Well, these are crazy times aren’t they!?! Something you’d never imagine would happen in our lifetime, lakes closed, shops closing, no fishing… NO FISHING!!!!!!
Jesus, what are we going to do? The only thing that keeps us anglers somewhat sane is wetting a line at any given opportunity. Now we’re confined to our house, having to spend endless hours with our family and trying not to kill each other. Oh well, what better a time to sit in front of my PC (safely nestled away from the kids and missus) and flick through some of my captures and memorable moments from last year, until 3 weeks ago. My god, has it been that long already?
Around this time last year, I managed to get a ticket on a very well-known water in Essex. The lake in question is only small in size, around 4 acres, but crammed with some very good looking and very big carp. Unfortunately, I only managed to get in around 25 nights but managed to catch a few, with a couple unfortunately lost.
When I started on there, my approach was always going to be very simple. With the lake only being small I chose to fish the margins, or at the most 6 wraps out. Fluorocarbon was a must so 3 spools of 16lb Mirage were grabbed off the shelf in work and spooled up ready. The reason for using fluorocarbon was because of it’s amazing sinking properties, and let me tell you, this line sinks like a broken battleship! Apart from this I know I can always rely on it’s amazing strength and abrasion resistance when playing fish. The lake bed mainly consisted of large polished areas of clay amongst weed beds, so after donking the lead around to find a suitable thud, and also finding clay on my lead, I decided spots like this would probably be the best place to set my traps, offering impeccable presentation on lovely dinner plates.
Rigs and lead arrangements were fairly simple; a helicopter set up compromising our Covert Tungsten Chod Beads and Sinkers, with a Drop Out Chod Safety Clip safely nestled into the softer silt coloured Covert Buffer Bead. The reason for the C-clip was to help eject the lead safely if the fish managed to get snagged in the bountiful weed or reeds.
My chosen rig was the good old hinged stiff, with the boom section made up of 8” of 25lb Invisi-Link and the hook-section itself made using our ultra-high memory low viz-green 15lb Stiff Link. Hook choice was easy, a size 5 or 6 Specialist Sharpened Chod Hook with a medium bait screw on the D for attaching the pop up. Ok, whilst we’re on the subject of bait screws I must point this out, I hear time and time again about anglers being cautious of using them, because they are scared the bait will fall off, or the weight of the screw will make the rig sink. Well, in all the time I have used these screws I have NEVER had any of the above issues with them. I always test the rig after I have ended my session and the pop up is still as buoyant as it was when I first screwed it on. With most brands of pop ups being so buoyant nowadays, please let me re-assure you they do their job to perfection, even when cast distances in excess of 100 yards!
Later, during the summer I managed to get a French trip under my belt, travelling with a pal James Buffoni. The venue was an un-touched lake that my French friend Oliver had recently managed to get his hands on. The lake in question is around 10 acres in size, with a few known carp. It had previously been owned and run by a French chap that had only used the lakes for pleasure fishing. After arriving and spending a good few hours walking around, we finally located some fish and the areas that they were visiting frequently, so our swims were chosen and out tackle and bivvies set up.
Our baiting approach was very simple. Loads of boilies! Oliver had been feeding the lake on boilie for some time, in order to help the growth of his fish, and he had asked us to do the same as he had banned all particle, again to ensure maximum growth rates.
The approach for the first night was standard tactics really. Find a nice drop, close to the margins where we had seen the carp patrolling, and scatter around a kilo of bait around the rig. The first night passed without a bleep, but at around 5AM the following morning I was awoken to a one toner emanating from the receiver as I had a steady take on my right hand rod, and after a lengthy battle I drew the first fish of the session over the net cord. The carp was a nice 47lb two tone mirror, and it was not a bad start if you don’t mind me saying!
This had certainly got the old confidence juices flowing, in terms of my approach, so after re-baiting the spots we started to pick up fish on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the heat during the day was becoming unbearable so James and I decided to move around the lake finding nicely shaded areas, placing the rods on the deck and casting to moving fish. All in all, we caught stacks of carp between 20lb’s and 30lb’s during the remainder of the trip and had great fun. They were not massive fish by French standards, but sometimes it’s about being there and enjoying your time more than single mindedly hunting the whackers. We had been warned that some snags, gravel bars and plateaus could potentially be a problem whilst playing the fish, so with the recent release of our new Ultra-Sink and Camflex Continental Leadfree, it was a great opportunity to give these new items a thorough testing for myself.
