Catching Fish at Last!

No matter how long you’ve been an angler, and I’ve been chasing specimens for over 50 years, a run of blanks saps your confidence. I don’t care who you are, you start to question your competence, your rigs and your baits. You know you’re doing nothing wrong, what you are doing has worked well in the past, but you simply cannot avoid that self doubt creeping in.

For that reason, it’s a good idea if you’re on a bad run to have a session at a relatively easy water, simplify your carp fishing tackle and get a few fish to restore the self confidence. That is what I did yesterday. After six gruelling two day sessions at the big tench and bream water with Alan Lawrence, after which we’d had just one tench and four jack pike between us, I was in need of the sunshine break which my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed in Tenerife.

On my return last week, Alan confirmed that the pit still was not producing and he had left it for a while to have a couple of sessions at a more prolific water to get a bend in the rod. I decided, therefore, to have a dawn to dusk session at a local gravel pit which has a good head of carp as well as some terrific roach, backed up by very average tench and bream. The carp were my target, hopefully one of the four known thirties in the water. But, with a fair head of twenties and lots of doubles, I was hoping for a run or two.

On my arrival to the lake at opening time 6.00am, I was not encouraged by the on-site bailiff who confirmed that the water had been very dour for weeks. The ridiculous amounts of cold rain had raised the water level quite dramatically, causing the fish to totally shut up shop. As well as that, although it was dry when I arrived, by 6.30am the rain was falling. What a summer this is turning out to be.

The swim I selected looked a cracker for a carp or two, where my right hand rod could place a bait off the point of an island under an overhanging willow at 70 yards. The left hand fishing rod would be cast to the same island twenty yards to the left, where there was a little bay overhung with what looked like brambles. In view of the information from the bailiff, I was unsure of how much bait to introduce initially. My plan had been to bait heavily to start with. After a little deliberation, I decided to go with the original plan and fired out about a kilo of 14mm baits around each rod.

By the time I was ready to cast out, it was around 7.30am. Alarms set, I sat back with a cup of tea under my umbrella to wait on events. I never had time to finish it. It must have been less than three minutes after the cast and the right hand carp rod was off to a real flier; I struck into a powerful fish that was kiting right at a rate of knots. By now, the rain was lashing down and that, as well as the oppressively humid conditions making me as wet under my waterproofs as on top of them, it was decidedly uncomfortable. The fish fought well, although it was obviously no monster. Eventually, it was in the net, a really pretty, fully scaled mirror of around 15lbs. Just as I was about to lift it onto the unhooking mat, the other fishing rod screamed off! Placing the net and fish back I the margins, I struck into another fish, this one going at breakneck speed. Immediately, I said to myself that this had to be a long, lean common, and I was spot on as it turned out. It proved to weigh just under17lbs. I had a problem during the playing. I had only set up one landing net, although I always carry two, so I had to jam the rod between my legs, with an angry carp ripping line off the clutch, as I hastily assembled the second net. By the time both fish had been unhooked, released, and I was cast in again I was absolutely soaked. I had fired out another 100 baits around each rod. That had been quite a start and the confidence builder I needed.

From then on until 2.30pm, with the rain virtually non stop, I was to enjoy the most incredible action. In all, that period had produced a further eleven carp, all over 14lbs with the best at 19lb 11ozs, plus three small bream. I would have loved a shot of the 19-11, a gorgeous linear mirror, but unfortunately, when I landed it, we were in the middle of an incredible thunderstorm with mega hailstones. It wasn’t worth damaging my camera and I reluctantly slipped it back and dived back under the brolly.

Strangely, the action then stopped as suddenly as it had started and from then until 7.00pm all was quiet. At around 5.00pm the rain had stopped at last and hot sun broke through. What bliss! It stayed quite hot for a couple of hours, drying my carp fishing gear nicely, and then I noticed further ominous black thunder clouds approaching once more. I had planned to fish until 8.00pm but decided to pack up there and then and get my fishing gear back into the van before it got another soaking. Like all anglers, I suppose, I gathered all the ancillary stuff together first and was just reaching for the first rod when the alarm shrieked and line began pouring off the spool in a blur. As I struck, I felt the first few spots of rain and played the fish as hard as I dare. By the time it was approaching the net cord the rain was getting heavy again and I was soaked once more, but this time I’d already packed the umbrella away. Quickly returning the fish, a mid double common, I quickly folded the rod into its sleeve and then, unbelievably, the second rod was screaming away. In a now torrential downpour, I played in yet another hard fighting common which I estimated at about 17lbs. Minutes after returning that second late arrival, I was making a mad dash for the van, unceremoniously dumping the sodden gear into the back before scrambling into the driving seat. It would have been impossible to have been any wetter and never before has a hot shower been more welcome!

