Ask Matt Hayes, Anglers Net questions from 2003

Matt Hayes hardly needs an introduction. Widely regarded as one of the best allrounders in the business Matt is perhaps most well known for his TV programmes on the Discovery Channel for Sky TV. Here Matt answers questions posed from Anglers Net visitors during 2003

To Matt Hayes,

I have just been watching a programme where you were catching pike and dace. I feel I have to comment that I think the first thing you should do when landing a fish is remove the hook. There is absolutely no need what so ever to keep the hook in the fish whilst you talk about it for the benefit of the viewers. I was quite disgusted to see you actually demonstrate the rattling of a plug whilst the wiggling it about whilst the hook was still in the pike's mouth. I have been a fisherman since a child and love fishing but there is no need for this.

If you want to reply to this e-mail please dont come up with phrases
such as "the fish dont feel anything" cos its cr#* Come up with something more creative


Dave Shann

First of all let me tell you that I have toyed with the idea of not replying to this. I am quite willing to answer constructive criticism but I don't and won't respond to threats or stuff that is written out of jealousy or maliciousness.

Notwithstanding the fact that you have asked a question in a slightly aggressive manner you have raised what is potentially an important issue. Whether fish feel pain or not is an emotive issue that often gets dragged into the arguments about the pros and cons of angling. My own view is this.

It is unknown whether fish do or do not feel pain but I don't see any point in pretending that fish actually enjoy being caught because I am sure that they don't. The real issue is whether the benefits of angling in its widest sense outweigh any of the short term discomforts and inconvenience to fish when they are hooked and landed. The answer, overwhelmingly, in my opinion, is that without sport fishing many species of fish both in the world and in this country have no future. Commercial fishing, urbanisation, pollution and habitat destruction are rife in every fishery throughout the world and the only thing that stands in the way of progressive destruction of fish stocks by modern society is angling. A classic case in point is the salmon. I am convinced that if angling did not exist salmon would now be extinct in the British Isles. There are numerous other examples of fish being totally reliant on angling for their continued existence. If we can accept that angling overall is a positive thing and that fish need anglers the pain issue becomes of lesser significance.

Sadly, people in this country tend to view issues very simplistically and responsible anglers do not draw attention to the process of hooking and playing a fish simply because if we did we would be putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure from people who are not looking at the 'bigger picture.'

Regarding the hooks in the mouth issue. If I seriously believed that leaving a hook hanging for a few more seconds from a fish's mouth did untold damage I would not do it. No-one is more passionate about fish than I am and as someone who makes his living out of fishing I take my responsibilities seriously. In the wild, fish pick up all sorts of sharp objects and in the case of pike they also happily eat prey fish with spines. The presence of a sharp object in the fish's mouth, in my opinion, is a negligible inconvenience it is only when we apply pressure (ie winding the fish in) that the inconvenience level increases.

Last year, while filming a programme about zander fishing when water temperatures were very high I went to the trouble of installing a tank on my boat so that the fish could be filmed in water while I described its key features. Also, as time goes by we are experimenting with more underwater camera techniques to minimise the time the fish is out of water.

What I am trying to say is this: I am not an inexperienced or careless angler - quite the reverse. Moreover, as anglers, if we get to the stage where we become apologetic about the presence of a hook in a fish's mouth we might as well pack up right now because to do so basically implies that we believe the sport is cruel. I don't - I take great pride in being an angler and I sincerely believe that without people like me many fish would have no future.

All the best,

Matt Hayes


I have only just started fishing and i am 11 years old and would like to know if you can fish on lakes in the winter because people tell me the fish dont feed when the water is very cold and that the lake will be frozen over.


Dear Donnie,

There is some truth in what they tell you. Some of the lakes will be frozen if the temperatures get very low. Piking will be your best choise for the winter fishing together with Roach and Chub in the rivers you should get a good result.

