Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Winter Carp - A Good Start to the End of the Year!

The windscreen was inevitably covered in a thick frost due to the temperature dropping to -3 during the night and my finger tips began to tingle as I scraped away at the ice.  Back inside the van with heaters on full blast I shook my head and rolled my eyes as if to confirm I had finally lost the plot, surely I would of been better equipped with the pike gear  instead of my carp gear loaded on board!

I had decided on a winter carp campaign back in the autumn and had been trickling bait in over the past few months on a little and often basis in the hope that the bait would keep the carp feeding in certain areas of the lake.

The ground was hard under foot as I made way across the sloping field, crunching with every step.  As I approached the lake it was clear that at least half was covered in ice, limiting my swim choice immediately however one area of the lake I had been baiting was ice free so this would be by first line of attack.  It is a snaggy area with over hanging foliage, underwater branches and a good depth, perfect sanctuary for winter carp.  Such areas provide the carp with a feeling of safety especially at this time of year when the clarity of water is greater.

The second rod was positioned in the only other possible area not affected by the ice, in open water, rigs were as described in my previous posts and just 4 boilies were placed around the hookbaits.  In these conditions I am normally fishing for one bite at a time, in the colder weather the carp does not digest its food as quickly as it does in the warmer months, so just a very small amount of bait allows the carp to feed but not over feed and ruin my chances of catching.  

The rod cast towards the snags had only been in the water 10 minutes before the bobbin shot off the ground and the alarm let out a short scream, I struck and played my first fish of the day before the hook pulled after about 30 seconds.  It felt a reasonable fish and I was gutted to say the least, you dont normally get many chances in these conditions however it was a confidence boost and hopefully a good sign that the fish were willing to feed.

When carp fishing whatever season it is, it pays to be vigilant, watching both the water and your rods, dont always rely on the bite alarm to inform you a carp has taken the bait.  

The alarm had not come into play by the time I struck into my next fish.  I noticed a knock on the rod tip followed by the line twitching and slowly pulling to the left, instinct told me to lift into it and soon I had my first winter carp of the season on the bank, a spirited common around 5lb.  Not big, however a bend in the rod in freezing conditions.

The next fish fell to the same rod within half an hour, about the same stamp as the first.  When the temperatures drop severely, carp and other fish tend to be more dormant, move around a lot less and in some cases attract leeches or parasites which im sure weve all seen from time to time.  Some anglers prefer to remove them, in doing so can leave a small open wound which is vulnerable to infection.  I tend to leave the leeches alone, it is a course of nature and the carp will knock them off when they become more active.

By lunchtime I had 2 fish under my belt, with the sun shining brightly casting long shadows across the field the ice faded away from the main area of the lake giving way to a mirrored surface.  I felt that the second rod was fishing in "no mans land" and could now reposition it into an area at the bottom of a shelf on the edge of the shallow water and the remaining ice.

I topped up both swims with half a dozen boilies and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.  The frost clung to any area that the sun did not reach and the maximum temperature all day was only 3 degrees.  I believe my chances on this very cold day were helped with 2 key factors.  

Firstly although the temperature got down to -3 that night, it was not a sudden change in temperature.  It had been cold both day and night for the preceding 3 or 4 days prior to me fishing, giving the carp time to adjust to the freezing temperatures. If it had suddenly became cold overnight my chances would of been greatly reduced as the shock would of briefly interupted the carps feeding patterns.  Secondly my prebaiting had probably kept the carp feeding over the last couple of months in certain areas of the lake, which kept the carp visiting these areas in search of food.  I would encourage any angler to put a bit of time into prebaiting whether it be a lake or river, done sensibly, little and often can increase your catch rate over a prolonged period of time.

To demonstrate this, the second rod burst into life within an hour of being on the the prebaited area the biggest carp of the day made its way towards the far bank hoping to reach the sanctuary of the overhanging trees.  It was a strong powerful fish that fought well, with a few heart stopping moments as the line came into contact with the surface ice I was sure it would cut through it.  As I heaved the fish up the bank it was clearly a double and the scales went to 11lb 4oz.

I managed another around the 5lb mark resulting in 4 carp and lost 1.  A good result in freezing temperatures and a lake half covered in ice!  As I wrote in my previous posts I choose my winter venues carefully, I prefer to catch fish rather than sitting for weeks on end biteless, that is not how I want to spend my winter.  These fish are not huge however this venue is still bit of an unknown quantity as far as the stock is concerned so it could throw up a nice surprise.  

Ill keep adding the bait little and often which will hopefully see me land a few more winter carp.  

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Autumn Carp - Rig Choice

Rigs, there must be hundreds of variations and that's just for carp fishing!  The main aspect of any rig is to present the bait as naturally as possible to give the angler the best chance to hook their quarry.  All anglers will have their favourite rigs that they turn to time and time again, however in certain situations some rigs fish more superior to others.

It was a glorious Autumn morning, the sun was shining brightly as I cast out my second rod, I then removed my fleece body warmer.  I was on the banks of the carp pool and as I fired out my Charwood Baits MPP boilies, I felt confident as the weather had remained mild.

