All posts by Gav Astley

I have a passion for all things angling, having a particular fascination with bait. This blog is intended to give an insight into Beechwood Baits and what its all about. Along with the journey through the bait world, there will be frequent diversions into the broader field of life itself. I hope I dont get too deep for you!

A Trip to Le Queroy, with Ant Tolley

Well after 18 months of planning and watching endless YouTube videos, our lad’s trip to France had finally arrived.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert when it comes to fishing in France having only ventured over the channel once before, but I think I’ve learned enough from the boys at Beechwood to hopefully catch that fish of a life time. The venue chosen was Le Queroy in south-west France, some 7 hours from Calais and home to some very big carp, the smallest being 28lb and going to 69lb with an average weight of 45lb; I think it was fair to say whatever we hooked was going to be big!

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It was soon Friday afternoon and with the minibus loaded we made the trip down to the channel tunnel, negotiating the m25 with some relative ease we hit Folkestone 6 hours early.  Now I like to be early but this was silly even for me, so after several coffees and reading the latest edition of Carp Talk front to back god knows how many times it was our time to board the train, 25 minutes later we had arrived in France and made the long journey down to the lake.  After several wrong turns and a few pit stops we rocked up at Le Queroy around lunch time very tired, and were met by Dan the owner.  He told us the lake had been fishing hard the week before with only 1 fish coming out, so straight away I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

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Itching to see the lake we made the short walk from the cottage down the path towards the lake making our way through the trees to be greeted by the most carpy looking lake I’ve ever seen, over hanging trees on every bank 2 bays made for stalking, it had everything.  Now the draw had been made in advance over a few pints and guess what, yes I had come out last, so I was walking round keeping my cards very close to my chest so not to give the other lads any ideas.  After much deliberating the swims were chosen and off we went in search of the prize.

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I set up on the far bank next to one of the bays to my left and open water in front of me, the rods were baited with single Trigonella and plastic corn toppers and sent out about 40 yards.  After a few hours of no activity I decided to have a lead around and find something for the night and introduce some bait.  The night passed without even a beep all round the lake but I had heard in the bay to my left what could only be described as a pig falling of a boat not once but on several occasions.  Once breakfast and a catch up with the lads had finished I had decided to move and get a better look at the bay to my left.

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The move was made and almost instantly it felt right, I was looking down the lake from the point in the middle of the lake and the bay was on my right with plenty of places to put a rod.  Not much happened for the next few days apart from several big fish showing me their stomach in the bay over the bits of bait I kept trickling in, trying to give the fish a bit of confidence in feeding without being fished for.  On the Tuesday after days of unforgivable heat we had a mighty thunder-storm, this perked us all up hoping it would cool the lake and the fish would get their heads down.  Wednesday morning brought the first fish of the trip in the form of a very nice 34lb grass carp for one of the lads, and this bit of action had me itching to get a rod on the baited areas in the bay.  I was soon tying up a new rig baiting up with Trig and casting it towards an overhanging tree on the far side of the bay where big fish had been showing.  20170628_144704.jpg

2 hours had passed and with no sign of fish I was becoming frustrated and worried I had spooked any fish in the bay, then a few beeps followed by a twitch of the bobbin grabbed my attention and just like that the bobbin hit the rod and I was in.  A battle followed which felt like hours but I was assured only lasted 20 minutes, and a carp was sitting in my landing net.  “That’s a good 30” one of the lads said looking into the net which I was more than happy with, it was a fish and that’s all that mattered.  Placed into a sling I tried to lift my catch and soon realized it was no 30, and placed on the matt I drew back the net to gasps at the size of the mirror, it was obvious I had caught a beast of a fish.

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My capture was placed in the weigh sling and with a little help from my friends hoisted up to reveal I had captured my first 50, 51lb 2oz to be precise and just like that my legs turned to jelly and were shaking like a sh***ing dog.  The usual photos were taken; the bucket of water on the head and of course the all important water shots.  But it wasn’t till I sat down and looked through my pics and videos that the size of the fish I had just caught hit me.

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A few cat-fish that week followed and all the lads caught a carp so everyone was happy but no one was happier than me, a 50 and the biggest fish of the week, all down to a bit of patience and the mighty Trigonella!

Tight lines, Ant.

 

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A Week at Westwood, By Stewart Rusling

Well the day had arrived the one that we had all been eagerly awaiting are week-long road trip to Westwood lakes ,we were like a bunch of kids at Christmas .Myself and fellow Beechwood baits team member Brian Coakley ,decided to set of around 7-00 am we were meeting fellow Sunday crew angler Ian Adams at hawks head  services ,stopped for a coffee and a chat then back on the road .we arrived at Westwood lakes around 10-30 had a walk around ,Brian went to sort the lodge out and was told we could not get in till 3pm .The temperature had now risen to around 30 degrees, we agreed to do a spot of speed fishing on osprey lake, fishing was fast and furious.

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After fishing none stop for a couple of hours in red-hot weather, Ian Adams reappeared.  With bottles of Kopparberg and magnum ice creams; what a man! Time for an afternoon siesta.

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Myself and Brian even did some extreme margin fishing, Ian kept catching fish steady, apologies for some of the selfies.

It was just a half a day on the pole, it was just two rigs for me, a short slapping rig and a deck rig, bait was 6/8mm pellets glugged in Beechwood baits Trigonella feed was matching Trigonella micros and 3mm pellets.

DAY TWO ON KESTREL LAKE

Me, Brian and Ian where up at 4-00 looking forward to fishing Kestrel, we picked are pegs for the day, my peg was looking along the large island, my four set ups for the day was pellet wag, tip rod, deck rig and margin swim on the pole.

Brian had opted for pretty much the same set up, so are day began, my peg was screaming out for the pellet wag, bait was FEED+X soaked in monster crab, after second cast fish on, Brian was also into fish in his peg, we both kept feeding are margin swim little and often .Ian decided on the peg with the aerator going full blast as the temp was already 29 degrees Brian had a carp to 15lb, tench to 5lb and bream to 4lb I had carp into double figures the average barbel was 3to 4lb  tench, ide, roach, we finished the day with nets over 140lb .Ian’s best fish was a 7lb barbel.

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DAY THREE HAWK LAKE

This is the quirky lake where you walk onto the island and fish out, another early start for me and Brian 4-30, this is for a few reasons; one we get to choose or pegs and the heat through the day plus we couldn’t get enough!  We had left Ian in bed snoring.

My set up and bait for the day was feeder rod, pole for the margin and 13m pole to the far side, bait margin sweet corn over micros glugged in Trigonella, on the feeder Musselberry 10mm bandums, as in the other lakes the aerator is left on for the welfare of the fish. It soon became obvious the margins where the place to fish. We were joined around 10-30 by Ian after his snooze, at the end of the day we all would have had nets over the 100lb once again. Brian got his margin swims fishing well, left hand side seemed to produce barbel and silvers while his right hand produced carp.  After a hard days fishing we left Ian to carry on he was hitting a rich vein of form.

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DAY FOUR SKYLARK LAKE

This was the lake directly outside are lodge not a long walk, I set up left side of the bridge Brian on the right, and Ian was further down my left hand side.  I started off by doing a bit of gardening on my island margin swim, what started off as a nice day.

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Later it turned into a monsoon with thunder and lighting, we all decide to have a break as no fish is worth risking your life for.  This turned out to be one Brian’s best day’s with a huge amount of fish caught fishing a paste he has been developing with the boss Gav down the edge, myself and Ian both did well fished mostly 8mm pellet glugged in Trigonella.

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DAY FIVE THE RETURN TO KESTREL LAKE

It was are first time to all fish together, Brian, me and Dave fished one side and Ian, Michael and Callum was smashing the ide on the opposite side, all in ear shot of each other just so the banter can start.

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I started on the pellet wag as did Callum, bait was the new Beechwood baits FEED+SSP we have been testing and proved what it is designed for, feeder rod micros and 10mm bandums all glugged in Trigonella to match, probably one of the best methods of the day was slapping with 8mm pellets glugged which accounted for multiple hook up for me Brian and Dave all at once, I even managed to catch two barbel.

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With the aerators on it was like fishing a small river, so I decided to put a deck rig on bulked the shot down the line, fished at 8 meters and trotted the float through which caught me plenty of barbel, it had to be one of my best days with an estimated weight of 140lb+, Michael and Ian where having a great day too.  As always fish care is up most in our minds especially in this heat, even when Brian is in the middle of the action he still has time to help a fellow angler!

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DAY SIX KINGFISHER LAKE

Brian and I had a bit of a lie in 9-00 start, the other lads went to fish Falcon.  Kingfisher Lake is the original lake on the complex, with some cracking stock of fish which include barbel 10lb+, carp 20lb+, tench 5lb+ bream 6lb+ roach 2lb and some big ghost carp.  Methods for the day was feeder again my trusted micros and 10mm Trigonella bandums, shalla slapping with 8mm pellet and the constantly fed margin swims.  That would be our target for the afternoon!

