Saturday 14 March 2015
After suffering my 1st blank in ages at Ham Pool last week (looking back at blog posts, I think the last one was 'A Spot Of Post Xmas Piking' back in December 2013?!), I desperately needed to go somewhere where we'd were guaranteed a bite!
So Lower Kilcott Farm was an obvious choice. It's a small farm lake (more of a pond really) in the Cotswolds midway between Dad and myself and a perfect place for winter fishing as it's rammed with fish. As my daughter Lilly-Grace would be joining us for this session, it had to be a venue that'd keep an enthusiastic 6 year old busy too.
As it's a small venue with limited swims, we decided it was important we arrived early so I organised to meet Dad between 6.30 and 7.00 to make sure we had a bit of choice. I woke Lilly-Grace at 6.10am after having loaded the car meaning we were on the road and rocking out to Royal Blood on the M4 by twenty past ;)
A very easy drive saw us arrive at the lake around 6.50am to see one angler in my favourite far corner swim.... But the good news was Dad had already bagged the other corner swim at the back of the lake meaning we could all fish in a row like gnomes and pretty much have the road bank corner furthest from the farm house to ourselves! Well worth getting up at stoopid o'clock...
As predicted by the weather man, it was grey and cold but fingers crossed the wind and rain would keep at bay - I think even L-G's enthusiasm would be dampened if the weather turned?! After we'd said hello to Coco (Dad's gorgeous spaniel, another requirement of venue choice was dog friendlessness!) we set about getting the rods in the water.
Your gonna catch no at Kilcott no matter what so it's a great place to try out some new or little used techniques. For me, I really wanted to try out float fishing to target the excellent silvers in the lake but I also really wanted to try and find some of the bigger carp. On my last trip, I managed to get fish to around 10lb - nothing massive but I knew from a trip in the summer that a 15 pounder had come out. So rather than going for everything and anything I decided to go big on the bottom bait rod, getting the boilies piled in and a really light float rod for the silvers. Lilly-Grace opted for the feeder with liquidized bread and sweetcorn on the hook and I had a feeling she'd be pasty bashing in no time...
True to form, the initial action was hectic! Lilly-Grace had a good run of 4 or so little carp on the feeder rod using liquidized bread in the cage and real sweetcorn on the hair before Dad and I even managed to get a line in the water! My bottom bait rod rattled off within 10 minutes (no surprise there, that's why we came to Kilcott!) with a little common of around 4lb, about the stamp size of the fish in the lake and a great start.
As mentioned, I was determined to practise my float fishing as I'm really not as good at it as I'd like to be. Using sweet corn on the waggler was only catching me carp so I switched over to some maggots and casters (thank you Dad!) after 10 minutes in an effort to single out a silver. It worked! I missed more bites than I hit but did have a great selection of rudd and roach which was great fun on light gear.
The bottom bait rod had been strangely quiet after that 1st run. I worked through a couple of different popup options and even put a zig out as the sun tried to make an appearance (I'd had great success with Zig's on the last session when it was much sunnier). But the hours ticked by without a bite... Not that it was a problem as a combination of Lilly-Grace catching more fish than Dad and I put together was keeping me more than busy... As was keeping her fed! She can eat that girl... which is amazing as she's skin and bones, don't know where she puts it.
So I Switched the bottom bait rod to Celtic Baits Nut Mix boiles and baited the 'bowl' of water to my left heavily with boiles and a mixture of pellets.
Around 12ish, the bobbin dropped to the floor and the line went slack... Drop back? Just moved the lead? Then the line slowly tightened up! What the hell, struck into what I was expecting to be a liner and realised there was something attached!
To be honest, I didn't think there was much on the end - the fish came in slow and steady and didn't really put up much resistance. But when it came to netting it, we realised it was something of a beast cos it wouldn't fit in the landing net! I'd only brought my small spoon net thinking the fish in Kilcott where quite small but this one was hanging out of either side of the net...
Amazing - a really solid (if slightly sleepy!) mirror carp of 18lb. From a tiny farm lake. too good ;)
Over the next couple of hours I had another 15lb mirror and smaller darker common of around 8lb all on the Celtic Baits nut mix boilies. An amazing result on an great bait.