My confidence was boosted within 20 minutes of fishing, I had managed 2 carp on the bank, albeit stockies, both very welcome.  My baiting was the same as in my previous posts and I topped the swims up with about 15 boilies after each fish.  The lake in question has a very soft bottom, a fine silty mud has built up and heavy leads tend to bury themselves in the bed and with it, sometimes the hook bait.  In this situation to consistently catch, a specific rig will give you an advantage over other anglers.  

Ideally the angler is looking for the bait to present itself on top of this soft silt and not be dragged into out of reach from the hungry carp.  Enter the helicopter rig. 

The helicopter rig allows the hook link to run up the line as the lead enters the water, allowing the hookbait to sit on top of the silt and visible to a feeding carp. Its a rig that can also be employed on weedy venues.  For an extra edge I  also prefer to employ a balanced hookbait, as I feel it gives me a better presentation as the hookbait settles more gently than a standard bottom bait.  This has been my first choice rig in silty conditions for many years for the simple reason that it catches fish.  

As this is very much a tangle free rig, I will not add pva bags or stringers to the rig, I will add freebies via a catapult or spod depending in distance.

Due to the lead burying itself in the silt a heavy lead is normally not required and I can fish with 1oz or 1 1/2oz as the extra resistance of the lead being pulled from the silt when a carp takes the bait gives a positive hook hold.

By lunchtime 4 carp had graced my net, the biggest a spirited fighter over 6lb, the bigger original carp were not playing ball today.

Tied correctly the helicopter rig is one of the safest around.  I normally incorporate a lead core leader in this set up, allowing a buffer bead to sit firmly on the leader above the weight and rig.  In the eventuality of the mainline snapping, the buffer bead, under resistance will simply peel off the leader and the carp will be free of the lead, which is exactly what an angler is looking for.

I have been using balanced hook baits more often in recent seasons, especially on silty venues such as this.  As I'm going to the trouble of presenting a bait on top of the silt with the helicopter rig, why then use a dense hookbait.  I like to give myself the best chance of hooking a fish, so I believe a balanced hookbait does that.  Whether its a pop up balanced with additional weight or a bottom bait balanced with a pop up or foam as is the snowman rig, it is important to test the rigs in the margin before fishing, to make sure the bait is behaving exactly as intended.

Generally I am looking for the balanced hookbait to "waft" around when disturbed, this makes it easier for the carp to suck up and hopefully hook itself.  A hookbait with added buoyancy will enter the carps mouth easier, especially on silty venues.  

Carp number 7 fell to the helicopter rig and balanced hookbait and my first mirror stockie from the venue soon slipped over the cord.

A stunning looking carp, one which I would love to see in a few years time, the scale pattern was incredible.

I have been guilty of turning up at venues in the past and casting out any rig without any thought as to the presentation and how the rig will act on that particular venue.  It is something I now take a lot more thought over, whether im chub, barbel, pike or carp fishing.

The afternoon turned cold, as the sun retreated behind the thick clouds, the breeze stiffened, I once again donned my body warmer.  The bites tailed off as expected, I had experienced the bast part of the day, however I angled on until dusk with no further bites.

As I sat waiting for my next bite I noticed a group of large fungi across the field I just had to photograph before I left, Fly Agaric I believe, however I'm not an expert so I would be grateful of a definite identification.

My next instalment will focus on carp location in the colder months, you will be surprised where cold water carp can be found.  Tight Lines

Friday, 24 October 2014

Autumn Carp - Baiting Tactics

With every gust of the chilling wind, leaves departed from the now, almost naked branches of the swaying trees.  Just days after the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo had swept across the country, I realised that my winter carp campaign will not be an easy task and the cold wind continued to make my face ruddy.
Today was a stark contract to the last time I graced the banks earlier this month when the sun shone brightly, today I was met with a fine drizzle and a harsh wind with the morning passing biteless.  On arrival I catapulted about 15 boilies on each of my two chosen spots, my bait was the reliable Charwoods MPP.  

As mentioned in an earlier post my winter carp campaigns begin in autumn and I will visit the venue and trickle bait in whenever possible between fishing sessions, this will keep the carp feeding and searching for food.  My main tactic throughout the year will be a boilie only approach and I will stick with this strategy throughout the colder months, its only the amount of bait thrown in that will change.  These boilies are spread over an area the size of a pool table, on a bigger venue I would spread them over an area the size of a snooker table.  I am hoping to motivate the carp into searching for the next boilie which means the carp has to up end regularly instead of hoovering up a carpet of bait, I believe this also helps with achieving a good hook hold as the carp is constantly moving.  The venue I have chosen has a good head of carp and that is no coincidence, I want to enjoy my fishing when the temperatures drop and give myself the best chance of catching on a regular basis.

Just after midday I had my first run, apart from a few liners earlier on, the left hand rod burst into life as a carp made for the far bank.  It certainly knew its way around the lake and only a firm side strain kept it from reaching the sedges.  After a spirited fight a golden common carp slid over the net, short of my target double at 8lb 9oz a nice fish on a cold morning.

I topped up both swims with another dozen boilies and sat back to enjoy my sandwiches.  A winter flock of blue and long tailed tits darted from tree to tree picking off insects as they went, a true sign that the colder months are drawing closer.

