8 December 2016

PB Roach Highbridge Fishery

08/12/2016 - I have been targeting the big roach that call Highbridge home for a couple of years now and have been lucky enough to catch so cracking fish up to 2lb 10oz. Located in Norfolk the venue is not down the road from my Kent home and it takes me a good three and a half hours to get there but the trip is worth the effort for the possible rewards.

I had planned to do a three night session and set of on the Thursday trying to beat the darkness. Unfortunately I arrived on dusk and after scanning the lake it was almost pitch black so I quickly loaded the barrow and headed to a swim I had previous success when fishing. The rain was now moving in and it was a race against time to get the brolly but eventually my home for the weekend was constructed and I could start getting rigs tied up.
I stuck with what I knew best and I think its important to use methods that you are confident with. All three rods were tied up with really short 3-4 inch hooklinks of 5lb fluorocarbon trout leader helicopter style. On the business end was a size 12 Drennan wide gape hook and this was fish helicopter style in conjunction with a 30g oval stainless cage feeder. The feeder was filled with a dark hemp seed based groundbait mixed half and half with some dried bread crumb. The hook bait was sweetcorn and I baited up with a generous amount of dead maggot, sweetcorn and hemp before swinging the rods out to my spots.
I had joked  earlier in the day with the fishery manager Dale about catching a big roach and having to call him up early morning waking him from his sleep and little did I know that was exactly what would happen.
After have a few beers and a Tesco curry I conked out in the bag dreaming a massive roach. I was woken at around 1am by a screaming bite alarm with a take more like one from a carp ripping line from the spool. I jumped out of the bag and with savagae heartburn made my way to the rods. I wasn't too excited about the take at first as there are quite a few fish in Highbridge including a generous amount of bream that on light tackle take line but as soon as I picked up the rod I could tell it was a decent roach. After a hairy fight I finally netted my prize and looked into the landing net mesh to see a monster roach that clearly smashed my previous PB of 2lb 11oz.
I text dale immediately and he came down to do the pictures and weighing of the fish which went and astonishing 3lb 11oz. I decided then to cut my trip short and went beck to spend the weekend with the kids and have a few beers to celebrate. Fishing can be really unpredictable at times and this session proved that. All those nights and days targeting theses roach and then seven hours into my first session of the session I had caught a fish of a lifetime. The roach also netted me a Korum monthly win and Drennan weekly win.
Until next time tight lines

23 October 2016

Still Searching For That Monster - Barbel

I have been concentrating on targeting Barbel recently in the hope of catching a good double and beating my long standing PB of 10lb 8oz. I have had some Autumn success and caught some cracking Barbel to just under 9lb (see previous post) but still the big girls elude me. I managed to get out for another two nights and didn't have the best of sessions starting of the first night loosing two suspected Barbel. The first one was a standard hook pull and as frustrating as it was at least the fish would come to no harm from trailing line but the second loss was a line cut from a snag which was more like someone slicing through my line with a samurai sword. I'm sure the Barbel will be absolutely fine and rid itself of the hook very quickly but I did loose some sleep over it. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do when luck isn't on your side.
The second day arrived and I finally managed to land a small Barbel pictured below that I estimate to be around 5 - 6lb.  I was off the mark and it was a nice consolation for the two losses the day previous. This was followed up with an early morning chub of around 2-3lb but despite its small size the fish was immaculate which is great to see.
My next session on the river was a quick overnighter and I decided to move to another section of the Medway further upstream. I felt that I had fished the previous swim hard and caught enough Barbel to warrant it a danger zone for the fish. I kept the rigs, approach and bait the same because of my success in the other swim. I had full confidence in these tactics. At 5am I was woken up to a take on my left hand rod and connected with a decent fish which decided to head straight towards some sunken snags. I managed to gain some control and redirected the fish into safe water. In the hast of my excitement I had forgotten to grab my head torch and with my brolly positioned up a steep slope it was far from reach. Its always difficult to land a fish in complete darkness but there I was with no other option. I gained line on the fish and he was about to surface when all of a sudden I realised I hadn't caught a fish but a giant carrot! The colours were almost luminous in the dark water and I easily directed it into the waiting landing net. It turned out to be an amazing bright orange Koi Carp with black markings to the top half of the body and orange eyes. I didn't weigh it but it was around 8lb and I was just in awe of its beauty. What a strange fish to catch, but as weird as it was to catch an 8lb koi carp from the Medway it was truly exciting and this type of surprise reinforces my love for rivers and the unknown stock they contain.