The last hours were spent with Lilly-Grace and I trying a bit of surface fishing, more practice with the float and just whiling the hours away on the bank. We packed down around 4ish having had a great day. Kilcott never fails to deliver!
The only downer to the day was a couple of fellers on the far bank who had no landing net or unhooking net. They were surface fishing and hauling carp out in the edge using their hands which is just not on. There's no excuse, if you don't have these basic items you shouldn't be allowed to fish, it's that simple. A majority of the fish we caught today were in pretty good condition but that won't last if people don't look after the stop. Shame on them!
The car had been reporting a steady 3 degrees outside on the journey up and as there was no frost on the car, I was pretty confident that the lake wouldn't have a lid on it as it did on my last attempt to fish at Kilcott. The backup plan was to head to Harescombe Fisheries if the lake was frozen over as it's only another 15 minutes on but I was banking on unfrozen water this time!
I arrived in the pitch dark at pretty much 7am on the nose. It's so, so quiet out there... but as the farm has 3 dogs, my arrival sparked a volley of barking! The owners are farmers so I'm working on the basis they're up early anyway? The really good news was the lake wasn't frozen over and as a bonus was completely deserted (from what I could see that is... must remember to leave my head torch in my bag...).
The swim choice is a bit limited at Kilcott: it's only a small lake, probably no larger than an acre and due to its shape and the steepness of the road bank, the options are fairly slim. But I opted for a swim I've fished a couple of times before opposite the road bank, almost into the far corner. It's got a little private 'bay' directly in front (meaning if it does get busy you've always got a bit of undisturbed water), access to open water and a great margin to the right so there's plenty of places to drop a bait.
There's no real approach to Kilcott, you can fish it pretty much how you like and you'll be guaranteed to catch something! So my plan for this trip was to try out some different tactics, namely float fishing (which I don't do enough off) and zig rigs. As the weather was set to be sunny and cold and with the lake being so shallow (the deepest bit I found was around 4ft even after heavy rain fall) I was thinking the fish would be hanging around in the warmer water so a tester session with zigs was the go.
But to make sure I didn't blank and have to take up knitting, the first two casts went out with the ever faithful cell boile on a light bolt rig to the right and a liquidized bread feeder with sweetcorn on the hair into the bay.
The first hour was spent catching 15 or so greedy carp to around 5lb on the feeder rod! Loadsa fun and exactly what I needed ;) The boilie rod was surprisingly quiet... But no bother, I was busy enough, so much so that I decided to switch to the float rod in an attempt to calm things down and maybe target some of the other species. I'd also suffered from one birds nest of line and a hook up in a tree with the feeder rod so it seemed like the perfect time to switch! Gotta get some new line on the reels...
One shocker was the frost coming down around 8ish - everything froze! The hooking mat and rods had a layer of ice and the bait tub of water I'd been using to was my hands had a skim of ice over the top... and I was freezing too... The sun came up behind the hills though and took the edge off meaning by 10ish it was actually pretty warm.
The float rod had been loadsa fun and I'd had carp and roach using sweet corn and fake maggots. Good practice, it's amazing how many bites you miss... As the boilie rod was still silent I switched over to a white popup which roared away 10 minutes after hitting the water ;) Again, nothing massive yet all under the 6lb mark.
By 11am the sun had really warmed up the water and crazy as it sounds, I thought it was time for some surface fishing... in January! There are just so many fish in here, it's mental. I spent a very happy hour or so with chum mixers tempting fish close in. To be honest, it's a bit like fishing in a barrel but it does give an opportunity to see what the fish are up to. The main thing I noticed was that there comes a point where the carp can no longer see the bait and they're homing in on it almost blindly. They miss a fair few! But the knock on is that when they 'commit' to taking the bait and manage to get their aim right, there's really no reason why it shouldn't result in a fish on the bank! Having said that, they're adept at spitting the bait out... One greedy bugger actually sucked in the entire surface controller I was using and promptly spat it out!
