Would you believe we are in May already; it feels like we are in the mid part of March with the prolonged cold weather hanging over the country. Spring is always a heightened sense of expectation, often being a season that appears to come and go so quickly these days with spawning seemingly coming around with a blink of an eye! Not sure if it is just me here, maybe I’ve hit that ‘starting to get old’ point, but time just seems to come and go with a blink of an eye.
My spring plans this year, as you may have noted in April’s blog, were going to be spent on the mighty ‘Shoe’ after some of the gems that reside in there. However, a ticket came through on an extremely interesting pit which has simply taken my breath away. I ended the last blog on the cusp of a big weather change, massive lows, gale south-westerly winds along with some much-needed rain being on the cards.
I left the last diary piece in anticipation of the pending storm, fully prepared I had a plan of attack. I arrived the day before the storm on the Sunday, full of expectation of what could happen on these big, windswept pits when a nice low front moves in.
After a mooch and a chat with one of the other chaps fishing, I was torn between my main spot which would be on the back, or the new area which will receive the new wind. A ‘carpy’ call with a good friend, I could not turn down the chance to be there waiting for the change in weather. Hopefully, this change would bring the fish on the wind, although it would be a case of them either being there or not….it was a gamble, but one I had to chance as it is written in every carp book printed since the dawn of time! Get on a new south-westerly!
With everything set, I proceed to introduce half a bucket of the mix which included crushed and whole CR1 and UltraNut in 12mm along with a decent helping of matching CR1 Syrup and NutMino. Due to the crayfish population, hookbaits would be tigers tipped with fake nuts that had been soaking in a variety of the new Pure range…my god that stuff is strong, get it on your fingers and you are smelling and tasting it for days!
It was now a case of waiting till the storm rolls in and keep everything crossed to see if the plan comes to fruition. I was hoping to get ahead of them, laying in wait should they decide to get on the wind. Within a few hours, there must have been around twenty-five Tufties and Pochards diving on me, with the two rods signalling several pickups as they enjoyed the feast I had laid out. Suddenly out of the blue, one of the rods pulled up tight to the clip before starting to tick line from the spool. Leaning into the rod the was certainly something on the other end that was not of the furry variety, but after a few heavy lunges whatever had taken a liking to the Pure soaked nut was gone as quickly as it came. Frustrating, but a good sign and held high hopes for the rest of the session knowing I was in prime position should they arrive on the big low rolling through.
With the storm rolling in and getting stronger and stronger by the minute, a few extra pegs added to the brolly I am rubbing my hands in confidence they would turn up and do as all Carp should do by following the mega low and south-westerly winds right into my traps! Well, what is it they say about best-laid plans! Super sexy, super confident, and not one sign of fish in sight! I held out for as long as I could the following day, but they just did not seem to have read the guide provided in carp school. Not one sign they had followed the big wind, the expectation of seeing them heading my way like dolphins just did not materialise. How frustrating! Taking a quick mooch around after the session, it appears due to the makeup of the pit the south-westerly can push into a few other areas which could have held them instead of forcing them down to me. Another potential is the large, shallow bar that runs the full width of the pit near an area they have been holding up in recent weeks. The thought being here that the wind may have pushed them over the bar, but due to the deep drop on the other side, they could have just found everything they needed without going too far – shelter and protection in the calmer, deep, oxygenated water on the back of the bar along with food and warmth in one of the many weedbeds. Or they could have simply drifted into the two or three other areas that received the wind and I got it completely wrong…who knows, but that is all part of the learning curve in unlocking their traits and building that picture.
The drive home had me already planning my next trip, hoping to be able to maximise this lull in work to get as much time on the bank as possible. I have already built up a fair amount of knowledge of a few areas, being fortunate that I’ve either managed takes and/or fish from a few different areas I have so far fished. Confidence in what I am doing is high, the bait is doing what it does best and has done everywhere I have taken it. My approach, rigs, and feeding routine is working, the Pure is increasing that pulling power to the hookbait; confidence is crucial and allows me to concentrate on the more important aspect of the location.
Thursday arrived and due to the youngest being at football, I was in two minds about getting up late evening or early Friday. Now, to be honest with you, a bit of a no-brainer! The evenings are getting lighter and lighter now and knew I wanted to be there during the night and early doors to try and spot them, so kicked the boy out of the car and said my goodbyes (I did stop before kicking him out…just!). Arriving a little after eight o’clock, I sat in the car park and watched the water as you can see a large body. As time was ticking, I decided to head to a new swim which would give me access to the main bowl where they have been visiting the last few weeks and we will go from there.
