I’m actually going to start a little more than a year ago, as I believe this is where my story begins. My life and fishing are closely entwined, so I apologise if this not your usual article. In fact, it would probably be true to say that my life and fishing are one and the same.
I’ll start in November 2018. My wife was 8 months pregnant and my first target species is Chub. During the previous season I had some amazing success on the river Lea, success that consisted of 12 Chub ranging from 4lb 8oz to 5lb 8oz. For a Fen boy whose previous chub success was a mere 3lb 12oz fish from a small lode about 10 years previous this was quite an accomplishment but knowing the potential on the Lea I thought I would give it a proper go.
I knew that after November I would need to stay close to home, just in case the baby decided to come early, so I only had a 3-week window to go for them. Realistically, with work and other commitments my time would possibly be limited to only 3-day trips and maybe a couple of evening sessions.
My first fishing day came, and I headed down to the Lea with a gallon of bronze maggots dusted off with a load of paprika. My plan was to trot a stick float down the river next to all the overhanging bushes and trees. I knew of some deep slacks and gravel bars in certain areas, so they were my target swims.
My float rig consisted of a simple stick float set at around 3ft deep, on 6lb HydroFlo mainline with a size 14 Target Beaked Point Hook with 2 maggots as bait. I arrived at my first chosen swim and started spraying maggots to the head of the run that I was going to be fishing. I sprayed a pouch full of maggots every 30 seconds to a minute for 10 to 15minutes before I put my float through the swim I’ve found that this approach gives them quite a bit of confidence feeding and they tend not to spook off as quick once I’ve had one. I had no luck in my first swim, so moved off within a couple of hours to my next swim where I did exactly the same with the same result. This was repeated in a third swim, again without any joy.
Dusk was encroaching, and I had planned to stay until I could no longer see the float, so I was on my last swim for the day. There hadn’t been a sign of any fish on the whole stretch, so my morale was dwindling. ‘One final trot down’ was on my mind at least 10 times, then finally I got a bite! I began to wind in a chub of about 8oz. ‘Great’ I thought, all day for that. With another ‘last try’, I trotted the maggots down and left it to go further than usual, bang! The float sunk down instantly, and a powerful fish started to take off down the river. Perfect that was what I was after, a battle took place and I was knew I was into something special. After netting it, I could tell it was big. I unhooked it and weighed it at 6lb 15oz, so I was over the moon! First trip and had succeeded with my target – a proper specimen to boot.
The month of December came with no real fishing happening, and by the time Christmas day arrived my heavily pregnant wife was fit to burst. I honestly can’t remember too much about Christmas day due to the manic period afterwards. Boxing day came and I wasn’t able to go fishing so me and the wife went to look at a few pike venues in the middle of the fens, out in the middle of nowhere). We got to the areas I wanted to explore and luckily enough we bumped into a bailiff; Carmen (my wife) was very quiet but happy so I spoke to him for a good half an hour about the area and if anything had come out. There wasn’t really much to report, but I had a good chat anyway. I got back into the car and Carmen asked if we could go home so I obliged and headed off home. When we got back, I wanted to sort some gear out and prepare for my next session, wherever or whenever it may have been. I sat down and Carmen came and sat next to me and said, ‘put that away you need to ring the hospital’, she had been in labour for 3 hours without telling me! When we were in the middle of the fens. I joked about this and she laughed and explained she didn’t want to worry me. My wife is one in a million. In the early hours of the next morning I had in my arms a beautiful little girl called Aurora Susanne, and now a year on she is obsessed with fish and cheese, but fish is more relevant.
The last few months of the season came and went with hardly any fishing done, though I had done quite a bit with the PAC taking a group of youngsters on a pike angling course, to show them how to tie rigs, unhook and care for pike. In my spare time, I have always enjoyed volunteering for the PAC and helping the next generation get into angling.
