Carp Fishing ~ Back on Cloud 9 ~ Tommy De Cleen

My last catch report detailed a few months of very tough fishing on the hard waters over here in Belgium, along with a UK trip which turned out to be hard going as well! It must seem like I love hard angling ‘therapy’ as my next trip, which I had looked forward to for some time, was again not on a runs water but on a hard 4000 acre lake in Holland, where many anglers struggle for a few bites per season.

This water has some real gems and my good friend and Gardner Tackle Benelux team member, Peter, has been having a silly season on this water fishing from his boat. This is certainly the best way to fish this lake as there are only a few bank side spots to fish due to restricted access. So this was another adventure, and I was really looking forward to it.

On Friday the 19th May I set off to fish this awesome lake. When I arrived Peter was already at his boat loading his stuff onboard, so I did the same. I only look the bare minimum of gear, as when you’re on a boat there is a limit on space to put stuff. So all I had with me was a bed chair, 2 carryalls plus 2 rods.

Peter had enough food, drink and bait with him for the weekend and as we fish with the same baits from Mainline there was no problem with me not bringing any of my own. Right after loading the gear we set off towards a spot where Peter had seen fish during the week, and he had baited the area with 5Kg of a mix of Cell and Activ8 boilies.

The first night was quiet and uneventful, so at 7 on the Saturday morning we reeled in and moved to another spot on the lake where Peter baits regularly.

It was an easy move with a boat as at 8AM all of the rods where set up again in this other swim. Within half an hour Peter was in, and it turned out to be a very small mirror of around 4kg, one of the smallest fish he had caught from this massive lake. Things were looking good and before we knew it I had a funny bite/take, but on picking up the rod and feeling resistance it fell off… damn!

I chucked that Hybrid Rig away and tied up a new simple blow back rig and attached a Cell wafter on the hair. I then boated (with zodiac and electric motor) the bait back out and dropped it back next to the edge of the lily bed.

It must have been at around noon when Peter’s rod was off again (that is Peter´s story to tell in his monthly blog on the GT site, so check that out soon). It ended in another good fish and he was buzzing as things looked promising for the second night. It slowed down after around one in the afternoon so Peter decided to take me on a tour of the lake, remember 4000 acres is very big. After a few hours on the boat we had a stop for some food/pizza plus a few beers, refuelling for the night ahead and had another stop to have something to eat before heading back to the swim for the night.

It was around 5PM that the rods were back on the spots and the waiting game was back on. Not for long though, as Peter was first in with another good fish!! Things obviously looked really good for the night ahead.

I tied up two new blow back rigs using the Stiff Ultra Skin in the silty grey and using my all time favorite size 6 Continental Mugga hooks. My confidence in my tackle was 100% and I was eager to do battle, but it remained very quiet on the fishing front and Peter did not understand as normally this is the time he gets his bites!

Early Sunday morning, after a few liners in the night, my left hand rod was away! After a frightening fight (because of being snagged up in some lily roots, which Peter sorted out for me) I did battle with what turned out to be one hell of an awesome mirror!

We put her in the Recovery Sling to rest and Peter did the honors with my camera, Thankfully he took some great pictures of the awesome looking long dark mirror of 30lb 5oz. Size is not all important when catching lovely fish from waters like this and as I write this the day after, I am still buzzing on cloud 9.

Till next time… Tight lines Tommy

Carp Fishing ~ More Highs Than Lows (Part 2) ~ Rick Golder

Continued from part 1… The next trip came around, and the weather was still cold and dull, but my tucked away swim was protected from the wind, and once again it looked good, as I flicked the baits out with little 1.5oz leads, and I was fishing within a few minutes of my dawn arrival. I felt mega confident, a complete contrast to the previous spring when I had one of those lean periods that had me doubting I was ever going to catch again! A friend came down to see me, and whilst we sat there drinking tea, I had a screaming run on one of the other rods cast over to the far bank. This one really rucked, going hard for the far bank trees, and then kiting round almost behind me deep into the bay. I piled on the side strain and had a good ten minutes of deep runs up and down once I’d got it somewhere near my bank. I had a few looks at it twisting and turning in the clear water before Jim netted it for me, and with one look at the size of its paddle I could see why it had fought so hard. It weighed 28lb 8oz, and I was delighted – two trips and two fish was a result. Having one so early in the session looked like I was bound for more, but as is the pattern, one fish out of the bay seems to completely kill it. I wasn’t complaining and felt full of self-belief – the power of catching a couple nice and early from what is a tricky venue.

