Every year we seek a stunning cover picture. We plan it meticulously and it's a great excuse to go fishing. But it doesn't always work!
This year it was a two man, all night carp expedition to local water Clawford Vineyard. November is not my favourite month and I actually cancelled the trip on the preceding weekend due to forecasted `hurricanes' which didn't arrive on the night in question anyway.
My partner for the trip had, however, spent a not inconsiderable amount of time and money in preparation so we had reached the point of `have to go'!
The weather was actually pretty good when we arrived at the water, mild and a bit breezy and we decided to fish the newest lake of about 4 acres. There was no way we could get a vehicle near the lake with the ground being so wet and consequently we had to carry all the gear, which meant about six trips. The lake itself has been recently finished and stocked and it is a marvellous piece of design. Islands are positioned along its length to provide excellent spots to feed up in and such features really make a lake so much more interesting.
We picked our swims, assembled all the necessary gear and were fishing by dusk. I am by no means a carp enthusiast when it comes to the sit and wait approach. Floating baits are my passion and the sight of a Carp sucking down a crust six feet from your rod tip knocks spots off being woken by a hundred pounds worth of electronics every time, but I'm more than willing to learn. Boilies, back leads and bolt rigs? It's a whole language and I'm sure no sector of angling has become such a science as that of carp fishing. It's easy to scoff and often hard to understand how such seemingly insignificant changes to terminal tackle can make a difference, but the hard facts prove that they do, time and time again. The more cynical may see it as a major coup by the tackle companies and marketing departments but nobody is forcing you to spend that money and although all this technology may give you an `edge' none of it is really essential.
Anyway back to the fishing. We were using home made boilies (Solar fruit mix and esterblend 12) over a bed of Party Blend with extra hemp and, on a relatively new water with some green fish, our hopes were high.Mike's setup is fairly state of the art and had invested in a"budget" bite alarm for one rod and relied on the old fairy liquid bottle top for the other.
We cast into the baited swims and settled down for the night. Stringers - what a great idea! This was the first time I'd used them and, as with most good ideas, it's brilliantly simple and the perfect way to get extra feed right next to your bait.
As the night wore on (and to the uninitiated like myself November nights are very long) the wind increased and with it came rain. Mike was equipped with a bivvy which wouldn't move in a tornado. I had recently bought some second hand carp gear which included a decent brolly and a very basic dome overwrap. Brilliant in the calm of summer but not really up to this particular winter night. It did the job as far as keeping everything dry was concerned but it was not very stable and, through fitful sleep in the small hours, It was very difficult not to keep a hand on the pole as everything was moving so much and every time the wind really gusted the wrap would crack like a rifle, no I didn't get much kip!
We had not managed a run between us by 6am and Mike changed his hookbait to his failsafe `monster crab' which I could smell 50 yards up the bank. It worked, the optonics broke the silence at around 8am and a Common of about three pounds was brought to the net. Not quite what we hoped for but the first bite is often the start of some increased activity and always serves to wake you up. An hour or so later the monster crab brought a second fish to mike's rods and proved to be the best of the session. I did manage two small carp on boilies and, after it got light, I tackled up a float rod and was catching small carp and rudd every other cast on maggot, which suited me fine.
There were several anglers fishing the syndicate lake at Clawford and one of them had two high doubles during the night so we couldn't blame the weather. The lake we were fishing did, we discovered, have a lot of grass on the bottom which probably didn't help and pop ups may have been a better bet.No cover picture though, to be honest the weather wasn't very conducive and I only shot two frames of the one fish.
If you decide you'd like to try this type of fishing I'd say the first rule is to keep yourself warm. It was a pretty miserable night but had I been cold it would have been intolerable. What was keeping me warm was a borrowed thermal fleece one piece undersuit made to go inside a drysuit, brilliant piece of kit, in fact I went and invested in one of my own shortly after the trip. Gloves and a hat are also essential, as are thermal socks.
I still don't think I'll get over enthusiastic about this style of fishing. I can understand the appeal of fishing a water where you know there are very big fish and keeping at it until you catch one, but a three day session with all the gear required and a telly etc. doesn't really appeal. It is certainly still fishing but the emphasis seems to have shifted from the traditional skills to bait selection and tackle set up, letting bite alarms and bolt rigs take care of bite detection and hooking.
Interestingly, one aspect of the sport that remains vitally important across the board is watercraft. Whether you fish for Salmon or Roach, knowing your water is perhaps the most effective weapon you can have when it comes to catching fish. Ask any successful Salmon angler and he will be in no doubt as to the importance of knowing the lies. He will probably know all the best lies for any given height of water and this will be reflected in his success.
The location of wild Trout on rivers is a bit easier and you soon learn the likely spots and can spot them even on waters you have not seen before. On lakes which, on the surface, look pretty much the same a bar or deep hole can prove very productive and it's this sort of knowledge above, I believe, the latest piece of tackle that will improve your catches.
We did obviously find a cover picture, and I didn't have to sit out in a glorified bin bag again for a night to get it, but that's another story.