Here’s another tranche of articles that I published last year in the Sunday Sport newspaper. These bring me up to the beginning of the 2013/14 season, so, from here on I’ll be publishing just one ‘new’ article each week. Of course they will be as near as damn it exactly one year old and so should be relevant to the time of year. If you want to know what I’m saying right now (in 2014) then you’ll need to buy the paper.
Just like last time the format is simple enough. An image of the published page followed by the actual submitted copy in dark blue text. Enjoy…
May 17th, 2013 GRASS ROOTS LESSONS
Way back in 1997 the man who encouraged me to write my very first magazine article, Colin Dyson, asked me to take over his weekly angling page in the local sports newspaper, ‘Until I’m feeling a little better.’ He said. It was typical of Colin that he didn’t reveal his illness was terminal and flattering that he saw me as a safe pair of hands.
Sixteen years later I am still writing that column and central to it is a competition that was already going strong when England last won the World Cup. It is called the Green Un Club Match Angler Championship.
The purpose of the competition is to encourage and support grass roots angling, local fishing clubs, tackle shops and fisheries. It’s open to any fishing club within a radius of approximately 25 miles of Sheffield and the rules are simple. The winner of any club match reported in the paper is invited to fish a semi final. Twenty section winners from the semis get to fish a final where the top five receive Daiwa sponsored prizes worth £3,000.
Back in 1997 it’s fair to say that match fishing was on its backside. Gone were the days of big open matches on rivers. Indeed my first Championship only raised 40 qualifiers but we battled on, determined to make it a success. Gradually the competition grew. Year on year the numbers increased and now I get well over 250 qualifiers each year.
It’s a fantastic competition that pits the best club anglers against each other. Every angler who fishes is already a proven winner. The cream of the semi finalists who must win their section then go head-to-head to determine who is the best club match angler in the heartland of fishing. To be crowned Club Match Angler Champion is a great accolade.
Last weekend I ran two sell-out semi finals at Hayfield Lakes near Doncaster with around £2,500 in prize money at stake. I doubt you’ll ever see a more keenly contested event at this level and those taking part proved beyond any doubt that the quality of angler fishing at club level is underestimated at your peril.
The two matches produced a staggering 47 catches over 60lbs. Twenty contestants topped 90lb and 13 smashed the ‘ton’. Top rod was Pete Gosney with a cracking 127lb 4oz. That’s great fishing by any standards.
I was on hand to photograph every contestant and observe carefully how they were fishing. Even though I can look back on 50 years of angling experience I still find watching top match anglers a great way to learn new tricks and it’s something you should consider doing. Tell me, in what other sport can you go along and sit next to a world champion and pick his brains?
With rising temperatures forecast most anglers appreciated that carp would be cruising in the upper layers as the day wore on and set up a pellet waggler rod. At this time of year you can catch a lot of carp by presenting an 8mm hard pellet between one and 3 feet deep beneath a waggler and regularly pinging out 3 or 4 pellets. Carp soon respond to the regular plops as the pellets hit the surface and if yours is among them you’ll get bites.
Others fished in a similar way on the pole with really shallow rigs. It’s odd you know. I grew up reading the likes of Richard Walker. They advised anglers to wear drab clothing, keep off the skyline and make as little noise as possible. The most successful pole anglers I watched were all deliberately making lots of noise! They were twirling their rigs around on the end of their poles and slapping the hookbait on the surface – slap, slap, slap – then they’d place the rig and allow the bait to fall through the water. What this replicates is three pellets being fired out with a catapult but the only bait on offer is the one with a hook in it. Simple but effective.
Others were deliberately tapping their pole tips rapidly on the surface and cause one hell of a commotion, again to stimulate the carp and boy, was it working! You could see cruising carp in the surface layers homing in on the disturbance.
