Sunday 8 May 2016
The weather has been all over the place recently, sunny one minute, frosty the next, rain followed by winds and then back to sun...
But this Sunday was a scorcher and having got some new baits to try out from Innate Baits, I was super keen to get out on the bank. The only option was a sneaky overnighter as there were plans for the whole weekend and I need to be back home by 8am for work the following morning, a local venue was needed.
I've fished Windmill Fishery 3 times in the past and being around 15 minutes up the road (and most importantly, on a route that Bristol Water don't appear to be (yet) destroying with road works...) it fitted the bill. It's not the most picturesque water but it's slowly coming into it's own and with fish reported to 20lb with a couple of bonus 30lb (if you believe the website!) there's always a chance of getting a fish on the bank
So after a beaut afternoon in the park with the family, I loaded up the car and arrived at the fishery around 5.30...
...to find the lake completely empty! So many of the waters around Bristol are rammed pretty much all the time so it was a result to find I had the pick of the swims. Even with the choice of the whole lake, I decided to set up in the swim I've fished in on my previous visits. It's a cracker as it commands the canal running between the two bowls, open water in front of you and an island to the right.
The first job was to find some spots to fish. The first one was 12 wraps in front of me, right in the middle between the bank and the island. There's a slightly deeper spot there that I've had fish from before and it's a good spot to start. The second spot was in a margin bay on the island to the right, 7 and 3/4 wraps out. And the 3rd spot was to the left in the canal, again a spot I've had fish from. Although you can only use two rods, I always think it's worth having 3 spots baited so you can toggle between them depending on when you get bites.
With the weather being as it was and the fact we were at the end of a weekend (so the lake had possibly seen some bait?) I decided to go light on the spodding: 7 over the long range spot and 3 on both the short range areas.
I've really got into solid bag fishing of late so both rods went out with a bag filled with 'pimped pellets' and a Blueberry boilie on the hair. The pellets are a bit special having had a mix of various oils, powders and liquids soaking into them for a week... They smelt amazing, really carpy!
In the past, I've not had an early run on the lake and this session was no different. It wasn't until around 8.30pm once I'd set up the bivvy, got dinner on and sat back to enjoy the sunset that the bobbin on the right hand rod shot up to the blank! Initially, the fish didn't take any line and seemed to be attempting to head round the island point at the far end of the lake... However, once I'd bent into the fish it slowly began coming towards me and a short fight later there was a plump carp in the net.
Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get any footage of the fish as my video camera decided to stop recording. I've no idea why, it's the 2nd time it's done it to me and it's bloody annoying! So you'll have to take my word for the fact it was a common of around 16lb, which is the average size for the fish in the lake.
After the fish was slipped back, I had to have a bit of a rethink about the longer range spot as I had some new neighbours. They'd set up pretty much directly opposite me and were non too keen on me casting into their 'area' (I spose it was closer to them than me but then they weren't here when I arrived?!) With the light falling, I decided to bring the rod shorter into the bay but stick with the same bolie. I fancied a change on the left hand rod though and put that out with one of the new tuna washed out pink popups. They smell and look perfect: a good tuna 'hum', almost white/pink and 10mm in size. Both went out with a bag of pimped pellets and I set about getting to bed.
The next run came at pretty much 2am on the nose and I managed to get this one on film, even though in the rush to get out of the bivvy I forgot my head torch and nearly ended up in the water trying to land the fish ;) A mirror this time, again around the 16lb mark.
As I was up, I decided to redo both rods. As the right hand rod came in minus a bait, I decided to put both out on the washed out tuna popups. I don't think there are crays or nuisance fish in the lake but I have suffered from missing baits in the past... Maybe I need to look at bite indication? Very strange...
Luckily it didn't take me long to get back to sleep and I woke up at 5am to a stunning sunrise.... and a bite! This time on the right hand rod, again on the pink popups. This fish was slightly smaller than the other two, a common of around 14lb but it gave me quite a run around the lake, probably one of the best fights I've had from a Windmill carp. This one was slipped back and I crashed out yet again.
I was up at 7am to pack down (the new bivvy is brilliant!) and was on the road by twenty past, back home by 7.45am and at my desk by 9am. A pretty much a perfect quick overnight session!
Although spring has kinda sprung, it's still quite cold and even the runs waters are having their off days. So rather than head somewhere with monsters I opted to head somewhere smaller and (hopefully) easier.
