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.

 

The Carp Society Show

Inside this year’s show there were many leading brands, fishing tackle and bait companies to choose from and plenty of DVDs and books from the big names in the fishing industry.

A few of the names up there were the likes of Martin Bowler, Jerry Hammond, Terry Hearn, and Danny Fairbrass to name just a few. This year was different for me as I was going with the intention of getting a few interviews with the big names.

Martin Bowler

Q. Best days fishing and where?

A. Best days fishing is my next day’s fish, as long as I’m fishing I’m happy. Where? I don’t mind, I love everything from going Salmon fishing, to sea fishing for sharks, to carp fishing.

Q. Most memorable catch and where and why?

A. It’s hard not to say the two British Records I’ve had because they are British Records. I think the 5Ib 4oz perch from catching the Impossible which I had on a pole using a flat float and I taught myself that method and employed a match fishing method to catch a huge fish under the pressure of a camera.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest innovation in fishing since you started?

A. Hair rig, its allowed people to go to sleep, use alarms and made the sport a lot easier.

Q. What are your pet hates on the bank?

A. Noise, other than angling noise and you’d be amazed when the cameras start rolling a Helicopter fly’s over your head and god knows what else.

Q. What are your plans for the coming season?

A. Making a film at the moment called ‘Chasing Shadows’ which will due out next November, other than that just enjoying myself

Gaz Fareham

Q. Best days fishing and where?

A. That’s a tough question, a couple really. The Hampshire syndicate I’m fishing, a couple of weeks ago it was an amazing day, I had two beautiful thirty pounders but I would have to say catching Heather the Leather and then going straight to Glastonbury after.

Q. Most memorable catch and where and why?

A. Again id have to say Heather, I spend three years on the Car Park and to be honest I never thought I’d actually catch it.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest innovation in fishing since you started?

A. I don’t know really I’m not one for innovations but I would say the boilie.

Q. What are your pet hates on the bank?

A .Turning up to a lake and knowing you can’t get anywhere near the fish because there are people in the swims doing five days a week.

Q. What are your plans for the coming season?

A. Carry on at the Hampshire syndicate and fish a few lakes in the woods, fishing with my mates and just enjoying it.

Joe Morgan

Q. Best days fishing and where?

A. It’s got to be the big common I had recently from Spitfire pool to be honest with you, it’s such a special fish it’s only been caught twice! And not a mark on it so yes a real result.

Q. Most memorable catch and where and why?

A. In France a couple of years ago at Mazon, I fished four nights and had four forty’s, five fifty’s and one sixty, incredible really it was one of those sessions.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest innovation in fishing since you started?

A. Modern baits and dead sharp hooks.

Q. What are your plans for the coming season?

A. Probably have another go in spring on the Snake pit to try and even up the score.

Ian Moore of CC MOORE

Q. Best days fishing and where?

A. 1995 at Somerly in Ringwood on a Sunday at the last weekend of the season. I had my first twenty in the shape of a 26Ib 6oz mirror then braced that with another mirror of 24Ib 14oz.

Q. Most memorable catch and where and why?

A. My first carp was a 7Ib 6oz mirror which I caught at the age of fifteen at Longleat lakes on the float with lunchmeat. I started late because I was playing a lot of tennis at the time and competing.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest innovation in fishing since you started?

A. Bait in general, the quality is better and the range is greater. On its own I would have to say the spomb.

Q. What are your pet hates on the bank?

A. Etiquette, and litter, in my opinion when you go fishing you should leave no trace.

Q. What are you plans for the coming season?

A. Fishing, grabbing whatever time I can and take my son fishing for roach and perch. Also I’m going to Zwolle in Holland and Montlueon in France for the first time to continue to build our non-uk trade.

Team Korda

A1. Night fishing on a midlands syndicate, I had 2 thirty’s and 2 forty’s.

A2. The Mrs. But don’t tell her.

A3. Boilies and bait in general have come on leaps and bounds.

A4. I think everyone hates bad etiquette?

