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UK Carp Fishing Secrets

Copyright © Anglers’ Net 2006 – www.AnglersNet.co.uk – info@anglersnet.co.uk

The rights of James Gibbinson, Julian Grattidge, Garth Barnard and Elton Murphy to be identified as the
author of their respective articles within this work have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

First published in Great Britain in 2006 by Anglers’ Net, PO BOX 303, Woodbridge, IP13 6WJ. UK.

All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or
review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may not be
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Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be sent to the publisher at the above email
address.

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Index of Articles

Welcome To UK Carp Fishing Secrets

Introduction To Carp Fishing


- Catching Carp
- What Makes a Successful Carp Angler

Watercraft
- Watercraft The Carp And Its Habitat
- Stealth And Deception
- Feature Finding
- Effects Of Wind
- Polarised Fishing Glasses

Approaches & Techniques


- Getting The Right Approach
- Stalking
- Winter Carp Fishing
- Static Carping With Bite Alarms
- Short Session Carping
- Surface Fishing
- Carp Fishing In Silt
- Carp From Big Waters
- Margin Tips
- Kitting For Distance
- Wind Problems
- Moon Effects
- BackLeads, The How And When
- Guide To Bait Rockets & Spodding
- Finding The Right Shelter/Bivvy
- Which Carp Rods?

Rigs & Components


- Hair Rig & Knotless Knot
- Bolt Rig
- Zig-Rig
- Pop-up & Hinged Pop-up Rig
- Helicopter Rig
- Silt Rig
- Semi-Fixed Running Rig
- Inline Safety Rig
- Running Rig
- Braid Rig
- Carp Hooks – Getting Right To The Point
- Safety Clips
- Mono Facts
Bait & Baiting Techniques

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- The Boilie (Boiled Bait)
- Shelf Life Or Fresh Frozen Boilies
- How To Make Your Own Boilies
- Dips And Soaks
- The Method
- Tiger Nuts
- Halibut Pellets
- The Secret Success Of Balachan Shrimp Paste
- Worms For Carp
- Particle Mixes
- Hemp Seed
- Maize
- Sweetcorn
- Pellets
- Artificial Baits
- Surface Baits
- Critically Balanced Baits For Carp
- How To Use P.V.A. Bags For Distance Work
- Stringers

Caring For Your Quarry


- Carp Care And Fish Handling
- Rules Rule, OK!
- Angling Ethics

Application Examples
- Preface To Carp Journals;
- Part 1 (Introduction To The Top Pool, July 2002)
- Part 2 (Return To The Top Pool, September 2002)
- Part 3 (Thoughts On Bait, July 2003)
- Part 4 (Top Pool Triumph and Back To Birch)
- Part 5 (Winter on Top Pool, April 2004)
- Part 6 (The Top Pool Mission Accomplished, August 2004)
- Part 7 (Return to Birch and Short Session Tactics, October 2004)
- Part 8 (Top Pool Swansong and Pastures New, January 2005)
- Part 9 (Surface Fishing Adventures, Mackerel Skies and Mares' Tails, August 2005)
- Part 10 (Surface Fishing Adventures, New Personal Best – In October!, October 2005)
- Part 11 (Surface Fishing Adventures, Last Chance Saloon,May 2006)

Appendix

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Welcome to UK Carp Fishing Secrets

As somebody involved in fishing websites since early 1999, I’ve met a lot of anglers across the UK, as
well as a few from foreign shores. Our love of angling gives us a common bond and the willingness to
share our knowledge is what has led to generation after generation of new anglers being welcomed into the
fold.

The three contributors to UK Carp Fishing Secrets are three of the most generous men you’ll find on the
internet. By that, I don’t mean they’ll send you money and tackle (before you ask!), but that they enjoy
sharing the knowledge and skills that they have collectively learnt over many, many years of fishing. They
are also very good carp anglers, each slightly different in their ways, but equally as effective and respectful
of every angler’s choice to approach carp fishing in a slightly different way

Jim Gibbinson is a well known published carp


fishing author. He has written a number of fishing
books, as well as contributing to numerous magazines, and
there aren’t many anglers in the UK who haven’t read
something by him. One aspect of Jim’s fishing that
sets him apart from many anglers is that he relishes the
opportunity to fish difficult waters – ones that appear
featureless to the untrained eye. His results speak for
themselves!

Julian Grattidge has been a carp angler for as long as he can


remember. He specialises in specialising! Throughout his
angling years, he’s done just about any kind of carp fishing
available and adapts his approach accordingly. For example,
when he was young, free and single, he’d do longer sessions
and study carp behaviour and baiting techniques that would
bring the best long-term results. Having just become a father
for the first time, he’s concentrating on two other aspects of
carp fishing, with great results – stalking (including surface
fishing) and short session angling.

Garth ‘Gaffer’ Barnard has always been a short session


angler, never fishing more than one night on a water. Because
of this, he has honed his skills and tackle to perfection. He’s
the kind of irritating guy who arrives last, packs up first and
yet still catches the best fish…..trust me, I’ve seen him do it!
Gaffer has an excellent way of conveying his skills to other
anglers and enjoys seeing their successes.

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So, why carp?

I’m not going to pretend that I think that carp possess God-like qualities and should be placed upon a
pedestal above all other fish, but I can see why some anglers do get gripped by the carping ‘drug’ and see
them as such!

There are a number of reasons why carp are so sought after, but I reckon the three main factors are;

1. They tend to be the largest fish in the lake or river. Apart from catfish, there isn’t a fish in UK
waters that grows so large.

2. Once hooked, carp are fighters, usually battling every inch of the way to the landing net (and often
on the unhooking mat, too!).

3. Carp are wily. They learn and become very elusive as they grow. The old adage of “Once bitten,
twice shy” could almost have been written about carp! Pitting your wits against such a worthy
opponent is what it’s all about.

If I’m honest, I’ll also say that the social side of carp fishing appeals to many of us. Across Europe, many
lakes will have a variety of green tents (known as ‘bivvies’) pitched around them and inhabited by carp
anglers. Many great friendships are formed, ideas and banter swapped, and it’s even quite common for
carp anglers to sit around a stove together and chip in when it comes to cooking a hearty breakfast or
evening meal!

All in all, carp angling is about fun. Hopefully, UK Carp Fishing Secrets will lead you on the path to
enjoying what many of us enjoy week in, week out.

We hope that you enjoy this collection of their work and are confident that the advice you receive here will
help you to put more fish on the bank. When you get those results, remember to send a photo and details to
us at gallery@carpfishingsecrets.co.uk for inclusion on our site!

Tight lines,

Elton Murphy
Publisher

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Introduction To Carp Fishing
Catching Carp
By Julian Grattidge

How to catch carp? It’s one of the most common questions asked by beginners. Sometimes the basic
principles can get lost under the constant bombardment of new methods, baits and approaches, so how do
you go about the business of catching big carp?

First things first, it’s important to manage expectations. Catching big carp is not easy, but for many, that’s
precisely the challenge. Carp can be quite clever creatures and it’s not always easy to outwit them. I’ve
been fishing for nearly thirty years and like many other specimen anglers out there, I have many blank
sessions in amongst those where I catch. As a beginner, it’s important to ease yourself into the sport gently,
and as my late father used to say “It’s no good trying to catch big ones 'till you know how to catch little
ones”. He was right!

Success breeds success: Martin Johnson with a small mirror carp from Blackwood Pool

The first thing you need to do is practice the art of; locating, hooking and playing fish. It’s quite often the
case that smaller carp in well stocked waters can be easier to catch than big old specimens. As such, waters
aimed at the match or pleasure angler are good venues to start learning your craft. If when you arrive at
such a venue you are faced with the option of a specimen lake in addition to match or coarse lakes; don’t
be tempted. Not yet anyway! What you need from the start is quantity not quality. Your main aim is to
learn how to get bites and convert them into fish on the bank. Outwitting specimens takes time and
experience, which will only come after you have learnt more about your intended quarry.

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Tackle is important, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to have special rods, pods, alarms,
swingers, bivvies, and accessories right from the start. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s
important to bear in mind that carp fishing has become a massive industry for shops and manufacturers, all
of whom pay marketing specialists large amounts of money to come up with adverts designed to convince
the reader that they must have a certain item of tackle in order to catch. Don’t be pulled in. To start off
with, all you need is a cheap carp rod of around 2lb test curve (a good feeder or stiff match rod will suffice
to get started). Any cheap coarse reel will be fine to get started, just so long as it has a drag function. The
only other big thing you need is an unhooking mat. Add to that some basics like forceps, scissors, line and
you are ready.

Then it’s a case of catching. Like many seasoned anglers I started off knowing nothing and got better and
wiser with time. The result is that I’ve learnt simple is often best. Why bother with a complicated set-up
when a simple one will do just as well? Yes it’s convenient to have pods, alarms and swingers, but these
are merely accessories. You can catch just as well using bank sticks and bobbins. And in any case, like
skinning cats; there’s more than one way to catch a carp! If you have progressed through catching other
coarse species on float and feeder, there’s not really much change, just beefed up gear and bait, and if
carping is your first foray into angling, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can only catch carp by
ledgering - float fishing can be just as productive and in many cases, more fun!

In terms of set-up, if ledgering, try a simple braid hair rig of about 9-inches. Tie it with a hair and loop for
the bait-stop at one end, and a swivel on the other with a Size 8 hook. As for bait, again, don’t think boilies
are the only bait for carp. In the early stages when targeting the smaller fish, don’t overlook sweetcorn and
luncheon meat. Both are extremely productive baits. Keep the hook bait small and don’t put in too much
free bait. Hopefully the small fish should follow on, and believe me, when starting out, size is not
important. Keep at it and get used to catching fish in the 2-5lb range. You will soon learn that carp can put
up quite a fight so it’s important to master the art of playing fish, knowing when to let them have a bit of
line or when to offer resistance to their lunges is what it’s all about.

When not at the pool try to read and re-read all you can about carp fishing. Don’t get preoccupied with
bait; for now you need to learn about techniques, strategy and watercraft. Read any articles you can on
such subjects, there is a wealth of good information on the web so read as much as you can. Hopefully, in
time, catching the smaller fish will become easier as you learn more about locating carp, baiting up and
playing fish. There will come a point where you are able to turn up and catch these smaller carp pretty
consistently, and only then is it time to start cutting your teeth on the next rung of the ladder.

The next rung: Find a productive doubles water, Paul Smith with a 12lb mirror carp from
Bolesworth Castle; one of the best doubles waters in England’s North West

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Initially, the step up to a doubles-water can be a little daunting. However, the basic rigs and techniques
used on your runs water should still work; just remember to keep them simple. The big difference is the
fight; playing a good double figure fish is an altogether different prospect from a five pounder! At this
level it helps to have proper carp rods but they don’t have to be anything special. I would perhaps still
favour natural baits for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everybody and their dog will no doubt be using boilies.
Secondly, natural baits cost a fraction of the price of boilies, and thirdly, being slightly different from
others will often pay dividends. If you are going to use boilies, my only advice is to use good ones. Some
of the crap I see on the shelves makes me wonder how some boilies catch at all! It’s a case of buyer
beware; a cheap boilie is not necessarily a good boilie. If you’re going to use boilies, spend a little money,
in my experience it’s worth it in the long run, but that said, most of my fishing is done with naturals, which
when prepared and presented in the right way score just as well at a fraction of the price. Food for thought,
if you’ll excuse the pun.

Your approach to doubles waters should be the same as the runs waters; you’re looking to gain experience.
The more fish you catch, the more you will learn, and so it goes. On the side, keep reading all you can.
When birthdays come around and new equipment is top of your list, don’t overlook books. There are some
fantastic books on carp fishing written by the best anglers the sport has ever seen, past and present. Books
are able to give a deeper insight to strategy over magazines and much that I have learnt over the years has
come through the books I have read. A good starting point would be to grab a copy of Strategic Carp
Fishing; by Rob Hughes & Simon Crow, I think this book gives the beginner or intermediate carp angler a
great understanding of the mindset required to go about catching big carp consistently.

Once you’ve mastered the doubles waters, the world, as Shakespeare once put it, is your oyster. Many stay
with doubles waters preferring the frequent action verses fight, and others carry on the search, looking for
waters that hold bigger and better specimens. A rough rule of thumb would be that the bigger and wiser the
fish get, the harder they are to catch, but of course for some, the allure of big fish is too great and the
reward of catching one big fish far outweighs the rewards of catching greater numbers of smaller fish.

The sky’s the limit: Once you’ve cut your teeth and mastered the art of playing fish, where you go
and what you target is up to you!

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Whichever path you choose, it’s important to enjoy it. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game and
I’ve seen many come and go who have ended up tearing their hair out in frustration when the runs don’t
come. So don’t rush things. I’m always on the look out for big fish, but I’m just as happy picking off
smaller examples when the opportunity presents itself. After all, there’s nothing quite like seeing a carp
pick up your hook bait, no matter what size it is!

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What Makes A Successful Carp Angler?
By Julian Grattidge

The first thing to make clear from the start is that there is no wonder bait that will entice every fish in the
lake, no individual method that works every time out, and no individual set-up that will catch every time
you cast it in. All this despite what many companies will have you believe from their advertising blurb!
There is no one thing that will make you catch every time you go fishing. The key to successful carp
angling is about getting lots of little things right; do *that* on a regular basis and you are well on your way
to becoming a decent carp angler.

It’s about getting lots of little things right!

We receive an endless stream of emails at Anglers’ Net from people new to carp fishing who have gone
out and bought some nice rods, buzzers and a big bag of boilies (bait) but can’t understand why they still
don’t catch when they turn up at a water and chuck out a bait. In simple terms, a nice pair of rods and some
expensive bait does not make a carp angler, it takes a long time to learn all the important skills and even
when you get all that right, you can still blank. I’ve been carp fishing for more years than I care to
remember, but I still don’t catch every time out!

So where do you start? Well for me the most important aspect of carp fishing is watercraft; you can have
the best bait and tackle in the world but if you are fishing in the wrong place, well, you may as well be at
home! The real problem is that watercraft is the hardest part to get right. Most successful carp anglers have
served their apprenticeship fishing for many different species over a number of years. I myself have fished
for most species since I was a kid and the knowledge gained is invaluable. To me, watercraft is now
second nature, something I take for granted, but it’s something you never stop learning. Each session I fish
I add to it a little bit more, you are basically storing experiences and then drawing on the information in the
future when faced with known or like-for-like situations.
It sounds daft, but when you are out on the bank fishing, your main focus should be to ‘think like the fish’

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you are trying to catch. By building up a picture of its underwater habitat you are able to make certain
assumptions (based on experience) which will help you to narrow down likely spots where they will be
hanging out at certain times and the routes they are likely to use to get to these spots.

‘Think like a fish!’ If you were a carp, where would you be?

To those assumptions you then need to add the effects of current conditions; sun, rain, wind and
temperature all play their part. Then you need to consider the effects of current and recent angling
pressure, time of year, time of day, predicted conditions, and anything else that could have an effect on
how the fish behave during your time on the bank. All in all then, not an easy task, but when broken down
into lots of little pieces the job becomes much easier and the more you do it the easier it becomes. I’ll
cover all these areas in the next article.

Once you’re at one with your surroundings and you’ve worked out where you think they’ll be, what’s next
- how do you go after these wily creatures that seem to spend most of their time rejecting the bait you place
in front of them? Well, you need to work out what the right bait is for that particular session or that
particular moment. Now, this may come as something of a shock to some, but do trust me on this; a bag of
boilies is not the be all and end all when it comes to catching carp! Of course a ‘good’ boilie is an effective
bait, but only when the situation suits. There are a whole range of other baits out there, just as effective,
and in many cases more effective. There is immense tunnel vision when it comes to bait and many refuse
to use anything other than the current ‘boilie of the moment’. Their choice I suppose but believe me, they
are missing out!

There’s more to successful carp fishing than boilies alone!

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Meats, nuts, maize, corn, beans, bread, maggots, worms… the list is endless. When used at the right time
any of the above will score just as well as a boilie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ‘anti’ boilie, far from it,
but it’s very important to understand that a boilie is just part of the successful carp anglers’ armoury when
it comes to bait. Grasp that fact, and you’ll be half way to catching more fish than most of those around
you.Of course hookbaits are only half the story, do you fish over a bed of boilies, hemp, particles, pellets,
or just chuck it out on its own? Again there’s no one simple answer, but through experience, when faced
with the same situations you begin to slot the pieces of the jigsaw into place and the correct strategy begins
to show itself. Bait and baiting up will be covered in the third part of the series.

So, the swim has been picked, the bait has been placed and you’re waiting for action, but how long are you
supposed to wait? Do you sit it out for an hour, two hours or even a day? How long do you wait before
checking your bait and recasting? Should you pile in some more for good measure or perhaps refrain until
something develops?

The correct approach is key, not just in terms of how you set out your stall when you arrive at a water, but
how you develop the plan as the session unfolds. Do you stick with the plan or change and adapt it as you
go on? What’s important to remember here is that a successful carp angler should always have a strategy -
a plan of action that dictates how you are going to attempt the session ahead. That way you can see if you
were successful or unsuccessful. If you were successful, how so? Try and pull out the salient points that
made the session a success so that when you are faced with similar situations in the future you can repeat
the strategy and hopefully bag a few fish. In exactly the same way, when failure presents itself, which it
will, think about how it came about. Were there any key times during the session when you could have
changed your methods or approach? That way, on future sessions when things aren’t going to plan and you
are in a like for like situation, you can try and effect a change and hopefully pull one out of the bag.
However, the key is not to see a blank as a failure; it’s just more experience gained in the pursuit of your
quarry - As long as you are able to learn from it, that is!

Plan your approach and remember to refine and adapt as the session unfolds.

Strategy in place, what approach do you go for? Do you bivvy up and sit it out behind buzzers, go stalking,
fish off the top? Again it’s important to be open minded about what constitutes an effective method. There

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is so much blinkeredness when it comes to carp fishing that at times I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need to decide what kind of carp angler you want to be? A
thinking angler that rules out nothing and considers everything, or the average muppet who follows the
crowd, believes all the hype, catches very little and blames everything for the blanks bar their own angling
inability!
An easy decision you’d think, but alas, no. There are so many out there that truly believe the only way to
catch carp is to sit it out in a bivvy behind idle buzzers for days on end. I’m not saying that you should be
changing swims every two minutes and trying every possible method each session, however, if you want
the rewards, then you sometimes have to get off your backside and make it happen!

That does not mean you have to think about carp and nothing else. There are those who like to pleasure
fish for other coarse species as their main style of angling but who also like to chuck out a second rod for
carp on the side. That’s fine, and by reading on I’m sure there will be much that can improve your results
whilst trying for carp on the side. The point I’m making is that if you want to catch decent carp and you
want to catch them consistently, then it takes a lot of hard work and effort. There are always times when
luck plays a part but more often than not you make your own luck and it’s no different in carp angling. So,
in the fourth part of the series I’ll cover all the essentials to enable you to plan your strategy and put in into
effect.

To catch big carp consistently takes a lot of effort, but stick at it and the results will come.

It’s quite easy to talk about it all; the right approach, the right bait and tactics, but you also need to be able
to apply the lessons learnt in the real world. The best laid plans don’t always work instantly; it can
sometimes take a whole session before things start to come around, sometimes several sessions, even a
whole season! However, if you keep working away methodically the results will come. The problem for
most new carp anglers I speak to on the bank is that they expect action immediately, they follow the exact
same method as explained in a book or magazine and when the results don’t come quickly they assume
they are doing it wrong. In many cases fishing for carp is a waiting game, they key is in being able to
determine at which point further action is required on your part. It’s all too easy to keep chucking bait in
and re-casting rods but what you need to remember is that every water is different, what works well on one
water may have the opposite effect on another. As such, we will also look at some examples of how the
above skills and techniques have actually been implemented on different types of waters to bring about a
result, highlighting the key points and decisions that were made during each session and the results these
decisions brought about.

Hopefully, once you have read this book you will then be able to take something from it, apply it to your
own fishing and bring about a change in results.

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Watercraft
Watercraft, The Carp And Its Habitat
By Julian Grattidge

You’ve read about it, you’ve heard people talk about, but what does it really mean? And more
importantly… how can you get some? For me, watercraft means the skill in being able to read a water, or
to be more precise, being able to read the fish within a water. As mentioned in the last piece, it’s no good
having all the right tackle and bait if you then set up in a swim completely devoid of fish - You need to be
able to narrow down all the options to give yourself the best possible chance of catching during your
session.

As explained in the introduction, successful carp angling is about getting lots of little things right and
watercraft is no different. It’s about taking lots of little bits of information from every session you have
fished, and then pulling them back out and threading them together to form a strategy when you’re next out
on the bank. The difficult part is in knowing where to find the information and then deciding how best to
use it. Again, there’s no one single thing that can improve your watercraft skills, rather a mix of
information gleaned from many sources. So in this piece, I’ll try to explain what watercraft is all about and
explain some of the principles involved that will help you get the most out of each session.

I think it was in George Sharman’s ‘Carp and the Carp Angler’ where he said that it was better to have a
bad plan than to have no plan at all. Possibly meaning that if you had a plan, even a bad one, then at least
you were forming an opinion, and if that plan failed, then technically all you needed to do was identify
where the failure occurred, refine it, and try again. In essence, that’s what watercraft is all about. It’s about
taking all the things you have learnt about carp, the water you are fishing, climatic conditions and any
other affecting factors, then trying to bring it all together into one salient mass for the session that lies
ahead.

Watercraft; what’s it all about… and how can you get some!?

It’s no easy process and it’s not a skill which will come overnight but if you start applying the logic now,
you will quickly feel the benefit and the long road ahead won’t seem quite so daunting. Watercraft is

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something you never stop learning - you add more to it with each session you fish, and the longer you have
been fishing the more experiences you are able to draw upon.

There are many different aspects to watercraft. First you need knowledge of the quarry itself; its habits,
characteristics and life-cycle. You also need to learn how everyday changes in climatic conditions and
angler pressure can affect carp behaviour. Once you understand the quarry, you then need to understand it
in relation to its habitat. This is perhaps the single most important aspect of watercraft - knowing where to
find the fish is what it’s all about!

So where do we start? Well, first we need to understand a little more about the carp itself. It sounds daft,
but if you want to catch big carp and catch them consistently, then you need to think like the fish you are
trying to catch! Many people perceive a carp to be a swimming dustbin that only has to see a pile of bait
and it’s straight on it. Whereas, in reality, we have to remember that in fish terms, the carp is quite an
intelligent creature with quite a well developed brain; anybody who has watched a wary carp feeding at
close range will know just what I’m talking about!

Carp are capable of a number of thought patterns. In the main, these patterns appear to be governed by a
sort of short and long term memory. The fish relies predominately on the long term memory part of the
brain for going about its day to day business. Basically, the way I’ve come to see this is that a carp takes in
lots of short term memories, which, after conditioning (the same thing happening time and time again)
become long term memories. The question is; how can we use this to our advantage? Well, have you ever
wondered why pre-baiting works? It’s exactly the same thing - by supplying a constant source of free food
with no danger aspect (i.e. no hook bait) the carp will pass short term memories back to the brain on each
sitting saying that all is ok within the area, until eventually it becomes conditioned and they then begin to
see it as a constant source of risk free food.

My own view however, is that carp will always be able to attach a degree of risk to feeding in any area, but
by conditioning we are able to lower its guard. Long term conditioning on a regularly fished water will tell
the carp that within the lake itself, there is always a risk that it is being angled for, but by providing this
constant source of free food it thinks this particular area, for now, is safe. Once you begin to fish the area
the carp will begin to wise up and after a time the spot may well dry up as the short term memory feeds
into the long term memory telling the carp that, after being caught there or being around other spooky fish
that have been caught there, that this area is now not safe to feed in, and so the cycle goes.

Get to know your quarry; its lifestyle and its environment

What else do we need to know about the carp? Well, in terms of feeding we need to understand that its
primary feeding habits are controlled by the daily cycle of life; the onset of day & night, and the

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surrounding climate. I don’t want to get too much into the feeding aspect here as we’ll cover this in the bait
chapter. However, in terms of watercraft you need to understand that the primary need of the carp is food
in order that it can maintain itself. This does not mean it will eat whatever is placed in front of it (unless
competition for that food dictates it) as one of its other inherent characteristics is for its own security.

What I’m getting at here is that it’s down to the carp when and where it wants to feed - not you. You can
do all you like to add attractors and such like to your bait, but if the fish does not want to eat, it won’t. That
said, I’ve found carp to be very inquisitive by nature; any seasoned stalking angler will tell you exactly the
same thing. I would say over 90% of my catches when stalking are due to the inquisitive demeanour of the
carp when it comes across the bait rather than the fact that it’s hungry and is looking for something to eat.

Apply a shed-load of bait and often their guard will go straight up. However, a single wiggling lob worm
dropped right in front of its nose is an entirely different matter; many carp seem unable to resist further
investigation!

Many people also assume that all carp are exactly the same and think alike. As far as inherent
characteristics go I don’t doubt it. However, my own experiences and those of others around me suggest
that each fish can be very different. On the Capesthorne Estate where I have watched the same group of
carp for many, many years, you begin to see that each fish has its own character, just like you or I - some
are really bold and are always first on the scene to see what’s going on, others are more reserved and
always tend to hold back.

You also notice that the bigger fish often have a smaller sidekick whom they tend to let feed first before
they decide whether to partake. Information like this is invaluable in relation to planning your attack on a
chosen water or for when targeting a particular big fish.

The key here is observation - and lots of it. Spend time getting to know how the carp live in the water you
are fishing and you are half way to catching them. There are a couple of different scenarios you will be
faced with when it comes to getting to know the fish, mainly with regard to the type of session you are
planning - Is it a one off trip to a new water, or is it a new water which you intend to be spending a lot of
time on?

Firstly, let’s take a water that you intend to be spending quite a bit of time on. Firstly, you need to be aware
that not all aspects of watercraft are carried out on the bank. If you really want to get to grips with the fish
in a particular lake, you should do some homework. The more you can find out about the lake and its
occupants, the easier the fishing becomes.

The first thing I would do is ask around in the local tackle shops to see if anybody knows anything, then I
would check out the internet. There are literally thousands and thousands of websites devoted to fishing,
fisheries and clubs. Find out if the water you intend to fish has its own website, and if it does start emailing
them to find out as much as you can about the water.

If there is no website, ask about on a fishing forum, somebody somewhere is bound to know something.
Also, find out if it is controlled by a club, if so, do they hold regular meetings? If they do, get yourself
down there, you’d be amazed at the snippets of information you can pick up.

Don’t be shy - ask questions. You are basically looking to gain some shortcuts here. Starting a campaign
on a new water can be a little daunting and the more info you can obtain at the start, the quicker you’ll get
results.

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Do your homework; rarely will big fish come and find you!

OK, you’ve done the background work, now it’s time to hit the bank. To start off with I would head down
to the venue armed with a map of sorts, polarized glasses, binoculars, pad, pen, compass and feature
finding rod. My feeling is that if you try to do your reconnaissance when you are actually fishing a proper
session, you are likely to get too bogged down in the swim you are fishing to bother doing your homework
properly. That said, I fish a system where I can quickly slip a hooklink onto my set-up, so I would also take
a net, mat, and other essentials, so that if I happened upon a fish that was just gagging to be caught, I’ve
got everything there with me - but the aim here is to travel light. Your main purpose is to get a feel for the
place and try to identify some choice swims.

It helps to make a map, brief at first, then you can make a detailed one back at home which you can keep
adding to with each session/swim you fish. Firstly you are just looking to get a rough feel for the
underwater topography and layout. Work one swim at a time and make a few tentative casts around with
the feature finding set up. Don’t get too tied up in each swim to start off with, just make a few casts around
to get a feel for the depth, type of lake bed, obvious features within the swim and the margins. Make notes
of anything of interest and move onto the next swim. Be aware of other anglers and be considerate as you
don’t want to be disturbing their fishing. If there are any trees around make sure you get up them!! - You’d
be amazed at how much more you can see from just a few feet up as the amount of glare on the surface
diminishes the higher up you are - polarized glasses are a must as they cut out the surface glare and help
you to see under the surface of the water. They are not expensive and most tackle shops stock them,
alternatively there are loads on online - just make sure you get some with UV400 protection as these will
also block out the suns harmful rays that can damage your eyes.

Whilst casting around and climbing up trees, just what is it you’re looking for? Well, you are looking for
places which the carp will feed and move through, or even hang around in. In the main, I’ve found that
carp are usually found doing one of four things; travelling, feeding, playing or resting. The travelling is
simple enough as they are often moving to or from a play or feeding area. The feeding areas are more
difficult to spot, but by plotting on the map areas where you constantly see fish moving you can begin to

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work out where they are moving to and from, which in turn helps to narrow down potentially productive
areas for further investigation - This technique of plotting helped me locate a very small feeding area
almost completely covered by Lilly pads on one lake; after further investigation I was able to apply bait to
the spot and took countless specimen fish that season from the area without anybody else even knowing
that it existed! The other aspects are playing and resting - where the fish are just hanging around sitting
motionless on top or slopping about making sudden movements and grouping with other fish in certain
areas. On many waters I’ve found they do this at certain times of the day and often in the same places -
many lakes can have a number of these places and climate/conditions on the given day will often give a
clue as to which of these areas you will find them in.

Working out patrol routes and carp movements will bring handsome rewards

So what makes a holding or feeding area? It could be lots of things; it could be somewhere where they feel
secure like a snaggy area, or a weedbed or even under Lilly pads. It could be somewhere they like to eat,
perhaps where there is an abundance of natural food like bloodworm, snails or crustaceans. It could be a
feature within the lake where there is a change in depth or sediment makeup like the shallow water of the
margins, or the shelf around an island. The truth is that there may be hundreds of places in a lake that
‘could’ be fish holding areas, but investigation is needed as these areas can often be different from one
water to the next. That said; Lilly pads, islands, shelves and bars are always worth investigation on any
water. But do be careful as a feature which immediately jumps out to you as being a ‘hot-spot’ has
probably jumped out at every other angler that has ever stood on the same peg in the past, and thus the fish
may have attached a good degree of danger to baits placed in such ‘obvious’ areas.

Once you have located a few potential spots that you feel might be worth fishing, either from observations
or from what you’ve found with the feature finding set-up, it’s time to get fishing. But here’s the golden
rule - DON’T PICK A SWIM BEFORE YOU GET TO THE LAKE! Without doubt, this is the single
biggest mistake that anglers tend to make on every session. It may well be the ‘hot’ swim, or the one that
looks most ‘fishy’ or the one that some bloke had five fish out of the last time you were there - but what
good will it do you if all the fish are now parked-up at the opposite end of the lake?

On EVERY session, ALWAYS have a good look around before you decide where to set up - Even when
you are convinced you think you know where they are. It’s a routine you MUST get yourself into, as you’d
be amazed how often you come into the most unlikely swim on the lake and bingo - there they are, right in
front of you just begging to be caught. If you go away with just one thing from reading this book; make
sure this is it!

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Finding the fish is what it’s all about, and no matter how big the water or how well I know it, I will always
have a good look around, and even if I’m only fishing for say three or four hours, I may still spend an hour
or more looking around to ensure I pick a swim that offers the maximum chance of a result. Beginners
often tell me that they find it difficult to spot carp on their chosen lake, and yes, it can be difficult when
you start out. But do stick at it - you will soon learn to tell the difference between the actions of carp and
other coarse species. What I do notice however, is that those who often say it on the bank are those who
have never climbed a tree to look down on a swim or used a pair of Polarized Glasses. Often I’ll lend them
mine and literally tell them to climb a tree near the swim and look down over the area they are fishing. The
look on their faces when they come back down is a real picture - it’s as if a whole new world has suddenly
opened up in front of them. It’s often the case that the next time I see them; they are stuck up a tree looking
down at a group of fish through their new set of polarized glasses!

If you spot a tree - get up it; you’ll be amazed at what you can see!

The point I’m making is that it’s not really that difficult so long as you have the right tools for the job.
From trees or the ground you are looking for the same thing, the tell tale signs of carp. Look for the dorsal
fins of cruising carp, often trailing a bow wave on the surface like a boat. They could be sat motionless
with just their backs breaking the surface; again only a decent amount of time spent looking around each
swim will find these stationary carp. Also look for swirls or boils on the surface where a carp has made a
sudden movement - and don’t ignore the margins! Even on the murkiest of waters you will still be able to
spot carp with polarized glasses, you can usually see at least six or eight inches under the surface - more
than enough in most cases.

You need to see yourself as a bit of a tracker because even if you can’t see the fish itself, you can often
find evidence that they have been in the area recently. If the lake bed is clouded up on the bottom for
example; you will soon learn to differentiate these signs from other forms of wild life and begin to get a
feel for the areas the carp are happy in. Carp can also be quite noisy at times. Often they will leap and
crash, or you may hear slurps and sucking as they investigate items on the surface.

Again, I get a lot of youngsters and novices coming up to me saying they can’t spot anything and the fish
are nowhere to be found. Whilst there can be times when they simply aren’t playing ball, you can usually
find something that gives them away - The key to spotting fish is stealth. It’s no good clomping around a
lake wearing a bright white T-Shirt and expecting to spot fish in every margin you peer into. Be quiet,
calm and light on your feet and believe me, the carp will come to you! Carp will visit almost every area in
a lake, and that includes the margin right in front of your rods. The only thing that will stop them visiting
such areas is bankside disturbance, either visual and audible.

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Quite often people will make noise as they walk around a venue and then suddenly quieten down as they
approach a swim - too late. You should be quite ALL the time if you want to find the fish. If you stay still,
quiet, and camouflaged, the fish will often slide straight into view, inches from the bank without having the
slightest clue you are there. I’m not saying you should immediately go out and deck yourself head to toe in
Realtree - far from it. But do ensure that you always wear clothing that won’t stand out. I always favour
dark green clothing as it blends with most things. When you are in a swim, don’t stand right in the middle
waving hands about, pointing and shouting to your friend in the next swim - keep it zipped at all times and
if you do talk, do it in hushed tones - rarely is there a need to shout. If you keep to the edges of a swim you
won’t stand out on the skyline and thus you are much less likely to spook fish. If there is a bush or tree
next to the swim, get right up against it as these will be shapes the fish are used to seeing and they won’t
spook.

Stealth is a very important aspect of successful carping:


Stay quiet and stay hidden as much as possible - Can you spot my bivvy?

Stealth is one of the most important tools in the specimen anglers’ armoury - and it costs absolutely
nothing!! If you can prevent a fish detecting you before you detect it - then you’ve cracked it. The whole
point is to try and catch them with their guard down - and if they don’t know you are there, then obviously
you have the upper hand.

Setting up should be exactly the same approach. I see many people setting up bivvies and equipment as if
on a building site; banging and crashing, hammering in bivvy pegs and shouting to a friend in the next
swim about events since they last saw each other; you may as well forget it! The fish will return, but
you’ve lost the upper hand. For me, the first few hours of a session can be the most important. If I’ve just
spent an hour walking around to find them, and they are now all in front of me, the last thing I want to do
is scare them all away as I set up!

The above principles should be adopted each time you visit the water. In doing so, with each trip you will
begin to see (and learn) more and more. When I’m out on a session I tend to keep a log or journal. Nothing
fancy, I just take a pad with me and note down basic information like temperature, wind direction, and
general conditions. I make notes of any fish I spot and any I bank. You’d be amazed how valuable this
information can be as you get to grips with a new campaign - especially when you’re back at home - you’d
be surprised at some of the patterns that can emerge.

It’s often the case that the information reveals the best areas and times to fish throughout the year. Again,
watercraft is about using any information at your disposal. I also find it helps to get down to the water as

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often as possible - even if I’m not fishing. There really is no substitute for observation on a water and the
more time you can spend there the better - even if it’s only ten minutes on the way home from work.

Such principles are all well and good if it’s a water you will be fishing on a regular basis - you can hone
your skills as the season unfolds, but what if you are planning a one off trip to a new water that you’ve
never fished before? Well, the theory is exactly the same - you just need to refine it to maximise your
chances on a short session. Let’s assume you are visiting a water of two or three acres that you’ve never
seen before, arriving mid-afternoon and fishing for 24 hours.

First things first, do your homework. It’s unlikely you will have less then 24 hours notice for the session,
so again, ring around and get on the web to try and find a bit of advice for the venue. You have to be
careful what you listen to. The key here is to take on board what people say about swims, methods, or
approaches - but don’t let it rule your judgement on the day.

On arriving at the water you want to have a good look around before you even get the gear out of the car -
remember the golden rule: ALWAYS have a good look around before you decide where to set up. First of
all I’d grab a rod and have a good look in each swim looking for signs of fish. On swims that look to have
good potential I would have a quick cast around - just to confirm depth and bottom ensuring nothing is
going to take you by surprise should you decide to set up on the peg. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve
fished with mates who have made the fatal mistake of choosing a swim on looks alone. They spend an hour
setting up the bivvy and rods, and only on casting in a lead do they realise they are fishing in a mass of
weed when the rest of the lake is clear, or find they have got fifty feet of water in front of them. The best
one was a trip to Oxfordshire on a water we’d not fished before. A lad fishing with us set up in what
looked to be a nice swim just behind an island in a nice little bay. It was October time - cold, wet and
windy. There was a bit of a chop on the water but the swim looked fishy. After an hour setting up in the
rain he was ready to cast out; at which point he found out, to his cost, that the whole of the bay was only
about seven inches deep!! And no, he’s never lived it down… You have been warned!

Hopefully, as you make your way around the lake you will see some signs of activity in certain swims or
an area that might indicate where the fish may be. You are looking for signs of fish, but not just that. If I’m
only on for a short session I want to know that the swim I pick has got the best potential of offering a fish
in the limited time I have available. I may spend as much as a couple of hours looking around before
deciding on a swim. You may think this is excessive if you are only spending a short session on the water -
but believe me, the more time you spend watching a water in advance the better your chances when you do
eventually wet a line. I’ve fished with people who pick a swim within minutes of arrival at a water and
they’re set up with lines in and a brew in hand before I’ve even done a lap of the lake. It may be another
hour after that before I cast a line in. But nine times out of ten I’ll be the first one to catch a carp - often
within the first hour or so of casting out. Many people I fish with think some of my successes are down to
luck and the fact I manage to drop into ‘going-swims’ without knowing it. Although I don’t deny luck can
play a part, the reality is that I spend more time working things out before committing to anything.

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Swim selection - Picking the right swim at the right time is vital

I would say seventy percent of anglers on an average water spend no more than five minutes deciding
where they are going to fish - irrespective of weather they know the water or not. For me it’s no
coincidence that the remainder who put much more time into their choice of swim tend to catch more fish!
As highlighted earlier, you need to get up some trees, stick your head through a few bushes - try and get to
the spots that others will simply overlook, either through lack of experience or sheer laziness.

If it’s a water I’ve not fished before, I will often concentrate on what appear to be the most overlooked
swims first. If there is a swim that looks as if it’s hard work to get your gear round to, or one that would be
really awkward to get your bivvy in - that’s the first swim I’d tend to look at to try and find carp off their
guard - simply because not many will fish it and carp may well feel more secure in these areas.

The point I’m making is that you should discount nothing until you’ve had a good look around. And when
you do discount a swim, make sure it’s because there are no fish in it - not because you would not be able
set your bivvy up nice and neat!

If I find a swim that looks as if it may have some potential but I’ve not yet viewed the rest of the lake, I’ll
often trickle a little bit of bait in. I’m not talking about firing in a ton of boilies; usually no more than a
handful of particle mix will suffice. Basically, if it looks really ‘fishy’, then logic dictates that a fish should
soon come along. I’ll then keep moving and may repeat the process a couple of times before I’ve done a
full lap of the water. If by that time I’ve not come across a swim full of fish, I’ll then move back around to
the swims where I’ve put a little out and see what’s developed. You’d be amazed at just how often this
tactic works - I really can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve come back to one of these spots to find
a fish, or in many cases a number of fish mopping up the bait.

Basically it’s short session stalking tactics; trickle a little bit of bait in here and there and see what happens.

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Clear spots and feeding areas can be much more visible from above

It’s not always easy to figure out where these spots might be. However, what I would say is that they are
quite often where you would least expect to find them. I would be looking for areas that just seem a little
irregular - free of weed, pads, or silt. Little spots where the bottom looks different to the area immediately
surrounding it. Often the bottom looks as if it’s been swept clear, and often it has… by big greedy carp!
Broken shells or debris from snails, swan mussels and crustaceans can be a dead giveaway. These spots
can often be quite clear and many who don’t look around properly will miss them. As we covered earlier -
get the polarized glasses on and climb some trees. At the end of the day it is down to you to find them, they
won’t go out of their way to find you!

Don’t dismiss the margins either, a massive amount of my fish come from baits placed within ten feet of
the bank - even on waters where the ‘done-thing’ is to cast as far as your rod can withstand. It’s often the
case that people are so busy casting to the heavens that they miss all the activity under their feet. I’ve yet to
find a water where fish don’t come right into the margins. What’s more, you’re always guaranteed better
presentation close in - just keep quiet and well away from the rods.

Ignore the margins at your peril. An early morning fish taken three feet from the bank

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So let’s say you’ve found some fish, or at least a swim which looks to show signs of recent activity, what’s
next? Well, a quiet set up is key. Again too many people rush the setting up not wanting to miss a second
before getting the rods out. I’m the opposite. I will set up very slowly, making sure I’ve never got my back
to the water for more than a minute at a time. I will constantly be scanning the swim for signs of activity,
so that when I do finally cast out I’m confident my chosen spots offer the best possible chance of banking a
fish.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the fish will tend to move about a great deal in any 24 hour period;
much off their behaviour is conditioned by temperature, and temperature fluctuates in most areas with the
onset of day and night (as the water is heated and cooled) thus, even if you do find them prior to setting up,
the chances are they won’t remain there throughout. As such, when I do come across fish, I often leave
setting up bivvies and such like and just get on with the fishing whilst they are there in front of me. It’s
often the case that I will fish with a friend and on finding the fish in a certain area we’ll decide on swims
close to each other. Often the friend will then go about setting up bivvies and camping gear before sorting
the rods - I’m often the other way around. I will tend to grab a rod and go for the fish right away, having a
bait in place within a couple of minutes of choosing the swim. It’s often the case (if you get it all right) that
a fish will be banked quite quickly within the first hour or two, and in the same fashion it’s often the case
that the fish can then move to a different area. The problem for my friend is that having already bivvied up,
he is now tied to the swim - all I have to do is pick up my gear and move off with the fish.

Staying mobile accounted for the downfall of this specimen

Part of watercraft is this constant reassessing of the situation right throughout the duration of your session.
You should be watching all the time from dawn till dusk. The trick is in being able to know when to effect
the change - what you have to remember is that what may have been right when you set up, might have
changed completely just a few hours later. You need to keep reviewing your strategy. Yes it might be a
pain to break all the gear down and move round to the other side of the lake, yes it might be raining and
blowing a gale, but as I’ve said before, the bigger fish very rarely make it easy for you. Nearly every big
fish I’ve caught I’ve had to work hard for, especially up North! But I still maintain the reward far
outweighs the hardships, even in the most extreme cases. The key here is to travel light. Wherever possible
I try to ensure I can carry all my kit in one go with relative ease, even if I’m on for a few nights, that way a
move is no big deal. I remember setting up in Capesthorne shallows one afternoon in early October after
finding a few fish milling around in the margins. Nothing happened until about 2am when I heard a good

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fish boshing out at the other end of the lake in the bay. After hearing the boshing another half a dozen
times over the next twenty minutes I decided to get out of bed, reel in the rods, and go and have a look.
Sure enough the fish were going mental - to this day I have no idea why! What I did know was that I only
had about another eight hours to go until I had to leave and as such, I decided to move swim - there and
then at nearly three in the morning! The result was a brace of stunning mid-twenty mirrors before it even
came light! The question is, would I have caught those two fish if I’d have stayed up in the shallows and
simply rolled over and gone back to sleep? I doubt it very much. Perhaps an extreme example, but you get
my point.

You should never be scared to reel in and have a walk around - it’s part of my everyday routine when
fishing. You rarely know what’s going on in other areas of the lake that are out of view unless you go and
have a look. Again, for me its stalking tactics I’m always looking for the next opportunity to present itself.

It’s all a case of effort. You will only get out what you put in. If you want to set up in a swim for a
weekend with every luxury around you and relax without lifting a finger, fine, I’m not going to criticise
you for it - there is the odd occasion when I’m like that myself, but for the most part I’m there to catch fish
- so for me, staying glued to ones bivvy behind motionless swingers is not going to help. Yet so many do it
week in week out… It’s beyond me!

I hope some of this information will act as a good incentive to get out there and get to grips with your
chosen water. None of the methods or principles involve expensive gear, it’s more to do with knowing
your quarry and its habitat. The more time you put in now, the easier your fishing becomes in the future.

So the next time you are sat behind silent buzzers, ask yourself a few basic questions; am I doing all I can
to maximise my chances on this session? Do I know the spots in my swim where the fish are likely to be,
and of utmost importance - are they there right now?

If the answer to any of the above is no, then it’s time you started to think a bit more about your fishing.

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Stealth And Deception
By Julian Grattidge

The importance of remaining unnoticed when carp fishing can not be over estimated.

Carp are creatures of habit and will bolt the second they feel something is not right, they sometimes even
bolt when there is nothing wrong at all; such is their basic instinct for survival.

As such, the art of stealth and deception becomes of prime importance if we want to outwit specimens, so
it’s vital that we go about our business beneath the radar.

From my early introductions to fishing I was always taught the importance of being quiet. At first I thought
it was more to do with not disturbing anybody else’s sport (especially my dad’s!) but as I grew older I
discovered how much easier it was to target specimens if they did not know you were there.

Believe me, there’s nothing quite like seeing a huge carp drift by, just inches away from you, completely
oblivious to your presence.

People often talk about being so close to carp that they could have touched them, well I actually have! A
few years ago I was observing three 20lb fish at extremely close quarters. All were sitting quite
contentedly under a few blobs of algal scum about 12-inches away from the bank just in front of some
sedge and beneath a low canopy of overhanging willow.

I lay watching them for several minutes and, realising how secure they must have felt and how completely
wrapped up in their own little world they were, I wondered if I could actually touch one without spooking
it.

I ever so slowly moved by arm through the sedges inch by inch, with frequent pauses when one turned to
face me, then as soon as it began nudging the surface scum again I would continue.

The upshot, is that by remaining quiet and using all the cover afforded to me by my immediate
surroundings, I was able to touch not just one, but all three of the carp over a period of about six or seven
minutes!

They remained content throughout, thinking that they were nuzzled up to a bit of surface scum which was
actually my middle finger.

I could have continued for longer were it not for the fact that my arm was ready to drop off after remaining
in an awkward fixed position for so long.

The point I’m making is that the only thing which will stop you getting close to fish is you!

Remain quiet and go about your business on the bank with minimum disturbance, and the fish will often
appear right in front of you - make noise or give your location away and they will spook out of the area.

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Remain quiet and unobtrusive: 60-seconds after I took this self-portrait, a 20lb common picked up
my hookbait completely unaware of my presence!

The key is not just in keeping quiet, staying concealed or in making slow movements; it’s about doing all
of these things together all of the time. When I’m on a swim, if I go about my business correctly, neither
the angler in the next peg nor the fish in the lake will know I’m there. My goal is to give the impression
that the swim is completely risk free, which in turn will give the fish greater confidence to move around
and feed within the area. How far you take things is entirely up to you, and some might say I go to
extremes, especially when stalking. However, what I would say is that time spent in quiet contemplation of
ones quarry is rarely wasted!

It’s a case of being in tune with your environment and using everything around you as cover. There is
always an amount of natural noise, be it from birds in trees, nearby livestock, or even a nearby road, so the
carp will be used to a certain about of bankside vibration and noise, it’s a case of working with that and not
doing anything alarmingly different from the norm. If you suddenly start hammering bivvy pegs in or
shouting to your mate in the next swim; the fish will spook. In the same vein I try to deceive visually. I will
often move my bivvy right to one edge of a swim so that any view the carp is used to seeing of the skyline
will not be disturbed. I’ve read various studies about how and what carp are able to see, and there is still
much debate about the specifics, so I tend to go from experience, which has taught me that they pick up
movement very well when near to the edge - so my view is always better safe than sorry.

The important point is to blend in with the background, and blending into ones environment is as much to
do with movement and noise as it is to do with camouflage. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a
full Realtree outfit, rather that by simply decking yourself head to foot in the stuff; you are not then wholly
undetectable by the carp. If you continue to make noise or disturbance of any kind, they will spook just as
easily. For my own part I tend to stick to neutral colours; greens, browns and blacks, and yes, the odd
second hand camo garment that I pick up for the price of a postage stamp.

Being quiet on the bank is not just a case of keeping your mouth shut, and even then there’s nothing wrong
with talking, just do it in hushed tones. It’s more about your actions when walking around the lake or when

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in your swim. Time and time again I see anglers in and out of their bivvies every five minutes attending to
one pointless task or another, most of which involve no small amount of noise! Planning ahead is the key.
When you’ve set up your bivvy and you know there are pots and pans in the bottom of the bag that you are
going to need later - take them out quietly whilst setting up and leave them under your bedchair or
something, don’t leave it until the bag is tucked away under a load of other gear and then make a load of
noise rooting around because you can’t find them! Worse still are those who feel the need to pace up and
down their swim every other minute wondering why they’ve not had a run - the irony!
Have a look by all means - but use some stealth. Set the bivvy to the side or the back of the swim wherever
possible, and when having a look at what’s going on, use whatever cover is available to your advantage,
and if you want to watch the water, fine, but keep the noise down and wherever possible stay below the
skyline. In effect; don’t stand out like a sore thumb!

A stealthy approach: After spotting this Capesthorne lump in the margins, I concealed myself in the
undergrowth and lowered a free-lined bait into its path, two minutes later it was on the bank.

Care should also be taken when moving around the lake; it’s a case of watching your footfall. Quite often
when I’m fishing I will be aware of other anglers making their way around the lake long before they get to
my swim, and in most cases I can track their progress simply by the amount of noise they make; twigs and
branches being snapped, conversations as they move around, heavy footfall, and also by seeing them in full
view as they stand right out on the waters edge on free swims, chatting away and pointing at various points
of interest. To be blunt, there’s no need for it. It’s sheer laziness, and contempt for any others who may be
fishing, all of which will only go towards increasing the chances of spooking fish - not just for you, but for
everyone else on the lake! Is it so hard to watch where you are walking or to keep your voice down? In
most cases I actually have to make an audible noise when entering another angler’s swim, as I have a bit of
a reputation for scaring the hell out of people - simply by the fact that I move around with stealth and care
and they have no idea I’m there! And if it works with them, you can be dam sure it works with the fish!

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Stalking: A firm grounding in the principles of stealth and deception. Fooling the fish is what it’s all
about

For me, it’s like stalking even when you’re not! I always go about my business with great care not to alert
anyone, or anything, to my presence or whereabouts. The reason for this is simple; it will put you a great
many more fish on the bank.

What greater incentive could there be?

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Feature Finding
By Julian Grattidge

I have used the following feature finding set-up for many years and having tried many other similar set-
ups, I’ve found it to be the best for the majority of my angling as I fish a lot of weedy waters and the length
of braid from the lead upwards helps keep the rig free from weed and debris on the bottom allowing
accurate, tangle-free measuring.

How to set up
To make the set-up, take a length of durable braid and tie one end to your lead (I use a length of
Quicksilver leader material). Then, at the other end tie to a swivel. Ideally the length of this section wants
to me measured so that when added to the length of the marker float the combined length will be around 12
inches. So, as my marker float is 5 inches long, the length between the bottom of my lead to the swivel will
be 7 inches, giving a combined length of 12 inches.

Next, thread your mainline through the swivel, then thread through a bead, and then tie securely to the
bottom of your marker float - job done.

How to use
1. Once you have made the initial cast, point the rod directly at the spot where the lead entered the water
and reel in the slack line until you feel resistance as the float meets the swivel. At this point you may need
to pull back in order to dislodge the lead from any silt that may be present, then just tighten back up to the
lead again. You should now be left with the rod pointing directly at the lead with taught line.

2. To accurately measure the depth; simply pay out line from the spool in measured amounts, i.e. a foot at a
time. When the float breaks the surface simply add the length of the leader and marker float (12") to the

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amount of line you have paid out and you have the exact depth of that spot.

3. In order to find features; tighten back up to the lead with the rod pointing straight out in front of you and
then *slowly* pull the rod round to your side at around waist height (left or right). This action will then
slowly pull the lead across the bottom of the lake. By holding the rod in one hand and the line in the other,
you are then in direct contact with the lakebed. Once you have pulled back 90 degrees to your side, tighten
back up to the lead (with the rod pointing at the lead again) and repeat the process pulling round to the
side.

Feature finding; an essential part of specimen angling.

How to read the features


It’s all about resistance on the lead. Different features will pass different feelings back up the line. It will
take a little time and practice to effectively sort it all out, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. However, as a
rough guide; If the lake bed comes up shallow towards you, you will normally feel resistance on the
retrieve as the lead is pulled up the side of the incline. Checking your depth at various points on the
retrieve will confirm this.

In the same way, if the lake bed deepens off coming towards you, you will normally feel very little
resistance on the retrieve as the lead comes down the slope towards you. Again, checking your depth will
confirm this. So for example; a bar running left to right in front of you would be relayed as sharp resistance
on the retrieve of the lead as you pull it up the back of the bar’s incline, then a level amount of resistance
as it comes across the top of the Plato and then zero resistance on the lead as it falls down the nearside of
the bar towards you. By stopping the retrieve and checking the depth at both the top and the bottom of the
bar you can then work out how much the bar rises above the lake bed, etc.

If you have to pull back hard on the initial cast to get the lead to move, the chances are the bottom is silty.
A clear silty bottom usually gives a smooth retrieve free of bumps or knocks. The density of the silt can be
worked out by how far the lead sinks into the silt both on the initial cast (i.e. how far you have to pull it
back out to get the lead to move) and also at the end of each 90 degree retrieve, as when you point the rod
back towards the lead and reel in the slack line ready for the next retrieve, you may need to give a little

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pull to dislodge the lead from the silt to get it moving again. If the bottom is nice and firm with little or no
silt there will be no need to pull out on the initial cast or in between retrieves and you will feel the odd
vibration as the lead skips along the hard bottom.

If on the retrieve you feel lots of tiny knocks and vibrations but the lead moves quite freely, then this may
well be a gravel or stony bottom.

A sand bottom can also be smooth like silt, however it will feel much firmer both on the initial cast and in
between the retrieves. Also, the lead won’t drop back in the bottom between retrieves and may also pass
tiny vibrations up the line similar to those of a hard bottom. If the bottom is weedy you will feel resistance
on the retrieve. The type of resistance will vary depending on the type and amount of weed, but if it is
difficult to get a smooth retrieve and the lead seems to keep digging in meaning you have to apply greater
resistance to free it, it’s quite likely there is weed present. Very light silt can sometimes have a similar feel
so it always helps to examine the lead on the retrieve, as deposits of silt, weed or other debris will often
give a simple indication as to what the bottom is like.

Weed can hamper the operation of feature finding, and if you seem to be getting lots of resistance without
depth change - weed is the most likely cause. However, by using the length of leader described in the set-
up, the float should sit off the bottom and not get tangled too much. When you get heavy weed you are
looking for those little spots on the retrieve where just for a moment it goes from lots of resistance to nice
and smooth with no snagging and then back to resistance - a sure sign of a clear spot. Repeated casts to the
same area picking up the same signal; resistance, then no resistance, and then resistance again, will
confirm a clear bottom. All you have to do then is pop up the float to the surface to act as a marker and get
some bait on it! Practice will make perfect if you stick at it, and in time you will be able to build up a
complete picture of what's going on in any swim beneath the surface. Once I’ve found a spot I like the feel
of, I often pop up the float to the surface to mark the spot, then grab the rod with rig and hook bait that I’ll
be using and have a few casts around the marker just to ensure everything is as you suspect.

In time you will find that you get so good at telling what’s going on on the bottom that you can almost do-
away with the feature finding set-up entirely. By learning to feather your cast and stopping the line at the
spool, you can actually learn to count the lead down to the bottom to gauge the depth and even feel the
little bump as it comes to rest on the bottom. You then simply retrieve as above to feel what’s going on.

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One of six fish including four twenties from the same spot after feature finding to locate a clear area
in weed.
If you are fishing extremely weedy waters it can sometimes help to attach a piece of cork or foam just
below the swivel to ensure the leader stays above the weed making accurate feature finding that bit easier.
Alternatively, if you know for sure there is no weed at all, you can do away with the length of leader
entirely and thread your mainline through the lead clip, bead, and direct to the marker float as this can
sometimes give a better feel and make things easier to read on the retrieve.

A tip is to use a decent sized lead. I usually use a 2.5 or 3oz lead. A bigger lead means it holds bottom
better, reducing the tendency to skip on the retrieve which lowers the level of feeling.

Always be careful not to kill a swim though too much casting about, especially if you are about to fish it!
Furthermore, spare a thought for other anglers. I'm never too keen when someone sets up next to me and
starts thrashing the water to pulp with a marker rod - Common sense really.

