Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Spring Carp

As I drove through the gated entrance of this nearby day ticket venue, I was greeted with an array of Crocus in various colours.  This pretty flower is often given as a mothers day gift as it emerges in late winter, early spring and is a sign of longer, milder days. Officially, according to the UK meteorologists the last day of February sees the end of winter, so I suppose my winter campaign on that chosen venue is over. 

My aim during the spring and summer is to fish 2 different venues, both day ticket, in search of larger carp and I have set myself a target on the number of twenties I would like to land during that time.  I do not normally set targets in numbers of fish, however, I am relishing the challenge.   The last time I set such a challenge was 10 years ago whilst fishing a Linear syndicate with good success, I go into great detail about this in my ebook "Fishing The Dream" which will be available for download in the coming months.

The staff at this venue are always helpful and after a chat I chose my swim, the lad then pointed out that I could drive directly to it, bonus, no need to use the barrow.  The swim I chose had access to deep and shallower water with some tempting margin features.  Regular readers of my blog will already know that my favourite type of carping is at close range, fishing to overhanging trees, reeds etc.   Alot of anglers avoid the margins and prefer to cast at range believing all the carp are holed up in the middle, im sure some might be, but certainly not all!  In this session I adopted 2 tactics, I chose a margin feature and baited up sparingly and left it for 2 hours.  During those two hours I would cast the rods around at regular intervals to various features to see if I can find out where the carp are feeding or receive any line bites.  

The only sign of carp in those first 2 hours was when a single carp head and shouldered near a dead patch of lillies on the far bank.  I walked around the lake, threw in a half a dozen of the Charwoods MPP boilie and then cast to this feature and decided to leave the rod there for a while.

The other rod was now cast to my prebaited spot on the edge of the nearside reeds and did not take long to give me my first fish of the session.  The hook bait had only been positioned there for 10 minutes when the alarm screamed out and I played a strong carp away from the thick reed bed.  The water was obviously still cold and this reflected in the fight, the carp plodded and never really troubled me once he was in open water.  
At over 13lb it was my first fish from the lake on my first visit and it came from 4 feet of water.  I introduced a few more MPP boilies and recast, sat back and had my own lunch.
The Charwoods MPP boilie has served me well through the winter and its a bait I am sticking with 12 months of the year.  With its candy like aroma and good nutritional value, as soon as you open the bag you want to stick one on your hair.  They are a good food source all year round and have caught fish from the very first time a venue has seen them.  For more information look up Charwood Baits on facebook or follow the link above.
 A cold wind sprang up in the afternoon which made it feel wintry once again.  The wind punished the left hand bank rustling through the lifeless reed stems sending a firm ripple across the lake.  The afternoon remained quiet, no showing carp, no liners.  

Two other anglers turned up mid afternoon to fish a night session. Sure enough it was not long before single hook baits were sent flying out to the middle of the lake, directly in front of my swim, just as well I was fishing the margins!  This is the drawback with day ticket venues, they can become busy even early in the season and although each swim has a sign with your fishing areas marked on them, they are not always adhered to!
Above all this, there is a reason why I keep returning to carp fishing and that is the stunning variety of carp you have the pleasure of catching.  At over 13lb, its far off the venues best however it was a cracking looking fish from a lake I had not fished before, that has to be a result.
Over the coming months I will go into more detail on my boilie only approach for carp, my preference to use glugs in the warmer weather and more in-depth look at margin fishing.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Royal Piking

Blenheim Palace has produced some special days for Dad and myself, it is the venue both our personal best pike have come from with the Old Mans being a fish of over 28lb.  We have fished it regular over the last 15 years, however due to family commitments we have not visited the water for about 2 years.  This was a couple of days fishing I was looking forward to.

As always we had booked into a B&B and arrived the night before the first days fishing.  We collected the keys to the room and made out way up the stairs to our room!  I'm surprised they did not provide a Sherpa to carry our gear, talk about in the rafters, I was half expecting oxygen masks in the room when we arrived, it was a lot of narrow stairs!  After our recovery we were soon in the local and enjoying a couple of cold beers.

