The Heat is On!

High temperatures and bright weather aren’t my favourite conditions to be carp fishing in, but I’d booked the Friday off work so Thursday night – with car packed – I was off to my syndicate water in Herefordshire. A stunning estate lake with some of the best-looking carp I have ever seen. Thursday night was quiet, just a good tench of 8lb 6oz and a new lake record (which was very pleasing but not exactly what I was after); the rest of the night drifted by quietly. Friday dawned calm and hot, and unfortunately some of the lake’s residents had started to spawn! Talking to the other members on the lake, we all thought that with these conditions it was going to be a struggle.

I walk around the lake and climb a few trees to see what’s happening, and find a group of carp feeding well away from the spawning fish;  clearly, a move was in order. My TF Gear Chill-out bivvy is soon moved to my new swim, rods cast out just as the late afternoon sun is starting to lose some of its bite. The lake is crystal clear and one of the most important bits of tackle I have for these conditions is the Tfgear Secret Trap fluorocarbon main line, which is almost invisible in the water. Having a  higher specific gravity than water it sinks really well, and on slack lines it is almost like having backleads on – which helps not to spook any of the fish in the area. Within 10 minutes of setting up in my new swim, one of my TFG Glimmer bite alarms screams into life and the left hand Tsi rod cast close to the far tree line is in action. The fish comes in to about 30yds quite easily – making me think it was maybe one of the smaller fish in the lake – when suddenly it banks to the right and a slow solid run that’s impossible to stop takes 50-60yds of line off me in one go. The fish now kites even tighter to my right and my line is now going through the tree branches. The forgiving tip on the Tsi rod cushions the carp lunges, but with the line now precariously caught up there’s only one option – into the water I go! 10 to 15 minutes later and I’m slowly making some ground on the fish, it rolls out about 15yds and the action of my 3.5lb Tsi is great even at this close range. A couple more minutes and I slip my net under a very large common, but its not till I try to lift the net from the water when I realise I have the lake’s biggest resident; a stunning common that sends the scales round to settle on 40lb 8oz, a new lake record.

40lb 8oz Common - a new lake record.

40lb 8oz Common - a new lake record.

Pictures taken and congratulations from the other guys, and I settle back down with all rods recast. I retreat to my Comfort-zone fishing bed chair, looking back through the pictures on the camera to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, before drifting off to sleep. I have a few liners in the night so fish are still in the area, but a quiet night overall – not that I’m too bothered. Up early and Saturday is much the same, hot and sunny. I sit out watching the lake wake up, kettle on for an early morning brew when suddenly my middle rod is away. After a very hard fight I slip the net under another stunning common, the scales settle at 30lb 4oz a great result and another lake record falls – the largest brace ever taken on the lake, it really can’t get much better this!

The second Common, yet another lake record

The second Common, yet another lake record

I have to recast all 3 rods after playing the last fish; with all the commotion I was not expecting any more action, so I sit back down to finish boiling the kettle and make some breakfast. The fish have other ideas, and incredibly I’m in again after a good fight as a stunning 25lb mirror comes to the bank. What a session – after 5 years on the water, and many blanks in what seemed perfect conditions, a couple of days I thought would be tough tough turn out to be a record session. I slowly pack down and make my way home, and I think only another angler will know the feeling of satisfaction you get when it all comes together in a session of a lifetime.

Mirror 25lb  087

25lb Mirror, last catch of the session.

Carp fishing in the Margins

How many of us inspect the margins when we arrive at a lake?

You might want to, if you want to improve your catch rate. Fishing for carp in the margins can be extremely productive if you find the right places and apply good angling tactics. How many fishermen/fisherwomen ignore the margins when fishing? They see all that water out in front of them and think that the fish must be out there. I often see anglers using three fishing rods with all of them cast out to the far bank. With so many anglers casting out far it makes the margins a safe place for carp to hang out. In fact, the margins can even be the best places to target the bigger carp in the lake.

Fishing in the Margins

Fishing in the Margins

As long as you’re quiet when setting up your carp fishing tackle and actually fishing, you can take fish from the margins in most lakes. Carp have great hearing and will be able to pick up vibrations from the surrounding bank, so you do need to be as quiet as possible.

Centre Pin Fishing Reel

Centre Pin Fishing Reel

When it comes to margin fishing I tend to use a small 8ft rod and centre pin reel; this allows me to fish in-between trees, and other places where it would be hard to use a 12ft rod. It’s best to wear dark green or brown fishing clothing, or better still, use camouflage clothing, as you can blend into the surrounding. I like to find the more subtle features rather than the obvious ones such as overhanging trees, island banks, etc. I like to look for features like undercut banks, posts or trees sticking out of the water, small bulrushes, bushes, lily pads or inlet pipes all these can be ideal feeding spots for carp.

