Friday, 31 January 2014

Duncan's monthly roundup January 2014

 You can’t call me a fair weather angler!

Well what a wash out January was, or was it? Only if you hung your rods up and stayed indoors, unlike myself who decided to grit my teeth, ignore what elements were thrown at me and just keep on doing what I love, fishing. When I looked at my diary inputs it even amazed me that I visited the bank on twenty occasions, a total of 91 hours of which the sessions were split between guiding (3), features (2) and personal sessions (15), ten of which were campaign sessions targeting one specific species. Averaging the sessions out I wasn’t surprised to know that each session averaged just 4.5 hours as most of the campaign trips saw myself on the bank just before daybreak or at dusk, both periods coinciding with feeding periods for my target species.
Out of these entire sessions just one was on a river and this lasted just one hour in which I had to change from the float, due to the sheer rate of flow, to the feeder which bought me one lonely trout. The guiding trips were all productive and although the two pound roach one customer craves for didn’t grace his net, roach to over the pound did and this was from a new, rarely fished venue, so well worth another visit in the future. New Nash Ambassador Jake Curry joined me at Farnham Angling Societies Badshot Lea Big Pond, bream were our target and the lake didn’t disappoint with eleven bream averaging over 4lb gracing his net in just six hours. I also allowed Jake to join me later in the month at my campaign water where he landed a personal best, something that will be revealed soon.
I also got out with the Tight Lines crew again, this time at The Royal Berkshire Fishery with roach once again the target. Plenty of fish graced my net, yet you will have to watch the show over the next few weeks to see just how I got on. Another successful session was again at Badshot Lea Big Pond, this time with Roy Westwood from Anglers Mail. The feature was all about how to boost your hookbaits this winter and ‘the maggot sandwich’ didn’t let me down. The feature is in this weeks Anglers Mail issue (Jan 28th) so go get your copy now!
Without saying too much, this months winter campaign got off to a flyer with specimen fish being landed on almost every trip yet just as I was rubbing my hands together the fish disappeared. I’m not sure why, but I will have to keep in touch with the venue and if they return, hopefully fill my boots.
The other sessions (5) were spent on the river Wey, Royal Berkshire Fishery, Frensham and two sessions at Godalming Angling Societies Broadwater, both of which were hugely rewarding. I’ve already explained these two sessions within previous blog inputs but in brief both prove the point of using your eyes to find the fish, travelling light so you can move if needed and just how lazy the majority of carp anglers are. In fact I’m considering beginning to offer guided carp sessions as its obvious theirs a lot of anglers out there that need some basic guidance in fish location. How can I put it, forget the latest rig, forget the latest bait, if your not on the fish you wont catch, it’s that bloody simple! The session at Royal Berkshire Fishery was a warm up for the Tight Lines programme, the session at Frensham Great Pond saw a 7lb pike taken and the short session on the Wey has been previously explained.
This months images are a bit limited but believe me their not, I just don’t want to publicise to much too soon and the reason behind this will be revealed very soon.
Although my time on the bank has a nice split between the different areas of my angling life, one thing I did promise everyone was a weekly ‘In Session’ feature on my website. Unfortunately the weather has really put paid to this, however just as soon as it starts to get better (something it might not do due to the worst month of the year February fast approaching) and the days get longer this will happen and by the time the next winter is upon us I should be well into a routine of creating these features.
Looking at February I can’t see much changing, basically because I cannot see the rivers fining down enough to fish effectively which means continuing in the same fashion as January. I have been given a tip of about some local quality perch on a venue quite alien to myself, something that will need to be investigated with a fishing rod sooner than later. The diary also shows that I have a few days guiding already planned, as are a few club AGM’s, two days at ‘The Big One’ along with maybe three days out producing features, plenty of European magazine features to compile and if the weather is kind I will be trying to help catch Alan Blair a personal best or two, but who knows next week the country could be covered in snow.

Images –
  1. Young Jake with part of a fine catch of winter bream.
  2. A new venue produced plenty of quality roach.
  3. Winter campaigns mean being bankside before daybreak.
  4. Winter carp, find them, and catch them!
  5. The new Nash Crab and Krill boilies have been doing the business!
  6. Fancy a few barbel like this, well I can almost guarantee it!

River Wye Barbel days.
Many of you by now will be completely sick of this winters weather and looking forward to the warm long days that summer brings. Unfortunately you won’t be alone, especially if barbel are your quarry, and by the time the river season starts hoards of anglers will be gagging to wet a line. Fishing against angler as well as the fish is becoming more and more common, especially on my local river Loddon, so if this is getting to you then maybe you need a change of scenery, maybe a day catching loads of barbel in beautiful countryside and with few if any other anglers to contend with. If so take a look at my website as I have a number of spaces still available in September and October on a fantastic, prolific and private stretch of the river Wye.
I’m not sure exactly what my statistics are over the last few years, but I have never failed to help catch an angler a barbel, if not at least three on this magical river. In fact one angler took over thirty in a day and most go home landing at least half a dozen. It’s a statistic that I’m not willing to give up easily and will do everything in my power to make your day one you will remember, so if you want action, you know where to come!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A deadly combination

A deadly combination.
Angler - Peg One's Stuart Jupp
Images and words – Duncan Charman.

