Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Fishing Review of 2016



Once again it’s December, I’ve hung up the carp rods for a while and it’s time have a look back at the highlights of my fishing in 2016.

For a change 2016 started off with a different species of fish as I decided to do some lure fishing for pike and perch instead, you can read about last winter’s exploits fishing for Shropshire Union Canal Pike and Perch on my sister blog Anglers Diary and if you've an interest in taking up lure fishing yourself checkout my most recent update on that blog or watch the film below.

Lure Fishing for Beginners, click below to watch.

After a winter of lure fishing I was itching to get back to fishing for carp, taking a break and targeting those canal pike was a great idea and I came back to my carp fishing in March fully refreshed after my long break. It didn’t take long for my first success to come either as I banked a lovely 24lb+ mirror from one of my local waters. After this quick success I struggled for a while and the next notable carp capture came on our annual social. This year we went back to that popular day ticket water Sandhurst Lake but our return to this venue wasn’t a happy one by any means. I did manage to top score with a nice mirror of 27lb 6oz, a fish I was extremely fortunate to bank given the state of the heavily weeded lake.

My biggest fish of 2016 from Sandhurst Lake, click below to watch.

After sandhurst I revisited a lake I’ve fished before, The Catfish Lake, I had one eye on the river season opening and with a few weeks to go before the off I had a couple of Saturdays targeting carp and catfish on this lake. Success was instant and I caught a few low double figured carp and several catfish, I had so much good footage I turned both of these short sessions into youtube films, part 1 saw a best catfish of 25lb 4oz and part 2 produced a best catfish of 22lb 8oz. The quality of fishing on this little lake is superb and I’ve no doubt I’ll find time for another couple of sessions on there in 2017.

A mid twenty Cheshire catfish from the summer, click below to watch.

Follow up 22lb Cheshire Catfish plus good info on bait and tactics, click below to watch.

Summer turned out to be a bit of a mix of different fishing styles, June 16th saw me leave the carp fishing behind for a while as I concentrated on Fishing for River Severn Barbel. This year my barbel fishing went extremely well and I banked a run of mid sized severn barbel mostly on or around the 7lb mark with a best of 8lb 8oz. I really enjoyed my summer time fishing on the River Severn and I’ll definitely be going back for more in 2017.

Barbel Fishing on the River Severn, click below to watch

The other style of fishing that took over my summer was Floater Fishing with an Enterprise Imitation Dog Biscuit. Fishing for surface feeding carp has always been a favourite method of mine and there are a few videos showing zig rig and floater fishing on my youtube channel. This summer I ended up freelining for carp because the fish were so spooky of lines and controllers. Using a Surface Controller was a sure fire way to blank on my chosen local such was their paranoia. These carp weren’t very big, just singles and doubles but they’d been fished for hard on the top for many years and I really had to pull out all the stops to catch one. The summer became a real battle trying to outwit them on the surface and I loved every minute of it, for me it was the challenge of trying to hook what seemed like the unhookable most of the time. I managed to catch a few including the stunning fully scaled mid double on the film below, I also broke a very long standing ‘floater pb’ this summer, a pb that had stood since August 1993!, the carp may not have been massive but I earned every one of them and the fishing definitely provided the kind of challenge I like.

Surface Fishing for Carp, click below to watch.

Autumn saw me go back to more conventional carp fishing as I headed back to a different local water in search of another twenty. I’d like to say I caught one but I didn’t, in fact the lake was particularly unkind to me and I ended up blanking for several months as I failed to outsmart a single fish. The closest I came to banking an autumn carp was losing a twenty pound plus common at the net to a hook pull, my only run from September to November and a bitterly disappointing ending to my carp fishing in 2016.

As I write this in early December I’m taking a break to recharge my batteries with just the odd lure fishing trip here and there, I’ll be back out looking for a winter carp over the Christmas period then I’ll be back to the lure fishing again until spring, all in all it’s been a mixed year and I’m certainly hoping to catch a few more twenties next year. I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories and the short films that accompany them and hopefully I’ll get the chance to make a few more next year.

