Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Tracking down the bigguns’

Even if some anglers will never admit it, everyone loves catching big fish. There is something special about watching that monster carp roll in front of the net and hoping it will stay on long enough to eventually make it onto your mat. Sometimes they come along when you least expect it, and other times you have to graft like heck to eventually catch the one that you want.
            Over the years I have fished a number of target waters chasing the bigger residents, whether they have been 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s. I’ve been fortunate to have caught some lovely fish along the way, and I have to say there is no greater feeling in carp fishing than seeing a target big fish finally in the net.
            Each capture of a biggie has a special meaning because they all come about on different pathways. I have my own views on how to target the bigger fish and this week I’ll discuss a few of these and hopefully give you some pointers on how to track them down.

Effort & reward
When I went after Black Eye from Chad Lakes which at the time was a mid-fifty, I caught it on my second ever trip to the lake. Although I was chuffed to bits to catch it, the elation was nothing like landing the finest carp in Yorkshire (the Nostell Fish) when I spent almost two full seasons in search of it. The effort I put into catching the Nostell Fish was like no other carp I have ever fished for. It was a day-only venue with 20 carp in more than 20 acres of water, and it was 44 miles from my home. When it eventually went into my net at 43lb 6oz I stood staring at it for several minutes, trying to convince myself that it was definitely that fish. The feeling of elation was incredible as I drove home that day, knowing that a significant chapter in my life had finally come to a close.
            More than anything the capture of the Nostell Fish made me realise how much effort can go into some of the catches we see in the news pages of the magazines. When we see the likes of Terry Hearn with another target fish in his arms, it is so easy to say “It’s OK for him as he has the time to go and catch it!” but there is much more to a capture than just time. For a start, I believe everyone can make time to go fishing if they really want to. It’s all about time management, something we all have the ability to change.
            Outside of this comes the hardest part of the equation, which is effort and this is where most people fall down. Effort is the fundamental key to catching big carp consistently, having the tunnel vision to keep going when there appears to be no end in sight. It is so hard to do because there is no escaping the negatives that come with the passage of time. Even the very successful guys have the negative thoughts and I remember speaking to Darrel Peck just after he’d caught Two-Tone the former British record carp. He applied so much effort to his campaign he said there were times when he believed he was destined to never catch that fish. Those negative demons would put many other anglers off, and it is the perfect example of why Darrel is as highly respected as he is. It is also a fundamental reason why the same people are often regularly seen holding their target fish because they are made of different stock to the majority of everyday anglers.

Of course time does play an important roll in tracking down a target big fish so the more you have available to go fishing the better your chances are. I tend to think that people who have a shortage of time look to other areas of their fishing to try and gain an edge. This is where it gets a bit confusing because it is very easy to get caught up in the technicalities of the carping industry if you are not careful.
            There is no such thing as a ‘big carp rig’. If there was, we’d all be using it. The very fact there are so many variations of rigs out there should tell you that understanding this minefield of a topic is mainly about being confident in what you are doing. Other than using a big enough hook to hold well, if anyone tries to tell you that there is a big fish rig in existence, well just leave them to it. In my experience it’s all about being confident in what you’re using and nothing more. If you aren’t, you will faff around too much, forever reeling in and changing something when you would perhaps be far better off leaving the rig in place and sitting patiently.
            Big carp are generally older, meaning they will sense danger much more easily than younger less pressure-experienced fish. For this reason, I will try to use a rig that the majority of anglers aren’t. I only use braided hooklinks like Missing Link (stripped of the outer coating) and in a day and age when everyone is chod rig mad, it certainly puts me in the minority which is how I like it. Big fish will have seen it all before. Keeping everything discreet and camouflaged therefore, can only be of an advantage.
            As for bait, well I have much deeper views on this to those I have on rigs. I don’t believe there is a bait in existence which will single out the bigger fish from the smaller ones. I do, however, believe there are baits that most definitely give me a better chance of catching the biggies. There are so many examples of great big fish baits, such as The Key, Club Mix, Big Fish Mix, Cell etc. Lots of companies have them and their evolution comes after many years of use and field tests. You only have to look through past issues of Carp-Talk to see the track record of such baits, and a good starting point is when a bait is still on the market after many years of existence. God knows how many big fish have tripped up to the Nashbait Squid variations down the years; it must be thousands of them.
            Big fish are usually much older than smaller fish. They will have different taste stimulants, just in the way that humans have. Compare what foods children like to adults, there is a massive difference. Well the same exists in animals and fish which is why you get adult dog and cat foods, cattle feeds for the older breeds etc.
            Taste buds change with age, and in fish there are many examples of carp changing food preferences as they get older. It is a well-known fact that the bronchial apertures in carp are much more useful in smaller and younger fish. This results in the older and bigger fish having more difficulties sieving out the zooplankton as easily. The same can be said for the pharyngeal teeth on carp, these are known to wear out with time, especially amongst fish that feed heavily on crayfish and mussels etc. Carp therefore switch food items depending on lots of different factors, such as the time of the year, type of venue, water quality, food availability, etc, etc.
            I used to laugh off a lot of the bait theories that were put forwards by the top anglers when I was young. Bait chemistry was so technical a lot of it used to go straight in one ear and out the other. With the passage of time, however, I’ve seen how consistent some baits are with big fish. Ingredients like liver and milk powder, green lipped mussel, yeast and Robin Red, and combinations of them all, have the knack of working time and time again, and when you see it in action it is very difficult to believe there is no connection between bait and big fish.
            A couple of years ago on the Mesters syndicate in North Lincolnshire I landed the three A-Team members on Nashbait’s Scopex Squid fairly quickly. Mark Watson was on the same water and within no time he too had two of the A-Team on the bank using the same bait. The two of us hardly touched the other fish in the venue, and the fact Mark went back on there this year and caught one of them again very quickly is a great example of demonstrating such a connection.

