Carp, Cats and Crucians – Tony’s Specialist Scene
This month Tony’s back on the crucian trail but with his first ever fishing trip to France on his mind he’s finding it hard to concentrate on the UK fishing…
For many coarse anglers June means the start of season on the rivers, along with all the excitement that entails but I have to confess that although I’ve had my fair share of new season starts on the rivers, most have been a disappointment in terms of results and it’s much more likely nowadays that June will see me concentrating on stillwaters, saving the river fishing for later in the year.
This year, early June saw me making a return 48 hour visit to the lake where I’d had my PB crucian on a trip the previous month. While the fishing was good, it certainly wasn’t quite as hectic as the previous session, but fishing similar tactics to those described in last month’s piece, I was pleased to catch a good few tench and some more quality crucians, including a lovely fish weighing 3lb 5oz.
The following week I had the opportunity to do a couple of midweek nights, but I couldn’t decide where to go. With my first ever fishing trip to France coming up later in the month it was difficult to concentrate on anything else, but I eventually chose to dust off my carp gear and head over to Swan Lake on the Bluebell Complex near Oundle. Even if the fishing was on the slow side, it would give me a good chance to check over my carp gear in preparation for the French trip.
Arriving at the lake, it was soon apparent that the weed had got going early this year, with plenty of it growing up to the surface in several spots around the lake. After a quick look around I decided to check out a swim that gave me access to the middle section of the lake, with nobody directly opposite and a couple of empty swims to both the left and right. It seemed like a reasonable area to start off in, as the lake can get busy and sometimes the fish can respond to the pressure by starting to shy away from the busier areas.
It needed a bit of a ‘thrashing’ with the marker float, but eventually I was happy that I’d identified an area that was clear enough to provide reasonable presentation for two rods with boilies fished on chod rigs. A much smaller, but even clearer, area closer in looked to be suitable for baiting with some hemp, sweetcorn and a few handfuls of pellet and could be fished with a standard bottom bait rig, which I intended to fish with a single grain of artificial sweetcorn presented on the hair.
Nothing much was happening on the lake for the two nights of my stay, but with the occasional carp showing in or near my swim on both nights and during the early morning period I was still reasonably confident of some sort of action.
Eventually, with only a couple of hours to go before I had to be packed and gone, the right-hand rod with the artificial corn fished over the particle bed was away. With all the weed about it wasn’t surprising that the fish got bogged down a couple of times, but a bit of patience together with some gentle persuasion soon had the carp moving again and a pretty mid-double mirror ended up having its photo taken.
Towards the end of the month it was time to head over to the Abbey Lakes Complex in France, for my first ever French fishing trip.
It all came about after a generous invite from my neighbor Mike, who was going over to fish Kingfisher Lake on the complex with a group of guys he’d got to know. There was a late cancellation and therefore a spare place going on the cheap. So after a bit of ‘arm-twisting’ I was persuaded that it was an opportunity too good to miss. Kingfisher Lake is the only lake on the Abbey complex with big catfish as well as big carp, with the record cat for the lake weighing 168lb and the possibility of even larger fish present. It wasn’t difficult to decide to concentrate efforts on the catfish, but with plenty of appropriate bait and tackle to be taken for the carp, should the chances look good for them either instead of, or alongside, the catfish.
We made a draw for the order in which we would pick swims when we all met up in the early hours prior to boarding the ferry at Dover; then once at the venue and after having a look around the final swim choices were made. I was mid-way down the draw, but reasonably confident with my final swim choice.
I’d gone for Swim 1, which is something of a corner swim on Kingfisher, but with nobody in the swim to my left and with varied features and water depth and a carpy looking margin stretching away to the right, it looked to provide opportunities to fish for both carp and catfish. With plenty of weed about I initially resisted any temptation to fish long and picked two separate areas to the right of the swim for the carp and another area to place a catfish rod, just to the left about 30 yards out. Here there was 20ft of water, where the bottom finally cleared of weed where it grew in abundance from the margins and down the slopes towards the deeper water.
I was the only one of our group likely to be concentrating on the catfish as my priority target and once I’d got all the kit in the swim, I decided to flick out a heavily glugged 30mm Marine Halibut pellet in the vicinity of some bubbles being made out towards the bottom of the shelf, just in case a hungry catfish was responsible. Once I’d got my shelter up and most of my kit in some sort of reasonable order I proceeded to spod out 2 kilos of mixed sized pellets and a kilo each of chopped fishmeal boilies and 15mm Source shelf life boilies, all of which I’d had soaking in halibut oil and Source liquid attractant to add extra pulling power.