After lunch I decided to switch the boilie rod to a zig rig. As it's so shallow here, I opted to start at around 3ft and went for a size 8 chod hook with a washed out pink Celtic Baits popup. On my stalking round the lake I'd noticed some of the bigger fish up in the water over on the farm house bank so that seemed like the best place for a 1st cast.
The results where pretty much instant! The first take was really savage with the rod tip swinging violently round... Only a small one again, around 6lb but I guess the 'take' is different on a zig?
Over the course of the afternoon I had fish after fish on the zig rod, so much so that I gave up on having two rods out. One thing I did do was switch down to a smaller size 12 hook and a much darker boilie. Although bright colours do work well with zigs, I'd heard of people getting good results with darker baits with black foam winning out. In this case, a trimmed down Celtic Baits popup which was a dark red and very fishy smelling did the business (I'll try out find out the flavour as it's a test bait at the moment!). The size of fish went up as well with the biggest hitting around 10lb - not bad for such a small lake! Although I know there's bigger in there... Maybe next time?
I packed down around 4pm having lost count of the takes on the zig rod. I think all in all, I must have had upwards of 30 fish throughout the course of the day, nothing bigger than 10lb with most falling to the zig - loads of fun on a beautiful cold winters day!
We've had some really, really hard frosts of late and it's been incredibly cold but what the hell, gotta get on the bank. As I had a total freedom pass (the grandparents are in the house) I decided to go further afield and picked two venues that are chocked full of fish. Number one choice was Lower Kilcott Farm. It's a small farm pond that's filled with 100's of hungry carp and you'd be guaranteed a bite. If conditions where really bad, the plan B was Harescombe Fisheries, mainly due to it's choice of 4 lakes and the fact Dad and I have caught there in the winter before.
The day started with me scraping ice off the car at 6.30am! The roads where white and the car was screaming at me that it was zero degrees outside... But the drive out to Lower Kilcott Farm was surprising easy. I'd opted to take the 2nd of the two turnings down to the water as the 1st road is incredibly steep. We'd had a hairy time getting down the lane last year with rain, high winds and fallen trees being the danger but this time round it was ice...
So after a gentle descent with only one slip on the ice, I arrived to find the lake completely frozen over! Bugger. I guess with the water being at the bottom of a sheltered valley, the frost had really set in... So, no fishing at Kilcott Farm today, time to jump back in the car and head 20 minutes further up the road to Harescombe Fisheries.
The drive out through Stroud was beautiful, the sun was just clipping the horizon and the fields and villages looked very Christmassy. There was another steep descent down to Harescombe but I finally made it to the fishery around 9ish to find it quiet and still but most importantly not frozen over!
Dad and I have fished Harescombe a couple of times in the past and we've always ended up fishing the top lake Meadow due the the other lakes being incredibly busy (there are 3 lakes and one pond at the complex). But with it being post Christmas and bloody cold, Field lake was deserted so I decided to give it a go with the plan to move up to Meadow if the action was non existent.
I opted for a swim slap bang in the middle of the far road bank as this gave me access to the most water and cast a feeder rod out to the right of the swim to where a fish had just shown itself... The rod was loaded with a couple of grains of real corn mounted on Guru Feeder rig with a size 12 hook. The feeder itself was a small cage so I could keep the feed down to a minimum and it was loaded with my favourite winter groundbait mix: liquidized stale bread mixed with Swim Stim Amino Black and ground down Cell boilie. It smells great, leaves a great cloud in the water column and won't fill the fish up - perfect.
And within minutes, I had my 1st run!
Amazing to get action so quickly, a really good sign. It's actually a bit of a running theme with Harescombe as on the two previous trips I've managed to get a run within minutes of the 1st cast!
The next 20 minutes were crazy - I just couldn't keep the feeder rod in the water for long enough to sort out the 2nd rod!
By the time the bailiff came round at 10ish, I'd managed to get the 2nd rod out with a bottom bait and 6 or so carp had slipped into the net. Whatta session, the lake was fishing like it was summer not winter?! And I'd only been fishing for around an hour...
