Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fishing Review of 2014

I was reading a thread on the Northern Monkeys Forum the other day about the fishing season and how everyone’s had gone, I didn’t contribute to the thread but it got me thinking about my own fishing and how 2014 had gone for me. I must have high expectations because looking at the highlights I’ve actually done quite well but it certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been on top of my game this year.

2014 started badly for me with a run of blanks that stretched from New Year into early February. This was mainly down to me undergoing a transition to extreme range carp fishing, the water I’d picked for my winter campaign was well stocked but very big and the fish were holed up at ranges in excess of 150 yards from the bank. I’ve always thought of myself as a competent caster but 4 years on a syndicate using a bait boat had completely de-skilled me and if I’m honest my casting was hopeless. Take no notice of anyone who tells you bait boats don’t affect your casting because they do take your skills away, given that I could reach 140 yards before I got one, the time spent using my boat was ruinous for me because I couldn’t even get near that back in early January. Those 5 weeks of blanking were painful for me, watching fish crashing at range and not getting anywhere near them was hard. I underwent the transformation though, line, rigs, tackle and technique, I tweaked everything and got some practice in and on the 8th Feb I banked my first fish of the year, a low double that came from an area in excess of 150 yards, at the time it was the longest ever cast I’d made to bank a carp but I’ve beaten that by quite a way since then. I’m going back to the lake again this winter and I’ve bought a Go Pro Video Camera so I’m hoping to have some casting footage ready for a piece on long range fishing sometime next year. This footage will be going on my Youtube Channel along with some clips from other sessions I do through 2015, there's not much on there at the moment but feel free to subscribe, it will get busier as I add clips throughout next year.

Things got easier in February once I’d sorted my casting out but no sooner had I done that when it was time to move on. I went back to looking for a catfish and early March provided me with my first real highlight of 2014, my first ever North West Catfish weighing in at 27lb 12oz!. It put up a stunning fight and fell to one of my Winter Carp Rigs, a size 12 Korda Kurv Hook with a 10mm Scopex Squid Red pop up fished kd style with 25lb ESP Camo Sink Link braid. You should have seen the size of the bait and hook compared to the cats mouth, the rig was meant for the lakes small carp but these small korda hooks really do the business, not only did I land a catfish that fought like a demon on them, I’ve also banked a few 30’s and a lot of 20’s with these small hooks too.

My first ever Wels Catfish at 27lb 12oz

March had another highlight and my favourite capture of the year, a lovely old mirror from one of my club lakes, it weighed in at 24lb 4oz and was one of my target fish and my first from the lake too. It was a proper scaley warrior and a stunning looking carp. It took a bit of effort to track this one down and that just made it even more worth while, again it fell to the 10mm scopex squid red popup on a size 12 korda kurve hook.

A stunning scaley mirror at 24lb 4oz, my favourite capture of 2014

April saw me visit Cromwell Lake for the first time. We’d booked the lake out for a Forum social and this Easter trip turned out to be the only 2 nights I fished this year. I came out of the draw well enough and got a decent swim for a change. Over the two days I caught a mid double mirror at range on the zig rig and those little 10mm scopex squid red boilies did the business again as I caught my biggest fish of the year in the shape of a 31lb 2oz Cromwell mirror.

31lb 2oz from Cromwell Lake, my biggest fish of 2014

After a run of good results I was full of confidence as you’d expect but things went badly wrong in May, I just couldn’t get onto the waters and what should have been the most productive month of the year became a complete blank for me. Believe me it’s frustrating when you can’t get back on a water because it’s full of bivvies, you end up defeated by other anglers with more time rather than by the carp themselves.

I managed to get a decent peg in early June and made the most of it with the capture a 29lb 12oz mirror on a 6 hour afternoon session, it was one of the biggest fish in the lake and a new Cheshire PB for me. To think I've been fishing various clubs in Cheshire for nearly 20 years now trying to catch a club water 30, I've still not managed it but this big mirror is as close as I've been. Things went downhill again after this fish and reluctantly I had to move on again because getting a peg in the first place was just proving impossible.