Until next time, tight lines and all the very best to you all in 2017.

Mark.




My biggest carp of 2016, 27lb 6oz from Sandhurst Lake


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Floater Fishing for Carp – Free Lining



You can’t beat floater fishing for carp for excitement, it beats sitting behind the delkims any day and I must admit I just don’t get to do enough of it. This summer I decided to rectify that and I’ve been doing some afternoon and evening sessions on a well stocked local carp water but things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

Floater fishing for carp, click below to watch the video of this session.

The carp in the lake love mixers but they’ve been hammered on them over the years. The first time I took a bucket of mixers down to the lake I got the carp feeding with ease and I must admit to being a little bit too cocky when I first cast out my Drennan Surface Controller. I thought I was in for a very easy time but within a minute of the controller going out the carp had stopped taking mixers. To say I was puzzled by this would be an understatement, I had the carp fishing equivalent of a 2 yard tap in and I missed!.

It was obvious these fish had been caught many times before on the surface, they weren’t shy though and they’d come right into the bank to take mixers off the top as long as there was no controller in the swim. This made them vulnerable to a free lined mixer so after blanking on my first session I went back to basics, a size 10 ESP Big-T Hook and 8lb Drennan Double Strength Line for the tackle and an Enterprise Imitation Dog Biscuit for bait. My 6ft length of double strength was greased with a line floatant called Silicone Mucilin so it wouldn't sink and this was my complete setup, a hook on the end of my line, it couldn't be any more simple.

I quickly found some fish on my return and they obliged me very quickly when I fired in some chum mixers, usually I like to build the carp’s confidence and get them competing for biscuits but I couldn’t resist a cheeky quick cast to see if I could get a fish in the net quickly. I managed to get my free lined dog biscuit out about 3 rod lengths and it landed right in the middle of some feeding fish. The bait wasn’t in the water long when a carp came for it but these fish are masters of mouthing baits and not getting hooked and I missed my first chance. The fish had approached my fake mixer from the side and felt the line when it mouthed the bait, an occupational hazard when surface fishing for carp. (Watch the video above!). I decided to trim the imitation mixer so it didn't sit so high in the water, I'd had a few chances and clearly something was wrong so I whittled the mixer down so it sat a bit lower in the water and this seemed to work better.

Feeding them up, a carp surfaces confidently and gulps down a chum mixer

I put the rod down after missing that quick chance and I concentrated on feeding them up and getting them competing for the baits, it took quite a while before I was ready to introduce the Imitation Dog Biscuit again and when I did I got the same result, a mouthed bait and a missed chance. Things went on like this for a while until one suicidal mirror turned up and chased everything, eventually this fish came face to face with my trimmed down bait and took it without hesitation, finally after several missed chances I was in. I had the clutch set on my Shimano Bait Runner so my 8lb hooklength was never going to break and my new Korum Twin Tip+ rod impressed me greatly, it had a lovely through action and was perfect for floater fishing with light lines. I’d actually bought these rods for my barbel fishing but they double up really well as floater rods.

The fish gave a great account of itself making a couple of long runs then plodding round a lot under the rod tip but eventually I won the day and I slipped the Landing Net under a lovely fully scaled mirror that weighed 15lb 6oz, well worth the few hours of frustration I'd had to catch it.

Lovely fully scaled mirror taken off the top on an Enterprise Imitation Dog Biscuit

With a mid double fully scaled in the bag I put the rod down and just concentrated on feeding them up again. You need to be patient when surface fishing for carp and it pays to take your time, the longer you leave it the more confident the carp get. Once again, despite the bird life, I had the carp at the stage where I could introduce a hook bait again. It took a while but eventually I managed to hook up another carp, this one was clearly smaller than the mid double I’d hooked before but it still gave a good scrap under the rod tip. As well as being smaller it was quite plain compared to the stunner I’d landed earlier and it weighed 8lb 6oz. (The 8lb 6oz is on the end of the accompanying video above).

