Chris Shute – Mar ’22

Wow, what a month March has been. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be writing this month’s piece, reflecting on such a truly amazing period of angling – I will apologise straight off if this one seems to go on a little, there is just so much to cover. Not just for me, but for the honour of sharing timeless moments with good friends on The Carp Society’s recently acquired Ashmead fishery, which I will go into a little more detail later. 

I finished last month’s article with signs of Spring being in the air, everything certainly starting to come to life, and the odd glimpse of fish starting to poke their heads around. It’s amazing really to witness and truly notice the adjustments over the winter as we head into Spring. It didn’t feel all that long ago that I was arriving and in the dark, when I started my mini campaign, and now it’s still light with two or three bite times now no longer on the cards; that’s three hours’ worth of daylight in the evening we’ve gained! 

Now these bite times haven’t been lost, they’ve simply been pushed out an hour each month essentially. Due to the changes in bite times, I have also had to adjust my sessions and juggle things around a bit more, adapting to what the fish and season is telling me to maximise that time on the bank. This really has been the fine line between catching or making all that effort for very little reward, which has been very evident indeed! Fundamentally, bite time has generally been an hour or so after sunset; November to early January, 17:30-18:00. Although January was dire, as the month drifted into February it seemed that 18:20 was the time and you could set your watch to them. As we progressed to the later part of February and into early March, it was interesting to note that bite times seemed to be scattered from as early as 17:30 and as late as 20:00. This is till the clocks changed late March and we’re now pushed right out to around 20:30/21:00 seemingly being the more productive period. 

On the odd occasion, and to try and test the theory, I arrived at the normal time of 17:00 and fished the last few hours of daylight without as much as a sniff, maybe the odd quick-fire bite if I was lucky and happed to land on a moocher. As I’ve already alluded to, noting these times has allowed me to target the prime times and not waste vital time that is best spent elsewhere…also means I can essentially eat dinner at a decent time again with the family! 

Early March carried on as February ended, with multiple hits of four or five fish in the short sessions and delivered some corkers as well. I continued to feed the area, which is now getting on for four months or so, but I would only really tend to feed when I fish and provide a good helping of bait as I leave. I think they’ve now become so accustomed to feed being in this area, along with the regular pattern of my sessions, I’m no longer needing to ‘keep them going’ as such by applying it in the quantities that I had been doing early season. When I say, ‘keep them going’, I’m referring to the fact that I needed to keep the fish feeding or they would have simply shut shop for the winter. I’ve found over the years, and proved again this winter, if you can start applying the bait late Autumn into the early onsets of Winter on a regular basis, you can fundamentally keep the fish interested and feeding entirely through this period. It’s hard work, takes some dedication and you don’t need to go mad with the bait. But reading the weather, how the fish are responding along with applying it on a regular basis and sticking to your guns will pay off massively! 

Whilst discussing bait, during the campaign I think I’ve probably done somewhere in the region of 80kg of CR’s finest boilie. This has been a mix of CR1, CR2, NuTrine and Strawberry Ice, with each and everyone of them playing a massive part in my approach and keeping these fish feeding at different parts of the year. I’ve also utilised the Monster Particles range during periods of the winter, to either clear the lakebed for me, or to keep the fish in the area for longer periods when I’m unable to get own by grazing on hemp and maize rather than a quick in and out takeaway of boilie. As the month has progressed, I’ve come away from the bright, high-attract popup hookbaits people tend to favour during the Spring and that I’ve been fishing throughout the winter, favouring to match the free offerings I’ve been feeding for the last four months. These fish have now become so switched on to my bait, they’re eating it as a source of protein and fat etc so I no longer need to try and induce a feeding trigger from a lazy, dormant fish; they’re simply going mad for it. By feeding and keeping them going through winter, I’ve essentially made my job a lot easier now we’ve hit spring!

Mid-March saw a bit of a break from the local as a couple of pre-planned trips to the mighty Ashmead which I had so long been waiting for finally came around. March can be a funny time of year, especially on a water that’s notoriously hard during the winter periods where the fish do seem to shut up shop, but it’s a period where it does have the history of throwing up a couple of the real gems, which it certainly showed during the consecutive weekends we were privileged to set foot on the wetland! 

