For the main part of this feature, I was joined by double French champion Didier Delannoy, who has a singular approach to plumbing-up which is exceptional, even amongst the French elite. Didier has spent several years travelling to England to compete with, and alongside, perhaps the world’s most meticulous anglers... a certain Alan Scotthorne! Alan's disciplined and careful approach to plumbing-up certainly seems to have rubbed off on his French buddy. Nowadays, it's not unusual for Didier to spend at least 20 to 25 minutes going through the whole procedure before any important competition. Plumbing-up is, in fact, a very precise and technical process because if you get it even slightly wrong, it can distort your view and have a profound effect of a days fishing!

To give further substance and variety to this In-Depth feature, Didier was joined on our panel by three of our international contributors, in order to add their views and insights into the subject.

Didier Delannoy
French international and reigning Individual National Champion
Diego Da Silva
An Individual European Champion and French international
Gilles Caudin
Former French international
Dave Vincent
Former Team England member

Several years ago my good friend Perry Gray, was pegged next to Steve Gardener during a match on a newly-developed commercial fishery lake. The lake was almost a perfect basin-shape, and had only been filled with water the year prior to the match. Perry returned feeling he’d done OK, but had been soundly beaten by 'Mr. Gardener', who incidentally won the match! I asked him if he'd noticed whether Steve had done anything different to him. His response was “Steve seemed to spend a good 20 minutes plumbing-up before the start”. Perhaps this is not so surprising really, as it's one aspect of preparation were all of us, from beginners to relatively accomplished anglers, have something to learn from the world's best and is, of course, much more important than many of us tend to give it credit for!

Why plumb-up?
Ask anyone who instructs beginners, in the basics of angling, what is the first thing they teach, and the answer will probably be how to plumb their swim. It looks the most deceptively simple, yet basic action that we perform at the start of every fishing session, whether we are at the bottom, or top, of the angling ladder...

So WHY do we do it?
     What exactly is its purpose?
     Is it just about finding the depth of your swim?
     Or is it a more detailed operation?

Personally, I believe that the whole process is a more involved operation, which offers you valuable information about your swim... if carried out correctly. My reasoning for this covers FOUR key areas as follows:

1. Finding the depth of water in front of you
This is the most basic and obvious role of plumbing-up... and is of vital importance. Knowing the exact depth determines several things such as... how many pole sections do we need to fish with... how much line do we need on our rigs… how heavy does the groundbait have to be to get down properly without breaking up in mid-water, and many others. From these key pieces of information we can then determine float/rig selection, groundbait selection, what fish to target, etc. Many of us may think that this is the main function of plumbing-up after all. But for me, it's only one aspect of what 'plumbing' is all about.

2. Building a swim profile
Plumbing a swim properly is also about trying to understand the shape of your swim and will have a direct relevance on where you decide to fish. The easiest example of this is on a small canal where you will have a central deep boat track and one or two shelves either side of it. You need to find these features correctly then interpret what you have found into terms of where fish are likely to be. Will fish remain in the deeper boat track, or will they be happier feeding on or near the bottom of the shelf? On small English canals, anglers will feed several swims across the canal looking to target different species. The deepest part of the boat track could be where we might look for roach, skimmers and perch. The bottom of the near-side shelf would be an initial approach or an emergency line for a few bites. In many cases our main line will be to find a flat area just up the far shelf, off the main line of boat traffic. We may also look at a far bank line with a foot plus (30cm+) of water. This can sometimes produce that all-important bonus fish, needed for so many UK canal matches! This all requires a fair bit of work, plumbing and marking up the reference points on your pole, in order to get the positions right. But it's a clear illustration of how plumbing-up determines and guides you to where you fish. Even so, it's ironic that in many cases both in the UK and abroad, that it's often the length of our poles that determines where we fish, not necessarily where the fish will naturally be! But there is yet more to plumbing than simply understanding the profile of your swim!