Tight Lines,



Have been fishing for over 50 years and have just started fishing for pike. Have got the Fox Guide to Pike Fishing Videos and super they are. Is there anywhere I can get copies of the rig diagrams that are shown in the videos? Thanks for the help and inspiration you give so many of us

Bill Ferriday

Glad you like the video. Sorry, but I don't know of any hard copies of the rigs shown in the vid but there are some good boks on pike fishing including Mick Brown's 'Pike - the Practise and the Passion.' Might be worth getting hold of a copy - its good!

Regards, Matt

Hi Matt

Could you give me any tips for catching carp i
n the winter, We use a meat based paste mixed with marmite, and trout pellets and sausage meat plus other goodies (which in the summer months has been fabulous). But the carp are not as eager to take it in the winter months. I know carp arn't as active in the winter, what do you use on those blistering cold days? Keep catching.


I tend to minimise the free bait on really cold days, using just small PVA bags or single hook baits. I've had enormous sucess on the Hinders Fluo pop-up's availble from Hinders of Swindon. My favourite is the pink squid - it has caught me bonus carp when all else has failed. In the winter I like to fish small 10 or 12mm boilies, usually on a milk protein base with either a sweet/fruit or spice attractor. Try strawberry and bergamot or scopex and black pepper. A small PVA bag containing Hinders mini betaine pellets and a few broken boilies is always a winner.
Look to the areas where you see fish moving and cast a bag at them or keep roving the rods around until you find a winter feeding spot.
In winter carp often feed for very short periods (usually around half and hour to an hour) and you need to find this time on your local water. Late afternoon and dusk are good as is the middle of the night, even when it is really cold. On any lake there will always be little spots where the carp like to feed. Finding them can be tricky but areas next to dying weed beds, little gravel patches and deep water near to overhanging trees or reed stems cam be excellent. Work hard on your presentation, use smallish baits and fish accurately.


Hi Matt

I have just recently started pike fishing at my local gravel pit at South Cerney near Swindon with limited success. I have noticed that the water is very clear and I was wondering if you could give me any advise on the best way fish clear water gravel pits. I have seen people using a floats where I have tended to fish dead baits on the bottom especially now the weather has got colder.
I was a keen golfer of 10 years until I started watching your fishing shows and now I haven't swung a club in 12 months. All I want to do is wet a line and catch those big pike. Keep up the good work.

Andy Routledge

There are lots of ways to catch those big gravel pit pike and legering and float fishing both have their merits. Most of the time these days I tend to deadbait and I see no reason why you can't catch on the float. Good old half mackerel has to be the numkber one bait for big pit pike but when the fish are pressured, smelt, eel section and lamprey can be excellent. In the February edition of Improve Your Coarse Fishing I have written a feature called 'Five Ways with Pike.' The issue comes out at the end of January and contains some float rigs that you might find useful on your pit.
Another method to consider is the drifter float method with livebait - its a real winner on the pits and I have enjoyed great success with it. The only problem is that the law says that livebaits should be caught on the water you are fishing but on some of the pits I fish, catching roach and rudd is not too difficult. Hope that your piking gets off to flier!

Kind Regards, Matt


Christo here again. I live in London, in WALTHAMSTOW. This is a respond to my previous e-mail to you.
Many thanks


(Previous email)

My name is Christo Enslin. I am from South Africa and have arrived in England about a month ago. I always watched your show on Discovery in South Africa. Question - Where is the best place to go carp fishing? Where is the best place to buy fishing equipment at reasonable prices? Thank you.

Regards, Christo

There are lots of carp venues up and down the country. Also, there are lots of fishing tackle shops. Let me know the town you live in and I might be able to offer you some good advice.


The fishing for carp at Walthamstow reservoir is famous! All of the lakes on the complex have big carp in them and they fish well all the way through the year. I'm not sure who your local tackle dealer is but I am sure that a look through yellow pages will sort that out. The fishing at Walthamstow is quite often relatively long-range - the further you can cast (accurately) and bait (accurately) the better you will do. Anyhow, I don't think you need to look much further than your own back yard.


