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.
Unfortunately, the weather report looked pretty shocking for the Friday but what the hell: we've got umbrellas and fish don't mind rain right?!
We arrived at 7ish and I set up in my favourite swim on the far side of the lake near a tree and dad opted for a swim on the road bank. Luckily for us, the rain held off first thing meaning we could get set up in the dry! I'd a variety of hook baits to try: some cell boiles, some 'special' fish meal and plumb boilies that I'd rolled myself (using some paste very kindly given to my by Terry Smith the fishery manager!), a handful of tangerine dream baits (provided by Bitterwell!), some casters left over from last weeks session, the every faithful sweet corn and pellets.
Amazingly, I got a run on the first cast! The weather actually brightened for a spell and the left hand rod which I'd cast out close to the island with a cell boilie tipped with plastic corn, ripped off within 15 mins off being in the water - this was going to be a busy session?!
But after that first fish the weather got really bad... The rain came down in all directions, the wind was blowing a gale straight across the lake a making casting very difficult and I managed to loose my spod on the first cast when the wind took it straight onto the island!
Dad headed off around 11ish, not too soggy (the new brolly was a good investment!) but only one fish that fell to prawns on the float. Unfortunately, it came off at the net...
The next 5 hours passed with no fish! Constant liners, bobbins lifting and dropping but not a single run and no fish showing anywhere on the lake. Dads barber was saying that now we've had our first frost fort the year (it got really, really cold on Wednesday!) that was it for lake fishing... and maybe he was right?! I tried a bit of float fishing, crazy what with the weather but the margins to my right were relatively sheltered. Not a nibble.
One thing that was feeding was this little rat... He'd swum across the front of my swim, jumped up next to my alarm and started having a much on some pellets he'd found. Then he went and sat in my landing net! Lucky for him that Terry wasn't around with the air rifle...
There was one break in the weather at around 1ish and this seemed to trigger the second and final run of the session. I was pretty overjoyed to get this one in the net...
I had to pack down at 1.30 as I was being picked up at 2 on the nose. It was great to have two fish on the bank in such difficult conditions but I think that this may set the scene for the next couple of months as the winter takes a hold. A tough morning but still loadsa fun!
So the next sessions will hopefully be out on the rivers? We didn't manage to hook any pike last year so with a bit of luck, we'll be fishing for British crocodiles sometime soon ;)
The lake was pretty quiet when I arrived at around 8.30am with only two anglers along the road bank. It was sunny and surprisingly warm, with the wind pushing into the far corner so I decided to set up on the left end of the car park bank in one of my favourite swims. On my last trip to the lake, I'd tried a 'big carp fishing' approach spodding loads of bait in and fishing over the top of an area around 3 metres square. As it resulted in me catching some of the smallest fish I've ever pulled out of the lake, a different plan was needed!
Most of my sessions on the lake have been in the evenings over the summer when I'd found that the fish move into the margins or are up on the surface. But during the day when there's pressure on the water, they seemed to favour the open water spots with the weather dictating the layer they want to feed in. The day was going to be warm and sunny (I found out later the hottest Halloween on record?!) so this time I'd brought chum mixers, maggots and boilies. The plan was to fish single boilies with a scattering of around 20 or so baits out towards and around the island in the middle of the lake and then float fish with maggots and pellets in front of me to see if I could find where the fish were swimming - and also to try and pick up some silvers! There's been some great perch coming out of late...
So rod one went out with a hair rigged Mainline Cell boilie and a scattering of baits and I got settled into some float fishing. The action was very slow... There were fishing showing out in open water but no takers and the float rod was producing exactly nothing!
As there wasn't a whole lot of anything going on, I had a play with the camera managing to snap a huge dragon fly and a really colourful duck who was being chased round the lake by the horny mallards!
The first bite came around an hour or so later when the bobbin on the boilie rod slammed up against the blank and the line went solid! A fish at last - but it wasn't to be... I managed to get the fish in as far as the bank and the hook pulled! Bugger. That wasn't the plan.
By this time, the wind had got a real chop on the water and 5 or so anglers had arrived all setting up on the carp park bank. I'd been eyeing up my 2nd favourite swim on the lake on the furthest corner near an oak tree and right next to a nice margin with lots of cover. The increased angling pressure, lack of fish and the fact that it seemed to be the only area of water that was calm (the float fishing was becoming challenging!) prompted a move.
I got settled into my new swim and this time decided to chuck a method feeder in front of the reeds to my right while I sorted out the the boilie rod. It was really warm by now but as I'd not seen any fish cruising on the surface, the open water out towards the island still felt like a good spot to try. While I was in the process of getting a PVA bag tied, bang, off the feeder rod went - the move had paid off! But again, a bloody hook pull...
This was not going at all well! So I took a deep breath and got the rods out again... While I was lamenting my failure on Facebook, the boile rod screamed off - that was quick! This fish was going to come in even if I had to wade out into the lake to get it...
The result was a short but fat common, quite unusual for this lake as most of the fish I've had are longer and leaner. Banking a fish and getting 2 runs in the space of 20 minutes from the new swim was just the confidence boost I needed and I got the rods out onto the spots asap.
Over the next 4 hours I had fish after fish from out towards the island - all on the cell boilies with the only change being alternating topping with a bit of fake corn, mainly to see if it resulted in a quicker take!
Thanks to Jake Alden for being on hand to take this snap of probably the biggest fish of the session ;)
Things started to slow down towards last knockings. The light starts to fade so quickly at this time of year... I really miss summer! But I was in luck: Terry Smith (the manager) wandered over with a handful of some of the new 'special' baits he's been rolling, handily just as I was rebating one of the rods (I'd swapped both over the bottom baits out by the island as this was where all the runs had come from).
So this time I chucked out a double stack consisting of a single 'Tangy Tangerine' and a 'Pineapple +' mini dumbbell. This was to be my last cast of the day as the misses was picking me up at 5pm by which time it'd be well and truly dark! Marcus was also fishing the new baits, over in the corner of the car park bank and hooked into a stunner on the pole:
And then at 4.45pm on the nose (I know 'cos I was clock watching and packing down!) the rod with the new 'special' bait ripped off!
So a brilliant end to another great day on the bank. If you've not been to Bitterwell Lake, give it a go. I've a feeling it'll be a great winter venue this year ;)
I'm back up for a morning session next week and can't wait!