I was bought back down to earth soon after when I went back over to the Mead for a two-nighter. I found some fish in the main body of water and managed to get nicely in the zone. However, after finding a couple of silty spots behind gravel seams, it was clear that the fish were showing much further out. My carefully placed rigs surrounded by 50 or so Spombed-out free baits weren’t the ones, as the random pattern of show suggested they were just out in open water, with nothing much feature wise to target. I stripped off my stiff rigs and put on a naked chods with a 4 oz distance leads and fired out singles 90-plus yards out into the general area. This was far removed from my normal style of angling, my confidence lying in fishing over bait and on actual features, but needs must, as fish after fish showed out there, so it had to be done. The fish continued to show on me repeatedly, and I never had a bleep, but my neighbour had two, so somehow I’d clearly got it wrong! What that was I don’t know, but I was disappointed, as it was a bit of a knock back.

The following trip was with my boys to a club lake that is always good for a bite, shall we say. This really was an FA Cup style banana skin, as failure here in front of the kids could be a nightmare. My older boy and I had caught a fair few the previous year, but my eight-year-old, Matthew, had never before caught a carp, and more than anything I wanted him to catch one to get an understanding of what his dad was so infatuated with.

It was another cold one, and after two hours all huddled beneath the Tempest brolly, I hadn’t even seen a fish. Bear in mind this was a place you sometimes see three roll at once, so I was certainly getting concerned. I had a quick look at the other end, where the lake goes into a no-fishing duck feeding corner, and sure enough I immediately spotted a number of dark shapes drifting in and out. It all made sense, as it was flat calm, out of the biting cold NE wind, and within five minutes of casting out Matthew was into his first ever carp, a cracking 16lb common, and hopefully a love affair with a sport that has bought me the most wonderful of times. We all added a few more, and I left happy, with a feeling that I’d had another result, both for my confidence and my two boys.

I had a new challenge lined up for this year, and I was busy building up to it all winter. It’s funny how things work out, but after catching my target fish the previous autumn, I was left with no plans for the following year. However, one of my best friends had been fishing this lake, and after hearing of his success and the inspiring stories he had told, I was more than up for it. I didn’t completely think it through though, and precisely the amount of bits I had to get to fish it effectively. I was able to use a boat on this lake, which I had, but not much else. I sat down and put a list together of leisure batteries, outboard, gas, better inflation life jacket, markers, battery charger etc… It went on and on, so I spent the winter slowly acquiring it all with a view to being ready to start come the spring. It took a fair amount of time, but eventually the list was ticked off, and my boat was down at the lake and all ready to go. After carp fishing for 30-odd years I thought I had most things, but to get kitted up for this I was miles off, and I really hoped it was worth it.

I’ve just had my first trip, and what an eye-opener it proved to be – 60-plus acres, three islands and a mass of carpy looking features and areas. Loading the boat at dawn and motoring out through the mist was enough to raise the feelings of excitement and anticipation to new levels, but there were certainly several new skills to be learnt in this boat fishing lark. Out on the lake in a fair wind presents some challenges in locating spots and bait placement, and I had a long way to go to master these. However, each day bought a new confidence, and with practice it should come. Anyway, the first trip was a success in more ways than one… I found a cracking area, fishing off one of the islands with a bank of snags alongside it. It screamed carp, and one drift out and around here showed a little bit of coloured water you’d have never seen from the bank. It helped too that it was in the lea of the wind, flat calm and the warm rays of sun were on it, in contrast to the rest of the lake, which was hit by a cool wind.