3. Understanding what's on the bottom
This is a much more subtle, yet nevertheless relevant aspect of plumbing-up, where other factors come into play...
Is the bottom soft or hard?
You can feel a soft bottom easily because the plummet may stick slightly as you lift up the rig and then give a sort of a jerk at the end of your pole as it pings out of the mud.
Are there any snags or branches?
Drag the plummet from side to side, looking at it each time you bring it in, to see if there is weed or dead leaf litter on the bottom? What else might you see on it? Are there any stones or rocks? Are there plant or tree roots in the swim.
Is the bottom flat or uneven?
There may be small craters or holes where bait could lie undisturbed? A classic case is after winter matches where anglers have been using heavy weights to break out channels in the ice. These leave small indentations in the bottom of the swim!
Careful and meticulous plumbing should reveal these potential problems before you start fishing. What plumbing won’t tell you, of course, is what to do about each issue. But at least you will not be in the position of having fed 10 solid balls of groundbait into a swim that has green mossy weed growing 30cm off the bottom, or is covered in leaf mould and twigs! Experience will then tell you to go for a much softer mix that breaks up before hitting the bottom provided, of course, you've previously identified the problem at the plumbing stage. It's amazing just how many anglers suddenly discover a 'fatal-flaw' with their swim, half an hour into a match. Comments like “I can’t run my float through without snagging-up”... “I keep getting caught up in weed”... “there seems to be a big block a metre downstream from where I fed” and so on! Had they spent more time plumbing-up, then at least these problems could have been avoided better.

4. Interpreting how fish feed and behave
This might sound like an ambitious claim to cover within plumbing-up, but I believe it is equally important if you wish to get the most from the day. Once you have accurately plumbed and marked off the depths for every part of the swim you are going to fish, you have a 'framework of reference' for explaining and understanding what has happened during and after fishing. For example, you can’t say the fish wanted the bait 5cm off the bottom if your plumbing has not been totally accurate. This becomes really important when practising for things like team events. When I practise I talk all the time to the people I’m fishing with, asking whether they're laying on, by how much, are they catching at dead depth... are they sure?

Now imagine a team meeting later on. In order to share information properly, you need to be convinced that everyone has gone through the same rigourous plumbing and marking-up procedures, so that the reference points are all correct. For example, if a team member plumbs-up quickly and gets the float bristle and the very top of the shoulder just sticking out of the water saying “that will do”, then proceeds to tell the rest of the team that his fish were caught just off the bottom by a couple of centimetres, his information becomes misleading because he was actually fishing just on the bottom. His team mates then go away with the wrong impression of how the fish were ACTUALLY feeding!

It's not only ordinary match anglers who can be guilty of exaggeration and misrepresentation. Dave Vincent told me about a Team England practise session, quite a few years ago, involving two of their highest profile anglers. One of them could only catch off the bottom whilst the other claimed to be catching 5cm on the deck. At the end of the session, they both double-checked their depths again and the angler who had claimed to be catching on the bottom, found he had actually caught 5cm OFF it!

Plumbing-up accurately sets the angler on a course which helps and determines how he will approach every swim he fishes. Accuracy is the key to all parts of the process, not just in measuring and swim-building terms, but also in the manner you may wish to transmit that information to others. We’ll now look at how you plumb a swim properly, starting with the correct choice of plummet.

What plummets should I use?
Didier uses three different types of plummet for different situations, these are:

The Pyramid
This is Didier’s main choice of plummet for most general fishing situations. The advantages of these classically-shaped plummets are:
  • They can be very quickly put on and off your rig. Simply thread the hook through the eye at the top of the plummet and hook the soft cork at the bottom
  • Pyramid plummets give a very accurate indication of the depth because the hook is trapped at the base of the plummet and therefore, by design, is on the bottom
  • Pyramid's come in all sorts of sizes. Didier uses a range of weights, depending on the different venues he is fishing, including some big 45 and 70 gram home-made ones, made by none other than Alan Scotthorne’s father!
Didier has his own views on what makes a good Pyramid. Firstly, he is a fan of cork, rather than the more modern foam-based models, and he uses two types. Those with a line of cork running through the base, as well as the ring of cork around the base. His preference for cork is based on tradition, discretion and security, believing that cork does no damage to fragile hook points because it is a naturally soft, yet firm material. Didier also uses dark matt plummets, rather than brighter metallic finished ones. Finally, he tends to favour fairly heavy plummets in order to gain a quicker more accurate reading, most being 20 gram plus, with none lighter than 15 grams!

Didier uses clip-on plummets when he wants to take the depth from his dropper shot. The classic example of this is when using a flat float and you want the hooklength on the bottom. Clip-on's can be quickly snapped on and off dropper shot with no risk of falling off the line. Doing this means that the amount of line on the bottom depends directly on the length of hooklength you use. Didier also uses clip-on's for his big fish lake rigs, which is a very interesting and accurate way of plumbing-up for laying on. We will describe this further in How to Plumb-up below.

