Saturday, 6 December 2014

Looking back at 2014

On reflection, this year has been a successful one for me in terms of my angling. Severing ties with a bait company I was field testing for lead me to try a new, local bait maker's products which I believe have made a big impact on my catch rate. Whilst I have become more busy with work and spent some of the longest spells in recent years away from the waterside, I have also managed to put the most consecutive hours into one lake on a campaign that I have ever achieved, which again has been very fruitful. My one regret is not spending more time on the river: A few sessions early in the season saw a few barbel lost due to silly mistakes and since then I have not pursued them with any sincerity or persistence. 
So here are some of the highlights of the year...

Fordwich Carp
One of the perks of being a teacher is a good block of time off in the summer and I put this to good use this year by virtually living at Fordwich lake. In previous years after my first blank I would be deterred and sheep off to fish easier waters. The key to my relative success at Fordwich this year was the fact that I stuck at it! Even when I was not fishing I was there talking to anglers, watching the water and soaking the place in. I am over the moon to say I caught a new PB of 28lb 4oz and 2 other fish that beat my previous PB and a couple of upper doubles. 

Wels Catfish
This year also saw this blog's Facebook group's first social outing to Charlie's Lake in Ashford where we targeted wels catfish. I can't pretend to have found this particularly tricky fishing but the fight these creatures put up is something to behold. In the time I was there some big smelly pellets on very light running rigs caught me a few cats; the biggest  being 17lb and this being my first time going for catfish this is indeed also a PB.

Bury Hill 
In April I took a day trip with my friend Kent to Bury Hill's 'Old Lake'. We had hoped to catch some tench but both got breamed-out! Kent caught almost double my numbers which he put down to smaller hooks and finer tackle. I had most success on the float although some bigger bream were had on feeder tactics. The fish that made my trip however was this tiny
Zander caught on double red maggots. Whilst it may seem hilarious, this is also a PB as it is my first Zed! Bury Hill is a beautiful venue which I know holds some amazing specimens of a variety of species I target and so fully intend to return.

This is still a work in progress but so far this season I have been out but a few times for pike and all but my last session have been productive. I've caught on dead sea baits fished on a paternoster in still and flowing water as well as on lures. The fish pictured was taken on a lure in high, coloured flood water in very poor light in an effort to entertain myself in my last unproductive barbel session! I have never fished with live bait but every time I've been out this year for pike, the guys using live baits have totally out-fished me. Got to be worth a try...

I've not caught many fully scaled mirror carp but this year I have had a few on association waters. They were not big but they were very beautiful...

I never make time for this pursuit but look lustfully at other angler's catches of big sergeants and vow to make the effort in ernest some day soon. I went out twice for perch in the early season. The first time I caught a few small fish on a little jig. I did spot some better fish however but they were not at all interested my lure so I went back the next day with a float and pot of worms. The first fish I had was a small flounder, 20 miles upstream from where the river meets the sea! The second however was a gorgeous perch which I guessed to weigh about 2 1/2 lbs.

All in all, this year has been a blast with many good times on the bank besides those mentioned here. Of course there have been some lows and moments of utter despair and hopelessness but they only make the highs all the more fantastic when they finally come. The biggest lesson I have learnt is to relax, enjoy and relish the peaceful contrast fishing provides to an otherwise hectic life!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

And now for something completely different!

Percy Preist Lake, Nashville at the start of fall

I have been fortunate this last week to have taken a holiday in Nashville, Tennessee which featured a bit of a road trip to Memphis - something of a musical pilgrimage you might say but I couldn't go all that way without packing a travel rod and a few jelly lures. 
Nashville is situated below the many meanders of the Cumberland River so I expected that might provide me with the odd opportunity to wet a line. The river, as it flows through the city however, is quite inaccessible to anglers due to urban developments and scarily steep banks so I had to seek an alternative location for my taste of fishing in the states. Percy Priest Lake seemed to be the perfect location but as it was a little bit out of town and we had a busy schedule my only window of opportunity fell upon the final few hours before check-in at the airport.

