Saturday, 26 April 2014

Charman’s Challenge – Goldsworth Park.

Charman’s Challenge – Goldsworth Park.

Date – Friday April 25th 2014

Venue fact file –
Goldsworth Park Lake, Woking, Surrey.
Tickets Adult £7.50and concessions available from bailiff on the bank (season tickets available)
Stock – Carp, tench, bream, pike, perch, rudd and roach.

Conditions –Rain, rain and more rain slowly increasing as the day progressed. Atmospheric pressure dropping from 1014mb, temperature rising from 10 to 16 degrees, yet felt much cooler with a slight wind from the NNE.

Having never fished this venue before I tried to find out some information about it, yet this is hard to come by and some of the website links are very old and when clicked on alarm bells of ‘virus detected’ ring out!
This venue had been spoken about with my good friend Nick Davidson (when’s the curry) who had mentioned that in days of past it had been a very good pike water for doubles and that I should one day investigate.
When it cropped up again with another friend, Alan Muller who had fished as a youngster and fancied revisiting it I just couldn’t refuse as I knew it would be like myself treading on the banks of my first venue, Hartley Mauditt. Alan also would love to catch a big roach, one in excess of 2lb and the odd rumour had made its way through the grapevine, yet just like loads of other venues, (day ticket venues stating 4lb roach, 5lb crucians and 6lb perch), realistically most are just ‘lets get bums in seats’ red herrings.
I was quite expecting Alan to cancel (no I wasn’t this guy fishes in all conditions) as the rain forecasted to arrive at noon had arrive early, dawn in fact. I didn’t know quite what to expect, a lake in the middle of a large housing estate bought with it bad thoughts yet when we arrived I was pleasantly surprised as their before me was a large mature lake with gentle sloping banks that were better than the lawn in my garden. Large well constructed swims protruded slightly into the lake at regular intervals, one that that allowed banksticks to be pressed into easily. Obviously the people that look after this lake pride themselves with how well kept it is and two, sorry three of my pet hates, dog shit, litter and mallets were no where to be seen! A quick circuit of the lake, which is three quarters of a mile around, found the fish on the prevailing North East wind. These were bream yet they were their for a reason as were the only two other anglers that had braved the weather so it was here we headed.
A couple of swims next to each other allowed a social day to be had and knowing the what the weather was going to do, get worse, had opted for my trusted Helicopter Rigs. One rod was to be fished with sweetcorn on the hair and Old Ghost Bream groundbait, the other with Old Ghost 8mm punched Corn flavoured stick with Nash 2mm Scopex Sticky pellet fed through a 30gram Dutch Master feeder. Other items of kit included my trusted barbel rods with the 1.25lb tips added, 6lb Gardner HydroFlo mainline, 4 inch hooklinks made from 6lb True Fly Fluorocarbon and size 16 Super Specialist hooks.
Casting out around 50yards saw the main body of the lake easily reached with the Dutch Master feeders yet an hour past in which I recast every fifteen minutes without any joy. Amazingly Alan was also getting no action, yet we kept to a casting routine and finally the punched corn stick saw a bream around 3lb 8oz grace my net. Action after this was steady, as was the rain and come midday another ten bream had fallen, no monsters all in the 2lb – 3lb class with both rods producing, yet Alan on the maggot was still biteless! It was time for a change of tactics for Alan which after an hour saw him bent into a powerful fish which turned out to be a lovely tench which equalled his personal best at 6lb 8oz. Soon after another fish was hooked but lost which he had no question was a carp. These two better fish saw me changing tactics and I started to concentrate much closer in, in the hope of a tench, yet it was Alan who won the day as another tench of 5lb 8oz graced his net, leaving me to net another bream for my efforts.
From the rime we arrived, 8am until the time we left, 5pm it had rained and come the end of the day our swims were under water. Other anglers had come and gone, it was that bad and neither of us really worked the swims as hard as we would have liked, however we had done what we had come to do, catch fish and with Alan uncovering what could be a winning method (one I will reveal at a later date as we both want to return and try in better conditions) it wont be long before we return for a very early morning start.