Hi Matt

I've been pike fishing for the last eight months at a pond called Kite Dam which is known for its sheer number of pike with many into double figures but I never have any luck. I've tried dead baits of sprat, roach, perch, mackerel and trout. I've also used spinners, spoons, plugs and lures are there any other methods I should try?
I have had one pike on a blade-spinner of six and a half pounds three months ago, any advice would be much appreciated. Good luck! In your new show. Catch ya later

Jonny Ellsmore 14 years old from Keighley west Yorkshire

Jonny, I don't think that there is anything wrong with the bait you are using but maybe you need to present the baits in a different way. I've just finished a pike feature in Improve Your Coarse Fishing that might help you a lot. The article gets published in the very next issue and is called 'Five Ways with Pike.' It should be out late in January (it is the Feb issue).


Dear Matt

I have been pike fishing recently and had no quite as many fish as I hoped, so i was wondering if you could tell me if theres any good pikeing spots around nottingshire.

ashley age 15

Sorry Ashley, but I know nothing about pike fishing in your area. I suggest you get in touch with a local tackle shop - Walker's of Trowell would be a good bet. Ask for Shaun Harrison and tell him you want some decent local pike fishing - he will know where to go.


Hi Matt

My question to you is about when to fish up in the water as they say. I have always fished by plumbing the depth and fishing to a feature either on the surface or to drop off or ledge etc. and just loose feed. I have also had a fair amount of sucsess on the surface with bread and biscuit but alas I have to be honest I have not got a clue when to come up in the water when I should be doing it and how to feed. I nearly always use my 13 ft. float rod and a wagler set up. I beef up the line and hook size when fishing for, as you say, zoo creatures so its basicly when and how to fish up in the water.
Cheers Matt


Chris, feeding and fishing up in the water is a technique that works at all times of the year but is most effective when fish are very active. The idea is to feed very frequently though not usually in large amounts. Anglers who are really good at this can feed an almost constant rain of maggots or casters and yet stil strike when required.
The best tactic is to plumb the depth and start fishing on the bottom but if, for some reason you start to get indications that the fish are moving off the bottom to take your bait you should alter tactics accordingly. The signs are subtle but unmistakeable: the float may fail to settle at its normal rate, it may lift or dither when the shots are settling or you might, for example, get back a chewed bait and yet have seen nothing on the float. Alternatively, you might be catching and then suddenly the bites begin to dry up. All of these are signals to try fishing up in the water.
Start off by keeping the same depth but move shots so that you are using just a couple of number eights or tens down the line. After a while you may need to shallow the float off to chase the fish higher in the water. When they are really having it, fix the float at between three and four feet with all of the shot around the waggler and just two small shots or a single number 10 down the line.
Feed a constant trickle of maggots or casters, overcast the baited area and drag your float stright back into the feed. Fishing this way is brilliant and you can often end up with fish literally boiling on the surface. The key to making it work is to keep the feed train going. Vary the quantity and aim to have some food always dropping through the water - but not so much that the fish don't have to fight each other to get it. After a while, if the bites dry up either try going back deeper for them or keep the frequency of feed going but severely reduce the amount fed i.e., go from 12 maggots every 30 seconds to maybe 3 or 4 maggots every 30 seconds. Its all a big juggling act and there is a knack to reading and interpreting what is going on but it is great fun!


Hello Matt

Hope you can help me out! for 15 years I've loved fishing, I started when I was 12. I've always float fished on the rod or used a ledger, for the last 2 years I've really knuckled down and learnt more and more, and I have had a great season on the float rod and carping with different methods. Everything seems to be going so well and 8 times out of 10 I produce a good bag of fish.
Basically my confidence is sky high, I've sat through wind rain snow you name it! But one topic is bothering me and it probaly sounds a silly question but as they say you learn something new every day, so here goes...
I would love to have a go at match fishing but I have never used a pole! Can I stick to my trusty rods?
If so are my chances lessened?
Also whats the best way of going about entering a match?
I do hope you can shine some light on this for me.
Thank you very much.

Alan Roberts of Romford Essex. p.s merry xmas!

Hello Alan.

