Sunday, 15 September 2013

To plug or not to plug

Although I’ve spent the last thirteen years working in the tackle & bait trade I try not to let that creep into this blog. I hate over commercialism in angling, and particularly dislike fishing articles that are full of blatant plugs. I think I may have mentioned that before? For once I’m going to bend my own unwritten rules and mention the day job. One of the brands we manufacture at work is ‘Crafty Catcher’ and I’ve been using this bait all summer with pleasing results. In particular the ‘Fast food boilies’ along with associated wafters and dips, if I can catch on them, anyone can. More details here…

While I’m in the mood I’m going to mention the other dreaded subject of the Carp angler and that is rigs. As you may have read in these pages I’ve mostly used Helicopter and Chod rigs this summer. This is mainly to combat the silt of the Marsh but I’ve become confident using them and they work on the other places I’ve tried them too. One thing common to both rigs is the length of leadcore leader of about one metre. I use the pre-rigged ones made by ACE which can be easily converted between both rigs by repositioning the beads that slide on them. For the Chod rig I use a short length of ‘Rigamortis’ also made by ACE, this stiff hooklength material can be easily shaped into a curve between your fingers. I like the Fox Arma point hooks, usually in size 6 and apparently the SR pattern is best suited to chod rigs so that’s the one I use. I tie an ACE pop up peg onto the ‘D’ as this makes mounting the bait so much easier than fiddling about with floss. 

For the helicopter rig I mostly use Fox Coretex coated braid to make a 9” hooklength, with the last few inches stripped back and tie on a Fox SSBP hook in size 6. I also use an Ace ‘kicker’ line aligner to angle the hook. I tie a fairly long hair and have recently added a small rig ring to the hook to give a ‘blow back’ effect. I’ve seen the modern Carpy trend for fishing really slack lines and thinking as a Pike angler that just screams “bad bite indication”, so I don’t do it. I do use flying back-leads to make sure the last few yards of line are laying on the bottom and hopefully not in the way. While I’m breaking my own rules I’ll add that all the rig bits, components and bait are available at Copdock Mill… Next month I will mostly be sticking a lump of dead fish onto hooks and wire then chucking it out.

The weather is certainly autumnal and the nights are drawing in, opportunities for short after work trips are scarce so when a small gap in the mad weekly routine appeared I had to take it. The end of work couldn’t come quick enough and I found myself at a wild, windswept lake by 1820. The wind was a strong North westerly whipping drizzle out of the gloomy skies, pretty unpleasant really but good fishing weather. I tried to repeat my previous successes by finding a quiet area at the end of the wind. My first choice area had a couple of anglers present so I went to the opposite end of the windward bank. I eventually settled in a bay I happen to like which was slightly out of the wind. This would make my short evening session more comfortable but once I was settled I had the feeling I’d compromised with swim selection, I should have roughed it a bit more.

Tonight I decided to stick to what works so fished identical helicopter/snowman rigs both baited with the usual boilie and fished amongst 30 or so free offerings. One was swung under an overhang to my left and the other flicked to a bed of lilies in the bay. I sat back in my chair but couldn’t really relax, it was growing dark already and was an unpleasant evening all round. After forty five minutes or so the lily pad rod beeped into life but I was slow out of my chair and the fish was well buried in the pads. I tried slackening off which led to the Carp taking more line off the Baitrunner but I still couldn’t get it out and eventually the hook pulled. Oh well. At least this endorsed my choice of swim and reminded me that I have a bait that Carp like and a rig that hooks them.

After another hour I’d had enough and packed up a little earlier than planned. Have I lost my immunity to crappy weather? I’ve certainly reminded myself that good weather makes fishing so much easier. I must be getting old.

Barring something unexpected that pretty much brings my ‘summer’ fishing to a close and what an enjoyable few months it’s been. I’ve done much more warm weather fishing this year and taken full advantage of the decent summer we’ve had. I’ve managed to push my Tench PB up by a few ounces and completely smash my Carp PB’s out of sight. It has to be said, it takes much more effort to catch big Pike these days but I’m not going to knock this Carp fishing lark!

I love Pike fishing in the autumn, I’ve always found it to be the most productive time of year and it’s still mild enough to make being outside a pleasure. Those that preach waiting for the first frost are usually people who haven’t done a lot of Pike fishing or are just repeating stuff they’ve read on internet forums. So in a couple of weeks’ time I’ll be launching the boat with the wind rattling the masts on the yachts in the yard, then I’ll be cutting through the waves, heading out into about a thousand acres of open water or about eight miles of channels and dykes. I can almost hear the wind rustling the still green reeds and feel the breeze on my face...  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


I’ve just had what is by my standards a really successful few days Carp fishing so what should I do this weekend? Go Bream fishing in Norfolk of course! After a lazy start Shelley and I found ourselves afloat on the Broad around lunch time on a bright breezy day, treated to a spectacular cloudscape in the big Norfolk sky. The day had risked a wet and premature end but I remembered the plug for the boat just in time. To begin with we spent an hour or so motoring around, avoiding the yachts and exploring, Shelley constantly pressing the camera button. This by happy coincidence also served to give my engine a thorough testing which it passed with flying colours.