When I’ve set my sights on catching a particular fish, one of the first things I will do is to track down its past history. This may sound like a tedious task but there is so much to be gained by finding out past capture records, especially if you are on a limited fishing time.
            I fish a lot of short sessions, dashing between the lake, work and home. Although I fish a lot of overnighters, a lot of the venues I have fished in recent years have been much better ‘day waters’. Obviously this has worked against me so finding out the best feeding times for the biggies has been very important. Fortunately I have flexi-hours at Carp-Talk which comes in very handy when I need to stay on for a couple of hours in a morning or get back to the water later in an afternoon.
             Most of the big fish I have targeted are very religious in the times that they get caught. Arnie at Manton Old Lake was known for getting caught more often than not between midday and 4pm, and quite often during the middle of the summer. As a result I channelled my fishing between those times, even going to the water just for a few hours around that time. It was much more than coincidence then when I eventually caught the great fish at 3pm on a sunny mid-July afternoon.
            I did the same at Woldview when I went after Floppy Tail, ensuring I stayed on the water until 10am as much as possible because that fish was known as an early morning feeder. I eventually caught it just before first light at 5am which again was more than coincidence when trying to understand the patterns of big fish habits. I can give you many other similar examples.
            The same can be said about swim choice too. Most big fish aren’t just clockwork with their feeding times, a lot are also very territorial. They have their favourite haunts and feeding spots so uncovering these can only be of benefit. It happens on tiny waters like Emmotland where the big common in Pond 3 is known for coming out from one end of the pond only. This sort of behaviour stretches right the way up to the larger ocean-sized reservoirs of the continent too, as an example The Bulldozer in the 6000 acre Forest of Orient in France used to only get caught from Geradot Bay.

Of course big fish are all different and you may find a dose of good old fashioned luck will help you more than any method or tactic when it comes to tracking them down consistently. Even the luckiest anglers in existence, however, can’t be lucky all of the time. Sometimes they need to rely on the key ingredient of all, which is to keep working at it even when things aren’t going in your favour. Effort is what it’s all about, working the grind stone and walking the walk; something which only a very few are prepared to apply to their big fish hunting time and time again. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Naseby reservoir, Northamptonshire

If you’re after a well-stocked water to try this winter then Naseby Resevoir and its 10,000-plus head of carp might well be up your street…

Sometime last year I put a posting on Facebook asking fishery owners who wanted a review on their water to get in touch. A short while later I was contacted by Naseby bailiff Mike Madeley inviting me to go and have a try for its 10,000-plus head of carp. Being the middle of winter it sounded absolutely perfect for getting a cold water fish on the bank: after all, there aren’t many waters in the UK which contain more than 10,000 carp so it sounded kind of easy, which I was lead to believe it was from some of the other anglers who messaged me about it.
Mike and I set a date in the diary, and typically with that time of the year when it came around to visiting, the country was hit with sub-zero temperatures and a white over. Being the mad heads that we carp anglers are, the two of us didn’t let it put us off, and we carried on with our intentions, arriving to what can only be described as an Antarctic-like fishery. As we surveyed the banks it really did look bleak with not a sign from any fish at all which didn’t surprise us. There were sheets of cat ice in the margins and the banks were rock hard underfoot. As we began to set up a couple of other die-hard anglers arrived for a fish, but unsurprisingly nothing at all was caught all day.
Another go
Fast forward to October this year and Mike and I set a date for a return leg when conditions looked much more promising. It was the start of the autumn period and it really did look like we’d timed it perfect. Mike had been up to the water a few times in the build-up and there were fish coming out all over. It sounded a completely different lake, and more like the Naseby I’d been told about. Additionally, just as we pulled into the car park an angler was pulling off after a three day session in the eastern arm. I loved what he said to me as I began to unload the car: “You’ll fill your boots. They are having it big time! I just fished when I fancied it, casting out when I didn’t want to sleep.” It sounded just what I needed as I had my head into my local Yorkshire fishing and wanted to get back up there as quick as I could. If I could fish the one night on Naseby and have a few, I’d be laughing!

            With only an hour or so before dark began to roll in, Mike walked me to the swim where the angler had been. It was only twenty or so yards from the car and perfect for doing the night. Additionally there were two or three swims nearby which gave me a selection to choose from at this side of the fishery. Having compiled these features for almost twenty years now I know only too well how jumping in on the back of someone for a night can work in your favour. Besides, the dam wall looked busy with anglers and I didn’t fancy a long walk to some of the other swims since my leg was still not healed from an injury I sustained last year.