I'm not a match fisherman myself but I know lots of them. If you are really serious about match fishing you will find it difficult not to use a pole on occasions but there are plenty of scenarios where a pole is simply not necessary. Poles excel when it comes to presenting fine baits on fine lines and they give you direct contact with the fish - all you have to do is lift and the fish is on!
There are plenty of matches held on venues where pole fishing is not essential. On rivers, for example, feeder and running line float fishing can be every bit as effective as the pole and more so on many occasions. Even the commercial stillwaters can be tackled effectively on rod and line because you can fish further out than the pole anglers.
Using rod and line to its advantages is the key to beating pole anglers. Rod and line is superb if you can fish beyond pole range and because rod and line is more flexible, allowing you to give and take line at will, you can use the combination to perhaps beat big fish that all but the most powerful poles struggle to cope with. In other words, use the running line to go for quality, not quantity and you have a chance of beating the pole anglers.
Having said this, good poles are getting cheaper all the time and it is possible to buy a decent set-up for 200-300 pounds. Pole fishing is not that comlicated, in fact it's dead simple - all you have to do is practice.
Why not enter an open match at your local stillwater?
Try to pick the smaller opens and don't be afraid of doing badly. If you can endure the emabarrasement of not winning after a while you will learn an awful lot. Over a period of time you will pick up knowledge simply by being a around good anglers. Maybe it would be worth your while just walking around your local fisheries and if you see a guy catching a lot of fish, pay attention to how he is fishijng, his bait, how he feeds, how often he feeds and how much. Try to get a look at his rig, if you can and study his technique.
At the end of the day, fishing is there
to be enjoyed and everyone has to start somewhere. Don't worry about the fact that you have a lot to learn just go out there and have a crack.


Dear Matt

I was wondering whether you have fished on Elphicks Fisheries near Tonbridge? Me and a friend are going fishing there in February/March time and could you please give me some legering tips on rigs and tactics for the bigger carp?
Thanks for your help your sincerly

Riley Whitfield.

Sorry Riley but I haven't. I have heard of the place though and it sounds good. During the winter it pays to err on the conservative side. I would aim to fish small beds of bait in tight areas. PVA bags and fluoro pop-ups will probably do the business if the going is tough. Having said this, I have met the guy who runs the fishery and he seems really helpful - he is bound to be of more use than me.


Ay up Matt

I was woundering if you could help me. I have been fishing a strech of the Erewash for pike with a fair bit of luck but all jacks. I was woundering if you could tell me where any good piking spots are around nottingshire.
Hope to here from you.

Ashley aged 15

Sorry, but outside the Trent I have no idea. I don't know much about the Trent either I am afraid. I think it would be a good idea to get in touch with one of your local tackle shops and do some snifing around. Sorry I can't be of more help.


I was recommended to get in touch with you about plans for a 2 week holiday to Cuba in February 2003. The hope is to spend 3-4 days at least Deep Sea / Boatfishing. We are keen fishermen in the UK - monthly boat trips. The budget will not stretch to the expensive 'Game fishing holidays' which are available on several sites on the internet. Can you suggest any particular venues - people to contact - we are spending the 1st few days in Havana but after that there is nothing cast in stone at the moment.
Is it worth taking rod(s) or any other tackle with you? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Derek Alford

Havana is a waste of time - there are boats operating out of the city but they are expensive and they don't catch anything. The nearest good fishing is at Cienfuegos but again the prices aren't cheap. The fishing is trolling plugs and you need to take all your own stuff. The cost would probably be around three hundred dollars for a day but you should get decent sport.
If you are interested, get back in touch. I get a lot of people contact me who have booked package holidays in Cuba and are looking for good cheap fishing but the sad news is that there isn't any. Yes, the fishing is good but its always at a price I'm afraid. Anyhow, if you are determined to go, e-mail me and I'll see what I can fix up.