After blanking with the Drennan Surface Controller I was happy that switching to free lining was the way to go, the fish didn’t seem to spook as much although some carp would still back off if the mixer landed right on their heads. It took a few hours for me to earn these two fish, I had to be patient and endure the resident ducks who had more than one free meal at my expense, it was worth the effort to get a couple of fish on the bank though. I like the close quarter fishing too, it’s quite difficult to get a free lined Enterprise Imitation Dog Biscuit out into the lake so my hook ups are generally within two or three rod lengths of the bank, exciting stuff indeed, perhaps I should try fly fishing for carp next time?.

Until next time, tight lines and be lucky.

Mark.




Sunday, 31 July 2016

Cheshire Carp and Catfish



Early in June I had a few weekends to spare, the carp had spawned on my target water and although it was a good time to catch, I didn’t really want to catch them several pounds down and looking a bit empty and possibly a bit tatty. The river season hadn’t yet started so I found myself looking round for something to fill the gap until the rivers opened. I decided to try for another catfish, I had a couple of Saturday afternoons to spare in the run up to June 16th and I was sure I could catch one in that timescale so I set myself a plan to target carp with one rod and catfish with the other.

I dropped into a very familiar swim at the lake and got myself set up, a standard carp rig baited with a nashbait Scopex Squid boilie was cast tight to the lily pads on the far bank using the line clip on my Shimano Reels to get the rig tight without losing any tackle. I baited this rod with 20-30 baits tightly grouped using an ESP Catapult. The other rod was fished with a Pellet Rig for the catfish, it was baited with a 16mm coppens trout pellet and this was fished over a bed of 70-80 of the same Coppens Trout Pellets in order to pull in the catfish.

I’d only been fishing 20 minutes when the boilie rod on the pads was away with my first fish of the session. The carp caught me unaware so the only footage I managed to get was of me holding the fish up for the Camera, it was a mirror weighing 11lb.

An 11lb Cheshire Mirror Carp after just 20 minutes fishing

Things went quiet for an hour or so but eventually the pellet rod gave me one of those stuttery takes that the catfish in this lake seem to give. I picked up the rod and sure enough I was attached to a cat but this one turned out to be more of a kitten, I weighed it in at 8lb 8oz, not quite the monster I was hoping for but it was only mid afternoon and I had plenty of time left.

I re-baited the pellet rod and topped up the swim with more coppens trout pellets then sat back and waited for things to unfold. I had to wait quite a while for my next run, both rods stayed stubbornly quiet until the pellet rod finally burst into life with another stuttery take. This time the catfish that took the bait was a bit bigger than a kitten and I had a great battle with a mid twenty cat that eventually found its way into my Landing Net. I weighed this Cheshire Catfish in at 25lb 4oz in the end so I actually got one of my target wels catfish first session out.

Click to watch the video of Pt1 of this story



A 25lb 4oz Cheshire Catfish, mission accomplished!.

The carp rod stayed quiet after that first fish and I ended up with just the one carp of 11lb and catfish of 8lb 8oz and 25lb 4oz. It was mission accomplished as far as the catfish went but I still had one more trip left before the rivers opened, I couldn’t repeat that feat, could I?.

After a weekend off I was back again a fortnight later, same tactics, same swim. This time I had to wait an hour before the catfish rod was away, there were no kittens first this week and I found myself attached to another twenty plus wels catfish. Like the mid twenty a fortnight ago, this one gave me a great scrap even on a short line, I had trouble getting this particular cat into the net as it was quite long. Catfish can be difficult to net due to their length, the thing to remember is that the head is by far the heaviest end and even if the tail is still outside the landing net all you have to do is lift the net and the tail should fold and drop into the net, this happened to me with this fish and as you can see in the video that's underneath the picture below, the tail does indeed flop into the Landing Net.

A 22lb 8oz Cheshire Catfish to back up the mid twenty above

An hour in and I had another twenty plus cat on the bank, not quite as big as last week’s but at 22lb 8oz I wasn’t complaining. I got some more video footage and did some photo’s before I returned this catfish to its watery home. I then re-baited with a further 30 Coppens Trout Pellets after this catfish then sat back to await another possible run.