However one angler stood out to me over the two days because he adopted a different approach to most and it won him the first semi final. Mel Barker drew a peg where the wind was blowing into his face and as we know carp do like to follow a warm wind. He gambled they would come right into the margins so he fed tiny cubes of luncheon meat in groundbait at the bottom of the near shelf. His masterstroke was to come armed with some specially prepared hookbaits – cubes of meat died bright red so they would stand out from the loose feed. It’s a simple trick, you put the cubes in a polythene bag, add a spoonful of food die, blow a little air into the bag, seal the top and then give it a good shake until all the cubes are coated. It’s best done the night before a match.
Mel had a good 50lbs of carp to 10lbs in the first two hours at which point he pulled his masterstroke by switching to pellet waggler and resting the margin line. He gradually added to his catch on pellet waggler whilst still feeding the margin. He was then able to drop back onto the now confident fish on his short line and plunder them in the final hour. The result was he weighed 113lb 8oz to win the match ahead of five other anglers who topped 100lbs.
For pleasure anglers Hayfield Lakes is well worth a visit at this time of year (tel: 07816832551 web site: www.hayfieldlakes.co.uk) but be warned the carp are running a lot bigger than those you encounter on a lot of commercial fisheries. Fish to 15lbs were landed in the match and it recently threw up a 23-pounder so make sure your tackle is up to the job.
We’re heading to one of the most popular spots in East Anglia this week. Barford Lakes lies on the outskirts of Norwich where you’ll find eight well stocked lakes holding carp, tench, bream, chub, crucian carp, golden tench and orfe, roach, rudd and perch. Match weights frequently top 200lbs. The fishery offers the usual car parking, toilets and a tackle shop.
You can contact the fishery by phone: 01603 759624, visit the web site: www.barfordlakes.co.uk and the magic postcode for Satnav users is NR9 4BJ
May 24th, 2013: HUNGARY FOR CARP? I’D STILL HEAD FOR FRANCE
As the editor of Advance Carp Fishing magazine I regularly became embroiled in debates with my publisher over running articles about foreign fishing. ‘Bob,’ He’d say, ‘No-one’s bothered about French carp!’
He was wrong then and he’d definitely be wrong today. Catching carp in France is big business and thousands of UK anglers cross the Channel each year to indulge in a spot of holiday fishing. Google ‘French carping holidays’ and you’ll get over 100,000 results in the blink of an eye.
France is where fishy dreams can come true because those Gallic carp just keep getting bigger and it’s so easy to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. Ferries shuttle back and forth from Dover and Folkestone round the clock. For the uninitiated, driving on French roads is a dream, especially on the near-empty toll roads where you crunch the Kilometers at a remarkable rate.
Choose your destination carefully. Don’t just pick a place because it has produced monsters in the past. Think seriously about what you want from a foreign holiday. Do you want a runs water where you’ll catch plenty or do you want to sit it out hoping just to catch one big fish during your stay. Beware, too, that some venues are geared towards younger anglers who like to drink and party. Others are remote and peaceful – the drive and survive trips where you hire a whole lake and live by the water, cooking for yourself and barely seeing another soul.
Check out the Internet angling forums before you decide on a venue, do some research and choose a reputable company but be realistic about your aspirations. If your PB back home is only 15lbs don’t go thinking you will catch a fifty just because they’re out there. There’s no substitute for skill and experience.
At some venues you only need turn up with your rods and bait. The owners provide all the bulky items like bivvies and bed chairs. The majority cook for you as well. Some even organise transport from England. You turn up at a pre-arranged pick-up point and board a coach while your gear is transported by van. It’s the perfect compromise for a novice.
Although sport can never be guaranteed French holiday lakes tend to be heavily stocked with big fish by UK standards. Carp weighing thirty, 40 or even 50lbs are not uncommon although don’t fall into the trap that you just have to turn up and they’ll throw themselves onto your unhooking mat. The best anglers still catch the most fish and usually the biggest ones, too.
