Targeting multiple species during a single session.

I’m not sure exactly where and from whom l heard this saying but it changed my complete outlook on my angling sessions - ‘its far more important to ask an angler when he caught, than what he’s caught’. The angler progressed that if the venue you are fishing starts producing fish at 2am, then you need to be there and fishing at this time to get the best from it. This statement almost certainly came from a carp angler, however being an all-rounder it got my brain working overtime and l soon realised that by focusing on just one species during an overnight session might just be classified as lazy. Now I’m not saying that if
carp started showing over my baited area whilst bream fishing l wouldn’t change my approach to catch them, l certainly would but what this statement identified is that certain species feed at different times and if l was to get the very best from my overnight sessions l would have to start creating a far more complex game plan.

The more l think about these words, the more l feel l heard these one Friday night on Tight Lines, so l thank this angler, he knows who he is. His words seem so obvious now, but how many anglers actually ask this question? Very few l feel as most are just interested in what’s been caught, however the picture is so much bigger.

Up until these words l had often used different rigs and  bait on different rods at the same time. Since these words I’ve hedged my bets by using a rig and bait that would appeal to more than one species, this was documented to it’s fullest in August’s Edition of Coarse Fisherman when l fished for Bream at Cemex Westhampnett. It wasn’t just massive bream that showed an interest in my ground baiting techniques and corn stack hookbaits. It’s fantastic when such a situation occurs and as a specialist all-rounder that loves catching big fish of a variety of species l welcome these, but these occurrences are rare, however with a little thought, preparation and discipline the chances of catching a fish of a lifetime more often can be greatly increased.

Understanding how certain species feed, what on and when is paramount as well as having an in-depth knowledge of your venue. Lets look at a species that is fairly predictable with its feeding habits first, eels. Eels are most active at night so to have the best chances of catching these you need to be on the bank at night. At the other end of the spectrum are grayling, which are most active during the day, so to get the b
est from this species you need to fish during the day. Things start to get complex when weather conditions are bought into the equation as well as periods throughout the year that will be more productive for certain species. Understanding these and reacting to them only comes with experience thou.

There are always going to be exceptions to the rule, especially between still and running water but lets look at some of the more common species and explain what time of year its best to target them and at what time of the day.


Bream – Probably the first species to wake up after the winter. April and May will see bream feeding in earnest prior to spawning and will be at their heaviest at this time of year. September and October will once again become good periods to target this species as they feed heavily before the colder months set in. Big bream rarely feed during daylight and will start to feed as darkness falls with this intensifying for a couple of hours, before quietening down and then once again becoming active at dawn, feeding once again for a few hours. 

Tench – Known more as a summer species than a winter one, but you will be surprised how active they can be during the colder months. I once landed twenty-one big tench after dark in February! Similar to bream, they will be at their heaviest in the spring peaking in June, however once spawned they can become extremely tricky and often become pre-occupied on natural food. Some swear that dusk is best but l disagree favouring an hour after dawn. This feeding spell will last for around four hours slowly decreasing as the morning progresses; however expect a bite at anytime. During winter they become almost entirely nocturnal feeders.

Perch – Spawning normally takes place in April so once again they weight heaviest prior to this. Once spawned they are out of conditioned, taking most of the summer to recover so the best times to start targeting these are through the winter months with January, February and April being prime times as they feed up before spawning. Feeders by sight, perch are most active during low light period especially dawn and dusk with an hour into darkness often rewarding.

Rudd – Like tench most recognise these as being a summer species but how wrong you are. Rudd are active throughout the year spawning later than most, however they are another species that seem to get preoccupied on naturals and can become a frustrating species to target during late summer. Small rudd disappear during the winter but big rudd start to become active at the turn of the new year with February being extremely productive if they can be found. On some waters they can be caught easily throughout the day, however on Frensham Great pond the best time throughout the year is after dark up until around midnight.

Roach – Another species that takes time to recover after spawning, slowly gaining weight as the winter progresses and peaking in March. They tend to be nocturnal up until the turn of the New Year but then switch to daytime feeders during January, February and March.

Eels – Most big eels seem to get caught in spring which show they are quick to feed as soon as the water starts to warm up. As the summer progresses they become far less active, my theory is that being very slow growing they probably eat lots and gain enough resources early on in the spring, then only feed spasmodically when conditions are ideal. Rarely caught in daylight big eels become extremely active after dark with humid stormy conditions and nights of a full moon best.

Catfish – Similar to eels this species wake up far earlier than most realise, responding to any constant rise in water temperature,

then become frustrating as the summer progresses. Being almost blind catfish rely on their senses to detect fish and become far more active after dark.

Carp – Active throughout the year carp will slow down throughout the cold winter months but that’s not before a feeding binge in October to build fat reserves for these colder months. Spawning in June carp are far more active during daylight with dusk and dawn best.

