Early Pike Fishing

After the fluky zander I told you about in the last blog, I returned for a proper go, bivvying up for two days. The zander tend to feed at long range in this water and I put out roach deadbaits over 100 yards via my Microcat, each being dropped accompanied by four or five sectioned baits which had been soaked in fish oils. I was really confident of action, at least from the big pike the water holds if not from the zander. But I came home a beaten man 48 hours later. In all that time, I had just one pike about 12lb plus a dropped run that I am fairly sure was from a zander.

With the zander fishing apparently at full stop for everyone else also, I switched my attention for the last few sessions to another water I am targeting for big pike this winter. On the first two days, in mid October, I had just three runs on mackerel tail, but they were all nice fish between 13lb 8ozs and 15lb 4ozs. I was fascinated to see the most incredibly dense shoals of roach, stretching from the margins to well over forty yards from the bank. Perhaps that explained the plague of around thirty cormorants working the water. It might also explain the low number of runs to big deadbaits, but I rarely switch to small livebaits at this time of the year as you can be plagued by jacks. I would honestly rather blank than catch 4lb pike!

My tackle usually consists of some beefed up coarse fishing tackle, leader is 15 lb TFG redmist mono and heavy, 3.25 or 3.5 test curve rods deal with casting larger dead baits long distances.

The last two days have given me real hope that the coming winter could throw up something special. On Wednesday, after arriving at the crack of dawn, I was away on a joey mackerel almost before it was fully light. Ten minutes later, I was unhooking a lovely looking fish of 14lb 12ozs and when this was followed ten minutes later by a 12lb 6oz specimen the omens were looking good.

By mid morning, the strong southerly wind was really gusting, luckily directly behind me. That made an extra long cast with a large deadbait straightforward and at midday a half mackerel was picked up at about seventy yards range by something that felt very big indeed. I have never felt that pike are particularly impressive fighters, when compared with carp or barbel, but this one wanted to give me a scrap. I managed to pump it within about thirty yards fairly easily but then the fun started. I lost count of the times I had it within feet of the net cord before it surged off again, taking yards of line against the clutch. I suppose it was a good fifteen minutes after the run that the fish eventually folded into the net, and I could see that it was certainly a twenty plus. When I had it on the unhooking mat, I saw a magnificent, darkly mottled fish in absolutely tip top condition. It took the scales to 23lb 8ozs, a great start to the winter campaign.

There was to be one more fish before I packed up at dusk, another chunky fish of 15lb 9ozs, to complete a quartet with a very pleasing average size. I was back in the same swim yesterday morning and again the dawn period did not disappoint. This time, however, I had two runs simultaneously, making my decision to set up two landing nets a wise precaution. Once I’d landed the first fish, it was placed safely in the net in the margins while I dealt with the other fish. Both were safely unhooked and released, two more cracking fish of 17lb 12ozs and 19lb 4ozs. Again, they were in brilliant condition.

After that dawn flurry, there was to be no more action until mid afternoon, when the third and last fish put in an appearance. Again, it was a nice double of 16lb 12ozs, maintaining the quite remarkable average size. I also had two baits picked up by cormorants. Luckily, they both dropped the baits. Aren’t they the most horrible birds! This winter could produce something exciting. Although I’ve had lots of 20lb plus pike in my career, I’ve only had two over 25lbs. My target is to make that three before the season’s over.

Kindle

For all those of you into e-books, I have just placed my third book on Kindle. The first two were titled Top Tactics for Big Barbel and Top Tactics for Big Chub and the titles really say it all. The newest book is called My Big Fish Life and is an autobiography of over 50 years of specimen hunting. It runs to well over 150 pages with 100 plus photographs and is priced at only around £4. I would welcome feedback from all those of you who have my Kindle books or intend to get them, as I intend to complete the Top Tactics series with all the major coarse species.