SSG shot
One thing top anglers, like Didier, do after plumbing-up, particularly on silty lakes and canals, is to check their final depth readings with just a shot clipped on to the hook, as a way of finally checking that the rig is set right. It's worth pointing out that when you 'nip' the shot onto the hook, you make sure the open part goes over the point of the hook, not the back of it, and always be careful of how hard you clip the SSG shot on, because you'll have to take it off without damaging the hook.

As always, all our experts have their own particular preference on what plummets they use.

Diego uses mainly clip-on as he says “I like the speed and simplicity of them. Clip one onto your hook and you get a quick and accurate depth reading. It's also very quick to double check your depth whilst fishing”. Interestingly, Diego is not against re-plumbing-up whilst fishing. Some anglers don't like to do this but Diego is in favour of it, particularly if bites suddenly stop. Rivers, canals and even lakes can change their levels during the course of a session. Whilst regular canal and river anglers usually have some kind of visual marker, like a rock, branch or bank to spot any obvious changes, only a quick re-plumb can tell you exactly how much the depth may have changed. Diego recalled one of his earliest lessons in team fishing from his old team mates. If you were struggling in an important competition there were three things you should do... re-plumb, re-feed and re-start!

Unusually, the larger plummet has less foam than the smaller one... a potential hook blunter... so beware!Unusually, the larger plummet has less foam than the smaller one... a potential hook blunter... so beware!
Gilles uses the modern pyramid plummets with the coloured foam on their base. The same plummets are available from a number of companies, notably Sensas and Colmic. They are relatively heavy, very well finished, especially around the eye and are easily available. There is however a design flaw with some of these foam based models which are worth looking out for. Some have a thick disk of foam on the base, and it's these that you want. Some, on the other hand, have only a thin disk of foam and this has the potential to damage the hook point. Ironically, it seems some batches of the heavier models have been made with this thinner material! The plummets can be quite bright when new, but this quickly goes after a couple of sessions of being dragged around a silty lake or canal bed. Gilles, unlike Diego, is not particularly fond of re-plumbing during fishing. He prefers to plumb-up carefully at the start and remain observant to any changes in water level, thereby avoiding the risk of running a plummet over some potentially feeding fish.

Dave has a totally different approach to our three French internationals when it comes plummets. He's used home-made ones, for many years, out of small pieces of lead and upholstery foam which he'd re-cycled from the inside of old chairs and sofas, and has two ways of making them:
  • Moulds: Dave has two standard lead moulds of 15 and 30 gram. These moulds produce the lead in a sort of split-end sausage, a bit like an elongated split shot. Then all he does is fix a small piece of foam into each split and nip the lead tightly with a pair of pliers.
  • Lead strip: When Dave makes plummets for very snaggy venues, such as the rocky reservoirs he fishes every year in Spain, he simply rolls some lead strip tightly around a piece of foam then squeezes it shut with pliers.
There are several advantages to these home-made plummets. First, they are cheap to produce and you can be made into any size you want. Secondly, if the plummet gets snagged in debris, the hook will pull out easily from the foam. Thirdly, when you hook the foam you tend to get a more direct line from the float to the bed of the lake as there is no angle generated like a pyramid, for example. Dave, like Diego, is not afraid to slip a plummet back on whilst fishing, just to check the depth, especially if bites suddenly slow down or he is fishing canals affected by lock movements. In fact, Dave thinks it's one of the first things you should do if bites suddenly stop!

How to plumb-up:
On lakes and canals Didier has two phases of plumbing...
Phase 1: Deciding where the fish may be
The first is a wide sweep looking for features such as shelves/ledges/debris. Didier is always looking to fish where the fish usually want to be, so knowing what's on the bottom is very important in locating these probable fish holding areas. On smaller venues, there may be features to indicate where the fish are, like islands or bankside weed-beds. On a new venue this process will take sometime, but most of us fish venues we either know or have got some good information on. This phase is also about confirming exactly where features that you know are. For example, if you know your canal has got two near-side ledges, you still generally need to establish where they are, because boats, for instance, can have made some indentation to them since your last visit! In other cases it can be about identifying whether a shelf is within pole range or not. This can be crucial on many wide canal, as not every angler may be able to get to the bottom of the last shelf as it could beyond the 13 metre pole limit! The World Championships in Finland was a good example of this, when some could reach the flatter sandy base past the blocks and rocks. Therefore Didier's first phase of plumbing-up is to identify where he believes his catching zones will be. One English characteristic Didier's picked up is the way he looks at a swim. He doesn't just look straight in front of him, but to his right and left because it's this additional information that may give him the option of a second or third line to feed. He also takes far bank markers on all the lines that he's intending to fish, so that he has a clear visual reference point on where he's planned to fish. Once this phase is established, he will move onto the second and more detailed phase of plumbing.

