Monday, 24 November 2014



Predator angler Duncan Charman reveals his top 10 best pike deadbaits and explains when, where and how to use them. (As published in European magazine)

1 – Sardine
Without a doubt my favourite deadbait for static pike fishing on both still and running water. Sardines are very soft and oily which means they have to be cast out in a frozen state. Before casting its best to pierce the body a few times or remove the head as this will increase the thaw under water and allow the blood and oil to disperse into the water surrounding it giving it extra appeal. Mounting a sardine is simple just press the barbed holding hook (nearest to the swivel) into the tail root and then the second treble into the body just behind the gill plate. Sardines are what I classify as an ‘instant-bait’, where you expect to get a pickup relatively quickly and the soft skin allow the hooks to release from the bait on the strike giving you a very high hook-up ratio. I have also had some fantastic results by popping up off the bottom.
Due to the soft skin they are no good for sink-and-draw, trolling or wobbling and are prone to being ripped apart from unwanted species like eels.
Frozen sections can also be hair-rigged next to a big single hook and fished with devastating results over a pre-baited area.

2 – Mackerel
Tough skinned and very oily make these a favourite for many, especially when pike are found at distance and a long cast is needed. Small mackerel known as Joey Mackerel are similar in size to a sardine and again best mounted when frozen by placing the holding treble in the tail root and the other behind the gill plate. Piercing or removal of the head allows the juices to disperse into the water and a bait that can be recast a few times once thawed out. Bigger mackerel can be cut in half with the tail section especially good for very big fish, probably because it can be cast out and left far longer and able to withstand the attention of unwanted species for longer than softer baits.
Being toughed skin allows them to be used in techniques where movement is required but generally considered more as a static bottom bait. I tend to use bigger hooks with mackerel as it’s harder to set the hooks on the strike compared with a soft skinned bait and you often find the bait still in the pikes mouth after capture.

3 Roach
Without a doubt one of the most versatile of all natural baits and one that I landed many a big pike on including my best of 31lb 10oz. Its slim lined body and tough skin makes it a good caster both frozen and thawed, however a couple of turns of bait elastic is recommended once thawed. Small roach are great when packs of pike have rounded shoals of bait fish up and can be retrieved back through these in a sink-and-draw or wobbled fashion, or even simply fished under a float at different depths.
Bigger roach can be used as a static deadbait, mounted with the holding treble set in the tail root and second in its flank, popped up using poly balls or critically balanced with balsa sticks. Piercing the body or removal of the head again releases bodily fluids and small sections are perfect for hair-rigging over a pre-bait.
Equally productive on both running or still water and great for trolling, wobbling or sink-and-draw techniques when mounted with the holding hook placed in the head and once again some bait elastic wrapped around will prolong its life.

4 – Trout
Probably the best bait when it comes to inflicting movement as its tough skin will withstand casting all day so its number one for trolling, wobbling or retrieving in a sink-and-draw fashion. Always place the holding hook in the head of the deadbait when the above techniques are used and due to their size often two trebles are set along its flank with a single it its head.
It’s also a bait that often scores when all else fails so pays to always have a couple for such a situation. Obviously a top scorer on large gravel pits that are stocked with trout (if allowed) and a bait that has also accounted for many a big fish on pressurised venues where everything else has been tried and the pike have wised up.

5 – Smelt
The most distinctive factor about a smelt is its smell, similar to cucumber! These yellow slim lined supple sea fish are again something every pike angler has to have as on a tough day they often score when all else fails. Just because they aren’t that big doesn’t mean they don’t catch big pike, they do. Brilliant bait when movement is inflicted and often mounted by using a big single holding hook placed in the skull and a treble down its flank. Brilliant for wobbling and sink-and-draw tactics when pike have shoaled bait fish up, especially those venues with a natural bait ban, although wrapping some bait-elastic around is recommended. Not often associated with trolling, but works well as a static bait and one that can easily be popped up by simply injecting air into the body.

