The trend for hopping from one water to another that I seemed to have developed last month continued into August as on my next session I was back to the Bluebell Complex again and swapping from one lake to another.

First off it was to be a three night session back on Swan Lake with both catfish and carp in mind and with a steady breeze pushing into one of the corners and a few carp occasionally giving their presence away crashing out in the ripple it wasn’t too difficult to decide on a swim. My chosen spot also gave me the option of putting out a dedicated catfish rod over to the left of the swim, while leaving a reasonable amount of space in front of the swim and to the right for a couple of carp rods.

Similar catfish tactics to my last visit to the same lake when I caught a 52lb plus cat were put into action, and I spodded  an area with a relatively weed free bottom with a generous helping of a pre-glugged mixture of various sized pellets and boilies. Over this I fished a large hookbait comprising a 30mm hookable halibut pellet and a 20mm monster crab flavored pop-up boilie that I presented butted up to each other on a long hair. The 30mm pellets are produced by Dynamite Baits specifically for catfish and soak up an oily glug really well. They can be easily mounted on a hair and remain intact for a couple of days, even if they attract the attention of small stuff.

I was allowed to use up to four rods, so with the available space I used my other three rods for the carp. One rod fished a 15mm pop-up on a chod rig over a spread of 15mm freebies, on the second I fished a more subtle pop-up rig with the bait only just off bottom over a lightly baited patch of different sized whole, broken and crumbled boilies and the last rod was baited with two halves of a 10mm boilie presented back to back and a little PVA bag of boilie crumb attached to the hook length with a scattering of 10mm boilies over the general area.

The first evening of my three night session looked quite promising as, despite all the commotion getting four rods out and baited I managed not to scare the carp away and there was still the odd fish showing as it started to get dark. However it was the catfish rod that showed potential as a couple of liners had the bobbin twitching.

No matter how much prior warning I get an actual run nearly always seems to take me by surprise and I jumped as I was suddenly ‘away’ on the catfish rod. After checking that all was in order I flicked over the anti-reverse, disengaged the freespool and, as I felt the remaining slack in the main line being taken up, I started to sweep the rod back over my shoulder, to be met with…nothing! 

This does seem to happen on occasion with catfish takes, perhaps because of the huge mouth and the large area of boney pads inside the mouth that aren’t good areas in which to get a hook hold. The rest of the night was uneventful but there were still signs of carp the following day but I remained fishless.

It was the third and final night of my session when things started to look more hopeful as late in the evening the odd little liner started on the catfish rod. Gradually they increased in frequency and I imagined a couple of big catfish slowly drifting around over the area, slurping up pellets and boilies and hitting the line with their tails.

Eventually, as it approached midnight, it happened. One of the ‘liners’ just kept going and rather than slackening back off as the line tightened up the line started to peel off the freespool, the run gradually getting faster and faster as the fish started to swim off out into the lake. This time my strike was met with a solid resistance, but the catfish hardly seemed to notice my intervention and it continued to power off into the darkness.

Straight away I could tell it was a good one and I had to rely on the clutch to yield line as I simply clamped down and with the rod bent round at a 90 degree angle, I offered as much resistance as I could.  Each powerful flick of the tail tore another couple of feet of line from the reel as I held on hopping that the resistance would eventually start to tell. Eventually I could feel the fish start to slow up then finally, after what seemed an age, the cat gradually ground to a stop – as I glanced down at the spool I estimated that it had put something like 100 yards between us on that initial run!

With one hand wrapped around the rod handle and reel stem and the other hand halfway up the butt section to give extra leverage I started to take a step backwards in an attempt to drag the fish around and get it pointing in my direction. I could feel it grudgingly pulling round and I was just having thoughts about making my first attempt at gaining a turn or two of line back onto the reel when the hook pulled!   

I was silently cursing to myself as I reeled the rig back in, knowing that I’d just lost one of the really big cats, possibly one of a 100lb plus! The rig looked fine, but I wondered if the hook I was using had a large enough gape to get a purchase behind the lip if it was not pulled into the corner of the mouth so I changed to a larger one before casting back out.  

Eventually I collapsed back into the bag, exhausted and pondering what might have been. As it was I didn’t have too long to lay there sulking as after an hour or so I had a take on the carp rod fishing the little pop-up.

The fish felt heavy, almost suspiciously so, and I started to wonder whether I’d hooked a big carp or a smaller catfish.The fish felt heavy, almost suspiciously so, and I started to wonder whether I’d hooked a big carp or a smaller catfish. With the biggest carp in the lake possibly weighing over 50lb and a fair bit of weed about I didn’t want to take any chances, so carefully played the fish like I’d potentially hooked a PB carp. There were no dramatic runs and after a good 15 minutes I could make out a catfish tail as I manoeuvred the fish close to the margins.   

