Saturday 30 August 2014
I did my 1st 24 hour session up at Bagwood Lake this weekend. It was a tough call: I'd asked around on Facebook for spots to try for an overnighter and the runners were Bagwood and Longleat. In the end, Bagwood won, mainly as it was something I just had to get out of my system ;)
I've been up to Bagwood for a wander 3 or so times over the last year, trying to get a feel for the place and scope out swims. The lake itself is split in two by a bridge that's joined with pipes so the fish can move between the waters. From the evidence, it gets very, very busy at the weekend (but where doesn't?!) but there are some decent fish in there if you're willing to fight it out.
Pulling into the car park at 7 on the nose, the 1st thing I noticed where the amount of cars in the car park... Nightmare, 4 cars, figure 2 people in each, that's 16 rods (24 if they've got 3 rods out) so a load of angling pressure before the day has even begun. Had I made the wrong choice, should I have gone to Longleat? The carp demons where already chatting on my shoulder...
Anyhow, I picked up a ticket (£18 for 24 hours so not too horrific) and headed out to the lakes with a bucket and the rods to bag a swim. The point swim on the golf course was, unsurprisingly, occupied by 2 anglers, the swim on the other side of the bridge was also taken and to really kick me in the nuts, my target swim right in the back corner of the lake had someone setting up in it! Bugger, been beaten to it by minutes.
As I was lamenting my lack of choice, I noticed even more cars arriving in the car park (wtf?!) so I jumped in the swim next to my target swim and headed back to the car to get the last bits and pieces.
But it would appear the fishing gods were smiling on me: the chap in my target swim wandered over for a chat, and although he'd set up, baited up and cast in he was going to move! The blokes in the point swim on the club house side of the lake were moving off at 11 so we made a deal that when he moved, I could dive into his vacated swim. Brilliant, I was going to be where I wanted to be so I spent the next 4 hours really watching the water, getting as much info I could can out of the other anglers and getting my gear sorted for actually starting to fish in the afternoon.
11ish rolled around, the chap upped sticks and I got my gear in and started about the process of getting the rods out. To be honest, I didn't have much expectation of getting a fish out during the day, so although the rods where out the main task was getting everything ready for the early evening and night as I figured these would be the busiest times due to the pressure the fish are under.
I don't get to do a lot of 'big' carp fishing, most of my time is short sessions on day ticket commercial lakes so it was a bit of a new experience for me to employ some of the tactics and approaches I've seen in the magazines and videos. The 1st thing out was the marker float rod to map out the swim and although I'd packed everything and the kitchen sink, the one thing I didn't have was paper and a pen...
A bit of head scratching later and I grabbed a bank stick and 'drew' a map of the lake in the wood chip covering my swim. There was a drainage trench running along the back of my swim which was covered in shingle, which made for perfect counters. Pretty soon I had little piles of stones all over the map marking out the depths - too good ;)
The main thing I learnt was that the bottom was all soft clay - the 2oz lead I had on the marker was getting 'plugged' on each cast, not a hard spot to be found. The margins were around 2ft to 3ft deep and the rest of the water in front of me was around 5ft deep, so pretty uniform and shallow.
The only area it got any deeper was right out in front of me. It started to dip around 10ft from the bank and got down to around 7ft ish. Interesting... The other interesting thing was it was the only area on the lake that I'd seen any sign of fish! A couple had poked their heads up into the margins.
At that point the bailiff wandered round to check tickets and I managed to get out of him that there was a 2nd set of pipes in the deep area that had 'popped' when they stopped them up to drain and re-dig the lake. The force of the water had dug out the deeper area in the clay and was a def holding site for the fish. The thing to watch out for though was the razor mussels which liked to grow on the tubes and the fact the fish would make a dart for the tunnels themselves - resulting in a quick snapped line...
But it meant I was on the right spot!
The marker rod went out again and I got it clipped up to the distance I wanted to fish. Originally, I was going to walk out the line on the bank and get the other rods clipped up to the marker but then another video tip popped into my head: I stuck two bank sticks in the ground at the back of my swim a rod length apart and then wound the line from the marker float around it until I hit the clip. My target spot was 9 and 3/4 rod lengths - sweet!
