that river fishing also turns on at this time of year and are still fairly well spread out before shoaling for winter.
Many rivers are ignored nowadays meaning that the fish aren’t always as crafty as they were. There’s a good recent blog about the rivers coming back to top form for match anglers by Scott Geens of Preston Innovations.
Rivers also offer a new challenge if you have been stuck on stillwaters – but it’s not a challenge that can’t be overcome with a little thought, some good presentation…and the correct feeding techniques.