With the relative lack of any real drama in the fight, I imagined it would be one of the smallest catfish in the lake and decided to net it rather than glove it out, as I would have to do with one of the real ‘beasts’ but it still took some juggling to persuade it into the landing net. Once I’d got it on the mat I could see that it was clearly larger than I’d first imagined and just as big, if not a bit bigger than the 52lb fish I’d had a few weeks ago. The scales read 55lb 5oz, so I’d managed two 50lb plus catfish after just a couple of sessions.

I’d hardly had time to catch my breath and catch up on lost sleep before I was hitting the road once more, this time to attend a Nash Roadshow weekend at Emperor Lakes in Devon, as part of my Nash/Peg One consultant duties.

Thankfully my good friend and fellow Peg One consultant Ian Hardman was doing the driving as we needed the space in his ‘people carrier’ as we take a lot of stuff between to show off plenty of the product range to visitors. We’re also usually fishing at the roadshows as well, but can never be sure quite what species we’ll be targeting, or sometimes what lake we’ll be fishing, so we need all manner of bait and tackle to cover a multitude of possibilities.

We got down to Emperor late Friday afternoon, which gave us some time to say hi to the other Nash guys and consultants covering the weekend and to have a quick guided tour with Dave the owner of the complex.

The other guys would be doing some fishing on the carp and specimen lakes and taking care of the main Nash show area, while Ian and I got set up on JoJo’s, the new runs water, to show off and demonstrate some of the Peg One products and associated bait range. We just had time to set up a couple of bivvies and cart some gear over to the lake in between the rain showers before it was time for a much appreciated cooked meal  at the newly constructed fishery lodge. Following dinner and a bit of banter and a catch up with the lads it was back to the lake to finish getting ready and to get some bait out.

The mix of pellets, chopped boilies and a sprinkling of sweetcorn After a bit of casting about with the marker float set up I decided to fish one rod down the side to my left and a second over in a bay on the far side. The margin spot was easy to bait up with several handfuls of pellet, chopped boilies and a sprinkling of sweetcorn just out from the reeds growing in the edge. The plan was then to simply lower the end tackle, with a good helping of method mix squeezed around the lead, off the rod top over the baited area and walk the rod back onto the rests… lovely!

The other rod required a bit more effort and some spodding was required to get a good supply of boilies out to my chosen spot to hopefully get plenty of carp visiting the area ready for some action once the roadshow got underway. I decided to rest the bay area until the following day, but couldn’t resist dropping in a bait on the margin spot as I finished off sorting the rest of my gear and getting things as ready as possible before visitors starting to arrive the following morning.

I eventually decided that a bit of sleep would be useful before the first of the visitors arrivedIt didn’t take long, perhaps ten minutes, before the first fish took a liking to my margin fished hookbait. It was certainly no monster but little carp nearly always  punch above their weight and this one darted about a fair bit before I could scoop it up into the landing net. It was the first of several single figure commons and mirrors I had from the margins that evening and night before I eventually decided that a bit of sleep would be useful before the first of the visitors arrived.

Unfortunately the weather went from poor to dire as the weekend progressed and the number of visitors was probably only a fraction of what there could have been had the weather been kinder. The JoJo’s carp didn’t really seem to appreciate the rather ‘naff’ conditions either and although we caught steadily on both days, the drier and slightly warmer periods were the preferred conditions. It was a real shame as Emperor Lakes is a superb complex, which is obviously very well looked after, has plenty of great fish to be caught and has something to offer a wide variety of anglers of differing abilities and expectations.

Job done!Zig fishing, especially adjustable zig rigs, were a firm favorite in terms of the questions I was asked by the visitors, so I spent quite a while setting up and demonstrating this type of set up and all the various zig related bits and bobs that Nash tackle have to offer over the two days. I did try and catch a fish on a zig rig too but conditions were really against it. However Ian wasn’t going to let the side down and managed to snare a dumpy little mirror on a black and orange zig bug on the Saturday afternoon in front of an appreciative audience. Job done!

With the roadshow over with there was plenty of packing up to do before the long drive back but ‘no rest for the wicked’ though as after a quick bite to eat I was back in the garage re-sorting gear again as I was due to meet up with Ian again the following day as after hearing about my recent catfish he fancied catching one himself!

The last time Ian and I had fished for catfish together was on a Nash roadshow on Paddock Lake at Todber Manor last year, when I’d ended up catching possibly the largest catfish in the lake. The time before that was during an invitation out to the river Ebro in Spain where we both enjoyed catching plenty of catfish and Ian had managed to better his catfish PB several times over the duration of the trip. Hopes were therefore running pretty high for a possible hat-trick of catfish successes, but on this occasion it wasn’t to be and we both managed to blank!     

