Wednesday, 10 October 2018

First time lucky

Every year I join far too many waters. Although it’s expensive, I like to have a choice of where to fish. This works out right for the type of fishing I do as I’m always changing my mind on where to go depending on the weather, time of the year and form of each lake. These days I enjoy going after target fish, so if one I’ve got my eye on comes out, I always have somewhere else to turn. It’s hard keeping in touch with the fishing on more than one water, but it can be done if you’re focussed and willing to put yourself out.
I’ve been a member of an old gravel pit close to Lincoln since the beginning of June. I’ve been keen to a get a ticket for the place for a couple of years now. I was offered one last year but I ended up turning it down because I knew I’d not get round to fishing there. I always feel guilty joining a water and not fishing it as it’s taking up the place of someone who would. When places for syndicates are in high demand, it’s the gentlemanly thing to do: something I’m becoming, the older I get. 
For one reason or another I didn’t get the time to fish or even visit the lake until early September. My life has been a bit all over the place this summer as I’ve changed job and also moved house. However, I was keen to get down when the conditions were right towards the middle of the month. A low pressure front was moving in, alongside strong westerly winds, light drizzle and warm overnight temperatures. Experience told me I’d timed it right, and with three days ahead of me I was brimming with confidence. The only thing going against me was I knew nothing about the lake and there was no-one else fishing to talk to! 
After a couple of quick circuits I’d narrowed it down to two swims. Both had fish close by, tucked under some snags along a no fishing bank. One had decidedly more fish than the other so in the end I went for this one as there were a few decent chunks amongst them. I knew the bait I was using – SLK – was known for its big fish pulling power and once I was set up ready for the first night ahead, I just knew something was going to happen. 

Second day 
All three rods were fished tight to the no fishing bank at varying depths. One went at 2.5ft, another at 4ft and the third at 6ft just down the marginal slope. I’d walked to the opposite bank and spread 5kg of 22mm freebies all along its marginal snags. The plan was to fish all three rods along this area, each rod on single matching bottom baits. These were offered on size 6 hooks, Avid Carp Captive hooklinks and 4oz leads. 
The first night passed uneventful. I was surprised I’d not caught, but then at 10.30am I was away with a fast drop back and a spirited fight from a mid-twenty mirror. I was absolutely made up to get off the mark on my first trip and knew there was more to follow. The weather was looking good for a biggie and I sat there well into the darkness hoping it would come my way. 
I went to bed restless. It was too warm to be anything else. Another couple of lads had turned up to fish the night. One had been telling me how he’d been chasing a fish called Arnie for quite a while, having caught everything else from the lake. Arnie was a common and known for getting caught from the exact spot I was fishing. I didn’t think any more about it until the next morning when just on first light my right-hand rod tightened up and I was woken by a single bleep! Straight away I knew it was a good fish as it almost yanked the rod from my hands in a bid to get into 
the snags. I’d been fishing locked up and the rod was at test curve as I tried to not give it an inch. Luckily it did the trick as the fish headed to my right in an arch on a tight line. 
The next ten minutes saw me having a right tussle with whatever was on the end. It ploughed into weedbed after weedbed in a bid to free itself from the hook. When it eventually hit the surface I could see it was a massive common, almost too long to fit into the landing net! Thankfully it did, as I slid its lengthy body inside before flicking the net to get its tail safely in too. It could only be one fish. 

Morning glory 
It was so long it only just fitted into one of the large Avid Carp slings. I weighed it in at bang on 36lb, not knowing a great deal about it other than what the lad had told me the previous night: it topped out around 35lb+ and hadn’t been caught for over twelve months. I felt extremely lucky, and just as I popped it into the water ready to sort my camera gear, my middle rod was away in similar circumstances! 
The line tightened bowstring tight as a heavy fish hit the surface right on the edge of the snags. This fish did quite the opposite of Arnie though, in that it came in really slow and heavy. It plodded all the way in until it was right under the rod tip where it kicked a couple of times before rolling onto the surface ready for netting. It was another big fish, only this time a jet black mirror with battle scars all over its flanks. 
When I joined the lake there were a couple of fish I particularly had my eye on and one was this fish! Known as the Sergeant it was a regular thirty, usually around the 32lb mark, but on this occasion it went a whopping 34lb! I text the syndicate leader Tom Denton as soon as I caught it, and he confirmed there had been a lot of bait going in recently and it looked to be having an effect! 
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my time on the lake. My second morning had seen me land two of its most wanted fish, one of which was certainly its biggest common and potentially its largest resident. I was on cloud nine! The SLK had done me proud. 
When I first joined DNA I had my eyes on this bait. It has a track record of tripping up the bigger fish and based on this particular session, it also has the ability to catch them without any prebaiting. 
What a start and what a bait!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The winds of change