I opted to jump in the same swim the other angler had pulled out of which was the furthest to the left, whilst Mike went next door to my right, although he was only staying for a couple of hours as he was doing a night-shift at work. My swim was bordered by marginal weeds with plenty of scope out in front. There weren’t any swims down to the left so I was the last one in the line. It was an arm of water that looked to run for some distance and the perfect area for the carp to move out of the main body of water. Even if the lad in the car park hadn’t told me what he did, I’d have still been very confident in the swim as it just looked carpy.
A quick cast about with the plumbing rod revealed 5-6ft all over between 40-120 yards, sloping up to a couple of feet at 40 yards back towards the bank where the weed was. I had to have a rod at the base of the slope as it looked likely the carp may follow it as they moved into the arm and followed it down into the bay to my left. Knowing the lake is quite well stocked with silvers I scattered thirty or so 20mm Scopex Squid in the vicinity of the slope and put my left-hander here on a single bottom bait straight out of the bag. If there really were 10,000 carp in the lake, they’d soon find the bait and get munching. The middle rod I did next, fishing this at 70 yards into no-mans land with the same amount of bait around it, with the final rod going at 120 yards on exactly the same set up as the other two rods. Basically, the three rods were scattered in a diagonal line, the aim being to intercept any fish that passed through the swim; the bait put out with a stick and because there was no breeze it went out exactly where I wanted it.
You could feel the autumnal air dropping over the reservoir as the evening turned to night. For the next couple of hours I sat in Mike’s swim drinking tea and chatting waiting for the big feed to begin. The guy in the car park had also told us that the nights were much better than the days, most of the action beginning at 10pm and continuing right the way through to first light. Mike had to leave at 9pm to get to work, at which time it really was cold, well into single figures. The Titan already had a coating of moisture and the vapour was present in front of my face every time I exhaled. As it closed in on 10pm I was getting nearer and nearer to the bag to try and warm myself up. I hoped it wasn’t going to a tough one like the previous trip, and just as I was about to get into it, the close-in rod broke the silence as it let fly!
            There was no warning bleep; the Siren just screamed a one-toner as an angry carp was hooked. It’s always a buzz getting that first take from a new water, and having blanked the last time down, I was understandably longing for to get into the net! The fish powered off on a 20 yard run, before I brought it back to the net. It then went off on a similar length run. It was certainly giving a good account of itself and eventually I had it in the margins and ready for the net. In it went first time, a lovely Simmo-looking upper-double. I was a very relieved man, meaning I had the feature complete and I could head for home in the morning!
            I’d not even lifted the fish out of the water when the right-hand rod surged off in exactly the same fashion as the first take! This rod was a lot further out and the carp surged off to the left in an arch. Like the first one it took line straight away; the Naseby carp certainly looking like they packed a punch. I had trouble weaving the line in and out of the middle rod which was still in position, but a short while later I had the fish in a safe place and ready for netting. I only had the one net with me so it was a little bit fidgety getting the second fish in there whilst ensuring the other one stayed safe. I managed to do it with no bother though, and when I compared the two fish side by side they were like two peas in a pod. They were both of a similar size and looking at their flanks they had almost the same scale pattern.
Busy night
Being my first two fish of the trip I had to set the camera gear up to make sure I had them recorded in the memory banks for the feature. It didn’t take long and once sorted I rebaited the rods and topped up both areas with the same amount of Scopex Squids. I had visions of it being a busy night, and although they weren’t going to break any personal bests, I was enjoying the moment.
            An hour or so must have passed, by the time I was all done and ready to get back into the bag. I was buzzing with confidence as I knew it wouldn’t be long for another fish to come along.  My head had only been on the pillow for what seemed like a couple of minutes before the middle rod was away! Another hard fighting Naseby carp neared the net moments later and I was looking down on a fish that looked just like the two I’d only moments earlier photographed! I unhooked it in the water as I was happy with my photographs of the other two and didn’t fancy doing any more unless I got lucky with a twenty or the light improved. I’d only just released the fish when this time the left-hander roared off…
            To cut a long story short, the rest of the night was basically a mirror image of what it started like, with the action coming thick and fast whenever I wanted a fish. I ended up reeling in for a few hours when I got to seven landed so that I could get some rest. This was around 1.30am, putting the rods back out about 6am. I only cast two rods out this time, not putting much bait around them either, knowing they would both sooner or later go once the hungry car found them.
The left-hander was only out twenty minutes before I had one, and the other rod went probably ten minutes after that. It was clear the Naseby fish were hungry and I could almost catch them to order.
            Mike turned up at 7am after his night shift, armed with a sausage sandwich. He was just in time to do the honours with the camera and was only popping in to see how I’d ended up. With nine fish under my belt in only a few hours of fishing I was more than happy with how it went. By 8am therefore, I was all packed up and on my way home with the feature in the bag. It had been a really good night, lots of fun and certainly very different to the first time we’d tried to complete it.

Address: Carvells Lane, Naseby, Northamptonshire, NN6 6JF.
Size: 93 acres.
Number of pegs: 80 or thereabouts depending on water level
Run by: Harry Bosworth.
Contact: 07904 493417.
Email: harry.bosworth@btinternet.com 
Website: www.fisheries.co.uk/naseby
Carp stock: Approximately 10,000 carp averaging mid-upper-doubles, with a best close to 30lb.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Echo Pool, France

 I was amazed when I first heard reports of the colossal carp that were coming out of Echo Pool in the south of France, but they are very much true. This tiny little piece of French holiday carping is run by ex-pats Andy & Tasha Walker and I was invited down to take a closer look at what it has to offer.
It was a bit of push to get down there because I’d only just got back from Rainbow Lake near Bordeaux three days before. It was also my girlfriend’s birthday whilst I was away, but sometimes the perks of the job are so good you have to take the opportunities that become available to you. I’d actually been offered two weeks although I didn’t want to push it so I squeezed in a five-dayer with long-time carper Chris Felton (aka The Wizard) who was as excited as me about going. Echo was somewhere I’d heard a lot about and I wanted to see if it was as good as what I’d been hearing.

The stock
With the venue being a mere 2-acres in size, it’s fair to say its carp stock is nothing short of amazing. Topped by Colin the Common at a whopping 74lb it also has at least four different sixties to 68lb and six different fifties. Besides these fish there are also a plentiful supply of 40s, 30s and smaller back-up fish, making it very, very unique indeed.
I first heard about the venue when we had a catch report sent into Carp-Talk sometime last year. I have a built-in memory bank that absorbs information about lakes worth visiting and this was very much one of them. It wasn’t just the fact it had such big fish in it that made it attractive. It was because they were all home-grown.
          If you take a look on the fishery’s website there are pictures of the top ten fish, all at very small as well as their heaviest weights. This is something I always find interesting, not only because of the carp angler in me, but also my education which is fisheries related. I want to know about the mechanics of a successful fishery and what it is the owner has done differently to make it what it is. Clearly there was something special about Echo or it wouldn‘t contain such big fish for its small acreage. In fact, other than the legendary Redmire Pool, I can’t think of a lake in the history of carp fishing which has produced such colossal carp for such a small volume of water.
          They aren’t just any old carp either. Just from looking at the website before I visited I could tell they were in magnificent condition. Despite being pressured for almost 30 weeks of the year for the last ten years they are obviously very much comfortable within their little home which initially made me think it was solely down to the volume of bait being introduced. Whilst I’m sure this has had a massive impact on the growth of the fish, I also think the fact they have grown up with angling pressure is another factor behind why they are so big. Big carp which are subjected to angling pressure they have never seen before end up getting too stressed and sooner or later they fall off the radar. You only have to look at when the likes of Cassien and Raduta were first discovered. The biggies got caught a handful of times in the first year or so and then disappeared. When carp grow up with pressure they learn to deal with it and can live a long time very healthily alongside it.
          Another factor which I’m sure has helped Echo to grow big carp is the rules which Andy & Tasha have in place. Unlike any other fishery I’ve been to they ask all anglers to weigh and deal with their catches entirely in the water. Under no circumstances must the fish be lifted onto the bank. It all sounds a bit tricky and daft until you see it put into place because it’s actually quite simple. The fish are a little bit more wriggly than they are on the bank, but the condition of them is testament to how well it works. There were no sores or marks on those myself and Chris caught and not one of them showed signs of a snapped tail which is so commonly put down to otters when it’s more likely to be caused more by anglers bad handling them.