I put two rods out here, each with a handful of crushed up baits glugged in GLM liquid and rock salt, and I sat back to take in the sun and enjoy the peace of this adventure. There is nothing like fishing somewhere new, and all night my mind was churning with thoughts of areas I liked, how I was going to fish them, etc etc, and sleep was hard to come by, even with the early start that morning. I was probably in my deepest sleep when I was woken by an absolute screaming take, just a one-noter that seemed to be getting faster and faster, and I scrambled out from under the brolly barefoot and pulled into a weight that felt miles away. With the snags to my right and no real idea where it was, I piled on the pressure in an attempt to get some much-needed line back on the half empty spool. The next thing the line fell slack, and my stomach dropped with that awful feeling, until suddenly I was back in contact, as it had run a good 50 yards towards me. A few deep short bursts in the edge, and I had a big common rolling over the net cord and that special moment of a first fish from a new lake. It was a stunner too, in mint condition after the winter, and as I slipped it back I couldn’t wait to return, well up for the challenges ahead and hopefully with more highs than lows.

Rick Golder.

Carp Fishing ~ More Highs Than Lows (Part 1) ~ Rick Golder

Once the winter came, I had a few sessions on a local lake with a friend, Adam. It was great to have some social trips, as the rest of the year I never do it; my fishing is always totally on my own. We had some success too with my best at 27lb, and Adam having a stunning 34lb common on one of the colder days of what was generally a nice mild winter. These trips also gave me the chance to try out some new things for the season ahead, some of which I liked and have taken into my angling full time. I had been given a new prototype pop-up hook of the Covert Dark Chod Hooks, and these were perfect for both my chod and stiff link fishing. The tester ones were uncoated, and came in a silver stainless finish, but they had done me well. The colour certainly hadn’t put the fish off, but as I began running low, I couldn’t wait for the new coated ones to arrive, as they are sure to be another edge.

Once mid February came, and the days started to draw out, I began my proper session fishing again. With these longer days, I’m sure we carp anglers think that is it, the spring is here and the fish are all going to be really having it. That is certainly not the case, and a cold spring can be worse in results terms than a bitter long winter. It was nice to get digging out the kit I needed for longer trips like the turkey curry I’d frozen, made with the leftovers of Christmas, but I still kept the thermals and hot water bottle in.

I had a couple of trips to Kingsmead with the knowledge that it had produced a few, and hopefully there was a chance of an early fish. It looked bleak though, and with nothing to go on, I had to make a couple of guesses as to where to start. The first trip was a bit of a disaster in that I lost a good fish. I started off in one swim, on a guess, but in truth it was one of the popular ones, which I vowed not to do! One night in there, on the end of a cold wind I couldn’t get out of, and with stronger winds forecast, I hastily packed the gear at first light and headed round to the opposite side, which was flat calm and in the sun. As the day wore on I could tell things weren’t going to plan, as the wind swapped round, back into me, and a bank of black clouds brought hail and cold rain that made it look and feel like December. I had the rods out well, but as the wind increased, I doubted I could have accurately hit the spot at 70 yards again in what was proving pretty uncomfortable conditions.

That night the wind built up more, with bits of branches falling from the trees and waves hitting the boards at the front of the swim and sending spray right up the bank. Twice that night I had the rods blown off the rests, and when the buzzer on the right hand rod let out another series of bleeps in the early hours and in the absolute height of it, with me hanging on to the brolly, I imagined it was another branch blowing through the lines. In truth I wasn’t that quick to get out, and when I did I found myself attached to a fish that was plodding round out in what looked like the North Sea out there. It was hard holding the rod vertical in the wind, and I got it all the way back, only for it to drop off at the net!

The next trip wasn’t much better either; the first night was one of solid rain, while the second night the sky finally cleared, and it dropped down to -3! I was already getting fed up with poor weather, and the spring couldn’t come quickly enough.

