Carp, Catfish and Roadshows - Tony's Specialist Scene
The main fishing related events for me during August were two Nash Roadshows that I’d been involved in on consecutive weekends during the early/mid part of the month.
As a consultant for both the regular Nash carp tackle brand and the more recent Nash/Peg One product range aimed at specialist and commercial fisheries anglers, I try and attend one or two of the larger, most popular, carp and coarse fishing shows and a couple of the Nash Roadshows each year to help promote the various products and hopefully pass on a few useful tints and tips along the way.
This year I was due to attend the roadshow based at the Rookley Park fishery on the Isle of Wight on one weekend, with another, at Todber Manor fisheries in Dorset, the following weekend. With both roadshows based down south I’d arranged for both me and fellow Peg One consultant Ian Hardman to have an extended stay at Rookley Park followed by an invitation to do a few days’ fishing on one of the other lakes at Todber prior to getting ready for the actual roadshow event which was to be based on their Paddock Specimen Lake.
This meant that Ian and I could travel down together and go straight from one venue to the other without the fuss and expense of having to drive all the way home and back in between. Of course it also meant that we could have a mini-holiday and have a few days of non-roadshow related fishing to ourselves in-between the more serious stuff.
After a thankfully event free drive down to the south coast, Ian and I arrived at the Southampton ferry terminal a little earlier than expected and were soon boarding the car ferry taking us across to the Isle of Wight. On arrival at the fishery it wasn’t long before we were enjoying a cup of tea with Tim the fishery manager and owner of Tim’s Tackle, the on-site tackle shop, and making plans for the weekend ahead.
The rest of the Nash team had arrived the day before with the bulk of the gear in the big van and already had the main Nash marquee set up by the corner of the larger specimen carp lake closest to the tackle shop and some bivvies set up on a section of the smaller general coarse fishing lake that we had christened ‘Gudgeon Island’ during the event the year before.
This meant that Ian and I only had the relatively simple job of dragging a few extra items of Peg One gear over to ‘Gudgeon Island’ and setting a few things up for display to make ourselves ready for the roadshow.
Simon, Lee and Kirsten, who made up the rest of the Nash team, had already reserved their swims on the specimen carp lake for the next couple of nights. However, on hearing the news that the larger carp lake hadn’t been fishing too well, Ian and I elected to spend the next few nights fishing the smaller coarse lake from ‘Gudgeon Island’ to see if we could catch any of the big crucians that are known to inhabit the venue.
This also meant that we wouldn’t need to relocate each morning and we could be ready and waiting (and hopefully catching a few fish) as soon as any roadshow visitors arrived to have a look at the Peg One products, or to ask us any questions.
Rookley Park is also a holiday complex with a large number of self catering caravans and holiday bungalows set around the place and a number of other holiday park facilities, including swimming pools, a bar/restaurant, cafeteria, takeaway outlet, nightly entertainment and children’s play areas all within casting distance of the general coarse lake. There’s even a fireworks display each Friday evening. This meant that there was usually plenty of noise and activity going on around the place and the only real periods of relative piece and quiet were to be found very late at night and in the early hours of the morning. Certainly a world apart from most of the venues I fish! Of course the fish are well used to all the activity going on and are probably totally unaffected by it… but it can take some getting used to for the visiting angler.
After an evening meal and a couple of beers up in the restaurant with the rest of the team it was time to get back to the lakes and to do some fishing.
I’d already primed a couple of close in spots in my chosen swim with some hemp and corn just by the overhanging branches of a bush to my left and some pellet and broken boilies within reach of an underarm cast slightly to the right. I’d chosen to fish a small, square, flat, inline lead and a short hooklength with hair-rigged corn to a size 14 hook on the left-hand rod and a small method feeder with a 10mm boilie hair-rigged to a size 12 on the other rod. Both leads had a generous amount of method mix squeezed around them before being carefully placed in position.
Apart from a few liners the early part of the night was quite uneventful from a fishing perspective, but things started to warm up from around midnight onwards and by early morning I’d accounted for three tench and three small carp to low doubles, but unfortunately no crucians.