Nine times out of ten, when I am fishing across the Channel, I keep my rigs extremely simple, with a good old-fashioned snowman rig is my ‘go to’ rig. The rig itself is always constructed using a coated hooklink material, in this case around 6” of our new Ultra-Sink, with a brutally strong size 4 Incizor and a Covert Tungsten XL Kicker to help turn the hook immediately upon pick up. To say I have been impressed with the new Ultra Sink would be an understatement. It retains just enough rigidity to allow the rig to neatly separate from the lead when casting, giving me 100% confidence that every time I cast that I am tangle free. The other positive thing about this product is the knowledge that the boom section of my rig will be lying flush to the bottom of the lake bed, due to the amount of tungsten within the coating and the heavy braided core (that is woven with a blend of Dyneema and Fluorocarbon fibres). This is now, and always will be, my coated hooklink of choice given the right situation, even once the coating is removed around one inch from the base of the hook, the core still allow a supple feeling and lays perfectly on the bottom of the lake bed due to its added sinking properties.
I was lucky enough to catch some cracking fish whilst on this trip (so many that myself and my friend James booked another trip in January of this year) and as I mentioned, during that first trip I used the Camflex 65lb as I was fishing amongst some pretty rough snags. The leader was out of this world, given the situation I was using it in. The weight of this new product is truly amazing, yet so supple still. It lays itself perfectly across the bottom, lying itself over debris on the lakebed. The toughness and durability of this leader is like nothing I have ever used before, so if your fishery allows you to use leadfree, try this stuff out, you will NOT be disappointed! The only thing I would advise is that when you are splicing with any Leadfree (which is so easy to do with this material) create a splice of 2” or more. The longer splice enables a good connection due to the increased surface area.
During our return trip in January the weather for the time of year was crazy, as we enjoyed 15C when we arrived and around 9C during the night. The rigs and tactics were the same as our summer trip, albeit we applied slightly less bait, choosing to use just a handful of boilies on each spot, safe in eth knowledge that was adequate for the time of year. The last thing you want to be doing was filling the fishes bellies up and reducing your chance of a bite.
On this session I decided to fish tight across to a snaggy margin spot where I had seen some fish. It was a lovely well-polished gravel area, around 5ft deep, right underneath some overhangs. One bait was placed on this spot, whilst another hookbait was placed around 10 yards further down the margin. I placed the 3rd bait out on an open water spot, a tasty looking plateau of around 9ft in depth.
Well, as per usual, ol’ lucky (that’ll be me) managed to get amongst a few nice fish during the trip, and I’m pretty sure that the components I used definitely played a major role – that and superior angling!
All of the fish I caught all came from the margin spots, and I managed six carp in total, up to 47lb 7oz, even though the temperature plummeted halfway through our 6 day trip, dropping to 6C during the day and -3 during at night. It just goes to show that carp are weird creatures sometimes, visiting shallow areas of the lake when we all think they would be gathering in deeper areas. To be fair, I feel this behaviour was largely due to the mild winter we had enjoyed up until that session, the water felt almost warm to the hand whilst I returned my fish and I feel this was a massive factor in our success during our trip.
During our drive home it was great to have a few laughs and reflect on our trip, as once I had returned home it was the inevitable carp show season, and fishing is necessarily placed on the backburner for a while. To be fair, I always enjoy the shows, it’s a great way to catch up with new and old friends and we get to meet anglers that enjoy using our products. The team that accompanies us are great guys and they all work so hard during the manic long show days.
Unfortunately, I have only managed another two fishing trips since we arrived home from France in January. I have been blessed in obtaining a very special ticket close to home that contains some truly amazing carp. It holds a fair few whackers too, but at the same time it also holds a stock of beautiful smaller fish; fully scaled, old chestnut commons and some dark varnished looking mirrors. It has a limited membership and a strict publicity ban, so it was right up my street!
During my last trip I was lucky enough to catch a low 30 mirror, but unfortunately, it’s a hush hush and I am unable to show the pics. I did manage to get a few walks around the lakes before the whole Corona Virus monster stepped in, but hey, were all in the same boat so I’ll have to take it on the chin(s) I suppose.
Well, it’s sad to be finishing this piece off on such a gloomy note, these are going to be tough times for all of us, especially us anglers that so love being outside with nature at this extremely special time of year. But, the lockdown in my opinion, is the best thing for us as a nation, hopefully giving our amazing NHS time to prepare to safely get us through this. So please guys, be responsible just hang on in there. This WILL come to an end!!!
Stay safe, tie rigs, spend time with your loved ones and keep in touch.
James C-Ricky x