Harley Doughty, Fun in the February Sun
Posted on 23rd March 2019 at 20:57
A few weeks back we were greeted by some very odd, but also very welcome, mild weather considering the time of year. It was February and it was also nearly 20 degrees in places across the UK. What was going on! Well, I hadn't a clue but what I did know was there was no better way to enjoy the sun than get back out on the bank for a day and hopefully bag a carp or two.
With spring now just around the corner it was time to start getting my 2019 fishing plan working. I had now finally decided on a venue to campaign on and what a lake it is, but at around 6 acres in size with some very thick weed scattered around, and some very clued up carp, it wasn't going to be easy.
My target water was something I had thought long and hard about and there were many mind changing points that I kept going over in my head but, eventually, I settled on a lake that is part of a fairly large complex situated on a working farm. I have been fishing the other lakes owned by them for over 10 years now and have been lucky enough to catch some incredible fish, carp to 37lb 6oz and catfish to just over 60lb, but this particular lake on the complex holds something even more special than that and it just seemed the perfect place. I know the complex very well so the rules and tactics are very familiar to me and I know one or two of the regulars that fish there, Although I have never fished this particular lake I still felt like I would have a good basic knowledge that I could build on each time I fished there.
With no time to waste it wasn't long before I was heading to the farm for my first session and with the knowledge of what lurks in the depths strongly in my mind I was very excited to get the rods out. It was back in mid February now and the cold wintery weather was in full swing as it rained relentlessly through my session and unfortunately the fish still seemed to be very much in a hibernating mood as I didn't see any signs of activity whilst I was there, but deep down I wasn't too expectant of a capture as this can be a very difficult lake with many anglers doing over 20 sessions before landing their first fish. Before I knew it the day had gone by and I was fishless. I wasn't disheartened though, as my main reason for this session was to try and get a feel for the place and find some spots that I could consistently target in future sessions. Now I could start introducing some bait onto the chosen spots and I would be back very soon with hopefully not too many sessions before I have something to report.
Moving on a bit now to the end of February and the mini winter heat wave was very welcome. I was lucky enough to sneak a few hours in at another lake very familiar to me, it's a lake I like to fish through the colder months as it holds a decent stock of carp and multiple captures even in winter can be had when fishing effectively. On my arrival at the lake I had a scout around and checked out some areas that I had done well on in the past and much to my surprise, I managed to get a very popular swim with a lovely island off to the left of the swim which holds carp all throughout the year. I decided to fish with solid bags which I had filled with a mix of the Activator Pellets and some crushed TigerNut boilies that had been soaking in a bit of the VNX+ liquid to really boost the scent and, hopefully, give me a bit of an edge as although the temperatures had really risen, the water was still very chilly.
On the hair I had a 14mm TigerNut boilie which I whittled down until it was around 12mm, this was to try and match the hookbait to the bits of broken boilie in the solid bag. I was very hopeful of a fish or two and kept flicking bags about but much to my surprise, the morning passed and there were no fish to report across the whole lake. 3 o'clock came all to quickly for my liking and as much as I had enjoyed relaxing in the sun, naturally a carp on the bank is always my priority, so I wasn't ready to give up yet. I know the bailiff of the lake very well and he had come round to have a quick chat and see how everyone was getting on, and he was extremely surprised nothing had been caught. I told him what I was using and he said it was exactly what he would recommend so we were both a bit puzzled.
We continued chatting all things fishing then a very welcome change in events happened as my alarm sprang into life and the line was melting off the spool. Leaping across to the rod within seconds I was finally into a fish which was really putting in a good account for itself nearly taking me to the end and round the back of the island, fortunately I managed to turn it and find it into the net and, when peering down, I was greeted by a lovely scaly mirror.
