5 June 2018

PB Tench 11lb 3oz

05/06/18 - After some great success on another lake bagging fish up to a new PB of 8lb 14oz it was time to move back onto my main lake in search of that elusive double figure fish. I have been fishing this particular lake for over three years now and despite putting in a considerable amount of time and fishing numerous swims I hadn’t managed to catch my target. I planned a long session in late May as my last real attempt to catch one prior to spawning and this would literally be my last session of the season so If I didn’t managed my target fish I would have to wait a whole year until I returned.

I arrived at the lake on an extremely warm afternoon and was lucky enough to find one of the swims that has a record of producing big tench free and so I decided to start fishing here. Obviously I would move if I spotted fish rolling elsewhere on the lake but during this time of day it was a good place to start. Following my session on the other lake in which I landed twenty or so tench in 24 hours on a hard 40 acre pit I was confident in the rigs and bait that I was using and so stuck to what I knew best. In this particular swim I had to fish at a longer distance of about 40 yards and so made sure I was baiting accurately with a spomb and fishing in between two prevalent bars that were visible from the bank.

The evening soon arrived and I kept my eyes peeled watching the water for rolling fish that would give away their location and was lucky enough to see two tench roll where I was fishing. I was confident of a take but nothing materialised and the night passed uneventful. I was up at 3am with a coffee waiting for the sun to rise and once visibility was good enough to see the area I was fishing I caught sight of a tench rolling a bit further out. Following this another rolled in the same spot and so I decided to leave the rods for an hour and if I didn’t have at take I would move them to fish further out to the showing fish. They were only ten yards passed my spot so it wasn’t necessary to move straight on them and I was hoping they would move onto my bait but I was convinced they were occupied with the blood worm beds. This particular lake is extremely rich with natural food and the tench don’t even need anglers baits to sustain themselves.
Finally I decided to get a rod further out and three hours later it was away. I bent into a fish and was convinced it was a carp as the weight seemed to heavy for a tench but further into the fight I started to think it actually could be a big tench. It wasn’t unstoppable as a carp would be and just felt heavy plodding around and not taking much line. Now my next challenge was to bring the fish over the bar which went from about one and a half feet down to seven very suddenly and it’s a real problem when playing fish to ensure you don’t get cut of or snagged. I have lost tackle just reeling in cage feeders in this swim so when playing a big fish it can very worrying indeed.  I could feel the line grating and so lifted the rod as high up into the air as possible and patiently persuaded the fish over the danger area and into clear water. It didn’t take long and the fish surrendered surfacing quite a way out and I started to ease her closer to the waiting landing net. I could see she was a big fish and the reality set in the this could be my target fish that for years I have been trying to catch. Luckily she played ball and didn’t go on another run which allowed my to scoop her in the net. 

After taking some time to recover from all the excitement I peered in the net and nearly lost it when I realised how big she actually was. Never had I seen a tench of such proportions and although very fat with spawn the frame of the fish was enormous. I managed to get a carp fisherman fishing on the lake adjacent to take some photos and help with the weighing. The scales went 11lb 3oz and I was in fishing heaven. My previous PB was 8lb 14oz and I had now jumped straight to 11lb 3oz. After taking some pictures I returned the fish and marvelled as she swam back into watery home. What an incredible creature and I feel privileged to have caught it. All the time and effort over the last three years had finally paid off. I packed up early finishing the session after just one more night and went home to spend some time with the kids.

18 May 2018

Hunt for a Double - Spring Tench Fishing 2018

I have been fishing some local gravel pits that hold some very large fish for three years now and although I have caught some fish I am yet to have that elusive double figure tench. Most of the tench  I caught were males around 6lb and although they were lovely fish for the amount of time and effort I put in I wasn't very happy with the end result. I was adamant that this year was to be different and I made it my ultimate target to at least obtain a PB tench over 8lb 2oz. I looked at my set up, bait, tackle, rigs and approach to my tench fishing and made the changes I thought would bring me some success.

The first change was my bait which I darkened down with some compost and added molasses for extra attraction. After reading many articles on tench fishing I convinced myself that on pressured waters tench are cautious when feeding over hi visibility ground baits and so changed my baiting approach accordingly. Next was my rigs and main line which I scaled down to make more balanced which allowed me greater casting distances and better presentation. 35g cage feeders were changed to 20g feeders, 8lb supplex hook link and a size 14 super specialist hook. I also looked at my approach and spent more time scanning the water from early morning (3am onwards) finding the tench rolling and moving onto the fish.