Carp taking bait

Carp taking bait

I like to use a small float, 8lb fluorocarbon line and a size 10 hook partnered with good quality bait. One of my best methods is to wrap paste around a small boilie, many fish have taken using this approach, as the carp are not wised up to these methods. So as the weather starts to warm up go out and have a go, this is a very rewarding way of catching carp guaranteed to provide a good fight whatever size fish you’ve hooked into.

Landing the Carp

Landing the Carp

All the best and good fishing!

Fantastic result!

Fantastic result!

TFG Lok Down Bivvy

I’ve been using the TFG Lok Down bivvy for 6 months now and I’m more than satisfied with it. You can set it up in less than 5 minutes ready for a 24 hour session or spend a few more minutes and put the second skin in for longer sessions. The Lok Down bivvy has been built to a very high standard without any compromise, making it big enough to take all your kit and still have loads of room to spare.

Unpacking the Lok Down Bivvy

The Lok Down comes in a large carryall, which may seem obvious to most, but how many times have we struggled with fitting other bivvy’s into a bag that seems smaller than the bivvy that came out of it?

Lok Down Bivvy groundsheet

The ground sheet goes down first and initially struck me with how thick and strong it is. I am confident to put the bivvy up on rough ground without worrying about tearing it. I also found it to be quick drying whenever it got wet in the lovely British weather we choose to fish in.

Bivvy Support bars

I loved having all the support bars that come with the Lok Down; they’re adjustable and clip to the frame with ease. I had real confidence in the sturdiness of the bivvy right from the first time I put it up.

Inserting a bivvy peg

All pegs are screw threads which will go in to most hard grounds; here the peg goes into the ground sheet and the bivvy ring.

Erect Lok Down Bivvy

The Lok Down doesn’t just look the part beside a lake, but also provides great shelter from whatever the weather can throw at us. It is as solid and sturdy as any carp angler could hope for.

Lok Down Bivvy first skin

This is the first skin which can be used for any session. The Lok down has a clever second skin – most bivvys on the market have second skins that go on the outside; the Lok Down’s goes inside the first skin.

Fitting the Bivvy second skin

I must admit, the first time I put the bivvy up I was a little unsure as to how the inner skin was going to take shape. But, after a moment or two of clipping it to the rings, it soon became apparent to me what a clever idea it was. I’m constantly taking it out and putting it back in depending on the weather and the length of my session. I’m glad it is made of a breathable material that as of yet hasn’t shown any condensation even on the dampest of days.

The erect Bivvy - finished article!

All set up ready for a week’s session. I would seriously recommend this bivvy to any carper who wants the best at a price that won’t break the bank.

Horse Shoe Dreams

Started off from sunny Cornwall. The A30 was clear, foot to the floor – as I hit Bristol the heavens opened and down came the rain. As the traffic slowed down to 40 miles an hour, there was a slow drive ahead of me towards the M4. The pace picked up, I turned off juntion15 edging towards Lansdale and after a while I turned up at the Carp Society’s Horse Shoe Lake.

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I was greeted by David, one of the Managers at the lake. We started to chat about what had been coming out that week and he advised me to look at Winters Bay as some fish were holding up in there.  As I slowly drove around the lake, not thinking of carrying my carp fishing tackle to winter bay! Looking around, it was standing out to me as there was nobody in there. I finally opted for peg 20, this was a double swim with a fair amount of water to go at. I started to set up and once again down came the rain; it must have followed me from the M5! Up went the bivvy and out went two kilo of Smokey fish Boilies all over my swim with the throwing sick, closely followed by two rods loaded up with PVA bags into the edge of the weeds. Within two hours of waiting off went my first rod, a good 10 minute fight and my first Horse Shoe carp on the bank.

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I have heard that these carp are one of the best looking strains of fish in the country, and I wasn’t disappointed when faced with a lovely scaled mirror on the bank. Later that day I was feeding fish from under my rod tips with crumbed up Smokey fish boilies; these fish weren’t shy, they would have stayed there all afternoon eating all the bait I put in front of them.

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This was good time to test out my new camo rig, as can be seen it’s camouflaged with a gravel affect but all the straight lines still stand out; as Shaun Harrison once said to me there are no straight lines in nature. So the next stage on my quest for the ultimate camouflaged rig is to disguise the lines even further.  But as far as Horse Shoe Lake goes, you’re not allowed to use any leaders of any kind and can only use tubing, so this is the best camo I’m probably going to get at the moment.