My five days
We arrived at the lake nice and early after a drive through the night. Enclosed in trees and lush open countryside it was everything that both myself and Chris expected. Almost round in shape, the first bank we came to had a large open swim which was big enough for three anglers which is the maximum allowed on at any given time. There are no other swims on the lake in fact, and stalking is also prohibited because the opposite bank is completely out of bounds other than for baiting up. At the dam end Andy told us the depth dropped down to around 11ft close to where a large jetty strutted out over the water. Straight away Chris took a fancy to that end of the lake, and with him having done the driving it was only fair that he had first choice of swim.
          This left me the shallower end which had a lovely margin opposite it where a good supply of trees overhung the bank. It just screamed carp and with the sun breaking through at intervals I had a feeling there’d be a few patrolling it. It didn’t take either of us long to get set up as we were itching to be let loose on the impressive stock. It all looked good because no-one had been fishing the lake for four days and Andy & Tasha had been trickling a bit of bait in prior to our arrival.
          There were quite a few fish bubbling out in the middle but the only place we saw them actually show was in the far margin a couple of rod lengths out. I’d been told bait boats were allowed so out came my trusty Lakestar loaded with a stringer of two freebies alongside the hookbait. The plan was to keep a baited area going on the far bank slap in between where the two of us were fishing. This would be left devoid of lines until we’d had the chance to snatch a couple of fish early on with the stringer approach. With the lake having been devoid of anglers for a few days there was a good chance of a fish or two early on, with the baited area coming into play once this time had passed.

First blood
It didn’t take long for something to happen once I had my three hookbaits out. One area in particular on the far bank had seen several small fish show whilst I’d been setting up. This spot was 5ft deep and the first take I had from it ended up falling off as soon as I leant into it. I dismissed it as a small fish, but only an hour later I was latched into something a lot better as it hugged the far margin once it felt the power of the NRXD which was well into its curve. It felt a really heavy fish and it wasn’t until I had it under the rod tip and then into the net when we realised I’d got lucky by landing the best looking fish in the lake. At 30lb exactly it was covered in lovely large scales across both flanks, all glistening in the autumn sun as Chris clicked away with the camera.
          Nothing else happened for the rest of the day and night other than a couple of small fish before evening. The next action came at first light the next day when one of Chris’s rods went roaring off with one of Echo’s heavyweights on the end. A slow typical big fish fight followed and when we saw it roll in front of the net we prayed it to stay on as by this time we knew exactly which fish he was attached to. Watching it eventually glide into the net was a memorable sight for Chris as it smashed his 50lb personal best which had stood for quite some time. Known as The Barrel and weighing in at 62lb it was a great way to kick off the trip for Chris. Despite being tired after the long drive he was absolutely buzzing with the result. It was a great moment to share as I always bounce off the moment of seeing others catching decent fish. With me it’s never ever a competition (unless I’m fishing with Rob Hughes lol) as the next best thing to catching yourself is seeing your mate with a donkey in the net.
          It was quite a damp foggy morning but this soon lifted to leave the second day quite pleasant. By the afternoon the sun was shining directly onto the margin where my baits were and that day I went on to land a couple of nice fish topped by a 32lb mirror which like the one from the day before felt like an absolute brute all the way to the net.
          The small traps we’d been fishing were certainly doing the job and we anticipated we might get another day out of them before we had to turn to the baited area. We’d kept the bait going out and by the start of day three we’d introduced around 15kg of Scopex Squid to the area as well as the same amount of pellet which we’d got off Andy & Tasha. We’d not caught anything in the night so we decided it was time to let the baited area have it, both of us putting a rod to it and feeling confident that something would happen.
I was the first to get off the mark from the baited spot by banking a lovely 45lb 12oz mirror in the afternoon. It turned out to be a fish named Oliver which had been over fifty earlier in the season.
          The weather was forecast to drop colder overnight and it did exactly that with the sleeping bag cover and thermal trousers coming in very handy. We awoke to thick fog and a very dull day which carried on right the way through until the Monday morning. Andy had told us that it was normal for the back end of a trip to always fish slower than the start, but in our case the weather was what seemed to kill it more than anything.
          Luckily the Monday afternoon turned rather nice and the sun began to poke its head through. It seemed to spark the fish into a feed and that day I ended up with four takes, sadly pulling out of two due to cut offs as well as a hook pull to an absolute donkey that Chris reckoned was a known sixty called Tasha.
          By the afternoon a switch had obviously been flicked because Chris landed a small mirror and I went on to land another two that evening followed by two in the night which was by far our best bit of dark-time action. After the lost fish I longed for a nice ending and just on packing up time the next morning I was rewarded with a clonking 46lb common which saw our final tally reach a very respectable 14 fish from five days of fishing.
          The forecast had been for a wet pack up but luckily for us, it turned out to be a lot better than expected. Wishing we had a few more days available to us we thanked Andy & Tasha for their hospitality before setting on our way. We’d had a great five days of fishing at an absolutely wonderful French venue in the company of two very nice hosts.
          A lot of you reading this may never have heard of Echo Pool until now but take it from me, if you like small scenic venues right out in the middle of nowhere with the added bonus of big fish, this place will be right up your street. It is one of those venues you just can’t help but fall in love with and I can’t wait to get back there.

          For more information about fishing it, email echopool@hotmail.co.uk or visit www.echopool.co.uk.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


I think it’s fairly safe to say that carp fishing today most definitely goes through fashion phases. An influential angler or company will say something is good and before you can say “I don’t agree with that”, everyone and his uncle is using and advocating it, regardless of any theory being put forwards.
It is only when you try to offer an opposing thought that you see this, because it doesn’t matter how experienced you are or what you have to say; if you dare say anything against the masses you are in for some serious flack on the bank and social media sites.
I probably sound like I’m getting old – and maybe I am – because this month I want to touch on something which just baffles me about carp fishing today. I know I’m going to get some stick for what I write, but I couldn’t care less because I know the sensible anglers out there will be able to relate with what I say.

En vogue
Slack lining is definitely sweeping through the industry like a virus, and if it hasn’t reached your country yet, it will do soon. Walk the banks of any lake in the UK and eight out of ten anglers are sat there with their bobbins on the floor and the line all drooped through the rings whilst their tips are in the air.
          I’ve seen all sorts of anglers fishing like this, ranging from the complete novice right the way through to the experienced. Whilst I’m not doubting its effectiveness in some situations, I do know from speaking to the anglers I have seen fishing like this, a large percentage of them simply do it without thinking why they are doing it and whether or not it is helping them.
          I saw a guy last summer fishing 100m out in 15ft of water with his lines all slack and he was surprised when he had a take and the fish had kited 90 degrees before he had any indication at his end. I even witnessed one of my mates doing it at 60m range in 11ft when exactly the same thing happened to him. Interestingly, that followed the two of us having a deep conversation about why he was fishing in that way. The worst of the lot, however, was when I saw a guy doing it on Manton New Lake last year, fishing out into the middle which is probably 80m and over the top of half a dozen weed beds only to find out the next morning that he had had a fish on for god knows how long!

