Method feeder fishing
The method feeder is an easy to understand and effective way of fishing. The method is popular with amateur anglers like me, right through to professional match anglers. Carp are usually the target so it works best on a water that has a reasonable stock of Carp.
The feeder has a flat weight on the bottom which does two things. Firstly it provides the casting weight and secondly the feeder will always land on the lake bed the right way up, with the frame on top.
A short length of line with the hook is attached to the feeder. Feed is moulded around the frame along with the hook and bait. This creates a neat parcel of food with the hook and bait embedded inside.
When a fish comes across the feeder, it will drop down to eat the feed, sucking up the bait and the hook at the same time. As the fish lifts it’s head, the feeder is lifted off the lake. The weight of the feeder pulling on the hook length, will cause the hook to prick the inside of the fishes mouth. As soon as the fish feels the hook prick, it will know it’s a trap and bolt, causing a unmistakable indication at the rod.
Most of the time I use a small 24g feeder, I don’t use anything less than 24g, because they are just too light and fiddly. I don’t use a large size of feeder because of the risk of over feeding.
I use an 11 foot quiver tip rod able to cast 30g, it will comfortably cast a 24g feeder 40 yards. To cast further will need a heavier feeder and a stronger longer rod. A 45g feeder for example will need a powerful 12 foot rod, but should cast to over 70 yards.
With this rod I’m use a size 40 bait-runner reel loaded with 8lb monofilament line. Some anglers don’t use mono when feeder fishing, preferring fluorocarbon or braided line. The question of line is important, but I can only tell you what I do.
I like mono when fishing under 40 yards, because it has a certain amount of stretch. Bites on the method feeder can be quite dramatic and the stretch in mono helps to absorb the initial lunge of the fish. But over 40 yards and the stretch becomes too much. It feels like you are trying to play the fish on a length of elastic.
Fluorocarbon has much less stretch and braid has virtually no stretch at all, which makes controlling a fish at distance a lot easier. But when you get the fish close to the bank the lack of stretch in fluro or braid, can cause hook pulls or the hook length to break. If I use fluorocarbon or braid I will use a light clutch setting on the reel. The clutch will slip before the hook pulls or the line breaks. Anyway, whatever you use make sure the feeder, rod, reel and line are balanced and compliment each other.
Getting the feed right
The whole idea of the method feeder is a simple one, but getting the feed right and loading it on the feeder is the trick. First job is to prepare pellets or method mix ground bait to mould on to the feeder frame. The feed will also need stay on during the cast and through the water to the lake bed.
Preparing the feed is the first job I do on arrival. For a method mix ground bait, put the dry powder into a bucket and add a little pond water. Give it a good mix then riddle the ground bait into another bucket. The lumps are the wettest parts of the ground bait. By using a riddle you will break up these wetter lumps and spread them through the rest of the mix. Now you must leave the ground bait to soak for a good 15 minutes.
For pellets, put some pellets into a bait box and just cover them with pond water. Leave to soak for one minute for each mm in size of pellet. Oily pellets like Halibut take longer, sometimes much longer, depending on the brand. Once they have soaked, drain off the excess water and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Some types of pellets stick together better than others. Micro or small pellets stick together better than the larger pellets. If the pellets you want to use refuse to stick together, then you can add them to some prepared ground bait in a 50/50 mix.
Attach the feeder by threading the main line through the feeder body. Tie a swivel to the end of the main line. The size of the swivel is important and specific to the feeder, although most feeders include the swivel. Once tied push the swivel into the feeder body. It should be a snug fit into the front of the feeder.
To ensure the best chance of the hooking a fish, use an short shank wide gape hook. This design of hook is more likely to prick or catch on the fishes mouth. Generally the bait is attached by a hair rig, allowing the hook to be completely exposed. For hard baits like pellets use a band to attach the bait and for softer baits like boilies use a hair stop.
Aim to catch fish of a couple of pounds and bigger. I use baits from 6mm up to about 10mm with barbless hooks from sizes 16 to 12. Always use a barbless hook. Not only do they penetrate more easily but are kinder to the fish. I tie my own hook lengths often from ordinary 6lb mono, but a modern low diameter line or braid maybe better. Or you can buy ready tied method feeder hook lengths from you local tackle shop.
I like to use a hook length of a weaker breaking strain than the main line. So if the line is put under great strain, the weaker hook length is more likely to break than the main line. If somehow the main line breaks or is cut by a sharp under water object. The snug fitting swivel that the hook length is attached to, will pull out of the feeder, allowing the remaining main line to pull through the feeder. This ensures the fish is not left tethered to a heavy feeder. Which could cause the death of the fish. Even with a weaker hook length, always use a safe method feeder and have your reels clutch set correctly.
