Sunday, 22 May 2011

A relaxing long weekend

Thanks to the joys of Easter holidays I was able to plan a 4 night session - perfect, my lunchtime walk of the shallow pit on Thursday found someone already fishing my favoured swim and the lake was pretty packed so I was again planning a trip to the deep pit.

We had some scorching weather forecast for the weekend and I dropped back into the deep end of the lake on a newly created swim that allowed me access to the weed free area towards the centre of the lake, as well as a very carpy looking margin to my right - it’s an area that can’t be fished from other swims and always tends to hold carp in its overhanging bushes and deep margins.

The lake was very quiet and as the evening drew in and there were plenty of fish showing in the middle of the lake. After an amazing sunset I drifted to sleep confident of action.

Sadly I awoke early on Friday morning without any action in the night, however I did see the odd Carp swimming under my rod tips very close in, I'd never seen Carp so close at this pit before, and it gave me confidence the fish were in the area.

I tried to fish a few areas at range with patches of hemp and boilies, but no matter what range or depth I tried I couldn't get a bite. After my second blank night I decided to go for a wander around and look for some fish - I found this lump sunbathing in the overhanging trees to my right:

After returning to my swim I switched my marginal rod to an adjustable zig to try and get a bite along the tree line, I worked it hard all day at various depths and in slightly different areas without much success. I'd seen a guy on the opposite bank catching on zigs fishing to snags in the corner of the lake so I was confident the tactic could work. I also switched one of my ranged rods to a small bag in the margin.

Again the final night passed without action, but I still fancied a fish on the zig rig along the tree's to my right, so I continued to work it at various depths. I also changed the marginal bag rod to a single flouro popup on a hinged stiff rig in the hope the colour would draw one of the patrolling fish into a take.

Around 18:00hrs on my final afternoon I was awoken from a snooze by an unexpected screaming take - After a minute or so of the fight to my surprise I knew I was connected to a Carp - a Tench would have given already. As the Carp finally started to tire I drew it towards my net - the common made one last bid for freedom and with a sickening ping the hook came free and flew over my shoulder. I was gutted, but at the same time pleasantly surprised my marginal flouro boilie had been taken, especially in full evening sunshine.

I packed up with more questions than answers, looking forward to a trip to London to meet an old friend I don’t see very often and watch Tim Minchin at the Royal Albert Hall.

Back to the deep pit

April 15th - 17th

To say I was gutted that I couldn't get back onto my spots in the reed swim was a massive understatement. I could have, and probably should have fished another swim on the lake with the same tactics, but I couldn't face being at the lake all weekend watching someone else catch off the back of my hard work.

After fishing at the shallow pit in the middle of an industrial area of town it was really refreshing to be back in the peaceful surroundings of the deep pit in Leighton Buzzard. I didn’t really know where to start, but after a few blank nights in the shallower areas of the lake at the end of March I fancied my chances back in the deeper area of the lake fishing to the clearer plateau towards the middle of the lake.

I took my tactics of hemp and boilies with me, and fished chod rigs over an area of spod mix and scattered boilies. The weekend was good fun as I was in the swim adjacent to another lad of a similar age, so we had a weekend enjoying a few ciders together.

However when he caught a 10lb bream he decided it was actually a weekend match and I would have to try and match his 10lb bag somehow!

Fortunately just as he was packing up on Sunday I managed to land a very pretty 7lb 7oz male Tench. That’s a really large Male Tench, and it was probably a personal best as well - sadly I forgot to take pictures.

Other than the Tench the weekend was largely uneventful, it was however peaceful and upon leaving I decided I would definitely be back soon to try and tempt some of the carp that had been giving me the run around so far!

All good things come to an end

I thought I'd been keeping my successes to myself, I'd been doing quick overnights and leaving before most people even looked out of their bivvy, but at some point I'd said something to the wrong person because the word was out about my bumper overnight sessions in the reeds swims.

I went for my regular lunch break walk around the little pit to find someone was moving their gear to the swim I'd vacated that morning. I was hoping they wouldn't be there long because I wanted to return to the swim for an extended weekend session.

