Well the weather seems to have stabilised a bit now but everyone must have been affected in some way by the recent floods.
As anglers all that extra water has a far greater effect on us than most sports because, ultimately, it ends up in our rivers and lakes.
On a recent trip to the big Northants gravel pit I arrived to find that the level had risen over three feet in just a few days. On a sixty five acre pit that one hell of a lot of water.
Rather than be put off by the fact that all the swims had swans gliding around in them and the paths resembled babbling brooks, I was instantly excited at the prospects that lay ahead.
Any phenomenon like this, anything out of the ordinary, will affect the fish and make them behave in an unusual manner and often that is to our advantage.
The first thing I wanted to know was where was the water coming in as influxes, inlet pipes, burst river banks etc have always been a magnet for carp as they love the taste and feel of new water. Usually the muddier the inflowing water the better and I also think that the oxygen level must rise around the source of the inlet as well; this combined with the chance of some fresh food being unearthed by the power of the water as it floods in, nearly always creates an instant feeding area.
I donned a set of waders and went for a paddle around the lake, amazed at just how high the level had risen in such a short time. Within a few minutes I had located the inlet, a pipe about fourteen inches in diameter that was buried into the bank and connected to the two small ponds in the field behind. The river must have burst into the ponds and the water was now being transferred through the pipe into the lake. The flow was absolutely charging through creating big peaks and troughs as it hit the wind generated waves coming in the other direction. The surface of the water near the pipe was a mass of swirling eddies and pools and I just knew that the fish had to be down there in the flow, how could they resist?
Because of the effect of the currents it was impossible to slack line and very difficult even to set up a standard arrangement with the tips near the water. The drifting weed and the attendant flocks of swans feeding on it meant that I had to fish my tips up high, over the reeds and straight down into the flow, more akin to a barbell set up than a normal carp one.
Straight away I started getting knocks and pulls on the tip, far too strong to be just the power of the flow against the braided mainline and, due to the fact I was using four and a half ounce leads, I was pretty sure the rigs were not trundling along the bottom either so they must be line bites.
It felt strange as I sat in my low chair behind two jacked up rods just watching the tips tapping away but within half an hour all doubts about my methods were dispelled as the right hand tip buried itself in the reeds and the clutch ripped into life.
Although not a big fish it still went crazy in the flowing water and started the ball rolling for what was to be an incredible session. To catch one or two fish in forty eight hours from this lake is a mega result and a lot of people go months between takes but this was to be something else. Over the next two days I hooked and landed six fish, all from within a few feet of the bank and all in the flow of the inlet pipe. It seemed as if they drifted in to the swim in packs because all six were caught in pairs a very short while apart. Every time the fish would arrive, the tips would start bouncing as they bumped into the lines and, within an hour, I’d get a couple of bites before they disappeared again.
The carp were varying sizes but the star of the show was a long lean mirror of thirty two pounds that actually picked up the bait whilst I was playing a twenty pound common right next to him. Because I was otherwise occupied he managed to strip sixty yards of line and bury himself in a huge weed-bed before I had a chance to deal with him. Luckily I had a set of chest waders as I had to make my way around the flooded margins and land him from the other side of the bay.
It just goes to show though, how much the fish can be affected by a simple phenomenon like a bit of flood water and, by picking the right approach, it can turn a good session into a great one.
It seems that everyone I speak to lately is either just back from France or just going there. Every summer carp anglers flock across the channel in their thousands for a week of uninterrupted hauling, eating, drinking and relaxing in the French sunshine.
I have recently returned myself from just such a week and, although we didn’t get much of the sunshine part, the other elements were plentiful.
Every year a small group of us book up a lake for a week, pack the motors high with bait, fishing tackle and supplies and set off on a ferry. Traditionally we have visited a new lake every year, figuring that there are so many to try we will never get around them all anyway but, this year, we decided on our first ever return trip. Of all the lakes we have fished in the past we’d decided that Sky Lakes was probably the most memorable and worth another go, especially as the bigger were spawning on our last trip and we fancied putting the record straight with a few big French lumps.
