One particular authority in the Berlin region is Champions-team angler Marco Beck, who has spent much of his youth in and around these waters. His favourite venue back in those days was the Teltow Canal, situated just south of the capital. Until 1989 the Teltow marked the border between East and West Berlin and was heavily fenced and overlooked with towers.

It was within the shadow of these watchtowers that Marco trained and perfected the abilities that make him one of Germany’s finest canal anglers. So it was quite appropriate that our web-partners,, took the opportunity to meet up with Marco on this very canal and give us an insight into how these abilities came about:

We (CT) had arranged to meet Marco on the Sunday after November's 2009 International Anglers Meeting. Even though the nights were cold leading up to the IAM, the nights prior to our visit were even colder and our thermometer registered MINUS 8° as we set off to meet up with Marco at the venue! Surely such a cold spell would affect today’s fishing? Well apparently not, because the 'Grapevine' of the Berlin match scene had informed him that the fish were biting well.

Arriving at our planned rendevouz on the Teltow, Marco confirmed that the information given by the 'Grapevine' looked okay, even in these conditions... good news! The bad news was that our initial choice of swim proved, within an hour, totally unproductive as the water here was far too shallow in the freezing conditions.

Marco then decided to set up his peg on the exact spot that he regularly fished as a teenager. Where diagonally opposite, and to our right, there still remained part of one of the original watchtowers from that 'Cold War' period, although nowadays it’s part of a camping site used by Berlin's stressed-out city folk to relax.

The canal is approx. 30 metres wide at this spot and has a depth of around 4.4 metres. Our bank is built-up of sheet piling, so we have a good depth of around 3.6 metres directly under our feet, which makes fishing with a short whip also possible. The first shelf is between 7 and 9 metres further out, and drops by about 10 to 15cm. It’s this shelf that Marco will focus on for today’s session.

The flow of the canal is regulated by a network of locks, used to control the traffic of the country's massive canal barges. Tactics are typical of Berlin’s waterways. To hold a hookbait still, or as the Germans say 'to block a bait', lollipop floats between 6 and 8 grams are usually necessary.

Marco's seating set-up has a surprising arrangement, which is positioned very close to the water. This consists of a platform and the top section and cushion off a Rive seat box. His groundbait is on the right and hookbaits on the left, with all his necessary utensils directly within reach behind him. This set up is typical of how Marco would have sat here many years ago so he feels confident and comfortable with it, although we’re just as sure that a normal seat box and footplate would serve equally well.

Marco sets up his pole up at 7.5 metres, that is to say the top 6 sections. The rest of the pole remains in the rod holdall because Marco is 100% certain that the fish are gathered around this first shelf. It always looks positive how many top anglers set up their gear. Most of us would have no doubt set up a 13m line as well! Not so Marco, he seems to understand exactly where the fish are and what’s happening beneath the surface.

Marco's floats for the session.Marco's floats for the session.Just as surprising as Marco's seating arrangement is the fact that he only employs two top 4 kits! Again, I believe most of us would have at least five set out. These two top sections are set up with rigs that, to many, would seem not the normal choice as bloodworm fishing on the canals around Berlin is normally done with sensitive floats, capable of showing the slightest indication and a heavier lollipop rig for holding back for the bream. Marco had set-up a typical river-shaped float and a lollipop... so far so good, but this is where the change from normality comes in. For the more sensitive approach Marco had chosen a light lollipop and a heavier pear-shaped float for the bigger bonus fish. To our knowledge, surely it should have been the other way round!

But why a lollipop?
Marco explains: “because of the flow, I want to offer the roach a delayed bait, which means holding back a little... but not holding back completely and inching it through the swim. In order to do so, I need to minimise any resistance between the float and the current. This is achieved by the slim shape that a lollipop offers when in the water. A normal round bodied float is affected too much by the push of the current and makes bite indications unreliable.

The lollipop is a Sensas Szilard. The combination of a wire stem and tip make this float extremely sensitive indeed therefore they are only produced to maximum of 2 grams. For today’s session these floats are a bit too delicate, so Marco had glued a plastic tip over the wire tip.