Coarse fishing on a Whim

A PRODUCTIVE SHORT SESSION

Ten days after the last session I told you about, my youngest daughter had to undergo a very serious shoulder operation, meaning that my wife and I had to be on hand to help with our two year old grandson when my son-in-law had to be at work. My daughter has been told she cannot do any lifting for at least three months so my sessions were necessarily short and close to home from mid September. By the end of November things will hopefully be back to normal.

Just before her operation, I again joined Alan Lawrence for a two day Ouse carp/tench session. After the aggravation with signal crayfish on the previous trip we both went in from the off with popped up rubber corn on both fishing rods, in conjunction with sweetcorn laced method mix. We also baited with loose corn via our Spombs. By the time I was sorted on the first day in was mid afternoon, but only ten minutes after casting, both rods were away almost simultaneously. The first yielded a 6lb bream, closely followed by a hard fighting male tench of 6lb 14ozs. An hour later, another 6lb plus tench came calling and then, just before dark, I had a tremendous scrap with a muscular common carp of 10lb 14ozs. It went quiet then for a while and although I had caught no big fish I had thoroughly enjoyed the opening exchanges.

10lb 14oz Common Carp

Around midnight, Alan reported that he’d had a sudden flurry of bream, with four fish in a matter of only ten minutes, and then it was my turn. I only had two fish, around 2.00 am, but they were both nice fish of just over 8lbs.

The onset of daylight saw the tench become active and we both had three fish in the first hour, after which it was very quiet for the rest of the day. In fact, the light was fading before we had any other action, when two more bream each at least reminded us what a bite looked like. The entire dark hours were blank for both of us, highly unusual for that stretch which has such a large bream population. We were both leaving not long after dawn, but managed one more average tench each before packing away. The fishing had been patchy and apart from my common, the target species had again failed to materialise. But the tench and bream fishing had been very enjoyable. On a river, 6lb plus tench are big fish, although they wouldn’t raise many eyebrows on most gravel pits!

8lb + Bream After Dark

The first of my single day sessions was the following week, at a local lake with a night fishing ban. It is strictly dawn till dusk only, but with a decent stock density of good carp there is rarely a day when you can’t get a couple of fish. The stock is mainly mid doubles to mid twenties, but there have been three different thirties taken to 34lb. The most popular swims on the water are four where a 70 yard cast reaches the fringes of a long, narrow central island. Carp regularly patrol there, as they do in most waters with similar features, and I had enjoyed several good days there over the last two seasons. On this trip, however, I decided to fish a tight little swim, hemmed in  by willows each side, and put two baits in close, barely thirty yards out. Before I set up, I fired out half a kilo of 14mm boilies, scattering them well to give a browsing area the size of a tennis court at least. Twenty minutes later, with two rigs in place, I put the kettle on.

It took a while for the first action to occur, but at 11.00am the left hand carp fishing rod was shaking in the rests and the reel spool was a blur. What a run that was! After a great scrap, a long, lean muscular common carp of 18lb 12oz lay in the net, a good start. That first fish opened the floodgates. Only minutes after the recast, and topping up with another 100 boilies, the same rod was away again, and this time an 18lb plus mirror eventually rolled into the net. Without boring you with a blow by blow account, from midday until I had to leave at 8.00pm, I landed a further 15 carp, as well as losing one in a snag. The smallest I landed was a common of 13lbs, and the catch included a brace of 20lb commons, of 20-8 and 21-6. As I said for the Ouse fishing, no really big fish, but 17 carp in a day, all over 13lbs and including two twenties, is good fun in anyone’s language. Even for an out and out specimen hunter like me, it’s great to have a lot of good fish occasionally. It makes the hard days and the blanks easier to bear.

The following week, I decided on an overnighter at another local water, which has produced bream to about 14lbs in the past, although doubles are hard to come by. It is only about three miles from home, making it the ideal place for an overnighter should the need arise to get home quickly. The water does contain a big head of bream of all sizes and it is vital to go in heavy with the loose feed to have any hope at all of holding a shoal long enough to catch one or two. The previous afternoon, I’d been over for two hours, when I’d introduced about 10kg of mixed particle feed, as well as a Kilo of 14mm boilies and twenty large balls of a method mix and Vitalin combination. I would be fishing three rods on different baits, one on a boilie, one on popped up rubber corn and the other on a lobworm/corn cocktail.