As close to a club water 30 I've ever been, a new Cheshire PB for me at 29lb 12oz

I spent the rest of the summer back on the catfish lake, the zig rig was productive again but not as good as last year. I discovered the Fox Zig Aligna and this made my zig fishing a lot easier, no longer did I need to tie a hair and manipulate my yellow foam so it was positioned correctly, the zig aligna was perfect for this and it’s found a permanent home in my floater tackle box after proving it’s worth this summer.

A mid double falls to the Fox Zig Aligna

The boilie fishing was good in summer too, I can’t speak highly enough about the Scopex Squid Red boilies from Kevin Nash, they are superb carp catchers and they brought me a big run of fish through the summer, I was averaging 3-4 fish per afternoon trip and eventually I banked one of the lakes bigger residents in the shape of a 23lb 8oz mirror, I did a repeat capture of this fish too.

23lb 8oz mirror, a big fish for the runs water i was on, no doubt the Scopex Squid Red helped!.

In October I decided to leave the runs water and try for one last decent fish before winter and this turned out to be as big a disaster as May was for me, as the days have shortened and my sessions have been even shorter than normal the blanks have piled up, I guess you have to expect this when you’re a day only angler on waters that even campers struggle on. You really have to have the right mentality to nick a result on harder waters and as far as October and November went, I don't think I had the right attitude to my fishing. I've been far too lazy!, I've just been going through the motions rather than making the effort and hunting them down and that's not good for a limited time angler.

It’s early December now and I’m on my traditional break from carp fishing at the moment, over the Christmas period I’ll be back out again but I’ll be in full winter thermals as the cold weather has really kicked in this last week. I’ll leave my look back at 2014 with a tip for keeping warm during the months ahead and that’s to use a hand warmer. I was put onto the Whitby Hand Warmer last year after one of my mates gave me his to try. It was that good I was straight online to order one as soon as I got home from my trip. Hand warmers run on Lighter Fluid and mine is the ‘Bull’ brand, it can be bought in poundland for £1 a tin or you can get any other brand in bulk on ebay. On a full load a hand warmer will burn for 12 hours and a tin of lighter fluid will do at least 4 fills so you can have permanent heat on a 48hr session for £1 or in my case a month or more, which is 4 x Saturday day sessions.

Whitby Hand Warmer, a brilliant bit of kit for keeping warm in winter!

The lighter people Zippo also do a version and both the Zippo and Whitby Hand Warmers have a catalytic burner which has no flame, you simply light it and once it’s running place it in the velvet bag it comes with, you can keep it in your pocket or if you’re a winter bivvy angler you can put it in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm all night. All in all they are a cracking bit of kit and come in around the £15 mark on ebay, money well spent when it comes to Keeping Warm In Winter.

That’s it from the North West Carp Blog for 2014, stay warm on the bank this winter and tight lines for 2015.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Summer Carp Fishing

Frustrated at not being able to get back on the small lake I was trying to target I reluctantly moved on despite my Cheshire PB, I went back to the catfish lake I’d fished last summer, I wasn’t looking for another cat, I’d already had one and ticked that particular goal off my bucket list. This time I was hoping I could wade through the many singles and doubles and catch one of the handful of twenty pound plus carp the water holds, not an easy task with so many other fish in the lake.

Summer carp fishing in Cheshire

The summer was good but I was suffering diminishing returns on the zig rig, I still caught with it but the carp had clearly wised up to the yellow foam fished underneath the mixers and I had to ring the changes to keep the fish coming. One thing I did was to switch to the Fox Zig Aligna, this neat little piece of kit enabled me to change the colour of my foam very easily and I rotated between red, black and yellow which are the three colours they supply in the zig aligna kit.

Another carp falls to the Fox Zig Aligna

Another trick I used was to coat my zig aligna in some raspberry plume Korda Goo, this stuff was pretty expensive at £12 a bottle but with soaked and goo’ed up mixers and some goo on the zig rig foam I managed to catch a few more carp but again this wore off pretty quick and within a few sessions the carp were literally vacating my swim as soon as I introduced a hookbait that was right in their face. One thing that did change my zig fishing this summer was the catfish in the lake, they suddenly discovered mixers were good food and they fought with the carp to take them. I actually hooked and promptly lost a run of cats when it was particularly hot and they had no issues taking the zig rigged foam, stopping these beasts was another thing and every one of them went straight up the centre of the lake taking line until they reached whatever lily pads were in their path.