6 – Sprat
These small silver sea fish aren’t associated with big fish but are what many anglers start using in their early days of pike fishing as they are cheap and replicate small baitfish that pike feed on. Very soft skinned mean they need to be mounted on hooks frozen and wont withstand powerful or repeated casts. Often only lipped hooked and fished under a float when pike are feeding heavily on live fish and one good tip is to fish a single treble and place a small sprat on each hook.
Absolutely no use when any amount of movement is inflicted and due to their soft delicate skin not a bait that can be left out for long when static deadbaiting but a bait that mimics small roach very well.

7 – Perch
Not as easily obtainable as other natural baits such as roach but many a pike angler’s first choice for wobbling, sink-and-draw or spinning tactics. Spinning is completely different to that of wobbling or sink-and-draw as this involves creating a kink in the perch by keeping the wire taught. Mounting a perch head-up (holding hook nearest the trace swivel in the head) with a kink in it makes it spin in the water and the deep body of a perch works much better and creates much more flashes and an agitated movement than slimmer fish such as roach.
Also a very good, tough static deadbait and one that casts well and will withstand the attention of nuisance species for far longer than that of a soft skinned bait. Piercing the flank or removing the head also adds attraction and when deadbaiting the holding hook needs to be placed in tail of the perch.

8 – Herring
This is classified as the in-between to a sardine and a mackerel and is popular as it casts well when frozen, is really oily, has a skin that’s tougher than a sardine allowing hooks to be set in a pikes mouth easier on the strike but then not as durable as a mackerel. Small herrings can be mounted like sardines, along with their heads removed or body pierced for extra attraction or cut in half when bigger and fished as a big fish static deadbait, one that can be left out longer.
Certainly too soft for any use when movement is needed but a bait that takes on colour well so often used to outwit wary predators that have seen it all. I’ve had some great results trotting these down a river under a float when pike are feeding on big silver fish as its silver skin replicates these well.

9 – Lamprey
This strange pike bait was all the rage a few years ago and gave the piker something totally different to the standard fish looking deadbait. Long and thin with a very tough skin it looks similar to an eel and it’s full of blood. Its tough skin and strange shape allows it to be fished in a sink-and-draw fashion, wobbled even slowly retrieved back just off the bottom, yet in most cases these are cut in half, or just a inch off the tail and used statically allowing the blood to draw predators in.
It’s also a very good bait to use in the up-and-coming single hook style of fishing and hair-rigged behind a big single and seems to catch not just pike but perch, zander and strangely carp!

10 – Bluey
This strange looking sea fish seems to have taken pike fishing to a new level as anglers seek to find edges over others. Normally around twelve inches long this long thin silver sea fish is usually cut in half and fished statically on pressured venues where anglers are prepared to sit and wait but a few have been inflicting movement with startling results, so don’t ignore mounting these head-up’ and twitching back.
Its thin body is ideal for those conservation minded anglers that are finding just how successful hair-rigging fish sections next to a big single hook is and fishing over a spot that’s been pre-baited.

Christmas presents and Sandown

Christmas presents and Sandown all-in-one!

Are you the angler with everything and frustrates the wife or girlfriend with few if any ideas! Well why not suggest a days guiding with myself (vouchers available) or even pop down to the Carp Societies Carp Show this weekend at Sandown and pick up a signed copy of my book.
Guiding days with me don’t have to be all about big fish as just look at the two images here. My mate Chris was having a bit of a poor run trying to track down a big barbel so I suggested he take a look at another species, perch which he did and after sending him to a fishery I know simply boosted his confidence with this great bag. Nothing to get the confidence factor back and it won’t be long before his sort after target graces his net.
Another customer, Nick, usually a carper wanted to just relax, get the brain working again and put a few fish in the net. Visiting a day ticket venue with a difference he bagged himself plenty of chub and once again left refreshed knowing that there is more to angling than sitting behind bobbins and alarms!
Whether its learning new tactics such as setting up and using the devastating helicopter rig, having confidence in fishing the waggler and that feeding every few seconds will eventually bring you a bite a cast, to trotting a float down a chalk stream in search of the ‘lady of the stream’ (well once this bloody rain stops) or even targeting predators on the mighty Thames, I’m pretty sure that I can accommodate and provide you with a great days fishing.