To fish in Tennessee a TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) license is required but it seems most public parks and waterways are free to fish without day tickets or club memberships. I found out the hard way in advance of my trip that it is impossible for a non U.S. resident to purchase a license online but the TWRA Facebook page were very helpful in pointing me in the right direction and once in town I was able to buy a 3 day permit for $16.50 with relative ease at the Bass Pro shop, which by the way, is the biggest tackle shop I expect I will ever see in my life! The TWRA provide a PDF fishing guide which got my hopes up to catch some Bass or Sunfish perhaps or maybe even Gar - all of these hopes were reinforced by the very helpful guy in the tackle shop.

The reservoir itself is massive! 14,000 acres of man made lake fed by the Stones River. This flooded valley takes its name from the engineer who built the dam, J Percy Priest, for the purpose of hydro-electric power. This is by far the biggest lake I have ever fished and yet I had such little time! I had been directed to a couple of spots either side of the dam wall - the first of which was shallow and rocky with a sudden drop-off. I lost several jigs trying to fish over the shelf - an approach which would have been far better attempted from a boat casting towards the bank but that wasn't on the cards unfortunately. Over the other side it dropped off much quicker and I could see small fry and amongst them, slightly larger fish milling around. They did not seem interested in anything I offered, even though I tried a variety of bottom-bumping techniques. I noticed a few fish in the margins spooking as they saw me walking the bank so I sought out a spot 'off the beaten track' where they might take cover in snags which I could cast to without giving myself away. Even this resulted in nothing but frustration as my one and only chance to catch here was slipping through my fingers. 

I spoke to some other anglers who acknowledged that the fishing here had been slow recently and so I decided to drive down beneath the dam and fish the Stones River as it reemerged to resume its course into the Cumberland. A few other anglers were already there which gave me a bit of confidence as did the sight of many fish leaping out of the water. One told me that this isn't really the time of year to catch bass and pointed out small minnows (roach) in the margins being chased by slightly bigger silver fish - these, he said, were skipjacks or skipjack herrings also known as the 'Tennessee Tarpon'. They were feeding up before starting their migration to the sea. I had previously been most persistent with a little silver shad which resembled the bait fish but noticed this local angler was using a bright yellow jelly, so with such little time left, I saw no point in being proud and copied his tactic. This produced me a fish on  the second cast! Now these fish are certainly not river monsters, averaging only about 12" but they fight like fury and made great sport on my 10-30g casting weight telescopic travel spinning rod! This battle is enhanced immeasurably by this fish's tendency to leap right out the water whilst you are trying to bring it in. These acrobatics cost me 2 fish before another kind angler came over as I was playing one  and told me to tighten the clutch and reel it in quickly because otherwise the fish will be able free itself by creating slack in the line whilst doing air time. I took this advice and managed 2 more fish before having to leave for my flight home. 
I might not have caught anything huge, nor were they the bass I was hoping for but it was tremendous fun catching fish that punch well above their weight in such an epic setting. Nashville is known as 'Music City' with a bit of a reputation for being a party town and it lived up to this and totally exceeded my expectations but I am so glad that my passion for angling lead me to experience a very contrasting, beautiful and peaceful side of this vibrant musical Mecca.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Not bad for a novice!

At the risk of sounding a little hypocritical, I have in the past been been fairly vocal about my disdain for competition fishing and yet this, I concede, was probably based on an unfounded prejudice which in fairness a good many match fishermen return in spades to those who call themselves 'carpers'.
However, when invited by a friend to take part in the 'Maggotdrowners Southern Champions Match' a degree of curiosity and a little 'can't knock it till you've tried it' drove me to accept.
The venue was the 'Tricklebrook' match lake, which is stocked well with a wide variety of species but I decided that if I was to be in with a fighting chance of weighing in well I would have to play to my strengths and target the carp as it is a long time since I fished seriously for silvers. I had in mind to fish the method but I took the advice of Ray at Blean Angling who put me onto the pellet feeder having explained its numerous advantages. He told me I needed to decide upon a plan and stick to it. 'There's no use chopping and changing' he said, 'you've got to have faith!' and I took heed whilst  allowing for the 'wag and mag' as a plan B should blanking look like a possibility.
The sun was just coming up as I arrived but a small crowd of likely looking gents were already engaged in friendly banter by the waterside, something which would continue throughout the day. 

