Author: Dean Brookes

Fish of my Dreams

June 18, 2014.

Entry in my fishing blog:

I was on the phone with one of my long time carp friends Mr. Vanja. He gave me a ring and we chatted. It Just so happened that i was out scouting and exploring a new place in the afternoon hours before work. I do this A LOT. This particular venue I’ve had my eye on for years, but never fished it for carp, just other species. I have a strong belief that observation is the biggest key to successful carp fishing. Spending time actively fishing for trout, pan fish or bass can put you in a position to see something interesting.

I’ve seen lots of grass carp over the years on the surface but its rare for me to ever go out targeting them. Friends and other witness’ reports became null as i would write them off as grass carp. On this day though by chance I made a quick stop to walk around and by even greater chance a great fellow carper was in my ear when over a imbankment I saw a massive common carp. The fish was so long with a immense gut. I was so beside myself that I interrupted my friend to tell him what I just saw and why it was a supper big deal. So questioning all my past reports I bait down from the spot in a place that looked like they would visit. I drive out of the way home from work just to toss some more ground bait in. The next day I wake up to the fishing alarm in my head far to early. Forcing myself to get a little more sleep I can’t wait any more. Off I go.

I’ve got three hours before I have to leave the lake to make the drive into work. I arrive to see quite the sight. This lake is above average clear. The area that I baited, which was maybe 8 foot in a circle was now a 40ft mud cloud with tails all over the place. A very large orange black speckled koi swims in from mid lake into the cloud of mud and weeds. Unbelievable. How could they have stayed so hidden for so long to me? Getting my bearings straight I get back to the truck and load the barrow and jet over, throw the net together and putting all three rods together I realize… I don’t need any of this. I got this. So casting one rod low and under hand past the fish lifting up to come to rest as gentle as possible around the feeding fish. One boilie, no freebies, with no alarm. 20 seconds later the line bounces against my finger then quickly zipping off running over my finger. I lift up, fight the fish to the bank and successfully crack a long time watched water. Yes!

This story is not over. I’ve since gotten fish up to 30lb from this place. All unusually dark and long. Nothing yet was as big as the first common I saw and the year is still early, but none of this is what I’m here writing about. I’m here to tell of the other fish I caught that day and what I saw during the fight. After the first fish the area got a bit spooked. I knew this was the time to set up the pod and three rods. Putting a dozen baits in the water and casting out, I waited spending time chatting with locals until the second run happened. Hard fighting fish these are, as the fish peels line out just past a weed-mass I see something. Focusing on it I can’t believe my eyes. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen…. A grass carp, but not just any old grass carp. I have layed this species on to my mat over 50lbs. I’ve seen some big fish. Not like this though. This thing was so large that if I was swimming and saw it, i would have probably panicked. Swimming under the weeds it was gone. I landed that fish, very nice 20. Releasing it on film. looking down at my phone and after the shot all I can think about is telling someone about this fish. Brian wingrad is the lucky guy who gets to hear this fish tail first… I describe the fish as looking a impossible length with a girth at the tail being like a basket ball. He seemed more interested in the commons and I latter tell my co workers and friends about it.

I believe they think I’ve been sleeping out at lakes to much. My most recent time spent here with my few precious before work hours was last Monday. It is my fourth visit that I’d be fishing since I spotted the big bellied common. I spot a fish. So I grab my fly rod, but its not interested. I walk back to the truck to try a different approach. Walking with the barrow a park guy in the typical safety green shirt comments and starts conversation. By the end of that talk I learn a lot of new information. The man ends up being the head of the park and had a lot of good stuff to tell me. Out of that information one bit was the grass carp where stocked over 25 years ago at a count of 130. I set-up and burn my last hour on 2 awesome fish. Both caught in minutes of the cast, single rod in hand. The second fish almost made me late for work! Racing on the hot day sweating to zip off on a hour drive my heads still going over all what that man told me. Driving into work I’m thinking about how the weeds in my net from the last fish had so many tiny snails on it. Could it be that a majority of the 130 died in the 25+ years and there is a fish that has been eating this weed, unintentionally intaking loads of protein creating a genuine lake monster?! I want to find out. It may not happen this month, or this year. It might be a friend who catches it, someone I share the place with, but high odds it could get caught.

When it does I am going to dance and sing, “I told you so” I’m not crazy…not totally.

August 14, 2014:

Today I possibly caught the monstrous grass carp that I spotted 2 months ago. I had a week of vacation and barely got to fish. Most of the time was spent with my girlfriend and working on moving things and settling into our new home that we recently bought. Last day of my vacation and I just had to get out. So my good fishing pal, Austin and I pre baited a lake that I have done good on fishing short sessions. The next afternoon we set up and fished our chosen area. Early into the session I landed a nice long common in the low 20s. Wind and rain sets in and turns off after half a hour calming the lake down. Some bubbles are showing up fairly consistently moving around the area. I brought in my rod and re rigged with a new Kryston PVA bag full of crushed Jetfish Javor boilies with a splash of bread crumb. Casting out I sit back and relax.

An hour before I have to go do family things with my girlfriend I get a blasting run. Lifting up I feel the weight of something serious. The fish turns and surfaces at the same time, revealing a enormous dorsal fin which I immediately identified as that of a grass carp… an epic one. The shore was fairly shallow so I had to walk out into the water to land the fish. I don’t know what I would have done had I been by myself. I’m so glad I got to share the moment with Austin. I will never forget this day. I’ve caught 50 or more grass carp in my life. The first of which died due to my inexperience and lack of knowledge. Grass carp are a very fragile fish. More like a trout then a carp. They also do not stay very calm and I never held them due to this. This monster I kept and unhooked in water. We zero’ed the scale and moved it to my landing mat to be weighed… 59.5lbs. The fish was landed fast and was still surprisingly calm so I just went for it. Austin used his phone and started snapping away. After 40 seconds of photos I wrapped the fish up into my mat and walked back into the monsters lair. Reviving and releasing the fish successfully. The feeling was almost surreal. It took a while till I concluded that I just captured, photographed and released the biggest fish to ever be held in my hands. Did I do it?! Is this the monster I saw or is it just a sign that I did see a unspeakably, even larger fish and this isn’t even it. Could there be a larger fish? 70, 80 Pounds?! As an avid angler I must keep believing in the unknown and keep an open mind. Stay calm and keep fishing.

Massive Grassie
Massive Grassie
Amazing length to the fish
Amazing length to the fish
Also very thick across the back
Also very thick across the back

Short Sessions – Big Rewards (Video)


After a brutal winter in the North East of America, to say I was looking forward to getting out again is an understatement. The fact is I was going stir crazy as the frigid temperatures had seriously curtailed my winter fishing. The winter refused to budge but I didn’t waste the time as I worked hard to set up a new job opportunity which finally resulted in a concrete offer. Now according to my contract my new position was based on 35 hours, but as I wanted to make the role a success I soon found this time doubling. With my free time reserved for family activities I was finding it hard to even motivate myself to get out but in late March I decided to focus on the occasional foray to my further spots while concentrating more on a local water, only 6 miles away from me.

A little scaley beauty from one of my few winter sessions
A little scaley beauty from one of my few winter sessions

During April and May I ventured out for a grand total of 4 nights. I’ve never been a particular fan of long session fishing and much prefer sessions ranging from 12-24 hours. The fact is, longer sessions usually lead to a more casual approach and a sit and wait attitude. I prefer to spend a few hours watching the water and locating fish and having less time on the bank certainly hones this skill. A few hours in the right location will catch me just as many fish as if I fished for several days in the wrong location. The fact is, I cannot afford to sit and wait for the fish. I need to go to them and present them a meal they simply cannot refuse.

My first two overnights were very cold affairs and I really didn’t see any signs of fish no matter how long I watched the water. Even sitting up drinking coffee in the middle of the night gave me no real clues but past experience in the area had given me a good idea of where the fish would be and so I set my traps and trusted that should a fish have an urge for a snack I would be ready and waiting. As the water was still very cold I opted for a very light baiting situation using primarily a mixture of pellets that would put out plenty of attraction without filling the fish up. My location was proved correct as a stunning two tone mirror graced my net and even better it was over the magical 30lb mark.

Pellets formed my cold water attack
Pellets formed my cold water attack
A cracking two tone from a very cold night session
A cracking two tone from a very cold night session

The second session around 10 days later saw more fish activity as the weather had taken a turn for the better. This time I had more than one chance and landed three nice fish with a cracking upper twenty amongst them. The addition of a quality boilie to the pellet mixture certainly seemed to work and although I did not use a great deal of bait, the use of chopped and crumbed baits certainly gave me plenty of pulling power. Now over the last couple of years I have been utilizing PVA solid bags for a lot of my fishing as 1) It eliminates tangles, which is a must when one cast per session is the norm 2) It allows me to present a bait over almost any type of bottom, including weed 3) You can pack a lot of attraction into the bag and create an almost irresistible food pile 4) You can cast it to the horizon.

An long mirror that fell to a solid PVA Bag approach
An long mirror that fell to a solid PVA Bag approach

The PVA solid bags I use are the FOX Rapide load. It takes a few bags to perfect the technique but this system is very, very easy to use. Simplicity is a must when night fishing and so I also added PVA mesh so that I could present smaller packages of bait when fishing closer in. On my third session I actually arrived a few hours before dark to find quite a few other people fishing the usual areas. Instead of getting annoyed, I took the time to drive to a few new spots and have a look around and then I spent an hour sitting and watching the water. I was looking for the carp to TELL ME where to fish and I was rewarded with a subtle show, something I would not have seen if I was not intently watching.

At this point rather than cast a lead straight at the fish (something that is the kiss of death on this venue) I quickly grabbed my bait bucket and throwing stick and scattered around 50-70 baits in the general area. I knew that not only would this temporarily move the fish off, it would also serve to attract them back in once I could get a rig out. Five minutes later I duly dispatched a ‘pink pepper’ pop-up along with a small mesh bag of pellets onto the spot. I was interested to see how the fish would react to the new bait (Nutrabaits Blue Oyster) and less than two minutes later I was playing a very angry mirror carp! The commotion in only 4 feet of water scuppered any further chances and so I prepared fresh rigs and shortly before dark got both rods out onto spots in slightly deeper water.

Nutrabaits 'Blue Oyster' gave me instant results
Nutrabaits ‘Blue Oyster’ gave me instant results

The night passed uneventfully, apart from one nice twenty and I awoke at first light to find a fish eater (in this case a Russian angler who likes to kill everything, and I mean everything that he catches) less than 20 yards to my left. Considering there is over 1 mile of bank to chose from I was not feeling particularly friendly! However, I was to have the last laugh as 30 minutes later my left hand rod ripped off and I began a tussle with an old friend. There was no hiding the fact that this was a beast of a carp and I heard an excited Russian ask me how big?? My reply of ‘only a small one’ seemed to work as he skulked off and left me alone. Finally, ‘The Pet’ was mine again.

