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!
Monday 21 September 2015
The last venue of my trip and a return to the brilliant Follyfoot Fishery.
Lost count of the number of fish that graced the net! The sun even put in an appearance.
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!