16 October 2016

Back to Barbel - Medway 2016

15/10/2016 - It has been almost two months since I last stepped on the banks of a river or lake with a fishing rod in my hand so this week I decided it was time to dive back into my fishing. The plan was to target the low stock of scale perfect Barbel on the River Medway. This year has been a difficult one with the loss of my twin sister in late February which ultimately put fishing to the back of my mind and I just didn’t have the drive to go. I did some time for the tench and a session for the eels but my heart wasn't fully in it. I planned a two night session in the hope of an Autumn Barbel but the success of capture didn’t really matter and it was just great to be back fishing.
The river was running low and like usual on the Medway was extremely coloured. I selected a swim with a depth of around four feet and fished to a deep gully over shallow plateaux in hope of intercepting the fish as they moved up the river. Two one metre hooklinks were constructed using my favourite Drennan Boilie Continental hooks in size eight tied to 15lb Drennan camo braid in clay colour perfectly camouflaged amongst the bottom of this particular river. The rigs were tied up to size eight E.S.P swivels which were popped into lead clips, the tail rubbers just nicked on to ensure the leads released. I then pinched a single split shot ten or so inches from the hook to pin everything to the bottom.
The session started well with instant success in the form of a small chub around the pound mark. I was a bit concerned that I might be plagued by small chub throughout the night but luckily this was to be the only small chub of the session. A couple hours later I got my first proper bite which bent the rod round double and sent the baitrunner into a fizzing frenzy. Picking up the rod I could tell it was a good fish and after convincing myself that a small Barbel was the culprit I was pleasantly surprised when a large chub surfaced and glided into the waiting landing net. On the Rubens she went 5lb exactly and after a quick self take I slipped her back into her watery home.
It wasn’t until 12.30am when I received my next bite which sent the rod flying in similar fashion to the first take and woke me from a deep sleep interrupting my dream about 30lb Barbel and buying an Aston with my lottery winnings. I went into pilot mode and jumped out of bed in urgency stumbling towards my screaming bite alarms but crash landing down the bank after a missed foot placement. With the finesse of a rugby player I capsized onto my waiting kettle which dug into my side just under my ribs. Caked in thick mud and with my side pounding I picked up the rod and connected with a decent fish that immediately motored upstream taking a steady amount of line with it. After a short but thrilling fight I landed a beautiful Barbel of 7lb 10oz and this was then followed up with another Barbel of 8lb 4oz at 3am. I climbed into the sack and headed back to 30lb Barbel land.
The next day proved uneventful and the action didn’t start until night set in. My mate Danny came down to see me and whilst drinking a cupper and sheltering from the rain my left hand bite alarm let out a few short burst of high pitched screaming and I connected with another Barbel. The river has a very low stock of Barbel and to have hooked three in one day is pretty much unheard of so this session was no doubt delivering the goods. This fish put up an immense fight and went on two really powerful runs trying to find sanctuary in some sunken snags. This one definitely had had his Weetabix for breakfast and it paid off when he managed to gain enough line to find refuge amongst the dreaded snags. I was now completely locked up, the fish wasn’t budging and it seemed as though landing this fish would not be a distant fantasy when all of a sudden the Barbel gods shined their rays of good fortune and my lined pinged free putting me in direct contact with the fish once again. Finally I had her ready for the net and my mate Danny did the honours. Not as big as I had hoped but at 8lb 14oz he was the biggest yet and I was elated
My next take was early Sunday morning when my left had rod had a screaming bite. The bite was so savage that by the time I got to the rod the fish was probably nearing the estuary twenty miles downstream or possibly had reached the channel. I managed to bring the fish back to England and a fantastic fight ensued. I lifted her up the steep bank and was pleasantly surprised to see I had actually caught a mirror carp of around 12lb which was surprising as this area of the Medway is a shallow, fast flowing and by no means ideal carp habitat. I put the rods back out and had yet another take early that morning. This was a completely different fight to the other fish and the power was immense. Unfortunately my rod tip got caught around the other rod tip and no line would peel from the reel. The inevitable happened and I was cracked off. I was gutted and I’m sure this was the one of the big girls. Morning arrived and I managed another carp of around 8lb and that concluded the trip.

