Mike Kavanagh returns with a new look, quarterly format and this month sees him conduct an interview with Lee Jackson, an old friend from the Darenth Complex
THIS MONTH: After a sabbatical from the magazine, Mike Kavanagh returns with a new-look, quarterly piece, starting with an interview of Lee Jackson and their time spent on the Darenth complex in Kent
Apart from the new Fox Heli-buffer Bead and my thoughts on the new DP rig featured in September’s issue, I’m pleased to say for this, the first of hopefully a more realistic quarterly contribution on my part, I’ve managed to line up one of the nicest, most down-to-earth and knowledgeable guys in carp fishing that you’d ever wish to meet, none other than Lee Jackson. One thing we both have in common is we’ve both fished the Tip Lake in Darenth during a time when rig development, previously overshadowed by the science of HNV bait, was starting to play a more active role in our approach to catching carp. Just recently I’d heard that Lee is back on the Tip Lake, so naturally I was interested to find out how he’s tackling it rig-wise, compared to the old days of the original hair rig. A quick phone call saw me winging my way over the QEII bridge to meet up with him at the Tackle Box where he works and this is what I found out... Mike Kavanagh: What year did you start fishing the Tip Lake Lee?
Lee Jackson: I can’t remember exactly, but it was sometime in the late 70s and I fished it through until 1984 which, apart from this current period, was the last time I fished the lake. Prior to that I fished the Big Lake, mainly because back in those days we were a bit scared of fishing weedy waters if we’d never fished one before. I can remember looking at the weed in the Tip Lake next door and thinking it was far too weedy and walking straight past it. Then one day I had a walk along the bank, saw a couple of fish, had an afternoon’s fishing and caught one. So I thought well, maybe the Tip Lake isn’t quite as difficult as I first thought, and I suppose my love affair with the place started then. That bit of encouragement and the photos I saw of the lovely old, dark and charismatic carp really took a hold of me. Back then I think it was the best lake I’d ever fished, no doubt about it. The only reason I came off the Tip was when I started to fish Harrow in the summer of ’83 – so my last session on there was when I went back for the winter of ’83/84.
MK: As you know the Tip in its heyday was well known for being one of the hardest circuit waters to crack. You obviously did well when you fished there; they even named a swim after you! Do you have any particular memories of the place and those difficult times?
LJ: I obviously have a lot of memories of the place, but there is one that does stand out. I was fishing a short session in Bookers one afternoon (a swim named after prolific carp-catcher Ian Booker), in the winter after work. I was a dustman back then, so as soon as I finished my round I’d get down
there and fish into the evening. Luckily you could only use two rods in those days, but this particular afternoon I had a bite on one rod and just as I netted the fish the other rod took off. I managed to crouch down and unhook it in the net while playing the second fish and flick that rod back out just anywhere to get it out of the way. I got the second fish in the net alongside the first one and thought thank Christ for that. But then the rod I flicked out rattled off as well! Luckily, Jimmy Burns came along and helped me net the third fish, so I caught three carp all within about 10 minutes. You weren’t allowed to sack fish back then, so I had a quick, triple fish photo and slipped them back.
MK: What did the three of them weigh?
LJ: They were all around 16lb, which was unlucky on the Tip because most of the carp were over 20lb, but I wasn’t complaining.
MK: Can you remember what the going rigs were when you started fishing there?
LJ: Well I can only tell you what I was using because unless you happened to see what others were doing or they wanted to tell you, you wouldn’t ask or pry. I did my own thing, but it was the early days of the hair rig so I was using the conventional hair, made with light 2lb line, tied onto the bend of the hook – so nothing more than that really. I did use quite small hooks though, size 10 Kamatsus, which after a later name change became Kamasan. I did well using those size tens and that’s what sold me on using small hooks for carp. I’d done a lot of other types of fishing in my time and I found scaling down my end tackle generally got me more bites, so I shouldn’t have been surprised really. I’ve more or less stuck with that theory – the more natural movement you can give the hookbait, the more bites you get, in my opinion.
MK: What sort of hooklink material were you using in those days – mono?
LJ: Yeah, it was straight mono – like I say, nothing fancy. I came off it towards the end of my fishing on the Tip and starting to mess around with a braid under my own label called Python Braid – a white braid later sold by Kryston as 14lb Super Silk. But I predominantly used mono hooklinks and staying with my scaled-down theory, it was light mono as well. It was usually a fairly long 8lb to 10lb hooklink even when the lake was weedy. MK: When you say long, how long are we talking?
LJ: About 18 inches. I fished my hooklinks that long mainly because, like I said, the hookbait would then behave more like a free offering.