I joined the Keynsham Angling Association back in October as they control part of the Avon and I my winter mission was to catch Pike. They don't have a lot of still waters but one that I was keen to have a go at is Century Ponds over near Keynsham.
It's quite a small venue consisting of 2 ponds set in the farm land in Stockwood Vale. I'd been over for a looksee last summer and it really reminded me of the venues I used to fish as a kid. There are loads of small carp to stalk in the margins of the slightly larger Island Pond and some slightly bigger fish to go at in the smaller Old Pond.
So the venue was set! My amazing partner granted me a full day freedom pass (ain't she great!) so I left around 6.30am to arrive at 7am. It was a beaut morning and the drive took no time. It's a bit of a bone shaking drive down a farm track to the ponds but once I'd negotiated the pot holes and got a glance of the empty car park I realised I had the whole place to myself - result!
I did have a bit of a plan in mind based on my reccy the previous summer. Back then, the margin cover was great with long reeds and lily pads covering the Old Pond and with it having the bigger fish in it, I'd decided to head to one of the margin spots for the morning with an idea of relocating to the easier Island Pond in the afternoon for some stalking once the weather had turned up.
Well, that was my plan... as it turned out, the margin cover was all gone! By the looks of it, some fairly hefty landscaping had been done and all the reeds have been cut back and piled up on the bank. The lily pads to had gone but you could see the tangled stalks growing back under the surface (a snag nightmare). It was a bit of a pause for thought but in the end I decided to opt for the swim I'd originally planned for, slap bang in the middle of the far bank.
Bait wise I'd decided to keep it very simple: a spod mix of pellets, sweetcorn and groundbait that could be balled into the margins and a small selection of hookbaits, namely sweetcorn and small washed out popups (that've been soaking in tigernut goo).
So the rods went out left and right in the margins with different baits on each, both in PVA bags of pellets with a handful of spod mix over the top and I sat back to watch the water. After about 20 mins, the bobbin raised to the blank on the right hand rod and came to a stop. Interesting... liner?
After the 1st hour or so on the bank, something dawned on me... I was sat in possibly the coldest part of the lake! The sun had come up behind the hills and was flooding across the lake but due to the steep incline the entire bank was in shade.
This time of year, as the weather and the water warms up, the fish start to move into the shallower areas. I already knew that the margin spot to the my right was looking good as I'd had a liner but further to the right of the reed bed was an area that had been in the sun for a good hour. I had a quick plumb and it was only around 4ft deep, perfect for bait.
So time for a move. I headed round to peg 14 which was almost opposite where I was previously fishing. The swim's winning feature was that it had a gap in the tree's that would allow me to cast right into the spot I'd found with an overhead chuck. Due to the chod on the bottom from the cut back reeds I decided to switch to a white Innate Baits popup that I'd had soaking in Tigernut Goo for a couple of weeks. They've gone a great washed out yellow colour and look great fished in a bag of pellets over the top of particles.
As the action had been non-existent and I was now backing onto the smaller (and easier?!) island lake, I decided to chuck a method rod out and see what I could find. I had loads of liners but no takers, my suspicion being that smaller fish were just bashing the method but there was nothing big enough to get the double sweetcorn bait in their mouths...
But all that was forgotten when the popup rod out in the old lake roared off! The move had paid off and it was fish on at last. A short fight later and the fish was on the bank, not a monster but I was off the mark with a nice mirror of around 10 or so pounds.
Back on the other lake, I decided to try a more traditional match bait and chucked out a cube of luncheon meat to a margin spot I'd been baiting with a couple of handfuls of pellets and corn. The rig had been in the water for all of 10 seconds before the rod tip swung round! Unfortunately, the fish managed to drop the hook but it was good to get a bite so quickly.
Things went a bit quiet for a while after that. I kept dropping in on prebaited spots on the island lake but nothing was taking. Then out of the blue, the popup rod on the old lake sprang to life! This time, the fish shot straight into the reeds and the line instantly locked up... I kept the pressure on but after a while it became apparent the fish had managed to get rid of the hook. The rod went back on the rests for 5 minutes, just to be sure but in the end I had to pull for a break. Luckily, the line snapped on the not meaning no trailing line in the water and I got the back lead, tubing and tail rubber back.