The first weekend saw three new anglers to the fishery which included our very own John. It’s always interesting to see how new peeps react to the fishery upon seeing it for the first time; to be honest, I don’t think that reaction ever goes away if you truly understand the mind meld the place can do to an angler! The trip exceeded all expectations, one fish would have been a result between the seven of us; however, three fish including the queen of the pond to my long-term close friend Rich just blew us all away! Not only that, first time visitors in Sam and our very own John also managed to bank their first fish from the wetland which was amazing to see and capped off an amazing weekend!

The following weekend saw a slightly different group of close friends and Ashmead regulars visit the wetland on the evening of the full moon, but with cold nights and high pressure we were truly up against it. Coming out last in the draw, having been six out of seven the week prior, I went for another mooch before deciding. Settling on an area where I had seen fish, not many other signs around the wetland to go on, it provided me an area to cover as much water as possible. The plan would be simple, rods out and left out till the Monday or till the traps were sprung. To do this, I need the upmost confidence in my hookbaits which the CR wafters and Hard Hookers provide, and can leave those out for a week if required! Saturday afternoon, I did reposition my third rod slightly, and owe some thanks to Colin for a conversation we had whilst mid-shipment of pole, making my mind up on which side of the weedbed I would be fishing. Now there were only a matter of yards in it, but this additional information from observations the year prior could have well made the difference in me going on to catch the mighty Moonscale or ‘Moony’ and she’s known. It was a capture shared with the group of great friends, each and everyone buzzing with excitement to see such a magnificent creature on the bank. Special thanks must also go to my close friend Chris, who’s help in the boat and slipping the net under her at the first time of asking was hugely appreciated. I really couldn’t have asked for a better moment to have good friends around, sharing in the buzz and helping out on the bank; exactly what it should be all about! 

‘Moony’ took a liking to the Pure Sweet soaked Cornz presented over a handful of sweetcorn, and a few mushed up CR2’s were just enough to enchant the fish into feeding. What a creature and one I had so dearly dreamt of being deemed worthy of having a brief encounter with at some stage, still buzzing now all these weeks later. Upon returning ‘Moony’ we had cause for double celebration, Rich popped open his bottle of ‘Single Scale’ champaign and we proceeded to get a colossal feast of bacon and sausages on the go. 

Between the Ashmead trips I made sure to keep the bait going in and pop in for a couple of hours where time allowed. This effort contributed to being fortunate enough to land one of the local ponds; proper old, gnarly lumps and the believed second biggest. With this, Moony, seeing Single resting in the deserving arms of Rich, John and Sam picking up their first fish from the wetland, March was turning out to be a generous month of angling and had no sign of letting up yet! 

As we approached the end of the month, thoughts had started to drift away to putting some miles back on the trusted fishing wagon once again and start my Spring campaign on one of my syndicates. To be honest, if it hadn’t been for the Ashmead trips, I would have probably started to put the groundwork in already, but I wasn’t done yet. There is still one more I wanted from the local, although this is only an unconfirmed rumour and I’ve not seen any concrete hard proof that it’s actually in there! In the latter stages of the month, as we approached the end, things have slowed down a little. The weather has been inconsistent at best; high temperatures during the day and freezing cold at night, but the feeling is this area has been over harvested. I had my feelings when I received a message from a good friend to tell me that, ‘your spot is glowing yellow!!!!’. It’s like a road down there now, with each and every cast going down with such an amazing crack! 

There were a few more fish landed, but multiples started to turn into ones. The bream bites had also slowed, which I found highly unusual with the activity I was seeing through the winter. Maybe it’s gone, perhaps I would be able to keep them going on it for a bit longer, but with march taking my tally of fish to eighty-eight I was more than happy…yep that’s right, eighty-eight fish since the start of November! Crazy, crazy times! 

Having closed the gate on the 30th March with a small mirror under my belt, the feeling that I would be closing this gate indefinitely had crossed my mind. Could this be the end of the Winter campaign and the start of some serious Spring fishing…who knows, will have to see what the month of April brings. 

I did manage my first night of the year on the syndicate to see the new month in, but alas the temperatures dropped to below freezing and I woke to static bobbins and a good ground frost which seemed to put pay to any chances. Plans are now underway to target another special water with some truly unbelievable fish swimming in her depths, one that I know will not be an easy nut to crack; but the rewards are there should I manage to unlock the secrets and a challenge I’m relishing. 

Till next month, wish you all the best for your Spring campaign and look forward to seeing your rewards grace the pages of CR’s Instagram.