I’d arranged to fish with a couple of mates at Staunton Harold Reservoir. Chris was already set up when Andy and I got there, having lost our way, which is not difficult for this out of the way place. The wilder looking side we had chosen was packed with anglers, only leaving a couple of shallow pegs down the end of an access track. The vast stillwater was full to the brim, making the swims we had grabbed tricky to set up in. Chris however, as usual was perfectly organised, his fishing station already neatly assembled and parked out in the water. It’s a brilliant set-up he designed himself, commissioning someone he knew to make it. I must seriously think about getting something similar, because my seat box and footplate have turned a tad rickety these days. Most of the time I leave the cassette-style footplate off, because it’s just plain awkward to operate with. I decided to leave the lot on the bank and simply stand out in the water in waders.
The reason I like this reservoir, which is situated on the Leicestershire and Derbyshire border, is it’s very close to how the fishing is in Ireland. I’ve not been over to the Emerald Isle for several years, missing the rocky shorelines and fish-packed loughs. My trusty old aluminium platform has seen a lot of use on venues like that, and I brought it out of retirement for this outing. I like to use it as a big bait table when wading. I matched some extra-long legs up with it many years ago when I went to Denmark, where the lakes also have similar terrain to this. I began with float tackle and straight away it was all action, catching lots of small roach and perch. It was nice to be using my old Whopper Dropper catapult again, which has never been surpassed for putting soft balls of caster-packed groundbait over floats like big wagglers and sliders. Only problem was the lack of depth, with only 3ft at the most, which is not brilliant for this type of fishing.
Chris is very much into his feeder fishing on big venues like this, often visiting similar places like Ferry Meadows at Peterborough and Southfield Reservoir in Sheffield. All attract top anglers, for whom casting seriously long distances has become the norm, but always remembering to have a closer, reserve feed line. On this occasion Chris didn’t catch much at range; an explosion of small fish had negated that tactic. You don’t want to be launching feeders in excess of 70 metres, then having to wind your tackle back all that way every cast with a tiny perch attached! In the end he settled for a more comfortable 30 metre chuck, finding sweetcorn helped get through the bits, catching small skimmers and quality roach. While this was going on, Andy and myself were plagued by small fish. Andy had chosen a long pole approach and was getting bites every put in. I had stopped feeding groundbait and switched to loose feeding over my waggler.
After a few hours I got fed up with cranking in small roach and perch, so despite the lack of depth I set up a 5m whip. With only 2.5ft of water to play with it took a while to sort out a rig that worked. In the end I juggled some shot under the float, while retaining enough of a bulk to swing everything out. I switched back to feeding a small ball of groundbait every put in and it didn’t take long before the fish arrived again. Still a lot of small stuff, but every now and then some bigger roach would appear. It was hard to hold them, but at least I was catching faster when the hordes of smaller fish marauded in. I don’t mind catching lots of tiddlers in matches, including gudgeon and bleak, but it can become tedious when pleasure fishing. However, on this occasion it didn’t. There are not many places where you can bag up with whip tackle, so it made a refreshing change staying busy with feeding, concentrating hard on speed and number building.
Next outing was a club event on Willows at Foston, spread over two of the match lakes. Last time they did this I got a bad draw on the worst lake. I couldn’t believe it when exactly same thing happened again! Next peg along to where I was last time. It was even tougher on this occasion, because there had been a match the day before. I could see loads of carp cruising around aimlessly, but they were as spooky as hell. If I tried pushing tackle anywhere near them, they scooted off like a gun was being aimed in their direction. The silver fish seem to have disappeared from this particular water too, so I went walkabout. I always find it interesting watching other people and what they are trying. When it’s rock hard the margins can be worth a look, but even that tactic wasn’t working. Just like before, the other lake was producing all the action and was the place to be. I was well out of the running, finding one stray carp and a few bits. Disappointing.
Chris sent me a text to say the Grantham Canal Society had been doing some dredging work at Woolsthorpe, which since I last went there had been covered in thick surface weed. Apparently, a few days previously, the dredger had been working next to where Chris was fishing, and yet he caught all day long. This sounded like just the tonic I needed after sitting watching disinterested carp taking the micky on the latest club outing. Where the work had been going on there was about 40 metres of fishable water, the rest of the canal being choked solid with duckweed. I opted for a spot by the lock, where a small stream was running water in, helping to keep things clear. Chris had checked with the workmen and it turned out they wouldn’t be using the barge on this occasion, so he set up right next to it. My swim looked interesting with the imposing lock gates to my left and a mini-whirlpool the far side stream was creating over to my right.