After than loss, I decided to concentrate my efforts back on the old lake but this fishing 'locked up', sitting on the rods in case one went. The left hand rod went back on the same far margin spot with a new popup and the left hand went out mid water with a stack of 3 real sweetcorn grains.
To be honest, I dropped off to sleep! The weather had really warmed up and it was nice to just sit in the spring sunshine and chill for a bit.
Around 3ish the balif came round and let me know that he'd be turning the pump that was directly behind me on. The lakes had apparently been suffering from overgrowing weed and lilies so he was going to add a blue dye to the water. Apparently the dye cuts the UV down in the water meaning the plants won't grow as fast!
As it caused quite a bit of commotion in and around the swims I was fishing, I decided to head down to the top end of the lake and fish two swims that backed onto each other. Over the last couple of hours of the session, I had two small carp out of the old lake and two out of the island lake. Nothing massive, all under 10lb but lots of fun.
So all in all, a good day! I think once the weather stabilises a bit and we move into summer proper, both lakes will offer a decent challenge for day sessions. I'm really looking forward to the lilies and reeds growing up in the old lake as I think they'll give the margin cover that I love fishing in. The idea of sneaking round the overgrown areas, dropping in handfuls of pellets and dropping a rig in to catch wary carp really appeals.
From what I've been told, there are some decent fish to the size of 25lb+ in the old lake so I'm thinking one of those beauties maybe one of my summer targets this season.
Sunday 3 April 2016
5am... the alarms going off... I slept?! Wow... wasn't expecting that. It's pitch black outside and raining but nothing can dampen my spirits today as my long planned trip to Lakeside View Fisheries is finally about to kick off.
I've not been on a 'proper' carping session for quite a while now due to my recent obsession with Pike fishing but with spring in the air that's all due to change. This seasons challenge is to do more overnighters and get some bigger fish on the bank and to make that dream a reality I'm gonna need to get out to some new venues.
I'd heard about Oak lake at Lakeside View Fisheries from Terry Smith at Innate Baits a year or so ago. It's 10 acre water down near Cullompton in Devon and from the info I'd managed to find on line, there are some fantastic carp to be had.
The lake has 17 swims but only 14 are in use at any one time meaning everyone has their own 'space' - some thing I find very attractive as crossed lines and casting into other peoples swims is top on my list of 'un-carpy' habits attributed to anglers of the carp fraternity. It's a new lake around 3 or so years old meaning there's not much in the way of bankside cover so most of my fishing would be at a reasonable range... which is great! Having stepped up my gear recently I'm desperate to practice my spodding and accurate casting. Wrap that up with 400 carp in the 12lb to 35lb bracket and you've got a spot on venue to start the season with.
So, back to the Saturday morning. Even though I'd prepped everything the previous evening, it still took me an hour to get on the road... It doesn't matter how much I refine my gear, I always seem to have loads! But good news was the rain had eased off and as I got onto the M5 my phone politely informed me that 'You are on the fastest route and your route is clear. You should arrive at 7.20am'.
After negotiating the lanes of Cullompton I finally pulled into the farm at 7.40am (Google didn't plan on a coffee stop...) and got my 1st view of the venue. Even in the grey, cold, windy and rainy post dawn it looked good!
The complex starts with Birch Lake (the 3 acre runs water) on the left and then Oack lake to the right which also has the onsite lodge containing a kitchen, seating area, shop bathrooms and showers. There are a couple of stock ponds behind Oak lake but apart from that, the waters are surrounded by picturesque farmland and rolling hills. I was beginning to chill out already.
The car park wasn't too full (a good sign!) and after having a quick chat with Peter the baliff we decided peg 8 at the far end point of the island would be a good point to start.
Now I'm not too in the creature comforts when I go carp fishing (Sky TV, hot tubs and onsite catering is not what I'm looking for...) but one amazing service this lake has to offer is a quad bike with a trailer that Peter will use to get your gear to your swim - amazing! Having said that, I'm still a fan of barrowing around a little gear as if gives you a chance to view the water so while Peter set off in one direction with my heavier items, I set off in the opposite direction with my bag and rods on the barrow to my chosen swim.
Where to begin?! I had a bit of a plan in my head so I put it into action: stage one, get the bait sorted.