A cracking fish and one I am happy to see over and over again. Considering the size of the water and the number of fish present it seems strange I would catch the same fish several times but you won’t hear me complaining anytime soon.

'The Pet' in immaculate condition
‘The Pet’ in immaculate condition

My final session on this water was particularly pleasing as I had a brace of fish with a big crowd watching and I also managed a couple of cracking night time fish. However, with work getting more and more hectic I knew I would not be getting back until late summer and so I vowed to return as the water holds one more target I want to achieve before I leave it to others.


Weekends now became my only chance to whet a line, which did not amuse me! I hate fishing at weekends, unless it’s Sunday night, as it attracts the nuts, the stupid, the ignorant and the downright idiotic anglers and non anglers alike. Unfortunately, there is no reasoning with STUPID so I decided to first hit up a hidden section of the tidal river to catch some commons and then concentrate on a couple of remote areas of my local lake. The tidal river session went particularly well, as fishing fake maize and corn over boilies and ground bait, laced with pellets certainly got the fish feeding and I caught over twenty commons. They were mostly lean and angry mid to upper double males but I also got a couple of bigger specimens approaching mid twenties which certainly put a smile on my face.

Tidal rivers certainly separate the men from the boys and if your tackle is not up to the job the carp will make you look stupid. I had particular success with the FOX SSBP (short shank beaked point) hooks and all of the fish I landed were nailed and the only fish I lost were down to a rather nasty sunken rock the fish like to aim for at low tide!

A typical long and lean tidal river common
A typical long and lean tidal river common

After my foray onto the river I was to put short session fishing to the test. I had a Memorial Day Tournament to attend and as I needed to avoid the traffic and get a 5am start I decided to fish for a few hours before making the drive. I arrived in darkness and stealthily hid myself away. I knew the swim intimately, even though I hadn’t fished it for 18 months and after setting up my rods I waded my baits into position and scattered some hemp, pellets, corn and boilies over the top and settled down under the stars. I can’t say I was expecting too much but shortly after 2am one of the rods erupted into life and I made my way out into the lake to battle with whatever was on the other end of the line. After a spirited battle a cracked upper twenty made it’s way onto the mat. I quickly got the rod back into position and rebaited.

A welcome surprise
A welcome surprise

A few hours later the rod signaled another bite and the procedure was repeated. Another upper twenty! A cracking result and reward for making the effort. The session ended on a bit of a downer as while returning one of the fish I had another take, only for the fish to take me through an underwater snag and slip the hook. I hate losing fish, but especially when I am fish waters where I know the next fish could be a truly special carp.

Another upper twenty and reward for making the effort
Another upper twenty and reward for making the effort

I tried another short night session in the same swim, but I was fairly sure the fish would be elsewhere spawning and ultimately I was proved correct with a big, fat blank. I never stress too much over not catching as it all goes into the knowledge bank for future reference. I actually did not manage to get out again for another few weeks and I now felt the fish would be back from spawning and again, past experience paid off with a couple of nice scaley mirrors, one going just short of 30lb’s. The highlight of this session was listening to a concert going on locally and a massive firework display, all of which never seem to bother the carp on this lake as it’s the norm, not the exception.

Another long and lean upper twenty
Another long and lean upper twenty


This brings me up to the last couple of weeks where I decided to rest my other swim for a few weeks and explore a new area of the lake. In this case I decided to take my kayak out as it makes access to the spot much easier and also allows me to bait up by boat if required. Unfortunately, I had picked a Saturday night which I knew would mean lots of boat traffic with most of them being drunk or well on their way. I was not to be disappointed!! It was madness on the water with all kinds of parties going on until the early hours and one boat nearly crashing into the bank. Oh well, back to the fishing.

I started with a couple of bullheads. Not a good sign as once on the bait they are very much a problem.  My solution was to move the rod into deeper water and bait only with boilies (Nutrabaits Techni-spice, glugged with hemp oil). It seemed to work with a couple of smaller fully scaled fish, gradually getting bigger in size until I caught a nice upper double. The boilies seemed to kick into life at first light and I had a run of fish resulting in a beauty, well into the 30lb range. Now, the lake has and does produce big fish but these are few and far between and when you catch a 30lb+ fish from it’s depths it is usually well earned.

This fish made me very happy
This fish made me very happy

A week later I planned a return session, but on closer inspection there appeared to be some kind of party, more akin to a Pagan sacrifice taking place. I decided to give the reveler’s a wide berth and took it as an omen I should be trying a new spot anyway. I paddled around and found an area I liked the look of, with the water going from 4 feet to a nice 10 foot plateau before dropping off to over 30 feet. As it was now dark I used the throwing stick and deposited around a kilo or so of mixed boilies at 50 yards with the plan to move both rods onto the spot should the carp become active. For now, the other rod went onto the 10 foot plateau and was baited with 10-15 balls of ground bait, laced with hemp, sweetcorn and chow pellets. Over this I fished fake maize as I knew that while not as selective as boilies it would almost certainly attract fish to the area and I could then change the baiting situation on future sessions if the area proved to be a fish holder.

The night was quite, apart from a boat that turned up at 2am, anchored a few hundred yards away and then for the next two hours regaled me with numerous songs and ditties. Seriously, I am not sure why anyone would chose to do this, but the same could be said of my own carp fishing addiction. Once they departed the fish seemed to respond and I was away at 4am. Unfortunately the fish found a massive area of water cabbages, which I thought I had avoided and even though I took the boat out, the fish won the day. Feeling sorry for myself I retreated onto my chair and it wasn’t until after 6am that redemption was mine in the shape of an awesome scaley mirror. The fish had everything I loved about the carp in this lake. Scaley, fin perfect and angry!

A fish with an attitude
A fish with an attitude

I returned it to it’s watery home and got a couple of hours of sleep before finally deciding that the fish had beaten me. I packed up everything and just had the rods left on the deck. Having checked the weather the evening before I was not expecting the thunderstorm that now descended upon me. At the same time as the rain started so did the action over the baited boilie spot. Sitting under the tree canopy I watched as clutch of one of my reels started to smoke! I quickly got into the water and waded 80 yards down the margins to reduce the chance of the fish kiting into the water cabbages and after a spirited battle I landed another one of the lakes beautiful mirrors. Having packed away everything, I had just unhooked the fish when the second rod decided to spring to life. At this point it would be easy to panic and leave the other fish on the mat, but instead. I tightened the clutch on the spinning reel to slow the fish down and moved the carp on the mat into the retaining sling. I then set the net back up before finally picking the rod up to play the fish. It was still attached shortly after a mid teen fully scaled mirror was quickly unhooked and released.

Ancient looking mirror
Ancient looking mirror

At this point the rain increased and so did the thunder. Knowing that I was stuck for the time being I recast both rods and sat down hoping that the rain would ease off, allowing me to kayak back to my car. Less than 5 minutes later one of the rods took off again and better still I got the take, fight and landing all on video. The fish turned out to be a stunner in the shape of a wild looking fully scaled mirror. It’s not the biggest fish I’ve ever caught but I couldn’t have asked for a prettier carp to finish the session.

A wild looking fully scaled mirror
A wild looking fully scaled mirror

During a lull in the storm I managed to get back to dry land and the safety of my car, but not without an absolute drenching in the process. I’m really glad I made the decision to concentrate on this lake again as while I can fish areas with more carp and areas with bigger carp, I truly feel this lake tests me as an angler. At times fishing can be heart breaking and at times it can be ridiculously easy, but this lake offers everything. It can be both urban and rural as it stretches for 4 miles; it has limited bank access even with a boat; the water traffic is unreal with pleasure boaters, water skiers, jet skiers, a very large rowing club and numerous pontoons full of partiers to contend with; it has a few shallow areas but for the most part drops to 20-60 feet in depths; it has a growing population of bow hunters; it has an annoyingly active population of catfish (bullheads) and finally the carp! While the lake has decent numbers of fish they are spread out and the bigger specimens are very much territorial and stick to the same areas which means with limited bank access it can be hard to even fish for them. There are also a lot more low to mid double fish than bigger specimens and to be selective you really have to work at your tactics. Any pre-baiting only results in attracting the bullheads and smaller carp and in the past I have spent a lot of time and money ‘priming’ areas only to be plagued with the wrong species. After all is said and done, I absolutely love this lake and smile every time my alarm sounds.

I’ll be busy for the next couple of weeks, but am already planning my return and hopefully I can catch the fish I have spent so many hours daydreaming of.

Meet the Contributor: John Finney

John Finney

45 years old
Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Hometown: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK

Carping CV:  PB common: 37 lb 5 oz (USA), PB mirror: 18 lb (UK)


I first became interested in carp fishing in the late 70s, as a wee lad, aged, 9. My youth was spent fishing local day ticket venues, such as Stanborough Lakes and the adjoining River Lea. I had but basic tackle and whatever baits I could raid from the pantry at home. My UK PB remains an 18 lb mirror from Stanborough, caught on a simple homemade dough ball, with a 6ft medium action rod, 4 lb test line, and basic spin cast reel – all from Woolworth’s!

In the mid 80’s I put down my rods for other pursuits and did not return to the sport until 2012, in a whole new country. Not only has the carping addiction taken hold of me again but my adventures are now video blogged in “CarpQuest” on youtube, for all to enjoy, the highs, the lows, the many cups of coffee consumed!

 I write articles on carp fishing for local fishing forums and am the CAG State Chair for Colorado.

I work hard to educate and dispel the many myths and rumors concerning carp fishing here in the USA. I enjoy taking new people to the sport out fishing and helping others realize their own carping goals. I am passionate in the advocacy that carp fishing can not only be challenging, but affordable to the entry level angler and most of all, tremendous addictive fun.

 Why carp fishing?

When I think back to my youth I can still fondly recall those warm summer days, sitting upon the bank, rod in hand, a knitting needle as a makeshift monkey climber, waiting for the bite. Those memories have stayed with me through my adult life and the passion for carp has not diminished.

Most obsessive thing you have done to catch a carp?

Fished into a constant 35mph headwind, with gusts over 50mph, our chairs flying, huge white caps, impossible casting and a constant spray of water blowing in my face. End result, a fine 28 lb common was banked. Closely followed by fishing in a dust storm, end result, broken camcorder and a blank for the session!

A nice 'Big Water' common
A nice ‘Big Water’ common

 Angler(s) you most respect?

