Monday, 11 September 2017

Fishing & Family - Fun on the Float

As an angler of more than 30 years my aim whenever I set foot on the banks of my chosen venue, as well as enjoying my surroundings, is ultimately to catch fish.  The only situation that can top this would be when I assist other anglers to catch, seeing the happiness on their faces is priceless.  That feeling is only intensified when the other angler is someone close to you, in this instance, my son William. 

Since he was born, as all parents do, I have been teaching him life skills to build his knowledge and character such as walking, saying "please" and "thank you" and I have encouraged him to enjoy the outdoors which he has embraced with open arms.  So when he turned 4 I decided it was time I introduced him to a sport I have been passionate about since I was 10 years old.  Accompanied by his big cousin, Isaac, who already had a few carp under his belt having been shown the ropes by my Dad (his grandfather) last summer, we planned a trip in the school holidays.

The idea was to introduce William to float fishing for silvers which would hopefully keep him entertained, while Isaac fished 2 rods using helicopter rigs for the carp that average about 4lb.  As we approached the carp park which is in the grounds of an old estate house in the Monmouthshire countryside the boys were keen to get going and William spotted horses and sheep in the adjacent field.

As I unloaded the gear from the car, myself and Isaac started to gather up the bags and rods however not to be left out William insisted on carrying something to the lake, so he was allocated with taking the unhooking mat which is nice and light.  The field that leads to the lake descends a gradual slope and William had a few slips and trips on the way.  

William sat still, well still for him as hes such an active child, while I rigged the rods up, I cast the carp rods out for Isaac as he isnt confident enough yet to cast close to the overhanging foliage which is often the best place for a quick bite on this venue.  As I turned my attention to Williams float rod one of the bite alarms burst into life however as I was tying on a small hook to complete the float set up, by the time I picked the rod up the fish was snagged in the roots of the trees that lined the far bank.  It was my own fault I forgot to set the bait runner to locked up and it was easy for the carp to take line and reach its sanctuary.  I had no choice but to pull for a break and the hooklink snapped, so after replacing the hooklink and rebaiting, the rod was soon recast to the same spot, this time with the bait runner done up tight!

Isaac sat close to the carp rods as I started to teach William how to hold the float rod and on out first cast the float dipped and we pulled in a pristine rudd.  I was fishing about 3 feet deep in about 5 feet of water as there were plenty of rudd up in the water and with every cast half a dozen grains of sweetcorn were flicked in around the float with a single grain on the hook.  I was using the rod like a whip with enough line let out o as not to use the reel, however as boys do, William could not resist turning the reel handle when the float dipped, so since then I have bought him a fishing whip which he should find easier to use on our next trip.

So it was time to hand the rod over to William and he grasped it in both hands, with a few strikes that were a bit premature finally the float dipped and he timed a strike perfectly to meet with the rudd lips.  He lifted the rod and swung in his first rudd, I took the rod as he grabbed the line and held the fish up to admire it appealing colours.

It was soon Isaacs time to shine as the same rod went into action he picked the rod up and with a few pointers on the best way to hold a rod when playing a fish and few tips on adjusting the drag he soon had the carp splashing by our bank as both myself and William netted the fish.  A lovely carp about 3lb was soon on the mat and both the lads held it up for a photo before gently releasing him back to the water.

William soon got the hang of feeding sweetcorn every so often when suddenly the float shot away, not like the dozen or so rudd we had already managed this fish meant business and as Isaac was sat with William at the time they both played a small carp into the waiting net, it gave a good scrap on the light float gear and I was proud of them both for staying calm as they played the fish.  

The plentiful rudd kept the boys entertained in between the carp runs and William was obviously enjoying his first fishing session the excitement at seeing another rudd take his sweetcorn never wavered and in fact asked if he could stay the night! Perhaps next time I will need to take the bivvy!

Then all of a sudden the float once more shot away with vigour and it was obvious another carp had taken the single grain of corn, Isaac called for my help as we were using light line on the float set up, I took control of the rod as William held the butt section, the carp gave us a merry run around as he dived for the wooden platform before we guided it over the waiting mesh as Isaac did the netting honours.  It was beautiful carp to catch on the float and a testament to lads with keeping up the feeding all day which had obviously attracted the carp into their swim.