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As the sun went down and the moon came out I sat down and watched the water in the moon light over a glass of red wine, Horse Shoe is a very peaceful and tranquil place to fish, next month I plan to return for some more action!

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Fly Fishing For Pike

Catching Pike on the fly is one of the fastest growing branches of fly-fishing. Pike are a true sport fish which fight very hard on fishing tackle. They are one of the fastest fish that swim in our freshwaters, and in the spring and summer with warm water temperatures they will tail walk and leap just as readily as a Salmon or Trout. Whilst not making long screaming runs, they will rush and pull with bulldog tenacity with an almost unbelievable strength.

For the Fly fisherman they make a great alternative to Salmon, particularly with the state of the stocks at the moment, and they provide a similar ‘big fish’ thrill. They can often be caught in conditions that would normally be hopeless for Trout, in flat calms and hot bright sunshine. Pike fly-fishing also opens up many famous Trout reservoirs to the coarse angler in search of a specimen. Gigantic Pike have actually been caught on fishing tackle, for example the 40lb 8oz record fish from Chew caught in May.

The optimum fly rods would be a 9 foot #9 or #10 weight, the heavy line rating being needed to punch out and turnover outsized flies. 9 foot proves less tiring to use all day than a longer rod due to less leverage on the arm. To cast the big flies use a slower stroke than usual with an open loop.

14lb llangorse

The rod I normally use is the Airflo Bluetooth 9’ #8/9 which I use with a floater or intermediate WF9. The lines I use on this rod are the Airflo cold saltwater ridge floater and the cold saltwater ridge intermediate. Both have a low stretch core which helps set the hooks and detect the most delicate of takes. I also use a Bluetooth XT in the 9’ #10/11 which I use with fast sinking lines such as the Airflo depth finder 300 grain, for the occasions when the Pike are in deep open water in depths of over 20 foot.

As for reels any thing that will accommodate the line with about 50 yards of backing will be fine, your normal trout reel 6/9 size will do. You need not worry about too much backing, as the Pike will not run hundreds of yards when hooked. A great reel would be the Airflo switch cassette in 7/9, which comes with extra spools and has a decent drag system.

A wire trace is essential, there are several types on the market, the most satisfactory of which I find to be the Airflo titanium predator polyleader which incorporates a titanium trace with a snap link which makes changing the fly a simple businesses. They also never kink unlike some other types meaning that they last practically forever.

Flies need to be on the large size, I generally use from 2/0 to 6/0 wide gape chemically sharpened sea hooks, with a total dressing length of perhaps 6 inches. Flies as small as 3 inches will catch Pike, but the bigger stuff tends to attract a better stamp of fish. The fly needn’t be a perfect imitation of a prey fish; a hank of crystal flash tied to hook will and has caught good Pike. Surface wake lures can also be deadly which I tie with a big lump of plaztezote for a head. The takes to surface lures are often incredible in their ferocity and is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating things in fishing anywhere. The best and most consistent colour is yellow. Please see the Airflo Predator Ex-citer range of flies on the website, these are tried and tested lures and are based on my own patterns.

12lb 8oz Llangorse

The retrieve used is not normally a fast strip as you might think but rather a slow twitchy figure of eight interspersed with long pulls and pauses. This seems to be the most effective retrieve for them. The take to subsurface flies is usually a drawing away of the line much like a Trout taking a buzzer. Set the hook by strip striking, pull the fly home into the Pikes mouth – do not lift the rod straight away or you will miss the fish. If you do miss one cast for it again as they will usually come back for another go. I remember one instance where my boat partner actually hooked and lost the same Pike twice only for it to take my fly on the third attempt! Takes to surface lures are usually an explosive affair which may cause you to strike with a ‘knee jerk’ reaction – again what you must do is allow the fish to turn down with the fly before strip striking.

When hooked you can play the Pike as hard as you want, there is more chance of loosing them if you play them lightly as they will dive into cover, also by bullying them you will insure the hook is well and truly embedded into the hard jaw. The Airflo lines with low stretch cores will help the hook setting process greatly.

A good net I would recommend would be the McLean’s Salmon weigh net, which will comfortably swallow up monster fish. Its size and shape make it ideal for use on a boat. Long nosed forceps are a must for unhooking, such as the Dr Slick Cuda 8 ½ inch pliers.