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Effects Of Wind
By Garth Barnard

When the wind blows the top layer of water towards a bank the water hits the bank, sinks and comes back
on itself in the opposite direction.

With this in mind the Carp in the winter are likely to be on the end of a warmer wind and on the back of
colder one. This is because during the winter the Carp would want to be in the warmer water and so would
be on the back of the wind, not on the end of the wind where the water has been cooled by the wind that
was blowing it.

During the warm summer months the Carp are likely to be on the end of the wind regardless of whether the
wind is warm or cool. This is because in the summer any disturbance that the water makes against the
bank would oxygenate the water. Also any food items that maybe on the surface of the water like dead
bugs, etc, would be pushed to the bank, sink and be readily available for them to eat.

The problems come with changes in the wind direction and temperature. On some waters the Carp are
likely to change with a new wind, on other waters the Carp are likely to stay on an old wind for a number
of days before moving.

Constant monitoring of the catches or sightings, wind direction and temperature on your water would give
you the exact answers you are looking for, but following the general rule of thumb, as I’ve described
above, should get you onto the Carp.

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Polarised Fishing Glasses
By Julian Grattidge

Everybody raves about them, but what exactly are they, and why should you get some for your fishing? I’ll
be honest, when I first started fishing I had no idea what all the fuss was about. I thought polarised glasses
were just a posh name for sunglasses and were simply an excuse to double the price tag - if only I knew
then what I know now. I really don’t think it would be exaggeration if I said I could have doubled my catch
rate in my early years if I had got myself a decent set of polarised glasses. So what are they exactly and
how do they differ from normal sunglasses?

Direct light comes down vertically and then bounces off surfaces horizontally to produce horizontal light,
otherwise known as glare, and lenses on a normal pair of sunglasses will allow both vertical light (direct
light) and horizontal light (glare) to pass through the lens. However, through utilising a polarising filter,
the lens is able to allow vertical light to pass through the lens as normal, but stop, or ‘absorb’ the horizontal
light which causes glare.

But what does this mean in terms of fishing? Well, when you look at the surface of any lake, the strength
of the reflection you see bouncing back up at you will be governed by the amount of direct light that is
hitting it - the stronger the direct light, the more glare will bounce up off the surface to prevent you seeing
anything below. Now, by adding a polarising filter, you effectively remove all the glare from the surface,
which in turn allows you to see well down in to the water, several meters depending on water clarity, the
result of which is that you can spot the fish before they spot you!

Polarised glasses really are a specimen anglers best friend, and I could not even begin to imagine how
many fish I’ve caught due my wearing them. But it’s not just specimen anglers who should wear them.
Because a huge amount of glare bounces off water, it can often lead to you feeling drowsy or will give rise
to hedaches. Polarised glasses will stop this from happening and will keep you much sharper.

They are great away from the bank too, and will help to improve your vision immensely when driving,
enabling you to clearly distinguish between lines and textures at distance. There are countless different

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types out there with many different coloured lenses so which should you go for, and which are best for
fishing?
Grey or smoked lenses are excellent for bright sunny days, and they transmit all colours evenly. A good
all-round lens in fishing terms. Grey will transmit all colours of the spectrum and enhances colour
relationships so there is minimal distortion. Also ideal for bright days and open water.

Brown lenses are good all rounders, they can be used on bright days, but are well suited to overcast and
cloudy conditions. Brown is a very high-contrast colour so highlights visual acuity and aids contrast,
especially when ambient light is lacking.

Yellow lenses are excellent for low light, and overcast conditions. They are also good for dawn and dusk,
so ideal for fishing floater fishing at dusk as the lenses enhance available light.

Without my polarised glasses there is no way I would have caught this Capesthorne lump!

It’s a common misconception that polarised glasses are only used during the summer months. Nothing
could be further from the truth and I always have my polarised glasses with me whenever I go fishing, and
they are just as invaluable in winter as they are in summer for cutting out the glare and helping me stay in
touch with fish movements.

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Approaches & Techniques
Getting The Right Approach
By Julian Grattidge

There are many ways to catch carp; legering, float fishing, free-lining, or even surface fishing. But how do
you know which approach to use and when to use it? Selecting the right approach when you arrive at a
water is crucial, as aside from enjoying a few hours out in the fresh air, if you are employing the wrong
method at the wrong time, you may as well not be there at all really! So, how do you get it right? The key
is in watercraft. The clues are always there and, if read correctly, they will often give a pointer as to which
approach could ultimately prove best for the session.

Aside from the obvious factors like time of day, weather conditions and temperature, we are also looking
for visual indicators to give us some short cuts - we need to establish what the fish are actually doing.
When I arrive at a water I will always take time to have a good look around. Not only am I looking for a
swim that will give me the best chance of catching a fish, but I’m also looking to find out what kind of
mood the fish are actually in. Although carp behave much the same from one day to the next in terms of
mannerisms and characteristics; where they will be and what they will be doing will almost certainly be
governed by the prevailing climatic conditions at the time of your visit, and those conditions can often
change during the session itself.

First things first - find the fish

The first thing to try and do is work out what depth they are in. Quite often you will see groups of fish
holding or moving around at different depths, and if you suddenly stumble upon twenty fish playing

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around on the surface, then it’s a good bet that a floating bait is going to be order of the day! Alternatively,
they might not be on the surface as such, but just under, in the upper layers. They may be difficult to spot
from the swim itself so if you can find a high vantage point, or even better, climb a tree, then do it - and
make sure you have your polarised glasses with you! If you start to see dark shapes lurking not far beneath
the surface then it’s a good bet they are in the upper layers. A surface approach could also work well here,
but don’t ignore shallow areas and the margins. When in the upper layers, the fish will often move quite
close into the edge and patrol along the marginal shelves, so a float fished bait flicked out to bankside
feature could work really well when placed on the edge of a pad line or close to an overhanging bush or
tree.

It’s quite possible that after investigating all areas of the lake you might not have spotted a thing. If you’ve
observed properly and not rushed the observations in each area, then this would point to the fish being in
the lower layers of water out of sight. As such, ledgering would probably suit best. The real trick is not to
have a pre-determined idea of how you are going to fish for them before you turn up at a water, which,
unfortunately, is how the majority of carp anglers go about it. I shouldn’t moan too much though, as this
just leaves more fish for me to catch!

Through the use of Gizmo links, I’m able to change my set up in seconds so I can quite literally change
from a bottom fished ledger set-up to a floating set-up in seconds. This versatility has enabled me to catch
many fish over the years, simply by taking advantage of visual indicators. If you are fishing on the bottom
and you suddenly start to see fish in the middle or upper layers what do you do? Most will leave the
bottom bait in place thinking that the fish will eventually find it. I would much prefer to place a bait right
under its nose. Active carp are usually feeding carp, so I would be trying to place a bait right into the thick
of it. My first response if they were in the middle layers would be to see if I could get them feeding up on
the surface by firing out a few floaters. Patience is the key; it might take a while to get them going but
given the right conditions you can usually get a result quite quickly once the first floater has been taken.
Alternatively I might look to place a bait in the middle layers, either through use of a zig-rig, or more
likely through a float fished set-up.

Float fishing for big carp - a lost art?

Float fishing for carp is almost a lost art - how many anglers do you see float fishing for specimen carp?
Not many! Yet there are various float fishing methods that have proved deadly for me in the past,

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particularly the lift rig - nothing could be simpler for flicking out a bait in to the path of a fizzing carp with
zero disturbance.

In essence, selecting the right approach is about finding the fish, and then working out which is the
quickest and quietest way to place a bait right in front of them without getting sussed. The other key point,
as I’ve said many times before, is not to sit behind idle buzzers. By their very nature, fish move about. My
theory is that by moving about with them and by following the clues that the weather conditions are giving
me, I’m much more likely to come across fish than if I just chuck out a three ounce lead and wait for the
fish to visit the bottom of the lake in that particular area.

Quite often I’ll be found stalking, a method that has caught me by far the most, and in most cases, my
largest fish. The interesting thing is that quite often when stalking you come across moving fish and you
have a very limited time to work out the best way of presenting a bait. In these cases, and as much stalking
work is done close in, I often go for a free-lined bait. Nothing could be simpler, and in a few seconds you
can flick the bait into the path of the oncoming fish, duck down and wait for the line to pull away. It’s
often that simple. I would say that perhaps 60-to-70% of my fish taken whilst stalking have fallen to a bait
that has been in the water for less than say two minutes. The only reason those fish have been caught is
because I’ve kept on the move.

Think on your feet: This 25lb Capesthorne mirror was taken within ten seconds of flicking a free-
lined worm off the edge of a lily pad just in front of its patrol route.

You don't have to go stalking though. Even when fishing multiple rods, there’s no reason not to travel
light, keep on the look out, and change tactics (or swims!) where necessary. At the end of the day it’s about
keeping up with the changing conditions around you, and learning how such changes effect fish behaviour.
Just as importantly, make sure you keep an open mind about how to target the fish. Yes, chucking out a
lead is always the easiest option - but that does not necessarily mean it is the best. Successful carp angling
is about being able to think on your feet and rising to the challenge, not going for the easy option. So, next
time you’re fishing and things are a little quiet, if you spot fish moving that are not near your hookbait -
ask yourself the question - how can I place a bait right in front of its nose without spooking it?

You’d be amazed at how often it works.

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Stalking For Carp
By Garth Barnard

Stalking carp in the margins is a great passion of mine, to watch a Carp taking your bait is so thrilling. It
amazes me how very few Carp anglers actually stalk for Carp as in my opinion it is a devastating and
productive method full of rewards. Usually I will fish a 16 hour over night session with multiple rods, but
as and when I can, I will stalk Carp in the margins.

Tools for the job


The tools for the job are simple, you need a rod that has a bit of back bone to it for muscling Carp out of
snags, a sturdy reel loaded with a minimum of 10lb line, Some strong hooks, shot or ‘Heavy Metal’ putty,
a light float or two, a landing net, unhooking mat, weigh sling and scales, forceps and Klinik. I use a J&K
8½ ft -1½lb test curve Stalking rod and Centerpin reel loaded with 10lb Pro Clear line and a size 8 or 6
ESP Raptor. I prefer to use a Centerpin reel rather than a fixed spool reel as I can lower the baited rig onto
feeding carp using only one hand minimizing movement in having to flip the bail arm for example. It’s
also a lot more fun!

What to wear
It is important that you can see the Carp and that the Carp cannot see you! You will need a peaked hat,
Polaroid glasses and clothing fitting to your surroundings. Do not forget to wear insect repellent, it is a
jungle out there!

Location
Locating the fish and ascertaining the way they are feeding is vital. Before you have even wet a line, you
need to find the general location the fish, using prior knowledge of marginal hotspots or local knowledge
by asking a bailiff or another angler can do this. Once you know the general whereabouts of the Carp you
then need to locate their exact whereabouts, this can be done by wearing your Polaroid glasses and by
getting above them, if you can, by climbing trees, etc. Be careful when climbing trees!

Once located watch their feeding behaviour and plan a method of attack.

Feeding Behaviour
When Carp feed in the margins they could be feeding off the bottom, off the top or off of lilies, reeds, etc.
When feeding on the bottom I use a bottom bait set up using a lift-rig, when feeding off the top then I
would use a ‘free-lined’ set up.

The set up
When the Carp are feeding off the bottom I use the Lift-rig, this incorporates a small float held on only by
a rubber float band, a shot (or ‘Heavy Metal’ putty) just heavy enough to cock the float and a size eight or
six hook. I use a small one-inch hook-link made from braid tied to the hook using a knot-less knot and
incorporating a ‘hair’. The short hook-link is connected to the main-line via a small swivel, I either mould
‘Heavy Metal’ putty around the swivel or attach a shot on the main-line tight to the swivel, which is just
heavy enough to cock the float. The float is secured to the main-line using a rubber float band, this has two
advantages, firstly and most importantly the main-line will pull free of the float if it gets snagged,
secondly, it allows easy movement of the float for varying the depth. If the Carp are feeding on the top,

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near the top or near lilies, reeds, rushes, etc, then I will use a free-line set up of just a size six or four hook
tied directly onto the main-line.

Your Behaviour
So once you have located the carp and observed their feeding behavior it is then time to catch them. I only
stalk for Carp that I can actually see or know that are definitely there.
Keep all body movements slow, methodical and deliberate, I once stalked a Carp six inches from the bank
in a white T-shirt and shorts purely because of the way I moved into position and presented the bait. Do
not fish with a shadow over your bait, if the sun is behind you then stay very low and/or literally
stand/crouch in a bush and be part of it!
Plan ahead your playing of the fish, look for likely snags, which the Carp will almost certainly head for.
Note: I do not normally wear a white T-shirt and shorts for stalking it was just that I saw a chance and took
it whilst not intending to fish at all.

Using the set up


Most of my stalking is done using the Lift-rig, I set the float at about an inch below the surface as when the
Carp are feeding they will nudge the line causing line bites. If the float is set normally the line bites will
cause the float to ‘bob’ which in turn makes ripples on the surface of the water, this will make the Carp
wary and even spook.

In ‘Gin’ clear water you should still be able to see your hook-bait, the only problem is when Carp are
feeding clouds of debris make it difficult to see the hook-bait so careful attention is needed on the float.

The float will move in all directions as the Carp nudge the line, but as soon as a Carp sucks your hook-bait
from the lakebed, it will lift the shot (‘Heavy Metal’), which in turn will allow the float to lift and break the
surface of the water.

As soon as the float lifts, strike, hang on and concentrate.

Most margins are snaggy and unlike a Carp caught in open water it is at full strength when it heads for a
snag, you may need to ‘Bully’ the carp away from the snag and even after a very brief fight straight in the
net!

When ‘Free-line’ stalking on the surface, just allow the carp to suck in the hook-bait and before striking.
Again, play the fish as I have stated above.

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Baits and baiting up
For stalking you need to use a bait that is readily eaten by Carp, for instance I have been using
Trout/Salmon pellet paste molded around hair rigged Trout/Salmon pellets or lob worms on the hook
fished over a light scattering of micro Trout/Salmon pellets.

I have recently used a hair-rigged boilie, which I have great confidence in, and which has produced a
number of Carp, this was also fished over a light scattering of Trout/Salmon pellets. When walking around
locating the Carp I take a bucket of Micro Trout/Salmon pellets with me, if I see a Carp feeding in the
margin I will put a couple of handfuls on top of them to gain their confidence and keep them there until I
return. It might be a while as I make my way from swim to swim before I get there to introduce more
Micro pellets and my hook-bait, but at least I have gained their confidence.

I have learnt so much about the way Carp feed from just watching them whilst stalking or preparing to
stalk for them. Stalking for me is one big adrenalin rush from the moment I unload the car to the moment I
get back in it! On my last 3 hour stalking session I caught six Carp to 18lb 4oz so it really is a great way of
catching carp.

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Winter Carp Fishing
By Julian Grattidge

It can get a little frustrating when methods and areas that seemed to produce fish quite easily in the
summer months suddenly drop off as Winter approaches. It’s a situation that occurs on many waters with
the onset of the cold weather. Carp go into a semi-dormant state during the colder months which means
they become less active and feed less aggressively. We’re not quite talking about the family tortoise that
gets packed up in straw for months on end in a nice warm airing-cupboard, rather a slowing down of the
metabolism which means less food is required to sustain energy levels. That said, they do still feed, but
less frequently. Moreover, their behaviour can change quite dramatically during the colder months and this
can also determine the places within a lake they may frequent – in simple terms; the swim where you
bagged up throughout summer may now be at the opposite end of the lake to where the fish are now
stacked up throughout Winter.

The first thing I would do to try and locate the fish would be to plumb the depths around the lake. In
Winter carp are often found in areas that stay pretty constant in terms of temperature – in many cases this
means the deeper water. Find the areas of the lake that offer this security to the fish and plan your approach
accordingly. Much depends on the average depth – the deeper the water in a lake the more dormant they
tend to remain. I like to fish shallower waters through the colder months as I find the fish remain more
active. This is mainly down to the fact that carp are stimulated by the daylight hours and fluctuations in
temperature. Shallow water will warm and cool quicker than deeper water so is more likely to stimulate the
carp into a bit of action on a bright Winters day, as apposed to water with a much deeper average depth
where the carp will likely remain rooted to one area for longer periods.

Also, and this goes for waters in general, try to work out where the warmest water is likely to be when you
are fishing. Many anglers assume that all the water within a lake will be at the same temperature at any
given time or on any given swim – this is not the case. Furthermore, there can be a difference of several
degrees dependant on water depth and time of year. Several years ago I fished a shallow water throughout
the Winter. My friend and I really struggled to pick up fish until we worked out where they were ‘hanging
out’. In summer they could be caught from any number of swims but come Winter these all dried up –
what’s more, we weren’t even spotting any fish. After many fishless sessions we began to analyse our
results and those of others around us to see what we were doing wrong. Nothing obvious sprung to mind
until we started climbing trees for hours on end in the hope of spotting a few fish that might at least point
us in the right direction! Sure enough, we soon started to see groups of fish hanging about in exactly the
same two areas of the lake, time and time again, session after session. The lake was pretty much lined with
trees and both of these areas were quite shallow. It suddenly dawned on us that they were the two areas of
the lake that caught the sun for longest period throughout the day, and with the spots being extremely
shallow there was a likelihood of temperature increase within the two areas. On bright days good numbers
of fish would always turn up around 1pm and just mill around till late afternoon in areas no bigger than a
car parking space. After that, when fishing in bright and sunny conditions we targeted these areas and
started to pick up fish on a regular basis.
We struggled to work out the exact areas they were coming from or going to when congregating in this
area, so ended up tailoring our sessions to suit these particular times and conditions and it worked quite
well. The point I’m making is that although all carp are similar in behaviour, the carp in any one water will
behave just that bit different to carp in another water based on their own environment, so it’s a case of
getting to grips with the features and holding areas in your own water.

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Another thing worth mentioning is the breakdown of vegetation each year. With the onset of autumn and
Winter there may be an awful lot of debris falling into marginal areas as trees and bankside vegetation
begin to shed leaves. As the decomposition process begins to turn the debris to silt a great deal of the
available dissolved oxygen content within the immediate area is used up, and over the following weeks I
think this may deter carp from visiting these areas; for a short while at least. I’m convinced this exact thing
happens on Capesthorne Top Pool which is a relatively shallow water completely lined with trees and
bushes and I witnessed a perfect example of this last winter - There are numerous clear spots both in the
margins and out in open water that anglers fish to from any given peg throughout the summer. As soon as
the leaves start to fall you can tell which areas fish are visiting regularly as the bottom will be swept clear
down to the silt and kept that way until the weed has all gone (especially if a little bait has been going in).
However, come October many of these areas simply switch off for a number of weeks. I got up there and
investigated several swims from above and many of those within a few feet of the bank did not appear to
have been visited; the lake bed within these clear spots was just littered with leaves and debris. However,
those slightly further out from the margins where there was not as much leaf fall had been kept clear. There
were still lots of leaves around them but you could tell the fish had still been frequenting these areas and
keeping them swept clean down to the silt. In addition, a few of the untouched areas still had varying
amounts of untouched bait within them - so definitely food for thought. Basically, I’ve now adopted an
approach where I stop fishing areas which are affected by heavy leaf fall from the time that the leaves
really start to drop until late November and my results have certainly improved.

As carp behaviour and mobility changes during Winter - eating habits change also. During summer carp
will often gorge themselves and upon finding food, hungry or not, and will often have a nibble resulting in
more opportunities to put fish on the bank. In Winter I’ve found the opposite to be the case. Yes they eat,
but it seems they only eat what they need to, just enough in order to sustain themselves. Thus for me big
beds of bait are out. My Winter fishing revolves around trying to provoke a reaction - Imagine you’ve not
long had a hearty tea and you’re feeling quite content on the sofa. If someone puts another slap up meal in
front of you, the chances are you’ll decline the offer. However, if that person were to offer you a nice
toffee, or an After Eight, you might well accept the offer as it would take up little or no room. As such, I
try to do just that; offer a tiny amount of bait presented in a way that they simply can resist!

Whatever your bait may be, keep it simple and don’t put too much in – I would say this is by far the
biggest mistake novice anglers make when short session Winter carping. I usually stick to single hookbaits.
Also, because finding the areas where they are held up can be more difficult, I favour a roving approach on
at least one rod; a single hook bait re-cast to a different area every hour or two will often bring about a
result. The other bait I will often leave static for the full session, with a very small bed of bait. Something
that moves or stands out can be good in provoking that response – a brightly coloured or glugged hookbait,
a few wriggling maggots over a handful of hemp - anything that can take advantage of their inquisitive
nature. A bait fished with this mindset will often do the business!

When all said and done, carp are still there to be caught during the Winter months. However, the
importance of locating the fish and working out the feeding times can not be underestimated. I hope all of
the above may plant a few seeds in your own mind about catching carp in your own water this Winter.

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Static Carping With Bite Alarms
By Garth Barnard

Audible bite indication is the use of bite alarms. Bite alarms are now widely used throughout modern day
carp fishing during the hours of daylight and darkness. But it’s their use during the hours of darkness that
enables the angler to sleep. Bite alarms start from a standard roller/magnets type right up to a digital unit
with a remote receiver.

Basic Bite alarms are in the position of a front rod rest with the mainline running over a roller with
magnets and a Read Switch. Line is tensioned over the roller by either a ‘bobbin’/‘dangler’ or a ‘Swinger’,
which also acts as a visual indicator. Therefore if a fish picks up the bait and takes line (away from the
rod) the indicator will rise and the alarm will sound. If the fish picks up the bait and moves towards the
rod the indicator will lower, taking up the slack mainline, whilst sounding the alarm.

A fish taking line is known as a ‘Run’, as fish moving towards the rod making the indicator to lower is
known as a ‘Drop back’.

If sleeping your rods will need to be secured on rod rests or a pod and the reels must have the ability to
allow line to be taken rather than the fish being able to pull the rod into the water!

If your reels don’t have a Freespool or Baitrunner facility then you’ll need to fish with an open bail arm
and a line clip on the rod. The Line Clip enables an indicator to maintain tension on the line without line
being pulled from the spool. The fish can then safely pull the line from the line clip, and then from the reel,
leaving the rod safely on banksticks or a pod.

Buzzers and Hangers Used For Static Carp Fishing

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(A) Rod.

(B) Bite Alarm.

(C) Indicator rising as line is taken showing a ‘Running’ indication with Bite Alarm sounding.

(D) Normal or Static position of Indicator.

(E) Indicator dropping as slack line is taken up showing ‘Drop Back’ indication with Bite Alarm
sounding.

(F) Line Clip trapping line if using the open Bail Arm method.

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Short Session Carping
By Garth Barnard

How long is a session? A session, in terms of length, means different things to different people, personally
I’m not one to sit on the bank for days or even weeks on end. Nope, for me a session is somewhere
between 12 to 16 hours, which is relatively short in comparison to most Carp sessions. With the length of
my session being so short, and mostly overnight, I have to use my time as efficiently and effectively as
possible.

Locating the fish and then applying bait correctly is the key, how many times have you seen carp anglers
plonk themselves in the ‘Carp Park Swim’ and bait up heavily for the duration? Why?!

I’ve fished what I call Hit ‘n’ Run sessions very successfully over the last 5 to 6 years, and in terms of
poundage of specimen Carp per hour of fishing, I’ve done very well indeed. All it takes is a little more
thought and effort.

The set up and methodology that I use has been fine tuned and honed over the years to what it is now. I
can feature find, ‘Spod’ and then get my hookbait on exactly the same spot accurately using only the one
and same rod. How do I do it? Read on.

Location
As with any length of session the location of the fish is a very important; most would agree that location is
more important than bait and rigs combined, so finding or knowing where the fish are feeding is
paramount.

As I’ve already said, with Hit ‘n’ Run sessions you can’t really afford to pile the bait into any swim, sit
back in hope that a fish or two may come across it. You’ve got to get the right bait, and the right amount
of bait, onto the right spot to make the best of the time you’ve got.

Bait Application
Once the Carp have been located, or at least a very likely feeding spot has been found, the next job is to
present your hookbait in a way the will entice a pick up. The right bait application will differ from water
to water, and then from month to month, ranging from a single hookbait fished on it’s own to a double
hookbait fished over a very large bed of particles and freebies.

It’s up to you to find the right approach for your water, whether through trial and error, observations, word
of mouth or usually a bit of all three. Generally though, there are two approaches to a short overnight
session, one would be to use a P.V.A. bag and the other would be to fish over a light scattering of particles.
The use of P.V.A. bags has been well documented and also seems to be the most favoured method on short
sessions. However, I prefer to use a light scattering of particles with my hookbait and freebies fished on
top.

Rod Positioning
How many of you put any thought into the positioning of your rods? I don’t mean away from a muddy
part of your swim, I mean in terms of bite indication. I’m continually surprised with how little thought
some anglers put into the positioning of their rods, I suppose if they look good then they must be good.

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Personally, I position my rods that I’m using on single banks sticks and pointing directly towards the spot
where I’m going to fish. With the rods pointing directly towards the feeding area the bite indication is
greatly improved. This is because the only resistance on the line is the weight of the ‘Bobbin’, the line
passing through the rod rings and the line passing over the bite alarm.

If you fish with your rod pointing away from the feeding area you will get a very slight bend in your rod,
like a Quiver Tip. That’s ok if you are watching the rod tip and able to strike as and when the rods tip
indicates a bite. You’ll be surprised how much movement there will be in a rod tip before your bite alarm
will sound!

Rigs
Everyone has a personal preference to the type of rig and presentation that they use, but for most of my
fishing I use the good old tangle resistant Helicopter Rig.

I have so much confidence in the Helicopter Rig, which I have adapted for my own style of use.
The Components

The way that I have adapted the Helicopter Rig I can easily remove the hooklink and lead at any time to
replace them with other types of leads or even a Spod as I’ll go on to explain.

‘Leading About’

First of all I’ll break down my rig and attach an uncoated lead to do some ‘Leading about’.
A standard Pendant lead with the coating removed

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The technique of ‘Leading about’ is very similar to using a Marker Float set up, but without a float and
only reliant on the ‘feel’ from the uncoated lead. An uncoated lead will have more feel to it than a coated
lead, which tends to dampen the feel.

‘Leading about’ is the best way to feel for lakebed features, but it does help if you already know the
lakebed in the area where you are fishing.

The only draw back to ‘Leading about’ is that without a ‘running’ line to a float (as does a Marker Float set
up) the depth of water cannot be measured.

I’ll cast my uncoated lead roughly past my chosen feature, like a gravel bar for example, and then pull the
lead back towards me feeling the lakebed as I do so. Feeling the lakebed for features is far easier using a
braided mainline like ‘PowerPro’ that I use as mono mainline suppresses the vibrations from the uncoated
lead being dragged along the lakebed.

If I’m not 100% happy with my positioning or I feel that I have missed my chosen feature. I’ll then recast
and try again. I’d rather have ten attempts of getting it in the right spot than just leave it where I’m not
confident of a pickup.

Once I’m happy that my uncoated lead is positioned on the right spot I will clip the mainline into the line-
clip and make a mental note of a feature on the opposite bank like a tree, bush or even a feature on the
horizon like a pylon or church spire.

The feature that I have made a mental note of becomes what I refer to as a reference point. This reference
point is my directional target to which I will aim all of my casts and my line clip will control the length of
my cast.

‘Spodding’
With my mainline still clipped in the line clip I then remove the uncoated lead and attach my small
Gardner ‘Pocket Rocket’ Spod via a split clip.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’, I never leave home without it!

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There are many different sizes and variation of Spods, but I’m only putting out a scattering of particles
using my normal rods and not a ‘beefed up’ Spod rod. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ is ideal for my situation and
most rods above 2 1/2lb test curve should handle a full ‘Pocket Rocket’.

The particle that I use a lot is Hemp, which I correctly prepare before its use. The Spod is filled with
hemp, boily crumb and a couple of whole boilies before being cast to my chosen spot. I’ll repeatedly cast
my Spod using my directional reference point and the line clip until I’m satisfied that I have deposited the
right amount of particle, usually 6 to 10 casts.

Baiting Up
Once I’ve finished Spodding I then remove my Spod before attaching my Fox lead using the split ring and
baited hooklink using a ‘Gizmo’.

Neat, Tidy and Tangle Free!

With the line still in the line-clip I cast to my chosen spot as before, again, by using my directional
reference point and the line-clip to stop the lead and baited hooklink, thus dropping it right on top of the
light scattering of particle, boily crumb and freebies.
Marking the Mainline

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Once settled the mainline is immediately removed from the line-clip and the mainline is marked using a
line marker like the Fox ‘Marker Braid’ or even Tippex as some anglers use. I usually align the marker
with the joint in my rods.

I will use this marker if I’ve caught a fish or for what ever reason that I’ve had to reel in without having
time to clip the mainline into the line-clip first. I can do this by casting out further than my chosen spot; I
then reel in until my line marker is aligned with the joint in my rods before clipping the line into the line-
clip. I then reel in and cast out towards my directional reference point, again, allowing the line-clip to stop
the lead and baited hooklink on the right spot.

Other Benefits
At any time I can clip the line into the line-clip and reel in, put on a fresh hookbait or even remove the lead
and hooklink before attaching the Spod and topping up the bed of particles.

Using a little thought alternative rigs with removable leads can also be broken down and used in the same
manner as I’ve used my Helicopter Rig.

This may read as a complicated and longwinded way of applying particles to your swim, but it’s far easier
in practice and necessary if you want an accurate baiting situation at any distance.

As a final point, this process can be used if Seagulls are a problem. Those who have already encountered
Seagulls catching their baits in the air will have to use this type of approach to get any freebies out
accurately to their chosen spot.

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Surface Fishing For Carp
By Julian Grattidge

Surface fishing is a great way of getting amongst carp when they are in the upper layers, and I must
confess, I’ve become somewhat addicted to the pastime over the last year or so! I’d always known how to
rig up and put the method into effect, but my results had been far from impressive, so last year I really got
to grips and refined my approach, which has seen me bank more off the top in the last twelve months than I
have since I started fishing - including a number of fish through last winter, the best a 24lb mirror in
November! As such, I’ll describe in detail my current set-up and how I got there, then give a few tips for
putting the approach into practice.

There are loads of different ways to set up a controller, although all are based on the same principle; your
main line through the eye on top of the controller, usually attached to a swivel, which then has your
hooklink attached to the other end of the swivel. However, I found that this basic method was prone to
tangles on the cast, whereby the thin hooklink would get wrapped around the controller or the mainline, the
result being that you ended up having to wind in, untangle and try again.

It was whilst asking for input from others for my own set-up that the perfect solution was handed to me on
a plate, and I can honestly say I have never looked back and have not had *one* tangle on the cast since.
The simple answer, which I must thank Matt Antal, manager at Fishing Republic in Manchester for, is to
include a ‘Gizmo’ link in the set up. Not only does this eliminate tangles, but it also allows me to slip the
controller off if stalking in the margins so I can free line, but also allows you to break down the kit or
change controller size in a matter of seconds if you spot fish further out.

This is how I set-up for controller fishing;

Main Line
Thread your main line through a tail rubber and tie to a gizmo link.

Hooklink
I use between four or five feet of WB Clarke Match Team 7.9lb 0.20mm diameter mono for most of my
surface fishing, though if I’m fishing for large fish or fishing snaggy waters I will often use the same brand
but in 10.1lb 0.22mm diameter size. At one end I attach the line to a mini-swivel using a Palomar knot
(this is the best knot I’ve found for minimal slippage on thin mono’s). At the other end attach the line to
the eye of the hook, again using a Palomar knot. I match the hook size to the size of fish I’m targeting, but
have found that a size 14 or 16 FOX Series 2 Match Hook will cope with everything from the smallest to

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the largest, and it is by far my favourite hook for the job as they are tiny but very strong, so do not stand
out under the dog biscuit.

Once you have attached the hook you need to attach a bait band to the back of the shank. To do this, hold
the tip of the hook between your thumb and forefinger, so that the shank is upturned and facing you (1).
Then slide the bait band under the shank so that half is visible either side of the shank (2), then, using a
baiting needle, thread the needle under and up through one half of the band, over the shank, and then hook
the other half with the needle (3), and then pull it back through the first half (4). When pulled tight
manoeuvre it so that you are left with a nice loop sitting tight off the back off the shank (5).

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You can get bands with a little hole on the bottom, which you just prick your hook through and slide
around to the back of the shank, but whilst they are easier to attach, I’ve found the bait sits too far under
the hook and the fish spook - the tighter the hook to the bait the more confident the fish will be.

Set-Up
To assemble the set-up, first slide the hooklink swivel onto the gizmo, then slide on your chosen controller.

Then simply slide the rubber sleeve back over the gizmo clip and Job Done, a nice tidy set-up that won’t
tangle.

Tips
I often grease the hooklink a little bit so that it always stays on the surface, I have a small tub of Vaseline
and I just dab a finger in it, then rub down the line. You only really need to do this once a session.

That’s it really.

All that’s left is to put a dog biscuit in the band and away you go. What I would do though is ensure when
the biscuit is in place that the hook sits nicely underneath with the line coming up onto the surface - if the
line comes down before it goes up the fish are much more likely to spook.

Adjusting the bait band on the shank should sort this;

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The choice of biscuit is also important. I believe that quality counts and wherever possible I use Pedigree
Mixer biscuits, as I find them better shaped and easier to keep in the band on long casts then cheaper types.
I also coat my mixers with a flavour, as I believe this gives them a boost over any others that might be out
there. Having used most, I have stuck with Nash Supasense Oil Palatants. I tend to empty a whole bag of
mixers into a carrier bag, pour about 20mm of flavour in, and then give the bag a proper shake to ensure it
gets spread around all the biscuits. I’ve found the oil also helps calm the water if there is a bit of a rip on
which helps visually.

Then it’s just a case of getting out there and going after them, just remember your Polarised Glasses, which
will help you locate the fish much easier and soon you should be banking fish off the top.

One of four fish to mid-doubles I took off the top during a two hour session last week using the
method above.

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Carp Fishing In Silt
By Julian Grattidge

Aside from what many may tell you, I find it’s difficult to say a particular rig is the best for ‘x’ or ‘y’
situation - especially when it comes to fishing in silt. Why? Well, because the type and density of silt can
differ from one water to another, and even from one spot in a lake to another! Capesthorne Top Pool is the
perfect example of this. The make up, density, and colour of the silt in the shallows is completely different
to that in the main bay, mainly due to the fact that the silt in the shallows around the inlet is mineral based
(i.e. washed in) and the silt in the bay is organic breakdown (i.e. leaf litter).

If you draw a line from the Black Hole to The Point swims, all the silt on the bay side is firmer (roughly
speaking) than that on the other side all the way up to the shallows. Also, if your intention is to fish to clear
spots then these are often very firmer, even in silted areas, as they are often kept swept clean down to the
firmer layer of detritus beneath. A lot depends on how the water flows through the lake and deposits the
silt.

The trick with heavy silt is not to let it worry you - just the opposite in fact; I make it work to my
advantage. I’m a firm believer in keeping rigs as simple as possible - so much so, that 99% of my fishing is
done with the same basic set-up; main line through a tail rubber, then a lead-clip and onto a gizmo - what
could be simpler than that? I use the same rig for weed, silt, gravel - whatever!

The key is in presentation. When I choose the spot, I make a few tentative casts and feather the lead down
onto the bottom. I then gently reel in to see what’s going on with the spot. I may have anything between 4
and 20 drop casts into the area so that I know *exactly* what the lead & hooklink are doing in relation to
silt, leaves, weed or whatever else may be down there. As long as you keep the noise and disturbance down
and feather the cast you don’t need to worry about spooking them. Once I have a complete mental picture
of the spot I can then put a bait out and leave it for as long as it takes with complete confidence knowing
that the presentation is perfect and I don’t need to touch it till it screams off.

This Top Pool specimen (which is actually older than I am!) was fooled in heavy silt by very basic rig
combined with a short hooklink.

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There’s only one water where I use a different set-up and that’s Birch Grove where I use running leads due
to the large distances and the close proximity of snags. I think confidence in rigs comes from observing
what the fish do over various set-ups. Some of the theories that anglers concoct about rigs and hooklinks
are quite simply ludicrous. It may well look good when dropped in the kitchen sink, but the reality of a big
cast with weed or silt is another ball game completely. When I first started fishing the Top Pool I was
trying all manner of set-ups to try and bag a fish, and it was not until I actually started getting up trees and
sticking my head through bushes to watch their reactions over different set-up’s that I finally began to
figure it out, and after many, many, years watching the fussy buggers, my conclusion is that simple is
usually best!

You don’t need to worry about the bait being masked or even completely buried - the fish are used to
rooting around in it, for that’s how they find most of their natural food - look inside the mouth of silt-water
carp - it will be almost black with all the silt it’s been rummaging through! I’ve had it before when I’ve
been stalking with worms over a handful of particle mix - the fish comes along, stops on the particle mix
and sees no danger as the lead, hooklink and worm are completely buried in the silt, so then it goes down
and has a rummage in the silt and then senses the smell/movement of the worm and bang - Fish on!
If anything I would say that a partially or completely submerged hookbait may give the fish more
confidence - think about it - what would look more suspicious; a hookbait that is just lying there neatly on
the lake bed (with exposed hooklink) or, a bait that the fish has actually had to root out to uncover?

Hence on some silted swims I will actually cast out hooklinks as short as 3”. Most people would consider
that insane when fishing into silt - for me it’s just about putting the bait where the carp are used to finding
it. I know which I’d go for if I was the carp!

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Carp From Big Waters
By Jim Gibbinson

The first job is to spend time getting to know the topography of the water, ideally via a boat (never, ever go
in a boat without wearing a lifejacket) and an echo-sounder. The next best option is a boat and "prodding
pole", but if circumstances make the use of a boat impossible, then by means of a plumbing rod from the
bank.

Then comes observation. Carp are usually fairly cooperative in that they cruise, bask, roll, jump etc. By
marrying these observations with weather conditions - especially the wind direction - and knowledge of the
water's topography, it should be possible to build up a preliminary picture of which areas are favoured by
carp.

While any standard carp fishing approach might produce results, one of the most effective is 'stalking'. I
put the word in inverted commas because it is not confined to conventional peering under-trees type
stalking (although that can be an excellent tactic), but includes looking for where fish are rolling5 head-
and-shouldering, bubbling, mud-stirring etc. Having found the fish, it is essential that they be approached
ultra-cautiously. Carp which are rarely fished for tend to be extremely "spooky" and will not tolerate heavy
lead or bait bombardment. A light lead - or no lead at all - and a single hookbait is the best bet. If the
nature of the bait permits, a stringer might be incorporated.

While I have caught carp by stalking, my preferred approach - and the one which has been most successful
for me - is to select an area of the lake (or more likely, pit) and wait for the conditions which suit that area.
Let me explain by giving a "for instance". Suppose my plumbing/echo-sounding etc reveals a tennis-court
size plateau within casting distance of the north-east comer. If the carp in my chosen water behave
typically, they will move to the plateau when a nice, mellow south-west wind springs up. If I can get to the
plateau ahead of the wind -before it springs up, in other words - I will have feed items and baits in position,
awaiting the arrival of the carp. If the wind is already blowing, which means carp will probably already be
there, I will dispense with free feed and rely solely on stringers.

A related approach is to fish the corners - if the water has them, that is. I will opt for the corner into which
the wind blows. The bottle-neck nature of a comer means that carp tend to accumulate in a relatively small
area - which is an obvious advantage when there are only a few in the water.

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The upside of fishing sparsely stocked waters is that the carp are likely to have been neglected, so they are
usually quite responsive to baits. In one of my articles or books, when talking of such fish, I described
them as "easy fish in difficult waters" - by which I mean that if you find them and don't alarm them, they
can be quite easy to tempt. The downside, of course, is that they are often very difficult to find.

As regards actual tactics; baits most likely to be taken from the "off" are naturals such as worms - with
semi-naturals such as cockles a good bet, too. Next on my list are particles; notably sweetcom, chick peas,
maple peas and tigernuts - they tend to be more instant than are boilies. I always take about half a kilo of
boilies, though, and when I pack up to go home, I scatter them where I hope they will be found by carp.
After half a dozen or so such introductions I would start incorporating boilies into my actual fishing. In my
experience, the best boilies to use are birdfood or cereal based high-attract sweet tasting versions
incorporating such flavours as Scopex, Strawberry, Peach, Maplecreme etc (readymades are ideal).
Fishmeal boilies might come later in the campaign, but would not be my first choice because it seems to
take a long while for non-boilie oriented carp to acquire a taste for them.

Ideally I would start my fishing in early April, fish through the spring (assuming no close season is in force
on the water), and continue until late October. November to March I would choose somewhere less
demanding.

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Margin Tips
By Jim Gibbinson

The other evening - work done for the day - I sat down for an hour's relaxation with a cup of coffee and the
latest issue of a carp magazine. In one of the articles I came across the following statement, " I realise that
in this day and age there aren't all that many waters where you stand much of a chance in the margins."
Luckily I had just swallowed a mouthful of coffee, otherwise I might have spluttered it over the magazine!
How the writer of the article managed to arrive at such a bizarre conclusion, I do not know. Margin fishing
is effective in most waters, as is evidenced by the fact that I catch approximately two thirds of my annual
total of carp within a couple of rod-lengths of the bank.

Fishing the margins of a big Kent gravel pit

I don't intend doing a "sales pitch" for margin fishing - if you agree with the aforementioned unnamed
author and reckon it is unlikely to work on your waters, you'll get no quarrel from me... even though I think
you are almost certainly wrong! Instead, I shall summarise my findings and give a few tips, which,
hopefully, will imbue margin "virgins with sufficient encouragement to give it a try.

CALENDAR
In some waters carp can be caught from the margins all year, but generally I wait until spring. Early fishing
tends to be somewhat erratic, but it usually gets well underway mid to late April - at about the same time as
I hear the first cuckoo and see the first swallows. May is the best margin month of them all, with June a
close second. July is also good, so too is early August. Mid-August there is a tendency for carp to slip
away from the margins. September onwards, in most waters, margin fishing can be somewhat hit-and-miss.

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GOOD TIMING
I have lost count of the number of times I have started fishing at dawn or shortly after, and sat behind silent
Delkims all morning, only to make a good catch during the course of the afternoon. You will not be
surprised to learn, therefore, that my favourite time for margin fishing is 1.00pm through to teatime.
The next best period is mid to late morning, from about 9.00am to 11.00am. The evening is usually
disappointing; I have caught very few margin carp after 8.00pm.

Gently lowering the bait in the margins of a marshland dyke

BEST WEATHER
A warm, gentle onshore breeze is perfect. Mild, drizzly weather - what the Irish call 'a soft kind of a day' -
can be productive, too. In deep pits and irrigation reservoirs, red-hot sunny flat-calms are good.
A cold wind can kill margin fishing stone dead. If, however, the cold wind occurs on a high pressure sunny
day, it is worth trying the sheltered upwind bank - especially if the wind is a northerly because the upwind
bank faces south and so gets the full benefit of the sun.

SWIM CHOICE

Tucked behind cover while fishing the margins of an Essex gravel pit

Talk "margins" and most anglers think in terms of reeds, lilies and overhanging trees. While such spots are
always worth a try, I have caught most of my margin carp from seemingly featureless stretches of bank.
And given similar looking places - whether they be classic "feature" spots or lengths of bare bank - carp

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show a noticeable preference for some rather than others. Why they should like one overhanging tree better
than half a dozen apparently similar ones, or favour one particular 10-metres stretch of bare bank above
others, I do not know. But while I can't explain such paradoxes, I have noticed that experienced margin
anglers develop a sort of sixth sense, which enables them to identify the best spots. Pending the
development of this subconscious knack, I suggest that shallow water - just a metre or so - be chosen in
late April and throughout May, with progressively deeper swims selected as the summer wears on.

CARP FREE ZONES


When the wind blows directly onto a reed free gravel or sandy bank, the waves will dislodge particles,
which remain in suspension and colour the water. Often I have read that carp are attracted to coloured
water, but such has not been my experience; I suspect the particles clog or irritate their gills.

Sand particles are too heavy to remain in suspension for long, so coloured water in gravel pits rarely
extends for more than a few metres from the bank. Clay pits are a different matter, the micro clay particles
are held in suspension for a considerable time and can create a long milky "slick", which may extend way
out into the pit. I have never caught a carp from wind-blown milky water - bream, yes; tench, occasionally;
carp, never.

This lovely leather took the bait literally inches from the bank in a marshland dyke

Margin Whacker!

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But here's a paradox. Cloudy, or even milky water, which has been created by fish activity (carp roofing in
the bottom, for example), does not put them off. So while windblown coloured water is a no-no; self-
stirred cloudy water is an excellent bet. Funny things, carp!

HANG LOOSE
Many, if not most carp anglers like to have their lines harp-string tight. But a tight line can spook carp, so
whenever possible, I prefer to let mine hang slack - I mean really slack, too, with loose loops hanging
between the rod rings. If the lake-bed is littered with mussels or flints which might sever a line which lays
on the bottom, I settle for what I term a "droopy line".

QUIET PLEASE!
Be quiet and stay out of sight. Yes, I know it's been said a thousand times - but the fact that it has been
repeated ad nauseam in no way detracts from its value. Surprising, then, that so few anglers heed the
advice. Carp are wild creatures - they have an instinctive fear of alien shapes, shadows and noises. We
intensify that fear by constantly pursuing and hassling them. We are not likely to catch them close-in,
therefore, if they know we are there. If possible, I sit well back from the water’s edge (at the limit of the
'20ft from the rods' maximum allowed by statute). If the configuration of the bank makes that impossible, I
like to sit behind cover. If no cover exists, I may create it - a few willow fronds, perhaps. If that, too, is
untenable, then it is necessary to sit very still - drab clothing helps (please, please leave the white T-shirt at
home!).

READY FOR THE "BURN"!


When a carp is hooked in the margins it has but one objective in life - to put as much distance between you
and it as possible, so this is not the time to be fumbling with the clutch adjuster knob! The clutch should be
pre-set to a tension which will yield line fairly readily - but not so readily that no control can be exercised.
The first run is likely to be 20 metres plus - when it stops or slows, the clutch may be tightened and the fish
played through the gears ("backwinding", as it's termed).

KEEP THE FAITH


In many waters margin fishing has developed a sort of self-fulfilling negative dynamic in that everyone
believes it to be an ineffective technique, so no one tries it. Because no one tries it, no carp are caught from
the margins. The fact that no carp are caught from the margins reinforces the belief that the tactic is
unproductive... and so on. It is easy to lose confidence and quit when faced with that sort of thing - but
those who "keep the faith" and persevere will eventually succeed. Despite having caught innumerable carp
from the margins, I still experience momentary panic when my rod tip stabs round to the accompaniment
of a heart-racing "Beeeeeep!' from my alarm! And no matter how often it happens, nothing diminishes the
thrill of hearing the clutch scream in protest in response to a carp taking off as though all the banshees in
hell are on its tail! Experience such a moment, and I promise you, you'll be as nuts about margin fishing as
I am!

This lovely linear came, unusually, right at the tail-end of the day

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Kitting For Distance
By Jim Gibbinson

Occasionally we encounter situations where it is an advantage to be able to fish at distance. There are
numerous reasons why this may be so - we might, for example, want to cast to the margins of a distant
island, or to a far bank no-fishing sanctuary area, or to middle-of-the-lake holding spots (a common
situation in winter). The ability to cast a long way - accurately too - is obviously an advantage in such
circumstances.

Jim with an Autumn carp caught at long range.

In some waters, anglers are allowed to use boats for the placement of terminal tackles. This is not angling;
it is set-lining. Were it within my power, I would ban it. Hookbaits should be cast to position. Free-baiting
is a different matter, and I don't have strong feelings regarding the use of a boat for free-feeding -
providing it doesn't disturb other anglers. Trouble is, it usually does - and I've had many an early morning
session ruined by thoughtless "pond admirals" paddling through my swim. As for bait-boats, I reckon they
should be banned for no better reason than they're incredibly naff! I also have a more serious objection to
their use; that being the fact that they encourage anglers to place baits in spots which are potentially
dangerous - among distant snags, for example. Any fish hooked in these circumstances is likely to be lost,
with the consequence that it will probably trail a shock leader and a length of line which might become
ensnared.

My credo is unambiguous - we should not fish spots to which baits cannot be cast, nor those where there is
a high likelihood of hooked carp being lost.

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RODS

You will doubtless have read numerous claims for the astronomical distances which can be achieved using
some branded rods. You may have noticed, however, that such claims are rarely supported with
corroborative evidence. Who made the casts? By whom were they witnessed? Were such casts made with
the wind blowing from behind, ahead or from the side? How strong was the wind? Were the claimed
distances achieved with just a lead, or was a baited terminal rig included? What was the diameter of the
main line?... and so on. As anyone who has done much distance casting will verify, such details are of
considerable relevance. So why are they usually omitted? Well, I'll tell you (you knew I was going to,
didn't you!) - it is because many such claims are, at best, estimates; and, at worst, are yardages
(metreages?) which have merely been plucked randomly from the ether.

So now you know!

Truth is, most modem rods - providing they are ringed correctly - will cast in excess of 100 yards. And 100
yards is ample for most long range situations in the UK. Ringed correctly? By that I mean that six rings are
sufficient and the butt ring should have an internal diameter of at least 30mm. Also - important this - it
should be located at least 90cm from the reel spool. In the case of a purpose-designed long range rod, the
butt ring should be upwards of 100cm from the reel spool. The remaining rings should graduate down in
size to culminate in a tip ring with a minimum internal diameter of 10mm. I actually prefer a tip ring of
12mm diameter - this reduces the likelihood of algae accumulations on a leader knot becoming jammed.
The test curve of the rod may be used as an approximate guide to the maximum casting weight which can
safely be used. I said 'approximate" because test curves are measured somewhat arbitrarily by some
manufacturers. It depends on the angler's casting style, too, and how much power he puts into the cast. So
with the proviso that it is meant solely as a rough guide, I suggest the following maximum casting weights:

Test Curve Maximum Casting Weight


2.25lb 3oz (84g)
2.751b 3.5oz - 4oz (98g - 112g)
3.251b 4.5oz - 5oz (126g -140g)
3.5lb plus 5oz (140g) plus

Jim uses a throwing stick to free-bait at distance in a south of England reservoir.

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Some modem high-tech multi-modulus materials enable rods to be overloaded - the Frontier and
Advantage (Simpsons) models which bear my name are two such. Doubtless there are examples from other
manufacturers, but I can only speak with authority of those with which I have direct experience.
You will notice that thus far I have made no mention of length - this is because there is no definitive "best
length" for distance casting; it depends on the stature and strength of the angler, and his casting style. Most
purpose-built distance-casting rods are 13ft, but that is merely a market-led convention, and should not be
taken to suggest that a 13ft rod is superior to one of 12.5ft or 12ft.

REELS
There is a widespread belief that "bucket spool" reels - usually described as 'big pit" models - are best for
long casting. This is only true if line in excess of about 0.32mm is used because the big spool ensures that
the line does not drop too rapidly below the spool lip. In circumstances where line of lower diameter than
0.32mm is deemed suitable, the line level drops so little that "big pit" reels offer absolutely no advantage,
so we may as well use standard size long-spool models such as Shimano's excellent Aeros (I like the 6010
and the 8010 which, notwithstanding their different number designations and different price tags, are
actually identical!). Contrary to received wisdom on the subject, most anglers wil cast further with Aeros
than they will with 'big pit" models; this is because Aeros are lighter in weight and so have less inertia -
and their slightly smaller coils require less energy to spill from the spool.
Talking of line - a line lubricant such as Kryston's "Greased Lightning" will put a few extra yards on a cast.
Alternatively, the spool should be wetted with water prior to the cast. Water is not as effective as purpose-
made lubricant, but it offers a noticeable improvement over a dry line.

SHOCK LEADER
A shock leader is essential. Occasionally, I have read comments to the effect that if a reasonably strong
main line is used - say, 15lb test - a shock leader may be dispensed with. My response to such advice is to
hope that I never find myself fishing opposite someone fishing in such a manner. To dispense with a shock
leader is irresponsible and dangerous because tremendous stresses are generated which can result in a mid-
air snap-off, with the consequence that the lead becomes a potentially lethal projectile.

For average casters - and that means most of us - I recommend that the weight of the lead in ounces be
multiplied by eight, and the resulting figure be taken as a rule-of-thumb minimum leader strength in
pounds breaking strain. For a 3oz lead, therefore, we require a shock leader having a minimum breaking
strain of 241b. For 4oz and 5oz leads, we require minimum strength leaders of 321b and 401b respectively.
Powerful casters should upgrade those minimums; I suggest they use a multiple of nine, giving minimum
leader strengths of 27lb, 361b and 451b respectively.

The loneliness of the long distance caster...!

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RIGS
Keep it simple! Rigs which are cluttered with ancillary items are prone to tangles. My choice for leads up
to 4oz is a pendant-type weight (with the swivel removed) attached to a Nash Continental Safety Bead.
Heavier leads are best used sliding directly on the shock leader (or more likely, on the anti-tangle tube)
because this offers increased security. Powerful casters are advised to adopt the latter procedure with all
leads, even those of 4oz or less.

LEAD SHAPE
You have doubtless read that this shape lead is more aerodynamic that that shape, and will put "as much as
15% on your cast" (it might be a different figure because we are back to the ether again!). Whatever the
claimed percentage increase, it will not be achieved by means of lead shape. All right, I accept there might
be marginal differences, but they will not be significant, nor even noticeable. This is because the speed
attained by a lead in flight is insufficient to make shape particularly relevant. We are talking casting here,
not ballistics! I have used long leads, stubby leads and even ball leads, and can discern no range difference
between them. All that matters is that the lead be attached pendulum style - this is because hooklink drag
causes inline models to bit in flight whereupon they adopt a sideways-on configuration. This provides the
worst possible aerodynamic profile which results in the lead becoming unstable which, in turn, has an
adverse effect on both distance and accuracy.

SUMMARY
For most of my long range fishing in the UK I use what many would regard as a very light outfit,
comprising: 12ft/2.25lb Eclipse, Shimano 6010 or 8010 Aero Baitrunner, 0.30mm Ande mono (I like
fluorescent yellow line for distance fishing), 251b Kryston Quicksilver shock leader and a 3oz lead. In big,
wild winds I may upgrade to a heavier outfit, but most of the time I find that the aforementioned set-up
does the job admirably.

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Wind Problems
By Jim Gibbinson

QUESTION: Some anglers say that carp follow the wind; others claim that wind direction makes no
difference. Even those who write about carp fishing seem unable to reach agreement on this matter. Who is
correct? Should I follow the wind, or not?

ANSWER: Between mid-April and mid to late September, the angler who follows the wind will not
always be correct, but he will be right more often than he is wrong. So, as a general "rule of thumb' guide,
the advice that we follow the wind is sound. But...

Ah yes, there's a "But'... in fact, there are several!

Wild wind at Wingham...! On this particular day, the wind blew a 'hoolie' - I fished in the teeth of it
and this was the biggest fish of a four-fish catch.

As already intimated, followng-the-wind is not an all-year phenomenon. As a reliable carp location tactic,
it only really applies from spring through to late summer. Even then, though, there are variables that need
to be considered. In late spring and early summer, for example, carp may be drawn to their intended
spawning areas, and may remain in the vicinity of such spots even when the wind does not favour them.
Similarly, carp find some areas: shallows, weeds, snags etc., more attractive than others - so we have to
make an assessment as to which is likely to have the most "pull", an attractive area or the wind direction.

CHARACTER
The character of the wind matters, too. Generally, carp are more inclined to follow a warm wind than a
cold one - but the descriptions "warm' and "cold" are not absolutes, they depend on the water temperature.
If, for example, the air temperature is 16 degrees Celsius and the water temperature 14 degrees, the wind
qualifies as warm. If, however, the water temperature is 18 degrees, that same 16 degree wind will have a
cooling effect.

Still on the character of the wind - up to a point, the stronger the wind, the more likely carp are to follow it.
Once the wind gets to "fresh', however, any further increase in wind strength brings no extra benefit and
merely increases the anglers difficulties. I once made a big catch of carp upwards of a dozen in an

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afternoon - in a force ten wind (that's storm force, which is a couple of notches wilder than a gale), but
fishing was only possible because my swim was in the lee of a near-bank island which afforded protection
to me and my lines.

A nice, mellow onshore wind; I'm a happy man!

An associated problem with very strong winds is that of floating debris - usually weed, but sometimes
branches etc. which have been ripped from trees. I recall fishing a Kent pit when drifting Elodea
accumulated on the line in such quantities that even a 4oz lead was dragged out of position. I tried back-
leads, but the weed was at all depths so sunken lines did little to mitigate matters. I could have moved to
the upwind end of the pit, of course, but there seemed little point in doing so seeing as how carp were
topping at the downwind end!

On other occasions, when I've had to deal solely with surface flotsam, such as twigs and small branches,
back leads have successfully coped with the situation.