In a recent article in Angling Times detailing angling on Urswick Tarn it showed outdated photos and old information regarding the fishing availablity of pegs could you please in one of your future columns give us an updated look at our once famous venue. Sadly in recent years I have been told has gone downhill as has the other big water in my area Ulverston Canal. In my part of the world these are probably the best known of the coarse fishing venues and any good press would be most welcome, how about you and your team giving one or the other a go sometime and see if you can come up with the goods on some of the less well known waters. SAMUEL MARSHALL age 10

Hello Samuel, I do a fair bit of fishing in the North but mainly in the lake District. If your local water has plenty to offer, you should get in touch with Angling Times and Improve Your Coarse Fishing editorial team. They tend to decide where to send me and in any case you might get into their 'Where to Fish' Sections. Good luck with the fishing on the tarn and I hope that you get it a mention in the press.

Regards, Matt

Hi Matt,

I'm travelling to Lanzarote in three weeks time and plan to get in some mullet fishing in the harbours. I intend taking a Shimano 11ft travel rod (50g - 100g) with me and using a small baitrunner with 8-10lb line, but am concerned that my approach may be too heavy.
What do you think?



I have never fished the harbour at Lanzarote but I would have thought that the kit is too heavy for mullet. Usually, to fish in the harbour, you need light line and a float set-up with small hooks. However, maybe you can improvise with your kit and do some legering for larger fish.

Matt Hayes

Hello Matt,

My name is Bill Finney from Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. I am 47 and though registered medically unfit for work I do try to find time for my favourite past time, fishing.

I never miss your programme on the TV, Total Fishing, and have acquired a few tips both from you and featured fellow anglers of yours. I gotta say it, Matt, the guy who dogged you for leaving the hook in the fish whilst landing and netting it was a bit over the top. I agree with you, what harm does it do the fish as long as it's not being hauled here n there on the hook out of the water?

My ex missus thinks you're gorgeous, so
me and you will never meet. lol!

Anyway, I wanted to say how much I like your programme and wish I had enough mortgage equity to allow me to have a day out with you fishing. I usually fish venues in the Lincolnshire area where there are some banging places and monster fish-carp of course.

This might be a silly question to ask you but how did you get where you are? Through winning competitions, etc? That sounds a little shallow as I know you have the skills necessary to net fish in competition.

Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing you on the telly again soon.

Tight lines,

Ps my mate Ian Heaps says I gotta say hi to you for him. lol!


Thanks for your e-mail. I appreciate you watching the shows.

I was pretty lucky to get where I am - I got the right breaks and took advantage of them. To 'make it' in fishing you have to be able to fish, of course, but there are lots of other requirements, notably the ability to communicate and the will to write, take pictures and meet deadlines.

I do not fish competitions because match fishing does not match my expectations of the sport. I like space and a sense of adventure and I simply would not get this if I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers every week. Top flight match anglers are very skilful and I admire their technique - it's just that matches are not for me.

Thanks for your vote of support on the hook in fishes mouths issue. After many years spent in the game, I think I know how to treat fish and I certainly respect them a great deal. Having said this, as long as people offer constructive criticism, I see this as a good thing. It's always good to get feedback about how people perceive what you are doing on screen.

Anyhow, I do hope that you enjoy a cracking season.

Catch Loads!

Matt Hayes


Any possibility of a new series of Total Fishing? I'm sure I'm not the only person to ask you this.

Chris, Grays, Essex

No, we are not making any more 'Total Fishing' episodes. However, I have a new series coming out in May called the Great Rod Race. It's the best stuff I have ever filmed. Watch the whole series - you will love it, I promise you.

Later this year I am working with Mick Brown on a series called 'Mad Rods and Englishmen.' Should be lots of fun and a great hoot will be had by all when we film it.

Thanks for watching the shows - I really appreciate it.


Matt Hayes

Hi Matt,

My name is Sam and I have just started fishing a river which runs through the bottom of a friends garden and we know that it holds barbel and chub because we have seen people catch them in the past from the opposite side of the river. The river is quite wide, more than 12ft but it is only about 3 or 4 ft deep in the deepest parts and it is easy to see the bottom in most parts. I have only caught pike in this river and have been trying for a barbel for a while now. I haven't seen any barbel or chub pass through and have had no success in catching one. Why is this? Am I not looking close enough? What am I doing wrong? I have tried cheese, meat, sweetcorn and worms and can't seem to get a bite on any.
I need your help.




