Anglers can often be heard using the term watercraft, but what exactly is it?
In a nutshell, watercraft is the skill of understanding what is happening below the surface, and an ability to know the best way to approach a session under certain conditions. As any experienced angler knows, good watercraft is something that comes with experience and time spent on the bank. However, there are a few rules that beginners should remember, and following these rules should help you catch more fish.
Location, Location, Location
When you arrive at the lake don’t immediately go to the nearest available platform. Have a good look around: look for signs of any fish (fish jumping or bubbles breaking the surface are always ones to watch out for), take into account the wind direction (generally fish will follow a warm wind, but sit off the back of a cold one), are there any visible features that look like they could attract and hold fish (lillies, reeds and overhanging trees all provide cover and fish can almost always be found close by).
Always remember, it doesn’t matter how good your bait and tackle is, you can’t catch fish if they aren’t in front of you!
Mapping the Swim
Although all the lakes here at Sunset Lakes were dug to be very uniform, the topography of the lakes will change over time as water tow and feeding fish disturb the bottom.
Therefore, the use of a plummet is vital when float fishing. This little tool allows you to accurately map out the depths of your swim and ensure that your rig is set at the correct depth. With a little practice, you will soon be able to make an accurate mental picture of the lake bed and spot the fish attracting features that can’t be seen from the surface.
The bottom of the marginal slope is always a reliable spot, and if you are lucky enough to find a hole in the lake bed you could be onto a real winner, as these craters are often created by the fish as they grub around for food in the silt.
Understanding Target Species
Its important to understand that the four different species in our lakes will all behave slightly differently, and therefore you should tailor your approach accordingly.
Carp and tench are typically bottom feeders and will often be patrolling the margins in warmer weather, where a well placed bed of bait can usually attract and hold them in good numbers. However if the weather is warm enough then the carp may be inclined to come up in the water, and if you don’t spot this happening, it can lead to an extremely frustrating day trying, and failing, to catch carp on the bottom.
With completely different feeding habits, roach and rudd require a much more delicate approach than the carp and tench, these smaller species often require a “little and often” feeding regime to avoid filling them up, and they can usually be persuaded to feed in the upper layers quite easily, especially as the day goes on.
Every Day Is a Learning Day
This article is really intended to give you some pointers for your first attempts at coarse angling, and take away some of the daunting guesswork that you will have to try and navigate as a beginner. In reality, nothing will teach you more about watercraft than actually getting out there and learning for yourself.
We all have bad days, even the best anglers. But as time goes on and we learn more those disaster days become more of a rarity. Eventually, the lake and its residents will present you with scenarios that you have come across before, allowing you to make the right decisions quicker and with less stress. Every time you go fishing your brain is making notes of your previous experiences and creates its own reference book, and soon you’ll find yourself making the right decisions almost subconsciously.
Never be afraid to learn from others, if you can’t catch a thing but the guy down the bank is emptying it, then take time out to watch what he’s doing. If it’s appropriate to do so, politely ask for some help or advice. Most anglers will be flattered and only too willing to help.