I got the fish unhooked and re-baited the rod, got another solid bag tied and got it back out before doing the pictures. The reason for doing this is because if there were fish in that area I didn't know how long they would be there for so by doing this, you can then take your time whilst getting your pictures and ensure you keep the fish safe whilst doing so, as you are not thinking you need to get done quickly to be able to get the rod back out on the spot.
Before I knew it I was having to start to pack all the gear up ready to leave before dusk. I was just about finished packing up the main bits (obviously leaving the rods out till last) when out the corner of my eye I saw some movement, no more than 12 inches off the bank in front of me as I was crouching down. When I got a bit closer I realised that what I had seen was the waving of tails from some feeding fish!! I have done a lot of margin fishing in the past and caught some really nice carp just a few feet from the bank, but this was something else. There was a tiny ledge that was only a few cm deep then it dropped down sharply to around 2 foot and that was where the fish were. I had been throwing left over bits of boilie and pellet down there throughout the day when making up my solid bags and amazingly the fish had found it. By this point I was very excited, even though they were only low doubles at best feeding on the spot, it was just so great to be able to see it all go on under my feet. I reeled the rod in and slowly moved back from the edge hoping I didn't spook them. One at a time I flicked pellets in with the aim of not spoiling the fish totally but to hopefully get them to move off the spot momentarily so I could get a rig in place. Everything went to plan and I got the rod in place just off this ledge.
The rod was on the deck and within 3 or 4 minutes I watched a carp move in from the left and drop down right over my rig. I froze as I watched it filtering the bait through its gills then all of a sudden that beautiful sound of a ticking clutch that anglers dream of burst into reality and I was in again right at the closing minutes of the day. After another great fight the net was slipped under a stunning golden common of around 14lb.
Most people believe that when it gets to winter you might as well leave your boilies at home and just stick to particles and especially maggots. Now I'm not going to say that this is not a good tactic because it has been proven many times that maggots come into their own during the colder months, but if you fish with boilies correctly then they can be just as effective. All you need to remember is that boilies are essentially little round balls of goodness and high quality baits as found in the Successful Baits range are packed with great nutritional ingredients so they don't have to eat a lot of them to get what they need out of it. Because of this I will tend to fish with crushed and even crumbed boilies in a small pva mesh bag or a solid bag, this way all the smells and attractors that you want around your bait are still there to draw the attention of the carp, but when it actually comes to feed on the spot there are not really any solid food items for the fish to feed on other than your hookbaits.
Another great winter boilie fishing trick is to boost your baits with some liquid. What I like to do is a few nights before a session put some baits into a bucket and then glaze them with some of the matching bait dip so for instance, if I'm using the VNX+ boilies then I will pair that with the VNX+ liquid, this will make them even more potent and attractive to the carp than they already are. Give them a good shake up so they are all lightly covered and then each night leading up to the session repeat the process. I find that this is a very good tactic for when fishing with single hookbaits casting to signs of fish as it really grabs their attention and usually results in a quick bite.
Last, but by no means least, is scaling the baits down a bit, I like to trim my hookbaits down in winter as again the fish aren't looking to feast on beds of bait and if you are feeding crushed, crumbed or chopped baits then this also matches your hookbaits to the loose feed your putting in. This tip along with the boosting baits can be used for either standard bottom baits or for popups and wafters. I have used these tactics all through this winter with boilies, pop ups and wafters and I have had great results out of around 15 sessions I have only had 1 blank and that was my first session on the new campaign water, so don't write boilies off just make these small changes and it can make all the difference. This was my first time using the new TigerNut boilies and as always with the Successful Baits range it is going to be a devastating bait. It's the most potent smelling nutty bait I have come across and it is definitely coming along with me on my campaign at the Farm Lake, as is the new Seafood range, so keep an eye out for my next blog, hopefully it will contain a monster carp from the farm. Well once again it had been another successful session for me and with the sun setting as I went home it had been the perfect way to spend a lovely, hot, sunny Thursday - what more could you ask for.
Tagged as: Harley Doughty
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