A5. Wellington in spring, filming in France in the Summer and then my own fishing in autumn.

 

A1. Catching Single Scale at 40Ib 8oz after 3 years.

A2. Gaz my first thirty at 33Ib 8oz. I love how we give regular fish names.

A3. Korda Krusha – for an easy way to mash baits! Saves plenty of time.

A4. Bad Etiquette. It doesn’t take a lot to be curtious

A5. Fishing for a linear on a water in Essex.

 

Ian Bailey

A1. Midlands clay pit I had seven fish to 35Ib, what a place.

A2. Cambridgeshire linear 40Ib 2oz. Remember it like it was yesterday.

A3. Chod rigs – Probably the biggest innovation in the last 10 years.

A4. I despise Jealousy and bad etiquette.

A5. Carrying on in Bedford.

 

 

I have to thank the boys above for giving me their time and making the effort to answer my questions. It was great speaking to you all and I hope to see you next year!

Well I must say that it has been a fantastic day and yes I even spent some money, and if you didn’t make it down this year or haven’t been then I recommend that you make an effort next year, you won’t be disappointed.

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.

 

 

Fishing Around Weed

Fishing in and around weed is an aspect of carp fishing that some may struggle to come to terms with.

I appreciate that a lot of waters, particularly commercial waters with a fair stock of fish will not end up looking like a football pitch, as do some of the lesser stocked, big pits I have fished over the years and this in itself can present more of a problem. After all, if you are not used to dealing with any weed at all throughout most of the year then, in the middle of summer, when you suddenly start pulling it in by the bucket load it can sometimes be a bit daunting.

Personally I love weedy lakes; I think that it gives you more of an idea as to where the fish will feed, which way they will travel and what areas they will like the best.

Weed comes in many different forms and each type can tell you something about the lake bed, depths and what type of clear areas you can expect to find nearby.

If you have a lake that is not generally weedy and only small patches or areas of the lake start to ‘green up’ in the summer then these areas will be very interesting to the fish, not only will they harbour a certain amount of natural food but the fish will find shelter and cover in and around the weed and any substantial amount of weed will have it’s own little eco-system based around it.

Firstly let’s look at marginal weed, weed that attaches itself to the slope from the bank downwards which is often the shallowest and warmest part of the lake.

The most common of these is Canadian Pondweed which, in the right conditions, will spread right out and cover acres of the lake bed. It is very hardy and grows in extremely dense patches, leaving little or no clear areas between the stems, luckily though it struggles on the harder ground and this leads to the more fishable areas remaining clean. Finding them becomes easier the longer the weed grows as you can obviously see the gaps.

Canadian tends to grow quite uniformly in length so if you see a gap it’s very often going to be a gap on the bottom as well, and not just a shorter section of weed. I have never done particularly well fishing actually in amongst the stems of Canadian Pondweed and I always try to find a clear piece of bottom to present the bait.

Donking a lead (without a marker float) using a braided line is the best way of feeling for a clear area but the actual ‘drop’ of the lead is just as important as the ‘feel’ as it hits the bottom. By trapping the lead on the surface after the cast you can control the drop and you should feel for any slight knocks or pulls on the line as it sinks, if you feel any resistance on the way down then you know you are through the weed rather than next to it.

The same goes for pulling the lead back to see if it is clear, you should always stop at the end of the pull and lower the rod tip back the way it has just come. If the lead then sinks and hits bottom again it stands to reason that it must have been off the bottom at the end of the pull, this will be the line running over the weed and lifting the lead up, the length of the drop will give you the length of the weed. If it’s a true clear area than the lead should stay in contact with the bottom as you slowly pull it across the bottom and not re-sink when you slacken off.