Because we all had been before we had a rough idea of where we fancied starting out but all our plans were instantly scrapped when we rolled into the gates and found a big wind had condensed most of the stock onto one long bank of the lake, just big enough to house the five of us. I knew where I wanted to start, in a small bay at the top of the windward bank as I could see fish after fish topping in the margins. We usually have a draw to start with, just to keep it all fair and, luckily, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be, for the first night at least.
On all these French venues the fish tend to learn fairly quickly and I think it can be a real mistake to just plot up for the entire week in one swim. Obviously there are lakes where you do not have a choice but Sky has plenty of little corners and tucked away bits where stalking is always possible. Of course there were only five of us there this week which is a big bonus and I intended to make the most of the extra room.
The first night however was better than I could have hoped, the fish were only twenty yards out into the bay and, even in the dark, I could accurately cast and bait up after each fish. By the first morning I had caught an incredible eight fish, including a real clonker of fifty four pounds!
The temptation to stay put and just catch as many as I could from the bay was obviously huge but, by lunchtime, I could tell that most of the fish had moved off so I began a week of mobile angling that was to see me fish ten different swims during my six night stay.
Once I had figured out which areas the fish visited at different times of the day and night it all fell into place and I managed to catch from all ten swims, sometimes re-visiting the same one for a few hours each day.
The carp in Sky Lakes seem to respond well to bait and I was baiting quite heavily over each rod, topping it up after each fish and pre-baiting the areas I would be fishing later each evening.
As well as some fantastic fishing we were well looked after by Andy and his wife Bernie; the food was excellent and plenty of it and, on the Wednesday we went into town for a Chinese to celebrate Andy’s fiftieth birthday.
Although the trip is more of a holiday for me than an exercise in catching as much as possible I still couldn’t resist fishing as hard as I could, just to see exactly what the lake is capable of and to make up for the last trip when the bigger fish were too busy spawning to feed properly.
By the end of the week I’d managed to bank 32 carp with at least seven over forty pounds, including the fifty.
The whole trip had been a roaring success for all of us and our grand total was over one hundred fish between the five of us with three of them over fifty pounds, which is pretty good angling by any standards and a testament to just how prolific the lake really can be.
The highlight of the trip for me though, was when I decided to spread my wings a little further and fish the lake next door for a few hours.
I had seen a few fish showing at range on a big and wild gravel pit that backs onto Sky Lakes, a lake that hardly gets fished and contains an unknown small head of carp. After a bit of reconnaissance in a rowing boat I managed to find a nice clean gravel hump surrounded by forests of weed and during the heat of the afternoon my efforts were rewarded with a mid thirty pound mirror. The fish was not big by the standards of the Sky carp but he was a truly wild one, unknown, un-named and fought like a tiger, the icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.
I did see a much larger fish cruise under the boat at one stage, and there are rumours of some real monsters that have been spotted over the years. Who knows, maybe I’ll return one day and fish the whole week on this lake, in fact the more I think about it, the more appealing it sounds.
Well, the summer is marching on now although you could be forgiven for thinking it was still spring as the weather has been atrocious.
I have been having a few fish out of the big gravel pit though so I suppose the winds and rain are more conducive to catching carp than a traditional summer would be. We have had a few periods of hot weather and, during these; I have had a chance to pursue my favourite form of angling, stalking with light carp fishing tackle.
There is nothing quite like the thrill of watching a fish as it takes your bait at close quarters. During one recent spell of sunshine I stumbled across a small group of carp just feet from the bank, in an area that I had hardly paid any attention to in the past. It was literally just a gap in the bushes right up against the path where walkers and dogs charge past for most of the day, hardly the secluded location I expected to find them in.
It was a cruising fish that led me to them, I simply followed its progress down the lake, curious as to where it was headed and he led me straight to the spot where five other fish were already milling around some emerging grass weed on the bottom.
There were only about a dozen shoots showing through the bottom and the longest a mere twelve inches long but the fish seemed to find them interesting enough and I could clearly see small white stones glowing on the bottom, a sure sign of recent feeding activity. I always get excited when I find areas like these as the shiny stones are caused by cleaning when the fish suck them in and blow them back out again. This coupled with suspended particles of silt in the water is the biggest give away of all so I knew I was onto a winner.
