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.

 

TF Gear Trail Blazer Barrow and Bag

TFG Trail Blazer Barrow

I’ve tested out the new TF Gear Trail Blazer Barrow for some time now, and really put it through its paces. It caters for all my angling needs, from carting my excessive amount of fishing tackle around a 70 acre lake for 3 days fishing, to light loads for a day session. The barrow is lightweight and has adjustable front and side bars for larger loads with 2 adjustable back legs. When fully loaded, the barrow has a good centre balance and really impressed me by not tipping over – something which has happened to me on numerous previous occasions. The barrow comes with 2 bungee ropes that hook onto 4 rings which are built into the framework for better grip.
The frame is lightweight and has a removable wheel for ease of loading in your car, with screw-in hands making the barrow useable in a matter of seconds. The tyre has good tread that is nice and thin which helps when pushing over rough terrain. You can even place 2 buckets at the back of the barrow which will rest on the 2 bars perfectly when requiring more space.

TF Gear Force 8 Heavy Duty Barrow Bag

The barrow bag is the perfect accessory for the barrow, with a hard top and bottom and heavy duty material which will protects all your gear inside. The bag comes with 4 large pockets on the outside, and one large pocket in the lid with a heavy duty zip. Inside the bag there are pockets built into the back and sides for easy organisation of your tackle. For the best result, try 2 barrow bags –  this will take all your gear and fits on the barrow perfectly side by side.

The Heat is On!

High temperatures and bright weather aren’t my favourite conditions to be carp fishing in, but I’d booked the Friday off work so Thursday night – with car packed – I was off to my syndicate water in Herefordshire. A stunning estate lake with some of the best-looking carp I have ever seen. Thursday night was quiet, just a good tench of 8lb 6oz and a new lake record (which was very pleasing but not exactly what I was after); the rest of the night drifted by quietly. Friday dawned calm and hot, and unfortunately some of the lake’s residents had started to spawn! Talking to the other members on the lake, we all thought that with these conditions it was going to be a struggle.

I walk around the lake and climb a few trees to see what’s happening, and find a group of carp feeding well away from the spawning fish;  clearly, a move was in order. My TF Gear Chill-out bivvy is soon moved to my new swim, rods cast out just as the late afternoon sun is starting to lose some of its bite. The lake is crystal clear and one of the most important bits of tackle I have for these conditions is the Tfgear Secret Trap fluorocarbon main line, which is almost invisible in the water. Having a  higher specific gravity than water it sinks really well, and on slack lines it is almost like having backleads on – which helps not to spook any of the fish in the area. Within 10 minutes of setting up in my new swim, one of my TFgear Glimmer bite alarms screams into life and the left hand Tsi rod cast close to the far tree line is in action. The fish comes in to about 30yds quite easily – making me think it was maybe one of the smaller fish in the lake – when suddenly it banks to the right and a slow solid run that’s impossible to stop takes 50-60yds of line off me in one go. The fish now kites even tighter to my right and my line is now going through the tree branches. The forgiving tip on the Tsi rod cushions the carp lunges, but with the line now precariously caught up there’s only one option – into the water I go! 10 to 15 minutes later and I’m slowly making some ground on the fish, it rolls out about 15yds and the action of my 3.5lb Tsi is great even at this close range. A couple more minutes and I slip my net under a very large common, but its not till I try to lift the net from the water when I realise I have the lake’s biggest resident; a stunning common that sends the scales round to settle on 40lb 8oz, a new lake record.

40lb 8oz Common – a new lake record.

Pictures taken and congratulations from the other guys, and I settle back down with all rods recast. I retreat to my Comfort-zone fishing bed chair, looking back through the pictures on the camera to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, before drifting off to sleep. I have a few liners in the night so fish are still in the area, but a quiet night overall – not that I’m too bothered. Up early and Saturday is much the same, hot and sunny. I sit out watching the lake wake up, kettle on for an early morning brew when suddenly my middle rod is away. After a very hard fight I slip the net under another stunning common, the scales settle at 30lb 4oz a great result and another lake record falls – the largest brace ever taken on the lake, it really can’t get much better this!

