It’s often said that mistakes are there to be made, and that you only learn the right way to do things by making a few, and I certainly wouldn’t want to argue with that. However, there are some very common mistakes made by newcomers into specimen fishing time and time again, which I’m sure had they been aware of at the time, they’d never make again, and so my idea with this mini series is to take a look at some of the most common mistakes made, in the hope that those looking to raise their game will be able to take heed and capitalise on changes made to an existing approach.
By far and away the biggest mistake I see played out time and time again is poor swim selection – often by those who should know a lot better, so it’s no wonder it can be a difficult area for the novice. The biggest error is not spending enough time selecting the right swim when you get to a water – even worse is to pick the swim you are going to fish before you get there. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be occasions where you just want to drop in next to a friend for a social, or pick a comfy swim on the odd occasion the craic is more important than the fishing, but for the main part, if you really want to put fish on the bank, and put them on the bank regularly, then you need to put the maximum amount of effort into swim selection.
So how do you decide where to fish? Well, I normally base my decision on a number of factors. Firstly, where are the fish? I’ve seen so many people fall over themselves trying to rush their gear into a particular peg without paying the slightest bit of attention to where the fish actually were at the time – comical really! The first thing I do when I arrive at the lake for a session is have a good mooch around. Weather, both prior to your session and on arrival, pressure, and various other factors can all push the fish into various areas of any lake, so it’s no good making assumptions, as rarely do you know exactly what’s happened on the lake during the hours and days prior to your arrival, so in short, get to grips with what’s going on when you get there.
Have a good look around the lake and keep your eyes peeled. Obviously you are looking for signs of fish, but in addition pay attention to the swims. Look for swims that show recent signs of being occupied. Few anglers give any thought to the fact they might be setting up on a swim that was only vacated an hour previously by somebody who may have been on for days!
If there are other anglers on, I will always have a polite chat and ask what they’ve seen, whether others have come and gone and if so, which areas did they fish and perhaps most importantly – how much bait did they chuck in!?
There will always be occasions where there is nothing to go on. No fish have been spotted and there’s nobody else on the lake to ask what’s been occurring. In these situations I’ll then lean on my experience of the lake. I’ll look to previous like for like sessions (even on other waters if need be) to try and work out a strategy. Don’t get me wrong, the plan might initially fail – miserably, but that’s not the point. The point is, you need to have a plan which you can apply, monitor, and then adjust if necessary.
A lot of anglers talk a good game about adapting to a session as time goes on, but in reality, most just twist the plan to suit the facts after the event. To truly respond to what’s going on around you, you need to be regularly assessing the behaviour of the lake and thus the fish – and the only way you can do that is by getting up off your backside!
On long sessions, if I’m not on the fish, I’ll wind in my rods at predetermined points to take a walk around the banks, always looking for an opportunity to present itself. You’d be amazed at how often you come across a group of fish just begging to be caught. Fish for sure that you’d never find if you were tucked up in your bivvy.
So many anglers can’t be bothered with moving swims during a session. They like the idea of moving but the reality is too much like hard work. So it goes without saying that those who do make the effort to keep in contact with the fish and move swims as and when necessary will on average catch many more fish than those who just pick a new spot to fish from the same swim!
Like most things in life, it comes down to effort. Put a bit more thought into what’s going on around you, both before and during your visit, and the chances are your catch rates will increase as a direct result.