The sun coming up on Tricklebrook Match Lake

Whilst waiting for the draw I took a stroll around the lake. In some parts carp were already showing on the surface but my spot for the day was not going to be for me to choose. As chance would have it I drew peg 2 which allowed me a reasonable amount of open water and an island to cast to. Even more unlikely was that the chap who drew peg 1 next door to me was none other than Mike Jameson, a former world champion! What a juxtaposition for my first ever match!

We started fishing at 10am and agreed to finish at 4pm. By the start of the competition the sun was baking down which some said had a negative impact on the roach's feeding. It didn't seem to stop the carp from feeding though as I received many great takes, each almost ripping the rod off the rod rest before my reflexes kicked in! I was fishing with a 6mm pellet on a bait band tied to a short hair. When the bait band spoiled on a few occasions I snipped off the hair and put a big clump of reds on the hook which accounted for some of the better sized fish. There was a time when I thought I was ahead of everybody but some, it transpired, we're keeping their cards close to their chests. Mike had found a good margin spot which produced consistently throughout the day, whilst my method was a little more intermittent.

After a spell of almost an hour with no fish I did change briefly to the Waggler and dropped it in the margin spot I had been baiting up as a contingency. Half an hour past with no bites on the float and I felt like I was deviating from the plan so I reeled back in and persevered with the feeder which did me a few more fish before time was called. Frustratingly in the last 2 hours I lost 5 carp to hook pulls. I don't know if the hook had blunted but I changed it nonetheless and the positive hook-ups resumed. 

As you can see, at the final weigh in I came 4th out of 12 anglers with a total of 24lbs- which I am very proud of. There's no shame in being beaten by a world champion. The other guys who placed above me were both old hands too. I am thankful for the advice I was given as another angler I observed who didn't do as well kept changing his method every 5 minutes and casting here there and everywhere which clearly worked against him. So a little faith and confidence in what you're doing evidently counts for a lot!
You could say I am now a convert. Not that I am going to abandon my specimen angling but to be made to feel so welcome, instantly one of the gang, took away the intimidating mystique that surrounded this aspect of the sport in my mind and the sense of accomplishment when my nets were hauled up to be weighed full of fish compelled me to concede to do this again.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

More fun at Fordwich!

Since my last post, Summer Carping on Fordwich Lake, I have been back to the lake 3 times, 2 of which were notably fish-less! Today however, I return from 48hrs fishing which have been somewhat more successful.
Over the last week, perhaps since the full moon, a number of good fish have been caught on the west end of the lake where the wind was headed. News of these captures filled me with excitement in anticipation of my weekends fishing. On my arrival however, this part of the lake was inevitably packed with hopeful anglers and so I trekked around to the furthest swim on the lake, being the first spot available I had any confidence in! The night and most of the following day passed without so much as bite and no fish showing at all so instead of re-positioning my rods for the night, I took a walk to look for a better spot. Although I was very comfortable with the wind behind me, time was limited and the fish were clearly not coming to me so I had to go to them. Serendipitously, a swim known to be consistently productive was available, only once again it was the furthermost point from where I was set up at the time!
It was a bit of a mission getting there and putting the rods and bait out before it was impossible to see what I was doing but I hit the sack confident that I was in a better place.
At about 10am the next morning I received a confident take on my right-hand rod which was positioned quite close in, unlike the other two which were out as far as a course of lily pads would allow. Although not too far out, the fish could have taken me round various snags had I not applied a fair amount of pressure without giving any line away. The fish cooperated until I got it to the net when it went totally nuts! I was grateful to have a good mate with me who helped me net it.
As per all the carp I've had this summer, this 24lb 8oz mirror fell to a very simple snowman rig of a 20mm fishmeal bottom bait and matching 15mm popup.