I don’t know about the rest of you but everything I do in my carp fishing I need theory to back up my decisions. Sometimes I get it wrong, but having done lots of tests on indication when myself and Rob Hughes wrote our first book in 1996, I like to think I’ve got that side of my angling almost perfect – a single bleep usually meaning I’m in.
I think you'll all agree that the sooner we know when a carp has picked up our hookbait, the better the chance is of landing the fish. The only sure way of knowing this has happened is to actually watch them do it when stalking, but obviously most of us prefer to fish in the long-stay style with static lines, meaning it isn't possible to do this. Instead we rely on buzzers and indicators to inform us.
          I know when I was at school, I was taught physics and that a straight line is the shortest distance between the two points of A and B. It therefore makes perfect sense to me that when the end of a line is pulled, if it is straight the other end will feel the pulling motion quicker than if there is slack in it. It also makes sense to me that if a weight is added to the line (like a bobbin), should the two points become shorter, the bobbin will take up any slack that is created on the line. If the bobbin is not there, the line simply becomes limp and before any movement is felt at one end of the two points, it must be tightened so the slack is taken out. In the case of a fish pulling at a line therefore, or swimming towards you, it makes sense to tight line with a bobbin indicator if you are wanting the perfect indication when static bait fishing.
          This theory makes me wonder why then, so many anglers currently prefer to fish with slack lines instead of tight. I’ve heard it said that slack lining is more sensitive than tight lining which based on science just can’t be true. Those trying to argue this case say that the pressure of water adds weight to the line which makes it act differently to when you do the tests out of water. Well, all I will say to these people is I don’t believe you’ve ever done the tests properly. If you had you would be of the same opinion as Rob Hughes who compiles most of the underwater carping features in the monthly titles. Both Rob and I might not agree on a lot of things, but we most definitely agree on this. Take a look at Strategic Carp Fishing, the title of our first book, and you will clearly read that tight lining with the right weight of indicator results in the best indication.

Line shy
The other theory put forwards by slack lining fans is that carp don’t like bow-string lines in the swim. I can understand where they are coming from with this theory, as not only am I convinced that carp can sense vibrations passed down the line if you are noisy when fishing in this way, they also see it much more easily when fished in shallow water.
Last year I watched the carp in Orchid Lake spooking at close quarters on line they could see, and although it looked OK to me from where I was stood only a few yards away, there was clearly something about it that the carp didn’t like as they closed in on it. You had to see their reactions to know what I mean by this, the fish coming into the zone of the hookbait, going down on it and spooking once they were right next to the line.
          Of course there could have been other factors that caused them to do this, but I know from what I saw they were spooking on what they saw rather than what they sensed. They especially didn't like the line when they got close up to it, several fish spooking at the first sighting and not coming back into the swim until several hours later.
This all happened in 1m of water, and just like Steve Briggs pointed out recently in Carp-Talk, such a reaction is understandable when you consider the science of how carp see. Basically they use the under-surface of the water to create a reflection which bounces back at them. This reflection works better the closer the fish is to the surface and the flatter the surface is, hence the reason why they see well in shallow water. I couldn’t tell you the exact depth their eye sight becomes less effective (I believe it is around 5ft) because every lake is different and it will depend on water clarity. All I can say is the deeper you go, the less they use their eyes to feed compared to their other senses such as taste, smell, hearing, etc.

Another example
The carp I watched feeding at Orchid spooked every time they saw a bit of line. I tried slack lining and they reacted to it in exactly the same way. In the end I really had to go to town with my presentation to get myself a bite, disguising it by freelining and adding putty all along its length right into the margins so that it was pinned down on the deck. I had to do this whilst slack lining to meet the contours of the bottom and it was proper finicky stuff, but the extra care I took got the bite in the end, watching the fish take the hookbait and then striking almost instantly.
A day later I ended up finding some fish in slightly deeper water in the next door swim and a little bit further out. The trouble was it was much harder for me to see the hookbait here so I had to rely on a lead to do the work for me. Try as I could to pin down the line, it was nowhere near as good as it was the day before. The depth was about 2m in this spot, and I could see the line clearly from where I was perched up a tree, but the carp's reaction to it was completely different. In this area they knocked and swam into the line closest to the rig without spooking and it wasn’t until one came up in the water and saw the line closest to the surface that I had my first spook-off. That fish was not to be seen again, but I did go on to catch two fish in quick succession a short while later.
I could have put that result down to all sorts of other reasons because there are always variables behind why we catch more one day than we do the next. However, my experience told me it was down to the carp not seeing the line in the deeper spot. I've seen carp react to line on so many other occasions, and the best examples are those when surface fishing. When you see carp leaving your hookbait on the surface it makes you wonder how on earth we manage to catch anything; they don't even go near it because it stands out like a sore thumb.

Line shy carp and rig shy carp are two completely different hurdles the carp angler is faced with. On the underwater dvds we see fish regularly mouthing and blowing our hookbaits out which is much different to them not even going near to the rig. If they know what anglers are, when they see your line they spook, it’s as simple as that, so the secret is keeping it as disguised as you possibly can.
There are definitely pros and cons to slack lining, however, the pros in my mind are very few and far between. In close quarter shallow situations I can definitely see the advantages of keeping that line pinned to the contours of the marginal features and taking all of the tension out of it, but the deeper you go the sight of the line becomes less important. Furthermore, the further out you fish, the harder it is to see what’s going on by the rig, so the priority then should be about knowing when a fish has picked up the hookbait and you getting the indication that this has happened.  
I spend most of my static-bait fishing with rigs placed some distance away from where I’m set up so I use tight lines more than I do slack. There are times when I fish in shallow water at long range too, but in these instances I weigh up the situation and try to work out how much of that line may be visible close to the rig end. The further out I’m fishing, basic science lessons tell me the lesser the angle in the line will be and the more likely it is to be on the deck.
Of course there are situations when you have to sacrifice a bit of indication in order to get the take so slack lining or slipping on a back lead may prevail, but the only golden rule here is to fish safely. Doing it over the top of weedbeds, gravel bars or close to snags that are some distance out is just asking for trouble.