Rivers –

Barbel – Most feel that barbel feed best at dusk but that’s because most anglers head for the river after work. Barbel are far harder to predict as l feel they react to food far more than other species. Spawning around June they are out of condition and at their lowest weight throughout the summer months. Autumn will see them start piling on the weight with my most productive month being October. For me the best time for a bite is dawn, however place a big ball of paste next to a big barbel at any time of the day and it will find it difficult to resist.

Chub – Sight feeder’s once again so daylight hours best. I’ve found that chub will feed at any time of the day; you just need to find them then approach them with stealth. At their lowest weight throughout the summer, peaking at the back end of the season.

*Please note the above feeding and spawning times may vary slightly on certain waters.

As you can see once June has passed most species are at their lowest weights, so apart from eels and rudd that seem to differ ever so slightly its probably best to enjoy catching lots of fish, tweaking different approaches, familiarising yourself with different venues then looking to targeting fish at their heaviest once autumn arrives.

I’m pretty sure that this article is going to progress far further once other anglers start to understand that there is far more in front of you, than what first meets the eye. Now that l have explained the very basics of species behaviour, you need to understand other factors that come into play. Take for instance, grayling that are sight feeders, so although you need to be on the river during daylight hours you will be wasting your time if the river is highly coloured, however barbel respond instantly to an influx of warm, coloured water. Another example is bream; they love a good southwesterly wind so if an easterly is blowing try for something else. I could quite easily pick a situation for any species that will stack the odds in your favour for catching as well as doing the opposite, so if you thought this game was easy, then think again.

Lets take a look at a couple of examples that by changing my approach throughout a session has ended in success…

Frensham Great Pond has been well documented of late and is arguable the best rudd water in the country. In summer my approach would be to target the rudd on the waggler throughout the hours of darkness, fishing up in the water and constantly spraying maggots. If its proving difficult l will cast helicopter rigs and popped up maggots from midnight till dawn when these will be wound in and the waggler will once again come into use, but this time l will be fishing on the bottom over a bed of groundbait with tench in mind, which feed best up until 9am.

River Loddon, Barbel, eels, chub.

A stretch of the Loddon lm presently targeting contain some very big eels as well as large barbel and chub. Arriving a couple of hours before darkness one rod baited with paste-covered pellet is used. Once darkness falls two lobworm baited eel rods go out before being replaced once again at first light with the barbel rod. A recent session saw a very big eel lost, then a 12lb 11oz barbel pick up the worms during darkness. The dawn barbel rod picked up two fish, a 5lb 4oz chub and a 13lb 3oz barbel. Just think what the papers would have read if the eel had been landed!

Cemex Frimley pit 2 – Tench, bream, carp.

Another typical example where tench feed during the afternoon up until dusk. Then its time to switch from maggots to corn, which will pick up its big nocturnal bream and the odd bonus carp.

Cemex Little Moulsham & Westhampnett.

This water could produce two British records in one session as its home of massive crucians that are normally dusk and dawn feeders where else the big grass carp come out during the day. Big tench also are present so corn is a great all-round bait here. The use of corn once again at Westhampnett will catch both bream and carp, however it also contains large perch that can be seen drifting through the clear water in the early hours which could be targeted during daylight when all else stop feeding.

It may seem a lot of tactical changes and hard work to target multi-species throughout a session but by careful preparation of both bait and terminal tackle as well as understanding exactly what your water contains and when these different species feed can create the possibility of catching a number of species during the same session. This may seem nigh on impossible but so is the lottery and how many of you do this!

Dusk is a prime time for numerous species to feed and you should be on full alert as it wont be long before the eel rods will need casting out.

Dawn is the best time to target tench at Frensham, however how many sleep through this period, finding it just too much effort to change tactics.

(Frensham) A brace of huge rudd caught during the night on the waggler.

(Frensham) An early morning catch of big tench taken once again on the float.

(Westhampnett) Bream at dusk

(Westhampnett) Carp at Dawn

(Westhampnett) Perch during the day.

(Loddon) An elusive river monster taken a few years back.

(Loddon) My personal best chub came in the middle of the day.

(Loddon) Barbel can be caught at any time, this twelve pounder was caught after roving fourteen swims and the bite came only minutes of the bait being in the swim.

(Frimley Pit 2) Two double figured bream caught after dark. Try catching these in the day!

(Little Moulsham) A near British record crucian caught during darkness.

(Little Moulsham) My brother landed this 36lb Grass carp late in the morning.

Sweetcorn, probably the best big fish bait there is but rarely used these days.

Lobworms, great for eels and one that will also catch other species of guard, especially when a PVA bag of maggots is attached to it.

Paste covered pellets, all the rage at the moment for barbel and a great alternative to cast out for a few hours after an eel session.