Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks - my journey to pellets and method feeders

MartinWY

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I started fishing when I was about 6, some 35 years ago. I have many fond memories of that time, mostly catching small perch and the occassional roach on white maggots in the local pond.

I never had a fishing mentor as a kid, as my father was never interested in the sport and of course we had no internet, so the knowledge I acquired was gained through the TV, principally Go Fishing and a little later, the Chris Yates and Bob James series "A passion for angling". Both series were for me, like many, the catalyst for my lifelong interest in fishing. I probably didn't really understand much of what they were trying to explain in the shows, I just did my best to copy them.

My typical "tactics" in my early years were float, invariably fished at the wrong depth, or a terrifyingly dangerous home made bolt rig using a cage feeder. The order of the day regarding bait was always, without exception, maggot, corn and maybe, if I was feeling adventurous, a garden worm or two. I didn't really do much loose feeding, my groundbait was too soggy and I was usually preoccupied with either a 4 pack of illicitly purchased Skol, 10 Berkeley red that we told old Mr Shepherd were for my mates dad, or half cooked but burnt BBQ sausages (never any buns). We'd often make a full night of it, you see. None of us really knew how to fish, we just thought we did.

My record capture as a child in terms of weight, at least as far as I remember, was a beautiful tench of around 4lb, which hooked itself. I still have the photo somewhere and tench were and remain my favourite species. I was probably 14 at the time, it was the biggest fish I'd ever seen and I had never dreamed I would catch anything so large. Neither had any of my friends, as I had become famous for never catching anything. That fish was also my first capture on my birthday present for 1993, a set of Optonics bite alarms - as featured on Go Fishing of course. I had been somewhat disappointed with them as they only ever seemed to beep once on a bite rather than going crazy like John Wilsons. With the alarms, I never really got the chance to strike. It took my return to fishing, decades later, for me to realise that this was because I was a) using a fixed bolt rig with only 2 inches of movement for the feeder and b) I had no bobbins on. Oops. I must have looked incredibly "professional" with two matching rods on a pod with optonics, yet no bobbins or monkey climbers...it makes me cringe even now. I still have the pod and the alarms. Maybe one day.

Little changed in those years. I'd have a tin of sweetcorn when I got to the lake and almost as much when I went home 10 hours later. It got to the point where my long suffering fishing chauffeur (dad) started advising me to take a quarter pint of maggots, since I never used anywhere near a half pint and mum was sick of finding them on the bin. The white maggots stood out against the surface of the old round black bins of the time. Poor mum.

A bag of Sensas Lake 3000 used to last me 4 years. Countless generations of mice were reared on my garage stored bags of bread crumb. Dear me, when I think back, I wish I had paid closer attention to the late, great John Wilson.

Eventually I gave up fishing. I was probably around 16. I kept my tackle, dabbling in lure fishing occassionally in my late teens with a day licence and ticket, taking a couple of genuine specimen perch at over 2lb on a tiny silver mepps whilst chest deep in water without waders, which I remember realising the significance of, thanks to the Angling Times. Interestingly, I hooked the second of those fish barely 3 feet from my knees in cloudy water almost immediately after taking a pee. So there we have it, my top tip for specimen perch angling. You heard it here first.

I continued the stop-start theme, returning to fishing properly aged about 28 and went exclusively into lures for pike, avoiding floats and feeders, probably due to the embarassing realisation that I hadn't much of a clue about what I was doing.

My pike fishing went OK and I also took to visiting the USA for bass fishing where I also saw some success. Many lures were purchased in the USA, it would have been rude not to with a pound being worth two dollars. A few years later my young lad was born and I gave up fishing again, selling most of my tackle and donating the rest to a non-profit grass roots youth fishing group, where hopefully it has been suitably repurposed. I wonder how many lure anglers on this forum are using one of my old lures, more than one, I suspect.

Fast forward to fairly recently, when I took the plunge and decided to completely re-learn fishing. I wanted to try to understand what the terms commercials, method feeder and pellets meant in regards to pleasure fishing as they were all alien terms to me really. I had always shunned such things, preferring what i thought was the traditional approach (with bite alarms..), feeling that they were the preserve of match anglers and not a true specimen hunter, which is what I considered myself to be as a younger man. I was not entirely wrong, as I was the very definition of a specimen hunter, but with far more hunting, than specimens to show for it.