Looking back on the day, it was what I needed. I had not managed one of the water’s bigger residents, but fifteen double figure carp, from about 14lbs to 19-11, makes for an incredible days fishing in anyone’s book. I couldn’t do it too often. The odds against a really big fish are too long but, as I said at the start of this blog, when you’re struggling, action like I’d just enjoyed is tremendously therapeutic. I shall go into my next big fish session with renewed confidence.

 

Frustration Continues!

After the highly unseasonal cold east winds and heavy rain, accompanied by hail, it was a pleasant change last week to find the new tench and bream water bathed in very warm spring sunshine. However, any thoughts that Alan and I were holding about the sun sending both species into a feeding frenzy were well wide of the mark. The only fish that were showing any life were the dozens of carp cruising the surface layers, but even they were very disinclined to feed. One angler pursued them both off the top and with zig rigs for two whole days and managed just one take from a 16 pounder. All those of us fishing for the big tench and bream recorded, once again, total blanks. In fact, since the end of the river season, there have been very few fish of any description banked.

It really is head scratching time. As with a lot of waters holding a smallish head of very big fish, when they have not really got their heads down in earnest, they tend to be very nomadic.  On a big gravel pit, therein lies the problem; location is a lottery. I’m sure that, if we had unlimited time on the bank, say seven consecutive days and nights, heavy baiting would eventually draw the fish in. But those days are long gone, Alan and I are both 68 years of age, and two days in a bivvy is quite sufficient! I did have some action, though. During the daylight hours, I concentrated my three fishing rods on rubber maggots and/or rubber corn, popped up to beat the bottom weed. At dusk, though, I switched two of the rigs to rubber corn/lobworm cocktails, with bream through the dark hours the target. As with my first session, this produced two screaming runs from small pike just as the light was fading. Not what I’ve waited for, but better than a blank, I suppose. Despite the lack of action, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fishing. It’s a very pretty pit and the potential of the water is outstanding, and when the fish do switch on, I want to be there.

My other news, for all the barbel fans out there, is that I’ve just had my first e-book published on Kindle, via Amazon. It’s titled Top Tactics for Big Barbel and is available for download at £2.85. If you’re interested, visit kdp.amazon.com for more details. The picture is of the 17lb 2oz barbel that features on the front cover of the new book. This new publishing outlet excites me a lot and I have a whole series of books planned under the Top Tacticsbanner. I’ll keep you all informed of progress on this front, as well as, hopefully, some big bream and tench. Got to keep the faith!!

Tight lines to one and all.

A slow start…

My main target this spring and early summer is tench and bream, and the chosen water is a very pretty gravel pit containing big specimens of each species. Certainly, bream to 16lbs and tench just under 11lbs have been caught and verified. My biggest bream is the 15lb 2ozs specimen from Queenford Lagoon over twenty years ago and it has been 14 years since my last double figure tench; so, I’m champing at the bit!

I’m fishing the water in the company of my good friend and brilliant angler Alan Lawrence. Alan fished the water last spring and, after a slow start, amassed a staggering total of big fish of each species. He also took a handful of good carp on his tench rigs and, with the carp running to mid 30s, there’s the potential for a heart stopping battle on light feeder rods. I’m going to resist the temptation to deliberately fish for the carp, though. I have other carp waters to target; I am totally focused on the tench and bream.

I’ve just returned from my second 48 hour session on the water, and have to report that neither Alan nor I have had a bite! I do not count a 1lb pike that took a swimfeeder on the retrieve. We have been suffering the malaise of many waters up and down the country, with unseasonably cold conditions including strong east winds, heavy driving rain and water temperature more akin to February than May. I know, speaking to many friends, that most anglers are also struggling with the decidedly wintry conditions. I live in hope, though, that these cold, wet conditions will see some really heavyweight tench being caught once the weather normalises. My three double figure fish, plus a string of nine pounders as back up, were taken after the water warmed following an equally miserable spring in 1998.

Although there is no exciting fishing to report back on at the moment, I can report on some of the new TFG products. Having finally retired my battered old Armadillo bivvy, I can say that I am delighted with my new Lok Down. Finding bivvies that will do everything with enough space is hard enough. With almost two inches of rain on my first night using it this week, it could not have had a more strenuous waterproofing test, which it passed with flying colours. Also, the Armo was the Two-Man model and I did debate whether to go for a two man Lok Down as well. In the end I opted for the one man and it is very generously sized, more than big enough for a six footer like me plus a mountain of gear. The Two-Man must be like a dance hall!