The lake closed in mid-March, but I had other plans for another local lake that I don’t fish much now, but is always good for an early bite, as it seems to wake up earlier than most of the ones in the same area. I had a couple of walks round, each time with the marker rod and a kilo or so of my favourite Essential B5, but I already had a good idea of the first places to look for them. Spring and snags are joined at the hip in my mind, and this lake had a small, sheltered bay full of snags and overhanging trees, off the cold winds but catching most of the sun all day long. I was stood on the high bank looking into the mass of tangled branches below, when deep down, right on the bottom, a good fish glided slowly under them. This was followed soon after by another, and that was good enough for me. They’d obviously only just woken up, as both fish were moving almost in slow motion. This was the place to be then, and I spent a while with just a lead finding something to fish to, wanting to do this when not actually fishing, as I knew I needed to keep the disturbance to a minimum within the enclosed confines of the bay on my actual sessions.

This was limiting too, as there were a number of areas that I could fish, but which would have presented serious problems trying to get anything out, so severe were the snags. Where I had seen the fish was the prime example, as not only were there the tree branches below the surface, but the lake bed was littered with old metalwork too. I wasn’t doing that, and although I was kitted up with strong gear, I was only going to fish spots I knew I was going to land fish from. I remembered a spot from many years ago, one that had produced a couple of fish for me, but it had disappeared over time when I started fishing lakes elsewhere. This spot had produced a very special fish twice for me, its only two known captures ever, and I concentrated my efforts on that first recce trip trying to find it again. This wasn’t easy, as the branches overhead told me that no one had cast out in that direction for quite some time, and my first attempt cracked hard into the woodwork above, meaning I had to get on my knees just to miss them.

About 20 casts in, I suddenly got one to crack down, and on pulling the lead I got the gentle tapping of broken ground that I remembered from all those years before. It was tiny though, and with one slight pull I was off it and in surprisingly thick weed, the legacy of a mild winter. I clipped the rod up and measured it against my rod at home using the distance sticks in the garden, and when I had done another baiting up visit, I was back pushing my barrow fully loaded across the flooded field towards the lake.

I was using the some new line in 18lb, and straight away I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. It was super strong, but with sinking abilities matching a fluorocarbon and a lovely subtle colour – just what I needed in this snaggy situation. Coupled with a nice big size 5 Chod Hook, I had good covert aspects, strong hooking power and every confidence in the strength of it all.

The rods went out well, both with short stiff rigs on with screwed-on pink pop-ups, my now favourite colour to fish over the standard dark red of the B5. I’d boosted up the bottom baits with a coating of Salami glug whilst frozen, and on thawing, the coarse nature of the base mix had drawn it all in. The beauty being with the main spot was you were either on it or not; it was that easy to tell, and after a few attempts I felt a lovely dull thud down the blank as the lead hit solid bottom. I didn’t pull back at all, knowing the stiff boom of the hinge rig would kick the bait well away from the lead as it feathered down. This rig has to be fished helicopter/rotary style to get the best from it, and I find it strange people use a soft boom section, as the bait separation on a stiff mono boom is one of its greatest advantages. With an aggressive curved hook link section, this rig doesn’t rely on the lead for hooking, which meant I could use nice small chod leads that hit the surface with a gentle plop, rather than an almighty splash. I slackened the lines off, and had them hanging vertically down from the rod tips with the bobbins resting on the floor, so all in all I couldn’t do it any better.

I neither saw nor heard anything, which was disappointing, as if they’re in this bay, you generally hear them at some time. However just before first light I had a take on the rod fished on the old spot. It was only half a run, as when I picked the rod up it was already in the weed behind, and with steady pressure it came out, discharged the lead, and I gave it as much as I dared to keep it in the safe open water in front. After a few spirited runs I drew it over the outstretched net. I could tell it wasn’t a monster, but it was a cracking long jet black mirror, a real confidence boost so early, that was well hooked in the lower lip, the strong tackle easily taking the strain. As I held it up for the camera it felt as cold as a block of ice, but I had every faith in getting more from this sheltered bay. I left that morning, but kept the bait trickling in knowing I was back for another single night the week after. The coot population showed interest though, and I wondered if bringing bait to their attention wasn’t a good idea.

