Sunday 29 April 2018

Match Day One.

 It's been a very long time since I fancied a match in fishing, it's an idea I've had for a while but only just decided to give it a go. I must admit, however tough it was, it was good fun. The stiff competition was partner in crime Brian and my brother Richard who decided to leave the carp alone just for one day, as did I! A day off from T.H.P.C (The Hundred Pound Challenge) gave me the opportunity to relax and know that there wasn't miles of walking empty banks in search of one fish.

 Our destination was the Marsh Farm complex and Crucian carp, along with Tench were the target. The parameters of how the match was to be conducted were discussed and the points system agreed upon got me quite excited. We settled upon swims fairly close to each other so that we could update each other on how we were progressing. Honesty obviously was key to success of the match as we were self adjudicators.

 Crucians were worth 4 pts.
 Tench were worth 2 pts.
 Anything else was worth 1pt (But had to be over a pound)

The suicide peg, if you've fished it you know why!
 I began the day fishing a bank of reeds which I know to have produced good hauls in the past, my problem was that I couldn't keep the fish I hooked out of them and proceeded to lose 10! fish and only landing two in a 6 hr spell, out of those ten fish, three were crucians and one looked to be an upper-2lb specimen. Not the start I wanted, as Brian powered into the lead. Richard didn't fair too well either.

 By this point Brian had a lead of 16 points!

 The evening proved to be a little better as I returned to my reed swim after giving it a 2-hr break to try and banish the mornings disappointment. I changed my approach and played catch-up. My late serge really put Brian's 16 point lead at risk as my maggot feeder rod barely lay still for more than 10 mins at a time. Time however wasn't on my side as the end time of 2030 approached.

My best, on the float at 5lb 2oz.

 Normally the sight of a little tench of no more than 1lb 8oz would have annoyed me at prime crucian time, but my attentions had turned full circle and the target of 22 points was all that mattered, the competitive side of me crept out and I found myself needing just 4 points within ten minutes of the final minute. My Delkim sounding off and another fish on, but would it be a 4pt crucian or a 2pt tench? At first I thought it was the crucian I was after, a dainty fight ensued for all but twenty seconds before a spirited little tench squirmed towards the reeds, just like most of its companions!

 A little pressure applied and that was in the bag. 22 to B and 20 to myself with just a couple of minutes left......could I tie the match at the death? or even win it?

 Unfortunately not, I had to settle for second...

 Brian 22 points (Winner)
 James 20 points (2nd)
 Richard Unknown ( As he gave up and fished one of the other ponds :) ) 

Thursday 26 April 2018

T.H.P.C: Part Five: Playing It Cool.

 Since my extremely successful visit to the canal I have embarked on a further two without a sniff from a carp. The first resulted in 12 miles walked for 3 bream, no carp to show for my effort. The second visit was more of a power walk armed with a rod, the intention to fish for carp if seen was there but conditions were poor. Visibility down to just a foot ( possibly owing to increased boat traffic due to the warm weather ) and the lack of sunlight as a day of April showers dominated the forecast.

 A couple of short trips elsewhere on a stillwater provided a bit of sport with carp to just over 15lb, nothing large however showed itself and the quest continues. Pastures new for me soon as my canal target comes into focus. Just where will it come from I don't know, all I do know is I won't give up until I find it.

Best just over fifteen pounds, good fighters.
Hard to locate carp amongst that lot!

Monday 23 April 2018

T.H.P.C: Part Four: Taming Towpath Titans.

 As part of my "One Hundred Pound Challenge", a thirty pound plus specimen is the target and with the amount of sunshine we've had recently it has given me the opportunity to go and explore. Many miles walked, not many fish seen. However, that is the canal systems for you, very sparsely populated, but, when you do get the opportunity, you really have to make it count, as they are often fleeting. Just to make it harder than their pond dwelling cousins, these fish are smart and nomadic.

 For 3 years I have marched these banks, with a combined visit count of around 40 trips, my return ratio to carp has been light. Three carp weighing in at (25.4, 23.9 & 15+) has illustrated just how tough it is. I believe I am a fairly competent angler in these situations, so to struggle as I have it really puts the task into perspective.