After work I went to pay them a visit, to see if they'd had any success and to find out how long they planned to stay.

On arrival there was quite a crowd of regulars behind the swim - apparently a fish had just been returned. I was informed it was a 28lb mirror. I asked the angler about it and he said he'd found a massive clear spot in the weed (what a surprise) and fished in it, just to rub the salt in a little more he also said it had been crapping out hemp all over his unhooking mat, oh and after catching he intended to stay down till Sunday.

Sad times, my plans for the weekend were effectively ruined - looks like I'd have to visit the deep pit to see if they'd started feeding properly in the deeper cooler water.

No wonder people are so secretive about their catches in the world of Carp fishing - too many people can't think for themselves, or form their own successful plans. The lesson has definitely been learned about who I share my catches with.

More of the same please

April 13th

So days of work had past allowing me to prepare more hemp and get ready for another repeat performance in my chosen swim (hopefully). Work finished and I was changed and on my way to the lake at speed, hoping no-one had dropped in my swim since my lunchtime recon trip.

On arrival the swim was free and it didn't look like anyone had been there the night before, so hopefully the swim would have benefitted from a nights rest! As there is a large open area behind the swim I was able to walk all my rods out to the range markers to ensure I was dropping back on the same spots with my chosen Chod rigs. 15 spods or should I say Spomb's of hemp and boilie to each spot and I was ready to set up the Brolly and wait for the action.

Unlike Monday night I had to wait quite a while longer for my Delkim to sound, but at 21:30hrs I had the unmistakable 'bream bite' with my bobbin flying up and down, whilst the fish was unable to take line from the baitrunner. Not an ideal start to the session, but at around 7lb not a bad bream either.

The next time I was running for my rods was at 22:50hrs the middle rod over my baited patch had given me the beloved single tone run, however the fish wasn't putting up much of a fight - until it got in close, I think it must have shaken some silk weed off its head because he started to strip a lot of line from my clutch, and the fish had me thinking I was hooked into one of the larger residents of the lake. Eventually the marginal charges got weaker and I netted a beautiful long common weighing 19lb 7oz. The tactic was working and after a quick smoke I was drifting back to sleep well chuffed with how the week's fishing was developing.

02:05hrs and I'm squatting on the end of the platform, rod in hand with a fish that is kiting fast to my left into an area of thicker Canadian type weed. There was nothing I could do to stop it and I soon had that sinking feeling of solid resistance in weed. I kept the pressure steady for a few minutes but I couldn't feel any tell tale kicks on the line. I decided to pull a bit harder and gradually the weed was moving towards me. I edged the mass towards my platform and in the light of my head torch it seemed I was towing in an entire weed bed. Somehow I managed to get my net under it all! Once I'd dropped my rod the search began, but sadly in the mass all I could find was my dis-guarded hook and bait.

The rod was recast and just as I was getting back into my bag the other rod on my open water spot screamed off. This time it felt like a good fish from the start, staying deep and taking long steady runs from my clutch. Thankfully its attempts kites into the heavy weed failed and I was photographing my first 20lb carp if the year at 21lb 4oz, this common had me smiling from ear to ear. Sadly the self take photos were not amazing; I won't forget that carp in a while. I retired to my bag feeling victorious; I was one step closer to my season’s aims.

I would have happily slept through to my work alarm and worked all day with a big smile on my face, but the carp had other plans. 03:50hrs and I'm on the end of the platform in my socks playing another fish hard trying to keep it out of the many weed beds. It's still pitch black, but as I slide the net under the fish I realise I'd landed a mirror at last, and it looked bigger than the previous fish! At 22lb 12oz it was my biggest carp of my new campaign, and a very pretty sparsely scaled fish too.

Needless to say my next day at work was pretty painful and involved lots of Redbull, but after banking two 20's and a 19 in one night I really couldn't complain!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Making the tactic pay

11th April 2011

After a scorching weekend session at the pit, and with a Carp under my belt i couldn't wait to get back down there and get the rods back on my spots. The weather had changed in the day and after the week of hot weather we had some light rain, with a strong westerly picking up blowing straight into the reeds swim, with some added cloud cover it was all looking very carpy!