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Last day for us all this would be a day of two halves, first we tried swallow lake, this is supposed to hold some of the larger stock, we did think about this being a rod day, but we had a chat the night before to a regular who told us not to forget the margins.

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Tactics for the day was pellet wag, method rod and the pole set up for the margin. I started catching from the of on the method 10mm Musselberry doing the business, the rest of the lads where all catching, Michael was catching plenty in his swim the aerator giving plenty of movement in his swim, Dave had a nice tench around the 4lb mark.

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Brian and Callum where catching steady. I had noticed my margin swim getting stirred up, so I set up the margin rig, fishing in about 18inch of water bait was 10mm Trigonella wafters, after putting a bed of mixed pellets, I ended up catching some nice carp.

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After around 11-30 we decided on a move back to Kingfisher, Michael wanted to stay on Swallow as he was catching, when we arrived at Kingfisher it looked quite busy, but luckily for us a group of anglers where just leaving.  We all jumped on a peg, and was soon all fishing again, there were some awesome fish coming out, lovely barbel.  I left the lads to fishing as I headed back to the lodge early to make our dinner, the lads stayed on till late as they were smashing it!!

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Beechwood baits smashed Westwood lakes, till we’re on the bank again, Stewart!

 

Pellet Waggler, a First Go…….

Some of the guys on Team Beechwood are dab hands with the popular technique of pellet waggler fishing, and none more so than Barry Smith.  So when I decided to take on one of the ‘Team Twister Challenges’, namely the ‘Pellet Waggler Novice’ challenge, I asked Barry if he’d kindly show me the ropes.  Being the guy he is, he agreed without hesitation to help me out, even offering to let me use his pellet waggler setup.  In fact, the only tackle of my own I used was a disgorger, old spoon landing net, and my very old but very trusty Shakespeare seat box!  Its years since I last parked my behind on this big green lump of plastic, but as soon as I did all those magical memories from childhood came flooding back.

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Old faithful, big green Shakespear seat box, rammed full of memories!

This box has done some miles I can tell you, and most of them were done strapped across my back whilst I pedaled furiously, traveling by bike to the next fishing adventure.  Despite the years apart, it didn’t feel at all unusual to be sat on top of it again, wonderful thing it is!

The venue for the session, a few hours on a wet afternoon in early June, was Rosemary Wood.  A venue stuffed full of fish, lots of them carp, and lots of them really good-looking carp too; if you’ve seen Barry’s fully scaled mirror from earlier this year you know what I mean, if you havent seen it, you have now:

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Stunning fish taken by Barry on Pellet Waggler tactics with FEED+SSP hook bait.
So venue sorted, setup in order and a coach to guide me, I was full of anticipation to see how I’d get on.  Handling the waggler rod, lighter match reel and line, wasn’t a concern, fishing with this type of tackle was how it all started for me way back at the beginning of my angling life.  What I knew I would have to work hard at mastering, was the feeding style, and reading, or more importantly interpreting what the fish activity was telling me.  A new type of water craft to learn if you will, and I paid very close attention to Barry’s every word from the off.

Barry had rigged me up an 8g float to get me started.  We werent fishing miles out, but there were a few anglers on the lake so pressure was there, so a moderate distance was where I’d start.  The weight of the float was more to do with enabling me to control it more easily, rather than for pinging it out at range.  Main line was 8lb Guru Pulse down to 7lb Guru Drag, to a 14QM1 hook with a band hair rigged on.  Bait couldn’t be simpler, 12mm Trigonella Pellets, further enhanced by being soaked in Trigonella Glug, and FEED+SSP for hook baits.

The 12mm soaked pellets are ideal for firing out with the catapult, achieving the desired range, accuracy and importantly creating a good noise when they hit the water.  Being Trigonella, and further glugged in Trigonella, they’re highly attractive too.  The glugging not only boosts attraction, but also makes the pellets heavier, so they can be fired out further, more accurately and again they make more noise, that all important ‘plop’, a key element in this method.

The FEED+SSP hook baits are something Barry and I have been developing for some time now, and they are specifically designed to be used as hook baits when fishing pellet waggler.  Indeed, the ‘SSP’ stands for, ‘Slow Sinking Pellet’.  They’re based on the FEED+X HNV bait, with some added attractors, an adjusted density so they sink at the desired rate, and capped off with the excellent Shellfish Sense Appeal label.  They are absolutely bang on for fishing Pellet Waggler, and Barry’s input in its design has been highly valuable.  From the start he knew exactly what the bait needed to do, and through various incarnations the finished product is exactly what we wanted it to be.

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FEED+SSP is absolutely perfect for fishing pellet waggler
With the float set at about 2 foot deep, with a gap of about 4″ between the float stops, to create a bolt effect on the take, I cast out.  I loaded the catapult with three pellets, and fired them at the float.  As soon as the pellets landed in the water I was already loading the next three in the catapult.  This method I was to learn is all about how you control the flow of the feed falling through the water.  ‘dumping in’ a big pouch full of pellets isn’t the one, it’ll draw the fish down in the water, too few or too infrequently and the fish will drift off and you wont generate the competitive feeding response you need.  Another three pellets are pinged out at the float.  I reel in, fire out some more pellets and re-cast.

This pattern I endeavour to keep going for the next 20-30 minutes, at which point I start to notice the odd swirl as the pellets hit the water.  Brilliant, I’ve got them in the swim and competing for the pellets!  Still with the constant flow of pellets and casting, three pellets, three times and re-cast was my chosen pattern.  Just as I’m getting into a nice rhythm the rods almost ripped from my hands and my first fish is on, and then off again….

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I suffered a couple of lost fish when the bites frist started coming
Despite the lost fish, I was happy to get a bite and felt like I was now connected to the fish; by that I mean I had worked out the best timing between pinging pellets out to keep the fish really competing, and literally lining up waiting for the pellets to land.

Catching fish I found, really threw me off my rhythm in regards to feeding.  Battling with a hard fighting carp meant a good 5 mins would pass without any pellet going in.  Barry confirmed that when you ‘get good’ at it, you need to be able to fire pellets out whilst landing a fish.  Something I didn’t try this time around, being my first go, but I most certainly will next time.  What I intend to do is try firing pellets out with the rod in my hand to get the feel for it without a fish on first, and see how it goes.  Anyway, my eldest daughter at 5years old, Livvy, my other helper on the day saw my predicament and proceeded to help me by firing pellets while I played fish in.  Which was lovely of her, and would have been ideal had I been fishing 3 foot out, and six-foot to my left…….

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absolutely love fishing with Livvy, and she even helped me keep constant feed going in!
A couple of hours in and I’d lost a few, and banked a few.  No lumps yet, but steady away and I was really enjoying it.  Rain was constant and at times pretty heavy, and as soaked through as we were we really didn’t care one bit!

To refine the tactic and try to convert the dropped fish into banked fish, we change the float for a 10g one, and shortened the length from float to hook slightly, only by a couple of inches.  The extra weight in the float increased my accuracy in the head wind, made more noise as it hit the water and enabled me to keep a tight line from float to rod tip.  This really helped with hooking the fish, because as I feathered the line, kept the tip low (something that was alien to me at first, but Barry guided me though the technique, I’m more sued to having the tip up on the cast, ready for the clip ‘bump’) with the heavier float this kept all the line in the water nice and tight.  This meant the instant the float hit the water, if a fish took the bait straight away I was in instant contact, and the fish was on.

You know what, it worked a charm!  I hit a sweet spot when it all came together; feeding pattern, casting, float control, twitching the float and hitting the fish.  I hit a run of fish, after fish after fish, and in that moment I fully understood what makes this technique so special, and so appealing.  It was mayhem, I was catching plump carp at a frightening rate!

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Livvy was really enjoying it too!  It’s a great method for the youngsters, very active, and if you get it right lots of action!

Inevitably the larger fish then started to move in, and some very large swirls started appearing in amongst the normal patterns.  Ping, cast, ping, ping, cast, thwackkkkk, rod has ripped around the instant the FEED+SSP hit the water, and this is definitely a better fish on!  It leads me a merry dance left, then right, then left again, taking a lot of line on a couple of powerful runs.  Could it be one of the real lumps in here I start to wonder?

The rod is certainly giving me all its got, arched around in full battle curve mode, the line is giving me that gorgeous chorus as it sings under the strain!  Check this picture out, you can’t hear the line, but the rod angle says it all:

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How utterly gorgeous is that sight!
As great as the fight was, it didn’t end well for me, and after several minutes of battling, it was one quick turn too many and the hook pulled.  Gutted, you bet I was, and after that prolonged ‘drought’ of feed going in I didn’t really get them fully going again after that.

Still, I learned a lot about what is a really cool, and exciting method!  We estimated I’d had about 45lb of carp in just a few hours, so I was pleased with that.  We have another Twister Challenge called the ‘Ton Up challenge’, 100lb of fish from any method, so I’m going to dedicate a full day to pellet waggler soon and give that one a bash, look out for that one.

