It’s said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going but sometimes an angler is better off taking the soft option. Don’t go on the attack. Sit back and offer a little sweetener instead.
Although we expect winter fishing to be tough it can be just as difficult to catch fish in high summer. Bright sunshine, soaring water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels can cause carp in particular to lose all interest in feeding and our catches slump.
It was obvious when I turned up at Tyram Fisheries, near Doncaster, that the members’ carp lake was not fishing well. Only one other angler was on the lake and he’d reeled in and disappeared off somewhere, probably to escape the scorching heat. Normally I would have expected it to be a lot busier. Leaving my gear locked in the van I donned a pair of polarising glasses and took a walk round the lake to see if I could spot a few carp in the crystal clear water.
The first thing that struck me was how the weed had grown in response to the sunshine. Vast areas of the lake looked more like a lawn, covered by a dense green carpet of plants. In fact anywhere less than 6 feet deep appeared to be solid weed that extended from the lake bed all the way to the surface. That’s not good for fishing.
Trouble was I couldn’t find a single fish in open water. Had I not known any better I might have thought there were no carp in the lake but careful observation eventually revealed they were still there, hidden in the weeds.
It was simply a case of being patient and studying the weed. That’s where the fish were hiding, or should I say sulking, and sure enough, providing I sat in a swim for long enough and concentrated, the surface would ‘hump’ to reveal a fish lying just underneath the surface layer of weed. Carp are like kids really. They can only sit still for so long before they start twitching.
Every now and then I would spot a pair of lips breaking the surface to suck in some fly or insect. It’s a far cry from when they are wolfing down floaters and dog biscuits, or munching boilies. They were simply sipping in a morsel of natural food every now and then more out of habit than desire. Occasionally a dorsal fin might break surface but it was clear I needed to do something a little out of the ordinary if I was going to catch one of these carp.
Now there’s no way I was going to be able to replicate the natural food items they were eating and it was clear that conventional baits were not working or there would have been several more anglers on the lake. The only way I was going to catch something was to offer something unusual. It was a case of presenting a temptation that was sufficient to override natural caution and downright disinterest.
It’s not the first time I’ve faced this problem and I had the perfect solution in my bag – marshmallows!
It might sound crazy but there’s an absolute logic to it. First of all there’s texture. A marshmallow is about as soft a bait as you can get that doesn’t disintegrate. It is bright coloured, usually pink or white, and above all else it is sweet. They are also addictive because you can eat them one after another without ever feeling full. In fact you’ll be ill before you’re full!
A carp’s sense of smell is far superior to our own, be in absolutely no doubt of that, so they will very quickly pick up on the scent of a marshmallow. Despite being soft you can side-hook a marshmallow and it will cast a good distance without falling off, plus it lands gently on the surface. Finally, there’s very little likelihood that anyone else has fished with marshmallows so the carp have no reason to be cautious of them.
All of these facts work in your favour. That and the obvious statement that the only way a carp can test a marshmallow is to mouth it and once it does that you’re half way to putting one on the bank.
I sat there watching the water for ages. Working out where the fish might be, which fish were most active and which might be tempted. There’s no point in rushing, all you will do is scare them. The fish are going nowhere. You have all the time in the world.
Eventually I found what I was looking for. A fish on the edge of a clear patch that was less than a metre long and half as wide. This would allow me to cast beyond the clearing on top of the dense weeds and gentle draw my bait back into it.
The beauty of marshmallows is you can bury the entire hook whilst remaining completely confident that it will come free on the strike. It means you needn’t worry about getting snagged up on strands of weed as you gently draw your hook bait into position.
I cast out and then slowly inched mine back to the nearside of the clearing so it was resting against the weeds. That way my line was completely hidden from view. The beauty of a marshmallow is it sits proud on the surface and is as visible as any bait you might care to mention. It sat there like a lighthouse.
The fish I was after was maybe a couple of feet away and I could tell from the twitching and humping that it was already aware of the bait. I guess it had picked up the scent and a few minutes later I could make out that it was turning towards my trap. By now my heart was racing and sure enough a pair of lips broke the surface, slurped and my hook bait disappeared.
From there my instincts took over. I struck, jumped up and lifted the rod as high as I could get it. The fish had to be held on the tightest of lines and bullied hard so the fight took place on the surface. If this carp managed to get its head in the weed then I’d have probably lost it, but a brutal no-prisoners fight quickly had my prize in the net. Phew!
When I’d set out from home I knew I would only have 2 hours available to fish at possibly the worst time of day, yet my target had still been to catch a 20lb carp. It would be an understatement to say I was pleased. I was ecstatic and I’d achieved my goal with at least 5lbs to spare and just for good measure I was heading home early. Summer fishing is sometimes about defying the odds but one thing’s for sure, it doesn’t get much more exciting than short trips like this one.
Fishery Of The Week – Shatterford Lakes, Near Kidderminster
Originally established in 1972 and set in an idyllic location in the heart of Worcestershire’s finest countryside, Shatterford Lakes lies in a valley on the Bridgnorth Road (A442) only 10 minutes from Kidderminster and Stourbridge. With two specialist lakes and three general fisheries there’s plenty to offer the beginner and enthusiast alike. Anglers with disabilities are also well catered for. The fishery is open throughout the year closing only on Christmas Day.
Fish stocks include catfish to 70lb and carp over 40lb in the specimen fisheries as well as the usual coarse fish species in the others. Rod numbers are strictly limited to avoid over-crowding and pre-booking is advisable on both Erics and Masters lakes to avoid disappointment. Overnight and longer stays are possible by prior booking. Gates open at 8am on weekdays and around 7.30am weekends. The fishery closes at during the summer months, earlier in winter.
At Shatterford you will find hot & cold snack facilities, picnic tables, toilets and a shower plus a well-stocked tackle shop.
Telephone: 01299 861597 E mail: email@example.com
Web site: www.shatterford.com