But if size truly matters you might want to consider heading for Hungary where a mirror carp topping 101 pounds was banked last year at Euro-Aqua on the shores of Lake Balaton by Austrian carp angler Roman Hanke on a birdseed boilie. The fish came as a big shock to many experts who were expecting France to produce the World’s first hundred-pounder. It had, after all, thrown up at least two fish topping 90lbs in recent times.
France wasn’t to be denied for long though and just 4 weeks ago English angler Colin Smith, fishing at Etang La Saussaie in the Champagne region of France, caught himself a world record common carp weighing 100lbs 8oz. As is the way in this age of instant communication, Colin’s fish had gone global on Facebook before the day was out.
Late spring is the perfect time to plan a French adventure, the summers can be oppressively hot if you’re living under canvas and the fish are likely to switch off as dissolved oxygen levels fall. Autumn’s definitely a good time, too.
As for top tips, the number one thing you need to remember is that you will not find a fishing tackle shop on every corner. Make a check list of every item you might require before you start packing. It’s the terminal items that matter most, hooks, beads, swivels, link materials and leads. But don’t over-complicate matters. Keep your rigs simple. And make sure you take a spare bulk spool of line, just in case.
Most anglers like to fish with boilies. Bulk bags of shelf life boiles are ideal but if you are keen to use frozen or home-made ones instead you’ll need to air dry them in mesh bags at least 2 weeks before the trip. Hemp is a good attractor but you’ll have all the hassle of cooking it on the bank so why not take a sack of fishmeal pellets instead? Whatever you do, when you get there, make sure your bait is stored in a safe place. Rats, squirrels and even wild boar will soon make mincemeat of your expensive menu if you’re not careful.
And finally, make sure you take care of yourself. These are great adventures but you can easily get dehydrated and you’ll be at risk of sunstroke when you’re living by the waterside 24-hours a day. Watch your alcohol intake, too. A French trip is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy it, catch some fish and come home safe having caught the fish of your dreams.
Sticking with the carp theme, Linear Fisheries on the outskirts of Oxford is arguably the UK’s top day ticket carp complex. Owned by an old friend of mine, Len Gurd, I had the good fortune to catch what was then the biggest carp in the lake, a fish affectionately known as Popeye, whilst on a tench fishing trip with Matt Hayes almost 20 years ago. This was long before Matt became a TV star! There are 8 different lakes available to the visitor and the man you need to speak with for fishery information and the latest news is head bailiff Roy Parsons on 07885 327708. More details can be found on the web site: www.linear-fisheries.co.uk
My Life In Angling
I recently recorded an interview for the Angling Times’ ‘My Life In Angling’ series. You can watch it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCXpW_q0xfI
May 31st, 2013: TRADITION WITH A TWIST
With ‘flaming’ June almost upon us I’ve been keen to squeeze in a few last gasp tench fishing sessions before the river season opens in a fortnight but this has been as dour a year for the species as I can recall. In any normal year I might well have caught my fill by now but grey skies and chilly water temperatures have kept my tench exploits on the back burner. After all, tench are traditionally the boys of early summer, synonymous with warm mornings, whisps of mist rising from the water and the threat of another baking hot day ahead.
I guess we can all dream.
Still, it has to be done and I travelled down to the midlands last week to fish one of my favourite tench lakes more in hope than expectation. God job, too, because a chilly north wind kept my chances down to a premium. Still, by scaling down to lighter lines and smaller hooks I was able to tempt a bite or two.
For modern anglers it’s all about swimfeeders, bolt rigs and bite alarms. Yes they’re as clinically effective as a German footballer in a penalty shoot-out but, if like me, you prefer the beautiful game then it’s a float or nowt!
Don’t get me wrong, I do use legering techniques for tench but when it comes to sheer pleasure and hands-on involvement there’s nothing to beat watching a float. Traditionally tench anglers have used what is widely known as the lift method. Indeed it’s an effective way to catch tench and very simple to use. A short piece of peacock quill is attached bottom end only and set around a foot over depth using a sleeve of silicone rubber. A slightly bigger shot than the float can carry is fixed just 3 inches (7.5cm) from the hook. When cast out the shot sits on the bottom and the float lays flat but by tightening the line you can make it sit upright. When a fish takes your bait the float will either lay flat or sink completely. It really is as simple as that.