The snowman rig has proved successful on this venue and I always keep a tub of pop ups in my bag especially in the colder months when single hook baits can be a devastating tactic.
I didnt have to wait long for my second bite this time the right hand rod ripped off and I was soon into another carp, this time instantly I could tell it was a heavier fish. Throughout the fight the fish stayed deep, regularly taking line, then I heard a bleep from the left hand rod alarm, the tip arched over and line crept from the spool as a fish picked up the bait.  There wasnt alot I could do, I was obviously attached to a decent fish, probably my target double, all I could do was give the some stick and try to bully it in the net so I could get to the other rod before I lost the fish to a snag.  

The carp continued to fight strongly and my first attempt to net her failed, as the fish turned at the last minute, on the second attempt I made no mistake and as soon as she was in the mesh I dashed to the second rod and lifted into another carp, double hook up!  Thankfully this fish was only a stockie and within a couple of minutes I had two carp in the one net.

I quickly slipped back the smaller and got to weighing the larger of the two which I recognised as a fish that I had the pleasure of catching back in the summer at a weight of 11lb.  A fit strong mirror which had gained weight as the needle proved at 11lb 7oz.  

With my target achieved I was pleased and I fished on until dusk with no further action.  As with carp fishing at this time of the year, all your bites can come in a short period, often the carp have specific feeding times and patterns, this is always worth remembering and keeping notes on as it may save you many biteless hours on the bank and you can fish at the best times of the day and increase your chances of getting a bite.

Before I leave any venue I always top up my swims to encourage the carp to feed and search for food.

In my next post I will go into more detail on my rigs and my reasons for using them.  Tight Lines

Monday, 6 October 2014

Autumn Carp - Preparing for a Winter Campaign

Although my window of opportunity was short it felt good loading the fishing gear into the van, I had been looking forward to enjoying some time on the bank for months.  My rigs were tied the night before and I checked my gear dozens of times however it still felt like I had forgotten something, as was the length of time I was last on the bank.  The last few months have been a difficult time, with me and my wife separating and having to be responsible for my 14 month old son, not for the first time in my life, angling had to take a back seat whilst I sorted a place for myself and William to live and make sure he was looked after as best I can.  Now a few months on myself and William have settled into a new place and my family support has been over whelming for which ill be forever grateful.

So here I was, travelling down the M4 heading for a small carp pool hoping to entice a carp or two onto the banks, what ever the outcome I was going to enjoy the afternoon, especially as the forecast was for warm sunshine.

Although I had not fished here since my last visit in June when I landed the venue record, I had not been a stranger, I had kept trickling in the MPP boilies hoping to keep the carp interested and searching for my bait.  I enjoy Autumn, especially when I'm chasing fish, its a season of change, falling leaves, darker days and hopefully fat fish.  This season doesn't always bring the heavy feeding spells that anglers talk of, however as I have a winter campaign planned on this venue, I will keep depositing the bait in little and often over the coming months hoping to keep the carp interested throughout the short days of winter.  I will always start a winter campaign in Autumn, it gives me an idea of the carps movements and habits and also gains the fishes confidence on my chosen bait, Charwoods MPP boilie.  Its a great year round bait and proven fish catcher in the colder months, being a milk protein it is easy to digest and gives off an attractive candy aroma.  I will go into my baiting tactics for the coming months in future blogs as the winter progresses.

All I required for my session was loaded on my back and carried to the lake and I was soon casting out in the confidence that my chosen areas had recently been primed just the week before.  I was sure to of missed a feeding spell in the morning however I was hoping that the carp would feed again this afternoon in the warm sunshine.  The hours around midday are normally the most unproductive and so it was today with the first couple of hours passing without any action except for a couple of liners.

My first run was a real screamer which found the carp making its way towards the island and managing to tie the line around some under water roots.   The line pinged as I played the fish and both carp and the entangled root came towards me.  It was a peculiar fight, I was not in direct contact with the carp due to the accompanying vegetation, I slowly managed the fish towards my bank and as the fish swam strongly around in front of me the roots hung in mid air clinging to my main line, I leaned out and grabbed them and expected the fish to come adrift as I snapped the roots to free my main line as I came into direct contact with the fish for the first time.  

I could see it was one of the originals as it wallowed below the surface a chunky looking Common soon slid over the net.

An immaculate fish registering 9lb with a stunning colouration and huge tail for the fishes size showing where all its power came from.  I managed another 2 carp, both stockies which the club stocked earlier this year at 2-3lb and both now weighing over 5lb.

Going into my winter carp campaign I have total confidence in the rigs and bait I'm using, which is the most important factor.  This leaves me to concentrate on locating the fish and learning their winter feeding habits.  As I mentioned earlier, I will go into more detail on the rigs I will be using, baits and tactics throughout this winter campaign.  I intend to enjoy the remainder of this mild Autumn we are experiencing before the long  nights take over as I have another session planned in the next few days.  If the rain arrives as they have forecast you may well be reading about me barbelling on my beloved Wye.  