MK: Given the weed situation, did you have a problem presenting a rig that long or were you fishing it on clear spots? LJ: Not really, back then we didn’t use marker floats or even feel the lead down to find a clear spot. Basically, where you could see weed you would cast over it and most of the time it was clear enough. Bear in mind I was only fishing short sessions and I’d be casting fairly regularly, so I’d know if the rig was caught up in weed. But I was never too worried because, don’t forget, when we bait up with free offerings in weed some of them get caught up in it and some find their way to the bottom. Carp eat all of them, so I wasn’t too fussed if the hooklink and the hookbait weren’t lying perfectly flat on the bottom. I think we worry about that a bit too much.
MK: Have you’ve been influenced by anyone rig-wise since you started carp fishing?
LJ: Not really, for me it was always bait. My influences were people like Fred Wilton, who taught us the HNV bait theory, and anglers I fished with. People like Colin Swaden, Dennis Davies and the late Alan Smith. Alan and I were good mates and I was hugely influenced by him, in particular his ability to get a bait going, especially on the Tip Lake. He was a master at it. I was also obviously influenced by Lenny Middleton and the hair rig, as I think we all were...
MK: Alan was still on the Tip when I started fishing it in the mid-80s and I learnt so much from him myself. His rigs were simple, but he relied totally on the attraction of his bait to catch those carp and it didn’t let him down. As you say he was a master when it came to bait and when and where to apply it.
Am I right in thinking you were one of the first few anglers to use the helicopter rig on the Tip?
LJ: To be honest the helicopter rig was similar to one I was using when I was going sea fishing, but I think it was Zenon Bojko who first used it for carp fishing with beads and rig tubing. I did likewise and so did my mate, Micky Dorton, who I was fishing with, and as we didn’t see anyone else use that rig
on there, we were possibly the first to use it on the Tip. Having said that, we did question whether it was the right rig because of the weed. The trouble was, with the lead permanently fixed at the end of the line, if it got caught up in the weed the hook would sometimes pull out. Nowadays, with the safety release components available that problem can be overcome – therefore I do still like to use a helicopter rig presentation.
MK: Did the helicopter rig make a significant difference to your catches at the time?
LJ: It certainly did in the sense that you didn’t get any tangles using it in conjunction with rig tube. I think it probably did make a difference to the number of bites we got because it was new at the time and we were possibly the only ones using it.
MK: Given the Tip could switch off for up to two weeks at a time, looking back do you think the rigs being used were often detected and the reason for those quite spells?
LJ: The Tip Lake has always been a rich water and there was lots of natural food in there, and I personally think that from time to time, and especially so in the summer, the carp were preoccupied with eating things like fry – a far more nutritious food source than what we were offering them as food. I think they did that then, and although they are a different stock of carp now, I think they still do it now. Fry and the occasional other booms of natural food are all it takes for them to switch off from anglers’ baits, and last year was a good example on the Tip, because the water was black with roach fry and very little was caught. Unless you’re doing something badly wrong I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the rigs we’re using, because when the carp start feeding on bait again, we start catching again. To be honest I subscribe to the thought that carp fishing is a simplistic pursuit for complicated people, especially when it comes to rigs! MK: Moving forward 30 odd years, now you’re back on the Tip Lake. Apart from maybe nostalgia, what persuaded you to go back on there?
LJ: Well, it started about 18 months ago. Paul Davis who owns most of the Darenth Lake complex asked me if I’d like to run a syndicate on there. It was the last year for the guy who’d been running it, but I asked Paul to ask me again nearer the time, so I didn’t give it a lot of thought. He asked me again in July 2017, threw me the key and said before you make your mind up go down there and have a look. I hadn’t seen the lake since I left, so when I arrived it took a little while. I was a bit disorientated at first because the back channel had gone and that had obviously altered the lake. But I must say I was impressed because the banks and the swims had been improved. I don’t know if you remember but the path between Jackson’s and Jimmy’s along the fence bank was full of mud when we fished there?
MK: I remember it well!
LJ: Having walked round I had to admit it looked superb and brought back fond memories, so I went back to Paul and said, “Yeah, I’ll run it” and have done ever since with a guy called Daren Venables. We’ve made further improvements around the lake since, the syndicate is smaller now, which is better, and it’s just a lovely place to fish. Not only that, the doublefigure carp that have been stocked in recent years have grown on to be big, dark, beautiful-looking creatures that any carp angler would be delighted with if they graced their net. It also suits my short-session fishing style as well. It’s only two miles from the shop and two miles from home, so it’s all good. I’ve caught a few to just under 40lb and, to be honest, it’s a joy to be back on there.
MK: Now that terminal tackle has been improved so much and rig making materials are in many cases far superior, are the
rigs you’re using on the Tip now basically the same, or are you approaching the fishing differently?