Images –
  1. Comfortable swim, thoughtfully constructed so that banksticks can be pushed within.
  2. I like to sweeten up my corn with some Nash Magic Mix Attractor.
  3. Old Ghost Sticks great for punching out soft hair or hooker pellets.
  4. Another edge revealed, Dutch Master Feeders. These fly like darts making casting effortless and don’t spin when wound in.
  5. Probably the smallest bream taken when the rain stopped for a few minutes!
  6. Alan bent into a good fish.
  7. Never be afraid to change tactics, it has its rewards.
  8. The state of my swim come 5pm.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Charman’s Challenge – Godalming Angling Societies, Harris Lake (Marsh Farm).

Charman’s Challenge – Godalming Angling Societies, Harris Lake (Marsh Farm).

Date – Thursday 17th April 2014

Venue fact file –
Address - Station Road, Milford, Surrey GU8 5AE
Website -
Tickets - Adult 1 rod £7 – 2 rod £10, OAP and juniors 1 rod £5 – 2 rod £7. Tickets to be purchased prior to fishing from the onsite tackle shop (Apollo Angling 01483 428885) from 7.30am onwards.

Stock – Tench to over 7lb (plenty in the 2 -5lb range) and crucians over 3lb plus quality roach. Perch, rudd, chub and gudgeon also present.

Conditions – Not good, the third ground frost on the trot. Atmospheric pressure high on 1028mb and although the forecast showed cloud cover and temperatures around 6 degrees overnight, they got it wrong as blue skies prevailed. The only thing on my side is a slight S/W wind.

I remember the first time I walked around Marsh Farm’s Harris Lake. It had only been open a year or so and only one angler was fishing. As I approached I watched as he hooked and landed a massive crucian, it weighed 3lb 13oz and was one of over twenty he had taken in just a few hours. Most of these were fish over 3lb and with the odd tench mixed in I couldn’t wait to try my luck.
I have to admit; I never experienced action like this angler but was lucky enough to fish the venue in its glory days, when if the float dipped it was probably from a monster crucian. My best from the venue stands at 3lb 13oz however fours, at the right time of year, have been taken. Specimen anglers from all over the country flocked to the venue, most leaving with a personal best crucian to show for their efforts, however nowadays it seems as if its mainly club members that fish the venue. Why? Well being a specimen angler I feel quite qualified to answer this one. I love to catch by design, something that was possible in Harris Lakes glory days. Whether I fished the float or more modern day tactics such as scaled down bolt rigs, if the float dipped, tip twitched or bobbin lifted it was usually from what many would classify as a fish of a lifetime, a massive crucian, yet fast forward to present days and sadly its changed considerably. Many would say for the better as most fishing the lake now go home with a few fish to show for their efforts, mainly tench, but for myself and all the other specimen anglers out there, I would much prefer to struggle for just one bite and know its probably from something that no other fishery at the moment can offer (watch out this unique situation wont last), a massive bar of gold!

