When I go fishing, I like to be as mobile as possible, and these rods are so easy to carry that you forget that you have them in your hand sometimes. Indeed, touch legering with the eight or ten foot Compact feeder is effortless – you can sit there all day without the tip wobbling around.
I recently used the 10′ float at Himley Hall in Dudley where I caught carp of 10, 14, 16, 22, 24, 25 and 30 pounds without one snap-off or lost fish. Incidentally, I also landed grass carp to twenty six pounds too! The ten foot float is also a great floater rod for commercials and a nice alternative to an avon for barbel and chub on small rivers.
The best part is that all the fishing rods come in at decent money. They are top quality but because they are shorter we use less carbon, hence a lower price!
Living as I do near the river I often get the chance to play around with barbel baits and tactics. Many years ago I got a new rod for christmas and I was desperate to try it out so, while my mom was stuffing turkey and the rest of the world was opening presents, I snuck off up the river and nailed my one and only christmas day whisker in less than an hour on a big lump of meat. When you know a river really well such things are possible and so too are endless possibilities to try out new baits and ideas. It was on the Severn, for instance, that I invented the new infamous ‘time bomb’ method using an open ended feeder stuffed with pellet groundbait and boilies/pellets – an approach that has changed the way anglers fish the river irrevocably.
The middle Severn was also the place where I played around with boilies when formulating the amino active CSL boilie that is now a flagship product in the TF-Gear range. Amino Active CSL is basically a commercial version of a home-made boilie I had been using for a number of years to catch barbel. Amino active is one of those rare baits that not only works the first time you use it but carries on getting better the more of it you put in over a period of time. That’s because the base mix (food value) of the boilie is naturally strong whilst the flavour label (an essential oil) is very subtle. It’s my experience with barbel (and other species, actually) that baits heavily laced with flavour never catch fish for very long.
People often ask me how to fish the river barbel given the success of pellets. ‘Have the pellets blown?’ they ask. The answer is yes and no. On the heavily fished stretches of river you can forget about using great big halibut pellets on the hook – the barbel have wised up to them. A few small pellets in the feeder or bag (3-4mm) jobs will help to attract the fish but keep the free pellets at a low level and instead stuff the feeder with a mixture of mini pellets, Crunchy Fish groundbait and broken amino active CSL boilie with the edge nicked off (this releases the subtle aroma that barbel will home in on). Using this combination I feel confident of catching barbel anywhere on stretches of river ranging from easy to difficult.
Of course, no bait will work unless you use it in the right swim and in the right conditions. In winter, the conditions that you are looking for are rising or stable water temperatures with the river temperature at four degrees or more. Don’t worry about the colour – I’ve caught barbel in rivers so dirty that visibality is reduced to just a few centimeters. Quite how the barbel manage to sniff the bait out in chocolate coloured water amazes me sometimes but they do.
You’ve probably noticed that we have got quite a bit of fishing clothing in the TF-Gear range. What with the primal range, second skin and the latest ranges it’s quite a comprehensive collection. Designing and selling fishing clothing for the British market is sometimes frustrating though, primarily because a lot of British anglers simply don’t understand layers.
The common misconception is that if you want to stay warm the answer is to wear something big, bulky and with plenty of padding – the old fashioned one-piece suit being a classic example. They are awful things! When you walk to your swim you sweat like crazy and then, when you arrive the sauna lasts for about five minutes before you start to feel cold.
Why? Well, the answer is body moisture or, to put it more bluntly, sweat. When we move we sweat. Our skin is breathable and can exchange moisture with the atmosphere. If we want to stay warm our clothing should do the same – hence the term ‘breathable.’ The beauty of layered fishing clothing is that it can be made breathable and because the layers trap air between themselves, the result is a warm, comfortable wearer. The other advantage of layers is that you can take them on and off to cope with changing weather.
The art of making breathable clothing is to ensure that sweat can pass through the layers but water molecules can’t. In many respects Gore-tex is the ultimate material but it does not sell well here in the UK because whilst Brits are happy to spend a fortune on fishing rods the same principle does not extend to clothing. We have worked very hard to source waterproof, breathable fabrics at a price that won’t break the bank and we have enjoyed great success with it. Seams are very important too – most clothing is let down by leaking seams. Ours isn’t.
Let’s look now at the layers and what they are designed to do.
Base or skin (second skin): this is a thin, breathable layer worn next to the skin. It forms the base layer and can be worn on its own on warm days or form the first layer on cooler days.
Mid- Layer : this is the layer that builds up warmth, usually in the form of a heavier fleece. Sometimes, if it is very cold, two layers of second skin and then the mid-layer are needed. Primal fleeces are perfect for this layer.