I’d been working at Carp-Talk magazine for 24 years, since the very first issue back in 1994. It then all changed in the middle of June 2018 when sadly the last issue hit the shelves. It was a sad time as I had many great memories of working there. However, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever, so when the opportunity arose to start work for the growing Avid Carp brand it came at exactly the right time. It was a full-time position in the dream job as a full-time carp angler. Sadly it meant I had to drop my consultancy with Nash tackle and bait which had lasted for many years. I was sorry to leave the brand but we parted on good terms.
As luck would have it there had been a cancellation on Weston Park in the boathouse swims exactly when I had to make my first visit to the Avid office, at the beginning of August. It couldn’t have fallen any better as Weston Park is only down the road from Telford where Avid is based. A quick call to the RH Fisheries office saw me take the Weston cancellation and the next minute I was on-route to one of my favourite venues.
It was to be my second visit to Weston this year. I absolutely love the place. Not only is it set in the most picturesque of surroundings, it is well run with an awesome stock of carp. I’d done really well on my first trip, catching plenty of fish to 35lb 8oz, which turned out to be one of the biggest mirrors in the lake.  I’ve fished there quite a few times now, each year in the boathouse swims in June. One thing I’d noticed over the years was how a pattern was developing. I’d do really well for the first 48 hours, catching multiple fish from the far margin, including some bigguns, before the action tapered off. I knew the procedure well, so set about lathering the far treeline margin with bait as soon as I arrived.
I’d done really well on Nashbait over the last few years, but this trip saw me with a new bait sponsor too. At the same time as joining Avid I’d joined DNA Baits, another rapidly growing company which has produced some excellent catches over the last few years. Based not far from where I live in Yorkshire, I’d been to the factory on the morning of my Weston trip and collected some of their big fish bait SLK (which stands for Shrimp, Liver, Krill). It smelt really good and although I knew it would catch fish, I needed weaning off the confidence I’d built up with Nashbait.
Thankfully I didn’t need to wait long as within half an hour of the rods being cast out I was into a Weston mirror. It was an old wrinkly mid-twenty which looked as old as some of the trees surrounding the banks. Weston is a simply stunning place, with ancient history all around.
The fish was just the start I needed to boost my confidence in SLK. Another followed a short while later, and going into the night I knew there was more to follow. It really was kicking off, just like it always did during the first few hours of being at the lake. The Weston fish are some of the biggest boilie munchers I know, but accurate casting is always a key too. My rigs had to be as tight to the far margin trees as I could get them or I’d be wasting a rod. Too short and they’d be falling into thick blanket weed which caused havoc with presentation. Tighter in was clear from fish activity as they passed through the swim, moving from one side of the lake to the other.
By morning I’d landed ten fish to almost 30lb. The biggest was a common of 28lb. Although I’d caught a lot of thirties from the venue before, I’d yet to have a common over thirty. I’d lost count of how many I’d had around the 28lb mark, and I’d even had two that had fallen only an ounce short at 29lb 15oz. I dearly wanted a thirty common from there as I knew there were quite a few in the lake.
I kept the bait going out regularly along the far margin, landing another couple of twenties before last light on my second day. I’d already gone through 10kg in the first 24 hours. The second night turned out to be a lot quieter than the first, with only a couple of fish landed. However, at first light it really kicked off when a group came through the swim that seemed to be eating everything in their way. At one point I had all three rods out of the water with fish in nets and slings! Once I’d done the photos and redone them all, I then had two fish on at the same time, including the one I’d come for, a 31lb common! This was followed by a mid-twenty mirror, and just when I’d finished the pictures, my final rod trundled off with one of the most prized carp in the lake, the Dark Mirror looking stunning at 30lb.
I’d landed twenty fish in two nights. They’d all come on the 25lb Captive hooklink which I’d stripped to the inner core and tied knotless knot style to size 6 hooks, finished off with line aligners – the same style rigs I’d used for over twenty years but with different components. On the hair I’d gone with 22mm bottom baits straight from the bag, baiting with a mix of 18mm and 22mm freebies.
It turned out to be the perfect day to be starting work for Avid. I was due at the office for 3.30pm and what a way to be arriving, smelling of carp! The dream job with a dream catch, and a new chapter was now open in my carping career.