With the session drawing to a close, I decided to get Livvy on the old Shakespear box for a go.  It was lovely to see her sat there, and the next fish we hooked she played in.  Shes caught small roach and skimmers before, but to her these fish were enormous!  She kept her cool, even though we sent it live on Facebook, and she netted her first ever carp.  Absolute golden memories are made on the bank, friends, family and fishing, it simply does not get any better.

By the way, check out Barry’s awesome adventure into specimen carp fishing, in his blog series ‘The Water Shot‘, he’s on an amazing adventure, part of which unfolded in the swim next to me on this session.  Yeah, you don’t think he’s going to a lake stuffed with carp and not take his new rods do you?  Not a chance, and he bagged a couple of beauties too!

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Till next time guys, look out for my ‘Ton Up’ challenge coming soon, and big thanks to Barry and Livvy on this one, couldn’t have done it without you guys!

Tight lines

Gav

Overcoming Snags on the way to Success!

Arrived at the lake, Etang Cache, late Tuesday afternoon as my flight had been delayed.  I was feeling ready to unwind and get the rods out.  I didn’t think I was going to be able to fish the snags as there were some lads on them before me, but they chose to move as they had done two nights and had no fish.  I set up and got talking to one of the owners and was told that there hasn’t been a fish out of the swim for 3 days but over 75kg of bait had been put in that week.  So, I opted to fish little bags of crushed Musselberry and just flick a few boilies over the top of each rod, just a hand full on each.

The night went by with no bites and I woke to rain and wind.  Great!  So, I thought I would leave my rods in as I knew they were on the spots, and the bailiff came and had a chat with me before breakfast.  The lads also come over from their peg to have a chat.  I am now getting to know them pretty well, and as we are all talking, the middle rod lets out a few beeps…..

I’m fishing locked up fishing tight to the snags, I run down heart in my mouth, hit the rod and try to turn the fish.  I managed to turn the fish and 5/10 minutes of a mental fight ensued with the fish going in and out of the snags.  It was intense!  I eventually managed to wrestle it away from the snags and land the fish.  A few minutes after thinking to myself that was an epic battle.  Little did I know that every battle after that was to get more, and more insane.  The fish went 28lbs so I was made up as it was bigger than my UK PB and was off the mark.

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A few hours after the first fish I decide to go around to the stalking swim.  I fished the same rig and bait but instead of casting out then bait up I choose to put 10 boilies out about 5 minutes before I cast out so I could spook the fish with food not a rig.  I get the rig sorted and drop it on the spot first time, only a 20yrd cast but tricky so I was happy.  Within 5 minutes I see a fish roll over the spot.  I turn my camera on and start to record the rod.  A few more minutes go by with no signs or shows.  I roll myself a cigarette and just about to light it and the siren lets out beep beep!  I look and the rod is wrapped round to the left, I hit and again an epic battle unfolds.  I could see the fish in shallow water scraping along the bottom, turning it up.  Shaking its head trying to get the hook out.  I’m using barbless so I’m thinking it’s going to throw the hook but luckily, I manage to get it over and into the net.  I Lifted the net up and saw a chunk in the bottom of the net and see that it is a fish known as ‘Little Lumpy’ (Lump’s little brother) I’m buzzing.  I have the cigarette to calm me down.  I am sure it will go over thirty so I wait for the owner to come around and help with the weighing and the photos.  The fish went 36lbs and was a well know fish that hasn’t been out all year so I’m proper buzzing now.  I give it a few more hours with nothing so decide to go back to my main swim and sort my rigs out for the night.

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I get the rods out just before dinner casting from the bank, not opting for the boat.  Same approach few boilies and a little stick but this time with a little special hook bait which I tried for the first time.  Dinner was a mean chilli cooked by the owner Dave.  After having a mint tea and a great time catching up with the owners, I get settled down for the night.  Just is I’m nodding off the left rod screams. “It’s taking line, I’m locked up, really!?” I thought to myself as I hit it.  It’s like hitting a bloody train.  I don’t think I’m was going to be able to stop it before it hits the snags.  I wound down and gave it some proper stick and just managed to turn it as I start to feel the line rubbing on the roots of the snags.  After a dogged battle for 20 odd minutes it goes into the net.  I look down at the net and it’s another chunk, but this time a common.  Gav did say these hookbaits would pick the commons out!  Its late just after 1am, so no one is up to help with photos. I get the camera on the tripod and get my selfie face on.  Then I get the fish into the sling, then out of the water and on to the mat.  When I weighed it, the fish goes 36lb, epic!  Get the shots down and let the beast go back home.  I went on to catch another two that night with every rod going, only high twenties but I was not complaining.

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The next day I go stalking and manage to get a small low 20lbs with a little damage to it, as all carp I catch I treat it with a little carp care and sent it back on its way.  Nothing happened after that just like the day before, so I went back to the main swim and started getting set up for the night.  I get all the rods out really quickly 1st time on every rod, a little scatter of bait over the top and I was fishing for the night.  Sitting tying new rigs for the next day and out of nowhere the middle rod is away, and its going.  I run and pick up the rod.  There was no stopping this fish, it just took line and ended up going into the snags.  I was gutted.  I had that sinking feeling in my gut, and just knew I wasn’t getting that fish back.  I wanted to make sure the fish wasn’t snarled, so I jumped in the boat and made my way over to where the line was exiting the water.  I get right next to where the fish is snagged and can see that the fish and managed to go around one branch and then into the snags, and throw the hook.  I manage to get all of my tackle back and then made my way back to my swim.  Sulking!

On getting back to the peg I was met with the owner who was watching my other rods while I was in the boat.  “Never mind” he said, plenty more.  I laughed.  He was right there were more.  Got my head straight and concentrated on getting the rod back out on the spot.  New rig on the rod went out first time.  I’m getting good at this casting thing.  I set the rod on the rest, clip the bobbin on, and sit back watching the rods.  I’m sitting there enjoying the sun for the short time it was out.  I then go back into my bivvy because of a passing storm.

As I’m waiting for the storm to pass, the middle rod screams.  I go to hit the rod.  But as I’m running out of my bivvy the screamer just stopped, like just stopped, I look up at my spot and see a fish crashing.  I lift in to the rod knowing there is going to be nothing on the end.  Again, the sinking feeling.  That’s two fish out of two I’ve lost now.  What is going on?  I reel in and inspect the rig.  All seem to be fine.  Hook still sharp.  Putty hasn’t moved.  Everything was fine.  I had just been done.  I was not happy, I take this time to reel in get my myself sorted mentally.  I head over to the lads for a chat.

We are trying to organise a trip when we are all back in England.  As we we’re talking one of their rods was away.  One of the lads runs and hits the rod.  Rod hoops over and we all look at each other and say this has to be a chunk and a long hard battle commences.  I have the pleasure of netting the fish and manage to get the fish on the first attempt.  The owners are here at this point and as we lift the net to see the prize there was 5 of us, all round this one net.  As we are looking we can see that is a really good fish and it came in at a whopping 44lb.  I am over the moon for the lad as it is his new PB. I get some shots for him and a few with him and the owners.  It felt so good to be a part of that event.  To me that is one of the best things about fishing, all coming together having a laugh and catching carp.  I stay there celebrating with beer, wine and good food.  At this point I’m feeling good and have completely forgotten about the two fish that I had lost only a few hours before.

I head back over the swim feeling really good for a bite or two that night.  I end up taking a long time getting the rods out, I think that beer had a big part in that.  I eventually get them where I want them and sit back and relax watching the sun set, enjoying the last of the wine.  I roll myself a smoke, and enjoy the whole atmosphere of this place, it’s completely different to what I am used to.  I can’t put it in to words.  After watching the sunset, I retreat into the bivvy and just as I’m going to sort my bag out the left rod is sprung into life.  As I hit the rod I can just see that the fish has made it to the snags and I can feel the fish grating against the snags.  I was only in contact for 5 to 6 seconds and it snapped me.  I throw the rod on the floor and walk away holding my head in my hands.  Why can’t I catch a damn fish?  3 fish out of 3 lost.  At this point I don’t even want to be there I want to go home.

I pick myself up after a few cups of tea.  I questioned the owners if I was doing anything wrong or was it just me.  They reassured me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and that all this is a part of fishing.  At this point it is dark and I decide to pub chuck the rod, I know it’s only say a 40-50 yard cast to the edge of the snags so clipped myself up at just over 40yards.  It went out like a dream, hit the clip, landed nice and soft on the silt lovely!  After all this I get woken up at an hour I didn’t know existed by the sound of a screaming siren.  Boom I’m in.  I run out of the bivvy still in the sleeping bag and hit the rod.  It’s a beast.  It frights hard for nearly 10 minutes right on the edge of the snag.  I wasn’t losing this fish.  I pulled hard and the fish pulled harder turning me.  My god this is a strong ass fish.  I end up playing it for 40 minutes all in all and I would say 90 percent of time was next to the snags.  In all honesty, I didn’t think I was getting it in.  I eventually netted the hardest fighting carp I have ever had.  I was right, this is a chunk and by far my PB.  But as its 3.30am no one is awake.  So it is up to me again to get my best selfie face on and get the camera set.  I get the fish on the bank and recognise it as the fish that my cousin had the pleasure of naming.

