Sunday 17 September 2017
With autumn slowly fading I decided to have my annual last gasp carp session down at the excellent Follyfoot Fishery.
The weather was looking perfect as I drove down, still pretty warm with sun, clouds and very little wind. Pulling into the car park I was very surprised to find only one car, amazing for this time of year and for such a popular venue. Gazing down the lake to my chosen hut (number 19, right in the far corner) it was apparent the fish were up near the surface which was perfect! I steamed the gear round on the barrow and set about getting the rods sorted.
The carp at Follyfoot are very wise to floating baits and based on previous sessions, I've found that zigs out fish mixers. So while the left hand rod went out with a bottom bait, my other two rods were fished on zigs at two different depths: one just below the surface and the second at about 6ft (the lake is around 12ft at this end).
Although I had fish all over the surface, it was a slow start... The carp were feeding in sporadic bursts, with five or so fish slurping in mixers and then drifting off only to return again 10 minutes later. I was spodding out a sloppy spod mix of chum mixers, hemp, corn, pellets, porridge oats and rice pudding which was definitely attracting the carp to the area but they were deftly avoiding my hook baits...
The key it seemed was to switch from an imitation mixer to a bright pink trimmed down popup on a much smaller size 10 hook. The results were almost instantaneous with a bite coming on the drop!
I had several fish over the next couple of hours on the zigs with the occasional run on the bottom bait rod. As the light levels started to drop, the wind completely died off as did the surface activity so I decided to switch all three rods to bottom baits and get busy with the spod rod. I've not had a massive amount of success with boilies at Follyfoot Fishery in the past and having emptied the bait freezer on my recent trip to France, I decided to stick to a spod mix of hemp, maize, pellets and fish the ever faithful spam in PVA bags of pellets.
Over the next couple of hours I had loads of small commons. To be honest, they're a bit of plague! I had real problems with them on my last session and the only way to combat it is to use bigger baits and hope you wade through them... It wasn't until complete darkness that the bigger fish muscled in on the action and I had a run of much better commons.
Things were really begining to hot up now, with fish coming consistently on all three rods. I was topping up with a couple of spods after each bite and between that and pre-tying new PVA bags on leaders for each rod kept me pretty damn busy, so much so that midnight rolled around very quickly... I'd just about managed to get dinner finished and was toying with the idea of hitting the sack when the left hand rod ripped off with what turned out to be the biggest common of the session.
What a fatty! This one made up for all the tiny 1lb commons I'd been catching. However the next run produced a fish I'd been trying to catch since first coming to Follyfoot, an illusive goldfish which I'd seen but never managed to hook...
What a fish! I was made up with this one, it's always good to catch something out of the ordinary. By this point I was knackered and after another couple of small commons I decided to call it a night and get my head down for a couple of hours with the plan being to wake up bright and early and get the rods out again.
It was hard to drag myself out of my sleeping bag at 6am the following morning but it was worth it for the sunrise alone. The water looked great in the morning gloom and I quickly got all three rods back on the spots I'd baited before heading off to bed. It didn't take long for the left hand rod to scream off!
Another nice common to add to the tally! The bites came thick and fast over the next couple of hours but the strange thing was I couldn't get a single taker on the zigs... All the action was coming to the left hand rod in open water. Annoyingly I missed quite a few bites so a change of plan was needed... Searching through the tackle bag produced a tub of Scent From Hell pink dumbell wafters which seemed to make all the difference as a quick succession of bites produced a fine selection of commons.
I was into the dying hours of the session now and it was a real struggle to keep the left hand rod in the water. Bites were coming seconds after the lead touched down on the lakebed so I decided to bring the other rods in and pack the gear down and just fish one rod. Amazingly, the two last casts produced two stunning fish with the second bite coming while the first fish was resting in the net!
The goldfish the previous evening would've been enough but to get this amazingly looking orange ornamental common carp on the second to last bite was an amazing end to the session.
So that's it for carping this year! It'll be pike all the way now until spring next year for me and hopefully the Bristol River Avon will be as kind as it was last year. If you've not given Follyfoot Fishery a go, head on down. They've just reduced their rates for winter and although winter carping isn't really my thing, Follyfoot can produce a good days sport even in the toughest of conditions.
It was a slow start but the action really picked up in the arvo with fishing falling to innate baits 14mm boilies and yellow foam on zigs. almost feel that i'm getting there with the zig float too ;)
Happy days - just need a sunny evening now for a couple of hours surface fishing!
