Pause to win

Pause to win
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Fish, as we all know, are cold-blooded. This makes them very sensitive to the changes of temperature in the water they live in. Some species prefer soup-warm water; others feel much better when it is much cooler. It is said each species has its own “temperature optimum”. It is the range a particular species grows best – preys, groves and reproduces in an optimum way. However, as we all know, fish metabolism does not depend solely on water temperature. Oxygen saturation and other chemical characteristics of the water pay a very significant role here, as well. The temperature of 25oC is nearly close to optimum for the carp, yet it may kill the trout.

It also turns out that the tolerance for temperature changes differs between fishes of the same species that grew in various environments. Fish, very much like people, possess adaptive skills and their organisms learn to use particular conditions in an optimum manner. This information is passed down to future generations, which enables them to adopt themselves to live in a particular place in an optimum manner. To put it simpler, a pike that has lived for generations in a cold lake suffers much more during an extremely hot summer then a pike living in a shallow pound and used to overheated water.

Anyway, it is a well-known fact that when the water temperature goes down all fish species prey worse and it is more difficult to make them eat. When it comes to predators, it is often most effective in this period to use a fish, dead or alive, as bait. However, does it mean, actually, that the enthusiasts of artificial lures have no chances for a good catch? It is not the case, of course. All they have to do is to adapt to the circumstances and wait very patiently. It is very important to understand some of the characteristics of “cold fisheries” and adapt one’s tactic and fishing technique to it.

Standing at the water line, for example in November, December or March, we need to look around. If it is not weather breakdown, the first thing we observe is peace and quiet. Both above and under water, everything moves as if in slow motion. The first rule the predators follow in such conditions is to save energy. Each movement must be well “thought-over” and well-measured. It simply must “pay off”. This is why we rarely see a fish chasing for bait in such conditions. Moreover, the “catches” are very infrequent and, additionally, very delicate. What is the reason for that? Each attack on potential prey entails the risk of failure. To minimize the risk, a predator waits for the moment when the prey comes as close as possible. In the case of failure, such attack costs less energy than a long chase after the prey. This is why, in such conditions, the indications of the fish interest in the lure are often felt as delicate holds or “tugs” – often very difficult to make use of. “Strong” strikes are most often simply weight on the other end of the set. It results from this very short distance from which the predator attacks. It is exceptionally rare that we deal with attacks that “tear the rod out of hands” – the attacks that are often met in warmer months. Moreover, the energy balance suggests it is more profitable to hunt for one larger prey than for a few smaller ones.

Let’s try to formulate the most important practical conclusions for a “cold angler” that result from the facts above. The first one –

Calm down

It may sound trivially – even a novice knows that you have to act as quietly as possible when you go fishing. However, in cold seasons, this rule becomes particularly important. It usually gets very quiet and deserted on the water. Tourists disappear, along with their motorboats, boats and canoes. Fish get used to the peaceful conditions very quickly. Every noise and commotion alarms them and brings them in a state of agitation. So if we want to increase our chances, we need to calm down and act as quietly as possible at any cost. The philosophical approach to fishing might be a bit helpful here. Do not be determined to catch a fish. Treat it as an additional bonus to a nice day spent in the open air. There is a well-known saying that “even a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” Such an approach may help us distance ourselves from those unfavourable conditions. We need to fish in a precise, slow and calm manner. Avoid haste, unnecessary movements, careless steps or strikes in the broadsides. Do not run, do not be nervous –

Visit your old stumping ground!

The cold-water time is not the best moment to discover new fisheries. Let us leave it for the spring time. When fish become more active, we have a chance to find them even if there aren’t plenty. They simply attack from a greater distance and even if we fish around a new place in a careless way, we can track find them. In a “cold fishery”, we need to take advantage of knowing the place. If we know the place and we suppose the fish are there, we fish around very precisely. Let us imagine that we fish pikes from a boat. In May, when they prey intensively to compensate for the winter, it is enough to throw every 4 to 5 metres. In December, however, at the same fishery, we put the lure every meter and in special circumstances, it is often worth to perform a few casts in the same place.