Top (shell): whilst most people love to wear padding, it is rarely necessary. Shell type jackets allow moisture (sweat to escape) but keep rain out. If you want to build up more heat, add more mid-layers. Some people prefer a lined or padded jacket and pants for the top layer and for less active styles of fishing this is OK.
At the end of the day, in addition to keeping you warmer and drier, there are other advantages to properly layered fishing clothing – notably that it is more comfortable to wear and makes you look less of a plonker.
When I look back over the years that I’ve been carp fishing bait has always been an obsession. I am lucky enough to have been fishing around the time when the the first designer baits (christened with the name ‘boilies’) hit the scene. Boilies, so called because the bait is made by combining meals and powdered ingredients with liquidised eggs and then boiled to create a bait with a tough skin (the skin is designed to deter nuisance fish from stealing the bait intended for bigger fish) really did transform carp fishing. For the first time, anglers used to fishing with bread and potatoes had a new bait to play with and boy did the fish love them!
Modern boilies have come a long way since those early years. When we set about launching the new TF-Gear boilie range we wanted to create baits that would stand the test of time and benefit from all the advances that have been made in bait formulation.
History and experimentation has taught us that whilst carp are bombarded with many different boilies in a range of colours, flavours and bait that is made from a huge choice of ingredients , certain baits are the real fish catchers. Moreover, we also know that some boilies work better than others on certain types of waters and vice versa. Baits for hard-fished club and day ticket waters need to be different to those used when campaign-fishing a syndicate lake, for example.
Boilies are made with attractors (usually flavours) and food ingredients (these are powdered meals, such as fish meal, milk protein, birdfood and semolina. They are made into a paste by mixing the attractoprs and meals with liquidised eggs. The paste is rolled into little balls and boiled. The liquidised eggs harden in boiling water, creating bait that has a tough skin.
The flavour, or attractor acts as a label for the fish to recognise the bait. The attractor works as a label on two levels – it tells the fish that what it can taste/smell is food and helps it to recognise that food source on future occasions. The ingredients are the food value of the bait. Boilies can either be nutritionally strong or weak, depending on the quality of the ingredients used to make them. As a general rule, whilst carp will sample all types of baits with a multitude of flavours, they will generally prefer to eat baits with a high nutritional profile over a period of time. This is a concept that most anglers struggle to understand. The common misconception is that carp eat baits because the flavour tastes ‘nice’ and whilst this is partially true, they are more likely to eat the bait that does them the most good when fishing over a period of time.
When you choose a carp bait you should choose a bait for the job in hand. If you are fishing a day ticket or club water where the carp get bombarded with all kinds of bait, then what we call attractor baits with a strong ‘eat me’ signal are best. Bear in mind, however, that the ‘eat me’ signal does not mean using over-powering flavours that make the bait reek. Carp have superb olfactory systems that enable them to detect food signals in minute quantities – use baits that have good attractors at low to moderate values.
When campaign fishing waters, syndicate lakes, for example, the attractors or flavours should be much, much lower and it is the food value of the bait, its nutritional profile that you should rely on. Natural extracts and subtle flavours give the bait a label by which fish can recognise it in the future. We know fromn experience that the more subtle the label or flavour, the longer the bait will go on working. A good nutritional bait should get better and better over a period of time – as the fish get used to eating it and benefiting from its superior food value, they will seek it out in preference to others. Bait with strong attractors works for a while but eventually that same strong flavour that drew the fish to the bait in the first place begins to become associated with danger.
In the TF-Gear range of baits you will discover several important points. Firstly, none of them have flavours and attractors that are overpowering. This is a gamble on our part because we know that baits that reek of fruity flavours, so strong that they smell through the bag, attract anglers. We also know that ultra-strong flavours repel fish so we have avoided making our baits reek. Secondly, we have relied primarily on salt as a preservative rather than the sharp chemical preservatives that are so common in the bait industry. These chemical attractors taste bitter and repel fish. Salt, on the other hand is a natural flavour enhancer (we humans use salt as a flavour enhancer all the time) and it is also a great natural preservative. Thirdly, we have developed baits that use proven ingredients – top quality fish meals, proteins and birdfoods. These create nutritionally superior baits that are easy for carp top digest and eat more of. Finally, we have chosen some really great, subtle ingredients that make the bait stand out and keep the fish coming back for more – crushed chilli, for example.
To make life easy, we have created two ranges of boilies – our premium range and ‘the Gear.’ With the Gear we have a range made for day-ticket and club waters with the emphasis on attractors rather than long term food source. The premium range gives more emphasis to food value with lower level, natural attractors such as teatree oil. It’s a range that we are very proud of and results on the bait have justified our confidence.