They don't all get away, 15lb 4oz of Cheshire catfish

Whilst I was playing my game of cat and mouse on the surface with the now wised up carp I was also introducing plenty of Scopex Squid red boilies and the boilie fishing really started to pick up as the summer wore on. Just fishing 6 hour sessions on a Saturday afternoon until dark I was averaging 3-4 carp per trip with the odd single but mostly doubles up to around 17lb. With carp falling at this rate I hoped it wouldn’t be long before I could add the lake to the list of waters I’d had a twenty from.

My Catapult took some stick for sure, I seemed to be in my local Wirral Angling Centre every other week buying replacement pouches as the constant match style feeding of bait took its toll on both pouches and elastics. The hard work was worth it in the end and one Saturday evening in August I found myself in the right place at the right time. Fishing against a set of pads that had produced extremely well for me, my Delkim signalled the run that finally saw the end of my mission. I was very well versed in pad fishing after landing so many fish from the lake and even though I’d hooked a bigger fish the routine was the same, grab the spool, strike and walk backwards giving the carp no room to move or get up a head of steam to reach the pads. I managed to turn the fish ok but being heavier and stronger than the usual low-mid doubles I couldn’t stop the fish kiting down the lake to my left, this was very bad because there were pads along my bank too, after some quick thinking I held the fish on a tight line forcing it to kite into the swim next door, with no trees in the way I managed to walk down the bank and Net the fish through a small gap in between a couple of sets of pads.

Mission accomplished, 23lb 8oz Mirror from my 23rd different UK Carp Water

When the carp rolled into the net I knew it was job done, I went through the usual routine of Unhooking Mat down, camera out, fish on the mat, Unhook, weigh, photograph and return only this time I was holding a 23lb 8oz mirror for my troubles. I managed to brace my twenty with a lovely scaley mirror of 16lb 6oz an hour later, it was a happy day indeed and the catfish lake became the 23rd different UK Water I’d caught 20lb carp from.

Apart from ringing the changes on the zig rig and enjoying some good boilie fishing this summer I finally decided to go back to making my own lead weights again. I used to do this in the past and there is an entry on making leads on this blog already. Many years ago I lent my lead making gear to a mate, he had it a while but got divorced and his missus threw out my lead mould and the rest of my kit. With so many people doing leads on facebook or on the bank these days they were always cheaper than the shops anyway but buying and collecting from mates an hour away has always been a pain so I took the decision to get myself some new kit. I picked up a Stainless Steel Pan, a Stainless Steel Ladle and a pair of Heat Resistant Gloves which is the basis of the none fishing related items for making leads, these were all quite cheap on ebay and worked a treat when it came to my first batch of leads.

My new 2oz Inline Dumpy Dice Lead Mould

The lead mould itself was a 2oz inline dumpy dice or square pear mould, 2oz inline square pears are the leads I use for 95% of my fishing so it made sense to go for the one mould, the only other leads I really use are 3.5oz and 4oz bombs for extreme range and I’ll just carry on buying these off a mate as and when I need them which won’t be often. As well as the lead mould and Lead Mould Clamp I bought myself some Plastic Inserts for the middle of my leads and a 1 litre container of brown Lead Coating Powder which was on a special offer at the time. Pauls Angling Supplies on ebay was the place I picked up the lead mould, clamp, coating powder and inserts, I reckon all together the whole lead making kit including new pan, ladle, gloves, lead mould, mould clamp, coating powder and plastic inserts came to just over £40 and I’ve already made my first batch of 20 leads which will keep me going for a while. Now I’ve got the kit together I may not have to buy another carp lead again. I’ve no intention of doing leads commercially but if you ever decided to make your own you can always sell a few leads on until the kit has paid for itself, food for thought given how much the shops charge these days.

Carp rig made with one of my new Inline Leads

Tight Lines.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

A PB Cheshire Carp

After landing that Scaley Cheshire Carp I struggled to get back on the lake, for the next few Saturdays all 7 pegs on the lake were taken and I had to fish elsewhere, on the Saturdays I could find a peg it was always the last one and the inevitable blank would follow. April and May always seem to be the busiest months of the year, coming out of winter the carp are more catchable but it comes with an increase in anglers on the bank and I was facing an impossible task on such a small lake. May, what should be the most productive month of the year, saw me not fishing at all.

