As the sun begins to rise above the horizon, the day has all the hallmarks of being an absolute cracker. Despite it being midwinter, the bright blue sky and sunlight mean that the air temperature is rising sharply. Such conditions are normally brought on by high air pressures, and while these are fantastic days to spend outdoors they can often prove extremely difficult days for catching fish.
Today, though, we have joined professional angling coach Nick Watkins, who has to be able to catch fish whatever the conditions, and he reckons that a few fish should still be on the cards. Nick is fishing the eight-acre main lake at Crowsheath Fishery in Essex. This is a well-matured pool with depths ranging from four feet down to 10 feet and with numerous features, including two islands and four bays. The lake is stocked with a huge head of carp to over 30lb, large cat fish and a big head of silver fish.
Look for signs
Despite starting the morning fishing in open water, Nick soon has itchy feet and feels that he is fishing in the wrong place. No fish have shown in this normally productive spot and his indicators have hung motionless for quite some time. Nick has seen signs of fish in the other swim as well, so perhaps the fish aren’t here today.
“I have been fishing now for a couple of house and haven’t seen a sign of a carp, so I think the fish aren’t here, even though this is one of the best swims on the lake” he says “I am going to take a bit of a gamble and move swims to a spot where I have seen two carp leap out. In the winter months carp can often be very difficult to pin down, so it is always worth moving on to fish if you see any kind of activity.”
After loading up his gear Nick is soon set up in his new swim about 150 meters further down the lake and facing one of the two islands. The far margin is lined with reeds that actually completely cover the front of a small bay. Although this is shallow, the carp are known to take sanctuary in it all year round. As if to confirm that his decision to move was a good one, a carp launches itself into the air just off the reed line.
“Now I know where there are some fish I can set about trying to catch them. Even in a very well stocked lake like this the carp are often crammed into one small area in winter and if you sit it out in the wrong spot your chances are almost nil.”
Nick thinks that most of the carp are probably tucked safely up in the reeds, but the odd fish is obviously willing to venture out, hopefully in search of a tasty bite to eat. Nick’s plan is to introduce some bait away from the reed line to encourage the carp to leave their sanctuary. Because the sun is so low in the sky it is casting quite a long shadow along the far bank, and that will give the carp more confidence to leave their safe haven. A bait fished in the shadows is much more likely to be picked up than one in full sunshine.
To encourage the carp to feed, Nick mixes up a bucked of mini-morsels – maggots, 1mm and 3mm coarse pellets, a pinch of 10mm boilies and some halibut groundbait. He uses mini-spod to put about a pint of bait for each rod just on the shadow line.
Nick has a good reason for introducing a mass of small baits. “My bait mix is designed to get the carp searching for food and to encourage them to move around. I am not going to bait up too close to the reeds as I want to draw the fish out. Also, I am introducing a lot of small food items with the odd larger food item. This should keep the carp browsing for quite a while and get them feeding more confidently.
“On the hook I am going to hedge my bets. On one rod I am going to use a white 15mm Amber Strawberry boilies. This stands out really well on the lake bed and is a well-proven winter bait that has caught thousands of carp up and down the country. On the other rod I am going to use a couple of pieces of artificial Mutant corn. Being slightly buoyant, the two pieces of plastic bait balance the weight of the hook, making it very easy for the carp to suck it in. The yellow corn is also very easy to spot on the lake bed.
“On some days the carp will make a beeline for the boilies because it is bigger and very visible, but on other days I think that if the carp get a big more preoccupied on my spod mix he plastic corn will score better. If one bait seems to be performing much better than the other I will switch both rods to the same rig and bait.”
Fish beyond the bait
With a scattering of bait spread two areas of the swim Nick makes his first cast and drops both baits a metre beyond the spread of bait from the spod.
“I want my hook baits to be the bait closest to the reeds, so that the fish come across them first; this can often bring a quick bite on a tough day when the fish won’t settle over a scattering of bait. I am still fishing about two metres away from the reeds. This gives me a small safety margin should a fish hook itself and bolt for cover, and allow me to get it under control safely.”
After an hour Nick notices a small slick of muddy water around his left-hand hook bait. The culprit is most likely to be a carp stirring up the bottom as it searches out the small food items. Nick’s super-sensitive alarms have remained silent the whole time, but he is now on the edge of his seat and expecting a bite at any moment.
A sudden bleep and a twitch on the rod top get Nick reaching for the rod and as the indicator begins to move he is already tightening in to a fish, drawing it away from the reed line. With the fish knowing that it can’t reach its sanctuary it turns tail and heads down the lake, shaking its head in a vain attempt to loosen the hook-hold.
Soon Nick has the carp under control and draws it to his outsized catfish net and with one final flurry the fight is over, and the fish safely engulfed in the soft folds of the mesh. In the carp cradle the barbless hook is swiftly removed and Nick admires the golden flanks of the fish. It isn’t one of the lake’s monsters, but proves his decision to move early on was a right on the day.
With the fish safely returned and the rig carefully recast right on the money, Nick is confident that as the clock approaches midday there is still plenty of time for more action. Unfortunately, another take, this time on the boilies rod, comes adrift after only a few seconds as a small leaf picked up from the lake bed has masked the hook.
After that second run the swim stops colouring up and Nick is convinced that the carp have retreated right back into the reeds. Even topping up the swim with two extra spodfuls of bait over each rod fails to bring any more bits and as the sun begins to set he reluctantly has to call it a day.
“It has certainly been a touch session today on this normally prolific fishery. I have been scanning the water for signs of fish and the only area where I have seen any activity is where I am fishing, there vindicates my gamble to move earlier.
“Moving swims is always a tough decision, especially when you are settled and have the baits out where you want them, but just remember that you can only catch fish that are in front of you and you won’t go far wrong. In these high-pressure conditions the carp aren’t going to be moving very far looking for food, so get your location spot-on and bait very lightly and a good day’s sport is still on the cards.”
Taken from Total Coarse Fishing Magazine Pages 69-71
February 2012 Issue