The monsoon like conditions were also an extreme test for my new Dave Lane Mag Runner bite alarms. Where bite alarms are concerned, I have no patience with all the bells and whistles some anglers seem incapable of being without. All I ask is that they sound when I get a bite, they don’t give up the ghost in the cold or damp, and they don’t require a second mortgage to keep up with the battery use. I don’t need tone alteration or volume control, although the alarms are supplied with mufflers for those who insist on ultra quiet alarms. Personally, I am not a fan of remote receivers, although one is supplied with the Mag Runners. I suppose I’m a bit old fashioned, but still believe that when I have baits out I should be behind my rods. I will use the remote receiver, though, if I’m forced to sit well back from the rods in very rough weather, so it is an important addition.

I can confirm that they passed the cold and damp situation with no problems! What I particularly like is the small size, the lightness and the dumpy little 12V batteries which are so quick and easy to change. A few years ago, I had other alarms that used the same batteries, and the battery life was outstanding. The alarms themselves, though, were a nightmare in damp conditions, but that’s another story!

Lastly, I am delighted with the new Hardcore Heavy Duty Carryalls. For bivvy fishing, and for using a barrow, the traditional rucksack is hardly ideal. I wanted a tackle bag that was solidly free standing, and not always toppling over, making finding items a lot of messing about. Similarly, the rucksack is altogether the wrong shape for barrow work. I acquired two of the carryalls, one for my tackle and one for my food, stove, cooking equipment, water etc. As well as the easily accessible load carrying, the hard top makes an ideal table. I had several very favourable comments about this luggage and I predict this will become a big seller.

See you again in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I’ll have some big tench or bream to show. In the meantime, here’s a shot of a big tench from a year back to remind us all of what one looks like!

 

Bream location in gravel pits

I’ve had a query from a reader of my last blog, after I mentioned that I was embarking on a tench and bream campaign this spring. Specifically, he wanted some advice on location of gravel pit bream. So, let’s have a look at this important aspect now. I’ll be reporting back on my first sessions in my next blog in a couple of weeks.

Most gravel pit location is a painstaking affair of mapping the contours of the water, and then trying to interpret how they will affect the location and feeding behaviour of the bream. During mapping, I am looking for the gravel bars and humps, areas of extensive bottom weed, areas of clean bottom and what that bottom composition consists of. Is it, for example, fine gravel or hard packed mud or silt? Most importantly, which features are naturally weed free? Unlike tench, bream show a distinct tendency to favour naturally weed free areas. Also unlike with tench, dragging has never proved very productive; I have had very poor results after manual weed clearance.

For the actual mapping, there is no doubt that the job is far easier if there is access to a boat or baitboat, together with echo sounder. But let’s assume neither are allowed, which is the case on many waters. Compared to the boat and echo sounder approach, the time spent mapping a pit with the standard plumbing methods from the bank is colossal. But it is time that must be spent to maximise chances of sport with big bream. The correct coarse fishing tackle must be used to generate a picture of your chosen fishing grounds. I use a TFG marker rod, in conjunction with Banana Braid braided line especially designed for feature finding. A bobbled 2oz Fox feature finding lead is slid on to the braid and large buoyant float tied on the end. The lead is mounted on a short link with a large enough eye to allow the float’s buoyancy to easily pull braid through it. To avoid the lead resting on the float during the cast, the lead is stopped about 18” up the line by a rubber float stop and bead. When this is cast out, the buoyancy of the float naturally makes it pop to the surface. Depth finding is then simple. Smoothly wind down the float to the heavy lead until the line is taut, and then allow off six inches of line at a time until you first see the float again break surface. You have now established the depth at that position.

Now wind in a few feet and repeat the procedure, establishing the depth once again at the new position. By continuing this process back to the bank, you now have a rough idea of the contours between you and the furthest cast. Any areas of real interest discovered can then be relocated and examined more carefully. I use a second rod, rigged identically. Having cast to the feature to be more closely examined, the float is then left in place as a focal point, and the float on the second rod cast all around it. You can build up a remarkably accurate picture of each feature in this manner. An hour’s work will give you details of feature size, and steepness of gradient. There is no need to use special braid on this second rod. The information I require about bottom composition will have already been established in my initial investigation with the actual feature finding set up.

I may want to leave in place a permanent marker for the duration of the session. To do this, I set up a marker float slightly differently, in a traditional sliding float arrangement with normal monofilament line. If you haven’t fished a slider, it is set up as a normal float rig but the float is not fixed in place but simply allowed to run freely on the line. A stop knot or rubber float stop is placed at the appropriate place depending on the depth of the water. Having again located the feature and made any fine adjustments necessary, I cut the line about a foot above the float stop and tie a loop in the free end. A similar loop is tied in the end of the reel line and the two loops joined with a firm tie of PVA. The float is then cast to the required position, left for a minute or so until the PVA has melted, at which time the free line is retrieved, leaving the marker in place. Make sure that you can retrieve the float after use. I use a special grapple made up of an in-line lead and large sea treble, which casts like a rocket.