This lot went out to the spot that I’d identified as my main catfish target area. My catfish rig was replaced with another one with a slightly larger hook with a longer hair, onto which went another one of the glugged 30mm pellets, this time tipped off with a fluorescent red 20mm ‘bloodied eel’ flavored pop-up pellet, which had also been sitting in plenty of glug for several days prior to the trip.
One of the spots I’d marked initially as a potential carp area was a relatively weed free area almost surrounded by denser weed all around it. The bottom wasn’t totally clean, but felt suitable for a pop-up fished on a choddie. I fired a couple of kilos of 15mm Source boilies around the general area via catapult, and dropped the hook bait into the clearest feeling spot that I could find.
The second carpy spot was a virtually clean-bottomed area that extended out from a well-weeded drop-off. With the lack of weed I decided to spod this area with a generous helping of hemp and sweetcorn along with some 10mm and crumbed boilies and a few handfuls of small pellets. Over this I initially kicked-off with a combination of real and artificial sweetcorn as a hookbait, with the intention of swapping the hook bait about to try and find something successful.
The first evening there wasn’t a great deal showing and the first night around the lake was quiet for everyone. However at first light the lake appeared to start waking up with quite a few carp showing between Dave in Swim 3 and the empty Swim 4, and another few showing off the reeds to the left of Mike in swim 9/10.
As the morning gradually got lighter the fish appeared to spread out and started to show in front of Sam, Brad and Sam’s dad, Mark, who were spread out in Swim 5. Eventually, as I sat out by the rods with a cup of tea the noise of an alarm drifted over from the area of Swim 5 and Sam came dashing out of his bivvy. Sam soon landed the first fish of our group, which turned out to be a double-figure mirror. As this was all happening I could make out that a few more carp were starting to show way over the opposite side to me, but in the area of Swim 6 being shared by Matt and Mark Woollaston (the second Mark of our group). I was actually thinking that I was a bit unfortunate, as it seemed that everyone had at least a few carp showing in their swim except for me, as I’d only seen a couple of tench roll close to the margins, but then suddenly the alarm attached to the rod fishing a boilie in the hole in the weed spot let out a warning that something had taken the bait! The carp needed to be guided out of the weed a little, but without too much drama I soon had a nice dark, sparsely scaled mirror in the landing net, which went 30.08 on the scales; a great start to the week!
As the day wore on a few more fish were caught. I had a couple of tench on my right-hand rod and Mark in Swim 6 started catching the first of a number of good carp he had throughout the week. Unfortunately no catfish were caught, but a couple of early losses around the lake were attributed to catfish which were lost in the thick weed growth.
Most days followed a similar pattern, with the fish showing overnight and very early in the area of Swim 3 and 4 and the side of the point area (Swims 9/10), with the activity seeming to spread out in front of Swims 5 and 6 as the morning progressed. Carp presence and activity also appeared to build up in front of Swim 6 during the week, as the fish holding up in the weed surrounding the area got more and more enthusiastic about the bait that Mark and Matt were steadily applying.
Mark in particular was able to take advantage of the carp activity in front of his swim and with accurate casting and utilising rigs suited to good presentation he built up a respectable total of carp from mid doubles up to mid 30’s. Matt’s incredibly relaxed attitude to the fishing meant that he wasn’t really able to share Mark’s results with the carp showing in ever increasing numbers in front of Swim 6, but a skilful bit of midday stalking in the empty Swim 7 saw him land one of the biggest carp of the week, with a fat 39lb mirror that looked ready to spawn.
There were also some tales of woe over the week with some good fish lost after running through and getting caught up in the heavy weed growth. Dave in Swim 3 and the three guys spread out across Swim 5 all suffered from these cruel losses. I was witness to Dave losing an obviously good carp very early one morning after he went to fetch the boat to try and extract his fish, which he then subsequently lost right by the boat as he attempted to put the net under it. The swearing I could hear and the body language I could make out from back on dry land were sad to witness, as he realized he’d lost a fish that would have smashed his PB.
Mark in Swim 5 also suffered a number of lost carp before he eventually landed two or three cracking fish, including the heaviest carp of the week, with a fish of a few ounces over 40lb.