A new dawn awakens with every new season and spring was here, and finally I could get out and do some evenings after work. My target was the Rudd from a new venue; finally, I was getting excited about fishing as I could get out. I won’t say too much about this as I’ve already written about this venture in a previous article on the Gardner site, but I had plenty of lovely Rudd to 2lb 14oz and I will certainly be back this year armed with what I had learnt last spring.
After my spring escapades were completed, I was brimming with confidence and knew that a few of my friends wanted a couple of socials targeting carp. I do like my carp fishing, but it’s kind of a species that I have lost a bit of heart with over the years. Luckily in this lake there was a special fish which was stocked in 1969 and was still going strong. It’s ‘only’ a mid-30 at its biggest, but still worth an angle for as it was probably one of the oldest carp in Cambridgeshire, and possibly the country.
I knew this fish had a bit of habit of only coming out of a few swims on the lake, and with only around 80 carp in this extremely weedy and snaggy lake I thought very carefully about where to fish and which spots to try and find. I had been pre-baiting an area for about 2 weeks with 250g of boilies every 3 days, and it seemed to have been cleared up every time I checked it. The area I was baiting was a tiny hard spot about 2 rod lengths out. No one knew of this spot, but I had noticed ‘Curly tail’ there a few springs ago so I kind of hoped it would come up trumps.
My friend and I started fishing the 2 swims close to the spot and I made sure everything was perfect, I was using 15lb GTHD, with a ‘C’ Clip drop off in conjunction with a Stiff hinge Rig using Invisi-Link as my boom material, Trip wire as my hook section to the mighty and trustworthy Chod hook in a size 6. The bait was a washed-out pink Krill pop up, and this was positioned over a small amount of crumbed and half Krill boilies. A perfect little trap!
My mate had the first bite on his rod that was a lovely old 22lb common, and then it was my turn when I had a 25lb common that was as dark as the ace of spades. My second bite came at about 8PM, just as it was getting dark and it came off the spot where old ‘curl tail’ liked to feed. My hunch was correct as there in the bottom of my net was an old, hump-backed fish with a slight curl tail. It was my target and she looked beautiful; 50 years old and still going. I got her out and the hook hold was perfect, so we carefully unhooked her, weighed her and got my trophy shots in the water. She weighed 33lb 8oz, and though she’s not the biggest carp I have ever caught she’s certainly my favourite and oldest.
The Summer was in full swing now and usually I’m not one to fish in the heat, but with so little time on my hands I needed to get out whenever I could, unfortunately one of the weekends was bank holiday and trust me, never again will I fish a day ticket lake on a bank holiday. Everybody comes out to play, it might have been the constant noise from the jet ski or the party that ensued, or the naked ladies that decided to have a swim just down the lake or the other anglers or even the pit bikes and quad bikes going up and down the bank, all I can say is never again.
A couple of weekends later I was able to get out for an overnight session for my favourite species, Tench, but it was really the wrong time of year to get any monsters so I just went out to get a bend in the rod. That night was unbelievable, everything I did went right. I had 7 fish to 8lb 12oz, though the set up was using was probably a little under-gunned for the Tench, but I just wanted to catch a few and have a good fight while doing it. On this occasion I was using 6lb HydroFlo with 8lb Target Fluorocarbon hooklinks on helicopter style feeder set up, using casters in the feeder and 2 fake casters hair rigged onto a size 12 Beaked Point Target Specimen hook.
The summer was drawing to an end, and my head was turned to a different species once again; this time Barbel. I’m not one for following the crowds, but I was desperate for a barbel, so I headed up to the river Trent. Me and my mate Dan decided we would have a recce before we chose an area where we would concentrate, so we drove up for a day of just looking around and get our bearings. We found some amazing spots, but they were all private, so in our desperation we went to have a look at the famous Collingham Weir. I didn’t really want to go to Collingham, due to the fact I was told it is unbelievably busy and we wouldn’t ever get a swim. However, I learnt long ago never to listen too stuff like that and to just to go and find out for yourself. You know what, the place was deserted!