The Helicopter Rig needs no introduction, it’s been around for years, yet it’s rarely used by anglers targeting species other than carp. Most anglers targeting bream and tench tend to follow suit with the carp lads, using standard scaled down semi-fixed bolt rig consisting of either an inline lead and PVA bag with pellet within and a boilie as bait or an inline maggot feeder with plastic bait on the hair. However a few in the know anglers have taken the Helicopter rig away from the carp anglers, modified it and proceed to take venues apart with it. Nash Peg One consultant Stuart Jupp is one of those anglers that knows the full impact of just how versatile and effective this self-hooking rig is and we sent him to one of his local club waters to see how many species he could catch during a short morning session. For Stuart our challenge fell bang on time that Nash were testing out their new innovative device, The Ballmaker so it was exciting times for everyone.

Master plan and swim choice.
Arriving an hour after sunrise Stuart takes his time to scan the water. This is where watercraft learnt over many years plays a major factor in success and failure. There’s a brisk westerly blowing which is colder than hoped and although Stuart wants to have a good ripple in front of him, he opts out of sitting with this directly in his face, preferring to cast into open water at the end of the lake where it’s blowing but from an angle. Keeping to open water will give me a good chance of picking up numerous species, especially bream that are abundant in this lake. I have already come with a plan of action and that’s to introduce a dozen balls of groundbait at a comfortable casting and catapulting distance. Fifty yards is about right and with the lake typography being fairly uniformed it’s up to me to make a feature, and that’s achieved by accurate and constant feeding. Constant building the swim is paramount if you want to get the best from it and this is why Stuarts decided to cast every fifteen minutes. Once the fish arrive and he lands one a further two balls of groundbait will be introduced, a routing that he will continue right to the end of the session.

Hookbait and bait application.
Wanting to catch numerous species Stuart has kept his hookbait very simple, live and dead maggots. Groundbait is a 50/50 mix of Fish Frenzy Talapia and Halibut method mix which may seem strange but Stuart intends to mix this groundbait very dry and then sieve it. The groundbait will be fed into the swim, initially by catapulting out, and then regularly topped up through a cage feeder and by placing live maggots in the centre of the feeder; these simply push the groundbait out. The dead maggots are great as these can be mixed into the groundbait and pressed with the balls that are fired out. Dead maggots are also a great hookbait, especially for bream with tench and perch preferring live ones. Stuart has also given his groundbait an extra boost by adding a good helping of Sweetcorn Magic Mix Attractor which is really sweet smelling. He also adds some to his dead and live maggots but edges on the side of caution when doing so.
When Stuarts created the right consistency he quickly makes op a dozen 40mm balls with the Ballmaker. I watch as he fills the larger part of the device, presses down, and then adds more. This creates a much firmer ball which are easily fired out using a hard cup style catapult. Before firing these out though he fills his feeder with groundbait, lines his cast up with a far bank marker and makes a preliminary cast. As the feeder hits the water he places the rod on the ground and only then starts to catapult the balls out, this way he can make sure that his initial baiting is relatively accurate. Before winding in Stuart places his mainline in the reels line clip then ties on an elasticated stop knot just of this. This reference marker will allow Stuart to create up an accurate feeding zone during the session, building the swim in a slow but positive way, drawing fish steadily into his swim and hopefully reap the rewards as the session progresses.

The rig.
Although the Helicopter Rig sounds complex, it is in fact very simple and almost tangle free. Basically it’s a short hooklink, usually three to four inches that is trapped on the mainline by two float stops with the feeder tied to the end of the mainline. The rig has to be balanced throughout and over years of using Stuart reckons that a size 16 micro-barbed hook attached to a five-pound fluorocarbon hooklink can’t be beaten when using maggots. The hooklink is positioned an inch further away from the feeder than the length of the hooklink and a small tapered rig sleeve acts as a boom, keeping the hooklink from tangling on the 6lb mainline. On one rod Stuart will be using a 25gram mesh style open ended feeder with bream in mind and the hookbait will be dead maggots. On the other rod he will be using the same size feeder but this time it will be a maggot feeder and with two live maggots popped up of the deck with some foam he hopes this will encourage a tench to grace his net. Keeping his options open at the start will help find out what species are in his swim and when one rig shows a preference he will swap both rods over to the winning tactic.

