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.

 

You Think You Know A Lake

You Think You Know a Lake

After a very disappointing result at a recent fishing competition, followed by a couple of weeks with a serious lack of fish banked, I have been well and truly irritated with my own fishing. So instead of doing a few hours here and a few hours there I decided to do a proper weekend session down a lake I thought I knew very well.

I knew the water down Argal Reservoir in Cornwall would be low after the summer but when I turned up there it was very obvious that the water was extremely low. I had never before seen it like this so took the opportunity to well and truly check out the areas I had previously been fishing.

I could actually walk out to the spots I had fished before and what an eye opener it was. There were snags everywhere with perfect clear areas to be targeted in the future months. What shocked me the most was a whole row of tree stumps that I had no idea where there up until that moment. I can’t imagine the amount of times I have fished over them!

I just had to then check out the rest of the lake so spent the next hour walking around it checking out the other pegs. Without seeing it you probably couldn’t even imagine the snags that were there. In front of one of the pegs there was even a full wall that really would restrict any fishing for even the most experienced angler.

I was eager to get my carp rods out but didn’t really have a clue where to place them; all my usual spots were an impossibility. The feeling of fishing a ‘new’ lake gave me a real buzz and before I knew it I’d located three perfect areas and bait was being put out.

All I could do then was wait with an unusual feeling of anticipation. The evening soon came without so much as a bleep of the alarms soon to be followed by the morning. I questioned myself as to whether I should locate some different areas but decided not to. I changed my rigs and re-baited those same three areas. Before long I was thankful I had done so as my rod screamed off resulting in a lovely looking 25.04lb common. A much needed fish for my own self confidence. This was soon to be followed by an 18lb mirror, well worth getting the fishing tackle out.

If nothing else this weekend was a real eye opener. You may think you know a lake inch by inch but in truth until you can actually see it for real how much do we really know?

http://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/leisure-activities/fishing/coarse-fishing/argal

Tight Lines Samantha

 

Samantha’s Fishing Tackle Choice

I was peacefully staring out onto my local lake waiting for a bite a couple of hours ago now, when a group of younger lads appeared in my swim. They were asking all the usual questions about the lake and what fish had been out, when one of them noticed my set-up.

I then spent the following half hour explaining my choices to them and why I had opted for these rods and reels etc. I even ended up reeling one of them in for them to have a go casting! Now I have put my rod back out and re-baited the others I thought I would put this little blog together explaining why I have opted for the setup I have. After using 3lb x-flites + for a couple of years, which I know many people have their own opinions on, I highly rated them and they served me well.

I wanted my carp rods to be just as effective for me so I opted for the TF Gear TSI 12’ 3lb rods. I have used them now for about 2 years and they’re still going strong, it would take some amazing new rod to make me change them. What impresses me most about these rods is how thin they are yet how much control I have when both casting and playing a fish. I have also noticed an increase in my casting distance since using them with ever increasing accuracy.

I have recently opted to team these rods up with the new TF Gear Delta GT 10000 reels. I love the design of them and they certainly look different on the bank. Many people have quizzed me on why I have chosen them. I was instantly impressed with how well the line lay on them and the smoothness of casting with them. Being big pits they are perfect for the big lakes I often choose to fish, I have even been influenced to take them down to my local beach to give them a good old test.

Glimmer Bite a

I decided it wouldn’t be right unless I completed the look with a set of TF Glimmer bite alarms. Now those that fish with me would back me up when I say that I am extremely fussy when it comes to alarms. The first things I take into consideration are the look of them, the ease of use and how effective the bite detection is on them. I love the way I can alter these alarms to suit different situations especially between the day and night. Having a receiver with these alarms is also a big plus for me as I like to keep my alarms down low and use the vibrating function only at night.

Well that is just some of my reasons for using the fishing gear I have with me today. I’m still waiting for a bite and hopefully now the weather is cooling down a bit the fish will be on the feed. Hopefully next time I write a blog I will be able to report news of a fish or two from Linford Lakes when I compete in the BIG FISH 2011.

Tight Lines Samantha

 

Alan Yates – Striking

Striking is one of the most exciting tactics involved in sea angling, its like pulling the trigger of a gun, it’s a crucial part of the hunt to many anglers. But is it essential to success and what’s involved?