The second Common, yet another lake record

I have to recast all 3 rods after playing the last fish; with all the commotion I was not expecting any more action, so I sit back down to finish boiling the kettle and make some breakfast. The fish have other ideas, and incredibly I’m in again after a good fight as a stunning 25lb mirror comes to the bank. What a session – after 5 years on the water, and many blanks in what seemed perfect conditions, a couple of days I thought would be tough tough turn out to be a record session. I slowly pack down and make my way home, and I think only another angler will know the feeling of satisfaction you get when it all comes together in a session of a lifetime.

25lb Mirror, last catch of the session.

Margin Fishing

How many of us inspect the margins when we arrive at a lake?

You might want to, if you want to improve your catch rate. Fishing for carp in the margins can be extremely productive if you find the right places and apply good angling tactics. How many fishermen/fisherwomen ignore the margins when fishing? They see all that water out in front of them and think that the fish must be out there. I often see anglers using three fishing rods with all of them cast out to the far bank. With so many anglers casting out far it makes the margins a safe place for carp to hang out. In fact, the margins can even be the best places to target the bigger carp in the lake.

Fishing in the Margins

As long as you’re quiet when setting up and fishing, you can take fish from the margins in most lakes. Carp have great hearing and will be able to pick up vibrations from the surrounding bank, so you do need to be as quiet as possible.

Centre Pin Fishing Reel

When it comes to margin fishing I tend to use a small 8ft rod and centre pin reel; this allows me to fish in-between trees, and other places where it would be hard to use a 12ft rod. It’s best to wear dark green or brown fishing clothing, or better still, use camouflage clothing, as you can blend into the surrounding. I like to find the more subtle features rather than the obvious ones such as overhanging trees, island banks, etc. I like to look for features like undercut banks, posts or trees sticking out of the water, small bulrushes, bushes, lily pads or inlet pipes all these can be ideal feeding spots for carp.

Carp taking bait

I like to use a small float, 8lb fluorocarbon line and a size 10 hook partnered with good quality bait. One of my best methods is to wrap paste around a small boilie, many fish have taken using this approach, as the carp are not wised up to these methods. So as the weather starts to warm up go out and have a go, this is a very rewarding way of catching carp guaranteed to provide a good fight whatever size fish you’ve hooked into.

Landing the Carp

All the best and good fishing!

Fantastic result!

Floater fishing the Total Fishing Gear Way

Summer’s now with us and as we all know carp love to get the sun on their backs, so its time to look to the surface for our action throughout the day. Stalking carp off the surface has to be one of the most exciting forms of fishing there is but week after week through the summer we visit lake and see carp cruising in front of anglers who sit there watching motionless bobbins seemingly oblivious to what’s in front of them.So we would like to go through some of the basics to help you catch a few of those sun bathing carp.

A little more thought.
90% of the anglers that do venture out to catch carp of the surface grab a bag of Pedigree chum and start firing them out at the first fish they see. With a little more thought and preparation you’ll find that your catch rate will improve dramatically.

Flavoured dog biscuits
A simple tactic that will put more fish on the bank for you is flavouring and adding oils to your free offerings which will draw carp from some distance away and also draw carp up to the surface. One of our favourite mixes and one that we would never be without on the bank is the TFGear Hot Krill and Special Brew mix. Mix around 100-200ml of Hot Krill oil and 100ml of Special Brew together, pour a 2kg bag of Pedigree chum dog biscuits into an airtight container then add the liquid mix seal the lid and give it a good shake until all the biscuits have a good covering, then leave overnight to soak in. The Hot Krill oil will float on the surface creating a calm slick around the free offerings while the Special Brew being water based will sink through the water column drawing fish to the surface.

Hook baits
I know many top carp anglers who still use dog biscuit as hook baits but we find this way too time consuming. Hair rigged cut down boilies are the way we do most of our surface fishing and the boilie of choice at the moment is a cropped down 15mm Amino Active CSL boilie hair rigged to a Korda widegape size 10 hook.