Interestingly all the bites had come to the right-hand rod. Ian fishing the next swim along to my right had a pretty quiet night, but I have a feeling that he might have ‘forgotten’ to re-cast after the first enquiry or two in order to enjoy a more peaceful night’s sleep. By the time we’d both had some breakfast and gotten the tackle and bait displays ready for the first visitors I’d landed a couple more small carp and had swapped the left-hand rod for a float rod to see if I could encourage any crucians or golden tench to put in an appearance.
Activity from the carp and tench certainly slowed right down during the day, but loads of attention from the rudd could be had on smaller baits to keep things interesting if required. Ever hopeful of a crucian or two I stayed faithful to the larger baits (which didn’t deter the rudd entirely) while Ian kept a succession of rudd coming in on floatfished maggot.
The weekend’s fishing events at Rookley Park also included free angling coaching for any youngsters who fancied giving it a trying and several local coaches were in attendance on both days to show the kids what to do and to help them catch a few fish. The coaching sessions were really popular and, despite the number of visitors being down from the previous year, probably due to both the Olympics and the poor weather over the weekend, the coaches were kept busy all day with a constant stream of youngsters eager to try and catch their first fish. The obvious delight on the faces of the kids as they swung in their first pole caught rudd, or sometimes posed in front of the camera with their first carp (as Tim had a couple of carp rods out over a well pre-baited spot right by the door of the tackle shop) was great to see.
The fishing on Saturday night followed a similar pattern to the previous night, but with fewer tench and more carp… but again no crucians.
The fishing and roadshow attendance on the Sunday also followed a similar pattern to the previous day, with plenty of smiles from the youngsters and a steady flow of visitors to both the main Nash marquee, with the bait making and rig tying displays alongside the tackle displays and visitors checking out the Peg One and Fish Frenzy products. Ian also managed a decent perch on the float in between scores of rudd.
Late Sunday afternoon saw the conclusion of the official events, which meant that we had some packing away to do, but with Tim helping to organise a team of willing volunteer assistants we soon had the bulk of the gear stashed away.
We were all staying for the Sunday night, with Ian and I electing to say put on the smaller lake and the rest of the team having a final crack at the carp on the specimen lake.
Monday morning revealed that it had been a quiet night for the guys on the specimen lake and the usual late night and early morning run of smallish carp to double figures for me on the coarse lake.
It was nice to be getting plenty of runs and catching a few fish but with most of the action being late at night and early in the morning it was starting to take its toll and I was suffering from a lack of sleep and I was quite looking forward to a change of venues.
After a cooked breakfast up at the restaurant it was time for the Nash roadshow team to say our goodbyes to Tim and for Ian and I to make our way back to the mainland and across to Todber Manor for the next instalment of our fishing filled week and a bit.
It absolutely chucked it down during the ferry crossing back to Southampton and for most of the way over to Todber Manor. Fortunately, after checking with the guys in the shop about how busy the various lakes on the complex were, we were able to set up during a relatively dry period, on the lake known as Little Hayes. This particular lake only had one other angler present at the time of our arrival and he was fishing from the far side, out into the main open water area between the two islands.
Ian and I decided to fish two swims on the other side to the angler already present, choosing the far end, thinking that a few fish might have been pushed down that way on the end of the wind. Our swims were adjacent to each other, with an island in front of us, but with the open water further over to my right and some more open water and the end of the lake receiving the full force of the steady breeze to Ian’s left.
The whole lake is pretty shallow, but a spot in only 18 – 24 inches of water in the margins up to my right where the bottom felt slightly firmer was the area that received my first hookbait. This consisted of half a tiger nut on top of half a cork ball as a hookbait, with a little no.4 shot placed on the braided hooklink a couple of mm’s away from the eye of the hook to pin the bait down close to the lake bed. The hookbait was simply lowered in place over the other side of the reeds off the rod tip and after a few handfuls of hemp and a little sprinkling of tiger nuts were thrown over the top, the rod was simply walked back to the rests with the rod tip sunk below the surface near the lake bed and a nice slack line to try and keep the line out of the way of any fish patrolling between rod tip and bait.