The day started well, we left on time and after some satnav fun (google maps inventing roads as we drove) we arrived at pretty much bang on 7am - well done us! The lake was pretty busy already, a lot of people having done overnighters on Saturday and the road bank was crowded. However the dam wall and far bank was fairy quiet, so we headed round and found a row of 3 likely looking swims.
There wasn't a ripple on the water and it was immediately apparent why Shearwater is sinonoumous with zig rigs: the surface was black with carp! They we cruising around in the morning sun just below the surface in packs of 3 and 4's and the scene looked perfect for a bite in the early morning light.
So the gear came out of the car, each of us jumped into a swim and excitedly started setting up. As zigs were the order of the day for me, the 1st job was to get an idea of how deep it was out in front of us. The margins are incredibly shallow and a shelf around 2 rod lengths out marked where the water deepened off. Rather than use a marker float, I chucked out a zig float. I'd experimented with a home made version last summer up at Bitterwell Lake and although the concept was sound, the reality was a tangly mess of hooklinks, weights and floats...
So for this trip, I'd invested in a Nash Zig Float my thinking being it'd be better than my home made version! The added bonus is that you can use it as a marker float and after a couple of casts, I reckoned the water was around 12ft at 9 to 10 wraps out. Pretty much perfect, an easy range and nothing too long on the other rods that would be fished with traditional long zig hooklinks.
The next job was to get a sloppy spod mix on the go, something I've been itching to try out for ages. There's loads of info online with different suggestions of what you should use but in then end I went with:
What a concoction?! The idea was that this would produce a good 'cloud' in the water and various bait items on the surface and though out the water column which would hopefully keep the fish in my area. Now everyone suggests using a spomb so you don't loose loads of the mix on the cast and that's what I started with. But for some reason, I just can't get the hang of them... Maybe it's my spomb, maybe its the way I'm casting, maybe it's just spombs but with 4 of the first 5 casts resulting in me dragging a full unopened spomb across the water (which of course sent most of the fishing heading for cover...) I decided to switch to a regular spod. This was much better and 10 spod loads went out to my zig marker float with little of no spillage (I did discover a line of mix up my back and on my cap later though!).
Bait wise I had red, yellow, white and black foam which had been soaking in a sweeter for a week or so. My plan was to chop and change the colours until the carp told me what they wanted. I had two zigs tied ready tied at 11ft and 7ft so they went out a 1/2 a rod length either side of the zig float and then that rod went out with an actual hooklink on it and I sat back waiting for the bites to roll in...
And nothing happened... And after quite a while longer, nothing still had happened. What was up?! There were fish all over me, the hookbaits where in the right spot, I kept topping the area up with the spod rod and when I checked from a high vantage point at the top of the swim, the 'cloud' was there and fish were cruising in and out of it...
The 1st problem was the zig float. The hooklink had tangled and was a complete mess. It took me quite a lot of experimenting but I eventually found that a length of around 3ft and a stiff antitangle sleeve on the quicklink resulted in a lot less tangles. Rob and Luke (who'd both had fish by now!) also suggested that my hooks were too big so i went down from a size 8 to a size 10 and rather than hair rigging the foam, I went through the centre with half the shank of the hook proud.
And finally after an hour or so of mucking around and wondering if this zig fishing was for me, the rod ripped off! Takes on zigs are usually one of two things: a couple of bleeps as the fish moves in an arc around the lead or an absolute screamer as the fish realises it's hooked and heads off at full steam. This was the latter and the fish took me on a long run straight out into the lake!
Luckily Rob came around to give me a hand landing the fish. Due to the steep nature of the banks, the shallow water out in front and the long hooklinks it would've been a tough task to get the fish in the net but after a short fight and an helping hand my 1st Shearwater carp was sat in the net - happy days! Nothing massive, I'd guestimated it around 12lb or so but it meant I was off the mark.
I'd love to say the flood gates opened but the fishing continued to be tough, which was crazy as we had so many fish on us. I guess they do see a lot of pressure and with it being a weekend, the fish were being very cagey. But I stuck at it and with a steady stream of bait going in via the spod and a lot of perseverance with the zig float I managed to pick up 15 or so fish including 2 bream (who knew bream would take zigs?!).
After the frustrating start, I decided not film the session wanted to apply all my concentration to fishing. However, Luke did get some pics of his fish and put a video together:
All in all, a good days fishing! I'm desperate to go down for another session, this time for maybe 24 hours during the weekas I'm sure with a bit more time and less pressure you could really bag up at Shearwater. I've also been keeping an eye on the Facebook page and some much bigger fish have been coming out which is something to aim at.
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.
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!