INTEGRITY
I like the wind to retain its integrity. 'Integrity' may seem a strange word to choose, so I shall explain what
I mean. I don't like it when wind forecasts are contradictory - when predicted wind-strength and direction
varies. When it proves impossible to get a consensus, I have found that the wind is unlikely to be
consistent in either strength or direction. In such circumstances, both water choice and swim choice
become too hit-and-miss for my taste. When I've gone fishing regardless under such circumstances, I have
often found myself "chasing" changes in wind direction as the day has progressed, with the all too frequent
outcome that I have ended the trip carpless and exhausted! I like the wind to make up its mind from which
direction it will blow - and ideally how strong it will blow - and maintain its character all day.

COASTAL BREEZES
The matter of integrity becomes particularly important if the water lies within, say, 5km of the coast.
Coastal pits are affected by sea and land breezes (depending on the relative temperatures of the land and
sea). Generally, in summer, an onshore breeze springs up mid-morning and blows until late afternoon or
early evening. At dusk, or shortly after, the breeze is likely to blow in the opposite direction - namely
offshore. The term 'breeze' can give a false impression, engendering, as it does, an image of a gentle ripple
on the water surface. Not so.

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My brother, Rick, demonstrates that wind is not an essential requirement!

The onshore sea breeze can, in high summer, be sufficiently strong to produce whitecaps! This is
especially the case if the sea breeze and standard isobar-induced wind blow in the same direction - they
join forces to amplify each other. If, however, the sea or land breeze blows in opposition to the isobar
wind, they can cancel each other out to leave a virtual flat calm! I have found that only those isobar winds
classed as Force 4 (moderate) or stronger will maintain their integrity against sea and land breezes -
although even then they may be amplified, minimised or deflected.

WEED, BARS AND ISLANDS


Yet another factor to consider is the character of the water. If the water is a gravel pit with numerous
islands and gravel bars, any wind-induced undertow may be significantly reduced. Weed can have a
similar effect. The significance of this is that water-flow is what causes carp to follow the wind. Physical
obstructions like islands, bars and weed interrupt this flow, and as a consequence reduce its influence. At
this juncture, it is only fair to point out that many anglers disagree with my basic premise on this matter -
they believe the inducement to follow the wind is due to oxygen enrichment of free-drifting food supplies.
I have insufficient space to debate the issue here - but if you are interested in my rationale you will find an
extended discussion on the subject in my book, Gravel Pit Carp.

SHELTER

"Sunny, hot and windless," said the weather girl; I chose to fish a holding area, and here is the
result.

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Thus far I have been concerned with carp following the wind, but if the wind is a very cold one (a
northerly in high summer, for example) the opposite effect may occur - namely, fish may move to
sheltered water in the lee of the upwind bank. This is particularly noticeable on clear, sunny days when the
calm water of a south facing bank not only receives shelter from a northerly wind, but benefits from the
warming effect of the sun.

CHILL MONTHS
You will recall that at the beginning of this article I said that carp movements in response to wind tend to
be confined to the spring through to autumn period - so what of late autumn, winter and early spring? In
general, I have found that area choice takes precedence over wind through the colder months. There is a
tendency to follow a sustained mild wind - one which blows for several days - even in the depths of winter.
Likewise, there is a tendency to seek shelter from cold winds. But in neither instance is the movement as
immediate or as significant as in summer.

COMPLEX
As can be seen, the subject is more complex than is generally realised. But I repeat what I said at the
beginning - from April through to September, the angler who follows the wind won't always be correct, but
will be correct more often than he is wrong. So, even at its simplest, following the wind is a tactic which
stacks the odds in the angler's favour.

A coastal pit, and the sea-breeze is just starting to build up.

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Moon Effects
By Jim Gibbinson

The Swedish based tackle firm, ABU, used to produce a superb catalogue which, in addition to product
information and exotic location 'dream trip' features, had what ABU called a 'Solunar Table'. This table
took the form of a calendar in which days were designated as being excellent, good or moderate. An
American publication - I can't recall which - went a stage further and beside certain dates had a little
lawnmower symbol: the significance of which was that fishing was likely to be so poor on such days that
we may as well stay home and cut the grass!

Both the ABU and American good-day-bad-day fishing calendars were based on the phases of the moon.
Not that they were the first to make such assumptions - references to fishing being affected by the moon
can be found throughout angling literature.

How valid are such beliefs?

Professional nets men who intercept eels on their seaward migration find that catches are best during dark,
new moon periods. Which may indicate a preference for dark, moonless nights - a sort of negative
phototropism - or an evolutionary manifestation of the fact that the darker the night, the safer are migrating
eels likely to be from predators. But whatever the reason, we have to acknowledge that eels are affected by
Moon Phases - On Their Migration, At Least.

It seems reasonable to accept that fish living in the sea, estuaries and tidal stretches of river are influenced
by the moon. Tides are a response to the moon's gravitational pull; fish respond to tides; ergo, sea and
estuarine fish respond to the moon - albeit, perhaps indirectly.

But what of fish in non-tidal stretches of river? And what of those in still waters? Are they, as suggested by
ABU's Solunar Table and the American 'lawn mower' calendar, affected by the moon's phases?
In my previous incarnation as a night angler, I was never a big fan of moonlit nights. I can recall nights so
bright that it was possible to read a book without the aid of a torch. All too often, such nights were
unproductive. But was the full moon responsible for my blanks, or did it etch the blanks in my memory

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and thereby raise their significance. If truth be known, I suspect that I had just as many blanks during dark,
new moon nights, but they failed to stick in my mind.

But Solunar and 'lawn mower' tables were not aimed solely or even primarily at night anglers; their target
audience - given that the countries of origin were Sweden and the USA - were daytime fly and lure
fishermen. In which case, it is not the light emitted by the moon which is deemed to have an effect, but its
actual phase.

Nowadays, being a day-only angler, I am generally unaware of which moon-phase we are in. Occasionally
I notice unusually bright moonlight penetrating the closed bedroom curtains, and other times it might
register that a night is particularly dark - but such instances apart, I go fishing blissfully ignorant of the
moon's phases. Depending on the weather, I can usually make a pretty accurate evaluation of my chances
of success - irrespective of whether the moon is new, full, crescent, gibbous, waxing or waning. True,
sometimes I fail when I expect to succeed, and vice versa; and while I concede that an extra factor, like
perhaps the moon phase might play a part on such occasions, I think it more likely that unexpected failure
is due to my having got it wrong, and unexpected success due to my having got lucky.

So, does the phase of the moon make a difference? Are there days when fishing is likely to be excellent,
and others when - to quote the American magazine - we may as well stay home and cut the grass?
The fact that I have insufficient interest in moon-phases to keep track of them, makes my position fairly
clear - I don't think the moon has any significant effect. Given favourable weather conditions, I fish with
confidence. Given unfavourable weather conditions, I expect to struggle.

To hell with Solunar Tables! Leave the lawnmower in the shed, let the grass grow long, and go fishing -
that's what I say!

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Backleads, The How And When
By Julian Grattidge

Ask a group of anglers about the best way to use a backlead and it’s like about their favourite colour; in
short, you’ll get a lot of answers! The use of backleads can be quite a personal thing and there are many
different types available. As such, I’ll first try to explain the idea behind their use and then outline the
different types available.

In simple terms, the idea is to pin the line down on the lake bed in order to stop fish spooking on your
mainline and also to reduce line bites. If you picture how your rig lies on the bottom when in position; you
will have your hooklink lying flat and attached to the lead, at which point the mainline then begins to rise
up off the lake bed as it makes its way right up to the tip of your rod. Obviously the angle at which the line
comes up off your lead depends on how deep the water is and how far out you are fishing, but at whatever
distance or depth the fish could potentially spook off the line at any point between it entering the water and
meeting your lead, either through seeing the line or by touching it.

There are three main types of backlead available;

Free-running Backlead – This type of lead usually features a ball or flat bottomed base with some sort of
clip attachment in loop form at the top. Once your bait is in position you gently wind in the slack line to
the lead and place the but of your rod on the ground whilst moving your hands up the blank until you reach
the tip. Attach the lead clip to your mainline then pick up the rod again and gently slide the lead down your
mainline to the lake bed in your desired location.

Captive Backlead – Captive backleads differ from free-running leads in that they remain attached to the
bank by means of a cord. Rather than being able to slide out to any distance along the line they are
designed to remain just below the rod tip. You attach the lead after the cast in the same manner as above
and then slide them down into position under the rod tip. When you strike the line comes free of the clip
and to re-attach, you simply pull the lead back in on the cord and attach onto the mainline again.

Zip or Flying Backlead - A zip lead remains attached to the mainline at all times. It is basically a
miniature inline lead which you push your mainline through before attaching to your rig. The idea is that
when you cast, the zip lead fly’s back along your mainline before the rig hits the water and pins the line
down automatically at some point between the rig and rod tip.

So which is best?
I have used all three methods in the past and to be honest they all have their strengths and weaknesses,
though I have to admit that my overall preference for the majority of situations where I need to pin the line
down is to opt for free-running backleads. This is simply because they are the most versatile in any given
situation. My main consideration when using backleads is the effect on bite indication. In a perfect world,
to receive the best bite indication possible you should set the rod so that when the bait is positioned in the
water there is no line angle between the reel and rod tip, and rod tip and bait, i.e. a flat line from the first
rod eye right through to the bait. This means that when you receive a bite there is nothing to hinder the
indication - and by the same token, any additional angle that you do add between rod and bait will
therefore reduce the effectiveness of indication. As such, we can take it for granted that adding a backlead
is going to hamper indication no matter what. However, you need to consider which is the lesser of the two

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evils; reduced bite indication or fish spooking upon detecting your line. If the water contains wary carp that
may spook easily then I would opt for reduced bait indication every time as I know several waters where
fishing with backleads is often the only way to get a pick up at all!

So, if it’s the case that I need to use backleads to stop fish spooking then I want to fish them in a way that
has minimal effect on bite indication and for me this is where the main differences between the three types
come into play. what you are looking to do is have the smallest possible deviation in line angle once the
backlead has been positioned - So it figures that the closer you can get the backlead to the rig the lesser the
angle. Obviously this cannot be done with a captive backlead which would remain static under your rod
tips so I’m afraid it’s out of the offing and to be honest, as far as I’m aware, captive backleads were
designed for a different use altogether so I’ll come back to them later. By the same token you can’t really
dictate where a zip lead will land on a cast – they tend to hit the water anywhere between the rod tip and
the rig, so again, they are out. I think I’m right in saying that their use is supposed to be aimed at distance
fishing but my experience of using them is that if anything they actually hamper the cast, so overall they
leave me a bit confused as to their plus points. I’ve seen people actually have zip leads fixed in place a few
feet up the mainline held in place with anything from grinner knots to shot – a set up just asking to tether a
fish! Some people advocate a PVA knot a few feet up the mainline to stop it shooting back too far but if
distance casting the knot always tends to move and to be honest, unless you get the cast ‘right first time
every time’ – it’s too much like hard work!

For me it has to be the free running lead every time as you can simply slide them into position no matter
where your rig is - they are just so versatile. For me the only true reason to backlead the line is stop fish
spooking at the rig and by their very nature, a captive backlead placed under your rod tip or a zip lead half
way between rod and bait just can’t do that as effectively as a free running backlead. If it is the case that
you need to pin the line down further back from the lead you can either not slide the lead as far or even add
multiple backleads to the same line - a tactic that has worked extremely well for me on several occasions.
Another important factor with regard to indication and backleading is water depth. Not just the depth
around the rig but the depth where the backlead is going to be placed. If you imagine your bait is
positioned at sixty yards distance in three feet of water, and then imagine the water under your rod tips is
six feet deep and you are intending to use a captive backlead - you don’t need me to tell you how bad the
angle of the line is going to be between rod and bait and its effect on indication! In fact, there is a very
good series of experiments in Strategic Carp Fishing (Hughes & Crow) relating to the use of backleads –
the upshot is that in all bar one experiment (sixteen in total) the bait backleaded under the rod tip had to
travel further from its original position before movement was signalled than a bait backleaded further out.
As I’ve said, it’s all about cutting down the angle.

You may then wonder why people backlead under their rod tips at all and to be honest, I’m not entirely
sure. Many like to think its stops the lines getting tangled if fishing a tight swim or it stops fish spooking in
the margins. However, if it’s spooking the fish that’s the worry, I’d sooner concentrate on the line around
the rig than the line under my rod tips and furthermore, I don’t really buy the anti-tangle argument either.
Suppose you are fishing three rods all of which are backleaded near to the rigs – there’s no problem with
netting the fish. If you happen to be tight on space you can simply lift the other rods off the bank sticks or
rod rests and you are fine for netting. However, if you have three rods all backleaded under the tips, your
sole aim on getting a take is to stop the fish getting near the other two backleads, which invariably are right
next to each other, or else it is likely to pick up one or all of your other lines when in the margin.

I’ll name no names, but I have a friend who backlead's under his rod tips religiously - whether it’s needed
or not. He’s under the firm belief that this is the best way to fish them and won’t be told otherwise (despite
results to the contrary!). It’s often the case that on the take the fish has travelled a fair distance before
indication is registered so the fish has the upper hand right from the off. This invariably results in the fish
kiting one way or the other leaving him with a ‘big ask’ to get it back into the swim avoiding any further

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obstacles. There are often tangles with the other lines backleaded in the margins when netting does occur
and for the life of me I can’t work out why he still does it. On more than one occasion, well, dozens if I’m
honest, he’s struck into fish expecting them to be where the bait was positioned only to realise that they are
in fact miles away from the spot – all down to poor indication.

So, why use captive backleads at all? Well, I think I’m right in saying that the original thinking behind
their use was not in fact to keep a line backleaded under the rod tip indefinitely, but more to be used as a
sort of quick-fix for sinking the line with a view to letting it come back up again once the problem obstacle
has passed. Basically we are talking about boat traffic, water sports activities, wildlife or floating weed, all
of which could end up towing your lines if not fishing a backlead. With a non-backleaded bait in position,
imagine a raft of floating weed comes by. You can simply attach a captive backlead and sink the line.
Then, once the weed has moved through your swim you can simply retrieve the captive backlead on the
cord and raise your line again without having to reel in your bait. I have a friend who fishes a number of
large Mere’s and uses this tactic to good effect. He fishes at extreme distance and so does not want to have
a backlead in place as it would hinder indication too much, but on occasion needs to dip his lines to avoid
obstacles, mainly floating weed or swans, and a captive lead is just the trick as it allows him to remove it
again afterwards without having to reel in.

In summary, the effective use of backleads (if indeed you need to use them at all) is about matching their
intended use to the situations you are likely to be faced with during the majority of your day to day
angling, and if you do need to use a backlead, be sure to cut down the line angle as much as possible to
improve bite indication.

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Guide To Bait Rockets & Spodding
By Julian Grattidge

The bait rocket or ‘spod’ has become a familiar tool in the specimen anglers’ armoury, providing a great
platform from which to apply beds of bait at distance. With so many types and sizes available, how do you
choose the right one, and how do you use them? In this piece, Julian Grattidge gives an insight into
successful spodding.

I think I’m right in saying that a friend of a friend, Tony Baskeyfield, whom I’ve fished with on Birch
Grove, is the person who first devised the bait rocket back in the early eighties, and since his initial designs
appeared in Carp Fisher magazine, tackle manufactures world wide have released their own versions to the
market. There are many types and sizes available and it’s a case of finding a bait rocket to suit your own
style of fishing.

Gardner Pocket Rocket: Small & versatile, my preferred choice

Personally I favour a small Gardner Spod of around 5-inches. Why? Well, I mainly fish waters where I’m
casting less than 100-yards, and as a keen stalking angler, most of my fishing is done within 30-yards of
the bank. As such, I’m happy to make a few more casts with a smaller rocket to get a nicer spread of bait
and as I’m working close in, I’m not going to get a dead-arm from all the winding. If I was regularly
fishing in excess of 100-yards, then obviously I would go for a larger rocket to reduce the amount of
winding required between casts. In addition, by using a smaller rocket, I don’t need to use a beefy rod, and
if used with care, can easily cast without the need for a shock-leader.

The successful spodding angler should not just be thinking of spodding in terms of distance application of

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bait, as I regularly use my little rocket for applying bait extremely close in. Imagine a nice little pad line
15-feet out from the swim that you fancy a crack at. A catapult will easily reach but there will be a good
degree of spread if using something like hemp as attractor bait. However, by filling up a small spod and
casting to the spot you can get a nice tight patch, which you can position your hook bait right on top of;
perfect! There’s one swim on a lake I fish that has a nice marginal bush on one side of the swim where fish
regularly patrol, however, they are wary of bait catapulted in the area. As such I devised a system where I
waded out a few paces, then underarm flicked a spod along the front of the bush just past the spot where
catapulted bait could reach, and bingo; the method produced more fish off that swim than ever before! The
point I’m making is that spods are a very versatile means off applying very tight beds of bait, small or
large, close in or distant.

If I was fishing a venue where I knew in advance I was always going to be fishing at distance, then I would
probably take a dedicated spod-rod with me. You can get purpose built spod rods where the blank has been
designed to compress differently than a carp rod on loading, but again, purchasing one would be dependant
on the likely amount of use it would receive. To be honest, I do own a spod rod but most of the time I stick
to a stiff carp rod, anything in the 2.5-3lb TC range should suffice. For me, more important for regular
work is the reel you choose, as a bit pit reel will make light work of puling back repeated casts, whereas a
small spool reel will leave you exhausted after a few kilos have been applied!

As most of my fishing is close in, I prefer to have the small spod in my tackle bag and attach it to my
fishing rod whenever the situation arises. As I use a Gizmo link system this poses no problems and I can
switch from a rig to a spod in seconds.

This lump fell to a clipped-up single hookbait placed over a tightly spodded bed of hemp

Once you are tackled up for the job, how do you apply your bait accurately? For me this is the most
important aspect of spodding; getting your bait in the right place. Usually, because I favour a light
approach to my fishing and don’t want to be weighed down with marker rods, spod rods, and alike, I do all
my work with one rod. I will usually drag a lead through a swim to check depth and find a feature I like the

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look of, and by clipping up I know where the spot is on the cast without the need for a marker. I will then
take the lead off The Gizmo and attach my little spod. Although the line is at the right distance, it helps to
give yourself a visual marker on the surface as well, because a spod loaded with bait will put more stretch
on the line and see your rocket going beyond the area if casting to the clip. As such, I make a few casts
using a spod full of water to ensure I’m hitting the right spot, which usually means wrapping a few more
turns of line around the spool. If you are punching the bait out to a positioned marker float it’s just a case
of using full spods of water to check you are hitting the right spot.

Once done, you are now able to hit the exact distance each time; assuming you are able to put the same
amount of pressure into each cast. I prefer to put a little bit more effort into the cast than is required and
feather the cast to insure you land on the money, which insures you will never drop short. It’s also easy to
veer left or right from the intended area because any deviation from true on the bank will be amplified by
the time the spod gets to the intended spot. It’s only practice that will sort you out here, but again, see if
you can line up a visual marker in your minds eye at which to point at. Wind can also have an effect and
tends to push your rocket offline. I find the best way to stop this happening is to put more pressure into the
cast which increases the force of propulsion and then to feather the landing. Alternatively you can aim a bit
more into the wind to allow for its effect on the cast.

If you are hitting big distances it helps to use a shock leader, which will allow you to apply greater
pressure on the cast without the fear of cracking off. I tend to use 35lb Quicksilver, and with a 2-foot drop
from rod tip to spod, and would use a length that allowed for four or five turns around the spool on the
cast. For close to medium work you don’t have to use a leader, you just need to be able to load the rod
properly on the cast. The key is not to just ‘whack’ the cast; leave a drop of between one and two feet from
the rod-tip and allow a little backwards swing before the push and keep it smooth. However, if you’re still
a novice or intermediate angler, then a shock-leader would be a better bet and reduce the risk of cracking-
off.

Giving it the ‘big one’: Shaun Docksey launches a bait rocket skyward

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The only thing left to do is ensure the rocket empties on landing. I find it’s best not to ram it with stiff
mixes, as you end up reeling half of it back in. I tend to fill my spod three-quarters full and then drop the
top just below the surface of the lake to fill it to the top with water, which I find helps it to release perfectly
each time. Along the same lines, make sure you don’t burry the spod into the lake bed on the cast. The best
way to do this is by feathering the cast; ideally you want it to ‘plop’ into the water. Practice will make
perfect; I regularly spod particles at distance to water less than a foot deep; by feathering the cast and
pulling back you can get a perfect spread in any depth.

Do be careful about how much you put out. It’s easy to get carried away with spodding and overfeed the
swim; I’ve seen it happen so many times. Massive beds of bait can be effective on some waters or at
certain times but it’s always easier to keep adding a bit as once it’s in you can’t take it back out!

Also, remember where you put it! That may sound really daft, but I’ve lost count of the amount of anglers
I’ve seen who have marked up a spot, spodded bait to it, cast a bait out, and then reeled in the marker. An
hour later they reel in the hookbait for whatever reason, cast back out to where they *think* the spodded
bait is, and miss the spot completely!! Remember to use visual markers, but be aware that shadows on the
water can move! By far the safest way is to clip up on both rod and marker.

Keep it accurate, don’t go mad and the fish should follow.

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Finding The Right Shelter/Bivvy
By Julian Grattidge

It’s a minefield out there! Rigid frames, domes, brolly systems, shelters - With so many bivvies available,
how do you choose the one that’s right for you?

My first bivvy was not really a bivvy at all; more of a battered old tent that had seen better days. Luckily it
was dark brown in colour, had it been a garish orange like most tents seem to be nowadays, I doubt I’d
have even been let near a water in it, let alone get a year’s use out of it on the bank. It was no fashion icon,
far from it, but as a kid it was all I could afford, and the flea-bitten sun-lounger that went with it was not
much better! The thing is, it did the trick, and it enabled me to get out on the banks session fishing. What’s
more, if I were in the same situation today, then I would happily use the same tent again. You see, one
important point to make right at the start is that choosing the right bivvy should be about finding a product
that matches your exact needs, not selecting the one that looks the best or costs the most. I have seen too
many anglers make that mistake, so don’t be fooled into thinking that the best products have to be those
with the largest price tag, sometimes just the opposite can be the case.

So, where do we start? Well, it’s all about usage; you need to find a bivvy that is going to suit your style of
fishing. Have a think about the kind of night fishing you intend to be doing and ask yourself a few basic
questions;

Are you looking at single overnighters or long sessions?


Session duration is the probably the most important factor. If you only fish the odd overnight session here
and there, and only for a night at a time, then you are probably best looking at a shelter or brolly system,
or, if you want a bit more room, a cheap-end dome system. The main benefit being that they are much
cheaper than a full rigid frame design bivvy and as you are not going to be using it much, there’s no point
spending stupid money. However, if you are going to be using it all weekend every weekend, then you will
need something a little more substantial.

This is where the rigid frame designs come in. They are effectively work horse bivvies, designed to do the
same thing week in week out, and offer shelter and durability no matter what the weather might throw at

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you. Also, because you are likely to be fishing for greater amounts of time, they usually offer more space
to accommodate more tackle and some even feature extra porches through use of additional winter skins
that enable you to store gear that you might not necessarily want within the living quarters, but that which
you still will want to keep sheltered all the same; like smelly fishing bait, particle tubs, chest waders or wet
garments.

What kind of waters are you likely to be fishing; easily accessible or off the beaten track?
Practicality is key. If you have to walk three miles from the car, or the swims on the lake are only going to
be a few feet wide, then common sense would tell you that a huge 2-Man rigid frame bivvy with an
extended winter skin is probably going to be too much, not just because it will give you a coronary each
time you have to do the walk from the car park, but once there you’ll struggle to find the space to get it up.
Again, think about the waters you are going to be fishing, think lightweight design for tricky swims and
long walks, or bigger and with optional extras if your intended lakes have roomy and easily accessible
swims.

Do you like to carry a lot of gear for fishing, camping and cooking or will you be travelling light with
the bare essentials?
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a Gordon Ramsey when out on the bank or if you like to take more tackle
than everybody else on the water put together, then again, you need to think about space. Brollies and
shelters are ideal for those who like to travel light whereas those who prefer the kitchen sink approach will
need to ‘go large’ in order to accommodate all their ‘essentials’.

Static or roaming?
Another hey point is how you like to fish. If you tend to stay static, i.e. once you’ve set up on a swim you
see it through for better or for worse, then a bivvy that takes a bit of setting up or breaking down will be
OK. However, if like me you tend to move about quite a bit and may change swims several times over a
long session, then you need to be looking at a bivvy with quick set-up and breakdown times.

Fair weather fisherman?


If you only tend to do overnighters when the sun is shining and the nights are long, then a lightweight
brolly or shelter system should be fine, but if you like to do some winter sessions as well, then you need to
be looking for a bivvy with a bit of meat; not just in terms of keeping out the cold but for standing up to
harsh winds. Brolly systems and shelters have a tendency for the spurs or poles to invert in heavy winds
(just like a normal umbrella does when it’s windy) whereas a rigid frame design should stay rock solid
throughout.

Budget
You need to think about your budget. It’s no good forking out three hundred pounds for a bivvy if you then
realise you need to buy storm poles, winter skins and ground sheets, all of which might cost another
£200.00 you haven’t got! First you need to decide on the type of bivvy that suits your needs; rigid frame,
shelter, brolly, etc. Then once you have decided on a type, find one within your budget. Within each sector
there are budget and top-end models, so there should always be something to suit your purse.

However, just because it’s cheap does not mean it’s a bargain, and likewise, just because it’s expensive
does not mean it’s the best. Although there is a tendency to think you have to have one now, if it’s
something that is going to get a lot of use, then my advice would be to save for longer and purchase
something further up the scale.

If you buy a thirty quid bivvy and expect it to last as long as a two hundred quid bivvy, then chances are
you’re going to end up disappointed.

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Summary
Choosing the right bivvy can often be a personal thing, as only you will actually know what suits you best.
Try not to be swayed by what others might say; yes, their bivvy might be the best for them, but that does
not necessarily mean it’s the right one for you!

Well that’s about it really, hopefully once you’ve factored in all of the above you will be left with some
answers. However, one final point that’s worth remembering is adaptability. Most modern day bivvies can
be adapted to different fishing styles, so be sure to check out all the features to see what they can and can’t
do. Sometimes it’s not as easy as choosing A or B when looking at what will suit you best. Sometimes it
might need to be a bit of A and B, and that’s where the versatility of a particular bivvy might make it the
clear favourite as on one hand it might be a rigid frame bivvy suitable for fishing in the depths of winter,
but remove a few bits and pieces and you are left with a lightweight open fronted system ideal for summer
overnighters.

As a last point it’s also worth mentioning that there is nothing to stop you having more than one, if your
budget can stretch to it. Many anglers I know have two bivvies; a lightweight brolly or shelter for summer
use and a full rigid frame bivvy for session and winter work.

It’s all down to practicality, and finding a bivvy (or bivvies!) to suit you.

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Which Carp Rods?
By Garth Barnard

The Test Curve of the rod, which is measures in lb’s, refers to the amount of weight required to bend the
tip of the rod round to 90 degrees of the butt. This gives an idea on how stiff the rod is, but that’s all.

The Action of the rod, which is just as important if not more so, describes how the rod bends. For example
a ‘through action’ rod would be used for short to medium range, whereas a ‘fast-taper’ would be used for
medium to long range.

Combining the Test Curve and Action of the rod a truer picture of the rods performance can be assessed.

Generally though, a rod of around 2 1/2lb to 2 3/4lb Test Curve would suit most waters, the later being
able to case leads up to 3.5oz depending on the Action.

I’d say that Carp anglers today have never had it so good when it comes to choosing/selecting a rod to suit,
with most of the tackle manufacturers producing a rod in their range for most budgets.

With this in mind there is no definitive answer to which is the best rod, for you, within your budget. I
would suggest that you find a reputable tackle shop with which you could spend time going through their
range of rods, within your budget, to find the one that not only suits your requirements, but that feels right
for you. Even better would be to find a tackle shop that would let you have a cast of their rods before
buying.

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Rigs For Carp Fishing
Hair Rig & Knotless Knot
By Garth Barnard

The modern day Hair-rig was devised by Kevin Maddocks and Len Middleton in the late 70’s. It was
while conducting tank tests that they concluded that Carp were actually frightened by the effect of the hook
and hooklength passing over their lips.

The way round this was to mount the bait on a very light, supple, two-inch Hair (donated by Kevin’s
wife!), which was attached to the lower bend of the hook.

The long supple Hair allowed the Carp to confidently pick up the bait and pass it back to the Pharyngeal
teeth without feeling the effect of the hook or hooklength over it’s lips.

The Hair-rig has changed a lot since then in that there is less emphasis being placed on the Carp’s fear of
the effect of the hook and hooklength over its lips. Nowadays the emphasis is on the hook being able to
turn and find a good hook-hold as the hookbait is being ejected by the Carp.

The easiest and most effective method of producing a Hair-rig is to use the Knotless-knot.

The Knotless Knot

The Knotless-knot is very simple and easy to tie. The knot simply utilizes the hooklength material to
firmly tie on the hook and produce the hair of a desired length.

Tieing The Knotless Knot

1. Tie a small loop using an Over-hand knot at one end of your selected hooklength material, I’ve used a
12 inch length of braid in this instance. This loop for your boilie stop to secure the boilie in place.

2. Using a Boilie Needle thread the boilie (or whatever you’re using as a Hookbait) on to what will be the
Hair.

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3. Once the Boilie has been threaded on to the Hair a Boilie Stop is pushed through the loop to secure the
Boilie in place. Thread a small piece of Silicone tubing on to the hooklength and then on to hook, before
threading the hooklength through the eye of the hook.

4. Adjust the length of the Hair to your desired length, about 3mm from the end of the hook to the
hookbait is my desired length of hair. Whip up the shank of the hook using a minimum of 5 turns.

5. Thread the hooklength once more back through the eye of the hook and pull tight.

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6. Tie a swivel on to the end of the hooklength and you’re ready to go!

I always put a small dap of Super Glue on the knots just for piece of mind, but it isn’t necessary.

Using the Hair-Rig

Once the Hair-rig has been tied a Boilie or bait of the same size can be used on the same Hair time and
time again as the Hair length has been set for that particular size of bait.

The piece of Silicone tubing that I use is to determine the position of where the Hair leaves the Shank of
the hook, which is level with the hookpoint. This also allows the hook to turn and the rig to work, in a
sense, as an anti-eject ‘Blow-Back’ rig. In other words, once the hook has penetrated the lip of the fish, the
fish won’t be able to blow out the bait and hook, just the bait.

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Other anglers prefer not to use a small piece of Silicone tubing, but instead whip all of the way up the
shank of the hook until they are level with the hook point, which is fine.

Hair Length

In my experience, and whilst discussing Hair length with other anglers, I’ve found that there is no ultimate
Hair length, though a gap of between 2mm to 10mm from the bend of the hook to the hookbait is favoured
by most.

It’s a case of trial and error in finding a Hair length that works for the size and pattern of hook being used,
the size of bait being used, the hooklength material and the way in which the carp are feeding. If you are
missing runs or you feel the fish are picking up and successfully ejecting your hook and hookbait then a
adjust the length of the Hair, which could make all the difference.

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Bolt Rig
By Garth Barnard

As a rule, ALL rigs must discharge the lead with relative ease should the mainline break or the fish become
snagged. There are many different ways to achieve the Bolt effect without having to permanently fix the
lead to mainline. The safest way to achieve the bolt effect is to use a Semi-fixed rig.

A Semi-fixed rig will hold the lead in place, enough to anchor the lead and for the hook to prick the carp
causing it to bolt. But, should the mainline break, the Semi-fixed lead would discharge leaving the fish
with just line, which is not ideal, but safer than towing a lead.

The easiest method for a Semi-fixed rig would be to use a Safety Clip, alternatively you could use a Tulip
Bead, a Safety Sleeve/Tail Rubber or Silicone Tubing. To make a Semi-Fixed rig just thread the lead,
using the swivel on the lead, onto your mainline, followed by a Tulip Bead. Then tie a swivel onto the end
of your mainline. Push the Tulip Bead over your mainline swivel and then push the swivel (the one
attached to the lead) over the end of the Tulip Bead. To finish, make up a Hooklink, which you then tie

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onto the mainline swivel.

Always test your rigs before casting out. To do this simply hold the Hooklink up and jolt the rig, the lead
should discharge from the Tulip Bead and slide down the mainline. Remember, if in doubt, don’t cast out!

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Zig-Rig
By Garth Barnard

The Zig-Rig has been around in many forms, for many years and has accounted for many large carp. The
Zig-Rig allows a buoyant bait to be fished from the lakebed (legered) at any set depth from a couple of
inches above the lakebed right up to the water’s surface. This allows the angler to be able to present the
hookbait at the depth at which the carp are either cruising, or more importantly, feeding.

The Zig-Rig can be used in many situations where hookbait presentation at certain depths is critical, like
on the surface during hot weather, or as another example, just above light weed where a normal hookbait
may become hidden within the weed. Other uses my be sub-surface where carp maybe cruising, say a
couple of feet below the surface, or even sub-surface where wildfowl may cause a nuisance.

My preferred Zig-Rig setup is a 10lb Mono hooklength tied to a safety in-line lead, which is then fished on
the lakebed (legered) and setup with a bite-alarm and indicator, as you would normally. Fished in this
manner the Zig-Rig is therefore a semi-fixed bolt-rig.

The Zig-Rig is a tremendous setup and one that is widely throughout the carping fraternity, however, it’s
not without it’s complications. Casting out a Zig-Rig with a hooklength of a couple of feet isn’t a problem,
but casting out a hooklength of 12ft is. There are various different ways in which to cast out such a long
hooklength, personally I opt for coiling up the hooklink into my (Stainless!) mug, which I carefully place
on the bank-side, behind me, before casting out. The hooklength unravels during the cast leaving my
(Stainless!) mug cleanly on the bankside.

Alternatively, the hooklength can be coiled, or folded, up and held in place using PVA string before being
cast out to the chosen spot.

However, this method isn’t advisable when fishing in weed, as the hookbait might not be buoyant enough
to be able to push through the weed and uncoil the hooklenth once the PVA string has melted.

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Another method, if the hooklength isn’t too long, would be to cast off the ground by laying the hooklink
out straight before casting. Be careful though not to snag on anything as you cast as I’ve heard a couple of
funny stories, one in particular involving a snagged unhooking mat and a trip to hospital!!

My preferred method of using my (Stainless!) mug allows the hooklength to be at full length before hitting
the water, but is prone to tangles during the cast at distance, so it’s ‘horses for courses’ as to which method
you choose.

Landing fish with such a long hooklength can also cause problems, especially with a 12ft hooklength and
3ft length of leadcore (or tubing), on a 12ft rod!! This is where a fishing buddy is needed to net the fish
whilst you walk backwards up the bankside.

Any buoyant hookbait can be used from bread to pop-up boilies, or if your hookbait isn’t buoyant, use
foam of cork for the buoyancy in addition to the chosen hookbait.

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Pop-up Rigs
By Garth Barnard / Julian Grattidge

This is a pop-up rig made of Braid and a 'Depth Charge' weight, although a single shot would do the job.
The positioning of the shot determines the height of the popped-up, buoyant, bait from the lake bed.

This rig is an adaptation of the Terry Hearn 'Hinged, Pop-up, Stiff rig'. The rig shown has used swivels
with attached rings rather than tied loops and has 'Heavy metal' putty to add additional weight to the swivel
for holding down a buoyant bait.

This rig is particularly difficult for the carp to eject and has excellent anti-tangle properties because of the
stiff (25lb) hooklink material used.

A pop-up rig allows the angler to position a bait up off the lake bed. There are a number of scenarios where
you may find it beneficial to do this, but in the main it is to do with positioning the bait above any weed
that may be present or general detritus that could mask a bottom bait like leaves or silt.

That said, it has become common practice for many anglers to use a pop-up approach where there is no
actual need for it to be popped up, i.e. a clean hard bottomed lake. The feeling in such situations is that it
just offers something a little different to the norm which may get a result. Personally I only fish pop-ups
where absolutely necessary, much preferring a critically balanced approach wherever possible as I believe
it offers a more natural presentation. However, I have many angling companions who fish pop-ups as part
of their standard approach and often take good numbers of fish. A top Tip would be to try using pop-ups in
Winter, where there is often a lot of leaf litter on the lake bed which allows the bait to sit just above all the
decaying vegetation and hopefully, right under the nose of any passing carp!

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Helicopter Rig
By Garth Barnard

The Helicopter rig was originally used for sea fishing and later adapted for carp fishing because of its anti-
tangle properties.

The rig was named the helicopter rig after its helicopter blade like motion in flight. The baited hook-link
rotates about the main-line axis by the use of the loose fitting hook-link swivel, usually on anti-tangle
tubing or lead-core.

The Helicopter rig is probably the most commonly used rig when trying to achieve extreme distances
because of its anti-tangle properties and its aerodynamic set-up.

The Helicopter rig is best used with a two or three bait ‘Stringer’, a ‘Stringer’ is usually free offerings of
your hook-bait that are threaded onto dissolvable P.V.A. string and tied to your hook

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Silt Rig
By Garth Barnard

The Silt rig is basically a Helicopter rig in it’s make up, the only difference being that the rubber bead is
slid up the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core to the depth of the silt that you are fishing in. In doing this the
hook-link isn’t pulled into the silt burying the hook-bait.

To find out the depth of the silt you use a Marker-Float set-up with a length of white wool tied to the lead
with the other end tied to the swivel which runs on the shock-leader/main-line.

The link between the Marker-Float lead and the running swivel that is on the shock-leader/main-line must
still be of a suitable breaking strain material with the wool accompanying it, not instead of it.

Once set-up cast out to the silt and leave for ten minutes or so then reel in, the depth of the silt will be
stained into the wool.

Considerations

The Helicopter/Silt rig does solve many problems, but not without having it’s own inherent ones.

Firstly when playing a hooked fish you do not have a direct pull on the fish, in other words the strain of the
fish is being taken on the rubber bead or sleeve of the lead and the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core, not the
direct tension of the main-line.

Secondly the Helicopter/Silt rig is not particularly weed friendly, as it is prone to snagging.

Once the lead is snagged the hook-link can slide up the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core making the problem
worse, hence the need for a more direct pull and/or a safety-lead set-up.

Finally, for fish safety, make sure that the rubber bead, which acts as a depth stop, can slide easily along
the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core.

In the event of your main-line snapping the hook-link must be able to slide up the anti-tangle tubing or
lead-core pushing the rubber bead/depth stop with it as it slides off to free the fish from the lead.

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Semi-Fixed Running Rig
By Garth Barnard / Julian Grattidge

Made by Fox, the set up pictured can be used as a semi-fixed bolt rig or as a running rig depending on
where you position the main run ring. The main run ring can be pushed into the recess to become semi-
fixed or the main run ring can be left to slide as a running set-up.

This set-up can also be used as a semi-fixed set-up without the main run ring, but using the notches on the
rubber to hold the swivel on a lead in position. The tubing, in this case E.S.P. sink link, which sinks the
mainline in the feeding area and prevents tangles.

In semi-fixed bolt rig mode, the above rig is ideal for when you have confident feeding fish and you want
the hook to prick/penetrate as soon as the fish picks up the bait, as the principle behind the bolt rig is that
when the fish picks up the bait, the resistance from the weight of the lead causes the hook to set.

Alternatively, in running-rig mode, you are allowing the fish more room for manoeuvre before the weight
of the lead takes effect. I have used this method to great effect on waters with shy feeding fish, and in
particular on waters where I’m fishing at distance and I want improved indication to avoid fish picking up
the bait and kiting to the left or right without registering a take.

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Inline Safety Rig
By Garth Barnard / Julian Grattidge

Made by Fox the inline system pictured below will allow the lead to detach itself when snagged. On
purchasing this set-up, make sure that the insert can slide through the inner bore of the lead to ease
discharge.

The slit which runs down the side of the lead can be opened up with a screw driver to allow the insert to
release the lead easier. The Tubing, in this case E.S.P. sink link, sinks the mainline in the feeding area and
prevents tangles.

The inline rig described above is probably one of the easiest set-ups to use for carp fishing, and thus proves
extremely popular. However, it should be noted that its main purpose is to work bolt-rig fashion, and its
use is designed primarily for hard bottomed lakes with minimal weed.

In addition, the inline rig is ideal if your favoured approach is to use PVA bags, as the slick aerodynamics
allows easy casting.

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Running Rig
By Garth Barnard / Julian Grattidge

This simple run -rig allows the fish to run freely with the minimal of resistance. The rubber bead protects
the mainline knot from the swivel. This set up is prone to tangles during a long distance cast.

Julian adds: I’ve found the best use of this rig is when targeting shy feeding fish. The aim of the rig is that
when the bait is picked up, the fish can move off from the spot without moving the lead, and thus often
does not realise it has been hooked as there is no resistance from the weight of the lead. However, as the
fish will obviously be taking line through the running ring, it will quickly register on your bite indicator,
often allowing you to strike before the fish even knows it has been hooked.

I have found the rig to be extremely effective when fishing at distance where there is a danger of a fish
picking up a fixed rig and kiting left or right without registering a take. As Gaffer has mentioned, if set up
as per the picture above, you can have problems when distance casting, but many manufactures now sell
purpose built running rig components which eliminate any difficulties.

We have used this method to great effect on Birch Grove, where you are targeting shy feeding fish near to
snags, and thus indication needs to be spot on.

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Braid Rig
By Julian Grattidge

Looking for a braid rig to catch carp? My three words of advice would be ‘keep it simple!’
There are occasions where a complicated rig might be required to overcome a particular problem you are
faced with, but by and large, simple is always best. When I first started carping with my long-term angling
companion, he was well into rigs and set-ups whilst I tended to spend more time concentrating on my
watercraft. In the early years our catch rates were pretty comparable as we often fished together using the
same methods and bait. However, after a few years, with my friend still concentrating on rigs and me on
watercraft, a tangible difference started to show itself, and I slowly but surly started catching more fish, a
tendency which continued for many years when fishing the same waters on a like for like basis.

Looking back, my friend freely admits that his problem was getting too caught up in the detail, which he
puts down to the fact that he’s a qualified engineer who loves a challenge, looking for perfection in
whatever he turns his hand to. However, in relation to carping, the evidence showed that perhaps simplicity
overshadowed perfection. As anglers we have a tendency to wax lyrical about the benefits of many new
fangled methods and approaches, however, I much prefer to chuck a rig into the water and actually watch
how the carp react to it, as surly that’s the key; regardless of our elaborate theories, it’s what carp think that
counts!

With that in mind I use simple rigs for 99.9% of my fishing, and the image above shows the breakdown of
components from the mainline right through to the hook for the braid set-up I use. My preferred hooklink
is Rod Hutchinson Edge 2000 braid in 12lb breaking strain. At one end I tie a simple knotless knot hair and
attach a small line aligner with shrink tubing before tying a small overhand loop knot at the other end for
fitment to the gizmo. My terminal set-up is to feed the mainline through a tail rubber, safety clip and
another cut-down tail rubber, and then tie to the eye on the the Gizmo link using a Palomar Knot; which
I’ve found to be one of the strongest knots there is with minimal slip or strangulation.

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Complete braid set-up; Keep it Simple!

Once the loop on the rig has been slipped onto the gizmo it’s simply a case of clipping on the weight and
pulling the whole thing together. The result is a very simple, slimline, and extremely effective braid set-up.
Depending on how I want the braid to sit, I may rub some rig putty up and down the hooklink to drop it on
the lake bed, but more often than not I will leave it free as I favour critically balanced approaches that
allow the bait to move about when under the scrutiny of a passing carp.

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Carp Hooks – Getting right to the Point
By Julian Grattidge

How do you match the size of your hook to that of your intended bait? In simple terms it’s about getting a
balance – if you use a Size 2 carp hook to present a single grain of sweetcorn; you don’t need me to tell
you that it’s going to look a little suspect on the lake bed - The same thing applies to the hook setting
properties of a 30mm boilie presented on a Size 14. In addition you need to equate the hook size and
strength to the stamp of fish present within the lake. Many will use bigger hooks where bigger carp are
present, and whilst there is a lot of evidence to suggest this is a good theory, I personally would not use
large hooks with small baits. For example I know anglers who don’t use anything smaller than a Size 4
hook if there are decent carp present, even if they are only fishing a 10mm bait – this to me is ludicrous! I
would much rather match my hook size to the size of the bait, and my results would tend to suggest that
this is by far the better method. I’ve lost count of the big fish I’ve caught on small hooks – my belief is that
once the hook is set it’s the ability of the angler to play the fish that determines whether the fish goes into
the net or not, within reason the size of the hook is irrelevant. You should of course take note of the
situation you are faced with – if you are fishing into heavy weed or snags then you may need a stronger or
slightly larger hook than if you are fishing a water devoid of obstacles.

What you then need to do is look at the way you intend to present the bait; either on the bottom, popped-
up, or even on the surface, and then match a hook that will allow a balance between bait and the
presentation. Some anglers advocate the use of loads of hook types and patterns, and I’ve seen anglers with
literally hundreds of hook types in there tackle box, all supposedly suited to a particular application.
However, experience has taught me that all this tends to do is overcomplicate the matter in hand. I’m a big
believer in keeping things simple – as such, I have a small selection of patterns in a few different sizes that
suit all my needs. This means that when I need a particular hook to do a particular job I’m looking to select
it from no more than five or six different types – an easy decision made in a matter of seconds, whereas
tackle man next door needs at least an hour before he’s even gone through all those he has available –
result being that once his selection has eventually been made, the moment may well have passed him by!

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Within reason, you can do just as well with a small selection of patterns, each suited to a different
presentation as mentioned above. Then it’s a case of getting the right size to match the bait and intended
fish. That said, I would estimate 95% of my fish come to the same sized hook – I rarely fish anything other
than a Size 8. I find a Size 8 is perfect for almost any bait; two or three grains of corn on a hair, a nice juicy
worm, a tiger nut, a few maggots, or boilies between 10mm and 18mm. It’s only if I’m using a boilie over
20mm or a few grains of hemp fished on a hair that I would change up or down from a Size 8.
Essentially, hook choice is extremely personal and it may take time for you to find a type and size that you
are happy with, but my advice would be to stick with the sizes you are currently using. However, once you
have found a hook that gives you supreme confidence you may well find you stick with it for a long time
into the future. I went through a phase a few years back of trying to find a hook to suit the majority of my
fishing and it was no easy feat. I eventually settled on an old Ashima pattern in a Size 8 that I managed to
get my hands on and I’ve been using it ever since for a multitude of presentations. Over the last year I’ve
also been using a selection of Nash Fang hooks in Size 8 or smaller and I would say these two patterns
amongst the odd long shank have been used for virtually every situation I’ve been faced with for the last
few years.

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Safety Clips
By Garth Barnard

A Safety Clip is a small plastic clip used to attach a ‘Pendant’ style lead to your mainline. The job of the
Safety Clip is to allow the lead to discharge if ever it became snagged on weed, gravel or anything else for
that matter.

Safety Clips will allow the normal use of Pendant leads up to 5oz without discharging during the cast.
However, should the lead become snagged it will simply slip off the Safety Clip enabling the fish to be
‘played’ normally without the further risk snagging.

Korda, Fox and Nash all manufacture a Safety Clip, these are stocked in most tackle shops. The Safety
Clip, Tail Rubber and Anti-Tangle Tubing are threaded onto the mainline before the Hooklink swivel is
tied on.

The selection of the right sized Hooklink swivel is important, as the swivel needs to have a relatively tight
fit within the bore of the Safety Clip. This will make sure that the lead discharges well before the
Hooklink swivel is pulled from within the bore of the Safety Clip. If the Hooklink swivel is pulled from
the Safety Clip before the snagged lead is able to discharge then the fish will have to be ‘played’ through a
tethered lead and Safety Clip. The ease in which the lead is discharged can be altered by how far the Tail
Rubber is pushed over the lead retaining lug. The Tail Rubber must also be moistened with saliva before
being pushed over the lug.

Full instructions on how to assemble the Safety Clip are usually supplied when buying the Safety Clip kit.

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Mono Facts
By Jim Gibbinson

I couldn't help a wry smile the other day as I listened to a couple of anglers discussing the merits of their
favourite brands of mono. What made the discussion so amusing was the fact that both monos, although
sold under different labels, were identical! Fact is, there are comparatively few manufacturers of
monofilament - and I am talking world-wide, here - so duplication is unavoidable. And no one should
delude themselves that cost is a reliable indicator because it is by no means unusual for identical products,
after being furnished with different brand labels, to be pitched at opposite ends of the price range.
Which line of thought - no pun intended - makes me consider other mono related areas of confusion,
misunderstanding and misinformation.

There are lots of monos available, but fewer manufacturers than you might think.

KNOTS

We need to vary the number of coils to achieve optimum strength

We are all familiar with instructional knot-drawings accompanied by the information that such-and-such a
knot will give 'X' percent strength. This is somewhat misleading because percentage knot-strength varies
tremendously from one mono to another.

But it doesn't end there.

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Even proven knots such as the Clinch and the Grinner require customising by varying the number of coils -
and not only to suit the brand, but also the line's diameter. Likewise, seemingly straightforward advice like
'first pass the line twice through the swivel eye' is not universally applicable because some brands perform
better if it is passed through the eye just once.

How do we know which knots are best suited to our preferred brand? Some distributors include
recommendations with their products, and while such information provides a good starting point, it should
not be taken as 'gospel' - there is no substitute for conducting your own tests.

The most consistent performer, incidentally, is probably the Palomar. It may not necessarily be the best
knot, but it is invariably dependable.

It goes without saying that whatever knot is tied, the coils should be bedded down carefully, then
lubricated with saliva (or better still, vegetable oil), and drawn tight slowly so as to avoid line damage due
to knot-burn.

DIAMETER

Check diameter with a micrometer, and breaking strain with a spring balance.

Some monos are thicker than stated on the spool; a few are thinner. Some are both thicker and thinner
because their diameter varies by as much as 0.05mm, giving them a sort of string-of-sausages profile! Most
spool-label designations with regard to diameter, however, are fairly accurate.

Does it matter?

In the normal course of events, no. When fishing at close to mid range a difference of a few hundredths of
a millimetre matters not one jot. It does, however, matter if fishing at long range because fine line casts
further than thick line.

BREAKING STRAIN
Diameter needs to be seen in the context of breaking strain. Take two monos: one is labelled, '0.35mm,
12lb'; the other '0.35mm, 15lb'. It would seem that the 15lb version is the better choice because it offers
extra strength without any increase in diameter. Experience suggests that this assumption is likely to be
flawed because the seemingly lighter line might be underrated, resulting in there being no significant
difference between them.

Further confusion occurs with IGFA rated lines which are guaranteed to break close to, but not in excess of
the stated test strength.

The lesson to be learned from all this is that spool-label information should be used solely as a guide;
precise diameter should be established with a micrometer, and breaking strain with a spring balance.

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ABRASION RESISTANCE

Mono has quite good abrasion resistance - some brands better than others, of course. The best I have tested
are Fox Soft Steel, Gold Label Pro-Gold, Sufix Synergy, Sufix Magic Touch and Nash Bullet. Monos with
a high level of abrasion resistance are better equipped to cope with fibrous weed (which can be far more
abrasive than most anglers realise), clay humps, submerged branches, wooden piles, mooring ropes, and
possibly rusty steel cables.

On which subject - abrasion resistance, that is - I was intrigued to see an advertisement in a recent
magazine which claimed that the distributor of a particular brand of mono was the first to appreciate the
advantages of abrasion resistance.

Reluctant though I am to burst anyone's bubble - and while I readily concede that who-said-what-first is
hardly of earth-shattering importance - I nonetheless suggest that the aforementioned distributor look at
page 12 in my book 'Carp' (Osprey Publishing Co.), where, under the subheading 'Line', he will read the
following: "Features to look for include........ good wet strength, not too stiff or springy, and lastly (and
very important this) the line should be resistant to abrasion." The book was published in 1974.

SHEAR RESISTANCE

A Quicksilver rubbing leader enabled fish to be safely landed despite sharp edged underwater rocks.

This is the characteristic which will increase the chances of taut, tensioned line 'pinging' across mussels or
flints without parting. Unfortunately, no mono has this quality.

If we need to contend with sharp topped bars, the best policy is to incorporate a braided Dyneema rubbing
leader (Kryston Quicksilver being my choice).

ALL IN A TWIST

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A couple of casts with a Gardner Spin Doctor will remove twist.

A couple of weeks before the first reference in advertisements to anti-twist line rollers, the 'innovation' was
disclosed to representatives of the tackle trade and the angling press at a special product launch. Carp-
Talk's Chris Ball was one of those in attendance; and when I found myself fishing alongside him a day or
two later, he told me about it. Chris, as those who know him would expect, was characteristically
enthusiastic. My response, as he will doubtless recall, was 'Testicles!' - or something very similar!
I publicly rubbished the notion in one of my Carpworld 'Let Us Talk' columns; and challenged reel
manufacturers to explain how line-roller design could counteract a fundamental engineering principle -
namely that if line leaves a spool, or is wound on it, at right-angles to its axis, twist will occur.
Thus far, no such explanation has been forthcoming.

I repeat - there is no way that the shape or size of a pickup roller can reduce line twist. The only practical
way of mitigating the problem is to periodically have a couple of casts with a Gardner Spin Doctor.
Alternatively, of course, we could change to a multiplier or centre-pin...

SHELF LIFE
Most, perhaps all monos, deteriorate over time. Surprisingly, they vary considerably in this regard - while
some brands show significant deterioration after just one year, others show little deterioration after two or
even three years (I am talking here of line which is unused, and stored in the dark). The only way to be
sure is to test it.

COLOUR

Long carp from long range!

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Raw mono, if I may use the term, is a sort of off-white. To achieve browns, greens and what-have-you it
has to be coloured. There are two ways of doing this: either the colour is added to the polymers prior to
extrusion, or the off-white raw mono is treated in an acid bath and dyed. There are pluses and minuses to
each process, but an effect common to both is that slight strength loss occurs.

Mono line is polished to give it a smooth surface (raw mono has a dull, matt surface) - which also results in
a slight strength reduction.

No one, so far as I know, sells raw, uncoloured, non-polished mono. Even white (sometimes mistakenly
called 'clear') mono is treated to make it white rather than off-white.

I'm not particularly fussy about colour, and use brown, green or white - depending what is loaded on my
reels. An exception is when I am long range fishing in waters where I am in constant danger of having my
lines 'wiped out' by water birds, when I like fluorescent yellow Ande Tournament because it scares the hell
out of them, and ensures hassle-free fishing. It does not scare carp, however, because it is used in
conjunction with a shock leader.

STRETCH

All monos stretch.

If nominal 12lb mono is subjected to a 5lb pull, it will stretch - depending on the brand - from 10 to 15
percent. If the pull is increased to 10lb, the lower and upper figures increase to 12 and 30 percent
respectively.

I like the shock-absorbing quality of mono because I think it helps maintain secure hookholds and
minimises the risk of mouth damage (this, incidentally, is part of the reason I am not a fan of main-line
braid which, at breaking point loading, only stretches about three percent).

We have, over the years, seen the introduction of several ultra low diameter, pre-stretched monos. I've tried
a couple, but found it difficult to obtain consistently strong knots. They have their fans, though -
particularly for hooklinks when floater fishing.

For most fishing, I think monos offering average stretch are the best choice, although I prefer high stretch
versions when fishery rules compel me to use barbless hooks - the inherent 'bungee' effect of a stretchy line
undoubtedly helps maintain secure hookholds. Of the lines I tested, Maxima and Drennan Specimen Plus
have the most stretch.

WET STRENGTH

Big Game and Bullet - my usual choice.

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Some monos lose a percentage of their dry strength after submersion in water. I found in 48-hour soak-
tests that five to ten percent was about average, although a few lost more than 20 percent. The worst
performer lost a whopping 27 percent. I won't identify the 'rogue' monos in case my test spools were
untypical (old stock, for example); I shall, however, name those which scored well. Sylcast, Brent,
Gardner/Insight GR60, Sufix Supreme, Maxima and Drennan Specimen Plus showed no strength loss at
all. Big Game, Daiwa Sensor, Sufix Magic Touch, Ultima Tournament and Nash Bullet showed little or
negligible strength loss.

A line manufacturer told me that monos which are acid-bathed prior to colour-dying are the most likely to
suffer in this regard because they more readily absorb water.

STRESS
We are all familiar with the advice that we should replace line after it has been stressed - as when pulling
for a break, for example. My tests suggest that this is probably unnecessary. Most stressed-to-breaking-
point monos revert, after a ten minute rest, to their original breaking strain - or very close to it. Even the
worst performer lost only 15 percent.

PRICE
Mono is very inexpensive to produce. The price we pay in the tackle shop does not reflect this fact, but that
is because it has been inflated by various extras: spooling, labelling, advertising and the profit margins of
those through whose hands it passes. But even accepting those extras, I think it is difficult to justify a price
higher than œ10 per 1000 metre spool (or pro rata - some bulk spools hold more than 1000 metres).

FLUOROCARBON
Initially, I believe, popularised by fly fishermen. Now quite widely used for hooklinks - notably carp
anglers' stiff-links (that said - supple versions of fluorocarbon are available, too). Its primary virtue is its
low visibility - a consequence of its refractive index being very close to that of water. An additional
advantage is that its specific gravity is greater than water, so it sinks readily and lays flat on the bottom.
I have not used fluorocarbon for hooklinks as such, but I occasionally incorporate it in Concertina Twin
Strand Links (see 'Gravel Pit Carp' for details).

