From the water’s edge

June 2015 - Pole position

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The logical progression from scratching small perch out of the margins has led my thinking in several different directions lately. I am always looking to advance the effectiveness of my fishing and having an enquiring mind, will consider anything, any method, any idea, that may have potential to either improve catches or enhance the pleasure of the fishing I do.
Dibbling has been kind, it is a method, I am told, that has taken off, so it is clear
that others are looking at things in a similar way to myself. It is, or rather has been for us a scratching technique. One to resort to when times are hard, occasionally but rarely, as a technique to catch the maximum number of better fish. I have always felt that it should be even more productive than it is and two factors seem key to increasing that effectiveness.

More than anything, I would like to be able to do it further out. Where those better fish tend to hit baits more regularly. The edge of the boat channel would be ideal, working a lure on the spot, at any depth and without using extra lead. I could and have tried the dropshot and I am not impressed to be honest. It works, no doubt about it, but it is not as effective as other methods in our comparatively shallow canals. In deep water and at range it works as no other method can, but that doesn't make it brilliant, it only makes it the least worse option in my opinion. It really scores when you need a lot of lead, but don't want it hiding the lure or spoiling its action, there is nothing else.

The obvious answer is a pole. Everybody must have thought of that, but I have always chickened out. Too inconvenient, too cumbersome, too insensitive. One of my correspondents, Peter Edwards, tells me that  a whip has worked well for him in the margins, but I hope he will forgive me for assuming that his usual venue has few better fish. I know he catches a lot of small ones, but also that he is catching roach and the like by using micro baits, even so I am not sure that it has tempted him to abandon the rod and line yet, but it does prove potential.

I was interested to hear from him recently that he had met an American on one of his local streams fishing for sticklebacks! A micro fisherman no less. By the way, that is not a small fisherman, but one that targets small fish. He was photographing his catches in a tiny fish tank taken along for the purpose. I thought that was interesting enough, having wasted an hour or so trying to catch minnows on a lure last summer, to google the subject. I couldn't help wondering what kind of rods they might use for this, and the answer it turned out was a pole of sorts.
Way back in the mists of time there were no reels or elastics, just poles with the line made of twisted horsehair fixed to the tip. The pole would have been cut from the wild and one part of the world had an unfair advantage. In Asia, they had bamboo, natural, hollow rod making material. Consequently, it was the Japanese who developed what is now known as tenkara.

Although it is a fly fishing method, Today's most similar techniques are dapping and pole fishing. Once more, I was being nudged towards a fixed line approach. That was my last nudge, on Sunday I was shoved right in there. I was talking it through with Pete Felstead at a chapter fish-in knowing him to be an expert at all things micro and fly related. Like a conjuror, he pulled a tenkara rod from the boot of his car. It was a revelation. This one was 9ft. About a foot long closed down and telescopic, it can be carried clipped to a fly vest and it weighed about an ounce. The tip was very fine and Pete explained that you can feel the tiniest bites through it, even from minnows. My wallet groaned, it looked destined to come under pressure again very soon.

In the meantime, my pole would allow me to establish whether the method had any mileage on the canal and if so, what length would allow me to reach a reasonable distance without becoming a cumbersome nuisance. I rushed to the tackle shop and rashly bought a whip that felt ideal, but on returning home discovered that it was five times as heavy as the top three off of my old carp pole. Back to the tackle shop then to buy some rubber plugs to prevent damage to the bare ends of the pole I already had.

I have three telescopic top twos, and chose the lightest carrying a number 8 elastic. That alone is easily light enough to hold at arms length in one hand with none tucked under my arm, but adding the next section barely changes the weight whilst adding another metre or so to the reach.
I have concerns, but the weight is so much less than that of even the lightest rod and reel combination that it can only be fun to use. Tenkara has no elastic in the setup. The rod is so soft that it does the job, would the elastic in this pole ruin bite detection? I certainly expected it to, but it would do for a look see. Never has a Wednesday taken so long to arrive.



There is only one way to test out a new method. At the very least all other unnecessary tackle has to be left in the car if not at home. The temptation to carry two setups can only compromise the venture as soon as one's accomplice/s begin catching on the usual methods.

Initially my tackle arrangement was as follows:
Three sections of pole with a reach of around 12-13 feet and carrying a tight no 8 elastic. 8 feet of brand new, bright yellow 20lb braid was attached to the tip via a stonfo. I fitted a minute swivel to the other end and then a 4lb fluoro leader to that. I tied a 2gm, size 6 jighead with the barb crushed, directly to the end with the intention of carrying only lures that would fit it. I don't usually fish that light although I have always wanted to, but in this instance, I hoped that the elastic might reduce the likelihood of snap offs, while the lightness of the leader would ensure that if the worst happened and a ten pound zander showed up, it would be the leader that broke.