You can contact me on 07928 617006 or 01252 315271 as well as emailing me at

The Carp Societies Show is this weekend at Sandown Racecourse – Sat 29th and Sun 30th November – Make it a date and pop up and see me!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Charman’s Challenge – Waggoners Wells (middle lake). No 22

Charman’s Challenge – Waggoners Wells (middle lake).

Date – Thursday November 20th 2014

Venue fact file –
Waggoners Wells, Grayshott, Surrey.

Tickets – Season tickets available as part of the waters available from Grayshott Angling Club or in advance from Grayshott Tackle – 1 Crossways Road, Grayshott, Surrey GU26 6HJ - Tel 01428 606122
Day tickets cost just £5 per day, max of two rods.

Stock – Roach and perch are the main species here with tench, crucians and king carp to 20lb also possible.

Conditions – Atmospherics on 1016mb, white cloud clearing on an increasing easterly breeze and temperature rising from a cool 7 degrees on arrival.

Steeped in carp angling history, sadly this little gem has seemed to be forgotten in recent times. Great anglers such as Chris Yates and Chris Ball have visited, fell in love and written about this venue, however nowadays size matters and history doesn’t! Donald Leney stocked the bottom lake more than 50years ago with some stunning carp, many of which still survive today. Often thought as, as impossible, these carp have frustrated some of the best carp anglers in the country and I recall as a youngsters seeing a line between two rods stretched out across the lake with two surface baits dangling on the surface. Somehow these anglers had set the trap up, obviously with a rotten-bottom between but still the carp swam around with two fingers up! One carp, again the biggest, was sort after by many, including my good friend Steve Ansell and I recall a shifty night spent many years past targeting these (nights not allowed). That night Steve caught one, I think it weighed around 12lb and as for me I was the pest controller with one weighing around 2lb!
Nowadays I walk the girlfriends parents dog around the lake, every other week and on a hot summers evening count the carp that still survive, 2013 = 19, 2014 = 17. I have to admit at not being able to pick the big girl out but I am informed she still exists albeit well down from her top weight of just over thirty pounds.
Never one to turn down a lead though and with reports that the roach have gained weight decided it was about time to dig a bit deeper, however it wasn’t to be the ‘steeped in history’ bottom lake but the middle lake that drew me in. Reports of the occasional two-pounder needed to be investigated yet a year previous my first exploration trip only produced roach to 1lb 1oz, however it was a very cold day and you just cant right a venue off on just one trip.
Having just returned from a days guiding when waggler tactics were employed it seemed the perfect opportunity, as the kit was sorted, to spend another session on the venue. Although a place of outstanding beauty its not really the place for angling anymore as the steep bank where fishing is allowed has been somewhat left to the elements and almost impossible to fish. I managed to set up in the most comfortable swim on this bank and believe me it was uncomfortable! Trees now inflicted an angler in using the float and the bank behind steep to make pole fishing almost a non-starter, however with a small gap between the trees I managed to cast a float and enjoy a few hours sport.

Arriving at first light I managed to cast out at 7.30am and after feeding a few maggots on a regular basis soon started getting bites, albeit from small perch. Finally on the drop in around 7ft of water a fast bite saw something bigger hooked, a roach around 12oz. These came regularly for the next two hours before the switch was hit. I even tried the devastating helicopter rig yet one bite every twenty minutes proved they had almost shut up shop and an earlier than expected departure was forced on me.
If you fancy some real ‘Mr Crabtree’ fishing where size really doesn’t matter, well better get yourself down here, yet be prepared to puff a bit as lugging your tackle down the valley isn’t fun, setting up isn’t fun, yet when you are there, stop for a second, look around, listen and enjoy as there is more to fishing than catching!

