Colin Mitchell writes exclusively for Angler's Mail, and looks at why it's sometimes worthwhile to throw the rulebook out the window when it comes to fishing. Share with your mates using the icons above.

The rule book... not for fishing!

The rule book… not for fishing!


WATERCRAFT is a key element to catching more fish. The ability to ‘read’ a venue, decide where the fish might be living and feeding is something you learn over time as you build a store of knowledge.

But sometimes everything that you have learnt goes out of the window.

Most anglers know that fish love to live near snags; that some days they will be in faster or slower water; sometimes they prefer shallow to deep pegs; bushes, trees, overhangs and weeds always spell fish holding spots. But there are times when the rulebook can be thrown onto the rubbish heap!

Catching from the off

I’ll start with last week and something totally different that led to my best-ever fish on the pole.

Music Mike, David the Spanner and I had gone to Vale Farm near Andover, one of our favourite venues, where I think it would be difficult to blank at any time of the year.

There are carp of all sizes, loads of bream, rudd, roach and a few perch. We usually target the fish with poles, and present baits down the edge near bushes and rushes.

It was no different this session on what was a very bright sunny day. Mike and I started off next to each other in what is now a double peg thanks to some bank restoration work. Mike had rushes at his feet and I had some nice overhanging branches.

We both caught from the off and for most of the day. I also had a few fish on the Method feeder. Then, right near the end of the session, I decided to do something different, just for the hell of it really.

Cupping pellets-3

After cupping in bait I had a surprise…a big surprise!


I plumbed up to my left, away from the trees, into open water but just a foot and a bit away from the bank.
Amazingly, the water was as deep as where I had been fishing a bit further out near the tree. I realised the restoration work had pushed out the bank so that where I fished would have been where you would have had a look previously.

Anyway, I cupped in some groundbait and pellets, dropped in over the top and started to catch immediately. I even came a bit closer where it was around 2.5ft deep.

Amazing! That the fish came so close and in open water, with no features in sight. But the best was to come at the end…

Best fish on the pole

Last drop in – it really was as I wanted to get one more fish before going home. The 14 hook to 0.17mm line was carrying paste I had made from groundbait and soaked pellets and the float went straight under.

I knew it was a good fish from the solid plodding before it took off for the centre of the venue, the elastic stretched to its limit and extra sections slipped on quickly.

Mike was watching and called David – he couldn’t believe the size of the mouth that showed on the surface as the fish swirled on the top.

After a bit of careful playing as I got the fish near the bank we realised the landing net was looking rather small and I thought about the specimen net that was at home in the garage… Mike did the business but a giant paddle of a tail hung out of the pan as he hoisted the fish ashore.

The scales told the story – smack on 20lb after deducting the weight of the weighing net and my biggest fish on the pole! A lovely common (pictured below), virtually scale perfect, a mouth in pristine condition and lovely colours.


Now that carp came from a shallow swim where you would never normally expect to catch such a beast. The same happens on other venues – and makes you wonder why we don’t try something a bit different at times – simply blow the rules out of the water. I know of stretches on the River Wey where the chub do not live next to the trees but swim around mid-river waiting to be caught.

I’ve fished nice stretches of the Thames were the fish don’t live in the flow like they are supposed to but hog tiny slack areas near the bank (makes me wonder if they avoid the boats and wait for the waves from them wash food into the water).

Try and think back to other days where you have had surprise fish from areas you never expected. They may not have been the fluke catches you thought they were!

That’s why it always pays to experiment when fishing.