It’s a fact that most species of sea fish will hook themselves eventually if you don’t strike simply because they are intent on eating the bait and oblivious to fishing tackle. A deliberate strike makes little difference to the catch rate in many situations although it does please the ego of the captor to think so, whilst more important to many anglers is that a premature strike helps prevent deep hooking!

The way the particular species feeds, what it eats, the mouth structure and its mobility have an influence its ease of hooking. Most of the speedy tropical mid water predators are more difficult to hook than the bottom grubbers such as the flatfish which once the hook has entered the mouth cannot escape, others with large hard bony mouths are difficult to hook because the hook cannot find a place to lodge!

Overall for fishing around the UK a less enthusiastic approach to striking will result in more fish being hooked. The decision when to strike depends upon what the angler wants from his sport, what he is fishing for, the type of bait being used and conservation. If the rod is lurching seawards and is in danger of being lost then a strike is essential, if the rod tip is nodding continuously its likely that the fish is already hooked.

The actually strike can vary from a full blooded sweep of the rod to just tightening the line. Line stretch at distance of course reduces the amount of movement at the hook end of your tackle and some sea anglers even run backwards during the process to increase that movement. Reeling as you strike can also prove more effective, but beware of striking too hard, especially at short range when it may test your tackle and knots.

Let’s look at the best striking technique used when some of the most common UK species.

COD: A relatively slow bottom dweller with a large mouth, invariable swallows the hook when a bait is left on the sea bed. Powerful rod pulling bites are generally after the fish has hooked itself. Slack liners from codling can be most difficult to hook and the answer to them is patience. Take up the line and only strike when the fish pulls the rod tip down.

WHITING: Difficult to hook on occasion, this small predator attacks baits in numbers with some tremendous rod pulling bites that are easily missed, especially in slack tide. More fish are hooked when fishing in strong tide because the fish have to swim to stay still to eat the bait, when it is engulfed they relax and the tide drives them back on to the hook. Short snoods and neat (small) bait presentation and a wired grip lead definitely improve the hooking rate.

BASS: A fast feeding predator that rarely swallows the hook because the bites are so positive. Be near your rod when it takes off. A bony mouth, so a large, sharp hook is essential.

DAB, SOLE, PLAICE AND FLOUNDER: Often flatfish nibble and pluck at the bait, but invariably once they take the bait they are hooked because their mouth is far smaller closed than open. There is in fact no way to prevent flatties swallowing the hook. With hook removal often fatal even with soft wire hooks. For the conservation minded tiny hooks (8s- and less) can be removed more easily with a disgorger and with less damage than large sizes of 2 and above.

TOPE AND SMOOTHHOUND: Positive bites give the angler every opportunity to pull the trigger on this species which is why they are so popular and fun to catch. The tope is one of UK sea species that circle hooks are practical for , but there is a definite technique for striking with circle hooks and it involves a steady tightening of the line and not a full blooded strike!.

RAY: Invariably this species cloaks the bait causing the rod tip to tremble, later the fish moves off having taken the bait pulling the tip down, slacking the line or sometimes pulling your fishing rod over, Because of the way they feed ray are sometimes foul hooked outside of the mouth by a premature strike.

BLACK BREAM: One of the most difficult sea fish to hook because of their bait pecking and small mouths, use light tackle and line, small hooks, bait small and neat and be patient.

GREY MULLET: Mullet like the coarse fish have learned about hooks and line through being caught and returned, their more acute instincts in clear water also makes them shyer. A rule when fishing for mullet is never to strike by sight when you see a fish take the bait, always wait until the float disappears or the tip goes round!

DOGFISH: Infuriating to hook if you react to the bites, ignore them and they are more likely to be hooked, but not every time. Don’t move the rod or bait once a bite is spotted!

CONGER: The old school reckon a conger should be given time to take the bait, but this may allow it to swallow the hook and so striking early is recommended to avoid deep hooking.

STRIKING TIPS

Holding your rod with the line between the fingers you will be able to feel the tugs from the small species and it’s a fun way to fish. Experiment with striking and you will find that in a majority of cases catch rates are greatly improved by letting the fish bite for a few seconds before hitting it. Of course when using multi hook rigs to catch fish for the pot letting the fish hook themselves is far superior to striking every rod tip rattle!