Charman’s Challenge – Bowsaw Lake, No 20

Charman’s Challenge – Bowsaw Lake.

Date – Wednesday 19th November 2014

Venue fact file –
Bowsaw Lake Nr Odiham Hants RG29 1HZ
Tickets Adult 1 Rod cost £10-00 and 2 rods £15. Night fishing allowed but must be booked in advance by calling Jim on 07770 724611.
Stock – A good mixed fishery with plenty of chub, carp and perch plus tench, goldfish and occasional barbel.

Conditions – A cold dawn with a slight easterly breeze. Atmospherics pressure rising and early cloud slowly breaking up in the afternoon lifting temperature from 7 to 11 degrees.

This fishery has been on my hit list for a while now as it offers something different to the standard commercial. The difference is chub and ever since watching Keith Arthur on Tight Lines enjoying constant action from these in far from ideal conditions wanted to give it a go.
The opportunity arose due to a customer wanting to do something different and with both of us coming from a match background thought it was the ideal time. I have to admit that it was our second choice, the first being grayling fishing on the Test but with the rivers running fast and coloured needed a venue with a difference that would keep the rod bent.
Arriving at dawn we had a quick look at both Bowsaw and Billhook Lakes and both agreed Bowsaw looked far more appealing as well as being somewhat sheltered from the easterly. We decided to fish pegs 17 and 19 but the bailiff Jim arrived as we were setting up and pointed us in the direction of pegs 1 and 29, both of which allowed a float to be cast along side the edge of the island. Tactics were simple, loaded wagglers with the bulk of the shot around the float and two small dropper shot to take the size 16 hook and double red maggots slowly through the water. Hopefully the chub would rise and intercept the steady fall of these maggots which we catapulted in every thirty seconds or so. Twenty minutes past without a bite but finally Nick received one which he missed. My first bite came from an 8oz chub which was to be the smallest off the day as after an hour we were both getting a bite a cast, not just from our intended quarry but also from small perch, the odd carp to 6lb as well as a steady run of brown and coloured goldfish.
Our initial target of twenty chub was easily surpassed come 3pm and Nick posed with our catch that totalled 31 chub (no keepnets allowed apart from organised matches, however we gained permission to retain just chub, plus a tench Nick caught). The chub averaged around 1lb 12oz giving us a chub total of around 50lb and add around 70lb of other fish you can see that it was certainly rod bending action all the way. To be honest our total weight makes the fishing seem really easy yet all day we had to keep altering things to keep the bites coming which just mad the day that much more fun and with some banter flying around I think it was exactly what we both needed to reinforce that theirs more to fishing than sitting behind alarms and tonic to see both off us getting out and doing some proper fishing more!
I also have to say a big thank you to Carole and Jim for being extremely good hosts and for keeping the fishery in what can only be described as immaculate condition and one that I would highly recommend you to visit.

1 – Nick with our catch of chub, not what you would expect from a commercial.
2 – Its peaceful, comfortable, picturesque and full of fish, what more do you want?
3 – The unmistakable big white lips of a chub.
4 – Nick in action and another hard fighting chub comes to his net.
5 – Drennan loaded crystal wagglers make float fishing easy.
6 – Feeding ten maggots every thirty seconds or so will eventually get the swim yet neither of us used more than a pint and a half during the session.
7 – Jim had an idea many years ago to encourage more anglers to the fishery and introduced one goldfish. The prize was £500 to the angler who caught it, however a week later and during one match seven were caught! Need I say more!
8 – On the same day we fished an angler used more serious carp tactics and took five carp. Nick had around fifteen in the same time and he was trying to avoid them. Time to rethink your tactics I think!