Shortly after returning this fish, I had a run on my middle rod. I connected with the fish, which felt good but it was much further out and the fish started kiting right into a bay. Again I applied considerable pressure and started reeling in quickly as there was enough line out for the fish to take me into numerous hazards. Unfortunately, this resulted in the fish coming free. Any angler who has lost a fish can relate to the feeling of devastation but on reflection I would rather have lost the fish this way than in the snags where the fish could have become tethered and so am consoling myself that I took the right course of action.
The blank sessions made me very wary of causing too much commotion with a spomb, so I restrained myself and used the catapult wherever I could get away with it this time. The other thing I have learnt this season is the power of persistance. In previous seasons I would fish a couple of sessions at Fordwich, blank and then go to an easier water to remind myself what a carp looked like. This year I have focused solely on Fordwich, aside from a few trips to the river for barbel but I'll tell you about that in another post! Coming back again and again has allowed me to be in touch with the lake and to a certain extent be in the right place at the right time. I've still got so much to learn about this amazing water but I am feeling very content to be making progress.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Summer Carping on Fordwich Lake

Fordwich Lake, near Canterbury, is in my opinion amongst the most beautiful waters in the country and holds some very special fish. It is a lake that has got the better of many, myself included, though many great anglers have cut their teeth here. Although I have been targeting carp for the greater part of my youth, I didn't truly start carping until my first season on this historic water. The learning curve was steep and painful and yet each obstacle held a valuable lesson. After a while I began to experience some success but more recently, as I continued to experiment with various factors in my approach, the catches dried up. Having had time to reflect and refine my tactics and with a fair amount of exploration and discovery behind me, I have challenged myself to capitalise on the knowledge I have acquired and make 2014 the year to start banking fish from this formidable venue.
Sunset on Fordwich Lake

My first proper session this season did not come about until the last week of July. The lake had been fishing hard, probably due to the abundance of naturals thriving in the weed bloom. With so much food available, not associated with the danger of being caught, the carp could quite easily survive without the need to touch any angler's offerings. However, a few laps of the lake in the days before my campaign began revealed some valuable information. There had been some significant catches just after a storm had hit a little over a week before, which is when the wind started blowing west. The anglers who followed this wind were successful as were a few who had jumped in their swims behind them for a few days. However, a week on and the catches had become distant memories. I spoke to some guys who clearly knew what they were doing but for reasons unknown, were not catching.

On the day I arrived at the lake ready to fish, it was evident that the wind was now easterly and therefore I decided to resist the temptation of occupying the now vacant hotspots and trekked round to the opposite side of the lake with my friend who was joining me for the next 48 hours. That night we settled in adjacent swims, I set up on a swim where features above and below the surface could be found at about 100 yards. The spots are a bit closer on the swim next door where I have had success in the past but unfortunately it was taken. At the best of times 100 yards is about my casting limit but with the wind coming straight towards us I found it hard to get the full distance with my rigs and almost impossible to get my spombed freebies on the same spots. The night passed with my rigs a rod length or two off the desired location and the loose feed another length or two shy of my hookbaits. Needless to say my sleep was uninterrupted!

The next day we decided to move round to a picturesque swim in the corner of the lake where many snaggy features are all within the lightest of casts. What's more, the wind was blowing right up into this corner and algae residue, weed, snails and all sorts were collecting here now. It was a bit of a squeeze getting us both into one swim, something I would normally try to avoid but we were there to be sociable on this occasion and so threw caution to the wind. We took the time to get our rigs exactly where we wanted them and scattered the area with boilies and maize. At 3am my friend had a run but the fish got the better of him. At 8am I also lost what felt like a good fish. All the while we kept the bait going in on the premise that the fish were there and they were eating it. If we didn't keep it coming they would go elsewhere! By mid-afternoon, knowing that the remaining hours were into single figures and still no fish had been landed, despondency was setting in. Thankfully this emotion was short-lived as my right hand rod was pulled sharply towards the singing alarm. No line could be given as I was fishing just in front of a sunken tree, so the spool had to be locked up and my full attention devoted to it. I managed to turn the fish from the snag without too much trouble and then steadily coaxed the fish, laden with weed, into the net. As I was using a large bait presented snowman fashion, I had lengthened the hair considerably as I suspected short hairs were the reason many takes last season didn't result in a connection with the fish - a move I believe paid off as this time the hook was set perfectly in the bottom lip of this carp's cavernous mouth. It weighed a tantalising pound below the magic 20 but I was absolutely elated. Back the fish went into the water in a floating retainer sling whilst I got the camera ready. As I started to lift the sling from the water the cracking common thrashed around and swam straight out of the sling! It became apparent that although I had zipped it up, the zips were not clipped and the fish had been able to work it open whilst in the water. I felt ecstatic and cheated simultaneously - a very confusing sensation! I put myself in line very quickly - I had lived the moment and that was what mattered. In addition, I had resumed catching carp at Fordwich and that, for me, was no mean feat.

