IN THE SHADE
Weather forecasters were predicting bright sunshine and temperatures well into the seventies, so Willow Lakes at Foston seemed like a good idea. The heavy tree cover around this green oasis next to the busy A1 affords lots of shade. Not many people seem to bother with the first lake, called Poplar, probably because it’s very shallow. On my first few visits to this water, I caught loads of hand-sized skimmer bream and odd net roach, but never quite got to grips with the place. I was mainly fishing the long pole, looking for the deepest water I could find, which still wasn’t much more than two feet. But a happy accident occurred when a company I was working for asked me to test out a margin pole. There are plenty of lively carp in this venue, so the plan was to try the product down the edge. Despite the shallow nature of the place, I caught plenty of good-sized carp doing this, but the big surprise was a netful of bonus bream that resulted.
Another thing I discovered was red pellets, red maggots and dark casters worked wonders in the cloudy, shallow water. Groundbait isn’t allowed, so feeding micro pellets pulls and holds the fish. I like using krill at this time of the year, with a few casters mixed in. I also take some 4mm soft red and orange hooker pellets, which don’t attract the carp too quickly, giving skimmers the chance to find them. When I’m fishing close in, I like to start with feed lines to my left and right. Sometimes both areas produce fish all day long by rotating. On other occasions only one side produces, but at least I quickly find where the fish are by using a two-pronged attack. In this instance it was to my left. It turned out the righthand side of my peg had loads of sunken branches and didn’t produce a bite. The usual string of small skimmers turned up first on red maggot, but this bait was also pulling attention from small perch. A switch to caster changed that.
I’m one of those anglers who loves catching lots of fish, so commercial fisheries like this bring the buzz back if it has been slow going elsewhere. It was virtually a bite a chuck, catching everything from small perch to net roach, silver skimmers, proper bronze bream and a bonus tench. I probably could have caught carp too, but avoided them by using small, dark baits. I’d rather catch a big number of fish for 30lb, rather than just two or three for the same weight. I like to keep busy and get the full picture of what’s in my peg. I suppose many years of match fishing have taught me how to maximise what’s in front of me. Bagging up with “bits” during periods when the bigger fish are not responding, but always looking to boost catches with netters when I can. The trick today was to catch smaller fish fast on maggots and casters, watching for tiny pinprick bubbles that gave the game away when something bigger moved in. Pellets sorted that out.
Of course, not all sessions turn into a fish race. I also enjoy targeting and catching bigger specimens, which can be hard work a lot of the time. The main big lake at my local Woodland Waters has been slow to wake up this year, particularly for the big roach. I had a couple of disastrous trips chasing the red fins towards the back end of winter. They went missing completely, something they normally do in the warmer summer months when the venue gets busy. A good way of finding the big roach, which run to over 2lbs, is to switch between feeder and pole gear. I normally start with a groundbait feeder, while letting a long pole line settle for later. The feeder line often produces plenty of small perch and skimmers to begin with, before the roach move in. On this occasion just one decent skimmer gave my quivertip a good pull round. I concentrated on the pole after that, wading through small perch and roach to find these stray better samples.
My mate Andy from London joined me at Peacock Waters in Timberland, a great discovery made during the depths of last winter. It produced well with snow and ice on the ground, so now it was suddenly summer (according to the weather forecasters) it should be interesting. This day ticket fishery was quite busy, so I let Andy loose in the only free open water swim we could find, picking a more secluded bay peg for myself. With carp anglers opposite, I opted for the pole, while Andy concentrated on a pellet feeder. He had some new pellets he had helped develop for Essex company Burt Baits and was itching to try them out. While many anglers seem to prefer method or hybrid feeders these days, Andy still highly rates pellet designs, always doing well with them when he visits the Midlands. Most of the big carp in the lake were stacked up in the backwater behind the island in front of the house, so hopefully the bream might get a look in.
It’s a deep lake, even in the various bays, so I set up a 1g pole rig. Only trouble was, as soon as I cupped in a few balls of feed, the peg came alive with small rudd, roach and perch. Even with a bulked rig, I couldn’t get my hook bait to the bottom. I stepped up to a bigger float and heavier olivette, but still struggled. The only way I managed to get on the deck was to use a big piece of worm or a dark pellet, but even then, it was only occasionally I got through to find something decent. I caught a couple of bream and a good skimmer, but it was hard graft. I discovered the best thing to do with so many fish in front of me was to fish a pole-to-hand style. I discarded a few sections and adjusted my rig to swing in at 5 metres. This worked much better, catching small fish a lot faster and eventually getting through to better quality samples, including some good hybrids. Rain wasn’t forecast but it drizzled down for most of the day.
