Category Archives: Back to School – The Water Shot

Follow Barry Smith along his self set challenge to get that magical ‘water shot’.

Still at school but loving the lessons.

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Wow its been a while since I last blogged about my journey into specimen carp fishing, January to be precise. So many things have happened since January so sit back and relax and I will tell you all about it.

Firstly I have moved into the position of “promotions manager” for Beechwood Baits which is an  awesome appointment for me and I am really pleased.  Beechwood Baits attended the NAS held in events city Manchester in April which was simply brilliant , and my fishing journey has really began to gather momentum with trips to Monarch lakes and Larford Lakes on two social events, to me that meant i had a load of carp anglers around me and I am not shy asking questions:)

My plan was always to get a “starter kit” and really begin to understand the kit ,challenge myself and above all take my time and let the journey unfold as organically as I can. So choosing Blakemere as my very first carp venue was that clever? I tell you now i would not change a thing, not a single thing because every single trip i have been on I have come away with so much more understanding and a little bit of practice and experience, and there is no rush right!

This blog is all about what changes I have made based on my fishing experiences, conversations with team mates, pegging next to experienced anglers ,making mistakes, recognizing the mistakes and lastly catching fish! None less important than the other.

The pictures above are at Monarch Lakes in Lincolnshire and a good place to start. The team was invited to fish Monarch Lakes by the owners and for the first time in my fishing history I was with a bunch of carp anglers and no course buddy to keep me company, just my carp”starter kit” and a load of Trigonella. I felt a little bit alone , and that’s not in any way referring to the lads I was fishing with , or how I was treated by them , on the contrary , this team are an awesome bunch of people who could not do enough for me. What i mean is I was feeling a little out of my depth and not felt like this  in a very long time. Add to that the place was not fishing well and although we all had indications , the fish were not playing ball. It was at this venue that I actually did something that Andy Grover discussed with me at Blakmere , we were sat there at Blakemere  discussing siting a fish and what to do should you sight fish …….. put a bait on it ! Sounds simple right! So this is how it went down……The first day I continually saw a fish crashing in the other lake to where the team were fishing , but did not do anything. Second day this fish kept crashing in the same spot so I had enough of sitting on my hands (Sorry Denis I know you tell me i have to learn to sit on my hands ) and put a rod in the other lake over the crashing fish .10 Minutes later Boooom! and fish on .It was a good fish and unfortunately I didn’t get this fish in.What i did do was stir up the team and create a little excitement and by this time Gav and Andy had come over and sat on the grass while I upped the rig strength and put out another bait right on the same spot. Now call me stupid or risky but I turned to Andy Grover and said “if this rod goes within the next 10 minutes you can play the fish”. Thats right , your spot on ….. it only screamed off and true to my word Andy played the fish in , Gav landed it and Beechwood Baits had a fish on the bank at last!

I was so proud of that fish because I used the knowledge that was passed to me and it actually worked. So on this trip I learned that its ok to feel vulnerable because it keeps you on your toes and makes you work hard. I also learned that I am a “make something happen” angler and if the fishing is hard then I will up the ante and go looking for them. Extremely proud to have had the guts to get off my backside and do something different and it paid off! After all ,I may be changing , but the carp remain the same! A few other things worth a mention is the patience and team support I got from Denis Ryan who took the time to show me the best way to get my bivvy up quick, thanks Denis something so simple like 5 minutes to show me through many years of experience really helped.

Larford was the next social and armed with my “starter kit” I made my way to the venue feeling less vulnerable and a little more confident . I was meeting Denis early and knew before I even got there I was going to peg next to him simply to bombard him with questions , poke my face into his rig box and basically get some 1 on 1 tuition .I mentioned rig box because on this trip my desire to understand my rigs VS. the other lads rigs could only help me to improve and in turn catch more fish. I was feeling confident with the rods and the set up , it was the end tackle I wanted to improve.

Larford was significant for me with my carp fishing for a few reasons:

  1. I made a glaring error but learned a valuable lesson.
  2. I added value to a team members trip with coaching of my own.
  3. I got loads of good tips from Denis on rigs.
  4. I needed to focus more on looking after myslf fo
  5. I really got to look at Anthony Tolleys approach and nicked a load of brilliant things he does and gadgets he uses to make the most from his fishing.

My error was a simple small attention to detail when tying a rig which resulted in a lost fish ….. Denis noticed the mistake and when I rectified the mistake I didn’t lose another fish.

As for coaching ….. I coached Liam Watts on pellet waggler and he literally took to it like a duck to water, and had a ball , bagging on the waggler!

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Anthony Tolley shared how he gets self take pictures using a gadget he found on eBay which I have since ordered and have to say its a great bit of kit to have. If you want to know more about this gadget ask me or Ant.