Phase 2: Exploring your chosen area
This second phase is where Didier starts to really build up a mental picture of the areas he's chosen to fish. On a typical canal or lake swim, Didier begins with a pyramid plummet and sets his rig so that the float bristle is just level with the surface. This is Didier’s starting depth for most lake and canal rigs and is truly dead-depth! What he then proceeds to do is to work his float, in very small steps, around the area he plans to fish. He moves the float right, or left, in small 5 to 10cm distance, much like lifting and dropping a bait. This procedure is carried out across the whole of the intended area he's planning to fish, checking that the bottom is relatively flat. This flat area does not necessarily need to be enormous, especially if he plans to feed with just a cup, but he'll still be looking for a flat bottom area of at least 30cm so he can be confident of accurately fishing over his level feed-zone. Little bumps and dips in the bottom can potentially cause problems with bite recognition, and even foul-hooked fish, if you believe your hook is at dead-depth, when in fact it's a few centimetres off the bottom! Obviously, if the area you first explore is not quite right, then you'll need to work around your target area until you find that area of flat bottom.

This intensive step-by-step examination of the swim is so crucial, and therefore why top anglers spend so much time plumbing-up. Too many anglers are quick to simply drop a plummet in and pronounce the bottom flat! Once Didier has established his target zone is flat, he drags the plummet backwards and forwards across it to check for any snags that he may have missed.

Also, if Didier feels the bottom is perhaps a little on the soft side, he'll pinch an SSG shot on the hook, to just to confirm that the float is indeed at true dead-depth. He is now ready to mark the depth on his pole sections.

Plumbing-up on stillwaters for big fish
Didier is equally accurate and demanding when it comes to fishing overdepth for big fish and showed me the shotting patterns he uses. They consist of a main bulk, then just above the hooklength knot, a second bulk of three No.10 shot. “These are not conventional dropper shot” explained Didier “they are actually anchoring shot.” Intrigued, I watched as he proceeded to show me how he plumbs-up using these rigs.

First he take a clip-on plummet and clips it over the three No.10 shot then plumbs his swim, exactly as he would with a dead-depth rig, so that the float tip is level with the surface. He then removes the plummet. The float is then raised slightly until the mini-bulk is just off the bottom and the float tip sits correctly. The hooklength is then added in whatever length Didier chooses, 15cm is a usually good starting point for him, but you can work out what's best for you from there.

There are several real advantages in shotting a rig this way. One is that by placing a small bulk just off the bottom, it keeps the rig remarkably stable... much more stable that a single dropper shot. A second point is that lift bites show up extremely positive, again thanks to the mini-bulks proximity to the bottom. Finally, and most importantly, you know exactly how much of your rig is lying on the bottom and can increase or decrease as you see fit throughout the session!

Personally, I've been trying this approach to plumbing-up since I returned from my trip with Didier and have been genuinely surprised by the really positive bites it brings. I recently fished a competition where I was catching skimmers on pieces of worm. Every bite was a lift bite and were absolute 'sitters'. Bearing in mind that we had broken the ice to fish this competition, I was genuinely impressed with the readability and positive nature of the bites, so much so that my day ended with 6 kilos and a second place! My compliments to Didier!

Plumbing-up on rivers
Didier, who has been one of Frances' finest river anglers for years, feels that many anglers get plumbing-up on rivers wrong because of their seat boxes! This might seem a rather odd comment to make, so I had better explain. For Didier, the single biggest mistake anglers, of all levels, make when fishing rivers is to set up their fishing stations FIRST... then plumb-up. He's convinced that this is the wrong way round! You should always plumb a river swim FIRST, in order to check that you are not fishing right on top of a major potential problem, like any rocks or sunken branches for instance. Always check in front, upstream or downstream to find a clear run through... then set your box up. Especially in international competitions, you can generally use the length of your swim to your advantage. So if it means moving a couple of metres down the swim and shortening your run through, this has to be better than just setting up over a great big snag.