When I walk circuits of the lake, even if I don’t have a rod with me, I always ensure I have a pocket full of boilies for just this sort of situation and I broke a handful up into small pieces and flicked them piece by piece onto the spot, carefully so as not to spook the fish. With the spot baited I quickly ran back to my swim for a rod a net and a sack, that’s how confident I was.
Back at the spot I noticed straight away how much more colour there was in the water and the presence of tiny pin prick bubbles on the surface told me they had found the bait.
Getting a rig into position was the hardest part and I had to patiently wait until the fish were circuiting the area, twice aborting the drop as one ghosted out of nowhere directly where I had intended the lead to land.
Finally though, I managed to lower the rig, so close that the bail arm didn’t even need opening, and then I set the rod up as far back as the path would allow, with just the rod tip poking out over the water. The hardest part was staying back myself, I was desperate to watch but, at the same time, nervous about the carp catching sight of me and bolting out of the area.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long anyway as the tip whipped around as a fish made the big mistake of thinking the bright yellow bait looked the most appetising!
Bolting straight off from the area as he did he left the other fish totally unaware of the danger and I could see them still down there stirring up the bottom but that didn’t last for long. The fish managed to find a snag buried out there in a weed bed and it soon became apparent that I’d need to get the rescue boat out to land him and, as soon as I paddled through the swim to retrieve the rod I saw carp bolting off in all directions. It was obvious then that this was to be my only chance of success for that particular swim so I used every trick in the book to free him from the unseen obstacle and, after a great deal of persuasion the line came free and I was back in contact. Although I could clearly see that it wasn’t a huge fish he certainly fought like one and dragged the boat about all over the place before I eventually managed to bundle him in the net.
All told it was a very exciting couple of hours fishing and a lovely mid twenty mirror was the result although I knew I’d have to find a new spot for the next bite. As it happened the remaining bait stayed in that spot for two days without being touched so I’d definitely put the cat amongst the pigeons so to speak.
Every now and again you just have one of those sessions, sometimes it can be the worst session of your life when, for no apparent reason, everything just goes completely wrong. Occasionally though, when the carp gods are smiling, it can be the complete opposite and it seems as if you can do no wrong. I was fortunate enough to experience one of these golden trips on the big pit not so long ago, although it certainly didn’t start out that way. I arrived to find that the river had burst it’s banks and the entire lake was flooded out, all the pathways were under water, and I really mean underwater, they were more like tributaries to the raging torrent feeding the lake. The level must have risen at least a foot and a half in a couple of days and that’s a lot of water!
Pushing the barrow from the car was a nightmare as, not only did the wheel sink into the mud under the weight of my carp fishing tackle, but so did my boots and a brisk Easterly wind greeted me as I eventually popped out of the trees at the lakeside. The things we do to go carp fishing! It didn’t look ideal and I spent the first few hours just looking around, walking and squelching my way in and out of the bays, hoping to see a sign or two. About lunchtime the sun broke through and, despite the wind, it was actually quite warm. All of the fish caught up until now had been at range in the main section of the lake and it was to there that my gaze was fixed when a movement at my feet caught my attention. Looking down, straight into the extreme and waved lashed flooded margin I was amazed at the sight that greeted me, there on the shelf, not three feet away were four carp all busy exploring the extra little bit of lake that the floods had provided.
I didn’t need telling twice, I was off for the rods and pretty soon had my traps set, just on the drop off of the marginal shelf, no more than two rod lengths from the bank. The fish had disappeared but, considering how close they had been I knew they wouldn’t be far away and, ten minutes later, I was proved right. Obviously, at such close range, the run was pretty impressive and I sprayed muddy water everywhere as I charged through the flood to reach the rod. The fish was horrified at being tripped up so easily and tried it’s hardest to reach sanctuary back out in the middle of the lake but at close quarters the tip section of the TF Gear Nan-Tec rods really comes into play and it easilly absorbed the initial surge and I turned the fish over within the first ten yards and it was then just a case of keeping him off balance, leading him one way and then the next until he waved the white flag and came up spluttering at the net.
At twenty four pounds he was a perfect start to the session, a long common from under the rod tips, a far cry from the previous week when I had been struggling to add every extra inch possible to the cast in an attempt to reach the horizon.