The next trip out was to be a return visit to a lovely estate lake that I hadn’t fished for a couple of years. My good mate Steve Manning is usually in the position to organize a session or two on the lake each year for himself and a couple of guests and I’ve fished the water with Steve on a number of occasions in the past but hadn’t been able to find the time over the last few years without compromising either work or some other fishing related plans. This time round it was a firm ‘yes’ that greeted Steve’s enquiry as to whether I’d like to join him for the next trip and as his other guest was going to be Chris Ball it would be the first time the three of us had managed to fish together for a number of years.

As it happened, Chris found himself double booked with another appointment that he couldn’t cancel, so Steve asked Ian if he fancied joining us. Ian hadn’t fished the venue before but had listened to me talk about it, and some of the catches we’d made, so wasted no time in confirming his place on the trip.  

The estate lake had been a prolific carp venue when I’d fished it in the past. We had never been able to find any history of specific stockings but the carp that had found their way into the place had clearly bred successfully as I’d had some quite spectacular catches of double figure commons but the last time I’d fished the venue I hadn’t fished for the carp, but had a go for the eels instead. It didn’t really have a history of producing big eels, but the occasional one had been seen trying to gain access to the lake so I guessed it might have some potential. I’d caught a couple of small eels on that occasion, which was semi promising, so I decided that it was worth making eels my main target on this trip.

The estate lake had been a prolific carp venue when I’d fished it in the past.

By the time I arrived Steve had been fishing for a while and I’d expected him to have already accounted for a few carp but his news was of only one run, which had resulted in a carp falling off as it approached the net. The lack of action wasn’t the only change I noticed since I’d last fished it as a large section of the bank where fishing was previously allowed was now almost impossible to fish due to alterations to the dam wall. This was a real shame as it had been one of the most popular and productive areas. The amount of weed growth was also surprising and it meant that there was really only one swim left to fish with enough space to easily land carp from. I elected to allocate this swim to Ian, as by the time he was due to arrive he wouldn’t have enough time to clear weed and get everything else ready before it got dark.

I wanted to fish towards the overflow area, as this had more features than the more open swims, but it also meant that I’d be fishing shallower water and I’d have a load of weed clearing and bankside ‘maintenance’ to perform before I’d be happy so, after a cup of tea with Steve, it was back to my chosen area and the start of some hard graft. Three hours later, as Ian arrived, I’d got my swim pretty much fishable.

It was tough going but Steve did have a nice tench I like to fish my baits at as short a range as possible when I’m eel fishing to help with bite detection but despite my clearing I was really struggling to find clear areas to present a bottom bait and eventually I had to fish one out at much further range than I really wanted. My second eel rod was therefore fished up in the water on a CD rig, which I was able to position much closer in between a couple of weed beds.

Almost as soon as I had the lobworm-baited eel rods out I started getting small twitches and pulls, which I suspected were small fish, possibly perch or roach. On inspection my baits were being seriously messed about with, or robbed, by the nuisance fish so I decided not to put them back out again until it was fully dark when, hopefully, the small stuff would have disappeared.  Bait interference was certainly reduced after dark, but not altogether absent, and a further inspection not long before first light revealed two bare hooks.  This could easily scupper my plans especially as a recast resulted in a stuttering type of run on the CD rig, resulting in a perch that wouldn’t quite have managed half a pound. Unfortunately I had to put up with the interference as I couldn’t catch anything small enough to use as bait and didn’t have any alternative hookbaits with me that the small stuff weren’t interested in.

A rare capture - one of the estate lake's 20lb plus mirrorsIan and Steve didn’t fare all that much better with the carping, as it seemed that the numbers of carp were much reduced from when I’d enjoyed such prolific results and, along with less than ideal conditions and, I suspect, a large increase in natural food due to the weed, they only had a few runs between them. However Steve did have a nice tench and one of the two carp that Ian landed was quite a special fish for the estate lake as not only was it over 20lb, but it was also a mirror! To illustrate how rare this is despite all the hundreds of carp that Steve has caught from the lake over the years he’s fished it, he has yet to catch a mirror himself! In fact the only 20lb mirror that Steve had even heard of previously was a pretty fish that he photographed for me several years previously that weighed a few ounces over 24lb!

Despite the poor results we all agreed that we’d had a thoroughly great couple of days’ fishing in wonderful surroundings and with fantastic company; often it’s not all about the fish that are caught.

It looks as though I’ve overstepped my planned word count (again), so I’d better wrap this up and tell you about my next session in next month’s piece…

Until then…happy fishing!