Having found the features, which ones do we fish? Reliable areas do seem to be gravel bars, especially those that exist in otherwise weedy areas and are themselves clear of all but light silkweed. The other reliable feature is the clean, apparently barren area of either mud or silt. This area more closely mirrors the situation in a reservoir, and big pit bream, once they arrive in such an area, will often hang around for days. Small gravel bars and humps, while reliable, rarely hold big bream for more than the odd night.

If I am fishing within range of my Spomb, about forty yards, I usually do not bother with leaving permanent swim markers in place. Having found the area to be fished with a marker float I then cast one of my rods so that the terminal rig alights alongside the marker. The line is then inserted into the reel line clip and the line marked at the spigot with a thin sliver of insulating tape. When doing this, it is important to wrap the tape round the line with the sticky sides perfectly flush with each other and that the tape is then squeezed flat so that it adheres properly to the line with no air gaps. Then trim the tape as close to the line as possible and put a slight bevel at each end so that there are no sharp angles to foul the line during casting. My finished markers are around 1mm wide. I then walk out the rod on the bank until the line tightens to the clip, and mark the bank. Next, assuming I am fishing the other rod or rods at the same range, it is a simple matter to walk them out, clip up and tape as before.

The same procedure is carried out with my TFG spod rod and, before retrieving the marker float, the line is put into the reel line clip as well. This now means that every rod when cast out will land the terminal rig, baiting cone or marker float at the same range. All I have to ensure is that my direction of cast is not wayward, simply by lining up a horizon feature such as a tree or telegraph pole.

For baiting up, all I have to do is cast my Spomb hard enough to tighten to the clip and then I can be certain that the bait is in the correct position. The reason I also fix the range on my marker float as well is if I decide to do any baiting by catapult, say for balls of groundbait or loose feeding boilies. Obviously, I then need a visual target at which to aim.

Proof of the pudding..

A Stop Start Winter

Since my last Fishtec blog in autumn, my fishing became very disjointed from October onwards and only really came back to normal in February. The main reason was a succession of health issues within the family, which saw me missing a lot of fishing and only going locally for a few hours when I could get out. Consequently, I was never able to get a proper campaign underway and the results suffered as a result.

The main target of my river fishing was the upper Warks Avon near my home, principally because it is so close and I could be home quickly if need be. Unlike the middle to lower stretches, the chub and barbel of the upper river are fairly modestly sized, 5lb chub and 10lb barbel not being that common, this looked to be the perfect place for a few short coarse fishing sessions. So I made those two weights my initial targets and would go from there. My first few trips produced a few barbel to just over 7lbs and chub to about 4lbs, but the fishing was very slow at times. Blanks were common. Then, in late November, I had my biggest Avon barbel of just over 9lbs plus a chub of 5lb 4ozs ten minutes later. Obviously, these are quite modest fish by Ouse standards but I did feel that I was getting somewhere. Over the next couple of weeks I had another two small barbel, but struck a purple patch with the chub, taking three more five pounders on the bounce. That made four 5lb plus fish in a few weeks and, according to regulars who have fished the stretch for years that is very unusual.

Just after Christmas, I was fishing the lovely crease swim where I had taken my most recent 5lb chub. A large near bank rush bed projects five yards out from the bank, throwing the main flow across to the far bank and creating a really pronounced midriver angled crease. At a steady 5ft depth and smooth gravel bed it is a perfect set up for chub and barbel. I was fishing an 18mm boilie, with a PVA bag of broken boilie pieces impaled on the hook on each cast. My first cast was made around midday but it wasn’t until nearly dark that I had my first serious indication. I don’t count a kamikaze 12oz chub that nearly choked itself on the boilie in mid afternoon! A vicious pull had me on my feet and I soon realised that this was another chub, but what a beauty. It weighed 5lb 7ozs, another very big fish for the Upper Avon. It was my biggest Avon chub by a couple of ounces.

Ten minutes after the recast, I was in again and this time it was obvious that I was connected to a big barbel. That fish gave me a memorable scrap, making the clutch scream more than once, and I was soon netting my first Avon double figure barbel. It weighed 11lb 5ozs and I was absolutely over the moon with it.

After those fish, with all family worries now behind me, I was able to resume my love affair with the Great Ouse. Like waters everywhere, it was painfully low at the back end of the season, and four trips to a stretch where bites are always few and far between, but the fish are big, saw me averaging but one bite a day. And a day means fishing from about mid morning until well after midnight. The previous season I had taken my 7lb 13oz personal best chub from the same stretch, and I was never able to come close to that this time. In all, I landed eight chub, which comprised a baby of 4-12, four more five pounders to 5-15 and a top three of 6-1, 6-2 (featured below) ands 6-6.