And what can I say about the enigma that is Denis Ryan, what a team-mate he really is. I learn so much from Denis but its his willingness and enthusiasm to share years of experience that really is the measure of him. So thanks Denis, its greatly appreciated.

Upgrades

From the outset with my carp starter kit, apart from the obvious thicker rods, bigger reels, the single biggest difference from my course tackle to carp tackle was the reels. with my course gear I use Diawa Matchwinner reels so i have been used to quality reels that do a great job.My carp reels were making it difficult so i decided on upgrades but it was not only the reels that made me consider upgrades to be fair.I looked back on my last two years and realized that 99% of my fishing was with rod and reel and I had been busting my guts carting really heavy course gear  to every venue to basically sit on and catch carp, along with a pole I hardly used ,so time for a change. The change i am making will take time but its work in progress. For now the upgrades I have chosen will take away heavy gear, focus on making my carp angling a little more updated but still give me the option to fish pellet waggler and bomb so I get the best of both worlds. So I upgraded with new reels that felt closer to what I was used to, new alarms that had enough about them to give me options in any peg I may find myself on and a receiver because apparently I slept through a run at Larford and Ant Tolley couldn’t wake me , and the all important ridgemonkey pan that is simply a brilliant piece of kit and so versatile.

 

I am still after the water shot but something about this goal has changed and it’s not my desire to achieve it , I am simply not in a rush to get it. I would rather keep learning and gaining experience and when it happens it happens. What I am craving next is two-fold:

  1. 48 hr on a proper carp water hopefully “The Quarry”
  2. 24 hours on my own and savor every moment.

Until next time , tight lines to you all and may the carp gods shine down on you when you need it the most.

Barry

 

 

 

 

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WILD AND WISE

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Welcome to the third blog of my journey “Back to school-The water shot”.  This session sees me on a spring fed complex of ponds where the resident wild carp are not an easy quarry and many local anglers can have many blank days before they land a fish here. At the request of the owner I cannot share the location of this fishery but Beechwood Baits have talked their way onto this complex for all the right reasons.  These fish are up to 20 years old and maybe older and know each pond and snags inside out. The fish go to 19lb and there is also a rogue Ghost carp which was  banked once in 2016 but often seen cruising, much to the frustration of the local anglers. So you get the picture, again I have chosen a tough venue to tackle but i believe the rewards for effort are worth my time and, lets face it, who doesn’t want to catch a 15-year-old Northern 10lb+ common or mirror?

For a novice carp angler I really am making it difficult for myself, and to set the scene for you, on this session the water in Gin clear, it’s absolutely throwing it down and i have no clue where to start. I  have no insights because the owner doesn’t fish, and my only visit for a wander, no anglers were fishing. With that said I had this crazy idea to map the place out for myself, naming all 6 ponds and naming some key pegs within each pond, this way I begin to build up a real healthy rapport with this water and strangely it makes me feel closer and more personal to the fish. Stupid right! ha ha

My biggest learn from  Blakemere Fishery on my last outing is that on a tough water where you have limited insights,  you cannot serve two masters, its course tackle or Carp tackle ….. so i am armed with just 2 carp rods, Beechwood baits and a trusty pint of maggots.

 

The Excelsor Pop Ups,  The Excelsor hard hookers and a Fox PVA bag contraption.

It was on this trip that i wanted to try solid bags for the first time and after some great chats with Gav Astley who put me onto his own solid bag blog Liquid PVA bags  which is very much worth a read if you fancy having a go, and also a Fox PVA bag maker,  that was  another school lesson ticked off my ever-growing list of tactics and methods to try, all aimed at helping me achieve my goal. Add to that the approach I took which was so very different to what I am used to. I arrived at this location at 8am, I didn’t go back to the car to get my gear until 9.45am and this was a massive change for me. I walked this complex several times and looked for signs of  fish, likely snag pegs with sunken trees or overhanging bushes, reeds moving, noted which way the wind was blowing, calm spots and  places that get a ripple, what pond gets the sun first, what the ducks were doing, you name it I noticed it.

The three pools i fished  in this session I have named from left to right : 1- Robin 2- Two trees 3- sunshine for my own reasons that are not too difficult to work out. Having had a chat with a local angler who popped down for a walk, it was pleasing to know that in these three pools I picked the right places to fish! That was a real motivator for me and absolutely lifted my spirits on a damp dull and cold day, but more of that meeting later.

