Colin Mitchell, our Sunday blogger.

IT’S time for our must-read Sunday blog on this new-look Angler’s Mail website. Every Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell. 

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career. He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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Five-times World Champion Alan Scotthorne strikes successfully into a bream – but knowing when to react is vital. Check out the other picture of Alan further down…

EVER wondered when you should strike? When the tip goes round or when the float goes under…obvious answers but not always the correct ones.

Hitting bites – or at least trying to hit them – is a problem many of us have faced at some time or another. And it’s something I’ve been looking at quite closely over the past few months.

I always used to think that you struck at every dip and twitch. Or you pulled home into every definite pull round.

Now I am not so sure. And I think that striking at bites needs as much thought and experience as when to change your hook size, type of bait or line diameter.

Years ago I remember the late, great Ivan Marks saying that you don’t strike at bream bites until the tip goes round and stays there, whether it is a swingtip or quivertip. He also advised using small hooks, often the smaller the better. Both those pieces of advice appear to fly in the face of reason. But think about it.

A small hook is more easily sucked in by a bream – and most species for that matter – so you get a better bite indication. And as Marksy rightly pointed out, once a good little hook gets a proper hold it is difficult to shift. A larger hook can wear a bigger hole during a fight and slip out far more easily. The key to hook size then… match it up with the bait you are using! Again, total commonsense.

As for bites… well after trying to hit a number of bream bites without success over the past few months, even decent plucks and pulls, I’ve reverted to the Marks way of sitting on my hands and waiting until there is no doubt. It’s worked everytime!

As Ivan would have done it, Alan Scotthorne waits for the bream bite to develop.

Now that’s bream which can always be a bit finicky, but for other species and various baits I believe you have to think differently about when you strike. I once walked the bank during a match – always a good way of picking up great ideas – and watched a top class angler trying to hit every little twitch and microscopic movement on his quiver.

Result? He won the match! No bream this time but mostly chub and roach and caught on smaller baits.

Again, have a think about this. When you get a chance drop some baited hooks into the water and watch fish take them. Many species mouth the bait and yet you will see no movement on your tip or even on a sensitive float. Now just imagine you are fishing and can’t see the fish. How many times have you gone to reel in and found a fish on the end?

That’s right… you have missed loads of bites that haven’t registered (or at least you think they haven’t). That’s why the guy mentioned was striking at ANYTHING! Some weren’t bites but the law of averages said he would catch more than most anglers. Likewise, if you don’t already do this, when you are able to dot a float down – and I really mean dot it down to a pimple just sticking above the surface so you can barely see it. This is something I learnt from my old canal match fishing days and which I now use on stillwaters whilst pleasure angling.

You can sit there with just a quarter of an inch of a pole float bristle showing and see nothing. Dot down to a pin head that is barely holding in the surface film and you see bites…

And don’t think these delicate eaters are just small fish! This summer I’ve caught a lot of big fish using this method, specimens I would not have had without going so sensitive. The same type of thinking also has to be applied to baits. I hate fixed rigs with a vengeance and think they should be banned, so unless a taking fish hooks itself by pulling the line tight to my rod it means I need to pull the hooks home. Again it took a day experimenting to remember something I learnt years ago – different baits are taken differently.

Maggots need a pretty fast strike. Fish gulp or suck them and as they are a small bait they are usually in their mouths at the slightest indication. Meat, despite being soft, is often mouthed, pushed about and taken slowly. Don’t strike too quickly. Punched bread is usually grabbed fast (another small bait) but even flake can be wolfed down as it’s often one of those instant baits.

Ok, hands up how many of you have missed bites whilst fishing worms! Thought so!

Fish suck on worms or nibble them bit by bit. You need to take time before striking.

But one way that often prompts a better take is to cut a worm in two. Hook the two bits so there is one open end next to your hook’s bend and the other is dangling. It’s amazing how often this little trick brings bites when all else fails and quite often better bites.

The thinking angler using good watercraft always gets results!


Related posts

Colin Mitchell examines unhooking – why it MUST be done right

Colin Mitchell tries a different day ticket water

Colin Mitchell discusses keepnets

Colin Mitchell goes tench fishing

Colin Mitchell searches for best baits




Here’s the list of all the new daily blogs and when they go live:

MONDAY: Carp crews on rotation – Korda, Fox, Nash and ACE.

TUESDAY: Steve Collett, Mail contributor and ultimate all-rounder.

WEDNESDAY: Angler’s Mail HQ – yes, us!

THURSDAY: Specialists from Pike Anglers Club, Korum and Pallatrax, on rotation

FRIDAY: Carl & Alex, Angler’s Mail juniors and video diary makers.

SATURDAY: The Angling Trust – guys at the governing body.

SUNDAY: Colin Mitchell, veteran coarse angler and top journalist

Click HERE to catch up on our latest blogs  


Be sure to get this week’s Angler’s Mail magazine to read a special news report on the World Carp Classic, and lots, lots more.