Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bitter sweet


Tea and toast for breakfast then after “Pokemon” had finished Isaac accompanied me for another trip down to the ‘Marsh’. Loading the car I was dismayed to see a heavy frost on the ground and ice on the windscreen, definitely not what we needed.

A few minutes later the car rolled to a stop in the car park, we carried our gear a short distance to one of the easily accessible swims close by. The swim we’d fished last week was occupied by a group of carp anglers, shame as that one had teemed with silver fish. While I tackled up Isaac started to run amok with a bow and arrow he’d managed to sneak into the car. As usual I set up the whip with a float rig and maggots, feeding a few small pellets every now & again. The plan was to catch some livebait then rig Isi’s Pike rod up again but things didn’t pan out that way. I tackled up a Carp/Tench rod, using a leadcore helicopter rig and a balanced boilie on a 12” hooklength. This I cast to an area where lily pads would soon be growing. I hoped it wouldn’t become entangle in any debris but I thought it a risk worth taking as I believed it would be an attractive area for any Tench or Carp moving around.

Two other anglers began noisily setting up in another nearby swim, with the racket they were making I wouldn’t have to worry about the antics of my nine year old disturbing anyone’s peace. Having conquered the surrounding woods and tamed any wild beasts that may have been around Isaac settled into his chair with a cup of tea and began explaining the details of the “Angry Birds” video game.

Time passed, the indicator on the boilie rod didn’t move but to be honest I didn’t expect anything different. However I was surprised that the float wasn’t dipping. Isi was particularly disappointed and was starting to get restless, asking what time we were going home. Glancing around the lake I noticed the Carp anglers opposite were grouped together in a huddle and it didn’t look like a lot was happening over there. The two late arrivals were fishing with poles and I hadn’t seen them catch anything either. Maybe the cold night had done for the fishing?

I left Isaac in charge and had a little wander into the swim next door. Some Alder (I think?) branches, covered in fresh buds were poking through the Norfolk reed and overhanging the water. This little area looked enticing and as I watched I was sure I could detect fishy movements beneath the surface. I fetched the whip, shallowed the rig up a bit and placed the float beneath the branches. Within a couple of minutes the float had dipped a couple of times, although I didn’t manage to hook the culprit this was more action than we’d had in the previous ninety minutes. I called Isaac over and he stood half-heartedly holding the whip, watching the float without confidence. I walked the half dozen paces back to the other rod to pick up his chair and a few other bits and before I returned he was calling “dad!” A fish hooked and lost, a little disappointing but a much needed confidence boost.

I threw a handful of maggots out along with a few pellets and we watched the small float intently, willing it to dip under….It slid away, Isi lifted the whip and….missed it! Back out again, surely we’d get a few more bites now? Yes, the next dip of the float saw Isaac timing his strike better and a tiny Rudd was swung to hand! Confidence, concentration and enthusiasm were all now spot on and a succession of small Rudd were hooked and swung into the hands of my grinning nine year old.

Not all of Isaac’s casts landed in the right area, indeed after one the rig needed to be retrieved from another bankside sapling. At 5 metres the whip is a little too big for him. At times I have to fight the temptation to take the whip from him and put the float in the spot myself. I really have to let him learn for himself which he is keen to do at the moment. He was also keen to unhook his own fish and learnt quickly wiggling the hook out with his fingers and he also got the hang of using the disgorger.

The fish were small but glancing around the lake it seemed Isaac was the only angler catching anything at all. When I pointed this out to him he giggled and said “you haven’t caught any either dad!” I’m not competitive in the slightest (honest) but I tried to wrestle the whip out of his hands to put the record straight. Whenever I held the whip, the swim was dead but as soon as I handed it back and started to tidy away the rest of our gear, Isaac caught another Rudd! Eventually our allotted time was up and with the Tench gear tidied up that left just the whip. I managed to commandeer it for just long enough to catch one solitary Rudd, by which time Isaac had caught a dozen or more. Still no one else on the lake seemed to be catching anything. Our two hours were up and we had a busy day ahead of us, activities with the rest of the family.

As we walked back to the car we passed two suspicious looking lads. Something about their dress and demeanour made me wonder if they were the infamous Eastern Europeans that are causing problems in parts of the country. I said hello and got a grunt in reply which did nothing to ease my suspicions. I loaded the car slowly and kept an eye on them as they walked around the lake. Time was up, I had to leave. An hour or so later I pulled up at the lake with the kids in the car, I couldn’t rely on the other anglers to check these two lads out, I had to do it myself. From the roadside I could see them easily, setting up a bivvy…they were Carp anglers.


Since the river season closed I’ve had those mysterious and elusive Tench at the "Marsh" on my mind. During my first season fishing the lake I learnt a lot and caught a couple however last season I went backwards, forgot what I’d learnt and over-complicated things. I enjoy challenging, interesting fishing and the Marsh certainly fits into this category. I can’t really use traditional Tench methods; the rigs either bury in the silt or small baits like maggots and corn get demolished by the multitudes of silver fish, as do 15mm boilies on occasion! I also may well be fishing for ghosts as Otter predation in my area has been heavy and Tench seem to be the biggest victims, where they were once prolific they are now becoming rarer. I’ve seen an otter on the Marsh but all other evidence is anecdotal, it is however, hard to ignore.