John Wilson. I watched his show “Go Fishing” growing up as a child. A true “gentleman” in the way he educates anglers and entertains his viewers. Any angler that shares their knowledge, exudes passion for carp and takes pleasure in others success as much as their own.

Worst tackle purchase ever?

I don’t blame my tackle. I have to accept that often I have made some poor, or inappropriate choices, through a lack of knowledge or being lured in by the latest “bright” and “shiny” gizmo out there. Most of my tackle is purchased on a tight budget. I look for tackle that gets the job done, is reliable and durable at an affordable price point.

 Favorite baits?

Flavored corn/maize and particles, GLM in particular.

 What was your best ever session?

May 2013, Chatfield Reservoir.

I caught my PB common carp at 37 lb 5oz. The two friends I was with, first time at the venue for them, each caught their PB common and mirror.

5 PB’s in a day between us – what a day !

Favorite catch?

My current PB common.

For the 2013 season I had set myself the goal of catching my first ever 30. A few weeks before this memorable day I landed a new PB common from Chatfield Reservoir at 28 lb, in horrific windy conditions. Given the average carp from the venue seemed to be in the mid-doubles that fish had been a real surprise. After that capture I became obsessed with “big fish” fever and fished Chatfield at every opportunity that was available. Big carp are rare in Colorado and perhaps I had set for myself an unrealistic goal.

 A few weeks later I was back at Chatfield again, fishing with a couple friends, their first time at the venue. It was a very light hearted and fun session, lots of joking and playful banter between us. We were setup fishing in a line down the bank, perhaps 30 yards apart. I was using mussel flavored corn with a simple panko & creamed corn pack. My friends, a variety of their own hook baits, sweetcorn, dough balls, pack. They had put some nice fish on the bank already including some new PBs. The day could not get any better, or so I thought.

After spending a few hours helping in netting and weighing their prizes I finally had a good fast strong take on one of my rods. Lifting into the rod I could tell immediately she was a good fish but I had no idea just how huge she was. Carp at Chatfield are notorious for kiting right into the bank early in the tight and this fish was no different. I had previously suffered a few cut-offs against the rocks in the shallows and hoped this would not be a repeat. Thankfully, after her initial run, she swam back out fairly straight and I worked her back in. After about 10 minutes I finally got her to the shore and she was safely netted.

With the high surf I could not really see how big she was. My friend that netted her started to joke that I had caught a “River Monster”, he even made straining sounds as he tried to lift the fish from the water. Given our earlier banter I presumed he was toying with me. When he finally hauled the beast from the water, and placed her in the carp cradle, I could see it was no joke. She was huge, perfect golden scales glistening in the sun, fat belly, almost the length of the cradle. I could not believe I had caught her.

 We weighed her in at 37 lb 5 oz. This would have been a new Colorado state record capture, the previous record was 35 lbs. I knew immediately that I was going to release her – the record did not matter, I would take pleasure in seeing her swim away to be caught again another day.

We took lots of photo’s, some video and then set her free. I still cannot believe that I had caught such a specimen. It will be a day I never forget. We nicknamed her “CarpZilla”, a real monster from the depths.

 Of course, now I know there must be a 40 lb’er out there somewhere with my name on her  – the obsession continues for another year!

Current PB
Current PB

 Top tips?

Research a new venue in advance of turning up at the bankside. There is a vast array of information out there on the web at your fingertips, be it topographic maps with depth charts, weather forecast, local fishing forums and articles. Time spent researching in advance is often well rewarded. Don’t be afraid to try something new or ask questions. If you get a chance, talk to the local bailiff, park ranger, fish and game warden or another angler. Ask them what the conditions are like or for suggestions on swims and locations that are producing. Local knowledge can invaluable.  Don’t be afraid to ask !

 Favorite rig?

A simple KD bolt rig, 2oz lead, with a popped up piece of corn/maize.

 Worst ever session?

I’ve had rods snap on casting, huge captures elude me but inches from the landing net after a multi-day session. My chair has previously turned into a pair of skis, with me siting upon it, straight down a slope. There was an early spring 10 session streak without a single capture from a favorite local venue.

There are no bad sessions. Even when you fail to land a fish you are still learning, gaining knowledge, what works, what doesn’t. Keep a log book of all your trips, record everything, weather, water conditions, baits, locations, even when you fail to catch.

Fishing should be fun!
Fishing should be fun!

Texas Adventures

For my brother Austin and I, this was our second ATC (Austin Team Championship) which was held in Austin Texas, we placed at a respectable 4th, among 24 other teams. We worked hard both days to get to that position and we were happy with what we had done. But there’s way more to the story than just this.

My brother Austin and I have felt trapped, with this hideous winter and we were bursting at the seams to just start fishing again. It was finally our time to unleash that buildup of excitement, and that feeling of being cornered in. Along with my brother, my dad was going to be a part of this adventure!

I had two main goals for this trip. The first one was to catch my first buffalo and in particularly a smallmouth buffalo. The second achievement I wanted to attain was to catch my first grass carp (white amur). We headed off to Austin, Texas to begin our fishing adventure. We wanted to make the best out of this trip, so we planned to get the most fishing in as possible. To do that we headed down a week before the tournament, which is held on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.  But there was a problem, one of the tournament’s rules is that you cannot fish five days before the event begins and so our solution was to fish a nearby lake called Austin Lake and in particular a campground called Emma Long Park. If anything, this was the place to come in contact with my goals but we had some serious complications right after arriving in Texas.

Since we were flying down to Austin our only option was to ship our equipment.  Just after landing in Texas we found out that two important tubs filled with equipment was delayed and left behind in another state. Being in Texas while not having all our gear and knowing we weren’t going to be able to fish properly for the first day or two, was absolutely killing both Austin and me. With the equipment that did arrive, we picked it up and headed off to Austin Lake to try do some fishing with what little we did have. When we did arrive at the lake, we met some close friends down at the campground and we all decided to fish together.

First Austin and I had to sort through our gear and see if we had enough to even set up. Luckily we weren’t missing as much as we thought we were. Austin was missing his bite alarms and some other small items. I was missing one reel so I could only fish with two rods, but we could make do. To go along with my missing reel, most of my bait was missing as well. We finished setting up with the gear we did have when the sun was just setting on Sunday. With some of the bait we chummed out to get prepared for an epic 4 days of straight fishing and camping. That night we discovered that the swim comes to life when the sun finally goes down. While fishing and catching up with our friends and explaining our plans for fishing this week, we also listened to the fish greeting us for the first time. That night we all fell asleep to the peaceful sound of fish franticly crashing and slowly rolling at the surface of the water.

Sunset on Lake Austin
Sunset on Lake Austin

On Monday morning we woke up early, mostly because we were going to bait up the swim again. Nothing excited happened during that day besides the fact that the rest of our gear arrived. It felt so nice that we were finally able to fish properly and I finally felt that I was fishing to my fullest. The day passed by and the hours elapsed. Now it was almost that time again, when the swim comes to life. So we threw in more bait that evening to try and have the opportunity to catch one of Austin Lake’s beauties. This night my brother Austin did really well. He landed two new PB grass carp for himself.

First blood to Austin
First blood to Austin

His first one was 23lb+, then later that night he landed a stocky 31lb+ grass carp which is his current personal beast. Nothing else happened that night.

New PB - 31lb's of Grass Carp
New PB – 31lb’s of Grass Carp

The next morning, at 1:30 a.m. I drowsily woke up to a recognizable sound coming next to my head and then realized….my receiver! I ran out of the warm tent and into the cool damp night air to my rod that had a fish on it. While the fish was slowly pulling line off of my reel, I picked up my rod with one swift movement. This fish was putting up a fight I wasn’t used to. This fish was swimming with slow, sluggish movements and at this point everything was going through my mind of what it could be. Finally it was in the net and it was my first ever buffalo! I had just achieved one of my goals for this trip and I was really happy with what I had landed. After I unhooked the fish, we had to weight it right there to get an accurate weight because we were going to keep her in the sack till sun rise, so we could get pictures. It ended up weighing 27lb 2oz.

First Buffalo Carp
First Buffalo Carp

I was really happy to have that as my first buffalo. After I put her in the sack (which was connected to a bank stick far out in the water) I recast to try my luck again for another night time fish.  On settling back down in the tent, all I was thinking about was seeing the buffalo later that day when I could get a good look at my new PB. Then I slowly fell back to sleep.  Later that day there were only few commons caught but nothing special. With little action from the previous days we started to analyze our tactics and realized that something needed to be changed. We decided we needed to lengthen our hook-link and approach the fish with even smaller baits That morning we also picked up some bait we wanted to try, which were called range cubes. A lot of the local guys bait up swims with these. Basically they are really big pellets that have a slow break down time. You can relate them to solubles. We were going to try this bait, because these fish have experienced this bait a lot and were used to it. The range cubes are filled with minerals, maize, and some salts.

 While I was crouched down next to my rods that night, watching the fish crash and roll endlessly at the surface of the water I thought to myself this ought to be the night that I either get my first buffalo or grass carp because of all the signs of fish, and I felt confident. Knowing it would take some time for a fish to get on the bait I went to bed, again with the exciting sounds of fish letting us know they were still there. Each morning was beautiful in Texas, with the sound of birds greeting us along with the noise of the water washing up onto the shore. After having our gourmet bankside breakfast of chili at around 9 am, we were deciding whether to move to another lake, called Decker Lake which is a beautiful lake with enormous buffalo, but with low numbers of fish it can be slow. Along with our friends we all were thinking that we all would have a better chance to hook into a fish which was what we all wanted for each other. To my surprise next think I know, I am running to my rod which is screaming off, then it suddenly stops before I can get to it. All I am thinking is that I lost the fish. I am looking at my lines now. Two lines are tight and one is slack, so assuming it is the one rod with the different line presentation I reel in the slack. To my surprise again, I was completely wrong it was my middle rod, it starts taking line out again. I pick up the rod that actually does have the fish on it. This fish feels super heavy, just an absolute bull dog because it was hugging the bottom. This is also a strong fish, it takes out a decent amount of line at a slow pace and I could not do anything to stop it. Eventually I continue to bring in the heavy fish. The fight had to be going on to 25 minutes by now. My back was aching from the weight of this fish, which had now finally surfaced. Another buffalo and this time a huge one! The buffalo is in then net now. I run through the water to the fish and take a look over the net. She is definitely big. So with great care we bring her to the mat and I unhook her. Even before putting this beast on the scale I knew I smashed my old PB buffalo. Well we will just have to see, so we weighed her. She was an impressive 41lb 0oz! Just after weighing her, we got pictures and sent her back on her way to live another day.

