Stan normally organised the squad. For instance he'd say " I want Kevin on No1 peg, I want Ivan on No2, Ian on No3 and so on. We would then fish a three hour session before he would move us around, and then we would fish another three hour session with the rota altered. So for the second session, it might be Dennis White on No1 and Ivan on No4 and so on. This time however, he just looked at the river and said "Fish where you like". Well, you have never seen a squad run for their tackle and jump in a peg so swiftly because the river was so like the Trent they felt they knew it already. There was mist rising off the water in the dawn light and it was eerie and, well … It was just like the Trent when it used to run warm with the outfall from the power stations. And not only that. There were redfins, closhing from one side of the river to the other. It looked absolutely solid with fish and the team ran to their pegs like they were on a LeMans start.
Two hours later however, it was a different story. We just simply couldn't catch. Kevin had a carp of a couple of pounds and a couple of roach. I had a couple of roach. Dickie Carr was on the team that year, he got a roasting from Stan, for catching gudgeon. "I haven't brought you all the way out here to catch gudgeon under the rod end!" he said. Tony Scott did about the best. He'd had about ten roach
In the Moselle valley, there is quite a steep terrain. It's full of grapevines and the road runs along the riverbank winding its way along. Now after a couple of hours with us all wearing faces as long as a fiddlers elbow, we saw a minibus come up this road and stop a few hundred yards down from us. A dozen or so anglers got out and we could see by their tackle it was one of the continental teams. It turned out to be the Luxembourg team, all carrying a couple of buckets full of groundbait.
They soon had their poles pointing out into the river and stood at attention at the back of them. At a signal, they all reached down into the buckets and pulled out ready-prepared balls of groundbait. Twelve of them then proceeded to put in 25 huge balls of groundbait each! To see the sight of twelve, double-handed orange-sized balls of groundbait hit the river, producing these great plumes of water, well… It had to be seen to be believed. And then the match started.
Soon after, Kevin Ashurst, who was fishing next to me, said in his broad Lancashire accent "Hey up, hast seen yon men? They're absolutely baggin'!". When I looked, sure enough all you could see was landing nets stretching, there was always two or three in action at any one time. They were catching fish left right and centre. Kevin said "Me and thee should sidle up there and see what's going on lad". So we did.
The method that we saw was just so simple. I'd never seen it before and Kevin hadn't either, but it was successful. Well, I ended up winning my section in the World Championships using this same method that we pinched off the Luxembourg team. And I brought it back to England and used it on the Nene, on the Trent… In fact every river I have tried it on, it's worked!
So that's how I found the method that I'm going to explain this month.
The float is important. The float to use is the Sensas 'Bernard'. It's a tulip bulb shaped float with a long wire stem and a bristle. The shotting is quite simple. Put the bulk shot or an olivette about 18inches from the hook and a dropper about 8 inches from the hook. The important thing is to have about 2ft of line from the tip of the pole to the float. Even though it might be a quite fast flowing river, and this is important, only 2 ft of line between the pole and the float. It's not a trotting method!
I always have my rigs made up to start with. With a heavy plummet, I plumb the depth and set the float so that about half the float's length is protruding above the surface. So in actual fact you're actually fishing about 3 inches over-depth. Once you have found that depth, reduce the length of line between the pole and float to two feet.
Your shotting pattern : Put the bulk shot about 18 inches from the hook and your tell-tale No 10 shot about 8 inches from the hook. So that No10 tell-tale shot is off the bottom and the hook and the remainder of the line is on the bottom. Well that's how the continentals were doing it. However when we practised with it, we found that we had missed quite a few bites and we felt that the fish were feeling the bulk shot. To overcome this we reduced the bulk size and added a No8 about two inches below the bulk shot followed by another No8 two inches below that, followed by another No8 two inches below that. This reduced the amount of bulk weight that the fish would feel at one go, therefor the bites were far more confident and more fish were hooked.
First the groundbait. Once only, and a heavy bombardment. I'll tell you the mix later. When balling out the ground bait, ideally you want it to fall about a foot short of the end of the pole, whilst the pole is in the rest, right at the start of the session. What you want is to make it to the correct consistency. It needs to go straight down to the deck and break up on the bottom slowly, over the period of time while you are fishing over it. Now, to fish this exact spot, it is most important that the pole is at right-angles to the flow . Remember this is not a trotting method. Sometimes the bank can kid you and you might think you are at 90 degrees to the flow but when you start fishing and you might find that you're not! If you're pole is, for example, facing downstream by 30 degrees when in the rest, you will find that after groundbaiting, your float will not be running in a straight line, or with the flow. You will be coming across the flow, giving you wrong presentation and you won't catch. So it is important that when you sit on the bank that your pole is at 90 degrees to the main flow. Only then do you proceed to put the groundbait in.