The problem with the seatbox is that once you have taken the time to get it level and set up with all the assorted accessories, you are highly unlikely to want to move it again. This in effect 'nails' you to one spot, so if that happens to be in front of an obstruction, then you're in real trouble!

NOTE: It's worth mentioning that in international events on rivers/canals, each competitor is allocated a box (taped-off area). He/she is then at liberty, within reason, to place a seatbox anywhere in that area, normally on the upstream part. In the UK, many pegs positions are fixed with man-made platforms on commercial fisheries, but on more natural venues, pegs are designated with a numbered marker and the competitor is only allowed to move his station within ONE metre either side of it!

Plumbing-up on rivers is similar in many ways to plumbing-up on stillwaters, with the major difference being that you have to explore the length of your swim, as well as the area directly in front of you. The process though is the same. First explore the swim looking for ledges, drop-offs and features that may hold fish. Once you've decided on a particular line that you think is right, set the float tip so it's just touching the surface of the water then start exploring both up, and downstream. The important thing with a river swim is knowing that your float will not get snagged as it runs downstream. The ideal river profile is, of course, a flat bed, but when the bottom is very uneven you need to find the optimum depth at which your float can still run through the swim. Each of our panel has a different approach to some of the difficult problems you may face when plumbing-up:

Diego Da Silva: Plumbing-up lakes with weedy bottoms
One of the most awkward situations to read properly, are swims where the bottom is covered with fine green blanket weed. This will grow from the bottom to a certain height, forming a dense weedy carpet which is almost impossible to fish through. The height of blanket weed will depend on a number of factors, like the type of weed itself, clarity of water and available light. Often, the only way to fish these swims is to find the top of the weed blanket and run a float over it. Diego explain how he plumbs-up in this sort of situation. “What you need is a weight that is light enough just to sit on the weeds and not pull through it. I often use a small shot like a BB, or even a No.4 if the weed is very fine. Obviously check that your float is dotted right down to the bristle and start shallow, adjusting the float down until the shot rests on top of the weed.” Diego also mentioned another solution he has used in more extreme situations. “Cut a small square of sponge and hook it. Once it's wet, the water in the sponge will be enough to sink the float, but light enough to easily sit on top of any fine blanket weed.

Gilles Caudin:
Exploring a swim with the pole

One of the major differences between match fishing in the UK, France or Belgium is the way pole limits affect the way you fish, even when it comes to plumbing-up. When I discussed plumbing on rivers with Dave Vincent, he said that he automatically adds extra sections to check the river or canals' profile, beyond the distance he's planning to fish, even up to 16 metres out! I asked Gilles how French match anglers coped and he explained that going beyond the universal 13 metre pole limit was forbidden, even for the purposes of plumbing-up! He said that the best solution was to hold the pole at its maximised limit and then use your arms to extend it as far as you could, then carefully work the pole in gradual steps, back towards the distance you intend to fish. This may not give him the same coverage of exploration as his English counterparts, but it will give a rough guide of what the bottom is doing just beyond his vital feed area. What he's looking for is indication of any further ledges or sloping bottoms, which would be a sign that he may need to feed short to stop bait drifting out of range. This sort of detailed exploration can prove vital on many of the massive continental navigation canals, where you often get false ledges cut into the bottom where large barges have come a bit close to the banks, cutting out another ledge. By extending the pole out with the arms, this sort of feature can then be identified legally!

Dave Vincent: Plumbing-up rocky bottoms
It's every river angler’s nightmare... a large tidal river or ship canal with rocks and boulders going way beyond your pole range! Dave explained that you need to appreciate how the fish live in these rocky venues, in order to understand how to approach plumbing-up. Big fish, like bream and even carp, graze across the top of these obstructions so you need to find the depth that best represents the top of them. Of course it's easier said than done! Dave offered some simple ideas to make the job a bit less problematic:
  • Make sure that you set the float to the approximate depth on the first run through, then shorten the line to the pole tip. This will allow more control as you begin plumbing. Many anglers tend to plumb a snaggy swim with lots of spare line under the pole tip. The problem in this situation is that extra line simply increases the chance of snagging not just the plummet, but the bulk-shot itself.
  • Resist any temptation to swing a plummet out over the area. Take your time to hold the rig steady, well off bottom, then carefully follow the plummet STRAIGHT DOWN, then up again. If you swing a plummet over a snaggy area, your almost certain to catch it on something!
  • Work your way down the swim slowly, feeling for large obstructions, which should be clearly apparent.
  • Make sure you use a relatively light hooklength and a reasonable elastic so that you can easily pull for a break if you have to.
And finally. Here's a little trick Dave learnt from Steve Gardener when you are faced with a really snaggy swim. Take some old carbon stems from broken floats and push 3-5cm lengths of the stems into the base of your plummet. This makes a sort of a plummet 'hedgehog' which does not get trapped very easily between cracks and can be easily pulled free, if it does snag.