Another Buffalo and another PB
Another Buffalo and another PB

Then probably making the wrong decision we still decided to go to Decker Lake. It made sense to us because we all had to look at the big picture, and that was having all of us have a chance to catch. So we thought moving spots for a decent amount of hours to a lake that had produced more fish than what we have caught so far was the best choice. About the only thing that happened at Decker was some chattering on the bank. So we packed up, grabbed some McDonalds for our dinner and we went back to Austin Lake for our last night.

At this point I was beat and feeling a little upset because I now released that moving spots was not the right choice. After arriving back at Austin Lake, I was deciding whether to set the rods up and fish or just go to bed and get a good night’s rest. Our friends were not fishing this night as they were really tired. The fish were there crashing around at the surface when I was trying to make my decision. It almost seemed that the fish were giving us a welcome back sign. I was thinking to myself about how stupid I would be if I didn’t try to fish this last night. The reason we came down here so early was to fish before the tournament. After all, I could just get a good night’s sleep tomorrow night. All that convinced me to set up and fish. I am really glad I did, it ended up being the best night of fishing for me! No later than 10 minutes of having all three rods out I get a nice hit. I was in disbelief for a moment, if it had really happened or not, because I was standing right over the rod and I literally watched it happen. Then within the next couple minutes two of my brother’s rods scream off and then my rod that got the hit on it as well gets a fish on it. So I was fighting my fish and our friend was helping Austin by fighting the fish on his second rod.

My fish starts out fighting with one big jolt on the rod, but it wasn’t hard enough take any line out. Then there is another jolt that takes out some line. Then there is a third jolt on the line. After that, it seemed like the fish just stopped fighting, but the fish was not giving up that easy and it took a long steady run before finally yielding. So now it gave me the opportunity to keep bringing the fish in. Now there was a problem, my dad wass helping Austin and our friend by netting those two fish, and now I have no one to net my fish. So I start yelling out to another friend that was sleeping to help me land my fish. He still had not arrived yet when I first saw my fish. It was a colossal buffalo. Finally he gets over here and just in time. He helped me out by netting my huge buffalo.

Nearly 50lb's!
Nearly 50lb’s!

  Finally it was netted and I felt so relieved that this fish was finally in the net. I set down my rod to assist my friend in lifting the behemoth. When he did make his first step up on the bank, his sweat pants fell down to his ankles and I had to grab the net with the fish in it and help him carry it to the mat while his sweats were still down! When we set this stunning buffalo down, I was instantly astonished by the utter size of this buffalo. I thought for sure this buffalo was going to break the 50lb mark. But I was wrong. I didn’t care though, as it was another PB buffalo and a new current personal best coming in at 48lb 12oz!

 Of course I kept this one in the keep sack till morning so I could get a good look and take good pictures. I was so happy at that moment, I could not stop thinking about my new PB buffalo and at one point I walked into the water to just look at it and admire it. Later on that night I got a weak run on one of my rods. It was my first common carp of the trip. I released the fish and got the rod back out. At this point I headed into the tent to try and get some sleep, but kept the rods out. I lay down and set my receiver next to my head so it would easily wake me up. Without a clue on what time it was because I was sleeping, I wake up to a startling run,  my reactions took over and I instantly got up, sliding out of the warm tent  into the fresh night air. The fish stopped running by this point, but I continued running to my rod. I picked up the rod and it took out a lot of line and then just completely stopped fighting, but it continued to keep trying to turn around. It was black outside and you could not see past you headlamp, so a lot of the time night fishing you rely on your sense of sound. The fish seemed about 20 yards out and I imagined what the fish did was jump head first out of the water away from me toward the other shoreline. I was amazed at what I heard. I finally landed this fish and my brother told me it is grass carp. Yes, I was really hoping to get a grass carp and I was really happy! I was admiring this fish when I first saw it. We weighted it and she turned out to be 29lb 0oz! I was really happy to have that as my first grass carp and proud to say it is. So I put her in the sack until the morning and put her next to my PB buffalo that was also in the water as well.

Nice grass carp
Nice grass carp

After recasting I went back into the tent and I dosed off with the feeling of success. I woke up around 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, and now it was finally time to take pictures of my two new personal bests. I was happy to see these fish again. After a lot of strength and patience to try and correctly hold my personal best buffalo, we got pictures. When I was releasing this amazing fish, I was mentally recording this moment; I tipped the fish over a little to the left and slid my hand to the middle of the fish’s side facing me; I compared my hand to the overwhelming size of this fish. It seemed to have gotten even bigger. Now the fish was ready to be released. I was also thinking at this moment how blessed I was to catch this one, then I sent her back into the wild. Now it is time to get pictures of my 29lb 0oz PB grass carp. This fish especially made me happy because it is so different than the other fish I have caught so far, and how rare they are. We got pictures and I happily sent it back on its way.

It had been about a half hour since I released my two new personal bests and I was talking to our friend, when I suddenly got a run on one of my rods. I picked up the rods and by this point I had a sense of what buffalo fought like, so I was picturing this to be a buffalo. I had guessed right, it was another buffalo. This one was an amazing 37lb 10oz. Unfortunately that was my last fish at Austin Lake. I was happy with this last night of fishing and was proud of what I have done.

Another nice Buffalo Carp
Another nice Buffalo Carp

Now we had to pack our fishing equipment and camping gear to get ready for the ATC. My brother, my dad and I were staying at the Wyndham hotel because that was where a lot of the anglers in the tournament were staying as well and it was also the location of the peg draw. So now it was Thursday night, and there was a social gathering and dinner with a lot of the directors and anglers that were fishing in the tournament. So after finally going to bed that night I was ready for the tournament. The morning had come and it was time for the peg draw. For the peg draw you randomly select two chips with numbers on them. Each number is a peg location on Lady Bird Lake and you have ten seconds to pick you peg. When we randomly grabbed the two chips, one of them just so happened to be a peg that we fished last year. That peg produced very well for us last year and put us in first place on day one of the tournament last year. So it was just common sense to pick it again this year, so we did. When we got done carrying all our gear down to the swim, like last year the dam further down from the swim messes with the spot when the dam pulls water in and out of the swim. We assumed this would happen again and it did. The only thing we could do was to wait for the dam to stop pulling and pushing water out. Finally it stopped and as soon as the water slowed down enough for us to cast out we did, and now we could get fishing.

Town Lake
Town Lake

Things didn’t go as planned and to our disappointment we didn’t hook a fish till late into the day. I landed our first fish at 24lb+ and I was happy to have that fish. Sadly it took around another hour to hook into our second fish. This time it was Austin to land a fish. Again it was another decent fish a 22lb+ common. Around another 30 minutes later I landed an 18lb+ common. All these fish were hooked late into the day, which had now finally come to an end, and day one of the tournament was over.

One of only a few fish from Day 1
One of only a few fish from Day 1

Even though we were in 3rd place we felt we could have done better and we were a little disappointed, not because how we placed the first day, but because we felt that we could have fished that peg better. Now it was day two of the tournament. This day we picked two pegs that were new to both of us. We thought we picked the better of the two choices we got. Before we left to get down to the peg we checked the leaderboard for the results on day one of the peg we just picked to fish. Wow, we just picked a peg that didn’t produce on day one of the tournament. The results let us know that we were going to have to fish hard this day. The swim is in a park but pushed out of the way of everyone there. You have to walk down a set of stairs that leads to a dock that faces the water. This peg looked nice. After finding the swim we got set up and it was soon time to cast.

There was one problem since it was out of the way and on a dock extended out onto the water, we had to cast with over hanging trees. There was one spot on this dock were you could just barely cast by crouching a little. So after finding a spot to cast from we got all our rods out. It has been about 20 minutes now since we have had all our rods out. All I am thinking is what if there is no fish here like there was yesterday, they blanked does that mean we will too, and what happened if we are blanking how can we change that. But then my right hand rod screams off. Yes, a fish. But it was not the type we wanted to catch. It was a small catfish. So I after releasing the catfish I cast out my rod again, and I then continue to think about how the people before us had blanked. To make things worse, the day was starting to brighten up which started to bring people out, which were school rowing teams, their coaches on boats, canoers, paddle boaters and more water related boats. After facing the fact that we were going to have problems with all the disturbances and that the water was going to get even more crowded with the boats, things started to go our way. It only took around ten minutes after casting the rod that got a catfish on it, to start screaming off again. This time I could tell it was a carp, and a nice one at that. Finally after a nice battle with this fish, she was in the net. I was so happy and relieved that I landed a fish already from a peg that didn’t produce the day before. This fish let us know that there was more to come. So without wasting any time, I unhooked her and put her in the sack for the marshal to weight the fish and confirm the weigh. It was a healthy 22lb + common and was a nice fish to start out the day with. After another half hour I got a second run. I picked up the rod and bent into it and this fish did not stop, it was a hard fighting carp. Now things start to go bad. Two rowing teams stop dead on my other rods casted out. They were too far out to shout at but close enough in to mess with the fish. To make things worse a lady that is in a rowing boat by herself comes in really close. My brother and I tell her that we are in a tournament, that we have lines out, and that I am fighting a fish. Then she starts screaming at us to tells us to reel in our rods. Then she goes on to swearing at me, and asking where the line is with the fish. I tell here it is right in front of her. I realized that she isn’t going to calm down, I lower my rod to my left, dipping my rod tip into the water. I then continue to tell her to just go across our lines, she moves really slowly over our lines. At last she finally finishes going over my rods and the one that has the fish on it. I can now lift my rod and fight this fish properly again. It’s not over yet, I still have to watch out for the school rowing teams that are still over our other lines. I barely bring the fish close enough in when even more boaters move over our lines. The fish is finally within netting distance, but she does not give up and still was fighting and swirling close in. After a close in battle, we finally landed her. Right away we can tell this fish is bigger than the last one. Again without wasting time I unhook the fish and put it into the sack so the marshal can weigh and confirm this fish. We weighted the fish and it was a 25lb+ common. I was really happy with that fish and after all I had been through to land it.

Finally in the net after a battle with boaters!
Finally in the net after a battle with boaters!

It took me a little bit longer for the next fish. This time it was a 16lb+ common. After that everything slowed down. I just remember lying next to my rods just hoping for another fish for our team, but hours went by. Thankfully Austin gets the next fish, it is a nice 21lb+. Sadly the day comes to an end, and that was our last fish of the tournament.

Austin with an ATC common
Austin with an ATC common

We were really proud of what we did that day. We pulled out some good fish, from a peg which blanked the day before. Now that the tournament was over, we headed back to the hotel for the ceremonies and awards. With the results updated we placed 4th, beating the good majority of anglers that were there. We were really proud of what we did. This is was our second year in a row placing in the top 5 teams. For me this was one of my most memorable and best fishing trips so far. But there is still much more to come from me.