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pioneering Angling

The float dipped within the lilly fringed pond as the rod took on a healthy curve.  A fine rudd, golden in colour, spirited in fight and undiscovered, until now, had taken the bait.  This has been one of many fish caught from secluded, uncharted venues over the years.  For an intrepid angler, the thought of fishing a hidden gem off the beaten track, with only rumour of its inhabitants, stirs emotion and excitement and it’s easier to discover these venues than you think.

With a bit of research, leg work and time you can also identify suitable unfished waters that hold stunning carp, plump tench and a plethora of roach.  If the thought of arriving at a commercial venue competing with dozens of other anglers is not your cup of tea, or the adventurer in you would like to seek a new challenge, then please read on, as I reveal how I have gone about finding new venues and Ill share the enjoyment I have had fishing them.

My first experience in discovering a new water came almost by accident.  I and a friend had planned a hike into a wooded area a few miles from where we lived.  We were in our early teens and wanted to do things properly so perused an Ordnance Survey map of the area.  On the map, within the wooded area was a small patch of blue, a body of water.  Following this discovery, I decided to take a basic fishing kit along with bait in my rucksack.  The day was warm and the hike to the woods was a very enjoyable experience, it was made even better after we came across the blue area shown on the map, which turned out to be a pond no more than a quarter of an acre in size.  Bulrushes surrounded two thirds of the bank; we crept in between the dense undergrowth and spent a couple of hours catching sticklebacks and small roach on a simple float set up.  It was my first experience of “Pioneering Angling”.

Once you have located a potential water, gained permission to fish, it can be a very rewarding experience catching from these unfished venues.  Depending on the size of the water in question, very simple tactics can be employed to land these fish and for the venue to divulge its secrets.  Baits can also be kept simple and quite often natural baits are the most responsive. 

When a new venue is dug out for whatever reason, it normally doesn’t take long for it to be occupied by fish.  Whether that is by natural or unnatural origin, Stillwater’s can be naturally stocked by birds, which unknowingly carry fish eggs on their under body feathers and legs and of course unnaturally by humans knowingly transporting fish.  Many of these venues are on private, commercial land or simply way off the beaten track to make it possible for a fishery. 

Don’t presume that there are no suitable venues near you and make the mistake that any waters would have already been snapped up by clubs or syndicates.  In the last 12 months alone I have come across 3 individual waters, 2 hold carp another tench and all 3 roach and rudd!  I would recommend viewing any waters you’ve found at dawn or dusk when the fish are at their most active, this will give you an idea if any fish are present, however if you do not see signs don’t worry, there could still be fish in the murky depths waiting to be caught, only fishing such places will reveal its secrets.  Most land owners will know if fish have been stocked or are present so you should get a good idea from the first time you speak to them.

It’s not just stillwaters that can be discovered.  Stretches of river that run through private land can be accessed once permission is given.  I know of one particular stretch that is controlled either side by a local fishing club, however the 100 yard stretch that the garden backs onto is privately owned.  A quick knock on the door and within minutes a running water fish haven is opened up to you. 

You must also be prepared for knock backs, not every land owner will appreciate having a stranger on his land in the early hours or at night fishing his waters.  Don’t let this put you off, just gratefully understand and move onto the next one, who knows it may be owned by somebody else in years to come.

Approaching Land Owners
Be polite and friendly.   Remember you are a stranger asking for permission to use their land.  Explain you are fishing alone, don’t go in with big ideas of setting up private syndicates and making them lots of money!  Offer to pay the price of a day ticket (£5); in my experience the land owners will not accept the money anyway.  Always respect their land, closing gates, do not antagonise livestock and never leave litter, this is a sure way of not being invited back!
 Ask their favourite tipple!  Buy them a bottle of scotch for Christmas, that should normally be enough to secure a year’s secluded fishing for yourself.  Most land owners/farmers are approachable and as long you approach them courteously, hopefully you can gain access to a little piece of tranquil fishing.

Personally when it allows I prefer to float fish, perhaps baiting several swims in a day, and fishing them in rotation, this is another advantage of these venues, no other anglers will move onto your prebaited swims!  On larger venues normal feeder or carp tactics will work, again prebaiting wherever possible, this gives you more confidence that you may have attracted some of the residents into you fishing area.  Always look for signs of fish, especially at dawn and dusk when often the water comes alive, with fish topping, bream rolling or carp crashing.

A "Wildy" that fell to the MPP
Natural baits are a good start, worms, maggots or sweetcorn.  There isn’t a fish alive that doesn’t enjoy a worm, especially perch and bream.  Maggots will catch all fish, the only drawback being they will attract the smaller fish which can be unwanted especially if you are targeting the larger species in the venue.  Tiger Nuts are great natural bait, in small quantities fed in prebaited swims, fish a single tiger nut on the hook.  Carp in these waters that have never seen a boilie will often fall for a single tiger fished over a small baited area especially in the margins or snags.  If you are looking for a boilie that the carp, tench or bream will respond to instantly then I can highly recommend Charwood Baits MPP boilie which I have used to great effect.  It is a milk protein bait that smells like candy and has been the downfall of many large carp.  I have used this on waters where the fish have never seen a boilie before and have had instant success using it.