Most pleasing was a final session barbel of 13lb 6ozs, my first barbel from the stretch for three years following the attentions of otters.

As well as the chub fishing, I also had two sessions at the perch stretch where my 5lb pound fish was taken in 1999. Sadly, that has also been badly affected by otters and, although there are still big perch to be caught, the numbers have been drastically diminished. Apart from a solitary small perch, all I caught on my lobworms were average chub and a small pike.

I can look back on the season just ended as one of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced, for several reasons, and in some ways I was glad to see the back of it. Now, after two weeks off, I’m planning some tench and bream fishing, commencing next week. The water has produced tench to 11lbs plus and bream to over 16lbs so I’m hoping for some exciting fishing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Bream Feast

An estate lake close to my home has long held a big head of bream but never, until recent years, did it produce fish to interest a single minded specimen hunter like me. The average fish was always around 4lb and 6lb was about the top limit. But, in recent years, that average has apparently started to climb quite significantly, so much so that I was hearing rumours of regular doubles being taken, with fish to over 12lb certainly genuine. Now, while 12lb is still nowhere near the top end of bream weights these days, it is still a very worthwhile target and definitely rates as a worthwhile specimen in my eyes.

Having taken delivery of three of the gorgeous new TFG Classic Nan Tec barbel fishing rods, I decided to put them to use as feeder rods, using the Avon top joint rather than the separate quiver top. A bream session was planned, and as the water is close to home I took advantage by driving there on the afternoon before my session to introduce bait into the selected area. In an hour, using a Spomb, I had fired out a large bucket of mixed Pigeon mix, corn, stewed wheat and TFG mixed halibut pellets. I also included a few 15mm fishmeal boilies.

The following morning, it took a fair while to set my camp and it was around midday before I was casting the first bait into position, after having introduced a further twenty Spomb loads of bait. That was baited with a boilie wrapped in paste, and accompanied by a method ball. As I set up my second rod, which was to be baited with lobworm/corn cocktail, the alarm on the first sounded and line started to disappear off the free spool reel. The bait had only been in place about two minutes! As soon as I struck, I knew I was attached to a fair fish but, typical of bream, it never gave me any anxious moments. Soon, I was weighing my first fish of the session, 8lb 6ozs, and a good start.

Before rebating, I cast the lobworm rod into position and then attached a new boilie to the first rod. With that one in place, I turned my attention to rod number three, which was to have a soft pellet hookbait. Just as I was moulding the method ball in place, the lob worm rod was off in a fast run. This was ridiculous! Soon, I was weighing a second 8lb plus fish. Fifteen minutes later, with all three rods out together at last, I was able to contemplate a cup of tea and fired up the kettle. However, before it had time to boil I had to turn it off again as bream number three came to call. 9lb 3ozs this one registered and did give me a decent scrap for a change. Just as that was being slipped back, a fourth bream had galloped off with a boilie. A few minutes later, and less than an hour after the first cast, I was weighing a fourth fish, this time 7lb 14ozs.

After that fish, I did have a couple of hours very welcome respite before another flurry of action commenced, and by dusk another four fish had been netted. These fish were significantly bigger, at 9-2, 9-9, 9-13 and the fish that turned out the biggest of the session at 10lb 7ozs. From then until about 11.00pm there were four more fish before the action stopped completely and I was able to get a little sleep. In a hectic afternoon and evening session I’d landed a surprising 12 bream with a very respectable average weight.

The action started again at first light, but during the daylight hours fish only came spasmodically. In fact, only two more bream came before dark, although I did land a solitary five pound tench and get bitten off by a big pike that had taken a liking to a boilie. After dark, though, the action turned absolutely manic. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account but, during the night I was landing fish about every forty minutes. By daybreak, I’d had no sleep whatsoever and was absolutely knackered. In total, I’d landed 27 bream from 7lb to 10-7 plus the tench, approaching 200lbs in total.

Looking back on the session, it was great fun but obviously the chances of a really outsize bream appear to be limited by the sheer numbers of fish. But with bream you never really know. Anglers who have spent far more time than me after bream have told me that it’s very common for a huge fish to suddenly show up amongst much lesser individuals. I shall certainly go back and hopefully improve on my 10-7 result.

 

CARP, TENCH AND SPANISH CATS

Since my last feature, I’ve been back for one last session atHorseshoeLake, reverting to one of my favourite swims, Choppy’s onWinterBay. Once again, though, my timing was poor. Why is it that I’m always told that, “you should have been here last week etc?” I know I couldn’t have fished any more effectively, having carefully located a nice clear gravel bed in the middle of silkweed and baited it accurately. Although I did catch a couple of tench, they again were only average fish up to just over 6lbs. My searches for a really big tench have been constantly thwarted this season.