I'd brought two different types of boilies supplied by Innate Baits, the tuna and the rednut in 15mm. As I'd decided to go the washed out bait route for this session, half of each 1kg bag went into a 1 pint bait tub filled with lake water to defrost and soften up.
Next up, spod mix: super simple, 2 pints of hemp (again frozen solid!), half a bag of frozen sweetcorn and a pint of mixed pellets. A handful of ground bait to stodge it up and 1/2 a pint of lake water and this was left to bed in, with the only other additive being a good lug of hemp oil that would be added once things defrosted. I've been using hemp for ages now. It really compliments the spod mix and has the added advantage of putting up a slick when the fish graze over the bait. It's also usable all year round as it doesn't gloop up like many fish based oils.
And finally, where to put the rods? I had a big expanse of open water to my left, the island point directly in front of me and more open water the right. As swim 10 to my right had two anglers already in it, I decided to concentrate my efforts on the island fishing both rods on a baited area.
It was semi pointless getting the marker rod out, the wind was so strong that accurate casting was going to be a big challenge. So instead I used a single rod, casting to a island and slowly clipping the line up until the lead fell about 1/2 a rod length from the far bank. Although I wasn't getting a 'donk' on the lead (the lake bed is a soft, karki coloured mud) the drop felt pretty good, I'd estimate 5ft bang on the island shelf, dropping a little bit deeper at the 1/2 a rod length mark. A channel perhaps around the island? Sounded good for a bait.
The cast was exactly 9 1/2 rod wraps and that put a bait to the right of the island point. The other rod was 11 rod wraps and that landed the bait into a little bay on the left hand curve which was almost sheltered from the wind. I figured I'd vary the wraps every other cast to move the bait forward and backwards.
Now 9 1/2 wraps is by no means a 'big' cast' but with the cross wind, it was bloody difficult! After two failed attempts for each rod I managed to get the baits where I wanted them, both with PVA bags of pellets, boilie crumb and one of each different boilie on the hair and then got about spodding out some bait. Again, the cross wind played havoc with the accuracy and of the 10 spods I put out over each bait, I'd say 4 landed bang on the money...
But I felt pretty good with the set up and decided to sit it out for a bit, giving me a chance to watch the water for an hour and then set up base camp. There was very little point in adopting a 'mobile' approach as the lake was pretty busy by now with all but 3 swims taken. Luckily for me, the swims to my left and right remained vacant.
I watched the water like a hawk over the next 10 hours, only recasting my baits 3 times a piece and topping up the swim with a trickle of bait either with the spod or catapult. The rain stopped and the sun came out but that cold wind was a shocker...
With nothing to report I got dinner on the go and then re did the rods for the night, finally getting my head down at around 9pm. I set an alarm for midnight and drifted off to sleep...
When the alarm went off it was a real struggle to get out of my sleeping bag! It was cold, it was raining and the idea of sorting out two solid bags for the rods was not really want I fancied... But effort equals reward so get to it man!
An hour or so later I was back in my bag and trying to get back to sleep. Interestingly, I began to hear crashes around me... Fish were poking their noses out! Maybe, just maybe I was in with a chance...
But it wasn't to be. I woke the following morning around 8am feeling slightly dejected. It was a bright morning but that wind was still strong. So I decided to reel in, take a walk to the lodge to do my washing up, get breaky from the car and catch up with the other anglers. As it turned out, the fella to my left had got one during the night! We had a good chat about this and that (he recognised me from my YouTube videos!) and by the time I'd got back to my swim. it was around 9.30. The rods went out, the breaky went on and I sat back to watch the water.
The other thing I was watching was the weather: it was sunny now but set to chuck it down around 1ish. As I looked round the lake, I noticed that several of the previously ocupied swims were empty and a plan began to form in my head. There was little point plugging away at this swim, if the fish weren't here in the windy conditions yesturday, they probably wouldn't be here today. So my plan was to get the bulky gear packed down, get it back to the car before the deluge and then treat the rest of the day as a short session, maybe trying a couple of swims rather than staying put.
After a tour of the lake swims 15 and 16 tickled my fancy. 16 Was directly opposite me at the other end of the island but 15 had access to the island point and, with a beefy cast, access to a sheltered bay near the island.
In the end I settled in 15 and set about my approach. This time, I decided to fish a single popup out towards the island point with a scattering of boilies around it. It was an easy cast, around 8 wraps so that rod went out and was forgotten about.