When it was time to settle I needed to find a spot that ticked all the boxes. Natural beauty and wildlife is virtually guaranteed but it also needs peace & quiet, shelter from the South westerly wind and the showers the forecast had threatened and hopefully a few fish. The first three attributes were quickly ticked off with a move into a quiet bay that I happen to like. I had a channel of clear water between weedbeds running parallel to me and although it wouldn’t have been my first choice it looked good for a bream or two.

I rigged up two cage feeders with size sixteen hooks baited with corn on two foot hooklengths. The groundbait was a mixture of ‘Special G’ and Copdock Mill’s ‘Gold’. Two groundbaits I’ve found work well with Bream either on their own or mixed together. I started fishing with one rod and used the other to put a bit of bait out to begin with, it was only when I’d finished that task that I found the catapult in my bag. Too say bites didn’t come quickly would be an understatement but I eventually began to notice the odd tremor on the tips.

After about ninety minutes and a couple of thin air strikes I managed to hook a Bream which fought surprisingly well for its size. Not a monster but with a deep bronze back it was almost everything a Broadland Bream should be. I was confident of more and bigger so slipped it back without a photo assuring Shelley there would be plenty more to follow. In the next few minutes I struck thin air a couple more times then the action became erratic at best. Away in the west the sky was dark and heavy. I got the cuddy erected and everything covered just in time then the rain battered down for a while, flattening the water and rattling the rods. Half an hour or so later we were still dry and treated to a double rainbow.

In the end I didn’t manage to tempt any more Bream but we did drink plenty of tea and enjoyed a fry up while the cares of the week drifted away. With the evening approaching I lifted the weights and steered for a spot closer to the staithe. Here we were in a good position to watch the sunset and relax for a couple more hours so I chucked the rods out more in hope than expectation. The sunset was glorious and the fishing was a bit better here too, I managed another, smaller Bream and a beautiful little Rudd.

The sunset reached its finale as we motored slowly back to base in the fading light. I got the boat out of the water without need for a torch and we nipped into a local pub for a pint and seafood. From a fishing point of view a little disappointing but I’d caught a Broadland Bream and every other box had been well & truly ticked.

Monday, 2 September 2013

On a roll...

Busy, busy Saturday. The children are going back to school next week (or university in Shan’s case), Madi can’t wait but Isaac doesn’t want to stop playing Xbox. We had to go into town for new hair cuts, new shoes and loads of new stuff to fill pencil cases. Pizza hut for dinner by which time I’d spent a fortune. After all that we’d agreed that the evening would be Dad time so I dragged the children down to the club lake. 

The wind was a fresh North Westerly pushing down the far end which was handy because I could fish two rods for Carp in the main lake and the kids could float fish maggots in the small pool a few yards behind. I dropped a PVA bag of nut mix baited with fake corn close to an overhanging tree in the margins on the left and was planning to fish a boilie close in on the right. However a leaping Carp in the bay opposite distracted me, no one was fishing the bay so I just had to put a bait on it. The margin rod was fishing by 1630 but it took another half hour to get the boilie out there. This was not just because my dodgy eyesight was affecting my casting but I was also side tracked by untangling whips and unhooking fish. Madi was catching small Perch and Roach but Isaac couldn’t get a bite, much to his disgust! Eventually I got the boilie bang on target and catapulted about 30 freebies on top, then I was able to relax in the late afternoon sunshine.

After ninety minutes or so the freshening wind was still pushing into the bay and making things look very good for a Carp or two. If the fish had read all the books then they should be here and I should be catching…Isaac managed a couple of Perch on his whip by which time Madi had put hers aside and was concentrating on her latest book, the sibling rivalry had eased a bit. I was reminded that I was the only one of us not to have caught a fish but this wasn’t the reason I swapped sides with the nut mix margin rod. If that one had been picked up it would have been straight through my other line in seconds so I had to give myself a bit of room. I now felt content to sit and wait. Conditions looked good, had the fish read the script?

At 1840 I had a fast take on the boilie rod. I picked it up quickly and started walking backwards trying to steer the fish away from the snaggy bay. I only half succeeded, the fish moved away from the lilies but kited into the bay, there now was a line of overhanging trees between it and me. I had to endure a tug of war along the tree line with me gradually gaining line and the fish somehow staying out of the snags. I love my 2.5tc rods because I can really bend into these fish, unlike most Carp anglers with their pokers. I asked for help and Madi was soon beside me wielding the net but the fish was not done yet. Eventually it gave up and rolled over , I dragged a nice common over the net which Madi expertly lifted first time! She then trotted off up the bank and returned with the mat and scales, my daughter is a fast learner! I was surprised by the weight in the net and when I put the fish on the mat it was revealed as a very deep, thick set fish in lovely condition, apart from an Otter damaged tail which is all too common these days. Isaac who is used to catching fish exclaimed “Is that really a Carp?” The scales revealed a very pleasing weight indeed, another proper fish! A few quick photos then the kids watched as I slipped it back. Lovely job!!

