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 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.
Walters lake is out at the Cotswold Water Park. It's a 4 lane commercial style mixed fishery though the focus is carp of between 2lb to 20lb (I've had one tench out in 3 sessions so there's some other fish in there).
We'd fished there a couple of times over the summer and had an amazing time - nearly a fish-a-chuck! With a bit of luck, we might not blank...
There was a heavy frost on Sunday morning, so it took a little while longer to get from Bristol out to the water. The drive was pretty crazy - minus 3 on the motorway and the car was screaming at me about the 'risk of ice'. Luckily the sparse number of cars that were out were taking it very easy. Once I got out on the A roads it calmed down a bit and I had to stop and take a pic of the sunrise - the colours were stunning.
So after stopping off to pic up Dad, we finally got to the venue around 8ish. Took a quick snap of the water as it looked stunning: flat calm water, frost on the grass, sun coming up on the horizon and...
...fizzing on the surface. They were in there! We got the day tickets, reviewed the rules (and man, is there a lot of them...) and got out to the swims.
As there was a match on later in the day, we could get to our favourite swims so chose to get in the opposite side. The water isn't wide and each swim is roped off meaning you don't get a lot of casting movement - which isn't a major problem as the swims are wide and, being winter, we could move as it was very quiet.
The major restriction with the venue is the rule of having only one rod out at a time. This is fine during the summer, in fact I can see the sense in it: the last session the bites were coming within 5 minutes of the bait being in the water! With two rods in, it'd be a nightmare managing the lines...
In the winter though, it's a different story. One you need to find the fish and two you need to attempt to figure out which bait or presentation the fish will actually take. With one rod casting every 20 minutes, fishing from 8 till 4 (at the latest...) that's 24 casts. Work on the basis that you may catch a fish, or get snagged or go for a wander, that's not a lot of fishing!
So maximising time and getting rods in the water presto was the go. I'd set up 2 rods, the idea being to bounce between them. One with a float, the other with a small cage feeder the idea being that casting around with the feeder might help me locate the fish and then sneaking a float in over the top of a bit of feed would help me pick them off. I'd opted for maggots and fake corn on the hook with liquidized bread for ground bait.
A bit of breaky a couple of hours later and still no fish. A few liners and pulls but nothing visible on the surface...
By this time a big bank of cloud had come in and as the sun disappeared the temperature dropped... and the wind got up... and the match started... and still no fish...
...and then Dad hooked one! At last, we'd avoided a blank ;) A good size mirror of around 10lb.
Another hour of persaverance and finally the feeder rod twitched, then the tip sprang round and the reel started to take line. I took it really, really easy with the fish - after all that work, I really didnt want to loose it due to a hook pull on a tiny hook (the size limit for the lake is a 10). A nice fight later and one mirror in the net.
The rest of the day was very, very slow but Dad did mange to land another lump close to closing time.
So, a slow day BUT not a blank! Walters lake really is worth a trip, it's a very well put together tidy lake with a good cafe and lots of fish. I wish they'd relax the rules a bit (spesh the 1 rod limit, even if it was only over the winter) but apart from that it's a winner.