To be continued…

Carp Fishing ~ Another UK Adventure ~ Tommy de Cleen

As it is halfway through May and the summer is lurking just around the corner, I thought I’d sum up what has been going on in my own angling. Being a Gardner Tackle consultant means that I have been doing a few shows and open days in the shops around Belgium and also in Holland. I love doing these as it is part of being a consultant, but I am an angler and after a few open days at the shops the water was calling!

Unfortunately, the carp gods where not smiling on me at all, as session after session I failed to catch any carp! To make things sound better, I generally don’t target the easy places, and blanking is what I seem to do best on these kinds of waters. On the flip side, the euphoria of catching a carp from one of these tough waters is awesome and cannot be described!

After fishing 2 sessions on the big lake in February and March, I set my eye on a local canal that holds a few very nice carp, but again I was only catching bream, rudd and in the end a pocket size common (not even a double) but nevertheless I kept at it, as it’s fishing not catching!

You always think you will get lucky the next time, but the weather kept playing yoyo, with high pressure fronts and low temps coinciding with my trips. So after 6 sessions (weekend sessions as I need to work for a living) 11 nights and one very small carp under my belt it was time for my first trip abroad, and as some of you will know I love fishing in the UK.

My first trip was to The Quarry fishery again in Boreham, Essex. Unfortunately, the weather was against me with the wind turning north easterly and killing it for the rest of my week. I caught one common from the Quarry on the Monday (in the early morning) and did not get another pick up after that! I tried and tried but on Wednesday I’d had enough and chilled out as the day after we were going to move to another lake.

The last 2 nights were fished at another lake, but this was not going to be easy fishing either… this weather! On the Friday we (my mate and I) decided to try and stalk one and made our way around to an area of the lake they call ‘The Pipe’. This area is where fresh water comes into the lake via an inlet pipe. We tried a few different spots, both of us with one rod but with no success.

On the last hour of our stalking adventure I returned to the spot I started the day and placed my Chod rig only a rod length out. About 20 minutes later the Bug slammed against the rod and I was in! After a short but hectic scrap my mate netted a cool looking common of about 13 or 14lb but I was made up with this capture. After the common we made our way back to our swim at the back of the wind and blanked on our final night. So it was homewards with only 2 fish caught, but I’ll be going back in September on the New Moon week, to see if I can take some revenge on these UK carp.

As I have been trying very hard to catch carp, I did play around with the Ronnie Rig, a Chod rig and my favourite rig at the moment the Hybrid Rig. These incorporated two hook patterns, which give me the confidence I need to fish these very hard tricky waters, the Chod hook in a size 5 and my all-time favourite carp hook, the Continental Mugga in sizes 6 and 4. Hooklink wise it’s got to be the soft “Ultra Skin” and the new “Stiff Ultra Skin”. I love this stuff and would recommend it to all carp anglers out there without hesitation, its top stuff! Trip wire for all my stiff hook sections, and lately I have been using Slinky in 0.70mm for the boom section on my Ronnie Rigs, man this stuff is stiff as and very strong! I crimp it as tying it is almost impossible. There you go, try the stuff out, I have 100% confidence in all the GT gear I use and it never lets me down (even though I blank a lot LOL).

Just for the record blanking is part and parcel of angling, I still enjoy my fishing and I know that in the end it will all come good!

Next stop is a session in Holland with my good mate and GT team member Peter Van Der Star. It will be a new adventure, as I have never fished from a boat before, and after that its back to the mighty Albert Canal in Belgium for some more home-grown fishing therapy.

Tight lines Tommy

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