Scraping ice off the car for the first time this year, reminded me that tactics might need changing, especially on local lakes where water clarity had turned a lot clearer. I was staying local because the new E10 unleaded petrol had given my vehicle a bad case of the hiccups. What a joke, I now have to use more expensive super unleaded to avoid stalling at busy junctions and to get enough power to climb hills. Never mind, I always enjoy exploring different areas on nearby Woodland Waters, where it becomes a bit quieter during the winter. I came across one of the regulars giving a groundbait feeder a good chuck on the deep Specimen Lake. I joined him for a chat and decided to fish the next peg, as he was already catching good skimmers. I scaled down to a small feeder and fluorocarbon hook length, expecting it to be tricky going. I started with a micro pellet approach but that failed miserably. The bites gradually dried up next door too.
I went back a few days later and picked a peg a bit further along, where I had done okay several weeks before. This time it took a couple of hours to get bites, but after that the swim came alive with decent skimmers. I caught by switching between small cage and pellet feeders, an interesting experiment. The fish would initially home in on groundbait and then back off it after a few casts. Changing to a pellet feeder they would return, but also back away from that after a while. It became a game of cat and mouse to try and keep the bites coming. I suspect the drop in temperatures, combined with rotting leaves on the bottom, had sickened the fish off slightly. The other thing I had to contend with, at a time when I’m sure lake fish require a lot less grub, was a couple of over-eager anglers spodding loads of freebies out. They were really giving it some serious welly, and bites noticeably dried up with the constant bombardment.
My car still wasn’t right, with what was left of that awful new unleaded fuel in its tank. I squeezed more super unleaded in on the way back to Woodies to try and dilute the stuff, this time heading for the Match Lake. There’s a peg by an island that shelves away into deep water, where it’s possible to fish with a fixed waggler. Groundbait had been iffy recently, so I planned to loose feed micro pellets as far as I could with a powerful catapult, then top up with casters over the top with a lighter action one. During previous sorties with this unusual combination, I have found skimmers home in on the micros first, after which quality roach gradually muscle in on the regular caster top-up feed. I think micro pellets are just as good, if not better than using hemp, because there are great flavour options these days. Whether you use sweet or savoury, silver fish seem to like them. Watching others dotted around the lake, not much appeared to be happening.
As expected, skimmers turned up using double red maggots on a small size 16 hook. These were not big, averaging 6oz to 12oz, but at least I was catching something. I kept plugging away and sure enough, dinking casters in got the roach interested, along with a couple of rudd. I tried increasing the loose feed and shallowing up a bit, but the bites were too fast to hit. Going back to full depth it was a roach if I got a bite quickly and a skimmer if I had to wait a while. A single caster resulted in bigger fish than red maggots, while trying a soft 4mm pellet didn’t bring any response. I dropped down to a proper size 18 hook and this made bites bolder. I was using fluorocarbon again, which I like a lot when the water turns clearer. If I can’t see it when it’s submerged in water, I’m sure fish can’t either. It’s not as strong as high-tech mono, but as long as you are careful, using soft action rods, it does a good job. It handled this nice perch okay.
My mate Andy was around, and I wanted to go back to the golf course lake in Lincoln where I caught a massive roach on my first trip. I fed some chop worm when I started on the feeder further out, but after dropping short on the waggler, a few perch started turning up to red maggot. I think they must have homed in on the feeder line first, but the regular casters I was catapulting out pulled these fish in closer. I caught a couple of decent ones, along with one better roach that required the landing net, but it wasn’t easy fishing. Andy was persevering with a pellet feeder, but he couldn’t get a rap on it, switching between wafters, banded hard pellets and maggots on the hook. Any action in my peg came in short bursts. It was still okay and I ended up with double figures, finishing off with a bonus tench. It turned out not to be a fluke because we went back a couple of days later and Andy caught one too. Who said tench were only summer fish?
I was away for the first individual winter league match on the Fossdyke, so I only entered the second round of the series as an Open. I’m glad I did because I drew the Pike House section, which was dire, with most anglers struggling for a few ounces. However, next match I managed to get on the Bridge stretch, which had better form. It still wasn’t going to be easy, with lots of floating duckweed being pushed through by the strengthening wind. The water was gin-clear too. It hasn’t been a good season on this Lincoln canal. Weed has been a problem for long periods, not like last year when the venue was in brilliant form. It turned out I was on the fringes of where the roach, skimmers and perch had shoaled up. I started okay, catching a few small fish and then a useful bonus pound perch down the margins. But then pike moved in, with one monstrous fish swirling in front of me a couple of times. I only managed a few more sprats after that.