I had a couple of sessions in early May on the main lake that holds the larger fish but it seemed that they hadn't woken up properly from their winter slumber and so come mid May I moved onto another lake on the complex that holds a few more tench but on average slightly lower weights although it still does contain some massive fish. Little did I know that I would have one of the best 24 hours fishing I think I've ever had. I had the marker float out after arriving at the lake early afternoon but couldn't find any features and so decided to sit and watch the water when pretty much straight away a fish rolled giving away their location. I cast two rods to the spot and balled in some ground bait. I then marked my line with so pole elastic and sat down with a beer in the sun.

It didn't take long before my rod was away and I bent into a very decent fish. The slow plodding around confirmed that it wasn't a small male fish and that I had hooked a "proper one". After a couple of minutes I managed to scoop up my prize and was delighted when she went 8lb 14oz on the scales which was a new PB and my very first fish of the season. Little did I know the action would continue thought the evening and I managed another eight or so fish three of which went over 8lb including an 8lb 2oz, 8lb 4oz and 8lb 7oz. This was more fish then I had managed all season and all caught within one evening. My set up and changes had made a big difference and my hook holds were excellent. During the night It was quite apart from an Eel which I couldn't net that was definitely over 4lb and a fish that I would loved to have caught but it managed to bite through my 8lb fluorocarbon hook link. As I lifted the net out the water it literally dropped of the spreader block which was strange as It was a one piece spoon net. On closer inspection I discovered that the connection point had actually sheered leaving the screw point in my net handle and rendering my landing net useless for the following day. With all this going on I decided to reel in and set my alarm for 3am. At 3am I was out of bed and the kettle was put on. I sorted out the rods and made a temporary repair to my net which was far from ideal but would have to do.

At around 4am I began to get liners and a bite was inevitable. The right hand rod suddenly screamed into action but this was clearly different from the previous bites that were sharp pulls and then a big drop back. I bent into the fish and a big bow wave rocked the water and line began screaming of the reel. I had hooked one of the elusive carp that reside in the lake but before this could register the line went slack and the fish gone. There are approximately forty carp in the lake and at 40 acres they are a rarity so I was gutted about the loss but to be fair I wasn't targeting them and wasn't really equipped to deal with such power. I was fishing with 1.5lb test curve rods and a size 14 hook!

During the day it was fairly quiet but I knew come late afternoon the fishing would pick up and I was right. My rods began twitching with line bites confirming the arrival of the tench. To cut this story short I managed another ten or so fish including another 8lb fish and multiple sevens with a  few sixes thrown in for good measure. It was such an incredible session and was a perfect way to build some confidence in the changes I had made before targeting the main lake tench. I will now be fishing the main lake until the end of the tench season and will hopefully catch that double. I will keep you posted.

26 April 2018

PB Grayling 2lb 10oz - March 2018

01/03/18 - One of the species that I haven't done a lot of fishing for is the Grayling and my PB was pretty much non existent so when my mate James Champkin called me up and invited me to have a go for them I couldn't say no. I hadn't seen James since we went fishing at Lochnaw together over four years ago so it was great to catch up with him. Having only trotted a few times before for other species such as chub and dace I am no expert at the method but was looking forward to giving it a go.

The plan was to head up to the river for two days  fishing  basic trotting tactics. 4lb Suplex line straight through to a fixed spool reel and a size 18 hook with a single white maggot. A small loafer float and strategically placed lead shot completed the basic set up. The lead shot pattern was strategically placed to minimise tangles and ensure the bait was presented correctly when moving through the water. I changed this many times over the session to suit the conditions and the river until I felt I had it just right. I did take my centre pin reel with me but it wasn't the best piece of kit for the job and some of the swims you had to cast to the far bank and a centre pin simply would allow this.

We were quite concerned that the water clarity would have decreased due to the recent rain but on arrival the river seemed in good condition. It was running a little high but with no more rain forecast for the day it would soon drop and begin to clear up. James gave me a tour of the venue and pointed out some good swims that I should try focusing on drop offs into deeper water where the fish would be held up. I had literally been fishing for about ten minutes when the loafer dived under and I hooked a small trout that put up a tremendous fight on such light tackle. I continued to feed the swim and five minutes later I was playing another fish that seem to be putting up a different fight, staying deep and using its weight to hold in the current. I couldn't be into one already I thought? and then it surfaced. A huge grayling with beautiful colouring. I bungled her in the net and called James over to help with pictures and weighing. I was sure she was over 2lb but James wasn't and he had it spot on with the fish going 1lb 13oz. This was a new PB and I thought if that was 1lb 13oz what the hell does a 3lb fish look like.