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The fish was ‘Golden Two Tone’ and was an absolute beast.  A stunning common, long and deep, a proper fighting machine.  One of the most impressive fish I have ever caught.  It went 43 and a half and was a new PB by 4 pounds.  I have no words for how I felt.  Only the pictures can show how I was feeling.  An epic fight, an epic carp, from an epic venue.  I am so made up after losing those three fish.  I got the fish back safely, it went away strong drenching me in the process.  I went on to have another three fish that night to 37lbs and it was the most productive night yet.

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I was woken up in the morning with a sausage and egg bap being shoved in my face along with a nice cup of tea.  It was the owner, I told him about the night before and he was made up for me.  I said I think I might have had two-tone.  At this point I still wasn’t too sure but I know by the size of it has to be.  I show him the fish and he confirms it as Golden Two Tone for me, and congratulates me.  He asks what rig I’m fishing so I show him.  It’s a size 4 curve hook with a swivel on the shank no hair, down to a little kicker tied with supple braid as I was fishing on soft silt.  He looks at the rig then looks at me and nods.  It’s just a nod but I knew the liked it just be the way he was looking at it.  I have a drink with him, then head off stalking.  I manage to catch a low 30, 32 I think.  It was a lovely fish, perfect in fact not a mark on her.  She was full of eggs as they were close to spawning so a quick pic and off she went.

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It goes dead after that, just like the days previous so I enjoy the sun with just one rod in the water whilst listening to a bit for music, I just chilled as I was knackered from being up all night with fish, and I ended up falling asleep.  I woke to an alarm but not mine one of the other lads.  It was 6 o’clock.  I was asleep for 5 hours, luckily in the shade.  I decide to pack up and go around and see the fish.  As I get to the back of the lad’s swim one of them is still playing the fish so again I get to do the netting and while other lad is getting the photos.  The fish goes in the net, it’s a low 30lb common, an immaculate fish.  We get the photos and I head back to my swim.

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Tonight, I was going to change tactics a little; I would be keeping the rig the same but I was going to place them with the boat and fish particle over the top.  Just standard pigeon mix with added maze, a few boilies and jobs a gud’un.  I get all three rods out with the help of Dave the owner, I get back to the swim and unload the bait from the boat set the rods up and wait for the bite.  Within around 30 minutes there was bubbles starting to appear over the middle rod, I focused in on them as they started to get more and more aggressive until my whole spot was pretty much fizzing.  I start getting liners, I’m bricking it.  I’m crouched over the rod waiting for it to go, liner arrr liner arrrr liner ARRRR.  I can’t take this.  The rod never goes.  The fizzing stops and I know my chance has gone.  That night all I had was liners.  No fish just liners.  I woke the next day like a zombie, slept through breakfast it was like 11am.  I was trying to come to terms with why I didn’t get a fish.  I put it down to that they were just interested in the particle not the boilie.  As I was fishing boilies on the hair and pop ups they didn’t even give them a second look.  The day went by with no fish, I slept mostly and thought of a new attack for the last two nights.  So the new attack was just fish the pellet that they feed the fish on and boilie.  NO PARTICLE.  The pellet breaks down fast and creates like a fluff on the bottom.  So when the fish come in hungry looking for food they start to eat the pellet, find the boilies as an easier, more satisfying meal and start looking for the boilies.  This worked a treat and had the best two nights of the trip.  Another hand full of fish, and a new PB at 44lb!

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Also another known fish, known as Steve at 39lb.  Right at the last-minute as I’m packing up I caught the last fish of the trip, a beautiful mirror at 34lb that just topped the trip off for me.

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All in all, catching 17 in total I was made up.  This trip was the best trip I had been on and will definitely gong back next year.

Till next time.

Harry

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A Year to Remember – By Liam Watts

I shall start this blog off where I ended the last one, the 8th of May 2016, the night I’ll never forget (you can see my previous blog here). We were back on our way to Reedy Pit because the hold it had on me was too much to ignore. The night started the same as all the others, an intense, exciting mission through the undergrowth to get to the water’s edge. I was on my own in my preferred spot and as soon as I looked out onto the water I could tell there were fish on the baited area, big shapes moving about in the darkness, fish feeding and crashing on the spot, unaware of my intentions to catch one. I managed to get both rods set up in the pitch black, barely making a sound. I put on two bags of crushed Trigonella that had already been tied up at home. If I’m honest I really enjoyed the preparation for this type of fishing, doing everything possible to make sure you can just set up on arrival with no lights and get two rods out with very little disturbance is crucial.

Both rods went out perfectly before I sat back in the bushes with excitement, after what seemed liked two seconds I was getting liners! I knew it wouldn’t be long before one of the rods ripped off, as I got up to have a look at the water bang went the rod and the line was ripped from the reel, I hit into the fish and knew instantly it wasn’t a big fish. I managed to drag the fish away from the spot whilst trying my best not to disturb the chunks that may have been feeding on the spot. It was then I netted the small common, no bigger than 10lb.

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As I slipped it back to its watery home the other rod was away, again I hit into the fish and knew it wasn’t a big one. I did exactly the same with this fish, I dragged it as far away from the spot as possible and netted it. This fish being a bit bigger, mid double size. The fish went straight back out the net, clearly wanting to make as little disturbance as possible. I had two rods on the bank and had managed to land two fish. I then realized that one rod would suffice as there were more than enough fish feeding. So with the one rod and a bag of crushed Trigonella I sent it back out. I then sat back and thought I may have put the fish off by catching the two small commons off the spot. Then a huge line bite occurred and the bobbin smashed against the blank of the rod and then settled back down. I knew it wasn’t going to be long before I was going to be into a fish again, catching the two small commons hadn’t put them off at all.

After a minute or two the rod that was out came to life, the line was been pulled from the reel and the rod tip was bouncing around in the moonlight. I hit into this fish and instantly knew it was a much bigger fish as the fight was on another level. I was grateful that I didn’t have another rod in the water to worry about, this fish absolutely pulled like a train and wasn’t giving up easily. I grabbed the net and waded out into the water after it, every now and again seeing its scales in the moonlight. I knew it was a common and I knew it was the biggest fish I had ever hooked into, the feeling was indescribable. I was excited, nervous and scared all at the same time, my legs were shaking. As it came up after a long fight, I managed to scoop the net underneath it. I had done it, trying my best not to let out a yelp. I slowly waded back to the bank and got everything ready to see how big she was, as she sat in the sling I was an over excited mess, giggling to myself and buzzing at what I’d just achieved. Whilst at the same time trying to be as quiet as possible so I didn’t alert the rangers of my presence. After the photos were taken and I slipped her back, I just sat there, no rods in the water and in a state of shock. The sense of achievement was unreal, I would say I was the happiest I had been in a long while and that was all down the fishing. The drive home that night was one I shall never forget, I had achieved a goal in my angling and that was to catch a PB carp.

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After that session on Reedy it became a tad on-top to say the least. We managed to get a few more sessions in and caught a few more lovely fish but the police presence and nearly been caught by the rangers a few times had put us off.

We then decided to move onto to the river and a few new waters on a ticket we had just obtained, they did not disappoint in the slightest. Going on to catch some amazing Carp and some very impressive Barbel. The biggest I managed was 10lb 10oz after many nights blanking the night the Barbel went in the net was one to remember. The fight was like nothing I’d felt before and is definitely addictive. The power of the river, the challenges that come with it all make for some real exciting fishing and I’ll definitely be doing a lot more fishing for them amazing powerful fish.

 

The one other part of the year that was near the top of the list was when we took on the mission of the 210 acre res. For sure the biggest water I have ever cast a line into. We managed to catch a common each on the first night and I lost another two fish that morning, due to been cut off by mussels. A tad disappointing to say the least.

 

More nights were spent on the res but no more fish for me. The year continued and many more missions were undertaken, most of them being with a very good friend of mine that I met threw fishing, Fred Reeve. An all round top guy and brilliant fisherman, big up Fred! I’d also like to give another two lads I’ve met along the way a shout out and that is Phil and Jody, both really good anglers and all round nice guys.

I had many sessions with all three of them throughout 2016, all of which were memorable missions, that’s for sure. I could go on forever about all the adventures I underwent last year and the amazing times we all had, but I’m sure you’re all already bored to death and if you managed to get this far you have done well.

Remember people you need to get out there and try to achieve your goals, tight lines and wet nets. Go out there and achieve the unachievable.

#TeamBeechwood #CarpyWatts #ItsOKNotToPay

 

HNV Uncovered

HNV is a subject often discussed by carp anglers, by those with a deeper interest in bait, those that have been around long enough to remember its first ‘birth’, and those just coming across it in their own journeys through carping.  Whatever your exposure to it, you’ve almost certainly heard about it, and discussed it at some level.  So, what is it all about, why do some rave about it and others dismiss it, what are the real HNV truths?