Although the fish activity quietened down after this, the wind kept up its assault and I knew the fish wouldn’t stray beyond the boundaries of the swim so I set up the bivvy in the bushes on the only piece of comparatively dry ground I could find and settled in for the night.
The next morning I was up at very first light, as usual, as I find this first hour so important for fish spotting and this day was to be no different. During the first forty five minutes of daylight I saw two fish show, both of them straight in front of me at about twenty five yards range, a sighting I would have missed if I’d got up at six instead of five am. I instantly re-positioned all my rods and the results came almost immediately. In fact I was still firing out some freebies when the first rod ripped and, over the next few hours I banked a further three carp to add to my tally. This was incredible fishing, four carp in twenty four hours for a big old pit like this, and all of them close to the bank fishing straight into a big easterly wind. To me that just reinforces what a difference location makes as, apart from the two fish at dawn, I didn’t see another single carp roll the entire time I was there. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled on my next trip and not just setting up on a hunch in a good looking swim, location, location, location, it really is the key.
It was with great excitement that I set off for my first trip to my new water in the Nene valley. I had hardly been able to sleep the night before, knowing the truck was loaded and ready for departure and only parked just below the bedroom window.
I think I lasted until about 4am before I finally gave up, got dressed and left the house, clutching a thermal mug full of hot tea. The dog seemed a bit surprised at being dragged out of bed at such an unearthly hour but that’s just something he will have to get used to now that summer is on it’s way. I always like to arrive at any lake as close to first light as possible as you can learn so much more in that first hour or so about where the fish are holed up than you will throughout the rest of the day.
I was amazed, as I drew closer, just how cold and frosty everywhere was, it was nothing like that when I had left home but, quite often, you get little temperate zones or as in this case sub zero ones.
It didn’t look brilliant for the first trip as there was a freezing fog and the lake was still as a mill pond but I set off for a walk around anyway. After about forty five minutes I came to the far end and the first thing I saw was a carp, in the air!
I hung around long enough to confirm my sighting with yet another in the same area and then I was off for the carp fishing tackle, as fast as I could.
Not knowing much about the lake it was a bit of a chuck it and chance it really but the worst thing you can do is start dragging a marker float around when you are on fish. As it turned out, even the sound of the leads seemed to put them off a bit and the showing stopped altogether but I was still very confident; even two days later and with nothing to show for my efforts I had seen enough to know that this was the area I wanted to be in. The water temperatures were still very low and carp do not seem to travel far until the spring arrives in earnest so the next week saw me straight back in the same spot. I saw one fish as soon as I set foot in the swim, which was encouraging and single yellow pop-up’s were soon winging their way out to join him.
This time the plan came together a lot more successfully and I reckon the rods had only been cast out about half an hour when I had my first screaming take.
That first fish on any new water is always the most important of the lot, no matter what you might catch over the coming months it’s always the first one that’s the hardest, after that they are all just carp once more and not mythical and elusive creatures.
I knew it wasn’t a monster straight from the off, but it was still nerve racking all the same, and I had that wonderful feeling of too much adrenalin pumping through my body, shaky hands and trembling knees, a sure sign that I was fishing the right lake and trying to catch the sort of carp that still excite me even after all these years. There’s something magical about a big gravel pit and a comparatively unknown stock, it all seems so much more real than knowing everything that swims in front of you before you have even started.
As he rolled up in the gin clear margins I could see he was a mirror, a long lean scaly one at that and a proper little character fish. At a little over eighteen pounds he wouldn’t be setting the world alight but I had opened my account, started the ball rolling, and proved to myself that I could catch them. The tactics had been the simplest and most effective I knew, find the fish and then stick a little yellow pop-up in front of their nose, easy but rewarding.
I was actually expecting to bag another one or two that session but the carp had other ideas about that, still, I returned home a happy man and spent the next five days plotting the weather, staring at the lake on Google Earth and generally laying plans, I couldn’t wait to get back for another go.
Well it’s been all change for me recently, I’ve finished on Monks Pit and I’ve deferred Black swan sailing lake for a year or two so it’s on to pastures new.