Using braid line that does not stretch is a practical way to improve your bite indication but remember the lack of stretch amplifies the smallest nibble, so be patient and wait for a positive movement.

Alan Yates

 

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!

The Chod Rig My Way

The Chod Rig has to be one of my most favoured rigs in my coarse fishing tackle. I’ve opted to use it for a majority of sessions lately and with some personal preferences I think it’s as perfect as I could get it. Instead of using lead core I use a 48″ Tungsten Ex Heavy Leader from TF Gear and instead of using beads, due to a lack of them in my tackle box, I’ve just replaced them with two 6mm Boilies that have been air dried for a week. After looking into it I am confident they will stay hard in the water for up to 24 hours.

My rig station, all the Components I need to make my chod,all my prep work done ready to do their job

Before I cast out I like to put two foam nuggets on the hook to prevent any debris getting attached to it as it finds the bottom of the lake and a small PVA bag of my favourite boilies. Then I can wait for the action but hopefully not to long

This beauty fell to my chod rig November this year
(It works for me so go out and give it a go)

Much awaited 35lb Snow Fish

On my latest excursion to France, the trip all be it a brief one – just three days – ended up being a real eye opener! The trip came about after speaking to David Keep of Angling Lines, David recommended the nearby Windmill Lakes. The venue consists of two lakes set amongst 32 acres of beautiful French countryside, the first lake is around 3 acres and holds carp to 30lb, and the second lake is roughly 4 acres and holds carp to 40lb. When I eventually arrived at the lake I was pleased to be greeted by Dave and Sue Bainbridge who kindly offered a much needed mug of coffee. I had a good walk around the lake looking for any signs of moving fish, sun was shining down and the temperature was about 12 oc. I found the spot in which I was going to fish and started to get set up when the rain soon came over and the temperature started to drop. No stopping me though, so I persevered and was soon set up ready for action.

The temperature continued to plummet and it wasn’t long before snow started to fall. The sudden drop in temperature left me and my party of anglers feeling uncertain as to whether or not they would catch. It all came good on the third day though when something decided to sample one of my hookbaits. My Bobbins dropped to the snow then up it come again as the bite alarm screamed off as I hit in to my rod I knew it was a good size carp.

A good 10 minute battle resulted in a nice 35lb mirror resting in the bottom of my landing net.

The mirror fell to a new bait on test, which was attached to an unusual take on the chod which I have been playing around with. Rather than using beads to hold the hooklink in place, I have been experiencing a lot of success by using two air-dried 10mm hookbaits threaded on to a TF leader and a 3 oz distance lead. Alongside this I presented a small PVA bags containing a dozen whole and broken freebies. I was the only one to catch during the trip and to do so during the snow make the experience even more special.

Predator Paradise

Predator Paradise
Every year a group of us here at TFGear take a predator-fishing trip and test some of the prototype TFGear coarse fishing tackle at the same time. This year saw us revisiting Rutland water in Leicestershire for the opening few days of there Pike trials, so cars packed with as many lures, sample fishing rods, waterproof fishing clothing and thermal underwear ready for testing, off we head. Now visiting any of the big trout reservoirs is always a very exciting time and Rutland at over 3,000 acres is no exception because you just never know what it is capable of throwing up. Unfortunately the weather conditions made testing waterproof fishing clothing & thermal underwear out of the question, over 20 degrees, bright sunshine and very little wind meant it was more like the summer we never had!
The first morning dawned bright and clear with a little breeze as we headed off up the south arm to Manton bay an area we had done well on an earlier visit. With the bright conditions this meant the first couple of hours before the sun gets too high are really the best chance of any good pike fishing. Within the first hour we had a few pike following right to the side of the boat before turning away, a common occurrence on many trout waters, then a good strike to the jerk bait and a spirited fight ensues but as it come closer to the boat it turns out to be a good rainbow trout of about 5lb. Then Chris my boat partner hooks and lands a jack pike of 5-6lbs on a soft plastic lure.