I’ve also been back to my local carp fishing water for a day session, taking seven more lovely carp, all good doubles and had several exploratory sessions on the upper Warks Avon, which is close to my home. The signal crayfish situation on my beloved Great Ouse has now reached plague proportions and I have to say that the fishing is no longer enjoyable at times. Summer fishing is now a real trial, the damn crays are on the baits in minutes. Even the usual tricks of encasing in mesh or trying to lure the crays away with tins of cat food or tethered fish are not working very well. There are simply too many crays. What the river needs is an injection of a few catfish in each affected section. They will soon thin down the crayfish population!

On the Avon though, I can still find peaceful fishing. I’ve been on the extreme upper reaches, which have no real form for anything other than average chub and barbel, but I do feel that there may be a big fish or two to be discovered. Apart from one very accessible section, the river receives little pressure and I’m very hopeful of uncovering something exciting. So far, barbel to only 8-12 and chub to 4-10 have rewarded my efforts, but I do know of genuine 11 and 6 pounders respectively. so, the search continues, which is great fun in itself.

Early August saw me back on the Ebro system in centralSpain, fishing the river’s tributary the Segre at Mequinenza with Catmasters Tours. The fishing was as much fun as ever, although a little slower than previous trips. Apparently, a combination of an extreme heat wave and late spawning had resulted in many of the bigger fish not being in the usual areas. Fran and I were joined by two father and son combinations, Paul and Patrick Reed and Paul and Zach Sparrow. Patrick, who is 21, had never before landed a catfish and on the first night landed one of the biggest cats ever caught by a Catmasters customer, in fact one of the biggest cats ever caught anywhere, at 224lb. For good measure, Zach, 15, also had his first ever cats, his biggest being 182lb! Both lads were teased about their golden appendages for the rest of the week!

Compared to those two monsters, my catches this year were quite modest. My best was 126lb, well short of my personal best of 186lb caught last November. I also fluked a 28lb common on a catfish rod, as well as dropping a carp in the margins that looked every ounce of 40lb plus. That was the only 100lb plus fish I had this year, although I did manage two very hard fighting fish of 83lb and 84lb.

If you get the chance you must give it a go. You do not need to be an experienced big fish angler, as the guides do all the important work of selecting the swim, rowing out the baits, baiting up and so on. They also are on hand to advise on playing these immensely powerful fish and landing them for you. As Pat and Zach proved this year, anyone can catch a monster, even the most inexperienced. So you cannot take it too seriously as it is certainly no measure of angling skill. What it is though is bloody good fun and I can thoroughly recommend it.

 

 

Still After Tench

29th/30th June 2011

This was my second overnight carp and tench session on the Ouse and I was joined for the two days and nights by my good friend Alan Lawrence, who is one hell of an angler. On this second session, we selected a much wider section of river which we thought had possibly more potential for a big river carp. A few years previously, I had fished a few sessions there and taken lots of tench to well over 7lbs as well as three lovely mirrors, best 19-8.

We both tackled it the same way, with 14mm boilies, putting in around a Kilo of bait each. We were on different baits, which would provide an interesting comparison. We both used a method mix in conjunction with our hookbaits, to provide an extra area of attraction. Our swims were about thirty yards apart, either side of a substantial willow, and we both concentrated our efforts along the far bank cabbage fringe. The Ouse tench and carp have been found to love hugging these plants.

Our results were remarkable, in that they were identical. We both landed six tench and two average bream, but, sadly, no sign of carp. The second night was interesting. Both of us had been plagued by those damnable signal crayfish, and they became more persistent and annoying as the session progressed. Towards late afternoon on the second day, Alan was close to calling it quits, wanting to pack up his fishing tackle as he couldn’t keep a boilie on the hair for more than ten minutes. My baits, however, were harder, and although they came back in with claw marks I was still presenting a bait after two hours. At least two of my tench had come after a lot of attention from signals that I’d simply ignored.

I offered Alan some of my bait for that second night rather than him having to abandon his fishing, and not more than ten minutes after the first cast with it he landed a lovely tench of 6lb 8ozs. Sadly, it had lost part of its tail, presumably to an otter attack. That was at dusk, and as the night progressed, even I started to suffer stolen baits.

At about 2.00am, after another series of crayfish pulls and jerks, I couldn’t fish the rest of the night with any confidence, so I wound in the remains of my boilie and replaced it with two grains of popped up rubber corn. At least I could sit back and relax. Sure enough, all the annoying indications slowed right down until just after dawn, when a screaming take had me grabbing for the rod. A good scrap followed and then, in the bottom of my landing net, was a tench of 6-8 with a damaged tail, the same fish that Alan had returned several hours earlier.