The lake had slowly started to fill up with 5 other anglers setting up in swims nearest the entrance with the exception of one fella who'd headed down to the far end of the lake. Unfortunately for me, getting so much action had stirred the interest of 2 fellas who were not catching and they decided to move swims, annoyingly picking a spot virtually opposite me and casting exactly where I'd been catching from. So much for etiquette between fishermen?! (As it turned out, it did them no good: they blanked!)
Whether it was my new neighbors constant chatting, the fact we'd past the winter feeding spell, or that the shoal had moved on the action dried up slightly at around 11ish. One thing we'd noticed on previous trips was that once the action slowed, it was time to ring the changes bait wise. So far, most of the fish had fallen to just plain old sweetcorn but I decided to try Celtic Baits popups, Mainline Cell boilies and pellets. Each producded bites but amazingly, after each change I put out some sweetcorn again and away the rod went!
I had one amazing take but unfortunately missed the fish using a Celtic Baits Pineapple+ popup. I'd tied on a small PVA stick of breadcrumbs and cast it to a deep spot I'd found by plumbing up the float rod. No word of a lie, it'd been in the water for around 45 seconds when it ripped off! Felt like a really good fish but after a good fight, the hook pulled... Ah well, if nothing it proves the bait is a winner!
I had several more fish through the arvo with the carp getting bigger with each run. By now the sun had started to clip the back of the hills and as my swim was now in shadow, it started to get very, very cold...
So I started to pack down around 3ish, did my last cast to a new spot to my right near a tree with the feeder rod and within minutes, off it went!
By far the biggest fish of the session and a great way to finish an amazing day's fishing. One of the best winter sessions I've ever had, can't wait to give the lake a go in summer!
Thanks for reading - happy new year!
Saturday 20 December 2014
I was lucky enough on Friday to get a chance to fish a private water on an overnight session. You may question my 'luck' as we're in the last half of December and the weather is pretty shocking but at the moment, any opportunity to get out on the bank has to jumped at!
As you can imagine, I'd been watching the weather all week. We've had some frosts recently but the major feature over the next 5 days was a warning of gale force winds and torrential rain forecast to hit on Friday... Not ideal?! However, as the week went on the wind and rain moved to Thursday night and Friday was now looking... cold...
I managed to get out of work on time, rushed home, did bedtime with the kids, got all the gear in the car and was at the lake around 7.30pm. It was flat calm and very, very still but surprisingly warm. Or maybe that was the thermals, 2 t-shirts, trousers and ProLogic thermal bib 'n braces and jacket and woolly hat I was wearing?!
Turning up at a lake when it's dark is a bit of a challenge but I'd already done a recky to scope out swims and got the marker float out to find some spots a week or so previous. It's not a massive lake, around 2 acres in size with a maximum depth of around 8ft. My plan was to fish to the middle of the lake in the deepest water and cast regularly till I either found some fish or found a bait that'd prompt a bite.
Bait wise I'm currently testing out the new boilies from Innate Baits. I've never really used popups in my fishing and with it being winter I was really keen to give them a try. For this session, I had 3 different popups to try:
As it wasn't raining I decided to establish base camp in my selected swim (which only took two trips to the car and back - I really need to get a barrow...) and get a couple of rods out before setting up the bivy. Both rods were already clipped up: 9 rod lengths for the left hand rod and 10.5 for the right. To hedge my bets, the left hand rod went out with a Mainline Cell boilie topped with corn on a simple blow back rig. It's a combo I've had success with pretty much anywhere I fish: the rig is nice and simple using a size 8 Korda Kurv Shank hook, a bit of silicone on the hair to keep it in place and 15lb coated braid with around 2cm of the coating stripped back from the hook to form a hinge. The only change I'd made to the set up was to go slightly longer with the hooklink - I usually go around 5 inches for my summer fishing but I'd read a lot about how longer hook links are better in winter so I gave it a go for this session with the rig being around 8 inches long.