So, precise fishing is very important at the fishery. There is, however, nothing more important than –

Proper presentation of the lure

When the predators are more active, when they attack almost everything that moves, we may forget about minor mistakes in lure presentation. However, this key spinning element becomes particularly important when fishing in cold water. Therefore, it is obviously worth experimenting with various lures and presentation techniques. On the other hand, this is not the best time for learning. It is much better to use all the experiences and knowledge gained when fish catches better. It is also not a very good time for errors. If you want to succeed, the presentation must be perfect! What does it mean though? Appropriate presentation means making the best use of the lure value. If it sinks, do not throw it in shallow water as you’ll have to fight to release it soon. Check how fast it sinks and make an advantage of it. If it floats, check how deep it can go and how fast you are able to bring it back to the surface. If you decide to fish using a twitchbait (great choice!) you must already know what kind of a rod-tip pull is most effective for it.

No matter which lure you choose, the principal rule is –

Slow – as slow as possible!

Let the predator take a good look at the lure. A fast lure leading and acting “by surprise” is usually completely ineffective. But what does it mean “as slow as possible”? It is not always about the speed of reeling the line up. The most important thing is the absolute speed at which the lure moves against the bottom. Of course, it is always about a precise imitation of an easy prey. Try to imagine an ill and weak fish that cannot run away and hide form the predator. It will move slowly, lacking coordination, near the bottom. It feels the presence of a predator though, and tries to run away towards water surface. Unfortunately, it is too weak. All it does is jump desperately towards the surface but it loses its strength and drops slowly to the bottom. The predator watching it must be very full to remain indifferent at this situation! This is exactly what we have to do with the lure. Seems easy? If you understand your lure, it is indeed a piece of cake!

If we fish in a river, the most effective way of presenting the lure is “across the current”. In most cases, it is best to go down with the current, throw diagonally near the opposite bank and lead the lure with a curve, practically without changing the length of the line. A very effective and irreplaceable trick is to pause the lure a little longer in “suspicious” places. This trick is among the cannons of cold fishing techniques.

The easiest way to slow down the lure speed against the fishery bottom is of course to make pauses while rolling up the line. The right use of the pauses multiplies the effectiveness of a angler! It is a magnificent technique not only in cold water. I called it –

Pause to win!

Most of the catches in cold water take place exactly at the moment when you pause with rolling the line up. However, only the best anglers understand the real significance of pausing while leading a lure. It is well visible during actual fishing. Many colleagues practice leading the lure with a pause. However, only a few of them understands how important those moments are. In fact, they are not only the most important, but also the most difficult. It should not come as a surprise to us that a predator decides to attack at that very moment – a motionless victim is easiest to catch. But if the angler does not see the catch and does not pull, they will most often lose the chance. The predator understands its terrible mistake in a second and tries to get rid of this strange something that cleverly pretended to be the prey. All we feel in such a case is something like a suspension of the lure work or a delicate loosening of the line. It happens sometimes, if we are lucky, that when a predator tries to spit the lure out, it caches itself by its jaw. More often we call it an “empty strike” or simply we don’t notice at all that we lost a chance for a successful catch.

There is no point in deluding ourselves – even the best, most experienced anglers lose their catches. We should, however, make an effort to minimize the number of such cases. Sure, it is easy to plan to have full control over the lure on a day before you go fishing, cosy at home while packing the equipment. It is much more difficult to make the plan come into living when your hands have gone numb and you feel low since you haven’t seen a single fish for hours! Of course, the predator will try to attack exactly when you’re fed up with everything and all you are thinking of is to go back to your warm home. You probably know this feeling – we have all gone through such moments. “It took the lure just the moment I was lighting my cigarette…”, “A friend called me. I was just about to answer when I felt the pull…”, etc. No one knows why but those things happen mainly on completely “no-fish” days!

There is nothing we can do but to focus completely and pay close attention from the very beginning to the very end. Is there anything we can do to increase our chances at all? Yes, of course. The first thing is –

Appropriate construction of your set.