So with all this in mind I have to hedge my bets and fish methods that will give me a chance of catching Carp as well as Tench. That means 15mm boilies and the horribly named chod rig, on one rod at least. If I can catch carp then I have a chance of Tench too. I won’t ignore the float rod however, if I can fish through the hoards of Rudd and roach then maybe I can attract Tench too? It is my favourite method for them after all. A year ago the Marsh was being heavily fished by Carp anglers so I will assume that it will be this year as well. I’m guessing these anglers will be putting lots of bait in so I won’t, I’ll just bait up little & often. A few months from now I’ll know if my plotting & planning has been going in the right direction.

And so to today. An evening spent with friends, indulging in too much food and too much beer meant that a dawn start was always going to be out of the question. I arrived at ‘The Marsh’ at about 1230 and for once had the lake to myself. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish and as I began to unload the car I was tempted to just hump all the gear round to my chosen swim. However, for once I decided to do something sensible and have a little look around before I got started. The first place I stopped was an area I hadn’t fished before and as I stood watching the water I got a good feeling for the swim. I continued along the bank towards my preferred area, one in which I had success in the past, but on arrival it looked OK but not particularly inspiring. As usual there were no signs of fish showing so where should I fish? I decided to retrace my steps to the first swim and straight away that decision felt right.

By 1330 I was settled and fishing with three rods. I dropped a float rig close in beside some emerging lily pads. The hook was baited with red maggots and the area was baited with a couple of balls of the new Hemp/Halibut “Gold” ground bait made by “Lake Wizard.” To the dry mix I added mixed pellets, Maize and maggots. My second rod was a helicopter rig using a 12” braided hooklength and a critically balanced Tutti frutti boilie. This was cast parallel to a bed of Norfolk reeds on my right and the area was baited with a dozen or so boilies. On my third rod I used a chod rig baited with two pieces of fake Maize and this was cast to the edge of an overhanging tree about fifty metres along the bank. Back when I used to do a lot of Carp fishing a cast like this would have been easy for me but nowadays it takes several attempts to get it right due to failing eyesight and lack of practice. I may poke fun at Carpers but some are very skilled anglers making casts like this consistently at far greater distances. Of course some just use bait boats.

I Just about managed to put four pouches of maize on the spot with my crappy old catapult but the grains spread far and wide and I wasn’t happy. For once I was thinking on my feet and mixed a bit more groundbait, added extra maize and sneaked quietly through the undergrowth into a position which enabled me to put four cricket ball sized lumps of groundbait on the spot. That would do now, I felt happy to just leave the chod rig in position for the duration of the session but fish more actively with my other two rods.

It wasn’t long before my maggots were being battered by a succession of Roach and Rudd of a size I‘d be really happy to have in my bucket in the winter. A switch to worm appeared to have slowed the catch rate right down but this was because I‘d managed to snag a large sunken branch which I managed to drag out of the water. Maybe this accidental raking of the swim would increase my chances of a Tench? I added a couple of fresh balls of groundbait and soon the worm was being mauled by silver fish too. The afternoon was grey and still with a bit of annoying drizzle, enough to make me put up my little pop up bivvy. I’ve had this thing for fifteen years or so and it really is a good bit of kit. It was marketed by Relum back then, the weight is about half that of a 50” wavelock brolly and can be erected in seconds. I got a bit of stick from mates when I bought my “Portaloo” but for short sessions it beats a brolly hands down.

The afternoon wore on and still nothing would deter the silver fish; not worm, fake corn or maize, they attempted to eat it all. At least I was catching fish as the other two rods remained motionless. I recast the boilie rod and added another half dozen free boilies then chucked another three large balls of groundbait in the region of my chod rig. That would do, “traps set…” to use a current cliché from the carpy literature. It was now just a question of sitting back, watching the sunset and unhooking silvers from the float rod. In future the sensible thing would be to just embrace the silver fish and fish “through” them, keep feeding and hope to draw the Tench in.

At about 1840 something “carpy” crashed out about 100 metres away. It was out of range but gave me hope that fish were becoming active and maybe I still had a chance? Ten minutes later while I was playing around with my camera the unthinkable happened. My alarm signalled a steady take on the accursed chod rig and I bent into a fish. It didn’t feel a particularly heavy weight which ruled out carp…surely not? After coaxing the fish away from the snags it ran towards me then plodded up and down the margins in front of me. The fish rolled, giving me a flash of green flanks, a Tench!! It was soon in the net, a male and possibly the smallest Tench that inhabits the Marsh but was I bothered? I checked the weight then took a quick photo before returning this cherished fish.

My recast landed bang on target first time(or so I thought). I topped the spot up with three more big balls of groundbait, to expect another fish would be greedy but who knows? By now light was fading, probably the best time of the day. Around 1930 another sizeable fish topped, this time right over my baited area and my confidence soared again. Time passed, darkness fell but I had no more action. At 2030 I began packing up slowly, leaving the chod rig to last but when I came to wind it in I found it snagged tight. My cast was obviously too close to the overhanging tree. I retrieved a straightened hook and left feeling I’d missed a good chance of adding another fish. Still my Tench season was off and running and I’d had a massive confidence boost. This season I’m confident this Tench will be the first of….

Finally I have to sadly report that the Broads Authority are still working in Heigham Sound, they are still ignoring scientific advice and fish are still dying. God only knows what it will take for these morons to see sense. Shame on the Broads Authority, still not fit for purpose.

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