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.

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