Discovering New Waters.

Ordnance Survey Maps
This is the “Old School” way of searching for new venues, and possibly the quickest, as long as your maps are up to date.  Large areas can be searched quickly, however not all bodies of water are recognised and small farm ponds are often not marked on the maps so potentially, targets can be missed.  Personally I would recommend using both maps and Google Earth, find a venue on the map then look in more detail on the internet. 

Google Earth
Technology has moved on leaps and bounds since I started fishing and Google Earth is a great tool, not just in searching for new venues, but for inspecting venues you’re familiar with.  When looking for a body of water, I start within a couple mile radius of my home.  This does take time; however, if you want to find an undisclosed venue then you have to search over many miles of Google earth looking for a hidden gem.  The beauty of Google earth is that it’s a satellite picture, every body of water big or small is shown, no stone unturned, unlike ordnance survey maps, every aspect of the land is shown. 
Follow river courses, quite often they will have stillwaters close by that have been dug out for that reason.  Take a lot look at Google Earth, you might be surprised just how many bodies of water exists within close proximity of where you live that you never knew where there.

Browse the internet for properties or land for sale with water.  Estate agents promote the features of properties including, lakes, ponds and rivers.  Once you have identified some potential properties, all you can do is knock on the door and politely enquire if any fishing is possible.

Follow up on Rumours
Don’t be afraid to follow up on rumour.  I love to hear stories of big fish and how they were caught.  Does this sound familiar? “I heard a 3lb perch came out from farmer Jones’ pond several years ago” or “My mate spotted large shadows cruising below the surface of the old estate lake!”  Ok most of the time, rumours prove unfounded and result in disappointment, however there is always the one rumour that ends up being true.  Don’t let it be someone else, have confidence in your fishing ability and make an effort to catch the biggest in that venue.    
A carp gives itself away
Even club waters are worth investigating if you have heard rumours of a certain species being caught, especially in the past.  For instance a carp pond on a club book might hold big perch however perhaps no one has fished for them for several years, especially with carp being so popular other species go ignored.  Be a pioneer, you might be surprised what you catch.
Discovering a new venue, fishing it and catching from it is a very rewarding aspect of angling, it is not easy however the rewards can be great, even if it means your not surrounded by dozens of other anglers.  Be careful who you share your new waters with, too many people arriving may change the landowners mind about letting you fish it and you may lose the water forever. 

 I hope this has helped and encouraged you to find an unfished venue near you to go after.  I wish you luck in your search and believe me, once youve found one you will soon be looking for another, Tight Lines.

Scanning a "potential" water for signs of fish

Friday, 13 June 2014

Lake Record Common - A Gut Feeling

During the many years I have been angling, only a handful of occasions have I experienced a "gut feeling" or "intuition" to go fishing.  The first time I can recall such a feeling was about 18 years ago, I used to play rugby every Saturday for my local club, however, one week in February, as the game got closer, I felt a strong urge inside, that told me I just had to go chub fishing.  So instead of playing rugby that Saturday, I left the house, with my fishing tackle in the car at 5.00am for my local river in search of chub.   That morning I landed my personal best Chub of 5lb 2oz which still stands to this day.  I can not explain why I had this feeling, however I just knew that I had to go fishing that day, not the day after on the Sunday, but that day. 

That same gut feeling grew stronger last week and as the days passed, by the Thursday I knew I had to return to the lake that I had caught the Unknown Common from a couple of weeks earlier.  So Thursday evening saw me walking through the long grass of the meadow, surrounded by lambs looking for a free helping as I made my way towards the lake.  It was another beautiful evening and as I approached I could see another angler, upon speaking to him, he was a new member of the club and was steadily catching rudd as well as the odd small carp.

I decided to set up in the same spot as last time as I had been pre-baiting a couple of likely areas since my last visit.  All day Thursday was spent tying rigs and adjusting my set up for my session.  I was going to stick with the helicopter rigs, due to the soft nature of the lake bed, I felt this gave me the best presentation and was certainly effective in catching last time out.   I began to think I had over complicated things with the subtle changes to the rigs, however I assured myself from previous experience that I was now fishing for the carp and had to be prepared as the stock of the venue is virtually unknown apart from some very recent stockings.

As I readied myself to make my first casts of the session, my only companion, apart from the lambs, departed with a wave.  I now had the venue to myself so I decided to bait moderately with boilies only, I put in half a kilo of Charwood Baits MPP over the 2 spots.  If and when I started getting bites I would then top the areas up accordingly.  I decided to feed only boilies as I wanted to attract as many carp to the areas as possible and avoid the countless rudd.

The evening passed as the sun slipped away behind the hills, the temperature dropped prompting me to add my thick fleece and pull my hood up to retain my heat in.  In the twilight my buzzer rang out sending the bobbin to the floor, typical drop back bite.  On the rods I reeled in the slack line until I connected with the fish.  It was a spirited fight as the carp made a bee line for my near side bank attempting to lose itself within the overhanging sedge grass.  The carp graced the back of the net and on the unhooking mat I admired the common, that resembled a wild carp by its lean appearance.  Certainly not a stock fish, but an off spring from the originals, which seemed to be happily breeding in the pool.  