Chris set up to fish two feed areas, one tight up to the barge and the other against rushes on the far bank. There was good depth over there now that the swim had been freshly dredged. Shame about the rest of the canal, which has been in a terrible state this summer. Anyway, it was good to be back on this stretch, which is set in beautiful countryside. Chris soon caught some of the newly stocked skimmers, along with a few small roach and rudd from next to the barge. The recent work had stirred some colour into the water and set these fish feeding. Next, he began to search over on the far bank, looking for bigger fish. A club match was scheduled for this venue soon, rod and line only, which I couldn’t see happening. It would take an armada of dredgers to sort this place out properly. The rod only event is in memory of a deceased club member, who would probably turn in his grave if he could see the state of his beloved canal these days.
If I was on a match I would fancy my chances on a peg like this one, but once again tiny fish were following me around. I struggled to get maggots or segments of worms to the bottom. Small rudd were snaffling my hook bait, even when trying to dump my pole rig in. I carefully worked my way around the swim, exploring the moving water to my right, along with the slacker areas by the lock and against the rushes opposite. When I did manage to get through the baby rudd, the next problem was small perch were on my bait straight away. Yet another issue emerged when the fish on the surface started scattering all over the place. It looked like jack pike had moved in. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t big perch chasing the fry, because the culprits were making long swirls as they shot through, chasing their prey in all directions. Nothing big came my way, but Chris did alright in the end, extracting a few decent fish from the far side of his swim.
I introduced Andy to Bainside House Lake, where I did well back in the winter, catching a big haul of mostly skimmers. I fancied it would get even more interesting in warmer weather. However, when we arrived, the area where I fished previously was cordoned off for maintenance work. We ended up in a couple of swims at the end of the long island that runs down the middle, in a big open bay to the left of the entrance. Bad mistake. While Andy started on the pole, close to a large rush bed, I cast a pellet feeder over against the far bank. My rig had hardly settled before my quivertip sailed round. A string of 2lb to 3lb stockie carp followed; it was daft fishing. It would have been great in a match, but was too industrial for a pleasure session. Andy was experiencing the same thing on pole gear. The hungry carp were bullying the silver fish out of the way. The rumours of big bream, huge grass carp and stillwater chub would have to wait for another day.
I eventually found the skimmers I had been looking for on a photo shoot with Burt Baits, the company I started working for earlier in the month. I had caught a few nice fish by fishing a feeder on the Specimen Lake at Woodies, but as has been the case all summer, the fish quickly backed off. I then tried something different. I had earlier cupped in a load of micro pellets on the long pole line, along with some soft krill groundbait. This was just to get a bed of something down on the bottom, to loose feed casters over. Only a couple of missed indications materialised at full depth, but when I switched to my shallow rig it was a bite every put in. Lots of skimmers, odd roach and plenty of chunky hybrids came my way. It was great fun using light tackle, which was tested to its limits by the fighting fit shallow feeders. It’s amazing, when nothing is happening, how dinking casters in combination with shallow rigs, makes such a big difference.
When I first moved to Lincolnshire I did lots of exploring. Several years later I’m still crossing venues off the huge list of venues I made. I’ve done rivers, canals, reservoirs, numerous lakes and some of the drains in the Spalding and Wisbech areas, but had somehow bypassed the wealth of Boston waterways. There was a tackle shop on the banks of the Bargate when I last looked, but that was long gone when I recently went there to wet a line. A sign on the bank told me Maude Foster is the real name of this drain, which branches off in all directions. I couldn’t find any up-to-date angling info on the internet, so it was a case of diving in at the deep end. After motoring along miles of fenland roads, a swim by a railway line caught my attention, just outside the residential area. I set up two pole rigs, one long and one for just down the nearside shelf. It was tough going, but in the end my close-in rig found quite a few perch and some bonus skimmers.
During my initial exploration of Boston, I had noticed another nice-looking drain branching off the Maude Foster by the golf club. Maps name it The Stone Bridge, but local anglers call it the Sibsey Trader. There’s an access track running alongside and it’s much quieter than the Bargate. I enjoyed another interesting day on there, after finding a coloured area, which normally signals fish are resident. I started on a waggler, catching plenty of hand-sized skimmers, loose feeding with a catapult. But then floating duckweed became a problem. A couple of weed boats were chugging up and down, but the surface debris persisted, forcing me onto pole tackle. Groundbait pulled plenty of silvers in, but these in turn attracted a pack of hungry pike. I got bitten off a few times before the predators left me alone. Baits like maggots and casters were attacked by small rudd and roach, so I sat it out on a big segment of worm and landed this cracking tench.