OK now to address solid bags, a method designed to fish for a bit , instant attraction that a passing fish can’t resist, and not a lot of feed in the bag except maybe your hookbait. The debate goes on around bait in or out of the bag, and having chatted to loads of carp anglers (how lucky am I) I get the feeling it’s simply personal preference, and both methods catch. So in my mind in or out, why not try both, which I did! having watched videos on solid bags and a how to guide for the fox PVA system, it occurred to me that on this particular venue where I didn’t have to cast on a single peg I fished, it was a simple drop in and walk the rod back to the pod, there was really no need to be so fussy as to stick the corners down because it was not being cast any distance, I didn’t need to be as streamline as possible because the most i was doing was a gentle underarm  lob. Made sense to me. In the bag I used  The Mussleberry stick mix a few maggots and Hemp oil. On the hook I had a pop up on 1 rod and a hard hooker on the second rod. Making the bag with the Fox system was easy enough and towards the end of the day I had massively improved the end result taking into account the quantities and process.

So what did I learn on this trip? Was not catching a fish disheartening? had I completely messed it up from start to finish? Did I add some valuable experience to the memory bank and will I be better equip on my next visit? The answer I can share with you all is this :

Hybrid Angling!

Let me explain …… out-and-out carp tackle wont get you as many bites, but course gear wont land the fish, so I have to find middle ground, a hybrid approach that critically balances the tackle to get bites and land fish. To do this I will be preparing tackle to suit this venue on my next visit, taking all I have learned into account which is a massive step forward, add to that the bait insights I gleaned from a local angler and some other insights around pegs and approaches which need to be very brave. I am super excited to get back there with this hybrid approach and get closer to banking a fish and getting that magical water shot!

Thanks for reading my journey and tight lines.

 

Thirst for Knowledge, at Blakemere

I talk to a lot of anglers and it fascinates me to hear so many variations and approaches to carp fishing.  I genuinely get a lot from just chatting ad hoc and I typically see the passion ooze out of people when we talk fishing.  I guess it’s what anglers all have in common, but with my thirst for knowledge ever greater, a few conversations have stood out recently and I have really stepped back and taken on-board some inspiring comments.

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Danny Stone, a friend, a carp angler and fishery owner really validated for me that my fishing approach and my mind-set is absolutely how I need it to be, I face things sideways on , and never to change that.  Danny always says it how it is and I respect that.  A great chat around the KD Rig and he explained all aspects of it to me.  I always enjoy chats with Danny and I plan to do more of it.

Andy Grover, a team member encourages me to keep my match style head on when it comes to feeding, something I now consider since this chat  with him.  Simple words but Andy absolutely believes a match style approach can be as effective and piling in bait on the right venue.  A great thinking angler is Andy and generous to a fault …. Thanks for the leads Andy.  For the record when I saw Andy’s bait boat at Larford the theme tune to the love boat always came into my head!  #ruined

Gav Astley, owner of Beechwood Baits simply tells me I can.  And he genuinely tells me it will happen “your water shot is inevitable, but enjoy the journey, if I can help, shout me”.  Gav simplifies things for me.  Can’t beat that can you.  Gav is time poor, with work, family life and constantly making bait, but he is friends rich, and always has time for his fishing buddies.  Enough said!

Denis Ryan, a team member has a knack of using comparisons  in match fishing to make his point in carp fishing, so I understand.  Really simple but very effective and it hits home.  Denis will always demonstrate as well as coach me which is excellent.  And for the record, he doesn’t fish in Ireland 🙂  see my video here if I’ve lost you on this one!

Neil Thomas, is a ball of energy and simply inspires me.  It’s plain to see he gets a lot out of coaching and passing on knowledge and he has gone that extra mile to help me and Brian Coakley on our last outing to Blakemere.  It speaks volumes about him and no wonder he is the team captain…..Apparently he’s not  a bad angler either 🙂

So if you whack all of them guys together you have one seriously super carp angler !!!

How lucky am I !!!!

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So after all of the above the question is :do I feel closer to the water shot?

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Absolutely yes I do ………..and here is why .

Since my last blog on “The water shot” I have learned so much, and loved every minute of this next step in my journey.  I have learned and practiced at Blakemere :

  • Multi rigs/KD rigs /standard hair rigs/chod rigs/maggor rigs
  • Bait floss
  • Pva tape
  • Captive Back leading
  • Measuring sticks
  • Casting technique
  • Bite alarm set up
  • Rod pod set up
  • Leads and their uses
  • Bivvy essentials

I didn’t catch at Blakemere but my spirits could not be higher, I am a better angler for the experience and loved every second of being with the team on the bank putting things into practice.

So what sticks out …. What are my hurdles?

Rigs ……. Its 4 letters, a little word…………. but in carp fishing it is one of the most essential part of catching besides sighting fish.

I am a novice at rigs but I know this …….. in order for me to fool the craftiest of fish my bait has to act natural, and this is all down to rig and hook choice so I need to practice, change, be different, see how it sits in the water, invent my own, do things different, research, experiment, keep thinking and not sit there and wait.

Rig with a 16mm Mussleberry Red and PNBA Adjusta plug

 

I cannot wait for my next trip out, and hopefully will be on the bank in Feb with Denis and Andy who I know will gladly share all their vast knowledge with me………… I am gonna glean so much.

