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10 Jan 2017
by Terry Hearn
Should you be a one trick pony or jack of all trades?
Tel dishes up his views on one trick ponies or jack-of-all-trades

QUESTION: I’ve got a question to pose to the other Rotarians. As I’ve got older I seem to have settled on a couple of methods or styles. I’ve become a little stereotyped in my approach and, although I am willing to adapt to circumstances, don’t vary it greatly other than for one off trips to different venues or if it becomes evident that it isn’t working. I do a lot of floater fishing and stalking but primarily I’m a boilie angler. I’m in my element fishing pop-ups within throwing stick range on weedy waters that don’t relinquish their prizes too easily.

Faced with spodding at extreme-range or catching numbers of carp with PVA bags from heavily stocked waters I’d be useless. I know some terrific anglers that have raped and pillaged wherever they have gone having mastered fishing pellets in the edge and others that do the same by becoming particle experts. Talking to them reveals that there are a number of elements that go together to make their methods devastating and the only way to become this good is to concentrate on their particular skill to the exclusion of others. Do the other contributors consider themselves versatile all rounders or do they have particular strengths that they tend to exploit and pin their faith in? Are they inclined to fish venues that suit their style? Matt Eaton

Good stuff Matt. I think we all go through phases where we concentrate on using one particular method, but so long as it’s one that’s producing the goods then that’s not such a bad thing. So long as we’re quick to recognise when something’s not working quite as well as it should, then there’s no problem.

Hinge and Chod Rigs are a good example: I went years using light scatterings of bait with those rigs, coupled with home-made corkball pop-ups back when the only way was to lovingly roll them yourself, and they worked a treat wherever I took them. For a long while there was rarely any need to change, they just worked, but often that was either for relatively un-pressured fish, or on waters where they were different to what the majority of anglers were using. I don’t ever remember purposely choosing a venue because it suited that approach, but I can certainly think of many times where I smiled upon realising that it does suit. It’s nice to use a method which you’re already very confident in, and to be fair, when it comes to boilie fishing for relatively un-pressured fish on quiet waters, it’s not often that Hinge or Chods won’t do the business. It’s only when targeting pressured fish that have already seen it all, that they stop working so well.

In this case I’m not even sure it’s the rig itself at fault, it’s possibly more the fact that it’s a blatant pop-up. In other cases it’s simply a wrong choice of bait making a rig seem ineffective, after all, it’s nearly always boilies being used with those rigs and when it comes to pressured waters I think it’s fair to say they’re often overused. Of course they’ll always get caught on boilies, they love them, but nowadays our rigs are more efficient – hooks are sharper, and us carpers are getting fussier. There’s also far more of us doing it, two maybe even three times as many of us in fact, and due to developments in end tackle and a hugely increased availability of information, the overall capability of carp anglers has gone up. Carp today don’t get away with eating boilies for very long without getting caught, and as a result, on some venues they become harder to catch on them no matter what rig they’re presented on.

“Carp today don't get away with eating boilies for very long without getting caught, and as a result, on some venues they become harder to catch”

That’s just one example of a presentation which can be brilliant, but it’s still important to recognise when it’s already been used to death, and the same goes for other methods which have gained popularity in recent years. Zigs are another good one. As a youngster I used them loads, though back then we used to call them ‘suspendeds’. At Bushey Park in the late 80’s they were the norm, in fact, thinking about it, my first ever Yateley Copse Lake mirror, Crinkle Tail, was also caught on one, yet for many years I rarely saw anybody using them. If you saw fish in the upper-layers and you put a well-presented bait out on a Zig, then it was more likely a case of when it was going to go, not if. On a lot of waters that’s not necessarily so anymore, now you can have a Zig out with carp all around it and even after trying bugs and slithers of black foam and all the other little edges, they can still be hard to fool. Why? Because everybody’s doing it. Very often the best methods of all are the ones that nobody else is using.