The session.
After introducing the balls of groundbait Stuart casts out places his rods on the rests and attaches his bobbins hoping for a quick indication that he’s made the right swim choice. That indication comes after just ten seconds as one of his alarms sends out a series of audible notes. Stunned at such a quick response and noticing one of his bobbins has dramatically dropped back Stuart carefully lifts the rod and feels into a fish which straight away is identified as a bream. Weighing around 4lb it has come to the groundbait and dead maggot tactic, a devastating bream tactic if ever their was. Recasting the rods go unnoticed for the next fifteen minutes which is time for a recast. Soon after casting a repeat performance happens and from then on it’s a bream almost every cast to the groundbait feeder, yet the maggot feeder and lives goes unnoticed. After half a dozen bream its time to change and the action intensifies, yet its just bream that are falling. Changing to lives on one rod Stuart soon receives a one toner and bends into a much harder fighting fish, however fully expecting a tench he’s stunned as a quality Roach/bream hybrid slides over the drawstring. A couple more follow before a fish is connected with that feels completely different and by the jagged fight he suspect a perch is the culprit and he’s right. Having three species in the net Stuart knows he can only expect one more species, yet he has to wade through a number of further bream before the baitrunner kicks into life. Playing the fish ever so carefully as not to pull the hook or break the hooklink a tench finally graces his net followed by two more. With the five hour session now completed Stuart goes to lift his keepnet and is speechless as he struggles to do so, as within is a mixed catch weighing at least fifty pounds and that’s with quite a few smaller bream slipped straight back!

Venue details – Badshot Lea Big Pond is controlled by Farnham Angling Society. For more details visit or call The Creel on 01252 320871

Slow Sinking and Critically Balanced baits for pike.

Slow Sinking and Critically Balanced baits.
Duncan Charman – The thinking Angler.

Its all well and good casting out a blatant in-your-face deadbait popped up of the lead with a red foam popper on waters where its never been used before, yet on pressured waters containing big wary pike that have seen it all, then a slightly more complex and subtle approach may well be worth the effort.
Critically balanced baits in the world of carp fishing are all the rage, why, because they counter balance the weight of the hook making the boilie fly into a carp’s mouth far easier. Carp have mouths designed far superior to pike when it comes to taking a bait of the bottom, so if carpers are going to so much trouble to create a bait that acts so natural, then it seems obvious that by doing the same with a deadbait will bring with it extra and more confident pick-ups from pike.
Unfortunately we can’t just drill a whole in the side of a deadbait and plug it with foam, like a carp angler does with a boilie; however by inserting a buoyant balsa stick within a dead fish, a slow sinking bait can be created. These balsa deadbait sticks come at a cost, around a pound each so they can’t just be pushed into the bait and lost every time a pike is hooked, so need to be attached to the trace to avoid this. Pushing balsa sticks into frozen sardines, herrings or naturals is difficult and often baits are split whist trying to achieve this. Its far better to mount the deadbait onto a trace along with pushing the buoyant stick, either into the body or down through the mouth straight after buying them from the fish monger, before freezing down. What I like to have with me on every pike trip is a selection of popped-up, slow sinking and natural deadbaits, all frozen down in individual containers ready to be used when I arrive at the lake. Dawn is by far the most productive period so the last thing I want is to waste time playing about with baits and rigs, especially on a freezing cold morning. Having rods made up, baits mounted on traces which can be quickly clipped onto my mainline is vital if I’m going to make best of this feeding period
Having half a dozen baits of each type takes up room in the freezer so I have an old one in the shed where these baits are kept. Being a methodical thinker I will always have at least six of each, the popped-up baits frozen with poppers attached, slow sinkers with sticks inserted and traces attached plus standard bottom baits. It all sounds a bit complex, yet once you know the size of balsa sticks to place in a herring to make it slow sinking, it only takes a few minutes to rig up, test in a bowl of water, then place in the freezer. One small problem with making a slow sinker is that when its frozen it will become more buoyant so when one is cast out you will actually be fishing a pop-up until it defrosts. Slow sinking baits are brilliant when weed is a problem as they will slowly descend onto the top of it, coming to rest and standing out in a very obvious, yet natural way. The slower a deadbait sinks the better and getting one to be critically balanced, almost weightless, comes with practice, yet any bait that sinks slower than in its natural state is in my mind beneficial.
The slow sinking or critically balanced bait is what I consider to be my big fish method, one that when cast out will be left to draw a pike in through its own devices whilst my second rod will be either twitched back slowly over a period of time, worked through the swim using the sink-and-draw method as well as experimenting with different baits. The constant movement and working of a second bait over a big natural looking bait, such as a herring, will often get a response if a big pike is around and hungry.
Slow-sinkers are also great in swims that have been pre-baited and often get an instant response. It’s as if the feeding pike, after taking bait directly of the bottom see a bait slowly falling through the water and can’t resist it. To me it must be like a dying sardine that’s been stunned and is falling away from a sardine bait ball after being hit by a shoal of tuna. Inevitably it doesn’t go unnoticed!
Natural baits such as roach and sea baits like sardines are great as slow sinkers, yet pushing a balsa stick through their mouths, especially smaller baits in the four to six inch size can be difficult so with these I tend to make a small incision behind the gills then push the stick into the fish’s stomach. Bigger baits such as herrings have bigger mouths and sticks can be inserted through the mouth. This can create a brilliant bait where the herring actually sits with its tail on the bottom of the lake and its head pointing upwards. Another benefit that baits with buoyancy aids, either inserted into them or attached to them, have is that they will naturally waft around in the water and a pike is expertly adapted at locating even the slightest of movement from a dead or dying fish.
All in all, if I can make it easier for a pike to locate my bait by making it more visual or presenting it in a way that it can be seen, as well as creating some movement to it and at the same time easier for a pike to grab, then I feel I have done everything possible to gain a response. Obviously location and weather conditions play a major part in consistently catching, yet rigs are one part of the jigsaw puzzle that I have securely in place.
Knowing exactly how my deadbaits are working when they are in my swim creates confidence, and when a big pike is landed on a rig and bait that has taken time to make up gives a fantastic feeling of achievement.