Several references have been made in the angling press to the fact that fluorocarbon should not be placed
between the lips (when moistening knots, for example). One report stated that this was because it had a
lead component, while another implied that it was potentially carcinogenic. I can neither confirm nor refute
these suggestions - hopefully an anglersnet reader or contributor can enlighten us? Meanwhile, I think it
makes sense to err on the side of caution.

CHOICE
For general 'workhorse' use, line should be hard wearing, knot-friendly and reliable - characteristics
embodied, to one degree or another, in all those mentioned in this feature.

My choice? It depends on the sort of fishing I am doing, but most of the time my reels are loaded with
Nash Bullet or Berkley Big Game. I use Bullet because I played a major part in its selection for Nash
Tackle (after testing numerous samples from the UK, the USA, Japan and Germany). And I use Big Game
because, while not necessarily the best performer in the various categories, it is a good all-rounder. And
I've caught so many carp on it, that I trust it implicitly.

FINAL COMMENT - For several years I was retained by Nash Tackle as a consultant, but at the
beginning of 2001 - and by mutual agreement - Kevin Nash and I decided that our business association had
run its course.I am not associated with any other line distributor. From the foregoing, it is clear that I have
no vested interest in sales of any of the lines mentioned in this feature.

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Bait & Baiting Techniques
The Boilie (Boiled Baits)
By Julian Grattidge

We’ve all heard it... “What flavour boilie did you have it on Mister?” As if the selection of a certain bait is
somehow guaranteed to bring success. Bait is undoubtedly a major factor in carp fishing but it’s not the be
all and end all – the where, when and how are all just as important. Most magazines carry adverts that
might give the impression that by selecting their own particular ‘brew’, banking the venues largest resident
is then somehow inevitable, because their particular concoction is ‘taking waters apart’ up and down the
country and features the ‘best ingredients ever’. Don’t get me wrong, it might be a good bait - it might be a
very good bait – but how do you know before you part with your hard-earned? Should you believe
everything you read?

Bait is such a complex subject that it’s not as simple as saying ‘x’ bait is good, or ‘y’ bait is not, and I
don’t profess to know it all. However, I know enough to advise that you will have better *long-term*
success by offering a constant supply of a high nutritional value bait, as apposed to a ‘crap’ bait; so termed
because it offers little in the way of nutrition but is loaded with flavour & attractants.

A fish will soon get to recognise a food source and its nutritional value – My own results with Essential
Baits Shellfish B5 on Capesthorne are a good indicator of what a quality bait can do when applied
correctly. The fish soon learnt that it fulfilled much of their nutritional requirements and they got on it big-
time. At one point it was accounting for over 80% of the fish that were coming off! The opposite applies
with a so called ‘crap’ bait. There will be an initial flurry of activity as it tastes/smells nice, but they will
soon wise up to the fact that they will get little benefit from eating it and more often than not will move on
to fill up on a food source that they know does them good. You will continue to pick up fish here and there
but you won’t do as well as those offering a better bait.

Two at once! Chris Knapper (left) shows just what a quality bait can do when applied correctly.

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When selecting a bait my advice would be to look the actual ingredients, rather than the packaging. That
said, bait is much to do with confidence - if you can’t stop catching on the one you are using then don’t
change – but the moment you see other people fishing in the same manner and catching more, you should
always ask yourself why. However, confidence is one thing, blindly following the ‘masses’ and ‘names’ is
another entirely. You only have to take a look at some of the current high profile anglers and see how
many times they’ve switched allegiances within the last few years to know that for some, it’s hard-cash
that would seem to dictate which jacket they wear on their back, rather than the effectiveness of a
particular bait. As with any industry, there are good companies and bad – the trick is in making sure you
select products from one of the better suppliers. But how do you pick out the best, as it’s sometimes
difficult to cut through the advertising blurb and get right down to the facts? There’s no easy answer - if
you want to be a really successful angler, then you need to take the time to work things out for yourself. I
guess it’s nothing new, but the majority of anglers are always happy to be led than to lead - until a few
hundred years ago most people thought the world was flat… get my drift?

To be blunt, aside from what you have read in the magazines, what do you actually know about the
EXACT ingredients that are in the bait you are using? And by that I don’t mean what it says on the
packaging – I mean the ACTUALL ingredients in that specific bag you have picked up of the shelf? I
would say that 70% of anglers don’t really know the specific make-up of the bait they are using - no matter
how much they wax lyrical about how good it is and how many waters its ‘taken apart’. Yawn.

The simple truth of the matter is that if you want to go forwards you must first go back. Learn all you can
about ingredients and what effect they have on a bait – do you know what different types of fishmeal are
out there, and what each type will do to a bait? And what the addition of birdfoods, milks, or proteins will
do? If you don’t, then how can you claim to have superior knowledge about which is the best bait to use?
The majority of anglers will claim to be on the best bait possible but once you probe more deeply and get
past the advertising hype written in the angling press, most can add very little to the conversation. For me,
that’s simply not good enough – end off.

The point I’m making is that I would never buy any bait without first taking a great deal of time to research
the company, ingredients, and manufacturing processes. Even then I would still want to (and do) speak to
the person behind the bait before using it. Some years ago before making the switch to B5 I spent no small
amount of time talking to Mike Willmott at Essential, both about how and where he sources his ingredients
and then about his manufacturing processes and only when I had a deep understanding of it, did I make the
switch. Do you seriously think that all Green Lipped Mussel Extract comes from the same supplier, in the
same tin, at the same cost? Of course it doesn’t! There is good stuff and there is bad stuff – and I know the
GLM in the bait I’m buying is of the highest quality available and I even know which Country it comes
from – and yes, that does make a difference too! How about your bait? Do you know what grade it is and
which supplier it comes from?

You may think I take things to the extreme, but what I do is ensure that when I have chosen a bait, there is
then no need to dabble with others – I have ultimate confidence. I see anglers constantly trying bait after
bait, comparing one rod fished to another, a different bait on each rig, or mixtures on all! All of which will
only take your eye of the ball. Most have this rose-tinted vision of a nice quality assured factory with a
sponsored high-profile angler sitting at the end of a conveyor checking that each bait is up to the required
standard – wake up!

I know where many baits are made, and some don’t even get their hands dirty! Many outsource much if not
all of their rolling, and some may even reduce the quality of ingredients to improve cost effectiveness –
and who keeps a check on what the rolling companies are doing and how accurate their facilities are for
getting the optimum balance of ingredients? Again, I’ve heard stories that would make your toes curl – and
people are paying good money for this stuff!

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Some might ask what happens after a few seasons when the bait ‘dries-up?’ Well, if it’s a good bait, it
shouldn’t, simple as that. In relation to B5 ‘drying up’ it’s simply never happened for us. Long term results
on many waters showed that quite the opposite happened, the more that went in, the better the results got
as the fish realised here was a food source that gave them much of their required intake of nutrients – to a
certain extent they can’t help but eat it! That said, they will soon wise up to areas it is offered to them in
regularity and so swims fished in the same way using the same spots may drop off in effectiveness, but to
be honest, in my eyes much of that is down to watercraft as the same bait offered elsewhere will be
gobbled up just as readily – outwitting specimen carp is a constant endeavour and a never ending battle of
wills.

Select the right boilie and apply it correctly, and the fish will come - the first time on the venue with
Mick’s Snail & Shell and I managed five more just as nice as this one!

I make no claims or allegations about any manufacturer or supplier, it’s for you to go out and do your own
homework. However, as I’ve said to many in the past, there are very few suppliers in the UK who I would
trust hand on heart to give me exactly what I have asked for; and two at the top of that list would be Mike
Willmott (Essential Baits) and Mick Ball (MB Baits). Before you ask, yes, I have ties to both (not
financially) - and there’s a good reason for that – I trust them implicitly. You see, I take my angling very
seriously, so I feel it’s only right that I should give serious consideration to the bait I put on my hook. That
said, I only use boilies for about fifteen percent of my carp fishing, so just imagine how much thought goes
into my naturals!

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Shelf Life Or Fresh Frozen Boilies?
By Julian Grattidge

Shelf life boilies versus fresh frozen - which are the best? It’s a question we’re asked regularly, and it’s one
of those subjects where once you scratch the surface you’re often left with more questions than answers!
First things first, it’s important to understand the differences between the two types of bait. Fresh frozen is
the term best used to describe a boiled bait that has been freshly made and has nothing added during the
mixing process. As such, because it contains fresh egg as a binder, it will start to go off after a few days if
exposed to normal room conditions at which point mould growth, brought on by the high moisture content,
will start to appear on the surface of the bait and the longer the bait is left exposed, the more mould growth
occurs. By freezing the bait the onset of mould growth can be delayed, hence the term fresh/frozen.
However, if preservatives are added during the mixing process and the moisture content can be reduced,
then the boilie can be left out in normal conditions for extensive periods with no ill effect; baits prepared in
such a way are often referred to as shelf-life baits. It’s worth noting that a ready-made bait can be either a
fresh or shelf-life bait, as many think that a ready-made bait and a shelf-life bait are the same thing. In
addition, some manufactures prefer to use the term long-life bait, but I’ll come back to that later.
Most people simply want to know which type is best, but unfortunately there is no easy answer, and
depending on who you speak to, you are likely to get differing views. Overall, with most anglers it will
come down to convenience and what suits their circumstances best. Those of us who have a freezer at
home where smelly baits can be stored without incurring the wrath of the other half, will usually be of the
opinion that fresh baits are best, whereas those who don’t have such storage facilities and have to store
baits along with the rest of their fishing tackle in the shed will usually favour shelf-life.

For me though, the crux of the matter is not about convenience for the angler, but of preference by the fish.
A fresh bait is just that; a nice well rounded product with everything at the optimum levels, straight off the
rolling table so to speak, and common sense would dictate to me, that such a bait is perfect for use at that
point. A shelf-life bait, in terms of manufacturing will differ in two ways. Firstly there will be
preservatives added. There are various human grade food preservatives on the market which you probably
consume everyday without even knowing it, the most common of which are; sorbic acid, sodium benzoate
and potassium sorbate (which is actually a potassium salt version of sorbic acid). All of these additives
inhibit mould growth and if buying a shelf-life boilie, then it’s highly likely it will contain one, or even a
mixture of the above. Now there’s no clear evidence to say that adding any of these ingredients to a bait is

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bad, as although some of these ingredients are classed as ‘E numbers’, not all E numbers are bad.
However, some countries have raised concerns about the use of some of these additives (in human grade
foods); with some sources going so far as to claim that there may be links to headaches and intestinal
problems in humans. I used to run a soft drinks company and remember well that at the time of my leaving,
the inclusion of certain preservatives in our products was certainly becoming a hot topic within the
industry, and one which I think will soon cause some major headaches of the boardroom variety!
I think it’s an area where more research is needed, both in terms of our own food and that which we feed to
our intended quarry, as to be honest there are many grey areas, the amount consumed being the major one;
a small child drinking a 250ml bottle of fizzy drink each day containing trace amounts of these additives is
one thing, a carp presented with 10 kilos of the stuff every day as a food source might be a different
proposition - Food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun.

What happens out of the water is one thing, however, what happens when baits of either type go into the
water is just as important, as the inclusion of a preservative will prevent the growth of micro organisms
both in an out of the water, thus the bait will not break down as quick. A fresh bait will begin to breakdown
almost immediately, softening the longer it remains within the water, and within 48 hours should be soft
enough so that any self-respecting minnow would be able to have a good go at it, and if not eaten by other
fish, it should pop up to the surface within a few days to be eagerly gobbled up by resident wildfowl.
However, a bait loaded with preservatives is a different prospect, and may well lay uneaten and ignored
indefinitely; I’ve heard scare-stories of waters dredged during maintenance to reveal masses of uneaten
shelf-life boilies. I’ve never witnessed anything that drastic myself, although I’ve certainly come across
uneaten shelf-life boilies on lakes that I’ve fished.

It’s quite amusing just how many anglers think that when they turn up to fish a swim there will be no bait
currently out there and each session they can bait up afresh. Often the opposite is the case. When I’m
‘putting-time-in’ on a venue I’m always keen to find out who is fishing where and what kind of bait they
are using. Not least because it helps to identify whether the swim may already be full of bait which it’s
going to take the fish a while to get through. However, if I know somebody has been fishing with fresh bait
the chances are it will all be gone by the time I get there. A friend of mine had a habit of fishing on top of
other peoples bait, he would turn up on a Sunday afternoon just as everybody else was packing up after 48-
hrs fishing, cast out a fresh single hook bait to where ever the previous angler had been fishing to, fish a
quick overnighter and invariably catch a big one!

Ultimately, I want to use a quality bait that will appeal to the fish on both a short and long term basis, and
one which if not eaten, will break down quickly. As such, I much prefer to use fresh bait whenever I’m
using a boilie, I just think it has a broader appeal on so many levels, for in my eyes, a mass produced shelf-
life bait is an entirely different proposition to a fresh frozen bait. I appreciate that convenience is a major
factor for many; however, for those who want a quick breakdown and extended life, there is a third-way,
so to speak. Another way of preserving shelf life is to remove the moisture content through the use of
dehumidifying equipment, this can be costly when compared to adding preservatives but many would
argue offers a much better finished product which the fish are more likely to benefit from. By using
preserved egg in the mixing process and then by removing the moisture content after rolling, they are able
to offer a long-life bait that breaks down just as quickly as fresh bait once immersed in the water.
At the end of the day all one can do is offer up points for consideration, like so many aspects of carp
fishing; bait it’s a personal choice, and it’s for each of us to decide what suits us best, but as I’ve
mentioned in other articles on bait - it never hurts to know a little more about what is on your hook!

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Making your own Boilies
By Garth Barnard

Boilies are the most popular bait for modern day carp fishing, the reason for this is they are easy to use and
apply. They came about in the early eighties as a way of deterring nuisance fish and sustaining long
periods underwater, being hard, but at the same time containing as much attractiveness and/or nutrition as
possible.

Being spherical and hard they are easy to mount, whether side hooked or hair-rigged and also easy to apply
either by throwing, catapult or for long distance a throwing stick.

Boilies are made up of a mixture of a powdered basemix to bulk, additives/flavours and eggs to bind.
Together they make a paste that can be shaped and then boiled and stored in a freezer, unless a preservative
is added or they are air-dried.

There is nothing like catching on your own bait, whether it is your own recipe or just rolled by yourself,
the satisfaction is immense. Making boilies can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it.
There are different ways of going about it; you can buy a basemix and a simple liquid trigger additive or
buy any combination of basemix, additives and/or flavours to suit your needs. The process of making
boilies is simple. However, with rolling tables and a bait-gun it is made even easier.

The ingredients
Basemixes can be bought off the shelf at most tackle shops as can additives and flavours.
Nowadays, the basic types of basemix are a 50/50 mix (50% Soya Four and 50% Semolina), a Birdseed
(suited for winter use) and Fishmeal (suited for summer use), although specific basemixes and basemix
ingredients can be sourced.

Just some of the many ingredients available

Additives can be added to in the form of liquids and powders. These range from Amino acids, like
Minamino and Betaine, to Phosphoylcolamines (PPC) like Nutramino.

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Other products can be added to the mix like appetite stimulators, palatants, vitamin and minerals, colours,
oils and lastly flavours.

Flavours are usually added in the form of a concentrated liquid and usually need enhancing with a
sweetener, as most flavours have a bitter after taste.

All of the above have recommended dosage levels, which you can experiment with, but are usually about
right.

Liquids
To start off with you need to find out how many eggs you need for your dry base mix.
Break the eggs into a suitable bowl and then begin to add your liquid additives and/or flavours.
One thing to point out at this stage is that you always add liquids to liquids and powders to powders.

Liquids to liquids

Once all of your liquids are measured out, slowly mix them together.

Don’t whisk like crazy as this will add air to your liquids and you will find that your finished boilies are
buoyant!

Powders
Next, in another suitable bowl, weigh out your base mix (if you have to) and then add your powdered
additives and/or flavours. Make sure these are well mixed.

Powders to powders

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Paste
Add 50% of your powders to all of your liquid mix and mix together, then add more of the powdered mix a
little bit at a time until you have stiff paste.

If you add too much powder your paste mix will be too dry and will fall apart when you try to roll the
paste.

Once your paste is of the right consistency you can then load it into your bait-gun or if you do not have a
bait-gun then they can be rolled by hand.

Loading the ‘gun’

A little tip here, when you are not using the paste seal it up in a bag to stop it drying out. If you do not have
a bait-gun then roll the sausages by hand.

‘Sausages’
50/50 and Birdseed base mixes can become very sticky so a good tip at this point is just before you load
the bait-gun, lightly smear cooking oil onto your hands, this will put a very light coating onto the paste that
will aid ‘gunning’ and rolling.

Ready to roll

The oily coating will boil off without leaving a trace on the boilie. With the correct nozzle and rolling table
you can then roll your baits. If you don’t have a rolling table then they can be made by hand.

Boiling

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Place the rolled baits into a wire basket and lower them into already boiling water and start the stopwatch.
I start my stopwatch to count down from sixty seconds as soon as they go into the boiling water.

Boiling Point

You may need to play around with times to suit your requirements, Fishmeal base mixes tend to be harder
than Birdseed or 50/50 mixes when boiled for the same length of time.

Once the time is up, drain and allow drying on a tea towel overnight, or as I do, leave for a couple of days.
Once dry, bag, label and then place them into the freezer, unless you have added a preservative or are
going to air-dry them.

Any left over paste can be frozen and rolled, or used as a paste hookbait whenever it is thawed out.

Ready for bagging up

In Conclusion
When making boilies for the first time don’t make a large batch, use half or a quarter of the ingredients so
that if you find them too strong in flavour or too soft in texture you have enough ingredients to fine tune
and remake your boilies.

It’s a good idea to make bait with a friend as you can share costs and the making of the bait.
I’ve always made my own bait and always will. I hope you have the success I’ve had in rolling your own.

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Dips And Soaks
By Garth Barnard

There are all sorts of dips, glugs and soaks available on the market today or for the more adventurous;
various flavours and ingredients for you to make your own, but what’s the best way to prepare a dip and
how should the baits be stored?

Most people I know pour in all the liquid to a dip to totally cover the pop-ups. However, I do something
slightly different (as always!). I drizzle some liquid over all the pop-ups, and then shake the tub, making
sure that all the pop-ups have generous coating, but that's all. Leave the coated pop-ups lying around (in
their tub) and give them a shake every once in a while. Every couple of days you will find that the pop-ups
have soaked up all of the liquid. Simply drizzle some more liquid over the top again and shake.

Keep repeating this process until the soak-up rate of the pop-ups slows down In other words, stop pouring
liquid over the pop-ups before they stop soaking up the liquid altogether, so as to not over load the pop-ups
with liquid, which may effect their buoyancy. You can use the pop-ups at anytime during this process,
which may take a week or two. After a couple of weeks the pop-ups are 'loaded' with liquid and look and
feel 'dry'. The absorbed liquid will leak-off nicely in the water, making them ideal single hookbaits for any
time of the year, particularly during the colder months. The pop-up-ability(!) of the pop-ups will not be
effected using this process.

The pop-ups and liquid will be fine if kept dry (not damp) in their tub. No need to air-dry or anything. The
drizzle technique is one that I've used for years. I usually use the left over liquid for coating trout/halibut
pellets by putting all the pellets into a big plastic dustbin, drizzle over some liquid, stir up and leave for the
liquid to soak in. Repeat every couple of days the same as you did with the pop-ups. The flavoured pellets
that you buy, that have the same flavour as the boilies are just pellets sprayed with the liquid anyway, one
of Mainlines tricks!

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The Method
By Garth Barnard

The Method feeder is mainly used for getting a concentrated ball of attractant and a hookbait in amongst a
shoal of competing fish. The shoal of fish would then nudge the feeder around whilst competing with
other fish for the food, that’s until one of them picks up the hookbait! On waters that aren’t heavily
stocked, where they don’t compete for food, or that they simply don’t respond to the Method, then the fish
may not be interested in it and won’t find the hookbait that is buried within the feeder mix, on the feeder.

Don’t be afraid to try different baits or bait combinations. Estate lakes are usually full of natural food and
getting the right combination may take time.

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Tiger Nuts
By Julian Grattidge

There’s just something about tiger nuts that scream ‘carp’. If I were allowed to pick just one bait with
which to go and bag a carp, a nice slimy tiger nut coated in its own juices could well be it! It’s often the
case that a tiger nut can provoke an instant reaction. Its crunchy texture and distinctly sweet taste mean it
can on many occasions tempt a carp to pick up a bait where a boilie might well fail.

I think carp will often view an effectively presented natural bait with much less caution than they would a
boilie, and as such, they can be a devastating bait for a number of approaches. Whenever I go stalking I
always make sure I have a bag of tiger nuts close at hand!

Presentation could not be easier, as they can be fished in exactly the same way as a boilie. However,
depending on the particular situation I’m faced with, I would use one of the following set-ups.

For all my stalking and for any close range work I prefer to use braid over any other hook link material.
My favoured braid for tigers is Rod Hutchinson’s Edge 2000 HPPE braid in green. It has all the suppleness
required yet retains enough rigidity on the cast to avoid tangles.

Using a knotless knot, I fish the tiger just off the back of the shank and find in most cases this approach
brings the greatest rewards. In addition, I usually favour a critically balanced presentation.

This may sound very complicated, but in essence, all you are trying to do is make the hook bait react in the
same way as the freebaits around it. When a carp moves over a bait to investigate, it will often suck and
blow out really hard or wave its pectoral fins to disturb the baits on the bottom.

Those that lift up off the lake bed in a natural motion will often look less conspicuous than those attached
to a heavy hook link which remain anchored on the bottom – no prizes for guessing which one the carp
tend to avoid!

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The way around this is to make sure your hookbaits waft up off the bottom in the same way as the
freebaits. The easiest way to do this is to use a bait punch. Carefully work the punch through the core of
the tiger nut and remove the plug.

You will then be left with a neat hole through the nut. Simply place a piece of foam into the hole and trim
off any bits sticking out (see pic left).

That’s it; you can now attach the bait to the hair in the normal manner. Ideally you want enough buoyancy
so that the whole rig and nut *just* sinks when placed into the water, ensuring it will react in exactly the
same way as the free offerings.

Stiff Link Presentation


If I am fishing tiger nuts at range I favour a stiff link, which ensures there are no tangles on the cast. My
preferred hook link is ESP Ghost Fluorocarbon which has great refraction properties.

Again I use a knotless knot approach and simply mount the nut off the back of the shank (pic left).

Critically balanced baits on stiff links do not work quite in the same manner as a braid set up, so I often use
a popped-up approach when using stiff links. The picture below left shows my normal popped up fluro rig,
which has one artificial floating tiger nut and one normal tiger nut. One of each type means the weight of
the hooklink is just enough to hold bottom, if not, a small piece of putty can be moulded around the link.

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With regard to freebies, I tend to use a mixture of whole tiger nuts and lots of crushed up pieces. These can
then be dropped over the bait if stalking or fishing at close range, or can be placed in a PVA bag if fishing
at range. I often use a mixture of hemp and crushed up tiger nuts, used in liberal amounts this mix can be
used to devastating effect on waters where boilies are the norm.

If using in a PVA bag approach, you can also add some oil to the nuts as it will not melt the PVA. I usually
go for a high quality Salmon or Hemp Oil.

So, next time you can’t decide which bait to use, why not pick up a bag of tiger nuts?

You won’t be disappointed!

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Halibut Pellets
By Julian Grattidge

In a sport dominated by boilies, many carp anglers often overlook the most simple of baits which carp find
irresistible. What’s more, by offering an alternative bait to the norm, you could well find yourself bagging
more fish than the angler in the next swim! Halibut pellets have accounted for the downfall of some
monster carp in recent years, and in addition, specimen barbel and catfish are also extremely partial to a
nice bed of Halibut pellets!

Also known as Marine pellets, Halibut pellets are high in essential amino & fatty acids, pre-digested
fishmeals, and minerals. They are a rich nutritious bait with a protein content of around fifty percent and an
oil content of around 25 percent. Most Halibut pellets also contain Betaine; a natural extract of sugar beet
which has long been popular with fish farmers due to its qualities as a feeding stimulant aiding the
digestion of nutrients. The Halibut Pellet is a versatile bait which can be used on waters where boilies are
not allowed, and can also prove highly effective when used as a stalking or winter bait. Presentation could
not be easier as the Halibut pellet can be fished in exactly the same way as a boilie.

Julian Grattidge with a Shropshire upper-twenty taken on a Halibut Pellet.

With a controlled but constant breakdown, Halibut pellets offer the perfect carpet feed approach. By
presenting a selection of different sized pellets you can create a complete bed of bait which is all breaking
down and giving off attractors and oils at different levels – perfect.

Many anglers favour a PVA approach when fishing Halibut pellets. Once you have attached a pellet to
your hook link, you can place it in a PVA bag and fill it up with a selection of different sized pellets.
Funnel Web is another great way of presenting pellets. Just fill and tie off a small bag so it’s shaped like a
little ball (about the size of a golf ball) that fits in the palm of your hand, then simply attach the bag to your
hook and cast it out – simple as that. Many anglers who fish this method tie up a number of little bags in
advance of the session which saves time when you are out on the bank. I’ve used this method to great

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effect when I’m ‘roving’ on a water, as you can cast to showing fish with minimal disturbance and have a
perfect little bed of bait placed right under their noses.

Halibut pellets are quite oily in their own right, but I also like to add extra oil to my pellets. As oil does not
melt PVA, you can either tip some straight into your PVA bag before casting, or just dip the hook bait
before you cast it out. As well as offering an immediate release of attractors, dipping the hook bait will
also help slow the breakdown of the pellet to prolong your time between casting. I like to use a good
quality Salmon or Hemp Oil with my pellets but I’ve recently been experimenting with a fantastic Chilli
Oil which has brought impressive results.

You can buy pellets with pre-drilled holes for attaching onto hook links but I much prefer to drill my own
as normal pellets are a fraction of the price. Also, I think a hook bait which is exactly the same as the free
offerings will arouse less suspicion from cautious feeding fish. You can use any size pellet as a hook bait,
and I use anything from 12mm to 17mm. The larger ones are much better if you want to leave them out for
a while as obviously they take longer to break down - Most pellets over 14mm will go soft after about half
an hour but the body of the bait remains stable on the hair for up to 15 hours, so they can easily be left out
overnight.

The trick to drilling the pellets without splitting them is to hold the pellet firmly between your thumb and
forefingers and exert heavy pressure to the pellet before attempting to drill through the core, as this stops it
from breaking apart. Then just drill at a slow pace until you have made a hole right through.

Stiff Rig Presentation for Halibut Pellets

If I am fishing pellets at range I favour a stiff link, which ensures there are no tangles on the cast. My
preferred hook link is ESP Ghost Fluorocarbon which is a 100% pure Fluorocarbon and has great
refraction properties. It is available in a range of breaking strains and diameters, and I tend to use the 12lb
or 15lb depending on the severity of snags or weed within my chosen swim.

Of course there are plenty of other brands and types of stiff link material out there, so it’s just a case of
using whatever you are confident with. I use a simple knotless knot approach and mount the pellet off the
back of the shank.

This hook link is ideal when using the funnel web ‘ball’ approach highlighted above, as you avoid getting
any kinks on the hook link which can greatly reduce the refraction qualities of Fluorocarbon.

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Braid Presentation for Halibut Pellets
For all my stalking and close range work I prefer to use a braid over any other hook link material. My
favoured braid for pellets is Rod Hutchinson’s Edge 2000 HPPE braid in green (High Performance Poly
Ethylene), as It possesses all the suppleness required yet retains enough rigidity on the cast to avoid major
tangles. Again, there are various types available and I tend to go for a 10lb or 15lb breaking strain
depending on the swim.

Using a knotless knot, I fish the pellet just off the back of the shank and find in most cases this approach
brings the greatest rewards. You can also use this hook link to offer a popped-up approach.

By using a slightly longer hair and a piece of foam (presented above the pellet on the hair) you can fish the
pellet off the lake bed and anchor it with a split-shot or a little tungsten putty.

Other Presentations
In addition to carp, Halibut pellets are a great bait when targeting barbel and catfish.A barbel set up would
be virtually identical to either the stiff link or braid set-ups above, with perhaps a slightly lighter breaking
strain. However, with catfish, you’d need to go the other way. When targeting catfish abroad you would
usually use braid hook links of up to 100kg breaking strain and hooks as big as size 4/0. A common
presentation when targeting catfish is to use several halibut pellets tied together as the hook bait, by sliding
them onto a link and making a loop of baits.

With the help of his dad, Nigel Weston holds a 105lb Ebro cat taken on Halibut pellets.

Using the above methods to present Halibut pellets, I’ve been lucky enough to bank many specimen carp
from waters all over the UK, so why not give Halibut pellets a try yourself?

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The Secret Success of Balachan Shrimp Paste
By Julian Grattidge

Balachan has become quite a buzz-word among carp anglers over the last year or so with many anglers
attributing its use with some notable captures. So, what is it, and what’s so special about it? And perhaps
more importantly, where can you get it?

Balachan Shrimp Paste is only now coming into the mainstream as a carp fishing bait, although countless
high profile anglers have been using it to great effect over the last few years on a hush-hush basis; fishing
it as either as a paste hook bait, or moulding it around a lead or boilie. I think I’m right in saying that
Balachan is actually a place in Malaysia, well known for its manufacture of this extremely potent bait,
although it’s difficult to be sure because depending on who you are talking to, the word is spelt many
different ways, even by those specialising in South East Asian food! The most common spellings are;
Balachan, blachang, or balachong. It’s also got several different names in its Indonesian and Filipino
guises, but we’d be here all day if I started listing those!

Looks like fudge; smells like a dead cat!

In essence, all you really need to know is that it absolutely stinks! To make the paste, they collect shrimps,
sardines and various other little saltwater sea creatures and basically leave them out to ferment in salt water
under a baking sun (it’s even buried underground in some countries to seal in the aroma). They then mash
the whole lot up and make it into the most pungent paste you can imagine! The paste is predominately used
in very small amounts to give a fishy ‘kick’ to South East Asian food dishes, but over the last eighteen
months or so it has become a major talking point within carp fishing circles.

The paste is really easy to use; it comes in small blocks and all you need to do is break a bit off (it’s like a
very think paste) and work it until its soft enough to mould. You can use it as a paste bait, but I’ve had
particular success moulding it around my lead or moulding it around a boilie hookbait. The stuff absolutely
stinks, it’s ten times worse than the strongest squid & octopus flavour you could imagine… and that’s

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saying something! It’s no wonder the carp love it so much, it’s got such a deep and musty aroma that must
scream ‘eat me’ to carp!

A nice Winter Blackwood linear taken on a Balachan moulded boilie

I notice some tackle shops have now got in on the act and have started selling it, but you can just as easily
pick it up from your local Asian food shop, but to be honest I’ve seen it just as cheap online via eBay.

The only tip I can give you is to keep it out of the house. I really can’t stress how much this stuff smells,
which goes some way to explaining it’s effectiveness as a carp bait. I have used it on numerous occasions
and have had some great results moulding it around leads and hookbaits.

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Worms For Carp
By Julian Grattidge

Those who know me understand my deep fascination with worms; not in a ‘weird cousin’ sort of way, I’m
just fascinated by their extraordinary ability when used as bait for catching specimen fish of almost every
species. My main experience with worms is when used for stalking specimen carp, and I would say over
90% of the carp I’ve banked over the last few years have been taken on worm, either fished on its own, or
over a handful of particle mix. Not just carp either; tench and bream to near double figures have been
amongst a host of other lumps to gobble up a tasty worm within moments of it being cast in.

Most of my fish, like the one above, are taken on worms

So what is it about the humble worm that works so well? I don’t think it’s just the wriggling, for maggots
do just the same but their results for specimens have been nowhere near as effective for me. I think the
secret lies in their chemistry. Worms are an extremely rich source of amino acids, and some earthworm
species actually exude aminos, many of which can be lacking in the natural diet of the fish, so it’s no
wonder they prove so effective as bait!

I’ve lost count of the times carp have moved in over a baited worm completely covered in silt, only for
them to root it out in a matter of seconds. Some of this will doubtless be down to movement, but you only
have to smell your hands after you have been handling worms to remind your self how effective that
pungent amino smell must be!

I started using hair-rigs for worms but the presentation looked dodgy and the movement of the worm did
not look right so I made a few modifications to the hooklink and attached them straight to the hook - the
fish soon followed. I tried loads of different hooks and braids to get the best presentation and after a bit of
trial and error settled on a size 12 Ashima hook and Edge 2000 15lb braid (which is fantastic for the job).

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I tie the braid straight to the eye of the hook and then slide a rubber-stop right up near the eye. Hook the
worm on so that when on the hook, its head is pointing away from the eye, as they tend to move forward
and this stops the hook tip getting masked in weed. Gently pull the worm round to the back off the shank
and over the eye itself so that it masks the bottom of the shank and the eye completely, the little rubber
stop will stop it going further up the mainline.

That’s it - nice and simple. I don’t worry about the worm going into the silt, if anything that helps – any
carp coming by will know the worm is there both by the food signal it gives off and its movement. It helps
to use a particle mix just to hold the fish long enough to find the worm, but don’t overdo it, I use one or
two decent pouchfuls of my particle mix and then fish the worm over it, this encourages them to get in
amongst it and hopefully pick up the hookbait. I use either one or two worms on the hook, depending on
how active the fish are and how much I need to get their attention!

Check the baits often as nuisance fish will always be there to have a go. It can be a bit fiddly to get the
hang of but the rewards are there.

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Particle Mixes
By Julian Grattidge

Particles must be one of the most successful baits for carp there is, and they are very cheap too when
compared to boilies or pellets. Particles can be applied by catapult or spod and can be fished as free
offerings or as hookbait. My most successful way of fishing a particle mix is by applying a carpet of
particles as free bait with either a worm, or a critically balanced fake corn rig fished over the top.

I have developed various mixes over the years, but by far the most effective is the following mix. I start off
with a hi-bean pigeon (or bird) rearing mix; you can get these very cheaply from most pet food stores. I
tend to pay a few pounds extra per sack as the difference in quality does show once the mix has been
soaked.

My prepared particle mix – deadly for large carp!

My chosen mix contains; French maize, chic peas, yellow peas, wheat, blue peas, maples and red dari. You
need to soak the mix thoroughly. I tend to prepare a massive amount for freezing so I can draw from it on
each session. As such, I get a big bucket and half fill it with the bean mix and then fill to a few inches off
the top with water. I then leave it for three or four days to soak completely. The beans take on a massive
amount of water and in a few days the beans will be most of the way up the bucket. I tend to check on
them every morning and night to give them a stir and make sure they have enough water.

I also add hemp to the mix which also needs soaking. With the hemp I tend to boil it for 15 minutes first,
which really gets the oils going (I also add a little salt when boiling). I then put into another big container
and leave for a few days, again checking to make sure there is enough water.

Once the soaking is complete I make up the final mix. I take the drained bean mix and blend three parts to
four. The blend amount really depends on the water in question – If there is a large head of fish you can
decrease the amount you blend leaving more of the full beans, but if there is a low head of fish you need to

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be careful they don’t get pre-occupied on the full beans and leave the hookbait. I don’t blend to a liquid
either, just enough to break everything down into a nice pulp with loads of much smaller parts. I then add
50% hemp to the mix and it’s done. The result is a creamy slop of hemp and pulped beans with a good
amount of complete beans for the carp to feed on. You need to ensure that if not blending down, any non-
blended ingredients are boiled for 20 minutes after soaking, mainly the maize, as you need to ensure carp
can digest the ingredients properly.

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Hemp Seed
By Julian Grattidge

Hemp Seed must rate as one of the best all-time carp attractor baits. Its oily sweet taste seems to send them
wild at times and they will often spend large amounts of time sifting over a lake bed in order to suck up
every last morsel – and hopefully the hook bait that’s in amongst it!

You can buy hemp already soaked and prepared but I find it’s much easier, not to mention cheaper, to buy
it in bulk and prepare your own, which also gives the opportunity to add a few all important extras.

Dry hemp seed can be purchased from most pet stores in kilo amounts but I never usually by less than 25
kilos at a time as you get a far better deal. To prepare the hemp, find a big bucket or container, fill it half
full with hemp seed and then fill to just below the top with warm water and leave to soak for twelve to
fourteen hours.

The soaking process allows the dry seeds to take on water which makes them expand slightly – something
you don’t want them doing inside the carps stomach – so it’s vitally important that you prepare the hemp
properly. Once soaked I then bring to the boil on the hob, adding a touch of Sea Salt, and I then simmer the
seeds for approximately thirty minutes or until all the seeds begin to split.

Hemp - one of the best all-time attractor baits

I then place the hemp back into the container, add a liberal glug of hemp or salmon oil, and then seal the
bucket so none of the goodness can escape. Once cooled you can open up the bucket and the smell will be
fantastic!

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Once prepared it’s ready to use, however, I like to leave my hemp to ferment for a couple of days before
use as the sweetness continues to build and the carp certainly seem to be able to tell the difference. In
terms of storage, prepared hemp will be ok (if kept cool and out of direct light) for about a week, but
between sessions I find it’s best to store it in the freezer, as I usually prepare a bulk amount and then draw
of it as and when needed.

In terms of application, hemp can be used in all manner of presentations, but by far the most popular is to
use is as a carpet attractor with a hookbait fished over the top. I tend to use hemp on its own with either a
boilie over the top or a natural hookbait.

A nice twenty pound plus mirror taken over a carpet of hemp

My favourite and probably most successful way of using hemp is to add a good handful of sweetcorn to the
prepared hemp, mix it all up, and then fish two or three pieces of corn (often artificial corn) on a simple
braid hair rig over the hemp and corn.

To apply hemp at short range there are various particle catapults you can buy, or when looking to use at
distance then my preferred approach is to use a spod.

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Maize
By Julian Grattidge

Maize must rate as of the most successful carp baits of all time, yet so few modern day carp anglers seem
to know of its potential. Maize has banked me so many large carp that it’s difficult to put numbers on it,
although what I can say with certainty is that it’s pulling power when prepared correctly is sufficient to
rival the prowess of the finest boilies you could buy!

I find preparation is key when looking to use maize. Like many particles baits it needs careful soaking and
boiling, but for me, the most important part comes before any of that. I think the draw of many particle
baits is their sweetness, as there is no doubt that carp seem to have a sweet tooth. However, by adding a
few choice ingredients right at the start you can boost the sweetness immensely.

Maize – A fantastic carp bait when prepared correctly

My two favoured ingredients are either Betaine, or Molasses liquid. Betaine is an intense protein sweetner
which can be added to almost any bait, but I find its use with maize is particularly effective. Betaine
comes in many forms, but by far the most popular is in the granular powder. When using in maize I
dissolve some betaine in a small amount of water and then add to the maize, which should quite quickly
soak it all up in a few hours. The easier way however is to ad the betaine to molasses liquid, and then add
the liquid to the maize at around 40ml per dry kilo.

Either way, it’s essential to get all that sweetness in before you do the proper soak. When you do soak, you
need to half fill a bucket or container with the maize, and then fill to the top with warm water and then

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leave to soak for twenty four hours. Once soaked you simply bring to the boil and simmer for thirty
minutes.

It’s then ready to use, however, like my hemp, I like to leave maize to ferment for a couple of days before
use as the sweetness builds and I think it can make all the difference. In terms of storage, prepared maize
will be OK (if kept cool and out of direct light) for about a week, but between sessions I find it’s best to
store it in the freezer, as I usually prepare a bulk amount and then draw of it as and when.

In terms of approach I like to fish a few grains on a hair over a few handfuls of free bait, or just as often I
will use in combination with a particle mix and an artificial maize hookbait.

Martin Johnson with a stunning Blackwood Linear taken on maize

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Sweetcorn
By Julian Grattidge

If ever there was a competition for the easiest and cheapest carp bait that does the business time and time
again, then surly first prize would have to go to sweetcorn. Sweetcorn was one of the first widely used
baits to be used for carp fishing and although it may not be as trendy as the modern boilie, its effectiveness
for use as carp bait is still as good today as it was all those years ago.

The main benefit however must be its price. I often get emails from anglers saying they can’t afford to pre-
bait waters or bait heavily during a session as other successful anglers on the water are able to do – to me
there is no better option is such instances than hemp and corn!

I have used sweetcorn so extensively in the past that I could not begin to say how many fish it has banked
me, and I know in advance that it will be the only bait I will use this year on one particularly hard venue
where the carp seem to turn their noses up at almost every other bait placed in front of them, yet they are
still unable to resist a handful of corn over hemp!

One of the most successful carp baits of all time – and cheap too!

Many carp anglers dismiss it’s use as it can also be the favourite nibble for other coarse species like tench,
bream and roach, but I’m a big believer in drawing fish in and having observed it so many times at very
close quarters, all I can say is that there’s nothing quite like feeding fish, whatever their species, to get carp
muscling in on a baited patch to feed with confidence.

Also, with the amount of artificial baits now available (see separate article) you can confidently fish over
real feedbait without the fear of nuisance fish nibbling away your hookbait.

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To be honest, with prepared sweetcorn being so cheap, I’ve never even considered the option of preparing
it myself, I simply nip down to the supermarket and pick up a few kilos from the freezer isle and draw of it
whenever needed – and as it’s an everyday food item – you won’t get told of for keeping it in the freezer at
home - Bonus!

Like maize, I like to fish a few grains on a hair over a few handfuls of free bait, or in combination with a
particle mix and artificial hookbait approach.

A nice 20lb+ Birch mirror taken on a critically balanced corn rig over a handful of corn and hemp

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Pellets
By Julian Grattidge

There are so many pellets on the market today that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Their use as a carp
attractor bait has really ballooned over the last decade with the advent of PVA Bags, as anglers can fill a
bag with dry pellet and hookbaits before casting to the sky without fear of melting the bag, which in turn
allows the angler to fish hook and freebait at extreme distances.

However, pellets can be used in all manner of approaches, and some, like the halibut pellet for example,
can even be used as a hookbait itself, but by and large, most anglers like to use pellets as a feeder bait.
Most bait manufactures have their own ranges of pellet, and like so many things in life, some are good and
some aren’t – so what should you look for in a good feeder pellet?

Ingredients are the all important factor when choosing a carp pellet

Essentially, what you are looking for is a custom made pellet – a pellet that is actually designed and
manufactured with the targeting and catching of carp in mind. Many feed merchants sell pellets for pigs
and a whole host of other farm animals, but just because a pig likes it, doesn’t necessarily mean that the
carp will – so make sure it’s a proper carp pellet for starters.

Ingredients are also key - Make sure that the supposed ingredients that are highlighted all over the
packaging are actually in the product! It sounds daft but there is a massive difference between a ‘fishmeal
flavoured’ pellet and a pellet ‘made with fishmeal’. Clever wording is the only difference between pellets
that have actually had a quality fishmeal added as a core ingredient, over a cheap pellet that has simply
been chucked into a cement mixer with a load of fishmeal flavour added to give the pellet the merest
coating – and then you’d probably find that it was a nature identical flavour, thus meaning it’s a cheap
artificial flavour made up in a lab, rather than the more expensive real natural extract flavour. The upshot

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would be two *very* different pellets breaking down around your hookbait – and I know which one I’d
rather be fishing over!

As such you want to be looking at pellets that actually contain proven fish pulling ingredients, much like
those you find in a good quality base mix, and try to steer clear of those that are just a flavoured pellet. The
two main ingredients I will look for in a quality carp pellet are soluble fish protein and fishmeals – and if
they don’t contain both of those ingredients in copious amounts, then I won’t bother.

You see for me, the whole purpose of a pellet is that it breaks down quickly to a mush around your
hookbait, giving off a massive food signal, but leaving very little in the way of actual food for the carp to
get full up on, thus a passing carp is much more likely to pick up your hook bait. Many cheap pellets I see
will still be solid after hours submersed in water, whereas ideally, the perfect pellet should have broken
down completely after say thirty minutes, allowing the soluble fish protein to be released, sending out its
attractor signals, and leaving a nice dissolved bed of fishmeal right around you hookbait.

Pellets can be catapulted, spodded or PVA bagged, so can prove quite versatile. You can even get pellets to
match your exact hookbait in order that the tone released from both pellet and hookbait are exactly the
same.

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Artificial Baits
By Julian Grattidge

The last decade has seen the emergence of a whole range or artificial baits aimed at carp fishing. To be
honest, when artificial baits first appeared I was rather dubious. I thought they might be just the latest in a
long line of ‘mug’ products, designed more for stripping us poor anglers of cash, rather than a product
actually designed to help us put a few extra fish on the bank. However, having used some of these products
for many years now, I can happily say, with confidence, that they are fantastic!

It’s a bit of a leap of faith when switching to artificial baits, but trust me, it’s well worth doing. I started
using them to critically balance maize and corn rigs, whereby I would use one piece of floating fake corn
and a few real grains of maize or corn to counterbalance the popped-up effect.

As such, it was more to do with offering good presentation than actually using a fake bait, but on one
occasion where I actually managed to leave my sweetcorn and maize at home I ended up fishing just the
artificial corn on the hair and nothing else, and I caught just as many fish as I would have expected to do
using real corn or maize. Since then I’ve never looked back.

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Shaun Docksey displays one of six Birch Grove carp, all taken on two pieces of artificial corn

If you think about it, if baited around natural corn (or whatever) it will look exactly the same, some even
smell the same, and it won’t come of your hook or get nibbled away by roach and bream. If you watch big
carp feeding over particles, the second they get ‘into it’, they often start mopping up anything. The other
bonus is that you can leave it for as long as it takes without having to worry if it’s still on the hook – before
now I’ve left rods for over 24 hours with confidence, and then bagged a lump.

I tend to use two fake pieces on a hair with a size 8 hook; one a sinking piece and one pop-up, thus creating
a perfect critically balanced hookbait that *just* sinks when immersed in water.

There are some pressured waters I fish where this method seems the only way to bank fish that have wised
up to almost every other method, and if it does that on pressured waters, imagine how effective it is on
other venues!

Surface Baits
By Julian Grattidge

Surface fishing must be one of the most exciting approaches there is for catching big carp – the adrenalin
rush you get when you see a huge fish break the surface and engulf the bait just can’t be beaten! There are
a whole host of baits available, both natural and artificial, so I’ll give you a rundown of my preferred
choices for fishing off the top. First choice for me has to be dog biscuits; carp just seem to go mad for
them. There are hundreds of different types available and a great many of them can be perfect for the job.
My own choice is Pedigree Mixer, as I find they have premium ingredients and they are easy to fit in a bait
band.

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Pedigree Mixer – My preferred choice

I like to make them a bit different from the biscuits others may be using by adding a flavour. I like to add
some Nash Supasense Palatant oil in cranberry, strawberry or tangerine. I empty the dog biscuits into a
plastic carrier bag, add a few ml’s of flavour then give them a good shake. Not only does this give the
biscuits a great fruity flavour but the oil content helps to create a slick effect when you are fishing in windy
conditions.

A nice fully scaled mirror stalked on a dog biscuit


I have a few friends who like to use dog biscuits where the pack contains biscuits of different shapes, sizes
and colours. The reasoning is that the fish will then find it harder to detect which is the hook bait, and
whilst I can see the logic in this, their catch rates in comparison to my own using uniform biscuits don’t
make them stand out as being any better, but its worth mentioning to those who like to explore all avenues.

I’ve also had success using pop-up boilies as surface baits. I have a preference for such baits when the
water is coloured up and will tend to go for a fluorescent yellow or orange bait, and have again found
something with a fruity flavour to be best. I’ve also experimented using pop-up boilies as surface baits in
the colder months as a way of provoking their curiosity when in the upper layers, and have had some good
results when doing so.

I started off fishing them on top using a standard hair rig linked to a controller, but found that the weight of
the hook and line would cause them to hang right below the bait, so I received a lot of aborted takes. By
switching to a bait band tight off the back off the hook the presentation was much better and my rate of
takes converted to fish on the bank has certainly improved beyond measure.

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Bread has proved a popular surface bait for years, simply rip of a chunk, burry the hook within it and cast
it out! I have caught many fish on bread but I find that it quickly disintegrates once in the water and you
have to apply a new piece on each cast, so much prefer dog biscuits as they can be cast time and time
again. However, I’ve used artificial bread amongst real bread offerings with good success in the past on
waters where the fish are shy on taking dog biscuits.

Artificial bread – stays on the hook much longer!

To a degree, if you can get the carp feeding on a real surface baits, your hookbait could be almost
anything, as when the carp get going they will often sample whatever happens to be floating on the surface
to see if it's food. The amount of times I’ve had them trying to eat my bubble float or controller is
unbelievable!

In the past I’ve caught on the surface using cork balls shaped like a dog biscuit, pieces of yellow foam cut
down to resemble boilies, and even grass on one occasion - I was actually at the water to do some feature
finding on a couple of swims and did not have any bait with me, but on finding half a dozen carp under a
tree, all sampling debris that had been blown across the lake into a sheltered spot I knew I had to have a go.
I borrowed a mat and a net from a couple of lads doubled up in a swim just up the bank and on telling them
how I intended to catch one there were a few wry smiles – I returned to the spot, scrunched up a bit of
grass, hair-rigged it straight to freelined mono and lowered it into position – ten seconds later I was doing
battle with a rather large lump! The smiles weren’t so wry when a few minutes later I returned to ask if
they would take a photo of the stunning linear I had in the net!

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Dave Miller with a nice linear caught off the surface using a whittled down artificial halibut pellet!

However, one thing I find essential to get right is buoyancy. Most natural surface baits are porous so over a
short period of time they will take on water, thus getting heavier. Observations lead me to believe that the
carp are more confident sampling a hookbait that can be sucked straight into their mouths, rather than a
super buoyant artificial hookbait that they need to suck much harder to take in. I’ve used many artificial
hookbaits and whilst they are great in terms of ease of use, I feel they do fall down in this area, so it’s
important to whittle them down a bit and match them to a heavier hook so that they can be taken in with
the same force/effort as a natural bait – critically balanced if you like

Depending on the situation at hand, I either try to get the fish feeding in open water through the liberal
application of free baits to induce and encourage confident feeding, or will often stalk in the margins using
just a single hookbait, actually waiting until I spot a fish before offering the bait.

However you go about it, surface fishing is a great way of targeting carp that may have wised up to bottom
baits, and it it’s great fun!

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Critically Balanced Baits For Carp
By Julian Grattidge

I often favour the use of critically balanced baits on waters where the fish are pretty clued up. Many
anglers think that any carp they hook has literally just come across their baited patch, picked up the
hookbait immediately and that’s it, job done. In reality, it can be very different!

I’ve fished waters and watched in awe as clued-up carp carefully mop up all the freebies one by one;
wafting them all about off the bottom of the lake to see how they react before even deciding to sample one.
Often they will sample, reject, and sample again. I’ve seen them do this many, many times. For me, a pop-
up that’s anchored with some sort of weight will not act like any other freebie when the carp blows it about
on the lake bed, and thus carp will often reject them as suspicious and move on to another bait to repeat the
whole process. The same thing can happen with bottom baits, the weight of the hook and braid will make it
heavier than the freebies, so again, when the fish blows it about it will act differently to the rest and will
often be rejected.

As such, I favour a critically balanced approach for the majority of my fishing. The easiest way to balance
a bait is to have a little bait punch and some foam with you. All you need to do is hollow out the middle of
the boilie, tiger nut, or whatever bait you might be using, and then plug the hole with foam. Attach the bait
to the hair in the normal way and then drop the completed rig into the water. Ideally the bait should *just*
sink. The result is that when in position with the rest of the freebies, when Mr. Carp comes along and wafts
his pectoral fins to dislodge the baits, the hookbait is now much lighter and buoyant and reacts in the same
way as the freebaits.

I use the same approach when fishing naturals like maize; just use one grain of maize and one piece of fake
corn on the hair. In almost every case, this method has scored better than my mate who favours a pop-up
approach. Mind you, he does have more bream!

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How To Use P.V.A. Bags For Distance Work
By Garth Barnard

P.V.A. (Polyvinyl Alcohol) bags are a fantastic way of introducing your hook-bait amongst a small pile of
free offerings. P.V.A. bags are usually used for short or medium range work, however, used correctly there
is no reason why they cannot be use for ranges up to 100 yards.

Tools for the job


To achieve ranges of up to 100yards with a P.V.A. bag you need to have a stiff rod and the use of a shock-
leader. I use a 2.75lb test curve rod, 2oz in-line safety-lead and a 45lb shock-leader, the reason for this is
that a full P.V.A. bag can weigh 2oz, add that to the 2oz lead and you have a 4oz casting weight.
A good guide for shock-leader strength is to times the casting weight by ten, i.e. 4oz x 10 = 40lb shock-
leader.

Once you are set-up for casting something of that weight you can then prepare the P.V.A. bag, but first
choose a good make of P.V.A. bag, poor quality bags will split on the cast spilling your free offerings
everywhere.

Preparing the bag


I love to use a pop-up with P.V.A. bags full of Trout-pellets, but it is up to you what you want to go inside
your P.V.A. bag, but remember it must be dry.

My chosen hook-link material for P.V.A. bag work is braid, couple this with a pop-up boilie and I have my
idea of the perfect presentation, the pop-up boilie being on top of the pile, like the cherry on a cake. The
braid hook-links I use vary between an inch to eight inches in length, some anglers prefer to use a fairly
stiff hook-link material that uncoils when the bag melts, but I do not think it makes much difference.

1. Firstly take your chosen hook-bait and a P.V.A. bag, in this case I am using a dipped pop-up boilie.

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2. Place your hook-bait in to the corner of the P.V.A. bag.

3. Half fill the P.V.A. bag with some of your free offerings, here I am using different sized trout-pellets.

4. Place your lead in to the bag so that it sits on top of your free offerings making sure that your hook-link
is not knotted.

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5. Top up the bag with more free offerings to about three-quarters full and then tie up the bag with P.V.A.
string around the neck of the bag trapping the lead firmly inside.

6. Push in, then pull out, the corners of the P.V.A. bag, then moisten, fold over and stick down.
Moisten and stick down the frill around the neck on the bag.

7. Use a sharp implement like a boilie needle to prick the P.V.A. bag all over, this will stop the bag from
floating and will assist in it dissolving.

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8. The finished P.V.A. bag should be tightly packed and circular in shape, this is the perfect aerodynamic
shape for a long distance cast.

9. Once in water the P.V.A. bag will melt very quickly leaving your free offerings in a nice little pile with
your hook-bait in the center of it.

Conclusion
The first time I tried to reach the 100 yard mark with a P.V.A. bag I was very suprised that the bag stood
up to it and did not split. As I have already stated I use a 2.75lb test curve rod, this will get a P.V.A. bag up
to 100 yards without too much of a problem. However, if you want to achieve extreme distances then I
advise that you step up to a larger test curve rod and use a heavier shock-leader, something that I have
never tried! The big bonus with P.V.A. bags is that you can get a neat package out to a fish, at distance,
with no tangles and without having to get free offerings out to the same spot after the cast. I use P.V.A.
bags for a lot of my carp fishing and being able to get one up to 100 yards is another string to my bow,
after all, it is no good fishing at 50 yards when the fish are at 90 yards.

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Stringers
By Garth Barnard

The term ‘Stringer’ comes from the use of PVA string. Freebies are threaded on to PVA string using a
Stringer Needle to form a Stringer. The Stringer is then attached to the hook before being cast out. The
PVA string will then melt leaving a nice tight grouping of freebies around your Hookbait.

A Stringer is ideal for fishing at distance where getting freebies out accurately is a problem, or during the
winter when small groups of freebies fished tightly around your Hookbait are far more productive.

Stringers, especially small ones consisting of a couple of freebies, can also help to prevent the Hooklink
from tangling as they tend to swing clear of the mainline whilst in flight.

It is vitally important to leave gaps between each of the freebies on the PVA string as the PVA string
shrinks and shrivels away as it melts causing the freebies to bunch together. A gap of about 10mm will
prevent the freebies bunching together and will allow the PVA string to dissolve fully.

The thickness or number of strands that the PVA is made of will determine how quickly the PVA string
will melt away. The thicker the PVA string, the longer it will take to melt away. The water temperature
will also make a great difference to the melting time of the PVA string. The same thickness of PVA string
the string would melt in under a minute during the summer, whereas in the winter it could take up to 10
minutes.

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Caring For Your Quarry
Carp Care and Fish Handling
By Julian Grattidge

For me, care for the quarry should start long before the fish is actually on the bank. On many occasions I
have witnessed so called specimen anglers (not just carp anglers) casting baits to what at best could be
described as ‘adventurous’ positions, at worst, downright stupid. Yes, there is a high probability you will
get the take you are after if you place your bait six inches off those snags or right up against that
submerged tree. However, there is also a high probability that you will lose it before you’ve even picked
up your rod. What’s worse, the fish could be left tethered. I’m not going to get bogged down with safe rigs
in this piece as there is plenty of content covering suitable set-ups in the rig chapter. The point I’m making
is that you should think of fish welfare long before you hook one. Use your common sense. Take into
account the proximity of features that may cause a problem if you hook a fish. Think about your own
ability to overcome these obstacles. This applies to all sectors of the sport, not just carp angling.