The second rod went in over an area I had spodded with a good mixture of hemp, pellet, corn and crumbled/broken boilies, with a few whole 10mm boilies, small neon squidgee hookbait pellets and a little handful of tigers included for good measure in case I felt like playing around with different hookbaits. The area I spodded was approximately half way between the bank and the island, just my side of the half way mark between my swim and Ian’s. The idea being that I’d fish a bait right in the middle of the spodded area, while Ian could fish with a bait cast just off the spod mix on his side of it.
My third rod was going to be a bit of a ‘rover’, with a 10mm boilie hookbait and either a PVA bag or stringer cast around to likely areas or towards showing fish.
The first of our runs came not long after getting all of the rods out and the bivvy up and the rest of the gear sorted. This came on my right hand margin rod, producing a good looking little mirror carp of around 11 or 12lb. Ian didn’t wait too long before evening up the score with a similar sized common from his side of the spodded area.
I won’t detail every run, as there were plenty of them over the next couple of days, despite neither of us taking the fishing too seriously. In fact we both seemed to lose count a little bit once we’d both got to double figures, but we finished up with something like 25 – 30 carp between us, with Ian nearly always seeming to stay a fish or two ahead once he’d got into his stride. We didn’t bother weighing the majority, but they were all pretty doubles; a nice mix of mirrors and commons. The heaviest that found itself inside a weigh sling going a couple of ounces shy of 16lb. It was all good fun fishing and a great opportunity to have a proper social session when the weather behaved itself.
Overall the margins seemed to be the best areas, with the margins down on Ian’s left, on the end of the wind, the obvious hot spot.
What was of particular interest to me over the session was that I caught all of my fish over quite heavily baited areas. My roving rod only produced one bite (with the fish falling off half way to the net). However most of Ian’s fish came to rods cast away from any amount of bait, with either PVA bags or stringers, with perhaps a small handful of free offerings over the top, doing the business.
I can only think that the difference was that Ian’s swim, on the end of the wind, contained more carp that were keen to quickly eat anything they came across before one of the others beat them to it; a situation nicely exploited with a subtle bag/stringer approach. Whereas my swim perhaps contained fewer fish, or fish that were travelling through, that needed to keep coming back and feeding on a baited patch before eventually making a mistake with the hookbait.
I’ll never know for sure, but it was certainly food for thought.
Eventually it was time to pack up on Little Hayes and to move over to Paddock Lake to start preparations for the next roadshow.
For the event itself, our team were due to have Paddock Lake to ourselves from the Friday lunchtime through to the Sunday lunchtime. This meant that for Thursday night Ian and I would have to slot in to whatever swims were vacant.
One of the swims we fancied using for the weekend was the swim that Ian had fished during the roadshow the year before. It was situated near the first corner of the lake you came to from the entrance track and had a nice big flat grassy area that was ideal for displaying the Peg One products we’d have on show during the event. During last year’s roadshow the swim had also produced a nice catfish of 26lb for Ian and as it was already free we quickly set about installing Ian and some of the other gear we’d brought with us so that we immediately had a base of operations.
With Ian’s swim and a handy area for the Peg One product display sorted I decided to wait until the following day when we’d decide on the location and layout of the main marquee and displays and when there’d be a larger choice of swims before choosing where to set up. However not wanting to waste a night’s fishing, I was able to share Ian’s swim and we both got a couple of rods sorted out for the night. Ian fished the right hand side of the swim for both carp and catfish, while I had my two catfish rods out to the left.
Later that evening Lee arrived with the van loaded up with the main gear for the roadshow and after being fed and watered he decided it was too late to try and find somewhere to fish and so set up his brolly a little further up the bank from Ian to grab some sleep for the night.
Apart from a liner or two the bite alarms were pretty quiet all night but Lee and Ian tried to make up for it with a contest to see who could snore the loudest...