 Not every visit is the same and this trip just illustrates why keeping your eyes open at all times pays off in the end. Knowing roughly where a couple have recently resided I decided to use that as a base for my spring's assault. I spent the morning faffing around at home with the prospect of an afternoons fishing.

 Having travelled by public transport my gear had to be light in order to make my roving comfortable. The set-up I opted for was a 9ft Nash Dwarf abbreviated 2.75tc, Shimano 4000 bait runner, fished with 10lb ultra low-diameter line and a size 6 drennan wide-gape hook. Using a sturdy rod of 2.75tc seems at times a bit too strong, on the canals though, there are a lot of obstacles like boats and bridge pilings which pose a risk when in combat. To nullify this risk I fish a little more stepped up, which is against my usual approach as I love to fish as light as possible, thus experiencing a more enhanced battle, which in turn excites me more.

 Once I had made my journey the only thing that was on my mind was to get set up. With the sun shining high in the sky the canal would, I hope, reveal all or most of its secrets, secrets I am determined to uncover. Having finally reached the towpath I was met by what can only be described as flawless conditions for stalking. My angling brain was telling me to remain focused, I just needed one opportunity. Having only walked half a mile I was met by the sight on an incredible looking common carp in the mid-twenties.

 She was broad, not particularly long but the colour of it was stunning. As if it had been painted black. If I could only tempt her to take a piece of crust. What seemed like an hour had passed by in a flash although it was probably twenty minutes or so, countless casts were made at this marauding beast, my efforts had all been dismissed by the swift turning of the head followed by the sizeable tail pattern on the surface as she'd cruise off to seek solitude, away from my attentions which I am certain she was aware of after the first few attempts.

 Up at the next lock Brian had been trying to achieve the same sort of result on a couple of fish he had located (believe me, the stocks are ridiculously low), after learning I was on the water he arranged to make his way down. Ten minutes later I could see him in the distance making his way towards me, as he did my target came back into view after missing for nearly ten minutes. I decided to wait for her to slow up as she turned off the speed towards a bridge where I may lose her in the shadows. A lump of flake was pinched on and cast above her, maybe 6 or 7ft and smack bang in her path, and out of utter disbelief, this time she opened up her orange sized mouth and sucked it in!

 immediately my legs turned to jelly as I knew it was a good twenty and I'd only get this one chance. As I hooked her Brian had reached me and his reaction was the same as mine! Sorry mate, these things do happen. Occasionally. The initial couple of runs were powerful and all I could do was go with it, putting too much pressure may risk loss if the hook wasn't set well. Quite a few minutes later she was ready for the net and the battle was won. Queue the jubilation which I was able to enjoy as we photographed and weighed my prize. Having been lucky enough in the past to catch a towpath monster I was able to once again enjoy the capture of a very special carp, could this catch be topped in any way? It's always a question I ask myself once achieving such a feat.


Awesome! 23lb 4oz!

 After resting her and then watching my prize slowly swim off back into obscurity I glanced at the shots with a broad smile. My target being a canal thirty does seem to be a massive challenge but carp of this size will certainly keep me happy in the meantime. Brian and I folded up the gear and went for a walk up to where we encountered a couple of skittish carp ( three to possibly 20lb ), but these were not in a feeding mood and completely ignored all advances. Around 3pm I continued on my march alone in search of more water, more miles walked but very little by way of activity on the surface gave me the feeling my success for the day had already been achieved.

Magnificent creature.

 A few pods of bream and a couple of spawning pike gave me a little spark of enthusiasm amongst the seemingly baron sections, lock after lock remained empty. Clarity not issue in most, which leads me to believe there isn't much there. This was until I got about 8 miles from where I caught my 23.4 when the baron and unbroken surface was disturbed by a cruising common carp in the mid-twenties. I was going to drop my bag and net off in a central location of the section and use that as a base, but the carp was extremely mobile and couldn't second guess its movements. I had to remain as mobile to stand a chance.

 This fish was clearly longer and although not as pretty as the "23" it looked bigger, maybe around the 25-26lb mark, a wide back, large enough to ride! and fat gut which looked to contain a decent amount of spawn, so it is conceivable she was looking for mates in preparation to spawning in a few weeks. If I thought my task was hard on the last one this one made sure I would use my ability to its maximum, it tested my resolve so far as I very nearly decided to throw in the towel as she ignored my seemingly perfect hook bait. Either the presentation wasn't as good as I thought or she simply wouldn't eat it until it was where she wanted it, not where I thought it would be suitable.

