Winter Fishing At Its Best – by Alan Scotthorne

I have just fished two completely different matches that I am sure could have been very similar for just a change in the rules.

On Saturday I went on the Aire and Calder to fish a match on the river but unfortunately the river was flooded and it was cancelled and moved onto the Canal at Altofts near Wakefield. Now I know that we only had bait for the river, i.e. maggots and caster, but I was assured that the canal is solid and we would catch a pile despite a hard frost. To cut a long story short, I sat there for four hours for 6 fish but felt I was looking at a lot of fish that just weren’t interested in the bait I had to offer.

The match was won with 7lb and one Chub won my section. Now I know for a fact that if bloodworm were allowed on this canal it would turn it into a great fishing match where you could enjoy some great winter sport. The match would probably be won from the same area but I am sure you would get a good day’s fishing. At the end of the day, we do go to catch fish and a pack of Joker and some hook Bloodworm would transform the weights and it make a great a match instead of an endurance test!

Sunday I was back on the Stainy canal at Thorne for our winter league and with the bait allowed on this occasion it was to be another fish-filled match. I drew a good area on peg 202 at Wikewell but it was also an end peg so really a flier. The week before 10lb had won this section and 18lb had won the match so it had not been the best area, but I must admit I fancied it.

I caught 16lb 8oz of mainly Roach for an easy win with 11lb second in the match. My weight apart, I still think these are the best matches as I am sure everybody on the whole match length will think they could have caught that weight, as every angler had six pounds plus to weigh in.

How did I manage to get so far in front? Well, let me run through my match and the key points that made a difference. The week before was a massive learning curve for me and this set me up for the match. Although I won my section with 12lb I knew I had to make some subtle changes as I missed bites and felt that the canal had changed slightly from the previous year as the fish are slightly bigger and more difficult to catch.

The first change was float size: I normally set up 0.8 gram rigs with the smallest float being 0.6gram if it is more difficult in Rive 108 Pattern floats that have fibre bristles. This time my biggest floats were 0.5gram and the smallest 0.4gram, they were wire top floats that are handmade. I made this change because I felt I was missing too many bites and also getting tiny dips of the float that just were not materializing into bites.

Hooks were also too aggressive; I was using Drennan Polemaster competitions in size 18s and 20s which are brilliant for bagging but a little heavy for the bigger weary fish. I replaced these with Drennan size 20 Fine Match hooks that I now love for this type of Roach fishing as even with a 20 hook I find I can swing three ounce Roach in with confidence.

For winter fishing when the water is clear I now use only one line for hook lengths and it is Polemaster Fluoro carbon in 0.08/0.07 I am convinced it gets me more bites as it is invisible in water, so what can be better and I can still swing fish in with it and be aggressive.

Preston slip four elastic finished off my rigs and I set up two rigs for 14.50meters just up the far ledge and two rigs for the 6meter short line, simple.

My mix was also not complicated: one bag of Sensas Gross Gardon and one of Sensas Canal fine to three pint of black soil. But what is important is to put the groundbait through a flour sieve to remove the bigger particles that may cause too much activity for this time of year.

Picking the right spots to fish is probably the biggest decision that people get wrong , my inside line is always slightly different in length because I plumb up till I am 4 to 6inches out of the full depth of the canal and do the same opposite and this is where I feed. I see so many anglers having lines in the wrong place in the canal, the Roach just seem happy to be on the ledges and not on the flat bottom. The bigger fish also seem to be on these lines too.

I kicked off with six balls of groundbait short with 200mil of Joker and fed two balls of groundbait long but also two balls of leam and soil packed with joker in case the fish shied away from the groundbait at the start.

Swapping between both lines, I caught 140 fish and topping up when the fish told me when to re- feed . This is difficult to explain and can only be learnt from practice, but what a day’s fishing when the temperature never got above 4 degrees all day. Making a few changes made a big difference to how I caught and without the match the week before where I learnt so much, that weight was not achievable.