Things are, as expected, cooling off a bit for Mr F this month, but, there ARE still fish to BE HAD, For those putting in the effort as the seasons change
Things are, as expected, cooling off a bit for Mr F this month, but, there are still fish to be had, for those putting in the effort as the seasons change
As the daylight hours shorten dramatically so with it do my chances, or at least my choices, for a midweek overnighter. The Stour syndicate lake, which is a mere 10 minutes from both my home and work, offers my only realistic prospect of a cheeky session squeezed in between work days. So, basically, it’s a toss-up between making the effort to rush down to the Stour and then pack away at first light, or no fishing at all until the weekend. And even the merest prospect of the latter fills me with horror. Predictably, I found myself yet again on the banks of the Stour, on a Tuesday evening in late October, just as the light began to fade. For the time of year it had been a glorious day during which the sun had shone and temperatures had crept into the low teens – a soft, southerly breeze rippled the surface on the deeper, car park end of the lake, making it look very appealing. Even knowing that Leon, who was much further up the lake, had seen a good number of fish in what is the weedier part of the venue, couldn’t sway a strong gut feeling I had... Call it intuition, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Being midweek, the lake was relatively quiet, with maybe four or five other anglers on, most of those plotted up in either the middle, or the top end of the 20-acre venue. As much as I hate being rushed, the light was fading fast and a choice had to be made! Quickly weighing up the pros and cons, I plumped for the car park end, mainly because of my gut feeling, but also due to the fact that I thought it had a bit more night-time form. I’d fished Swim 1 many times in the past, and even managed to catch a few fish from it, so it didn’t take me too long to get all three baits in position and a light scattering of boilies around each one. I’d opted to fish close in too, with all three within easy catapulting range. Being an end swim its most obvious feature is the out of bounds bank to your right-hand side, which is both lined with reeds and holds deep water – some 8-10ft in places. Then, as you move away from the reeds, the ground slopes up to around 4ft, where there are several nice gravelly humps and features for use at your discretion.
As the temperature dropped and the breeze faded away throughout the course of the evening, my confidence was boosted by the sound of the odd one crashing out, a couple of which weren’t too far away either! One of our younger syndicate members, Calum, was on the opposite bank, behind an island and I was sure that he must have heard them too. As an aside, whilst I’m out on the bank, one of the things I appreciate most is just sitting quietly, outside the bivvy, preferably on the water’s edge, just watching and listening, whether it be day or night – magic moments indeed.
Anyhow, all too soon, time was ticking by and with work in the morning, it became necessary to snuggle up in the warmth of the bag and get a few hours kip. I’d probably only just nodded off when the middle rod burst into life, startling yours truly into action. The fish, a pretty, scaly mirror which was perhaps an upper double, was welcome but, in truth, I was still half asleep and couldn’t be bothered with any photography – so after unhooking it carefully in the net, I slipped it back to fight another day. After all the commotion and faff of dealing with a fish, I always find that getting back to where I was in the Land of Nod is difficult. But, as I lay there, wishing for the sleep fairies to visit again, I did hear at least another two carp crash out of water. Again it was difficult to pinpoint exactly whereabouts, but judging from the assumed direction of sound, and the ripples coming back to the swim, they weren’t far away.
Thankfully I must have dozed off again, because the next thing I knew the same rod I’d recast was away again. By now it wasn’t far from daybreak. This one felt a much better fish too, literally stripping the braided line from the spool at an alarming rate, as it went off on several powerful runs. Once in the net I could see by the width of its shoulders that it was over 30lb and then, in the torchlight, I realised what an absolute stunner it was too – this heavily-scaled linear looked almost unreal in its winter colours. It felt a real privilege to be able to hold such a magnificent creature. On the scales it weighed 32lb plus a few
ounces, not that it mattered at all because I’d have felt blessed, no matter what the scales read. Calum, who, if you remember, was fishing opposite also had a night to remember, landing one of the very much sought after, original scaly mirrors, also at a similar weight. As his camera was misting up and generally playing up at first light I popped round to do the pictures and must confess that after witnessing Calum’s carp in the flesh, I should very much like to catch this old warrior myself. So although these short overnighters can be, and let’s face it, are, a lot of effort for what can seem a complete waste of time, when it all comes good you realise exactly why we put ourselves through it all, instead of sitting on the sofa at home (bored)! The sense of achievement and satisfaction is immense and, for me, makes it all worthwhile.
Judging from the two weekends I spent on the
Tip Lake in mid-october, things were slowing down somewhat. Arriving on a Friday afternoon after work in my experience is never a chilled affair. For one thing we’re fighting against the light, and then, perhaps more importantly, there aren’t going to be many, if any, clues as to where the carp actually are! The simple fact is that I could count the number of fish I actually saw show during both weekends on one hand – most of those being after dark, and the bubbling, which a few months ago would often give the game away, was now non-existent. To make location even more of a lottery, the sun, when it actually decides to show itself, doesn’t actually climb high enough in the sky to provide the necessary light to enable us see into the water. I’ve been doing this carp fishing lark long enough now (read 40 consecutive winters), to know it’s a tough game on ‘proper’ waters during the colder months and it’s only going to get harder until spring arrives.