I figured that there was very little left in Monks for me to target, having caught most of the known biggies bar about two or three and two years is about enough for me on any water really. There are too many places I want to fish and too little time to fish them all. Black Swan was a different story as I still love the place and I know in my heart that I am not finished on there yet but I needed a break and the arrival of a new ticket helped make up mind.
I have been trying to get onto a new gravel pit in the Nene Valley and, as from April, I have finally managed it and it’s exciting times ahead.
The lake has only been officially fished for the past year so it is still full of mystery and intrigue and this, more than anything, is what seems to spur me on the most.
Before I could make my first trip however, I was needed over at the Linear complex in Oxford to make a new TF Gear carp fishing DVD to go on the front cover of next month’s Total Carp.
I hadn’t been over to Linear for a few years but I always used to be a fairly regular visitor, often fishing there in the winter and also attending charity events in the warmer months, something I intend to resume later this year actually.
The filming was booked for the end of the bank holiday weekend which, in reality, could have been a big problem as the lakes were packed but, luckily, we had managed to book an area in advance and there were signs of fish out there right from the off.
Catching fish for the camera is always a fraught affair, if it doesn’t go right on the day or the fish are just not playing the game then a lot of time and money can be wasted so it always starts off as a bit of a pressure situation. Not only that but there is a lot of behind the scenes action going on so it can be tricky to concentrate on the lake which is something I like to do totally; I find that just watching the water can give you all the answers you need. Luckily for me I had a good crew there and most of the time I was free to ‘do my own thing’ and, once I had found the right range and a rig that worked the fish started to come.
We were on Brasenose two, which is well stocked with nice looking carp in the high doubles and twenties but, due to the early time of year, a lot of these were determined to stay out at long range. I was using the new TF Gear Multi-Flex carp rod, which comes with twin tips and I was genuinely amazed at how well they performed at range, bearing in mind I was hitting about one hundred and ten yards range to land on the fish and using fifteen pound line. The rods have two different top sections, one at 2.75lb for all close in work and the other at 3.5lb for long range stuff. It’s a brilliant idea really as it saves having two sets of rods for different waters or approaches or even times of the year and the action is superb on either set-up.
A couple of the fish were really nice mid-twenties and every one of them, no matter what the size, fought like a tiger all the way to the bank. On occasions I was amazed just how hard they did pull but it was all good fun and a great demonstration of the tackle I was using at the time.
I won’t go into too much detail and ruin the DVD but the whole session went really well and, on the second day the fish got up in the water and started moving around a bit which gave me the opportunity for a bit of zig fishing as well. If you do you watch the disk, which will be on the front of the June Total Carp issue, look out for the takes while we are actually filming other stuff, or sitting by the rods chatting as these are genuine takes and not mocked up for the camera. Moments like those are so hard to capture on film and were worth their weight in gold as they occurred, as if on cue, and really gave the finishing touches in my view. You might also see my new carp dog making an appearance or two, I’m not 100% sure if he will be in the finished version but he spent most of the session doing his upmost to appear on camera and, behind the scenes, there was a permanent ‘stick thrower’ trying to keep him otherwise amused.
All in all it was a highly successful session and, although tiring, we ended up with loads of good footage, I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to edit it all!
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the last couple of weeks, we have finally left winter behind and, apart from the odd cold snap, its been a glorious start to March.
At the end of February it was show-time for me, I travelled out to France with TF Gear for the huge French Expo which is by far the largest carp show I have ever seen.
We had a stand there and, although I can’t speak much French, I could tell straight away that certain items were getting lots of attention. The new range of DL carp rods went down a storm but, by far, the biggest interest was in the clothing, especially the thermo-tec range.
We have recently added a couple of new additions to the range, including a lighter weight version of the smock top that I use all the time so now, thankfully, I can wear it all year around. It was nice to get such a positive reaction to everything and I think we will be making good inroads into Europe this coming year.
The very next week was the Five Lakes show in Essex, where I had a slot booked on the stage both mornings for a forum type chat with Chilly and Darrel Peck. I thought that went really well and between us we put the world to rights, or tried to anyway!
On the fishing front it started off a bit slow but I suppose the water temperatures were at their lowest, what with all that melted water ice pouring in but it picked up eventually.