The Art of Boilie Fishing: Part 2 – Types and Varieties

In Part 1 we discussed why boilies were developed and the various forms in which they are available. Having understood exactly why you would choose to use boilies we will now delve into the many different varieties that they come in. Before we get into the specifics I would like to point out that what follows is not a comprehensive list of the ways you can use boilies. It is very much an overview of the techniques I use and have utilized when using boilies to target American carp. All of the methods I will list have been used successfully by myself and several of my fishing companions and if a technique is not listed it is because I have not personally used it and as such can not either recommend it or discount it.

Air drying boilies is one of the ways to maximize shelf life
Air drying boilies is one of the ways to maximize shelf life


Boilies come in many forms, shapes and sizes:

Food Baits – Most food baits consist of either a fishmeal or birdfood base. Fishmeal based baits tend to be used more heavily in warm water conditions and birdfood baits are favored for colder water or year round use, based on digestibility and their ability to allow flavors to leak out easier. There are also many baits that are a combination of both fishmeals and birdfoods as well as having other ingredients in them, such as semolina, maize or soy flours, which help to round the bait out and make the mixes easier to roll. High nutritional value (HNV) baits are also popular for winter use, and these tend to have a much higher milk protein content.

The thinking behind food baits is to make a product that is nutritionally valuable to the carp. Once they have eaten it a few times they will then actively search it out, due to it being an easy meal. Food baits also include many additives that similarly are meant to boost the long term attraction to the carp. These include such ingredients as liver powder, amino acid blends, betaine, Green lipped mussel powder and many other powders, liquids and oils; dependent on what the angler wants in the bait. Eggs are also a major ingredient as most mixes require them to aid in the rolling and binding of the dry ingredients.

Food baits tend to work better over time and some will keep producing year after year if used correctly. Some of the most popular food baits on the market currently include; Mainline’s Cell, CC Moore’s Live System, Nash bait’s Scopex Squid, Nutrabait’s Trigga and Blue Oyster, Sticky Bait’s Krill, Solar’s Club Mix, Dynamite’s Crave and many others. Of course, as well as purchasing these baits from a specific supplier you can also make up your own food baits if you have the knowledge to do so and this often proves to be more cost effective.

One of many fish I caught in the summer of 1994 on a food bait, Red Seed; a bait heavily laced with Robin Red!
One of many fish I caught in the summer of 1994 on a food bait, Red Seed; a bait heavily laced with Robin Red!

Instant Baits – Most of the companies that offer food baits also offer a vast range of the more attractive and eye catching ‘instant’ baits. When I think of an instant bait I think of brighter colors and fruity flavors. These baits can and do have a food value to them and often include some fishmeal and birdfood in their make-up but predominantly they will include a higher level of semolina, soy, maize meal and corn flour. They also tend to have higher inclusion rates of flavors, some of the more common ones being; pineapple, tutti frutti, scopex, banana, strawberry, various cremes and chocolates. These baits are usually accompanied by matching dips, glugs and sprays to further boost their effectiveness.

A mid thirty fully scaled mirror that couldn't resist a high attract pineapple ready-made.
A mid thirty fully scaled mirror that couldn’t resist a high attract pineapple ready-made.

I personally started my carping utilizing home made ‘instant’ baits. I was fishing a small Estate Lake and two of my friends had teamed up to make a birdfood bait that they had been pre-baiting with for several weeks. I knew I would not be able to compete with them by using another food bait and so I determined my best line of attack would be a couple of instant baits. I decided on Rod Hutchinson’s Maple Creme on one rod, with the other having Honey Yucatan attached. In the short term the instant baits helped me catch a couple of PB fish, and avoid the numerous tench which were plaguing my friends.

Opening day of the 1993 season and this new PB couldn't resist a Honey Yucatan 'instant' bait.
Opening day of the 1993 season and this new PB couldn’t resist a Honey Yucatan ‘instant’ bait.

My own feelings on instant baits are mixed. On virgin waters or for short sessions they are ideal, in fact I would use them in preference to food baits. Because they are usually brighter and have more attractants they encourage the carp to investigate where perhaps they have never seen a boilie before. I have caught many American carp with this approach, often on waters where I am fairly sure no one else has ever used a boilie.

My only dislike of instant baits is when I am fishing a water or river over the long term. In this case I much prefer a food bait, although I may still mix in some instant baits as well. Once the carp recognize that a boilie is a food source then I really think that food baits come into their own.

Hook Baits – Over the past decade this aspect of boilies has really exploded. When I first started using Richworth frozen baits or Nash ready mades they was always a bonus pack of five or six pop-ups included. Usually hook baits consisted of the same bait as you were using as a loose feed, unless it was winter, in which case a handful of baits would be deposited into a pot with some secret glug concoction. In years past I would either make my own pop-ups with cork balls or employ the maddening process of microwaving baits to make them buoyant. Nowadays’ there are literally hundreds of choices, ranging from hardened bottom baits, wafters, cured and salted baits, over flavored pop-ups and highly visual fluorescent baits. These come in all manner of shapes and sizes which leaves the angler the task of picking out the best hook-bait to match his situation.

Fluro and gluged baits - just a couple of hook bait options available to the modern angler
Fluro and glugged baits – just a couple of hook bait options available to the modern angler

With the rise of visual hook baits we often overlook the more simple options but credit should be given to anglers such as Frank Warwick and others who pioneered the use of bright, over flavored single hook baits that could be cast out into areas without the need for any additional bait. I have caught countless carp myself utilizing this technique but am also fond of using food baits or special prepared hook baits. I also regularly use a bright bait to top a food bait in the ever popular snowman presentation. Again, the hook bait choice should really depend on the fishing situation. For instance a fluro pop-up might be ideal sitting just above silk weed, but on a hard gravel area it might look out of place and stand out like a sore thumb! In other situations where carp have seen lots of approaches a bait that is darker or washed out might be more readily accepted. It’s worth experimenting as sometimes a simple adjustment is all it takes to hit the jack pot.

This winter 33lb common came to a bottom bait presentation when pop-ups were being ignored.
This winter 33lb common came to a bottom bait presentation when pop-ups were being ignored.

Shapes and Sizes – Whether you are using food baits, ready mades or home made baits you should not under estimate the power of different shapes and sizes. While most anglers think of boilies as being only round in shape and generally between 14-18 mm there are lots of advantages to using other shapes and sizes. Firstly, lets take the size of the bait. I would guess that most carper’s use boilies in the 14 to 18mm range as these are generally easy to match with hook sizes and rigs and also easy to bait up with. How many of you use 8-10mm boilies or 20-30mm baits? In close range situations smaller boilies can be very effective and they are also very easy to add into a particle mix as they are of a similar size to nuts and pulses. On the other end of the spectrum 20mm baits and bigger are a fantastic way to target larger fish. There is some debate in this country as to the validity of such claims but I can personally attest that using 22-24mm baits had caught me lots of large carp where I am sure if I had been using 14-16mm baits I would have been catching many more smaller fish.

This 32lb St Lawrence common couldn't resist a double 20mm offering
This 32lb St Lawrence common couldn’t resist a double 20mm offering

As well as utilizing different sizes of bait you should also think about the shape of your baits. Why use round baits when fishing on a marginal shelf or gravel bar when chopped or cubed baits would stay in place much, much better? There’s no doubt that a boilie stick and round shape boilies are easier to bait with, but for situations up to 40-50 yards a catapult will manage all manner of shapes. For distances further than this a spod or spomb can be employed. Personally, I make many of my home made baits in cubes or sausages as they are much easier to produce in bulk. I will either make up blocks of bait and then ‘steam’ them or I will roll out sausages and boil them. It is then simply a matter of chopping them to the size and dimensions you require.

Blocks of home made 'fishmeals' - steamed and ready to chop
Blocks of home made ‘fishmeals’ – steamed and ready to chop

Hardness and Solubility – With all the sizes and shapes to use we also must take into account the situation in which we want to utilize the bait. Firstly, if you are looking to avoid nuisence species or crayfish then the hardness of the bait will definitely come into account. Softer baits are great for leaking out attractants but if you have ever experienced active crayfish you will know the value of rock hard baits. A simple way to achieve this is by air drying your baits for several days. This will dehydrate them and make them harder. It also has the added benefit of preserving your baits for a prolonged period. If you don’t want to air dry your baits then the simple addition of egg albumen into your boilie mix will do a similar job.

If you do not have a problem with crayfish then a softer bait would be my preferred choice for several reasons. Firstly, it will be easier to digest and quicker to break down. It will also leak off it’s attractants much quicker. When I am not bothered about the range I am fishing or nuisance fish I will often just skin my baits by boiling for only 30 seconds. On other occasions I will not even boil them, rather air dry them for a day and then use what is effectively a ‘paste’ bait. This has been very successful for me in the past, as has making my own soluble baits, that break down very quickly, even in cold water conditions.

This scaley 30lb+ mirror came over a small handful of soluble 'paste' baits
This scaley 30lb+ mirror came over a small handful of soluble ‘paste’ baits

Having covered the general types, shapes and sizes we will now delve into specific situations and the different ways in which you can present and utilize boilies. Look out for Part 3, coming in early April.

The Art of Boilie Fishing: Part 1- Origins

Over the course of this trio of articles we are going to delve into the art of boilie fishing and how to utilize them into your own fishing to maximize success. These articles are primarily aimed at the American Carp Angler and as such will include some basic information that our European counter parts take for granted. My approach is to start with a clean slate and I am not going to assume that everyone reading already knows the in’s and outs of the humble boilie. If you do not believe that boilies work or that they are equal and in some cases better than the most popular US baits, then either read on with an open mind or stay in your comfort zone. I am not trying to convert anyone to boilies, far from it. What I will attempt to do is firstly examine why and how boilies were developed, the different forms they come in, how to utilize them and apply them to your own fishing and finally offer recipes, tips and tactics. 

Boilie varieties

First off, let me state that in the USA, boilie fishing is still relatively in it’s infancy. While many Ex-pats use boilies to good effect I am still amazed at some of the beliefs and comments from the average American carper. These range from being sceptical at best to down right decrying boilies as useless in USA waters. This is simply not the case. While other baits are very successful, there is no doubt that the boilie in all of it’s forms can be an important addition to the carper’s armory. Let me expand on this thought and answer some of the common misconceptions.

