How to understand fish bites

(Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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Have you ever wondered just how many fish you could have caught but failed to catch at the end of a session? It could all be down the bites – the ones you never saw or reacted to!

Even if you have had a red-letter day it is certain that you have not caught every fish that was in front of you.

And it’s a fair bit that you could quite easily have caught a lot more on those days when you have struggled to put a few fish together.

You know the basics: get the feeding and presentation right and fishing is relatively easy.

But have you actually wondered about the bites you have failed to hit – or even realised that you have had?

Big bites – or ghost bites?

Think about this: how often have you lifted your rod or pole to bring in your end gear and found a fish on the other end?

The common reactions to this are that the fish was probably ready to pounce on your bait as you lifted; that movement had enticed the fish to take; or that it had taken the bait and not moved off.

All could be right. But it is also likely that you have had a bite without even realising.

Imagine how many times you may not have noticed a bite and not been lucky enough to lift into one of those fish hanging on the end of your hook.

Quite often it is this time of the year that bite recognition comes into its own as the weather cools down.

No longer do fish tear off with your bait pulling the float under with one giant tug – or nearly ripping your feeder rod off the rest.

Little dinks and dips on float and feeder can often be struck at and result in a fish.

Those bites that you are waiting to develop might never do so yet if you react to any signs of movement there’s a good chance you will hook a fish.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself…

Dot down those floats so that they are just a pimple on the surface.

You will be surprised at how often you do NOT see a float dip – but a pimple disappears.

And we are not just talking small fish here – take a look at the carp in the picture, landed last week after it took meat but just dinked the tiniest bit of float under the surface.

And it was hooked fair and square in the top lip – from a bite you may not have seen even with some bristle showing above the surface.

Some fish take baits and do not move off. They sit there wondering what to do next or quite happy in their surroudings… and their next move could be to spit out the bait before you even know it has been taken.

Move a shot closer to the hook when you dot down a float and don’t be afraid to go as close as an inch or two.

It doesn’t have to be a big shot, a No.10 or smaller will suffice, just so long as it registers to dot that float to the pimple.

If the float doesn’t settle almost flush with the surface then it is a good bet a fish has mouthed the bait – or is holding up that bottom shot. Strike or lift!

Tricks for hitting legering bites

On the quivertip, strike at small movements – if nothing is on the hook you’ve lost nothing – but if you get a fish there’s a bonus you didn’t expect.

Next cast there is no harm waiting to see if the bite does develop if you don’t want to strike at little signs.

I know Method feeder fishing results in lots of little knocks as fish nibble away at the pile of food on the feeder – but feeder and lead fishing is different.

Little knocks on your tip are probably quite decent sized movements at the hook end – that’s why a lot of anglers use braid for everything but carp when fishing a bottom bait.

Braid does not stretch, mono does. Therefore an inch movement of mono might not register on your tip – whereas it would be a pull round with braid.

So where’s the harm striking at a small knock if you have mono on the reel?

I know one top angler who has always struck at any movement of his quiver, even when it appeared his end tackle was bouncing through a river’s current.

The number of times he hooked chub and roach was uncanny.

Some said he was lucky. But let’s get real – he is good! Very good, especially as he told others what he was doing and they didn’t believe him!