Some proper grown up research, an emptied wallet and many visits to Bobco (no affiliation) later, I was the proud owner of some quality new tackle. But, "can I catch any fish?", I asked myself. I was nervous in the shop, never mind the first time I walked back to the bank.

Fortunately it turned out, I could indeed catch fish. Free from the distractions of Skol, Berkeley Red and sausages and after a very embarassing full hour trying to look like I knew what I was doing whilst setting up brand new literally everything at the bank side, I caught my first ever carp. She was around 8lb (pound and a half for the net when its wet, Wilson), caught on a 3bb waggler and single 6mm soft pellet. Astonished doesn't begin to describe the feeling I had when I hooked into that fish simply because I knew it wasn't a small perch. I may have even uttered the odd expletive or two. Then, a shortwhile later, I caught a second, a third and a fourth. All in the same day, with other fish in between. I felt like I had been possessed by the spirit of Wilson.

I had used multiple baits to experiment, including these new fangled pellets, unintentionally sun dried spam that had been enthusiastically licked by a passing springer spaniel and corn, with not a maggot in sight. I was regularly loose feeding - even baiting a second swim in the margins, casting as accurately as I could and holding the rod constantly, but yet not over reacting to a blip from a line bite. I was massively outside my comfort zone, theres no mistake about that. So was this witchcraft? Well, not really.

The main difference, I realise now, was that I'd taken time to plan out what I was doing and also the main benefit of older age. Patience. I plumbed the depth, set my shot correctly, fished precisely 4" over depth and used an appropriate and varied bait. The thing is, this was the first time I'd really ever been so prepared in my fishing. Despite the price tag and shrink wrap still being on the rod handle, I'd given myself a good chance.

In the multiple trips since then in the past year, I've caught more fish than in my entire first two decades of fishing. I have reasoned that it could be due to stocking, as my childhood water was the notoriously difficult Wintersett Reservoir and neighbouring pond, but really I think that my recent success is more down to resources such as this forum and youtube. The amount of information available these days is astonishing and when I think of all the hours I spent on the bank fishing away in blissful ignorance, it makes me wonder what I'd do differently if I had my time again and perhaps more importantly, what I'd catch. I'll never know, which is a little sad for me.

My latest investment is a method feeder specific rod. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I gave up my silly predjudice against matchmans tackle. I didn't fancy having a fixed rig like I'd had as a child, so I suppose it's not strictly a method feeder, but close. It worked incredibly well. I've fished a single session on it, taking well over 30lb of fish in 3 hours. Not bad for the first time out by an old novice. It shows just how far tackle (or stocking?..) has come. For the first time ever, I even tied a hair rig myself. I'd never had the confidence to try that before, yet it worked, I caught fish on it. Only one carp of about 2lb, which felt like a breeze block on the 2oz tip, but plenty of good bream and what I think was an F1.

I guess the thought I'd like to leave with readers of this text, is that you're never too old to pick up new techniques and skills in fishing and also how grateful I am that people take the time out to make their own, often hard earned knowledge, available to others free of charge.

I will continue to try new techniques and make mistakes. Maybe I will blank, but perhaps I won't. The thrill of fishing for me was always the unknown, I just wish that as a youth, the unknown hadn't been the tackle itself or perhaps I wouldn't have missed out on so many years in the sport.

Tight lines.
 
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SeanB

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Apr 11, 2015
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Brilliant write up mate, looking forward to reading about your future trips.
 

Silver fan 82

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Sep 2, 2019
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Love your write up there @MartinWY . I can relate to everything in your post. Im glad that you have returned to fishing and that you are enjoying it!
 

Pedro2504

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Apr 27, 2018
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Like your style @MartinWY.
Fantastic write up that most of can relate to, look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.
 

robert d

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Dec 27, 2013
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I started fishing when I was about 6, some 35 years ago. I have many fond memories of that time, mostly catching small perch and the occassional roach on white maggots in the local pond.