I quickly went about finding two areas, one would be reasonably close in and the other would get two rods for the night. With the last rod kissing the surface bang on dark, it was time to set the home up and settle in for the night. Now I’m not sure if it is just me, and this is one close friends of mine have become accustomed to over the years, but I find it truly difficult to hit the sack till the early hours of the morning. There has been so much written and said about first light, but the waters I have fished over the years I have found more fish showing at night and into the early hours of the morning when others are sleeping than at first light. Often staying up late has led me to move at one, two, or three in the morning or repositioning a rod, accounting for so many fish as a result.
This first night was no different, maybe one too many late-night coffees, but whilst sat listening and straining the ears and eyes staring out into the abyss, I noticed there was movement in the margin under the rods. Upon investigation, I was greeted with a few crays feasting on the feed from the earlier spomb session. Now I’ve not really fished a water containing crays in any great numbers, so found this absolutely fascinating! I proceeded to watch them go about their business and watched how they fed on bait. Another brew in hand, I returned to the water’s edge and proceeded to introduce a handful of different baits to see how they reacted to each. If you are on a cray invested water, stick some bait in the edge and just sit and watch them; what an insight to hopefully combatting these pesky critters! There were a few bits they either didn’t like or found harder to handle, certain rigs they destroyed, and others fairing so much better. Interestingly, certain bits of bait were still there in the morning, yet all the bits of boilie, chopped and whole, had gone!
Having finished playing with the crays, I sat on the bed around 1am and the thought of hitting the sack and getting some much-needed kip seemed like a good idea. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, the margin rod pulled up tight to signal a take. Luckily, I was already sat in the waders so was quickly on the rod and soon connected with whatever was on the other end. Unfortunately, after a short and spirited battle, for whatever reason, this one also decided it did not want to come ashore and slipped the hook! What was going on!!! With the rod back out and the kettle on, I was licking my wounds having suffered yet another fish dropped. Nightmare!! There were a few factors that kept cropping up in my head, one being the lead not discharging and the other being my razor-sharp, hand-crafted hooks from JP. I have so much confidence in these hooks and would not go anywhere without them! They have undoubtedly helped secure the capture of so many fish, but I could not help thinking the points were being turned either through the diving birds or the crays; resulting in a poor hook hold when it came to that all-important crucial moment. There have been several conversations with close friends about hooks, picking their brains, and exploring my theories with a few ideas on how to combat these issues. I was also noting that the sharpened hooks were rusting very quickly as well, assumingly down to a very low PH nature of the water. But for now, it was time to sleep!
An early morning call had me stirring, unfortunately, it was a call of nature having consumed one too many coffees in my late-night partying with crays and dropping fish! The day was pretty much uneventful, not a lot showing and not huge amounts to go on. I decided to move one rod off the main spot, opting to spread the three around the swim in an arc. With the new spot found and knowing the forecast that evening and the following day was for strong winds and rain, I decided to give them a fair bit of mix on this new spot and lightly top the other two up. Rig wise I would go with the tried and tested D-Rigs, but this time I would change for a hook straight out the packet which will combat all of my concerns with the hand-sharpened ones; with the added confidence that I can leave my rigs in place for a long time knowing the rigs were bang on the money even if they were messed about with by birds or crays.
Rods in position just after lunch and the plan would be to leave them in position till I left the following morning. Bit of a risk with crays, but as previously mentioned, and with my late-night cray antics, I was confident I would be fishing on all three spots without any issues. As the night rolled in, I settled down for the evening knowing I have done everything in my power to maximise my chances. The thought did cross my mind about moving, however, it would have been a case of moving for the sake of moving rather than moving onto something.
After a conversation with the main man Mr. Flewin that evening around the issues with the leads not always dropping, I quickly skipped two rods in around half ten and made a few tweaks. Both went back out the first time on the money, same baits that were on previously, and both still smelling of the Pure Cream. With the rods settled again it was a slightly earlier night for me this time around, turning in just after midnight having once again played with my newfound friends.