Controllers
Without doubt the best surface controller is the TFGear surface missile in the 30gm size, this casts up to 80yds with ease and due to the design of it when the carp takes it will act like a bolt rig and the weight and shape will help to hook more fish. Using a hook length of around 6ft and greasing this up to 1ft before the hook will also help hook-ups.

Rod
Fishing rods of between 2 & 2-½ lb test curve with a parabolic action are a better option than the quicker action heavier test curve rods that are more in vogue today. The TFGear X series 2.2lb test curve barbel is an ideal choice.

First Horshoe Experience

I’ve been meaning for some time to have a go for the fabulous tench of Carp Society water Horseshoe Lake near Lechlade in Gloucestershire and this year I finally did something about it. On my arrival I was greeted by Luke and Dave, who man the lodge at the venue, and I was immediately impressed with their professionalism and the terrific way the water is run. They were also very helpful with advice on where tench had been showing and I was soon ensconced in peg number 1. the most productive swim had apparently been Summer Point, the swim next closest to the lodge in Summer Bay, but it was temporarily closed, as were the swims round the shallows, as carp had started spawning.

Once again, I was using a size 12 Pallatrax hook on short Gamma fluorocarbon hooklinks, fished above the Kamasan feeder and held between rubber grip beads on rapid sink rig tubing. This rig ensures that no fish can possibly be tethered on a main line break. It is also easily adjustable to fish the hook bait right alongside the feeder or as far away as deemed necessary.

After finding a nice clear area about 30 yards out, with light Canadian pond weed around the fringes of the swim, I baited with six of my large cones of mixed hemp, casters, mini pellets and dead red maggots. Hook baits were two Enterprise buoyant red maggots with two real ones accompanying. By the time I was sorted out it was late morning, and the first two hours passed uneventfully as far as tench were concerned, although I was being regularly plagued by small rudd. Then, at 1.30pm, I had a real screamer and soon landed a superb tench of 7lb 8ozs. That fish opened the floodgates and in the next four hours tench came regularly. I wasn’t to get a really big fish but there were three more seven pounders and a few sixes. Nothing under six pounds was landed.

After a quiet night, I was expecting more tench action on the second day. But, typical of fishing, for some reason the swim had just died. Apart from more rudd, not a tench was tempted on day two.

It had a been a great first session on a fabulous water and I couldn’t wait to get back. That was planned for the following week.

A First Catfish Session

After missing a week’s fishing fulfilling a promise to the wife to re-decorate the hall, stairs and landing, I was certainly in need of two days fishing! This season, I have made myself a promise to catch a catfish to beat my current best of 22lb 12oz and headed for Cemex water Jones Pit on Wednesday morning for a 48 hour session. It was my first visit to the water and I was given some tremendous help by bailiffs Ed and Chris on the water. On their advice, I settled in a swim called “Dead Man’s Hole”, so called because an angler shot himself there a few years ago!

It was all close range work, with interesting small islands to left and right at roughly 10 O’clock and 2 O’clock respectively. A cast of barely 30 yards would be needed for those, while to my right, wooded margins coincided with a nice lily bed only feet from the bank. Ed informed me that a bait fished right alongside those lilies was a reliable tactic for the cats. Eventually, I settled on one rod to that margin, one to the fringe of the right hand island, and the third about a 40 yard cast midway between the two islands.

Because of the closeness of the swims, loose feeding was easy enough, and I prepared the margin swim with 1kg of 18mm Halibut pellets plus another 1kg of fish meal boilies. To this was added a bag of Fox Blood Red groundbait, which is specially formulated for attracting predators with its heavy fish oil content.

The middle of my fishing rods was baited just with halibut pellets via catapult, and I went in initially with 3kg. I wanted a bed of bait that would stop a marauding cat in its tracks, and as they go to near 70lb in the water, 3kg would not be overdoing it.