The term ‘lift float’ comes about because of how tench feed. They tip up vertically, heads down and tails wafting as they filter food from the silt. As they right themselves with your hookbait in their mouths the single shot is lifted and the float keels over. It’s dramatic and highly effective providing there’s little wind and you can fish at close range.
Of course, with a chilly north wind blowing straight down the lake I stood no chance of keeping with tradition and this is where the modern twist comes into play and thanks to an ingenious float called the Drennan Driftbeater I could still use the lift method. The Driftbeater is not a new idea. The actual design has been around for decades and I used to make my own versions of them when I was still at school but the ones you can purchase in almost any decent tackle shop today are far superior.
Made with modern materials the Driftbeater features a very fine, flexible stem with a sight bob at the tip. This serves two purposes. One, it’s easy to see, but more importantly it will resist any drift caused by wind and wave action. The body of the float gives it ample weight carrying capacity which is bulked around two to 3 feet above the hook with a single AA shot 3 inches from the hook. I tend to have the float sliding free on my line with a silicone float stop fixing the depth, as before about a foot over the actual depth.
Because the antennae on the float is so fine a feeding tench only has to mouth your bait for the float to rise dramatically Excalibur-like from the surface leading to heart-stopping moments. Seriously, it’s far more exciting than waiting for a bite alarm to sound and because the float is free-sliding on your line, when you strike you’re in instant contact with the fish.
It’s A Dogs Life
My tench trip was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with an old mate, Mistral Baits owner Allan Parbery. Allan is currently in the process of relocating to Shropshire and has just got himself a dog, a tall Jack Russell that’s both fearless and as mad as a bag of frogs. Can you believe that while I was playing a spirited tench to the net ‘Jack’ suddenly launched himself into the lake and did everything he could to retrieve my hooked fish? The tench actually dwarfed Jack but to see him frantically trying to catch it was hilarious.
Like most puppies Jack loves chasing sticks and will run after them for as long as you’re prepared to throw them. Unfortunately, to a dog there’s not a great deal of difference between a stick and a float and eventually I had to see the funny side of Jack launching himself into my swim each time I recast even though it did little to increase my chances of catching anything!
Monk Lakes Complex at Staplehurst in Kent claims to be the fourth best fishery in the country and has rave reviews in the angling press. You can choose between four match lakes and three more aimed at the specialist and pleasure angler. Mallard offers carp to 40lbs plus big catfish. Puma and Bridges Lakes are more generalised. The catering is good according to my local contact Bill Rushmer who tells me the breakfasts excel. The fishery hotline is 01622 833332 and there’s a Web site: www.monklakes.co.uk
More info on Driftbeater Floats:
June 7th, 2013: DON’T OVERLOOK CANALS
Next Sunday is arguably the biggest day in the angling calendar. The ‘glorious sixteenth’ of June is when thousands of anglers head for the nearest river. Traditionally June 16th was the opening day of the coarse fishing season on all waters although the removal of the closed season on stillwaters diminished the grand sense of occasion. Even so, most river fanatics will be straining at the leash this week as they make final preparations for their first onslaught since last March.
We endured such miserable weather last winter many will not have wet a line in running water since the autumn so they’ll be keener than ever this time around but I hate to say many will be disappointed because the prolonged cold spring has put spawning way behind schedule. You only have to listen to gardeners and farmers, everything in nature is late this year and those normally super-reliable early season swims may be anything but.
Meanwhile we still have seven days to go so I’ll be dropping in on one of my local canals this week hoping for some bumper sport. Canals get a bum deal. Ninety per cent of anglers have probably never fished one because they have a picture in their minds of grim industrial backdrops, poor water quality and stunted fish. They imagine it’s like stepping through a time warp into the 1950’s and not worthy of their time. How wrong could they be?