So, we ended the session with twelve tench to 6-8 and four bream around 5lbs apiece. Again there had been no monsters, but loads of fun. We know there’s bigger tench and bream waiting for us and a big carp must surely put in an appearance soon. Here’s to the next time.

6th/7th July 2011

Still searching for that elusive big tench, I again drove along the road bank of Summer Bay at Horseshoe, this time intending to fish more or less opposite boat point. The swim I eventually settled in was 57, close to the farthest car park. I must admit the closeness to the van was a factor, as the rain was bucketing down. I was able to get the bivvy up first and leave the rest of the fishing gear in the van, without getting everything sodden before I started.

Talking to two others who were already fishing, it seemed that the tench were not getting any easier. Every now and again, someone would record a good catch, but it was very sporadic. It seemed either feast or famine. It was either quite a few tench or a blank, with nothing much in between.

Once again, for the two days, I was buffeted by a strong south easterly, which was a bit annoying. The forecast had been for south westerly, and I’d set the bivvy accordingly! The session followed very much my experience on the previous Horseshoe session, in that I kept faith with my presentation of two imitation red maggots fished on a short hair popped up to beat the bottom weed. Sadly, I again had very little to show for my efforts, lots of little plucks from small rudd and a solitary tench netted of just over 6lbs on dawn the second morning. I did, however, suffer the mortification of losing a giant tench at midday of the second day. After a truly screaming take, I hooked into a powerful fish that I first thought to be a carp, but soon showed itself on the surface. I hesitate to put a weight on it, but if it wasn’t a double, it wasn’t far off. I knew I had problems, though. The fish was dragging a great clump of weed in which a branch was entwined, following an excursion close to the overhanging tree to my right. With the extra pressure, I was concerned for the security of my size 14 hook and eventually my worst fears were realised. Suddenly, the fish gave a strong kick and then I found myself just playing the branch. I pull out of very few fish, less than one or two a season. What a sickener for it to happen with possibly my biggest tench for many years.

Tony Miles

Overnight on the Ouse

7th/ 8th June 2011

It was again the search for big tench that saw me back on the banks of Horseshoe Lake for a two day session. This time, I decided on my first session on Summer Bay for three seasons and elected to fish peg 66 which had, apparently, yielded a few nice fish on the recent Tenchfishers event. In fact, there is little to report. For the two days, I was buffeted by an unseasonably cold wind full in my face and the only action I had was from a very scraggy male tench of about 5lb that put in an appearance just after dawn on the second morning. That was taken on two imitation red maggots fished on a short hair pop up presentation to beat the bottom weed.

I did have a very pleasant interruption on the second day, when Neil Wayte and Dean Macey stopped by for a chat. It was the first time I’d met either and we passed a very pleasant hour talking about matters piscatorial. They then went off to fish the opposite bank of Summer Bay, with the wind at their backs, where it was probably ten degrees warmer than where I was positioned. I found out later from Dean that they had both blanked and had evidence of both the tench and carp busily spawning, so that goes some way to explaining my lack of action.

21st/ 22nd June 2011

After a frustrating carp blank at a difficult syndicate water the previous week, I was on the banks of the Ouse for my first overnight carp and tench session. I love river carping, but have done far too little of it in recent seasons. The previous year, I’d had a couple of autumn sessions, taking nice bream and barbel, but no tench or carp. In the past, however, I’ve had good tench to well over 7lbs as well as carp over 25lbs, so the big fish potential is undeniable. I know of a genuine 9lb plus tench and a good friend took a 33lb mirror last season. Unlike a lot of carp waters, river carping still retains an air of mystery.

Upon my arrival, I spent a fair bit of time finding a suitable area with a little extra depth, good cover in the form of rushes and lilies, but little bottom weed to annoy me. In the end, I settled on a lovely little swim with about seven feet of water in mid river that had a nice clean gravelly bed. Under my bank was weedy, and the far bank was also carpeted in dense lilies, so I put in half a kilo of 14mm boilies along each weed fringe. One rod would fish the far fringe straight across river, while the left hand rod was positioned further downstream adjacent to the near bank weed fringe. I also made up a method mix, mixed with natural water shrimps and lobworm juice, and moulded this round my rig on every cast. Hookbait was a 14mm boilie wrapped in matching paste.

I only fished from early evening until two hours after dawn on each night, grabbing some sleep during the second day, and when I packed up to come home I’d had seven tench to a top fish of 6lb 8ozs plus seven bream to 8lb 10ozs. No carp had put in an appearance but the session was great fun. I’m off there again tomorrow for more of the same. I’ve heard that the stretch has produced bream over 12lbs, very big indeed for flowing water, so that’s another exciting target to complement the tench and carp.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

First Session At Horseshoe

So far this spring, my fishing for tench has been singularly unsuccessful, although a succession of hard fighting carp wherever I choose to fish has certainly prevented me from getting bored! But I again had tench at the top of the agenda as I headed well before dawn for Carp Society water Horseshoe Lake in Gloucestershire. I didn’t get down there last season, but enjoyed some great tench action in 2009 with plenty of tench to over 9lbs. The target this year, as it is every year, is a double figure specimen. I’ve only had three doubles in my big fish career, all on the same day in July 1998. I’m overdue another one!