Round two began with high hopes as I arrived early on a Tuesday morning with three days and two nights ahead of me. The lake's car park was packed, which is always a concern but as I barrowed round to the eastern side of the lake where the wind was still headed I past many anglers in adjacent swims all down the previously productive west end and along the main length of the lake where only the most epic casters dare display their machismo. I was delighted to find I had the pick of many lovely close range swims but settled again in the same spot I fished last time as I had already put in some ground work there which gave me confidence.
Left: the problem with the old way
Right: from now on it'll be done like this!
Again, I made good use of the line clips on my reels to get my leads where I wanted them before attaching my rigs. With regard to this - the fish I lost in the previous session was lost due to my misuse of a rig component. I had been attaching my rigs with a rig clip but not using a sleeve to cover it as I get paranoid about how it sits on the bottom and I think without a sleeve there is more chance of the braid following the contour of the lake bed. However, without taking the precaution of covering the clip with a sleeve, the clip had worked its way over the swivel and therefore when I connected with the fish it was able to pull the rig straight off the swivel. I'm not happy about this or at all proud to admit it but I am pleased that I have learned from this error and have vowed from now on to always use a simple loop to attach all my rigs. 
So out they went along with liberal helpings of boilies and maize and then I sat back and waited. 

And waited.

I waited a whole 48 hours before at 9am on Thursday my middle alarm started jittering, a sound which progressed to a single tone as line started to peel off the reel. I picked up the rod and connected with a solid weight which started moving steadily towards sunken branches. I turned the fish from immediate danger but it continued to power away. I could give no line but continued to steer the fish and let the rod tip cushion every lunge. Once in open water I knew the hard part was over but when I saw the size of the fish my heart started pounding and my nerves started snowballing. To loose this now would be devastating and that fear, I feared, would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This fish just refused to be netted! Now however, I was able to let line off and play the fish to the point of submission which I did with several deep breaths and a mantra of 'keep cool'.
After resting it in the net I lifted out the biggest fish I had ever seen in the flesh and knew it had to be a personal best. I unhooked it and then put it back in the water in the floatation sling, this time taking the utmost care to zip and clip! Although it was early morning the sun was baking down already so I made sure I had a bucket of lake water ready to douse the fish as well as my scales and camera.
28lb 4oz - a new PB! I couldn't help releasing a primal 'whoop'! I rested the fish in the water again before taking a few pictures. Only a couple came out well but I didn't persevere as I had captured the memory and my priority had to be returning the fish safely.

My PB Carp at 28lb 4oz from Fordwich Lake.
Only an hour later my left hand rod went off, the alarm tone beginning again with the same jittering sound which leads me to think perhaps the fish are shaking their heads to use the weight of the lead to free themselves of the hook. This rod had been cast to some lilies and I thought the challenge would be turning the fish from this obvious safe haven. However, this fish had other ideas. It made a beeline to the left right round the back of some trees which were growing out of the water. I was fast to respond and managed to kite it out of the most extreme snags but as I was doing so the handle on my reel broke and became loose so on every turn it clashed with the bail arm. This momentary lapse of attention to work out what was going wrong with the reel allowed the carp the second it needed to find safety in the tree line. Suddenly the fish was immovable and I had no choice but to put the rod down, open the bail arm and wait. As I mentally prepared myself to strip down and go for a swim to free the fish from the snag line began peeling once more from the spool. I picked up the rod and turned the fish which complied but was bringing the tree with it! The most violent of fights ensued and my heart resumed the acrobatics it had been performing an hour before. When finally I landed the fish and the huge tree branch it had brought with it and placed the feisty common on the unhooking mat, I leaned over to unhook it and it slapped me full in the face with its tail, far worse than the last time I upset a lady!

This one weighed in at 17lb exactly and although much smaller was a real rival to the first fish in the thrill-of-the-catch competition. The rest of the day past without another bite but now, if they weren't obvious enough before, signs of fish movement were blatant as they basked on the surface in the heat and crashed around in the lilies. If I had any surface baits with me I would have given that approach a shot for sure.