With both rods clipped up, I started to think about how to get some bait out. Spod was one option, but the fact I could actually get along the bank side to the left of my swim was a real bonus. It meant I could get with in metres of my target area and bait up by hand and catapult. My spod mix consisted of hemp, corn, chickpeas, tuna and pellets all stodged up with a bit of liquidized bread. Around 10 handfuls and a 20 or so boilies went out in an area around 3 metres square over my marker.
By now, it was around 4.30pm and time to actually seriously start fishing! Pretty crazy, on the day sessions I do, I'd have hoped to put a bunch of fish on the bank by now and I'd be starting to think about packing up...
Rod 1 went out to the left of the baited sport with a Mainline Cell boilie topped with a single grain of yellow buoyant corn mounted on a blow back rig and the 2nd rod went out with a Sonubaits Code Red boilie, similarly topped with corn but this time on a kd style rig (one that I'd never fished before). Due to the clay bottom, I'd made up two stick mixes using a little method mix and crumbed up boiles so each rig had a PVA stick with the hook point embedded to make sure the bait was well presented on the soft, claggy bottom.
And now to wait... I'd set my alarm for 40 minutes, my thinking being to recast and swap around the baits till I found something that worked. Nearly an hour passed (I decided to be generous with the 40 mins!) when the left rod ripped off - fish on at last!
Luckily for me, the fish went to the right into open water rather than making for the tunnels. A spirited fight later and my 1st Bagwood carp was in the net - fantastic! On the scales, it weighed in around 15lb so not one of the monsters but a decent fish by any account. I was pretty made up, the 'big carp tactics' had paid off and fingers crossed, this'd be the 1st of many. A bit of video and a couple of snaps later and the carp was back off to find it's mates.
As the fish and taken out my other line, I decided to get both rods in, get some more bait out (all the vids I watch seem to advocate getting bait out after you've had a fish!), re clipped the lines using the bank sticks and then got the baits back out. This time, I switched the rods round but left the same combo of boiles on. The 1st fish fell to the cell, it'd be interesting to see what happened next...
I didn't have to wait long: 20 minutes later, the right hand rod ripped off! Brilliant, I'd hit 'bite o'clock' ;) Similarly to the last fish, it went straight into open water and put up a good scrap. Around the same size, 15lb ish and loadsa fun!
Having had two fish out on the same spot, I decided to bait up again but leave the rods out of the area for a while and plonked them into the margins while I got the bivvy sorted out and some dinner on. Half an hour later and the rods went back out, clipped up and on the spot.
The rods had been out for around an hour when the right hand rod beeped a couple of times... I could see the line curving round to the right in the water and decided to strike into it - only a little one this time, but really, really dark black in colour ;)
By now the light was really fading so I baited up again (again? I know, but if you figure one fish, there'll probably be more out there and they hoover up bait...), got the rods out, had some dinner and watched the darkness descend...
Around an hour into darkness (so 9.30pm? was loosing track of time by now...) a single toner rang out and the left hand rod jumped in the rests! Amazing, off again. This time though, the fish didn't go out into open water...
One of the things that I'd be doing is 'walking' the fish backwards in the swim rather than putting too much pressure on the rod. I'd seen a youtube video with Ian Russell when his argument was if you try and yank the rod and line backwards or apply to much pressure, you'll just end up with a hook pull. By tightening up to the fish and walking backwards, you'll pull or encourage them to come towards you.
It'd worked so far, but not this time - I felt a grating on the line about 10 seconds into the fight and twang, the line snapped. The fish had done me... How bloody annoying!
The rod went back out, my first cast in the dark! The line was clipped up to the 9 3/4 rod lengths and it felt like it was back on the money. And 10 minutes later...
...another one toner! Only this time on the right hand rod. But again, it wasn't meant to be - this time, the hook length snapped. As it was a freshly tied hook link, I've a feeling the razor mussels had got to it.
Pretty annoying one way and another, to have put all that effort in only to get snapped off twice frustrating to say the least. But, that's fishing! I spent the next half hour baiting up again (this time with a spod, another new thing and in the dark...), sorting out the rods out and getting new rigs in place.
The rods went out and I went about getting my head down...
The rest of the night was pretty busy - I had 3 more takes between 11pm and 4am, the biggest being a 17lb mirror:
Amazing! Getting woken up by screaming alarms in the dead of night is a real buzz, I'd forgotten how much fun it is. It seemed like I was up every hour, either recasting, baiting up, tying rigs, sorting out PVA bags...