Chinese whispers
The overuse of slack lining today is definitely related to companies selling indicators designed for that type of fishing. However, I don’t think it is fair to blame the industry for this, because in my mind it is definitely a bad case of Chinese whispers. One angler picks up on something and then passes it on in a slightly different way to what he heard or read. Before you know it, it’s gone viral and everyone is talking about it. It then gets even more distorted when a few whackers get caught on it; everyone thinking it is an edge and no-one considering whether or not the angler was fishing safely or if he may have caught more had he been tight lining instead.
The moral of this feature therefore is to think about what you are doing when angling rather than doing something because someone has told you to do it. I’m not saying you should not slack line end of story because that would be foolish. I just think it is massively overused in carp fishing today (certainly in the UK), and it is not necessary to fish like it in every situation. I’d even go as far as to say it has got out of hand and become more of a danger to our carp than it has the asset that many believe, especially when fishing beyond the margins or over the top of features.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Short break at The Everglades

When my old mate Tony Delaney first invited me to his ‘holiday retreat’ near Scunthorpe I'll admit to having a slight chuckle under my breath at his use of words. Living in the north as I do, I often hear ‘Scunny’ described in lots of different ways because there’s people in the Carp-Talk office who live near and close to there, and ‘holiday’ was not a word I’d heard anyone use to reference it before now.
            Leading up to my 48-hour trip last weekend I honestly didn't know what to expect. I knew Tony had a caravan on a site known as 7 Lakes near Crowle, not far from junction 1 of the M180. OK it wasn’t exactly Scunthorpe, but it was close to it, and having never spent much time in the area, I perhaps had the wrong impression of it.
            It was right next door to a carp lake called The Everglades which was part of the 7 Lakes site and the former syndicate venue for Eric’s Angling Centre (pre-Willows days). Tony told me it was lovely and not like what I was thinking so I took his word for it and decided to take my girlfriend Lucy along in the hope of combining a bit of fishing with what females like to describe as ‘quality time’ together.
            We met Tony at 4.30pm on the Friday at the main reception area and as soon as we entered the 7 Lakes site we knew we were entering somewhere very different to what we expected. My first impression was how wonderfully clean it was and how well presented it looked. Straight away I knew my initial expectations were well off the mark.
            As we drove down to Tony's caravan we passed the main 40-acre lake which is used for an array of different water sports, including jet skis, canoeing, rafting and of course fishing. We also passed the onsite bar and restaurant and began to feel as though we were entering a completely different world to the one outside the main gate. The roads were lined by lovely caravans before we reached the end of the track and pulled up next to Tony's retreat. It overlooked a completely different lake to the ones we had passed along the track and there was no other way of describing it than absolutely gorgeous. It was not far off a carp angler’s paradise, enclosed in tree canopy and bordered by thick reeds, and more importantly there were no signs of any jet skis anywhere!
Before walking the lake we were introduced to our accommodation for the weekend. I'd specifically not packed any of my main carping gear so I could spend some time with Lucy. We were also amongst one of the best heat wave’s for quite some time so I didn't see the point in bivvying up because I was likely to have a better chance of stalking a carp than sitting waiting for them.
            Tony’s caravan was right next door to The Everglades, situated in the south eastern corner of the lake where there were plenty of carp on show. There were a couple of swims at the base of the bank which were overlooked by Tony's property, both of which looked ideal for bivvying up if we’d wished to. A veranda surrounded the caravan which was ideal for letting the dogs loose as it was fenced in and secure. There was also a set of patio furniture and a BBQ that was ideal for the weather we had in store.
            Inside the property was an immaculate retreat like a home from home. The lounge area boasted a three-piece sweet, wide screen TV, Xbox, DVD player as well as eating area. The kitchen had a fitted oven and hob as well as all of the utilities needed to cook any type of meal, whilst there were two double bedrooms (one with en suite) as well as a main bathroom with a double sized shower unit. For a caravan it was certainly very well equipped, even boasting a few carp books and albums to pass a bit of time.      Most importantly for Lucy the property was immaculately kept and very clean. It was almost like new it was so well looked after. Straight away I could tell she was happy and would enjoy the two days we had before us.

The Everglades
Once our tour of the caravan was complete we took to the lake and the chance to walk the dogs and have a good look around. It was great to be at a dog friendly site as there's a growing number of venues closing their doors to our K9 friends.
            The Everglades looked a very interesting lake with a mass of small islands and gin clear water. All of the swims were well looked after with bark chipped base and most were set back from the main path that bordered the lake (not that it was overly busy though). There was even a couple out on islands that looked the perfect escape for the unsociable carpers like me, both accessed by well constructed bridges.
            After our first circuit it was obvious that the bivvy approach wasn't the only way to fish this lovely little water. It was a paradise for anglers who love stalking in the edge because there were so many nooks and crannies where the carp could hide away. As an addicted stalker, I knew straight away that I was going to enjoy casting a line into its depths. I couldn't wait to get started, and to our advantage the only place we saw fish on that first circuit was just in front of Tony's caravan. That fact alone would certainly make it easier for me to gain a few Browny Points with Lucy as all I had to do was wander down when it looked good for whetting a line. I only needed to catch one carp to complete the feature and by the looks of what I'd seen it wasn't going to take me long to do that. There were a good half a dozen fish regularly on show in front and in the warm conditions they certainly looked prime for a surface bait.