I fished a session just at the beginning of March and, for once, I actually saw a few fish showing in the morning, this made the location a lot easier and a little bit of black foam fished on a zig rig done the rest. Presenting the bait six feet off the bottom in fifteen feet of water I had a typical jerky type bite and connected with a hard fighting carp, one that I sort of knew was fairly large right from the outset. It had that slow and plodding feel to it that often comes from the bigger mirrors in the lake and, as soon as it appeared from the gin clear depths I knew I wasn’t mistaken. I played him carefully up to the surface, aware of the tiny size eight super specialist hook that was keeping us connected but, in reality, I need not have worried as he was nailed in the toughest part of the mouth. At thirty six and a half pounds he was the biggest fish out since the thaw and I was well pleased with my result.
Unfortunately I went on to lose another one later that afternoon when the hook didn’t find quite such a good hold and the weed proved just too much to overcome, although I convinced myself it was only a small one. It’s always a lot easier to bear if you can kid yourself it wasn’t a big fish isn’t it?
The strange thing was though, the nicer the weather became, the worse the lake seemed to fish. The first day of the session it was howling winds and overcast and there were bites all round the lake but, on the second day, when the sun shone through in glorious fashion, the lake just seemed to shut up shop. In retrospect I should have fished much longer links on my zigs as I am sure the fish were up near the surface but, as they say, hindsight is a wonderful gift!
My next trip will be back to Black Swan Lake, the big gravel pit I targeted in the summer as the season on there finishes at the end of the month and I’d like to get a couple more carp out of there while I have a chance, I’ll let you know how I get on.
On the Bank
At last, after what seems like an eternity with the lakes frozen solid and snow on the ground, we finally have a thaw.
Most of the lakes have returned to their liquid state over the past few days and once again little green houses are springing up all over the banks.
Personally I still have a couple of days left to wait before I can get out there but I have plenty of writing to do and a bit of tackle maintenance to keep me busy until then.
Just before the freeze up I was starting to get into the swing of things over at Monks pit. I had the twenty seven pound mirror that I wrote about, in the huge gale force winds and, the very next week, I managed to sneak out two more fish to add to the tally.
Having found an area where I could get a bite I had returned to the same swim and clipped the fishing rods up using the same bank-side markers as the previous week.
Luckily though, the weather was slightly more agreeable this time, although still extremely windy there had been a slight change in direction and it was predominately blowing over my shoulder, making the spodding of maggots and casting of PVA bags considerably easier.
With the rigs in position I settled in for the night as all the bites seem to be during the hours of darkness in the winter on Monks. All the bites on the bottom anyway as, once the zigs start to kick into gear, the daytimes become a lot more productive.
The first bite came at half past one, which is actually quite early and left me very hopeful for another one before dawn but it wasn’t to be because the next thing I knew was staring out at the sunrise.
At twenty six pounds I was well happy with my result but another fish would really have been the icing on the cake. I stuck the kettle on for the first brew of the day but, before it had got to the boil, one of the remaining rods was away, a daytime bite at last!
Although this fish was a bit smaller at just over twenty one pounds it gave me no end of grief, tangling in one of the other lines and, eventually, forcing me to go out in the boat to land it but at least I had a daylight photograph at the end of it, well worth a bit of mucking about on the water and getting cold and wet.
My next trip unfortunately coincided with the start of a vicious cold snap and, as I packed up after a blank two nights, I could see big sheets of ice forming out in the middle of the lake which is not a good sign at all. I’d spent the entire time fishing headfirst into a biting Easterly wind with night time temperatures well below zero, I was certainly glad of my Thermotex jacket that session I can tell you, I practically live in the thing at the moment as it’s the warmest piece of fishing clothing I’ve ever owned.
Once the wind died off though, it was odds on that the lake would freeze and the very next day I received a phone call to say the entire lake had iced over.
Now, three weeks later, I am checking lines, tying new rigs and getting ready for a new assault and I can’t wait!
With the winter looking like it might well be coming to an end all eyes are on the future. Thoughts of spring, albeit a bit premature, are in everybody’s minds and plans are being made for the season ahead.
At this time of year I like to have a good old clean out of my tackle bags and check that everything is in tip top condition for the year ahead, after all, once the fishing really does get underway I am too busy to be bothered with routine maintenance and all I can think about is my next fish.