Watching the water on a day only carp session

At the beginning of June I figured anglers would have started dropping off and the lake might be worth another look so the first Saturday in June I dropped on for the afternoon. Fortunately there was a decent swim available and on previous trips I’ve seen carp showing strongly in one particular area out in front of the swim. I put a rod on that area and another tight against the oob far bank, both baited with Scopex Squid red balanced popups on long braided hooklinks due to the increase in weed. I scattered a few scopex freebies around the area too, I figured most would drop into the weed but at least there would be a bit of attraction in the area even if the carp couldn’t see the baits and the bonus was my hookbait would likely be the one a carp would stumble across first.

Kevin Nash Scopex Squid Red Popups, unbelievably good!

I got quite a surprise when 3 hours in my left hand Delkim suddenly burst into life!. I was on it in a flash as a strong fish ploughed through the weed, it just kept going and going before eventually coming to a halt 30 yards further out and against the oob bank. I had weed hanging all over my line and I couldn’t tell if it was the weed making it feel like a dead weight or the fish itself?. The fish kept deep and on the way in it found a couple of weedbeds but the weed wasn’t thick enough and some upwards pressure on the rod would always see things moving again. Eventually it came in close and I caught sight of a big mirror, it was a short but very fat fish and I couldn’t put a weight on it other than to say it was a definite twenty. After finding a slightly thicker weedbed close in I had one more tricky moment but being right on top of it the pressure from above soon had my carp moving again and eventually it slipped into my waiting Landing Net.

Once my Unhooking Mat, scales and camera were set up I lifted the fish out, it was heavy, very heavy in fact and I had a feeling I was looking at a ‘Cheshire PB’, on the Sportster Scales I got 29lb 12oz, I’ve caught bigger than this from day ticket waters and syndicates but as far as Cheshire club waters go this was a pb of sorts. I’ve been trying for a Cheshire club thirty for a long long time now and this is the closest I’ve ever been. It was a known fish that has been caught over 30 in the past so perhaps I was a little unlucky that it was 4oz short although I certainly don’t feel hard done by, just getting a swim and catching one of the biggest fish in the lake was more than enough luck for me!.

29lb 12oz Cheshire Mirror, a new club water PB for me

I phoned my mate Darren who was in the next peg along and he wound in to come and help with the pics, because the swim was enclosed by trees and bushes it was difficult to find any area with decent light, in the end we had to do the pics right at the front of the swim because it was the only area we could find where I could get away with no shadows in the frame. With the pics done I returned my prize to the water and the carp swam off strongly. I fished on after that but no more runs came my way, not that I was bothered after a result like that.

Once again I struggled to get a peg again after my result, I’m sure I could have had more from this lake but it was impossible to string together consecutive sessions due to the lack of swims and far too many anglers also wanting to fish there. I conceded defeat in the end, I needed to be somewhere I could get a decent peg on a regular basis so I moved on. I had a decent choice of waters to move too but I ended up spending July and August back on the catfish lake I’d left in March, as far as the carp were concerned the lake was an easy runs water but it also held a handful of twenties and I was hoping I could wade through the singles and doubles and pick one up. Fortunately for me I did and my two months on the catfish lake will be my next blog entry.

Tight Lines


Sunday, 31 August 2014

A Scaley Cheshire Carp

Having bagged my first North West Catfish in early March I quickly decided to move on from the catfish lake and target some bigger carp again, this required getting back that ‘siege’ mentality you need to be successful on most good Cheshire carp waters these days. I chose a small weedy water around 4 acres in size, the lake had some decent fish in it but it also came with a few problems the biggest two being other anglers and only 7 swims on the whole lake.

I had a week off work in the middle of March and that seemed a good time to make a start. As I was just doing days, I had to find a peg in between the anglers who were fishing sessions of 48/72 hours and longer!. I literally had to take what scraps I could find. The first Saturday I turned up I had to take the last peg on the lake, needless to say I blanked and I saw nothing to give me any hints of the carp’s whereabouts, not that it would have mattered with no pegs free to move into anyway. The carp don’t show much on this lake so with limited swims, no room to move and very few shows it was clear I was going to struggle a bit.