Your first task is to find the fish and then you can catch them. Look very closely at all of the areas offering cover. Overhanging trees, weedbeds and depressions in the riverbed are the places to look for. Before you fish the river, spend some time in the closed season visiting these areas and introduce a few handfuls of hemp and corn into some spots near to the cover. Leave these places for an hour or two and then go back to them. Barbel and chub can be very hard to spot in the water and you will need to invest in some polarising glasses. You need to stare into the water for some time and eventually you will start to notice the subtle movements of the fish. Eventually, magic images will materialise out of nowhere and you will get good at spotting the fish.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of staying behind cover when you watch the fish. Creep into position avoid the skyline and make no sudden movements.

Once you have found the fish you can get them used to bait. Hemp is a key ingredient but you can also get them going crazy on pellets. For hook bait, try some 12mm freezer boilies, corn etc.,

I am sure you will catch these fish if they are present, but don't expect them to be swimming around in the open in full view of everyone.


Dear Matt,

I watch your program Wet Nets all the time. I watched the one where you were fishing Furnace Mill in Worcestershire. I have looked up the
venue on the internet and looks pretty good. Did Mick eat his hat? lol! Anyway, could you give me some little pointers on catching them lovely carp. I live in Coventry and there aren't a lot of venues around here. Any other nice venues that you know of please let me know - willing to travel.

Also, do you have any recipes for boilies? I've tried, but they don't work - they go soft.

Thanks for your time,



The fishing at Furnace Mill is excellent. If you visit the fishery, the owner, Ed Brown, will give you lots of good advice about catching the fish. No, Mick did not eat his hat but he eats just about everything else -his eating habits are gross!

Boilies - buy some decent freezer bait. Good baits to try are Richworth Multiplex or Bioplex, Nutrabaits Big Fish Cranberry or Trigga and Mainline's Assasin 8 or Grange. All of these boilies are superb and will catch you lots of fish if you go to the right places and fish well.


Dear Matt,

I have been carp fishing for many years now, and have thought about trying to build my own fishing lake. I am fortunate in that my family have recently bought a property with more than enough land on which to build a lake. At this stage, I'm really just looking to find out through my research, the best way of going about this. I have recently spoken to the owner of my local lake complex and he has given me some good information. I wonder could you give me any advice on where to begin? I would appreciate any help you could give.

Many Thanks,

Dean Rees (Carp Addict)

Quite a question this one!

The first thing to decide is what type of fish and stock density you want. Obviously, the less fish in the lake, the bigger they will grow. I say this because if you want, say, twenty pounds carp, there is no point in stuffing the lake with fish.

You also need to consider how you want the lake to look. Planting reeds, lillies and trees around the margins will shape the way your lake looks in a few years time.

In a nutshell, what you are about to do is very exciting and you need to go about it the right way. The Environment Agency offer excellent help and advice with lakes and I suggest you take advantage.

It's always a good idea to dig the lake and allow it to fill with water before letting it 'stand' for a year before you put any fish in. Regular PH checks should be carried out. You also need to include some deeper, safe areas for the fish. Islands and other features add character and make it more interesting.

There are fisheries consultants, like Bruno Broughton who offer an excellent service to people like yourself but as a starting out point, go to the EA. You will need their permission to dig the lake anyhow and their ascent to the source of water you intend to use.

Good Luck!


Dear Matt,

I am 14 and I love your show and I love fishing. What's your best bait for pike? Please tell me because I can't get pike.


Martin Dodge

You can catch pike in all sorts of lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. My favourite bait is a sea deadbait such as a half mackerel, sardine or smelt.

If you want to learn about catching pike, there is lots of good information on the internet. Just put 'pike fishing' into your browser and you should be able to tap into all sorts of stuff.

One of the biggest problems for newcomers is dealing with he pike when it is on the bank. Pike do bite and unless you know how to handle them you could end up getting bitten. Worse still, bad handling damages pike because they are very delicate fish. I advise that you find someone who can take you out and show you how to handle pike before you start fishing for them on your own.