Lines are one of the most important things and we rely on them totally but, all too often, we don’t give them the attention they deserve. I have been guilty of it so many times in the past and I can still remember years ago, on Wraysbury, losing the fish of a lifetime one spring session because I hadn’t bothered to check the line that had sat on my spool all winter. It doesn’t take long to strip off three spools of line and re-load them with brand new monofilament or braid. I do mine in the garden using a bucket of water to place the new spool in and a soft glove to hold tension on the line, preventing finger burns from the friction and helping to keep the correct tension on the new line. I simply set up the rod and wind it straight out of the bucket onto the spool.
A spool of the new ‘Nan-Tech’ line costs under a tenner for a bulk spool that will easily load three reels which, I think, is a very small price to pay for total peace of mind.
I had a hand in the development of this line, recommending a supplier and line type that I had previously used and then improving the finished product by increasing the suppleness and abrasion resistance of the line so I can honestly recommend this as the best monofilament I’ve ever used, if it wasn’t then I would still be trying to develop one that was!
My first trip of the year was on January the second, which just happened to coincide with one of the biggest low pressure systems of the winter sweeping across the country, the forecast was pretty foreboding and they were talking about storm force winds and rain, not something you usually get the fishing rods out in?
For some reason that I still cannot figure I had decided to fish on the opposite bank to the one I usually favour, I think my reasoning was something to do with the dog actually. On the road bank of the lake Paddy only gets a pathway behind the swims and I thought that he could do with the extra exercise that the grassy area of the far bank offers. Also, I had been concentrating on the road bank for the last few trips and I was getting a bit bored of the same old view every week so it would make a nice change for me too. The fish can come out from either side and the mild weather seems to have kept them on the move a bit this year so I was just as confident whichever side I chose.
The rocky bank (as it is known) would have the disadvantage of the wind pumping straight into it but, as I’d arrived before the worst of it had hit, I was confident that I could get enough bait out there at the start and just fish over it for the two nights ahead, regardless of the conditions.
If I had realised at the time quite how severe it was going to get then I might have chosen differently but, by lunchtime I was quite happy with my swim choice, the bait had spodded out there without too much hassle and I had all four rods on good, clean areas.
By mid afternoon I was starting to have doubts as the wind had trebled in strength and the waves were starting to crash into the front of my swim, which unfortunately faced straight out into the strengthening weather. By the time it got dark the full force of the low pressure system was upon me and the radio was saying the winds were gusting at sixty miles and hour but, from where I sat, it felt more like 160 miles an hour!
If there ever was going to be a test for the new bivvy then this was the night, I had to have the door zipped firmly down the entire time as the wind would have inflated the sides and ripped the pegs out in seconds if not. Throughout the first half of the night it was unbelievably bad and then, about midnight, it was as if somebody had a switched on an extra turbo-booster and any chance of sleep went out the window.
At one stage I risked going out for a wee and found that my unhooking mat, rod bag and all the extra little bits and pieces I had left outside (including a bucket of maggots) were all strewn across the field behind me, hanging from bushes and brambles.
At half past five in the morning, just as the wind was at it’s very strongest, one of the rods burst into life and I actually groaned in pain at the thought of having to go out there and deal with a fish. I’d half thought it might just be a big tree branch blowing through the lines or something but no; it was definitely a carp and an angry one as well. It was almost impossible to feel what was happening at the other end of the line; in fact it was all I could do to stand upright. The worst part was the netting, as I lifted the net off the ground it was like putting up a sail, it was almost ripped out of my hand.
Somehow though, between the waves, the uncontrollable landing net and the driving rain I managed to scoop up my hard won prize and I was pleased to see that it was considerably bigger than the previous weeks offering.
Hiding behind the fir trees to the side of the swim I managed to get enough shelter to weigh him in at twenty seven pounds, a fair reward for all the endurance I suppose.
The photography was a bit hairy though as I has to set up my nice new camera on a tripod and just pray that the wind didn’t smash it to pieces before I could gat a couple of quick shots.