I was back again late on Monday morning and had a better choice of swims but there were still a few anglers on even on what I classed as the quietest day of the week. Again I saw nothing all day but as the light was starting to fade one of the other anglers had a run and landed a low 20 mirror, it came from tight to the far bank which was no surprise as there was no access to this part of the lake. Needless to say I blanked but I was given a boost by seeing someone else actually catch during the hours I was fishing, which was dinnertime through until dusk, in March that’s about 6 hours.

Tuesday dinnertime I was back again, I cast a couple of scopex squid red hookbaits with a couple of pva mesh bags of the same to the far bank, no sooner had I got my Aqua Brolly up when it started raining persistently. From the comfort of my brolly I sat and watched the water all day in the tippling down rain, no mean feat when it comes to keeping the concentration. An hour or so before dark I caught sight of a carp which just stuck the tip of its nose out, it was so subtle I’d have missed it if there was a ripple on the water. It was roughly 70 yards out in front of me and away from the far ‘no fishing’ bank, I covered it with a rig for the last hour but again I blanked. Luckily there was nobody on the lake this day so it seemed rude not to give the carp a taster of some bait, I got to work with the Catapult late on and deposited a kilo of Scopex Squid red boilies to the area I’d seen the carp.

Watching the water in the pouring rain is a test of your concentration!

I had intended to have a break from fishing on Wednesday but with a carp sighting and some free bait in the water I couldn’t stay away, I was back early on to make sure I secured my swim. Straight away I saw a carp roll on the same spot as I was setting up, I put two fresh hook baits with a pva mesh bags of freebies out to the area as quickly as I could and sat back to await events, for the first time I was actually confident something would happen for me. One hour turned into two and the longer I sat there the more my confidence was starting to ebb away. The tufties had been a pain, there were half a dozen of them working the lake but they kept going back to my baited spot all the time. In the middle of the afternoon I was sat watching them over my bait again when two of them dipped down for a snack. My left hand Delkim let out a couple of bleeps and my monkey climber dropped a couple of inches, this was just what I didn’t need, a recast to disturb the area.

I got up and walked over to my Torrix Rods, as I got to the rod in question the monkey climber started moving up, the little blighter must have hooked himself in the leg or foot when he dropped my bait so I wound down and hit it. I was met with a solid resistance, I was expecting lots of squawking but instead I had a dead weight following by a kick on the rod, it was carp on!. The fish kited to my left so I kept the rod tip high and the pressure steady, it took me a while to coax the fish into changing course but eventually I gained some line. It felt a heavy fish and it took me a good 10 minutes to get this one into the margins, the water was pretty much gin clear but with a slight blue tinge to it, the lake had just had blue dye applied to it to control the weed and I’m sure that enhanced the sight that greeted me as the carp came closer to my Landing Net. It was a stunning scaley mirror, the blue tinge of the water made the skin of the carp look a deep purple and the golden scales really stood out. By now I was getting nervous, you know that time in the fight when you can clearly see you’re playing a major prize and you don’t want it to fall off! (lol). Lucky for me the carp was well hooked and a few minutes later I slid the net under a real stunner.

I had a look at the fish whilst it was in the net, I knew it was a twenty, exactly how big I couldn’t say but it looked to be around mid twenties. I left the fish in the water and got to work setting up for the weighing and pics. There was nobody around so I had to do the pics myself. In the sling and onto my Sportster Scales I got 24lb 4oz. I was delighted with this one, there were a few scaley mirrors in the lake and my first fish from the water was one of my targets.

24lb 4oz Scaley Cheshire Mirror Carp and one of my target fish.

Interestingly this wasn’t the fish I saw roll when I arrived so I figured I’d found an area where a few fish must be holding up. I had nothing else after the re-cast and frustratingly I couldn’t get back in the swim again due to other anglers, this had nothing to do with me catching a fish as they were coming out to others as well, it was just a popular swim that was rarely empty and I realise now I was quite lucky to have had a couple of consecutive day sessions in such a good swim. It was still a shame I couldn’t take more advantage of that area but it is committed to memory for future trips, remember that siege mentality, tricky waters are a marathon and sometimes it takes years to grind them out, if I get the chance I’ll try that area again for sure. For the next few weeks I struggled to get on the lake as more and more anglers started coming out of the woodwork after their winter hibernation and before I knew it, Easter and the Cromwell Social I've already written about had arrived.

Tight lines.


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