...so little or no sleep was had. I finally managed to get my head down for an hour or so and woke up around 6.30am too see the lake at it's best: mist rising off the water, completely still and silent, no one moving or making a noise. Great stuff.
I decided to leave the rods out while I packed down, which as it turns out was a bit of a mistake. The right hand rod came in first and was well and truly musseled! God knows how long they'd taken to wrap themselves around my hook bait, but I sure as hell wasn't gonna catch anything with that rig...
The left hand rod came in with a bit of hemp impaled on the hook! Whether or not it'd got stuck on in the stick mix (unlikely as the mixes were boilie crumb and method mix, but I guess it was dark...) or it'd got spiked on the retrieve, who knows? Anyhow, lesson learnt for this lake: cast every hour!
By the time I'd packed up, it must've been 7.30am and I started trekking my gear back to the car. On my way past the 1st swim on the 2nd lake, one of the anglers popped his head out of his bivy and very kindly offered the use of his barrow (which he'd picked up on Gumtree for 20p no less!). The fellas name was Lee and my back is in his debt as it meant one trip rather than 3 back to the car. We had a good chat about this and that, really nice chap, just the kinda angler you want to meet on the bank side.
My original plan was to do another full day at another lake but to be honest, I was knackered! In the end, I headed down to my favourite Bitterwell Lake and spent the next 5 hours catching carp off the surface until I decided it was time to call it a day and head home.
So a brilliant 24 hour+ session! thank you to Lee and the chap (sorry, can't remember your name!) who very kindly gave me the nod about vacating my target swim and thank you the carp gods for getting me onto some fish. Can't wait to get out there again ;)
Friday 22 August 2014
I was very lucky to get a 2nd fishing trip in during our holiday to Devon (thank you Sarah!). After having a grand day but not many fish (unless you count bream...) at Jennets Reservoir on the Tuesday, I was really keen to head to a runs water and get some fish on the bank!
After much googling, I did find some contenders, not easy as the waters needed to be close by - the Devon roads were stuffed with traffic and the kids wanted (quite rightly!) to head to the beach! In the end though, it was the Anglers Haven tackle shop in Bideford that put me onto the excellent Tarka Swims.
There's mixed info out there re the day tickets: as the lake is run by the 'Bideford & District Angling & Social Club', most websites report that you need to pay a joining fee of £40, then £20 a year to fish! Not so, the chap in the tackle shop sold me a ticket for the grand total of £5! Just goes to show, you can't believe everything you read online...
Another word of warning: the lake is NOT where Google maps says it is! It's quite a bit further along Gammaton Road...
By the time I'd got the permit sorted, picked up some maggots and groundbait and headed out to the water it was around 11am. First impressions were really good! Good car park with toilets and a really well landscaped and maintained looking lake. I took a wander round and settled on a swim near the two islands at the top end which 'bumped' out into the water. It looked perfect for a bite, excellent near and far margins, an expanse of open water and not a lot of angling pressure (love fishing during the week - everybody else is at work!).
There was a very stiff breeze coming across the water and although it was sunny and warm, the fish definitely weren't showing themselves... So I opted for a bottom bait set up, the right hand rod going out to the island margins with a method feeder baited with fake corn and a standard bolt rig set up into open water with double corn on the hair and a PVA bag.
It took around 30 mins and 3 or so casts on the method to get my 1st bite! A nice little common. Then the bolt rig rod went off, a nice little mirror. Good start! After that, I had pretty much constant action for a couple of hours. Interestingly, the bolt rig rod in open water produced more than the feeder (I've a feeling these fish see a lot of method feeders...). I had a handful of small carp to around the 8lb mark and a couple of really good bream.
After lunch, a chap appeared in a swim to the left of me further round the lake (maybe there's a 2nd entrance 'cos I didn't see him come in?!) and hooked into what appeared to be a much bigger stamp of fish within minutes off casting out! As my swim had gone a little quiet, I decided to reel in and have a wander round to see what was what.
He'd pulled in good size common of around 16lb. After a bit of a chat, he suggested I switch from corn to big (and he meant big, think fishing for catfish size!) chunks of Spam on the hair and to fish literally just round the corner of my swim in the margins, as close in as I could get. Although this'd mean fishing literally under my feet, he swore blind that that'd be the best place to get the bigger fish!
So I decided to give it a go, the right hand rod dropping in close to the margin (literally inches from my bankside) with a huge cube of luncheon meat...
