It doesn't really feel like spring has sprung yet and although we had a freak sunny day on the Saturday I awoke to a steady drizzle on the Sunday of my session. Damn. With Follyfoot being such a zig and floater venue I was really hoping for some bright conditions! But hey, you gotta go when you can and conditions aside, I was really excited about the prospect of 24 hours fishing.
The change over time at Follyfoot is 12pm so I try and arrive at 1pm on Sundays to give the swim a bit of a rest. But today really heavy rain and bad driving conditions meant I didn't pull into the car park until gone 2pm. I'd originally booked into hut 19 in the far back corner of the lake but after meeting with the fishery owner it appeared that they'd double booked the hut! Double damn. Hut 10 was free though (which is my 2nd favourite on the lake) and after finding out from another couple of anglers that the father and son duo who'd fished in for the previous 24 hours had caught over 50 fish between them I decided to jump in there.
Despite the bleak conditions I decided to fish one rod on the bottom and two on zigs, the first being a couple of foot under the surface and the second at about 1/2 depth at around 6ft. I had plenty of different bits of zig foam soaking in pineapple liquid so I could try lots of different depths and colour combinations until I found one the carp liked.
The bottom bait rod went out to the left in open water below the power lines and the zigs at 6 wraps directly in front of the platform. Luckily for me, the zigs were cast at showing fish as three crashed in front of me while I was lining up the cast!
I didn't have to wait long for my first bite... I'd retreated to the hut to shelter from a shower of rain and was crouched on the floor tying up another zig when I noticed the tip on the right hand rod knock. Sometimes zig bites can be pretty finicky so I decided to pick up the rod and reel down... into a fish!
It quickly became apparent this was a decent carp as it absolutely steamed off, the fish clearly hadn't realised it'd been hooked. As I was only using 8lb zig line and a tiny size 10 hook I played the fish lightly and although it managed to tangle my other two rods I finally managed to slip what looked like a 20lb common into the net.
As it turned out, I was pretty lucky to get it in - the hook was virtually straightened out!
Amazing! What a start to the session! I didn't weigh the fish but it felt like a solid 20lb which is a good size for the venue. There was a big ol smile on my face as I slipped the fish back and I eagerly set about sorting out my tangled rods to get them back out asap.
Which is when the owner arrived at the hut and explained that it was actually hut 10 that was booked out and the angler was arriving at 8am the following morning! Triple damn. How's your luck eh?! They'd phoned the chap booked into 19 and he'd agreed to not arrive till 2pm on the Monday so that left me with a choice: stay in hut 10 and then upsticks early the following morning or move to hut 19 and leave an hour or so early....
Bugger. With such a good start to the session I wasn't overkeen to move but similarly I didn't want to move first thing in the morning and watch another angler bag up in my prebaited spots from the other side of the lake!
So I moved. Hut 19 has been really good to me in the past and as time was steadily marching on I really wanted to get myself settled and sorted on some spots before it got too late in the day. The good news was that the fish were out in front of me in numbers and judging by the reaction to a couple of spombs of sloppy spod mix, they appeared to be hungry!
I've done a lot of research about spod mixes for zigging and although you can buy off-the-shelf mixes from the big bait companies, they aint cheap... So after much experimenting, I've come up with a mix that creates a nice cloud and has a good selection of floating, buoyant, semi buoyant and slow sinking food items, all of which keep the fish feeding at different levels throughout the day.
Here's the shopping the list:
It's a pretty gloopy, sticky concoction but it appears to work everywhere I've taken it! And it's cheap too as nearly all the ingredients are in the saver ranges from either Tesco or Sainsburys, which is a good thing as the key to zigging and spodding is to keep the bait going in regularly - which means you get through a lot of it in an average day session.
After getting really pissed off with the zig float, I decided to plumb the depth and tied up some zigs at 8ft and 6ft for the right and middle rod while the left hand rod went out with a solid PVA bag of pellets. Due to the surface activity, I wasn't expecting much to happen on the deck until the evening so there was no harm having a sleeper rod baiting up a spot for later.
And it worked! The zigs really came into their own over the next 5 or so hours with multiple fish on both rods.
Although the first fish in the previous swim fell to a black and yellow zig, it wasn't until I switched to red in this swim that things really took off. The zigs kept producing well into darkness and it was excellent fun! I found that if the bites dried up, changing the depth of the zig by a foot in either direction and getting some more spod mix out would kick start the action again.
The bites finally dried up when it got properly dark at which point I switched all three rods to bottom baits, namely pink Scent From Hell wafter dumbells, a hookbait I've done incredibly well with in the past at Follyfoot. The left hand rod that had been cast regularly throughout the afternoon soon started producing bites and I had a good couple of fish before finally deciding to reel in and get my head down at 2am.
The weather conditions changed again in the morning to bright sunshine and strong winds which unfortunately completely killed the fishing. I had one fish off the bottom but apart from that, the bites dried up and try as I might, I just couldn't get them going on the surface. The last fish came out of the blue on the deck and was a bit of a surprise after such a quiet morning.
Annoyingly, the anglers who'd booked themself into hut 10 never materialised meaning I could've stayed put! Would it've been a better session? Who knows... After that initial fish and the fact that the previous occupants had over 50 fish in the course of the weekend, I guess it could've gone either way? As it turned out I spent the last couple of hours of the session back in hut 10 and although I did have one pick up, the fish just weren't in the mood at all. And not surprising as the cold wind whipping down the lake was sending white tipped waves into the far corner.
But hut 19 had been kind to me yet again: I'd loved every minute of the zig fishing (once I'd stopped using the zig float that is!) and with a decent haul of sizeable fish to show for my efforts, I was a happy angler. The only thing missing was one of the ornamental koi's that live in the lake - but it's always good to have a reason to return for another go ;)
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.
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.