This piece is about luring for roach and rudd, but I should clarify that when I talk about the two species it's also in the context of all manner of hybridisation between them and other coarse 'non predators'. I have no particular interest in purity and have come to think of them as a broad genus - which we all seem to call 'silvers'. That's not being unkind and it certainly doesn't diminish the pleasure of catching them. Indeed, it's often immediately apparent what you've caught, i.e. silver or blue silver with a downturned mouth opposed to golden or silver golden fish with an upturned mouth - but if you want to know more about the eyes, fins and scale counts that would assist in more conclusive authentication, then Google away. As I said, it doesn't bother me and if I were ever to fluke a monster then I'd advise BRFC members not to hold their breaths.
Why fish like this though? After all, there are proper predators to be caught on lures and if you want silvers then it's so much easier to buy a pint of maggots. True, but it's nice to do things that nobody else does and I don't know about you, but I still get that massive kick from catching on a lure. Bait fishing's so simple; you throw food in and they'll eat it sooner or later. Lure your fish out whenever you can, it's so much more fun.
Silvers are incredibly widespread; pretty much everywhere in British fresh water and I'm sure you know at least a few places you could bag up. If not, you might have to do some exploring but I very much doubt it. You know those pike, perch and zander you like catching - well, what do you think else is in there with them?
I can't help but think of silver fishing as a warm water pursuit, but it isn't and I've proven this to myself time and again this winter - even breaking cat ice to make room to cast and retrieve. That said, my favourite times to go for them are in the spring and then again in late summer, when everything else seems to slow up and it's a splendid way to get the bites and multi species bags going. Out of necessity, I also need to mention perch a couple more times before we get too much further.
Firstly, if you're new to light luring then stick to targeting perch for at least the time being. As long as they're present in reasonable numbers, they offer the best chance of a bite and those bites are generally straightforward to hit. I'm not advocating an apprenticeship lasting months or years, but just enough successful sessions to create a bit of confidence and acclimatise you to what bites look and feel like.
Secondly, it can't have escaped your notice that perch are a popular species these days. They look pretty, people get to handle a predator that's easy to unhook and, as I've already alluded to, they are a doddle to catch. The result of this is that you can hardly go anywhere in either the real or virtual world without perch anglers on hand to discuss the important matters of the day with. Perch, perch and more perch, everywhere. God help us.
None of that applies to fishing artificials for roach and rudd. With few exceptions, you're on your own. I'll exclude fly fishing for them because there appears to be a small community of anglers who do that very well - and here I have to reference Dominic Garnett's excellent book 'Flyfishing for Coarse Fish' - but lure for them and you're in a real niche situation, with no pseudo comfort blanket facebook groups to fall back on. A fine gentleman from the Midlands by the name of Pete Felstead, who many of you may be familiar with, has been an inspiration to me for a number of years, but his approach to silver hunting and mine diverge, partially I think due to my lack of patience and more likely the different types of waters we fish. Either way, although his tiny surface baits have been very good to me for perch and chub, I can't catch silvers on them - whereas he does and very consistently too.
Consistency is what it's all about. I've taken roach and rudd on all manner of lures, but I wouldn't set out to target them with, for example, a two inch shad, because I'll probably be fishing most of the season before I get one to hang itself. I'm sure I could persuade a silver to hit a small jerkbait, but I'd never be so deluded as to claim it's a sensible way to go about things. That said, I'd love to catch one on a jerk this year and will certainly try. With the exception of rudd, which I can catch fairly regularly on really small spinners (size 0 or better still 00), the only approach I know of how to pick up silvers pretty much every time is using tiny, slow sinking soft plastics and I'd like to share my experiences of this with you.
I've landed over a thousand silvers fishing part time for them in the last twelve months and the vast majority of these were taken in running water. I'm categorically not an expert and my knowledge of the subject is still growing all the time, but in the absence of anyone else I'll tell you what I do, as best I can.
The good news (or perhaps bad, if you're a tackle tart or feeling a little flush) is that you probably won't need to buy a set up, but I'll do a tackle run down anyway.
If you've got a light perch rod you're happy with then that's it, job done. I've used a number of ultralight and LRF type rods and they were all at least okay. You're going to be casting very light weights, so if you have more than one rod in mind one of the first considerations should be length.
My preferred rod for silvers in most circumstances is a fairly crisp, but forgiving MHX ultralight of just over seven feet and that appears to be around the optimum. Anything, other than the very fastest of rods, with a casting rating of around a quarter of an ounce or less will probably be fine.
Reels are probably best matched to rods by weight, rather than size like many experts appear to advocate, but if you've been luring for a while you should already have a comfortable combination and I'm not going to preach anyway. I'll say pick a reel with a good clutch and decent line lay, but that's clearly not advice specific to this sort of fishing.
As with other luring, the starting point for main line is a non-stretch braid, but if you see a need for monofilament or fluorocarbon I'll remind you that casting very light weights requires a fine diameter line and that both mono and fluoro are like rope compared to the equivalent strength braid. Never say never though and I do have a set up with 2lb Drennan Supplex mono, which I fish straight through to the hook.
My first choice mainline is currently 6lb eight strand Sunline braid, but I've also caught large numbers of fish on 0.6 PE J-Braid and perhaps even more on 10lb Power Pro. Hook link or leader materials are mono and fluoro again, in strains of 2-6lb, or diameters of .12 to .22 if you'd rather. Fishing straight through with braid looks unsophisticated and I generally don't, but the fish are probably less concerned about it than we are anyway.
