With the proliferation of new formulations and flavours of boilees and pellets,plus glugs and dips and more on the scene its easy to get side-tracked from recognising that fish spend the majority of time feeding on the natural diet that mother nature provides. Understanding this fish behaviour and diet often give you a real edge in catching more and better fish.
Throughout the spring and early summer, you are never going to be able to put as much artificial food into a water, either still or a river, as there is natural food. We might be lucky and get fish feeding on our artificial baits but for the majority of the time, the majority of the fish are going to be eating what Nature has provided. Over my years of fishing, I have had endless stark reminders that this is absolutely the case.
For example, I remember one trip to Spain in May when it was quite impossible to catch comizo barbel on any bait whatsoever apart from silkweed growing around a weir. When you took handfuls of this weed, you noticed it was full of insects and a big piece draped around a size 6 would get a barbel almost immediately. After that, we started looking more carefully at the insects themselves and realised that shrimps predominated. It was difficult to use those on a hook but when we tried fly-fishing with shrimp patterns we began to do very well indeed.
It was much like this on a trip to the Czech Republic after barbel about twenty years ago now. I’d prospected the river and it was full of fish to about fourteen pounds. I’d got a group with me and we were there for six days. We began to feed heavily with corn and I said it would probably take forty-eight hours before barbel switched on to it. I was completely wrong. After three and a half days, we were still biteless, despite there being hundreds of fish in the river. Franta, our guide, watched all this in silence and then finally found some caddis grubs from under stones in the margins, put three on a size 12 and within minutes we were playing barbel. Using caddis grubs revolutionised the entire trip.
The Caddis phenomena
This spring (2017) I had a similar situation tench fishing at Lyng Lake. For five days, yes five, all the usual baits and approaches had failed completely. For various reasons, we decided to use caddis and the session was completely turned round. Over the next two and a half days we had ninety-seven tench, as well as losing a lot and missing several runs.
There are some unusual ones, too. We all know that slugs are supposed to work for chub but in the summer of 2016, great mate, Simon Clark, also started catching big bream on black slugs, too. It looked ridiculous and I would have discounted it but for the fact it worked.
We all know that worms are superb baits and, where signal crayfish exist, pieces of signal crayfish also do very well indeed. Quite why using them is illegal I’ll never know, providing they were caught in that water of course and not introduced. However, underneath these big impact baits, there are simply scores and scores of invertebrates that live in the water and that most anglers are completely oblivious to. Of course, in the trout world, this is not the case. Maestros like Stuart Croft know exactly that you have to imitate on your line what the fish are eating. If the trout guys get this, how come the coarse boys are so far behind often?
So the lesson is if you want to catch more fish don’t discard naturals to turn a session around it may just be the key to opening the flood gates!