The left hand rod was just a boilie attack, and I fired out the best part of 3kg of 18mm boilies.

The left and right fishing rods were both baited with 18mm boilies, wrapped in fish meal paste to make offerings of around 30mm, and then dunked in a thick, gooey gunk of anchovy flavoured dip. The middle rod was baited with a 30mm Catmaster Tackle Mega Chunk halibut pellet. These are specially formulated for large cats and feature a tough exterior but soft interior. Unlike many pellets, these can be left out for several days if need be without dissolving.

There is not that much to say about the fishing. Both nights I was plagued with line bites from the lakes large bream population, but never had a proper run in the dark hours. The only real run I had occurred just after dawn on Thursday when a I struck into a very big fish after getting a real screamer on the open water rod. Unfortunately, and a rare occurrence for me, the hook pulled after about three minutes and I practised a few well rehearsed swear words to myself!

The lost fish could have been a big carp, of course, but, as the hook point was turned over when I examined it, I rather fancy a catfish hooked in the hard, Velcro like pad on its top jaw.

Ah well, there’s always next time!

Layers…

You’ve probably noticed that we have got quite a bit of fishing clothing in the TF-Gear range. What with the primal range, second skin and the latest ranges it’s quite a comprehensive collection. Designing and selling fishing  clothing for the British market is sometimes frustrating though, primarily because a lot of British anglers simply don’t understand layers.

The common misconception is that if you want to stay warm the answer is to wear something big, bulky and with plenty of padding – the old fashioned one-piece suit being a classic example. They are awful things! When you walk to your swim you sweat like crazy and then, when you arrive the sauna lasts for about five minutes before you start to feel cold.

Why? Well, the answer is body moisture or, to put it more bluntly, sweat. When we move we sweat. Our skin is breathable and can exchange moisture with the atmosphere. If we want to stay warm our clothing should do the same – hence the term ‘breathable.’ The beauty of layered fishing clothing is that it can be made breathable and because the layers trap air between themselves, the result is a warm, comfortable wearer. The other advantage of layers is that you can take them on and off to cope with changing weather.

The art of making breathable clothing is to ensure that sweat can pass through the layers but water molecules can’t. In many respects Gore-tex is the ultimate material but it does not sell well here in the UK because whilst Brits are happy to spend a fortune on fishing rods the same principle does not extend to clothing. We have worked very hard to source waterproof, breathable fabrics at a price that won’t break the bank and we have enjoyed great success with it. Seams are very important too – most clothing is let down by leaking seams. Ours isn’t.

Let’s look now at the layers and what they are designed to do.

Base or skin (second skin): this is a thin, breathable layer worn next to the skin. It forms the base layer and can be worn on its own on warm days or form the first layer on cooler days.

Mid- Layer : this is the layer that builds up warmth, usually in the form of a heavier fleece. Sometimes, if it is very cold, two layers of second skin and then the mid-layer are needed. Primal fleeces are perfect for this layer.

Top (shell): whilst most people love to wear padding, it is rarely necessary. Shell type jackets allow moisture (sweat to escape) but keep rain out. If you want to build up more heat, add more mid-layers. Some people prefer a lined or padded jacket and pants for the top layer and for less active styles of fishing this is OK.

At the end of the day, in addition to keeping you warmer and drier, there are other advantages to properly layered fishing clothing – notably that it is more comfortable to wear and makes you look less of a plonker.

Carp Baits – What’s Hot and What’s Not…

When I look back over the years that I’ve been carp fishing bait has always been an obsession. I am lucky enough to have been fishing around the time when the the first designer baits (christened with the name ‘boilies’) hit the scene. Boilies, so called because the bait is made by combining meals and powdered ingredients with liquidised eggs and then boiled to create a bait with a tough skin (the skin is designed to deter nuisance fish from stealing the bait intended for bigger fish) really did transform carp fishing. For the first time, anglers used to fishing with bread and potatoes had a new bait to play with and boy did the fish love them!

