At the start of the 2014 season I had a good think about what I wanted to try and achieve. For me I get the most enjoyment and satisfaction targeting big fish, so I decided to concentrate on this and only fish venues that would give the chance of a monster.
At the start of spring I had a big bream in mind and as the weather seemed favourable I decided to start earlier than in previous years. I got the rods out at the end of March and managed a bite on my first trip, which resulted in a small fish weighing around 9lbs. I decided to concentrate on some lovely gravel humps at range that just screamed of bream. I quickly tailed up thirteen blank nights and location was proving difficult. On my fourteenth night of the campaign things finely came right and on dusk I had a drop back, which resulted in my first double of the year weighing 11lb 12oz. In typical bream fashion, just as I was sliding the net under the fish one of my other rods was away, which resulted in another bream weighing 12lb 2oz. Three more fish fell during the early hours (all doubles) resulting in my dream bream and a new PB weighing 16lb 12oz.
With another night ahead of me I topped the area up in the afternoon, as I hoped the fish would return. An hour after darkness I received a couple of liners and it wasn’t long before my bobbin dropped like a stone. This was the sign of another sleep deprived night as I went on to land four fish (all doubles again) and another PB tipping the scales at 17lb 3oz.
After such a good result, I couldn’t wait to return. I organised at trip two weeks later and I arrived early one Friday morning. Unfortunately I couldn’t get back into the area I had caught from on my previous session, so I decided to settle for an area which fished out to the middle section of the lake. After two uneventful nights I was desperate for a move and after a quick lap of the lake, I spotted some big bream feeding on a fly hatch at range. As luck would have it, one of the anglers that occupied the area was packing up. I didn’t need to think twice and I soon shot back to my swim, packed my kit down and headed round there.
After setting up camp I located a lovely gravel bar at range, just short of where the fish had been showing. After measuring out the rods, I got to work with the spod and deposited a bed of 4mm trout pellets from CC Moore, two tins of corn and some crushed XXX boilies on the top of the bar. I soon had three rods positioned tightly on the bed of feed, a tactic which can often produce multiple bites. My rigs consisted of 12lb Pro Light Blend main line, 3 feet of Plummet leadcore, Covert Lead Clip and Tail Rubber, six inches of 15lb Trickster Heavy and a size 8 Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip hook. Hook baits were my ever faithful balanced stacks of corn from Enterprise Tackle or a XXX boilie tipped with a piece of buoyant corn.
As dusk loomed several big bream rolled off the back of the baited area and it looked good for a bite. An hour into darkness, the bobbin on the middle rod dropped like a stone and after picking up the rod, I was soon playing what I knew was a big bream. Gently coaxing the fish in, I soon slipped the net under it and after parting the mesh I was greeted by the sight of a very big bream. After carefully removing the hook, the scales read 17lb 6oz and a new PB to boot! I slipped the fish into a retainer for a few minutes to recover and minutes later the left hand rod pulled up tight. After connecting with another good fish, the indicator on the remaining rod pulled up tight before dropping back and my initial thoughts were I had gone round my other line. That was until the line started to move right. I blanked this out of my mind and tried to concentrate on playing what was obviously another big fish. I was relieved when I slipped the net under it and after securing the net, I quickly dealt with the remaining rod, which resulted in a smaller sample around 10-11lbs. Remembering I still had a fish in the net, I placed what was obviously another big fish on the mat. This time the scales read an ounce smaller than the first fish and at 17lb 5oz made for a great brace.
During the month of July I headed off in search of a big tench, however they proved extremely difficult to tempt. I saw some huge fish roll over my baited areas, yet no matter what I tried getting a pick-up proved difficult. After banging my head against a wall for several weeks, I decided to call it quits and head off to a different venue to try for a decent rudd.
I headed to Frensham, which is renowned for its big rudd. The venue didn’t disappoint and I landed a number of fishing weighing over 2lbs, before the news broke out of some monsters being caught from a lake in Kent. The following weekend I made the long drive and as it was my first trip to the fishery, I spent several hours walking around trying to find the fish. Once I was happy I had located what I was looking for I got set up just before darkness fell. Using standard float fishing tactics with a small betalight to illuminate the float tip, I took a couple of good fish just into darkness, resulting in two pristine fish weighing 2lb 5oz and 2lb 7oz. Both these fish took a piece of sweetcorn fished two thirds depth, whilst spraying regular helpings of maggots and hemp. I had to wait until just after midnight before the float sunk again and as soon as I struck into the fish, I knew it was in a different league. After a great fight and several nervous moments when the fish made a weedbed, I soon slipped the net under a monstrous rudd. The scales read 3lb 5oz, which set a new PB in the process.
As autumn was just around the corner, I fancied having a dabble for barbel. After gaining a ticket to a rather special stretch of a Thames Tributary, I decided to dedicate a fair amount of my time trying to track down and catch some of its big, yet nomadic residents. I always relish a challenge and with lots of effort I have been able to slip the net under a few good’uns. After putting some prep work in, my first trip resulted in a bite just 2 hours after setting up, which resulted in a nice fish weighing 11lb 10oz. As the water levels were low and clear, a trusty mag-aligner rig proved it downfall.
Knowing that I couldn’t get back to the river for an actual fishing session until the following week, I visited the river most evenings, which allowed me to locate some good areas and keep an eye on what was going on. This preparation work paid dividends as on my next session, I managed to slip the net under the stretches biggest known resident. The fish weighed 15lb 8oz and again picked up my hookbait just a short while into the session. Pleased as punch with this fish, I couldn’t help but have another couple of trips, which resulted in fish weighing 12lb 10oz and 14lb 4oz. I suffered a couple of blank trips after this before I decided to quit while I was ahead. My presentation solely depended on the river conditions. If it was low and clear maggots used in combination with a mag-aligner rig proved devastating. However, if any amount of rain had fallen then a change to a 14mm XXX boilie tipped with a piece of Enterprise corn to add some colour and balance the rig proved successful.
After a couple of weeks away from fishing, I began to formulate a plan for the winter ahead. I had a burning desire to travel south and fish some of the chalk streams in search of big roach and dace. After doing my homework and lots of walking with a set of Polaroid’s, I settled on two stretches that I was happy might produce the big fish I was after. I decided to split my time between the two and learn as much as possible, which I hoped would in a put me in a good position for the cold winter months ahead. Well I was to get a little more than I bargained for.
During my first couple of sessions I caught plenty of fish and soon began to put a picture together of where I thought a big fish might put in an appearance. I arrived for my third session late one morning and after walking the stretch, I was soon set up in an area that I had one of those ‘gut feelings’ about. As it was a blustery day, float fishing was out of the question, so I settled for a small maggot feeder. The rig was simple and consisted of 3lb Hydro Flo main line and a 3lb Target Fluorocarbon hook length. My first cast produced a trout, which I prayed had not wrecked my swim. I left the second cast for around five minutes before retrieving and casting out a fresh feeder full of maggots. Shortly afterwards the tip pulled round as the feeder dislodged and a strike was met with what I presumed was another trout. As I played it towards the waiting net and in the clear water I soon noticed that my assumptions were wrong and I was attached to a monster roach. I gingerly played it for a couple more nerve racking minutes before I was able glide it over the waiting net. Parting the mesh it was indeed a monster, which tipped the scales a 3lb 3oz 8dr. An ambition achieved!
This rounded off a rewarding season and I’m looking forward to finding out what 2015 will bring…