Sweetcorn/Maize is a far better bait

Sweetcorn is one of the most instant baits there is, full stop. Maize is not far behind and there can be no denying the effectiveness of all other manner of baits including bread, worms, various particles, dough balls and all manner of others. These all have their time and place and if you are looking to catch lots of different species of fish of varying sizes then these are ideal. Where the boilie comes into it’s own is in it’s selectiveness. While I cannot guarantee you will not catch other species, you will cut down on them significantly.

Maize is an excellent bait
Maize is an excellent bait
A mixed bag on sweetcorn!
A mixed bag on sweetcorn!

Boilies require a heavy baiting campaign in order to work

While carp that are unfamiliar with boilies may take time to start picking them up, this reason is often used as an excuse for poor watercraft. If you can locate regular feeding areas to present your baits then no doubt they can be effective right from the start. Carp are curious creatures and if new foreign items are introduced into their habitat they will definitely inspect them. In the case of boilies, as long as you have a bait that is acceptable to them and that they like the taste of they will start to eat them straight away. This is an area I will address in more detail in Part II.

A big Fully Scaled Mirror taken from a water where 'they don't take boilies'!!
A big Fully Scaled Mirror taken from a water where ‘they don’t take boilies’!!

 High quality boilies and ingredients are hard to source in the USA

While this was no doubt true several years ago, this is no longer the case. Several US companies offer boilies for sale, including many of the well known brands from Europe such as Nash, CC Moore, Dynamite, Solar, Minstral and many others. Base mix ingredients, additives and liquid flavors are also fairly easy to source and it is now relatively easy to make your own baits, should you wish. Even if you do not want to buy specific ingredients you can improvise and use other items easily available in grocery stores, health food stores and Feed and Grain stores. I will delve into this aspect in more detail in Part III, including several home made boilie recipes.

Sourcing boilie ingredients in the US is now relatively easy
Sourcing boilie ingredients in the US is now relatively easy

Boilies require advanced rigs and special tactics for use

There are hundreds of rigs available to the modern carper and one can become confused with the endless possibilities. However, simple and reliable products and rigs are all you require for boilie fishing. Personally, I stick to 3 or 4 rigs in varying combinations for the majority of my fishing and can attest that my results do not suffer. You can use the same rigs for boilies as you would for any other bait. My own favorite rigs are very simple.


Having answered some of the common misconceptions lets take a look at when and why the boilie came into existence. It was during the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s when only a small percentage of anglers were interested in targeting carp. This was an exclusive and secretive group, but once an outstanding development came into use it was hard to keep it under wraps. Take for example the tale of Rod Hutchinson and Chris Yates who stumbled onto fishing with sweetcorn while using it as a sandwich ingredient. They stumbled upon it as a bait and then preceded to catch many more carp than previously imagined, all on the hallowed Redmire Syndicate. Determined to keep it to themselves it was only a matter of weeks before the other members were using it! Think of all the carp that have been caught on sweetcorn, just because Chris Yates had some left over from his lunch! The hair rig is a similar tale, with Len Middleton and Andy Little using it to haul large numbers of carp that were previously thought to be pretty much uncatchable. While they did manage to keep it to themselves for a while, word soon got out and the rest is history. I would hazard a guess that 99% of carpers today use the hair rig in one form or another.

Chris Yates with 'The Bishop' taken on 3 grains of sweetcorn.
Chris Yates with ‘The Bishop’ taken on 3 grains of sweetcorn.

The boilie shares a similar tale. Anglers had used paste baits for years, burying their hook inside the concoction and sitting by their rods waiting to hit a twitch or a rustle! With the invention of the hair rig this practice was pretty much dead overnight, but the problem with paste baits is they were attractive to a lot of species, other than carp. Anglers would constantly get knocks and hits as small fish picked at the paste. This was solved by lightly boiling the paste for 30 seconds or so to put a skin on it and make it resistant to other nuisence species. The boilie was born. Fred Wilton is often credited with inventing the boilie as it was his development of boiled paste baits that first set the standard. With the invention of the hair rig, boilies became instantly more practical as it was now easier to present a harder bait without having to bury a hook inside of it. In 1983 Richworth Baits became the first company to commercial produce boilies and offer them in larger quantities to the average carp angler.

Richworth Tutti Frutti's, one of the first baits to be made commercially available
Richworth Tutti Frutti’s, one of the first baits to be made commercially available


During the 1980’s many new bait companies appeared on the scene and started to really develop boilies as we know them today. Initially, most companies offered a small range of baits as well as base mixes and flavors and it was during this time that some truly forward thinking anglers experimented and gave us many of the combinations we see available today. A few of these companies still thrive today, including Nutrabaits, Nash Baits and Hutchinson baits, to name a few. It was during the 90’s that the boilie boom really took off, as it now became much more cost effective to purchase baits in quantity as the big companies had already done the leg work sourcing ingredients and suppliers. Today we have a myriad of options available to us, but we must thank the innovator’s like Fred Wilton, who thought outside of the box to solve problems and make the modern carp angler’s life much,much easier.

Modern boilies
Modern boilies


There are numerous options available to us today, but lets take a look at a few different types that are most common:

Frozen or Shelf life: For the American angler we do not have the option of ordering frozen boilies from the big bait companies as they would be ruined by the time they arrived in the country, plus they would never pass through customs!! Ten years ago, I would have been wary of shelf life (ready made) boilies, but nowadays they are pretty much on a par with the fresh version. Most consist of the same ingredients and apart from a preservative are exactly the same. I would hazard to say they can even be superior as they are much more easily stored and do not go off after a few days. This means they do not have to be air dried, which is a common practice with frozen baits.

This fish has a liking for boiles, as I've had her 3 times in the last year, each time on ready-made boilies.
This fish has a liking for boiles, as I’ve had her 3 times in the last year, each time on ready-made boilies.

Commercial or Home-made: As I mentioned, commercially available shelf life boilies are extremely practical and I use them all the time. However, I am partial to making my own baits having done it for a couple of decades. The advantage of home-made bait is that you can tailor the flavor, base, color, additives and so on, to suit your chosen water. As a guide I tend to use shelf life baits and frozen baits in equal amounts.

Making my own bait is second nature to me, having done so for over 20 years
Making my own bait is second nature to me, having done so for over 20 years

High attract or food based: This really comes down to your own fishing scenario and the water and fish you are looking to target. For example, on waters where the fish have never seen a boilie before I may use very bright and highly attractive (more flavoring) boilies to encourage the carp to pick them up. Generally, once they have started to eat them I will then add in food baits to the mix and over time usually progress solely to food baits. High attract baits tend to work much better in the short term, but if you are looking to spend any amount of time on the same water I would suggest a food bait would fit the bill much better. With food baits, the carp soon recognize them as an easy meal and will actively search them out. What makes a good food bait? I would say as long as you have a decent base mix, that is high in fishmeal, birdfood or protein and a few additional food additives you will be fine. I am not a big believer in adding too many ingredients into my baits and most will consist of the base mix, eggs, liquid or dry additives, sweetener and a flavor profile. In fact one of the best food baits I ever used consisted of just 3 ingredients; a red seed base mix, eggs and an amino additive. Plain and simple, the fish couldn’t get enough of it.

So now we’ve looked at the why and when boilies were developed and what basic types are available, we will now look at how to utilize them and use them in your own fishing. Make no doubt about it, boilies can be devastating in the right situation but understanding when, where and how to use them is often misunderstood. In Part II we will look at several of these permutations and discuss several different methods when using boilies.

A proper boilie muncher
A proper boilie muncher

Carl and Alex – Fishing with Friends

ALTHOUGH it’s good to be serious when fishing, working all the time for a bite and always trying to think of how to catch a fish, there are times when it’s just great to enjoy a session out with some mates. I arrived at Tanyard and chose to fish on Speci 3, not because there were loads of fish showing, but because there was plenty of space along the bank for my two mates who were arriving later on that day.

I set up and put out a few rods in the hope of a fish. Nothing came along except for my friend Kamil! It was instantly a more enjoyable session being with someone.

It's always nice when a friend catches
It’s always nice when a friend catches

Later on Ryan arrived and later still, Carl. We all set up our rods and bivvies and ate some food together. That evening we went to bed very excited that a carp might come along! And nope, it didn’t, however it had been an enjoyable overnight session with some good friends.

Ryan soon had to go home but Kamil was staying on with us to see if he could catch one! We decided that now that the point on Speci 1 was free there would be lots of space for us to set up. We were feeling confident as there were plenty of bubbles and swirls around the lake. Kamil placed his rods to the small leaf lily pads and to the snags to his left, while I fished near the aerator. We thoroughly enjoyed the daytime fishing when the fish were on the top and we could see them. In fact Carl managed to catch a few when the heat was at its peak on stalking tactics.

Pic 5

But now the sun was beginning to go down, wouldn’t it just complete the session if we could all catch. We just had to wait and see what the night would bring. At about 11 o’clock I was woken with Kamil shouting over to me that he had one but I was still terribly tired and fell back to sleep without even knowing what was going on. Once it was in the net Carl came over and properly woke me up! It was a stunning carp and I was so pleased for Kamil. We took some pictures and returned to our bedchairs; we slept well knowing that our friend had caught.

I was then woken at 4 in the morning by a screaming run which got me out of bed very quickly! I had hooked a decent fish which instantly got me into the pads and sadly came off. Oh well, I will just have to try again. Morning came and we cooked some sausages to celebrate the stunning linear that was caught that night. It was while we were cooking that my rod ripped off!

I ran over to the rod which was sacking round and picked it up and felt a god fish on the end, I slowly drew it out of the pads and into open water where the fish was soon netted. I hadn’t appreciated the size until it was on the mat! It was a 20-pounder. I was very happy. And soon followed another fish of 17lb! Now we were all made up. A fish each!

Pic 4 Pic 3

An enjoyable session on the bank with our friends and managing to catch some bonus fish! Why don’t you go out fishing with friends? I have found it’s a lot more enjoyable than sitting in a chair all day on your own with no one to talk to!


The Lake of Dreams – Part Two

In the first installment Juan had worked hard to catch a couple of old fish from the historic Ringstead Fisheries and was looking to capitalize on his good momentum. We rejoin his story as he awaits action after baiting heavily to a large group of carp.

Awaiting action - Would the fish respond?
Awaiting action – Would the fish respond?

A couple of hours had passed since getting the rods in position with the fish just milling about in front of me. I decided to make a couple off fresh rigs to have ready on hand, just in case I felt the need to change to a different presentation. No more than five minutes after I had started my left hand rod screamed into life. This time I was ready with my waders on and I was on the rod in a flash. I lifted into the rod and the fish just took off, it was like being hooked up to a car and it took a good seventy yards of line on the first run. There was just no way of stopping her! Letting the fish have some line I was hopefully that it would be getting tired after each massive run. After a long twenty minutes of tug and war and getting flat rodded twice by the fish I knew I had to get her in the net.