All seemed well when we arrived, the colour suggested that yesterday's storms had kept the boats tied up. Our plan was to walk to the bottom of the flight and fish back. What we really wanted to do was fish water that we normally ignore. A couple of stretches have hotspots that have gone quiet. Those fish have to be somewhere. It didn't really work. The 'lock where we never catch anything', the one that suddenly produced dozens of perch for a while, is now the lock where we can't catch anything again.

It didn't help that the first boat came through before we had even put baits in the water or that the occupants were clearly holiday first timers and struggling. The inexperienced always seem to believe that all situations can be resolved by the application of maximum power and full lock. It is definitely the fastest, most effective way to get some colour into the water.

I had the first fish, but it was bittersweet. It was gaffed in the pectoral fins underneath. After that however and after some refinement to the tackle, fish started to come. Not many to start with, but twice as many as Pete was getting dibbling at half the distance, closer to the edge.

Initially, I had set up enough line to swing the lure and hopefully the fish, to hand, but it was still very windy and in the shallower areas there would be too much line blowing about and only the fiercest of bites was discernible. I shortened the braid which was an immediate improvement but restricted all my fishing to the reach of the pole. I could no longer cast any further to hopefully gather more distant fish on the drop. Bite detection was harder than with the rod, but as I did get more used to it, I Found that really the signs were just different. Instead of a pluck felt through the rod, there would just be dragging sensation on the lift. Introducing more lifts to check for fish generated more takes.


One lock on the stretch was drained right down a couple of years back and has never really offered up any fish since. Today, it was the most productive. I had my first elastic stretcher, a jack pike, in it, quickly followed by the fish of the day, a 1-9 perch. The pole handled the job beautifully, and I found that although by shortening the line, I had to ship a section to unhook or net every fish, the bottom section was so slim and light that I could just hold it in the same hand as the pole, or kneel down and lay it on the grass next to me. Practice makes everything easier, and by the end of the morning, I was finding it every bit a easy as using a reel and that I could probably manage an extra section, giving more reach.

So, for those still interested, here are a few of the issues encountered and either sorted already or still work in progress.
Advantages are plentiful. From one spot, I can dibble a long arc, from the bank left or right, to the full length of the pole. In narrow areas, that is three quarters of the way across, and well into the boat channel. A short line gives more control at that distance even in the wind. I can work the lure at distance parallel to the bank whereas with a dropshot I can only hold it stationary or wind it straight back towards me. Several times, I felt the take and missed but was able to precisely put the lure back down and work it just off bottom right on the fish's nose resulting in more fish caught.

Striking is just a case of lifting, which makes lighter lines less likely to break and easier to use. The whole set up weighs a fraction of what an ultra light rod and reel does, although the more sections you fit the heavier it will be, obviously. Carbon poles are surprisingly light up to about 6 or 7 metres. At up to 5 metres, they are easily operated with one hand right at the end, giving even more reach. The long and the short of it is that pole gives way better control of the lure and can be worked with the utmost precision compared to a cast line. It is also unaffected by surface rubbish, the lure can simply be lowered through the smallest gap and the debris doesn’t foul the line or affect a retrieve.

Disadvantages? Without a doubt, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO LOOK UP!,! Overhead wires which canals have in abundance are not really an issue with six foot rods. A pole is a lightening conductor and it is important to stay alert when moving from spot to spot. They are a little more awkward to carry although taking a section off when moving is quick, easy and effective. Bite detection is different, there is less feel as I had it set up today. There is a limit to the distance you can fish at, and that is a major one. Not so bad if you are on your own, you don't know what you are missing. If the guy next to you is getting all his fish against the far bank, you are out of the game. A short line is ideal but can occasionally be too short to reach the bottom!


So will I continue with this experiment? You bet I will. It was a very nice easy way to fish and you are much more in control of the lure. But, there are some questions to resolve. Would a lighter tip give better bite indication? How much loss of feel is down to the elastic and/or the stonfo waggling about between the line and the tip. Could I manage with a fixed line or is a four pound zander going to be too difficult to deal with? Will another section be more trouble than it is worth? To make the most of this when seeking better fish, I need to fish some larger lures, will a fine tip and a 6 elastic set a 1, 1/0 or even a 2/0 hook. Can’t see that myself but those are problems to be dealt with in due course.

I don't usually do this, but today's results were, for the pole: 10 perch to 1-9, 1 jack, 2 small zander, 13 in total. Rod and line: half that at best, although Pete did scoop the fish of the day with his second daddy ruffe on a lure.

The results prove nothing at this stage, it might have been tying the lure directly to the leader with no clip or going down to a 4lbs trace that made some or all of the difference. Time and further experimentation alone will tell, but I do believe the method has real potential.

Either side of today's moderate success I managed two utter failures. On Sunday we blanked while those around us had perch to 3-2 on the dropshot and pike to 17 on the fly. After dropping Pete off today, I had two hours on the commercial, missed four bites and caught nothing. It only served to take some of the gloss off an interesting morning. On the other hand there were quite a lot of rudd up on the top at the commercial. I do believe that I can still see an excuse to get the tenkara pole after all.


artificial lite



journal 2015.


journal 2015.