To have caught so many decent fish on a hard low stock river was fantastic and all my hook holds were spot on. I got some great pictures of the session and can’t wait to return.

7 July 2016

Searching for Snakes - Eel fishing 2016

25-06-16 - After a challenging campaign for a monster tench that ended up with a number of frustrating blanks my lake eventually warmed up and the fish began to spawn. It was now time to change species and it wasn’t long before I was back at my local sand pits after the eels. I really do love fishing for eels and target them on quick overnight sessions midweek leaving the weekends free to spend with the kids and Mrs. I have had a few fish from the 100 acre pit up to nearly 6lb but know there are some true monsters lurking in its depths and although it is extremely hard fishing the rewards are there if you are willing to put in the time and effort. I will also be targeting the bream during the same sessions and so hopefully can kill two birds with one stone however the eels will be an easier challenge than the bream which run to 20lb but are extremely elusive. I think there are only two small shoals of large bream that with some younger back up shoals around the 10-14lb mark. Probably 50 or so fish in 100 acre!!!
The first session for the eels was with my fishing mate Danny and we settled in a swim that is rarely fished by the carp boys with the intention of fishing it regularly and introducing bait over a long period. The swim offers great visibility of the south end of the lake and depth ranges from 12-20ft with no real topographic features to speak of. For the eels I targeted the margins in 10ft of water right under the rod tip. I like to use really simple running rigs in conjunction with a Bob Roberts large eye loop that ensures the rig pulls through freely without giving any resistance on a take. I used to fish with rather long hook links and large hooks but have changed this approach over the years following experience. I find that the eels like to bite delicately at times and a long hook link allows slack for the fish the pull before it registers on the alarms. This allows the fish to swallow the hook which can be dangerous, especially with an eel because its internal organs are high up by the fishes gills.

I settled down for the night and at around 12am I had some interest on the margin rod and a few moments later it ripped off. The fight was great and even on 2lb test curve rods it put up an amazing battle. We weighed the fish at 3lb 8oz and although it wasn’t the fish I was hoping for it was a great start to the campaign. The next night I was lucky to catch a two 4lb+ eels but the elusive six still manages to avoid me. During the session a storm passed over that literally flooded the swim and hail the size of marbles struck the water with brute force. I have honestly never seen a storm like it and got some amazing footage of the event that I will post later.

1 June 2016

Spring Tench Fishing / Carp Fishing!!!

20/05/16 - A big Tinca has been on my hit list for the last couple of years and with my current PB standing stagnant at 8lb 2oz I felt it was about time for a new adventure to try and bag the ultimate prize, a double figure beast. I purchased a ticket for some local pits that are well know on the circuit and have a track record of producing big tench to over 13lb. After talks with fellow anglers, some research on the net and a visit to the complex I decided to fish one of the more popular lakes as the number of big tench far exceeds the other lakes on the complex however they all contain massive fish.

I managed to get some time of work to finish my MSc dissertation and took the laptop to ensure all my work was complete for the upcoming week. Combining fishing, work and education was killing two birds with one stone, well three to be more precise and it allowed me to get some more time on the bank. On arrival I was informed that a huge tench was taken only days before and with it being late May I was sure they would be nice and plump at really good weights.
I opted for simple PVA bag mesh tactics combined with standard hair rigs. Nylon thread through the maggots and then tied onto the hair created a ball of irresistible goodness that surely no fish could resist. I loaded the bags with hemp, a few live maggots and some dead red maggots. Each bag was no larger then a golf ball and this helped me get out to the area of interest with ease. I then scattered bait with a small spomb covering a small area that would encourage the fish to route about for their dinner.

Having a long session planned ahead I was not to concerned about being on the fish immediately and was sure the area that I was baiting would be visited by the tench at some stage. Once they were to arrive I could then feed generously keeping them in the swim. The key was going to be light baiting, little and often until they turned up.

The lake is a mature gravel pit of approximately 15 acres and it contains all the features a tench angler could possible wish for. Savage bars, shallow bays, reeds and plateaux's. Its full of weed, gin clear and holds some magnificent fish. The tench are not the only species that has put this lake on the map and it holds some stunning carp to over 40lb that are difficult critters to catch at the best of times. I was happy to have my ticket and was ready for a proper session. Bring it on.

