Bait Fishing in Stillwaters

Large stillwater can be a very daunting proposition when you are still a relatively inexperienced angler and new to the water. There are no fish in sight, and there may be no obvious features that might cause them to congregate. Where on earth do you begin?

A good way is to ask advice, perhaps from somebody who knows a water better than you do, probably from the bailiff. Bailiffs always want to see anglers succeed — their living depends on the sale of tickets and a successful fisherman is one who will return to a particular water.

Failing this, there are several major factors to consider. Firstly, where is the wind coming from? Many, if not most, types of freshwater species tend to follow the wind, gradually moving toward the bank that it's hitting. In Europe, we are generally faced with westerly winds, and this tends to mean that the easterly shores are a good place to start.

Equally important is the question of cover. Smaller prey fish will never stray far from the refuge of reed and weed beds. A lot of fish also like to escape from the hubbub, so if there's a large, busy car park, then consider taking a good long walk with your binoculars to see what the more remote areas of the lake can offer. Bream and tench in particular will often move as far away as possible from commotion, and the angler who is prepared to use his legs starts off at a great advantage.

What other strategies can you follow? Look at lily pads, a very common feature on many stillwaters. These pads have magnetic qualities for carp and perch in particular. However, you will have to remember that stronger than average gear is needed when you're fishing around the pads because the lily stems can be very tough indeed. Don't compromise on this, it's not fair on the fish if you lose it, leaving a hook in the mouth. Dribhle in a few pieces of floating bait - bread crust or dog mixer biscuits are both ideal - and sit back quietly to see what happens. Watch for subtle movements amidst the pads. Then, perhaps, you will see the lips of the fish as it gently pulls the bait down. Carp are very likely to be responsible, but rudd and even crucian carp will also scan the surface film. Once you see activity like this, simply flick out a hooked bait and watch for the line slithering off.

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