Targeting multiple species in a session.
Look, think, react!
A couple of season ago I found myself targeting eels on a stretch of river more known for its huge barbel. It was a muggy evening and recent rain had coloured the water slightly. Not knowing what bait the eels would prefer I had armed myself with plenty of freshly collected lobworms, two off which had been cast downstream in deep water above a series of trees and bushes that had fallen into the water. The other rod was being used to catch a few small fish to use as dead bait sections. It wasn’t long before a series of bleeps had me striking, it was still a few hours before darkness, yet the culprit wasn’t my intended quarry but a hungry perch. A few more followed before I decided to wait till after dark to cast back out. Whilst catching bait fish I was stunned as the biggest barbel I had ever seen surfaced, gulped some air before leaving a series of bubbles as it made its way upstream. How I wish I had bought some pellets but although I had created a game plan before leaving and come with a two prong attack, I had completely ignored the other species the venue contained. All was forgotten the following morning as a huge eel had been landed on the worms, all 6lb 9oz of it. Another of 4lb 5oz, an 8lb common plus a bream had also been taken, all on the worms and all during darkness. It was a red-letter day to say the least but I also knew that I had wasted more than five hours of daylight, periods either side of darkness, ones normally associated with the best feeding periods for a number of species, ones that could have been used more effectively. I’m not saying barbel and chub wont pick up a juicy lobworm, I’ve had more than my fair share pick one up in the hours of darkness, yet using them during daylight was a non-starter due to the small fish. If I had taken some pellets, who knows what the end result would have been that night!
Since that day I have always thought about what other species the venue I’m fishing contain, making sure that these are not overlooked during periods of the day when my intended species is reluctant to feed.
Returning to the same venue on numerous future sessions I always fished for barbel/chub during the hours of daylight, then when it was dark enough and the perch not problematic change over to lobworm for eels, before reverting back to the pellet at dawn. One memorable night I will never forget was in August 2010, its documented much better in my book ‘Evolution of an angler’ but in general I caught a 5lb 4oz chub along with a 13lb 3oz barbel on pellet, both in the morning, plus a 12lb 11oz barbel on worms plus a modest eel in darkness, yet it was a massive eel I lost in the night that could have made this one of the most remarkable multi-species captures in recent years!
Many will say, taking numerous rods and set ups is just over complicating things, yet a 1.5lb T/C rod will cope with big barbel, chub and eels on a river, so thinking about what you taking isn’t an excuse, as most situations can be dealt with without complicating things and I have to say the one piece of terminal tackle that has revolutionised my type of angling in recent years is the Quick-Change bead!
Let’s take a look at different species and their general feeding habits. Obviously these maybe different depending on water clarity and the time of the year.
Bream – Big bream, I mean double figured bream, are mostly nocturnal feeders with the first two hours into darkness best then another feeding period just before dawn that can continue for an hour or so into daylight. After these couple of daylight hours it’s often a case of waiting till darkness again and this feeding pattern doesn’t really change that much throughout the year.
Tench - Regarded as a daylight feeder and in my experience mornings are far better than evenings. The exception to this is in the depth of winter when tench seem to become nocturnal.
Eels - Apart from in the depth of winter I know of few waters that produce big eels during daylight. This applies to flowing water as well as stillwaters.
Crucian Carp – A summer species that disappear once the first few frosts arrive. Yes they can be caught during the day, but in my experience they are far more active at dusk and for the first two or three hours of darkness.
Barbel – Well this will raise a few eyebrows! If more anglers fished daylight hours and approached each swim in a stealthy manner then I’m sure more anglers would agree that barbel feed best in daylight. The reason most would say that a few hours into darkness are best is because a large majority of anglers turn up just before darkness to fish.
Chub – Well active during daylight hours, however some of my best chub have been taken just into darkness, however chub are opportunist feeders and if they are hungry then they will take a bait whatever the hour.
Carp – On rivers such as the Thames they are very nocturnal, yet on stillwaters I would prefer to fish daylight hours than after dark, however low light is always productive, dawn and dusk.
Catfish – Similar to bream, they seem to be most active a few hours into darkness and again at dawn.
Perch/Pike – Predominately daylight feeders with mornings best, yet there are exceptions and I know a few waters that produce after dark.
Zander – Dusk and a couple of hours into darkness are best.
Rudd – Evenings and a few hours into dark are best.
Roach – Probably the most difficult to predict. On stillwaters during the summer and autumn they are very nocturnal, yet come winter and spring they feed better during daylight. Big roach on rivers are caught regularly during daylight, yet if I had a choice, late afternoons and a few hours into darkness would be my preferred times.
Let’s look at a couple of my venues where multi-species targeting is most noticeable:
Frensham Great Pond, a shallow, clear and sometimes weedy venue. Arriving late afternoon in the summer, rudd will be on my mind with sprayed maggot and the waggler being my preferred method. After a few hours into darkness the rudd will disappear, time to cast out the eel rods. As soon as the light starts to illuminate to the lake I will be up and using the same rod and float with tench on my mind, however this time I will be using groundbait. During the main part of the day very few tench, rudd or eels will be caught so if I were to stay for 24hrs then would have no problem casting carp rods out and getting some kip!
Westhampnett, a deep clear gravel pit that’s often weedy. Targeting the big bream in spring, I would have no problem having a few hours up to dusk using lobworm in the hope of big perch. Doing this I would know that I haven’t effected my bream results, as rarely if ever, have I caught bream during the hours leading up to darkness. It was my brother that stole the show on one occasion regarding the perch.
Frimley Pit 2 a small intermit medium depth venue with few features apart from a central island. My main target was tench and these fed best in the afternoon. Come darkness I changed the maggot and helicopter tactics to corn stacks. Initially it was big bream that fell to this, yet come the early hours the carp became active (quite strange), and once the sun rose the lake died till the afternoon when the tench started feeding again.
The above three venues I fished hard, either over a short period or over a number of years and slowly became in tune with how each ticked. The river Loddon however, was one that took just weeks to understand, although I had fished the river for barbel for years, so had a great understanding of it before setting out
So what is this article trying to promote, you may ask? Are you a carp angler, a pike angler, or in fact an angler? I classify myself as the latter, someone who is appreciative of what ever comes along, especially if it’s caught by design. Maximising my time on the bank and the rewards each session can provide is extremely important as the reason I go fishing is to catch fish. All I ask is that you look at the venue, what’s in front of you, and then fish to the best of your ability. If we all did then the fish wouldn’t stand a chance!
Next time you’re at a venue and setting up – Look, think, react!