At 40 mins on the nail, the rod tip whipped round to the left and the bait runner started peeling off line! Annoyingly, the hook length snapped... Really frustrating! I've been using these Guru speed stop hair rigs (size 10 hooks to 8lb mono) and I've had so many give on me, usually just bellow the loop not (the rest have gone in the bin!).
A bit of a swear, a new rig tied (this time a 10 brait hooklink with a Korum bait screw) and another cube of luncheon meat went out. I only had to wait 20 mins for the next bite though... Again, the rod tip went round but I was ready for it this time! I got on the rod and off it went - a good fight later and a decent common of around 15lb came in.
Another 15lb mirror fell to the margin rod with 4 more smaller fish to the method feeder over the next couple of hours. What a brilliant session?! I packed up at 6ish and headed for home.
If you're ever in the Bideford area and looking for somewhere to fish, give Tarka Swims a go - you wont be disappointed!
I now have a new found respect for match fishermen... They sure make it hard for themselves!
It was really, really hard fishing! For a lake that I regularly pull somewhere between 5 and 20 fish out in a 3 hour evening session, I really struggled... The rules state no floating baits (darn it, my favourite method gone!) and only one rod/pole out at a time (double darn, I love to have a 'sleeper' rod out and a 2nd catching loadsa fish!).
Having arrived at the lake at 8.30am and had a walk round and a bacon bap, I could tell it was going to tough going: it was already really hot and all the fish were up on the surface, leaping around and generally enjoying the sunshine. We did the draw, I got peg 1 (right in the far corner of the car park bank) and we headed round to set up.
My 1st fish fell to the pellet waggler at around 11ish - an hours solid feeding for 1 fish?! I persevered but the fish were just headbutting my float rather than sinking all of a foot under the surface to get my bait. If only could put out some doggy mixers! I kept at it, bouncing between the 2 rods, keeping the bait going in little and often and tring to 'keep busy' rather just sitting in the sun.
By 2pm I was really getting desperate... One 3lb carp in the keep net was not going to get me anywhere! The clouds had come in and although it was still very hot, the fish wernt quite as active on the surface. So I decided to go for an all out for the method approach, switching both rods and getting them going in onto two spots.
And somehow, I managed to get into the fish! It seemed they were happy to feed on the bottom and I managed to pick off 3 in the space of 20 minutes. Luckily, one of them was a double and according to Tyler, that put me back in the running! After a couple of lost fish though, the swim went dead... I kept at it, got one tiny roach who decided to hang itself on the feeder but they really weren't interested.
The 'all in' came round at 4pm and I instantly got the doggy mixers going in - I was desperate to put some fish on the bank, even if they didn't count towards the match! There were so many fish up on the surface and as they'd be taunting me all day, it only seemed fair?!
It took all of 5 minutes to hook into a decent size common ;) If only the match allowed surface baits eh?!
But the weigh in revealed that I'd actually come in 3rd - result! The word up and down the bank was it'd been a tough day all round and to score a place with 17lb of fish goes to show just how hard it'd been. Congrats to Norman Sterry and Craig Miller for nabbing the top 2, well placed.
What I did't expect was prizes - who knew?! I had no idea... Even managed to win some Guru hooks in the raffle, so went home with some new toys, one of which was a rig box (which now means I no longer need to use a toilet roll to manage my rigs...). Amazing stuff.
A big thank you for Tyler Szmaglik for organising the event and prizes, you've put a lot of effort in. And my thanks to Terry Smith for the lend of your keep nets (and for letting me have a go on your pole! It was... interesting...).
Oh, and a mention for Alfred who's been asking to have a go at fishing for ages. He's very good at winding in - just need to work on when to stop...
Fish on the surface, the feeder rod doing the business on sweetcorn and amazing colours over the water at sunset.
Love this place, it's sooo good to be out in the evening catching fish!
Sunday 18 May 2014
Tricky arvo/evening session yesterday at Bitterwell Lake - felt like everything went wrong: caught up in a tree, shredded hook links, snagged landing net, spilt bait, hook-in-the finger, hook too big/small, bait bands too big for the mixers, hook pulls... The list goes on!
BUT I did manage to catch my biggest carp so far from the venue on the 2nd to last cast ;) A nice chunky common with a huge mouth and shoulders. Must've been 12/13lb and put up a cracking fight on light gear. Would've loved to get a snap but the feeder rod went off while I was unhooking him ;)