Dave did point out that once you'd found the top of the rocks or stones, you needed to work all day at top-up feeding, in order to keep fish there as any undertow, or boats, would wash the feed down into the gaps out of reach. And, of course, tidal rivers will require constant checking of the depth throughout the day to ensure that the rig remains just at the top of these obstructions.

Holding back rigs
Once again the process of plumbing is similar to that of the laying on rigs Didier described earlier. Use a clip-on plummet on the last dropper shot and mark the depth off. Then decide the length of hooklength you require to lay on the bottom. One thing worth mentioning is to make sure that the plummet you use is much heavier than your bulk shot, because if it's not, then you run the risk of reading the depth off the bulk, rather than the plummet. This could leave your rig with too much line laying on the bottom. It may sound logical, but when you're using 30 or 40 gram flat floats on certain river/canal venues, it may not seem as obvious as all that! In this situation it's very important, on these type of venues, to ensure that the area you are going to concentrate on fishing IS flat and snag free! You will be investing time concentrating feed in a fairly tight area so it's well worth the time effort to thoroughly plumb the area before deciding which part of your swim to concentrate on.

The biggest mistakes made when plumbing-up
As Didier has already identified setting-up a seatbox on rivers as the biggest mistake he sees most anglers make when plumbing-up, I asked the rest of the panel what they had noticed:

Diego frequently notices that some anglers struggle to run a float cleanly through their swim, despite what seemed like careful plumbing-up at the start. The reason... they have not spent enough time dragging the plummet around their swim looking for snags and debris. Keep in mind that many continental canals will flow at different speeds throughout the day, depending on lock and ship movements, so it's not just the zone in front of you that you will need to check for obstructions.

Gilles has observed that some anglers are in too much of a hurry to plumb-up. They do not wait long enough for the rig and plummet to become completely stationary, directly under the pole tip. Too often anglers swing a plummet out and follow the float down with the pole tip thinking that's good enough, rather than wait and allow the whole rig to hang straight and still. This can inevitable lead to a small angle between float and plummet, thereby causing an incorrect reading of the depth.

Dave: “When many anglers start looking for shelves and ledges, they start plumbing-up at the end of their top kit sections then progressively push their pole outwards. This is the wrong way to find the bottom of a shelf. It is much better to ship out to 11 or 13 metres then work the pole slowly back towards the bank. This way, you are certain to actually find the bottom of a shelf.

Whether he's on a canal...Whether he's on a canal...
or river, Dave always adds extra sections so that he can explore the further reaches of his swim.or river, Dave always adds extra sections so that he can explore the further reaches of his swim.

Marking off the depth
This is a vital part of the plumbing-up process and is ultimately how you understand the way the fish feed. Once you have correctly found the depth with your plummet, it is essential that you mark that depth on your top kit as a reference point, because the first thing most anglers do is then change it! For instance, if you are looking for roach over groundbait, then you may possibly start 2cm off the bottom, before working around a 10cm zone to find where the fish could be sitting. Therefore this marker is an essential reference point for interpreting the different levels that fish may be feeding at through the day.

Many anglers use a white or fluorescent Tippex paint, either in a pot or pen form, to mark off their kits. These are usually OK, but after time you may have a top kit that looks more like a polka-dotted tie than anything else! Didier showed me a neat solution that gets round this dreaded 'polka-dot' syndrome. He uses pellet bands to mark the depth on each of his top kits. The advantage of a pellet band is they can be slid up and down the section each time, giving you an adjustable depth-marker.