LJ: You’re right, components and rig making materials are better and safer now – lead clips and other lead-release systems have revolutionised that side of things. Hooklink materials have obviously improved and there’s plenty of choice, but my personal favourite for some time has been Kryston’s 15lb Mantis. In fact, apart from mono, coated braids like Mantis can only be used on the Tip and that’s a syndicate rule now. Paul won’t allow bare braid, which I agree with. These days with braid technology and improved strength, hooklinks can be extremely thin and the flat profile braids in particular have the ability to cut into a carp’s lip, especially if it’s deep hooked – so coated braid is a strict rule. You can obviously peel a small section of the coating to hinge a hooklink, but the rest has to be coated. The rig I use on there at the moment is a simple fullycoated Mantis hooklink, and as you can see, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The hookbaits are mounted with blobbed floss onto a Thinking Anglers micro ring swivel that slides up and down the shank between the eye of the hook and one of their hook beads. It’s a simple but efficient hooking arrangement and gives my hookbait plenty of natural movement, whether it’s bottom baits, pop-ups, wafters or snowman presentations – and that’s all I need really. If I use a pop-up, rather than balance it with tungsten putty which is prone to falling off, before I tie the hook on, I slide a small float stop onto the hooklink followed by a tungsten shot that has a hole through it. After I tie my hook on I slide the float stop up behind the tungsten shot and push it along the hooklink towards the hook, and position the weight according to the height I want the pop-up to sit off the bottom. That works well, and I know for certain the pop-up is presented spot on every time, no matter what the bottom is like. The hook I’m using at the moment is a Carp Spirit Razor Point size 7, but I do use different sizes and patterns from time to time.
I also still use a long Hair at times because with a lot of modern day rigs the hookbait is mounted really close to the hook and I think that can make it easier for a carp to deal with and eject, it depends where I’m fishing really. Something I do often is use a tight main line even in a weedy lake, I never worry about that because in weed all sorts of things are going on in the water column. Slack lines seem to be the in thing these days, and although a slack line has its place I find a tight line improves rig efficiency no end.
MK: Just a general question to finish Lee – if you had to choose between the two for the rest of your carp fishing, would you go for a bottom bait or a pop-up?
LJ: A bottom bait because it’s the same as the free offerings that I’m feeding them with. The carp in some waters, like for example Sutton 2 are very aware of being fished for, so a pop-up amongst free offerings is almost like waving a flag at them. Having said that I’m not discounting pop-ups. I will fish one over bait if I think it’s necessary, on top of silk weed would be a case in point, but if I had to choose between the two, it would be a bottom bait every time.
MK: Thanks for your time Lee, it’s much appreciated. LJ: My pleasure mate.
Lee mentioned his use of the Helicopter rig in our Rigtalk and how related components have been introduced that have not only improved rig safety but also efficiency. These new Edges Drop Off Heli-buffer Beads are the perfect example of that progression and I must say they are impressive. I really like the petite size of the bead and how the three components fit together. You can use the bead system with a lead core or lead free leader, but also with naked main line. If you choose the naked option you simply add the tapered insert that comes supplied to protect your main line from the hooklink swivel while a fish is played. There is a fixed wire loop inside the main bead housing where you attach your leader, or tie your main line to. Once attached the top half of the buffer bead clips onto the bottom half which covers the wire loop and knot.
The great thing about the Heli-buffer Bead is it will accept any of the Fox swivel lead range. When the swivel is inserted into the front of the bead and the T-peg is inserted into the side of the bead, the lead is locked in. If you need to drop the lead the T-peg can substituted for a Fox PVA stop. The stops come supplied separately on strips and are tough enough to withstand several big casts before being weakened by contact with water, but the integrity of the stop should obviously be checked between casts. Finished in the popular Trans Khaki camouflage colour, you get six buffer beads, six tapered sleeves and six T-pegs in a pack – and when it comes to safety and streamlined presentation I don’t think you can go wrong.
A long and illustrious career in carp fishing hasn’t changed this man one iota. Nor has it changed his free, no-nonsense advice on rigs, bait and tactics, from behind the counter
Lee with his triple catch from Bookers swim, a very uncommon occurrence on the Tip Lake back in the day, but what a result!
The late Alan Smith, a man with a wicked wit and a unique ability to persuade carp to look for his bait wherever he chose to put it
The original hair rig Lee used, tied to the bend of the hook in his early days is taken for granted now and mostly overlooked, but it was revolutionary back then
The Tip Lake last summer – islands, gravel bars, plateaux, reedbeds, weed, and stunning carp. It’s got them all
Back on the Tip and back in the game. With carp like this gorgeous common Lee couldn’t be happier
Mantis and Razor Points are Lee’s choice at the moment, both reliable and perfect for the job
Lee’s current rig for the Tip Lake – bells and whistles not required
If you need to drop the lead instead of using the supplied T-pegs, substitute it with one of the brilliant Fox PVA stops
When using naked main line with the Heli-buffer Bead, add the tapered insert. For leadcore or lead free leaders the insert isn’t needed
The new and impressive Drop Off Heli-buffer Beads from Fox are a great addition to the superb Edges range