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15 Aug 2016
by Keith Sykes
10 tips to catch more off the top
Bait expert, Keith Sykes, reveals some tips and edges which will keep you catching this summertime off the top

First of all I must explain that my surface fishing is split into two categories: natural baits such as Chum, pellets etc., and secondly artificial baits, such as flies, cork, balsa and plastics. My presentation will revolve around two formats, either using a controller such as a candle or if I am fishing the fly/muddler head presentation with a fly rod. The latter method has limitations but is very subtle and deadly for targeting larger individual fish with absolute minimal disturbance.

The next thing I try to achieve may at first seem to be contradictory; I like my bait to be as close as natural to the loose feed or the absolute total opposite, the latter is curiosity fishing and can work when other tactics fail.

01 Fake and real food

With Chum and pellet I tend to make the hookbait out of cork or balsa and then add ground tea biscuits (Chum Mixer) or ginger nuts (trout pellets) to the hooker using glue. This is very effective and means the hookbait lasts longer, but small fragments fall off imitating the loose feed.

02 Hookbait boost

One of the biggest edges to my surface fishing is without doubt soaking hookbaits in Hinders Betalin, it’s almost as though the fish will make a beeline straight for the hooker that has been soaked in the liquid. They really love it that much and it works well with artificial flies and bugs as well!

03 Different sizes

Another thing I like to do, is feed with mixed shapes and sizes, this reduces preoccupation on one size of pellet. I also like to add a few sinkers and slow sinking pellets as well, this just breaks everything up, making them react differently. Mix high oil with low oil and cat biscuits.

04 Up and down liquids

Whilst a lot of anglers like to add oils to their loose feed, sometimes it is better to mix the oil with slightly denser liquids as well that will fall through the water column drawing fish up to the surface. With some experimentation you can achieve liquids that will go up and down for long periods. Try Nashbait’s Liquid Crustacean Extract or Solar’s Liquid Belachan.

05 Dip your controller

Another thing I like to do is coat the controller in natural extracts, one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest is DT Bait’s Liquid Fish Pro. Give it a good shake then drop the controller in it. Also dip the hookbait in it too. It also works well glazing the free offerings, sending out food signals into the water column as well as the surface.

06 Dye your baits

If the carp start becoming wary of the loose offerings, such as Chum, look at flavouring and/or dying the baits. Coarse pellets and Chum take flavours and dyes on readily. Sometimes just dying and flavouring the hookbait can be enough to induce a take. Use water-soluble flavours to get the best results such as Nashbait’s Scopex or their Shellfish Sense Appeal; Solar’s E.12 or Richworth’s Salmon Supreme.

07 Floating cake: Brilliant

Something you don’t see these days is anglers using floater cakes. These are literally cakes baked in the oven, again being flavoured or dyed. Depending on the recipe they can be very tough and again is a very different edge. I like yellow and orange cakes with fruity flavours.

08 Frog's fanny

If you are using deer hair flies or Nash Zig Bugs or even damsel flies (brilliant when there are massive damsel fly hatches) then dusting with ‘Frog’s Fanny’ gives the artificial fly the appearance that it has a bubble around it, just like an emerger. This is available from game angling shops and also keeps the bug more buoyant.

09 Match the appearance

One important thing to remember is that most of the time you will want your hookbait close to the feed appearance, so always have hookers that will look like free offerings that have been in the water for any length of time; i.e. lighter and swollen such as occurs with Chum.

10 Not too much oil

Remember: too much oil and a resulting flat surface can make it easier for the carp to detect your rig. If you want oil, then use oily pellets and then maybe coat with a combination of liquid liver and Nashbait’s Crustacean Extract or something similar; experimentation is the name of the game!

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