He was quick to emphasis that you don't want to use the soft white bands widely used in pellet fishing. These are in fact dental latex bands and are much too soft and stretchy to be guaranteed to stay in one place all day. Instead he selects the much firmer pellet bands, made by companies like Drennan and Joe Roberts, which gives better grip on a top kit. These bands are brown or green in colour, nothing like the soft latex variety.

Here's how Didier marks the depth off on a kit:
  • Stretch the rig down so that your hook can be clipped into the base of your kit. This applies whether you are fishing top 3’s, 4’s or 5’s.
  • Slide the pellet band up or down your kit until it's in line with the TIP of your float bristle. Remember that Didier plumbs his floats up to be just breaking the surface film, therefore the tip of the bristle represents the true depth in his swim.
Didier takes care to plumb-up each of his kits and floats separately and marks each one in the same way.

Steve Gardener uses three different diameters of Drennan depth rings, which are actually made for this purpose and are like stretchy stick float silicones.

Chinagraph pencils
Another solution to the Tippex problem is to switch to chinagraph pencils. These can be found in all art material shops and are ideal for marking plastics, metal, glass and pottery.
These waterproof pencils have several more useful advantages over other line-markers, such as:
  • More accurate and neater than a dot of paint
  • Easy than scrapping off at the end of a session
  • Available in a variety of colours
  • Can be used for other jobs like marking up rig winders, or even marking the number of turns you are fishing on a feeder rod!
  • Cheaper than other marker pens/paint.
As before, the rest of our panel have slightly differing views, so let’s start with the similarities. All three experts use white line markers and ALWAYS take the time to scrape the marks off at the end of each session, of course! But then there are some interesting individual approaches:

Gilles marks the depth where the bristle meets the float body, as opposed to both Diego and Dave who mark at the TOP of the bristle. Personally, I believe that marking the top of the bristle is more logical, provided you have plumbed-up so it's sitting flush with the water surface in the first place! However, marking the base of the bristle also makes sense because Gilles knows that he has the bristles depth to play with, so the amount of bristle he has out of the water can be varied as conditions dictate, whereas the base of the bristle is a fixed reference point. In many respects, what matters most is that you are consistent in your depth marking and always make the same type of reference mark every time.

Both Diego and Dave plumb-up each float they are using separately, therefore each kit is marked independent of the other. Gilles, on the other hand, likes to plumb-up and mark one rig accurately then use it as a reference point for all the others, believing it causes less disruption in his swim and, provided he keeps each kits parallel, retains accuracy. There also seems a lot of logic in this way of thinking. After all, the depth itself will not change, even if you use a different float, so why waste valuable time plumbing-up many more top kits individually to fish the same depth? Diego and Dave's argument in favour of plumbing-up floats separately goes like this. Each float and rig may behave slightly different in the water, due to the line being more or less stretchy, quite possibly because of the various diameters used. There may be other factors which could cause some rigs to register differently when being plumbed-up. However, it must be said that these differences are minute in many cases, but there's another reason in favour of this argument. You usually set up various rigs/floats to do various jobs, therefore plumbing-up each individually allows you to consider more closely what each rig is expected to do. Although this might seem a little abstract to some, all our experts believe that their own approach works best for them.

One finally area where Dave differs from his French counterparts is his attention to the elastic he uses for each rig. All our top anglers tend to follow the same basic principle as Didier... clip the hook at the base of the top kit section and mark the depth on the section with the rig under tension. However, Dave is acutely aware that any elastic tension could possibly stretch the rig. Therefore when he marks off the depth, he first pulls out an extra bit of elastic to relieve the tension on the line. Obviously the stronger the elastic you are using, the more important this detail becomes!

It's a deceptively simple operation which we all go through each time we set up the pole. Think of what Didier says about plumbing in that he will often take 20 minutes to plumb-up before a match. Now think of what we do each time. How many truly take the required time to plumb-up and mark up accurately. If this attention to detail and meticulous approach places our experts way ahead of the rest of us, then surely here is one way that we can all easily improve our own performances?

I trust this article has inspired you to think a little more about the mechanics of how to plumb-up. I also hope you have gained valuable insight into just how important accuracy can be when plumbing the depths. What is consistent about our experts opinions is that their individual approach and solutions to the basic problem of plumbing-up achieves the ultimate and correct result. Didier, Gilles, Diego and Dave may all have different approaches, but all are in total agreement that plumbing-up carefully and accurately becomes the cornerstone for angling success.