 For ten minutes or so, I stood back from the towpath in the grass verge and watched her, no rod in hand, just me and the fish. I looked to see if any patterns emerged and sure enough there was. Every time that she would finish the run she would hug the far bank, disappear from view for a while and then top forty yards to my left. She began to do that very circuit again and this time I had my rod ready, just where she'd come back to the beginning my bait was waiting.

 10 feet and approaching! on course and waiting. My flake sat waving in the gentle breeze as the large frame came back into view from the shadows of the pilings, no more than ten seconds had passed when the flake was gone, her mouth opened like a trap door and immediately I struck, she simply had
no idea that the game was up, I wanted to win more, my resolve tested to its limit but now just a cool and composed battle would stand between me and another canal leviathan.

Peacock Butterfly.
 Joggers, mothers pushing prams, walkers and so on all passed by not knowing just what was unfolding, completely oblivious to it all, my rod bent all the way to the butt as I tried my best to stop it charging much further towards a small marina where I knew things could become perilous, I didn't want that and did my best to prevent. Thankfully enough persuading on my part gave me the upper hand and after a couple of half hearted attempts to power off again were thwarted I shipped the net out and eased her in. I had only gone and caught another!!

 The grin was already indelible but now I'd never be able to forget this, being that the temps were around 27c I couldn't afford to mess around with her for long, so I set the camera up and sling/scales whilst wedging the landing net pole between my legs until I was ready. A new canal record for me? you bet it was! I punched the air as the scales settled on 25lb 7oz! Only just beaten my old canal best, but I had, pure brilliance. More than I could have hoped for, simply chuffed to bits. I had one of those red letter days which don't happen often, especially on the canal.

What a way to end the day!
 Having watched the second part of my brace disappear my appetite to continue wained, I was more than content and my search for a "canal thirty" will wait for another day. 

 I had tamed two towpath titans! in one day.....

Saturday 21 April 2018

T.H.P.C: Part Three: Off the Top Madness.

 There can't be many more scenarios that I feel well and truly at home with, stalking carp is something I have done since the age of five. A personal best of 16lb 1oz was achieved before I turned six!. All these years later and I am still doing it, no doubt it will also be a part of the sport I will always partake in.

 A handful of short morning and afternoon sessions have resulted in some good sport although the carp haven't been as forthcoming as some might expect given the perfect conditions for stalking. Clear unbroken skies accompanied by the warm sun with the addition to practically no wind has made conditions the last few days ideal.

 As I said, a few have come out and here is the little collection during those trips. A mix of low to mid doubles have fallen to the ever faithful bread flake set to slow sink or remain on the surface.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

T.H.P.C: Part Two: I'll Take That.

 The 14th April was a date pencilled in for the end of the crucian carp season on Enton Mere. For the past two seasons I have now spent upwards of ten trips trying my hand at some of the countries largest specimens, if you want one, typically this is where you try. However, and this is what some anglers won't tell you, its not easy. I may have touched on this in the past and I am happy to re-iterate that feeling.

 During March and early April the target was a solitary crucian, not setting my sights high enough? I kid you not, a bite was something to get the blood pumping on what turned out to be some of the most baron hours I've experienced, period. My initial idea was just to fish from around 6pm when I arrived through to maybe 10pm to see what would transpire. The answer was almost immediate. Surrounded by anglers, some of whom had had success and others cursing their luck, I had a steaming run on my right hand rod, the sort of take you'd associate with a tench or carp but I know the crucians run with such tenacity. Having connected with the fish I knew straight away by the dainty fight that it was a crucian, then it all went wrong. The hooked pulled and I began cursing my luck too.

 Conjuring up a run so fast I thought I had landed on the fish and the thought of losing a crucian would soon be dispelled by a hectic evenings wrong could I be? Well, one Rudd around 1.04 made an appearance which again I thought was a crucian and then nothing.

 The next morning the dawn chorus was in full swing as the lake came alive with bubbling tench and carp smashing the surface to a foam, not to mention the incessant rolling of numerous crucians, some of which were hitting my rod tips they were that close, but I could not get any response from the little blighters!

