The centrepin reel is a great tool for close up fishing, where we really need to get in close contact with our intended quarry. In most situations, of course, a fixed spool reel would do the job but fishing is all about having fun and there is no doubt that using a centrepin is all fun.

I have a Swallow centrepin reel that I bought nearly 20 years ago and I use it for many different fishing situations so I am always putting line on it and taking line off it to meet the different requirements for the situations. My only gripe with it is that it does not have a ratchet, just a friction drag, so I need to be careful of line over-run when putting the rod down. Also I cannot reproduce the ‘music’ so familiar with centrepin use. Increasingly I have used it for pursuing big fish and also in close-up stillwater situations. I will look now at the methods of using the centrepin in such situations.

First of all I will look at pike fishing. Obviously ledgering with a centrepin is pointless, a fixed spool reel is much better for this, but I do a lot of pike fishing using floats.

I first started using a pin for pike in the River Thames where I fished a weir pool and also a small inlet to a stream. In the weir pool I set up with the reel loaded with braided 25lb line, this ensured I was in direct contact with the float and the hooked pike as soon as a strike was made. The simple loop cast was made into the fast water and the speed of the tackle as it was whisked downstream was checked by using the thumb on my right hand as a brake, whilst also using the drag on the reel itself. The trot itself was never more than 30 yards so I never loaded the reel with more than 50 yards. When the float dived under I would clamp my left hand around the drum of the reel and pull in to the pike. The braided line ensured there was no slack and, once hooked, I would follow the pike downstream a little, winding the centrepin madly, keeping in contact with the fish. Despite catching pike to 24lb on this method I never felt I was going to run out of line nor that the tackle was inadequate. I will get to the fun bit in a moment.

The other use for a centrepin when pike fishing I used in the inlet, and also now use on stillwaters. Because the water is slack, or virtually, I use paternostered live or deadbaits in these situations. A fixed spool reel could be used but, as stated, a centrepin is all fun. A simple loop cast puts the bait in the right position and then the rod is put in rests until the float comes to life as a pike takes the bait. Here I have found you need to remember use are using a centrepin as, to my cost, I have struck a pike only to find I am not in direct contact and have had to wind like fury to get in real contact, by which time the pike has gone.

I remember once holding the rod tip high watching it as a pike turned a dead bait it had taken. The rod tip was nodding slowly with the odd thud, I said to my friend Gary that it was fascinating feeling, a 'small pike playing with the bait' - feeling it through the rod and into the thumb of my hand. That small pike turned out to be 28lb 11oz, and I was playing with it! So remember to wind down very tight to the pike before pulling the hooks home, then the fun begins.

Fights with big fish on a centrepin are nothing like that of a fixed spool reel. Every movement of the fish can be felt; every inch of line taken you can feel under the thumb of your right hand as the reel drum slips an inch or two. The fights are also more exciting or frightening, as the fish moves around the swim, snags become far more dangerous. To stop a kiting fish getting to a sunken tree in the water with a fixed spool reel takes just a couple of turns of the handle, with a centrepin you need to wind the reel like a mad man to gain enough line and then holding the fish from the snag as you wind down is felt right through the rod and into your hand as the drum slips and you need to gain more line quickly.

Carp fishing with a centrepin is even more fun due to the power and speed of a hooked fish. However a centrepin is the ideal tool for getting a bait right in under the bank or between reeds. Again, the sensitivity of a centrepin is ideal to get a feel of exactly what is going on before a strike is made. In a week or two I will look at the techniques for this sort of carp fishing, so instead will now look at stillwater fishing with a centrepin in general, after other species such as crucian carp and tench.

The ideal stillwater for a centrepin is a small overgrown estate lake no more than 4 feet deep lined with lily pads and overhanging willows. I am lucky in that I have access to three such waters virtually on my doorstep. All contain crucian carp up to specimen size plus a large head of tench. The technique I use is to load the reel with 3lb mono and use a small self-cocking float about 4 inches long with a single BB shot three inches from a size 10 hook baited with paste. The shot is set at the exact depth of the water, the lift method in fact.
The lilies are no more than two rod-lengths out so a loop cast is easy and accurate every time, an important factor in this sort of fishing. Crucian carp are delicate feeders and the bites very fast so I find the centrepin is a big plus with them; just with a flick of a finger I can tighten or slacken the line by gently moving the drum of the reel as I stare at the float. A hooked fish is a pleasure to play on a centrepin, every thud of the head is felt through the fingers and every dash for freedom exciting and fulfilling.

There is no doubt about it, the centrepin reel is the ideal tool for these tiny estate lakes, whether it is small roach we are after or 30lb carp. I love the places and I love my centrepin reel.

Have fun!