It was with great relief that the last week or so of January finally saw a number of waters return to liquid as both day and night time temperatures slowly started to rise. I could not believe it had been since way back in mid November of 2010 that I’d last managed to get out and catch something! To say I was chomping at the bit to get out is an understatement and like many others spend weeks stuck in doors being miserable and getting under ‘her in doors’ feet! With the weather slightly improving by February I along with fellow Richworth team member Rob Sutton decided a day or two on Cuttle Mill in the Midlands might be just what we needed to relight those fires that had almost died and ebbed away over the long hard and very cold winter.
A quick call to Ian the owner revealed that one or two fish had been caught so far and although there was ice on some parts of the lake Ian assured us that there was enough room to fish the next day.
With this in mind I arranged to pick Rob up at 5 am the following morning and spent the evening getting my gear in order and tying a few rigs ready for the early morning start. With everything ready and a kilo of Richworth 10mm tutties defrosting in the sink I got an early night setting the alarm for silly o clock the next morning.
With the alarm clock ringing in my ears and after a quick cuppa and a slice or two of toast I set off to pick up Rob, the 15 minute journey to his home was quiet and after we’d loaded his tackle into my car we were soon speeding down the motorway and Cuttle Mill bound.
Rob commented on just how cold it seemed and as we drove through the dark it soon became apparent just how much frost had formed overnight. I tried to put these thoughts to the back of my mind, the heaters were on full blast and I was as warm as toast in my thermals and fleece.
An hour or so later we pulled into the famous Cuttle Mill lane and parked up behind a couple of other anglers who seemed just as keen as us to pit there wits against the venues old and wise carp.
As they were first in the queue they had the option of drawing for their swims first, when my turn came I closed my eyes and stuck my hand into the bag. With a little luck I managed to pull out peg 16, a noted winter swim and was more than happy with the result. As there was still some ice on the lake Rob and I doubled up together sharing the ice free water between us.
It was only when we looked at the lake in the slightly increasing light that we all discovered just how much ice had formed overnight, most of the corner swims were unfishable and the whole of the lake to our right was a solid block. Luckily to the left in front of the first few swims there was clear water so at least the other guys had a little room as well. ‘’Oh well’’ I said ‘’we’ll just have to make do and hope we could drop on a few fish in the available water’’.
We quickly got the rods out and before long sat back soaking up the atmosphere of another winter’s day on the Mill. Tactics were simple short 6-10 inch hook links using Gardner Tackle’s new zig link material fished ‘off the deck’ and above the rotting leaves would ensure our baits would be easily found. With trimmed down Richworth pop ups on one rod and artificial Gardner zig rig foam on the other, the idea was to see which produced the best and adjust the other rods accordingly.
As is normal the line bites soon started and it was obvious that there were a number of fish in the centre area of the lake were we’d decided to place our baits. After casting out our hookbaits I fired a pouch or two of 10mms out as far as I could, aiming them high to scatter the small baits over the rods, hopefully encouraging any fish to grub around and start to feed.
Rob was the first to get a bite as after receiving half a dozen liners and numerous short pulls his bobbin pulled up tight and the line pulled free from the clip. He was quickly on it and with a little careful manoeuvring he soon had the fish under the rod tip. Just as it looked like the fish was ready to be netted the line fell slack as the hook had slipped from its hold.
Rob looked gutted for a second but was soon retying the rig and after attaching a small PVA bag of floaters to the hook to prevent tangles he flicking it back out to the middle zone right alongside the ice.
As the morning sun crept over the trees the fish really came to life and bubbles and fizzers could be seen over our rods. Suddenly my right hand alarm signalled a take and picking up the rod I bent into my first fish of 2011. Again the fish gave a good account of itself continually bending my light Torrix round past its test curve as it thumped and thumped under the rod tip.
Rob made ready with the net when suddenly the fish shot off under the other rods and kitted under the ice heading past peg 15 and beyond! With the rod at full compression I could feel her kicking away down the margins way way to my right, the ice obviously preventing me from following her! There was little I could do but to hold on and hope the 10lb hooklink would hold. Within seconds I had the answer as a sudden grating sensation transmitted back up the line and then she was gone. I reeled in the rig to find the hooklink had been cut a couple of inches from the lead.
I tried to look on the bright side and reminded myself that so far those had been the only takes on the lake and assured Rob there would be other chances.
