Late Spring, into Summer is the perfect time of year to target tench, carp, crucians and bream in stillwaters. This gives me an excuse to use one of my favourite techniques – the humble “Lift Method”. Forget fancy anti-eject combi-rigs and the like; the lift method is simplicity itself. All the terminal tackle you need is a float, a hook, a swivel and some swan shot.
The principle of the lift method is to over-shot your float and fish with all of the weight laid on the bottom. The float is set slightly over depth, so that when the rod is set up on rests, the float can be made to sit upright by simply tightening the line, so you can finely adjust how much float tip is visible. When a fish takes your bait, the shot is often lifted from the lake bed, which causes your float to lift out of the water, sometimes even laying horizontal on the surface! It is this action from where the method derives its name. Very often, however, you’ll notice knocks on the float tip before it disappears, just as you would with a waggler. Either of these bite indications are positive enough to justify a strike.
The float is attached bottom-end only with float rubbers. This allows quick depth adjustment and enables your float to pull free if a hooked fish takes you into a snag. It’s easy to make your own lift float, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just cut a length of porcupine, peacock or crow quill to the desired length and paint the tip a bright colour. It couldn’t be simpler.
I prefer to use a hooklength attached to a swivel when fishing the lift, but if you opt to fish with the mainline straight through to the hook, you can easily adjust the distance between weight and bait. This can be useful if the fish aren’t feeding confidently, because a longer hooklength gives the fish more time to inhale the bait before it feels any resistance from your weight. As shown in the diagram, I attach one or two SSG shot to the rig by pinching them on the tag end of the swivel knot. This prevents damaging the mainline with the shot and it also allows the shot to pull free if they become snagged.
I find it best to set up my rod on two rests, with the rod pointing straight at the float and the tip set just beneath the water surface. This will keep the line sunken, meaning you’ll get less false bites from gusts of wind and passing waterfowl! If I’m fishing a water which contains large fish, I prefer to use a small free-spool style reel. This is useful if a specimen fish makes off with the bait when I’m not concentrating on the float. The fish is able to take line with little resistance, whilst I’m alerted by the noise from the reel and my rod is in no danger of being pulled in! Believe me, the first run of a tench or carp is one of tremendous power and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I recently used the lift method to great effect when I targeted tench on a local stillwater. The place is not renowned for huge tench, but I tackled it using lobworms over a bed of micro pellets and casters. I took in excess of 25 fish during the day. The largest was a fin-perfect 4lb 4oz tench, backed up by numerous fish over 2lbs, which is above the average size for the water. It was great fun watching the bites on the lift float, which were a mixture of lift bites and “sail-aways”. Tench have long been one of my favourite British species and it’s great to catch fish I adore on a method which is a joy to use.
I followed this session up with three short after-work sessions at another lake, managing to land a total of 5 carp between 4 and 9 pounds, along with a good tench and a perch. Add to these a few missed bites, and I have to say the action was fast and furious during these short trips. At one point, when fishing two rods, I had a double take and landed two carp in the same net! My tactics were the same – bait up with pellets and fish a large lobworm on the hook. Other baits I would suggest are sweetcorn, luncheon meat, expander pellets, and in waters where there are few silver fish, a bunch of maggots or breadflake are always worth a try.
In this age of over-complicated rigs and tackle that will cast to the horizon, you may be surprised just how much success you can have by fishing the margins with this simple, unobtrusive method. Bites on the lift method give you a real buzz, and by fishing light lines with forgiving rods, you can have some amazing battles with hard-fighting species such as carp and tench. I personally rig up with an Avon-style barbel rod, with a through-action and a test curve of 1lb 8oz, coupled with a small free-spool reel and 5-8lb mainline, depending how snaggy the water is. Fish to features such as lily pads, reedbeds or overhanging trees and be prepared to hang on when that bite comes!
Andrew’s Top Tips for fishing the Lift Method:
- To help your float remain correctly positioned, use two float rubbers side-by-side.
- When fishing lobworms, use a long shank, wide gape hook – Mustad’s “Long Point Eyed Method Feeder” pattern in sizes 8 to 12 is perfect, as is the “Long-Shank Nailer” by Carp-R-Us.
- To help keep the worm on a barbless hook, use a rubber worm stop. My favourites are made by John Roberts. They are less fiddly than other brands and each one can be re-used several times.
- When making your lift float, glue a short piece of 3mm stiff rig tube into the float tip, to allow the attachment of a standard isotope for fishing into darkness – a great time to catch bottom-feeders unawares!.
- If you bait up with groundbait or small pellets, keep an eye out for hundreds of tiny bubbles breaking the surface – chances are you’ve got fish hard on the feed and your hookbait may be next!
- If you find you are missing bites, try either a smaller bait or lengthening your hooklength – experiment and you’ll get it right.
- When fishing tight to snags or reeds, use a shorter 3 to 4 inch hooklength and with a good cast you’ll be able to land your bait within a couple of inches of the snag.