Category Archives: Team Twister

Beechwood Baits Team Twister challenges are all about fun and fishing! Throughout the year we’ll bring you challenges designed to be different, interesting and exciting. If you have a challenge you might like to see us take on, drop us a line, you never know we might add it to the list!

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

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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