Fish care should start long before it’s up on the scales!

In addition, the rod you use and the way you use it should be carefully considered. After reading many
articles, newcomers to the sport could be forgiven for thinking they need 3lb test curve rods and 3oz leads
for all their fishing. If you are fishing small and medium sized waters nothing could be further from the
truth! The strength or test curve of the rod should be matched to the distances and weights you will be
casting for the majority of your fishing – in essence, the bigger the distance, the larger the test curve.
However, if you learn how to use a fishing rod correctly, and perhaps more importantly, learn how to cast,
you can achieve big distances with small test curve rods. Nearly all my fishing is done with my trusty hand
built Sportex two and a quarter pound test curve rods – and yes, I can easily chuck a big lump well over

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one hundred yards. The benefit of large test curve rods is that at distance you can apply pressure quicker
and gain control of the situation faster, but what you have to bear in mind is that at short range, almost the
opposite can apply. The rod can be less sensitive and therefore more difficult to use at close quarters
leading to hook pulls, etc. Thus, if most of your fishing is done on small waters you would be better suited
to a smaller test curve rod. As I say, it’s about matching your tackle to your intended use so give it some
thought.

With that out of the way, how do we look after a big fish once we’ve hooked it? The first thing to ensure is
that you have all the right gear in the right place at the right time. Once a fish picks up your bait it’s no
good if the landing net is still in your bag and the unhooking mat is in the car. Before you cast a bait you
should always ensure that your landing net is set up, near to your rods and ready to go. Also, make sure
that the net is the correct size for the type of fish you are targeting. If you are fishing for carp, and the
water contains specimen fish, then you should be prepared for the eventuality of actually catching one! In
my eyes there is no excuse for having the wrong tackle and equipment for the fish you are trying to target.
Indeed on the water I run we expel members who turn up with inadequate tackle, as do many others - so
think on! I appreciate that tackle can sometimes be costly, but even the most expensive of brands have
become much more affordable via eBay and alike so there really is no excuse.

Ensure you have the right equipment for the job.

Once the fish is in the net don’t be in too much of a rush to pull your prize straight out. I know it’s a very
exciting time, but just take a moment to ensure everything is ready and that all the items you need are
already in place so that once the fish is lifted out of the water you don’t then need to keep running to and
from your bivvy looking for various bits of paraphernalia, and if you do need to sort out a few bits before
lifting the fish make sure the net is fully secured! You should always fish with some sort of unhooking mat
to protect the carp while it is out of the water, so make sure this is ready and positioned away from the
waters edge and, if possible, on a flat surface (This ensures the fish can’t flap its way back down the bank
and into the water – I’ve seen it happen so many times!). Also, if you intend to weigh your fish you will
need a weigh sling. Again this should be ready in advance. You will also need to have a pair of forceps to
hand in case your fish is deeply hooked. Again, all this should be ready beforehand so that when you do

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have a fish; it’s out of the water for the minimum amount of time. I always keep my sling wrapped up in
my unhooking mat and also keep a pair of long-nosed forceps clipped to my unhooking mat, this ensures
that the three main items I need are always together and in one place. Also, to minimise time on the bank,
it helps to wet your sling and have scales zeroed before you lift the fish.

OK, so with everything in place you are ready to lift the net and have a look at your prize. However, do be
VERY careful here, as you have to bear in mind that the fish is still hooked. If you just grab around the
mesh of the net and heave everything up onto the bank there is a good chance you will pull the line and
actually pull the hook out of the mouth. It’s my opinion that more mouth damage occurs to fish when they
are being lifted than at any other time so please, do be careful. Just make sure that when you lift the net,
that the line is not in your grip – if it is, make sure it’s slack enough below so that it won’t pull on the
fish’s mouth when you lift. Also, ensure that the fish is positioned neatly in the centre and bottom of the
net before you lift, this way it won’t suddenly get trapped in an awkward position or tumble to the bottom
of the net when you gather the mesh and lift it. You should never lift a fish by using the net pole or handle
as either could easily give way under the weight of a specimen fish. You should always gather the mesh in
your hands just above the fish (a bit like you would if you were about to blow up a paper bag) and the lift
carefully with the fish in one hand and your rod and net pole in the other.

Always treat fish with the care and respect they deserve.

Once you have carefully transferred the fish from the water to your unhooking mat you should go about
your business with care but with promptness. The idea is to keep the fish out of the water for the minimum
amount of time necessary. Yes, it is a fact that carp can survive for a long time out of water; I once read
that the Dutch were well known for their fondness of carp (to eat, that is!) and would often wrap large carp
in damp Hessian sacks in their cellars. They would keep the sacks wet at all times and feed the carp bread
and milk for a couple of days prior to eating! However, just because they can survive out of water for a
long time does not necessarily mean they want to! So just bear the time factor in mind.

Now you need to unhook the fish. I find the easiest way is to first check where and how the hook has been
set and then, manoeuvre it so that it comes out in exactly the same manner in which it went in. I position
the eye and shank with my thumb and forefinger, then when the barb and angle of the shank is at exactly
the same angle as when it went in, apply a small sharp jab of pressure on the eye of the hook and it will
simply pop out. It’s a little tricky to put down on paper so if you are unsure about the best way to unhook a
fish, go and have a look at an experienced carp angler with a fish on the bank and ask them to show you –
that’s how I learnt. It’s a very simple process once you’ve learnt and takes just a second to do. However, if
the fish is deep hooked don’t waste time fiddling, just reach for the forceps – it’s much quicker. A quick tip

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here is to remove the rod and line as soon as you have removed the hook. Just place the hook in your rod
eye, wind in the slack line and place the rod to one side. If you don’t you can guarantee that when you do
come to sort everything out later the line will be tangled everywhere and the hook will be firmly embedded
and immovable from the bottom of your landing net! Once you have unhooked the fish, it’s a good time to
perform a quick health check. I always investigate both flanks of the fish and have a look at all the fins, tail
and dorsal ridge to check for any damage or injuries. I also check the gill covers, head and also have a
check inside the mouth. If you do find any damage it is a good idea to have some antiseptic treatment
handy (Klinik is a good one, as is the Nash Tackle Medi Carp). Just apply a small amount to the effected
area.

Performing a quick health check

On transferring the fish from net to sling, make sure you are not wearing anything that could damage the
fish, like a ring with sharp edges or a set stone or a watch with a sharp strap - I made sure my wedding ring
was a simple flat band so that I would not have to take it off every time I handled a fish! I always try to
remove my watch when handling a specimen for photos, etc. Also, as with any fish, make sure your hands
are wet and that any slings and sacks you are using are already wet before handling as the body of a fish
has a mucus covering which protects the fish from infection so it's important not to damage this membrane
when handling. When you transfer the fish to a sling, again make sure that the fish is in the bottom centre
of the sling and that its pectoral fins are tucked into the body so that it won’t damage itself when you lift it
up.

Ok, you’ve weighed your fish and congratulations, it’s a big’un! Time for a photograph to capture the
moment - There are two schools of thought here, either taking a photo there and then whatever time of day
or night, or, if its at night, sacking the fish until its light enough to take some photos. Sacking fish is a
subject which causes a good deal of debate. Personally I’m not a big fan of sacking fish and prefer
wherever possible to take photos there and then and to return the fish immediately. If you prepare for your
shot properly my feeling is that you can get some stunning images at night which can really capture the
moment.

However, if you wish to sack a fish and the venue permits it, then you should always remember not to sack
a fish in shallow water or immediately after a prolonged battle. Carp obtain their oxygen by wafting water
through their gills and in some cases a sack can reduce the free-flow of water required to necessitate this
process so you should never place a worn out fish into a sack – in simple terms it could die through
exhaustion.

Also, by the same token, shallow water has less dissolved oxygen for the fish to utilise so bear this in mind
for the same reasons. It goes without saying that you should ensure the sack is properly secured – the

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thought of a specimen fish set adrift in a sealed sack does not bear thinking about, so make sure you secure
it properly and it won’t be a situation you’re ever faced with.

If you are going to sack a fish, make sure you check it at regular intervals to ensure firstly that the
fish is OK and secondly that everything is secure.

So, either way it’s now time to get a photo and the fish is on the mat. A few basic rules apply here;
readiness being the first. The camera gear should have been set up prior to lifting the fish from the water.

Once you’re competent at handling both fish and camera, self-take is an option but for now we’ll assume
that you have somebody to take the picture for you. Firstly, ensure the photographer is ready with the
camera before you attempt to lift the fish. When lifting you should try not to hold the fish against your
body as clothing can damage the skin of the fish and remove its protective membrane. Also you should try
not to lift the fish from under its belly. Many of the delicate organs including the heart are located on the
underside of the body, and whilst in the water there is little pressure on such areas, once out of the water
(thus effected by gravity) the pressure is greatly increased. The best way to lift a carp is to have one hand
under its head, just in front of the pectoral fins, and one hand under its body, just past the stomach by its
anal fin.

With the photographer in front of you, you want to have the fish on its side with back towards you and
belly towards camera. Then, carefully scoop your hands under the fish from behind and bring them round
to the front of the body. Scoop one hand under the head and slide the pectoral fin between your fingers.
Then scoop the other hand under the rear section around to the anal fin area (see photo below). Then,
slowly lift and level the fish. Be prepared for the fish to kick and be ready to cushion it when it does! I’ve
found this method of lifting to be by far the most effective giving good stability to counter the fish when it
decides to kick. Keep the fish low to the mat and hold it steady. Big fish can be hard to hold still so it helps
to brace the fish; I tend to keep my elbows on my knees which gives a more rigid frame. A quick
photography tip here; it helps for the photographer to be at the same level as you, i.e. close to the ground -
either kneeling down or, even better, lying down. This gives a great perspective rather than if you are on
the floor and the photographer is standing up directly in front of you, the sharp angle when taken from
above will make your capture look much smaller than it actually is!

Ready to lift…

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Hold steady and keep the fish close to the mat

Once you have the shot it’s time to get the fish back in the water. Place it back in the centre and bottom of
the sling as before and again make sure the pectoral fins are tucked into the body, and then carefully lift the
fish and place back into the water. Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because the fish has
behaved for the photo that you can return it without the sling, you can be guaranteed it will have a flap at
some point before you get it back in the water – always safer to put it back in the sling for transport. The
fish should be returned with great care, keep the body position upright and allow the fish to gain its
composure before letting it swim off. Once back in the water I remove the sling and gently support the fish
upright by loosely holding around the wrist of its tail. This allows the fish to waft all its fins, get some
water moving through its gills again and after a short time it will regain its composure, give a kick of the
tail and shoot off back to the deep – often soaking you in the process, but that’s all part of the experience!

Take care on returning the fish and allow it to recover

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Once the fish has been returned it’s easy to get caught up in the moment but you just need to spend a few
minutes getting everything sorted and ready for the next one! Give your landing net a quick rinse and place
back by your rods, make sure the sling and mat are back where they should be and any implements used
during unhooking, weighing and photographing are back in there rightful positions, that way, when the
next fish comes along you are ready to repeat the process all over again with the minimum amount of fuss.

Job Done! Now you can relax sort your gear out and catch another!

Like most things in fishing, it’s about common sense. It’s simply a case of having everything ready and in
the right place at the right time, and when you do land a specimen, make sure you treat it with the care and
respect it deserves.

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Rules Rule, OK!
By Jim Gibbinson

Some years ago, when I lived just outside Reading, I spent quite a lot of my fishing time on Burghfield
Pits. One late afternoon, as I was tackling-up for an evening session, the club bailiff asked to see my permit
- which I showed to him. "I hope you don't intend staying the night," he said, "night fishing's not allowed."

No,' I replied, "just until dusk." Then I added, "Incidentally, why does the club ban night fishing?"

"Because we're dead against it," he said.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Because it's against club rules," he responded.

"Yes, I understand that - but why is it against club rules?"

"Because we're dead against it."

And so the exchange continued..! The club was "dead against it" because it was against the rules, and
against the rules because they were "dead against it"!

But, ban-mentality and prejudice apart, what rules might apply to a fishery?

They fall into three distinct categories. First there are those which are imposed by statute - a close season
on rivers, for example.

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How much is too much?

The next group comprises those which might be, imposed by the landowner -they are likely to be
concerned with bankside access, vehicular access, parking, closure dates, time restrictions etc. Any club or
individual who leases a water has little choice but to give their assent because renewal will likely be
conditional upon compliance.

The third category is made up of rules which the controlling club or syndicate leader might establish.
Occasionally, it must be said, they include the bizarre and the downright daft! Hopefully, however, they
will be sensible, and benefit the fishery, the fish and the members.

They must also be unambiguous and enforceable. This is important. How, for example, do you interpret a
rule which says something like, "Anglers must not use an excessive amount of groundbait"? After all, what
one angler may regard as excessive, might be seen as quite a modest quantity by someone else. Better to
monitor the situation, and introduce a weight-limit if problems are seen to arise.

BAIT BANS
Sometimes specific baits are banned - trout pellets and nuts being the usual ones. Such bans tend to follow
sensational "Shock! Horror!" stories in the angling press - stories which are almost always based on
misinformation. No baits, in my opinion, are intrinsically dangerous, but problems can arise if they are
grossly misused - especially in small, hard fished waters. As before, I think the situation is best dealt with
by means of a monitoring policy - with restrictions being imposed if deemed necessary.
The same attitude can be applied to prebaiting. No harm is likely to arise from modest levels of prebaiting,
so a blanket-ban is unnecessary - but if individuals or groups are seen to be going over-the-top, then curbs
will have to be introduced.

NIGHT FISHING
A contentious issue on some waters is session fishing. It is not unusual for hardcore carp anglers to camp-
out in a spot for a couple of weeks or more; and occasionally for months rather than weeks! This results in
annoyance and indignation from members who, understandably, feel aggrieved that key swims are
occupied almost permanently. It goes beyond mere selfishness, though - there are issues of bankside wear,
litter and sanitation to consider.

I have no wish to prevent anglers from night fishing, but its excesses should be kept in check. The simplest
way of achieving this is to confine night fishing to designated nights - say, Mondays, Wednesdays and

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Fridays - thereby ensuring that anyone who arrives early morning after a non-fishing night does not find
their choice of swim restricted by bivvy-bound session men. This system solves at a stroke the problem of
prime swims being "stitched up" for weeks on end. Yet another benefit is that it reduces pressure on the
water and the fish.

Alternatively, standard membership could provide dawn to midnight access to the water, while a
supplementary night permit would entitle the holder to fish beyond midnight for a designated number of
nights. The actual number would depend on the size of the water and its popularity, but I think something
in the order of 14 is reasonable. Each permit holder's allocation could be taken as single nights,
weekenders, or longer sessions such as an annual holiday. But when the 14 nights - or whatever - have all
been used, there would be no more until the following year (or season). And as a guard against abuse of the
facility, I suggest it be made clear that unused nights may not be transferred to another angler, nor carried
over to the next year.

ROD LIMIT

In large, lightly fished waters, three rods are appropriate.

Earlier I mentioned angling pressure. This takes two forms: angler pressure and rod pressure. By statute,
we are permitted to use four rods (providing they are all licensed). Few waters actually allow four rods to
be used, but most allow three. There is no "magic number" which is correct in all situations because waters
vary; for that matter, swims vary, too. On most waters, I think the maximum should be two - but there are
undoubtedly some where three might be appropriate. A large, lightly fished water, for example, would not
suffer from the use of three rods. In winter - when even relatively popular waters can be deserted for days
at a time - a three rod facility might be introduced.

RETENTION
Most of us like to take 'trophy" photos of our biggest fish. Unfortunately this often results in fish being
retained for far too long, and sometimes in potentially dangerous circumstances (low dissolved oxygen, for
example). If I controlled a fishery, I would have no hesitation in banning keepnets; they cause untold
damage - especially to roach and bream. I would allow only perforated keepsacks, and restrict their use to
single fish. Additionally, I would impose a 10 minute limit on the length of time a fish may be retained.
"But it will take longer than that to 'phone someone to come and take photos for me..." Oh come on!
Anglers who habitually fish alone, and who want a photo-record of their catches, should ensure they are
equipped for the purpose - and that means having a camera with a remote self-take facility. Anyone who is
not suitably equipped should return fish immediately - after all, what sort of angler places ego above fish
welfare?

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Jim netted this carp, unhooked it and returned it immediately.

DISEASE
Some fishery managers install disinfectant-dips, and insist that all nets be dipped before anglers commence
fishing. On the face of it, this seems like a sensible precaution against the introduction of disease, but in
practice it is a valueless, purely cosmetic exercise. To be effective, idophor disinfectants (the sort in
common use), should be changed every week or so. This hardly ever happens. And it is misleading to call
them "dips", anyway, because equipment which comes into contact with fish (not just landing nets, but also
unhooking mats, weigh-slings and retainers) needs to be soaked for upwards of ten minutes. It is not going
to happen, is it?

The most practical and effective way of killing pathogenic "nasties" is to ensure equipment is thoroughly
dried between trips - best of all, nets etc. should be hung in sunlight because many bacteria and all viruses
are destroyed by exposure to ultraviolet. This is one area, however, where fishery managers are compelled
to rely on anglers acting responsibly because a rule such as, 'All nets etc. must be dried before use," is
impossible to enforce.

To the best of my knowledge, no incidence of fish disease has been reliably attributed to angling
equipment - but obviously, it makes sense to err on the side of caution.

Most mortalities arise as a consequence of disease or parasites being introduced via stock fish - so every
fishery manager would be wise to insist that no unauthorised stocking be undertaken; and no freshwater
bait-fish, live or dead, be introduced into a water. Pike anglers should either catch their bait-fish from the
water itself, or rely on sea fish.

Compact camera with dedicated infra-red remote release.

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ANTI-SOCIAL MINORITY
It should, of course, be unnecessary to have rules regarding litter, destroying vegetarian, digging swims,
endangering wildlife, defecating on the bank, lighting fires etc. Sadly, however, some (fortunately a
minority) are irresponsible in such matters. Those same people are unlikely to respond to appeals such as,
"Please take your litter home. If the situation does not improve, our landlord has threatened to terminate
our lease." If I have read that sort of thing once in club newsletters, I have read it a hundred times. So
instead of pleading, fishery managers should make appropriate rules.

ENFORCEMENT
Rules will not, by themselves, ensure things run smoothly. There will always be a hardcore of potential
rule-breakers, or what are euphemistically referred to as 'stroke pullers', who require an incentive to act
responsibly. Reprimands and warnings are inadequate - what is needed is something which impinges on
their self-interest. The prospect of a four-week suspension for a first offence, and expulsion for a second -
providing such sanctions are actually implemented and not merely threatened - will ensure that problems
arise very seldom.

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Angling Ethics
By Jim Gibbinson

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'ethics' as a moral philosophy or a set of moral principles. Keeping the
rules, in fact.... or is it? Suppose you are fishing a water which requires that all pike be killed - you catch a
pike by accident, but instead of killing it, you return it live to the water. By breaking a rule in order to stay
true to your principles, have you behaved ethically, or unethically?

Tricky one, that.

BOATS
An ethical issue which crops up from time to time in carp magazines concerns the use of boats. If we
assume their use is permitted on a water, is it ethical to use one? And if so, how should it be used?
I will use a boat in order to learn about a water - to go out with an echo-sounder in order to enable the
drawing of a detailed water map. I also see nothing wrong in using a boat for swim access - providing it
does not disturb other anglers, of course. I'll use one for putting out free-feed, too. But that is where it ends.
I will not use a boat to take out terminal tackles. In many overseas waters, and some UK waters, too, boats
are used to enable anglers to fish well beyond casting range - up to three or four hundred yards. Other
times a boat might be used not for distance, but to enable terminal tackles to be placed somewhere which
would otherwise be inaccessible - deep beneath the branches of a far-bank overhanging willow tree, for
example.

Is the boating-out of terminal tackles legitimate? Is it ethical?


I think not, so I don't do it. In saying that, I am not trying to take
the moral high ground, and I have no intention of preaching to
those who feel differently, but to me it seems that step too far.
Casting is an athletic skill; if someone wants to fish beyond
others, or place baits in difficult-to-access spots, I feel they
should try to acquire the necessary skill, not short-circuit the
situation by boating-out their terminal rigs.

Doubtless even those who disagree with me can see 'where I'm
coming from', to quote the clich‚, on that particular issue - but it
gets somewhat more complicated. While I will not boat-out
terminal rigs when fishing from the bank, I see nothing wrong in
using a boat as a fishing platform. I've caught loads of pike and
trout from boats, and have not suffered the tiniest pinprick of
conscience while so doing.

Inconsistent? Yes, I suppose it is. But that's the trouble with ethical issues, they are not always clear cut.
The foregoing, incidentally, applies to rowing boats and outboard powered boats, but the same principles -
other than the 'fishing platform' bit - apply to bait-boats.

WEEDS AND SNAGS


Several years ago I was a member of an Essex syndicate. One particular summer, the shallows became
heavily weeded. Ninety percent of the carp spent ninety percent of their time on those shallows. Beyond

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the weed - a cast of about eighty yards, I suppose - was a clear area. If baits were cast to this area, runs
were virtually assured. Trouble was, hooked carp had to be pulled through eighty yards of intervening
weed where, most times, they became immovably stuck, so anglers were compelled to pull for a break. I
would estimate that four out of every five carp hooked were lost, many of which were left trailing hooks
and line.

The anglers who fished the shallows were breaking no rules, but was it ethical to fish there? I decided it
was not, so I declined to do so - instead I concentrated my efforts up the deeper, semi-weedfree end of the
pit which, unfortunately, was often carpless, too!
A friend of mine encountered a similar situation in a Kent club water, only this time the carp were among
snags. A small group of anglers cast adjacent to, and sometimes actually in the snags. Predictably, many of
the carp which were hooked were lost. The situation was exacerbated at night by the delay which occurred
as the anglers woke up, then extricated themselves from sleeping bags and bivvies. They broke no rules,
but in my opinion fished in an unethical, not to say irresponsible manner.

Rules can be manipulated - and again ethics come to the fore. As an example, consider the two anglers
who decided to concentrate their winter fishing on one of my local pits. The club has a 'no prebaiting' rule,
which it defines as putting in free-bait other when actually fishing. So what did our two 'master baiters'
(pun intended!) do? They would arrive at the water, assemble a rod, chuck in a couple of kilos of boilies,
then dismantle the rod and leave. Despite being at the water for less than half an hour on such occasions,
they claimed that they had not broken the 'no prebaiting' rule. In literal terms, that was true - but they had
undoubtedly abused the spirit of the rule. As it turned out, their endeavours went to waste because they
caught nothing. And doubtless due to the excessive amount of free-bait they put out, precious little was
caught by anyone else that winter, either. But their tactical stupidity is not the issue; I question their ethics.

INSTANT BIGGIES
In recent years a lot of big fish have been imported from the Continent and stocked in UK waters. Some of
those fish have been imported illegally; others have been brought in legitimately. But let us set aside the
legality or otherwise of those importations, and also the serious risk of introducing disease which might
affect indigenous fish - instead let us look at the ethical issues which are raised.

'Instant biggies', we are told, devalue our home-grown fish. A big Continental 'stockie', it is said, is less
worthy than a fish which has grown large in the UK. While I can understand the sentiments of the 'British
is best' contingent, I think they have been hoist by their own petard. For many years they have placed
inordinate emphasis on a carp's size - or to be more precise, its weight. Big fish have become prestigious;
an angler's worth being measured, in large part, by how many big carp he has caught. It was always a
superficial measure of merit, but it had the virtue of simplicity. But the issue became confused - big fish
were being introduced here, there and everywhere. The shortcomings of the simplistic 'big is best'
philosophy were suddenly thrown into sharp relief.

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My attitude is best summed up by my response to someone who expressed the opinion that 'imported fish
don't count'.

"Towards what?" I asked.

In other words, what is the significance of a 'brag list' of big fish? It demonstrates a high level of
competence, certainly - but then again, there are plenty of highly capable anglers who confine their fishing
to waters where the carp are smaller, so a list of big fish does not necessarily indicate that someone is a
better angler than the next man. So if not proof of exceptional expertise, what is it? Could it be status? Ah!
I think we've hit on something! In pre-importation times - a big fish list gave an angler kudos and rank.
Unfortunately for the 'British is best' purists, the weeklies and their readers rarely distinguish between
home-grown fish and imports - a forty pounder is a forty pounder whatever its origins.

So, is it ethical to fish for big imported carp, and then to report them to the angling press without making it
clear that they are immigrants?

Frankly, yes. After all, what does it matter?

There is nothing unethical about fishing for imported fish - indeed, I could make a pretty good case for it
being considerably more ethical than deliberately setting out to catch a home grown fish which has already
been caught far too often.

I don't fish for newly introduced imported fish, but my reasons have nothing to do with ethics. I fish for
personal satisfaction - not for plaudits or kudos. And satisfaction is an intangible quality - it depends on
lots of different factors, chief among them being a sense of achievement. What anyone else catches - either
in terms of size or the country of origin - is completely irrelevant.

SWIM HOGGING
Go to any big-carp water where there are no restrictions on the length of
time one can fish, and chances are you will find long-stay carp anglers.
Sometimes they will monopolise key swims - or what they perceive to be
key swims - for weeks and occasionally months on end. It places
unremitting pressure on the fishery - and consequently the fish - and
excessive wear-and-tear on their chosen swims. Additionally, it restricts
other anglers' choice by taking certain swims out of commission.
If, as we said, there are no restrictions regarding this sort of thing, then
these full-timers are not breaking any rules - but is what they do ethical?
My own fishing is rarely affected by this sort of thing because I've
usually scuttled away to quiet waters long before the situation arises, so I
have no personal axe to grind when I say that I think long-term swim
hogging is unethical. It is also extremely selfish, but that is another issue.

TARGET FISH
Earlier I made reference to fish which are caught too frequently. In some waters there are so-called 'mug
fish' which just keep turning up - short of transferring them to a non-fished water where they can enjoy a
peaceful retirement, there is not much we can do about the situation. But what of particular big fish being
deliberately targeted - and that despite their having been caught time and time again. One that immediately
comes to mind is the big mirror they call 'She' which lives in Faversham's School Pool. How often has that
poor carp been caught, I wonder - a hundred and fifty times? Two hundred? More? The hapless 'She' is an
extreme example, but sadly, by no means unique. Can we honestly justify that sort of thing?

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IN CONCLUSION
For the word 'ethics' we can sometimes substitute 'altruism', 'fairness', 'unselfishness' or 'consideration', but
ultimately it is indefinable because what is wholly acceptable to one angler, might be unacceptable to
another. So in the absence of an 'ethics ombudsman' who, imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, can
arbitrate on such matters, we have to decide for ourselves what is ethical, and what isn't.

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Application Examples
Preface
By Elton Murphy

It’s often the case with written material that what seems relatively straight forward on paper can often be
much harder to work out in reality. As so much of the content in this book relates to the theories,
experiences, results and observations of the authors, we have decided to publish extracts from one of our
featured authors Fishing Journals.

Our main purpose for publishing such material is to try and give the reader some real insight into how the
author uses all of the techniques written about in previous chapters in order to bring about results when
targeting specimen carp.

The following extracts are taken from the diaries of long-time carp angler Julian Grattidge, and follow the
highs and lows, thoughts and experiences, of his time spent fishing for carp on various waters around the
UK.

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Part 1 (Introduction and Extracts from July 2002)
By Julian Grattidge

You know how it is; you’ve spent a few seasons on a water, had a few fish, and moved on. Well that was
the story with the Top Pool, Mart and I did a couple of seasons on there a few years back, and very hard it
was too - one of those places that really did your head in, but for some reason you kept going back for
more!

The water is classic estate lake stuff, set in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. It’s surrounded by a few
other good waters on the same estate, but for some reason the Top Pool has always been overlooked, you
could often go for weeks without seeing anyone on there, partly because the other waters have a bigger
head of fish, but mainly due to the fact that it’s so hard going.

More margin features than you can shake a stick at!

It’s the kind of enchanted carp water you dream of finding, enclosed around most of its banks by heavy
woodland, covered in thick sets of pads with overgrown bank side vegetation, old ewe trees fanning out
over the margins, and massive rhododendrons which over the years have grown out into the lake to provide
fantastic margin features. The downside is the weed.

Over the years the lake has become heavily silted, and the thick Canadian pond weed has quite literally
taken over, growing right up to the surface throughout the whole of the lake, add to that the thick algal
scum that forms across the surface right through the summer months and it becomes a nightmare to fish.

That said, it has a strange addictive quality, and after each blank session when you’re telling yourself
“never again” you somehow find yourself planning your next trip whilst still on the drive home! The main
attraction for me, besides the fact that I’m always up for a challenge, was the fish stocks. Only a handful of
the carp were less than twenty pounds, and as for the biggest, well that was anybody’s guess!

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The fact that it was hardly fished meant that nobody really knew what was in there, whilst one or two mid-
twenty fish had been taken over the years, much bigger fish had often been seen but never outwitted.

The mid-shallows.

After a fair amount of research we reckoned that thirties could be a realistic possibility, and that was good
enough for us, the thought of banking a big lunker which may not have graced the bank for years (rare in
our neck of the woods) had me drooling - tickets were purchased and the love hate relationship began...

If only we knew then what we know now, what a season that was. We fished virtually every weekend from
June to September without so much as a bleep! We tried everything; clear spots, raked spots, in weed, on
top, on bottom, and don’t even get me started on baits..!!

The fish were certainly in there; they took great pleasure in taunting us on a regular basis. They would boat
up on top during the day sending huge bow waves out behind them, when viewing the lake from up in the
trees it looked like it was an open day for the local boat club! The fish were cute, very cute, we often saw
them come in over baited patches and move off without so much as sniffing the bait, then after a few hours
they would return, sample a freebie and move off again. They would keep repeating the process until all
that remained was the hook bait, they’d then bugger off and leave it with you. If it wasn’t for the tranquil
surroundings and the idyllic nature of the place I’m sure we’d have committed suicide long before, but we
kept going back, time and time again, we hadn’t given up on a water before and we weren’t about to start
now - although it now became all to clear why we rarely saw anybody else fishing it! We kept telling
ourselves that no fish were uncatchable, and it was only a matter of time - and we had plenty.

Mart waiting for action in the Boathouse swim.

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Through process of elimination we made subtle changes to approach, tactics, and bait, in the hope of
finding the key to success, after all we were catching plenty of other specimens; bream to 7lb, and lots of
tench to near double figures, all of which were made welcome whilst we waited for the elusive carp to
make an appearance. Early September and the unthinkable happened - we caught one!

I remember waking to the sound of a Delkim bite alarm at full-chat, a proper one-toner. The only problem
was that it wasn’t mine! Somehow I knew it was a carp, and on arrival at Mart’s swim saw him bent
double into a good fish that was doing it’s best to make it into the nearest set of pads.

Mart’s face was a picture, not least because he never looked too clever when he first woke, but because he
looked scared to death. He need not have worried, after a good tussle I slipped the net under the fish, and
Mart let out a battle cry! The fish was a perfect mirror, which went 20lb 2oz on the scales. After a quick
photo the fish was returned and a grin appeared on Mart’s face that stayed firmly in place for over a week!

It was quite strange really, all that wait and it was over in a matter of minutes. It was only about five in the
morning, but it seemed as good a time as any to open a couple of bottles, and we just sat for a while
savouring the moment, beer in hand. The sessions over the following weeks gave no sign that our luck was
about to change, as we went back to a series of blanks, but our mood was lifted when I hit into a good carp
early in October, only for the hook to pull (Grrrrrr). We only managed a few sessions between October and
December as we decided to take part in a winter carp league arranged by a mate on another water (seemed
like a good idea at the time), which ran every other week.

My thoughts were never too far away from the Top Pool over the Christmas period and come January I
was full of determination and enthusiasm for the New Year ahead. I was busy with work for the first few
weeks in January but saw that unseasonably warm weather was forecast for the last weekend in the month
so we decided to do the Saturday night.

You know how it is when you can feel something’s changed on a water, you just have that confidence
when you arrive and you can’t wait to get the rods in, well that was me. We arrived just in time to get set
up before darkness fell. We fished two swims next to each other in the bay, and placed the baits out in the
usual way. Boilies on fluro links, bagged up with a little crumbed boilie and fresh maggots.

Although warm for the time of year it was still bloody cold, so as evening approached we had a few sips of
Scotland’s finest to keep us warm. It was a full moon and a clear night and the place looked fantastic
bathed in moonlight. There was no wind whatsoever, and only topping fish broke the surface as we chatted
for several hours, topping up with coffee and spirits, whilst every hour or so I’d put a couple of pouches of
maggots over my baited spots.

We retired to our respective bivvy’s at around midnight and after a quick warm over the Coleman, I tucked
up in bed. I awoke to the sound of an alarm and looked out of my bivvy door to see the tip of my left hand
rod wagging away as line was stripped from the reel. I was on it in a flash and the immediate battle curve
signalled that a decent carp was on the other end - at last!

The fish made a headlong sprint through the weed for the sunken punt way to the left of my swim. I eased
the drag a touch as I was keen to avoid another hook pull, then gently firmed down on the spool to slow its
run. I turned the fish at around twenty-five yards and it erupted on the surface out to my left.

Mart appeared at my side, offering words of encouragement as the battle unfolded. After a while I got the
fish back to the margin, and after a couple of final lunges Mart slipped the net under a good common -
Wehey! The scales bumped round to 21lb 1oz - result!

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'Crinkle-Tail' 21lb of winter common - result!

I was made up, all the effort had finally paid off, and the result wriggled about in my hands as Mart reeled
of a couple of shots on the camera. The fish went straight back, and as I released it into the water it gave
one massive flick of its tail, covering me in water, and was gone.

For a while I just sat on my swim soaking up the moment before baiting up and casting back out. I was
well happy, but the best was yet to come!

Two hours later and my right hand rod was away, I was still not over the first fish really and kind of
assumed that this one must be a tench, on striking the rod it bent double and I suddenly awoke to the fact I
was into another good carp!

After a short initial run the fish just held bottom and wouldn’t move. For a while I thought it had weeded
me, but after some gentle persuasion I managed to get it moving again. I was trying not to get carried away
but in the back of my mind I could not help but wonder if this was a biggie.

After what seemed like an age I got the fish near the net, but each time the fish saw the net a powerful
lunge would prolong the tension as she went off down the margin again on another run. Eventually, thanks
to a full-stretch affair by Mart, the fish went into the net, and I was finally able to breathe out!

Mart lifted the net onto the unhooking mat and uttered sounds as if to say it were a decent fish, and after
removing half a ton of pondweed from the net, a stunning dark mirror came into view - a proper old
warrior.

By now the weight seemed insignificant, yet I still raised a smile when the scales went just shy of 27lb.

Typical isn’t it, you wait all year to catch one fish from a water, then take a brace of twenties in a couple of
hours - that’s the Top Pool for you!

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Worth the wait? Not half..!!

After that, work kept me away from the bank till the end of the season pretty much, I managed a couple of
trips, taking one good common. All that just made the wait till the following season all that more difficult
to bear. Not helped by the fact that there was a very strict policy of no entry onto the estate during the
closed season, so you couldn’t even go up for a look around - gutted! The Drinks factory I was running at
the time had released a load of new products which began selling really well, so come weekends I was
always overseeing extra shifts or away visiting clients - not good for fishing. Thus, I changed my approach
over the following season, rather than doing weekenders, I did a midweek overnighter every Wednesday,
getting there at around 9pm, and leaving at around 6am the following morning to get home, showered,
changed, and off to work for 8.30!

A stunning Top Pool near-leather at 24lb .

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The midweek sessions certainly seemed to pay off. Whilst Mart still struggled at weekends, I was able to
average a fish perhaps every four sessions, which for the Top Pool was good going! More twenties graced
the net, although none bigger than the mirror from the previous season, not that it bothered me, each fish
was absolutely mint and a pleasure to catch, my favourite of the season was a 24lb near-leather taken early
in August, a stunning fish.

The other fish of note was a double figure common that I must have caught five times throughout the
season, a cracking fish that gave me the fight of my life each time I had it - far better than any of the
twenties! - Its takes were so violent that it ripped the rod of the buzzer-bar on two separate occasions! We
nicknamed it ‘Mental the Common’ for obvious reasons, and it was a joy to bank on each occasion. The
funny thing with Mental was that he would only show on a rod that had already banked a fish during that
particular session – weird!

‘Mental the Common’ on one of his regular appearances

There’s nothing quite like taking a good fish in the night then going straight off to work in the morning -
you feel on top of the world all day, especially if some of the lads in the factory are into carping and during
the coffee break you can casually drop in the fact that you had a nice twenty earlier that morning!

Work eased a little as October neared, so I was able to do a few weekend sessions with Mart.
Unfortunately, he’d not had a fish out since his 20 the previous September, and things were starting to get
to him.

Luckily though, a few weeks later he fished Birch Grove and took a couple of lovely thirties, which
seemed to ease the pain somewhat.

Well it would wouldn’t it!

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A brace of Birch 30’s seemed to lift Mart’s spirits, this one at 31lb 6oz.

Our next session on the Top Pool was a bit of a nightmare, after a fruitless first night and no action during
the following day, I’d heavily baited a margin swim for the second night. Just after dawn I had an absolute
screamer from the baited patch and struck into a BIG lump that just kept going, and only began to slow
after taking me through two sets of pads. It took an eternity to get the fish back near the bank, but finally I
was able to make out a big common just a couple of yards out, it was the big common we’d spotted on
several occasions during the season and reckoned it to be around 28-29lb. It didn’t like the net one bit, and
I cautiously had to keep turning the fish as it attempted another lunge away from the net, then, just as it’s
head came over the top of the net it made one final bid for freedom, lunged to my right and slipped the
hook - boy, did I swear!

I was truly gutted, and it played on my mind for weeks. I kept reliving the moment constantly going
through the “what-ifs?” In retrospect, I suppose I should have ‘got straight back on’ so to speak, but for
one reason or another we didn’t go back on for a while, and before we new it, we’d fished a few new
waters and joined a new syndicate!

We did well for the next two seasons on the new syndicate water, mixed with a few outings to Birch Grove
and a several weeks spent deep in Oxfordshire. Also, by that time I’d left my old job at the drinks factory
and had started working as Editor for a new fisheries directory, so it seemed there was always a new water
to visit just around the corner. We dropped out of the syndicate at the beginning of this year; the travelling
was getting too much. So a new challenge had to be found. We’d done plenty of scouting around since the
beginning of the year but nothing had really appealed to us. There are plenty of holes in the ground with
20’s a chuck, but to be honest, they’re just not our bag. Throughout all this, I always knew I’d be back on
the Top Pool one day, I say it about a lot of waters, but with the Top Pool it was personal!

Time was marching on and we were still no nearer to finding a subtle venue for the 2002/03 season. My
good lady had mentioned a craft fair she wanted to go to, which, it turned out, was to be held on the same
estate that the Top Pool was situated on - Hmmm… Fate?

After an hour or so mooching around the craft fair I think Lisa had had enough of me, as I was itching to

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get down to the lake to have a look around. As I wondered down to the lake I had a strange feeling come
over me, as if the Top Pool was reeling me in again.

As I made my way around the old boathouse I couldn’t help smiling as the water came into full view - it
was still as breathtaking as ever. I made my way up one of the old climbing trees by the stile-swim to get a
better look over the bay area, and what was the first sight that greeted me? - The big fat common I’d lost
during my last session there some two years previous!

Need I say more?

The seasons not long kicked off, and where have we been every weekend since?

You guessed it – back on The Top Pool!

Home sweet home!

Just a couple of sessions in and it seems as if we’ve never been away from the place. The weed problem
has worsened (if that were at all possible!) and it’s still just a difficult as it always was. That said, we’ve
already had some promising early results, more in the next piece.

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Part 2 (Return to the Top Pool, September 2002)
By Julian Grattidge

Martin and I had been counting the days until the 2002/3 Season began. Officially, the Top Pool opened on
the 16th of June, but those who had completed two work parties beforehand were able to get on club
waters two weeks before. As such, we spent a pleasurable couple of days working on the River Dove, and
the River Meese in order to obtain our tickets. We’d not been on the club stretch of the Meese before, so it
was nice to have a look round. It was certainly a nice stretch, running for about 1km before it reaches
Aqulate Mere, another of the clubs waters.

At the end of the work party we had to take a boat over to the boathouse at the far side of the Mere, so
three of us had a steady row up the river and across the Mere. The river was heavily lined with reed mace
and rushes, and at points it was a tough job to get the boat through, but fun nonetheless as we sighted some
decent bream and several pike along the way. It was a fantastic sight that greeted us as the river joined the
189-acre Aqulate Mere - shoal upon shoal of big bream were topping all over the place, and we saw
countless fish over the 5lb mark as we rowed over to the boat house. With no carp to speak of, we’d never
fished Aqulate before, though the sight of all these decent bream was good enough reason to come back
and fish the place sometime.

Anyway, back to the Top Pool, as the 1st of June approached we went up for a good reconnaissance.
Having been off the place for so long we wanted to get up and have a good look around rather than just
turning up and fishing. The first thing we noticed was that the weed problem had worsened, and pegs that
before had been weed free till mid July were already completely covered, and the whole of the bay was
also choked top to bottom with Canadian Pond Weed.

We’d already prepared ourselves for this, so it didn’t deter our enthusiasm, and after making our way
through the woods up to the shallows the grins started to appear on our faces as we spotted a few good fish
over the twenty pound mark and a number of upper doubles. I went up the next afternoon for a quick
overnighter, though on arrival at the lake it was clear the fish were spawning. As such, I just dropped my
gear up in the shallows, got out the binoculars and spent a few hours following the fish around and
observing their antics.

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By 8pm they had slowed and were now rooting around in the margins and boating round on top, they
stayed in groups with the males following the females around. A number of these fish were now stacked up
in the shallows, so I decided to set up on the top boards swim. We’d done well on Activ-8 boilies in the
past so I’d knocked up a two-egg mix for the session, putting both rods on the far margin with PVA bags
filled with crushed boilies on fluro-carbon links.

Seconds after I’d finished setting up the heavens opened, and it absolutely poured down for the next couple
of hours, and typically, during a heavy period, off went my right hand rod resulting in a tench of about 5lb.
I baited up again, and now completely soaked, decided to call it a night and tucked up in bed. No further
action came during the night, and next morning I reeled in the rods and went for a wander round the lake. I
got chatting to a couple of lads (Dan and Matt) who had put quite a bit of time in during the previous
season and I gleaned as much information as possible about what tactics and approaches had been getting
results. After chatting for an hour or so it seemed nothing much had changed during our time off the water,
only three or four people had been fishing it regularly, and had been concentrating on the bay swims and
the shallows.

I was soon on my way home thinking about how best to approach the water through the season ahead,
thinking about all that Matt had told me. It seemed they had been sticking to the same swims, and although
very polite about it all, they intimated they would like to do the same this season. I had no problem with
this, as it can sometimes be a little frustrating when you do all the work to get a swim going only for
someone to drop on it and bank the biggie that you’ve been waiting for! What’s more it was clear we were
going to have to do a bit of graft on some clear spots, which they had already done on their chosen swims.

I went up with Mart mid-week to have a good look around again. In the past the far-bank woods swims had
always been overlooked, and rarely had I seen anyone fishing them. From what Matt had been saying this
was still the case, so I was keen to pay particular attention to these swims, as I was sure the fish would be
moving confidently in the area.

From above, the Top Pool looks a bit like a number ‘9’ - a big bay area at the North end of around 2.5
acres, and a long tail stretching south-east up to the shallows, covering another 3 acres. One of the
problems with this is that from most pegs you can’t see what’s going on around the rest of the lake, and
with the fish moving around a lot, it can be difficult trying to work out what’s going on. As such, I wanted
to find a potential woods peg on the north-east bank near the point where the tail met the bay, in order that
I would be able to see the whole of the water. The woods swims can get a bit boggy and very wet
underfoot, which I think is why they’re overlooked a little, and as we walked through the woods we
scrutinised each swim picking out the good points and bad points with each.

One peg stood out above all the rest, right at the point where the tail meets the bay giving a great vantage
point over most of the lake, virtually cutting the water in two. The peg was very well camouflaged and
overgrown with loads of marginal tree cover, and didn’t look to have been fished for a very long time.
With regard to features it was perfect, pads to each side in the margins, and on the far bank more pads with
a wide channel - all very carpy!

The best thing with this peg was that with a little work we could get two sets of rods in it, so we would be
able to work all the features well. We decided we would each put a rod on the margin either side, and share
the channel on the far bank, with Mart fishing the left side, and myself the right. The pondweed was right
to the top throughout so we spent a couple of hours making a few clear spots in the margins then clearing
the far-bank channel from the other side of the lake, we then put a few kilos of hemp over each spot so the
the tench would start feeding and tidy up the clear spots of any weed we’d missed. In most scenarios I’d
say that picking a swim before you fish is a big no-no, but on the Top Pool it’s often the case that you have

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to lay a trap and wait for the fish to come to you, and we hoped that through an extensive pre-baiting
campaign we could get them visiting our areas on a regular basis.

The 'new' Swim

7th-9th June 2002

Friday soon arrived, and after a busy week in the Anglers’ Net office I was eager to get out fishing for the
weekend. I arrived to find the lake completely deserted, and on reaching our swim was eager to have a
look at the clear spots. The tree to the right of the swim gave an excellent vantage point as it grows up and
out over the lake. From here I could clearly see our far bank channel, and look right down over the margin
spots. Straight away I was able to see five or six good tench on the far bank, and my margin spot directly
underneath looked excellent.

Mart soon arrived and we quietly set up keeping well away from the front of the swim. The fish spook very
easily so we always try to stay back and set up the bivvy’s behind tree cover well out of the way. We also
set the rods low and back from the boards, again so we can keep out of sight as much as possible.

We heavily baited all the spots with hemp, maggots, and casters, and then put out single Activ-8 hook baits
on each rod. We then sat back and relaxed with a couple of beers and watched the water for a few hours.
The hemp certainly had the fish fizzing, and after only half an hour swirls started to develop all over the
channel on the far bank. From up the tree I could make out some good tench and a couple of big bream -
hopefully the carp would soon be getting in on the act!

Over the next couple of hours we saw a number of carp moving near our areas so we went to bed quite
confident, but come next morning there had been no action, so we baited up again for the day and just sat
back from the swim watching the water. Action can be very slow on the Top Pool so there’s no point
getting disappointed when nothing happens, I think once you start getting despondent you rarely catch,
much better to stay calm, think positive and the fish will come - I find confidence in your approach is key
to catching wherever you fish. I was half way through brewing up at about 2pm when my right hand
margin rod gave a couple of bleeps. I quickly got down to my rod just in time to see a huge bow wave
going out of the area as the run picked up. I lifted into the run only to feel nothing on the strike - gutted! I
checked the rig and everything seemed fine, so I just put it down to bad luck and put the rod back out.

Mid afternoon and we spotted a couple of fish over our margin areas again so as the second evening
approached we again went to bed quietly confident. Sunday morning arrived and still no action, so we
slowly packed up and made our way home.

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14th - 16th June 2002.

I was happy with the way the previous session had gone, as daft as it sounds, one take per weekend is good
going for the Top Pool, and for only my second session back on, I was confident that the swim and
approach would work given a little time and patience. We had been up midweek again putting out a big
bed of hemp over all the spots, and on arrival at the swim on Friday night I spotted a good 20lb carp
mooching around my margin spot.

Out went the hemp, and we put the rods out to the same spots. We chatted for a couple of hours about the
week’s events before calling it a night at around 1am. About half an hour later my far bank rod gave two
single bleeps. When fishing over so much weed it’s difficult to tell what’s going on sometimes, and I stood
over my rod not sure if I should hit it or not. I held the line between my fingers to see if I could feel
anything, and on feeling a little tremble I immediately lifted the rod and wound down. I felt a thud on the
other end as a fish suddenly woke up and tried to make it to the pad line. With masses of weed between me
and the fish, I adopted the hit and hold approach, slowly walking backwards up the boards. The fish turned
and came most of the way in pretty easily. It didn’t feel massive but still gave a good account of itself
when it reached the margin, and after a brief scrap I slipped the net under my first Top Pool carp of the
season - result!

First-blood 14lb 2oz

After pulling a mass of pondweed out of the landing net we were able to transfer a nice double figure
mirror into the weigh sling, which went 14lb 2oz on the scales, and after a celebratory brew we retired
again, with no more action coming that night. More bait went in the next morning and come early
afternoon we had fish showing in the margins again. Shortly after, the tip of Mart’s margin rod whipped
round as a full-blooded screamer developed. Mart immediately hit it, and the next thing I know, a one-
ounce lead sails right past the end of my nose!!

Saturday night passed with no further action, and I went home the next morning happy with my double,
Mart a little peeved with his missed chance.

21st - 22nd June 2002

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We pre-baited again in the week and come Friday there were plenty of fish over the far bank. It seemed as
if the fish were now getting used to a regular supply of hemp, maggots, and casters, and within 10-minutes
of the bait going in the tench were all over it. We were only on for the night so we tried to get the rods out
as quick as possible to make the most of our time on the water. Not long after dark we heard Matt’s alarms
sounding across the bay. He shouted over that he was in, but the fish had weeded him not far out from the
bank.

We reeled in and went round to offer some assistance, and on getting round to the swim found Matt
preparing to go in after his fish. On most pegs, a foot out from the bank and you’re up to your neck in silt,
so going into the water is a big no-no. However Matt was on the fence swim, which has a nice firm and
shallow bottom, so he was able to go in after the fish with us on hand for backup.

Matt with his 16lb prize

Minutes later he had a nice 16lb fish on the bank, a cracking specimen with shoulders like Arnie. After a
couple of quick photos we headed back round to our swim and put the rods back out. Nothing more came
during the night, and on the way home the next morning I was happy that at least one of us had had a fish!

28th - 30th June 2002

Although the previous session had been fruitless, I was full of confidence when I arrived at the water early
on the Friday evening. By now, each session was following a similar pattern. Heavy baiting mid-week and
more bait going in over the weekend with single hook baits fished over the top. The carp, along with the
tench and bream, were certainly moving over our baited spots, and we always seemed to have more action
to report than the other lads fishing the water in the bay area. Yet nothing big had yet taken the bait.

This week I’d decided to move away from the Activ-8, which had previously done so well for me, in
favour of Brazil nuts. I just felt I needed to experiment a bit more to try and get amongst the fish. Not long
after dark Mart’s far bank rod burst into life and he quickly hit into a fish that was doing it’s best to get
into the pads to his left. Mart soon got the upper hand and before long had a little mirror on the unhooking
mat. Although the fish only went 9lb 10oz, Mart was happy to open his account for the season, and with
three of us now having had doubles, we thought the bigger fish must surly be just around the corner.

Saturday morning and I awoke around 5am to the sound of something scurrying around at the back of my
shelter. Fishing in the woods we get all kinds of strange beetles and bugs, and I certainly hadn’t seen one

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of these before, it looked like a cross between a ground beetle and a scorpion (I later identified it as a
devil’s coach horse beetle) and after sending this rather large carnivore on it’s way I got up to make a
brew. I’m a light sleeper at the best of times, and during the summer months I’m always up by 6am, I just
hate to waste valuable fishing time by sleeping through it - unlike Mart who’s number one pastime is
sleeping!

I quietly sat at the back of the boards, brew in hand, watching the water. There’s a black-headed gull that’s
made the Top Pool its home. From what I’ve seen it’s had less fish out than us, so I’m surprised it’s still
alive! It’s quite funny though as it constantly tries to go for the big carp off the surface. Each time the gull
gets close to the surface the carp erupt, scaring the life out of the gull, yet it carries on regardless!

Time spent up trees is never wasted

I sat watching the gull as my thoughts tuned to my margin rod. Bar the missed take the first week on the
peg, nothing had yet developed. I was confident that it would but I guess I was just getting anxious for
some action. I decided to nip up the tree for a look around, and on getting on the first branch peered down
over my margin spot to see two fat mirrors mooching around right over my baited spot not more than ten
feet from the bank. I quietly went back down and hovered near my rods, heart pumping, but nothing
developed.

The day was pretty uneventful bar an interesting run in with some mink. There have been mink on the
water for some time but you only ever used to see them on the swims near the boathouse, now however,
they’re all over the place, and in large numbers. Around midday I was walking round to the far bank to bait
up when I came across quite a large rabbit twitching in the field right next to the fence by the path. I
thought it a bit odd, as usually it would have ‘done-one’ by now. However, I quickly realised it was in it’s
final death throws, and as I watched, it’s eyes glazed over and it lay still. I went on my way looking for the
possible culprit, maybe a fox or bird. Just as I started to bait up the catapult broke, so I had to walk back
round to the swim to get another. As I approached the place where the rabbit had been, it had gone. I
carried on walking slightly bemused, wondering if it had in fact died. I then nearly trod on the damn thing
as I approached the rodie-bush swim. I was now intrigued as to what was going on, and as I stood there I
heard the distinct call of a mink, and the penny suddenly dropped.

Then, as bold as brass, four mink appear less than a three feet away from me. They stop for a second, look
up at me as if to weigh me up, and then, on deciding that if it came down to a fight they could probably
handle me, they marched right up to my feet and dragged the rabbit off into the undergrowth. I was
speechless - the cheek of it! I guess the only saving grace for the fish stocks (at present) is the sheer
number of rabbits around the lake, there is literally thousands of them so it must be relatively easy pickings

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for the mink, lets hope it stays that way!

As night approached we baited up in anticipation. We had a light scatter of rain which freshened things up
a little, and we went to bed confident in our approach. Morning arrived and again there had been no action.
I climbed the tree to view my margin rod, and I could clearly see the hook bait and a few freebies, so I
climbed back down had a brew and went back to sleep for an hour or two.

At around 10am I was in two minds about packing up or staying for a while. Mart was in the same
indecisive mood and decided to have a look up the tree to see if anything was moving. I decided I’d make a
brew whilst we thought about it and topped up the kettle as Mart went up the tree. As I filled the kettle I
could hear a strange noise, and on looking up the tree, I could see Mart was trying to get my attention. His
face was a picture, eyes wide and frantic looking. He then motioned that there was a fish right over my
margin spot. I tried to ask how big and when he held his hands over two feet apart I suddenly took notice!

Obviously I didn’t want to spook the fish, but I couldn’t resist peeking through the marginal cover to see
what was going on. From ground level you would not have known a fish was there, even though it’s only
about two feet deep. For a minute I thought Mart was having me on, but then a series of bubbles appeared
on the surface right over my bait. At this point my heart started pounding, and I was unsure what to do. I
reckoned that if I stood waiting for the take it would never come, so decided to carry on making the brew. I
slowly turned to make my way back up to the stove when Mart cried out “He’s nailed!” and a split second
later the Delkim gave a bleep.

Standing right over the rod, I was able to strike before the fish had taken much line and it boiled on the
surface just past the point of the pads. Mart was down the tree in seconds offering encouragement as I held
the rod not giving an inch of line. The rod arched over as I bent into the fish and after a brief stalemate I
was able to guide her towards the margin. Mart did the honours with the net and informed me that
somewhere under a ton of pondweed, the fish was in the net - result!

Getting better - 19lb 4oz mirror

Mart gently lifted the net onto the unhooking mat and we slowly pulled away the weed to reveal a cracking
mirror. It certainly looked an old warrior, though it was difficult to put a weight on it as it looked quite

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long in the body. Mart reckoned it would scrape 20lb, though I was saying nothing, waiting for the scales
to decide. Seconds later the needle settled at 19lb 4oz, and it was grins all round!

Having heard the commotion Matt arrived in the swim to find me with the fish in my hands as Mart rattled
of a few pictures. After releasing the fish, I finally got to finish making the brew I started, as Mart begun
telling us how he saw the fish take the bait whilst up the tree - He’d climbed up the tree not noticing the
fish until he was right on top of it. At that point he froze for fear of spooking the fish, and just waited to see
what it did next.

He said it had most of it’s body under cover of the pads, and every now and again it would come out, circle
over the bait then go back under the pads. After doing this two or three times it then went down taking a
freebie before going back under the pads. He said it did this three more times (until all the free baits were
gone) then hovered over the hook bait for a while before going down. Mart continued, explaining that the
fish then went down over the bait fanning the bottom with it’s pectoral fins, then up ending, taking in the
hook bait, after which it immediately shot back up violently moving it’s head around (at which point he
shouted I’d hooked him) before bolting out of the area as the alarm kicked in - amazing!

12th - 14th July

We were unable to get up the weekend before, but we’d been up three times since the last session to pre-
bait, so come the Friday I was itching to get back on. By 6.00pm the baits were out in the usual manner
and we sat back taking in all the sites as a beautiful summers evening unfolded.

The tench were all over the far bank rods, so it was no surprise when the Dekim burst into life about an
hour later resulting in a nice tench of about 6lb. However, I was surprised it took a Brazil nut!

As dusk approached the water went very quiet, and with little fish movement to speak of, I went to bed not
all that confident. I awoke a few times between 3-6am as a light rain shower came down around us, before
receiving a slow steady take on the far bank rod at around 7am.

I hit in hard but the fish just kept going, way under the pads to the right of the channel. I wound down and
locked-up, slowly walking backwards up the boards trying to turn the fish before it reached the point of no
return.