It had taken Andy a while to sort out what the fish wanted. He caught a few bream using neat pellets in his small feeder, but when he started adding a dab of groundbait they went mad for it. I’ve seen Andy do this before, pushing micros into pellet feeders first, then the baited hook on a short link, held in with a dab of groundbait. I think this way the bait tumbles out quicker, while the cloud of particles helps the fish to find the pellets even faster. I’m always interested in the pellets Andy uses, because he rarely fails to empty most venues he applies them to. On this occasion it was a light orange F1 Sweet Carp version, which the bream obviously loved. I’ve witnessed him bagging 100lb of mainly slabs on red krill pellets, along with a mega winter haul of carp on chocolate orange. I now just let him discover what flavours and colours work best and say, “I’ll have a bag of that!” His 11ft quivertip rod had been busy all session for an estimated 80lbs.
OUT FOR GOLD
Another steaming hot day was forecast and this time it looked like the predictions would be right. Back to Willows but this time the third lake along, Sycamore, where I have caught some nice crucians during past visits. Once again, there was good tree cover to keep the sun off both me and the water. This lake is a bit deeper, with the usual head of carp, plus roach, perch and plenty of skimmers. I had the water to myself, probably because the river season had just opened. I like to give it a couple of weeks to settle down before venturing out on running water. Most of the stretches of the River Trent I like get very busy to start with, while smaller rivers were low and painfully clear. This peace and quiet would do me. I set up to fish just one line with 8 metres of margin pole, using a top kit with a puller bung and medium elastic, strong enough to land any marauding carp, but stretchy enough for bigger silver fish.
I could see carp cruising on the surface everywhere. On my last visit they were spawning in the margins, while this time they were mainly lazing in the sunshine. I cupped in a mixture of krill micro pellets, casters and red maggots, starting with a single red on a medium wire size 18 hook. The float buried straight away, which resulted in a small perch. It amazes me how krill pellets attract perch in similar fashion to chopped worm, so much so that I now often use them when targeting this species. I’ve even caught the predators using soft krill hookers. This flavour and its red colour had obviously attracted a shoal, because for the first ten minutes it was a stripey every put in. I tried a krill pellet and sure enough, caught another perch on that. But next cast a fizz of bubbles erupted around my float, before it darted away. For a second I thought I had hooked a sunken branch, but then whatever it was started to move off, quickly gathering speed.
My pole elastic streamed out into the middle of the lake and as it began to tighten up, the fish kited around to my left. There was a tangle of drooping willow branches there, so I dropped the pole tip in the water and pulled in several sections to get at the puller bung. I quickly stripped several feet of elastic out and this neat trick, which suddenly tightens everything up on the fish, made it swim out into open water. It thumped around a few times but thanks to a long-handled landing net, I managed to scoop a six pound carp in double quick time. Only trouble was, as I got a grip on the spreader block, the blunt-nosed fish woke up and thrashed about in the net like a maniac. I felt something give and suddenly realised the metal spreader had snapped clean in two, leaving me with just the net part and the fish. My long handle fell away with the screw thread still attached to it. Having no spare net with me signalled the end of proceedings.
Having unfinished business, I returned to the same peg later in the month, only this time armed with two landing nets! I fed some chopped worm with my krill micro pellets, wondering if this might attract some bigger perch. However, all this did was pull carp in. It took a while to empty the swim of these before this beautiful golden crucian turned up. It gave me a typical finicky, dithering bite and darted about all over the place as I played it in. I’ve enjoyed some good catches of these fish from this lake, but a bit later in the year when the carp are less active. Even the skimmers were strangely absent, possibly because every time I fed anything the surface erupted with clouds of bubbles, as bigger fish homed in on any free grub like a rocket. Another carp ruined the swim for a while, before a second crucian turned up, along with a near one pound roach and a hybrid. I tried shallowing up and caught a few small rudd and roach, but that was slow going.
Not many places hold a good head of crucians and I’ve enjoyed some of my best catches of this species from Sycamore Lake. But that wasn’t going to happen on this trip. After those first two gold bars, my swim turned back into carp city. I couldn’t get any silver fish to settle, particularly the skimmers, which often provide top sport here. I did manage to find two small tench, the first time I’ve caught any from this water. I ended up with a decent bag of fish, but the crucians and tench made my day. All I’m waiting for now is a bit of cooler weather and some extra water to give the rivers a go, also the Fossdyke Canal at Lincoln, which is open again. I did manage one trip to that waterway in June, but with so much water to explore, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. A lot of the big shoals at this time of the year are not where they normally live. With three connecting rivers, they can be anywhere and take time to settle after spawning.