We continued to fish throughout the day and I managed a load of brown trout trout including a few wildies and James managed a cracking 2lb 8oz Grayling. With the conditions improving throughout the day I was hopeful that I could land a fish over the magical 2lb mark. I started fishing a stretch that was typically quite deep and dropped into about six feet of water from four feet and it wasn't long before I was into a big trout. I managed another five trout from the swim and decided to persevere as It was mentioned that unlike other rivers the Grayling in this particular river seemed to be isolated amongst the trout. Again the float vanished but this time I could tell that I was attached to something different and knew that I had hooked a big Grayling. The power of these fish is absolutely amazing and it really is nail biting stuff when you have a size eighteen hook, fast current and a large grayling on the end.

After a few minutes she tired and I netted her first time without any unnecessary drama. I knew It was a big fish but when the needle swung around to 2lb 10oz I was astonished. What a fish and what a day on the river. Having never seen a big Grayling before I can say that they are without doubt the most beautiful fish that swim in our rivers. James took some cracking pictures and I was made.

The day went and next morning arrived bringing with it terrible fishing conditions. It didn't stop raining all day and I was soaked to the bone. James did manage a good fish on the feeder but the water turned cloudy and it didn't look good. After trying all day with only a few trout to show for my efforts we decided to head back home. It really was one of the most enjoyable sessions I have had fishing in great surrounds with excellent company. It was nice to catch up with an old mate and I'm every so thankful to James for the invite. I cannot wait to return later this year.

James also managed a PB woodling pictured above :)

25 April 2018

A Fenland Fairytale - Pike & Zander Fishing on the Drains

12/02/18 - Following my recent pike sessions on the river Medway, most of which ended in disappointing blanks I decided to have a change of scenery and headed for the famous fen drains in Cambridgeshire. I knew the odds were against me and the fishing would be hard but I was up for the challenge. At least I would have some company and was joined by my brother in-law Jamie who is a keen angler and has recently turned into a specimen hunter targeting a variety of fish.

The plan was to spend two nights and two days fishing focusing on the Zander at night and the Pike during daylight hours. The fen drains consist of miles upon miles of baron man made canal like systems that are pretty much dead straight with no obvious features to fish to. The tactic was to cover as much water as possible and fish each area for twenty minutes before moving on further down river. This way the elusive pike would be easier to find and we just might present a bait within range of a monster.

I contacted a few angling clubs and decided to have a go on the forty foot as this seemed to be fishing quite well but the we wanted to keep all options open and were prepared to move onto the 16 foot drain if we had no success within twenty four hours.

Arriving at the venue we were fortunate top find and area that would allow us to drive along side the river which made covering such a large area of water that little bit easier. It didn't take long before Jamie managed a small fish of around 5lb and later on in the day I lost scraper double that spat out the hook once it surfaced. things were looking good but little did we know that it would be downhill from here and the rest of the day drew a blank. For the night session we set up on a spot by a bridge which was the only feature we could find in such a baron landscape and changed out rigs and baits to suit Zander fishing. I went with small roach hook baits on size eight single treble and Jamie fished the same set up. The night passed uneventful and we decided to move onto some new water as we felt we had covered a sufficient area and we were not on the fish.

We made our way up to the town and had a good look around before deciding where to fish. Coming across a nice looking section of drain again by a bridge we were interrupted by a man in a car that pulled up and it turned out he was the bailiff. I decided to try and get some information regarding the fishing out of him and we discovered that we were actually fishing the River Nene yesterday and not the drains. The bailiff joked that there were no fish in it due to the eastern Europeans decimating the place. Funnily enough we came across quite and few and every swim had the tell tales Polish beer cans strewn about the banks. It wasn't looking good but at least we were fishing our intended drain. The bailiff suggested a place to fish where some good pike were taken from and so we packed up the rods and made our way over to the other section of water about a mile away.

This turned out to be unsuccessful and it started to snow heavily. It was an absolute disaster and the pumps turned on during the night which pushed masses of weed through the drain wiping the rods out. It was a sleepless night with no fish to show for our efforts.

The last day arrived and we had to be off back home by 2pm  and so we decided to do a bit more exploring and fish the forty foot drain further up. Again the we drew a blank and it was coming up to 2pm so we found a small drain of the 16 foot and flicked the rods out for the last cast. Within ten minutes I had a bite but missed it and I decided to persevere for the last ten minutes in the same area whilst Jamie moved up river. Suddenly I heard Jamie call and I ran over to see him playing a fish. "Have you seen it yet mate" I asked to which he replied "yeah its a bit bigger then the last one (which was 5lb)". Expecting a small double to pop up I prepared the landing net but when she surfaced I was gobsmacked. That's huge I said as she slid in the net and I turned round to shake Jamie's hand. It was only when we tried to lift her out I realised the size of her and on the scales she went 22lb. An absolutely massive fish and a new personal best for Jamie from a river to boot. All of that effort and time put into this small campaign finally came to a great conclusion and we both head back to Kent smiling talking about the magnificent capture. It really was the last cast of two days and nights and that's the beauty of fishing and its unpredictability.