It didn’t take long to get things sorted as the car park was right outside the door of the caravan. We were unloaded in a jiffy and after a much needed evening meal on the veranda I decided it was time to fire out a few baits. There were a few fish regularly browsing the margins of the swim to the left of Tony’s love nest and after ten minutes or so of the Mixers going out, they began to sample.
            Tony had already briefed me on the lake’s stock. There were thought to be roughly sixty carp in its four acres, of which the majority were doubles. There were rumours of a low-thirty leather which made the occasional appearance but the biggest out to Tony and his friends was a mid-twenty mirror. The positive wasn’t the size of the fish, more the fact that they were all absolute corkers. Being in clear water, the carp were all of a very dark, almost black colour, making them very unique for the area. They were also very heavily scaled giving them a totally different appeal. There were fully scaleds as well as linears and double row linears, all absolute beauties. I couldn’t wait to get one in for a closer look.
            The majority of the fish seemed to be favouring a sunken reed bed that was on top of a shallow plateau about 10 yards out. In and out of the reeds they went, following one another on a route which took them around the back of an island that was the main feature of the bay. There was a bit of weed dotted about off the island and it was here where the fish really took a liking for the baits I’d fired out.
            Tony had fished on the bottom during the week prior to me arriving and hadn’t had any success. He’d also had a go on the top and whilst they showed an interest, he did tell me they were very cagey. I could see this from the way they came up and took the baits, doing it in a very aggressive way, taking one and then dashing off into the 9ft deep water that was nearby. It was obvious they needed feeding up to gain some confidence so that first evening I absolutely lathered the surface with a constant stream of bait. Out it went every fifteen minutes or so, 10-15 pouchfulls of Mixer. Some of it drifted off into other areas of the lake but by the arrival of dusk I was fairly confident a good proportion had been taken by the fish. They were certainly taking a lot less aggressively and a few other fish had also turned up into the area for a look at what was going on.
            I was up early on the Saturday repeating the baiting, although it was a much cooler day and it took quite a while for the fish to begin to show. It wasn’t until midday when the sun came out that they moved in with any regularity. When they did, they were really on the munch and I knew it wouldn’t take long to get one once I decided to cast out.
            I rigged up one of my 9ft Scopes with 15lb clear Hardcore straight through as there were quite a lot of subsurface obstacles that could have proved hazardous. To this I fixed a medium Bolt Machine and a 3ft length of 12lb Zig Flo with a size 10 Uni hook. I could tell from the way they were taking that a single bait was the best way to approach it as they were taking one bait at a time. I went in with a single pre-soaked Mixer and simply side hooked it to the set up.

Singled out
Most of the fish looked like low-doubles from what I could make out. There were no really big fish in the area; the biggest being one that looked around the 17-18lb mark which was patrolling the margin of the island.
            Once most of the baits were gone, I eyed up where the biggest fish was and lobbed out my hookbait just over the back of it, gently drawing it into the ‘area’. The fish was coming nicely into its zone and within minutes of it hitting in the water, the Bolt Machine was skimming across the surface as the fish tightened up!
            This is when chaos hit the swim as all of the other fish bolted from the area. The one that was hooked went ballistic and surged off around the side of the island and stuck me straight into a weedbed. It was locked up for a few minutes before it started to come my way. Once free, it then went on a mad dash to the right and under some over-hanging bushes. There was all sorts of rubbish under the surface and within no time I was locked up again. I guessed I only had one chance and that was to wade along the margin so I did exactly that.
            With Lucy giggling like mad at how crazy I was I was soon up to my waist in water and unweaving the line. Luckily the fish was still on and once untangled I began easing it along the margin towards where the net was. It was fun while it lasted and a short while later I had a cracking upper-double in the net.

With the fish in the net I dried myself off and Lucy did the honours with the camera before we let the fish go. By now the little bay was devoid of carp. I kept my eye on it during the next few hours but despite a few signs the fish were never as confident as they were before the commotion. By early evening the weather had also turned and a fresh easterly breeze began to blow across the water which continued right the way through until the Sunday when our short little break came to an end.
            Although I’d done very little fishing, I was very pleased to have got one in the bag. If I’m honest I’d not wanted to do much fishing because I was a bit fished-out from having fished most nights at Woldview during the week. I was happy spending the rest of the time just chilling out on the veranda and relaxing in a great environment. We had several dog walks around the complex and watched a bit of the water sport that was on the main lake. We even watched a fun run and raft race that took place over the weekend, wishing we’d taken our gear to participate.
            It had been a fantastic 48-hour visit to 7 Lakes and when it came to leaving neither of us wanted to go home. Never in a million years did we expect to have such a good time at a venue so close to home. It was wonderfully quiet with everyone respectful of the other residents. It was also fantastically well kept, and I genuinely believe that what Tony has to offer will be right up the street of many Carp-Talk readers.
             There are some cracking carp to go for in The Everglades, and at £80 per day which includes four fishing permits as well as the caravan, it is very reasonably priced indeed. All in all, it is absolutely perfect for couples who want a nice relaxing stay at somewhere they can combine a bit of fishing with some ‘quality time’ together. I’ll certainly be going back, that’s for sure!

Prices and info
The minimum stay is for 48 hours and a discount is available for anyone wanting to stay for extended periods, priced at £490 for seven days or £350 from Monday-Friday. More information can be found by visiting www.evergladescarp.com or by calling Tony on 07955 334397.

Friday, 28 March 2014


Although I’ve been down to Elphicks a couple of times in the past, I’d never stepped foot on the banks of the North Lake until May 2012. The first time I paid the complex a visit was to fish at Pullens Lake in 2006 when the previous owner had it, and then a couple of years later to fish on West End Lake for a night. On both occasions, being the jewel in the crown, the North Lake was rammed out with anglers so I left them to it. However, a lot has happened to the lake since then, the complex now being in the hands of Mark Pallet, an experienced carp angler who to be fair, has transformed it into something very special indeed.
          The main attraction is the venue’s 60-pounder, a fish formerly known as The Pig which is now referred to by the lads on the lake as The Big Girl. For quite a while the fish hovered around the 50lb mark, but a destocking of the carp and the catfish by Mark has seen the fish push on past the magical sixty.
The trip started at the end of May on a Friday afternoon, following a week which had seen only one fish out to ten anglers. It was slap bang in the middle of the high pressure spell which saw the country hit by a heat wave with temperatures averaging mid-twenties every day. The drive down was horribly hot and I knew it was going to be pretty much the same when I arrived. Luckily I had the first two days to myself, meaning I could wander around with a stalking rod and do a bit of surface fishing, something I absolutely love to do.
          It was baking hot and the lake was flat calm. I’d been told by quite a few lads that the end closest to the entrance was the place to set up. Sixty percent of the biggun’s captures were from this end, but when I walked the banks, almost the entire stock seemed to be down in the shallows. There were backs out all over the place and within no time I had a few taking. Fishing standard controller tactics with a 10lb mono hooklink and a single softened Mixer on a size 6 hook with the barb squeezed down, it didn’t take me long to get my first one on the bank. It was a lovely 28lb 8oz fully scaled ghosty, an absolute beauty which kicked things off nicely.
          It was late evening by the time I’d got everything back to normal so I sorted myself out for the night, plotting up on the grassy bank side half way between the first island and the dam wall. The plan was to steadily feed a few spots with boilie during the week in an attempt to catch the biggie. Being a known boilie muncher I wasn’t interested in numbers of carp, I just wanted a chance of the biggie so I started with a base feed of 18mm boilies. They were air-dried for the week ahead and were perfect for what I wanted. I found a lovely gravel strip in the margins a few rod lengths out where it dropped to 5ft. One rod went there, a second rod going out towards the corner of the island to my left where another strip of gravel was located. The third rod was then fired to the opposite margin where it was again hard and gravely. All three spots looked perfect patrol routes so were baited with a few kilos of boilies to begin with. I also put out 30 Spombs of mixed hemp, Red Band and maize which my mate Derek Fell had prepared for the trip.
First night
I’d been told that the nights and early mornings were a good time on the bottom and true to form at 5.15am my margin rod at my feet was away with a 26lb mirror on the end. It was sweltering for so early in the morning and I knew instantly it was going to be another day of stalking on the cards. By 9am there were again loads of carp on show in the shallows so I headed there. By the end of the day I had another three carp under my belt, all off the top on Mixer. The highlight was a clonking 37lb 8oz starburst mirror. It took me an hour of feeding that fish up to stalk it, bringing them closer and closer to my feet and then singling out the biggest of the group. It was awesome seeing it coming up for the bait at my feet. The night passed with another two fish to my credit, both in the early morning, including a 30lb 12oz grass carp which went absolutely ballistic in the fight and on the mat. It was too early to get a self-take with one of them so I just slipped it back without a picture. Having caught grassies to almost forty in the past, I knew full well it was going to smash me to pieces and I didn’t fancy it.