I'd been baiting two areas - one at around 70-80yrds towards open water that cannot really be fished from any other swim, it was also towards the bank that is closed for fishing during the traditional closed season. The other was close to the margin of the island opposide me at about 70yrds.

During my lunch break walks around the lake I'd always found the fish holding up in the unfishable areas, sunning themselves on top of the shallow bars behind the island. In my mind they would have to pass one of my baited area first to get from their daytime holding areas to the social bank (where most people were fishing and putting in bait consistently) for their night time feed.

As the evening settled in i called my Dad to catch up and tell him about the fishing I've been doing recently, and to enquire about my uncles membership on a local syndicate. I only recently started speaking to him again recently, but its always great to have fishing to talk about - he was the reason i started fishing and he really is a wealth of information. Sadly he fishes a lot less these days, prefering to smack small white balls around a perfectly kept field - but I'm sure we will find time for some barbel fishing together before the summer is over!

The reason i mentioned the conversation with my father is it was rudely interupted by a screaming take from my island margin rod, the delkims made a sound my dad recognised (they used to be his!) and we ended the call adbruptly! After a quick fight i had a short plump common on the unhooking mat it weighed in at 15lb 6oz and i was happy that I'd caught so early in the evening, meaning i could sleep soundly on a work night, safe in the knowledge i wasn't on a blank!

After calling my dad back to give him the weight of the fish and say goodbye, soon after putting the phone down my right had rod was away with another screaming take, this fish was fighting well, but stayed out of the weed, just as i was edging it to the net it threw the hook - i was gutted and it was time to try and get some sleep before work.

I drifted into a happy sleep around 21:30hrs. I would say i was rudely awakened at 22:00hrs, but the sound of a screamer on a Delkin is one of the best ways to wake up - i dont care what time of night it happens, its a sound i'm always happy to hear! This time I'd found one of the lakes smaller residents at 9lb 5oz, but the important point was it was from the heavily hemp baited area in the open water area of the lake. After some quick self take pictures I again drifted back into a happy sleep.

23:00hrs and im running for the rods again, this time the fish felt a little bigger and it kited to the left into a weedbed. With constand pressure the lump started to slowly but surely edge towards my platform, allowing me to net a massive green ball with a tail sticking out! This fish pushed the scales to 15lb 12oz, but i think it had has its weetabix because it had definately given me the best scrap so far.

Whilst i was preparing to do the self take photos, with the fish on the matt my middle rod scremed off - they really don't mess around with subtle runs here! The fish found the weed, and whilst applying pressure the hooklink parted just above the swivel knot - I'd been experimenting with Flourocarbon Chod rigs without a curve, but i dont think the material is really cut out for the weed in this pit.

With the fish lost i quickly took the pictures and returned the fish to his weedy home. As i stood up to watch the carp slip away from the light of my head torch the right hand rod on the baited area was off again - however I wasn't connected to the fish for long as it surfaced and shook the hook free. That sort of behaviour is somehting i would expect from pike, I'd never seen a carp lose a hook in that way.

All in all it was a cracking session, 3 landed and 3 lost and all before midnight so i got a decent nights sleep before work!

Out of the starter blocks

Having thought about the problems the blanket weed was presenting me at the shallow pit, and based on my previous experiences with particles I decided that it was time to adjust my approach away from PVA bags, PVA sticks and other similar methods of shielding the hook and jump on the 'Choddie' band wagon! I'm not normally a follower when it comes to tactics and methods - I like to beat my own path and learn from my own experiences, be they good or bad - but in my mind the advantages of the presentation on a chod rig really were perfect for the situation I was finding myself in.

As I had found previously I could easily clear areas in the weed by using particle, obviously I could have raked the weed as well, but due to the crystal clear water, and depth of the lake I knew the fish rarely visited the margins during the day at this time of year, so I would be gambling on marginal spots in the evening. I opted to create feeding areas rather than fish existing known spots or busy swims - this had a two-fold advantage of giving me a greater chance of always getting in my chosen swim, and also being able to keep my captures relatively secret.