Mike in the Point Swim, who was happy to admit that he was the least experienced carper of the trip, was also suffering, but from a lack of action rather than lost fish. Rupert, the resident bailiff, had given him several pointers in terms of spots to try over the large area of water that his swim covered and I’d also carefully pointed out areas where I’d seen carp showing in his swim during my early morning observations. Several of the lads in the group had also been helping out with suggestions on where to fish and some very useful rig suggestions and examples being tied up. However, towards the end of the week, Mike was the only one of the group still on a blank and had yet to receive a single bite other than the occasional liner.
After my fabulous start, my own results were nothing to shout about. I was catching fish on a regular basis, in fact possibly more than anyone else, but they were now nearly all modest-sized tench. There were hardly any signs of carp coming into the area of my swim and the catfish just hadn’t switched on at all. In fact the only catfish caught from the lake by Thursday morning was a mid-double that Brad had caught quite early on. The only action I’d received from my original particle-baited swim was a pike that decided to grab a ‘glow-in-the-dark’ plastic corn hook bait, so midweek I repositioned the rod to another spot about 60 yards up the right-hand side, where a shallower, weedy ridge ran out from the margins, then dropped away to a relatively weed free area in about 15ft.
I stuck with the other spot that I was baiting with boilies as the tench were doing a good job of clearing away the weed and I felt confident of the carp finding the area and bait attractive if they did make an appearance. I also kept up with the regular baiting up on the spot I’d originally chosen for the catfish rod, as I was pretty sure that they just hadn’t switched on as yet.
Eventually, late on Thursday, there were some more positive signs. The catfish appeared to be waking up with several strikes on the surface around the lake, with a couple near the area of my swim. Also there were some indications that the carp might be heading my way, with the odd one showing over to the right, but getting closer to where I’d got my baits.
It was close to midnight on the Thursday night when the alarm on the catfish rod indicated that something had picked up the bait. It felt like a reasonable fish from the moment I set the hook but I knew that it wasn’t one of the monsters as I was able to stop the fish from making any long runs; whereas the true goliaths can leave you feeling a little helpless as they pretty much charge about wherever they fancy. It did manage to tangle itself around the main line on one of the carp rods however, which eventually meant that with the end tackle on the carp rod being dragged about and finally stuck in a weedbed I was unable to exert enough direct forward pressure/momentum on the catfish to haul it over the weed and close enough to the shallow water in my margin to glove it. Eventually, with assistance from Dave, we had the line from the other rod out of the way and I was able to glove the catfish and get it ashore. It was a nicely mottled, relatively short and fat fish that went 56lb.
Some time later I had the rods sorted and back out to their respective spots, but I didn’t have long to relax as at first light the carp rod on the spot that I’d kept well baited with the 15mm Source boilies indicated a run that sounded a bit more urgent than the tench takes that I’d been getting used to.
The resulting fish was another one of the nice dark mirrors for which the lake is well known, weighing 24.08, which I popped into a large retainer for a few photos once the light was stronger. Again there wasn’t long to wait before the next run, as the rod that I’d recently re-cast was away again. Another carp was responsible this one weighing a few ounces over 30lb; so with a fish already in the retainer and one in the net, it was time to find someone to do the photos.
I was quite hopeful of catching further carp or catfish on the last (Friday) night of our trip, but by dawn, despite a couple of liners, I hadn’t had a proper run. However, as I was making myself a brew I could see in the distance, over on the Point Swim, Mike suddenly in action by his rods. This was looking really interesting, as up to that point he’d only managed to catch a solitary small tench and the whole group were willing him to land a decent carp that he was so desperate to catch.
Finally, through my binoculars, I could see him slipping the net under something significant; obviously a decent carp. So it wasn’t a difficult decision to reel in, grab my camera and trot over to his swim to lend a hand and take some photos. Mike’s carp weighed nearly 34lb and almost doubled his previous PB. His obvious delight was a joy to see and was a wonderful way to round off the trip. The entire group of lads had provided some fantastic company and entertainment and despite some mixed results the friendliness and camaraderie had been excellent all week.
All in all it was a great and very memorable experience for my first ever fishing trip to France, but it was over far too soon and it seemed like we were all heading back to the UK just as things were starting to come good for everyone. However I’d got further fishing related plans for the following month and I’ll give you an update on how things worked out next time.
Until then… happy fishing!
By the Same Author
- An Indian Summer with Carp, Cats...and Pike! Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Bream Sessions, Carp…and Carpers! Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Back to Carp, Bream and Roach - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Carp, Cats and Crucians – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Crucian Time: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Back on the Bream Trail: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Chew Pike, Lea Chub and the Dumping the Lead Debate - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Back End Bagging - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- All Fish Great and Small - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Grafham Zander - Tony’s Specialist Scene