The morning was cold and frosty as we loaded the rods into the van then made our way into the estate park that Capability Brown designed in the 18th century.  The Palace is steeped in history including being the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill.  The gardens are magnificent and you experience a taste as you walk from the car park to the boat house and pass the impressive fountains.

There were only 2 other boats on the lake when we arrived and chose boat number 17 for no particular reason.  Our tactics were deadbaiting and lure fishing so hopefully covering most situations.  It was great to be afloat again on this magnificent venue and we gently rowed to our first swim an overhanging tree just down from the boat house.  Our tactics would be to cast our deadbaits towards any bankside features for patrolling pike and then chuck the lure 360 degrees searching for pike, it is a tactic that has provided us with many memorable days at Blenheim.  
The fishing over the last few years, according to other fishing blogs and forums has notquite lived up to its reputation and that is another reason why we have not rushed back, however if you want to find out how a venue is fishing then it is always best to check it out for yourself for peace of mind.

It certainly was a slow start, we searched each area thoroughly with the lures and our floats on the deadbait rods remained motionless after fishing four different swims.  We tried a deeper area of the lake and again after sending our lures to various parts of the lake, stopped for a bit of  lunch.  Whilst eating a sandwich I noticed a red kite circling above, I reached for the camera, I managed alot of photos of the blue sky, not realising how much of a challenge photographing a circling bird of prey would be from a rocking boat! 
We then witnessed the kite fold in its wings and steadily swoop in between the trees onto the ground, a quick rip of its beak it was soon back in the air with a small mammal in its talons, which it proceeded to eat on the wing before the resident gulls mobbed it to no avail.  Its these experiences that I appreciate when out angling, its nature in full effect.
We rowed towards the Grand Bridge where the water is a lot shallower around 3-4 feet hoping the pike might be feeding or preparing to spawn.  The deadbait was cast towards the structure of the bridge which shadowed us in all its splendour.  The old saying "location, location, location" rang true as within 3 minutes of the bait settling it was taken, the float sailed away and I struck into what was obviously a jack pike, however on a slow day all pike are welcome.
The pike took a Gadda Baits Bluey with the head cut off for maximum attraction.  We fished on for another hour in this spot hoping that more pike would fall to our tactics however they did not so we decided to row back towards the boat house stopping every 50 yards to cast our lures.

It seemed as if the recent reports and forums were correct and perhaps Blenheim has seen better days with regards to its predator fishing.  Over 2 days fishing between us we would normally land a double or two or at least several jacks.  We discussed this over a few pints that night and decided we would fish the "arm" tomorrow, an area of about 5-6 feet of water, a place where the pike retreat to spawn.

The next morning, carrying slightly fuzzy heads, we had renewed confidence as I took to the oars and headed directly for the arm, passing the deep water we had fished the previous day.  We were in our third spot of the day half way up the arm when the Old Man had a merciless take on his shad.  A spirited pike of similar size to the one I caught, had brutally swallowed the lure which was deep in its throat. 

This is why it is important when piking to have the correct equipment, long nose pliers, long handled cutters and long traces even when lure fishing.  The pike was unhooked and returned quickly to the water.
As the fishing was slow going I had plenty of time to photograph the bird life that thrives on the palace grounds, which gave me a break from chucking the lures about.

Blenheim Palace will always hold a special place in my angling memories and we will return in the Autumn to have another go for the resident pike however as with many venues perhaps the best days are behind it, for now.  When you visit you will notice the dozens of cormorants that litter the trees over looking the lake, I would not be surprised if a lot of the prey fish have been decimated leaving the pike little to feed on, only time will tell.  

I would encourage anyone to visit this spectacular venue and have a go for the pike, bream or tench, the scenery is stunning, the wildlife abundant and more often than not the sun shines, tight lines.