Tense moments
Tense moments

As minute after minute passed my mind was racing, still not knowing what I had on the end of the line. I didn’t want to rush it too much as I know all too well it can take a split second to pull out of a fish. When she finally rolled on the surface I got a glimpse of her and estimated her at high thirty or even a low forty. Every second counted and with her rolling a couple of times more in front of me I managed to slip the net under her on the second attempt. I knew I may have just caught a fish of a life time and my heart was beating out of my chest.

Get in the net!!
Get in the net!!

Special moment

Leaving the fish in the net to recover I got everything  prepared on the bank for her moment of glory. Not leaving anything to chance the scales were zeroed and ready to go. I composed myself and got back into the water to get the net with the fish in it . As soon as we opened the net Ryan said it was a fish called Twin Scale. At first I didn’t believe him as Twin Scale is one of the A-TEAM fish in the lake and fourth largest resident.

Ryan did the honors of with the scales and she was a lot bigger than I expected; 47lb on the dot. I couldn’t believe my luck. Another UK personal best smashed and this time by 10lb. We took a few pictures on the bank, and took some in the water as special moments like this don’t happen often.

The majestic Twin Scale
The majestic Twin Scale

Pic 12

On cloud nine she had a kiss and a cuddle and was released back to where she belonged, safe and sound to grow bigger.

That special moment when we release them to grow bigger
That special moment when we release them to grow bigger


Still with the thoughts of Twin Scale buzzing around my head i knew the targets I have set myself were now achieved; my first UK forty and on three fish out the lake for the season. An absolute dream come true and one I didn’t expect for my first season on the new lake.

Saving my season has been hard work and with not many sessions left for the year we decided to have a bit of  a social with my best mate Rich invited along with another of our good friends Rob. We were all set for three days of great weather, good food and a few beers. Any fish would be a bonus. Arriving at the lake later than normal (Rob’s fault for having to work a night shift) we set out to find the best swims.
I opted for the famous Royal Box, Richard in the Bean Tree swim and Rob in Chestnuts. The fish were well spread out in front of these three swims and all of the signs were looking good. We managed to polish of a nice curry and a few beers in the evening watching the sunset.

We settled in our bivvies about 12 pm for some sleep. I got woken up by a screaming alarm at 6am with the middle rod in melt down. As soon as I hooked into the fish it felt good with a very scrappy fight going on under the rod tip. The fight was immense but I soon managed to get my net slipped under her. Looking into the mesh I saw a fish that doesn’t hit the bank much and one of the very few commons in the lake, the Original Common at 37lb.

The Original Common
The Original Common

The lake kept throwing up surprises for me but I wasn’t going to complain about it as I had invested a lot of time and effort so far in the season and I had well and truly saved it and with two nights left of my session I didn’t care if I caught another fish. I was content and the twenty four hours came and went so quickly. At 1am on the last morning I was woken up again, with only two beeps this time and lifting into the fish It felt heavy, plodding back and forth in front of me. With a couple of spurtS of energy she took line but I don’t think she realized what was going on until I had her in the net after 10 minutes of steady battle.

Another lump in the net
Another lump in the net

Knowing what I had in my net I rushed around to Rich and Rob to go wake them up so that they could come and help with the photos and see this amazing animal. Scaring the life out of Richard at first he didn’t believe that I had something special in the net! The lads were soon round in my swim to assist me and the needle settled on 44lb, a fish called Prince.

The Prince
The Prince

With five fish from the lake comprising of three thirties and two forties to say I’m a bit happy is an understatement. I have already taken on another ticket for 2014 so hopefully the lake is going to be even nicer to me and let me have one of her bigger residents.

Until next time, tight lines.

Maximizing Opportunities

Fall - Usually a great time of year to target big carp
Fall – Usually a great time of year to target big carp


With the winter well and truly underway I have been looking back at my fishing over the last few months to evaluate my results and to ask myself honestly if I could have done better. I would think most regular anglers have family, work and various other commitments and interests that can limit the time you can spend on the bank. For some, one session a week is workable, for others it may only be one per month, or less. Generally, I am able to get out on the banks once a week or so, sometimes less and sometimes more. I have found myself fishing less day sessions and more overnight’s over the last few years, due to my target waters being much more productive at these times. However, this past Fall has seen me spend a lot less time fishing and as such I really had to decide on my target waters and maximize my time on the bank.

Now, before you start crying for me and my lack of fishing I am happy to point out that I am very lucky to have an understanding wife and a job that allows me to get away for 12-24 hours at a time. I know many anglers who fish a lot less than me and several who fish 3-4 times per week. I would imagine I am somewhere in the middle and as such I really value my time fishing.

What follows is a review of my fall, with some other thoughts and evaluations thrown in for good measure.

September Stunner
September Stunner


Iain Sorrell wrote a very good article on Ethics in Carp Fishing in the spring of this year and some of his points were experienced first hand in my own fishing this fall. I would imagine we have all done some ‘dodgy’ things or as we say in England, ‘pulled some tricks’ in an effort to catch carp. I myself have been guilty of a few indiscretions in the past but I can honestly say I do try my best to avoid stepping on other anglers toes, especially in relation to fishing swims that have been developed by other anglers.

Lets just say in the first few weeks of the Fall one of the spots I have fished over the past few seasons (along with a few other guys) became a hot bed of activity as numerous anglers from the same group inundated the area. This didn’t really affect me in terms of access as most of my sessions are mid-week when the banks are quite. However, with an unknown quantity of bait and pressure now being exerted the overall fishing really did suffer. In the long run this has done me a favor as I really do need to develop a few other areas I have been looking at for the past year, which will provide me with a new challenge. Rather than become bitter with the situation or get into confrontations with other anglers I prefer to stay positive and move onto pastures new. It’s a shame that we have to go to the lengths we do in order to cut out backgrounds and hide the locations but with Google Earth and the like, it really does become necessary as there are one or two individuals that would happily travel the length of the country to fish a going area.

Before I get branded as ‘bitter’or ‘jealous’ I would like to point out that everyone is free to fish where ever they like. I don’t claim credit for discovering new areas nor do I expect them to remain quite for any length of time. I guess the draw of big carp effects us all at times, some more than others. For myself, I will continue to enjoy my fishing and move on to new challenges which I hope to share with a very select group of friends. Secret Squirrel from now on!!

A stunning mirror - it seems everyone wants one!
A stunning mirror – it seems everyone wants one!


With an unknown quantity of bait going into my first target area I decided to not only change my baiting strategy but also adapt my rigs as I was sure that the carp were wising up somewhat due to the pressure and constant activity. Baiting wise I started to use a mixture of home-made soluble boilies and a small amount of ground bait. I was also convinced the carp were avoiding fresh baits so any ready made boilies I used were pre-soaked to wash them out. Amounts were kept to a minimum, with one or two handfuls of bait over each rod; in effect fishing for just one bite. This seemed to work as over the next few sessions I caught steadily with several good fish gracing my net.

I also changed my rigs and hook bait choices. From my own observation I believe most anglers fishing the area were using fairly short (5-8 inches) hook-links. My own favored length for this area is around 8-9 inches but after a couple of cautious pick-ups I changed to a minimum of 12 inches. Combined with an over weighted snowman rig every fish from that point on was nailed!

Essential items for my over-weighted snowman rig
Essential items for my over-weighted snowman rig


Carp really are amazing creatures! I have witnessed carp surviving various injuries from man, machinery and other wild life but it does warm my heart when I personally get to see a fish make a good recovery when it was looking grim. Generally, if the carp are still growing and therefore young they will have the ability to heal from wounds and fin damage but it’s not very often a fish will regrow a large portion of a fin or tail. I was happy to catch a beast of a carp that really put up a good account of itself and when I got it on the mat I was sure I recognized it. Sure enough it was a fish that had been caught the year before and had suffered some pretty significant tail damage. However, the fish had nearly regrown the damaged area which in only a year between captures is pretty amazing. Look at the comparisons below to see the regrowth and the last picture shows the fish in all it’s beauty.

Tail looking very badly damaged


Nearly regrown
Nearly regrown


'Arfa' in all it's glory
‘Arfa’ in all it’s glory


I love a scaley carp and have been lucky enough to capture some amazing specimens this year. However, two fish really blew me away this fall. The first was a low twenty that was nothing short of stunning and really shone in the morning sun.

The second was over ten pounds heavier and had absolutely massive horse shoe scales. The pictures really do not do it justice, but it was taken shortly after dark and there would have been no excuse for sacking the fish for over 12 hours just to get a daylight shot. I find a decent camera and tripod do the job and I would much prefer a lower quality picture than stressing the fish out for several hours to satisfy my ego.

Horse Shoe scaled beauty
Horse Shoe scaled beauty


I mentioned the area I was targeting was receiving a lot of pressure, but I was keen to keep fishing it as there were still several fish that I wanted to catch. However, after a slowdown in activity it was time to make a move. Another location was picked for the remainder of the fall (less than a month) and a few social sessions were planned with friends which would make a nice change from fishing alone. The nights in late fall and winter can be brutal with over 12 hours of darkness so the company of friends who have a common goal is well appreciated.

On our first session there were three of us and it started well with a mid double coming only a few hours in. We were all in a confident mood but this soon evaporated as the hours passed without another beep!! At noon the next day one of our party left and with only a few hours to go myself I was unsure as to if we had started our fall campaign too late? A couple of hours later I was proved wrong as I had a blistering take and became attached to a very angry carp that was desperate to shake the hook. After several head shakes I managed to slow it down and 10 minutes later I was staring at a mid thirty that was very sparse in scales. This time I got some excellent pictures.

Very nearly a leather
Very nearly a leather

Just as I was packing up I bagged another smaller specimen, and also helped my buddy land and nice twenty as well. He stayed on and had three more fish overnight with a couple of scaley beauties so a return was arranged a few weeks later.

In the meantime I managed to get back for a short morning session and bagged a couple more fish, but the main aim was to keep some bait going into the area for the following week.


I’m not sure if you would consider late November as the winter or fall but non the less we wanted to keep fishing the area. Weather can be very fickle at this time of year and this session was typical, with bright days and very cold nights. Again the session started well as shortly into dark I received a blistering take. I had trouble slowing the fish down and to be honest should have been a bit more aggressive with the fish. It took around 40 yards of line and then everything tightened up. With no obvious snags in the area I assumed it had found a dying weed bed, but whatever it was it managed to dislodge the hook and left me feeling very deflated.