On the day itself, after a further baiting via my Spomb, I commenced fishing at around midday and packed up some two hours after dawn the next morning. Fish came steadily, and I had four bream up to dusk, best just over 9lbs. Then, as soon as it was fully dark, the bream went potty. From 11.00pm until 3.00am I landed no fewer than nine more fish, best 10lb 4ozs, mostly to boilie baits with two to popped up rubber corn. Surprisingly, there was no interest on the lobworm bait.

The most interesting fish of the session was the last, caught just before dawn. Following a screaming take on rubber corn, I played a strong fish for ages on the light feeder rod, convinced it was a rare big nocturnal tench. When it surfaced, however, I was amazed to see my first ever zander, fairly lip hooked in the scissors. I had intended targeting the species sometime this season, but to get my first in such a way was a little bizarre. Despite the slightly unsatisfactory manner of its capture, I was pleased with my first zander and soon recorded a weight of 7lb 14ozs. At least I can claim another personal best this season!

7lb 14 oz Zander

On the River at Last!

Fishing I was really looking forward to at the start of the river season was overnight sessions on the Great Ouse after carp and tench. In recent years, carp to over 33lb have been taken and I know of at least one 9lb plus tench. For a river fish, that is monstrous. My own biggest ever river tench is a 7lb 11oz specimen taken a few years ago and my target this season was a relatively modest 8lbs. That is not such a big deal these days for a gravel pit, but it is still a rare capture in flowing water.

The obvious problem early in the season was the floods. While they might have been conducive to barbel feeding, conditions were poor for the overnighters for tench and carp we had planned. At long last, however, a couple of weeks ago we had a river at normal height and clarity for July and set up for two nights on the banks of the Great Ouse. Once again, I was fishing with my good mate Alan Lawrence, in swims about forty yards apart. I fished the first night on my own, Alan joining me the next morning. The stretch we like for this fishing is wider than average for the upper Ouse, fairly clear of bottom weed but featuring wide lily bed margins along both banks. The tench particularly colonise these lilies and we’ve found that by targeting any little bays in the cabbages we can create small hot spots. For the carp, they tend to hold off the lilies toward the deeper water and the usual approach is to put one bait hard against the cabbages under the opposite bank, but drop the other bait a few yards short.

I started to prepare my swim at around midday, baiting with around 100 15mm boilies initially, plus several Spombs full of hemp and corn. I would be fishing method feeders, with method ball packed with corn around my Stonze weight on each cast. The reason for the heavy corn contribution was because of the signal crayfish problem. Last year, after the first day catching on boilies, the crays moved in and made boilie fishing impossible. A switch to rubber corn caught a couple of tench. This year, at the slightest sign of signal interference, I would revert to popped up rubber corn on both fishing rods. My fishing tackle set up comprised a matched pair of Lite Speed 2.5lb carp rods, probably a little over gunned for tench but certainly not for a big river carp. These were matched with a pair of Dave Lane Speedrunners.

With the preparation complete, I set up my camp and made my first casts at around 4.00pm. I was unprepared for quite such an instant reaction because, only twenty minutes later, I’d already caught two tench, both just over six pounds. They gave lightening fast runs, just like carp. River tench really are an exciting quarry. The third tench was the fish I’d set my heart on. After a great battle in and out of the far bank lilies I finally had the upper hand and slid the net under a very big tench. When I confirmed 8lb 2oz I was over the moon. The rest of the evening continued in similar vein, with four more tench falling to my boilies and no apparent interference from signals. As darkness fell, however, I started to get little twitches and gently wound in to find boilies nibbled away and hair stops miraculously removed. It was time for the rubber corn and thereafter the signal problem stopped. I had one more tench before it became completely dark, a lovely 7-4 specimen, and then the bream moved in. I had five of them in the dark hours, to a little over 7lbs, but there was no sign of a carp run. The bream are interesting. Still water bream of 7lbs tend to be flaccid, anaemic creatures, but these Ouse bream really scrap and they are not slimy like their still water counterparts. I have had several Ouse bream just short of double figures, plus one specimen of 11lb 4ozs and they are very worthwhile targets. As soon as it was fully light, the tench began feeding again and I had another three, plus two more bream, before I wound in to get some breakfast in the van and then a couple of hours sleep.