A few hours later it was the turn of my carp rod on the pads and after a mental fight I finally netted a high single common that weighed 9lb 12oz, it wasn’t massive but it was a nice fish and it fought like a typical high single, trying to charge round everywhere, you can see this common on the video immediately below, just click to watch.

Click to Watch Cheshire Carp and Catfish Pt2


19.30pm seems to be a good time on this lake, a fortnight ago this time produced a 25lb+ catfish and again the catfish rod was away at what appears to be a magic time at the moment. This fish didn’t appear to have the strength of the two previous twenties but it was clearly bigger than a kitten. What turned out to be my last fish of the day weighed in at 16lb 4oz and it brought to a close my short targeting of catfish for this year. Over the two Saturday's I ended up with Cheshire Catfish of 25lb 4oz, 22lb 8oz, 16lb 4oz and 8lb 8oz plus a couple of carp weighing 11lb and 9lb 12oz, it was quality fishing for sure and I was very happy with the results of my two session 'Cheshire Carp and Catfish' campaign which totalled roughly 13hrs of fishing!.

The river season is now open, I haven’t done any barbel fishing yet, mainly due to the heavy rain we’ve had since the season started but I hope to get on the river very soon. I’ll be back chasing carp again once we are into August, by that time I expect them to have regained some weight and improved in condition after spawning and hopefully the carp I’m after will be attaining some good weights.

Until next time, tight lines and be lucky.

Mark.



Sunday, 8 May 2016

Yateley Sandhurst Carp Lake Social



Having been to Cromwell Carp Lake for the last two PAAS Forum socials this year we returned to Yateley Sandhurst Lake, a popular southern day ticket water containing numbers of fish that most North West carp anglers can only dream of catching locally. My trip to Sandhurst started with a 3am alarm call, our booking was due to start at 10am on Friday morning and ahead of me was a near 4 hour drive to the lake, allowing for rush hour at Birmingham and London I gave myself plenty of time and left just before 4am. Fortunately the trip down was good, I met up with a few of the other lads at Warwick services on the M42 and from there a convoy of us drove the last 100 miles or so to the lake after a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee to keep me awake!.

Click to watch the Sandhurst Carp Social

We arrived at the lake around 8.30am, a couple of the lads were already there and the news wasn’t good, stories of weed cutting, blue dye going in the lake a few days before, bitterly cold weather and hard fishing were the order of the day, of the anglers already fishing some even questioned if there were any fish in the lake so obviously not much had been showing either. We all had a walk around and I did see a few fish off the back of the wind at the far end of the lake, this was a big help and gave me an idea of where I wanted to be. I kept quiet about the fish I'd seen, my track record at the draw is famous…or is that infamous!, my usual position is last so I wasn’t going to give away the location of the fish I’d seen until after we’d all chosen our swims. As it turned out, everyone else was doing the same and after pegs had been chosen everyone started spilling about the carp they’d seen themselves, all’s fair when it comes to getting a good peg at the draw! (lol).
As it happened karma finally paid me back and I came out second, my highest draw position ever. I chose peg 13, a swim I’ve fished a few times before so I knew it quite well, the fish I’d seen were in front of pegs 13 in the middle, 15 and 16 both about 30 yards out, apart from being familiar to me, my reasoning for picking 13 over the other swims is that the carp wouldn’t stay around 15/16 under pressure, once the rigs went out and there were lines in the water I expected them to move into the main body of the lake and by picking 13 I was perfectly positioned to fish the area I thought they’d move into, if nobody fished either of the other pegs then I could take some day gear down there and try for them myself as we’d booked the whole lake. As it happens 15 and 16 did go because a few of the other lads had seen them too.

Peg 13 at Sandhurst Lake, a familiar swim I've fished on previous socials

I’d not fished overnight since the last social a year ago so I set about putting up my Trakker A-Lite shelter and got myself comfortable before I set the rods up. I was armed with Spod and Marker rods and I had my distance sticks with me too but I was reluctant to start thrashing the water to a foam when there were carp already in the area. I knew my spots anyway so I had a quick lead around and found weed, out in the lake it wasn’t too bad but I was later to find that closer in to my bank it was really bad. I clipped up and worked out the wraps and distance I was fishing at on my distance sticks and I must admit doing this was a massive help when it came to re-casting and getting back on the same spots, how did we ever manage without Cygnet Distance Sticks!.