Images –
1. When using slow sinking baits I revert back to using drop-off indicators.
2. Location is paramount. Find the jacks and the big girls won’t be far away.
3. Getting a bait to sink slowly is easy. I tie on a balsa stick using bait elastic along with attaching two trebles to the bait before dropping it in a bowl of water. If it floats then a smaller stick is needed, if it sinks a bigger one is needed.
4. Once the right stick is found, I tie on a length of braid to it along with a small retaining ring to the other end. The stick is then either inserted into the body of the fish or pushed into the deadbaits mouth, before the retaining ring is placed on the treble hook containing the barb, followed by a bait saver, then pressed into the fish. The second treble has already been positioned in the tail root of the deadbait before the bait and trace are frozen.
5. A selection of balsa sticks, foam poppers and bait savers.
6. When going to all the trouble of making up traces with baits attached I don’t want to keep having to make up new ones after each capture so I prefer to use either a Titanium woven or single stand wire as these allow numerous pike to be caught before kinking. The only downside is they are expensive, yet in the long run, you will save money.  

***Coarse Angling Today in shops now***

***Coarse Angling Today in shops now***
February’s issue of Coarse Angling Today is available in shops today. It can also be downloaded via the Apple Newsstand, Kindle Fire and Android. 
In this month’s issue, Lewis Baldwin returns with his latest instalment of ‘Bankside Sessions’, in which he talks about his recent success with pike and perch. Stef Horak is back to talk about his bait-and-wait barbel fishing exploits, and Duncan Charman offers some words of wisdom on how to tempt perch on prawns. With Mick Wood, Mart Barrett, Tony Miles, Adam Clewer, Jake Curry and Sam Meeuwissen also gracing this month’s pages, and a Guest Editorial from Danny Johnson, there really is something for everyone.

Monday, 27 January 2014

In Session with Duncan – Venue GAS Broadwater Jan 23rd 2014

Good and bad angling!

Sorry to create another ‘In Session’ with Duncan on the same venue, Broadwater, however its now becoming a joke on just how most anglers approach their sessions. Let me explain.
Arriving again slightly later than I would have liked due to dropping the girlfriend at work I found the lake slightly busier and as expected the ‘going swim’ The Oaks taken, however the double on the rugby bank facing the island surprisingly wasn’t. I almost did what I tell anglers not to do and head for this, yet having found the fish well away from the island a few days earlier thought that this would be as good a starting place as any, however the swim that I fished then was taken, as was one halfway along the road bank. I decided to drop into one also along the road bank yet with the lake completely flat and no fish showing I knew it would be tough to buy a bite. This is where an anglers eyes come into play and soon after setting up a carp lumped out just three rod lengths out to my right. It was this showing fish that I blame for making me sit in the swim too long. The rain that had been forecasted to start at 10am had also arrived early and without waterproofs and an umbrella it was a case of sitting it out. Luckily it wasn’t that bad but I did have to slap myself for not having any pre-tied PVA bags made up.
Looking out into the gloom a few carp started to show right on the corner of the island, yet with the angler to my left looking straight at them and the angler in the going swim able to cast almost to them all I could do was watch. The best part of two hours past when the wind created a ripple on the water and the showing fish slowly moved away from the island and towards the rugby bank. They were still out of casting distance from my position, yet I knew that if I moved to the rugby bank then I may just have a chance of getting a bite in the remaining half an hour.
As expected the double had gone, once again anglers that had missed these showing fish, so I set up so I could cast straight towards them. Fortunately I had already assumed that these fish maybe at distance and rigged up my 12ft Entity rods however with a small PVA bag attached I was still dropping a few yards short. It was simply a case of casting singles to the showing fish and crossing my fingers. Having just minutes before I had to leave I didn’t even place the rods on sticks and alarms, just placed them on the ground with the baitrunners on. Twenty minutes past and then the right hand rod springs into life. Whilst playing the carp I was aware that other anglers are watching, probably all wishing that they should have move, yet by not being lazy, using my eyes and moving to the fish I soon had a nice mid double resting in the net.
Five minutes later I was back in the car and heading home well happy with the result and questioning just why some anglers go fishing as for many that were fishing that morning, the chances of them catching was zero, they might as well gone and cast out on the rugby pitch!
I wonder if those other anglers that were watching moved, probably not!   