Arriving at 7am I headed round to the far bank, peg 38 in fact as the previous week had helped an angler catch a fantastic catch of over fifteen tench, the best over 6lb, yet only three crucians showed the best 2lb 8drams.
Now I have to admit having not fished the flat-bed feeder that much since it came into popularity a few years back, yet it seems that this is the tactic that’s working on the fishery and one glance of the water clarity showed just why. In the past, Harris has always had some colour, yet now it’s clear and any crucian coming up on the marginal shelf is only going to do this at night, so forget the margins. I thought about setting up match style, just one rod, yet in such conditions knew that I needed every additional advantage and today two rods were needed.
First tip, have your rods set up as Harris is very much either a morning or an after dark venue and come 11am it’s normally down to a couple of fish an hour, if you’re lucky! Setting up specimen style with the rods pointing straight out I adjusted the banksticks so that each tip just touched the water as alarms and bobbins aren’t very sensitive and simply watching the small rings around the tips as a fish brushes over each line shows just what’s happening subsurface. Getting the right distance is simply done by making a couple of cast with each rod so that the feeder drops a few feet from the island margins. I then clip the main line within the reels line clip with no intension of removing this throughout the session. Its worth mentioning that if you go too close and struggle to get a tight line after casting then its because the feeder is sliding down the marginal slope, so if this happens back off slightly. No need for elasticated stop knots or Spot-On line markers today as with an island in front the fish can only go sidewards of backwards.
Tip number two comes with bait application. I will always mix groundbait or soft pellets the night before. Some insist that the water from the lake is far better than tap water. I would agree with this, yet knowing that groundbait/pellets take time to absorb water correctly would far prefer to arrive with this correctly mixed with tap/bottled water than cast in with a mix, mixed with lake water that’s not had time to fully absorb the moisture as this will be to active and at its worst take fish away from your swim. If I was a match angler and knew the venue that I was fishing, then I would make sure that prior to the match collect some water from the venue to mix my groundbait (oppp’s another edge just release!)
With rods set up and now clipped to the right distance I decided to make six casts without any hookbait attached, just to get the swim activated. Now one thing that I usually do when tench and crucians are my target is to fish different baits on each rod so today one rod has a sweetcorn hookbait over 2mm Nash Scpoex Sticky Pellets whilst the other has an 8mm punched piece of Old Ghost Corn Flavoured Stick over Old Ghost Krill (sieved) groundbait.
Although hookbait and feed are different, terminal tackle is identical, consisting of 1.25lb barbel rods, 6lb Gardner HydroFlo mainline, 1oz Preston Flat-bed feeders with 3inch hooklinks attached created from Reflo 4.12lb and size 16 Drennan Super Specialist hooks.
I think it was actually 7.23am when both rods were out and at 7.25am I was into my first fish, a tench of around 5lb that fell to the corn. Come 8am I was thinking I was on to a winner as two more tench graced my net as well as a crucian, yet neither method stood out as a winner. With the sun up things slowed down and even after casting every ten minutes bites were difficult to come by, however not getting complacent and working the swim kept the bites coming and come 10am when I decided to call it a day, three more tench, one possible touching 6lb plus thus three more crucians, the best maybe 2lb 8oz. had fallen.
I need to mention this as many fall foul to the club rules. Rigs need to be free-running. Many find this difficult to understand but helicopter trigs definitely don’t count as free running! I fished flat-bed free-running feeders today but I know that if allowed and these were fished bolt style then a few extra fish would have graced my net.
Knowing I now have confidence in using flat bed feeders with the hookbait sitting directly on top of the feed I cant wait to arrive on the perfect day, one that’s mild and overcast with a slight south west wind.

Images –
  1. Keep your options when approaching Harris.
  2. Watch the rod tips as these are your underwater eyes.
  3. The terminal tackle used on the day.
  4. Place your hookbait in the mould before your groundbait/pellets.
  5. Tidy, tangle free and ready to cast out.
  6. Not a bad catch for just three hours in difficult conditions.
  7. The crucians are still there, but the average size is considerably down.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Now is the time to catch catfish on worms!

Catfish on Worms – Now is the time!
Published in Coarse Angling Today April 2014
Issue 152