28 January 2018

Medway Pike - Search for a 20lb specimen

I have fished the River Medway since I was eight years old with my dad when we used to target the river in Tonbridge, specifically Cannon Bridge and adjacent streams. I remember loads from theses sessions and look back with some great memories but realise now that we didn't have a clue what we were doing. In recent years I havent fished the Medway for pike very often which is a shame as it is my most local river however that was all to change this winter when I decided to target a 20lb river pike and it seemed logical to fish the Medway for my intended target.

The river Medway strat up near Hartfield in Kent and flows through Ashurst, Tonbridge, Yalding, Teston and Maidstone to Chatham. The river is ideal for large pike with a good head of silver fish and I believe it has produced un verified 40lb fish in the past but many verified 30lb plus fish. The pike population on the Medway has declined drastically in recent years and this has happened for many reasons including predation but mainly poaching by Eastern Europeans. I am not worried about stating this and for the record I am not stereo typing all Eastern Europeans some of which actually sport fish but my experience is that the majority are taking the fish home for the table. I have seen pike be stamped on and been met with aggression when I have confronted them, I have seen numerous people fishing with no nets, matts with no welfare for the fish most likely because it will end up on a plate. The river Medway has been absolutely gutted of most pike and it is actually a serious issue that will probably see pike gone from our waters if it continues. Not a lot of people fish the rivers anymore as most carp fish and the waters are not bailiffed enough to monitor what is happening so the fish are being taken in massive numbers. As I write this I have fished six days of my campaign and not caught one jack pike and I have fished over six miles of river in various towns. I did manage some nice fish but no jacks to date and no way near the quantity of fish that I should be catching. Anyway enough ranting on about things I cant change, I suppose we have to just get on with it and accept that the rivers will one day be empty. I have fished for over twenty five years and the last fifteen years for specimen fish sometimes fishing four nights a week in venues all over the country and I have never, not once seen a EA officer! Moving on .......
I stared my campaign on a section of the River Beult which is a tributary of the Medway in Hunton but after a days fishing with no fish I move down to the Yalding stretch for my next session. I found a couple of nice areas to fish and in the afternoon I managed a nice 11lb pike (pictured left) that took a small roach in eight feet of water. This was the only fish of the day but I was off the mark on the Medway Pike campaign and so I was really happy to have bagged one.

My local stretch of the Medway is above Tonbridge and so I decided to target the Medway around theses areas but staying away from all the "known sections" that have produced big fish in the past. It seemed that the further out I went into the wilderness the more Polish beer cans I would find discarded on the bank and I started to feel like I was fighting a losing battle. Are they even in here anymore I asked myself and with every blank I started to become pessimistic.


27 January 2018

Catching Wildies - September 2017

During the month of October I had perch on my mind and so I made my way to a local lake that contained some decent size fish to target. Although the perch are not massive in this particular lake they are great sport on light kit and It seemed the great venue for a peaceful day out on the bank. The session was more of a social event and my brother in law Jamie also joined me. The lake is a beautiful small estate lake set behind Hever Castle set in tranquil surroundings. It is stocked with most coarse fish and also contains some lovely wild carp that I was to find out about later on in the session.
I started of the day trying to catch some live baits for the perch but struggled to get any of a suitable size. After baiting for a while the bigger roach and Rudd started to appear and I managed a few fish close on 1lb. It was great to see such beautiful fish and of such decent size but I only managed two live baits so the I had to try and target the Perch on worms.

It was far from a typical Autumn day with really mild weather and it didn't take long before the carp were cruising on the surface. That was enough persuasion for me and I grabbed some bread from my sandwiches and went about setting up a floater rod to try and catch them of the surface. I walked around the lake and found numerous fish in the pads all of which looked good to take a bait. I started to feed the swims where the fish were located with some mixes Jamie had brought down to the lake after I called him and mentioned the carp were on the surface. Instantly they started to gobble down the mixes building confidence and it was then time to cast out . After some adjustments I had the rod in position and waiting for the carp to swing round, head back to the baited area and then BAM. I managed to catch a stunning little wild looking common carp and on such light gear was fantastic sport. So much for the Perch fishing.

Throughout the day this continued and we managed well over ten fish each up to around 10lb. Once the sun began to set we had them feeding so confidently it was a fish a cast and I even managed a nice brace of stunning commons for the camera. So although we didn't catch our intended species we had a fantastic day on the water and that's what really matters in fishing.