This suited me to the ground, so after talking to a few friends back home I chose my day to go and have a dangle. We headed off at 4AM to try and get up there for first light. Once again, the famous busy section was almost empty, apart from 5 anglers dotted around. We set up and I was using 10lb HydroFlo mainline with a Gardner Target Lead Clip set up, and a 3ft hooklink tied using 8lb Gardner Target fluorocarbon. The only problem was that the conditions were not right and on the whole stretch of the Collingham AC part of the Trent, not a single fish came out. After this my time was becoming more and more stretched, with Willow Grange Tackle & Bait website just starting and home life getting busier with my little girl, so needless to say I wasn’t able to return, but it’s defiantly on my radar for the next season.
Once again, the winter season arrived, but not as we know it; we didn’t really have any cold weather, but probably had one of the wettest winters that I can remember. I started in the October, after probably my favourite species, the Zander. I like to keep quiet during the winter months as predators are so delicate and as soon as anything of any size comes out, people are always trying to find the spots and fish them to death. I had a slow start on the Zander front, with only a few schoolies to my name, and this carried on throughout with only a couple of fish a month. I had also started pike fishing in the November, and this started off with a bang, with the capture of a scraper 20 already and then only a couple of weeks later a dream fish came into my net. At 47” long and so close to my target weight she weighed in at 29lb 3oz! The fight was incredible, with the pike taking braid off at a speed I had only witnessed from 50lb plus catfish. It was an incredibly marked fish which was young and fit as pike could be.
The middle months of the winter were very quiet, as I was only fishing once every 2 to 3 weeks, so my numbers of fish dried up, but I did dabble in a bit of roach fishing and had them to 1lb 4oz on feeder tactics whilst testing a new Gardner prototype mainline and using a size 14 Target Beaked Point specimen hook.
I found myself in a position where it was only 6 weeks to go until the end of season and needed to go searching for my big pike just before it spawned, so headed out to my chosen spot and straight away I started to catch plenty of pike, ranging between 12lb and 15lb. My hunch was that if I carried on fishing there my luck maybe in, so carried on fishing the area every chance I could in the hope of a big girl.
The pike were getting harder, and then one day there was an angler in my spot so I thought I would have a chat with him to see if he had caught anything and of course like all of us pike anglers, he was a bit guarded. Then he had a run, and then his other rod went off and I had helped him out. After that I stayed around, and we chatted longer. He obviously knew what he was doing and he was fishing for big fish, so I just came out with the question ‘What have you had from here,’ he looked at me and saw my smile and proceeded with, ‘I’ve had a fish, that you are also after,’ we exchanged a few comments and I showed him the picture of my fish and he did the same with me. It was the same fish. I carried on fishing the same area until the last week of the season, but the big girl never showed her face, but as Arnie once said ‘I’ll be back!’.
Throughout this period, whilst I was Piking, I was also switching over to another river to try and find some decent zander, as I knew there had been a lot of bream coming out of this section to the match anglers. On one of the days, I had started early as I knew the zander were coming out during the day, which is quite rare in the fens. I had all 4 rods on a running ledger set up, using mentally strong 30lb Kinetic Braid in 30lb; 2 were on large eel section, 1 was on a skimmer bream live bait and the final on a roach live bait. I had started off leap frogging the rods until I had found the fish, and only on the second move I was into pike, so I stuck in the spot for a couple of hours, until one of my eel sections started to move off. Initially, I thought it must have been another pike, judging by the fight and the weight, but as I got it in close and it came to the surface I realised it was a huge zander! In fact, I actually got my feet wet to net it and when I looked at it in the net, I knew straight away it was a special fish. I weighed it at 14lb 3oz and it was fat as a pig. I phoned my dad to ask him to come and take the pictures for me and when he realised where I was, he stuttered and commented that was about a 2-mile walk! I now realise when I try and find a spot, distance and effort isn’t a factor I think about, I just do it. Oh, and thanks Dad.
In conclusion of my year, I was going to name this article, ‘A Tough Year’, but I have realised that it was only tough in terms of the time I spent fishing, but my results speak for themselves and I am just hopeful the new season carries on to be a very productive year too.