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Now, make no bones about it, I’m a fan of HNV baits, however this is an open and honest account of what they’re about, so let’s get that out-of-the-way now.  If you want to challenge any statements made here, please feel free, the comments section below is there for you to use, so use it.

I’ve got a deep love for science, especially chemistry, biology and physics, indeed I spent all of my further education studying the subject of Environmental Science, right through to University level; I just love learning about and exploring the wonders of the natural world.  No doubt that core founding in science is what initially took me down this path with my bait, it all just makes sense, its how the natural world ‘works’.

Let’s start by properly defining what I deem HNV to mean, just so we’re all on the same starting page.

Defining HNV

HNV stands for High Nutritional Value.  This is commonly taken to indicate baits with a very high protein content, and dizzying numbers such as 80% and even 90% protein content stats start to get banded about in conversation.  However, that’s not really high nutritional value, not in the true sense of the term, that’s just a glut of protein.  Add to that you are hard pressed to find useable and more over attractive (to carp) ingredients carrying such high levels of proteins, and you start to question the validity of it all, and rightly so.

No, high protein levels should actually be considered to stand at much more sensible levels, and 50% is actually high in this sense of the term.  High protein doesn’t equal a better bait, however, high food signals of course does, and that’s what is partially being tapped into in these high protein baits, amino acids, food signals.  A bait by its very nature is, or should be, designed to entice the carp to eat it, that’s how we catch them!  The trick often missed with these high protein baits is digestibility and solubility, or lack of, and the type of aminos, especially free aminos available in the finished bait.  A fish can’t even attempt to eat what it cannot find.

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The basic make up of a carps ‘smell’ sensory system, what do you notice?
True HNV for me means; a bait that is as close a match as possible to the carps entire dietary requirement.  This is where you start to understand that actually, whilst high protein can carry decent levels of food signals, it also has heavy drawbacks.  Carp do not need as much as 80% protein in their diets, and eating foods of such un-balanced nutrition actually harms catch results; carp spend vast swathes of their time digesting the protein saturated meal, totally un-catchable in the mean time.  This situation doesn’t impart a lasting positive imprint, on the fish or the angler!  True HNV however, as a fully balanced bait in every aspect, certainly does.  The fish don’t search for nutrients per say, but they do search out that feel good factor, as all living organisms do by default thanks to evolved instinct.  Feeling good is a survival instinct in the natural world.

This is hard for us to grasp as humans, given the ‘McDonald’s V Fresh Salad Theory’ no doubt some of you reading this are thinking about.  But consider this, we are so removed from our natural instinct its unreal.  We go to the gym, we are told to eat 5 a day, eat plenty of fibre and on top of all that take 2 multi-vitamin tablets a day.  Oh, and let’s not forget regular checkups with the doctor, to make sure we’re healthy.  In the natural world you have none of that blanket of detachment from survival; you either eat to survive, or you die, game over.  Those that thrive, are those that instinctively know what to eat, and that instinct is carved out over many, many years of evolution.  Organisms that evolve to fine tune their senses into what enables them to thrive, inevitably do just that, thrive.  This is where the carp’s link to amino acids comes from, it’s the reason they’re sensory receptor sites are evolved perfectly to detect amino’s.  It’s not coincidence, it’s simply evolution.  Again, you can now see why early protein heavy baits did well against the competition at the time, which was certainly more cereal and carbohydrate based.  Again though, please remember high levels of anything only tick one box, and all amino’s aren’t made equal, far, far from it!!

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What Lysine ‘looks like’, or is that ‘smells like’?
That’s why HNV to me means EVERY box ticked nutritionally, so that maximum positive imprints are imparted on the carp, which in turn helps massively to overcome negative, danger signs when the carp comes across the bait in the future.  Of course, all this is pretty useless if the carp has to again spend large amounts of time digesting its food, so this is why it absolutely has to be balanced nutrition, you most certainly can have too much of pretty much anything when it comes to bait ingredients, especially regarding excess nutritional elements.

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Carp Poop!  This is all you really want to see on the mat, just a sign of your bait.  Bucket fulls spilling out aren’t good, just a natural healthy amount is what you, and the carp want.
Critical to any baits success is how easy it is to find for the fish, once you’ve done the hard part and imparted those all important positive imprints, you really want the bait to be easy for the fish to find again.  This is where amino acids really start to play their ace card, seen as the carp are physiologically engineered to detect them, and hunt them down.  Solubility is vital for anything that you want to travel through water, sounds obvious that but its amazing how many people seem to forget it.  Again, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record but this is where high protein doesn’t equal high attraction, protein isn’t always soluble, so how can a fish actually know it’s there?  The signals have to be soluble!

The trick with bait is to make sure the carp get that strong, overwhelming positive imprint, that they like to eat the bait and crucially can easily find it over distance time after time.  A high quality HNV bait can tick all these boxes.

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The Musselberry wafters soaked in matching glug, this bait has accounted for numerous PB’s and lake records.  It ticks all the boxes, & as such it just keeps on delivering the goods!

Common questions about HNV

‘The HNV theory’s flawed, how can you be sure the carp eats a full kilo of your bait?  If it doesn’t it’s not getting the full nutrition from the bait is it?’

This is a question I’ve seen and heard lots of times, what’s missing is the point that carp don’t need to eat a kilo of bait, they just need X nutrient in Y quantity PER kilo of food consumed.  Depending on conditions, size, age and many other factors a kilo of food might be consumed every few hours, or every few days, and it really doesn’t matter, it’s whatever suits that particular fish at that particular time.  Whats important is the ratios of nutrients, that’s why they are (or should be) always stated in percentage terms.

‘How can the HNV theory work with all the naturals and other baits in the water, the carp has un-balanced nutrition anyway?’

This is very true, the middle part anyway!  Quite obviously the carp often has a multitude of food sources available to it, chief among them naturals.  It’s no coincidence waters high in naturals are the ones people often find the hardest to get consistent results on, after all, when your competing with nature as we are when we angle, when nature stacks all the odds in its favour we have to expect the challenge becomes all the more healthier.

That said, again the points been missed a little; yes naturals can make catching fish harder, however there are no naturals that offer such complete nutrition as a true HNV bait, so we have a foot in the door.  Make that bait really ‘tasty’ and easy to find, and we have the door open and both feet on the ‘welcome’ mat.

When you take a step back and think about it, the more ‘un-balanced’ the naturals and other baits in a water make the carps diet, the more advantageous a HNV bait becomes; remember what a true HNV bait is, as defined above?  Every nutritional requirement met, and not exceeded too much; always winning, always offering whats needed.

Again, in this statement remember that its percentages and averages that matter, that’s what we’re working with here.  It’s the same as everything in angling, tipping the percentages and averages in our favour is essentially all we’re doing, all the time!

‘Do carp look for nutrients?’

I broadly agree carp don’t ‘look’ for nutrients, they don’t even ‘think’ about what they’re deficient in.  It’s actually much more basic and fundamental than that, it’s a matter of survival.  All living organisms need nutrients to survive, and they will at times go to great lengths to get at what they’re deficient in; not because they do it consciously, it’s a totally unconscious survival instinct, and if you stop and think about that, what can possibly be more powerful?

Carp aren’t overly intelligent, but they do have strong instinct, and a solid ability to learn by association.  That goes for both positive and negative experiences.  Carp learn by association; it’s a commonly held belief that carp learn danger signs; lines in the water, obvious rigs, hard fished areas, areas with little or no cover.  We readily accept that carp see these things as dangerous, they’ve learnt this by association, not thought, but instinct imprinted over time, maybe even over generations through evolution.   Why do we find it such a leap to accept that the exact same thing happens with bait, both positively, from top quality HNV baits, and negatively, from poor quality and low or un-balanced nutrition baits?  Carp spook off lines not because they ‘know’ they’re fishing lines, but because they’ve learnt to associate that line with danger, with being caught.  It’s exactly the same with bait, but more so.  Bait HAS to overcome the carps fear of being caught, or the fish won’t even investigate it to start with.

‘Do you need a HNV bait, carp are ‘mud pigs’ anyway that eat anything aren’t they?’

True, anything they find they will investigate, however investigate is a wide term and it certainly doesn’t fully over-lap with ‘eat’.  Carp are continually investigating their environment, through soluble molecules suspended in the water, sight and sound vibrations.  They are constantly ‘auto investigating’.  Quite conversely though to ‘eating everything’, fished-for carp more often than not evade most things they auto investigate; lines, noise, cold, alien objects, predators and anything else they associate with negative imprints driven by their unconscious from previous experiences.

Something new however will almost certainly be investigated more proactively, hence new baits or differing tactics or rigs often produce results, we call them ‘edges’ most of the time.  The problem here as far as bait is concerned though is that it has to impart enough of a positive imprint to be taken again, enough to overcome negative imprints already ‘learnt’ by the carp.  If the balance of negative to positive is too weak, the self-preservation instinct overcomes it, and the baits effectiveness will fade away.  Over time if enough carp gain enough negative imprints a bait can really lose its effectiveness.  There’s always the ‘mug’ fish that is wired up slightly differently to the rest of the population in a water, but the bulk will naturally learn by association of the impending danger.

