Spring has been so late and cool this year, it should be little surprise that the fishing has been unpredictable. The fly sport, especially, has been either a write-off or rather tepid, while I’ve rekindled some love for some other forms of fishing, including carp. Indeed, one of the benefits of getting older is that you learn to tailor your fishing to the conditions and flog fewer dead horses! This sometimes means abandoning plan A for something that fits the weather or the form book better.
Wet weather carp fishing lessons!
Carp are a great example of a species that responds best to the sort of days that fair-weather anglers avoid. Sure, there are waters where you can catch on floaters in sunny weather- but by far the best weather conditions to catch carp are during low-pressure spells and overcast or wet weather. They certainly don’t mind a spot of rain- and it’s on these days that you’ll find the fisheries quietest.
I’ll be writing more about carp tactics and recent findings shortly in the Angling Times, but suffice to say I’m not a fan of the standard heavy rigs and boilies route most of the time. Pretty much everywhere I go in Devon I see inappropriate gear- big pit reels, three-ounce leads and huge hooks- even on the most modest lakes. Yes, this sort of kit has its place, but not on smaller venues where your target fish are from double figures to low twenties, typically. It’s much better to go match style- even if you keep the bite alarms. All it often needs is a switch up to 8 to 10lb lines and slightly larger hooks. A size 10 or 12 takes infinitely less force than a meaty, branded carp hook in a size 6!
I also have a thing about natural baits, partly because it instantly sets you aside from the 90% of anglers who rely almost solely on boilies on the hair. Sure, most of us will feed pellets, corn and naturals, but these offerings rarely end up as hook bait. Perhaps my favourite current offerings are sweetcorn and worms- and for years I’ve found the latter deadly in wet spring weather. If small fish snaffle them, you can easily switch to double or treble corn, or indeed a lobworm on the hook- and I find both options excellent.
These days, of course, carp fishing is the biggest sector in the sport- which is important for clubs and tackle shops but does increase the pressure on fisheries. The requests for fishing lessons that I get are indicative of national trends as a whole. While I still get a fair few requests for fly fishing, I’m also getting more and more and more locals and holiday anglers alike requesting carp fishing tuition in Devon and Somerset. I accommodate as many anglers as I can, although the diary does fill up awfully fast from May to August, so drop me a line when you can if you’d like a session.
Generally, you can learn to carp fish in a day- and I’ve yet to have a session where my student didn’t catch a decent fish, or several! Nor does it have to be legering and alarm fishing, because I can offer some excellent stalking, surface fishing and even fly fishing for these hard-fighting fish. See the guided fishing section of my site for more info – and don’t forget to keep an eye on the Angling Times in the coming weeks for more carp tips and ideas.
Catching fish and catching up with friends
Another recent pleasure has been catching up with some friends from around the country. Just as well the company has been good, because spring has thrown some real curve balls at the fishing. Recent sessions included a long overdue fish with my pal Garrett Fallon. We had only a few precious hours, but Spires Lakes fitted the bill nicely for a last-minute plan. I have a lot of affection for the old school ponds in the South West. I’ve affectionately taken the Mickey out of them in print once or twice for their creaking cabins and yesteryear feel, but actually these characteristics are gold dust in today’s scene. So many lakes have become busy and very sanitised- for the angler, all too often this means higher prices (and that’s before the robbery of paying £2 per day extra just for the benefit of using a booking app!) and a lack of natural beauty. It’ll be a sad day when all the classic fisheries with the honesty-box and overgrown swims approach die out.
We kept things dead simple on our visit, Garrett fishing just down the marginal slope with the float and me casting a bomb out to the larger lake’s main island. The best sport was mainly drinking coffee and putting the world to rights, although a procession of perch and rudd pulled Garrett’s float under often enough to keep us happy.
The carp also showed up on a semi-regular basis, thanks to little more than regular helpings of “pinged” pellets and a feeder rod. I have never caught a “twenty” from these pools, but most sessions throw up a double or two- and most of the fish are in good nick. Just look at the golden scales on this common.
The frustrating part of the day was losing the two best fish I hooked. On each occasion, the fish would kite left and come into contact with some big, invisible snag! I can only assume that there must be a tree or other big obstacle in the water, because there was little I could do.
All the same, it was fun to sit out and be sociable. It’s great to hear that Fallon’s Angler quarterly mag is still going strong – because it’s been a battle as well as a joy for Garrett, and deserves all the success it gets. The most recent issue, on the topic of “secret swims” has been especially juicy- and is about the only place you can read the likes of Chris Yates, Ben Jailer, Hugh Miles and others. Check out the Fallon’s Angler website for more news, articles, podcast episodes and details on how to order your copy.
From the Usk to urban fishing in Bristol
In other adventures, I made the most of a wet Easter holiday to get on the road while my wife and daughter spent a spell in Poland seeing relatives. Or at least, I had some plans that quickly shifted as the rains came down and I caught up with some other mates. After a real slog on Chew that produced just a handful of bites from jack pike, I had an equally disappointing trip to the Usk, which looked utterly beautiful but seemed devoid of trout at Pantysgallog near Sennybridge. At least the company was good with my mate David West Beale, who seems to be a bit jinxed in my company! How ironic, therefore, that on the hastiest and least prepared trip of all I enjoyed bites galore slap bang in the middle of Bristol on the Feeder Canal:
More to come on this shortly, but suffice to say there were all sorts of species on offer. With curious tides and lock gate openings making the tow unpredictable, I was grateful to pack a feeder rod and some heavier weights, as it quickly became quite tricky in heavy flows. Sticky groundbait, along with maggots and worms were all I needed to get lots of bites from dace, roach, bream, perch and even a cute Tommy ruffe!
The real purpose of my visit, however, was to see Jack Perks’ new film “Britain’s Hidden Fishes”. What a triumph this was on the big screen at Bristol Aquarium! It was a real whos who of angling, too, with everyone from Angling Trust boss Jamie Cook to TV presenter Will Millard- and of course, the film’s narrator Jeremy Wade was on hand to take questions.
It’s tricky to pack over an hour of dazzling fishy footage into a quick summary, but suffice to say this is an exciting and potentially very important film. Mouthwatering footage of barbel, pike and trout in their element is to be expected from Jack, who puts an unbelievable amount of love, graft and skill into his work. Nor could he have got a more perfect narrator than Jeremy Wade.
Especially thrilling and unexpected, though, were sections on some of the rarest and least seen fish in UK waters. Bitterling, for example, are captured sparring and even cleaning out freshwater mussels before laying their eggs! Equally fascinating is a look at curious fish behaviours – including perch that follow large eels to forage, and even pike cashing in on a mayfly hatch. Could this be the film to finally spread a greater awareness of the plight of Britian’s rivers and fish to a bigger audience? It’s certainly a start- and the hope is that it’ll be picked up by a major TV station. In the mean time, though, do keep an eye on the Britain’s Hidden Fishes Facebook page for more news and big screen outings around the country.