 As the morning progressed the fish began to disappear apart from the odd carp here and there breaching. As the clock ticked closer to the sort of time I was going to pull myself away I had a decision to make. Do I stay put on my bed of feed or move to showing fish, after a short time thinking about it the latter was settled on, my target had now changed as my brain had given up on hoping for a crucian, the showing carp were too much of a lure to ignore.

A proper carpers dawn.

 A maggot feeder went straight on the spot they'd been rolling on all morning, the other was flicked out at 25 yards in the vein hope my change of focus would infact catch my original target. Forty five minutes later as I began to sit heavy eyed in the warm sunshine my maggot feeder rod hammered off, almost creating smoke on the newly acquired Delkims!

 For roughly fifteen minutes I battled a stubborn mirror. Powerful run after powerful run was slowly followed by a distinct plodding of a decent fish, I was only fishing with 6lb line and delicate 5 inch hook length at around 60 yards so I had to be careful. With so much inactivity I was basically desperate to land this fish. A few minutes later, after three attempts the large frame of a mid- twenty pound carp cruised into the net, not easy going but, I was very happy with that!

 23lb 6oz, which is my best carp out of Enton, infact, to date, the only one I have landed having lost a couple in the past owing to the delicate tackle often adopted to tackle the crucians.

Monday 16 April 2018

T.H.P.C: Part One: It All Starts Here.

 The starting horn has sounded, the "one hundred pound" challenge has begun. This will arguably be one of the toughest challenges yet, the simple fact a "stillwater" forty pound carp is not an easy feat. Surely this will test my ability to the maximum, any practice that I can get on various waters where I won't necessarily catch my target fish, it gives me some time to sharpen my skills, when that time comes, I will hopefully be ready.

Young'en around 5lb.

 A few small waters containing decent heads of carp into the twenties have been my recent ports-of-call, along with a morning's angling on the "Nomad's canal". This alone will kick my arse should I not get it right either, these carp in particular do not respond well to being pricked or lost, so once I have done the hard work of tracking and tempting them, it will then be down to easing them in and fight the urge to rush them.

Scraper double.

Fiesty one around 8lb.
 To ease me in on the still waters I have managed to snare four carp in two short trips to a little over ten-pounds, not big, but being such wary fish it was encouraging.

 My morning's canal fishing was a success in that I saw a couple of carp, usually I can go without seeing them for one to four trips, although this can depend on clarity and chop on the surface from the wind. Never easy mind you, but I didn't leave the canal empty handed as I stalked another large canal bream of 9lb 1oz. Not that it wanted a photo of course, so this mat shot had to do. That beast represented my fourth largest stalked bream from the canal systems. Insane!

Sunday 1 April 2018

Toughing It Out For Crucians.

 This particular post covers three trips which have been embarked on over the past week. Fishing recently has been tough owing to the topsy turvy temperatures where overnight temps have ruined the daytime improvements. It has to be said that with the poor conditions I'd hazard a guess that everything is now a few weeks behind schedule, that ranges from the dormant inhabitants waking up to begin feeding with spawning in mind, through to spawning. If temps do not begin to improve soon we could easily see Tench and Crucians spawning off a lot later than usual.

 The latter part of that brings me to a little stumbling block as it closes mid-April until mid-June. The lake I am targeting is well known for it's monster crucian stocks for which I have had the pleasure of dipping into albeit fleetingly. This time last year the opportunities to target them were few and far between, what a difference 12 months can make. Colder winter temps and prolonged spells at that have illustrated at just how dependent on mild conditions certain species are when it comes to feeding. Last March the fish were coming out thick and fast to those lucky enough to be on the spots where the tench and especially crucians were grouped up, this year it's turn up and fish 12 hours for a bite!.

 Least wise that's how I have approached my three trips so far this spring. The first two trips resulted in a lot of effort put in for no reward. I travelled down again on good friday to try again, hopefully putting those blanks behind me and reward me for my efforts. On my previous two trips I had fished fairly standard tactics but with the lack of activity I decided a more natural approach may give me an edge over everyone who seemed to follow suit in blanking or bagging the occasional fish every trip. Not the sort of return one would hope for given the effort. So I set my stall out with a helicopter-rig fished in-conjunction with a 35g cage feeder which was plugged with a cocktail of crumbs and a 5 inch stiff hook-length hooked up to a juicy Dendrobaena.