The next time the buzzer screamed at me was after dark and resulted in another common of over 7lbs, a nice clean looking fish, with vivid colours adorning his fins.  

As I slipped myself back under the thermal fleece that accompanied my bedchair, the night felt chilly, certainly colder than recent nights, I wondered whether this would have an affect on the carp feeding.  As I lay there, thoughts of my gut feeling came back, thoughts of hope at first, then the thought that maybe Id got it wrong and the gut feeling was just excitement.  I drifted off, only being woken at 4am by the unmistakable sound of the bite alarm, as the spool span around releasing line to an angry carp I leapt into my wellies, lifted the rod into what was clearly the best fish of the session by far.  The fish led me a merry dance over most of the lake, heading into the wooden staging, then almost finding sanctuary in an assortment of sunken branches that resembled witches fingers!  In the half light, I no longer required my head torch and relied on my eyes to adjust in the early morning glow.  Then my first glimpse of the fish, it was a mirror, my first from this venue.  The fish used her large fins to her advantage as she once more buried herself under my feet around the staging.  Within a few minutes I had her head above the surface as I slipped the net under a perfectly formed carp that sent the scales to 11lb exactly.  My biggest from the venue, however still short of the 12lb 6oz record.

A proud stem of foxgloves over looked my bivvy, as a moorhen and her chick made their way across the water at the shallow end of the lake and raven croaked as he flew above me, it was now daylight as I fired out another helping of MPP boilie over my successful areas.

My aim of this session was to catch my first double from the venue, with this achieved perhaps I had been right to follow my gut instinct.  I was happy with the result and with only a couple of fishing hours remaining before I would have to pack up and make the short journey to work, my time was running out to achieve my second target.  Being a venue with no track record for carp and no conclusive history of previous stockings, I was determined to improve on the recent venue record that had fallen to another angler, whether it be this session or the next.  Thankfully I did not have to wait long to achieve success, at 6am the left hand rod ripped off and as I was only inches from it, I held the spool and struck into my 4th fish of the session.  This carp certainly knew where all the snags were and headed directly for a sunken tree, I could feel the line grating on the branches as I held firm applying side strain attempting to steer the fish out the hazard.  The line went solid until a a few seconds later I could feel the fish kick and I gained some valuable line.  

This was a fight to remember, a powerful fish surged back and forth, I had no option but to play the fish hard, my confidence was in my set up, so apart from a hook pull I was hopeful of landing the fish.  On several occasions I managed the fishes head out of water only for it to power off into the depths.  Eventually I slipped the cord under the fish, letting the carp recover in the margins and for me to compose myself slightly.  It was going to be a venue best for me, however, would it beat the 12lb 6oz set a few weeks previous?

After a few minutes I laid the stunning common on the mat, and readied the scales.  Final reading was 13lb 8oz.  Venue record by over a pound.  Again the colouration of the fish was truly impressive.

Orange glowed from the tail fin, the scales etched in brown and a dazzling white under belly made this fish one of the best I have seen in many years.  For anglers who are familiar with fishing venues that are quite coloured as this one is, the fish tend to be "washed out" and turn pale, especially common carp, however these fish seem to be retaining most of their colouration which makes them even more special to catch.

The size of the fishes mouth was huge and would of taken a tangerine no problem.  Having caught carp over 30lbs in the past, you might ask why can I be so excited about a fish this size, however after preparing my rigs and having a game plan to target the original stock, I could not of been happier.  I enjoy setting myself targets in angling, although this isnt for everyone, I believe if you are realistic with them, you will put more effort into your fishing helping you accomplish your goals and hopefully improve your angling skills along the way.  These short over night sessions involve fishing for 10-12 hours max, however a lot can be achieved in that amount of time.  It would of been easy for me to stay at home, thinking that setting up a bivvy for such a short space of time isnt worth the effort, you only get out what you put in like anything in life, effort equals reward.  My fishing this year will be confined to short after work sessions and quick over nighters, who knows it might be my best year yet!

Charwood Baits MPP boilie is gaining a reputation for catching alot of big carp in this country and abroad.  These carp had never seen a boilie before I started introducing them in the venue, I have total confidence in using the MPP on all waters, the milky aroma given off by these baits has to be seen to be believed.  For more information on all Charwood Baits you can follow them on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/CharwoodBaits/

Until next time, Tight Lines

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Zigging for Carp

Carp rigs have become more complicated since the explosion of carp fishing decades ago. Rig systems that dump the lead on the take, hooks that swivel 360 degrees and the Wyre Rig! 

You can be sat behind the ultimate bottom rig of all time, however if the majority of carp are cruising\feeding in the higher layers of the water, your chances are greatly reduced - Enter the Zig Rig!

When I first read about the Zig many years ago in a carp monthly, I quickly turned over the pages to read about the latest bottom rig, dismissing the Zig as something the experts used when they had time on their hands! I did not realise the effectiveness of the Zig until a few years later when I realised it is a worthwhile tactic even for day ticket waters.