With the rods re done it was time for a much needed cuppa and a tidy up. Thing were quiet for an hour or so then in a short space of time Rob landed two lovely commons the first a scrappy 17lber that couldn’t resist his bright orange pop up and the second a chunky 25lb specimen that fell to a dark trimmed down XLR8 one. Not content with that he went on to hook two more fish, the first which unfortunately was foul hooked whilst the second clearly hooked in the mouth spat the hook out at the very last second! It was obvious Rob’s side of the swim held the lion’s share of fish but by being a little sneaky I managed to inch my rigs closer to Robs when his back was turned. This little ploy finally paid off as soon my right hand rod signalled another take, this time everything held firm and despite doing its best to dislodge the barbless hook I soon had her safely in the net. The Covert Mugga hook was buried in the bottom lip and after quickly weighing her at 24.2 oz Rob fired off a few pictures for me.
With a nice mid 20 each things looked a whole lot brighter and the action didn’t stop there as Rob went on to land another upper double on a trimmed down pop up whilst I managed to land what turned out to be the biggest of the day, a high backed 25lb 12 oz common that couldn’t resist my little piece of black and white foam.
One of the other anglers wandered over for a chat in the afternoon keen to see what we were up to and like normal I openly showed him the tactics and baits we were using.
He seemed a nice chap and admitted he’d not caught anything in his last couple of trips. I explained how things can change from day to day on somewhere like the Mill and to keep an open mind and learn to adapt if necessary. It’s this approach I’d learned first hand from Roy Russel the previous bailiff as he’d shown me numerous times in the last couple of winters that it only takes a short while to catch a Cuttle Mill carp if you think hard about what your doing. Hopefully the guy Rob and I spoke to went away with an idea or two of his own and a little better understanding on winter carping.
As the afternoon wore on and the strengthening sun began to clear away more of the ice Rob and I both had further chances, again small but pretty doubles being the culprits, but both giving excellent accounts of themselves especially close in under the rod tips. It was a pleasant afternoon and the resident Cuttle Mill birds kept us entertained as they continually flew around us searching for any scraps of food they could steal.
As the light began to fade I was away once again, a short flurry of bleeps from the alarms had my hand hovering over the rod. The line flicked at the rod tip and then pulled tight as in one motion I’d tightened the clutch on the reel and pulled into another hard battling Cuttle Mill carp. Now this one really went to town on me kitting left well past the front of the house and tried to get around the boat that was moored up along the no fishing bank.
There was little I could do but keep trying to gain line slowly a little at a time. Luckily and with some effort she was soon circling under the rod tip but simply wouldn’t give up.
I looked at Rob who was patiently holding the net for a further 5 minutes or so, his face said it all either this was a 30 plus or something wasn’t quite right. After a few last minute pulls and tugs and with the rod bent double up she popped from the depths. It was at this point all was revealed and I was gutted to see the small size 12 Mugga embedded in her pectoral fin, no wonder she had scrapped. The fish was a beauty, a lovely heavily plated mid 20lb mirror. After removing the hook I commented to Rob how pretty she looked and how she would have made an excellent end to the day. ‘’Never mind’’ he said we’ve had some great sport and caught some fish under what could be classed as very difficult conditions. I had to agree despite loosing a couple each we’d caught a few nice carp in lovely surroundings on a cold winters day and the year was kicked off in fine stile.
Over the next few weeks as the temperatures rose the action continued as I managed to land a number of fish from one of my local waters the best being a stunning 20lb zip type linear mirror. Simple Gardner PVA bags filled with small pellets, a little Baitzone PVA friendly hemp and a sprinkling of 10mm Tutties was the winning combination. As well as these I managed to land fish to over 20lb from linear fisheries and was more than happy with the results so far. With the spring time temperatures on the rise a trip or two to another favourite venue of mine Baden Hall was just what the carp doctor prescribed. Again Rob joined me and soon got amongst the fish with a flurry of captures in a short space of time.
I wasn’t as lucky on the numbers of fish as Rob but did nail a couple with the best being a stunning 35lb 4 oz mirror that fell to a trimmed down Pink squid pop up fished in a PVA bag of pellets and maggots. It was the first time out using the new Trickster braided hooklink and I was very impressed on its performance, combined with my usual size 10 Covert longshank hooks which I think is the perfect combination for solid bag use. This was a new 35lb plus fish for Baden Hall and is now just one of a number of fish over that weight, an excellent sign and great news for the North West and Midlands.
So that about rounds up my fishing so far this first half of the year year, I’ve got two main waters to go at this summer as well as filming to do for the Richworth website as well as my regular blog feature on their site. I’ll be using a number of tried and tested Gardner products in 2011 along with a few new ones so all in all a busy year planned, I hope yours is going just as well.