Just a few of my rigs, ready for battle.

 What tench could possibly turn its nose up at that!.......The answer was they couldn't, which was good for me as staring at two rods for three days without a bleep from the buzzers would have been a kick in the plums for sure.

These kept me and Brian occupied for countless hours!
 The first run took around 4 hours to come around, as my area that had been baited lightly with a concoction of caster, crumb and chopped worm showed very little by way of attracting fish, although it is fair to say the chop on the water did cancel some of my visibility out, so being able to spot pin head sized bubbles in the ripple would have been a tall order. I sat nice and warm in my shelter awaiting some action when the first run finally came which to be honest took me by surprise.

Best of the day.
 I wound down into a solid fish which didn't do an awful lot as early spring tench often do, obviously the target is a crucian but the lack of action from them suggested I needed to take a different tac, not long after winding down on my first bit of action a plump 5lb 9oz tench posed for a photo in the rain (only weighed it to get an eye in), as it had been a while since I last had a tench!

To crack a smile in those conditions took some doing!
 Thankfully, that wasn't the last of my action as I had another two takes either side of that first fish, the very first take did me in an old weed bed and even broke my hook length which was disappointing, thankfully I landed the next run. Then shortly after that my third run and second fish resulted with another lovely tinca, this one weighed in at 5lb 6oz.

 Knowing how tough it had been I really wanted to catch just to know my rigs were working and as is often the case I become very critical of myself when things aren't going to plan, I feel a combination of location and tactic changes paid off as I finished off the day with a third tench ( 5.05 ), not long afterwards I had finally decided to pack up as the incessant rain had eventually got the better of me. Packing up in the rain has got to my biggest dislike, but, the prospect of packing up in heavy driving rain which was forecast I'd glad fully take my chances in the light rain I put up with all day!

Soaking wet, but these were good fun.
 A little bit on the tackle I have been using of late. As this lake in particular is still fairly new to me a lot of what I have been doing is articulating on my basic knowledge and adjusting my rigs to be more effective, in trying not to get info from other anglers I have worked fairly hard to work the place out for myself as I feel in the long run I will look back at my campaign for a 4lb+ Crucian Carp a complete success.

 The rods I use are either 1.25tc Greys Prodigy,12 ft rods, or the Korum 12ft 1.5tc "all-rounder" rods. Reels are fairly standard front reel drag Shimano Exage 3000fd's as I prefer these to bait runners as I can set the drag at the beginning of the fight once assessing what I have on the other end, I hear too many stories about setting a tighter drag for the crucians and get busted up by a 20-30lb carp, not my bag to be honest.

 Mainline, I tend to fish as light as I can without being naive, 6lb Diawa sensor is my go to and hook length materials are either 4lb Drennan double-strength supple or or slightly heavier hook length material in the form of 10lb Guru ultra-low diameter "Pulse Line", which is a mainline, but I find this almost perfect for hook length material as it is strong, but thin and supple enough to achieve what I want and also gives me a slightly better chance at putting everything I contact on the bank, all of which above came to this arrangement. 

 The method "flat bed" feeders that I use are usually 42g to give me decent distance abilities and also enough weight to enable a good "self-hook up" of anything that picks up the bait. For my method feeder fishing I use a short length which is typically 3-5 inches depending on various things on the day. My heli-rigs typically are fished with longer tails and around a foot from the feeder, but laid flat the hook bait lays just an inch from the top of the feeder, or in essence that is what should happen.

 Terminal tackle like hooks can vary again, if the fish are touchy then I'll drop to a size 18 or 20; if bites are coming thick and fast, but hook up rates are poor then I'll fish a size 14 or 16.

 As for bait now I am fairly confident in plastics ie: caster, buoyant maggots/bloodworm and corn, but where the fishing has been tough the naturals I felt would work well and my theory was proved right to a degree, although I could have just dropped on a patch of fish where fish were feeding sporadically.

Blackwater Returns.

   Throughout my teenage years I spent many thousands of hours targeting Barbel in low gin clear rivers and really hammered home my love for...