I never had a fishing mentor as a kid, as my father was never interested in the sport and of course we had no internet, so the knowledge I acquired was gained through the TV, principally Go Fishing and a little later, the Chris Yates and Bob James series "A passion for angling". Both series were for me, like many, the catalyst for my lifelong interest in fishing. I probably didn't really understand much of what they were trying to explain in the shows, I just did my best to copy them.

My typical "tactics" in my early years were float, invariably fished at the wrong depth, or a terrifyingly dangerous home made bolt rig using a cage feeder. The order of the day regarding bait was always, without exception, maggot, corn and maybe, if I was feeling adventurous, a garden worm or two. I didn't really do much loose feeding, my groundbait was too soggy and I was usually preoccupied with either a 4 pack of illicitly purchased Skol, 10 Berkeley red that we told old Mr Shepherd were for my mates dad, or half cooked but burnt BBQ sausages (never any buns). We'd often make a full night of it, you see. None of us really knew how to fish, we just thought we did.

My record capture as a child in terms of weight, at least as far as I remember, was a beautiful tench of around 4lb, which hooked itself. I still have the photo somewhere and tench were and remain my favourite species. I was probably 14 at the time, it was the biggest fish I'd ever seen and I had never dreamed I would catch anything so large. Neither had any of my friends, as I had become famous for never catching anything. That fish was also my first capture on my birthday present for 1993, a set of Optonics bite alarms - as featured on Go Fishing of course. I had been somewhat disappointed with them as they only ever seemed to beep once on a bite rather than going crazy like John Wilsons. With the alarms, I never really got the chance to strike. It took my return to fishing, decades later, for me to realise that this was because I was a) using a fixed bolt rig with only 2 inches of movement for the feeder and b) I had no bobbins on. Oops. I must have looked incredibly "professional" with two matching rods on a pod with optonics, yet no bobbins or monkey climbers...it makes me cringe even now. I still have the pod and the alarms. Maybe one day.

Little changed in those years. I'd have a tin of sweetcorn when I got to the lake and almost as much when I went home 10 hours later. It got to the point where my long suffering fishing chauffeur (dad) started advising me to take a quarter pint of maggots, since I never used anywhere near a half pint and mum was sick of finding them on the bin. The white maggots stood out against the surface of the old round black bins of the time. Poor mum.

A bag of Sensas Lake 3000 used to last me 4 years. Countless generations of mice were reared on my garage stored bags of bread crumb. Dear me, when I think back, I wish I had paid closer attention to the late, great John Wilson.

Eventually I gave up fishing. I was probably around 16. I kept my tackle, dabbling in lure fishing occassionally in my late teens with a day licence and ticket, taking a couple of genuine specimen perch at over 2lb on a tiny silver mepps whilst chest deep in water without waders, which I remember realising the significance of, thanks to the Angling Times. Interestingly, I hooked the second of those fish barely 3 feet from my knees in cloudy water almost immediately after taking a pee. So there we have it, my top tip for specimen perch angling. You heard it here first.

I continued the stop-start theme, returning to fishing properly aged about 28 and went exclusively into lures for pike, avoiding floats and feeders, probably due to the embarassing realisation that I hadn't much of a clue about what I was doing.

My pike fishing went OK and I also took to visiting the USA for bass fishing where I also saw some success. Many lures were purchased in the USA, it would have been rude not to with a pound being worth two dollars. A few years later my young lad was born and I gave up fishing again, selling most of my tackle and donating the rest to a non-profit grass roots youth fishing group, where hopefully it has been suitably repurposed. I wonder how many lure anglers on this forum are using one of my old lures, more than one, I suspect.

Fast forward to fairly recently, when I took the plunge and decided to completely re-learn fishing. I wanted to try to understand what the terms commercials, method feeder and pellets meant in regards to pleasure fishing as they were all alien terms to me really. I had always shunned such things, preferring what i thought was the traditional approach (with bite alarms..), feeling that they were the preserve of match anglers and not a true specimen hunter, which is what I considered myself to be as a younger man. I was not entirely wrong, as I was the very definition of a specimen hunter, but with far more hunting, than specimens to show for it.

Some proper grown up research, an emptied wallet and many visits to Bobco (no affiliation) later, I was the proud owner of some quality new tackle. But, "can I catch any fish?", I asked myself. I was nervous in the shop, never mind the first time I walked back to the bank.