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Book now to avoid disappointment - River Wye Barbel days.

River Wye Barbel Guiding Days.

During the first week of September last year seven anglers under my guidance managed to land exactly one hundred barbel and countless chub between them on this amazing river. Due to the popularity of these weeks and being fortunate to have access to one of the most picturesque and prolific stretches on the whole river, one that now includes the famous Aramstone beat upstream, I have decided to increase the amount of anglers and days available this year.

The dates that are available are as follows and the price includes all bait, terminal tackle, permits for the venue, tea and coffee plus supplying all photographs from your trip. Rods and reels can be supplied if needed at no extra charge but this needs to be arranged in advance.

Mon September 1st to Friday 5th 

Mon September 15th to Friday 19th

Mon October 13th to Friday 17th 

(If you are interested but these dates do not suit you, please let me know, as others can be arranged)

The cost per person is £125 per day and is based on a first come first served basis bookable by means of a £50 deposit.

Local accommodation is available and my recommendations are either The Falcon House 01989 740223 or Sink Green Farm 01432 870223 which are both just minutes away from where we will be fishing, however if you fancy booking more than one day then you are allowed to camp right next to the river for a small charge.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

In Session - Winter Carping Sunday Jan 19th 2014

In Session with Duncan – Venue GAS Broadwater Jan 19th 2014

Find Time!

I’ve been eager to get out and put a couple of the new Nash Scope rods through their paces ever since Alan Blair sent me a couple a few weeks ago, yet having my teeth into a campaign elsewhere had somewhat distracted me from such a session, however with a couple of hours free on Sunday morning I decided it was time to try.
Dropping the girlfriend of a work at 7am I arrived slightly later than would have normally, yet knowing that Broadwater is very much a morning water still felt that I had a chance, that was if I could locate the fish quickly. Their were a few cars in the car park on arrival, not surprising as it was one of the rare occasions that it wasn’t blowing a hooligan or raining. In fact it was a great morning for fishing, but not ideal for catching with hardly any wind, bright blue cloudless skies and a temperature of just 4.5degrees.
Two anglers were set up right in front of the car park and as I headed past one said hello, so I then asked two very important questions, ‘any luck’ and ‘seen any fish moving’? He replied that they had fished all night, caught just one carp and hadn’t seen anything, great, not a lot to be going on with. Walking down the bank I had only passed three swims, probably no more than fifty yards, when out in front of me a big mirror showed its head and shoulders quickly followed by a small common. Leaving tackle on show in the car is something that has always played on my mind, yet the new Nash Scope rods pack away, even when made up, to just 3.75feet so anyone that does short after or before work sessions and need to safely store tackle out of site really need to get a pair of these! Having found the fish I headed back to the car to collect the tackle, worried that the two anglers that had arrived just before me and were loading their trolley would notice these fish and drop into the swim, yet amazingly they walked straight passed not once looking out across the lake, obviously already having a swim on their mind, probably a decision made before leaving home!
Two other anglers had arrived earlier and I wasn’t surprised to see they had taken what are generally considered as two of the best swims. This maybe true in the summer yet with carp shoaling tightly in the winter, being stereotyped into swim choice before leaving home will cost you dearly. For me, I don’t care what swim I fish, more important is that the swim has fish in front of it, and mine did.
Having made a few very small PVA Bags up the night before, ones that contained just twenty four Nash 6mm High Attract Tangerine Dream Pellets plus a couple of hookbait samples in the form of the new Nash flavoured 10mm boilies, it was simply a case of attaching one to each rod and casting these out in the general direction of the showing fish. This gave me time to get the swim organised, however the hope of a quick, first cast bite didn’t come. With sticks, alarms, net and mat positioned it was time to wind one of the rods in attach another PVA Bag and wait for a fish to show before casting this as close to it as possible. With the carp showing at around 60 yards I initially thought that they were out of casting range as the Scope rods I was using are just nine foot long, yet quickly changing the 1.5oz inline lead to a 2oz I was easily able to hit the distance.
I had already decided to cast both rods every twenty minutes and it was soon after the third cast that the left hand rod roared off and after a slow plodding fight that had me fooled I’d hooked a very big fish a double figured common graced my net. Both rods were refreshed and recast and I looked around amazed as other anglers sat motionless, not even recasting on a regular basis or more surprisingly moving so they could get a bait close to where the fish were. The first fish came on a 10mm Crab and Krill 10mm boilie tipped with a small buoyant sight stop, fished next to a barbless size 12 hook which was attached to a new, soon to be released ten inch Nash 15lb hooklink material. I was wondering if that first fish was just a lucky carp yet ten minutes later the rod with the 10mm Tandoori Spice boilie produces a common around 6lb.
Twenty minutes later I was packed away, having fished just two hours, and heading home as the last thing I wanted was to draw to much attention to myself or more importantly where the fish were, as soon as the weather looks better for catching I will be back, full of confidence and looking to bag one of the lakes big commons.