Okay, during the peak summer months the jolly boaters in their gaily coloured barges might drive you crazy and the would-be Bradley Wiggins’s of this world seem to think the towpath is a racetrack for bicycles and anyone who fishes there deserves to have his pole sections smashed but don’t let this picture put you off completely. Things are much quieter in late spring and since the UK manufacturing industry went to the dogs our canals have become a haven for quality fish. The days when canal anglers wore flat caps and scratched around for a few dozen tiny gudgeon are long gone. Today you are more likely to encounter a specimen carp, a shoal of bream or some big chub. The roach fishing can be excellent all year round, too, and the perch potential mouth watering yet for some reason the banks remain largely deserted.
Living in South Yorkshire I’m surrounded by a network of big canals. These are often 20 metres or more wide and up to 3 metres deep. Providing you know where to head for the fishing is nothing short of sensational and this kind of knowledge is dead easy to come by.
If I’m going to fish the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, for instance, I’ll drop into the Stainforth Angling Centre to buy my bait, perhaps purchase a new float or a packet of hooks. That’s rule one. Cross the tackle dealer’s palm with silver, he’ll then prove far more accommodating when you ask for information.
Tell him what you’re hoping to catch and the chances are he’ll direct you to the current ‘hot’ pegs. Anglers love nothing better than to boast about what they’ve caught and after a good catch you can bet his regulars are in the shop spilling the beans on what they’ve caught, where from and how. The smart tackle dealer encourages this and when you turn up to purchase a few bits and bobs it only takes a nonchalant question to tap you straight into the grapevine. ‘Bream you want? Fred Bloggs had 50lb of them from The Willows on Tuesday. Fished the pole at 11 metres and fished a worm over some casters and groundbait. I’d try Peg 57 if I were you!’
It’s the kind of information that will make all the difference between a mediocre day and a brilliant one.
The ‘Steak and Kidney’ can be a bream anglers’ heaven but it is so important to know exactly where the fish are at a given time. Bream are nomadic by nature at the best of times, pushed along by wind direction, temperature, locks opening and closing, boats, angling pressure, you name it so location is everything. You can easily end up catching nothing while sitting 50 metres away from a bonanza and not realise it.
At this time of year the shoaling mentality is even more prevalent as they gather to spawn. You could easily find every bream in a 2 mile stretch of canal shoaled up in the space of four or five pegs.
It’s the same with chub and carp, although to a lesser extent, roach.
Once location is determined the most important thing to do is not frighten the fish away. You don’t have to go feeding kilos of groundbait. The fish are already in front of you. There’s no need to attract or hold them. What you have to do is tempt them. As is often the case, show caution in your approach, feed little and often until you get some action and only then should you consider stepping up the feed. Mostly it’s unnecessary. Just take your time and enjoy yourself. I do!
When targeting canal bream I wouldn’t leave home without some pellets for both feed and hookbaits. The beauty of canals as opposed to the rigid regime of commercial fisheries is you can choose your own pellets and purchase them at sensible prices. In summer, on a canal, I’d opt for a high oil or marine pellet. They are far more attractive to fish than the bland coarse and carp pellets. I’m happy to feed them hard as opposed to softening them but I will make my own life easy by using pre-prepared hookers like these in the Soffit range.
Fishery Of The Week
Rather than pick out an individual fishery this week I’m going to highlight a fishing club which offers 10 different stillwaters and 17 stretches of rivers, canals and drains for an absolute bargain price of £35 a year (£25 concessions) and best of all it has an open membership policy. The club is Scunthorpe Pisces and the river fisheries include stretches of the upper Witham, tidal and non-tidal Trent and Idle. It doesn’t take a genius to work out there are some prime barbel waters in there, not to mention some decent carp fishing on the lakes. The fisheries are spread across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Humberside and access to any one of them would be justification alone for the price of a yearbook. The club has a web site: www.scunthorpepoliceangling.com or you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org