At this point everything went solid, but I was still in contact with the fish. I bided my time, and after a
while I was able to get the fish moving again, and luckily it moved my way.

I just kept the rod down low with a full battle curve applying maximum pressure, and after a while the fish
was back near the pad line, although it kept lunging around and I had to give line on a couple of occasions.

After what seemed like an eternity I was able to get the fish up on top, and shortly afterwards its efforts
subsided and it was virtually ready for netting. The only problem was that it was still a good 25yards out!
So I had to guide it through mountains of weed back to the margin.

Every now and then it would go solid but after another five minutes it was safely in the net, along with half
the pondweed in the lake!

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Early morning mirror - 21lb 7oz

Pulling the weed back it was clear this baby would go over 20lb, and sure enough the needle bounced
round to 21lb 7oz - Winner! I was made-up, we’d not been back on the water long, and I was already
starting to get into some good fish from what can only be described as a tough water. As such, I mellowed
for the rest of the session trying my hand at some of the bream and tench using a popped-up sweetcorn rig.
I had some quality fish during the afternoon, several bream averaging 4lb, and countless tench averaging 4-
5lb. Twinned with the carp, a day’s fishing just doesn’t get much better!

Quality bream every chuck!

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19th-21st July

The previous week we’d got the feeling that the fish may have been getting pre-occupied on the hemp and
casters we’d been bucketing in, and although it had bought results we’d decided not to pre-bait during the
week. When I got up to the water I was stopped in my tracks - there were fish everywhere! I quietly
dropped my gear and made straight up the tree to see groups of carp all over the place in two’s and three’s.
I quickly spotted the big common with two smaller mirrors milling around in the channel on the far bank,
and three decent carp were all over my margin area.

Having used my last couple of Brazils the previous week (and forgetting to get anymore) I had to wait for
Mart to arrive before I could put the rods out. As such, I just sat up the tree for over an hour watching the
fish, it certainly looked as if knocking the hemp on the head had done the trick. Mart soon arrived, and on
seeing the grin on my face he knew we had fish in the area. Again we were the only one’s on the lake, and
as dusk approached we were on tenterhooks as the fish boiled on the surface right in front of us.

After the best part of a week with no rain, we suddenly had a downpour, which seemed to send the carp
mental - jumping and crashing everywhere! It was still very warm come 11pm as the rain started to ease,
and we just sat on Mart’s bedchair watching the water. After a brew we decided to turn in, and only
seconds after my head hit the pillow my far bank rod burst into life. The rain had made the boards very
greasy and I proceeded to fall flat on my backside as I attempted to get down to my rods! I eventually
struck in to find the fish had taken quite a bit of line and was now well under the pads on the far bank. I
kept the rod low, applied pressure and to my surprise the fish came straight out. It soon became apparent it
was a small fish but it still gave me a bit of wake up call when I got it near the margin, on netting the fish it
covered me in water, though the rain had already soaked me head to foot!

During the commotion Mart hadn’t moved an inch and was still snugly tucked up in bed in fits of laughter
at my bedraggled state. No sooner had I lifted the fish out of the water, Mart’s far bank rod burst into life -
a proper one-toner. It was now Mart’s turn to get wet as he made his way down to the rods and hit into a
fish which was clearly bigger than the one in my hands. I returned my fish to the water for a second, so as
to help Mart net his. Mart’s fish had kited left under the pads on the far bank and he had to apply heavy
side-strain in order to stay in control. Shortly afterwards the golden flanks of a stunning common came into
the torchlight - It was 'Crinkle Tail!'. We weighed the fish, my mirror going 11lb 4oz, and Crinkle tail
going 19lb 13oz, which surprised us both, as we had reckoned her it to be well over the 20lb mark, but no
matter - a target fish is a target fish!

Mart with Crinkle Tail

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The fish were quickly returned leaving us to bait up the far margin rods again. Both fish had dragged weed
over the clear spots but we were confident enough to just leave them be till morning. After drying off we
stayed up for a while to celebrate Mart’s fish with a couple of cans before calling it a night as the rain
continued to fall. By 5am the rain had eased and as the sun started poking through the low lying cloud we
knew it was going to be a warm day. By 9am the fish were all over us again, and having had no further
action in the night I was contemplating putting my far bank rod out again.

I went up the tree to see what the weed situation was like on the far-bank clear spots after the fish we’d had
during the night. No sooner had I got onto the second branch I saw a decent mirror move right in over my
margin rod. I was unsure what to do, if I climbed back down quickly, I would risk spooking it, and on
seeing Mart close to my rods I just stayed put for a second, and it was only a second - the fish were
defiantly on heat, not meandering in their usual manner, today they were moving with vigor searching out
food wherever they went, and as I looked down at the mirror right under me it went straight down over my
baited area, moved right over the hook bait, up-ended, picked up the hook bait, and was away!

The Delkim sounded immediately, and I jumped from the tree to have Mart pass me the rod and I was in
again! The fish went mental, trying to get under the pads. It’s a weird situation when you’re playing a fish
that you’ve just seen pick up your bait, not least because you know how big it is! I’d estimated it to be
around the 20lb mark and the fight it was giving me certainly seemed to back it up.

After a heated battle I slipped the net under the fish and on lifting the net thought I’d estimated wrong, it
felt like a thirty with all the weed in there. On pulling back the weed from the net I got a strong feeling of
déjà vu, for on closer inspection it was the same fish that I’d had three weeks previous at 19lb 4oz.

Déjà vu, this time 19lb 5oz

Amazing. Same fish, same spot, same bait, however this time I’d seen it take the bait as a pose to Mart -
weird or what?! By 10am I’d had a few more fish boil over my margin rod and I was sure it was only a
matter of time. With carp taking quite a long time to digest Brazil nuts, I only fish one as hook bait and
break up one more nut as free offering. I knew the fish were over the area but felt they needed a little
encouragement to go down, so I catapulted a few pouches of maggots tight to the spot right on the edge of
the pad line.

Less than 10minutes later the tip of my margin rod whipped right round nearly pulling the rod off the pod.
I hit in hard applying heavy side strain to stop the fish from going right under the pads. I just kept the

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power on and backed up the boards not giving an inch. I cleared the fish from the pad line and just kept on
the pressure. It seemed to be coming in over the top of the weed, which was a bonus, and within seconds
Mart was ready with the net and with one deft movement it was banked. The whole event from start to
finish probably took no longer than a minute!

We pulled back the weed in the net to reveal an absolutely stunning fish - without doubt one of the prettiest
I’ve ever banked. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat as we removed the last strands of weed to reveal a
perfect scattered mirror, dark upper body with a beige underside and a huge shoulder on it. Now out of the
water it decided to wake up big-time, and was all over the place, we always use two large unhooking mats
when dealing with fish so it was safe, but boy, it certainly was a handful!

Pure class; 'Red October' at 19lb 6oz

It looked like a torpedo - all muscle, I’d estimated it to be a good 15-16lb, as it was much smaller than the
19lb’er I’d had a couple of hours before, and so was amazed when it went 19lb 6oz on the scales! Once
we’d returned the fish I just went into autopilot, baiting-up and placing the rod back in exactly the same
place. My head was elsewhere thinking about the session we were having. The best I’d ever done on the
Top Pool was two fish in a session, and having now taken three, added to that Mart’s common, I was
simply stunned!

Whilst deep in thought making a brew, I suddenly awoke to the fact that the margin rod was off again, it
had been in for less than 5minutes - I was gob smacked. I struck to find nothing there, then realised the fish
had bolted straight towards the bank, and as I franticly wound in, a 20lb fish was sat right in front of us
trying to spit out the hook - and it did. Another valuable lesson learnt - never take your eye of the ball!

The fish dispersed for a while during the latter part of the afternoon but as dusk fell they were all over us
again. The rain had also returned and as we retired to our respective bivvy’s, conditions were an exact re-
run of the night before, we just hoped we’d have similar results!

I awoke at 5am to see the tip of my margin rod wagging away as yet another run developed, I hit in and the
rod bent double as a big fish powered out into open water. I tried in vain to slow the run, but the fish just
kept going, and the next think I know, the line pings and the fish was gone!

I wound in to find the fluro hooklink had snapped right at the point where it went through the eye of the

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hook - gutted! It was a real shame to end the session with two lost fish, but I had to be happy with 3 fish
for the session, with two over 19lb! However, I could not help but wonder what the tally might have been
without the losses, never mind, there’s always next time!

26th-27th July

The following week I was up on my own. Mart was away for a weeklong session on Birch Grove, and with
family commitments on the Saturday and Sunday I had decided to nip up for a quick overnighter on the
Friday. I got to the swim to find it quiet all over, not a fish in sight. I dumped the gear in the swim and
went in search of the fish. After an hour walking round the lake and climbing various trees I was still none
the wiser. I’d only spotted two fish and they were at opposite ends of the lake!

No place I’d rather be…

I went back round to the swim and spotted a mid-double cruising on top near the far bank channel, and
decided I may as well stick with our chosen swim and continued to set-up. Whilst it’s always nice to fish
with a mate, I also like fishing on my own, especially on the Top Pool when chances are, you’re the only
one on the lake.

As the light started to fade I just sat with a brew feeling at one with nature, and over the next couple of
hours whilst I sat watching the water I had a family of seven mink make an appearance right by my rods,
pheasants wandering about right behind my bivvy, rabbits all over the place, and as darkness fell, I ended
up making friends with a little mouse that lived under the boards, feeding it chewed up brazil nuts no more
than a foot from where I was sitting - and people ask why I like fishing..!!

Everything was still very quiet when I called it a night, if nothing else I reckoned I’d get a good nights
sleep. I awoke at about 4am to hear something scurrying around in the back of the bivvy, and after sending
a large toad on it’s way, I went back to sleep. An hour later the Delkim burst into life as a run picked up on
the margin rod. I hit in but the fish was already buried in a mass of weed a few rod lengths beyond the
pads, and as I struck I felt nothing, and slowly wound in the rig minus the fish. I was a bit gutted as I stood
there reeling in, three fish lost on the bounce. Since the beginning of the season on the Top Pool I reckoned
I’d lost around 5 fish, with six banked. Three of the missed takes were defiantly carp though I couldn’t be
sure of the rest.

Up until that point It hadn’t bothered me much, but it was getting a little worrying now. I decided to have a
play with some rigs, so put the kettle on and pulled out my tackle pouch. Whilst I was making the brew I

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noticed a fish boil right over what was in normal sessions, Mart’s side of the margin. I crept to the edge of
the marginal cover and peered through the bushes to see a good fish well over 20lb, no more than three feet
from the bank, loitering around in about 15” of water.

My heart started pounding as I wondered how to tempt this beauty. I ever so slowly made my way back to
my bivvy to get my rod, which was still leaning against the bivvy. I had no floaters with me, and no bread,
so it would have to be a bottom bait. The previous week I’d been up to visit Ian Cracknell at Merlin Baits,
and he’d given me a selection of boilies to try out from his new X-Factor range. I’d already singled out the
Seafood Special as potential bait for the top Pool and quickly rummaged around my bag to find them.

I’m not really a big fan of ready-mades, having made my own for as many years as I can remember, but
these looked and tasted keen, very oily and they absolutely stunk! I broke one of the 14mm baits in two,
and threaded the half’s end to end on the hair, I then slipped the bomb off the clip so I could free line into
the margin. All the time I’d been rigging up I kept glancing back to the margin and the fish was still
milling around but had moved a little further out from the bank.

I slowly crept back to the waters edge to see where the fish was. It had moved back out a little and was
now about a rod length out, just under the edge of the pads. Mart had been placing baits there over the past
couple of weeks so I knew it was free of weed. I gently flicked it out, with the bait landing about 8” from
the pad line. I broke up another couple of baits and flicked them around the hook bait and slowly placed
the rod on the pod with a slack line. I sat back up from the swim, waited, and watched. The fish was still in
the area but seemed oblivious to the bait just a few feet away from it, after what seemed like an eternity it’s
head appeared at the edge of the pad line as it slowly came out into open water. The bait was only in about
two feet of water, and the fish was now almost over it.

The fish then dropped away from sight and my heart started pounding, though nothing happened. I did not
want to move from my spot for fear of spooking the fish so just sat next to my rods watching the line. Ten
minutes must have passed with no action and no sign off the fish. I was almost at the point where I thought
the moment had passed when the rod tip trembled and the line lifted slightly. Seconds later the line
suddenly tightened, the rod whipped round, and I struck as the fish bow waved out off the area. This time
the fish was well hooked and it powered off into open water. I gave a little line and slowly tried to stop the
run. The fish soon turned and I was able to gain the upper hand. I kept on the pressure and soon had the
fish wallowing in the margin ready for netting. It was a bit of a struggle to get the net under the weed and
the fish, and after ensuring the fish was well in the net I let out a shout of elation. I pulled the weed from
around the fish to reveal a perfect near-leather.

Free lined 23lb 14oz near-leather

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On the scales the fish went 23lb 14oz and I was well chuffed. The tripod was already set up near the stile
so I got the rest of the camera stuff and did a few shots on the timer before releasing her back to the water.
Having now had takes from either side of the margin I pulled the far bank rod in to maximise my chances
fishing one on boilie the other on Brazil. It was getting on for 8am by now and I knew I’d have to be away
by 10am, so I made some breakfast and sat with a brew happily reliving the past couple of hours.

After I’d had some food I decided to hop up the tree and see if anything was moving and as I got to the
base of the tree I spotted a fish cruising over the weed towards my right hand margin rod. I lifted myself
slightly to get a better view, and only then did I spot the two other fish with it. Two were clearly 20 with
one perhaps upper double; it was a little hard to tell. They were now nearing the clear spot and on clearing
the last lump of pondweed all three fish dropped out of sight together.

Moments later the Delkim bleeped although the swinger stayed motionless. With three fish in the area I
was aware it could well be a liner, but then it bleeped a couple more times and the swinger dropped an inch
or so. That was enough for me, and I struck. All hell broke loose on the surface as I hit in with fish
scattering everywhere, and the hooked fish powering off into open water. It went deep through the thick
weed then just held bottom about 30yards out. I managed to ping the line through the weed until luckily I
made contact with the fish again, at which point it immediately moved off towards the far margin holding
bottom. I wound down and beefed the fish trying to keep the rod way up high to try and stop it weeding me
again and eventually it moved up near the surface.

After a long game of give and take the fish finally gave up the ghost about 10 yards out still in heavy weed.
I stripped off, laid the rod on the boards, and went into the margin. After about 8 foot of leader I knew I
was close and so got the net and tried to scoop up the weed and fish. When I eventually got to it, I was in
no doubt this was my biggest fish so far for the season from the water, and sure enough the scales bounced
round to 25lb4oz! I left for home that morning with a spring in my step; after all, it’s not every session you
have a brace of Estate Lake twenties.

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Part 3 (Thoughts on Bait, July 2003)
By Julian Grattidge

Up until August of last year everything was going fine; I was getting plenty of fishing in on the Top Pool,
the 20’s were coming to the bank on a regular basis, and the plan was that it would stay that way until the
season ended. However, that plan was soon to fall apart when on the last day of August Lisa and I picked
up the keys to our new house - The plan had been to do a little decorating here and there whilst aiming to
get out on the bank for at least two weekends in four through the autumn and winter... Ha!

‘Decoration’ soon turned into ‘renovation’. Not that the 100 year old town house we had bought was in a
bad state, just that we wanted to do the job properly, and with ‘her-indoors’ being a designer this meant
restoring the property to quite a standard. What’s more, I took on most of the work myself; ripping out
modern fireplaces to replace with originals, plastering walls, restoring wooden floors, restoring tiled floors,
etc, etc.

Needless to say, from September of last year to March of this year I only managed to get out on the bank
on two occasions. I could have gone out if I’d wanted, but to be honest I just wanted to get it all out of the
way so the 2003/4 season would be ‘full-on’. Although I’d not been out on the bank fishing, the Top Pool
was never far away in my mind. Most of my thoughts over the winter period were devoted to bait; whilst
last years results had been good using Brazil’s as hookbait, I’d long been looking for a ‘quality’ bait to
establish as a long term food source on the water.

For me, bait is all about confidence. If you are confident that the bait will catch you’ll give it time to work
and reap the rewards. If you doubt its effectiveness, you’ll start swapping and changing from the off, and
before you know it half the season’s gone and you’ve hardly had a fish on the bank. As such, picking a bait
to stick with for the whole of the 2003/4 season was never going to be an easy task, especially when it
wasn’t my decision alone; Mart would also be using the same bait throughout. We started receiving a few
samples back in January; making a few mixes here and there, but nothing really leapt out at us. At around
that time I was beginning to develop a bit of a relationship with Mike Willmott. I’d spoken to Mike a few
times in the past in relation to Anglers’ Net and found him to be one of the nicest blokes in the business I’d
met.

What’s more, after just a couple of conversations I’d had with Mike talking about bait before the launch of
his first book ‘Carp Life’ it was easy to see why his bait was rated by some of the countries most respected
anglers as the best in the business.

After discussing the Top Pool along with our requirements for a High Nutritional Value (HNV) bait with
Mike, and moreover, after reading (and re-reading) the bait chapter in his book - my ‘juices’ were
beginning to flow. The discussions continued and after a while we made the decision to go with Essential
Products Shellfish B5 for the season ahead on the Top Pool. I make no secret of the fact that I’ve since
been invited (kindly) to join Team Essential, but I should point out it’s the bait that made the decision for
us - and nothing else.

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Knocking up the first batch of B5

You see, as I mentioned before, its all about confidence; after seeing the base mix and all ingredients in the
raw and after reading Mike’s book, it was clear to see the guy’s devotion to sourcing ‘only the best’ in
terms of raw ingredients. Basically, I knew I’d be happy to sit and wait for as long as it took for a take -
Happy in the knowledge that the bait was, for want of a better word “sorted”. Mind you, as it turned out we
wouldn’t have to wait for long!

April saw me dusting off the rods for the first time in months, the work on the house was by no means
finished but I was eager to get out and test the bait! We knocked up a mix of the B5 and headed up to
Blackwood Pool (a little club water we run) to have a couple of nights fishing. Conditions were still a little
cool, we had ground frost each night but it was nice and sunny in the day getting temperatures up to double
figures.

Fishing at last!

The session turned into more of a ‘social’ than anything else, as unbeknown to me all the lads had turned
out to celebrate my first session back out since the previous August! The B5 did not disappoint. Only a few

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hours into the session and Mart drew first blood taking a lovely mid-double mirror on a pop-up over a little
patch of B5 pellets. Within the hour he was in again using the same tactics and not long afterwards I
started to hit the fish as well, taking two welcome fish during the night on B5 bottom baits.

Mart with a nice Blackwood double

I was striving to get the house finished for June in order that I could concentrate all my efforts on the Top
Pool, though in reality, as we wanted to do a fair bit of work on the water over the close season I wanted to
be finished before this. As such, I bugged out of the following weekend’s trip to Blackwood, though I was
happy to hear the B5 had done the business again. From memory there were five fishing that weekend and
the only one to catch was Mart on the B5 - things were certainly looking good on the bait front!

The B5 ‘nails’ another!

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With the close season now in effect on the Top Pool, the work parties were upon us once again. We’d been
asked to do the first one on the Top Pool which was handy as we were able to get on and have a look
around. After our observations from last year, we’d seen a few spots that looked like definite fish holding
areas. These spots would have to be reached from swims which had long been overgrown and not been
fished for years.

We knew it would involve a great deal of work; re-boarding swims, cutting back the bankside, mulching
paths, removing tons of lily pads, but in all honesty it never crossed our minds - we just wanted more
opportunities to get at the fish! We put forward a plan to Geoff Hays, the Fisheries Manager and on
approval got stuck right in.

Raking weed off The Point

In addition to Martin and I, this year the Top Pool has claimed another victim - Chris Knapper. Chris is a
member on our club water and got into carping a couple of years back. Although he’s only 15, he’s a really
quick learner and shows all the qualities needed to be a ‘proper’ carper; determination, patience, and
ingenuity.

Chris was determined to beat his personal best of 14lb, and was eager to join us on a ‘big-fish’ water. As
such, we decided to take him under our wing and get him on the Top Pool with the B5 to have a crack at
some bigger fish.

Looking back I think Mart, Chris, and I, spent at least six or seven weekends up there during the closed
season. The first couple of weeks we concentrated on the bankside work; pulling up the old swims and
making new ones with boarding, then mulching areas for the bivvy’s, etc.

After a few weeks working on the pegs we then started working out on the water. The hardest part was
cutting back all the pads, the roots were a real nightmare to get up.

However, a few weeks later swims that had not seen the light of day for years were ready to be fished
again.

All that was left was to rake out some weed and wait for the start of the season!

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Another new swim finished

The other good thing about being on during the close season is that we got a good feel for what the fish
were doing in advance of the kick-off. The Top Pool has loads of climbing trees and vantage points, so
during breaks we would climb the trees and watch the fish from above. Over the weeks we saw some
cracking specimens and noticed a few fish that had evaded us in the past.

The other thing we noticed was how all the smaller inhabitants seemed to be shoaling up. All the carp
under about 10lb seemed to be sticking together, along with a couple of the doubles. We counted around
10 of the ‘Sprat-pack’ and saw them each week up in the shallows. Three new fish were also stocked
between 8lb-9lb so we kept a good look out for these.

One weekend in early May we went up to do a work party and found all the ‘big-uns’ stacked up between
the Stile Swim and Boathouse. As luck would have it, Mart had just purchased a new digital camera, so I
snuck up one of the trees right over the fish and rattled of a few shots. As far as we know this is the only
photo of ‘The General’ reckoned to be around 34lb. The fish in the background is known as ‘Warrior’
whom I’ve had out at around 26lb, this gives some idea of the size of carp in the foreground!

He'll do!

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Although the traditional season starts on the 16th, those who have completed work parties can get on the
club waters on the 1st. With this falling on a Sunday, I informed Elton there was ‘Bob-Hope’ of me
working the Monday and I was up to the Top Pool well in advance to procure a decent swim!

Ideally Mart wanted the first new woods swim we’d opened up (New Boards) whilst I was after the next
one up (Black Hole) where I scored most of my hits last year. With Chris having spent no time on the
water I earmarked what I thought would be a good swim for him (Board Walk). It was a swim which was
un-fishable the year before so we had to cut down a lot of undergrowth at the front of the swim to make it
fishable. We then cleared some weed to a couple of likely spots to make presentation easy for the first few
weeks.

We got up to the water prior to the off and met up with some other lads who were planning to have a crack
at the Top Pool this year. Luckily we all got the swims we wanted but as the day drew on I had a feeling it
would not really matter anyway. The day got warmer and warmer and it was no real surprise that only a
few hours after casting the rods out at Midnight, the buggers started spawning! Try as we might they
showed zero interest in food for the following three days, which just left us to watch them frolicking
around in the shallows!

The following day I got a text of Miffer who was across the road fishing Redesmere to say he’d banked a
20lb’er. Miffer’s been through something of a lean patch lately, so it was nice to see him catch a nice fish,
especially from a venue such as Redesmere. As such, we went over to see him for an hour to celebrate his
catch. We stayed for a while watching all the fish action on the mere before going back across the road to
more spawning activity on the Top Pool. Nothing more doing.

The following week we were up there early to secure the swims, each of us landing our chosen spots. With
spawning apparently over, we were all full of the anticipation we’d had the week before prior to the off.
Things were looking up; carp could be seen moving around with much more vigour and we all felt pretty
confident for the session ahead. We all had rods in for about 8pm and after that things start to get rather
blurry. All I can remember is taking lots of photos of fish; spending most of the session with my rods
wound in whilst celebrating both on Redesmere and the Top Pool, and then going home not having caught
a thing!

Chris with Victor at 26lb 4oz

All the catching was done by Chris, the Top Pool ‘newbie’ and Miffer across the road on Redesmere. Not
long after casting in on the Top Pool, Chris’s margin rod roared off resulting in a nice tench of around 6lb,

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and soon after he was in again. However, this time it was something rather larger! A decent thump in the
rod signalled a better fish although it came to the bank pretty easily. Only when the fish had been netted
did Chris have the first idea of his achievement - a massive lump of a carp that would easily take him over
the 20lb barrier. As the scales whipped round past 20lb the look on his face was a real picture. His PB had
just jumped form 14lb to 26lb 4oz!

Chris (left) with Meldrew at 23lb 12oz, and a 15lb 10oz mirror

I rattled of a few pictures of the great fish, and Chris then returned it to the water, the beam on his face
unmovable. Chris was quite simply over the moon. It doesn’t end there, mind. Saturday morning and he’s
in again with a mirror of 15lb 10oz, shortly afterwards he banked another mirror of 23.12. An hour later
and the mobiles ringing in my ear; Miffer’s on the other end telling me he’s just banked ‘The Male’ at 33lb
of Redesmere - Safe to say Miffer’s lean spell had definitely now come to an end!

Back on the Top Pool Chris sneaked out a further two fish during the night; Red October at 19lb 12oz and
another mirror of 25lb 5oz! Just one of those amazing sessions you look back on in complete awe. I’ve
been lucky enough to have had a few similar red-letter sessions in the past, so for me it was nice to be able
to just reel in, sit back, and share the moment as two close friends had sessions they’d never forget.

Even though my rods had not been in much, I did notice a distinct lack of action over the margin that had
provided most of the action last season. During the close season I’d seen fish after fish in the usual manner,
but since I’d been back on I’d only spotted maybe two fish. The new swim we’d opened up to my right had
seen us cut into a massive pad line that stretched from the Stile Swim right up to mine. However, it now
finished on the next swim down. This was enough to get me looking to implement a change to get amongst
the fish on our next session. One thing we all had confidence in was the bait. Single B5 bottom baits had
given Chris three good 20’s and two good doubles in less than 36 hours, all of which boded well for the
season ahead.

Friday 13th

I arrived at the water determined to have a fish. As I was the first one on, I dumped my gear in the field
and went in search of the fish. The bay looked pretty quiet so I made my way up to the shallows finding all
the fish up on top. The new swim we’d made in the shallows on the Top Woods side would give me easy

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access to them, so I grabbed my gear and set up accordingly.

With it being a new swim I wasn’t entirely sure where to place the baits. I had pads to either side of me and
a clear channel in front that we’d cleared of lily pads. The water was about 18inces deep to about three rod
lengths out from the bank, it then shelved of to about three feet. I thought they may be a little shy feeding
in the shallow water as we’d only pulled the pads out the week before, so decided to bang them both on the
shelf.

Mart and Chris soon arrived, both setting up in the same swims as the week before. The night passed with
no action to me or anyone else on the water and as the sun came up on Saturday morning the carp decided
to spawn again! Within a few hours the carp were splashing and thrashing and showing no signs of
feeding.

I decided to try something different so went on stalking tactics. I had some soaked mixers, so decided to
reel in and have a wander up into the shallows where they were spawning. I was able to apply a few to the
carp as they came away from all the commotion just following up the edge of the sedges.

Presentation was the problem as the pond weed was up to the surface and the algal scum was in full bloom.
After about three hours I’d managed to get just two fish to take a free mixer. Grrrr. I was in two minds to
go home but should the bizarre happen and a carp be caught I’d have been kicking myself. I stayed on for
the Saturday night but nothing came of it - not for me or anybody else.

The following Saturday a friend had arranged a Barbeque so I was only able to get on for the Friday night.
I got up to the lake and found all the fish up in the shallows again, and so decided to fish the same peg as
the previous week. Having seen a few fish really close in the week previous

I decided to pull both rods back and fish them right in front of the swim. There were still loads of cabbages
on the bottom that we had missed when clearing the pads and weed, but it gave perfect cover. I was able to
drop both single hookbaits between a couple of these cabbages, weaving the shock leader around them to
get a decent lie.

Both baits were no more than a rod length from the bank in about 18 inches of water on each side of the
channel. By climbing a little tree at the back of the swim I was able to get a perfect view over the whole
swim and the baited spots. I stayed up the tree for a good hour watching the fish slowly moving down from
the shallows. I spotted three fish moving right down the edge of the pad line.

They slowly made their way down to the clearing on the left side of the channel and came right in over the
spot. The first fish was a nice high double. Just behind him a second that was low double, and behind them
a fish of around 25lb.

The two doubles came right over the baited spot and the larger fish went straight down and took up a free
bait, my heart was in my mouth as the bigger 25 fish came into the area. The fish skirted away under the
pads and I lost sight for a second, only for him to poke his head out from under the pads right over my
baited patch. My heat was in my mouth as he passed over the spot, slowing and dropping slightly. He
glided straight over but quickly turned and passed over again, this time with his head going down towards
the bait. Then, one of the doubles spooked on something, it was nowhere near the bait or line so I don’t
know what did it, but all hell broke loose on the surface with fish darting everywhere.

The alarm sounded and for a split second I thought I’d actually hooked the big fish. However, I quickly
realised it was just a liner as the fish left the area at speed.

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Carp moved over the spot all afternoon

I was a bit gutted but it was a sure sign I was in the right swim. I could see from the tree that the bait was
now completely masked in weed so I went back down and re baited. Just as I was about to cast out the bait
I noticed a fish moving under the pads just a few yards out to my left. I sunk to my knees for a second not
wanting to spook the fish. Seconds later it cleared the pad line and came into the clearing just few feet
from the bank. At this point I nearly wet myself as The Big Common came into view. It was massive!

It was in no hurry to go anywhere either, and just sat in front of the swim investigating the newly formed
pad line. I slowly flicked the bait to the little clear spot and backed away from the swim with the big fish
totally oblivious to my presence. I then sat back behind the sedges just watching the swingers attached to
my line just praying for the rod to scream off.

Nothing happened for a while and when I looked over the top of the sedges the fish had gone back under
the pad line to the left of my swim back up towards the shallows. Gutted! I retired to bed at about 11.30pm
and fell asleep shortly afterwards. I was set up with the rods no more than a foot away from the bedchair so
that if something did go off I could be on it before it made the sanctuary of the heavy pad roots. An hour
later and I got a single bleep on the left hand rod; the LED on the Delkim bite alarm lit up the ground
beneath the rods, at which point I saw the swinger twitch again - a run picked up immediately.

I quickly struck in and the fish immediately boiled on the surface just a few yards from the bank. I felt a
decent thump on the rod but knew it was far from a biggie. A few minutes later I slipped the net under a
nice mirror that went 12lb 4oz on the scales. My first Top Pool fish of the year!

I was well pleased with the double as it’s always nice to get that first fish under your belt, however, rather
than getting the camera which was with Mart right down at the bottom end of the lake I decided to slip the
fish straight back, besides, I felt the less commotion the better as the swim looked ripe for another! I
rebaited placing the rod back out to the little clear patch and put five more free baits out. I sat back down
and decided to have a can of beer to celebrate my first fish off. On this particular swim we mulched an area
down behind the sedges for a bivvy which means you are well shielded from the waters edge, but you can
get a really good view over the pad line. Although it was still pretty dark I kept seeing the water boil right

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on the pad line near the bait and so went back to bed shortly afterwards pretty confident.

Just as I was getting tucked up in the sack the same rod developed a single-toner. I was on it in a flash and
the rod tip jerked down as the fish dived to my left. For a second I thought it was a decent fish but I started
getting the little bumps indicative of a smaller carp thumping away at the other end. I applied some side
strain and managed to get the fish back into open water. Although it was only a small fish it gave a very
good account of itself so I was pleased when it finally went intro the net. I pulled back the net to reveal a
tiny scattered mirror. I weighed the fish at 8lb 12oz and slid him straight back in. Although another smaller
fish I was made up at having two in under an hour.

Although conditions looked good I received no action for the rest of the night. A light rain blew in at
around 8am which switched the fish on big-time. The tench, bream, and carp all started to show in the
shallows and I was tempted to ring up and cancel my appearance at the Barbie, but knowing how well that
would go down with Lisa I thought better of it and packed up as promised.

Looking up to the shallows from the Board-Walk

To be honest I was just happy to have had a couple during the night. I went home happy with the session
and the B5 and enjoyed a nice barbeque with my mates. I’d set myself a target of having a fish within the
first four weeks of the season before I went on holiday at the end of June, which meant I still had over a
week in hand to try and whip out a 20lb’er, but more about that in the next instalment.

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Part 4 (Top Pool Triumph and Back to Birch Grove, September 2003)
By Julian Grattidge

At the end of my previous piece I’d just had my first two carp for the year from the Top Pool. I was made
up with the result although neither fish were of the size one would normally expect; at 12lb 4oz & 8lb
12oz. No matter though, I’d attained the target I’d set myself at the beginning of the season of having a fish
out before I went on holiday at the end of June. The holiday was still a week away and so I couldn’t resist
sneaking back on to try and tempt a bigger fish before I went away. As anyone who has read previous
pieces on the Top Pool will know, the fish aren’t used to a great deal of pressure and spook really easily.
With a few anglers fishing the place during the first few weeks I decided to try a midweek overnighter
hoping the quiet banks might just bring a result.

I snuck up on the Wednesday night to find the place completely empty. I dumped my gear on the Point
Swim and went in search of the fish. It was around 7pm and the fish are usually to be found up in the
shallows at this time and they didn’t let me down. As I approached the Top Boards Swim I could see a
number of the sprat-pack close in to the bank, and as I looked down at them I wondered if the two fish I’d
banked at the weekend were amongst their number!

On the far side I could see some bigger fish moving right along the edge of the sedges in around twelve-
inches of water. They were moving in the area where I’d been stalking a few weeks earlier and I knew
there were a few good clear spots close to the bank where the fish were moving. Presentation from the peg
I was on would have been a nightmare, and hitting the clear spots which were only a foot wide would have
been even harder. There was only one thing for it; to trek my gear all the way around the bay and up the
other side of the lake.

Ten minutes later I had my gear past all the swims on the woods side, finally reaching the point where the
fish were showing. There’s no swim as such and the spot is much further up the lake than the top swim I’d
fished at the weekend. I crept to the edge of the sedges and peered over to see a number of 20lb plus fish
all close into the edge. The clear spots looked perfect, although I feared fishing tight-lines could spook the
fish; on the other hand I also wanted instant detection of bites. I agonised about how to fish the spots as I
set up, eventually deciding to fish one slack and one tight and see what happened!

The two spots were about a rod-length from the bank and I soon had a single Shellfish B5 boilie positioned
on each; one on a simple fluorocarbon boom-rig with a half-ounce lead, the other free-lined using a simple
braid rig I’d tied using some 22lb Snowbee high tenacity braided polyester backing line, which I’d nicked
from Dave at Tackle Bargains - I’d been itching to try this out for a while as it’s very, very supple.

I set up the shelter a little way from the rods as the ground was really boggy underfoot. Waders were
donned for the night ahead as I’d probably need to go into the margins if I had to land a fish. Once set up I
ate my tea (cheese sandwiches!) and then climbed the nearest tree to see what was going on. The fish were
still in the area and every now and then one would move close to the baited area increasing my heart rate
on each occasion. There were no freebies on either of the patches; just a few handfuls of Shellfish B5
Active Breakdown Pellets. The pellets are made to the exact same recipe as the boilies but are built to
breakdown over about twenty minutes. This allows me to give off a massive B5 food signal without having
loads of bait on the lake bed which could reduce the chances of a take on the hook bait. As it was, the
presentation looked perfect so I climbed down the tree, lay on the bedchair and soaked up my

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surroundings. It was the first time I’d done an overnighter this far up the lake, for as I mentioned earlier,
there isn’t really a swim, but if the carp won’t come to Mohammed…

As darkness fell I was happy to settle for an early night so turned up the Delk’s a touch and turned in for
the night. I must have slept soundly, which is extremely unusual for me, for the next thing I know its
daylight and the Delkim gave a bleep alerting me to a twitch on the left hand rod (the free-lined bait). A
split-second later I heard a massive ‘Boodoosh’ as the water erupted and the alarm now sounded a full-
blooded take. As I scrambled down to the rod I somehow knew this was a decent fish and as I lifted into
the run and looked out over the sedges I could see a huge fish bolting out of the margin heading at speed
into the middle of the lake.

Check out the Pondweed!

The fish gave a terrific battle from start to finish, and as it was unable to go deep (the whole area is only
about eighteen inches deep) it’s only course of action was to charge up and down the margin in an attempt
to reach a snag. It was a case of give-and-take as it kept making powerful lunges up and down the margin,
and there were a few nervous moments as it nearly made the sanctuary of the overhanging rhododendron
bushes to my right on a couple of occasions.

Eventually however, I managed to coax the fish into the net, although it kept thrashing like mad once in,
soaking me completely… bothered?

I climbed up out of the boggy margin and carried fish and net up to the unhooking mat. There was a
mountain of weed in the net but I was in no doubt it was well over the twenty pound mark. As I pulled
back the weed a perfect mirror presented itself, and as I saw the size of its tail and a couple of scattered
scales on its flanks I straightaway knew it to be Five Scales; a fish I’d had before at around 25lb.

Aside from a few spawning scrapes the fish was in absolutely mint condition and I could not stop grinning
as I slipped her into the sling for weighing. The Avon’s whipped round and settled at 25lb 9oz - result!

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25lb of tail! Taken on free-lined Shellfish B5.
I took a couple of quick photos on the mat, and then gently carried the mat down to the waters edge. The
fish had the last laugh; whacking its huge tail against the water as it powered off into the margin, again
covering me in water - I just let out a loud laugh and punched the air. As I made my way back up to my
shelter the alarm-clock on my mobile phone sounded, letting me know it was time to get up! I was back at
ANHQ an hour or so later and wasted no time in telling Elton that I’d just whipped out a twenty from the
Top Pool!

With the holiday now just days away I thought the chances of another trip were rather remote, so had put
the Top Pool to the back of my mind. We went away on the Monday morning and had the usual stuff to
sort over the weekend before we went, so I was more than surprised when Lisa said it was all in hand and I
could sneak the Friday night if I wanted - Don’t need to tell me twice! As it turned out I never even got to
the Top Pool! I’d planned a steady trip, leaving the office at around six, planning to be there and set up for
around eight. However, early in the afternoon I got a call off Miffer telling me that he’d just had a call of
one from the Redesmere regulars who was set up in the shallows watching a boat load of thirties cruising
around in front of him. What’s more, he informed me, there was nobody else on. At the beginning of the
season the shallows is usually packed as this is where most of the fish come from during the warmer
months; Miffer’s 33lb common a few weeks previous from the Neck is testament to this. Miffer explained
he was already on his way up and intoned that if I fancied a dabble I should ‘do-one’ up to the Mere before
all the swims went.

Miffer with ‘The Male’ at 33lb from Redesmere

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I put it to the back of my mind and kept working for a while, though pictures of the Redesmere thirties
wallowing around in the shallows kept coming into my head. Needless to say I was soon on the phone to
Elton explaining the situation - As I would be able to finish my remaining jobs the next day Elton had no
problem with me finishing early (He’s just such a nice guy:-) ). I was on the Mere within the hour.

Usually I’m not one for fishing Redesmere; the fishing can get a little crowded and in some cases it’s just a
case of cast’em out and wait - Not really my kind of fishing. That said, you can’t argue with the quality of
fish stocks, the water is known nationally in specimen circles for its head of carp, there are perhaps thirty
fish over twenty five pounds with around 13 fish capable of doing 30lb at any one time. The record is just
shy of forty pounds so its no wonder the place proves popular. Double figure bream and tench, along with
pike into the high twenties are also present.

I pulled onto the shallows next to Miffer and climbed the tree to have a look out over the shallows.
Straightaway I spotted a couple of good fish cruising about fifty yards out skirting quite a dense weed bed.
The mere extends to some 40-acres, and the shallows at the north end cover a good few acres so there’s
plenty to go at, especially as the shallows are only fishable from the east bank. It would be no problem
presenting a bait as the water was only a few foot deep and the weed beds were easily visible from the
bank whilst wearing Polarized glasses. Although the fish were visible until darkness fell, nothing
developed through the night. This was no real problem mind, as Miffer and I just had a bit of a social to
celebrate his thirty and my twenty-five.

The following two weeks in Crete meant my rods lay idle back at home as Lisa had banned me from taking
any gear with me! Not that this was a problem, I enjoyed a really nice break and even managed to come
back engaged! Teach me to drink too much in the sun, eh?

Shaun with a double figure common taken off the top

The weekend after I got back was Miffer’s 40th birthday bash, so again no fishing. The week after was the
26th July, which meant it was the 24hr carp match on Blackwood Pool; the club water we control. The
carp match is just an excuse to have a bit of a social really, and we usually try to fit three in during the year
with the aggregate winner taking a trophy. No fish fell to my rods during the session which was weird as
they were all over me when we set up on the Saturday afternoon. Chris and Shaun managed to sneak a
couple off the top whilst Miffer’s brother John took the early lead with a handful of single figure carp on
bottom baits. Mart showed the way forward during the late afternoon and evening taking a number of carp
on the Shellfish B5, eventually taking the win the following day. Mart has really struggled to get amongst
the fish so far this season, so it was nice for him to get a few fish under his belt, even if they were only
babies:-).

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Mart with one of the small carp that gave him the eventual win

The first weekend in August I was over in Suffolk with Elton to help him move his business; what a ball-
ache that was! The closest I got to a fish was sitting in Elton’s back garden feeding the koi’s in his pond!
One person who was doing a bit whilst I was away was Chris; fishing The Swamp just outside Milton,
Stoke-On-Trent. Chris had been taking a couple of fish off the top up to double figures and then scored a
perfect hit with this 23lb mirror taken on bread flake. A cracking result for Chris who’s angling is
improving immeasurably session by session - Top angling, mate!

Chris with his surface caught 23lb ‘Swamp’ mirror

Once back from Elton’s I had just a few days to get ready for our week on Birch Grove. Most specimen
carp anglers will no doubt be aware of the recent spate of fish deaths on this legendary water, a real shame
as most of 30lb fish have been lost. The water is fished on a weekly basis with a maximum of four fishing
at any one time. There’s been a massive amount written on this water by some of the countries leading carp
anglers, so I won’t spend too much time explaining the set up, but basically its about four acres in size,
completely fringed by trees and overhanging bushes, and fishable from just one side with three or four
swims positioned along its length. We usually fish in pairs in the Compound Swim, and Bottom Boards
Swim. Swapping over midway through the week.

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Looking out to the left of the Compound

This year Shaun and Miffer were fishing together for the week, whilst I was paired with Darren (Shaun’s
brother) until the Wednesday, after which time he was going home to look after his pigeons (don’t ask) so
Mart was coming on for a few days. Chris also came along for the trip as a non-fishing guest (cook!).

Each party fishes Sunday noon until Sunday noon, so we set off around 10am heading for the sleepy
village of Baschurch just outside Shrewsbury. Once at the water we pulled all the cars into the compound
next to the caravan, and sat down to read the log book filled in by the previous crew.

We were only the third party back on since the water had reopened so were eager to see what, if anything,
had been taken. The log didn’t make pretty reading, as only a couple of twenties had come out over
previous weeks with a few doubles. However, it had been red hot the previous week which may also have
had an effect, so we started lugging the gear round to the swims still full of optimism.

The water was looking a little sick, with brown blooms showing just below the surface. We could not see
much action on top, where usually there are fish boating about everywhere. I

rrespective of this we got set up and got the rods in. For the first part of the week Darren and I were in the
Compound; my four rods covering the features to the left towards the Caravan Swim and the Black Hole,
whilst Darren’s rods went out to the right towards the Thirty Bush. The first few day’s were pretty much a
non-event, we hardly saw a fish move and the water quality did not look to clever.

Rob Hughes called down early in the week and spent some time chatting about the fish deaths; a very sad
tale indeed. That said, we were heartened to hear that good fish still remained - even if they weren’t
showing yet!

Tuesday night and I had the first bit of action, a run on my right hand rod placed out towards the sedges. I
hit in and the fish continued to take line then snagged. Rather than pulling for a break I went straight for
the boat as I could still feel the fish on the end.

Chris rowed us out and as we neared the point the extra height on the rod freed the fish, unfortunately it
then headed straight into another snag and spat out the hook. At least it was some action, so I casted the
bait back out hopeful of another take. Nothing else came during the night, but the next morning Miffer had
a result - a 23lb 6oz common of the Boards.

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First Blood - Miffer with his 23lb 6oz Birch common

The conditions were now changing fast and the water quality seemed to be improving greatly as well.
What’s more, we were now starting to see fish moving around. At dinnertime we switched ends, so I was
now setting up on the Boards where I started to see fish all over the place. As such, my confidence was
growing by the hour. Mart turned up just after tea and set up his rods on the left of the swim whilst mine
covered the pads around the right. Miffer had decided to break from Shaun who was now moving onto the
compound, instead opting for the Helipad Swim which lies in between the Boards and Compound.

Thursday morning came and fish were definitely moving over the spots we’d been baiting. We were using
a combination of chopped Shellfish B5 boilies & B5 Active Breakdown Pellets, and also a cracking
particle-mix Miffer had made up from products in his local pet shop; we were mixing this with extra hemp.
In terms of set-up, I was using 16lb Top Line mainline, 25lb Kryston Super Mantis hook lengths, with size
7 VMC Vanadium triple micro-barb hooks. I tied these using the knotless knot with no core stripped back.
Hook baits for the week were 20mm B5 boilies and naturals; corn, beans, and maize.

The business end! Mantis rigs with VMC hooks on 20m B5 pop-ups over chopped boilie & B5 Active
breakdown Pellets

Not surprisingly, one of my far bank rods burst into life shortly afterwards. I was fishing at distance so had

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to gather some line back pretty quickly to halt the fish from reaching the sanctuary of the pads. The fish
put up a spirited battle, but once in open water I was able to play it with relative ease. Mart did the honours
with the net and lifted what was an obvious twenty pound mirror onto the mat. The fish was perfect and in
good condition, and had obviously taken a liking to the particle mix which it was now excreting all over
the mat! The fish went 21lb 14oz on the scales, though size was unimportant; I was just happy to get a
Birch fish on the bank.

Yours truly with a 21lb 14oz Birch mirror

As runs on Birch can often come from one set of rods we take it in turns to hit them; by going ‘on strike’.
We find this a fairer way for a weeks fishing, hopefully ensuring that we all manage to bank a fish. To start
off with you each have your own rods until a fish is banked, then the next person has all eight rods to go at.
As such, Mart was now on strike. As evening fell we were confident of another fish as the conditions
continued to improve.

In the early hours I heard an alarm sound further up the bank, hopefully meaning one of the other lads was
in, and not long after, my right hand margin rod burst into life as a run picked up, I left it for a brief second
as it was Mart’s strike but heard no immediate response from his bivvy. As such, and twinned with the fact
that I heard Miffer on the Helipad jokingly shout across to Mart “Are you going to hit that or what?” I
decided I’d jump up, hit it, and ask questions later.

The fish was going under the pads to my right so I applied heavy side strain with the rod tip down to my
left. After a brief moment of resistance it turned and came back out. At this point I handed the rod to a
bleary-eyed Mart who was only now stumbling down the boards, all he needed to do now was guide the
fish to the waiting net!

After netting the fish I looked back to see Miffer arrive on the swim, brew in hand with a big grin on his
face. “Latched one, youth?” I enquired, “Oh, aye” he replied “24lb 7oz and 16lb 6oz, both commons”.
Things were certainly looking up!

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Miff with his 24lb 7oz common

After sorting Mart’s fish, a good looking mirror which went 23lb 12oz on the scales, I had a walk up to
Shaun who had also seen some action during the night banking commons of 26lb 8oz, 4lb & 5lb. Result!
Mart’s fish put me back on strike and I was confident of another before going home.

In the early evening one of Mart’s rods situated out towards the far bank gave a couple of bleeps and I
struck in. The rod bent double as a good fish powered off. Unfortunately something in the setup gave way
resulting in a lost fish.

To say I was gutted would have been an understatement, as without doubt it was a good fish. I dumped the
rod outside Marts bivvy and told him I could give him lessons in knot tying for five pounds an hour!

Mart with his (cough!) 23lb 12oz mirror from my margin rod

As Saturday came the fish were still showing. The warm weather had brought them up on top but they took
little interest in mixers, even though they were splashing about all over the place in the pads. Shaun tried
the same at the other end of the lake with similar results.

During the day I spotted a group of about fifteen fish with some really big ones amongst them - a couple of
which were easily thirties. It was nice to know they were still in.

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Shaun’s immaculate 26lb 8oz Birch common

We went down to the Duncan in the afternoon as we would be heading home the following day, luckily
for us they had just kicked in a barbie so we ended up getting fat on burgers all afternoon! No action came
to my rods that night although I received a take on one of my pad-line rods the following morning. I was
standing over it when it went off and was on it in a split second. The fish kited right though I was pumping
the rod and gathering line back at a good rate. At this point however, the line suddenly went limp and I
reeled in to find a perfect clean cut straight through the mainline with no abrasion marks, nicks or grazes
whatsoever. The fish had obviously found a very sharp snag of sorts, and there’s not really a lot you can do
about it. To be honest I was a little dumbfounded, as this is the first time this has ever happened to me! It
just goes to emphasise the importance of always using safety clips in your set-up so the fish won’t then
tether themselves.

Looking out over my rods on the Boards Swim

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Luckily, Shaun faired much better during the last night in the compound, taking yet more commons! Both
fish were perfect, weighing in at 15lb 12oz and 28lb 12oz, a perfect finish for our week on the water. All
Shaun’s fish came from the same rod near to the sedges on the far bank, near where I’d had the lost take on
the Tuesday night. What’s more surprising is the bait that every fish he had fell for; although Shaun’s wish
is to keep that quiet… for a little while at least!

Soon after that we began the worst part of any fishing trip - the packing up! Once the cars were full we
filled in the fishing log; happily reporting six fish over 20lb, two decent doubles, and a couple of singles,
by far the best week since the water reopened.

Shaun with his final night success at 28lb 12oz - Result!

I was disappointed with my lost fish; well, very disappointed to be honest. Had those three runs been
converted to fish on the bank it would have been a very different week, but these things happen I guess.
That said, I was happy with the fish I’d had and it was a great week overall. I just can’t wait to get back on
there and put things right!

First light on the Boards Swim - I can’t wait to get back on Birch!

That brings us up to date pretty much, I’ve been back just a couple of days and already I’m itching to get
back on the Top Pool. I’ve planned a quick overnighter for Friday night, so here’s hoping…

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Part 5 (Winter on Top Pool, April 2004)
By Julian Grattidge

At the end of the last piece time on the bank had been limited over the latter part of the year. Results for
the year had been patchy at best and I’d certainly not spent as much time on the bank as I would have liked
but commitments at home had to come first. The problem was that I seemed to be doing a few sessions
then having to pull off to do more work at home, then when I got back on a water I needed to get my eye in
again.

Come December the latest bit of work had been done on the house, though I knew much more was to come
over the next few months. Irrespective of this I was determined to get back up on the Top Pool as I’d not
really set foot on the place since Birch back in August. The best time on the Top Pool is usually during the
autumn and I’d missed the lot! As such, I was eager to get back on and see if I could rattle out a couple of
fish before the end of the season.

Winter fish from the Top Pool are very few and far between and it can get a little soul destroying when you
keep going up, doing everything right, yet still blank. Part of the problem is that the woods on both sides of
the lake are closed for shooting from October until the end of the season. This means that you are
effectively fishing about half of the lake for the latter part of the year.

The other problem is spotting the fish; during winter you can go for weeks without seeing the slightest sign
of a carp, the complete opposite of summer when you can follow them round all day! Nonetheless, I was
full of determination and eager to get back on and hopefully get amongst the fish. I still had lots to do
around the house but had made time to do a few quick overnighters during the first few weeks of
December. The first session on Saturday December 6th saw Chris and I fishing the Point Swims. These
swims give a good vantage point across the bay and the hope was that if fish were active; this area offered
the best chance of spotting them.

A chilly -3ºc meant frozen rods and icy margins!

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The conditions were worse than had been forecast and a heavy frost came down overnight dropping the
temperature to -3ºc, this left the fields behind us solid white and a layer of ice formed around the margins
of the lake. The night passed without event and come the chilly morning I was only to happy to pack up
and go home!

Even though nothing had developed I felt much better for just getting back on the bank and we’d seen a
few encouraging signs during the session. We spotted a good number of fish topping further into the bay,
and whist sure they weren’t carp – they were fish nonetheless.

The following weekend I was under orders to finish decorating one of the bedrooms at home as we had
some friends staying over Christmas. I was eager to fish the following weekend if at all possible so I
cracked on with the decorating like a man possessed to ensure the following weekend would be spent on
the Top Pool! The plan worked. In fact, it worked so well that Lisa gave me an ‘away pass’ for both the
Friday and Saturday night – result! However, I think the real reason for letting me go was that she didn’t
want me moaning my bag off whilst doing the last bit of Christmas shopping around Leek!

As I would be arriving in darkness on the Friday I had decided to set up in Robins as this would give an
easy flick to the spot where we had seen the fish topping on the last session. When I arrived at the water
Chris was already set up in Left of Point and was ready for action. It was cold, although not as cold as the
last session, yet a frost was definitely on the cards. I set up as quick as possible and flicked out single B5
hook baits in PVA bags filled with a few crushed boilies and some B5 active breakdown pellets.

I was soon settled in and got some tea on the go to warm me up. The frost came down and the wind
dropped completely although there was quite a bit of cloud moving overhead. Rain was due to move in the
next morning and stay throughout the day, though at least this would raise the temperature a little. The
night was pretty unremarkable in that absolutely nothing happened. A couple of liners were all that woke
me as night turned to early morning and not long after that I heard a light pitter-patter on the bivvy as the
rain moved in. I stayed snug in the sack with a brew and watched as it became light. The swim, nicknamed
Robins, lived up to its name and within half an hour of waking I’d had three different robins around the
front of my bivvy looking for some breakfast. Brave as you like, the fattest of the three even came into my
bivvy to have a good look around for crumbs from my meal the evening before, he found a few morsels to
his liking and stayed on the floor inside the bivvy for another three or four minutes whilst I watched with
my head perched over the edge of my bedchair no more than 18 inches away.

Rain sets in for the day on Robins

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The day passed without event and the rain continued throughout. Geoff Hayes, the Society’s Fisheries
Manager paid us a visit during the early afternoon and we had a good chat about all things fishy. The rain
eased for an hour or two after that so I used the opportunity to have a plumb about and find a few spots for
the bait to go out on for the night ahead.

I found a couple of nice clear spots and made a mental note for later. As I watched the water during the
hours before darkness I saw fish topping a couple of times over the area I’d plumbed. They looked to be
tench or bream but anything would be welcome in such conditions so I decided to bait up for the night on
these spots. It was 11.00pm before anything happened, at which point I received a series of bleeps on my
right hand rod as the swinger bounced up and down an inch or so – very tench like. I gently lifted into the
rod and was met by a strong tap-tapping as a tench tried to escape with my hook bait. Although it was easy
enough to coax the tench to the margin for netting I had a feeling it might be a decent one, and as it slid
over the cord of the landing net I estimated it to be a good 6½ lb.

With the rain still coming down and me without coat, I quickly unhooked the tench whilst still in the water
and returned it straight back, I watched in the torch light as the large male slowly fanned its large pelvic
fins before moving off into the darkness and I felt quite pleased that at least something had decided to pick
up my hook bait! I quickly dried off and prepared another B5 stringer, clipped up the rod and cast out to
the exact same spot. Within an hour the same rod was away again, resulting in another tench, a nice
female of around 5lb.

By first light the rain had gone completely and the sun came up from behind the woods bathing the water
in its warming rays. I stuck it out for an hour or two and then started a slow pack up; happy in the fact that
I’d at least had a couple of fish on my last session of the year.

Packing up in the bright sunlight on Robins

After the Christmas period was over I was keen to get back on the Top Pool as soon as possible. I’d had an
email from Dan who’d been doing a few sessions on there during the day. He’d done seven day sessions
without so much as a bleep, but he’d spotted a couple of fish, so this at least gave me the confidence to get
back on and find the fish.

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Saturday 10th January and I was back on the Top Pool. I arrived at the water around 11.00am and a light
South Westerly was blowing into the dam end of the lake. I quite fancied the Rodie Bush, but this had been
where Dan had done the seven sessions without success, which put me off a little. After a look around the
Point and the bay, Chris decided he fancied the Boathouse so I decided to go and have a look at the Stile
Swim. I climbed the tree on the Stile and looked out over the water to see if there were any signs of
activity. I thought I caught something move way out to my left; conditions weren’t great for spotting fish
but I was sure I’d seen something over by the margin in front of the New Boards Swim. I climbed back
down and quickly got my Polarized glasses and went back up the tree. I carefully scanned the water and
then spotted the movement again in the same area - Two carp were moving very slowly up the margin on
my left between the New Boards Swim and the Black Hole. I climbed a little higher to try and get a better
vantage point and was able to make one to be a decent 20lb with the other perhaps high double.

After spotting two carp I set up in the Stile Swim

After watching the two fish until they went out of sight I climbed back down and begun setting up in the
Stile Swim. My confidence was sky high and the conditions were perfect. The sun was out and the
temperature held at around 8ºc with the water only a few degrees lower in the margins. Hitting the spot
where I’d seen the fish was going to be quite tricky as the Stile has loads of overhanging trees all around
the swim. It took several casts to get it right over to the margin in front of the New Boards; I opted for
single hook baits and fired in about 10 freebies over each bait. As the day drew on everything seemed
perfect and I had that feeling that action could well be on the cards.