Now I have my head well and truly stuck into end tackle and the part it plays, I know how important this is and I need to get it right.

I know Neil will keep pushing me and telling me “cast again” hit the spot and keep at it until you hit the spot every time.

I know Gav will be there to help me with anything I need.

Two other people I have not mentioned but need no introductions are  Brian Coakley and Stewart Rusling who are my brothers in this team.

Brian is on the journey with me and a great support because we talk and help each other along the way (and he snores like a right one), and Stew has so much to offer with carp angling.

This blog chapter has really demonstrated how we roll at Beechwood Baits and it has occurred to me that every step forward I make has been at the hands of good friends and closer to that elusive “water Shot”.

Roll on my next trip out.

Barry

 

Game On……… A New Challenge!

Introduction

For those anglers who have maybe been fishing for a while and found your own preferred style or your “go to” approach, can  you remember the last time you felt like you knew nothing?  Like everything was new and you were a little lost with a whole new experience of fishing?  Frustrated that you didn’t know things?  Totally dependent on others to pass on their experience or having to research to understand what you were doing and why?  The little things that are alien to you but second nature to others?  Feel reluctant to ask because you feel stupid?  It may have been a while since you felt this way if you have been fishing for a long time, but that feeling of not knowing, of doing something totally different to what you normally do on the bank …………. It`s familiar to me and humbling, it excites me……  and I am full of it!

Let me explain why I am feeling like this and what has led me to this amazing place in my fishing …… .

Here at Beechwood Baits we are a bunch of anglers that believe there are massive benefits to getting together socially and fishing as often as we can as a team.  Having experienced two socials at Rosemary Wood and Larford Lakes it occurred to me that although I have my “go to” methods which I absolutely champion, I also have an abundance of experience around me in the form of big carp anglers.  It would be criminal of me to not use such experience that this team of anglers have to offer,  and come on now …. who doesn’t want a whacker!  I have a huge passion to get that “water shot” with a big old Northern thirty (but to be honest I won’t complain with any big fish, or where it comes from for that matter!).

So I find myself driven to learn new ways of fishing that will get me closer to my  goal, that “water shot” ….. and my journey begins.

Chapter 1- planting the seed and watching it grow

It really all started while having a conversation with Brian Coakley and Stewart Rusling around wanting to throw a rod in through the night while on socials.  We felt that we were missing a trick by not having a line in the water while all the carp lads in the team were buzzing away all night with runs.  That was all the excuse I needed to plant the seed in my head.  So where does this “water shot” passion come from that burns inside me?  I could not tell you is the honest answer, other than to say every time I look at an angler in the water with a fish I say to myself I want one of those shots!  There is something magical about the connection with a fish when you are in his/her world and gently capturing the moment, actually worshiping the fish if truth be told. I want it to be me!

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Taking a methodical approach the first steps of my journey were to simply seek out advice from the team, and get a feel for what type of equipment I would need to be able to fish for carp through the night while on socials, and really getting advice on the important aspects of this new style of fishing without breaking the bank…… wow!  You know what, I learned so much with just a few conversations with the lads in the team.  Cheekily I also asked them to keep an ear to the ground and give me a shout if they see any set up that fitted what I was looking for:  The sound advice I received was ………….

  • A good Bivvy is a must, keep warm, keep dry, get best quality you can afford.
  • Focus on the reel quality more than the rod quality.
  • 2.75 test curve seemed to be the solid advice for rod.
  • Start with 1 or 2 rods for now.
  • Don’t pay the earth for Delks just yet, get some good value for money alarms that do the job.
  • Don’t worry about end tackle just yet, we will get to that .

 

With all of the above in mind I have lost count of the numerous bivvy videos I have watched, testimonials I have read, Ebay searches I have done, links I have been sent, messages I have had from the lads  ……. It goes on and on.  However there was a breakthrough from none other than Gav Astley who spotted something on Facebook and sent it over and I am now the proud owner of :

2 x Sonik SKS 12ft 2 piece Carp rods (2.75 and 3Lb test curve)

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2 x Diawa Regal 4500 Baitrunner reels

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2 x fox Micron m+ Bite alarms and Nash H-Gun 2 rod pod

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Fox Royale 60” Brolly system

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Ok, so now I have the rods, reels, alarms, and a small footprint to keep me warm and dry.

But I know nothing about end tackle  argggggggggggg………………..

Suppose I better get back to school and learn all about basic end tackle so I can begin to turn my dream into a reality.

Join me next time for a lesson on rigs, weights, wraps, PNBA, hooks, spods, spoms, throwing sticks, stick mixes, PVA and whatever else I can glean from the lads.

 

Oh that elusive water shot is a little nearer now!