The rig is easy to tie, an inline lead set up with the leader tied direct to the swivel making sure the lead will come free if the mainline breaks as with any safe carp rig. I generally use a lead of 3oz, I dont use lighter leads as I believe the heavier leads on a long leader give a better hook up. For the leader material I use 8lb in snag free waters and 10lb in weedier waters. The hooklength I use is a Kamasan sub surface trout leader which I have found superiour to normal mono due to its lower density. Always use a wide gape hook, this helps with a good hook hold as the baits are buoyant and dont act like a boilie. My favourite hook bait (tied knotless knot style) is a piece of dark foam on which ive had most success. Other anglers have had catches on bright pop ups, fake sweetcorn, however I can only comment on what ive caught on and its been dark subtle colours. As a bit of added confidence I pre-glug my bits of foam half hour before I cast them out, glug them too long and they lose their buoyancy.

This will obviously depend on the fishery, however I have found about that 2\3rds to 3\4 quarter depth is a good start. On a recent trip the area I fished was 6 foot deep and 2 foot of weed I fished a zig at 5 feet and had instant success. Watch the water for signs of cruising carp and dont be afraid to try something different from the other anglers.

Carp will be cruising about in the warmer upper layers taking in particles as they come across them and with no hands to feel "baits" they have only their mouths to test food items and sometimes your hook is attached to one of them!

The Zig Rig will work on all waters whether they are gravel pits, lakes even commercial fisheries and the best part about it is, the rig is simplicity itself. Every carp angler will have a tub of pop ups rattling around in their tackle bag and wouldnt think twice about casting out a pop up when all else fails. However when faced with de-rigging a bottom bait for a zig, many anglers confidence is low and will stick with the bottom baits hoping the carp will "switch on". When you see carp cruising the upper layers and the bottom baits arent producing, I recommend you go for it and swap over to a Zig Rig, it could save your day.

The Zig can be used all year round, however my experience of zigs are in warmer weather, normally spring and summer as my colder weather fishing is dedicated to other species.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Fishing the Unknown - Carp & Rudd

High pressure had moved in meaning that the next few days were going to be warm, so I decided to make the most of this and fish a short overnight session on a local stillwater.  The venue in question is bit of an unknown quantity, it holds plenty of rudd and small carp that have recently been stocked, however there have been rumours that it may of been stocked several years ago with carp.  I can never resist tales of uncaught fish so I had to give it a go, nothing ventured and all that!

I was going to edge my bets and fish a rod for carp and the other for rudd, I wanted to try and see what the rudd potential would be from this lake, and after doing a bit research it seemed my best chance for these would be after dark.  I had to wait until my wife got back from work so I could hand over the baby sitting duties, then id be off, hopefully fishing by 7pm.  As I worked 5 minutes from the venue I could be packed up and in work the following morning for 8am.

It was a glorious warm day with bright sunshine and as the I pulled up to the gated field it had clouded over, still very warm, in fact improved fishing conditions, im not a fan of fishing in bright sunshine.   I was travelling light, no cooking equipment on this overnighter just sandwiches and a few bottles of fizzy drinks.  A quiver with 2 rods, my brolly, bedchair with thermal cover, no heavy sleeping bag, a bucket of bait, medium holdall and landing net.  I was loaded up like a pack horse, thankfully the route to the lake is all down hill.

I was the only one on the venue, I fed some bait into a few likely areas and set the rods up.  My rigs on both rods were identical, a medium feeder fished helicopter style with a 3-4 inch nylon hooklink, size 10 hook, one with a piece of foam and sweetcorn the other a hair rigged boilie.  I was catching rudd from the start averaging 6oz, I had a run on the boilie rod, which I did not connect with.

The rudd kept biting however they were not exceeding around 6oz, perhaps the bigger ones would feed after dark.  It was a beautiful evening and as the sun sank behind the hills, the boilie rod burst into life, this time I connected with what was obviously a carp, one of the stockies judging by the fight and I soon had a plucky common on the bank.  As soon as dusk fell the rudd bites stopped instantly, I never landed any rudd during the dark hours.

As I stated earlier, fishing on this venue is a bit of an unknown quantity, theres no hard evidence that other fish have been stocked in the past and if so how long ago or what species were stocked.  I do enjoy a bit of pioneering, trying to unlock a venues secrets, who knows what swims beneath the surface.  

For after dark I put a Charwood Baits 12mm fluro pop up on the boilie rod and im glad I did, at 1.30am I received a proper take, line being ripped from the spool, I jumped off the bedchair and lifted into the fish, it instantly felt heavier than anything else id hooked from the lake, my barbel rod absorbed the carps lunges as he made several bids for freedom, it was very dark as the sky had clouded over blocking the moonlight.  As I played the fish by torch light I had a feeling this was not going to be one of the recent additions, however I was yet to see the fish until it neared the bank, then I got a flash of gold, it was what I had came for, one of the original fish or offspring of the originals, I estimated it around 6lb, until it was safely in the net upon which I revised my estimate to getting on for 10lb!