The left hand rod out to the island bay was more off a challenge. After 2 test casts I worked it out to be 14 wraps - far further than I'm used to fishing! This was going to be my 'all in' spot and I set about dumping 10 spomb fulls of my spod mix on the spot. Luckily for me, the wind had dropped making things a bit easier and 7 of the 10 spombs landed on the spot. Next up was the rod: this went out with a solid bag of pellets, a big glug of hemp oil and a tuna boilie on the hair. Amazingly, I got it on the spot 1st chuck! Happy days.
Interestingly, the angler who'd spent the morning a couple of swims to my right in my old spot suddenly leapt in to action and next think I knew, he had a fish on the mat! Amazing result as when I'd spoke to him earlier, he was saying he'd been down every Sunday for the last 7 weeks and not got a thing...
By this point the weather had completely changed again. The wind had gone, the sky was grey and threatening rain and the temperature had gone up a bit making it feel almost muggy. I was fair bushed so decided to shelter from the rain and get my head down for an hour before waking up to move the rods or get ready to make a run for home...
I'd been dozing for around 20 minutes when out of the blue, the bobbin climbed on the left hand rod in the island bay... As I came to my senses, the clutch started to scream and the rod tip started to pull round to the left into open water.... FISH ON AT LAST!
The moment I had the rod in my hand I could tell this was a decent fish. Half asleep, legs shaking I slowly pulled the rod tip round in a low arc, trying to direct the fish and bring it up to the surface. After 10 minutes or so it was slowly coming into the near margin where it decided to kick off a bit! But in the end, it slipped over the net cord and I gazed down into the net to see an absolute (well, by my standards!) monster splashing around in the shallows.
After a bit of mucking around with weigh slings and cradles I managed to weigh and get a good look at the fish. It was a thick set mirror of 24lb on the nose and I was buzzing! I've not held a fish this size up for the camera before and it's actually not as easy as it looks! But I managed to get some snaps, a bit of video and get the fish slipped back.
After that, there was no chance of sleep, the adrenalin was still flowing. So I got the rods out for what would be the final hour or so of the session and sat back to chill for a bit. Interestingly, a group of anglers on the far back on the other side of the island gave a shout they were into a fish! So that was the remaining three anglers on the lake all catching within 20 minutes of each other... A really short but productive feeding spell!
There were a lot of thoughts floating around my head as I packed the gear down. I'd been saved from a blank by my new personal best Mirror Carp and had a great time. There are a million things I'll do differently next time, including hopefully getting down during the week (when they allow 3 rods!), being more mobile, getting more accurate with the spod at range, being less active during the day and more active at night... the list goes on!
Can't wait for the next trip. I noticed on Facebook that a 29lb mirror came out during the week so that's something to aim for!
Sunday 24 January 2016
I've not been to a lake for months now due to my latest obsession with pike fishing on the River Avon. But having suffered a succession of blanks, I thought it was time to put a bend in the rod at my go to winter venue - the ever dependable Lower Kilcott Farm.
There were two targets for the day: the first was to get the float rod out and get into some of the quality roach the lake has to offer and the second was to put a couple of feisty carp on the bank. Having had some monsters on the last trip, I was eager to have another go.
Kilcott is a very small venue, only an acre or so in size and with very limited swims so it's a good idea to arrive early to have the pick of the bunch. Having said that, pulling into the car park at 7am on the nose in the pitch black may have been a tad over enthusiastic... But the early bird catches the worm right?!
As it turned out, I had the place to myself for all but a couple of hours when two fellas arrived and fished the far bank over lunch time. As expected, the lake didn't fail to deliver and I had loads of carp on the bottom bait rod and some prime roach on the float.
Every so often the lake does throw up a surprise or two and this trip was no exception. The bottom bait rod had gone quiet and I'd repositioned it in a different swim with a small white popup on the hair. It'd been in the water for 15 minutes (a long time for Kilcott!) when it ripped off and a nice size scaly mirror came in. Not a monster by any means but a tip-top fish for this lake.
And the day wouldn't be complete without some surface fishing (yup, in January!) and I spent the last hours of the session plucking carp after carp out of the margins by my feet on bread and dog mixers.
It was a great session, one that restored my faith in fishing after having spent so many hours on the river.
I'll be back on the Avon next week, croc hunting again but for now, it feels great to have spent the day hauling them in!