Soon Isaac was into his third carp, a little bigger at about 4lb and he played it away from the reeds with some side strain and his use of the drag was encouraging as he did battle with a spirited common.  Again William and myself were on hand to help with the net as I placed the carp on the mat.  William was impressed by its size and admired the fish as it lay there in the afternoon sun.

It was the last carp of the day, 5 in total, 3 on the helicopter rigs and an uncountable number of obliging rudd fell to the float rod.  My biggest concern was keeping William entertained throughout the session however not once did he complain he was bored and hopefully this is good sign for his new found love of fishing.  Every fish made his face light up and having now bought him a fishing whip I am already planning his next session.  It was an enjoyable day with memories that will last a life time.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Forgotten Carp - Planning a Campaign

Spending time on a venue observing is just as important as time spent fishing.  Not only is it enjoyable to sit in the warm sunshine on a summers evening watching the kingfishers dart across the lake, buzzards circling high above and the rabbits venturing out from the safety of the hedgerow for a quick nibble on the dandelions, you also gain an idea of the carps habits, patrol routes their numbers and size.

When conditions suited I spent many hours watching the carp in the lake prior to fishing for them.  My main aim was to roughly work out the number of carp present as my tactics would vary depending on the stock.  On sunny afternoons some of the carp would behave as expected and visit the shallows, enjoying the warm water, here I could observe their feeding habits.  The most carp I saw at any one time was 4!  They generally visited in twos or threes, a few of these fish I could identify as the same fish on different occasions however these areas where never “black” with fish and on days when the conditions were perfect to see carp basking in the shallow water, I still rarely saw more than two at a time. 

Other waters I have fished with much higher stocks of fish I have witnessed dozens of carp in small areas of the lake as they enjoyed the summer sunshine, I guessed the stock of this captivating water at maybe a dozen fish, I am certain I would have observed more carp in these areas if they were present.  As I was only fishing for a handful of carp I started to put together a plan to catch them.  At the time it felt as if I was attempting to pot a snooker ball on a table the size of a football field!

When starting a campaign on your chosen water you have to decide what is going to be your ultimate goal.  Whether you are targeting the biggest fish in the lake or simply trying to increase your catch rate you will require a plan of attack.  For instance, if I was targeting a specific fish in a venue I would gain as much knowledge as possible on that fish, where it is most often caught? What bait was it caught on? What time of year did it mostly make an appearance on the bank?  In my case I had no other anglers to exchange knowledge with, these fish had never been angled for so I had to rely on techniques that had served me well in the past.  Thankfully carp are generally creatures of habit and behave similarly on different venues.  I had decided to catch as many of the inhabitants as possible, I had already gained an idea of the numbers of carp in the water and had started to build a knowledge of some of the areas they visit.  The best way of finding feeding areas is by spotting carp head and shoulder or crashing out of the water however these wily carp rarely showed themselves and I only witnessed one carp crash out during daylight hours and that was in a small bay just above the shallows.  So with this in mind prebaiting would probably be my best option, creating feeding areas attracting carp to my chosen spots.

Using a marker float and rod I spent several hours accurately finding the depth from the margins right out towards the middle of the lake and locating any clear areas between the weed.  Although local knowledge is always helpful I take such advice with a pinch of salt until I have investigated the information personally.  I remember standing on the banks of a water some years ago having a conversation with a grizzly faced seasoned angler who had been born and raised in that particular area, he commented that an overgrown corner of the lake was famously “bottom less!” Once the aged angler had left I was intrigued to find out the cavernous depths on the venue.  Within 3 minutes I had accurately plumbed it to just over 9 feet!  Not quite what I was expecting!  Local knowledge can be helpful and also misleading and in most cases it is worth investigating personally to give yourself peace of mind.