The float is rated 1.7 grams and will have No.2 and 4 shots for a bulk weight and around eight No.10's spread between this bulk and the hooklength to shot the rig perfectly. The main line has a diameter of 0.11mm and a hook is a size 20, Sensas 3405, attached to 15cm of 0.08mm. The 3405 is light but very stable, and will not bend so easily with the amount of fish expected today. A light hook is also important as we want the bloodworm to fall as naturally as possible through the water without making the fish suspicious. The whole rig is attached to a .6mm elastic in the top 3 sections and is ideal when fishing fine hooklengths as it will not lose too many fish.

An extra thick plastic bristle for the river float.An extra thick plastic bristle for the river float.For the bream rig Marco selects a 5gr float carrying his own name, a bodied river float with a carbon stem and plastic tip. The advantages of a carbon stem for today’s session was that it allowed for a little more weight to be used down the line and won’t bend when any adjustments to depth are made. When you think of any normal float for bloodworm fishing, most anglers imagine one with a wire stem. Personally, I would never have come up with the idea of using such a float and again wonder in amazement at some of the decisions top anglers make!

So why choose this type of river float with a plastic tip? Marco explains: “when guiding the float through a swim in a 'stop and go' manner, floats always tend to sink and rise in the current. For instance, a finely shotted steel bristled float usually takes longer to rise, where as a plastic bristle tends to pop back to its normal position quicker, therefore indicating much better whether it was simply a dip, or bite!” Surely this would seem an unorthodox way of thinking, but the longer you think about it the more logical it becomes, as a round bodied float presents a smoother run through in a flow especially when permanently holding and letting go. The float is placed on a 0.14mm main line with a 0.09mm hooklength of 15cm, connected to a size 16 hook, again a Sensas 3405. To control the expected bonus fish in the swim, Marco uses a 1mm elastic in the top 3 sections. To shot the rig, there were three No.8 dropper shot placed at 15cm intervals below the bulk before the hooklength.

When Marco Beck talks of groundbait it’s really time to pay attention. Marco, of course, uses groundbaits' manufactured by his employer Sensas and, it's certainly not a bad choice, given the range of products that’s on offer.
Marco first looks for the following attributes he expects today’s choice of groundbait will offer:

  • To entice fish
  • To keep the fish in the swim without filling them up
  • To transport joker to the bottom and keep them in good condition

He therefore selects the following combination:
1 litre Argile Humide (damp leam)
1 kilo Sensas Canal Noire Fine Mouture

But why these two particular components? Well, the Argile is a damp leam which holds together well, making throwing easy, and it can be introduce on its own. Argile breaks down quickly in water and releases the joker quickly. The Canal Noire Fine Mouture is a finely ground and black mix that won’t fill up the fish too quickly. It’s a good winter mix and has very little salt, an important aspect when using joker as salt kills bloodworm and joker!

Marco prepares the mix as follows:
First the leam is placed into a container on it’s own, then water is added to make it into a sloppy mud. This is then added to the dry groundbait and whisked for about 2 minutes. The mix is then left to rest and given time for the groundbait to soak up all the muds moisture.

The feed breaks down quite rapidly after being thrown into the water and gives off particles and some joker, but a majority is buried within the mix and will be released gradually as the current absorbs into mix, or when the fish feed on it. As one final touch, Marco adds a tiny amount of water to finish off the mix and it's ready to go.

For the initial feeding, Marco mixed 250ml of joker into the mix, pointing out one important factor... the need for quality joker and, indeed, all bait. It’s very important to have good joker and although his joker had not been separated yet, they certainly seemed very active little creatures and are almost jumping out of the newspaper! Marco swears on joker from Belgium, or even Poland, but finds joker from Ukraine or Russia too big and sluggish for his liking. If he does use it, then it's usually for bream fishing only. He also added some caster to the mix, explaining that a few casters added to the mix will often hold the better fish on the feed.
Quality essential start to any session!Quality essential start to any session!
Bloodworm is also an important element if catch rates are to be improved.Bloodworm is also an important element if catch rates are to be improved.The same principle of quality applies when it comes to bloodworm for the hook. Marco showed us a hooked bait as an example, crawling, quite literally, over his leg which gives us an idea of the appeal this would have on a fish hovering over a feeding zone.