Arrange your rod rests so that the rod is at an angle to the swim. It doesn’t need to be at right angles but at a reasonable angle. The tip of the rod should be close to the water surface. This ensures the first few feet of line above the feeder, is close to the bottom where hopefully the fish won’t notice it.
Carp can often be found in and around reeds, lily beds, or patrolling the banks of an island. Cast as close to a feature as you dare, aim to get within a yard. If you fall short or over cast, estimate the distance and reel in or let line out until correct and then clip up. Do one more test cast and make any fine adjustments.
When you wind the feeder back, count the number of turns on the handle of the reel it takes to retrieve the feeder. If for some reason you have to unclip, it’s a simple task to set the distance again.
Cast elsewhere in the lake a similar distance to your swim. Clip up and then reel in while counting the number of turns. If the number of turns isn’t quite right, cast out again and unclip. Wind in or wind out until you have the correct number of turns then clip up again knowing you’re set to the right distance.
If I’m fishing open water I don’t usually use the clip. It worries me that I won’t be able to stop a big fish, before it reached the line clip and the breaks the line. But up against an island or reed beds the fish will swim to one side rather than straight away from me. There are reels that automatically un-clip, but I don’t have one of these so no clip for me in open water.
Once I’m happy with the distance and clipped up, I will attach the hook link. It’s pretty much accepted that a short hook length of four inches is best. Long enough for the fish to suck into it’s mouth, but short enough to ensure the fish gets pricked as soon as it moves.
A four inch hook length for me is four inches from the bend of the hook, to the end of the loop. I tie my hook lengths to end up with the bait on the hair, just off the bottom of the hook. Use a knotless knot on the hook and a figure of eight knot to form the loop. If I’m using a hard hook bait like a pellet I will include a pellet band in the hair. With a soft bait or a boilie I will just have a small loop in the hair and use a boilie stop or better still in my opinion a blade of grass to keep the bait on.
Finally attach the hook link to the feeder, pass the loop through the swivel and then pass the hook through the loop.
Loading the feeder
The ground bait should fall into lumps when squeezed not crumble. Place the hook and bait in the bottom of the feeder mould. Fill the mould with feed and press the feeder into the mould frame first. Give the feeder a firm squeeze in the mould then press the underside of the mould to eject the loaded feeder. With pellets it’s exactly the same, hook bait in the bottom, feed on top, squeeze in the feeder into the mould.
As the feeder falls through the water, some of the feed will inevitably be washed off. If the water is more than six feet deep, you may have to skin the feeder, to make sure the hook bait isn’t washed off on the way down. Skinning is simply loading the feeder as normal then adding an extra layer of feed over the top. The skin will then hold the bait in place as the feeder sinks. Skinning can also help if you are being plagued by small fish eating the feed. The extra feed in the skin will allow you to keep the feeder in the swim a few minutes longer.
Feed too wet
Every ground bait and every type of pellet takes a different amount of water. You can add more water to ground bait and you can soak pellets a second time for a minute or two if too dry. But once either gets too wet, you’ve got a problem. Not only loading the feeder, but also how the feed behaves in the water.
If the pellets are sticking to the inside of the feeder mould, the pellets are too wet, they were left too long in the water to soak before draining off. Ground bait will also stick to the mould if too much water is added to the mix. If the pellets are too wet I just mix them 50-50 with ground bait.
With ground bait that is too wet there are various tricks you can try, like putting the mould inside a polythene bag then loading the feeder on top. Or you can wet the mould first. Or add more dry mix to the ground bait. But in all honesty spending a little time mixing it right in the first place is the best solution.
With the feeder loaded I can cast out confident the feed won’t fly off on the cast, or disintegrate as soon as it’s in the water. I cast just beyond my chosen spot, knowing the line clip will stop the feeder at the right distance. Cast and then hold the rod upright to absorb the shock of the clip stopping the feeder. Done properly the feeder should only give a tug on the rod just before it hits the water.
Once the feeder has settled on the bottom, sink the main line. Either by putting the rod in it’s rests and slowly winding in dragging the line under. Or by holding the rod tip under the water and pulling the line under by hand. Finally tighten down to the feeder to produce a slight bend in the quiver tip. It is most important not to move the feeder when sinking the line. I say again, do not move the feeder. Any movement will cause the feeder to bury it self in the mud, or cause the feeder to turn over, neither of which will catch you any fish.