The only way to overcome this is to impart enough positive imprints to out weight the negatives, palatability really helps, but ‘feel good’ positive imprints are the ultimate, and they come most readily through perfectly balanced complete nutrition

‘Are HNV baits instant?’

Whilst it is true that HNV baits become more and more powerful over time as they’re applied to a water, due to the positive imprints being imparted, this doesn’t mean they can’t also be ‘instant’.  It may have once been true of the baits developed early on in the theory’s ‘life’, and certainly might be true for baits simply relying on a high (non soluble) protein content that they are not especially ‘instant’.  Either of these maybe where this question has emanated from, or rather disappointingly it maybe due to really poor baits simply falsely claiming to be HNV, damaging people’s perceptions of whats really possible with a true high quality HNV bait.

Quality HNV baits contain all of the good points from other types of baits, plus the huge added advantage of those all important positive imprints.  Instant?  Yes, absolutely, and long-lasting performance too, you’ve got to ask what more you really want to get out of a bait, haven’t you?

Dom and I rinsed this water, using Musselberry, Excelsor and a bait we were developing, but at the time of writing this still hasn’t been released, none of which the water had seen before!  We caught almost 70 fish to just shy of 30lb, including a number of recaptures over a 6 day trip, where we fished for 4 days, and didn’t even do the nights.  Instant? Yes!

To round up

If you get HNV right, it can be devastatingly effective, your dialling into the most fundamental instincts of all, those of survival.  Through the fog of time some of its true meanings may have become blurred, so it’s no wonder it can be hard to determine whats fact, and whats fiction, but I do hope this blog has gone someway to answering your questions about it all.

If your still none the wiser, consider this question; the basic principle of a bait is to get the fish to eat it, so why wouldn’t you use something its instinctively driven to eat?

Bait should always be about catching fish, enticing the fish to take the bait into its mouth, so we can catch it!  After all is said and done however, confidence plays a huge part in our angling success, especially when it comes to bait.  Use whatever gives you the most confidence, and I really mean that!  For me, that means ticking all the boxes, all the time; I want instant, long lasting attraction over short and long ranges, I want maximum positive imprints, I want the bait to be highly palatable, digestible and recognisable.  For me, that means a high quality true HNV bait.

Tight lines everyone, have confidence in your bait and catch a shed load of fish!

Gav

Barbel on the Trent – 5/2/17, with Gav Astley and Adam Bowen

Its 5:05am on a cold February morning and I’m already running a little late, I’d arranged with Adam Bowen (Team Beechwood Member and Owner of Fishing in the North West) to be with him at 5am, and I was still ten minutes away trundling along the M56.  Still, Adam’s a nice chap, and I dropped him a quick message to let him know I wasnt far off, and as expected he was cool as ever with the news I was a little behind time.

Today Adam was going to treat me to something a little different, something that links in nicely with one of our ‘Team Twister’ challenges and something we’d talked about for a while, a full on barbel trip!  As you know our Team Twister is a series of challenges and ‘twists’ that Team Beechwood are all having a go with throughout 2017, one is simply called ‘Hunter’, and sets target weights of loads of fish to achieve.  The Barbel target is 8lb, and although I’d be happy with any sized fish on this trip, I couldn’t help but have that 8lb target rattling around in my mind.

The journey down for us took around about an hour and a half, but it genuinely felt like ten minutes, such was the constant flow of fishing chatter filling the car.  I’m a relative barbel novice, Adam however knows his onions, so whilst I had him as a captive audience we talked about barbel fishing all the way down.

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Is there any better sight?  Sunrise over your favourite swim on a crisp February morning!
When we arrived, in what is Adams favourite swim on the river, it looked truly epic.  The sun was just coming up over the horizon, lighting up the strong and meaningful flow on the water, and the river looked in great condition!  I’d been buzzing about this trip for weeks, and as always we anglers dream of what might be; could today be one of those days the dreams come true?

Adam set about rigging the rods up, and I setup camp, all in all it took us about 20 minutes and we had three rods in the water and were sat with a (posh) Douwe Egberts coffee each.

Tactics for the day would be:

Tackle – 12lb main line through to 10lb hooklengths, 4oz gripper style leads, each rod with 2xfloat stops 20″ from the lead, size 12 Drennan Specialist Microbarb hooks.  All setup running rig style.

Bait – 6mm Halibut pellets, Excelsor paste, Meat and some of the soon to be released bait, the FEED+X.  Being carp baits, we did add some blue cheese and garlic to the paste and hookbaits to really make a stink the barbel could home in on in the flowing water.

We fished the three rods along the crease, at different points from far left, central and right of our swim.  The tackle was brilliantly balanced, held bottom on the crease perfectly, and the float stops 20″ from the lead is a really neat trick.  We weren’t really troubled on the day by weed and stuff being brought down stream, but what did flow through and catch on the line gathered behind the stops, ensuring our presentations weren’t effected.  I seriously recommend you try it on your setup if you like fishing flowing water, and never find your self tearing your hair out over being wiped out by weed again!

We fished meat to our left, and Adam commented this was the rod he thought would go first, being down stream, centrally we fished the boiled bait, and to our right pellet.  All leads we’re wrapped in Excelsor paste, and the boilie and pellet hookbaits also got wrapped in a big dollop too.  The paste worked perfectly in the powerful flow, sticky and grippy enough to stay put, slowly releasing oodles of attraction over the hour or so between re-casts, with just traces left by the time we reeled in.

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Adam re-casts the middle rod as the sun goes down
Over the course of the day we had lots of attention on the FEED+X hookbait fished centrally of the three rods, but very little indication on the other two rods, and no barbel off any.  It was early February after all, and winter fishing can often be a challenge in itself!  We focused on the middle rod, adjusting hair length, changing hooks, casting at spots around the central crease to try and turn the indications we were getting into solid takes.  We stuck to the plan throughout, re-casting to firm spots every hour to hour and a half, each time with paste around the lead and hook baits, this way throughout the day we would slowly build the swim without risking overfeeding it in the cold wintry conditions.

The day rolled on, lunch was a cracking bacon and cheese baguette and chips from a local pub, whilst we fished on, watching the river relentlessly flow past us, and our rod tips sat defiantly upright, and still……….

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Barbel are super strong fish!
It wasnt until we entered the last hour of our trip that one of the rods finally ripped off.  Adam said just one word, ‘BARBEL!’.  I zipped over to the rod and lifted into it, sure enough we were into a powerful fish, somewhere out there in the inky blackness!  Adam took the left hand rod out-of-the-way so I could play the fish towards the left of the swim where the water was deep close in and snag free.  The unseen creature tore down stream on a powerful run, using all its strength and the rivers flow.  I teased it back slowly, we’d waited all day and now into a fish I really, really didn’t want to lose it!  Closer in it came, then tore off again, seemingly still as full of beans as when it was first hooked.  I wasn’t sure it’d make it over the 8lb mark, but as Adam slid the net under the fish, I had second thoughts, it looked long and solid.  The scales would tell us……

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9lb 8oz, Happy days indeed, my new PB Barbel!
On the scales the fish crept around to 9lb 8oz, so not only had we got what we came for, but I’d also got a new PB fish, and mission accomplished on the Team Twister!  Bingo bango banjo, or words to that effect!!

We were just in the process of preparing to return my fish, when the same rod hooped over and the alarm screamed in delight!  Adam had quickly, and sensibly, re-baited and re-cast the rod whilst I got my waders on to return my fish, which was recovering in the margin.  The fish had clearly switched on, and we were right in the middle of a feeding spell.  Now the way we’ve fed the swim really pays off for us, because we’ve used largely Excelsor paste with a few pellets pushed into it all day, there isn’t a lot to eat in the swim, but there is masses of attraction.  Had we lumped loads of bait in, the same feeding spell would have taken place, but our hookbait would have had a much reduced chance of being picked up.

Adam plays his fish in perfectly, and as he draws it to the net it looks a very similar size to mine.  However, as it rolls over the net cord, its depth and width are really impressive, it’s now clearly a bigger fish, and Adam quietly passes comment that it might be a PB for him, might be.

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Yet another PB, at 12lb 10oz Adams fish is seriously impressive!
We hoisted the fish up on the scales and both hold our breath, it registered 14lb 20z, we deducted the sling, and the fish entered angling memory at 12lb 10oz, and yes, a new PB for Adam!!  I was made up with my fish, and of course my new PB, however I was over the moon for Adam.  He targets the barbel and as such his PB is much harder to improve on, and I felt really privileged to have witnessed him bank it.  Two PB’s, two Team Twister challenges ticked off and two very, very happy anglers!!