Stirring early morning the weather had turned as predicted with strong winds and rain, so I simply pulled the cover back over the head and decided to catch up on some much-needed kip…a good old fashion lie-in was in order! Laying there in a state between sleep and awake where the good dreams happen, I was suddenly drawn to the sound of the alarm seemingly in meltdown. Ripping the covers away, sitting on the bed trying to get the waders on I could see the tip of the rod bent double and the line peeling off the tight clutch. After a mega battle and consumed by marginal reeds, I soon had my prize twisting and turning under the tip in the crystal-clear water. Knees wobbling, heart-pumping I was still in a slight state of sleep as line peeled from the clutch as my prize made one last attempt to evade capture. I netted the fish at the first attempt, standing there up to my you know what in pretty cold water looking at the golden prize resting in the bottom of the net. Buzzing!!
A short walk back along the margin to the swim, net pushed into the soft bottom and hooklink unclipped; I was on cloud nine! Everything had worked a treat, the Pure lasted strong for over twenty hours and remained solid, the rigs were fishing with the ‘out of the packet’ hook, but most importantly the tweak to the setup had resulted in the lead being ditched! Perfect! With everything set I was soon peeling the net away to reveal my prize…and what a cracker this was, looking every part of my first twenty from this magical water. I was in awe, mesmerised by this cracking common. It was clear it had been through a few scrapes over the years, more notable the slice from the top of the tail which had started to heal, and the missing patch of scales. I felt very fortunate to be cradling this gem in my arms, absolutely made up and buzzing like you would not believe. The scales pulled around two ounces shy of twenty pounds, but weight is not important in the slightest.
I held out for another few hours but that would be me done for this session, a pack up in the persistent and drizzly rain was now on the cards. Before I left, I put the remaining remnants of bait on the spot that did the fish with the plan to get back up on Sunday for my last session before having to start work again. With my dad duties done, football runs out the way, a bit of time spent with the family, I was soon heading back to the pit with a few nights ahead of me. Arriving late afternoon, I quickly went about loading the kit on the barrow and headed back to the swim in the hope they would have found the areas and stopped for a munch.
After a little mooch and not a lot to go on, rods were clipped and back out on the spots from the day before. I decided to freshen the spots up with the leading spot receiving twelve, the second received six and the marginal area would get four spombs of crumb and chops. Waking the next day there was not much happening, a few showed long on the back of the swim but for some reason, my gut was telling me I needed to get on my toes. I knew an area of the pit that had done a few fish over the weekend, so that was my first port of call to see if they were still held in and around the area.
Tactics would be slightly different this time, rather than going in with bait I decided to simply fish singles to start with. Not knowing the swim, but being aware of the topography, I wanted to make sure I was on the money. A quick marker revealed the long bar running the width of the lake (the very same bar I noted earlier in the blog), pinpointing the edges, and finding a very large weedbed. Two areas noted and rods in position, I sat and watched the water for a while before getting the third out.
As I stood watching, the sun poked out from behind the overcast conditions with a ray of light shining down to reveal a raised area at the far end of the bar. That was enough for me, with an educated pub chuck my single 15mm Squid & Plum popup was in place. A few hours later I slipped a few feet up a small tree to scope out a marginal area that would be of interest for the evening when the long rod signalled a take. Making like fireman Sam, I scrambled the waders on and as the line was ticking from the tight clutch, I made contact and soon commenced battle. Again, what a battle this was, holding firm, using its weight, and plodding on the long line. I soon managed to guide it towards the waiting net, with a few more powerful lunges under the tip I soon had my prize resting in the net. Oh my, the width of the back…talk about being able to stick a saddle on it!
Unclipping the rig, I let the fish rest in the net whilst I went about sorting everything out to receive my prize. Wow, what a prize this was. All that hard work over the last few weeks putting in three nights a week to build up a picture, the late-night setups, the weather endured, it had all come good and on the back of a gut feeling, ray of light, and a huge slice of lady luck. The Squid and Plum doing what it does best, this was proper spring fishing at its best!
Having cared for the fish, I was soon holding my reward up for the camera, all twenty-eight pounds of magnificent big pit common. What a brute this was! As I kneeled over my prize, I was speechless, I was there on my own among the long grass overwhelmed. The last few weeks had been me against the fish, Tufties, and crays. I had endured magical and frustrating moments, but the pit had rewarded me with an early season gem for all my efforts.
The rest of the session passed pretty much uneventfully, but it did not matter, I was happy with my result. The pit has matched the weather, being so consistently inconsistent! I have found that I’m nicking the odd bite off the main baited spots, but they’ve either been pretty quick or very late in the session bites. We are mid-May now and the weather is still all over the place, but the rain has started and seems like it is here to stay for a while. Feels like we’re at least four to six weeks behind where we should be, and they have certainly not been truly ‘on it’.