The other rod went out with a chod rig and a Pineapple+ boilie. Based on what I found with the marker float, the lake bed was actually very clean for the time of year but my main reasons for using the rig was that it's perfect for presenting popup baits. This is really new one for me as I've never used a 'choddy' and having invested in one of the Korda Chod Kits I was keen to give it a go.
So both rods went out, the left rod with a small dynamite stick of ground up Cell boilie and Sensas black ground bait and 6 boilies catapulted over the top and the choddy as a single hook bait. I had the opportunity of fishing three rods for this session but as it was rapidly getting colder, I decided to get the bivvy up and sort out the camping gear. I had a feeling that it was going to be a long cold night so it made sense to get everything prepared before my hands got too cold and I lost feeling in my fingers! But setting up kept me really warm and by 9pm everything was done and dusted.
Which seemed to trigger my 1st run of the night! It's amazing how the fish seem to 'know' when to bite ;)
Baring in mind it's winter, this fish was really going for it - it put a decent bend in a the rod and was a real a real head banger (always a good sign). But unfortunately for me, it wasn't to be... after 5 minutes the line went twang... There was still weight there so the line hadn't snapped but on reeling in it became apparent a snapped hook link was to blame.
To be honest, it was my bad: I need to get into the habit of tying new rigs for each session, even if the hooks get reused. In this instance, it was a braided hook length that had been in the water
before and it must've weakened it as the snap was in the middle, not near the hook or at the knot end (where I'd expect it to go).
So lesson learnt! As I'm sure you can imagine, I spent the next hour tying new hook lengths and then all three rods went out again to their marks. This time, the right hand rod got a fresh Tangerine Dream boile, the middle rod a new Cell and the new left hand rod a Washed Out Strawberry Pink to a random cast into the lake (I figured with three rods, one could be a 'rover' that could be cast every 20 minutes to pick off a random fish).
By this point the temperature had really dropped and the grass was getting crispy under my boots. But it didn't see to bother the fish as the next run came at around 9.30am! It was the same rod with the cell and this time got it in: a really nice mirror carp of around 14lb, cracking way to kick start the session ;)
The middle rod went out again and after a bit of warming soup, I decided to climb into the sleeping bag and hit the hay. It must've been about an hour later and the right hand alarm sounded which had me hopping out of the bivy. It was really, really cold by now and through my misted up glasses I could see all three rods were now covered in a thin layer of frost. Picking up the rod was like holding a piece of iron, it pretty much stuck to my hand!
The fish put up a really good fight and eventually it slipped into the net. Another mirror, around the same size at 14lb ish.
The rest of the night was a blur... The alarms sounded every hour with all 3 rods producing fish. The cell rod had gone silent so I'd switch everything over to Innate Popups. It was a close run thing between the baits, but the in the end most fish fell to the Pineapple+
All in all, I had another 4 fish before everything went silent at around 4am. Nothing as big the 1st two fish but getting bites in this weather was amazing, a real testament to the quality of the bait I was using. I was incredibly cold by now, jumping in and out of the sleeping bag and blundering around in the dark. The landing net had become stuck to the boards, the unhooking mat had a thick layer of ice on it and the line had begun freezing to the rings... Pretty hardcore!
I manage to get head down for the next 3 hours. The alarms bleeped a couple of times, but I put it down to liners. However, when I eventually surfaced at 7ish I found the left hand rods line had swung right round to the right... interesting?! On picking up the rod, there appeared to be a fish on the end! It was only a small common of around 5lb, I wonder if it'd picked up the bait, kited to the right and then fallen asleep?!
Believe it or not, as I slipped the carp into the net the right hand rod bleeped and line started to spool from the line - a double hook up? In winter?! Again, this was another smallish fish of around 6lb.
As I was slipping the 2nd fish back I noticed the bobbin on the middle rod was up near the blank rather than near the grass where it'd been when I finally crashed out. Another sleeper fish?! I picked up the rod, struk and connected with the fish but within seconds it became apparent it had somehow managed to get me wrapped around a snag and the line locked up solid...