Alan joined me in late morning and was as delighted as I’d been with my 8lb tench. He prepared his swim exactly as I’d prepared mine, with the exception that he started on the rubber corn from the off. In my swim, I reverted to boilies when I restarted fishing, and did catch one nice tench and two bream before the crays moved in again. By tea time I was on rubber corn on both rods, which produced three more tench before dark. Strangely, the second night was completely blank; I never had a twitch in the dark hours. Only as dawn was breaking did I get another couple of fish before it was time to go. I hadn’t seen a sign of a carp in my swim over the 48 hours but Alan did have some carp action. He landed an 8lb mirror but the main event was a big common that came adrift at the net cord at midnight. He reckoned it would have been a good twenty; what a pity he lost it. He also landed about a dozen tench and bream and all in all it had been a good opening session.

I was well pleased. With sixteen tench to 8lb 2oz and ten bream to over 7lbs I’d had a great time and I can’t wait to get back down there. I’ve had to adjust my tench sights to 9lb now; never satisfied, are we!

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.

Dave Lane filming the TFG Carp Fishing DVD

Well it’s been all change for me recently, I’ve finished on Monks Pit and I’ve deferred Black swan sailing lake for a year or two so it’s on to pastures new.

I figured that there was very little left in Monks for me to target, having caught most of the known biggies bar about two or three and two years is about enough for me on any water really. There are too many places I want to fish and too little time to fish them all. Black Swan was a different story as I still love the place and I know in my heart that I am not finished on there yet but I needed a break and the arrival of a new ticket helped make up mind.

I have been trying to get onto a new gravel pit in the Nene Valley and, as from April, I have finally managed it and it’s exciting times ahead.

The lake has only been officially fished for the past year so it is still full of mystery and intrigue and this, more than anything, is what seems to spur me on the most.

Before I could make my first trip however, I was needed over at the Linear complex in Oxford to make a new  TF Gear carp fishing DVD to go on the front cover of next month’s Total Carp.

I hadn’t been over to Linear for a few years but I always used to be a fairly regular visitor, often fishing there in the winter and also attending charity events in the warmer months, something I intend to resume later this year actually.

The filming was booked for the end of the bank holiday weekend which, in reality, could have been a big problem as the lakes were packed but, luckily, we had managed to book an area in advance and there were signs of fish out there right from the off.

Catching fish for the camera is always a fraught affair, if it doesn’t go right on the day or the fish are just not playing the game then a lot of time and money can be wasted so it always starts off as a bit of a pressure situation. Not only that but there is a lot of behind the scenes action going on so it can be tricky to concentrate on the lake which is something I like to do totally; I find that just watching the water can give you all the answers you need. Luckily for me I had a good crew there and most of the time I was free to ‘do my own thing’ and, once I had found the right range and a rig that worked the fish started to come.

We were on Brasenose two, which is well stocked with nice looking carp in the high doubles and twenties but, due to the early time of year, a lot of these were determined to stay out at long range. I was using the new TF Gear Multi-Flex carp rod, which comes with twin tips and I was genuinely amazed at how well they performed at range, bearing in mind I was hitting about one hundred and ten yards range to land on the fish and using fifteen pound line. The rods have two different top sections, one at 2.75lb for all close in work and the other at 3.5lb for long range stuff. It’s a brilliant idea really as it saves having two sets of rods for different waters or approaches or even times of the year and the action is superb on either set-up.