Rylan Neal in the peg next door managed to catch a pair of big perch on lobworms, lovely fish to see from a canal. We had a bit of banter because it was hard going most of the time, with lots more silver fish showing to his right. He told me a couple of surprise double figure zander had been caught from the canal recently, the biggest a massive 14lbs. Being joined to three different rivers, including the Trent, you never know what might turn up in this always fascinating waterway. Many locals reckon the bream that sometimes show, move in from rivers because they fight like crazy when you hook them. I’ve seen some hefty carp cruising through on other nearby stretches. Tench can turn up too, along with dace, silver bream and bleak. I’ve also caught a few chublets, but nothing any bigger, although I suspect they must be there. As the match petered out, the only excitement I saw was that big pike again, rocking the surface as it chased prey fish.
I was thinking of giving the Old Nene at March a go, so I went to have a look. The town centre was bustling and seemed like a typical fenland town. I stopped for a coffee and then went exploring Marine Parade that runs alongside the river. All the bank down that side was private, but I eventually crossed a footbridge and found a grassy area where a couple of people were fishing. The far bank was all gardens and moorings but looked interesting, similar to nearby Benwick. There’s a big park by the library on the other side of the busy main town bridge and I recognised a few swims that have been featured in YouTube videos. I could see some old peg numbers on the ground, but later discovered the venue had been fishing below par, apart from a 17kg winning weight. Many of the swims looked awkward to fish, requiring platforms or space station-style seat boxes. I decided to leave it and maybe go back when it was in better form.
Phoning friends it seemed the fishing was a struggle everywhere, so I decided to have a go on the pool over the back at Woodies, which has provided great sport in the direst of conditions. Birch Lake gets busy during peak season, to the extent only season ticket holders and people staying at the holiday park can fish it. But when things quieten down the management will normally let you have a go for the price of a day ticket. Set on the edge of beautiful woodland, the water was deserted when I arrived and stayed that way while I caught chunky skimmers, roach, rudd and perch all day long. It’s normally carp city on this place in the warmer months, but once the water cools, that species tends to shoal up and lie dormant in the overgrown corners. As long as you don’t dump loads of bait in, carp rarely bother you. The trick is to feed regular small amounts of maggots or casters, to wake up the shoals of silver fish, which provide plenty of bites.
At this time of the year when the last fallen leaves are littering the surface of stillwaters and the ones that fell earlier have sunk to the bottom, I find switching to the waggler or slider can make a big difference. I suspect most leaves end up close in and these types of floats put you past them, so you are not constantly finding your hook bait covered in debris. I don’t think fish like rotting leaves either, which probably sour the water in their vicinity, because it becomes harder to get bites close in on the pole or whip. Towards the end of the month I enjoyed a couple of busy sessions, testing out a new float rod that should be available under the Thomas Turner brand next year. Being made with state-of-the-art nano carbons it was a joy to use, reminding me of my favourite Hardy Marksman rods, but even lighter and crisper. As is usual when the nights draw in early, best sport came as the sun began to dip behind the trees on the horizon.
Pete the bailiff joined me for a session on the Match Lake, on his midweek day off. I’ve got him into pole and whip fishing and he loves keeping busy with both methods. He set up a whip rig, while I opted for a waggler. I catapulted a bed of small pellets out as far as I could and then fed small amounts of casters over the top every cast. It took around an hour to get bites, resulting in small roach and perch to begin with. It seemed my rotting leaves theory might be correct, because it took Pete a long time to encourage a response on the whip. A couple of small perch eventually obliged. It was cold and as usual, it wasn’t until the sun started dropping below the trees behind us before better quality silvers turned up. I caught some nice skimmers switching between casters and red maggots, while Pete netted a couple of decent perch and pulled out of something even bigger. As the light faded, I finished off with a cracking big roach.
Still testing the new float rod, I decided to give it another go with slider tackle. It’s been a long time since I used this method regularly, but I got it working okay in 14 feet of water, 25 metres out. It was mainly small skimmers that responded, but I got to thinking about the big winter roach that normally start to show on the two big lakes on this complex. The weather needs to be cold for them to get a proper look-in, because there are so many other species to compete with. The best time for these fish is from mid-afternoon, but the only trouble is it gets dark soon after that as the nights draw in so quickly. I tried hard but couldn’t find any. It was still enjoyable sitting there, watching the sun setting behind the trees and the dead calm you get when the wind drops away. Although I got the slider working well, my feeding was astray when trying to put small balls of groundbait over it, highlighting the method had been redundant for far too long.