Catching a specific species by design has always been very important to me, not only is it extremely satisfying but also hugely rewarding as it keeps me focused and my brain ticking over on how to outwit my quarry. Catfish when first introduced to a venue don’t usually prove to be a problem, as a live or deadbait, even a piece of squid will usually produced the goods, yet as they settle in and start finding an everlasting supply of pellets and boilies, their feeding habits naturally change. Not wanting to take the hedge-my-bet boilie route I started to think about a bait that would trigger the catfish’s predatory instincts, a bait that would be constantly moving and one that no-one else would be using. Buying expensive leeches did cross my mind, yet it was the humble lobworm that solved my problem, not just one, but loads of them.
Presenting these effectively was my next consideration as I wanted to make these very obvious and position them right in front of the catfishes face. The moving lobworms have a tendency to wriggle around and it’s only a matter of time before the end of one will hook itself and mask the hook so after trials in a bucket of water I finally created a rig that reduced this risk. The rigs make up can be seen in the image and the way to keep the ends of the worms away from the hook is to inject each end with some air, introduced using a syringe and needle. A small piece of elastic band is added to the barbless hook to keep the worms on. Amazingly worms will live underwater for hours even after being air injected and continue to wriggle in a way that’s difficult for a hungry catfish to ignore. The height in which the worms are popped up depends on the water temperature. Whilst the waters cool I would start with them around six inches of the deck, however in the height of summer, or if cats can be seen moving up near the surface would have no problem with popping them up close, if not on the surface. It’s very similar to fishing a zig-rig, you need to find where the fish are and then place the bait in between them. Counter balancing the bunch or worms can be done in numerous ways but the simplest is by adding just enough shot onto the abrasion resistant hooklink to sink these; however you will have to test the rig in the margins each time you recast and adjust the weight accordingly. I also like to use a piece of red foam which acts as a sight stop as well as creating some buoyancy.
Generally I keep my hooklinks long, around 24’ as any shorter and you run the risk of a catfish not being able to engulf the hookbait properly, leaving the hook to prick the outside of its mouth due to the weight of the lead coming into effect. I have experimented fishing worms popped up straight of the lead, its far easier than fiddling around balancing hookbaits and has the advantage of allowing the bait to search all depths by simply pulling a few inches of the baitrunner, yet although I’ve caught doing this, the system does seem to increase the number of runs that are dropped. Hooklinks are made from 25lb Kryston Quicksilver which is extremely abrasion resistant and can withstand the crushing pads within the mouth of a catfish, however check this after every fish and replace if there are any weaknesses of signs of wear. Hooks need to be big, strong and very sharp and to me you can’t beat Nash Fang Gaper hooks in sizes 4 and 2. Rods need to be powerful and mainline strong. I use 2.75lb Entity rods and the semi-parabolic actions creates some comfort when commencing battle with a big cat and 25lb NXT Bullet braid running through the rod rings! Preferring to use running leads rather than semi-fixed I keep the weight of my lead to a minimum, increasing this only if I need to cast further. Indicator set up, once again is designed to reduce resistance and since purchasing a couple of Zandavan Roll-Over indicators I’ve never looked back. This type of indicator system is a must for all predator anglers as it solves so many problems. If you are constantly playing with indicator set-ups then I would highly recommend you taking a look at these, however an alternative is to use lightly set drop-off indicators. The use of baitrunners, however lightly set create resistance, something that catfish hate so avoid these as it will increase the amount of aborted runs and remember to set the reels clutch as you will need to strike and set the hook.
Obviously you need to ensure that once you have hooked a catfish then you can land it and deal with it on the bank so a 50’ landing net, long forceps, large unhooking mat and suitable sling to allow the fish to be weighed safely need to be taken.
I also like to try and create a feeding zone by introducing a few dozen broken worms and then marking the main line with pole elastic so I can recast to the same position every time, however this isn’t that important as a catfish is well tuned in to hunting out a moving object. The other problem with introducing worms is they will attract other species that can become a problem, especially in the summer, so I tend to use this method early in the spring when the waters just beginning to warm up.
One thing that did concern me before adopting this tactic was will worms catch me a big fish or will I be constantly unhooking small kittens. Well the first two cats I caught weighed 53lb 4oz and 57lb and came from different venues. Since then I have caught plenty of others over twenty pounds and remember one night when a 5lb 13oz eel somehow took twelve lobworms popped up using a bright red foam popper!
So their you have it, a new tactic to try out, one that very few anglers will be using and one that I can honestly say has transformed my fishing for catfish.

Images –
1. A wriggling mass of worms, simply irresistible.
  1. The rig, simple but deadly.
  2. You will need to be well equipped when targeting catfish.
  3. The ultimate predator bite indicators.
  4. Proof worms catch big fish, 53lb 4oz caught in March!
  5. The business end with worms and hook firmly set in the corner of the mouth.
  6. Don’t use any old braid, 25lb Kryston Quicksilver is the only reliable option.
  7. Other species love worms, especially big bream.

Mill Farm Fishery opens Friday 18th April

Opens Easter Friday!

Mill Farm Fishery, home of the British Record Silver Bream opens on the 18th April.
Consisting of three lakes, Mill, Hammer and Specimen, this complex offers something for everyone from big carp on the Specimen lake to hefty bags of quality crucian carp on Mill as well as plenty of silver fish on Hammer.
For more details go to or call 01798 874853

Farnham Angling Societies Junior Teach-In

Farnham Angling Societies Junior Helicopter Rig Teach-In

Venue – Badshot Lea Big Pond
Date – Saturday 26th April 2014
Time – Meet in main car park at 9am
Limited to just 6 spaces.

Call Duncan on 01252 315271 to book your space.
More details on page 4 of the new FAS Members Handbook.

Do you want to catch more fish?

Want to catch more fish?