A couple of the fish were really nice mid-twenties and every one of them, no matter what the size, fought like a tiger all the way to the bank. On occasions I was amazed just how hard they did pull but it was all good fun and a great demonstration of the tackle I was using at the time.

I won’t go into too much detail and ruin the DVD but the whole session went really well and, on the second day the fish got up in the water and started moving around a bit which gave me the opportunity for a bit of zig fishing as well. If you do you watch the disk, which will be on the front of the June Total Carp issue, look out for the takes while we are actually filming other stuff, or sitting by the rods chatting as these are genuine takes and not mocked up for the camera. Moments like those are so hard to capture on film and were worth their weight in gold as they occurred, as if on cue, and really gave the finishing touches in my view. You might also see my new carp dog making an appearance or two, I’m not 100% sure if he will be in the finished version but he spent most of the session doing his upmost to appear on camera and, behind the scenes, there was a permanent ‘stick thrower’ trying to keep him otherwise amused.

All in all it was a highly successful session and, although tiring, we ended up with loads of good footage, I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to edit it all!

 

 

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.

Dave Lane Carp Fishing Diary

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the last couple of weeks, we have finally left winter behind and, apart from the odd cold snap, its been a glorious start to March.

At the end of February it was show-time for me, I travelled out to France with TF Gear for the huge French Expo which is by far the largest carp show I have ever seen.

We had a stand there and, although I can’t speak much French, I could tell straight away that certain items were getting lots of attention. The new range of DL carp rods went down a storm but, by far, the biggest interest was in the clothing, especially the thermo-tec range.

We have recently added a couple of new additions to the range, including a lighter weight version of the smock top that I use all the time so now, thankfully, I can wear it all year around. It was nice to get such a positive reaction to everything and I think we will be making good inroads into Europe this coming year.

The very next week was the Five Lakes show in Essex, where I had a slot booked on the stage both mornings for a forum type chat with Chilly and Darrel Peck. I thought that went really well and between us we put the world to rights, or tried to anyway!

On the fishing front it started off a bit slow but I suppose the water temperatures were at their lowest, what with all that melted water ice pouring in but it picked up eventually.

I fished a session just at the beginning of March and, for once, I actually saw a few fish showing in the morning, this made the location a lot easier and a little bit of black foam fished on a zig rig done the rest. Presenting the bait six feet off the bottom in fifteen feet of water I had a typical jerky type bite and connected with a hard fighting carp, one that I sort of knew was fairly large right from the outset. It had that slow and plodding feel to it that often comes from the bigger mirrors in the lake and, as soon as it appeared from the gin clear depths I knew I wasn’t mistaken. I played him carefully up to the surface, aware of the tiny size eight super specialist hook that was keeping us connected but, in reality, I need not have worried as he was nailed in the toughest part of the mouth. At thirty six and a half pounds he was the biggest fish out since the thaw and I was well pleased with my result.

Unfortunately I went on to lose another one later that afternoon when the hook didn’t find quite such a good hold and the weed proved just too much to overcome, although I convinced myself it was only a small one. It’s always a lot easier to bear if you can kid yourself it wasn’t a big fish isn’t it?

The strange thing was though, the nicer the weather became, the worse the lake seemed to fish. The first day of the session it was howling winds and overcast and there were bites all round the lake but, on the second day, when the sun shone through in glorious fashion, the lake just seemed to shut up shop. In retrospect I should have fished much longer links on my zigs as I am sure the fish were up near the surface but, as they say, hindsight is a wonderful gift!

My next trip will be back to Black Swan Lake, the big gravel pit I targeted in the summer as the season on there finishes at the end of the month and I’d like to get a couple more carp out of there while I have a chance, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Dave Lane Carp Fishing Diary

On the Bank

At last, after what seems like an eternity with the lakes frozen solid and snow on the ground, we finally have a thaw.