But who's complaining? A winter overnighter in zub zero conditions that resulted in 8 fish and 2 lost is a pretty darn good result in any ones book ;)
Saturday 22 November 2014
Winter... Grim is the word, feels like it's been cold and raining for weeks already... And some people are still insisting on calling this autumn?! Me, I miss summer: the long evenings, fishing after work, catching carp off the surface....
But that's no excuse not to get out on the bank right?! The run up to Christmas is always a bit mental but somehow I managed to spy a gap in the traffic and bagged a Saturday to go fishing up at my favourite local spot, Bitterwell Lake.
To maximize time on the bank, I decided on an early start, leaving the house at 6.15am to arrive at the lake at 6.30am. Pitch black! But not raining or cold... Maybe the weather boys had got it wrong (for once?!) and I was in for a dry day on the bank?
The plan for the day was to try out the full range of Innate bolies. I'd had almost instant success on my last trip to the lake, catching a carp on my last cast using two single yellow and orange dumbbell boilies mounted on a hair. As it was my 1st cast with these baits, I was pretty impressed ;)
Not surprisingly, I had the choice of swims (can't think were everyone else was?!) and opted for a spot on the far end of the car park bank almost directly opposite the island. I'd fished the swim back in October where I'd been trying out some 'big fish' tactics so I already knew how many rod lengths out I needed to cast to be virtually on the island - 9.5 to be precise, so 12ft x 9.5 is 114ft, or 38 yards, or 34.7472 metres in new money (either way, not a massive chuck!). It's mental isn't it: rods are measured in feet, we cast out x number of yards, breaking strains are measured in pounds, hook lengths are in inches.... when did we go metric?!?!
So the first casts were in complete darkness, out towards the same spot around 2 metres apart. I'd opted to fish both rods on bottom based rigs, 2oz leads, longish hooklinks, small hooks on blowback rigs and double mounted boiles. The baits are aimed at matchmen so they're quite small, 10mm wide and only 5mm thick so two stacked together are perfect. One rod had Pineapple+ and the 2nd went out with Tangy Tangerine. Both had a small PVC stick on with liquidized bread and some cell boilie crumb. I'd tried these out in a bait tub at home and they worked perfectly: a small white patch of crumb with a bright hookbait over the top, perfect for nicking a bite in winter.
Almost instantly, I started getting liners. This carried on for a good hour or more when I decided to recast as it was now pretty much light. As 2nd option, I'd rigged up a light rod with a micro cage feeder and a nice long hook length, my thinking being to use this rod to cast every 10 to 20 minutes or so to try and locate the fish if the island wasn't 'the area' to be. This rod had gone out with a double stack of the Choconut dumbbells, around 2 metres back from the island as the liners may be indicating that I was fishing past the fish rather than in front of them?
So far, the rain had stayed away but as I finished getting my gear kinda organised the sky darkened and I could see a couple of the other anglers reaching for brollies... I managed to grab mine just in time and get it over my gear before the heavens opened. A pretty short downpour but I would've been drenched if I hadn't got the brolly up!
Quite often in winter, the fish will only feed for a small window and it's sometimes triggered the smallest change: a change in temperature, the wind dropping, the 'shoal' being spooked and moving into your swim, switching to the one bait they'll take for the day... On this session, it was the rain stopping that triggered a feeding response as almost instantly the alarm sounded and I was into my 1st fish!
Amazingly, the feeder rod also ripped off as I was slipping the 1st fish into the net - a double hookup in winter, who said winter bites would be hard to come by?!
Over the next couple of hours, I had another 3 fish - all carp to around 6lb.
After the first run on the ledger rod, the remaining fish all came to the feeder with the Choconut dumbbells being the bait of choice.
I persevered with the ledger, switching baits but nothing was showing... In fact, true to winter form, the action completely died at around 2pm ish and I didn't have or see another fish come out right until last knockings at around 4.30pm. I'd packed down by this time as the light was fading fast and the due was coming down but Jake Alden on the other side of the lake had been feeding swims out to open water and managed to pick up two carp in the space of 15 minutes! Nice work sir.
So another great day at Bitterwell Lake. I really enjoy this water, it's got some great fish and has really come on in the last year. Full credit to Terry Smith and the team, they've done a cracking job.