I opted to just use hemp as my particle, you really can’t beat it as a fish attractor and I always fish with confidence over a bed of hemp as it’s irresistible to most fish, which would mean all the lakes residents would be on my spots pushing back the blanket weed, and exposing the lake bed. Also with my decision to change to chod rigs it meant that even if the weed was not fully cleared I could be relatively confident that the hook bait and hook would remain weed free and fishing effectively even if my casts did not land exactly on the spots I was trying to create when casting at night.

Finally on the 9th of April I had my first screamer and after a great scrap I had finally landed my first carp of the year - a very pretty common weighing in at 19lb 60z. The weight was largely irrelevant at this stage - I was just over the moon that my campaign had started to produce carp, and that my new bait was working. However the fish had not fallen from the hemp baited spot, it was from my rod on an island margin baited with only boilie. The amount of line bites on my hemp patch did however suggest that there were fish in the area and that it was only a matter of time before I started catching.

New bait and realistic targets

Since coming back to carping, and even before I took time away from the sport I have always been a huge fan of particle fishing. I'm not sure if it’s my love of spodding out buckets of bait, or the great results I've experienced in the past or even the relatively cheap price and variety of particles, or maybe even the good feeling from the effort/reward equation I get as I always prepare my own particles but something always brings me back to a big bucket of sloppy seeds!

The problem is I don’t want to be a one trick pony, and since I returned to carping and it seems to be fashionable to 'spod the granny' out of waters with tuna and salt mixes! As I've said before I like to forge my own path and I don’t like to be doing the same as every other chap on the lake.

this lead me to the conclusion that it was time I really got back into boilie fishing, especially as I intended to target larger carp rather than high volumes of carp - also the lack of preparation involved in boilie fishing better suits my plan to fish back to work overnight sessions in the week.

It appears every magazine you open and every way you look these days in the world of fishing you get Nash, Mainline or similar thrust in your face and touted as the most reliable way to catch carp - the problem is unless you don’t really need to worry about money there is no way you can fish effectively with boilie's 4 or 5 nights a week and continue to pay £10+ for a kilo of boilie’s.

Don't get me wrong the bait works, I've caught plenty of carp on Mainline and Nash bait in the past - infact an old favourite of mine was Carp Company Caviar and Cranberry, the problem is at this time I cannot afford to use their bait in the way I want to. My intention is to put a lot of my chosen bait into my 2 pits in the spring and summer in the hope that I can get the fish to view it as a safe and reliable food source - this meant I needed a quality food bait, that I could afford to get in amounts of 10kg or more at a time.

Fortunately I was pointed towards an excellent bait company called 'Active Bait Solutions' on a forum I like to frequent. These guys were able to offer me bait 10kg a time at half the price of 'high street' brands! On top of that the bait is really high quality and has been used for many years, to catch many large carp.

With a new boilie chosen for the coming spring and summer I was happy to put it into the lakes in large quantities and begin my own baiting campaign. The shallow pit especially is a known boilie water and if I can start catching on the bait then I know my friends who fish the water will soon change to my chosen bait too.

Changing the subject completely! I felt that it was important that I also set myself some realistic targets this year. Both the pits I’m fishing have a decent head of 20lb fish, with both having around 8 know 30's, and both have the chance to produce a 40lb common at the right time of year.

Now that we don't have a traditional closed season on still waters I think my targets should run annually, because it better represents the cycle of fishing in a year. I've decided that I'm going to aim to catch 20 20lb carp, one of which should be a winter 20 - I would also like to bank my first 30lb fish. It seems that a 30 isn’t that impressive these days, but before I quit fishing for university a 20 was a real result and a 30 was the fish of a season, if not the fish of a few seasons!! It seems these days most lakes have 30lb fish in them and 20's are not even that special - well to me they are - infact all carp are, and I intend to photograph all the carp I catch this year irrespective of their weight.

Hopefully I will have to re-evaluate my targets as the season goes on, but for now this gives me a good benchmark to aim at, and should keep me focused even when the weather turns miserable!