I settled in swim that had a bar at approximately 50 yards range and choose to fish two rods at the back of the drop of and one on the downward slope. As mentioned above I decided to use hair rigged red maggots in conjunction with a PVA bags I also had some ground bait and lobworms with me just in case things became a struggle. You can always count on a trusty lob worm when the fishing is slow.

The fist night passed uneventful and it wasn't until the second night at 3am that my left hand rod came to life. The reel was smoking by the time I had clambered out of bed and realised where I was. Picking it up I could tell it was a good fish but for some reason it never crossed my mind that it might not be a tench. After five arm aching minutes I finally had the fish in the shallows wallowing and showing signs of being defeated but the battle was far from over. As I tried repeatedly to net the fish it kept on refusing to surrender until eventually I had enough and jumped in. I knew that the water was extremely shallow and I went no further then the margins but this gave me enough leverage to actually get under the fish and bring her home. I must have looked like a right twat trying to get this fish into the net but hey it was 3am, no anglers about to witness the noddy act and a fish was in the net so I didn't give a monkeys. Looking into the mesh I suddenly realised I had a bagged a nice common carp and not a tench on steroids. The fish was known as the small headed common and weighed 26lb 9oz (pictured top). It wasn't a tench but it was a fish and a good one at that. My trousers were soaked and I ended up walking around the bank in my boxers until I remembered I had brought my trust sallopettes. Result.

Rods went back out and at 11am the next morning I finally caught a tench but to be fair it was probably the smallest one in the lake and spun the flyweights around to 6lb 10oz (pictures left). The target species was now present and I was looking forward to bagging up some big tincas. Hopefully I could get amongst the large females.

The next morning resulted in another carp in the form of a scared common that weighed around 24lb although I didn't weigh her so it was an estimation. Again the take came at 3am and the fish put up a great fight but It seemed that the carp had moved back into the swim and pused the tench out. So much for bagging up on tincas. The rods were cast back to the "hot spots" and the fishing resumed. A couple of days passed without a fish and I was tempted to move swims but fish were definitely in this area of the lake and every morning at 4am the tench rolled in full view as if to wind me up. I considered rig changes but then received some news from around the lake that it was not looking good on the tench front. Everyone was blanking and I think the tench just switched of feeding heavily but they could switch on any minute so I persevered.

6am Thursday morning my mate Sweed came to my swim to say goodbye after doing a session for the carp on a lake adjacent to the one I was fishing. I stood up to greet him when my middle rod had a one toner and I was in to what felt like a really decent sized fish. After a long arm aching battle the fish was near the margins and we all looked in anticipation to see what I had actually caught. Finally it broke the surface and the debating amongst us begun. I was confident it was a huge tench but the other two weren't so convinced and they were proved to be right when I slipped the net under a sort after fish called the Mill Street Fully. Its not the biggest carp in the world but its close to being the best looking and I was made. Not a tench but at least a fish and a good one to. Apparently this fish is really old and rarely caught so something was working. I didn't weigh her but she was around the15lb mark (pictured right). Another perfect common followed the fully scaled at 11am and then all went quiet.

I ended up blanking on the last day but I had caught some cracking fish so I left the lake a happy man. The only part missing from the session was a large tench but maybe she will come another day. I am now looking to change lakes on the complex as the pressure is becoming a bit too much and I feel I would have a better chance at catching when I have more swims to choose from. I will keep you posted. Tight Lines.

14 May 2016

Lochnaw Castle - Specimen Redfins 2016

20/04/2016 - Lochnaw Castle is the UKs leading specimen roach water and it produced my PB to date, a cracking fish weighing 2lb 11oz. My last trip to Lochnaw was in late October two years ago with my fishing mate James Champkin and although it was a successful trip we were subjected to some terrible weather. This time I was heading up the M6 in late April looking forward to a six night session in warmer conditions. After a gruelling ten hour journey I eventually arrived at the roach fishing mecca and set out to locate Kev who I had planned to meet prior to setting up. Kev is the man in the know at Lochnaw and I picked his brains for tips on location and bait. I settled in a swim called stair island that has produced some specimen redfins during past springs and targeted an area at a range of 60 yards. As soon as the bivy was set up the conditions turned and the warm air almost instantly turned cold as big strong northern gales pushed directly into stair island. Clear skies and cold northern winds was a trend throughout the session and it didn't look good for the fishing.

