Bill & Virginia Rushmer.
During the winter, due to the Gulf stream, temperatures tend to be several degrees warmer in the South West compared to the rest of the country. This means the winter fishing can be much easier than in many other areas. However temperatures do drop and affect the fishing.
Fish are cold blooded creatures which means as temperatures fall their metabolic rate decreases and they become less active requiring a lower food intake. Greater care therefore has to be taken with the quantity of feed as many anglers ruin their chances by overfeeding. It is surprising when watching top match anglers in winter how little feed they use to catch respectable bags of fish. Fish also tend to be tightly shoaled so location becomes critical however this is more than compensated by the rewards as some of these shoals can be very large.
The winter roach fishing here at Clawford can be exceptional and is certainly under exploited. There is a terrific head of pound plus roach in many of the lakes that can ensure exceptional sport for those adapting their approach to take into account the conditions. Pole fishing or using a made up sensitive pole rig with running line works well. Both Preston Innovations and Drennan produce suitable ready made pole rigs on winders that are available in most good tackle shops. All you need to do is to tie it on the end of your line or pole.
I normally start off feeding two small balls of pinkies bound together by Sticky Mag. These need to placed very accurately on the line you are fishing. About twelve fresh casters are accurately placed on top of the feed, the theory being the small pinkies will trigger small fish into feeding which in turn attracts bigger fish. These larger fish will prefer the larger more succulent casters. A single caster on a size 16 or 18 hook is presented three inches over depth, under the pole rig, over the tightly baited area. Once bites have started take great care not to over feed, three or four casters are quite sufficient in between bites. This technique at Clawford can yield bags of quality roach to well over 20lbs on the coldest of winter days. It is surprising the number of bonus quality fish that can appear with the roach including Tench to over 8lb.
Another technique well worth trying is liquidized bread with punched bread on the hook. Again great care has to be taken not to over feed as this bait is very filling.
I have never found it necessary to resort to the use of blood worm and joker. This is a deadly canal tactic that works well on many still waters in the winter but as I said earlier temperatures in the South West tend to be somewhat higher and fisheries, Clawford in particular, have a very high stock density making the 'the little red men' somewhat redundant. Unlike many fisheries Clawford does not operate a blood worm ban leaving their use up to the individual angler's discretion.
As temperatures start to rise finely chopped luncheon meat fished on the same pole rig will come into its own and will account for most species of fish at Clawford. Once Spring is here the normal range of summer tactics and baits such as sweetcorn, coarse or carp pellets, worms, big lumps of bread, pastes and boilies come into their own again.