The groundbait mix that I use, and it's worked everywhere that I have tried it, is as follows: A heavy base mix. I use Sensas River 3000, put a full bag of that into the mixing bucket. I'm a great believer in crushed hemp because it’s a buoyant particle and when it breaks up, bits lift up off the river bed and goes searching downstream for fish. Fish pick it up and come up the line of these moving particles as they get washed downstream. In particular, roach. So I use about a third of a bag of crushed hemp. (On rivers like the Nene and Trent where there are a good head of skimmers, I like to use a sweet mix and my favourite is Sensas Magic. Where there are skimmers, use Magic and you will always pull those fish.) So, a third of a bag of Magic also goes in the bucket. Mix those three ingredients together in the dry state and add water a little at a time until you get the right texture. The right texture is not too wet, not too dry. It's got to be just right, so you can ball it up and know that it's going to go straight down.
Now, there's still another additive to go in. And it's a very expensive additive. Not in monetary terms but in time and effort. Molehill soil. It's simple. Get a bucket and a maggot or caster sieve. Go down to the field (if you find fields on the side of the river then even better) and look for some molehills. Put the molehill soil through the sieve just to expel any stones which might be there and take home with you as much as you like because it will store and you can use it throughout the season.
Now we know how pigeon crap works on roach (pigeons that have been fed on hemp) well moles have been fed on worms, and of course, we all know how successful the chopped worm is. The moles eat worms and it's passing right through them, who knows what they excrete, it might be something magic! All I know is that molehill soil not only gives the desired weight to get the groundbait right down to the river bed but it also blends it to a lovely colour that looks like part of the river-bed. For all we know there may be some secret ingredient in that molehill soil that pulls fish. All I know is that it works and I advise you to make a 50/50 mix of soil to groundbait. In the wintertime, when the fish aren't into such heavy feeding, then I might use a bigger percentage of molehill soil to groundbait, and vice versa in the summertime. When the waters warm and the fish are feeding well, then I might use a 75 percent groundbait mix. So, play around with the amount of molehill soil that you use according to conditions and how the fish are feeding.
To mix the molehill soil with the now-wetted groundbait is dead simple. Place a riddle on top of the bucket. Put a handful of wetted groundbait and a handful of soil and blend the two together as you push it through the sieve. Do this two or three times and you'll end up with a lovely mix, that when you squeeze it, it goes solid. It does break up very well but be sure not to have the mix too dry. If you have to add extra water, only add a little water at a time and mix it vigorously to try to get the water evenly distributed through the mix, otherwise it will clog and go like mud.
When you look at a handful of this mix, you'll see that there is a lot of food there. You don't need to add a lot of pinkies. I would suggest no more than a matchbox-full. On the Nene in particular, red or fluorescent pinkies are very good colours. All you need then is a matchbox full of big maggots, solely for hookbaits. Fish them on a nice, long-shank, round bend hook with good hooking powers.
Try eight balls of groundbait to start with. Don't pussy-foot around, put eight in. And all on the end of the pole. Any balls that go too far are bad news. If they drop short that's not too bad as these can be covered with your hook bait, beyond the end of the pole and you can't.
When I teach the School of Angling, I might have twelve students at the back of me, and when they see me put eight Jaffa-orange sized balls in straight away, I always look over my shoulder. Talk about gobs dropping open! I'll often ask them, as I'm putting on the first red maggot "How long do you think it will be before we catch a fish?". There's always some joker in the audience who'll say "Can we come back next week?". Well, believe me. This method has never let me down yet, and I have had a fish, first cast, every time. I'm normally looking for about fifty fish in the first hour, without having to feed again.
Let's say we're fishing in eight feet of water. Our line length is equal to the length of pole in our hands. We have ten feet of pole and ten feet of line. Cast out this short section of the pole, couple the pole together to make ten or eleven metres, to reach the main flow.and push it out to the spot. (When you put the balls of groundbait in, choose a marker on the far bank so you know that you are exactly in line). Then, lift the pole so the hook and the bulk shot (or olivette) is clear of the water. Then gently swing the bulk shot upstream and lay it on the water. Not miles upstream, maybe a metre. Lay it just enough upstream so that the hook can get right down. As the float passes over the groundbait you are now sure that the hook is right down there on the bottom.
As the bulk shot drops it will drag the float upstream as it cocks. Now bring the pole up, and using that two foot of line, you can control the float as it drifts downstream. Just ease that float so that the bait drifts slowly down over the groundbait. Sometimes they want it slowed down a little bit, at half pace. You'll find that as the float goes over that ball of groundbait, that float will go under. When it does, just lift the pole and watch that elastic stretch. Normally this catches small roach, 3 to 4 ounce, but they come lined up, one behind the other.
Referring to the Nene again, eight to ten pounds puts you in the money. This is a ten to twelve pound method and if the skimmers show (they're only on certain pegs) this is a thirty or even forty pound method. It's an absolutely simple and fantastic way of fishing.
Go and try it.