With the sun now high follows die off so a quick call to the other TFGear lads Simon & Ceri to see if they are having anything. They are having takes in 35-40ft of water near browns island on soft jigs, with a nice zander lost by the side of the boat and two landed of about 1 ½ lb, so zander are still willing to have a go in the deeper water and we head over to join them. A few hours pass and nothing else to either boat we head off to the north arms tower. Quite a few fish appear on the echo sounder and we start getting takes straight away, now getting takes from zander is one thing but hooking and landing them is another. Both Ceri and Simon take a couple of fish each to 3 1/4lb and with ½ an hour to go I manage to boat a zander of about 1 1/2lb. This ends our first day on Rutland water and most of the pike boats have had a hard but enjoyable day.

The second morning is just as bright and even less wind, so we make a decision to concentrate on the zander unless the conditions change. A quick word with one of the rangers who points us in the area we should try for zander. So rigged up with one of the new prototype TFGear jig fishing rods and a very special new braid we’re testing we head off. The breeze has now pick up a little so we set the drift upwind of the spot selected, drogue(underwater parachute to slow the boats drift) deployed to slow the boats drift and echo sounder showing we’re in 60ft of water and plenty of fish showing on the screen. Straight away we start to get takes on our vertically fished jigs and I’m soon into my first zander of the day landing it I find its hooked on the stinger treble.

A very important addition to the jig the stinger treble is attached to wire and threaded through the jig body coming out near the tail, without this you will seriously reduce your catch rate.
Quite a few more fish landed and lost then my jig is hit by something a bit bigger and the clutch squeals as line is taken, after a good fight a PB zander of about 8lb slide into the net and I’m over the moon.

We end the day with over 25 zander to our boat and Simon and Ceri have also had a cracking day landing fish up to 5lb and a bonus pike on a jig, all this and we get to watch a beautiful Rutland sunset in the bargain.

Hot Cats

For several years, I’ve been interested in the huge catfish from the Ebro in Spain, but never got round to actually going after them. Then, at the NEC in March this year, I finally arranged with Colin Bunn of Catmasters Tours that Fran and I would make our first visit on the 10th August.
At the appointed hour in Terminal B at Barcelona, we met Colin by the Black Horse statue, along with 5 other anglers, and all piled into his 8 seater mini bus for the two hour drive to Mequinenza. On arrival, we were all shown to our apartments, which are superbly equipped and comfortable, and arrangements were made to meet up later at the Bar Ebro. There we would have a meal, a few drinks, and meet our guides to make arrangements for the fishing the following morning. Fran and I had been allocated John Deakin as our guide, who I didn’t know at the time but who I now consider a great friend. Also with John were another older couple, although not quite as old as us, Phil Jones and Rose Knight. Phil and Rose had been there for several days, although not cat fishing.
On Monday morning, we started our fishing on one of the swims on Mequinenza’s promenade, which had produced some gigantic fish for John over previous weeks, although he did warn us that it had been slowing down because of the pressure. In fact, that first day, there was no action whatever, although we all sat it out until midnight. When John dropped Fran and me off at our apartment, we had decided that I would be up at 6.00am but that Fran would lie in until 8.00am. John would leave me with the fishing rods while he called back to pick Fran up. We already knew that Phil and Rose had other plans for the day and, in the event, it transpired that they did no further cat fishing until the Friday.
On Tuesday morning, John and I set up at a new swim, immediately downstream of the main bridge over the river Segre, a few hundred yards above the confluence with the Ebro.
For five hours, all was peaceful. And then, in late morning, a tremendous bang on the nearest rod was followed by the high pitched rush of braid being torn off the reel against a tightly set drag. After tightening the star drag on the multiplier, I struck hard into the fish. The power of what I’d hooked nearly took my breath away and that first experience of a big Segre catfish was truly awesome. I could soon see why I’d been told to tighten the drag as much as possible. Although I could not physically take line against the drag, the catfish had no such problem. Braid was whistling out! I had to strain every sinew to keep the rod up and avoid being pointed, and after about ten minutes of truly arm wrenching action, with my groin well and truly bruised from the pounding of the rod butt, the fish approached the rocky bank. John carefully made his way to the water’s edge where he grabbed the trace and gently drew the fish to where he could get a firm grip on the jaw with a gloved right hand. While maintaining a firm hold, he told me to keep a tight line as he inserted a soft rope stringer around the strong jawbone and out through the top of the gill cover. Then he popped out the hook and the fish was secure. I’ll never forget John’s words at that moment. “It’s about 150lbs, mate”.