My bait for this trip was particles, Tiger Nuts and Maize. Sandhurst lake is a busy day ticket water and the vast majority of anglers are using boilies. I’ve done very well on hard fished waters in the past by giving the fish a bait that isn’t round and made with eggs, as soon as you do this you gain an edge.

Popups in a mesh bag help my critically balanced tiger nut settle on the weed

I fished tigers or maize on long braided hook links and made sure my hook baits were critically balanced so they only just sank very very slowly. I made sure the hook was well covered with a foam nugget and I added a small 2 bait pva mesh bag as well, not your normal mesh bag though, a couple of bottom baits would drag the rig into the weed so my bags had popups in them, by using popups the rig would be held up until the mesh bag and the foam nugget melted and at this point the hook bait would slowly sink down and come to rest on the weed.

Watching the water with a brew in hand at Sandhurst Lake

After setting up all 3 rods with critically balanced Tiger Nuts or Maize I sat back and watched the water with a brew in hand and I saw quite a few fish as the day unfolded, including a few around my baits too. The wind turned in towards me a little early in the afternoon and I wasn’t happy having a bitterly cold icy blast in my face so I turned my bivvy round so I wasn’t getting the wind in through the door, I’d just finished doing this when the middle rod ripped off out of the blue.

I hit the rod and found myself attached to the first Sandhurst carp of the social. It was here I found out just how bad the weed was. Almost straight away the fish bogged me down in heavy weed. I had difficulty getting it moving again but eventually the steady pressure made the fish shift. I pumped the fish back slowly only for it to find another thick weedbed. This time it was solid and I couldn’t move the fish, I tried standing on the higher step and trying to get more leverage upwards as well as changing angles to see if I could shift it but the fish was solid. I asked my mate Darren to try and find a boat and whilst he was looking for one I tried slackening off and putting the rod back on the rest to see if the carp would move on its own. Eventually this tactic paid off and when I took up the slack and applied the pressure again the fish came free. From here I was able to slowly pump the carp back towards me. Once it was in the edge I realised it had picked up one of the other rods and I’m sure the rig on the other rod had got stuck in weed too, a dangerous situation to be in and one that very nearly cost me the fish. Luck was on my side though and by taking my time I was able to bring the fish close enough to the bank for Darren to slip the Landing Net under it.

First blood to me then, I had a nice long mirror in the landing net, definitely a twenty and judging by the shoulders on it probably over 25lb. I set up my Fox Easy Mat at the back of my swim and after unhooking the fish I weighed it in at 27lb 6oz, not a massive fish by sandhurst standards but back home in the North West that's classed as a big fish.

My 27lb 6oz Mirror from this social, one of only 3 fish caught on a tough trip

I was happy with that, I’d only had the rods out for 3 hours or so and the pressure was off already, with a decent fish on the bank I could sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the trip.
It’s just as well I managed to bank that carp because the rest of the trip turned out to be an exercise in camping!, the fish stopped showing in my area and they moved up to the other end of the lake. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t bank another fish so I ended up with just the one carp. Everyone else struggled too and out of 14 anglers on the social only 3 of us caught!. This has been by far the least productive social we’ve had at Sandhurst, the weather was poor with a cold wind and low temps all through the weekend. The ban on zigs has had an effect too, the fish were well up in the water during our stay and if we’d been able to use them I’m sure more fish would have been caught although the weed being so thick I can understand why they were banned in the first place. I'd like to see the owners deal with the weed properly in the first place rather than banning a good method of catching?.

In some ways it was good to go back to Sandhurst again but it's a water we've visited a few times before, next year I hope we can find a new water to visit. If you're reading this and you know of a decent carp water around 15-25 acres in size with a good head of 20's, will take around 15 anglers with some room to spare and is available for a full lake booking please put a suggestion below using the comments, thanks.

Until next time.

Tight Lines.

Mark.