Fortunately it turned out, I could indeed catch fish. Free from the distractions of Skol, Berkeley Red and sausages and after a very embarassing full hour trying to look like I knew what I was doing whilst setting up brand new literally everything at the bank side, I caught my first ever carp. She was around 8lb (pound and a half for the net when its wet, Wilson), caught on a 3bb waggler and single 6mm soft pellet. Astonished doesn't begin to describe the feeling I had when I hooked into that fish simply because I knew it wasn't a small perch. I may have even uttered the odd expletive or two. Then, a shortwhile later, I caught a second, a third and a fourth. All in the same day, with other fish in between. I felt like I had been possessed by the spirit of Wilson.

I had used multiple baits to experiment, including these new fangled pellets, unintentionally sun dried spam that had been enthusiastically licked by a passing springer spaniel and corn, with not a maggot in sight. I was regularly loose feeding - even baiting a second swim in the margins, casting as accurately as I could and holding the rod constantly, but yet not over reacting to a blip from a line bite. I was massively outside my comfort zone, theres no mistake about that. So was this witchcraft? Well, not really.

The main difference, I realise now, was that I'd taken time to plan out what I was doing and also the main benefit of older age. Patience. I plumbed the depth, set my shot correctly, fished precisely 4" over depth and used an appropriate and varied bait. The thing is, this was the first time I'd really ever been so prepared in my fishing. Despite the price tag and shrink wrap still being on the rod handle, I'd given myself a good chance.

In the multiple trips since then in the past year, I've caught more fish than in my entire first two decades of fishing. I have reasoned that it could be due to stocking, as my childhood water was the notoriously difficult Wintersett Reservoir and neighbouring pond, but really I think that my recent success is more down to resources such as this forum and youtube. The amount of information available these days is astonishing and when I think of all the hours I spent on the bank fishing away in blissful ignorance, it makes me wonder what I'd do differently if I had my time again and perhaps more importantly, what I'd catch. I'll never know, which is a little sad for me.

My latest investment is a method feeder specific rod. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I gave up my silly predjudice against matchmans tackle. I didn't fancy having a fixed rig like I'd had as a child, so I suppose it's not strictly a method feeder, but close. It worked incredibly well. I've fished a single session on it, taking well over 30lb of fish in 3 hours. Not bad for the first time out by an old novice. It shows just how far tackle (or stocking?..) has come. For the first time ever, I even tied a hair rig myself. I'd never had the confidence to try that before, yet it worked, I caught fish on it. Only one carp of about 2lb, which felt like a breeze block on the 2oz tip, but plenty of good bream and what I think was an F1.

I guess the thought I'd like to leave with readers of this text, is that you're never too old to pick up new techniques and skills in fishing and also how grateful I am that people take the time out to make their own, often hard earned knowledge, available to others free of charge.

I will continue to try new techniques and make mistakes. Maybe I will blank, but perhaps I won't. The thrill of fishing for me was always the unknown, I just wish that as a youth, the unknown hadn't been the tackle itself or perhaps I wouldn't have missed out on so many years in the sport.

Tight lines.
Excellent write up ,really enjoyed it . So glad your enjoying your fishing
 

MartinWY

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Joined
Jul 16, 2019
Messages
387
Thank you for the positive responses to my post everyone. Very grateful for the support.

To postscript the story, I used a bait additive yesterday for the first time in my fishing career. Maybe it was a factor, maybe not, but I managed to catch a personal best carp of well over 10lb, I think 12+ would be a fair guess. She was a mirror and about 30" long with a broad girth caught on meat intended for slabs, with a running hybrid feeder setup, half sun baked pellets from the previous session (I know, I know..) and some special sauce.

It was a struggle in my little 22" match speed net, thats for sure. The only direction she could go was forwards, which made getting her out again somewhat challenging but we got there in the end, safe and sound.

Sadly I didn't weigh her, as we'd been battling for over 20 minutes on a 4lb bottom and I think she'd had quite enough for one day.

Particularly happy because my little boy was there to see it all happen and I reckon thats how you peak a boys interest!
 
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