With my fish now safely returned, we took some pics of Adams fish, once he’d expertly removed some old netting from its dorsal fin.  Fortunately Adam’s not only a well seasoned and conscientious angler, but he’s also a nurse, so his forceps and surgical scissors are of the very best quality, along with his skills in using them, and he removed the netting expertly.  It is worth noting though, that landing and keep nets are not something anyone should skimp on, poor quality nets can cause you and the fish all sorts of problems, and none of us want to see fish with any damage.

With that we released Adams fish safe and sound, and begrudgingly reeled the rods in and started to pack away our gear.  We were both grinning from ear to ear, it’d been a long time coming good, but we kept the faith and stuck to the plan.  Anyway, is there any better way to spend a day other than sat by a really stunning piece of river, in great company, watching the world slowly drift by?

Tight lines

Gav

Manley Old Hall, 11th Jan 2017 – By Brian Coakley

Today was a new challenge for myself and some of the lads at Manley Old Hall but a return visit for Dave all be it on a different pool.

Cherry Pool is the middle water and also the largest and deepest with depths up to 8′.  This is a mixed species water which makes it good fishing all year round.  This is an ideal match water and bookings can be made through Billy Bristow on 07986339955.

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Easily found off the M56 junction 14, take A5117 sign posted Helsby.  Through the traffic lights and then first right Primrose Lane.  Up hill to T junction turn right Helsby Road.  To next T junction turn right Manley Road.  1.5 miles right turn at Manley village school (School Lane).  300 yards right Sugar lane.  200 yards fishery on right.

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Bait tactics today for me on a calm roasting hot day, well it felt like it after previous sub-zero trips out, was 4mm expander pellets soaked in polony oil and dead red maggots soaked in the very impressive hemp oil from Beechwood Baits, both of these prepared the day before to allow a good soaking for hook baits and micros lightly dusted with Dynamite baits silver X roach for my feed which was regular fed with a pole cup or a small Frenzee pole pot into three swims at 8m, 6m and a margin swim.

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Spread round the lake everyone started catching a steady flow of silver fish on the maggot with the odd decent perch putting in a appearance along with some decent skimmers and Bream, then what we was all waiting for the first decent carp of 2017 and it fell to Stu as did a good few more all on the faithful dead red maggot, yes you guessed soaked in hemp oil, back over on my peg I opted to start on soft pellet for an hour and caught or got a bite every put in, the second hour seen me try a bit of shalla slapping and a couple of different swims in open water resulting in a slow down of fish so it was back to my 8m line just off some reeds about 4m out, this swim brought me some really good roach (and some tiny ones), skimmers and my first carp of the year after loosing a few which i put down to the fine hook I was using, the highlight for me was some of the Chub I was catching and looking inside their mouths you could see they were realy on the feed.

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All six of us caught a lot of fish on a warmer winters day on a new venue for us, we certainly will be coming back here for regular visits because it has so much to offer and I certainly want to get into catching them carp and the bigger chub, this is only a brief account of the day, and if you would like some more information please leave a comment below and I will get back to you asap.

Until next time its been a pleasure!

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Rod V Pole – 14/1/17, with Barry Smith and Brian Coakley

Something new here for you all, it’s the Beechwood Baits Team Twister!

We’ve set-up a whole year stuffed with twists for you, which are basically challenges we’ve set ourselves.  Some are big, some are smaller, some will take us far and wide and some will be on our doorstep, what they will all be is varied, interesting and exciting twists on our fishing.

So, our first Twist takes us to Rosemary Wood Fishery in Ormskirk, on a Rod V Pole challenge featuring Barry Smith and Brian Coakley, both of whom I’m sure your familiar with from their respective blogs; ‘Its a Pleasure‘ and ‘Fishing on the Edge‘.

The whole idea for this Twist was to see which method is quicker at catching a few fish on a short session; the rod and line, or the pole.  Rules for this one were pretty straight forward, anglers set a peg apart, fishing with maggots on the hook and of course one using running line and the other on pole tackle.

Conditions when we arrived were less than favourable; Rosemary Wood fishes better with a ripple on the water, but at 7am on the 14th of Jan 2017, it was blowing a real wintry gale and the wind was carrying horizontal rain with it across the fisheries exposed banks.

We deliberated a move of venue, and a change of date, it was that harsh, but decided to crack on regardless!

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Brian and Barry shake hands as the day gets underway

Barry setup on peg 42, today armed with the option of fishing a rod only, whilst Brian set up just to his right, given the option of fishing the pole only.

Both decided to start fishing close in, tight up to the reeds, or what was left of their winter ravaged stems.

Over to Brian to talk us through his opening tactics:

‘My overnight prep consisted of castors and dead red maggots soaked in hemp oil and 8 rigs made up, two of each float pattern with 0.16 main line and 0.129 hook lengths with size 20 and 18 hooks.  Four top kits all with different elastic’s unsure of the stamp of fish I was going to be catching and all rigs made to top 2 length, ensuring plenty of scope to change my depth round knowing that the fish will feed up in the water or just off the bottom if you find them.  Also the spare line from dacron to float gave me slack helping my presentation, with the strong wind blowing my pole all over the place but not lifting my float out the water.’

So Brian was set with an array of pole rigs, and different pole elastic strengths, so he had as many bases covered as possible on the day with plenty of options open.

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Barry’s approach was more targeted:

Fish close in and catch roach with a 1g loaded crystal insert waggler, 12” hooklength and a size 18 hook, strike and lift in one movement for speed and create a weight of fish, feeding dead red maggots with a coating of Beechwood Baits hemp oil little and often.  As well as this feed the long line every 5 mins, dripping in the maggots for when I drop in on that line hoping the fish will be there waiting.  Fish at 20 turns clipped up with a 3g loaded crystal waggler, no shot on the line at all, 12” hooklength and an 18 hook, searching the water columns for where the fish are, but hoping to catch on the drop.  Live maggots soaked in Beechwood Baits hemp oil.

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From the word go Barry was focusing on catching lots of fish at speed, evident by his setup geared to fish to hand and nab roach at pace.  Watching Barry fish his ‘fish in one move’ technique is impressive, and if you check out his blogs you’ll see what I mean in his videos.  It’s a very smooth, and accurate approach, and its easy to see how it can bank a lot of fish, very quickly.

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The day didn’t get off to the start either angler expected, quite the opposite in fact!  Brian did say he thought the afternoon would be more productive, but he struggled to get any bites at all during the morning session from a close in spot he’d had a fish a bung from on previous trips to the venue.  Barry was finding it equally tough going, and he’d also struggled to get a bite on his close in spot.  However, having the rod in his hand meant Barry could fish a larger expanse of water, and from the off he’d been feeding a spot at 20 turns out.

Brian sums up the morning session;

So later than expected we gave it the all in shout and I started feeding 3 swims top 2 and 2 with castors and maggots and left that one but every now again just a bit more feed, my two close in swims top 2 and 1 were against the reeds then about 2ft off trickling feed into them regular after an initial two pots of mixed bait into both.  Two rigs set slightly over depth to keep the bait on the deck and two for mid-water.  The weather was causing me all kinds of problems, a really strong side wind was making presentation awful to achieve close in and further out.  Surely this wasnt helping me with no fish and no bites.  After the first hour I started to change things with shotting patterns but still no fish no bites heading into the third hour, this now got me thinking this isn’t to be my day, Barry by now picking off a few fish with the waggler.  Time creeping up to the break and first weigh my head was all over the place still no fish no bites.  Then the wind dropped a little and the sun came out and I started to see the hemp oil rising to the top which was telling me there is fish there and they are feeding so back out onto my top 2 and 2, five missed bites later I netted my fish, then three more, a deflated me headed off to make us all a brew and have a chat……..

Barry had enjoyed more opening success after finding some fish further out, but regularly connecting with them and getting confident takes was a challenge, so he got his thinking cap on;

Ok so the roach were not in front of me, and after an hour of feeding and fishing on a throw line and feeding the 20 turns line for later,  I had 1 fish, so out came the 3g waggler and I started on the long line…..After 20 mins no fish shallow and by this time the weather was not great, gusting wind, overcast, spots of rain, dull, and quite frankly not great.  I decided to change my long line approach totally, and opted for a less loaded float and nailed the bait to the lake bed ……… float dipped and fish on.  I started to get a run of fish but they were small.  My bulk shot nailing the bait to the floor was not working as effectively on the strike so I changed shotting and made the last 2ft of line sink slower and went at least 6” overdepth.  Again a few fish came to the bank but small ….. then we had a break.

It was of course by now pretty obvious that the fishing wasnt going to be easy today, not by a long stretch, but then it is the middle of January and although a ‘balmy’ 4°C on the day, previously we’d had some hard frosts and biting winds.

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The wind was causing both anglers issues to deal with, Barry changed his float numerous times until he got the presentation he was after, and Brian changed rigs, elastic’s and float to pole length often, again to get his presentation just right.  In these conditions and with bites at a premium, the guys knew despite cold hands they needed to remain focused and fish hard to get any results at all!