In the event, he was just 1lb out. After zeroing the sling, we confirmed the weight of my first Segre catfish as 149lb. Ten minutes later, photographs taken and the fish safely back in the water, I turned to John, only to get a full bucket of water over me. “It’s traditional for a 150lb cat”, he said, “and 149lb is close enough!” In truth, the water was very welcome. I was hot, sweaty and covered in catfish slime, but couldn’t be happier. The three of us had silly grins on our faces as we broke open celebratory beers from the cool box.
In mid afternoon, I was in action once again and this fish went off as though jet propelled. It was interesting as that was a pattern that was repeated for the week with the smaller fish. I use the word “smaller” in a very relative sense as this second fish was 72lb, a modest cat by Spanish standards but a monster back home. Once again, I was soon covered in slime and grinning like a hyena, with arms full of catfish. That second fish was returned about 4.00pm and there was to be no further action that day, although we fished until midnight.
What was really interesting over the next two days was that the late morning to mid afternoon feeding spell remained consistent. On the Wednesday, I had a fabulous brace in under an hour. At 11.30, my third cat of the trip pulled the scales to 103lbs and then my personal highlight was taking a beautiful buttercup yellow half albino of 128lb at 12.15pm. Again, the evening and after dark fishing proved fruitless.
On the Thursday, two cats again came in the same feeding time zone, with an 87lb fish at 11.30am and a 78lb fish at 2.30pm. After the second, carp moved in on the feed and three were landed between 3.00pm and 6.45pm. One was estimated by John at 18lbs and released, while the other two were brought on to the bank and weighed properly. I was delighted to confirm two gorgeous commons of 25lb and 34lb, although of course they’d had absolutely no chance on the strong catfish tackle.
That evening, the pattern was broken, with our first fish in the dark, a catfish of exactly 40lbs. Although I was pleased to have another one in the bag, John was telling me how unlucky I was to get three fish in a day and not have at least one over 100lbs. I tell you, what I would give to have three such fish in a day at home!

The next day, I was to get another 40 pounder at 3.30pm, but that was the sum total of the action in the daylight hours. We had to wait until 11.00pm, on an uncharacteristically chilly evening, before one of the fishing rods roared off at last. This was another memorable scrap, with the fish hurtling downstream across the other three lines. This was where John’s experience proved so important. With me battling the fish as hard as I dare, John was playing knit one, purl two with the other lines. When I eventually had the fish ready for landing at the lowest part of the bank, John had managed to avoid even a momentary tangle. As we heaved it ashore, I could tell that it was another 100lb plus. So it proved as the needle swung to 107lb, and John and I cracked open two beers before calling it a night.
The next morning, our last, was truly memorable. We had decided that we would only fish until 3.00pm before returning to our apartments for a shower and change, and then meeting up in a good restaurant for a civilised meal and drinks. Up to now, we’d lived on take away meals on the bank, which John had fetched for us while we watched the gear. Phil joined John and me at 8.00am and would be staying until the end. The next run was Phil’s and, at mid morning, one of the rods hooped over and Phil joined battle with a real leviathan. For the first time, he experienced the brutish power of a Spanish cat. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity of being behind the camera for some action shots and through the viewfinder I knew that this was one massive catfish. When its tail broke surface some thirty yards offshore, John and I looked at one another. When it was eventually ready to bring ashore, it took the three of us to drag it to the tarpaulin, and two of us could barely support it for the weighing. Soon, we confirmed 184lb and, a few minutes later, Phil got two buckets over him. “It’s two for a 180”, explained John.
Not long after that monster had been returned, I was soon in action again with another big fish of 121lbs, and then Phil completed an unbelievable brace when we eventually hauled ashore another cracking cat of 175lb. At that moment, I promised that I’d send him some of the special cream I bought years ago, especially formulated for polishing golden appendages. On a serious note, I’d have loved to have caught on of those last morning monsters, of course I would. But I was delighted for Phil. If I wasn’t destined to catch them, I was certainly privileged to be there to witness them. It also proved that you don’t have to be a fanatic like me to catch monster fish. With the expert guidance that Catmaster Tours provides, anyone can enjoy such fabulous fishing. Give Colin Bunn a ring and get yourself on a plane to Spain. I guarantee you won’t regret it.