Modern boilies have come a long way since those early years. When we set about launching the new TF-Gear boilie range we wanted to create baits that would stand the test of time and benefit from all the advances that have been made in bait formulation.

History and experimentation has taught us that whilst carp are bombarded with many different boilies in a range of colours, flavours and bait that is made from a huge choice of ingredients , certain baits are the real fish catchers. Moreover, we also know that some boilies work better than others on certain types of waters and vice versa. Baits for hard-fished club and day ticket waters need to be different to those used when campaign-fishing a syndicate lake, for example.

Boilies are made with attractors (usually flavours) and food ingredients (these are powdered meals, such as fish meal, milk protein, birdfood and semolina. They are made into a paste by mixing the attractoprs and meals with liquidised eggs. The paste is rolled into little balls and boiled. The liquidised eggs harden in boiling water, creating bait that has a tough skin.

The flavour, or attractor acts as a label for the fish to recognise the bait. The attractor works as a label on two levels – it tells the fish that what it can taste/smell is food and helps it to recognise that food source on future occasions. The ingredients are the food value of the bait. Boilies can either be nutritionally strong or weak, depending on the quality of the ingredients used to make them. As a general rule, whilst carp will sample all types of baits with a multitude of flavours, they will generally prefer to eat baits with a high nutritional profile over a period of time. This is a concept that most anglers struggle to understand. The common misconception is that carp eat baits because the flavour tastes ‘nice’ and whilst this is partially true, they are more likely to eat the bait that does them the most good when fishing over a period of time.

When you choose a carp bait you should choose a bait for the job in hand. If you are fishing a day ticket or club water where the carp get bombarded with all kinds of bait, then what we call attractor baits with a strong ‘eat me’ signal are best. Bear in mind, however, that the ‘eat me’ signal does not mean using over-powering flavours that make the bait reek. Carp have superb olfactory systems that enable them to detect food signals in minute quantities – use baits that have good attractors at low to moderate values.

When campaign fishing waters, syndicate lakes, for example, the attractors or flavours should be much, much lower and it is the food value of the bait, its nutritional profile that you should rely on. Natural extracts and subtle flavours give the bait a label by which fish can recognise it in the future. We know fromn experience that the more subtle the label or flavour, the longer the bait will go on working. A good nutritional bait should get better and better over a period of time – as the fish get used to eating it and benefiting from its superior food value, they will seek it out in preference to others. Bait with strong attractors works for a while but eventually that same strong flavour that drew the fish to the bait in the first place begins to become associated with danger.

In the TF-Gear range of baits you will discover several important points. Firstly, none of them have flavours and attractors that are overpowering. This is a gamble on our part because we know that baits that reek of fruity flavours, so strong that they smell through the bag, attract anglers. We also know that ultra-strong flavours repel fish so we have avoided making our baits reek. Secondly, we have relied primarily on salt as a preservative rather than the sharp chemical preservatives that are so common in the bait industry. These chemical attractors taste bitter and repel fish. Salt, on the other hand is a natural flavour enhancer (we humans use salt as a flavour enhancer all the time) and it is also a great natural preservative. Thirdly, we have developed baits that use proven ingredients – top quality fish meals, proteins and birdfoods. These create nutritionally superior baits that are easy for carp top digest and eat more of. Finally, we have chosen some really great, subtle ingredients that make the bait stand out and keep the fish coming back for more – crushed chilli, for example.

To make life easy, we have created two ranges of boilies – our premium range and ‘the Gear.’ With the Gear we have a range made for day-ticket and club waters with the emphasis on attractors rather than long term food source. The premium range gives more emphasis to food value with lower level, natural attractors such as teatree oil. It’s a range that we are very proud of and results on the bait have justified our confidence.

Next time you buy bait, ask yourself just one question. Has his bait been designed by someone who really understands bait and fish or has it been put together by a faceless company? Too many anglers buy fishing products like their coarse fishing tackle from companies that don’t employ anglers. I don’t play golf but if I did, I would want my clubs to be designed by Tiger Woods not Victoria Wood…