The heading ‘Find Time’ means basically that the most important factor when targeting carp in the winter (sorry at anytime of the year) is to locate them, and then you need to fish for them at the right time, in this case the morning!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Anglers Mail Action Replay - Photographer Duncan Charman

Anglers Mail Action Replay >>> Spring 2013
This week: Prawns catch loads of big perch but how many anglers use them for other species. We’ve teamed up with one angler who regularly bags up on big carp simply float fishing these in the margins.

Heading – Alan Muller goes marginal carp fishing with prawns.
Every now and again an anglers stumbles on a venue by accident when targeting a different species and that’s exactly what Alan Muller did when fishing prawns for perch last winter.
Trying to tempt one of the few big perch that a local commercial, Alan found himself constantly being beaten up by hard fighting double figured carp that certainly tested his perch set up to the limits. Being a lover of float fishing he wasn’t complaining and now regularly returns in the traditional close season to get his angling fix, before his preferred rivers reopen and his quest for catching monster barbel begins.
Alan classifies himself as ‘old school’ being bought up using watercraft to locate his fish and traditional float tactics to outwit them. ‘Once the rivers open you will find me spending the majority of my time targeting barbel and during this time rarely visit a Stillwater, yet once these close I have to get out and its species such as roach and perch that I prefer to target, yet just watching a float dip in the margins then disappear and the sound of my clutch screaming as a carp heads of to the centre of the lake is a s close to the power of a barbel as it gets and the frill of the fight and the fun of doing something other anglers rarely do these days is refreshing,’ he remarks.
Anglers Mail Rating: Having the lake to himself and knowing the venue like the back of his hand, fish are guaranteed.

Arriving at the lake Alan’s has already made his rod up and with minimal tackle quickly assesses the wind direction before deciding on four swims that he will bait and rotate during the short morning session.
‘What I love about this style of angling is that you don’t need loads of tackle, just a rod that I made up at home, a landing net, mat, bucket with bait along with a small bag which has items such as terminal tackle, scales, camera and a flask. This allows me to keep mobile, just like being on a river, taking a fish, maybe two from each swim before baiting and moving on,’ he comments.
He seems undecided at first to which bank to fish. ‘This wind is a north and its cold and I’m concerned the fish aren’t going to like it in there faces’, he mentions.

Not wanting to put all his eggs in one basket, Alan finally decides to bait two swims on the windward bank as well as two on the bank with the wind of his back and proceeds to bait up.
‘What I’m going to do today is to bait each swim down one margin with a handful of hemp along with two or three broken prawns. Before doing so, I place the rod on the ground as I’m going to be fishing right under my rod tip in every swim,’ he adds.
Leaving the swim to rest for ten minutes has a quick cuppa whilst deciding on what swim looks like producing a quick bite.

‘Bait for today is as basic as it comes, king prawns and hempseed as loose feed. I also have a few mussels in my bag just for an alternative, but rarely have prawns ever let me down. I keep a small pole cup also in my bag just in case I need to bait up really accurately. I also find that hemp and prawns that are a little past their sell by date better so always keep an eye out for any going cheap in the supermarket, so although I have had to pay for a day ticket, the cost of the bait is so cheap it counterbalances this,’ he explains.
He also tells me that in the winter when targeting perch he replaces the hemp for red maggots, however with the lake containing so many silver fish he’s decided against this as it will only attract unwanted species.

‘Everything about this session is about keeping things simple, moving around as well as using balanced tackle. The rod I’m using toady is an old Normark Titan 13’ Match rod which I’m teaming up with a small Shimano reel loaded with a fine 0.17mm mono, approximately 6lb. At the business end I’m using a small 0.4gram pole float which is virtually cocked with a 0.3gram inline Olivetti and positioned at half the depth of the swim and locked in position with a float stop. No hooklinks here as knots produce weaknesses, so its 6lb Gardner HydroFlo mono straight through to a size oversized size 14 barbless hook with is tied on using a grinner knot. The most important piece of kit in my tackle box today is a plummet which I use in each swim to set the float an inch over depth,’ he remarks.
Instead of plummeting the depth right where Alan’s baited I watch as he drops the rig short as not to disturb any feeding fish and notice how quietly this is done. Even with the water so murky everything is completed in an extremely stealthy manner not to spook any fish. After hooking on a prawn and lowering this into his swim just of the rod top I’m not surprised to see Alan bent into a fish within twenty seconds of the bait settling.
‘Well that didn’t take long and this feels a good fish by the way its staying deep and hugging the bottom,’ he reveals. After a few minutes of steady pressure the rod does its job and the fish, a common of around 10lb glides into the landing net and Alan rubs his hands in anticipation.

