After the success of the Barbie/worm combo I stayed too long on that big deep pit, and although I picked up odd fish it was clear the majority of the perch had gone off to spawn. The newly discovered info that perch spawn once the water hits 47½ºf proved correct, but it left me in limbo; so when a local pole angler told me of another pit that had seen an explosion of roach including ‘great big ones’, my ears pricked up. I knew the water, and had fished it for bream, tench, and perch, but had never had a roach from it. It might well fill the gap before the perch came back and the tench woke up, so I’d give it a go. That decision led to some incredible fishing, which could well change the way anglers maggot fish in this country – just as it did thirty years ago when I pioneered the use of dead maggots. What was then a virtually unknown practise eventually became commonplace, with even the best matchmen in the country now extolling the virtues of dead maggots.
The ‘new’ water (lets call it number 2 pit) wasn’t as large but almost as deep, with the central channel sixteen to seventeen feet. It seemed relatively snag free, so I elected to fish two helicopter feeder rigs filled with live maggots. I’ve done a lot of this sort of fishing over the years, and in various waters up and down the country, so I expected results – and I got them.
My first trip in mid-April, I used live maggots on one rod and deads on the other; both reds and whites. Results came to all the combinations, but I endured a blank one and half hours before the roach arrived, around 4pm. This was signalled by bites on both rods at once! A hectic hour followed before it slowed down, but I still had occasional bites until sunset. In spite of bright sunshine and clear water I managed to land fifteen roach: five in the 2 to 4oz range, five in the 8 to 12oz range, and five more around the 1lb mark. Nice fishing, and I wanted more.
The next trip made all the difference as after a slow afternoon the fish switched on at 7pm, and among a ten fish catch I had roach of 1lb 5oz and 1lb 14oz. These were proper fish so I decided to continue on the water until they also went off to spawn. Next time out gave me a dozen fish but with a best of barely a pound, so more work was needed to sort out the better fish.
On April the 26th 2021 I fished again, and that was the start of a revolution in my approach to using maggots. The fish were feeding and my double hook rigs were producing regular bites, with roach falling to both the upper and lower hooks; yet I still decided to experiment. I added a Barbie Pink to one hook, with no accompanying live maggot; just the usual feeder fill-up. I immediately caught a 4oz roach on it, even thought there was a live white maggot on the other hook just two feet away. By the end of the session I had taken eleven fish to 1½lbs, with three of them to the Barbies. But more importantly I had found that the roach would take a plastic bait without hesitation, even though there were live maggots close by. Steve, in the next swim, had only odd twitches to his dead maggots and pellet rigs.
THE MAGGOT HELICOPTER BOLT RIG
The feeder is a 2oz Drennan Flat, and my swinging indicator just above the rods butt ring carries 1½oz of lead. The aim is a tight line to the feeder so the biting fish hooks itself on the short hooklink of 9lb line. This is held in place on the 10lb main line with Drennan float stops, which can be slid up the line to fish the bait well away from the feeder if required: in my case I have a second hooklink about two feet away from the first. Hooks are 14’s or 12’s and the No1 shot shown is essential to ensure the line nearest the hook lies flat on the bottom. So far I have only used a single maggot; artificial, live, or dead.
My next session changed my approach to stillwater maggot fishing forever. I put out my two rods with live maggots on all four hooks, but it was very slow; one roach in the first hour and a half. So on with a Barbie on one hook, and a re-cast. Trying to clip my bobbin on I had it pulled out of my hand by a 1lb roach which had already hooked itself; from then on the rest of the day became a blur of bites. I added a further Barbie to the same rod, fishing two hooks with pink artificials, while the other rod I kept on live maggots alternating reds and whites. I finished the day with twenty one fish, two of which were perch of around 1½lbs each, back from their spawning rituals. The best roach went a shade under 1½lbs, and this fish plus the perch all came to Barbies. Of the twenty one fish eighteen of them fell to artificial fluoro pink maggots. Some of the bites were ferocious; the swinging indicator slamming into the rod as it bounced in the rests. I even had to use the disgorger three times, so fiercely were the baits taken. One bite actually ripped the artificial of the hook.
Steve, in an adjacent peg, had yet to be converted to the Barbies, and fished corn and pellets. His catch was two small roach and two bream in the 2lb to 3lb range; so next trip he started using the artificial maggots. His first cast produced a perch of 1½lbs followed by four more, the best just an ounce under 2lbs. Obviously on this pit perch spawning was over and done with. He also managed a few roach, one of which was a very good one at 1lb 14oz. All of these came to Barbies and only two small roach came to live whites. In a nearby swim I had thirteen roach, mostly small fish in the 2 to 8oz bracket, and these came to live maggots. However, the three biggest roach of 1lb 5oz, 1lb 1oz, and 1lb all came to the pinks; they do seem to produce the bigger fish.
We were into May now, and roach catches were falling away due to their approaching spawning time. Bites slowed right down, and more perch appeared on our next outing. I had fish of 1lb, 1½lb, and 2lb 2oz, plus a roach of 1lb 4oz. Only one took a live maggot, the smallest perch. Steve had a perch of 2lb 1oz, a small roach, and a surprise bream of 3lbs or so – all to Barbies.
The water was a popular one, we were struggling to get swims, so we settled for one more session: that was the absolute clincher for me. The fishing was really slow and we slogged our way through seven hours for just five fish each. Four small roach and a 1lb 12oz perch for Steve, three roach and a 2lb perch for me. Best roach barely 12oz. We both offered live maggots on one rod, but nine out of our ten fish came to Barbie Pinks including all the perch.
This blizzard of results was overloading my brain. I had proven beyond all doubt that roach and perch would take a static pink artificial maggot in preference to a white or red live one. Early results had also showed an attraction to the larger fish. It was now time to go back to the big pit mentioned in my previous article. The perch were done with spawning and the tench should be on the move.
With the river season also on the horizon there’s still a great deal to learn.
To be continued.