Time for company
Just before Rob Hales arrived for a couple of nights I managed a lovely 27lb mirror on the float from the shallows. By now it was getting tough to get them to come up for bait as it was so hot. It fell for a couple of grains of sweetcorn fished in the margins.
When Rob arrived, I instantly saw the lake take on another status. As soon as another angler was added to the equation, they started hiding themselves away a bit more. They were no longer cruising about so obviously in the shallows; during the day they started to head for the deeper water up by the entrance end. It made sense really as this was the only safe area they had on the lake, the volume of water giving them some cover.
          Rob had arrived at completely the wrong time. Anyone who’s fished with him will know how good he is, but in the conditions he fished, it was just horrible. The heat was 27-degrees and it was flat calm. The fish just weren’t interested in feeding. During his first 24 hours neither of us caught a fish, and only on his last night did things change when he pulled out of one on the surface. Around the same time I had a small grassy off the top, and an hour before he left I had a hard-fighting mirror of 34lb which would have easily been an upper-thirty pre-spawning. It was a really aggressive fish that took some handling.

Last few days
The last few days of the trip were equally as hard going. A change in tactics may have seen a few smaller carp grace my net but I wasn’t interested in any of them. I had a rare sighting of the one I wanted up in one of the corners off the dam wall one afternoon. It looked colossal compared to the other fish I’d seen, coming up for five Mixers I slung out next to it before heading off into the centre of the lake. Had I had my surface rod to hand I may have had a chance for it, but nonetheless it was wonderful seeing a sixty-pound UK carp so close up.
          Derek Fell and his mate Adam joined me for the final few days and it was equally as tough going for them as it was for myself and Rob. During their time on the lake only three other carp were caught and I had two of them, the best a 29lb 14oz mirror off the top. Derek had a 23lb common whilst Adam lost a mid-twenty at the net. The last night saw carping legend Martin Locke join us, and it was just as frustrating for him watching the carp topping all over whilst not being able to entice a pick up. It was one of those trips when I really wish I’d been arriving when I was leaving, but overall I really enjoyed it, finishing with stats of eleven fish to myself topped by the 37lb 8oz.

A walk around the lake
There’s not an easy way of describing the lake because none of the swims have names or indeed numbers. It’s a bit of a free-for-all when you arrive, simply heading off to wherever you want to fish and just making sure you don’t get in anyone’s way. All the swims are gravel bedded and very comfortable, with the ones towards the lodge end on the track side being the most popular. It’s also around this area where the biggie tends to get caught the most, although it does come out from all over so bear this in mind. The shallows at the far end is definitely worth a look if the lake is quiet as they will get in there, but if it’s busy expect to find them in the deeper water where they’ll have more cover. The shallows averages a couple of feet and you’ll soon know if the carp are there as you’ll see them bow-waving about.
Features wise, most of the margins seem to have a gravel shelf, even the islands do, and you’ll find it easily with a marker. It was from this area where I caught a couple of my thirties, but out into open water can also be productive on the right day, where it’s nice and soft bottomed.

Overall opinion
The North Lake is a fantastic commercial fishery which is run to a very high standard. It’s set in peaceful surroundings and at the height of the summer it really is beautiful. It’s maturing very well and since the lake was destocked so is the fishery itself. It’s no longer somewhere you can just lob a bait out and reel them in all day; you now need to think about your fishing a lot more and be versatile in your approach. Expect a few frustrating hours from time to time because they are very riggy, and you may have to endure a few blanks along the way to get what you want. When they switch into feeding mode, however, anything can happen and you really can experience some incredible catches, topped hopefully by an absolute brute of a carp that is most definitely worth targeting, whatever your level of ability.

General info
Address: Elphicks Fisheries, Spelmonden Road, Horsmonden, Kent, TN12 8EL.
The complex: The Elphicks complex is one of the most famous open access fisheries in the Kent region. It has seven lakes, the most famous being the North Lake which is home to carp to 62lb. Other lakes on the complex include Pullens which is 3 acres with carp to 40lb-plus, Kettles at 2.5 acres which is a runs water with lots of small carp in, Prairie at 3.5 acres which has carp over 30lb, Sandwich at 1.5 acres which is a general coarse lake, Plantation at 1.3 acres with carp to over 30lb, and West End with carp to 57lb.
Facilities: There is a lodge at the main entrance which sells top name gear and bait, including Solar. It also sells a selection of light refreshments and has a toilet (both male and female) and shower which can be used at a small charge. On site there is also a café serving some delicious meals throughout the week.
Website: www.elphicks-fisheries.co.uk
E-mail: info@elphicks-fisheries.co.uk
Telephone: 01580 212512
Lake size: The North Lake is approximately 6 acres with 19 swims on offer.