We are not going to give the manufacturers’ names here or the parameters of fishing rods or reels. We all have our favourite sets, the one that best “fits our hand”. Using it, we feel the lure and the fish strikes. It is obvious we should not change such a set. Though, it is worth considering what makes a fishing rod more “sensitive” than others. The first and most obvious thing is to match the set and the weight of a particular lure. As for “cold fishing”, it is better to use a rod which is stiffer and faster rather than too flexible. The control of the lure movement must be the optimum, any touch must be felt immediately and finalised with a quick hookset. There is no chance you can do it with a flexible, “soft” rod. A rod which is too long will also make delay quick reaction. Using braided line instead of a monofilament can be also very helpful. As we all know, braided does not stretch, so we will feel every signal from the lure immediately. If we fish for pike or pikeperch, it is also advisable to use braided line that is fluo-yellow or orange. The angler may then take advantage from observing the place of the line meeting the water surface. Every suspicious shudder or movement of the line is a signal for immediate hookset. If it is possible, it is better to avoid wind from the side of the line. In extreme cases, such crosswind can make sensing the line completely impossible. What else can be helpful? Most obviously, very sharp hooks or trebles. It is also worth having a sharpener with you and using it frequently. The chances for success increase greatly with an appropriate set at hand. However, to make our set complete, we need to finish it with –

The right lure.

It is not the most important element of the set, obviously. Everybody knows that it is the angler who does the fishing and not the lure. Still, if we make the right choice, we can make our task much easier. Some of the lures used for the “take a stop to win” technique are better than others, simply. Now, let us take a look why they differ.

Let us start with the lure at the moment you stop reeling the line up. It obviously depends on the type of lure. The floating ones – float, the sinking ones – sink and the so-called “suspending” ones – i.e. of neutral buoyancy – remain at the depth to which they dropped. Which ones are the best? In fact, all the types mentioned can be effective. The crucial thing is that the move either up or down not be too fast.

Hence, both light-weighted silicone lures and large spoons will do for this technique. However, wobblers and jerkbaits are most universal in nearly all conditions at any fishery. You can find lures of all three types among them. In cold water, the predators usually stick to deeper levels. So, in such conditions some deeply diving wobbler will be most effective. We will easily recognize them after a large lip. You can keep such a lure in one place as long as you want to lure an undecided predator.

For fishing in still water, sinking or suspending lures are better than the floating ones. In my opinion, the predator does not dream of chasing the prey to the water surface. It is quite different when after a short run the prey stays it its place or comes back to the predator on its own (it drowns).

An ideal lure for this technique works during dropping, which additionally teases the aggressor. Sinking jerkbaits are terrific for this. You should pull them towards yourself at the distance of about one meter, then stop retrieving and wait for a moment, controlling the drop towards the bottom. In this way, the lure moves as if drawing a zigzag. While the lure moves up, it is best to keep the rod tip in the same direction. It will then go up steeper. During dropping, we let the rod tip go along with the water. It is more comfortable to observe its shorter side and the place it touches the surface. Especially, if the wave is swinging the boat and the wind is blowing from a side. If it is relatively calm, we can leave more line on the water surface and observe how it moves.

In many cases, the best solution is to use suspending wobblers. They are wonderful both in still waters and in big rivers. Many anglers fish with those lures in the same manner they do with others (for example: floating), thus losing the unbelievable opportunities they give. Their secret lies exactly in short pauses made during their movement. Suspending wobblers usually belong to the group of the so-called “twitchbaits”. You need to use the twitching, i.e. the short jumps technique. The pauses between those jumps when fishing in cold water may last even 3 or 4 seconds.

Obviously, the slower your lure sinks, the less resistance it gives in the water, the harder it is -

Notice the predator’s attack.

It is cold, with crosswind, sometimes rainy and snowy. Unquestionably, it is a serious challenge for any fish hunter. But, after all, you have your “super set”, your experience and your angler’s intuition with you. The best reaction is the one “in case”. It is best to answer with an immediate hookset every time a fish touches the lure. Sometimes, we may make a mistake – in fact, we will mistake in most of the cases. But finally, some resistance after pulling will turn into our favourite, pulsing weight at the other end of your line.

The winner is the one who can use all the advantages and who will not break down because of unfavourable conditions. Sharpen you hooks and set a brake in your reel then. Be sure to dress yourself warmly! A frozen angler has no chance for success. Calm down and stay cool. Focus on fishing. Try to imagine what is happening with your lure at all times. Observe the line and get rid of even the smallest loose. Do you feel your wobbler slowly dropping? Close your eyes for a second. Can you see this giant pike preparing to attack? If the answer is “yes”, you are ready for “cold fishing”.

My experience proves that your chances grow with a good friend at your side. Especially, when this friend of yours has a small hip-flask of good brandy in his pocket…


Piotr Piskorski

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