With the feeder on the bottom, I’m sure you will appreciate the feed wont last long. Roach can demolish your feed in no time and the actions of Carp will soon wash away the feed. But how long should you leave the feeder before reeling in and reloading it? I think perhaps the easiest way to answer that is to run through what I do when fishing the method feeder.
In the summer when I know the fish are most active I like to start by leaving the feeder in for just five minutes on the first four to six casts. If I don’t catch anything I have at least put some feed in the swim which hopefully will attract a few fish. After that I will leave the feeder for ten to fifteen minutes on each cast until the fish arrive. Once I start catching I abandon timing the feeder because I will be loading it after each fish anyway.
In the winter the first job is to find the Carp. Carp tend to group together in the sheltered parts of the lake. Often in and around weed beds which have died back, but will still offer shelter and a slightly higher water temperature due to the decaying vegetation. Fish are cold blooded, so when the water temperature is low their metabolism is very slow. Meaning they don’t eat much. So I use a fine ground bait in the winter, because It will attract the fish but not feed them. If a fish then finds the feeder the only thing to eat is the hook bait. I will cast around the lake, giving each swim maybe ten minutes, until I find the fish. Often the fish will congregate in the same areas year after year, so worth making a mental note when you find them.
Clearly the best indication that you have found the fish is catching one. But also look for indications on the tip which could be line bites. Even with line bites, if I don’t catch any Carp I will try elsewhere until I do. Although you may fish to the middle of the lake in the summer. this is very exposed in the winter, so don’t forget to try the margins.
In some types of fishing with a quiver tip you may well react to a slight pull on the tip, but not with a method feeder. As the fish attack the feeder they will cause small movements of the tip. You must learn to ignore these little flicks and pulls because when a proper bite happens, there is no doubt. When a fish is pricked by the hook it will bolt, which will cause the tip to pull right round, only then do you pick the rod up.
Now I said to ignore the line bite but that is not strictly true. Because line bites are a good indication of fish around your swim and around your bait. Now they could be a shoal of Roach demolishing your feed or it could be Carp grubbing around. You wont know until you catch something. But what you do know is that there are fish there. The more the tip quivers, the more fish of whatever size you have in your swim. The more fish there are the sooner you will have to reload the feeder. If the tip is constantly on the go you may have to reel in and reload every few minutes, even if its just small stuff eating the feed. Eventually the carp will move in and scare off any small stuff and you can get down to the business of catching decent fish.
You may see a drop back bite, where the tip suddenly springs straight. The fish has picked up the bait and has bolted towards you. This is not impossible but is unusual. Fish normally swim away from the bank producing a proper indication at the rod. You may see the tip straighten for a second and then pull round. But also it could mean the feeder has been nudged by a feeding fish causing slack in the line. If I see the tip straighten I will wait a second or two to see if the tip pulls round, if not I will reel in and reload the feeder, just to be sure.
Method feeder tips and tricks
So is there a trick or tip I can give you. To be honest with the method feeder being what it is, I’m not sure there is much to be done with the rig itself. I think the best way to influence your catch is with the feed and hook bait. Mixing different ground baits, adding pellets to ground bait, different flavour of pellets are all ways to attract the fish. I always carry a number of different hook baits, the colour can often have a big effect.
Strangest of all is changing the hook bait. I don’t know why but sometimes I will catch two or three fish and then nothing. I change the colour or type of hook bait and get another fish or two and so on. If you see line bite but don’t hook any fish, change the hook bait, sometimes it makes all the difference.
Adding a flavour to the pellets or ground bait might give you an edge. Try CSL (Corn Steep Liquor) & Scopex. Try using a critically balanced bait or a pop-up might work, especially in a silty swim.
Ground bait or pellets
In the summer when the fish have an apatite and are actively looking for food, I prefer to use only pellets as the feed. If I want to use larger pellets to try and keep the fish in the swim, I make a 50/50 mix with method mix ground bait. Prepare the ground bait and pellets separately then mix them together. Whereas in the winter, I will fish with only fine method mix ground bait on the feeder. Ground bait will attract the fish but not feed them, so all there is to eat is the hook bait and I wont overfeed the swim.
By all means try different method mixes and try mixing them together. Swim Stim and Halibut method mix seems quite popular, perhaps with micro pellets added. Try pop-ups or wafters for the hook. Try hard pellets, soft pellets, dead maggots, sweetcorn the list is endless.
If your new to fishing or the method feeder, it’s more important to learn the techniques involved than experimenting with the bait. Just get yourself a bag of method mix, a bag of 2mm carp or coarse pellets and some 8mm pellets for the hook.
But for a simple,effective, tangle free way of fishing, you cant beat a method feeder.
Special thanks to Hassocks Angling for allowing me to film on their waters.