But magically there was a gap this Friday with child one out on a sleep over and no plans for the Saturday! Weather wise, it wasn't looking too clever: the rain was set to kick in around 2am, getting heavier around 4ish and then petering out in the morning... But what the hell! It's rained pretty much every session I've been out on in the last 2 months, so why should this trip be any different?!
I decided on Windmill Fishery out on Henfield Road, heading out of Bristol towards Westerleigh. I'd fished there for the 1st time back in June and had a good session. It's not an easy lake but in a way, that's what I fancied: somewhere that's a bit of a challenge where I could push my self a bit and get a decent nights sleep.
Due to work, I didn't get to the fishery until 7pm and the sky was already darkening. The lake was completely deserted... Result! I had the place to myself ;)
As it's not an easy lake I decided to hedge my bets and head to the swim I occupied on my last trip. It'd done me well on that session with three fish coming out. The spot itself is right in the middle of a junction that the canal joins the thin end of the lake into the 'bowl' with the island at the larger end. As there's not much in the way of features (the margins are impossibly shallow) it made sense to pick a swim that commanded a lot of water and therefore options. It also meant I didn't need to do any feature finding as I'd already mapped out the swim and knew the depths and spots where fish had come from before. The good news was the water level (a real problem on this lake) was up at a reasonable but still not full level and that meant the deeper holes I'd found before would be deeper still and would (hopefully) still be a holding point for the fish.
It was a bit of a rush to get the rods out and the swims baited before darkness descended - the long summer evenings are going and it was pretty much completely dark by 7.45pm... But I've set the bivvy up in the pitch dark before and the gathering rain clouds where an incentive to get the job done quickly ;)
I was pleased with the set up and everything felt good for a bite: one rod went out with a Sticky Baits 'The Krill' boile in a PVA bag of pellets to the swim directly in front of me towards the bigger bowl in the lake and the 2nd rod went out in the canal with a small white popup, again in a PVA bag of pellets and hemp oil. A few scattered freebees around the spots and that would do it.
So I got my head down!
For once the weather report was spot on and the rain started at pretty much 2am on the nose. I'd had liners all evening with nothing more than slight twitches on the bobbins but at 2.30am the bowl rod signaled a dropback bite. I blundered out of my bivvy and managed to get to the rod to see the bobbin hit the deck and then... nothing. I couldn't see anything in the water in the dark so I had no idea where the line was so I took a chance, picked up the rod and stuck into thin air! A bit of frantic winding later and I connected with the fish who must've picked up the bait, hooked itself and then instantly run towards me and then right down the canal!
To be honest, I don't think it'd realised it was hooked until I put some pressure on the rod at which point it kicked off and began to put up a fight. It's always exciting hooking into a fish in the dark as you've no real idea of what you've got until its on the mat. This one was certainly 'plodding' which is always a good sign. After a bit of a stumble down the bank and a few lunges at the net a beaut mirror carp slipped into the net! Start to finish, it could only've been 10 minutes at most but when you go from fast asleep to putting what felt like a good fish on the bank, it's pretty exciting!
The fish turned out to be an in pristine condition mirror carp that took the scales round to 17lb - not a bad start to the session ;)
One thing that struck me was how large the mouth was: you could've fitted a tangerine there!
Fortunately for me, the fish had been kind enough to come in a gap in the rain. But by the time I'd slipped the fish back, set about getting the rod back out, rebaiting and getting back to bed it was hammering it down...
After a good few hours kip I had another another drop back bite at around 5am, just as a bit of light came in to the sky and the rain stopped again. This was from the same spot out in front of me, again on the Krill boilies. As with the last fish, it zoomed off down the canal and after a short scrap a nice 15lb common was sat in the landing net.
It actually looked like it was going to be a nice morning as there was a real orange glow in the sky over the lake. But it soon turned steely grey and as before, by the time I'd sorted out the rods again it was chucking it down. But having had two fish, I wasn't too bothered! In fact, it was great to crawl back into the sleeping bag and fall asleep again...
I woke up again around 9ish after the canal rod had registered a few beeps. Shooting out of the bivy to check the rod, I noticed that the tip was springing back and forth - an aborted take? Around 10 minutes later it seems the fish came back for another go as the rod just screamed off! This time though, rather than skooting down the canal, the fish headed out into open water towards my other spot.
This fish was very angry and put up the best fight of the three that came out in this session. Another 15lb common, too good ;)
The sun came out after that and the bites dried up with it. I packed down in the sunshine and left around 11ish having had a brilliant session: a perfect mix of much needed sleep, relaxation and some cracking fish!
It was very windy and although the fish were feeding up on the surface, keeping a controller and bait in position was next to impossible...
So out came the zig rigs! And it worked, 20+ fish in the space of a few hours.
All but one fish fell to surface baits, namely chum mixers as freebees and a enterprise tackle mini mixer on the hook.
The first 5 five where all commons around 9 to 11lb and in tip top condition. The fish continued to feed even once it got dark with the last 3 fish coming in complete darkness (lost a couple too, nearly managed to make it to 20!).
Rio also managed to catch one for the camera ;)
So another excellent session up at Bitterwell - if you've not yet been, grab a bag of mixers and get up there!
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!