For my first session of 36 hours, I decided to set up in the swim I had my best catch from two years ago, swim number 9 on Winter Bay, known as Choppy’s. Just after dawn, it was lovely, bright and calm and I spent the best part of an hour with my marker rod establishing the areas of lightest bottom weed. Everywhere I cast there was some silkweed and a little clumpy Canadian pond weed, but I eventually found an area where I only retrieved tiny strands on the marker lead. This was at about thirty yards, a perfect range for tenching and simple for accurate baiting with my Spomb.

The feed consisted of a bucket of hemp, containing three pints each of casters and dead red maggots, together with a tin of sweetcorn and a tub of Strawberry Squabs, a medium soft hooker pellet with the consistency of Dolly Mixtures. These are about the same size as corn grains and have caught plenty of tench and bream since their introduction last season. In the daylight hours, the plan was to fish two feeder rods containing live red maggots, with one hook baited with maggots, the other casters. In deference to the light but annoying bottom weed, I decided to use rubber maggots and casters, using the buoyant varieties from Enterprise. Having these hair rigged on short hairs to size 14s ensured that they remained visible above the bottom weed. To ensure that they remained weed free while awaiting bites, I was careful to avoid drawing back the terminal rig after casting by taking in the surplus line very gingerly. For the after dark fishing, which I have never found very productive for tench, I changed to size 10s baited with hair rigged pop up Squab and buoyant rubber corn respectively. This, I felt, would give me a chance with either bream or carp while awaiting daybreak, when I would switch back to my maggots and casters.

The daylight hours were totally uneventful, with the increasingly strong headwind making it feel very unspringlike. This was despite accurately baiting regularly with two Spombs of mixed feed every couple of hours and recasting my feeders at least every half hour. As darkness approached with a still stubbornly dry landing net, I switched to the night attack. Perhaps the bream or carp would be more co-operative. I soon had my answer. At just after 11.00pm, my left hand alarm was screeching as something departed the scene in haste. What a scrap ensued on my relatively light tench feeder rod, from what was obviously a carp with attitude. That fish did just not want to give up; this was made much worse by the fact that it had charged through the other line on its first run. By the time I eventually landed it, after a good fifteen minutes, I had a bird’s nest of monumental proportions. I wouldn’t be fishing again for well over an hour, sorting that mess out. As it was, I had a cracking common in the net, short, fat and pristine. Although it only weighed 15lbs I was really pleased; at least I hadn’t blanked on my first Horseshoe sortie. At 3.00am there was a repeat performance from another common carp just 10 ounces bigger than the first, a much darker, leaner fish. This one had been wolfing the Squabs, judging by the residue in the net.

As dawn broke, I switched straight back to my maggot feeders for the prime target, big tench. I only had until about 3.00pm to fish this second day so had to make the most of the hours I had left. Slowly the morning wore on, again with no interest from tench whatever. Soon, it was 1.30pm and I was looking at another tench blank. And then, in fifteen minutes, I had two fish, both males of just over 6lbs apiece. Again no monsters, but at least I’d had a result.
At 3.00pm I reluctantly packed up and after saying goodbye to Dave at the Carp Society lodge, I set off for home. My last words to Dave were prophetic. He had a look at my new van before I left and I uttered the immortal words, “It’s great to have a reliable vehicle at last”.

I choked on those words half way home. I was just entering Moreton in the Marsh and had thought for a few miles that the van sounded a bit noisier than it should. There was a sudden ear splitting bang from the engine that gave me a real fright and then I lost the power steering. Somehow managing to wrestle the thing onto a side road, I quickly turned the engine off as clouds of smoke poured from under the bonnet. It was now about 4.30pm, rush hour was just starting, and it took the AA over an hour to get to me. When they did, my worst fears were realised. The tension pulley holding the fan belt in place had exploded, twisted itself out of shape, together with one of the other pulleys, and ripped the fan belt into what looked like shredded spaghetti. The fan belt igniting had caused the smoke cloud. Obviously, there was no way that was going to be fixed on the side of the road and I then had another two hour wait for a flat back AA recovery vehicle to load the van and transport it and me home. I arrived home at just after 10.00pm.

At the time of writing, I’ve just returned from a very welcome holiday in Tenerife and while I was there a close friend, who is a top mechanic, has put the van back together for me. The last year has been somewhat trying on the fishing vehicle front, to say the least!