My venue was fairly uniform, margins shelving down to 6 foot with around 8 foot towards the middle of the lake with the odd deeper area reaching 9-10 feet.  The shallows were 2-3 foot, a depth the carp enjoyed on summer afternoons.  Making a detailed map of my chosen venue is something I have done since I started carp fishing many years ago and they have proved invaluable throughout the seasons as a reference.  I will map a new water within weeks of fishing it to help me build up a picture of the lakes features, the rest of the season the marker rod can stay in the holdall, when I arrive in my swim for that particular session I can refer to my map and if no fish are showing work out the best areas to place a hook bait.
One particular area on this venue was a clear patch towards the middle of the lake which was surrounded by weed, if this was not already a feeding area I felt I could persuade the carp to feed here away from the sanctuary of the nearby weed beds.  

The other spot that I fancied introducing some bait into on a regular basis was a crater like area the size of a pool table, 9 foot in depth it was a clear depression as the surrounding depth was only 8 foot.  This raised a few questions, with the lake bed being so soft had the carp created this depression with regular feeding here?  This was worth further investigation.  These were the two areas of the lake I decided to prebait as I did not want to bait too many areas as I required the carp to visit more often, returning for food once they had accepted my boilies as part of their diet.

There were other obvious clear patches amongst the weed in the shallows however I decided these would be best left for any opportunist fishing, mostly stalking, that came my way during the hazy summer afternoons and not to be prebaited.  I required a couple of lines of attack, prebaiting and stalking would be my best options and believed these would give me results and if not then reassess the situation at that point. 
Time would also be a factor, being a single parent, sessions would have to be planned in advance and if an opportunity to go fishing presented itself my gear would have to be ready to be loaded into the van at short notice.  I had to make the most of my situation and as I worked within a mile of the lake when time permitted during my lunch hour I would nip to the lake to throw in my freebies knowing I had a session planned within a few days.  On my shorter day sessions stalking would be my main tactic and the prebaited spots would be fished during my longer sessions.

All that was left for me to do was to start prebaiting at least a couple weeks prior to my first session and put my plan into action, I was excited at the prospect to hopefully tempting some uncaught forgotten carp to the bank.

To be continued……

Monday, 19 December 2016

Winter Campaign Struggles

December marks the start of winter and usually by the middle of the month even the most stubborn trees have lost their remaining leaves, revealing the twisted antler shaped branches and bark that looks colder than a toads back is ever more present.  This was my second visit to the syndicate water after having blanked the first time, this session had to be rearranged due to the lakes being frozen over the previous weekend due to the temperatures plummeting to minus 4. 

On my arrival the conditions seemed good for a bite, so feeling quietly confident I loaded the barrow in the carp park, signed in at the lodge then headed to the lake to watch for any signs of fish.  I left all the gear on the barrow as I observed the water for half an hour and even though dusk was just a few short hours away it is normally time well spent, especially if you spot any activity in the colder months.  That has to be my number one tip in winter, watch the water as much as possible.  Unfortunately I saw no signs of fish, no bubbling and certainly no head and shouldering so I decided to start in the swim I fished on my previous session, purely because this is where I saw signs of fish just a couple of weeks ago, hoping they have not strayed to far from their winter haunt.  It is the furthest swim from the carp park, so I started my trek through the sodden grass
I punched the rods out carrying chods on each one to the  likely areas I thought the fish may be holding up, sat on the bedchair and enjoyed a quick brew.  I had no intentions of putting the bivvy up just yet, I was going to keep watching the water and if I saw any fish movement was more than happy to relocate to a swim from which I could reach them.

Fishing for carp in winter can be classed by many as boring and I will be honest many years ago I was one of these anglers, however my approach to winter carp has changed over the years and I work harder for bites in winter than at any other time of the year.  Observation is my main activity at this time of year and spotting a carp not only gives you confidence it also tells you that the carp are active and possibly feeding and more importantly in which part of the lake.  

On this occasion the carp were proving elusive, so as the light started to fade I popped the bivvy up and had a bite to eat, recast both rods and spread a handful of boilies over each spot ready for the hours of darkness.  For me the hours of darkness are not an excuse to jump into my quilted sleeping bag zip up the door and wait until I'm awoken by the bite alarm or first light.  Alot of carp anglers take portable tvs or their Ipads and Im not knocking this, winter night are a long affair, however im just saying that is not for me.  My time spent fishing is limited so I want to know if the carp are boshing down the other end of the lake regardless of what time of day it is.