If you want to catch more fish at your local commercial then why not book me for a day. We can fine tune your carp tactics as well as taking a look at other just as effective methods such as the lost art of float fishing. Believe me you wont be disappointed!
Email me at or call me on 07928 617006 for prices and availability.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Duncan’s monthly round up – October 2014

Duncan’s monthly round up – October 2014

After my weeks holiday (endurance test) in Spain targeting the mighty river Serge cats I was really fired up to get back into my own personal fishing and with the weather so mild everything looked good, well that was until I went down with a throat infection.
Unfortunately the best part of a week was lost and when I did manage to venture out it was only for a few hours around the dusk period, however I did manage one of my goals for the winter which was to catch my first barbel from the river Thames. A couple of sessions to Godalming’s Enton produced a few crucians but trying to get one bigger than 3lb 8oz from the venue this year now looks unlikely.

Checking my diary inputs this month has seen myself putting just fourteen sessions in split between guiding (5), personal sessions (9) and features (0), yet my lack of time on the banks has allowed me to get plenty of written articles completed mainly for Dutch and German magazines. Four days of the fourteen were spent in Spain which is the reason why the hours bankside is up their with most months, three sessions have been mentioned above leaving two, one off which was again on the Thames where just one bream came, the other though was spent nine miles out of Portsmouth on board Sea Juicer.
This session was an invite by a customer and although I was looking forward to the trip did feel somewhat light headed as we sped out of Portsmouth Harbour. Fortunately the tablets did the trick and I slowly relaxed as the day progressed, yet the weather was appalling and with rain all day it did take a bit of the fun away as well as restricting us at times to watching the rod tips from the shelter of the cabin. Using Pennel rigs baited with squid and cuttlefish we were looking for more quality than quantity and that’s exactly what we got with cod, conger and rays showing along with the inevitable dogfish and over enthusiastic pouting and whiting. Tony was top rod with two cod, the best 12lb as well as a good thornback and a couple of conger. I only managed five fish but one was my first ever cod weighing 7lb 4oz along with two rays, a pouting and a whiting. I even managed to get a Nash 3.5lb T/C Dwarf out once the tide eased which performed perfectly with 12oz of lead attached! After a very stressful week due to some home improvement teething problems it was exactly what I needed and am looking forward to another go, well that’s if I’m asked?

Four of the five guiding sessions have been at Old Bury Hill targeting zander and with the weather being so changeable has seen the zander going on a feeding frenzy one day to being extremely frustrating the next. Everyone has witnessed this long gone are the days of hooking eight out of ten runs, in fact if you have a fifty percent strike rate you are doing well. The carp have been feeding on the sardine sections again as well as the bream so these have been giving customers plenty of variation along with zander to a best of 8lb 10oz. With this unseasonably warm weather continuing I’m confident that the zander will continue to feed for a few more weeks, in fact I think the fishing will improve, however once the frosts arrive sport will become very unpredictable so if you fancy a go you better call me now! The other guiding day was on the Loddon for barbel and with some colour and flow it didn’t disappoint as my client found himself bent into a barbel in just the second swim.

With a friend absolutely smashing the Thames to bits for barbel I’m hoping that November will be kinder and the problems of the last few weeks are far behind me allowing myself to get amongst them myself, let’s see.

If you are looking for a day out with a difference then I highly recommend you giving Rob a call and booking Sea Juicer for a day on the waves. He certainly knows his stuff and is sure to anchor you over fish. Tel 023 9269 7052 – 07919 102069 –

Images –
1 – It might only be small one but it’s a first!
2 – The crucian fishing has been great again this autumn.
3 – Rod soon found himself bent into a barbel.
4 – Tony with a good thornback.
5 – My first ever cod.
6 - Tony with a cracking cod.
7 -Young Tom with a personal best zander from Old Bury Hill.
8 - Harry with a conger.
9 - Scott with a sardine muncher!