The common’s a great start yet I’m surprised as Alan risks another cast and instantly hooks another carp. ‘This lake seems to allow an angler to catch a couple of carp quickly, anymore and they seem to spook for the rest of the day, so by not being greedy and taking just two means that I can return later and catch almost instantly again,’ he comments. Proving the point Alan baits the swim with a handful of hemp and broken prawns before moving on. Repeating the process of plummeting he takes four carp from his three other baited swims in the next ninety minutes before returning to his original position.
‘I’m not surprised that the corner swim with the wind blowing right into it failed to produce, yet this just shows the important of swim selection and how an angler can get it wrong if approaching a venue in a static manner,’ he remarks.

Alan’s unhooking mat is only used on the bigger carp with most being unhooked in the net and creates some comfort to his knees during the session. ‘I’m not a great lover of chairs as most are two heavy and high which not only makes an angler lazy but reduces the stealth factor when approaching a swim. If I were here longer then a small lightweight chair maybe an option, but for now I’m happy to kneel down on my unhooking mat which gets me right down close to the water level, a position where I can see any slight movement of the delicate pole float.

The suns beginning to show as just like the action the air temperature is rising. There’s few carp sucking at the willow pollen that’s floating on the surface and knowing this, Alan edges his float even closer to the marginal cover knowing that the carp will be looking on top of the shelf for food. It doesn’t take long for the float to sail away and once again a healthy curve on the rod to appear.
‘ There’s no need to cock the float right down, in fact its best to have plenty showing as these carp brushing up against the line will create line bites so its best to ignore these and wait for the float to sail away in un-missable fashion,’ says Alan.

The action continues, rarely does the float sit still for more than a couple of minutes and I watch as Alan lands further carp. ‘The great thing about using such a natural bait is you never know what’s coming next. I’ve caught plenty of good tench here as well as the carp that run to over 30lb and with them averaging double figures you need to use reliable tackle and you never know when a monster perch will show. If I loose a fish its inevitable from a hook pull, however with a forgiving but powerful rod and a clutch set correctly rarely does this happen,’ he comments. The next fish is a well conditioned mirror, not the biggest and I can tell that Alan’s somewhat disappointed at the average size today which is below standard, however it’s all about to change.

Moving back to the swim with the most prominent feature within the lake Alan soon finds himself bent into a better fish that once again keeps low. After around five minutes a few bubbles start to appear and the pole float shows that the fish is tiring.
‘The bigger fish in here don’t tear of like the smaller ones. I remember playing a fish for over half an hour only for the hook to pull at the last minute. I saw the fish it was a big common in the mid twenties and just plodded away under the rod tip, proof you can’t ignore the margins. This one doesn’t feel as big but it’s certainly going to be the biggest of the day,’ he remarks.

Top tips -
1. A good pair of polarising glasses and peaked cap are important for removing surface glare.
2. A large circular landing net is far more manoeuvrable than a big triangular net and allows fish to be unhooked easily within it.
3. Removing weaknesses is important when targeting big fish on light balanced tackle and with line diameters so fine these days I can get away with quite unforgiving mainlines without compromising on finesse.
4. Placing shot on mainline is a recipe for disaster so I use an inline Olivetti locked in position with a float stop.
The End Result –
That final carp certainly was the biggest of the day, an immaculate mirror of around 15lb that shows no signs of past captures. Maybe it’s a clever fish that safely hunts in the margins, far away from most anglers’ baits.
‘It’s been a great morning but running my own business means I cant fish too many hours in the day, maybe that’s why I have a love for barbel. It’s now just before midday, less that four hours fishing and I have lost count of the carp I’ve caught, definitely more than a dozen. Fishing rarely gets better than this,’ he remarks with a big smile on his face.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Big One

The Big One – February 22nd & 23rd

Don’t forget one of the biggest and best tackle shows in the south is approaching quickly. Based at Farnborough airfield (GU14 6AZ) The Big One has all the top manufactures including Nash and Peg One which is where you will find me. Pop along and see me as well as all the other consultants and we will be happy to answer any of your questions as well as showing off all the latest gear.
I will also be signing my book ‘Evolution of an Angler’ as will fellow Nash Consultant Paul Garner and on both days in the afternoon you will be able to fire questions at both of us and probably Lewis Baldwin in the main arena.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Coloured and oil injected deadbaits for pike

Creating confidence is a very important part of angling and some anglers go to extraordinary lengths to try and get an edge over other anglers, be it in carp, pike or any other type of specialist fishing, however how does an angler get confidence? In simple terms most anglers gain confidence in a bait or tactic by simply catching quickly. Cast a red herring into a lake, receive a take and land a big pike and that angler will have confidence casting an identical bait out in future sessions, yet did he catch because his bait was red? Maybe, maybe not, that’s the grey area surrounding such a topic.