As darkness fell it still felt really warm and I was on edge, full of anticipation. However, knowing that
things were perhaps too good to be true, at about 1.00am a really strong wind picked up and driving rain
soon followed. This really seemed to knock it on the head and it was no surprise that by morning nothing
had developed.

The next few weekends were spent removing the old boiler and radiators at home as we got the next ‘house
project’ underway. We’ve decided the kitchen is next on the renovation list. In order to do this I’ve got to
strip the walls back to brick, rewire the whole room, rip out the old boiler & tank, install a new combi and
radiators, then get a new back door and windows built, board up some internal doorways and hatches,
plaster all the walls, and then fit a new hand built wooden kitchen… easy as that… cough!

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Another project begins… Help!

I’ve made a detailed plan of what I’ve got to do each week in order to have the lot done for the start of the
season in June – will just have to see how it goes! I’d also built a few sessions into the plan as I wanted to
keep my hand in on the bank. I think this was the mistake I made last year - Throughout the winter and the
closed season last year I cracked on with the renovating and only managed about two sessions between
January and the start of the season in June, this meant that I was hitting the water cold whilst all those
around me had been fishing and were high on confidence. It took a while to get sorted and hit the fish and I
think if I’d been on the ball from the off I would have had better results. As such, although I had a lot of
work ahead of me on the house, I planned to make time to fish every couple of weeks to try and keep my
hand in.

That said; it was now over a month since I’d been on the bank. Most of this was down to me however, as
in addition to doing work on the kitchen, I also took ownership of my new Scooby and spent a couple of
weekends blasting around the open roads of the Peak District - it’s compulsory when you buy such cars:-).
Car aside, I was eager to get the rods back out and decided I could fit in a night on Saturday 21st February.
I had some jobs to do in the morning and I also had to pick Lisa’s mum and dad up from Manchester
Airport in the early afternoon, but I finally made it up to Blackwood Pool at around 4.00pm, where some
of the lads were having a bit of a social.

All of the gang were already in and fishing when I arrived. Shaun and Darren had been there since the day
before but as yet, had had nothing. Most of the usual swims between Pegs 2 and 6 had gone and the rest
were set up along the dam from Pegs 10 to 13. I decided it might pay to keep away from the crowd and so
set up on Peg 17 where I could stretch my legs a little if I saw any movement in open water.

As darkness fell I was all set up with rods out; a single B5 hook bait in the margin and another single hook
bait in open water. It was getting colder and we would definitely be in for a frost but I was confident
nonetheless and was just happy to be back out fishing. After a bit of a social I tucked up in the sack and
hoped I’d be woken by a Delkim before morning arrived.

The night passed without incident and I stayed tucked up in the sack with a brew the next morning and

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wondered when I’d bank my first carp of 2004. As the thought lingered the swinger on my right hand rod
flew up and hit the rod as a belting run picked up and started taking line from the Baitrunner. I flew out of
the bivvy and lifted into the fish which was heading out from the margin into open water. The rod gave a
thump as a good Blackwood double tried to make its escape. The fish put up one hell of a battle and kept
ploughing up and down the margin whilst making powerful lunges but a good hook hold ensured he could
go nowhere and I eventually slid a decent mirror into the waiting net. Once on the unhooking mat I was
eager to see which of the Blackwood contingent had picked up the B5 and pulled back the folds of the net
to see the unmistakeable linear markings of the Parrot.

The Parrot on a frosty February morning

The fish looked in great condition and I was well happy with my first carp for 2004. I did not have a
camera with me so I quickly weighed the fish (at its best weight for Blackwood) and slipped it into a sack
for a moment in order that I could go and rouse Chris to take a few photos. When I got round to the other
side of the lake Chris and Rob were already up and about and Rob informed me he’d also had a good
double which upped his Personal Best. All in all, a good little session.

Although only one fish and a double, the Parrot gave me a confidence boost and I was eager to get back on
the Top Pool to see if I could rattle one out before the season finished at the end of March. However, the
next weekend I was busy ripping out the old boiler at home and getting a nice new Combi installed. The
work at home was ahead of schedule (unbelievably) which meant I was able to fish the following Saturday,
6th March on the Top Pool.

I arrived at the water at 2.00pm expecting to have the place to myself, but as I made way around the lake
from the Stile swim I spotted a bivvy on the Point which I recognised as Andy’s and so made my way
round for a chat. Andy had only been set up for a few hours but had already seen quite a few fish topping
in the bay. As we stood chatting there seemed to be quite a bit of activity in front of Andy’s swim with fish
topping in mid-water. I saw a fish roll out in front of the Rodie Bush which looked distinctly ‘carpy’ and
then a few minutes later the same thing happened but closer in, right by the overhanging branches of the
rhododendron. That was enough for me and I was away to move my gear into the Rodie Bush Swim.

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After seeing a fish roll I decided on the Rodie Bush

Shortly afterwards a new member that I’d been talking to via email came down to the water to have a look
around. I chatted with Joe about the water as I set up and prepared to put the baits out. I got everything
ready but refrained from putting the baits in as the swans were active and were waiting for the slightest
sign of food two rod lengths out from the bank. As such I went back round to chat to Andy for a while as I
hadn’t seen him since the previous September.

I chatted for an hour or so with Andy and caught up on any captures I’d missed during the previous
autumn. Not that I’d missed much, since the two twenties in a session Andy had caught the previous
summer, one of which I’d helped him photograph, not much had been off. Andy had taken a couple of
doubles since then but it had been hard going. Irrespective of this, we were both confident for the night
ahead. Conditions were the best they had been since I’d been back on in December; the temperature was a
decent 7ºc with a light 7mph South Westerly breeze. As we chatted a couple of blokes came on with some
pike gear and bounced a few deadbaits across the bottom and picked up a number of jacks over the next
hour. I made a mental note to chuck a trace and a couple of lures in my tackle bag. Shortly afterwards the
swans climbed out of the water by the Boathouse and waddled off behind the swim down onto the Main
Lake – time to get my baits out.

I waded out a couple of paces from the bank and flicked a single B5 hook bait out in front of the Rodie
Bush, the bottom had a lot of leaf debris and a few strands of fresh Canadian pond weed, but not enough to
make me want to bag-up. After a couple of underarm flicks I lobbed a good cast which dropped about an
inch of the edge of the bush - Perfect.

I bagged up the right had rod and gave it a good underarm flick to the edge of the padline, Although only
March the pads were already starting to sprout on the bottom and I dropped the bait on a spot where I’ve
had a good number of twenties in the past. Both rods had gone out perfect and conditions looked spot on –
so much so that I decided to ring Chris and wind him up by telling him that fish were definitely on the
cards, as he had gone up to Blackpool for the weekend with some friends and could not make it.

With baits in I sat back and soaked up my surroundings. As evening drew on the temperature remained
warm and come Ten’ O’clock a full moon bathed a completely flat calm Top Pool in moonlight. I could
clearly see fish topping just out in front of the Rodie bush to my left and felt confident it was only a matter
of time before one of the resident carp paid a visit to the shallow water under the branches of the
overhanging bush – I just hoped that one of them would fall for my hook bait.

After a couple more hours, tiredness got the better of me and I hit the sack. I remember waking to a liner
off the bush rod at about 5.30am and immediately noticed that a very light rain was now falling on a

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completely flat calm surface giving almost perfect Top Pool conditions. I dozed for another hour or so then
made a brew and got back in the sack as it became light. Fish were still topping out in front of the bush and
just as I was beginning to think my chance may well have passed, the swinger on the bush rod went right to
the top as line was immediately pulled from the tightly set baitrunner. Seconds later I lifted into a powerful
fish that was off towards the Boathouse at speed. I felt the line pinging off some of the submerged roots
and then started to damp my finger on the spool to slow its run.

The fish kept thudding away and tried to change its direction several times; eventually deciding that it
wanted to get back to where it had just come from – under the rodie bush. Although powerful, I had a
feeling the fish was not a massive one as it didn’t prove too difficult to turn it away from the bush and I
was soon able to coax it back into open water in front of the swim. As the light rain continued to fall I
gently eased the fish over the top of the cord and saw the flank of a beautiful fully scaled mirror slide into
the deep folds of the net – My first Top Pool carp of the year.

First time out – Spot; surely to become one of the Top Pools most sought after residents.

I felt like a little kid as I moved the fish and unhooking mat up behind the bivvy. I had a feeling this fish
was going to look a little special when I pulled back the net and on doing so I was not disappointed, the
fully scaled mirror looked absolutely stunning in its full winter colours. As I examined the fish I suddenly
noticed an area of what looked to be white cartilage on the top of its head right between the eyes and it
slowly dawned on me that I’d caught ‘Spot’.

When fishing the Black Hole back in 2002, Martin and I kept seeing this fish sitting in the weed out to the
right of the swim. During the hot summer days it would appear in the exact same place each mid morning
and would quite literally not move an inch until late afternoon when it would drift off up towards the
shallows.

The fish was a Stockie introduced from Fanshawe a few years previous, easily recognisable by a large
white spot on the top of its head between the eyes. The fish became quite a character, as concerned anglers
quite often came round to see us reporting what appeared to be a dead fish. Mart or myself would always
ask if it was out in front of the Old Boards Swim, and when they said yes, would tell them not to worry as
it was just Spot having his daily nap!

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The fish, which also became known as ‘Eric’ (Idle) and ‘Rigor’ (Mortis) now looked a good deal heavier
then when I’d last seen it in the water and it was good to see it piling on the weight. The fish was a picture
of health and was truly spectacular to look at. After speaking since with other regulars we’re pretty sure
this is its first time on the bank, and I was delighted that I would be the first to bank what will no doubt
become one of the venues most sought after residents in years to come.

I placed the fish back in the water and walked around the bay to see if Andy would do the honours with the
camera. On arriving at his peg I noticed one of his rods up against the bivvy and a nice little lump on his
unhooking mat. Andy had also scored taking a cracking little double from a lightly baited patch out
towards the pad line.

After a quick photo session where Spot duly obliged by keeping his dorsal fin erect throughout; looking
every inch the clichéd wood carving, we returned the fish to the water and had a well deserved brew. We
then went on to tell each other about our captures. Although not massive by Top Pool standards, we were
both made up taking the first carp from the water in 2004.

Andy with one of the Top Pool Sprat Pack at 12lb 8oz

I was on a high for most of the following week after taking such a nice fish and nothing was going to stop
me getting straight back on the following weekend, although I’d only be able to do the Friday night. I
arrived at the water around 6.00pm and had just enough time for a quick look round before darkness set in.
With nothing to tempt me elsewhere I set up on the Rodie again and went about setting up in the dark.

I soon had baits placed exactly as I had the week previous and then settled back to relax. I was the only one
on the water and with conditions an exact re-run of the week before, felt confident that something may
occur during the night. Although cold during the day, the hour by hour forecast I’d checked online before
leaving the house said it would get progressively warmer with each hour that passed during the night as the
stiff winds eased, and so far that seemed to be the case. At just a minute after 10.00pm, as I was writing a
note in my journal to the effect that everything ‘looked good’, I had a massive liner on the bush rod. The
rod was back leaded right under the corner of the rodie so I knew something was definitely mooching
around the baited area.

Less than two hours later the swinger on the bush rod started dancing around as the Delkim gave a series of
bleeps indicating what in all likelihood was a tench trying to spit out the hook bait. I quickly netted a nice
little female of around 4lb and removed the hook which was firmly embedded smack bang in the middle of
her bottom lip – my confidence in the small fluorocarbon hook links was gaining ground again with every

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fish. I waded out and recast the rod landing it right on the same spot – so close in, that the lead just clipped
a leaf on the rodie as it plopped down a couple of feet onto the bottom. Perfect. An hour later and it was off
again; this time a better tench, weighed at 6lb 2oz. They were getting bigger!

Conditions felt right on the Rodie Bush, an exact re-run of the previous week
At 2.20am I received the take I was waiting for; again off the bush. A screaming run met with a solid
thump as I lifted the rod. It was immediately apparent it was not a biggie – but another decent carp
nonetheless. After a brief tussle I netted a decent double and moved it and the net up onto the unhooking
mat. As I removed the hook (middle of the bottom lip again) from the solid little mirror that lay before me,
I realised it was the exact same fish that Andy had had the week before from the Point! This one certainly
had a liking for the B5. I decided not to weigh or photograph the greedy little mirror and slipped it straight
back to the water to go off and sulk. On later inspection of the photos (of Andy with the same fish the
week previous) I matched it to a capture Mart had made back in June 2002, where we took a picture of the
same fish at just over 9lb.

The 7” ESP Ghost link now had a little kink in it so I decided to put the kettle on and tie up another before
placing it back out in front of the bush, after which I climbed back in the sack. Another tench at around
8.00am gave four fish for the night, all off the same rod. I was well pleased with the result and packed up
very happy.

The beginning of the closed season had been moved back to the end of March which gave just two more
weekends until I’d have to say goodbye to the place until June. I’d primed Lisa that I wanted to stick it out
till the end as I’d had some encouraging results and a bigger fish must ‘surly’ be just around the corner.

As such I managed to sneak the following Friday and Saturday night. Conditions on the Friday were
perfect and I set up on the Rodie Bush again with Chris fishing The Middle, the swim to my right. It was
really warm and I felt it was time to introduce some of my special particle mix around the bush. After a
healthy amount had been under-arm spodded to my chosen spot just in front of the bush (the sound of a
catapult would have roused the unwanted attentions of the swans in a matter of seconds) I also scattered a
hefty amount into the bushes from the path, where it would sink down under the branches to reach the
safest feeding areas under the snaggy branches.

As the night progressed the winds picked up and by Saturday morning were Gale Force. Chris’s bivvy
could not cope with the relentless gusting and by mid morning he was forced to move around to the Stile
swim where there was better shelter beneath the trees.

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‘Pikefest’ Chris with a Top Pool snapper

The wind increased to the point where it now began lapping at the underside of my Titan and pulling the
pegs out of the sandy ground beneath. Although I wanted to stay put I knew I would also have to move. I
shifted all my gear around to the Boathouse to find Joe had just turned up and was about to set up, so
dumped it with Chris on the Stile whilst I surveyed my options. At this point a very large old tree came
crashing down over in the woods – and I immediately rung home to get an accurate weather update. The
gales were due to die down around tea time so I decided not to set up and to see how things progressed for
an hour or two. The water now looked like the North Sea and distinctly non-carpish. As such, I decided to
pull out the pike gear and see what was doing.

A couple of hours later and we’d had about fourteen pike between us to about 6lb on simple lures. A great
deal of fun in such conditions and it certainly took the edge of what was otherwise a bad session for the
carp. Chris was happy for me to double up in the Stile as the conditions showed no sign of letting me back
on the Rodie Bush before dark. As you’d expect, not long after we placed out the baits for the night, the
wind dropped and I got the distinct feeling I was fishing in the wrong place. Ho-Hum.

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The calm after the storm; Joe’s early morning shot from the Boathouse Swim.

The morning after the night before and I was glad to pack up and go home. As I was doing so, Dan turned
up to fish for the day. Now that the wind had gone completely he set up in the Rodie Bush. I went off
home to kick in on the kitchen and on walking through the back door got a call on the mobile from Chris
who had not yet left. Chris went on to explain that Dan had shouted him round to show him a boat load of
carp that were going mental under the Rodie Bush up-ending and feeding away as if they had no cares in
the world. Apparently Dan said he had no idea what they were all feeding on, to which Chris replied, ‘I do
- Julian’s bait!’ For some reason, stripping back the walls in the kitchen seemed especially difficult that
day!

The last weekend of the season was then upon us, and there was a good turn out to see the weekend out in
style. After the disastrous conditions the week previous I was eager to put things right in the Rodie bush,
but to no avail. Conditions and presentation were both perfect but nothing developed. As such, a good
social was enjoyed by all and promises were made to meet back up for the first week in June.

Since then it’s been kitchen, kitchen, kitchen, for me. As I write this it’s coming along nicely and although
I’ve not been on the bank since the end of March, I hope to wet a line up on Blackwood during the next
week or so. I’ve paid several visits down to Chris who’s been spending quite a bit of time on The Swamp.
In fact, he’s been fishing it solid for the last two weeks!

Back down with a bang - Oh great… kitchen time!

It’s a strange kind of water, a bit of a tip really, and at the furthest and most opposite end of the spectrum
from the Top Pool. It’s right in the middle of a housing estate with a school on one side and a busy A-road
on the other.

It has more than its fair share of commotion from the hordes of local teenagers boozed up on alcho-pop’s
and god knows what else, but you can’t complain about the fish stocks - It’s rammed full of carp to high
twenties.

It’s only down the road from where Chris lives so it comes in handy as he has no transport. He’s had some
nice results there too; taking several carp including a couple of nice twenties and a sixteen pound pike
during recent stints.

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Chris with one of his Swamp twenties, this one at 22lb 14oz

I’ve never really fancied the place much myself, but of late, after spending a bit of time down there with
Chris, it’s not as bad as I first thought it was. I’ve been tempted to get a ticket for the place myself but by
the time I’ve finished the kitchen it will be June and time for the Top Pool again so I don’t think I’ll bother
- Unless Chris has any more twenties out of course, then I might just be tempted!

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Part 6 (The Top Pool; Mission Accomplished, August 2004)
By Julian Grattidge

The closed season had just kicked in at the end of the last piece and I’d managed to sneak a couple out
before the close, in-between days spent building a new kitchen. I was keen to get out on the bank on a
regular basis during the closed season to keep my hand in. Last years results on the bank had been quite
bad, and I felt much of this was because there was no continuity in my fishing. Work on the house meant I
had taken sessions in between big projects and it meant I would do a few sessions then not wet a line for
ages, which definitely made it harder when I did eventually get back on the bank.

Not so for the season ahead then; I’d decided that I would make a determined effort to try and get out at
least one night a week for the whole season, and if weekends were not possible then I’d do a midweek
overnighter instead.

Sunset on Wingham Carp Lake

The closed season went really quickly. Usually the eight or so weeks really drag but this year they seemed
to fly by. I think this was because we did quite a few work parties up on the Top Pool and I was also
managing to get out and fish other waters. My first trip was a few days spent down with Elton on Steve
Burke’s Wingham Carp Lake. Words cannot describe how nice the lake and surroundings are, and even
though neither one of us managed to bag a fish, it was a pleasurable few days spent in the most relaxing of
environments.

Once back ‘Up North’ I was keen to keep the momentum going and start the session a week routine.

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Through a few contacts I, along with another angler, had a kind of invite to fish a large water with an
unknown quantity of carp present. The water was a reasonable distance from home and would do fine for a
new challenge until The Top Pool came round again. As such, over the remainder of the closed season I
spent a good deal of time on this new water trying to get amongst some uncaught fish. I can’t really say
that much about the place as someone else did most of the work to get us on and it’s his wish to keep
‘mum’ for a while. What I can say is that at over 2-miles long and half a mile wide - there was a lot to go
at!

Adventure fishing was certainly the word and each night spent fishing the place was quite exciting as you
never knew what would come next. We had the use of a boat so it was a case of rowing out hook baits and
dropping over big beds of bait. Again, I can’t really say too much about the fish, but I had some cracking
carp during my time on there, most of which had never been on the bank before. All the fish were taken on
the ever consistent Shellfish B5.

Two miles long and half a mile wide - plenty to go at!

As the new season neared on the Top Pool I was high on confidence and as most of my sessions on the big
water had been midweek overnighters I was already into the groove and keeping to a least a night a week
fishing. The Stoke-On-Trent AS waters open on June 1st for members who have carried out the required
number of work parties, so come Saturday 29th May there was only a couple of days to go before the off.
I’d arranged to do a bit of work on the water on the Sunday with a few of the lads. Most of the work had
been done and all that remained was to cut back the lily pads on the Paddock and New Boards swims.

The work needed to be done by boat as it’s way too silty to wade out, and as we pushed off from the Boat
House the water looked picture perfect. We drifted up past the woods side and looked for signs of
movement.

The water was gin clear and with not so much as a ripple on the water I hoped I’d spot a few fish on a few
swims as I had no idea where I wanted to start my attack when the season started the following week. We
did not have to wait long. As we slowly went past the Black Hole a cracking fully scaled mirror of about
26lb-27lb was mooching around right on the edge of the padline. I could have reached out and touched the
fish by the time it finally realised there was a boat above it and it bolted into mid water.

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An April Work Party on the Top Pool

The bottom of the lake looked perfect throughout and there was surprisingly little Canadian Pondweed,
although I knew that would soon change as the weeks went on. We spent the rest of the night clearing pads
from the swims and by the end of the evening I’d decided that given the choice and if conditions were
similar, I’d start on the Black Hole and see what developed. After spotting a number of fish during the
evening my confidence was high and I could not wait for the off. What surprised me was how the water
now seemed quite small after my recent sessions on the inland sea! Again, this just fuelled my confidence
as they should be much easier to track down, or so I hoped!

We were allowed on the water at 8.00pm on the 31st of May, and as usual I was full of anticipation and
raised hopes as I arrived at the water. I met Chris and Joe on the footpath and come the allotted hour we
were onto our chosen swims. Chris went for the Board Walk in the hope of repeating his big fish haul the
year previous.

Joe went for the Sticky, in between Chris and the Black Hole where I pitched up. Conditions were warm
and fine, my fear being that they might start spawning at any time. We eagerly set up, then had a little
social as we waited for the magical hour. Shortly after 1.00am the alarm on the channel rod burst into life
as a run picked up. I was a little surprised to get some action so quickly and thought it could be ‘tench
attack’. Sure enough, as I lifted into the rod there was limited resistance and I gently coaxed the fish away
from the pads. I netted a nice tench of around 5½lb and after unhooking slipped it straight back to the
water.

Although not a carp, the tench gave me confidence that my presentation was good and the spot was clear
from weed. Having clipped up and marked the line before the initial cast, I was easily able to place another
single Shellfish B5 hookbait right on the same spot. After the cast I tightened up the baitrunner a touch and
bent down to place the rod back on the rest. As I did so the line seemed to snag on something and seemed
to lock up a little. I lifted the rod tip to see if the line was on some weed or something and then to my
amazement noticed that the rod tip was bumping away, I pulled the rod back slowly and heard a fish slap
the water over on the channel - I was in again!

Although it felt like another tench, this fish had a little more life in it and gave a good account of itself.
After a brief tussle I drew the fish over the net and landed my second tench in five minutes! This one a
little bigger, weighed at 6lb 8oz.

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6 ½lb tench taken within ten seconds of casting out!

Although everything was perfect, the remainder of the night passed without incident and we were all
carpless come the next morning; that’s when we all knew we were definitely back on the Top Pool! At first
light we heard a few of the carp thrashing about in front of the Dugout. Closer inspection revealed
members of the sprat pack trying to persuade some of the bigger fish to get involved in spawning, but few
seemed interested. There were quite a few fish milling about up in the shallows but signs of fish on our
chosen swims were very few and far between.

I’d made a decision to be much more mobile this season, and rather than sit behind idle buzzers I hoped to
go off stalking to see if I could pick anything up. After another couple of hours of inactivity from baits
placed in the margin and the far channel I decided enough was enough. I’d picked up some worms from
Jim at Trentside Tackle on my way up to the water and felt now was as good a time as any to give them a
go.

I pulled out my tackle pouch and made up a rig using some Hutchy Edge 2000 15lb braid; at first I tried it
with a hair but presentation was terrible so resorted to hooking a worm directly on the hook. I then got all
my stalking gear together and reeled in my rods, and leaving Chris and Joe on their swims I headed off up
to the top of the lake.

I soon came across a number of good fish and set all my gear down so I could watch for a while. I find it
helps to watch for a period of time rather than chucking baits straight out, because if you put the bait it in
the wrong place you are increasing the chances of spooking them if you need to keep moving around and
recasting. I sat up a tree for maybe an hour and got a feel for their patrol routes. Over a period of about
fifteen minutes I watched around eight fish come up from the neck area and skirt a small weedbed about
half way out. After milling around between here and the point about half would then head back the way
they had come and half would skirt back around the edge of the lake.

I settled on my target spot for an all-out ambush and carefully climbed down the tree to prepare. It would
need to be a good underarm flick to get out to the spot, not that it was far out, rather because of all the
overhanging branches, most of which came right down to the water. The easiest way to flick it out was to
attach a half ounce lead which would allow a quick flick through some of the branches. I slowly made my
way through the thick sedges around the margin. The cast was difficult and the first one landed a little

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short of where I really wanted it. There were still fish in the area and as the first cast had not spooked any
away I decided to just leave it for a while before recasting to see if anything came close. I climbed the base
of the tree again (which was right next to my rod) and kept watching.

The fish were moving close but I felt I needed to slow them as they passed by in order to get them
rummaging around more. It was time to apply the particle mix. I only wanted the particles to go on the spot
I’d targeted so I ever so slowly reeled in and managed to get the next cast spot on. As those who have read
previous pieces will know, I’ve been working on a particle mix for some time now and I made some subtle
changes to the blend amounts over the closed season.

After soaking and boiling the mix I now blend it completely rather than leaving any whole beans, peas or
maize, before adding to the hemp and Thaumatin-B. I’d made up a monster batch about three weeks before
and had been itching to try it out on the Top Pool. I decided to catapult just a single pouch of my special
mix over the worm and left it at that. I flung it out and it splayed a nice amount a couple of feet around the
worm. There were bits floating down from the surface, bits floating up from the bottom, and bits clouding
just off the bottom - in a word, perfect.

The reaction was amazing and immediate. The bait was now right on the patrol route and the next fish to
come along stopped-dead over the bait and immediately dropped down to feed. My heart was pounding -
literally thumping at my chest; the buzz from this kind of fishing for me is better than any other and I stood
hiding behind the tree as the carp started mopping up the particle mix on the edge of the patch. Conditions
were perfect for observing fish; warm bright and no wind.

The carp was about 5 yards out in around 18 inches of gin clear water. The rod was placed in amongst the
sedges with the tip in the air and a slack line gently dropping down to the water. I held my breath as I
watched the carp moping up the particles.

The high double figure fish gently wafted its tail just out of the water with its head clouding up the bottom
as it sucked in and blew out the tasty mix. After a minute or so the carp slowly moved off out of the area
but was almost immediately replaced by two others, another good double and one that looked a good 20lb.

The intensity was amazing and my heart was still pounding away, at which point I reminded myself that I
should breathe before I passed out! I adjusted my position to get a better view of the proceedings; the two
fish were all over the bait but I could only see their backs and tails now as the bottom clouded up.

They kept circling and criss-crossing the area and I knew they could only be inches from the bait. Then I
noticed the line twitch, then again, and after a final sharp tug the line started to lift from the water.

I bent down, picked up the rod and gently lifted into the fish, setting the hook before the carp even knew
what had happened - at which point all hell broke loose as the fish bolted and tried to make its escape back
down towards the neck of the lake.

I let the fish take some line and then slowly began firming down on the spool to stop its initial run. I then
began to pump the rod and gain some line back.

The fish gave a cracking battle and there were many moments where it could have gone either way!
However, I was eventually able to tease the fish over the net and my first Top Pool carp ambush of the year
had paid off.

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‘DT’ at 21lb 4oz, stalked from the shallows

I was aware quite soon into the fight that I’d hooked the bigger of the two fish and as I lifted the landing
net onto the unhooking mat there was no doubt it would go over 20lb. I was all adrenalin and grins as I set
about unhooking the fish and transferring it to the weigh sling. As I got my first proper look at the fish I
suddenly realised it was ‘DT’ or ‘Double Take’, a fish I had caught a few years back from the Black Hole
twice in two weeks, hence the name. Back then the fish was just over 19lb, but this time the scales carried
on round and settled at a weight of 21lb 4oz - Result!

After a few pictures I slipped the fish back to the water and punched the air. I was so happy the mobile
approach had paid off and was eager to get straight back up there and try and bag another! After relaying
the story of the capture to Chris and Joe I was off again. Once back to the spot I realised the site of the
capture was now a bit of a bombsite; the water was still all clouded up and no fish could be seen in the
area. As such, I left it to settle for a while and went back down to the lads for a bit of a social.

After leaving it for an hour or so I arrived back to find the silt had settled and one or two fish could be seen
on the fringes. I carefully baited up and applied another single pouch of particles over the spot. Within
twenty minutes the fish were back up in the area and it did not take long for them to find the particles
again. A couple of fish passed by, a few having a sample whilst others passing straight over the baited area.
I noticed a decent 20lb plus carp a good twenty yards away from the baited spot but he was moving right
along the patrol route I had targeted. The fish slowly made its way up towards my ambush by the side of
the weedbed and as it got to the point where I knew it had to pass over the bait my heart started pounding
again!

The fish approached the area and then stopped-dead right over the particles. It stayed there motionless for
at least a minute, and then it slowly tipped its head downward, its tail breaking the surface as it began
sampling some of the particle mix - my heart rate increased. It was a cautious feeder and kept picking off
particles from around the edges rather than passing through the middle - and this was just one pouch of
mix! After a while I felt the fish would never pass through the middle of the baited patch where the worm
was and sure enough, the fish soon moved off and up towards the point.

After milling around at the point the fish then headed left and started skirting the margin. As it came down

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the margin near to where I was standing, it suddenly did another sharp left and headed straight back to the
baited spot at speed. The anticipation built again as the fish neared the area, and as the big fish sat at the
edge another carp slowly came over towards the spot from the far side of the lake. The smaller fish
hovered near the area, it was obvious it knew there was food there but it looked as if it was waiting for an
invite off the larger fish. One way or another, it decided enough was enough and moved right over the
patch and upended. This seemed to stimulate the larger fish (which was still on the edge of the patch) into
feeding. I then watched as the silt began to cloud up as they really started to mop up the particle mix. The
larger fish then gave into temptation and made a pass over the middle of the baited area. I saw its tail right
out of the water like a whale as it hovered up everything in sight. The worm must have been right in its
path as it sucked everything up, for as it got level with the location of the worm the line immediately
started to lift, no twitches or shakes, just a slow lift of line as the fish kept feeding and moving through.

I was able to knock off the bait runner and lift the rod before it had the faintest idea it had been hooked, but
when it woke up to its predicament the fish erupted on the surface and reared out of the shallow water
almost tail walking before splashing back down with a ‘bosh’ and heading off at speed. I spooled down
and slowed the run and the rod took on a fantastic curve. The battle was protracted and the fish tried to
make the snags on more than one occasion but having already landed one from the spot my confidence was
high and I played the fish firmly and soon had her in front of me wallowing in the margin and ready for
netting. As I lifted the net I knew this was a decent fish and let out a whoop of delight; two twenties in less
than two hours!

On pulling back the folds of the net I recognised the unmistakable markings of the Warrior. This is one of
the waters most sought after residents and here she was on my unhooking mat - unbelievable! The scales
bounced round to 25lb 4oz and I could not stop grinning. The lads did the honours with the camera and I
slipped her back to the water. She soon found her feet (or should that be fins!) and slapped her tail
covering me in water as she swam of to sulk. I was not sure who was more amazed, me or the lads. A brace
of twenties on worm - get in!

‘The Warrior’ at 25lb 4oz; two twenties stalked in two hours!

I decided to rest the swim now as the last battle had really messed things up in the shallow water. Instead I
decided to just enjoy the surroundings and sat down on my swim soaking in all that had just happened.

The fish were definitely up in the mid area of the lake and the Black Hole seemed devoid of fish. If I’d

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have had the energy I would probably have moved up the lake there and then, but I’d already had two
decent fish and all the adrenalin used during the afternoons stalking had really worn me out. As such, I
decided to chill on the Black Hole for the night and assess the situation fully in the morning.

Andy turned up late on in the afternoon and set up in the Top Boards swim up in the shallows, I was sure
he would have fish and it was not long into the night when I heard his alarms sounding, unfortunately the
hook pulled after a brief tussle but it was only an hour or so before he was in again. I stood on the boards
listening to the battle unfold and when all went quiet I asked if he’d got it in. Yes, came the reply and I
quickly wound my rods in and made my way around to his swim with the camera. I forget the exact weight
but it was one of three low twenty pound fish Andy took over the next 48 hours, along with two other good
doubles, a cracking result, all came out on the Essential Products Shellfish B5.

Andy with one of three twenties on Shellfish B5

On our side of the lake the night passed without incident and I was fully refreshed the next morning and
eager to find the fish again. I reeled in the rods and went in search of some kippers leaving Chris and Joe
still sleeping. I did not have to travel far; as I reached the Paddock I came across three good fish about
three rod lengths out from the margin. This was the peg we cleared all the pads from a few days earlier and
the fish seemed eager to investigate the newly formed pad lines on each side of the swim. I carried on up
the lake and saw a couple more mooching around in the top swims; enough to get me cantering back down
to my bivvy to pack up and move swims. Within the hour I was all set up in the Paddock. Years of
observations had taught me that the fish always show up in this area through the early evening onwards
and so I set up with that in mind, and I could sneak off up to the shallows again in the hope of repeating the
previous days exploits.

As the morning wore on a wind picked up and a few showers came in. This made conditions more difficult
for spotting but I was confident of more action on the Sneak. I was able to spot a few fish in the same area
but more now seemed to be hugging a spot no more than 10 inches from the bank - this was fine by me as
presentation would be perfect and they were easier to spot here as the rip on the water was not so bad.

I soon had a worm placed right on the spot with a single pouch of particle mix. Not long after a group of
three fish came around the edge of the margin and right over the baited patch. The line twitched a few
times over a period of a few minutes but nothing came of it. The same pattern followed for much of the
morning, not helped by frequent heavy downpours and a constant wind pushing hard down the lake
making visibility very difficult. After dinner things picked up and the wind dropped a little so I went back
up to the sneak for another try. An hour later and I had fish boiling all over the particles and it was no
surprise when the line lifted and a big fish headed off at speed down towards the snag. I hit in and the rod
quickly went to full battle curve. The fish had taken quite a bit of line and was now kiting around to the
snag down the margin to my right, I exerted more pressure and stopped the run but I knew if the fish

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wanted to, it could easily make the snag. I kept the rod arched and low to the water and the fish boiled on
the surface and turned way down to my right. I then started to take line back and the fish started to come
back up towards me. With the hardest part now done it was then quite a surprise that the hook pulled when
there was hardly any pressure on. I was that surprised that I did not really get angry about it. It was a real
shame though as the fish would definitely have been another good twenty pounder, but hey, one can’t get
greedy!

With most of the battle fought away down to my right, the baited area had remained pretty untouched and
there were even a couple of fish still in the area. After checking the rig and hook, which were fine, I
quickly baited up and dropped the worm back out to the same spot and dropped one handful of particle
over the spot.

Having landed a couple of fish from the spot there was now a small gap in the sedges which allowed you
to see fish as they passed by, close in to the sedges which were about four feet tall. After another ten
minutes or so a group of three fish could be seen milling around up by the point about 20 yards to my left.
After a while they made their slow meandering path down the margin on my left and after what seemed
like an eternity they passed the gap in the sedges where I got my first proper look at them. All were
mirrors, two low doubles and one fully scaled scraper twenty which was so close to the bank I could only
see its back!

As they disappeared past the gap in the sedges to my right I knew the bigger fish was dead in line with the
bait which was now only two feet in front of them, almost instantly the line started to lift and I lurched
forward to lift the rod. The fish knew it was hooked and bolted straight out into open water scattering the
two smaller fish. A spirited battle ensued, during which the fish lifted its head out of the water a couple of
times to reveal a massive hump of a shoulder - It could only be one fish, ‘Red October’.

‘Red October’

I soon had her in the net and I let out a little whoop of delight. I’ve only had the pleasure of catching this
magnificent fish once before and she free-wheels between 19lb-20lb, not that weight is that important with
such a stunning fish. Later discussions with the fisheries manager revealed the fish to be 14lb back in 1976,

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and when you consider it had to be a good few years old then, it probably makes it older than me!

On the scales she went 19lb 8oz and I was thrilled. I had the camera with my stalking gear so took a couple
of quick shots and slipped her straight back to the water. After that I felt a bit of a celebration coming on so
I went back down to my swim for a few hours. A few of the lads turned up during the latter part of the
afternoon to say well done on the previous days results so I stayed put on the Paddock for a bit of a social.

Set up in The Paddock

One of the new members of the team this year, Rich, called down to say hello, and it was whilst we were
sat chatting that a worm plonked over a handful of particles on my right margin was picked up. Line
spewed of the spool at quite a rate and somehow whilst clamping my hand over the spool to slow the line I
managed to get it wrapped around my finger resulting in a bit of a birdsnest around the reel. It took only
five seconds or so to sort it out but by that time the fish had already managed to spit out the hook; such is
life.
Late in the afternoon Chris decided to move around to the Dug Out, more or less opposite to me in the
Paddock. There were a number of fish showing between us and he hoped the move might bring him his
first fish of the session. Joe had packed up and gone by this point which just left three of us on the water!

I had decided I was going to put the B5 on each rod overnight, but during the early part of the evening I
left worm on each margin rod fished over some of my particle mix. The rods were just placed in the sedges
with tips in the air. Quite often during the day I leave the alarms turned off, not just to cut down on noise,
but if you are fishing properly you should be alerted by just a few clicks of the baitrunner, never mind an
alarm.

I kept low down behind the sedges on the paddock as the fish will often come right in under your feet and
every now and then I’d raise my head just enough to see what was going on. I spotted a number of
shadows moving around the area between Chris and myself and it was only an hour after the lost fish when
the line suddenly tightened on my left hand rod and the tip slammed down. I was on it in a second and
quickly lifted into a good fish which was plodding off up the margin to my left. I slowed the line and the
rod bent to a proper curve which signalled a bit of a lump on the other end!

It didn’t go mad; instead it just held deep on the bottom and went solid. I knew there was no weed and no
snags at the point where it had stopped, thus the only thing helping it hold firm was its weight, as such I
was happy to let it sulk for a minute before ever so slowly increasing the pressure to try and get it moving.

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The fish duly obliged and after a last little bid for freedom about five yards out, it gave up the fight and slid
straight into the net on the first attempt. Chris, who had watched the whole battle unfold from the opposite
bank, shouted across to ask if it was any size. I knew it had to be upper twenty-ish but I jokingly shouted
back that it was a good double! Joking aside I was suddenly very, very, nervous, for as the fish slid into the
waiting net I had a feeling I knew which fish it was - Victor.

Victor had become my prize fish, my Top Pool 'Holy Grail' if you like. I had been watching it for so many
years, and had come close on so many occasions, but to my knowledge, the fish had only ever slipped up
once before, to Chris. If it was in my net, I would have pretty much succeeded in my Top Pool Quest, but
if it wasn’t, I would now be gutted, having thought I had just done it – I was literally too scared to open the
net! Shaking, I put down my rod and with the net still in the water, slowly lifted it upwards to reveal its
contents. I parted a large clump of pondweed which obscured my view and there, staring back up at me,
wafting its pectoral fins quite happily, was Victor.

My work was done.

Once on the bank I pulled back the net to view my prize. I’d seen this fish so many times in the water but
had never managed to catch it. I was quite literally over the moon, four Top Pool fish topped by Victor,
who up on the scales went 26lb 12oz. Chris took a couple of shots on the digital camera and then we put
her straight back. I got in the water with her (for he is actually a she) and cradled her for a while to ensure
she was fully recovered before allowing her to slowly move off into the deeper water. She glided out of
sight once again, leaving Chris and I completely in awe.

It was a very special moment in my carp fishing career, and it was nice (and somewhat apt) that Chris
could be there, because as far as I’m aware, he’s the only other person to have caught this fish and the pair
of us just stood on the swim transfixed at the point at which she had slipped from view.

And then came the grins!

The Stunning ‘Victor’ - Mission Accomplished!

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I mellowed for the rest of the day, happy to soak up the moment, but later decided that as the carp gods
seemed to be smiling, I may as well get some rods out for the night – you never know – I just might have
another! I opted for B5 on both rods and after a hearty tea I decided to turn in and switched my buzzers on.
Shortly after 2.00am a belting run picked up on my right hand margin rod and I quickly shot out of the
bivvy and lifted into the run. Although not massive, the fish put up one hell of a battle and I was quite
relieved when it finally slipped into the net. I lifted it onto the unhooking mat and saw the perfect golden
flanks of a Top Pool common reflecting in the torch light – by this point, five fish up, I just did not know
what to think! After weighing the chunky little specimen at 11lb 4oz I returned it to the water and went
back to bed thinking it must all be a dream.

A late night common makes an appearance


The following morning I had another crack at stalking up in the shallows but conditions had changed again
and there were very few fish kicking around. Come dinnertime I started a very slow and relaxed pack up.
Two of the other lads who I do a bit of fishing with had turned up to say hello, and it was whilst I was
stood talking to Shaun that a decent mirror came flying out of the water right over Chris’s left hand bait. It
boshed back down into the water and within ten seconds had picked up his B5 hookbait and was away!

After a protracted battle Chris managed to net what looked to be a good sized mirror and after winding my
rods in, Shaun and I went round to have a look. By the time we arrived at the swim Chris had already
weighed it at 19lb 8oz - a cracking mirror that none of us had seen before. Chris was made up with his ‘at
the death’ fish and it made the pack-up all that more cheerful for all of us.

‘At the death’ Chris with a mint 19lb 8oz mirror

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It was not until a few days later that achievement began to sink in. It had been an amazing result, helped no
end by the frequent stalking sessions. I was also really pleased that my new plan of keeping mobile and
moving at the slightest signs of fish had paid off, which in turn, had helped me bank one of my last
remaining target fish form this difficult venue.

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Part 7 (Return to Birch and Short Session Tactics, October 2004)
By Julian Grattidge

One session into the new season and I’d already managed five fish including the awesome Victor - A
dream start indeed! However, this just made me all the more eager to get back up to do more stalking. The
estate was closed for the first two weekends due to some big gigs they were putting on and they had been
erecting a massive stadium by the Main Lake as we had left on the last session.

Not something you see on the Capesthorne Estate everyday!

With the first two weekends ruled out, I returned on Monday 7th June after the first closure to have another
crack. I spent the first hour slowly making my way around the lake looking for signs of fish, which were
few, and the ones I did spot still seemed more interested in spawning, the usual following each other
around and the odd frivolous splash.

The shallows were quiet with just a few tench kicking about and the odd bream. I spotted a nice fish in the
bay so decided I would set up later in the Rodie Bush for the night ahead, however, I decided to have
another look around to see if there were any stalking opportunities as there was plenty of time before dark.

Another walk around the lake revealed little so I decided to have a look at the top end of the Main Lake,
which is situated just below the Top Pool.

I peered out from behind the Boat House swim on the Top Pool which overlooks the shallows on the Main
Lake. Straight away I saw a number of carp playing around. I made my way round to the first swim on the
Rodie Bush side to get a better view and on poking my head around a bush saw absolutely loads of fish;
they were all over the place - an opportunity not to be missed!

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Fish were showing at the top of the Main Lake; it had to be worth a go!

The swim was only about 100 yards from my swim up on the Top Pool so I got a few bits of gear and
headed back down to the Main Lake. I fired out a few pouches of my particle mix and sat back to watch
the reaction. Within ten minutes the fish were showing an interest so I quickly attached my worm rig and
flicked it out a few yards from the bank in just a couple of feet of water, right on top of the particles.

As I sat watching, a carp launched itself right out of the water about 10 yards from my bait; a cracking
mirror in the high twenties! I watched intently as fish moved in and out of the area, their bow waves giving
them away in the shallow water. A short while later two good fish moved in from my left and looked to be
heading towards my baited patch; my heartbeat quickened.

As they approached the spot, the furthest fish out up-ended straight away, an absolutely massive tail and
wrist breaking free of the water. My immediate thought was that is was close on thirty pound. It made a
full pass right over the particles then the tail went back into the water as it swirled, turned about, and came
straight back again over the baited patch. As the water clouded up, the smaller fish also made a pass, its tail
also coming out of the water - another good fish of at least twenty pounds. Over the next few minutes I
remained frozen to the spot as both fish kept mopping up the particles; the line giving the odd twitch as
they fanned about right over it. Then it happened. As both fish were right over the bait there was a violent
snatch on the line, then another, and then WHAM… the rod tip slammed down and it was away!

I lifted into the rod as the surface erupted, scattering all the fish within a 20 yard radius. The hooked fish
headed out into the middle of the lake and then started kiting to my right. Although it was a powerful first
run I was able to slow it and quickly start applying a little pressure, eventually turning the fish about
twenty yards out. It was only now as things felt under control that I wondered which one I’d hooked,
intuition telling me it was the smaller of the two. No matter though, as the smaller one also looked a good
fish and it was certainly putting up a good scrap. I teased the fish close to the bank and waded out into the
shallow water with the net. The fish kept ploughing up and down the margin but slowly began to tire,
another minute or two passed and I slowly guided the fish over the cord and into the waiting net - another
20lb’er… Result!

I waded back to the bank with my prize; all I could think was that I’d now had a Main Lake twenty to add
to my three from the Top Pool, all within a week! I lifted the scales and they bumped round to 20lb 10oz
and I just started laughing to myself, unable to take it all in. I returned the fish and fired out a little more
particle mix but the commotion had scattered the fish and it was a while before they came back near the
baited area. As darkness was not far away I decided to head back up to the Top Pool and get set up. The

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night passed without further incident and before I knew it my mobile went off at 6.30am to signal it was
time to pack up and get back home for work. I was still smiling to myself as I went about the mundane task
of packing up, and I was soon back at home ready to start work.

Another Capesthorne twenty! A Main Lake 20lb 10oz mirror.

I returned to the water later that week on the Wednesday, as the coming weekends closure meant we were
unable to fish again. Joe was up there when I arrived and had already managed to bank the infamous
Crinkle Tail off the top, in addition to one of the Sprat Pack - an excellent result. There were fish showing
in the mid-shallows area so I decided on the Paddock and set up whilst Joe attacked them from the other
bank with floaters. Rich paid a visit and we chatted for a while as we watched Joe casting out near the snag
on the far bank, shortly afterwards a fish took the bait. It was now that Joe realised his predicament, he
could not get out far enough to land the fish - time to get wet! The fish briefly made the sanctuary of the
snag but after a rather protracted battle Joe netted another Top Pool inhabitant at just over 10lb. Rich had
already gone round to help a bedraggled and thoroughly wet through Joe with the fish so I busied myself
with firing out some particles to each side of my swim on the edge of the pad lines. I then decided to leave
the swim for an hour to give the fish some confidence over the bait after all the commotion on the other
bank. I headed off with my stalking gear and again found fish all over the spots on the Main Lake where
I’d been fishing on the Monday. I fired some particle over the same spot and in went the trusty worm. I had
a half-hearted take shortly afterwards but met no resistance on the strike. I placed a fresh worm on the spot
and within minutes the tip whipped round again as the water over the bait erupted and line started pulling
from the baitrunner. I lifted into the fish and stopped its run almost immediately - very tench like. Sure
enough I was soon slipping a decent tench into the net, which I weighed at 7lb exactly. Joe soon headed off
home and I returned back up to the Top Pool shortly after that. On arriving back at The Paddock I found
four fish milling around one of my margin spots, one a cracking mid-twenty mirror. I very carefully baited
up my rods and waited until the fish moved out of the area before flicking my baits out.

As the sun dipped down behind Capesthorne Hall the fish were all over me and I felt confident I would
receive some action during the night. I was not wrong. I awoke to a couple of bleeps on the right hand
margin rod - the swinger had dropped right to the bottom registering a complete drop back. I lifted into the
fish and wound down hard, finally making contact with the fish right under my feet. As soon as it felt the
pressure it kited straight to my right and into the pads - the power was unbelievable and there was little I
could do but let it go. It stopped a few yards into the pads and held steady. The pads were thick and there
was no way I was going to get him out the way he’d gone in - a quick glance at the line in the torchlight
revealed it to have gone round several stalks and leaves from the edge of the pad line then right the way
through to where the fish was now held up, just below the surface. I quickly surveyed my options. There

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was nothing else for it; I’d have to go in. I stripped to my waist, grabbed the net and slowly made my way
out to the fish, treading on the pad roots in order to stay on top of the silt. I was soon over the fish and I
gently eased the pad leaves away to reveal an absolutely stonking mirror, which, in the rippled green
torchlight looked a good thirty for sure. Not good for my already frayed nerves. There was no way I could
get the head of the net in; the pads were just too thick. I decided I would lay the net on the surface just by
the fish, then try and lift the fish into the net, a method I’ve used with success in the past. I readied the net
and eased away the pad leaves and slowly moved my hand down the each flank feeling for the line so I
knew which way to lift, I then cupped my hands under the fish and slowly lifted it - once I felt the weight I
knew it was a proper lump. During the split second that I thought I’d got the General in my hands, the fish,
which had been completely un-phased up until this point, decided enough was enough and gave a massive
lunge upwards. It shot up out of my hands, fell back down into the water, and shot backwards through my
legs, spitting the hook in the process.

I was left mid-water, soaked head to toe, with an empty net. My mind was completely numb, I don’t
remember getting back to the bank, but once there I remember launching my rod off into the undergrowth
somewhere, after which I slumped down on my bedchair and put my head in my hands. For what seemed
like an eternity the whole episode was on constant re-run in my head, and after an hour of ‘what-ifs?’ I
finally came round to the fact that I’d probably just lost the biggest fish in the lake.

I eventually got up, took in a deep breath, calmed myself, and went to look for my rod. I rigged up again
and placed the rod back out on the margin spot. I was working on auto-pilot not really thinking what I was
doing, my head was somewhere else. After baiting up and making a brew I sat cross legged on the boards
just taking in my surroundings. It must have been an hour since the lost fish and by now I was questioning
my own mind; had it been the big mirror, was it the general I’d just lost? I guess I was just trying to make
the loss more bearable. I was still sat there as it started to come light and I became aware of fish still
milling around my swim. The next thing I know, the rod on the left of the margin rattles off as a fish
headed out towards the Dug Out. I hit in and begrudgingly gave line as it powered off, definitely a good
twenty. I eased on the pressure and slowed it before it reached the pads on the far side and then began
pumping it back towards me. All went well and it was soon back near the margin. I picked up the net and
readied myself for netting. Then before I knew it, I was reliving the nightmare - The fish lunged to my
right and followed the exact path of the big mirror. My only solace was that it spat the hook there and then,
rather than making me go back out into the lake again. Small comfort, mind!

The only thing I wanted to do with that session was to put it firmly behind me, and I did. In fact, until
writing about it now, I’ve not really thought about it much. A few years ago when I lost the Big Common
at the net it stayed with me for ages and I ended up ruining my fishing for some time. This time around I
decided to concentrate on the ones I had banked and to just carry on and get on with it.

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Chris with the impressive ‘Crinkle Tail’

I gave the place a miss for a week or so, just to charge my batteries in order that I could go back on with
renewed vigour. When I got up there on Friday 18th June during the early evening, Chris had already been
on a couple of nights and had managed to take Crinkle Tail from the Paddock at 19lb 8oz. Since then the
fishing had dried up at the top end and when I arrived Chris had just relocated to the New Boards swim. I
had a look up the shallows and saw little. As such, I decided to set up for the night in the Black Hole and
see what developed. I placed a bait in the channel on the far side and one in the margin to my right.

Rich joined us for the weekend and set up to my left in the Sticky, fishing to a couple of spots on the far
pads he’d been pre-baiting with particles. The night passed without any action, until the very early hours of
the following morning when Chris woke me; the grin stretching from ear to ear told me he’d bagged one. I
wound in and went round to his swim to have a look. The second I saw the fish I recognised it as one that
Mat had taken off the Point a year or two back at around 15lb, now however it was bang on 17lb and
looking absolutely pristine. Chris had made the move and it had paid off, I was well pleased for him. We’d
had a bit of rain during the night, and in the first hours of light the mist was rising in massive wafts off the
surface of the water, the place looked fantastic, even a little eerie.

Chris with an early morning stunner

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I suggested to Chris that we’d get some cracking shots in the field next to his swim so we went over and
got a few photos before returning the fish to the lake. Chris rebaited and I went back to my bivvy. An hour
later and he’s back again with the same grin on his face... ‘You’ve not?’ I asked, already knowing the
answer.

This time it was a cracking 18lb 8oz mirror, the spitting image of ‘DT’. The mist was still everywhere so
we took a couple of pics in the woods right behind the swim before returning the fish to the water. I
congratulated Chris and went back to my swim to make a brew.

I was made up for Chris and still confident of action on my own swim as I had baits on the same pad line
just a few yards up. Whilst finishing my brew I received a belting take on the channel rod. I hit in, felt the
thud of a good fish, then all went slack.

I didn’t even give myself chance to get wound up about it, I just put a fresh bait on, cast it back to the spot
and went back to sleep for an hour.

Two in two hours! Chris with another early morning lump

A few hours later I was perched on my bedchair watching the water when I saw a massive swirl right over
Rich’s spot on the edge of the pads, the same instant his alarm sounded as a fish made off with his
hookbait. Rich was quickly on his rod but like mine, the hook pulled on the strike. Gutted.

At around 9.00am the signs of fish had died off a little and I decided it was time to go for walk and find the
fish. I left Rich and Chris and made my way up to the shallows. The rain came in again, quite heavy this
time, with a chilly wind that made it feel more like March than the middle of June!

I kept on up to the top of the lake and spotted a few fish kicking about, but the rain was really coming
down now so I headed back down to take shelter. When the rain had eased I got my stalking gear together
and headed back up to the shallows. Over the next few hours I had a go at them from various swims and
eventually got them feeding from the Top Sneak. It was a strange experience stalking in the pouring rain,
watching three or four fish clouding up the bottom through the broken surface as the rain pounded down. It
was difficult to say the least!

I don’t remember the take exactly; I was standing behind the rod under a tree trying to shelter from the rain

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a bit. I just remember seeing a massive ‘bosh’ in the water right where the bait was and then realised line
was screaming from the baitrunner. That was good enough for me and I lifted the rod and bent into a fish
that was doing its best to reach the Boat House on its first run! I let it take a little line (four lost fish on the
bounce was not an option here!) and then gently firmed down on the spool and turned it. I started pumping
the fish and it came back towards me with relative ease, giving the impression it was not massive, but right
now anything would be a welcome bonus!

My luck held on this occasion and I soon slipped a nice mirror into the net. Just as I got the fish up behind
the swim, Rich appeared on the scene, which was great timing as he could now take a picture for me! Rich
did the honours with the scales and called it at 15lb 12oz - To many it may not seem like much, but to me
it was a right result - I’d really worked hard for that fish, moving from swim to swim in the pouring rain,
and on slipping it into the net I got rid of all the trauma of the three lost fish - I was now catching again.

‘Stalking in the rain’ a cracking Top Pool mid double.

The following weekend I was keen to get back up, I was doing Friday through to Sunday, and Rich was
due down on the Saturday to do a night. Gaz, one of the regulars, was fishing the Boat House when I
arrived so I stopped and chatted for a while. It turned out Dan and Rich (another Rich!) had been on in the
week and had a couple, Rich had a 16lb’er off the Boat House and Dan had a 21lb from the Rodie, fishing
over a massive bed of bait. I’d half fancied the Rodie myself but was now a little hesitant knowing a fair
amount of bait had gone in. I decided I could chance it as I had two nights, so opted for the Rodie, with a
move in the morning if nothing developed. Come the next morning all was quiet and I’d only spotted one
fish. I spotted a few across the bay near to Left of Point, and so decided to move. It was dry at the moment
though rain had been forecast and it felt as if it was not far away, so I quickly packed up and moved to Left
of Point. I’d just got my second rod in as the first drops of rain fell and I happily retired to the comfort of
my shelter and made a brew. At about this time Gaz had a screamer from the Boathouse but the hook
pulled on the strike. The rest of the session passed without incident really, Rich turned up and snuck a nice
tench off the Point but no carp showed.

As July approached I had to get a few jobs around the house done before we went away for a week’s
holiday so the Top Pool was out of bounds for a while. However, I started doing quite a few short evening
sessions up at Blackwood, the little Club water I run with some friends. I had been given some samples
from Smartbait to try and thought Blackwood would be the ideal place. The bait performed well and over a
few sessions I took a number of good doubles on the bait. Whilst I could not get up to the Top Pool I kept
these little sessions going and it was great just being able to turn up, fish for an hour or two, and have a
couple of fish.

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One of many Blackwood Doubles I took on the Smartbait
The stalking bug was really biting now, at Blackwood especially as there are so many features from so
many pegs to go at. In addition to the Smartbait I was also using my particle mix to good effect, having
one eye towards the Blackwood carp match in August. Over the next week or so I managed a couple of
mid-week overnighters on the Top Pool taking the odd small one but before I knew it I was on holiday, a
nice week touring round Cornwall in the Scooby, and no sooner had Lisa and I returned before we were off
again down to London to stay with some friends whilst we visited the Urban Games held on Clapham
Common, the upshot being that it was almost August and I’d gone four weeks without fishing!

I was not too bothered mind, Birch was just around the corner and the week building up to it was spent
doing a few short sessions on Blackwood where I took several good doubles.

The Blackwood doubles kept coming

In past years I’ve gone to Birch eager to catch and tried everything to get amongst the fish. This year was
slightly different as after last years fish kill we knew things were going to be much tougher, and as such,
I’d settled on just chilling for the week. If we had a few fish, then bonus.