Before Marco began the initial balling-in, we asked him what his expectations were for the session. “I expect to catch lots of fish, although they should mostly be small. There is a great variety in the Teltow Canal, but our main target will be roach between 15 and 25cm and silver bream, or skimmers, weighing between 100 and 150 grams. Any bonus fish are likely to be larger skimmers or bream, between 250 and 500 grams and, if we’re lucky, one or two up to a kilo!” Marco was not going to target any fish in particular, he would go for anything that is feeding in his peg and, as the session progresses, make any changes accordingly, choosing to remain flexible and target whatever the dominant fish may be at the time.
Marco prepares a feast fit for fish! Marco prepares a feast fit for fish! Marco began his balling-in with five orange-sized balls and directly after, reached for the lighter Szilard rig. This had been set to 15cm over-depth and, during ideal conditions, because the rig is so light, the hook will rise and bounce naturally over the bed of the canal when inched through the swim.

The first small skimmer for MarcoThe first small skimmer for MarcoThe first three run throughs produced a fish every ruff and two small skimmers, each  around the 70 gram mark. The fishing continued to be productive with nearly a fish on every run. After 10 minutes, we asked Marco what his expectations were now and, although it was still very early in the session, how it was developing? His reply was that he now expects 20 to 30 fish in the first 30 minutes and, as the session progressed, the size of the fish would hopefully increase. Another question we put to him and one that often causes debate is, how far away from feed can fish be attracted to it? Marco's specific thoughts on this subject believes that fish sense, by feel or smell, the groundbait from as far as 100 metres away and then curiosity will bring them in over the course of the session.

During the high rate of catching, we were able to see why Marco choose this particular model (3405) of hook. It showed no sign of fatigue and kept its shape after 20 minutes and around 20 fish. Of course there are many other lighter hooks on the market, but Marco has found a good compromise of stability and lightness, to a high catch rate, with this model.

Marco catches very well in the first 20 minutes and, with one or two bloodworm on the hook, we see mostly small skimmers being caught, approximately one metre behind the groundbait. But then he decides to switch top kits to the heavier bodied float, to seek out any bigger fish in the swim. With the hooklength again slightly over-depth and held back, bites come immediately, but this time directly over the groundbait!

Even though more fish come, we don’t really notice any difference in size. We do, however, notice a sudden change in the current, which is very typical of the Berlin canal system. The flow prompts a change from a 5gr float to a 3 grammer, but after two run-through's there's no fish. Marco reacts quickly and swaps back to the lighter Szilard rig, which immediately brings a response. This is a lesson for many of us, as we often continue to fish with a certain rig for too long, after conditions have changed, even though the catch rate may drop off. It's important to always be fully aware of the environment around us and adapt accordingly, and quickly, of course.
Strung out more, the shotting pattern now becomes more active for Marco.Strung out more, the shotting pattern now becomes more active for Marco.A nice ide, not something we normally see over in the UK, although we are starting to see more being introduced into some commercial fisheries.A nice ide, not something we normally see over in the UK, although we are starting to see more being introduced into some commercial fisheries.After 30 minutes the bites start to slow up again so Marco decides to change his shotting on the line. He makes a 'chain' of seven shots with the distance between them reducing, as they near the bulk. This makes the rig more 'active' which, Marco informs us, should be viewed with care as nuisance bleak in the canal attack such slow dropping rigs! Two fresh bloodworm are hooked and Marco swings out and an immediate bite follows, producing a nice ide. Bites start to pick up again showing that a small changes, in this case the shotting pattern, can bring a swim back to life.

After 45 minutes Marco has caught a good head of fish and he has, up to now, not topped up with anymore groundbait, so it seems his initial feed is still working as he wished with particles and joker gradually being released to keep fish in the peg. Because of the high catch rate, the fish seem quite hungry and plentiful, but Marco now believes it's now time to top-up. Many of us may have thought to throw more groundbait into the water as the bites stopped, rather than make any simple changes, such as adjusting the shotting pattern. Marco had his own thoughts regarding this. “Topping up a swim is a very sensitive matter. Introducing more groundbait can bring a swim alive again but – and it's a big but – it can also destroy a swim stone dead! For this reason, I will first make changes to my rig until I am satisfied that the fish are really not in the peg anymore, or they are in such a feeding mood that I can introduce more groundbait.” Marco continues, “If the fish are still in the peg and your presentation is all wrong, introducing more feed could scare them away, even if they have seemed in a confident feeding mood”. This makes sense. Throwing in a 100 gram ball of feed on top of any feeding fish, without first exploring other options, does not sound like a very good approach!