April brings with it longer warmer and often sunny days, yet at night time the temperature can drop dramatically often catching the angler out as they feel that summer has arrived and that the fish should be crawling up their rods. It’s these cold often frosty nights that stops things livening up to quick, however it’s also the wind direction that constantly changes that stops the fish from feeding. This week has been a prime example, however pick your venue and species wisely and bites should be forth coming.
Two customers that I have guided to successful days recently are Keith and Mark. I met Keith at the Big One in Farnborough and we agreed to head to Marsh Farms Harris Lake to try and outwit an early season crucian. Arriving early and using what I call ‘The Groundbait Lead’ in what were quite good conditions we picked our swim carefully then proceeded to catch ten quality tench plus a couple of crucians.
I get together with Mark a few times a year and he always wants to learn new tactics and with a Christmas present from his parents of two days fishing with myself. Having fished Frensham in the past and tried to perfect the art of using ‘The Helicopter Rig’ with mixed results, Mark wanted to get to grips with it, perfect the art of casting clipped up and hitting the same spot constantly well before the venue reopens in the summer. Knowing that I was catching loads of fish from FAS Badshot Lea we headed here on the first day and in far from ideal conditions landed more than 30 bream for a total weight well in excess of 200lb. I even fished alongside with pellet on the hair and caught as many as he did on the maggot so he managed to learn two tactics in just one day. Yesterday we headed to GAS Harris Lake as Mark had never caught a crucian carp. Instead of using my standard tactics we decided to fish the flat-bed feeder and whilst others around struggled for just the occasional fish, Mark landed more than fifteen tench to 6lb 2oz along with three crucians to 2lb 1oz.
It was also good to see another customer of mine putting what he had learnt with me a few weeks before into practice and was constantly catching on the opposite bank. Unfortunately for us all on the day it was just bream and the occasional small roach that showed and not the carp that Martin had taken on his first cast during our guided trip.

If you fancy a day out, learning different tactics then get in touch, let me know what you want to catch and I will do my best to find a venue and unlock its secrets.  

Charman’s Challenge – Mill Farm Fishery (Specimen Lake)

Charman’s Challenge – Mill Farm Fishery (Specimen Lake)

Date – Tuesday 8th April 2014

Venue fact file –
Mill Farm Fishery – Bury Mill Farm, Bury, West Sussex RH20 1HF
Specimen Adult 2 rod £13 (no concessions)
Mill and Hammer Lakes Adult 2 rod £10 juniors and OAP £5
Tel – 01798 874853
Specimen Lake – Carp to over 30lb plus big tench, roach, perch as well as British Record Silver Bream (British Record 3lb 4oz).
Mill and Hammer – Mixed fisheries with plenty of carp as well as most other species Inc crucian carp to over 2lb.

Conditions – Constant rain for two days prior to our pre-opening session wont make things easy, neither will the high atmospherics and blue cloudless skies, yet with temperatures rising to the high teens catching the sun is guaranteed. The only factor in our favour is a steady south west wind.

Stop Press - Mill Farm Fishery opens to the public on Friday 18th March.