The problem with using static deadbaits for pike is that time plays a major part, especially in the depth of winter when pike may only feed in very short bursts, so proof that something work is difficult to gauge. If you are in the right place and your location is spot on then results will follow, however get this wrong and it really doesn’t matter what rig or bait you are using. The only way to gauge whether a coloured or oil injected bait works better than a standard fresh unhampered bait is to fish then side by side on identical rigs within a swim that contains a good head of pike. My experience has usually seen a pattern emerging in such swims, and that is, the best bait initially will be the natural coloured bait, however after a few captures bites will tend to dry up as these fish wise up. This is when colouring a baits come into their own.
Although coloured baits can be bought from specialist shops most anglers tend to dye their own and there are a few different ways to do this. Probably the easiest is to buy a purposely shop bought colour spray. All that an angler needs to do is to mount the hookbait onto the hooks then hold the spray around six-inches away before colouring. This is an expensive and wasteful process and I prefer to simply add powder colour to a plastic bag, add a few baits before blowing up and shaking. Once the baits are covered I place them in the freezer as this process tends to draw the colour into the fish’s skin better.
Before an angler starts to colour his baits, he really needs to look at certain factors surrounding the venue that’s being fished. If the water is murky then I see absolutely no advantage in colouring baits as any pike will be using its other senses to locate its prey. In this situation, if an angler stops catching from a productive swim then it would be far more advantageous to change the type of bait being used. I have complete faith in sardines and this will be my first choice bait every time, usually one will be fished directly on the bottom, the other popped up. If I am aware pike are present, yet bites are not forthcoming then I will initially start playing with one bait, maybe breaking the head of it so the juices and blood are allowed to leak out or add sight stops to each hook. A coloured bait would only be cast out as a last resort, yet on the odd occasion I have been amazed at the upturn in bites, which goes to show that on certain venues, colour does make a difference, yet in hindsight, when such a marked difference has been noticed my belief is it’s simply down to past angling pressure. If I was fishing a venue with a small head of big pike then I would try my best to find out what, where and when these big fish get caught, as this to me is far more influential than colour of bait, however if I knew that the going bait was mackerel then I would have one rod using the freshest mackerel possible, yet with the other rod I would have no problem colouring one or even adding a flavour or oil in order to try and find an edge.
I know a predator angler that had amazing success when using golden trout, it was a bait he had complete confidence in yet these very specialist deadbaits were very difficult to source and came at a cost, so he simply dyed normal trout orange to keep ahead of others.
The big question then is, does colour matter and the answer to this is yes. Ask a lure or fly angler this question and the answer will also be yes, however a lure or fly angler will constantly keep changing things in order to find what’s working. If he catches just one fish this maybe a coincidence but often when the lure/fly is matched to what the fish are feeding on, multiple captures are possible. In most other styles of angling be it specialist carp or general, colour makes a huge difference. You only have to ask me what colour maggots I buy, red, or what colour piece of artificial corn do I reach for first, yellow! Colour may not be as popular in static deadbaiting yet on the odd occasion it can be the difference between catching and blanking.

This now brings me briefly onto the subject of using oils on, within or next to deadbaits and asks the question, does this make a difference? My answer to this would once again be yes, however that doesn’t mean I would be adding additional oils to every deadbait I use. In fact I have rarely injected or flavoured a bait directly as I have always felt that by doing so I was interfering with the baits natural draw. As long as the bait I was using was fresh, then that would always be my first line of attack, and if I felt the need to tamper with the bait then instead of adding oil to the fish I would feel far happier using a swim-feeder filled with foam and soaked in oil. To me this gives me the best of both worlds, an additional sent draw around a really fresh bait.
Again I do know anglers that have soaked baits in flavour before freezing them and would swear that they create an edge and have outscored conventional unflavoured baits on certain venues, but that doesn’t mean all. Similarly I know anglers that instinctively inject their baits with water soluble fish oils as its something they are confident in and have faith in catching, yet if you feel you want to try this method then I would advice that an oil specifically designed for this is used instead of just adding fish oil as unless you add a emulsifier to it then it might just be having an adverse effect.

All in all whether you feel the need to colour or oil up your deadbaits, the word confidence keeps coming back, as this is what all anglers need. If you are confident in what you are doing, then you’re half way their, but don’t get stereotyped in one approach. Keep an open mind, never be afraid to try something knew and if you find yourself sitting behind motionless rods then before tampering with your bait, take a look at your location as this is without a doubt the most important part of catching.