Other reasons why too much groundbait can destroy a swim is that fish can become over-stimulated with so much food being 'placed on the table'. This can ultimately lead to 'liners', making bite indication harder. It can also mean that fish have too much time and choice to eat the particles and joker, and then end up being overfed before they find the hookbait!

An unconventional top-up method for many people!An unconventional top-up method for many people!Experience and intuition tell Marco that it may be time to top-up he throws two orange-sized balls in, rather than use the cup, in hope that the sound of splashing entices even more fish into the swim.

Marco continues to fish the lighter rig and is rewarded with a small 'silver' straight away. He continues to catch fish after fish, a relief to see that the additional feed has worked positively. But then Marco surprises us by throwing in another three balls, just 5 minutes after the last two! We ask him if this doesn't go against what he said about destroying a swim. Marco's confident reply informs us that instinct tells him bigger fish are in the area and it’s time to see if he can bag a few of them!
A good ide comes to the waiting landing net.A good ide comes to the waiting landing net.The next 15 minutes see a variety of skimmers, silver bream, roach and ide, all between 50 and 120 grams, find there way to the landing net, although the smaller fish are swung to hand. Marco explains that to save time in a match, the set-up of any rig has to be balanced in order to swing smaller fish to hand,especuially with a 0.08mm hooklength! The .6mm elastic is not ideal for swinging fish in so Marco has to stand up and stretch his pole arm in order to catch the fish. He later admits that he would have preferred a .8mm elastic for the job!

Some 15 minutes after topping-up, Marco changes back to the heavier float and deepens the rig so that the complete chain of shot is lying on the deck, with the bulk hovering just 2-3cms above. Two maggots are hooked and the rig is laid directly over the feed. “Although bites will now take longer in coming” explains Marco, “my belief is that this rig will find any bonus fish about”.

Marco lets the rig drop about an inch then holds back again, even moving the bait back upstream onto the feed every now and then. These are just minimal movements, searching the vicinity of the main feeding zone. To prove Marco's intuition is right, the float buries shortly after and, with an upwards strike, the 1mm elastic pulls out to indicate that we have a better fish on. After a brisk fight, a bream of 500 grams breaks the surface, but unfortunately the hook pulls out before it can be netted.

The bream was hooked in the soft top lip, a fact well known of the fish in this region. But Marco was not put off and another two maggots were hooked. We didn’t have to wait too long for the next decent fish to bite, a nice roach and the next hour saw him catch steadily as he continued to keep topping-up, unfortunately without any of the larger fish turning up, as he'd expected. Nevertheless, we experienced a great session and after two hours we decided to call it a day, as dusk slowly approached. Marco had managed, in just 2 hours, quite an impressive catch totalling 60 fish and weighing just under 4 kilos, not bad we think for the first very cold spell at the end of the season.

Marco had produced an impressive performance in canal fishing and shown that a session can change and how a top angler reacts to these changes. Marco was most informative and explained some of the things we found a little odd. For example, his choice of floats. We mention this because we thought he might have been leading us astray at the beginning, but during the session we were shown how appropriate his choice was and how each particular float shape worked perfectly under the conditions. Also, the amount of top kits used, or lack of them, proved quite sufficient, although a stronger elastic in the lollipop rig may have been an advantage with that 500gr bream!
An impressive haul on a bitterly cold day...and in just TWO hours!An impressive haul on a bitterly cold day...and in just TWO hours!
The groundbait recipe proved ideal and would work well in any other canal, of that we are sure. The way Marco mixed the components together was certainly different from the normal approach, but no doubt many of us will also be trying it out in the very near future. But the main thing stood out from today's session was the quality of the bloodworm and joker in Marco's possession, something all top anglers insist on. Even before separating the joker, the quality was amazing, it's something that all match anglers should take note of...because if you start with poor bait, than you cannot expect to do well, especially when conditions become tough.

For all those interested, Marco has now started his own fishing school, details of which can be found on the Champions-team website. thanks our German partners for an interesting and informative feature, showing why Marco Beck has become one of his country's finest anglers.