Most of the lakes have returned to their liquid state over the past few days and once again little green houses are springing up all over the banks.

Personally I still have a couple of days left to wait before I can get out there but I have plenty of writing to do and a bit of tackle maintenance to keep me busy until then.

Just before the freeze up I was starting to get into the swing of things over at Monks pit. I had the twenty seven pound mirror that I wrote about, in the huge gale force winds and, the very next week, I managed to sneak out two more fish to add to the tally.

Having found an area where I could get a bite I had returned to the same swim and clipped the fishing rods up using the same bank-side markers as the previous week.

Luckily though, the weather was slightly more agreeable this time, although still extremely windy there had been a slight change in direction and it was predominately blowing over my shoulder, making the spodding of maggots and casting of PVA bags considerably easier.

With the rigs in position I settled in for the night as all the bites seem to be during the hours of darkness in the winter on Monks. All the bites on the bottom anyway as, once the zigs start to kick into gear, the daytimes become a lot more productive.

The first bite came at half past one, which is actually quite early and left me very hopeful for another one before dawn but it wasn’t to be because the next thing I knew was staring out at the sunrise.

At twenty six pounds I was well happy with my result but another fish would really have been the icing on the cake. I stuck the kettle on for the first brew of the day but, before it had got to the boil, one of the remaining rods was away, a daytime bite at last!

Although this fish was a bit smaller at just over twenty one pounds it gave me no end of grief, tangling in one of the other lines and, eventually, forcing me to go out in the boat to land it but at least I had a daylight photograph at the end of it, well worth a bit of mucking about on the water and getting cold and wet.

My next trip unfortunately coincided with the start of a vicious cold snap and, as I packed up after a blank two nights, I could see big sheets of ice forming out in the middle of the lake which is not a good sign at all. I’d spent the entire time fishing headfirst into a biting Easterly wind with night time temperatures well below zero, I was certainly glad of my Thermotex jacket that session I can tell you, I practically live in the thing at the moment as it’s the warmest piece of fishing clothing I’ve ever owned.

Once the wind died off though, it was odds on that the lake would freeze and the very next day I received a phone call to say the entire lake had iced over.

Now, three weeks later, I am checking lines, tying new rigs and getting ready for a new assault and I can’t wait!

Preparation

With the winter looking like it might well be coming to an end all eyes are on the future. Thoughts of spring, albeit a bit premature, are in everybody’s minds and plans are being made for the season ahead.

At this time of year I like to have a good old clean out of my tackle bags and check that everything is in tip top condition for the year ahead, after all, once the fishing really does get underway I am too busy to be bothered with routine maintenance and all I can think about is my next fish.

Lines are one of the most important things and we rely on them totally but, all too often, we don’t give them the attention they deserve. I have been guilty of it so many times in the past and I can still remember years ago, on Wraysbury, losing the fish of a lifetime one spring session because I hadn’t bothered to check the line that had sat on my spool all winter. It doesn’t take long to strip off three spools of line and re-load them with brand new monofilament or braid. I do mine in the garden using a bucket of water to place the new spool in and a soft glove to hold tension on the line, preventing finger burns from the friction and helping to keep the correct tension on the new line. I simply set up the rod and wind it straight out of the bucket onto the spool.

A spool of the new ‘Nan-Tech’ line costs under a tenner for a bulk spool that will easily load three reels which, I think, is a very small price to pay for total peace of mind.

I had a hand in the development of this line, recommending a supplier and line type that I had previously used and then improving the finished product by increasing the suppleness and abrasion resistance of the line so I can honestly recommend this as the best monofilament I’ve ever used, if it wasn’t then I would still be trying to develop one that was!

Dave Lane – First Trip of the Season

My first trip of the year was on January the second, which just happened to coincide with one of the biggest low pressure systems of the winter sweeping across the country, the forecast was pretty foreboding and they were talking about storm force winds and rain, not something you usually get the fishing rods out in?