Fortunately, I only had to wait a few hours and I had another chance; this time landing a low twenty. The next day passed very quietly and it wasn’t until the middle of the second night that my alarm sounded again. This time the culprit was a cracking common.

At this stage it would have been easy to write off the area for the year, but myself and my fishing companion agreed to give it at least another session as at this time of year it is often the weather conditions that dictate when and if the carp will feed. These spells tend to be much shorter and localized and we both believed we were in the right area, but we just needed the weather to come good.

This was proven on the next session when a mild front came through the area and my friend had a fantastic session catching one of the fish I had been after all year. To be honest I could not have been happier for him as I know what it feels like to catch the fish of your dreams and it is even sweeter when you can share it with friends. I also knew that I would have another chance to catch this fish and others in future and it gives me motivation to keep fishing the area.

Last decent fish of the Fall
Last decent fish of the Fall


I have definitely fished way less this fall than in the past few years. I had also chosen to fish venues where a few fish per session is a good result so obviously my numbers have suffered. However, I have managed to learn a few good lessons which will hold me in good stead for the future and I have also caught some stunning fish. All in all I am pretty happy.

Now is the time most anglers start to pack away their fishing tackle in preparation for the winter. Not me! I’m one of the mad few that love fishing in the winter. My first goal will be to try and tempt a winter whacker from Upstate New York and then it will be onto a new water for the challenge of some hard fighting river commons. I can’t wait.

The Lake of Dreams

Truly a Lake of Dreams
Truly a Lake of Dreams


My name is Juan Coetzee and I’m based in the UK (United Kingdom). I am 27 years old and I have been carp fishing just over 4 years, so I am relatively new to the sport. There is so much to learn in this game and I look forward to continuing my carping education and sharing my experiences with you all.

This year I have had the opportunity to start fishing on one of the most historic venues in England. Situated in Nene Valley it really is  a hidden gem. The lakes stock is what drew me to the venue and excited me with the fish being extremely old, dating back to the days when Duncan Kay owned it. After Duncan Kay sold it,  another very influential person in the European carp fishing world Kevin Maddocks purchased the lake. There are still a fair few of the original fish present in the lake, which makes it even more of a challenge. With the new owners, Nigel and Jane Roberts the future of the lake is looking very healthy indeed, with new stock of fish coming through all the time, from VS  Fisheries and Iheart carp.


I received my membership to fish the lake in January and was excited to get started on the challenge as soon as possible. Not knowing where the fish usually get caught from I set about to get some sort of plan in my head of how to approach the lake and fool the old residents. The first few months were during the winter and the carping season hadn’t really started yet, therefore my aim was to learn as much about the features of the lake as possible. With only 11 individual swims around the lake I set out to marker and  pre-bait five swims to make it a more manageable task. We had a really cold start to the year, with a lot of snow and the lake freezing constantly which meant my campaign to get bait into the lake before I fished really suffered. Added to a 200 mile round trip to the lake there was limited time to get prepared for the season in front of me.

Early March saw a break in the weather, with the lakes thawing out and the fish starting to move. I set my plans into action. The swim choices were the easiest part of the equation but the feature finding and seeing what the lake bed was like , well that was much more of a challenge! With more Canadian pond weed than I expected I began to realize what I had let myself in for when accepting a ticket; finding a place to present a rig was going to be tricky!

One of the swims I really took a liking to was a swim called the reedy bay, a nice open front area with a half acre bay to the left and a  long reed line in the front. To the right was open water with a  nice blood worm bed at 20 yards range in 8 ft of water.

Rods spread around the area for maximum coverage
Rods spread around the area for maximum coverage

I began focusing a lot of time and effort  into this swim and the swim next door as I had a lot of confidence in the area, knowing that the fish couldn’t be that far away.

With the first night underway in this swim and the temperatures still being 6 degrees (Celcius) my chances were looking  limited. At 3 am I had a steady take on my middle rod  and as soon as I lifted into the fish I knew it was a decent sized carp that was attached. Fifteen minutes into the fight the fish spat the hook at the net!! Devastated, I decided  that leaving the rod out for the night was the best option for me as I was fishing up-close to the reeds, not the easiest of casts in daylight. The next 72 hours came and went with not a single bleep. I had missed my only opportunity of catching something special.

The next four weeks I spent a lot of time down the lake pre-baiting swims and getting ready for my next session which coincided with a pals birthday. Knowing that the fish were clearing the pre-baited spots I was itching to get back down to the lake.  The end of April could not come quick enough.


When I finally managed to get back to the lake at the end of April the conditions were perfect for one of the swims I had been pre-baiting the week before. I didn’t need any more encouragement to get into the swim and already knowing the exact distances of where I had been putting bait was going to make things easier. With 48 hours fishing  in front of me I wanted everything to be perfect, marking my lines out it only needed a couple of casts on each rod to be on the spots.

The Waiting Game
The Waiting Game

The day and night passed without any signs of fish. My initial rod positioning on the spots had spooked them. Contemplating a move I reeled my rods in and went for a walk around the lake to see if  I can find where they had moved to. Three hours of walking and climbing trees  I was  none the wiser. I could not find any signs of  life  anywhere. I returned to my swim and changed my rig presentations to stiff hinge rigs, baited with seafruit cork balls.

Bait of choice
Bait of choice

With the daylight hours passing it didn’t look too good for a bite as only three fish had been out the lake so far this season. Just as daylight was dropping I had a couple of bleeps on my middle rod with the bobbin dropping a couple of centimeter’s. My initial thought was that the water fowl (Coots) had picked my rig up. Watching for any signs of the coots my bobbin tightened with the alarms screaming. I lifted into the rod and could tell it was a fish; the lead came off on the initial take with the fish rolling on the surface and after twenty minutes of tug and war with my best pal by my side, he managed to slip the net under a pristine conditioned scaly mirror carp. Over the moon with a fish in the net and four months of hard work paying off I couldn’t believe I had my first Ringstead carp in the net.

I wanted to know which fish I had caught as it looked like a low to mid 30lber. When the needle on the scales settled at 35 lb 15 oz  it was a new U.K. personal best, a fish called 3&6.

Old Warrior
Old Warrior


Months went by after my last capture from the lake and with five lost fish under my belt due to weed beds and hook pulls I had to make some drastic changes. Leaving the bait and terminal tackle company was the first step and I managed to get on as a tester  with Mainline baits and P.B. products, both extremely good and proven companies.

I started working away from home which gave me the opportunity to spend more time down the lake and get a new campaign going with the new bait… the lake is a 70 mile round trip  from the site.. Finishing everyday at 4:30pm it was a race to get to the lake and get learning all over again. My rig set up changed and I opted for a blow back rig set up with Jelly Wire and a size 6 Jungle hook , 2ft silk-ray leaders and dumper lead clips. The Cell was my bait of choice as it’s got a good track record. The weeks of over nighters came and went and I lost track of how many nights I had done in between work.. 20…30…40? I began thinking, “when will it all pay off?” Finding the fish wasn’t the problem, it was catching them that was the challenge. I simply didn’t have enough hours to keep my rigs in the water to tempt one of these special fish.

On one of my Thursday sessions I got to the lake just before 6 pm and after having a walk around the lake I found a few fish away from the normal swims that I had been fishing. Watching them from the trees I knew they were in the area for a reason as it’s a weedier part to the lake. They were obviously looking for food. I managed to sneak the rods in not so far out on a couple of clear spots with a good amount of bait going in for them to keep them occupied. In short time they were going mad over it with nine or ten shows after only a couple of hours of the rods going in.

Rods in place at sunset
Rods in place at sunset

At 4:30 am my left hand rod went into melt down. As soon as I got to the rod I knew it was a decent fish as it felt heavy from the start and took line at every chance I gave it. Usually I would have had my waders on ready for any action, but settled for my trusty crocks this time; foolish mistake! Within ten minutes the fish had kited to left hand of the swim into a big bay area, giving me no option but to follow it, up to my waste in water with only a pair of cotton bottoms on to keep me warm. The fish swam straight into the reeds trying to spit the hook and my heart sank once the line went tight and I couldn’t  feel the fish on the end. With no choice I decided to go in after her as she well and truly snagged up in the reeds. With no waders on I walked up the reed line with water up to my chest keeping a suitable amount of pressure on the line. Twenty yards down the reed line I managed to get to the fish sitting waiting for me to come and net her. While parting the reeds I slipped my landing net underneath her and finally my second fish went into the net.

I got the assistance from another Syndicate member and we soon had her photographed and weighed. I couldn’t believe it, I had broken my personal best mirror carp again, 37 lb on the dot and one of the oldest residents in the lake at an estimated fifty years old. It was an old warrior of a fish called snub-nose.

Snub Nose - A proper character fish
Snub Nose – A proper character fish


Something special

After having  snub-nose I knew I couldn’t get back down to the lake for another couple of weeks. Work had been overly busy and I needed to be close to the site, therefore my over night sessions took the punishment. Booking the Friday off work for my pal Ryan’s birthday I had everything set for a three day session  at the weekend.

I managed to wake up late on the Friday morning , which I was very annoyed with myself for. Ryan was waiting for me sixty miles away and we arrived at the lake at lunch time. All we could think about was getting the rods in and starting to celebrate Ryan’s birthday.

I went into the reedy bay again where a few fish were on the surface and Ryan went into the swim on my right. After getting set up the night passed without action. The fish were very active out in front of the swims and at the crack of dawn I got out of bed to sit and watch the lake to see if I could see any signs of flies on the surface, thinking that the fish were feeding on the naturals as it was warm. With the night time temperatures being 14 degrees I thought it could be the case and I started noticing a few fish on the other side of the lake opposite from me being very active. I decided to reel the rods in and go for a chat with Ryan next door and have a walk about. There were something the fish liked in that area and I wanted to discover what it was. On the way around to the other side I had a brief word with the owner of the lake and he told me that he had opened the water inlet from the river. I had to cut him short and rush back to my swim to grab a bucket to secure the peg, just in case I made the decision to move. Once I got into the swim the inlet was letting in a lot of fresh water from the river behind and with no hesitation my decision was made, I was moving. I counted fourteen fish out of the forty five fish stock in front of the swim, including a lot of high 30 lb fish. It took me a couple of hours to move swims and have everything ready to position the rigs but I knew in this swim with the inlet coming in a heavy baiting option was the way to go. With the amount of fish I had in front  of me 8 kg of chopped and whole boilies went onto one spot for 2 rods with a further 3 kg of response pellets. The spot was clear and perfect for a bottom bait rig and after a couple of casts the rigs were in position and the waiting game had begun. Watching the fish move over the baited area and not feeding had me questioning my tactics.