Matt’s bit about all the elements coming together to make one particular method devastating is very true. Mastering one particular method and concentrating on it is how all those little pieces come together. Certain parts of the puzzle might equate to a larger percentage in the beginning, like a change of bait, change of rig or even a change of your rods, reels, line and casting technique in order to get those extra few yards, but it’s all the little percentages that follow which eventually turn a good method into a devastating one. Those smaller parts of the puzzle that appear with time, 2% here and 5% there, they all make the difference and they can come from a huge variation of sources. From the way you prepare your bait, to the extra level of fussiness you’ve reached with your hooks, from being poorly motivated because you’ve been blanking for a while, to being super keen and running on a full battery simply because you’ve suddenly started catching. It’s difficult to build on something when there aren’t any foundations.

A lean looking 30 caught after deciding against fishing for a couple of smaller fish in the margins. Sometimes we sacrifice one chance because we feel there’s a better one somewhere else

Like Matt, I’d definitely say that my approach has changed a bit as I’ve got older, something I touched on in one of the last letters when I talked about free-lined bread flake as being a favourite method of mine as a youngster, and how I was less patient in my early carping years. Today I sometimes find myself ignoring what I know is a good chance of a bite, simply because I’ve already got another plan in my head and I don’t want to risk making a move which might ruin it. Sometimes that’s a good thing. That probably sounds odd, but sometimes I might not take up an opportunity in case it affects what might, in my mind, already be a virtual certainty in the coming hours. For instance, on the last evening of my most recent trip I found a couple of fish feeding in the margins in the next swim down. They weren’t big fish, low twenties, but going back a few years I most likely would have grabbed a rod and a net and had a go at fishing for them. The thing is, I already had a banker spot for the night in the next swim down, one which I’d already managed a good fish off the previous night and I felt sure that there was a good chance of another during the night to come. Instead of fishing for those fish in the margins I just watched them feeding from the tree for a bit, and then leaving the area undisturbed I went back to my swim, got the rods out early for the night, and went on to catch a lovely 30lb 12oz mirror in the early hours instead.

“I sometimes find myself ignoring what I know is a good chance of a bite, simply because I’ve already got another plan in my head.”

At Ashmead I quite often passed on opportunities. For instance, in the area known as Goat Willow I regularly saw the bigger residents laying up amongst the thicker weed in one particular corner. I sometimes got smaller carp feeding on floaters tighter into the bank there during the warmer afternoons and I felt confident that I could have changed tactics for a short while and been in with a good chance of catching one off the top. The thing is, I’d weigh up the chances of a lively twenty-pounder charging around in the weed and spooking the bigger ones, which at Ashmead would have almost certainly have meant lessening my chances of something a bit more special off my bottom bait spots through the night, and I’d decide against it.

Of course we’re going to muck up from time to time, sometimes with hindsight I know that I really should have had a go, especially when they’ve all buggered off come evening time anyway. Another time it might mean the area left undisturbed and a better prize in the net at dawn. We takes our chances.

I know that there are for’s and against’s for holding back and trying to think ahead, and there’s also a huge difference between that and just ‘can’t be bothered’, or not recognising those ‘there’s a chance to be had there’ moments in the first place. The way I look at it is, they’re not really missed or forgotten, just put to the back of the mind, saved for when times are tougher.

Sometimes we pick the methods we do because we have most confidence in them for what we’re trying to achieve, and that’s not necessarily to catch as many carp as we possibly can. For instance, a particle approach might be the one that gets the bobbins dancing most often, but when it comes to catching the biggest fish in the pond we might still find that boilies are best for singling those out, even though it might mean less action to the rods.

Other than extreme-range casting, which isn’t really my thing, I’m comfortable adapting my tactics to suit wherever I’m fishing, but I have found that once I’ve got onto something which is doing the business I’m more reluctant to change. It’s good to go somewhere new with a method you’ve just enjoyed success with and already built up total confidence in using, but if the method doesn’t fit the water then I’ll soon change what I’m doing.

One thing’s for sure, when I was younger, changes in my approach used to happen more by the hour than by the session. I think that maybe some of the altering of my approach as I’ve got older has happened due to having more time to spend on the bank and basing my plans around that time. Things like thinking further ahead, or having a plan and sticking with it. I think that’s something which grows in an angler over time, once there’s not the same sense of urgency to just catch fish anymore. ‘Slowly slowly, catchee monkey’ as my old mate Jamie Smith used to say.

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