For some reason that I still cannot figure I had decided to fish on the opposite bank to the one I usually favour, I think my reasoning was something to do with the dog actually. On the road bank of the lake Paddy only gets a pathway behind the swims and I thought that he could do with the extra exercise that the grassy area of the far bank offers. Also, I had been concentrating on the road bank for the last few trips and I was getting a bit bored of the same old view every week so it would make a nice change for me too. The fish can come out from either side and the mild weather seems to have kept them on the move a bit this year so I was just as confident whichever side I chose.

The rocky bank (as it is known) would have the disadvantage of the wind pumping straight into it but, as I’d arrived before the worst of it had hit, I was confident that I could get enough bait out there at the start and just fish over it for the two nights ahead, regardless of the conditions.

If I had realised at the time quite how severe it was going to get then I might have chosen differently but, by lunchtime I was quite happy with my swim choice, the bait had spodded out there without too much hassle and I had all four rods on good, clean areas.

By mid afternoon I was starting to have doubts as the wind had trebled in strength and the waves were starting to crash into the front of my swim, which unfortunately faced straight out into the strengthening weather. By the time it got dark the full force of the low pressure system was upon me and the radio was saying the winds were gusting at sixty miles and hour but, from where I sat, it felt more like 160 miles an hour!

If there ever was going to be a test for the new bivvy then this was the night, I had to have the door zipped firmly down the entire time as the wind would have inflated the sides and ripped the pegs out in seconds if not. Throughout the first half of the night it was unbelievably bad and then, about midnight, it was as if somebody had a switched on an extra turbo-booster and any chance of sleep went out the window.

At one stage I risked going out for a wee and found that my unhooking mat, rod bag and all the extra little bits and pieces I had left outside (including a bucket of maggots) were all strewn across the field behind me, hanging from bushes and brambles.

At half past five in the morning, just as the wind was at it’s very strongest, one of the rods burst into life and I actually groaned in pain at the thought of having to go out there and deal with a fish. I’d half thought it might just be a big tree branch blowing through the lines or something but no; it was definitely a carp and an angry one as well. It was almost impossible to feel what was happening at the other end of the line; in fact it was all I could do to stand upright. The worst part was the netting, as I lifted the net off the ground it was like putting up a sail, it was almost ripped out of my hand.

Somehow though, between the waves, the uncontrollable landing net and the driving rain I managed to scoop up my hard won prize and I was pleased to see that it was considerably bigger than the previous weeks offering.

Hiding behind the fir trees to the side of the swim I managed to get enough shelter to weigh him in at twenty seven pounds, a fair reward for all the endurance I suppose.

The photography was a bit hairy though as I has to set up my nice new camera on a tripod and just pray that the wind didn’t smash it to pieces before I could gat a couple of quick shots.

With the fish all sorted and returned I unzipped the door and climbed back into the comparative warmth and serenity of the bivvy only to find that my bed had been totally dog-napped and he was fast asleep with his head on my pillow!

The next day was one of the wettest and most miserable days imaginable, I really wanted to move to somewhere more comfortable (like home) but the rain just slashed down relentlessly and I decided the easiest move was to zip the door back down and go to bed, staying put for yet another wild night. Luckily though there was a slight shift in the wind, the southerly stopped and left only the strong westerly which meant that it wasn’t blowing straight at me anymore and I could actually have the luxury of an open doorway. Once again though I had the only bite of the session and the fish decided not to make a return visit for the second night. I was pleased to get the first one of the year under my belt but there must be a way of getting more than one bite every forty eight hours.

Next week I think I’ll either move about a bit more or maybe fish all four rods on different depth zigs in the hours of daylight before swapping back to the bottom for the nights. Whatever happens though, I doubt I’ll fish in conditions as severe as that again for a while.

Oh, and by the way, the bivvy stayed rock solid for the entire trip so it passed it big test with flying colours and I also managed to retrieve all my missing gear from the bushes, although most of the maggots had managed to make good their escape.