It is an indisputable fact that you can only catch the fish that are in front of you. Yet, the more I learn the more I realise that fish rarely stay in front of you for very long!

It was Graham Marsden who popularised the idea of patrol routes. A man ahead of his time by a couple of decades if you ask me. Now we have indisputable evidence that fish can indeed follow the same well worn paths day after day. As far as I am concerned, the concept of patrol routes is as important to modern specialist angling as the hair-rig, yet because you cannot walk into any shop and buy it, most anglers still fail to take advantage of this knowledge.

What better than to remain one step ahead of the fish. To have your traps set before the fish arrive, and when they do turn up be fishing the spots where they naturally feed. You might think that I am trying to over sell the importance of patrol routes, but believe me their importance cannot be over-stated.

The appliance of science

Over the last twenty years micro-electronics has improved to such an extent that it is now possible to get a tag the size of a cigarette butt that emits an individual signal detectable several hundred metres away. Tagged fish can be followed by scientists every minute of the day, giving us an amazing new insight into their lives.

Whilst the concept of patrol routes was originally based upon the movements of bream shoals, I think it is fair to say that almost all coarse fish undertake some kind of daily movement. The list studied by science now covers dace, chub, barbel, bream, tench, roach and pike. The only reason we cannot add other species is because no one has looked at them yet! Of course, not all species are as specific in their movements as bream. Living in a fairly small number of shoals, you can be sure that most of the bream in a reach of river, or lake are moving together. Tench and chub tend to form looser aggregations, but the information gleaned can still be used to the angler advantage.

What all these studies have shown is that coarse fish spend a large percentage of their time fairly immobile. The closest description to what they are actually doing at this time is resting, although this isn't particularly accurate. Throughout the daylight hours the fish spend their time in one spot not actively searching for food. Carp are a little different, as they will often come to the surface and move around a fair bit, although the important thing to remember is that they are not actively looking for food.

You can of course catch fish when they are in their 'resting' spots. Having spent days watching dace shoals in clear water it is clear that the odd fish will still peel off to take a bite out of any passing food. Importantly though, the fish are not actively looking for food. Even with careful feeding of the swim the fish will be difficult to get worked up into feeding confidently. Catch one or two and the rest will be well and truly spooked. Much better to wait until the fish are actively feeding.

Different species will obviously time their movement differently. Tench, for example, tend on most waters to begin around dawn until midday, with another shorter period of feeding around dusk. Bream will often move at night, along with most river species. The most important factor I believe in the timing of when the fish will be moving is the behaviour of their food - the hatching, or drifting invertebrates. You don't have to become an amateur entomologist to catch fish, but keep an eye on when fly hatches occur. What species of fly is hatching really isn't important, as fish will eat most of them. What is important is when they emerge.

This is just the start to learning the behaviour of your local fish though. Like I said, this isn't as easy as tying on the last rig, or wonder boilie flavour. Next week I'll put the rest of the pieces in the jigsaw and show you how to capitalise on the fish's behaviour.