Another common weed that likes the margins is Silkweed; this type of weed only really flourishes in shallow and well lit water and is often a lot more manageable than it first seems. The problem with Silkweed is that it looks so terrible when you reel it in, the reality though is that you are ‘gathering’ the individual stems and releasing the water that holds them apart as you lift your rig from the lake, this makes it look a lot thicker than it actually is on the bottom. I have caught hundreds of fish by fishing on silkweed, just let the rig fall into it and NEVER pull it back in the slightest. As long as the weed is not ridiculously thick your bait will be presented to a degree that the fish can still pick it up. Using longer than normal nylon or fluorocarbon hooklinks will help but the main trick is to trap and lower your bait making sure it stays where it falls.

Silkweed out in the middle of the lake is a bit like a ‘magic marker’ as it always denotes a change in depth and bottom make up, like a bar, plateau or shallow hump and, more often than not it is associated with sandier or gravelly lake beds areas, giving you an perfect feature to fish to.

The easiest way to check it is truly clear is with a rig, as the hook will gather the weed every time so, if your hook comes back clean you have found what you need.

Milfoil is another form of weed that is fairly common in our lakes, it can sometimes be mistaken for Canadian but it is actually very different indeed. Whereas Canadian has quite uniform short leaves, Milfoil has a thicker stem and supports little sprigs of three or four leaves all spaced in clumps out along the stem. It also grows easily in deep water and is, without doubt, my least favourite weed of the lot.

Milfoil can totally choke whole areas of the lake and it cuts down light dramatically, it also attracts and collects algae and particles of all sorts creating a murky environment which, I believe, the fish do not particularly like so I never fish within it. I always look for large clear areas nearby that I can be sure are well fishable. But this type of weed is only usually present on lakes that have a good head of mixed weed so, for lightly weeded lakes it is not usually a contender.

Whichever type of weed you may encounter the one thing that will dictate successes or frustrating failure is your level of accuracy when placing your bait. Try to use the reflections on the lakes surface, tree line shapes, line markers, clips and everything else at your disposal to ensure, once you have found a spot, that you can confidently keep placing the rig on the same area, close enough is not good enough when fishing in and around weed.

Simply substituting bottom baits for pop-ups is no guarantee of success and, although I have seen it written a thousand times, casting a solid PVA bag into thick weed has never, not once, done me any favours whatsoever!

I think a good way of mentally dealing with weed is this; imagine the bed of the lake totally barren, the fish can feed wherever they want and you can present a bait anywhere you wish, perfect, or is it?

Now imagine 70% of the lake bed covered with weed in which you cannot present a bait at all, to me that has just made everything so much easier as I am now only looking for the right spot in 30% of the total area, surely that’s easier than trying to find a feeding area somewhere out there with no clues whatsoever.

So, what of rigs, is it necessary to completely re-think your approach to weed, personally I don’t think it is. Unless you have massive weed beds that can really effect the strength of your fishing tackle then most standard set up’s are more than adequate and, if you have found clean spots to fish then bottom baits are also fine.

The one thing that will help is to have a decent lead release system that comes into play when you hook a fish as a lead on the line can cause no end of problems if a fish makes it to the sanctuary of a sub surface weed forest. I would strongly recommend that, whatever lead clip you choose, it is one that pins to the swivel otherwise weed will force the whole clip, complete with lead back up the line, causing the lead to stay put and travel back on the leader and cause no end of problems.

Simple is important in weed, as a complicated rig that relies on sliding rings, and balanced components, can easily become hampered by the smallest strand of weed and less effective as a result.

I have touched on the subject of accuracy with your rigs in weed but what about baiting up, is it necessary to get every single bait you put in, onto the clear area?

Personally I think it works against you and I deliberately scatter some baits into the surrounding weed, although it is hard for you to fish in the weed it is not hard for the fish to feed in it, and this helps to increase the size of the areas as they rip up the weed as the root around in the stems. By breaking up boilies you change the sink rate of the bait and its ability to work its way to the bottom where it might lay hidden from view, bits of broken bait hanging at various levels in the weed is a good attractor and will help the fish home in on your clearer baited area.

If you fish a clear spot regularly and keep the bait going in you will probably notice that the spot just keeps getting bigger, a sure sign that you are getting everything right and the fish are regularly feeding and uprooting the weed in your swim.