August the 8th arrived and we were off to Birch Grove once more. On arriving at the water we found the
new lodge built in memory of Mary Paisley, a fitting tribute to a great lady and a welcome addition to the
facilities at this great water. Once ends had been picked, Miffer and I set up in the Compound with Shaun
and Daz on the Main Boards. That night we read the log and were not surprised to learn that no big fish

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had been out for some time; with the last party on before us having just a couple of twenties between them.
Not that this bothered us much, we just concentrated on having a good time.

As is always the case on Birch, time fly’s by at an alarming rate. Miffer and I struggled on the compound,
not really spotting any activity until the Tuesday morning when we saw a nice fish in front of the Cattle
Drink where a set of pads come out from marginal trees. Miffer had a bait placed there in front of the pads
in about 5 feet of water over some of my particle mix so we were confident of some action before long.
Shaun and Daz had had better luck on the Main Boards, taking a couple of fish over the first few days, the
best a nice mid-twenty common to Shaun.

Although made up with the fish, Shaun could not believe his run of commons was still going on the water,
every fish he had last year from Birch was a common, and here he was with another!

Shaun’s run of Birch common’s continued!

It was not until the Wednesday morning that Miffer and I spotted activity around the Cattle Drink again.
This time there was a carp on the bank side of the pads in just a foot or two of water. Ever one to go after
them in shallow water, I suggested to Miff that a bait placed right under it’s nose on the other side of the
pads might just do the trick rather than at a depth of five feet. Within ten minutes Miffer had the bait
repositioned in about a foot and a half of water over a handful of particle mix.

Fish continued to show in the area so it was no surprise when the rod tip whipped round about half an hour
later signalling a fish. Miffer quickly hit in and was straight into a good battle with what looked to be a
decent kipper. The fish managed to make the sanctuary of the pads so I immediately took to the boat with a
net; after waiting three days for a fish, there was no way we were going to lose it!

I rowed out and positioned the boat over the spot where the pads were moving about, carefully moved
them aside, spotted the mainline, gently lifted it upwards to reveal a big common, grabbed the net with the
other hand and scooped it right under the fish in one swift movement - the whole job took less than thirty
seconds from start to finish! Once back on the bank Miffer praised the netting and we readied the sling and
scales. The needle whipped round past 21lb and Miffer was grinning like mad. We would have been
confident of more from the spot but we swap ends on the Wednesday. This was fine though as Shaun and
Daz had seen some action from the Boards.

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Miffer with a 21lb Birch Grove common

During the early afternoon Miff and I took a walk down to the lodge to get a few beers. On approaching
the cabin Miffer suddenly stopped me and pointed over to the step, where on closer inspection I noticed a
Kingfisher! We watched intently and slowly moved closer, the bird made no attempt to move and we were
not sure if it had perhaps hit the window or something. Miffer did the Animal Hospital bit and very gently
picked up the bird. We checked its wings and body and it seemed to be fine. Miffer opened his hands and it
suddenly flew up to a nearby branch and sat looking down on us. We watched it for a while, during which
time I was able to rattle of a few pictures, before watching it fly off up the lake - an amazing experience!

After a quick check over from ‘Dr. Miff’ the Kingfisher was away!

Once we had set up and settled in on the Main Boards we decided it was time to start the coarse match.
Each year we take a little course set up as the place is stuffed with some nice roach, rudd and eels. We set
up just off bottom and started hitting a few small roach on the drop. Each time one of us caught a fish we’d
pass the rod to the other to have a go and the afternoon soon turned into evening. The next day we decided
to go after them again as Miffer was keen to bag a big eel, not something I was over-keen on. The fight is
great but unhooking is another thing all together!

Miffer was hell bent on catching a big snake (Eel), and every time a series of tell-tale eel bubbles broke the

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surface he’d move the bait closer. Before long he achieved his goal; the float shot under, the rod arced over
and he bent into a decent eel. The battle was long but the eventual victor was never in doubt - Miffer: 1,
Eel’s: 0. It was a good one as well, certainly over a pound. Once returned it was my turn to have a go but
the swim had died a bit with all the commotion.

I told Miffer there were some Groundbaits somewhere in my bivvy and moments later he appeared with a
big box of Active Groundbaits and we were away. Miffer mixed up a batch and tossed it into the swim and
within minutes we were back in action. The next few hours were a blur as the roach and rudd went mental,
doing everything possible to hang themselves on the hook - it was one of those magical moments where
you just can’t stop catching.

They were not massive but we must have had over twenty pound of fish between us during a few hours
fishing. A welcome distraction whilst the carp fishing remained slow!

Another misty morning on Birch Grove

The night passed without incident and I awoke at first light as mist rolled off the water and upwards into
the air in huge folds. I got up and made a brew and sat looking out over the water peeved that the carp rods
remained silent. As I sat watching I could see loads of small roach and rudd topping just off the front of the
boards. After a while I realised the water was thick with them and thought sod it; if the carp don’t want
any, I’m going to have myself a monster rudd! Within minutes I had the bait in position, fishing about two
feet under the float. The action was immediate and constant. I hit the small stuff straight away and every
now and then would get a shy bite off a bigger fish. I moved the bait closer to the end of the boards, just
off the back of the boat where the pads started. It was tricky on placement; I had to underarm flick the float
under my rod pod and land it between the boat and pads, but if I got the cast right, the bigger fish appeared.
I kept at it, feeding up the swim little and often with a mixture of maggots and groundbait and kept picking
off the little roach and rudd in the hope of catching a biggie.

After a run of five or six little rudd I decided on a change of tactic and baited up with a caster. Once back
out, the float suddenly dipped and was away again, I struck expecting little resistance and was surprised
when the tip on the little coarse rod whipped round towards the back of the boat. At first I thought it was a

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slimey but there had been no bubbles to indicate the presence of an eel so I remained hopeful. I powered
hard into the fish so as not to let it reach the sanctuary of the pads and shortly afterwards the gold flanks of
a cracking rudd broke the surface to the right of the boards. My heartbeat increased and I quickly grabbed
the net and after a great little battle slid the fish into the waiting net and gave out a little shout! The fish
was well over a pound, closer to a pound and a half, and looked absolutely stunning in the misty morning
light with its huge scarlet fins.

Miffer later told me that he had woken a few times shortly after first light, and although he could not see
me on the end of the boards, kept hearing me saying things like; “get in!”... "Av it!” and suchlike, as I
banked a succession of fish. Then, the next thing he knew I’m stood there waving a massive rudd under his
nose! Miffer joined in shortly after that and the match lasted all day, spoilt only by a couple of lost fish on
the carp rods. I was not too bothered though, I was more interested in having a decent roach!

Shaun with a cracking upper-twenty Birch common

Whilst we were busy bagging up on the small stuff, Shaun and Daz scored from the compound with a
couple of nice carp. Shaun bagged guess what? Yup, another cracking common of around 28lb, his run
continuing! Daz however, had had a nice mirror off the Cattle Drink of around 24lb, so we went down and
took some shots of the fish before returning them to the water. Before we knew it the weekend was upon
us and we had just two nights left. This was the first time I’d gone this long on Birch without a fish so I
was hopeful of some action after we cast the baits out just after tea. It’s never nice to blank but it would not
be the worst thing in the world. Although the fishing had been slow, the week had been my most enjoyable
yet on the water so it just goes to show it’s not all about the numbers, at least not for me anyway.

Daz with a 24lb mirror from the Cattle Drink

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I need not have worried about the blank, for on the Saturday morning one of the pads rods tore off and I
was in. Unfortunately all went solid as it made the pads and so Miffer returned the compliment and took to
the boat with a net. Miffer did a bit of lurking about around the edge of the pads and for a while I thought it
was a lost cause. However, Miffer had other ideas and after following the line back into the water and
having a feel around, suddenly lowered the net and pulled it back up with a fish in it… Winner!

I congratulated Miffer on the netting and we were both made up with the capture. On the scales the fish
went 19lb 14oz and although just shy of the twenty mark neither of us was bothered, it was more about
how it was caught rather than its eventual weight. Shaun appeared on the boards and told us that Daz had
just bagged a scraper twenty off the Compound so we decided to get a brace shot before returning them to
the water.

Daz and Myself with a pair of Birch Grove mirrors

That was about it for Birch with no action coming to any of the group on the final night. It was no matter
though as Miffer and I enjoyed a nice night on the boards just chilling and having a social before we went
the following morning.

Once home I only had a week until the third Carp Match at Blackwood Pool. There are four matches
during the year with the best total weight taking the trophy at the end of the year. The matches are
legendary in terms of the socials, though the competition can be quite fierce at times. I’ve won plenty of
the individual matches but I’ve never lifted the overall trophy as I’ve never been able to fish all the
matches. For the last ten years my annual trip rallying on the Isle of Mull has always meant I’ve missed the
last and most productive match of the year, so the closest I’ve ever come is second overall. This year it had
been my plan to fish all the matches, but as usual, fate conspired against me. Some of the lads changed one
of the dates at very short notice which meant I was doing work parties elsewhere on the first match, and
the same thing happened with the second whilst I was on holiday in Cornwall, so not the best start!

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A nice warm up for the carp match at just over 15lb.

As the week before the third match passed, I spent a few short evening sessions up on Blackwood to try
and get a feel for things as I desperately needed a good haul if I was to get back near the leading weights,
which for the two matches previous stood at just over 32lb.

I managed a few nice fish during the short evening sessions, taking fish to just over 15lb - a few of those in
the match would certainly do the trick! The problem with the carp matches is always the same however, a
little bit of commotion on the bank and the fishing just turns off.

As the weekend approached I was confident for the match ahead, I’d been taking fish from all over the
shallows that week on simple maize rigs fished over a handful of particle mix, and as there were a good
five or six swims around the lake where I could use this method in the shallow water, I was hopeful of
getting a peg that would allow me to use the same tactic in the match.

As luck would have it there was a low turnout for the match and I bagged Peg 20, a peg I’d been doing a
little bit on during the week and so was confident of fish. Carp were showing all over the swim with a few
around the island so I decided to wade out and scatter a load of the particle mix in about two feet of water
right off the back of the island which would do for one rod.

My successful method during the previous week had been to catapult just one pouchful of my particle mix
and fish the maize over it, so I did that for my other rod just out from the margin.

The signs looked encouraging, the first few hours passed with fish regularly in and out of the area and I
received my first take at around 4pm, a nice little mirror of around 5lb.

I then had a small tench an hour later and lost a carp at around 7pm, there were certainly fish in the area! A
small 2lb mirror and a 9lb mirror during the night gave me the lead and another nice common of 9lb the
following morning pretty much sealed the match win; in total I had five carp for just over 33lb.

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One of five fish during the Carp Match to give me the eventual win

Since winning the Carp Match last week I’ve done a few short evening sessions up at Blackwood and have
taken a few more carp but I’m now keen to get back up to the Top Pool as I’ve not been up there for about
a month now and I’m eager to keep the momentum going and try to bag a few fish during Autumn.

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Part 8 (Top Pool Swansong and Pastures New, January 2005)
By Julian Grattidge

It was now September and I was eager to get back up to the Top Pool to try and bag a few autumn kippers.
My first trip back on was Saturday 5th September and I arrived at the water to find it empty, bar Kev who
was fishing the Left Point swim. I chatted with Kev, who had only started fishing the water this year, and
was delighted to hear that he’d had his first fish from the water a few weeks earlier from the same swim, a
cracking 25lb 12oz mirror from a little hole in the weed by the pad line, just a few feet from the bank.

Kev Duke with his first Top Pool fish, at 25lb 12oz.

After catching up on what I’d missed, I moved off to have a good look around to see what, if anything, was
moving. The main body of the lake from the Boat House round to the Board Walk was now thick with
Canadian Pond Weed which was up to the surface; it was also evident in smaller amounts throughout the
lake.

I spent an hour looking around the lake and spotted a few fish between the Black Hole and the Old Boards
swim but they were just sitting in holes in the weed and were almost impossible to cast to.

I walked back around the bay and whilst chatting to Kev again, I saw some fish movements under the main
body of pads. With nothing else presenting itself I decided to set up on the Rodie Bush hoping that I could
get amongst them when they ventured out from the pads later on.

I set up during the late afternoon and sat back to watch the water as the light began to fade. I had a maize
rig positioned just off the Rodie Bush to my left, fished over about five pouchfuls of my particle mix. The
other bait was to the right of the set of pads which run left to right in front of the swim. I was pretty tired
early on so got my head down quite early. I awoke a few times during the night but things were pretty quiet
until 3.30 am when a ‘bitty’ take occurred on my left hand rod from under the bush. It was distinctly tench

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like, so I gently lifted into the run and easily powered the fish away from the snags. The rod met only the
slightest resistance and the fish came straight towards the bank. I was confident it was a decent little tench
and eased off just a touch in order to bend down and pick up the torch which was by my rods - At which
point all hell broke loose!

Late afternoon on the Rodie Bush

The fish, which had been sitting just out from the swim in open water, suddenly lunged back towards the
bush, and I was immediately aware that I was now dealing with a carp! I arched the rod down and applied
pressure with the fish now back under the bush and just kept things taught as it tried to prolong its run, it
felt as if it were trying to head out from the bush so I gave it a little line and was happy to feel it move
away from any potential snags. It moved out and then made for the pads and a game of give and take
ensued. I was somewhat confused because when I got the upper hand it did not feel like a massive fish, but
then when it wanted to go, it went! I was aware that it might have been foul-hooked so just took it steady.
After a few more minutes I had it back in front of me and as it came shallow I got my first glimpse of the
fish in the torchlight, at which point it all became clear, I’d hooked ‘Mental the Common’.

‘Mental’ as he is affectionately known, last made an appearance on the bank some six years ago and most
of the regulars thought he was no longer. He’s from a wildie strain and has only ever attained low double
figures, but what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in power! The fish used to make regular
appearances on the bank, but not before towing the captor through numerous sets of pads and snags, and
this time was no different!

Once I’d guided him over the cord of the waiting net I fell about in fits of laughter, humbled at how this
little warrior had once again nearly had me over. I unhooked the maize rig from the middle of his bottom
lip and readied the scales whilst still smirking to myself. He’s like no other fish in the water; thin and long
with some scale disfigurement on both flanks… and *big* beady eyes!

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It was like old times as the scales settled at 12lb 12oz. I took a quick photo on timer to capture the moment
and slipped him straight back. I re-baited then sat back with a brew just soaking up the moment. To many
it will just seem like another double, but to me this fish is very special, I’ve had him about five times over
the years and strangely, he would only ever show on a rod that had already taken a fish that session. Each
time I’ve had him he’s led me a merry dance; it was just great to know he was still kicking and still making
a mockery of anyone who tried to catch him!

Alive and kicking; ‘Mental’ at 12lb 12oz

The following week saw me eager to get back up, so eager in fact, that I decided to do a mid-weeker on the
Wednesday night. I arrived to find most of the lakes inhabitants stacked up in the shallows. I climbed a few
trees and watched for a while to get a feel for the best places to present a bait. They were regularly skirting
the overhanging tree to my left on the Top Shallows swim and all over the area to my right. I grabbed my
gear and began setting up. I wanted to waste no time while the fish were all over me so quickly flicked out
a couple of worm rigs before attending to the rest of my gear. Joe turned up shortly afterwards to have a
look round for an hour and we chatted for a while as we watched the fish come and go.

The spots were only an underarm flick out but I wanted a really tight patch of particles, so I put the spod
out a couple of times to the desired spots then flicked the worms back over the top. During the hours up to
dark I had a couple of good tugs on the lines but nothing you could strike at so opted to put maize on both
rigs for the night ahead. I had a nice tench just after dark from my left hand rod, and then at around 3.00am
had a wake up call from something much bigger! A blistering take had me back on the left hand rod as a
fish powered off; line left the spool at an alarming rate. It tried to make it to the back of the snags but
fishing a decent shock leader allowed me to beef the fish back out into open water where I let it tire itself. I
then eased it towards the net, the fish behaved impeccably and swam straight into the waiting net on the
first attempt, mind you there’s not much else they can do in the shallows as it’s only about a foot deep!

I lifted the fish, which was a good twenty pounder onto the mat where I got my first proper look at it. It
was a cracking mirror; heavily scaled with an almost linear line of big scales down each side. It also had a
really light beige belly. It was certainly not a fish I’d seen on the bank before but alarm bells were ringing
in the back of my head, as it somehow seemed very familiar. Then the penny dropped. This was the fish
that had been taunting me for most of the season thus far, continually moping up my particle mix but
refusing to slip up with a hook bait. I’d spotted it time and time again on the fringes when I’d been
stalking in the shallows. It always had a cheeky scoff before heading off.

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The funny thing was, I’d spotted it the night before just as I was setting up and an hour or so later had been
joking with Joe about how it was now near the top of my wish list – nine hours later and he’s on the bank,
somebody somewhere must have been listening! The capture was twinned with regret though; I could not
get the camera to work and soon realised I had left the memory card plugged into the PC at home. Grrrrrr!

A few days later and I was back up again for a Friday to Sunday session with Nigel; I know his dad from
the SOTAS Committee and had promised to take him on the Top Pool as he was really eager to have a go.
It was a strange session really; we set up in the shallows where all the fish were stacked up again, it was
just like a re-run of the Wednesday night apart from the fact the buzzers remained silent! There were fish
all over us and on several occasions I could make them out, tails in the air as they moped up the particles,
but nothing! We did a bit of stalking on the Saturday down off the Old Boards swim where we found a
group of twenty pound plus fish milling about but again, nothing doing. We had them feeding, and feeding
confidently; no more than a rod length out from the bank, but for some reason they managed to avoid the
hookbait each time. Sometimes it just happens like that, I guess it makes the captures all that more
memorable when they do occur.

If anything, the weekend blank made me all that more determined. I knew everything was right in terms of
presentation, so I *would* make them have it from the shallows! As such, I went back on to do another
mid-weeker on the Wednesday night, however, the fish had other ideas. When I got up to the shallows I
found that the heavy rain we’d had during the early part of the week had really coloured up water in the
shallows, but there was a nice fresh wind pushing right down to the spots I fancied. Perfect, I thought - The
only thing missing were the fish!

I sat it out for almost an hour in the tree but only saw a couple of bream for my troubles so set off around
the bay. I saw a number of swirls and movements under the main set of pads in the bay so decided to set up
on the Rodie Bush where I’d had Mental from previously. There was definitely a chill in the air and
something was niggling me about putting maize on both rods. I’d had Mental off the bush on maize but
decided to fish a single critically balanced B5 boilie; soaked in soluble fish protein, fished over a couple of
spods of particle mix. This was the first time I’d used a boilie for a month or two and these baits had been
soaking for ages - just the job. Not long after setting up I had a few in front of me, right under my feet,
which on the Rodie is very strange. As time went on more and more fish showed; more in fact, than I’d
ever had in front of me on that swim before, so I was mega-confident as the evening progressed. It was
with no small amount of frustration then that I awoke to my alarm clock going off at 6.30am the following
morning telling me it was time to pack up and head home for work! I made a quick brew and then started
to break my kit down.

I fish with the bare minimum on quick overnighters and within ten minutes had the Titan put away my bag
packed, all that remained was to take out and break down the rods. I reeled in the right hand rod from the
padline and broke it down. I’d just fastened the Velcro strap on the quiver and was in the process of
turning round to pick up my second rod when the tip slammed right round towards the bush and it was
away… “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!”

I hit in and held on for dear life as the fish burst away from the bush and went straight out into the pads. I
knew it was a good one from the off and so took it nice and steady throughout. Eventually I got the upper
hand and guided the fish into the net. As I lifted the fish from the water I had to let out a laugh as it was
clearly a good mid-twenty. Talk about ‘at the death’. The scales confirmed a weight of 25lb 2oz. The
interesting thing was that it was not a fish I’d seen on the bank before; it’s nice that after so many years on
the venue it still never ceases to amaze me with hidden gems like this! I was pretty late by now and as all
the stuff was packed away I just took a quick image for the record and slipped it back. Work was a happy
affair that day.

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25lb 2oz ‘at the death’ mirror - Work was a happy affair that day!

With the final Blackwood Carp Match just round the corner I wanted to put a couple of sessions in on the
venue in the hope of keeping my lead until the end of the Championship. I went up with Miff and Nige
during the last weekend of September and we all managed to take a few fish so things were looking good
for the final match.

The following Saturday and the decider was upon us. Once the draw was out of the way, which saw me
coming out towards the end of the nine people fishing (surprise, surprise!) I opted for Peg 17 as this would
give me options for both shallow and deeper water. The Match got of to a flier when John Smith had two
double figure fish in two minutes from the Dam, which lifted him back into the thick of it and placed him
in a commanding position for the Match and overall trophy win. Later that night John Salt got amongst the
fish taking a nice double figure mirror and then he went on to bank the Parrot shortly after at 15lb 6oz from
Peg 5, which pushed him into the lead for the match.

The pressure was now on for the overall trophy win and I finally got the break I needed early on the
Sunday morning; taking a small 6lb’er to push me back into the overall lead. From then on it was a tense
and drawn out affair; only interrupted when John missed a chance to seal the overall title when he lost a
fish an hour before the end. All of which left me to take the 2004 Championship title with over a pound to
spare – Result!

Miffer was keen to get up to Bolesworth Castle before it closed for shooting at the end of October. It’s a
beautiful old estate lake controlled by Stoke-on-Trent AS, which is about a mile long and 20 yards wide;
it’s got features from every peg and is stocked full of quality carp and silver fish.

I’d not been on the water for possibly two years so decided to join Miffer for a session. In the end I was
able to fish the Friday night as well as the Saturday, so joined Shaun for the Friday night. We settled on
swims a little way up on the woods side after spotting fish milling around in the dieing back pads. I opted
for maize rigs fished over my ever-consistent particle mix in about two feet of water and one of them did
the business just after darkness.

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It was a belting run which saw the rod arc over as I eased the baitrunner off. I gave it a little line to stop it
going all the way through the pads and turned it before it had gone too far. After a good tussle I slipped the
net under a nice mid-double.

One of six doubles taken on the first night; this one at 14lb

The scales registered 14lb on the nose, not a bad start as the rods had only been out for an hour or so. The
baited spots then produced regularly through the night, I took another three fish, all good doubles and
Shaun took another two doubles before he had to shoot off to work early in the morning. The conditions
changed from wet and windy to very wet and windy as the day progressed, a squally wind kept coming and
going and every now and then it would drop completely. The sun even managed to break through on a
couple of occasions; I guess you would call it ‘changeable!’

Miffer arrived just after lunch and set up on the swim Shaun had vacated, as it had already produced a
couple of fish. Miffer opted for popped-up corn rigs, which he’d soaked in some natural Elderflower
essence I’d blagged for him a few years before during my time at the soft drinks company. When fishing
for carp I tend to stay away from corn as the tench and bream love it just as much as the carp. However,
maize seems to pick up much fewer bream and tench but the carp love it. This seemed to be proved by late
afternoon as Miffer had had half a dozen bream to my none!

Miffer with a typical Bolesworth bream

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It was shortly after dark that Miffer received another bitty bream like take; the bobbin on his left hand rod
jigged up and down but no line was taken. Then however, the line started peeling off as a fish made off
with his hookbait. Moments later the battle was on and a nice curve in his rod ruled out all but a decent
carp. Miffer took no prisoners and soon had the upper hand, guiding a good sized common into the waiting
net. It looked quite short but it certainly had a belly on it. It was in pristine condition and looked fantastic
on the mat. The common went 15lb 8oz on the scales and Miffer was well pleased with the result.

Less than an hour later my right hand alarm signalled a take and I was soon doing battle with another
Bolesworth double in the pouring rain. After a protracted fight I netted a nice mirror of around 13lb,
however, I opted to return in straight back without weighing as the rain was really coming down and my
coat was still in the bivvy! Once the fish had gone back I pulled on my Poncho on carefully baited up,
dropping the bait right back on the spot where I’d put some particle mix out. Before long the same rod
rattled off again as another carp made off with my grain of maize. The rain had eased and although it was
distinctly chilly, it also felt nice and fresh and I soaked up my surroundings as the carp banged away out in
open water. The fish was no slouch and kept charging up and down the margin just out from the pads,
doubtless another good double. Sure enough, a nice double figure common soon came in view, its golden
flanks easily visible in the torchlight. I was amazed at the quality of the fish, this was about the ninth carp
we’d had and every one had been a good double. The fish was a proper little barrel, very short but very
wide.

Miffer’s 15lb 8oz common

I had two more takes during the night, both on my left rod which was just off the pad line. The first I
managed to lose, although I’m still not sure how! It was a belting run and I had the fish on for a while
before everything went slack. All was fine with the hook and rig so I re-baited and placed it back out. It
was just before light when the swinger dropped to the deck; the bait was only about four feet from the bank
so the fish was right under my feet as I lifted into it. The result was yet another good double!

The session finished with me taking seven double figure fish between eleven and fourteen pounds, all on
maize over particle. You couldn’t really ask for a better session at the tail end of October and as I drove
home I was already planning a return session for the following weekend!

The following Friday night I was back, fishing one of the first pegs up on the woods side. The approach
was exactly the same as the week previous, no need to change a winning formula. I placed baits on either
side of the swim, again in shallow water just off the pad lines. I was on my own on the Friday night with a

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few of the lads due up on the Saturday. The conditions were much the same as the week before, very wet
and windy, yet I still managed three fish during the Friday night, all doubles. From 7am to 11am I did not
have another touch so I wound in the rods and went for a look around. There were still fish in front of me
so I had no real intention of moving but it never hurts to have a quick look around, you never know what
you’ll see!

Shortly afterwards I arrived back at my swim and saw the distinct movements of a carp off my left hand
spot. It was following the edge of the padline up towards my left hand baited spot. Quickly and quietly I
broke out my tub of worms and selected the biggest I could see, and slid it onto the hook as fast as I could.
I then gently flicked the rig with a half ounce lead into the path of the oncoming fish. The lead landed bang
on target with a little plop and the trap was set. The fish was in no rush and was still a rod length or more
from the spot when the lead went in. It carried on regardless, making the odd swirl with its back
occasionally breaking the surface. As I crouched by the undergrowth rod in hand, the fish eventually came
onto the baited patch and to my delight immediately tipped up to feed. Its tail broke the surface and cut the
water over the baited patch like a sharks fin as it made continued passes over the bed of particles. After
each pass it then swirled round and repeated the process. The adrenalin was pumping as it continued to
feed and then I received the first tell tale twitch on the line, then another… and then…Bang! It was on.

The surface erupted as I lifted into the fish and the battle was on. It was not a large fish but it put up a very
good account of itself nonetheless. I soon had it wallowing in open water and netted a nice little mirror.
After ten doubles from the water on the trot, this little one went shy at around 7lb. Not important though, I
was well pleased with the quick baiting that had led to its downfall. So happy in fact, that I took a quick
self-portrait with the camera to record the moment before slipping the chucky little mirror back to the
water.

Ten Bolesworth doubles on the trot followed by this chunky 7lb’er!

Shortly afterwards Miffer, John, Big Daz and Shaun turned up for the Saturday night. The rain came down
as they set up whilst I stayed tucked up in my bivvy with a brew. The conditions got steadily worse as the
day wore on and my swim looked distinctly un-fishy by early afternoon. Miffer was the first of the
newcomers to score, taking a nice double figure mirror during the afternoon.

I decided to ‘have five’ during the afternoon and as I lay on the bedchair mid-stretch, all I remember was a
loud “Crack!” as both upper sides of the bedchair snapped off! The back collapsed and I cracked my ribs
on the crossbar as it did so. Not a happy bunny. There was no way I was going home, so I just decided to

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sleep at the other end and make do. Not long after that Big Daz got amongst it with a cracking double
figure common just before dark. I got back in the swing of things with another fish during a brief rest bite
from the rain, another double figure mirror at 11lb 3oz. This was the last of the session as the conditions
steadily worsened.

After what I can only describe as my worst nights sleep ever, I packed up and went home, but not before
Shaun had robbed most of the bits off my now defunct bedchair which was then unceremoniously dumped
at the tip on the way home. The lads went back to Bolesworth the following week and managed a couple
more before the close, but as I had no bed and had jobs to do around the house I stayed in. To be honest my
mindset has changed somewhat over the last few months, and since having Victor from the Top Pool I’m
now looking for some new challenges - I’ll let you know when I find them!

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Part 9 (Surface Fishing Adventures, Mackerel Skies and Mares' Tails, Aug 2005)
By Julian Grattidge

I had a full days fishing planned, and possibly a night as well – a rare occurrence of late. My intention was
to do a day on Capesthorne Main Lake then fish the night somewhere else. I got on the Main Lake at about
8am but nothing was showing. I stalked a couple of big doubles for a while but they seemed too happy in
the dense weed to come within distance.

I moved down the Main Lake and settled on a couple of swims after seeing a few decent fish in the
margins – and then came the rain. Heavy showers rolling in from the West, each lasting for perhaps ten
minutes before a brief rest bite, then just as everything livened up and the fish started topping, in rolled
more dark low-lying clouds and another downpour ensued as thunder rumbled away overhead. Normally
I’d favour such conditions, but the fish that shortly before had seemed quite active had now disappeared.
Over the coming hours I did a few laps of both lakes and climbed various trees but the storm seemed to
have knocked them down, at least for the moment. I stuck it out until 2.00pm and as nothing had changed I
decided I needed to effect a change if I was to bring about a result. I surveyed my options. There were
another couple of waters close by but chances of the fishing being much different than at current were
slim. Having checked the weather online before I left the house, I knew the storms were covering most of
the bottom end of Cheshire, where I was at present, but were predicted to be less severe back towards
home. I stood half crouched under the shelter of an old Ewe tree (no brolly just stalking gear) as another
bout of rain moved overhead. I looked up as if hoping the skies would tell me what my best course of
action would be but nothing materialised other than rivulets of rain on my neck, which fast found their way
down inside my jacket to wet my T-shirt.

I had to move, but where? I ran through my options and decided to have a drive over to my new little water
to see what, if anything, was occurring. It was back near home, near the Staffordshire Moorlands /
Derbyshire border. I’d only fished the place once before; a quick evening session the week previous which
saw me hook two fish off the top but net neither. I don’t know what drew me there, as after just a few
hours fishing on the venue I could hardly predict what the inhabitants might be up to, but nonetheless, after
an hours driving I found myself arriving at the lake. The roads were wet so they’d obviously had rain, but
dry spots could be seen beneath the canopies of large trees which lined the small lanes on the way to the
lake so they’d not had much.

That said, just as I was getting out of the car there was a torrential downpour – just my luck! However, as I
looked up it was clear to see I was right on the edge of the storm, looking North to where I’d just come
from it looked bleak, yet just behind and above me to the South it was clear, and looking West, the
approaching clouds were brighter and much higher – Maybe it was not so bad after all. I had a walk round
the lake and after a while came upon the bay I fished on my last session, just as a thunder cloud rumbled
ominously overhead. The odd fork of lightning shot down to strike somewhere over the Moors just a few
miles away to my right and the relative brightness of a few minutes previous was suddenly replaced by
near darkness as the eye of the storm moved over the lake. As I stood and watched the bay for signs of life
I saw the odd ‘carpy’ swirl just under the surface, the fish no doubt stirred up by the sudden change in
pressure.

I took a handful of mixers from my pocket and threw them as far as I could into the bay. Within minutes
you could see the odd floater disappear as the carp began to stir. It was quite surreal watching the carp feed

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as the storm raged away overhead; their distinctive ‘schloooop’ sounds all but drowned out by the constant
rumbling of thunder!

Despite the conditions it was clear they were up for it. I looked back at the fast moving storm cloud just as
another streak of lightning flashed down, and figured it would pass by within ten minutes leaving clear
skies - without even knowing it I was already on my way back to the car for my gear! I grabbed my
stalking rod plus a few odds and ends and was soon heading back to the bay and its feeding fish. They
were finicky feeders however, tending to come up from underneath and have several ‘plays’ with each
floater before taking it in. As such, I had to have a play about with presentation before I started to get some
serious grabs.

The first fish came just as the dark skies lifted. One of those moments where everything seems to slip into
slow-motion and you instinctively know it’s about to happen; a carp came up and took a mixer six inches
from the hookbait with real fervour and returned almost immediately for desert. Its head broke the surface,
mouth wide open, letting forth a huge ‘schloooop’ as it sucked in everything around it. The mixer
disappeared deep into its cavernous mouth before extended lips closed fully around it. Its target achieved;
the carp slipped back below the surface as inertia took effect from its original upward motion. All that was
left was a swirl of displaced water and a rapidly tightening hooklink!

In the split-second during which its lips closed confidently around the hookbait, I gently arced the rod
sideways, knowing full well it was already hooked. I played the fish from the next swim along so as not to
spook other fish from my feeding zone, and after a nice little tussle slipped the net under a mirror that
fought a great deal harder then its weight suggested at perhaps 9lb, ten at a push. A lean fish but long in the
body. After the events of the morning I was over the moon with my first carp from this new water and
carefully slipped it back without weighing, a broad smile etched across my face.

Shortly afterwards I was in again; a demon little common that was doing all it could to evade the net. After
a heated battle on 7.9lb line, I finally got the upper hand and guided the fish into the net. It was a few
pounds heavier than the first fish, granted, but at say 12lb it still seemed to have put up a battle worthy of a
much bigger opponent. Again it was very lean (if not thin) and very long in the body. As I looked down at
the bronzed lump before me, something nagged. Something did not seem quite right when considering its
size in relation to its fight. As such, I decided to weigh it - just to see if my estimate was correct. It wasn’t!

The fish went 14lb 12oz on the scales and I was completely flummoxed! I think it was the length in the
body that threw me; they just looked pasty’ish. This of course meant that the first fish was probably nearer
13lb than 10lb and thus I’d had a brace of doubles within an hour – a happy man!

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More was to come however. After a quiet spell, what appeared to be a decent fish started mopping up a
few mixers as it moved along the far margin just a few feet off the bank. A tricky cast plopped the hookbait
close to the far margin directly in line with its current path. After picking off two more freebies it made a
poorly timed attempt at the hookbait and missed completely. However, much to my surprise, it nailed itself
on the follow-up.

The instant it was hooked it melted the spool on my bait-runner, skinning forty yards of mono on its first
attempt. That said, I was happy to let it have as much line as it wanted in the initial stages. It hugged the
bottom out in the middle for some time and I wondered just how long it might take to tame this mighty
beast – I also wondered just how big it was! I took my time and slowly but surly started increasing the
pressure. Soon after I was able to encourage the fish up nearer the surface, at which point I got my first
look… and what a look! The fish was massive! A beautifully proportioned mirror light in colour with a
cracking scale pattern. It was still not ready for the net, mind, and kept plodding up and down the margin
about a rod-length out. It was on one of these little runs, just as I’d turned the fish again, that the hooklink
snapped just above the hook – Gutted does not come near. The fish stayed there for a split-second, as if not
quite realising it was now free to leave of its own accord, and then suddenly it woke-up and did-one. Ho
Hum. I don’t much like putting weights on lost fish as you never truly know what it would have been
unless up on the scales. However, what can say is that had I managed to bank it, it would doubtless have
been a new PB surface capture; and a damned impressive one too boot!

Irrespective of this, I got straight back on the horse and was in again within twenty minutes - Another nice
double, weighed at 13lb 6oz. With another fish under my belt I put the loss of the big mirror firmly to the
back off my mind; been there and done that when it comes to dwelling on lost monsters - and believe me, it
does you no good! Indeed my thoughts were firmly entrenched with the possibilities that lay ahead, only
my second session on the water and with no more than five hours fishing I’d already had three good
doubles and a close encounter with a big kipper.

As is always the case when you’re engrossed with your fishing; the evening had flown by. The light was
fading fast with the time approaching eight thirty - almost home time. I could barely see the mixer
anymore so just let it drift as I tidied up my gear and put a few odds and sods back in my stalking bag.
Moments later I heard a loud ‘bosh’ as a fish broke the surface towards the back of the bay. As I looked up
to see where the commotion had occurred I noticed the rod tip arc round violently - I lifted without
hesitation and was in again. As the battle unfolded I let the fish dictate the pace, again happy to let the fish
tire itself out before applying some pressure. Whilst the battle was not as prolonged as that of the lost
mirror, it was clear that this was a good double, and perhaps a little better than those banked thus far – at
least it felt that way! Luckily, everything held and I soon had the fish wallowing in the margins before
carefully scooping up my prize.

I heaved a sigh of relief as the fish slipped over the cord and into the folds of my waiting net. As I lifted
the fish from the water an uncontrollable grin spread across my face, clear in the knowledge that the fish, a
lively common which was now on the mat and slapping water all over me, would easily eclipse the
fourteen pounder I’d taken earlier. Once transferred to the sling I held my torch aloft to see the needle on
the scales whip round to 17lb and ounces. I let out an exuberant cry – although much less than the big
mirror I’d lost earlier, this little beauty had really taken the edge of things and I knew I’d be driving home
a very happy man!

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Part 10 (Surface Fishing Adventures, New Personal Best – In October!!, October 2005)
By Julian Grattidge

What can I say, when I left the house last night I had no idea what was to come. I’d been watching the
weather out of my office window (at home) all day but had not been outside. I live in an old Town House
and my office window faces out north so its afternoon before the sun comes through the window, and as
such it can be deceiving as it often feels colder than it is until the sun pokes through. It was about 3pm
when I nipped outside to speak to a neighbour and I was gob-smacked at how warm it was for October.

Within minutes my head was racing ahead with the possibilities, a few of us from my NorthWestCarp
website had decided on a floater fishing challenge - trying to take a carp off the top during each month of
the year. It stemmed from a fascinating article I’d read whilst at Birch about this guy that just fished off the
top, who’d had some absolutely stunning results. The upshot was that he had caught fish off the top in
every month of the year and so came about the challenge.

In the past I’ve had fish from April to September so the challenge is to take one in each month from
October through to March. With the last few weeks remaining quite warm I thought it was going to be a
much easier proposition than it has been, time fishing has been the main problem, and it’s getting too dark
too quickly after I finish work. In all honesty I’ve only had about two or three day sessions over the last
few months.

Hence my eagerness to get out for a couple of hours last night. Elton was kind enough to give me a few
hours off so I was out of the house just before 4pm with a couple of hours fishing ahead of me before it
went dark. I decided on a little day ticket venue a few miles outside of Leek. I’d been doing a little bit on
there a month or two back and had managed a cracker of 17lb 2oz and had even lost one much bigger at
the net. I’d only fished the place four or five times so I felt there was much more to come. Whilst one
always dreams of big fish, the main reason for choosing this venue was the fact that that there were a
couple of pools to go at, and whilst I’d been concentrating on the upper pool where I’d taken the better
fish, there was also a bottom pool that contained smaller fish that seemed easier to get going when the
upper pool fish did not want to play. On arriving at the water my plan was to start on the upper pool, and if
nothing developed move on to the lower pool.

When I arrived at the water my plan was immediately flawed. I had not taken the wind into account. I had
checked on the web before leaving and it had said 15mph winds, but as the pools are in a valley I did not
think it would be so bad – I was wrong! Most of the upper pool looked like the North Sea! The little bay
that had provided the goods on previous occasions was the best sheltered area but was still getting
hammered with the wind pushing straight into it. As it was a fresh wind I knew there would be fish about
but could I get them going? I put out a healthy amount of mixers which went across the lake in minutes.
During that time three fish crashed clean out of the water so they were definitely there, but after fifteen
minutes not one mixer had been taken. I tried a few other spots where the cover was better but still no joy.

I decided on a switch to the bottom pool. The area that offered the best chance was already taken, a point
swim behind a large island which was well sheltered from the wind. The only other area free was a small
bay in the South-East corner so I settled in there. There were two young lads fishing down to my left, lots
of noise, lots of commotion, and lots of bait flying – the joys of day ticket fishing. I was not to be put off
however, as time was running out.

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I set about the business of trying to get a few fish feeding. By 5pm I’d not seen one definite sign of a carp,
the wind was making it very hard visually and to be honest I was almost at the point of calling it a day. But
then unexpected happened – the guy on the point had packed up and was walking back round with his gear.
Within seconds I was off around the other side of the lake and dropped into the swim. I timed it so that we
passed on the path and politely asked how he had done?
“Crap, nothing all day, mate.” his reply.

I immediately went about getting some mixers out. In my excitement to get out of the house I’d forgotten
to put my catapult in the bag so could only fish at ‘chuck-distance’. Even so I could get most of the way
out to the point just off the island and started feeding mixers to another area to my right in open water; I
had the whole side of the lake to myself but was governed by wind as to where I could fish. After ten
minutes there had not been a swirl, apart from a few over excited silver fish trying to wolf down a dog
biscuit in one go. I was beginning to get that sinking feeling in my stomach and had visions of having to
wait until next October for another chance when out of nowhere came that beautiful sound…
‘Schooooooolp’- Something, somewhere, had just nailed a dog biscuit! My head whipped round to trace
the source of the noise and my eyes fixed on a small circular flat spot rapidly extending outwards where a
carp had just boiled on the surface. In that instant my heart lifted and a grin spread across my face… time
yet my boy, time yet!

I immediately unhooked the dog biscuit and hook from my rod eye and cast to the spot where the fish had
appeared, applying a few more mixers soaked in Essential Shellfish Plum. Minutes later another floater
disappeared and then another. I kept feeding the two patches and making casts back into the zone as the
wind was pushing the controller through the area much quicker than the free baits. Many prefer to cast
over the baited spot and drag the controller back into the zone, which is fine. However, I prefer to cast
right into the zone and feather the cast so it lands with just a tiny plop. It’s often the case that if you get
your cast right you will get a hit quite quickly, as was the case when after a cast to the island patch a carp
attacked the dog biscuit almost immediately. Either through lack of skill on my part or lack of conviction
on the carp’s, I failed to connect – gutted. This is often the case with surface fishing and to some extent
goes with the territory. This is one of the reasons why I like to feed two spots, so that when you have a fish
or spook one from one area you can work on the other for a while, feeding both as you go.

Over the next thirty minutes I pulled out twice more. These losses were more than I would usually expect
but I put it down to the wind making things difficult. By now it was turning dark and time was running out.
Mixers were drifting right across the bay by now and fish were picking them off all over the place. I’d also
been feeding a few down the margin just inches off the bank – many a time the fish think these have been
swept in and are safe to eat – until they get nailed by the hookbait. Some of these had made it down to an
overhanging Hawthorne bush in the bottom corner and were getting mopped up from the safety of
submerged branches. As darkness neared the wind was dropping and the bush area was now fishable so I
quickly and quietly changed spots and got a bait back out in front off the tree. Obviously on a 7.9lb
hooklink I did not want to let it drift too close into the bush as a big fish would make light work of
snapping me. However, I wanted to give the illusion that the hookbait was out of harms way and so let it
drift in as far as I could until I felt it was too dangerous, at which point I’d wind in, recast, and let it drift in
again. The freebies were getting picked off and the fish were slowly moving further out of the snag. It was
too dark to see their size but that was unimportant – I would have been ecstatic with a fish of 2lb!

Then it happened, nothing spectacular, nothing out of the ordinary, just a little swirl and the biscuit was
gone. The controller immediately slammed forward as the hooklink tightened and I gently lifted into the
fish, this time the hook had been set and battle ensued. To be frank, I nearly wet myself. It was obvious
from the outset that it was a good fish, a very good fish, and all through the fight I had visions of it making
the bush, snagging me and leaving me to pack up and go home thinking about what might have been.
However, happily (very happily) I can report that everything held and I soon had a rather large carp

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wallowing in the bottom of my net! By now everyone else on the lake had given up and gone home, so I
was left to investigate my prize alone, just the way I like it to be honest – just me and the fish!

The scales registered 24lb 4oz - ‘Ecstatic’ doesn’t do justice to the way I felt but you get the idea!
Technically it’s not my biggest surface caught fish as I had a 25lb plus mirror off the Main Lake back in
June with a free-lined worm off the edge of a lily pad, but it’s certainly my best floater fishing capture to
date, and to class it as anything other than a personal best would seem to be splitting hairs!

My new Personal Best surface caught carp at 24lb 4oz

So, my October surface capture is firmly in the bag and I couldn’t be happier – roll on November! The
picture was a little disappointing but it’s the fish that counts. The rechargeable batteries on my digital
camera seem to have given up the ghost overnight. They have given over two years of trouble free service
and usually last for a week or more with constant use, but since my trip to the Main Lake last weekend
they now last for about five seconds! The first effort with flash switched off the camera as it took the
image, and registered nothing. I managed to get two more without flash before it was game over. I’ve
fettled with the better of the two in Photoshop and although the contrast is a bit ropey you can at least see
the fat old girl on the mat.

No matter though, it will remain pin sharp in the memory for years to come.

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Part 11 (Surface Fishing Adventures, Last Chance Saloon, May 2006)
By Julian Grattidge

It was about ten to five when the thought first occurred, just as I was contemplating wrapping things up for
the day work wise. I was supposed to be off out with Lisa to buy a new tumble-dryer to cope with the
increased capacity of wet baby-grows, which had been stacking up at an alarming rate since Izaak’s arrival
a few weeks previous, but as I gazed out of the window at the surprisingly sunny conditions after two
weeks of constant downpours, I suddenly had the feeling that now would be a good time to go fishing.

I went downstairs to gauge the situation and enquired about the possibility of postponing the imminent trip
to Currys. A deal was done which would see me taking Izaak of her hands for a few hours at the weekend
(no worries there – another dad and son trip around a lake somewhere!) and within minutes I was sorting
out my gear.

Ten past five and I was en route to Blackwood Pool. The controlling club has embarked on an ambitious
project this year which will see all the current carp removed from the water to be replaced with a handful
of young prime growers destined to achieve specimen weights in the future. The obvious upshot is that the
current stock’s days are numbered prior to relocation.

As such, I had set myself the target of banking ‘The Parrott’, the lakes largest inhabitant, before such time
as he went on his long-term holidays. The only problem was that most of the other members had exactly
the same plan! Mine was slightly different however, in that I hoped to catch him off the top, which allowed
for my newfound addiction to surface fishing. And so it was – ten minutes later I was pulling onto an
empty Blackwood car park to begin another tactical assault.

My prior attempts at the challenge had been pretty unremarkable. First time out I fished with Mart and we
bagged a couple of small ones each to scraper doubles before the conditions knocked it on the head, and
second time out with Chesh things were repeated; after positive early results the wind and rain moved in
and that was that.

As I walked down to the water I wondered how the evening would progress. Having pushed to get out and
do some, I now needed to make it count. I walked around the inlet looking for any signs of activity and
dropped down into Peg-3, which is usually a good bet at this time of year, but ten minutes later nothing had
stirred, other than some monster roach attacking the mixers. There was a bit of a cold wind pushing down
towards the dam but most of the area I was fishing was pretty sheltered, although the area seemed devoid
of fish.

I trekked round to the far bank and started introducing mixers into a few swims, both close into the
margins and further out into open water to try and find the fish. I settled back to watch the water and within
minutes the first definite carp swirl broke through the heavy surface rip.

The fish seemed quite close into the bank, no doubt inspecting everything the fresh wind blew into the
waters edge. I applied a hookbait into an area where regular swirls were appearing and strained my eyes to
keep sight of the hookbait. I was still using the waggler set-up from my last trip twinned with a dipped
corkball hookbait.

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Within minutes I had my first chance, but the carp seemed to abort at the last possible second. Ten minutes
later and the same thing had happened twice. Time for a rethink. There was quite a rip on the water and I
wondered if the super-buoyant hookbait was proving difficult for the carp to suck in. I needed to see things
closer up, but having left my binoculars at home I would have to try and draw the fish closer in for a better
look. It took a while but eventually I got the fish feeding confidently within inches of the bank as I took
cover behind bankside features, popping up every few minutes to introduce more mixers. I was watching
the mechanics of the set-up just a few feet out when all became clear. With a sudden drop in wind which
saw the surface go flat calm, a carp approached the hookbait and cautiously sucked. I reckon a normal
mixer hookbait balanced with the weight of the hook would have slipped straight down, but the corkball
just bobbed about waiting for more force before allowing itself to be sucked in. The carp, bemused by its
apparent inability to suck in the mixer, suddenly realised that something must be amiss and showed its
disgust, boiling under the surface and powering off out of the area.

The problem I had was that my mixers were a bit too small to fish on their own. The shop had no Pedigree
Chum mixer which I normally like to use, so I had to settle for Morrison’s own – a poor substitute in my
opinion, a mistake I won’t be making again! They were not as uniformly shaped so kept falling out of the
bait-band on the cast, hence trying the corkballs. In addition, the waggler method which had proved
effective on my last session was giving me a bit of trouble in that I could not see much of the float top in
the very windy conditions. I made a wholesale change and reverted to my controller set up and then
decided to try what would be in effect a cocktail hookbait. I had softened a few mixers before leaving the
house and so cut a mixer in half and placed it in the band with a third of a corkball, shaped and cut on the
sides so the band would cut in and hold the biscuit in place directly above the hook. It looked the business -
even if I do say so myself!

I cast the rig as far as I could into the middle of the lake to see how the bait stood up to a distance cast, and
then feathered the controller to see both it and a secure hookbait plop down onto the surface – perfect. I
reeled back into the feeding area - the wind now dropping as the evening wore on - and sat back just in
time to see a nice common come up for a freebie a couple of feet from the hookbait. Seconds later it
appeared again from the deep making a beeline for my bait. It was textbook really; lips opened, bait sucked
in, lips closed, line tightened… fish on!

A new set-up brings this double figure common to the bank

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The fish put up a good scrap, however, my 7.9lb hooklink held firm and I was soon able to coax the little
steam train into the net. The scales registered 10lb 4oz and I had my first double in the bag. I set up the
camera on the self timer, took a shot, and returned the fish to the water. The prolonged battle had spooked
all the fish from the area so I quickly got myself sorted out and went elsewhere in search of fish. Tucked
right down in the corner of the lake is a little peg that juts out like a peninsula into the lake, and some of
the floaters which I had introduced earlier had been blown into the little bay to one side of the peg, and
said biscuits were getting mopped up by a group of fish with complete confidence – Time to go stalking.

Getting into a situation where I would be able to offer a hookbait with a net at hand was going to be
extremely difficult, but not impossible. The fish were inches from the bank, and with little cover I would
need to remain unseen. I stealthily made my way up around the back of the peg, each step a baby one as I
lifting my feet much higher than normal in an attempt to remain undetected. It took a good while to get
into position, at which point I used the cover of the only tree in the area to kneel up behind and observe the
fish. I kept trickling in the mixers and the fish slurped away contentedly.

I had the perfect spot – the fading light was in my favour and my polarised glasses cut right through the
surface to make out sizes shapes and scale patterns of individual fish as they surfaced. After ten minutes I
had identified most of those present; Ugly was deep in the thick of it, merrily picking off as many as he
could – no surprises there! In addition, two scattered mirrors of around 9-10lb competed biscuit for biscuit,
at one point they were both trying to suck in the same one at the same time – one eventually head-butted
the other before slurping up the biscuit - hardly Eaton Rules!

On the fringes was a stunning linear which I’d photographed for Dave Miller a few weeks earlier. I had it
on bottom baits the winter before last but it was still the pick of the bunch, that is until another stunning
mirror came to join the party. The netting which had taken place the week previous had thrown up a
stunning pale mirror, almost fully scaled, it was a plump little specimen which I’d never seen before, and
now here it was taking biscuits off the top right in front of me! Time to introduce the hookbait.

In reality, this was easier said than done, I was kneeling behind the undergrowth with a high bank right
behind me and overhanging tree branches all around me. I eventually got a strategy sorted in my head, and
with a little tinkering was able to hold the hookbait just above the danger zone, ready to drop down when
the target appeared.

Moments later it did just that and mopped up a few biscuits about two feet from the bank. The fish dipped
slightly after taking another and I second guessed where I thought it would next appear and lowered the
hookbait into position. The broad pale shoulder appeared again right on cue, and the head rose with lips
extended to suck in the bait. All seemed well until I lifted into it; I made the schoolboy error of striking
way too soon...

The hookbait flew back up out of the water coming to rest, along with the controller, in the branches of the
overhanging tree just a few feet above the water. The fish departed at a rate of knots taking all the other
fish in the area with it. Gutted.

It took nearly ten minutes to get my rig out of the tree without snapping anything, and after applying a
fresh hookbait I knelt down behind the marginal cover to consider my options. The area was devoid of fish
bar one kipper a little way out mopping up a few stray biscuits. My best bet now would be to try and tempt
this fish further in as time was marching on and darkness would soon be closing in.

I crept back into position behind the undergrowth and started introducing mixers to the showing fish. It
took almost ten minutes to get the fish coming towards me, but eventually I was able to tempt it closer in,

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biscuit by biscuit. However, it was proving a much harder task than I had imagined, and I made the
decision to angle for it as soon as the chance presented itself, be it two pounds or ten!

It was another ten minutes after that before I got my first glimpse of the fish, and that’s when my heart
missed a beat – it was the Parrott!

I kept feeding in the biscuits one at a time. The old girl was no walkover; far too old and wise to make a
simple error. Each time she would slowly approach from below, give a quick investigative suck before
deciding whether to take in fully.

Then, unlike the others who would quickly fill their boots with any remaining free offerings, she would
drop completely from sight for a good few minutes before appearing again, unexpectedly, to test another
biscuit. The problem with this was that I kept getting the hook bait in the wrong place.

I remained calm, quit, and focused. I stopped feeding in the biscuits in order to narrow the options for
placing the hookbait. The light was fading fast and I was beginning to get the feeling that the big old girl
might prove the eventual victor before the evening was out.

The fewer biscuits I introduced the less she showed – the plan was not working. As such I decided to turn
it on its head – tip a good handful into the area to see if I could get her taking with more confidence. To be
honest it was the best I could come up with at the time; although it was nearly June my hands were numb
with cold, my body ached all over having been in the most uncomfortable of positions for the best part of
an hour, and my concentration was waning.

Sometimes it’s that ‘last chance saloon’ mentality that makes something happen, and so it was to be on this
occasion. With more biscuits on offer she started to show with regularity, no doubt bolstered by the fact
that it was almost dark.

I hovered uncomfortably with the hookbait just above the surface waiting for my chance. I would have just
left it in were it not for the two manic mirrors that had returned into the area. I saw a swirl just inches from
the edge a few yards down the bank. It was only a foot deep where the fish had shown and although too far
away to see through the glasses, the thick shoulder breaking the surface could only belong to one fish – I
flicked the bait as near to the fish as I could get it and dipped back down.

I peeked over the sedges just in time to see her nudge the hookbait – at first I thought she had rejected it
and my heart sank - but then a faint ‘schloooop’ sound emanated from the area, and with confidence
growing she had another go at the biscuit, this time taking it straight it.

I lifted in and it felt as if the hook had set but there was no eruption, the fish actually swam calmly towards
me. Confused I wound down again – had she spat it out? I lifted in again and all hell broke loose! Until the
second strike, I reckon she did not know she was hooked!

Either way, she was now off on one, trying to make it towards the post by Peg 12. I jumped into the margin
(chesties on) getting my rod tip down low to apply as much side strain as I dared on 7.9lb line. I managed
to slow her up but a series of long runs out into open water put distance between the fish and my waiting
net.

Having gone to all this trouble to hook it, I was determined not to lose it, so I tried to let the fish dictate the
pace in order that she tire herself out. The fish made every effort to avoid capture, but surly to lose it now
would be too cruel?

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"Adios, Big’un"

Luckily everything held firm and after a while I was able to wade out into the deeper water and guide her
into the waiting net - Target achieved. I made my way back to the bank with my prize, a grin rapidly
spreading from ear to ear. Once back on the bank I gave her a quick check over, took a photo on self-timer
and slipped her straight back…

“Adios, Big’un… been nice knowing you.”

The aches, pains and coldness had gone completely – It’s funny what catching a fish can do! I packed up
for home, happy in the knowledge I’d banked the big'un off the top.

Now for that pale mirror…

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Appendix

Online Retailers Of Carp Fishing Tackle

Fishtec – Fishtec With Matt Hayes; Every big name brand going, with extremely competitive prices and
deals all the time.

www.carp-reel.co.uk – Carp fishing reel advice.

www.trevs-tackle.com – Trev’s Tackle; Large range of carp fishing tackle. The Fishrite range is
especially good for those starting out, or on a budget.

www.tacklebargain.com – Tackle Bargains; Specialists in selling clearance lines, bulk and one-off items.
Some real bargains here.

www.fishing-direct.com – Hooked Tackle & Bait; Specialist carp fishing shop carrying the best brands,
including bait. Supplies to the UK only.

www.spex-4-less.com – Spex4Less; Probably the UK’s cheapest optician. Most importantly, they supply
prescription polarised fishing glasses.

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Copyright © Anglers’ Net 2006 – www.AnglersNet.co.uk – info@anglersnet.co.uk

The rights of James Gibbinson, Julian Grattidge, Garth Barnard and Elton Murphy to be identified as the
author of their respective articles within this work have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

First published in Great Britain in 2006 by Anglers’ Net, PO BOX 303, Woodbridge, IP13 6WJ. UK.

All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or
review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may not be
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Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be sent to the publisher at the above email
address.

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