With the fish all sorted and returned I unzipped the door and climbed back into the comparative warmth and serenity of the bivvy only to find that my bed had been totally dog-napped and he was fast asleep with his head on my pillow!
The next day was one of the wettest and most miserable days imaginable, I really wanted to move to somewhere more comfortable (like home) but the rain just slashed down relentlessly and I decided the easiest move was to zip the door back down and go to bed, staying put for yet another wild night. Luckily though there was a slight shift in the wind, the southerly stopped and left only the strong westerly which meant that it wasn’t blowing straight at me anymore and I could actually have the luxury of an open doorway. Once again though I had the only bite of the session and the fish decided not to make a return visit for the second night. I was pleased to get the first one of the year under my belt but there must be a way of getting more than one bite every forty eight hours.
Next week I think I’ll either move about a bit more or maybe fish all four rods on different depth zigs in the hours of daylight before swapping back to the bottom for the nights. Whatever happens though, I doubt I’ll fish in conditions as severe as that again for a while.
Oh, and by the way, the bivvy stayed rock solid for the entire trip so it passed it big test with flying colours and I also managed to retrieve all my missing gear from the bushes, although most of the maggots had managed to make good their escape.
Happy New Year to all of you and may all your dreams turn into bent fishing rods, wet nets and huge carp.
Now that all the festivities are over, the remains of the turkey has finally been deposited in the bin (and good riddance to it) and the relatives you thought would never leave have at last got the hint, it is time to dust off the rods and get back out there on the bank.
The weather this winter has been so mild hasn’t it, it’s more like Autumn than winter and even a mild frost is a rarity, or at least it is around here.
The winds though, they have definitely been the main feature of the last few weeks, howling great Westerly’s and South Westerly’s have been ravaging the lakes and clearing out all the deadwood from the trees. My dog has loved it, everywhere he looks there are sticks to play with, it’s like doggy heaven.
I had a trip up to Monks just before the new year, just to get a bit of a fix before the enforced lay-off and I also wanted to play about with my maggot presentation a bit, just fine tuning the rigs as the Monks carp seem to love those little wrigglers in the winter.
There were three other guys on when I arrived, which is fairly busy for mid week so I was surprised to find one of my favourite swims still free, particularly as it was nice and sheltered on the back of the wind. I do like the back of the wind in winter, I think it produces equally as many, if not more, fish than ‘on the wind’ and it makes the whole session so much more enjoyable as well.
One of the guys at the lake had taken a trip to the maggot farm so I picked up my order of two gallons and set about spodding it all out there using a ‘spomb’ which are so much easier for the maggots than a conventional spod.
With both the bottom rigs on clear spots, a couple of zigs set up at varying depths and the Hardcore bivvy set up against the elements it was just a case of sticking the kettle on and waiting, and waiting, and waiting!
The peak on this bivvy really makes such a big difference when the weather is a bit iffy, from where I sat I could still watch the water perfectly but the wind and occasional shower where kept just out of harm’s way, no annoying dripping of rainwater into the front of the bivvy area either. You do need to be comfortable at this time of year as the winter nights just seem to drag on forever and I think there was about fourteen hours of darkness to endure, luckily though the boredom was interrupted about six in the morning by a take and, after a brief but unconvincing tussle, a little mirror of around sixteen pounds rolled into the net.
Although he wasn’t the biggest of carp he was the only fish between us all that night so I was still quite happy and full of confidence for the second night, so confident that I used up the remainder of the bait and put extra effort into making sure the rigs all landed bang on the right spots. Quite often in the winter the takes can come at pretty much the exact same times each day so I was surprised, and a little disappointed when I woke up at first light and nothing else had occurred.
The conditions had stayed the same and, you would have thought, ideal but the carp had different ideas, in fact that was the only bite between all the sixteen rods fishing throughout the entire two days.
Personally, I am not convinced that the mild and windy weather is any better in the winter. We all tend to relate it to feeding weather but, is it what the fish really want. Surely the winters should be cold and frosty with high pressure and nice crisp sunny days, I know one thing for sure, it’s definitely what we need for the zigs to start working properly. I have yet to get a bite on a zig this year which is very strange as this has been my most successful method over the last two winters, it’s one of those methods that can just kick into gear at any time though and, when it does, the results can be amazing.