It was a stunning Common with bronze back, dark edges to his scales and vivid orange on the tail, what a result.  I was over the moon, it didnt matter what weight it was, but for the record the scales went to 9lb 14oz, just short of the double.  I felt I had taken a gamble, followed up on a few rumours and it had paid off.  The carp was immaculate, it looked like it had never been caught before and probably never even seen a boilie before.  The Charwood Baits MPP is a great boilie, it has a track record for producing on a variety of venues and the fish seem to find an instant attraction towards it, if you havent tried it before give it a go on your water.

I retired back to the bedchair but couldnt fall alseep, I was still buzzing from the carp.  I must of drifted off and was woke again by the boilie rod with another stockie at 4.30am as it began to get light.  The dawn chorus was like none I had heard before, it was a plethora of song from several species bird, so much so I could not tell them apart, this lasted for an hour, it was a tremendous melody.  
As I returned the carp, I looked up over my brolly and spotted a fallow deer walking along the tree line of the meadow in the dusky half light.  As the Doe neared, she spotted me and instantly pranced across the dew laden meadow with a series of jumps until she was out of sight. 

After that last carp I did not go back to bed, I enjoyed the next couple of hours, listening to the birds and watching the sun rise, upon which the rudd started to feed again.

A ghostly mist passed over the lake as another rudd came to the net.  I felt my efforts had been rewarded in this short session with an unknown carp falling to my rod.  

One thing I will point out is that unfortunately I did forget my unhooking mat, however I can assure everyone that the fish went back just as it came out, the area is on low ground being very wet and the grass very soft under foot, ill make sure I dont forget it on my next session.
Its exciting fishing a venue that has an unknown stock, who knows what swims beneath the surface.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Small Stillwater Fishing - Carp & Rudd

As the van made its way along the rugged path, the sun slowly crept above the fertile hills of the rolling Monmouthshire countryside.  With the river season still 6 weeks away I decided to try a sample of intimate fishing on a small yet mature pond in search of Carp and Rudd.

On arrival I baited a few margin spots which I intended to fish later in the session and give the carp a bit of time to move onto them.  The venue has only recently been stocked with carp so I could only expect fish upto 3lb, however on light float gear im sure they would put up a spirited and exciting fight.  My set up for the rudd was a simple waggler float with shirt button style shotting pattern as I was expecting to catch fish on the drop.

I fired out some sweetcorn with the catapult, baited my size 14 hook with a single grain and cast out, within seconds I struck as a fish took the bait on the drop and I soon had my first rudd on the bank.

Easily 4oz it was a stunning looking fish with bright red fins, canary yellow eyes and golden flanks which glistened in the morning sunshine.  For the next hour I steadily caught rudd upto 8oz including a beautiful golden rudd (below) which sported firey orange flanks and blood red fins.

As my PB rudd currently stands at only 1lb, it is one I am keen on improving so I set up the quiver rod with a light feeder, my reasons being perhaps the bigger rudd would feed nearer the bottom away from the smaller fish closer to the surface.  Although the average size of rudd I caught was bigger on the feeder (ave 6oz) I could still not tempt any over the 1/2 pound mark.  The fighting qualities of the rudd is understated, these fish put up a good contest on the appropriate tackle and a much larger rudd would certainly give you the run around.

I decided that my margin spots I baited on arrival had been left long enough, so fished one of my favourite styles, the lift method.  Its about as simple as it gets, a light float with an SSG shot about 6 inches from the hook which sits on the bottom.  After finding the right depth the float is fished half cocked and when a fish takes the bait, the float will either slide away or rise up and sit flat on the surface, if either happens you strike immediately.

A few more grains of corn went in both spots before I positioned the float 18 inches from the bank.  This time my size 10 was baited with 2 grains of corn.  It takes alot of confidence to fish this close to the bank especially on a small stillwater, however over the years I have learnt that the carp love to patrol the margins and feed near any features, including reeds, overhanging trees/bushes or old landing stages.  It took a little longer before I received my first bite this time, and 5 minutes later I was playing a lively common carp which darted back and forth  trying to bury itself and shed the hook, I kept it on a tight line as the float rod took on a healthy curve as I slid the net under target species number 2 of the session.

I decided to rest the swim for 10 minutes so baited up with a pinch of sweetcorn and fished the feeder rod, this time casting towards an overhanging tree on the far bank.  It wasnt long before I had a "proper" pull on the tip, this was no rudd.  Another scaley hard fighting common carp came to the net.

I switched back to the float on my margin spot and again waited no more than 5 minutes for my next bite, which saw the float sail away along the bank.  When fishing venues such as this it is important to use the appropriate tackle, a medium float rod, 4lb line straight through meant that I could enjoy the fight, sometimes I had to give a little line when the carp made a powerful run you dont want to be just reeling the fish in on heavy tackle, wheres the fun in that!  This particular carp took several minutes to land, powering around taking line, it proved to be the biggest of the day at almost 3lb.  The carp have only been stocked recently with the biggest being around 2lb so the fish have almost certainly put on weight this spring which is a good sign.

I caught 5 carp in total, 4 falling to the lift method close in.  Im sure I can improve on my rudd PB from this venue, the feeder seemed to pick up the better fish so I have an idea how I might be able to winkle out a few of the bigger rudd over the next few weeks.  Overall it was an enjoyable session before I start my river campaign after barbel and chub.