There is still plenty of summer left so perhaps there will be a 'part 2' to this post if I catch or learn anything noteworthy at Fordwich over the next few weeks. For now however, I could not be happier that I am making progress on a water that has been an ongoing challenge for me but the years of hard work have rewarded me with the best fish I have ever caught.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bury Hill

Just a quick diary entry today about yesterdays visit to Bury Hill. It was my first time to this venue and I was very excited about the prospect of catching a spring tench or two. I had hoped to fish Milton lake with this in mind but it was closed for a match and so I settled on the 'Old Lake' which holds some very special fish. In spite of leaving early enough to arrive as the complex opened, I didn't get there until gone 10am due to an accident on the M25. On arrival, the sun was shining making hard to believe there had been a frost overnight and a cold easterly wind was hard to ignore.

Old Bury Hill
 My friend, Kent, had an excellent day banking 18 bream averaging 3 or 4lb each and managed 1 tench which was his last fish. I struggled a little in all honesty catching only 8 fish. 4 of these were bream, only 1 was a decent slab. I had 3 perch, the biggest might have made 8oz but the fish which made my day was this - my first ever Zander!!! It took 3 red maggots under my porcupine quill float right on the bottom. I would like to target predators here one day, perhaps later this year when they are back in season but this was a lovely surprise!

My PB Zander!
In some respects the day was a little disappointing; having travelled a long way with high hopes and then not catching my quarry but a number of factors were stacked against us. At least we both caught something! I have never fished such a well kept venue though. This place is pristine! With a bit more of a feel for the lake and in warmer weather I shall hopefully return and catch a tinca or two!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cool for Cats!

On the bank is a facebook group I set up to share this blog, discuss all things angling related and to be a hub where other bloggers can promote their posts. Naturally I invited my friends to join and some writers of blogs I enjoy reading and gradually momentum is gathering and is fast becoming a great resource for advice. It wasn't long however before the idea of a social gathering was suggested and a few of us were making arrangements to meet for a 24hr session at Charlie's Lake, Ashford.

Jeremy Wade and a very happy fan!
This water holds some big carp but is notorious for its stock of wels catfish. These are not a species I have ever targeted before but have been discussing and researching for a while. In the days before this trip many hours sleep were lost through sheer excitement about the prospect of catching my first cat. Only a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Wade, on his 'River Monsters' tour, whose tales of big catfish caught in exotic locations only added fuel to the fire!
On arriving at the lake I saw my friend Robin, who was just packing up having caught over 400lbs of cats in one session. I later came to realise the importance of location and it would seem this is something Robin must have got spot on.
Setting up next to Stuart, who had already arrived, opposite the island with swims free to our right for the others who were still on their way seemed like a good choice from a social perspective whilst providing a few features to cast to as well. There was an angler to our left who was catching well when I arrived. When he arrived, Richard, who had been here before, was right in this swim as soon  as the angler vacated - he must have known it was a good peg and it was certainly a move that paid off for him as his 30 fish haul substantiates.

It all kicked off at 8:30pm when, after we had all had fussy bites, Richard had the first screaming run. Whilst he was playing a decent cat to the net another of his reels started peeling off line in a desperate hurry. Shaun did the honours and landed this fish for him. They weighed 22lbs and 20lbs respectively. No sooner had Shaun landed the fish for Richard, his own rods started to produce good fish joined shortly after by Stuart catching his first cat. 

Not a catfish but a relief to catch something!

For a while I was nicely distracted, running around weighing fish for people and taking lots of photos until it started to dawn on me that I was the only one who hadn't had a fish! Whilst I was vey happy for my mates I did get a bit down. It wasn't long after everybody kipped down for the night though that I had my first take - a 10lb common carp on double halibut pellet and a fruity popup!

Left: The rig that caught all my fish
Right: Maybe this will produce next time?
I was also fishing with 30mm bloodied eel pellets, which the others called 'donkey chokers' - these produced many bites but never resulted in a run, perhaps they were difficult to pick up? I tried to address this by adding a popup snowman style but within the hours I was there this was not a successful tactic. Each time a rig was cast out it was threaded onto a pva sock stuffed with halibut pellets and covered in glug.
I changed over to 1oz leads on the recommendation of my mates who explained that catfish don't like any resistance and the venue insist on running rigs which further assists in minimising this.

