All these set-ups, by the nature of the beast, mean fishing in the extreme margins or getting within inches of the fish. Centrepin fishing such as I discussed last week is one such way we can keep things so simple that the fish suspect nothing. In all lakes the fish come in extremely close to the bank and browse on food in the weed or in the mud. To locate these fish before fishing we need to see them or to see evidence of their presence; this means we need an area of the lake that is shallow. This will probably hold most natural food for them anyway, either in weed or in the mud on the bottom. Obviously if we see tails waving or clouds of mud billowing up we know we have found what we want.

I love shallow, weedy, silted up estate lakes to pursue crucian carp, tench, bream and carp and I love the sort of creeping and crawling tactics needed to get within inches of the fish. When using conventional floatfishing tactics I use a very small float, either a 4 inch self-cocking float or a small very light float. The float will have no shot to hold it in position, I just attach it by a small float rubber. If I want the line to be on the surface, perhaps going over weed, I attach the float top and bottom, if I want the line completely sunk between rod and float to get under lily pads or something then I attach it to bottom only. The only shot will maybe be a swan shot, or BB, three inches from the hook. The hook will usually be a size 10 and will be barbless. I use barbless in these conditions because they penetrate better with minimal effort and what I am trying to actually do is let the fish hook itself against no resistance. I find barbed hooks do not even prick the fish, barbless do. Try hanging a barbed and barbless hook on your finger attached to a 2 oz lead, the barbed one will not even break the skin, the barbless one will have you running to the bathroom. Baits will usually be quite big, though this depends on the situation and quarry.

The bites will be very subtle; the float will gently slide away or just travel sideways without going under. The fish will probably not realise it has picked up the bait with a hook in it at all and is just moving off to its next meal. Hardly any loose offerings are required for this type of fishing and sometimes even three or four are too much because all we will be doing is giving the fish, that are already feeding, more options to avoid the bait with the hook in it. However, when the strike is made, all hell lets loose. Try hooking a 20lb carp in 12 inches of water and see the explosion. Crucian Carp and tench do not take off fast but even small carp are like potted dynamite, so be ready. Make sure you are holding the rod in case the carp feels the hook and bolts, and make sure you have your thumb on the drum of the centrepin to avoid overspill as it spins fast round as line is taken. I have actually burnt my thumb with the friction, such is the speed a carp has displayed, shooting off whilst trying to slow the fish down.

Sometimes even a float is too much resistance and fish will spook away. In these situations I go one step further and dispense with the float and the shot near the hook. I use two brightly coloured fly fishing sight bobs mounted onto the line and set well over depth, and I use a big relatively heavy bait, meat or a big piece of bread on the hook. The bait is then swung into place and the sight bobs pulled back into the margins. Then the line will be looping down and lying on the bottom near the bait. I have only ever had one fish, a 15lb carp, bolt. When using this method usually the fish picks up the bait and the first you know of it is that rings in the water start emanating from the sight bobs, much like the rings coming from a pike float as the bait is first picked up. Then the sight bobs will ever so slowly begin to move as the fish moves off, then is the time to strike, and all of Hell will be let loose! I particularly like fishing for crucian carp with this method as crucians need a lot of confidence to really feed well. If not too much slack line is out they will take a bait, such as a small knob of bread, and will give confident, unmissable bites, whereas conventional float tactics would produce just an ultra-quick bob.

Of course, having line going through the water, no matter how slack, can still spook fish so the next method is to freeline a bait. This is the extreme and in clear water the fish can be seen picking up the hook bait - but often we will be fishing in murky water so we need to watch the line very carefully. A big bait is needed again, meat, corn, cockle, big lobworm etc. The bait is swung into place and sometimes I will use a three foot length of lead core before a 20 inch hook link to ensure the line is right down, still with no weight though. The line is kept very slack and I tend to sit or lie very close to the rod tip so I can see the slightest movement. Again the take will be very slight, the line just twitching before tightening.

Wait until the line tightens before striking, again be ready for fireworks if the fish is a carp. Sometimes free lining is too sensitive and I have been bitten off as the carp takes the bait beyond its throat teeth and bites through the line, so I put a small 'frightener' half way up the hook link. I use a cocktail stick at right angles to the line attached by pushing it through some thin tubing fed on the line; a tiny piece of putty ensures it sinks. The cocktail stick gets caught in the silt as the carp moves off with the bait but the effect is so slight that the carp does not bolt but just pulls harder, giving a good indication at the anglers end.

Finally as an example, three years ago in early June I was at a day ticket water and found a carp or two billowing up mud in a shallow corner, the water was 11 inches deep. I started with the float method but the carp didn't want to know, so two hours later I changed to sight bobs. I got two bites but the carp bow waved away on both occasions. After another two hours I changed to freeline. I could still see the carp feeding on the hemp I had thrown in to keep it interested and it was not until the sun was setting, seven hours after I had first cast a bait to the carp, that the line tightened and I struck in to an angry fish. The bait was breadflake and the carp was a 19lb mirror, well worth the wait!

Have fun!