On the Friday once Alan, the final member of our Nash Roadshow team, had arrived it was time for us all to get organised for the show itself. As the lake gradually cleared of other anglers we decided where everything was to be set up and the areas where any fishing displays were be held. This meant I would be relocating over to the far side of the lake, with the primary task of trying to catch a catfish and dealing with general queries on all species, while Alan and Lee dealt with the main Nash displays, some surface fishing for the carp if the opportunity arose and casting tuition, with Ian looking after the Peg One display area.
Once I was relocated into my main swim for the next 48hrs I could bait up properly. I’d already split a big bucket of pellet and boilies that I’d pre-glugged with a very generous helping of oils and boilie soak with Ian the previous day and I wasted no time in choosing a couple of likely areas in my new swim and spodding a good amount into one spot, while the other spot was close enough to throw the freebies in by hand over the top of some reeds.
After setting up the rods, bivvy and all the other bits and pieces, including another rod set up with carp in mind that I planned to fish along a nice reed lined margin, it was time to help the others finish off setting up the main displays. However the guys had got virtually everything done by the time I was ready to assist, so there wasn’t much for me to do other than helping to rig up a floater fishing outfit … shame eh?
After we’d demolished an Indian takeaway between the four of us it was time to get ourselves back to our respective swims and to cast out for the night.
Sometime during the night I heard some buzzer activity from the other side of the lake and after what sounded like a fair old struggle there were sounds of a fish being landed and then some talk between Lee and Alan about a UK PB catfish, quickly followed by a few flashes as photographs were being taken. I later learned that Lee had caught a 20lb+ catfish on a tiger nut hookbait (the first catfish I’ve ever heard of caught on ‘tigers’) fished right in the edge.
There hadn’t been much activity for me overnight other than a couple of bleeps from the alarms and I was sat in my chair just outside the bivvy enjoying my second cup of tea of the morning, when without prior warning the alarm on the catfish rod fished close in signalled a steady take.
I was soon bent into the fish, but with the rod positioned at the end of a small peninsula, with a small island straight out in front, another island surrounded by reeds out to the left and a bush preventing me from following the fish if it chose to swim round the corner, I had to cram on the pressure to help keep the fish in front of me and away from any problem areas. Most catfish pull back, and this one was no exception, and I was quite relieved to finally slip it into the net after a relatively short but typically powerful struggle. It looked a 30 plus in the net, so I waved across to Ian to come over to take some photos as I got the unhooking and weighing gear ready.
The scales read 37lb, which is a decent catfish for Paddock Lake, so I was well chuffed. It would have been even better if it had waited an hour or two until there were a few roadshow visitors around, as it’s always great to be catching a few fish to help demonstrate the tackle and other products, but you can’t have everything.
The roadshow itself went very well, but again the numbers were down on the previous year, with the Olympics potentially to blame for people’s interest being diverted elsewhere. However the advantage of fewer numbers means that you can devote more time to talking to individuals and we had a few guys spending several hours at the show, with local teenagers Nick and Jack particularly good company, spending virtually the whole day with us.
The Todber Roadshow itself was just for the one day and it seemed to pass very quickly, and it was soon time to start packing the main gear back into the van so that Lee could start his journey back to base with the van, and from there back home, so he could get away on holiday with his wife early the following morning. Ian and I had the luxury of staying on for an extra night’s fishing, which meant that we didn’t have to rush around getting our own fishing gear etc packed away as well.
Our last night on Paddock was pretty quiet and all too soon it was Sunday morning and we were packing up and making way for the next group of anglers booked onto the lake; our roadshow related fishing adventure finally drawing to a close… for this year at least.
It seems likely that I’m well over the normal word count, so I’d better quickly draw this to a conclusion and pick up on events next month.
So until next time, “happy fishing!”
By the Same Author
- Bob Church, Bream Fishing and No Bites: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- The Predation Action Group and a Quiet Finish: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Chew Valley Reservoir Pike – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Pike and Chub...But Very Little Fishing - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Tactics for Big Chub – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Bream, a Bite at Last - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Angling Sponsorship – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Carp - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Carp, Catfish and Roadshows - Tony's Specialist Scene
- Ebro Cats – Tony’s Specialist Scene