Anyway, back to the story. I arrived at the Tip Lake, late on the Friday afternoon and a quick lap told me nothing, apart from who’s plotted up and where. Of the vacant swims, I quite fancied one called The Hinge, mainly because it is an end swim with an island in front, but also because it offers an out-ofbounds bank to cast to on the right hand side. Oh, and also the wind was due to change to a brisk but obviously cold northerly. To be honest I really didn’t know whether this was a good or bad thing, with half of me suspecting the carp could be comfier on the back of it!
Although I didn’t have any action at all on the first night, I had heard and seen a fish, in the cool light of the moon – definitely a carp too – roll over in the margin to my left. That gave me a much needed boost of confidence, perking me up no end – so much so that I’d sat out until well past ten o’clock as it was a dry and pleasant evening. I enjoy just being there chilling out and ‘doing my thing’ away from the hustle and bustle of work and home. Normally, I’d move after a blank first night but, to be honest, after carefully weighing up the situation in my mind there wasn’t anywhere better than this to move to. So, what to do? Sit and hope? Well, in a way, yes!
With a whole day and night still in front of me, I thought I’d try and fish the swim a bit differently and perhaps better than I had done the previous night, where, to be fair, I had seen a carp but maybe been in a bit of a rush to get the baits cast out before dark. One thing I was determined not to do was overdo it with boilies. I’d put maybe 20 baits fairly tight around each hookbait the previous evening and, although I couldn’t be sure, I knew that there was a strong possibility that they were still lying there, untouched. With this in mind and after checking
The skies darkened and it absolutely chucked it down all day – and all evening too for that matter, forcing me to wonder about my own sanity
my presentation was good, I put the two rods on the out-ofbounds back in the same spots and baited with just hemp and sweetcorn – and no more boilies! I moved the third rod to the left margin where the carp had shown the previous evening, first carefully checking the spot, then baiting it sparingly with 10 boilies – and half a bucket of particles!
As the day unfolded, the wind turned to the north as forecast, the skies darkened and it absolutely chucked it down all day – and all evening too for that matter, forcing me to wonder about my own sanity. It was so thoroughly cold, damp and miserable and I’ve never enjoyed being constantly stuck under the brolly either. When the rain eased off a tad, every now and again, I’d pop out and bait the spots with more particle as the silver fish in here are ravenous. I’d checked this out by feeding a spot close-in and most of the small seeds were being taken midwater – sometimes even before they hit the bottom. The warmth of the bag was hard to resist on this squally, cold night, so, after a hot supper, I retired earlier than usual, and not feeling all that confident about my chances.
I hadn’t seen any more fish by this point, with not even so much as a liner, but tried to console myself with the old adage of: ‘You’ve gotta be in it, to win it’. Sometime around 5.30am the next morning, a couple of bleeps on the left-hand rod saw me leaping out of the bag and sitting poised over the rod. A moment later, the line pulled tight and the tip started to pull round – I was in! Apart from trying its level-best to bury itself in the weed a couple of times, the fish didn’t really do much – steady pressure won the day and soon enough a fairly large, grey shape rolled over the net cord. The fish, a dark Tip Lake mirror, weighed a little over 33lb on the scales and, I must say, warmed my cockles no end. The sky had cleared too, which was good news as everything I owned was sodden wet and, although I was heading home later that morning, I thought it would be nice to dry a few thing out before packing up. As luck would have it, one of my mates, called Richard, popped his head around the front of the brolly a few minutes after first light and volunteered himself as cameraman for the price of a brew.
All was going more or less to plan, that was until I decided I needed another bucket of water to pour onto the fish. The water in the edge didn’t look very deep and anyway, as ever, I was wearing my waders. It was in fact, very, very deep and, so no more than a split second after planting my left boot in the water, bucket in hand, I found myself, much to my horror, up to my armpits in freezing water – feeling bemused, as well as looking a bit silly! Richard was, understandably, in bits, laughing as I groped my way out of the Tip Lake, put the fish
back and then emptied at least a couple of pints of cold water from each of the waders. Now it was safe to say that truly everything I had with me was soaked, including myself. The only spares I had in the van were shorts and a work T-shirt and it wasn’t really that kind of weather. And so there ended that particular trip. Looking back I’d had a right result, and fished well, as nothing much else had been out to my knowledge, and although my early bath wasn’t part of the plan, no real harm was done and I can laugh about it now.
My next trip was again to the Tip Lake and again at the weekend. This time the result was a resounding two-night blank in similarly crappy, awful weather. I fished as well as I know how, but the only fish out was a stunning 39-pounder to Grant Atkins, who was fishing opposite in The Point. I popped around to do the photographs for him and the smile on the young fella’s face said it all. Very well done that man!
By the way, Laney and myself are doing ‘An Evening of Carp’ on February 1st in Doncaster, with Jules and the big man himself, Tim Paisley – it’s sure one not to be missed, so come along and join us – £7 on the door.
That’s all for now, so tight lines until next month – Mr F.
ABOVE Never knock being busy... Even if it is playing havoc with your fishing schedule! ABOVE RIGHT Calum’s stunning 32-pounder RIGHT An awesome 32lb mirror from the Stour
RIGHT A sign of things to come. It was absolutely chucking it down in The Hinge swim
ABOVE A blank-saving mirror from my second night on the Tip Lake BELOW Grant’s 39-pounder from the Tip Lake