A few sleepless hours later came my second run. For a while I must admit I thought this fish was a carp as the fight was not dissimilar to my last fish. When It came to the net I was delighted to see a small catfish, a mere kitten in-fact, which tipped the scales to just 7lb.
Pictures of my first kittens, juxtaposed for comparison...
It wasn't long before I got to feel the real power that  better size cat has to offer. This 13lber came at about 5am and felt like I had hooked a tractor! I was bowled over by the power of this fish compared to the last and had quite a job netting it by myself whilst the others were sleeping.
13lb - getting bigger...
At about 7am the others started waking up. I had still not had any sleep! Shaun landed a carp and a cat in close succession and then the heavens opened. It continued to pour and pour throughout the day until every thing I owned and every item of clothing I was wearing was absolutely sodden wet! 
The day continued in this fashion with no more fish for me until the early afternoon. As this was my first trip in pursuit of cats and each catch was bigger than the last it meant that every fish brought the joy of being my new PB. I get the impression with this lake that if you were there long enough and were catching you would connect with one of their real monsters eventually. On this occasion however, my PB settled on a respectable 17lb with which I am very happy, for now!

My new PB Wels Catfish at 17lb

My catch rate compared equally to Shaun and Stuart who caught the same number of fish as me, though they both caught slightly bigger. Richard on the other hand, who drew the 'golden peg' could do no wrong and lost count of how many he had had in the region of 30 fish, mostly upper doubles and low 20s! I don't doubt that this was good angling but I bet there wasn't one of us in the group who didn't secretly wish he could get in on that peg for a cast or two...!

Left to right: Richard Mastin with 22lber, Shaun Haynes also with a 22lber and Stuart Groombridge with an 18lber.

Charlie's Lake is definitely somewhere I intend on returning to. £30 for 24hrs is not unreasonable for the quality of the fishing. In the interest of objectivity my positivity for the place is countered by a nasty memory of a very disgusting toilet and I was concerned at the state of the mouths of the 3 carp that were caught between us. They have commendable rules regarding tackle, rigs etc which are all in the interest of fish safety but I wander how strictly these are enforced and no number of rules can grant certain customers a brain. On the whole however, this is a clean and comfortable fishery where the chance of a big cat is a likely prospect.
Thanks to the guys who came on the social and made this such an enjoyable session. Please head over to the facebook group 'On the bank' if you're not already a member and I hope to see some of you at the next event!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Could do better?

Early morning at Longshaw Farm

The opportunity to fish for four consecutive days presented itself to me this week along with the conundrum of where to go - given that a great number of my favourite lakes and the River Stour are inaccessible and even unsafe due to the recent flooding. I opted in the end for 2 ticket waters and 2 days on one of my club's lakes.

My first day ticket was Mansfield Farm Lake. I had never been there before and had heard mixed reports but apparently there is a good head of carp (though the sizes of which are hotly disputed), crucians, tench, silvers and even sturgeon. The variety of species got me quite excited. I decided to target the carp with one rod fishing ledgered meat and on the other rod I float fished maggots and corn alternately for whatever might come my way.
Throughout the day I had about 20 small roach on maggots and nothing on corn. I had a good run on the ledgered meat and connected with what felt like a carp briefly before the line went slack. The weather was better than forecast and so with the sun beating down on my corner of the lake in the late afternoon I decided to throw a few mixers out to see if anything would surface. Nothing happened at first but just as the light started to fade and the bait had washed up against the bank came that all familiar slurping sound. I was straight on it with a freelined mixer and managed to winkle one small carp out before the light had gone completely. 
I am disappointed not to have caught any of the other species that reside in this lake. I am in two minds about the place but will return in warmer weather to see if I can improve in this regard.

Next was Longshaw Farm, not my first visit - in fact before I joined CDAA I was here all the time. My last trip to Longshaw was in November 2010 when all my clubs lakes had lids on them as did most lakes in the area but Longshaw is largely immune to ice thanks its water pumps. On that day I had 2 fish, an 8lb common and a 17lb 8oz Mirror. I was fortunate enough to have forgotten my camera that day - I say fortunate as forgetting my camera forced me to do what can only be described as a 'selfie' with my phone and produced my favourite of all my angling photos.

