I did very little fishing last winter due to a combination of work and family commitments, but I did have a social trip arranged with some friends at the end of February, which after a long layoff was something to look forward to.

It actually made me sort my gear out, load up the reels with new lines, order my bait etc., so it was just the kick-start I needed. Whilst I didn’t catch on that trip, my friend Wayne did, and it was fantastic to see a carp on the bank!

When I got home, with the days getting longer, I felt the desire to angle properly again and couldn’t wait to get back out.

There was one venue that is always a decent bet for some early action, even though it’s deep and weedy. For some reason it always seems to wake up that little bit before the lakes around it, so I began taking a few walks after work just to get in tune with it. Each time I had a stroll I took a marker rod and a bag of my faithful Essential B5 boilies; and once I was happy with where to start, I began to trickle a few baits in. This was pretty easy to find though, and I started off prepping a snaggy bay which was off the cold winds, and had the warm rays of sun all day.

The swim right next door also had a great long piece of far margin, which had some tree cover, and I knew from previous years was a place that the fish were always in residence.

I didn’t see anything on my first few walks, but I gambled on my experience and began to put some bait in the bay and the far margin spots. One day in March I took a walk over there, and the daylight levels were hitting 12/12 hours which I really believe is the catalyst to the fish fully waking.

I’d been there just two days earlier, but hadn’t seen anything. However, as I peered down into the snags I saw at least a dozen fish, meandering in and out of the dense snags! Several of them were covered in clay on their heads and flanks. It was strange, as if a switch had suddenly been flicked! The weather was the same as the couple of days before, but now they were certainly up and about…

I hastily booked a couple of days off work for the following week, and rushed home to sort out my kit. Over the winter I had read so much about this new Ronnie Rig and I decided to use it like a Stiff Hinged Rig, using it with a very short stiff boom section and fishing it helicopter style.

I’ve always loved the Mugga pattern of hooks, and my pop up fishing in recent years had taken me away from using it. However, with this rig I could really see its benefits, and in a big size 4 coupled with a 16mm pop up, it really looked good. I had to get my head around using a hook that big, but with the bait sitting above the hook rather than alongside it, the hook size was irrelevant, and it needed the inherent weight of the hook to achieve its outstanding hooking properties.

I’d also been told of a couple of edges for boosting baits that went far beyond just adding salt to them. I was sworn to secrecy about what it is, and when I made up my first batch I immediately recognised how significant they were. The bait was positively oozing attraction, and with my new rig changes, I was excited about giving them a good go.

I fully admit to being pretty one dimensional in my rigs and baits over the years, and my confidence has always come from simply using what works well for me, and then sticking with it.

Matt at UB Baits had made me up some of my favourite B5 Salami pop ups, in a lovely light pink colour, which looked brilliant fished over the standard red B5 free baits.

I knew the snags that this part of the lake held were fishable with the right tackle, so I spooled up with 15lb GT-HD main line, which is simply the best mono I have ever used for out and out strength and its sinking properties, especially when coupled with two rod lengths of 20lb Mirage fluorocarbon leaders.

I’ll personally never use leadcore again, as I can’t see one advantage of it over the Mirage! If in doubt compare the two under the water, as the clear Mirage is invisible, and lies flat to the lake bed, giving both strength and far more finesse and in the small bay the fluorocarbon gave me a stealthy presentation.

I arrived in the half light of dawn, and within an hour was setup and fishing with the rods cast to the spots with a few handfuls of bait around each. I saw nothing all day, but as evening came one swam in the small bay sending ripples to the bank and boosting my confidence on what is normally a water that they seldom show on.

At 2AM I was away on one of the far margin rods, the fish immediately going for the snags but I steered it away without much difficulty, and I soon had it in the net. A 23lb jet black mirror was a great start, but as dawn came the same rod was off again, and this felt better from the outset. This one really went hard, but once it was away from the far bank and I knew that it was out of danger I let it plod away in the relative safety of the deep margin in front of my swim. In the clear water I could see it was a lovely chestnut coloured mirror, and a decent one too. It was indeed, all 32lbs, and it was absolutely nailed on the Ronnie Rig.

It didn’t stop there, as I then landed a small stockie from the bay next door before the day went quiet as the morning feeding spell concluded. That afternoon I redid all the rods, not settling until all 3 hookbaits were positioned perfectly, in anticipation of the following mornings bite time.

At 6AM I was in again, and this one was really powerful, thumping the tip down trying for the snags. When that failed it kited hard left towards the bay behind. I powered on the side strain, with the rod sunk and the tip ring was hitting the bottom, until the fish was suddenly out in front. I recognised it immediately by its pale colour, and once again the new bait and rig had done well for me. This one was seriously well hooked, and at 37.8lbs another fantastic result and I packed up that morning delighted.

to be continued…