Most species of fish give themselves away by showing on the surface at some time and this is an obvious give-away. Some times you will see loads of fish, at others just the occasional half captured glimpse; both are equally important and can be the key to unlocking better catches.

Once you have seen some fish you need to record them. Draw a map of the swim and mark on it the position of the fish, or keep a diary of fish spotted. Don't leave anything to chance.

Fish often follow features, although often these are so subtle that you might struggle to find them. Perhaps the mud contains a little more silt, or the water is an inch deeper. Once you have found the fish it is worth finding out what features they are using by plumbing. You might think this is over-kill, after all, you already know where the fish are in this swim. Yet, information gained from plumbing can be used to tell you where to look for fish in other swims where they may not show themselves. The combination of plumbing and fish spotting opens the door to really understanding what is going on below the surface.

Equipment

My plumbing gear has become quite specialised over the years to the extent where I now have a separate rod made up just for this task. Whilst you can use any old rod and reel combination for plumbing at moderate range, on the bigger waters I tend to fish these days, things get a bit more specialised. I have been fortunate enough to obtain a Giant marker rod, which with a 4lb test curve is more than enough to chuck a 4oz lead a very long way. This rod is coupled to a Giant big pit reel - big is an understatement, you could probably fish across the channel with this monster!

Having such an extreme rod and reel is essential when plumbing at long range, but you will become very frustrated if the terminal arrangement isn't up to the task. For maximum feel you must use a big lead. Four ounces is OK, but five is better. Watch leads are good for short range work, but at long range go for a more aerodynamic shape. You will need at least 150 metres of braided main line. I use a 15lb line coupled with a 50lb shockleader, remember, you need 10lb breaking strain for each 1oz of lead. Running freely on the braid is a 9 inch jerk bait trace with a roller-bearing swivel on one end and a large cross-lok on the other. Attach the lead to the cross-lok. Next up come two rubber beads and then, tied on to the end of the leader, is an MCF marker float. With this set-up tangles are very rare and you can plumb effectively even in dense weed.

Plumbing properly takes a lot of time and you will be better off devoting specific time on the bank to this task. When I walk onto a new lake the first thing I do is spend half a day making a rough map of the lake. This will show the average depths and any major features. Specific swims will then be plumbed in more detail once I start seeing fish showing or being caught.

Perfect timing

Time of day - the last piece of the jigsaw. Obviously, if fish are patrolling it stand to reason that you have to time your fishing to coincide with their movements. There are no hard and fast rules, be flexible, but also be looking for patterns. Again, recording sightings and captures will help speed up the process and, although this might seem like too much hard work, you will be surprised how quickly you will start to reap the benefits. With a little bit of luck, all the pieces of the puzzle will soon fall into place. More fish, or bigger fish - the choice is yours, and not a new wonder product in sight!