Pike Head

Pike, despite the ferocious appearance and reputation are one of the most delicate fish when taken out of the water and need to be carefully revived until their strength returns before releasing them, particularly in warm summer water. The unhooking is a much easier job with a fly compared to lures and dead baits. Fly hooked Pike go back much better than fish hooked on a treble hook and they are very rarely deeply hooked.

Winter Wonderland

Chew valley lake is now open again for a brief two weeks for Pike angling. Myself and fellow TFG team members Tim, Simon and Steve had been lucky enough to get two boat bookings. The problem was getting there – overnight Bristol had been hit by severe snow storms and one of the Severn bridges was closed. We had a hair raising journey through icy winding country roads and finally arrived at the lodge in one piece. With a hearty full english wolfed down we set out on the 1200 acre water.

The air temperatures were hovering around zero and some of the shallower bays were iced over, the water itself was highly coloured and only 1 degree. Thankfully the wind was not too strong and with our fishing clothing, chill out boots and fleeces we were all comfortably protected from the elements.Things did not look promising as by early afternoon we had not had any action at all, not a sniff to deadbaits or the usual soft plastics and jerkbaits.
As a change of tactic I switched to one of the new cutting Edge Jig fishing rods and bumped a smaller shad back hard on the bottom at a very slow pace. I was rewarded with 5 and 8 lb jacks in quick succession and also a 3lb 8 oz Perch. So the fish were there to be caught.

Late afternoon bouncing a jig over a ledge I landed a Perch of 4lb 1 oz, just as this was returned boat partner Simon had a run on his deadbait and after a good scrap I netted a very fat 19lb Pike for him.


As the light faded the wind completely died leaving a tranquil scene. Both boats were positioned on a drop off slope about 50 yards from the bank. I threw out a bright green grub tail on a jig head close to the bank and bounced it back feeling every contour of the bottom through the sensitive grunt braid and the ultra slim blank. The rod hooped round and I was into a fish, it stayed deep and dived under the boat with brute power. I now realised this was something really big as I had not seen it yet despite really putting on the pressure. With the pencil thin rod bent double I finally I brought it to the surface where it was netted. This was a lump of just over 26 lb and a new PB.

Tim had avoided the dreaded blank and landed a 14 lb’er which had taken a deadbait at exactly the same time as my battle with the big girl. Steve had also had a jack.


All of this was remarkable considering the conditions and a testament to the productivity of the water. The final cutting edge samples had also proved their worth, these will be released in April.

Winter Barbel Fishing

When I was a kid (and yes, I know what you’re thinking but it wasn’t that long ago!) it was generally accepted that the barbel hibernated in the winter. The standard practise was to fish for barbel in the summer and autumn and then hang the fishing rods up until the following June. Eventually, the thinking changed and we began to realise that not only are barbel a good target in the winter, they are also in their best condition. I think it was fishing on the Severn that persuaded people: a few late autumn matches were won with ‘bonus’ barbel caught by legering a big lump of meat down the edge in a flood. Pretty soon anglers started adopting the same tactic in the winter and hey presto we were suddenlty all year round barbel anglers….

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 fishing 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.

New approach for the New year?

When winter pays a visit to the lake I’m fishing, the water almost overnight becomes as clear as glass making me pay some thought to the line on my spools. When choosing line I soon came to realise you have to have a good look around as there are so many to choose from. I’ve been using Xline for some time now and I wanted a change so I decided to look at red mist line from TF Gear.

After a fair amount of research on the product and discovering that red is the first tone to disappear in the colour spectrum, making red mist almost invisible in water, I was more interested in giving it a chance and ordered my sample. When it turned up I was very impressed, a nice smooth silky feel to the line and a good knot hold I soon poured hot water into a bucket and dropped the spool of line in there for 10 minutes, getting rid of any memory in the line. Red may not be the first of choices for a ‘serious’ carp angler and definitely goes against the norm but slowly it is tempting more and more of us into giving it a chance, and why not? Changing your fishing tackle can bring great success.

After being convinced to put my waders on and half freeze to death, during a recent winter session, and stand in the lake for that prize picture I was intrigued as to what kind of temperature the water itself was. This gave me the idea of pinching the ray temp gun out of my husband’s kitchen and having a built in laser it has proven to be extremely accurate in the lake each time I go fishing and more importantly each time I have landed a fish. This is beginning to help me build up a good picture of the year to come and hopefully in time to come help determine the ideal water temperature to catch. I’m sure each lake has its own characteristics and differing reactions to differing water temperatures but never the less spending short periods of time researching a water could pay off greatly in the long run.