Having passed on catch images, written articles including a chapter in my book ‘Evolution of an Angler’ along with featuring the fishery on Tight Lines over the last few years I was granted a pre-opening session by Adrian the fishery bailiff, an offer that I just couldn’t refuse.
Teaming up with my fishing mate and fellow Nash Ambassador, Chris Petter we had planned to travel down on the Monday night but due to the constant rain that finally stopped late that evening decided to travel down early Tuesday morning so we would be on the venue at first light.
Arriving almost together at 5.45am the plan seemed to have worked as the clouds had dispersed and the ground somewhat drier. Heading for the specimen lake our minds were firmly fixed on catching silver bream, hopefully one close or bigger than the present British Record of 3lb 4oz, yet realistically a two pounder would be classified as a result. The most popular swim on the lake is the big double that gives access to both islands and this was were we settled, Chris on the right hand side, myself to the left. Having rods already set up it was simply a case of casting out so that our rigs fell close to the islands then quickly marking the line using Nash Spot-On before clipping the line in the reels line clip. Rigs were as explained and used last week at River Farm Fishery, Helicopter rigs using cage feeders and short hooklinks which incorporated a hair. The fishery has a groundbait ban so it was once again the brilliant 3mm Sticky Pellets that were pressed into the feeder and either a yellow or orange 6mm Squidgee pellet placed on the hair, ones that has been soaked in Nash Sweetcorn Magic Mix Attractor. Components that made up each rig were almost identical to last week; however constant splitting of the once brilliant Korum micro sleeves meant that these had to be replaced. I’m not sure the manufacturer of the new sleeves, I think they are ESP and will let you know soon, but Chris had found a packet of longer sleeves in his tackle box and by simply cutting these down gave the perfect anti tangle boom effect. Hooklink also had to be rethought as we felt a stiffer material was required along with a hooklink that knotted up better than the 5.14lb Reflo that had been previously used. I had bought some Wychwood 6lb Truefly in the hope that it would replace the Preston Grand Match I use for rudd fishing, yet it seemed to stiff for this, but complimented this type of fishing perfectly and coupled with a Drennan Super Specialist size 16 hook we soon had rigs in position.
The minutes started to tick away without incident and with very few fish moving we started to think that we might just be too early but eventually my alarm sounded, yet it wasn’t what I wanted but the first of what was to be numerous carp. For an hour the action was steady and we both took a couple of tench, carp and silvers too 1lb 15oz as well as numerous roach but then the swim died. For two hours we sat without much happening before Chris tweaked his setup slightly, a change that transformed the session. I can’t say what this change was at the moment as we need to take it elsewhere but from that moment we struggled to keep all four rods in the water. Every species, well except eels, constantly graced our nets and come the end of the day we had landed more than fifteen carp, the best 14lb 15oz, plus numerous tench to 5lb, roach to 1lb 10z, perch to 1lb 15oz plus around a dozen silver bream over 1lb 12oz which included three two pounders, the best weighing 2lb 3oz. I should have learnt after letting Chris take a bite on my rods at Broadwater back in the winter that ended up with him placing the net under a 19lb mirror, however whilst playing a carp a bite developed on my other rods which he took and you guessed it, this was from the 2lb 3oz silver, hence the self take of us both holding fish.
Come 6pm we were both knackered having landed so many fish, but the rewarding point of this session was that we had thought about our approach, tweaked certain areas and pretty much landed everything that was hooked, however the icing on the cake was when a Osprey flew just feet above our heads, the fist that I have ever seen.
We have been lucky enough to be allowed back down next week and with rigs and bait sorted it should be another arm aching session, but will that monster silver show?

Stop Press - Mill Farm Fishery opens to the public on Friday 18th March.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Lea's on fire!

The Lea is on fire!
I had a fantastic morning today fishing with the man that taught me everything, who else than my father and he witnessed me acting on the most influential saying he ever taught me – ‘follow the wind son’. We did just that and fished peg 8, the double along the railway bank, a bank that I rarely fish but as the north east wind was pushing across the lake in this direction it had to be done. With very few fish being landed around us we simply cast out Helicopter rigs using Old Ghost Bream groundbait through the feeder and maggot on the hookbait. The only other angler around the lake that was placing his net under a few was my girlfriends father who has come to master the art of using this devastating rig, others around the lake taught they were doing the same, but few were fairing as well and come the end of our five hour session we landed around thirty bream and two tench, estimated weight 130lb!
There’s more too the Helicopter Rig than meets the eye, if you want to know just how devastating then it might be worth investing in a day out with myself.
Tel – 01252 315271 or 07928 617006 – email  

Fishery closed!

Unfortunately since my visit to River Farm Fishery the venue has had to close until further notice.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Charman’s Challenge – River Farm Fishery.

Charman’s Challenge – River Farm Fishery.

It’s exactly what it says on the sign!

Date – Tuesday 1st – Wednesday 2nd April 2014

Venue fact file –
River Farm Fishery – Frontley Road, Titchfield, Hants PO15 6QZ

Tickets Adult daylight £8 (2 rods 7am – 7pm), Night £9 (2 rods 7pm – 7am).
Stock – The owner reckons there are around 70 carp over 20lb with the best being a mid thirty plus more than 150 doubles.

Conditions – Clear with cloud increasing during the night along with the odd shower, A/P dropping slightly too1004mb, wind increasing from the east to south east yet the temperature is holding up, starting at 17 degrees and falling to a low of 11 during the night.

