Five steps to short session success…

By Martin Skoyles

I suspect like many anglers I always wish I had more time to go fishing. With only so many hours in the day there is always a compromise with work, family life and other commitments all needing to be slotted in somehow. To go regularly that often means it is the case of fitting in some fishing when I can, and short sessions often allow me to do just that. It might be I go for an hour or two before or after work, or maybe fit in an overnight or half day session. Although by choice I might prefer a more leisurely three or four night trip each week, short session fishing can be incredibly rewarding and in some cases can make you more successful as I find I tend to really focus on making something happen when I haven’t got the luxury of lots of time to fall back on.  

Over the years I’ve gradually refined my approach to short session fishing, and the following are five top tips that form the basis of my thinking.     

1) Set realistic targets

A fairly obvious one to start with, but I put quite a bit of thought into the venues I fish each year and which in particular might be suitable for short sessions. Ideally, I want places that aren’t too far away from where I live so I don’t lose to much time travelling, and in my case I tend to look for at least a medium density stocking level. It is undoubtedly possible to catch from low stock venues on limited trips, but if you choose that option you need to be prepared for the blanks along the way and as such I tend to focus more on the chance of catching one or two on my shorter trips. Similarly, the places I choose aren’t all about big fish, and it can sometimes be easy to dismiss local venues if they don’t offer the chance of a pb. However, I tend to look at more than just size alone, do I like venue, what do the fish look like, can I catch them using methods I enjoy such as stalking or floater fishing? It can often be the case that it is bonus fishing, and I’ll hopefully catch a few extra fish each year that I wouldn’t have done if I’d just stuck to occasional longer trips. Having a few options when it comes to local venues is often handy and I can then choose whichever fits the time I have available, the weather conditions and the mood I’m in best. 

2) Be organised

I’ve got to be honest and say this one hasn’t always been my strongest point, but over the last few years I’ve really noticed the benefits of re-organising my gear when it comes to short session success. The key to changing my approach has been grouping my gear together based on when I actually use it. Sounds incredibly simple, but previously I often had everything I need with me but spread across different bags and holdalls, so a lead pouch in my rucksack, pop-ups in the main bit of the bag, my baiting needles in a tackle box etc. On short sessions I now usually take with me the following;

·        A lightweight quiver with rods, nets, banksticks, distance sticks and a small brolly

·        A bucket containing my bottom baits, pop-ups, pellets and catapult with the two top trays filled with a few leads, PVA, crushers baiting needles, scissors and a few tied up rigs.

·        A bucket containing floating pellets, mixers and catapult, with the two top trays filled with my floater and zig fishing hooklength materials, hooks and controllers. 

·        My unhooking mat with my weigh sling and water bucket folded inside

·        A rucksack containing my camera gear, tripod, scales and food and drink in the main section with my buzzers, a small tackle box with spare rigs and lead clips etc and markers/spombs in the outer pockets.   

I then add to the above as needed for overnight or longer trips, when I’ll also take my bedchair with the sleeping bag folded inside, trolley and a cooking/food bag plus additional buckets of bait as needed. Having what I need ready to go means I can quickly load/unload the car and when I’m at the venue I’m able to start fishing as quickly as possible.

3) Cover all options

This leads nicely from the point above, in that while I want to be able to travel light enough to move quickly and easily on short sessions I still like to have the tackle and bait with me to cover different options I might find in front of me. If I arrive and the fish are on the surface, I grab my floater bucket and a rod/net and I’m immediately ready to start fishing for them. If the fish are topping at range, a couple of high attract pop-ups or bottom baits and I can get single hookbaits on them. If I find fish in the margins, I can drop in a handful or pellets and crumbed boilies before carefully lowering in a rig. Cruising mid water, I’ve got a couple of zigs ready to go. As I’m only on a short session I don’t need 10kilo of pellets, boilies or mixers or 50 leads, but I have a small amount of each to cover the options I might face. I then permanently leave a spares box in my car under one of the seats with extra leads and rig bits, plus shelf-life boilies, pellets, mixers etc just in case I have a red letter day and need some more.   

4) Baiting for a bite at a time

Whereas on longer sessions I might be thinking about building up a swim or potentially putting together a multiple catch if possible, my thought process on shorter trips is all about just getting that next bite. My thinking bait wise therefore often tends to be about attraction, and quickly stimulating a feeding response from the fish if possible.

High attract pop-ups feature heavily when casting at showing fish, with the Plum and Caproic, White Spice and more recently the Liver Supreme scoring well while in the winter months Tecni Spice really comes into its own. I tend to overload these with the matching bait soak spray to get as much attraction pumping out as possible. I’ll also always have with me some Trigga Ice freezer baits, often glugged up in one of the Liquid Boosters. These can be crumbed up for bags or fishing in the edge or catapulted at further range if needed. I’ll also have some Trigga Ice or River Plus pellets with me, these can be a real edge and I’ve witnessed first-hand when stalking in the margins that the pellets are often the difference between getting the fish feeding or not in the first place. Lastly, I’ve recently started to use the Cream Cajouser Bag and Stick Mix and matching activator liquid, initial results have been very promising, and it’s been particularly effective for pulling fish down to the bottom when they are cruising mid water. Finally, I tend to give my surface baits or zigs a boost using the awesome Blue Oyster UTCS, Multimino, Betaine HCl and a liberal dosing of hemp, sunflower or nut oil. 

5) Make every minute count

Although I try and put maximum efforts into all my fishing, it’s fair to say that with short sessions in particular I tend to really try and make every minute count. Even if I’m only at the lake for a few hours I’ll often keep moving until an opportunity presents itself or keep dropping a few baits in different spots or on the surface until something happens. By travelling light I’m able to respond much more quickly than I would be if I was bivvied up in one spot, and it often opens up possibilities that others will walk past. On one of my local venues I’ve had numerous fish for a small margin swim that is only really viable for one rod, it therefore gets let alone by most and as such the fish can often be caught quite easily from that area compared to other swims on the lake.

Tight lines, and hopefully the above helps some of you bag some extra carp without spending days extra out on the bank.   

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