Excuse the dopey face

I recast as soon as the mess was sorted, this time I got it right first time and once more catapulted 20 or so freebies on top. I settled back with a broad grin on my face not really expecting much else and not caring. The clock ticked round, the children wanted to go home and I was content so began tidying up the whips which were no longer being used. 

At 1935 I had a twitchy take on the same rod. I wasn’t sure what was going on so picked up the rod and began winding. There didn’t seem to be anything on the end…then there was…then there wasn’t…then there was… What had happened was a fish had picked up my bait and bolted out of the bay, away from the worst snags but through every weed bed along the way. When I eventually made contact it was in front of me, a heavy plodding weight which I put down to a nice fish and loads of weed. This fish kept going from one weed bed to another but I felt pretty relaxed with a big fish under my belt already and kept bullying it out of the weed. Once again Madi held the net and I had the fish almost over it before it powered off again. Eventually, a few minutes later we got the fish and a whole load of weed into the net and I had a second fish. With the fish resting in the water I peeled off loads and loads of weed to reveal a lightly scaled Mirror and what’s more it was a proper whacker!!

Every time I looked at the fish it grew, it was clearly my biggest ever Carp by a distance! Like the first the hook was firmly in the lower lip and wouldn’t have pulled out but you don’t know that when you’re playing them. The scales confirmed my suspicions; the fish smashed the PB set only three weeks previously. I held it up for the camera and Madi clicked away while Isaac stood saying things like “Wow! Are you sure that’s a Carp?” I returned the fish to the water and it sank away to invisibility. I was completely blown away, this is my heaviest brace of fish of any species and not only had I shared the experience with my children, Madi had netted them both for me! I packed the rest of the gear away in a total daze.

Two days later…I have the afternoon off work to spend a little more time with the children before the summer holiday ended. Five of us sat down to a big tasty, roast dinner and had a relaxed afternoon. At 1600 it was time for the kids to go back to their mum so Shelley and I loaded the car for another evening at the club lake. Bright and sunny with a moderate westerly, I parked at the windward corner and had a look in a swim with nice fishy looking margins. After a couple of minutes I saw a Carp drift under an over-hanging tree, that’ll do for me. This was a new swim to me so I cast a light lead around the swim just to get a little idea of where there was weed and which parts were clear, then started rigging up.

By 1645 I was fishing. First the helicopter rig was swung under an overhang to my right and 30 freebies chucked on top. Shelley dropped a similar rig to a tree on the left, this one baited with pellets. I chucked a third rod in the middle which we ended up sharing. This was maize with a PVA bag rig, a short cast into open, clear water with a few pouches of Maize catapulted over the top.

We didn’t have long to wait, barely half an hour later my right hand rod started bouncing, bending and beeping and before I knew what was happening I had a bent rod and I was dragging a fish away from the tree. A big Common Carp surfaced with dorsal erect then dived again, thankfully it was away from the tree. I turned to Shelley who had wound in the middle rod and was now standing with the net; “That’s another biggun”. “I know she said, “I’ve seen it”. This fish didn’t fight as hard as the two the other night and it didn’t take long to get it in the net and on the mat. It was another big fish, in fact it was my second PB Common this season and I grinned for the camera.

I got the rod back out quickly and baited up again with a nother few handfuls of boilies. We’d barely settled down before the same rod was away again and a short while later a small common was unhooked and returned. We decided then that the middle rod would be Shelley’s for the rest of the evening, after she’d recast it of course. And so it continued, twice more my same bait on the right was taken, both times I bullied the fish away from the tree then enjoyed a nice fight in the clearer water where Shelley netted it. One fish was a nice Mirror, the other a slightly smaller Common. As it was growing darker and we were soaking up the sunset, Shelley’s left hand rod signalled a take at last but unfortunately the culprit got away with it. Half an hour later we packed up by torch light.

So to sum up my summer so far, four months of learning about Carp and Carp fishing and mostly blanking followed by five weeks of catching. I suppose a couple of nice fish gives the angler a bit of confidence then we relax and make good decisions, one success leads to another. I’ve avoided Carp fishing for years but now I’ve had another go I’m really enjoying myself. 
Years ago when I used to fish for Carp I had to travel far and wide to find fish big enough to interest me, now I’ve had four whackers in four weeks from waters on my door step. I’m on a roll and long may it continue, right through the autumn with any luck.