This was one of anglings best kept secrets for a number of years, well to those in the know, and I remember constantly seeing 2lb plus roach featuring within the Anglers Mail. This was back in 2009, yet with specialist anglers on the lookout it was obvious this secret wouldn’t last forever.
My first visit to this small two acre lake was in 2009 and as it happened this was without a doubt my best ever session, not for size of fish but for numbers of quality roach that all came to simple float tactics. I was fishing the swim to the right of the small inlet stream, which is still the best float swim, and fed red maggots on a little and often basis to catch more than twenty roach over the pound. I’m not sure if a two pounder came on that occasion, yet many were around that weight, yet sadly after this session I was unable to repeat that day. Don’t get me wrong the fishing was still brilliant, yet due to the pressure (and I include myself here) catching on the float was getting tougher and soon more specialist tactics had to be employed. Whilst the float fishing close in was good, numerous carp came to net; the most notable was the only grass carp in the lake that was unfortunately hooked in the tail by my good friend Steve Ansell. It weighed around 30lb, yet due to the nature of the catch he simply slipped it back without recording a weight or taking a photograph as to him, unlike match fishing today, it didn’t count! One of the lakes most sort after fish is a common which is grey in colour, around 25lb and has a distinctive dip in its back, one that graced my net after an epic fight on float gear. When the float fishing declined the helicopter rigs reined supreme and for a number of years, it was a tactic that saw me land my best from the water, a roach of 2lb 6oz, however although a two pounder was almost a guarantee throughout this period, many were just scrapper two’s!
It such a shame that an ongoing fishery management project that worked so well, of removing any fish under a pound every other year, was interrupted. Bad handling of the bigger roach during one such netting saw Paul the owner missing this routine, however by doing this he didn’t envisage the off spring from these big roach having an even bigger impact on his specimens. Unfortunately these ‘shitters’ as I call them are so abundant that catching anything else on maggot is nigh on impossible.

Fast forward a few years and all I can say is this is the last throw of the dice for this fishery. A hunch that I need to fish for the roach in a more specialist way has been niggling away in my brain for a while and the question now had to be answered, do any big roach still exist?
The journey down to Titchfield from Aldershot has never been an easy one and takes at least an hour, yet with the main route blocked due to flooding in Faringdon today’s journey was going to take even longer. Finally arriving at 6.30pm Paul, knowing that roach would be my target, bought some bad news that the roach fishing had been bad for a number of weeks at that targeting these, in his mind would be a waste of time. As we spoke numerous carp moved and it was these that stopped me heading back home as I knew the tactics I had bought would catch these as well as roach.
This tactic was simple, helicopter rigs, yet instead of maggot on the hook I would be placing a 6mm pellet on a short hair that I had tied of the hook. Rods were barbel rods with the 1.25lb tips added and my reels held plenty of Gardner 8lb HydroFlo. The hooklink, just three inches of it was constructed using a 5.94lb Grand Match Fluorocarbon, sadly no longer available. On one end a small size 20 swivel was attached with a micro sleeve pushed over the top to create a boom and on the other end a size 16 Super Specialist hook tied knotless knot style. The standard maggot feeder was replaced with a 1oz cage feeder which would carry a few loose 6mm Nash Squidgee Pellets (another product that’s sadly not available anymore) pressed into 2mm Nash Sticky Pellets and on the hair a 6mm Squidgee. To get the swim going I decided to cast six pellet loaded feeders accurately out. This was simply done by casting out, placing the line in the reels line clip and tying on an elastic stop-knot just of the rod tip. The reason for elastic and not the new Nash Spot-On is that during the night I can feel this stop knot hit the top eye instead of tying to locate a coloured mark on the line which I prefer to do during daylight hours. After priming the swim it was time to cast out, one rod to the left around 30yards, the other just an underarm cast to the right. The reason for fishing two areas is that when using such fine balanced rigs the last thing I need is getting these tangled whilst playing a fish. I also had the rare luxury that I was the only angler on the lake.
My game plan was to cast every two hours however come 9am I found myself playing a carp which came to the left hand rod. Fortunately it didn’t give that brilliant account of itself and soon a common of around 13lb lay in the net. After a quick photo rods were repositioned and it was then that I realised that the roach were nowhere to be seen. I did get a few bleeps as well as the odd big liner as a carp swam into the line but any sign of a rolling roach was noticeable in its absence. An hour past before the next screamer came, again to the left hand rod however after getting the carp under the rod tip the hook pulled. Two more carp came up to midnight, both on the right hand rod, both double figured commons but I had to wait till around 1.30am to land my forth and biggest carp of the session, one that weighed 18lb 15oz. Up until this time the lake had been alive with activity yet after this the lake fell quiet as did my rods, yet after working each rod throughout the night no more bites came.
7am arrived as did the rain and as I made a hasty retreat to the van I knew deep down that this venue is no longer a roach water, in fact I have a feeling that it hasn’t got any big roach left in it. As they say as one door opens another closes and for me River Farm Fishery is exactly what is says on the sign, a carp fishery.