Hooks and jigheads are almost always size 10 and smaller. I generally fish 12s and 14s, but will drop down further if I need to. Remember though, those silly manufacturers will insist on not having uniform sizes, so the same size carp hook and fine wire match equivalent from different companies will more than likely be poles apart. Just use your head.
Finally you do need to give some consideration to your surroundings and likely by-catch when choosing your terminal tackle, but if you really don't want to mess around, for an all-round, 'do all' set up I'd say you can't go too far wrong with 5lb fluoro and medium wire size 12s.
Pike are unlikely to be much of an issue, but chub, carp, trout and those stripey buggers will love what you're going to do with those little lures. Little being around an inch, maybe a tiny bit more or, a little less. If you think a one inch Kopyto is a small bait, then think again because it certainly isn't! As well as actually being three and a half centimetres, it's also very deep in the body and much more of a mouthful than I'd usually plan on giving them.
My favourites are Crazy Fish Whitebait and the one inch variation of Big Bite Baits' Ballzy Worms, but I also do well on Manns grubs, Ecogear Meba Darts, BBB Trout Worms and both the CF and Berkley takes on nymphs. The tails sections of tiny softer bodied shads and various halved and quartered dropshot worms all work too, as does Isome and probably dozens of other lures I've never even heard of.
If you decide you're going down the hooks as opposed to jighead route you'll need some split shot or beads - either bulkier brass or more expensive, denser tungsten. Whatever, you'll be looking to cover everything from less than a fifth of a gram up to a whole gram. It's conceivable you might need heavier, but don't worry about it, I'm sure you'll be fine. The main split shot sizes are easy to remember as they're mostly multiples of themselves; AA=.8g, BB=.4g, 1=.3g, 4=.2g and 8=.1g.
Painted tungsten beads are a nice alternative and let you create the most subtle little baits imaginable if you're inclined to put the effort in. I don't glue them in place, but fix them using the lure. This lets you chop and change with bead sizes, colours and even numbers of beads used.
So, you're kitted up, ready to fish and at the venue. If you know where the silvers hang out then that's a starting point, if you can see them in the water, or topping, or best of all fizzing away then you're laughing. If the water's coloured up or you just can't see them then don't worry, you'll have to fish blind and go searching. All the usual features will attract them and don't hang about without action for too long. Seek and you will find, sooner or later.
The technique is, in principle, incredibly simple; fish on the drop for as much of the time as you can. Because you're up in the water your rod will normally be held higher than usual, at around eighty-ninety degrees or even higher. Use both the reel and rod to manipulate the lure and apart from a few twitches let gravity make the bait's slim tail, skinny legs or whatever else work themselves. It doesn't necessarily have to look dramatic as tiny vibrations and gentle wiggling will get you loads of bites.
The bites are fascinating and this is where time and practice come in. Some are unmissable, the fish hook themselves, but the rest are either super sharp raps on the rod tip or discrete pauses and flickers on the line, so you do need to keep your wits about you and hit at the merest indication.
This isn't half hearted fishing, keep concentrating. Prepare yourself for some frustration - and keep the faith that your hook up rate will improve! The absorbing thing about all of this is getting the presentation, i.e. rate of descent right. Particularly in windy conditions or running water there's so much more than selecting a correct weight - diameter of your mainline will have an enormous effect, different types and lengths of hook links will sink at different speeds (or even suspend/float), tungsten will go down like a bomb and a floating aid could even prevent your lure from ever hitting bottom. Even the slightly different shapes of bait will have an impact. There are so many things to take into account, but it's not random and it will vary.
Before I forget to mention it, try to remember to count yourself down and you'll soon realise there's often a 'kill zone' to exploit.On a calm day, if you're fishing a spot under ten feet in depth, with little or no flow to worry about then start off with a BB shot or a 0.4/0.5g jighead with a 2' link and take it from there. A bait falling at around a foot every three seconds will do you well to start, but an excruciatingly slow fall may be even better on some other occasions. Suss it out and on the right days you'll catch silvers at a quicker rate than even the most expert wasp botherer can, but on harder days you may end up cursing these shy, fast biting little terrors and every last fish will be a hard won pleasure.
There are undoubtedly more effective ways to present the artificials - fluff chucking foremost and bombarda fishing at long range close behind I'd suggest, but that doesn't really appeal to me and in streams, canals and small lakes my simple approach will be hard to beat. Apart from the guys fishing the mag 'n' wag - they'll slaughter you. But they're cheating and we don't care about them.
As you'd imagine, I've got plans to fish for the silvers again this year and I'll probably try to target some bigger fish if I can - there are, in particular, some big old roach in a river I occasionally fish and I think they see hardly, if any, pressure - and there's nothing like a pound plus roach or rudd on a light lure to set the heart fluttering. What must a two or even a three do to you? I'll keep mixing up and refining my tactics and have already got some new lures set aside which I'm saving for the start of the Closed Season, namely Herakles Moth Worms and some tidy little Sabikis. I also have some beautiful teeny weeny jigflies, tied by Paul Edmonson, which at the time of writing are still unused, but I'll be trying them as soon as conditions allow.
If you're considering giving it a go then don't dither and just do it, you'll probably have a great time. If not, you won't be able to catch me anyway, I'm quick on my feet for a big lad.