That would be my last trip to the pit having managed to pick up some work, so bang goes the time of two or three nights a week. Make hay when the sun shines and all that! I spent a very enjoyable, yet extremely frustrating few nights on Hacche Moor top lake. Going from a large gravel pit back to a small, intermate water was hard. It was more about catching up with good friends that I haven’t seen for a while now due to the pandemic, but there was always a chance of nabbing one of the pond’s gems.
Although Jake managed a couple of crackers with some fantastic angling, it was tough going. I think looking back, I probably got my approach slightly wrong and know what I would do differently if we were to return. Don’t get me wrong, there were no spomb’s and mass baiting; opting for baiting poles and gently dropping rigs in the margins, making sure the line is pinned down, and even going to the extent of pushing and covering it in the clay on the bed of the lake. Always tough rocking up to a small, heavily pressured water for the first time and expecting a royal result. Certainly, some unfinished business there that’s for sure!
The weekend after Hacche saw me attend the Carp Society 40th Anniversary show, giving chance to catch up with John, Aaron, and the rest of the CR team who I was yet to meet; along with catching up with some good friends who again I haven’t seen for a long while. It was great chatting to like-minded anglers, passing on some advice on how to maximise the bait, and very much looking forward to seeing the reports coming in. Overall, the weekend was a hit with the CR range looking on point and flying off the stand.
Being self-employed and managing to secure a long-term contract, my angling is now back to my norm of quick short sessions balanced between work and family life as per the majority of anglers chasing their dreams. I need to now be even more prepared to maximise my chances as much as I can, be it either nabbing a few hours after work in the evening or overnighters between the boy’s football. As a result, prebaiting on a local lake is a massive advantage; knowing a short ten-minute drive to introduce some bait will pay off big time when I turn up and get the rods out. The pit unfortunately is a little too far to be able to introduce some bait regularly, but I will be making the effort once things have settled down and the evening football runs are over.
Now, about pre-baiting, I go through a little bit of a process with this. Firstly, I like to introduce a bit more of a ‘carpet’ feed, consisting of small bit items like Hemp and crumb, with a few boilies all laced with plenty of liquid. I like to lay this carpet feed down which will get them grubbing about, cleaning all the debris off the area which will ultimately help with presentation. Once the first feed has been performed, I will then introduce a mix consisting of larger baits like corn, chopped and whole boilies, and pellets in the form of the bag mix. This second mix is more along the lines of the mix I will use to fish over and often being the leftovers I have knocking about in the freezer, once again being laced with liquids like the Liquid Cloud and NutMino to add that additional pulling power.
Once the spots have been prepared, I will keep these going by simply introducing whole and chopped baits, but this all depends on the type of water and will keep the mix going in on areas where possible. The local lake for instance which is used for nabbing a few hours here and there will be targeted with the left over winter Strawberry Ice which is a perfect attractor bait and will help maximise my time on the bank. With the lake being regularly fed bread by the public when feeding the ducks, this is the perfect bait for this water and will be readily accepted. Once my supplies have gone, I will then be turning to the CR1 coated in the new Strawberry Syrup. Rig wise, I like to keep things simple and effective, presenting either Chocomalt, matching Strawberry Ice, or the devastating CR1 ‘The Whites’ popups over the top. I need quick, effective, and reliable rigs, often only being out for a few hours I cannot be dealing with complicated rigs that require changing too much on bumper sessions. The kit is kept light and mobile, often being able to bounce around a few different areas as and when the situation arises. Again, the baiting approach when fishing is simple, small mesh bags of crumbed baits with either crumb, chopped, or whole baits lightly but regularly introduced to the area.
A recent couple of sessions demonstrated all the above, managing six fish over two consecutive evenings for a total of about four hours fishing. Ok, the lake is not the hardest of places, but can be moody and a real struggle sometimes. This proves the dominance of preparing the spots in advance, presenting reliable and simple rigs over the top with quality bait. What is it they say? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
As I close this month’s blog, we are now approaching Bank Holiday weekend and it looks like the deluge of rain could well be finally over! There is news filtering through some lakes that have started to spawn, which may put pay to my planned overnighter on Sunday at the pit. In fairness, if they are I will still make the trip, spend the time walking and watching, simply taking in nature at this magical time of year.
Wish you all the best if you are out, hoping your nets remain wet and you enjoy a fruitful Bank Holiday.
Till next month