It was no where near as cold this time, although there was a very chilly breeze rushing through the valley. When I set up on the big lake I was the only one there, a contrast to the middle lake next door where a match was being held. I've never fished a match, nor do I ever intend to - as the composer Bartok said 'Competitions are for horses not artists' and though I've not exactly got my angling down to an art yet, I am trying!
It amused me to watch the exodus of anglers pushing their barrows to their swims at 9am and the simultaneous shuffle of their poles when the starting whistle sounded thirty minutes later.

The swim I chose gave me access to a causeway between two reed beds within which there were plenty of carp nosing around evident by the reeds constant twitching. I cast one rod inside this channel and the other to the right, both sporting chunks of meat in front of an in-line lead.
Just before 10am the rod in the channel received a fantastically confident take from a very hard fighting common carp which weighed in at 11lb 4oz. This however, was my only fish of the day. I didn't even get another bite which is unusual in my experience of Longshaw. Perhaps it was the temperature or the time of year. Perhaps it was the  other anglers who moved in either side of me adding more pressure with the increased number of lines towards the same feature. I don't know. Either way, I enjoyed my time here. It's a very comfortable and well maintained fishery with good facilities and a wide variety of species to target across 4 lakes to suit a range of angling preferences. I look forward to my next session here...

I spent much of Friday in this position.
Birch Lake was my next stop. I arrived at 8:30am on Thursday and was the only person at the Littlebourne complex. Half an hour later my friend arrived and we set up opposite each other so that we could both fish the end of the lake towards which the wind was blowing. It was very cold and, having only just returned to normal levels after flooding, the water was a horrible chocolately brown. This time last year I fished here and had considerable success which I wrote about here. Therefore I could be forgiven for anticipating more of the same from this session.
A morning of showers extended well into the afternoon and no bites were forthcoming. The weather improved later in the day but my catch rate did not.
I snoozed until midnight when I discovered that my feet became warmer with just one pair of socks than they had been with two! With toasty toes I would have been able to sleep right through until morning if it hadn't been for a rude awakening from my bite alarm at 3:40am which kept up its jazz-like phrasing, disjointed and irregular, until I arrived at my rods and then stopped.
This was all the excitement I was going to get within this 36 hour session. I tried meat, pellet wrapped in paste, bread (boilies are not allowed at this venue or infact any of the venues I visited this week) but nothing provoked any interest from the fish. My friend had no joy either.
As I moved off several white vans were coming down the path bringing the next batch of anglers to try and conquer what is normally not a difficult water but one that on this occasion left me absolutely stumped.

So as I reflect on the last four days I feel like the tranquility has done me some good but am slightly baffled as to how I could have disturbed the peace with a few more fish but, I suppose, that's what will spur me on to try again. It's not a sport of certainties but certain possibilities. That's why I love it so much.
The sun setting in the field behind Birch Lake.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

First catch of 2014...

2014 has started with many of the waters I fish being inaccessible and in some cases totally unfishable due to flooding. This is a shame as I have got the predator bug at the moment, plus a whole load of lures for Christmas which I am dying to try out!
A friend suggested I had a bit of fun on Pump Lake, Littlebourne with some maggots which appealed greatly aside from, for one reason or another, I couldn't make it to the tackle shop to buy any and so contented myself to gather some worms for one rod and settled on fishing the method on the other.

This was only ever going to be a short session as I had other commitments in the afternoon. I fished the worms on a running ledger and quiver tip and in spite of very frequent bites, found it very difficult to hit any of them. My guess is that small fish were taking the end of the worms and not the larger carp or tench I was hoping for taking the whole bundle in theirs mouths. Still, this served to keep me occupied whilst waiting for my first proper run on the method feeder.
The first fish came in the form of this 6 1/2lb mirror carp at about 10am and an hour later another, slightly smaller fully scaled mirror of 5lb but in my opinion one of the most beautiful fish I have ever had the pleasure of catching!

 I packed up reluctantly at 11:30am as I had had a great time and felt that if I could stay longer there would almost certainly be more fish in the net. I have lots of hopes for my angling this year, cards which shall be kept close to my chest for now, but todays session has certainly got things off to a good start.