I sat outside the bivvy until gone midnight hoping to hear the tell tale splosh of a carp breaking the surface and then using the moonlight to spot the ripples to reveal its location however this never happened so I retired and set the alarm for an hour before first light.  
The following morning turned out to be dank, overcast and wet although the temperatures still remained favourable the bobbins remained still.  I felt as if I should of received some action from my couple of sessions so far however having no prior knowledge of the venue until I set eyes on it just a few weeks ago so it was a case of learning the carps habits from scratch.  I stuck with a chod on one rod, made with my favourite chod material and opted to change to a wafter on the second rod and have bit of a cast about during the day trying to drop a bait on a carps nose.  The venue is fairly uniform in depth with an average of only 4 feet no real areas stood out for me, apart from fishing close to features such as the reed mace.
It turned colder overnight revealing a beautiful bright morning, droplets on the bivvy sparkled in the sunlight and spider webs glistened along the otter fence.  I was told when I joined that they were challenging lakes and it is certainly turning out that way.  Given the conditions, I believe the fish would of been feeding at some point during the last couple of days, so perhaps it was wrong swim choice or wrong tactic and with Christmas just around the corner time was running out for my first fish from the venue before the 6 week close season that starts early January.  I feel I am learning about the venue with every visit and am hoping to return before the new year.  What I do know is, whenever that first fish does fall it will be a fish Ive worked for and certainly earned.

 The video diary to accompany this piece can be viewed on my youtube channel by following the link below.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A New Campaign and a Fresh Start

Its fair to say my writing has taken a temporary back seat over the last 12 months which was not my intention however as I embarked on producing videos of my sessions during that period it naturally fell that way.  I always wanted to produce films and vlogs if you like, of my fishing and early this year saw me start this long awaited project.  I have to say I really enjoyed the filming, especially the wildlife which was now captured on film and not just a memory fused into a fishing session and although I made my best efforts for it not to affect my sessions it was inevitable that some fishing time was lost when setting up the cameras and locating ideal filming positions. The editing was a real eye opener, removing unwanted footage, choosing the best scenes and deciding the pace at which the video took was intriguing as well as time consuming, so almost 12 months down the line with a few videos and a short barbel film under my belt my passion for writing has been reignited and I aim to marry both the filming and writing together on a regular basis.

My intention is for the two to compliment each other, going forward my filming will be more about being on the bank, capturing the atmosphere, highs, lows and wildlife and not really instructional.   I am hoping that is where the blog will fill in the gaps detailing more the tactics, rigs etc.

I will carry on filming my fishing adventures making short vlogs of my sessions so regular content is being added to my youtube channel, however I will have one or two bigger projects ongoing, one of which will be my time on a new syndicate venue.  The venue in question comprises of two lakes both being renowned for being tricky waters, even the smaller one at 4 acres does not give up it residents easily. This is what my video diaries will mostly be based on, the smaller more intimate water with monthly updates on my progression trying to work out the lakes secrets.

 The larger lake at 18 acres offers a real challenge, being shallow, weedy and rather wind swept at times seems rather daunting however due to its location, I will be able to do quick overnighters which will help me in the long run I'm sure, in learning the carps habits.  This will be an ongoing project which I am hoping to produce a full length film which will feature some stunning footage as well as some stunning carp that reside within its waters.

My first video diary will be ready prior to Christmas, with the ticket starting in November its not an ideal time to start a campaign on a new venue however I am building up a picture of the water already which I'm sure will stand me in good stead for the Spring.  The close season on the lakes are for 6 weeks running from January until mid February in that time I intend to do some pike or chub fishing so look out for those on my youtube channel.

I have set myself a target of landing at least one carp from the water and I will be trying my best to do so, however with these plummeting temperatures and only a few sessions between now and the new year it will be a real challenge however, that is what I enjoy.

I managed to film some of the carp head and shouldering on my last visit, it was great to watch albeit very frustrating being just yards from my bait!  This short video can be seen on my youtube channel by clicking on the link at the top of the page.  
So there we have it, I'm hoping to make it "A Season to Remember", I hope you enjoy reading about it and also watching it, as much as I enjoy making it.  Tight Lines