By the break both anglers were fishing further out, after the close in lines had proven fruitless.  Both had the foresight to feed lines further out, and this proved invaluable as this is where the bites had started to come from just before the break.  Both starting mid-water, and gradually moving down deeper, both had found that the fish wanted a bait presented hard on the bottom at this point, and the bites started to come.

Brew and catch up done, Brian’s a little more chipper now he’s had some action;

I was looking forward to getting back on my box just to see if the fish had stayed in my swim because the break was the last thing I needed.  What happened then and for the next 2 hours or so was rewarding and put a smile on my face, fish and bites came plenty on all my rigs and in two of my swims, I stuck to a pattern of throwing in 4/5 castors in every 30 seconds keeping the fish fighting for my hook bait sometimes taking it on the drop, now this is what I came for decent hybrids, roach, perch and some small skimmers meant I was now quickly putting a weight together. 

Barry’s tactics now totally adjusted and refined, the second half sees him enjoying some pretty frantic action;

After the break I caught steady, but again the stamp was very small.  It was satisfying to eventually figure out the peg on a particularly poor day.  The temperature dip from the day before was not great and this had an effect on the roach fishing.  Although I caught more fish than Brian, my stamp was not anywhere near what Brain was hooking into, with him hitting some big hybrids and me with all small roach.

The second half of the session was incredible to watch from a neutral point of view.  Battered by not only the testing conditions, a restriction on methods available and the fishing being really testing, both Brian and Barry dug really deep, constantly changing and adapting to the conditions.  In the second half Barry was now catching fish steadily, and his focused turned from getting bites, to hooking fish more often, to getting quicker bites, and back round the cycle again in a seemingly relentless pursuit to maximise his catch rate.

 

Brian in the second half had got his longer line and his close in reed line both rocking, and his focus and grit really shone through.  He didn’t back off, he just dug deeper, and stuck to his plan, and slowly but surely it was paying off.

Interestingly both anglers had worked thorough the day to find what the fish wanted, and had found initially going further out, with baits hard on the bottom, and less frequent but slightly heavier baiting was the order of the day.  Neither really knew what the other was doing, but both had unlocked the code, come to the same conclusion and we’re catching at pace.  Both had also found that dead reds soaked in hemp oil seemed to be the one on the day for the hook.

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The only real difference was in feeding strategies, Barry was feeding maggots, dead and live, whist Brian was feeding caster, maggot again dead and live, and a few micros.  Would this prove to have a bearing on the results I wondered?

At the close of play, I was amazed at how many fish the guys had both caught.  On a day when the conditions would have put some off, indeed even we questioned our sanity for a moment, and looking round the lake action elsewhere seemed thin on the ground.  That’s no reflection of the venue at all, these were really rough conditions make no mistake, it’s simply a measure of how the hard work the guys put in paid off.

Brian Sums his day up;

I finished up with a net weight of 11lb 4oz not bad for 2 hours of catching after all that mother nature threw at us all week and then on the day of fishing.  Not able to see what Barry was catching every time I bumped a fish or missed a bite had me thinking how important it was just to stay calm and not to rush things and just keep to the feeding pattern going and get them fish in the net.  3-30pm and we was out a brief chat like two poker players not giving much away what was in our nets, my net out first and I was pleasantly pleased even before I got it onto the scales but 11lb 4oz oh I was so made up considering less than three hours ago I hadn’t a bite, Barry although catching over 40 fish weighed in at 5lb 2oz.  So hands were shaken on a hard day were I would say we just got the better of the weather with the fish we ended up with and for me a lesson in don’t give up and dont be scared to make not just a change but several changes.  Is the pole quicker than rod?  I’m still in favour of the pole, on a different day it so easily could go the other way, I am a believer the weather conditions will always have a big say on any future duels.

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Barry concludes;

I took a lot from this challenge and here are my thoughts: Brian impressed me for showing mental strength, he didn’t have a fish for 4 hours and was very dejected, but he stuck at it and made changes, showed his personality and he did very well, this told me a lot about the man and what he is made of.

Rod faster than pole?  I have learned that you can’t judge a method over another because every dog has its day and given a different set of circumstances, the results will always be different. What I do know is no matter how hard a place fishes, if you stick at it, work it out, and never give in, then every fish you catch that day is worth its weight in gold.

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So there you have it, on the day the pole came out on top, but as both guys pointed out, on a different day it could have been a different story.  Both anglers agreed that given the conditions they would probably have fished a small feeder setup, given the chance.  However, under the Team Twister challenge restrictions, the guys we’re forced to dig deep and work hard on methods not ideally suited to the situation, scaling new heights of angling mental stamina and resolve.

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A huge well done to both Brian and Barry, not only did I find the day really enjoyable in their company, but it was magic to see two anglers so dedicated to the mission at hand.

See you at the next Twister!

Gav

Check out our short video of the day here: Team Twister, Rod V Pole

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When A Plan Goes Wrong…… By Barry Smith

It’s great when you set out in the morning with a plan to execute, and it all goes swimmingly well.  Nothing better!

I don’t know about you, but for me this is not the norm, but absolutely it’s nice when days like this happen.  A feeling of satisfaction and most importantly great validation that you’re a good angler, you know what you’re doing, it worked!!  I was right!!  Tactics spot on etc. …… and all those other testosterone quotes we tell ourselves when it goes well.

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But what about when it goes wrong?  And adding to that you have left at home an essential piece of kit that could have got you out of a bad days fishing ..ARGGGGGGGG!

This blog is all about exactly that scenario ….. and it happened to me on 7th January 2017. So put the kettle on,  sit back, relax, and enjoy my failure 🙂

Plan A was discussed with my team-mate, Stewart Rusling, some other anglers online and John from my local tackle shop who always helps me simplify things.  A simple plan in the end from a complicated start … I like to call this plan “consistent and accurate”.

  1. Set up a 24g ground-bait method feeder with dead red maggots on the hook.
  2. Take my 2.75 Sonik carp rod, and reel loaded with 12lb line with the biggest cage feeder I had.
  3. Set distance sticks at 11ft ….. and fish 8 wraps out (27 metres for young uns)
  4. Use a mix of dark fishmeal and heavy binding ground-bait, with a pint of dead reds and a healthy squirt of Brazem.

The plan was to be consistent and accurate, casting 10 feeders out at the start of the session with my carp rod clipped at 8 wraps, leaving the swim for half an hour and then simply over the top with a method feeder for bream and skimmers, again clipped at 8 wraps.

First cast and it hardly settled and my tip wrapped, and I landed a healthy skimmer …………. I am, a good angler, I know what I am doing, tactics spot on …. I could feel the testosterone running through my veins ……… then not a single touch for over 2 hours. The odd indication, but no skimmers and no bream.  I kept the casts accurate, kept the feed trickling in, changed feeders to a smaller feeder, hybrid feeder, bomb, Olivette, changed hooks, changed baits, hook lengths, did all the usual stuff, but it just wasn’t happening.  I have no clue what I am doing, I am failing, why can’t I buy a bite???  The testosterone had all but disappeared………. I got off my box and went to the car for a coffee and a butty and a think.

Stood at the boot of my car I knew I had to make changes or face a bad days fishing.  Having had a lot of roach out of this water on short pole tactics it was my only real option until I realised I had left my pole in the house …….. DOH!

Then my lightbulb moment that changed my whole session ………….. well if I aint got my pole then why not go old school and fish how we all used to fish before poles came on the scene and tried to take away the finest way of catching fish in the world … with a float and rod!!!!!!

Plan B

  1. Set up an 11ft waggler rod with a small loaded crystal insert waggler, no bigger than 1g, with absolutely no shot on the line, just let the hook sink the maggot.
  2. Soak my dead reds in Beechwood Baits Hemp oil (3 caps to a pint ;)) because I know this works from previous sessions.
  3. Fish the waggler set to hand, so effectively a rod length out, with an ever so delicate clutch setting to give the rod tip a hand.
  4. Throw 8-10 maggots in and underarm cast the float out so the maggot sinks with the loose offerings.

Float set at dead depth off I went, first put in and a bite instantly, small roach.  Searching all around me I kept the bait going in but not in 1 place.  I literally fished at 12 O’clock  and worked the float back to 9 O’clock with each put in, then started again at 12, so I never put the float in the same place constantly.

Scary thought is how may roach could I have had if this was my plan from the outset because the fish came thick and fast so much so that I adopted a tactic to speed up the process:

Once I struck into the fish, because I was using a rod as opposed to a pole, I had the advantage of leverage, so I lifted the fish out of the water with one movement which startled them.  So to recap, what I did was strike, and continue lifting the rod in 1 movement which swung the fish out of the water and right to my hand.  It was great fun, you should try this!

The question this posed for me was “is a rod faster than a pole for short line roach fishing” ……. What do you think?

Maybe we should put this to the test with the Beechwood match team and see if the rod beats the pole.  Watch this space!!

If catching a huge amount of roach is failing, then I love fishing!

I learned so much on this session which started bad but I am sure Plan A will have its day soon.

I went back  to school and it felt great, it was rewarding, and I kept fishing on the edge!