I opted to use similar tactics as I did on my previous trip and fished three rods with short hooklinks in conjunction with a 35g cage feeder. As for hooklink material I used 5lb fluorocarbon fly leader which I have the upmost confidence in using. "5lb" I can hear the match fisherman cursing, but it is necessary for these roach not just because of the their size but Lochnaw has numerous rocks that can easily cut through lighter hooklinks. At the business end was a size 12 Drennan super specialist wide gape tied with a knotless knot and short hair suitable for a 10mm bottom bait. I considered my options for bait and decided to fully commit to the boilie approach with news from Kev that he notched up a staggering 280 small roach before getting through to the larger specimens and landing a stunning 2lb+ redfin. Although maggots were obviously effective fishing with them on three rods would be manic to say the least and I wanted to deter the smaller fish and hopefully get some sleep throughout my six night session. In the feeder was a mix of hemp, breadcrumb and some silver x roach groundbait.

 The water temperature was bang on spawning temperature and I knew it wouldn't be long before they were at their annual event. I kept on thinking about all the 2lb+ fish at the top end that could now be over the magical 3lb mark. Could I bank one of these magnificent creatures in such superb surroundings? Only time would tell.

The session started off slowly and before I knew it two nights had passed. It was freezing cold and the winds reached 60 miles per hour ripping my bivy pegs out and sending me into a state of panic. Its not an easy task to reconstruct your bivy in the dark, facing strong winds, all alone and after a few beers. As morning broke the wind eased and I completed some final repairs to my house before reconsidering my options. I didn't feel that I was reaching the area that the roach would pass through to enter the back end of the lake. The wind was so strong that I could only manage a chuck of 30 yards and even wading out 20 yards I couldn't hit the spot. I also made the decision to move if I blanked again that night and took a walk around the loch with Kev who showed me some production swims. I had a feeling that the fish were of the back of the cold wind and a few bays looked inviting but so did the area at distance from my swim which was partially shaded by the wind from a large island. it was time for a tactical change.

Looking to gain more distance I swapped the feeders for 2oz grippa leads. I had noticed some movement to my line when using cage feeders and I was confident that a combination of shallow water and strong winds were encouraging an undertow and moving the feeders. With this change I successfully reached the area and some confidence was restored. It didn't take long before my left hand rod had a small drop back when the bobbin lifted sharply into the rod and the baitrunner began releasing line. It was more like a take from a carp then a roach. After a short but strong fight the fish was safely in the mesh and looking down I could tell she was a good one. She went 2lb 11oz on the scales and it equals my personal best for the species. I contacted Kev and he came down to take some great pictures. I was a happy man to say the least and decided to stay in the swim and continue with my successful method.

The next day passed uneventful and it wasn't until Thursday when Kev joined me at lunchtime when I was to have some more success. We were sitting having a chat when out of the blue the bobbin on my left hand rod pulled tight and I coached another specimen into the waiting net. At 2lb 9oz I was again happy with the result. To celebrate my catch I poured myself a drink and relaxed in the stunning scenery that lochnaw offers. Following this I decided to put one of my rods out into the large area of water opposite the castle bank. As I was spombing out some bait I noticed something in the middle of the loch that was no duck. On closer inspection I realised that it was a deer swimming the distance of the loch and I was so amazed I had to consider how much I had actually drunk and confirm that I was not seeing things. I grabbed my camera and took some shots that turned out useless due to the lens not being suitable for long range photographs however you can make out the deer. Being all alone in the wilderness for six days hadn't made me crazy after all.

On the last night of the session I managed a take on my rod in the large area of water opposite the castle bank. The fish was of a different calibre to the others and I'm sure it was a 3lb+ monster but the inevitable happened and after playing it carefully for a minute all went slack. The reality of what happened turned into a story of the one that got away and I was gutted. I packed up my kit in the morning and headed back home the 500 miles to Kent.

I just want to say a big thank you to Kev for all his help and will hopefully be back up soon. Cheers mate tight lines.

6 May 2016

RIP Jan Porter

06-05-16 It was extremely sad to hear the news that angling legend Jan Porter has passed away. I was lucky to meet the great man on an Oxfordshire Gravel pit and can honestly say he was a genuinely lovely guy with an unrivalled passion for angling. We had some great conversations about all kinds of fishing related topics and clicked immediately. Thoughts are with his family during this difficult time. RIP