I love the winter! I know that sounds nuts but being out on the banks in the worst possible weather, with snow, ice and low temperatures really makes you appreciate what fishing is all about. Most of the time you have the banks to yourself and once you find the fish it can be hectic and very rewarding. This winter had record low temperatures and lots of snow, meaning that as spring arrived we had a few decent weeks of fishing before the snow started to melt and the rivers were in full flood mode for over 3 weeks.
As a result the fishing at the start of the spring was tough and I found myself looking at several locations to try and winkle out the odd fish before the rivers settled back to normal and my chosen spots were fishable. Although the fishing was challenging I did manage to land the odd carp with several twenties amongst them, topped by a nice upper twenty that put up a very good fight in the turbulent waters.
As we reached the end of April I decided to update my fishing journal and set myself some targets for the year. I find keeping a journal a great help, especially when you look back at certain months or weather conditions in order to learn from success and failure. No one is perfect, especially in carp fishing and any extra information from my journal or from other anglers is something I always value. This year I had decided to target a couple of venues where the fish were of a larger size. As such there were less of them and each venue held certain challenges that meant the fishing would be far from easy. I knew I would sacrifice numbers this year, but the nature of big fish angling is that at times you have to put a lot of groundwork in first before you reap the rewards. Location is the biggest factor in the equation but doesn’t always guarantee success. You also have to refine your baiting strategy and also choice of tackle and rigs.
Baiting strategy wise I decided on a couple of approaches; firstly boilies would for the main bulk of the bait. While lots of American anglers have differing opinions on boilies and their effectiveness, I am 100% confident in them and know in the right hands they can be a deadly method. I would use a combination of boilies with 20mm Dynamite Carptec being the bulk feed and Dynamite White Chocolate and Coconut being used for a quicker breakdown time. To this I added a mixture of pellets, making sure they were glugged in oils to give them a lot more attraction. These would be used in PVA bags so I could eliminate the use of method mix, to hopefully avoid attracting the smaller fish.
Rigs were fairly straight forward with the use of a heavy snag leader (45lb Ashima Revenge), 15lb main line, braided hook links and my favorite blow-back rigs, utilizing Ashima hooks (C900 and Goliath’s) which I have utmost confidence in. With the weed starting to sprout up I also decided to fish pop-up rigs and for added visual attraction the addition of a fake corn/maize topper.
A MIXED START
With location, bait and rigs decided upon the first session was planned and the ed of April found me on the banks with a couple of good friends sharing in a social session and enjoying the weather. It was a bit of a mixed bag, with a few doubles being landed and a couple of big fish as well, but for myself I ended the 24 hour session without a fish! This was partly due to location, but I did make some presentation mistakes and I was determined to change a few aspects and get back to right the ship.
Around a week later I was able to return to the location and fish with a different friend for another 24 hour session. I set up a lot slower and made sure my rigs were all perfect and I was happy with the spots I was fishing. I did have a quick take an hour into the session, but the fish had ejected the bait before I had chance to pick up the rod! At this point I was not a happy camper and tied up a new rig (although there was nothing wrong with the one attached) before getting it out back onto the spot.
I didn’t have to wait long before the same rod was away again. I played this fish rather gingerly as I was desperate to land it, but wasn’t too worried as it felt like a nice twenty. As it got closer in I realized it was much bigger and once it was in the net the last session was a distant memory.
I placed the fish in the sling and got the rod back out in quick order, when less than a minute later it was off again! This time a small mirror joined the proceedings. Once again the rod was back in action and this time it took 5 minutes for it to rip off. I played the fish into the margins and on seeing how scaley it was I quickly backed off the clutch and played it lightly to the net. Wow, what a fish this one was. Not only was it a big fish, it was incredibly scaley and an absolute stunner.
I decided to keep the rods out of the water until I had cleaned up after the chaos and also cooked up some supper. A nice chilli was demolished, washed down with a cold beer and I was ready to get the rods back out into position. The next few hours passed quietly and around midnight we had a double take and my fishing companion landed a cracked mid twenty while my prize was another scaley fish.
After taking a few pictures and returning the fish I finally got a few hours sleep only to be woken by a one toner at 4am. I played the carp for over 15 minutes and was convinced I had a massive fish attached. It stayed low in the water and just swam where it wanted to with no heed to what I was doing. I did finally manage to coax it into the net only to be absolutely amazed that it was an upper twenty. It was one of the hardest fighting fish I had ever hooked and if I had lost it I would have been sure it was much, much bigger.
In the morning I packed up and reflected on a great session. The fish obviously liked the bait, my presentation was good and my rigs were working great. I knew I had a few weeks before the fish would spawn so was keen to get back as soon as possible and in the next article I’ll highlight my next couple of sessions on the venue and how I was able to build on my early success.