<strong><em>We catch up live on the bank with Cambridge based big-fish man Dan Stacey, who has been working hard to catch on short sessions utilising his roving tactics. Dan puts his confidence in simple, effective procedures when travelling light, but will his tactics pay off for him today? Words by Alex Grice.
It is 5.30am and the alarm has just gone off, I am due to meet up with Dan Stacey at his Norfolk syndicate venue, so after a quick bit of breakfast and a coffee made to go, I hit the road early in the hope of avoiding any early morning traffic.
I arrive at the venue at around 8am; the nicely tucked away spot among the East Anglian countryside, right off the beaten track and pretty quickly, my 4G begins to drain away. Driving down the track, I spot Dan’s car in the car park, alongside one other vehicle; things are already starting to look promising for the day ahead.
I grab the camera kit from the van and head off in search of Dan, walking around half the lake before finding him tucked away between the back of the island and a swim which commands a good amount of water. The lake is looking lovely as the morning sun is slowly breaking through the clouds, with the wildlife thriving in the margins and a few fish already starting to show on the flat calm day. A quick good morning and in next to no time, Dan has the kettle on:
“I probably got here around 6am this morning, just after first light. I have always made the effort to get up and drive over from my home in Cambridge early, which gives me a couple of hours in the morning to have a good look about and see for any type of activity at first light when the fish are most active. I generally travel pretty light on these sessions, especially when I am doing the days, all I need for a productive session is my rods, gear bag, net and bait, the rest is down to me. Being a reasonably small lake with many pegs, the fish do tend to move around in here a fair bit. I will often find that I may have a few bites and then in next to no time at all, the action dries up and the fish slowly move off the area”.
“I have been pretty lucky over the years to fish some very nice, quiet waters around Cambridgeshire, so for this year I really wanted a change of scenery. This venue is relatively pressured, but contains some really nice looking fish. The challenge of keeping active, staying on your toes and trying to get on the fish is what drove me to fish this place. I feel sometimes you can fall into traps of fishing venues you know, so the test of staying one step ahead was what I needed in my angling this year.
“With his gear still on the barrow and two rods out fishing, Dan clearly wasn’t settled in the swim, or was he?
“To be honest, I have fished off the barrow from the start on here. I always keep active and having the barrow loaded literally means I can wind in and move at the drop of a hat, it is all about the efficiency on shorter sessions. Even when I do the nights, I will fish off the barrow right up until the evening, knowing where I will stay for the night. When I got here first thing this morning, I lapped the lake a number of times looking for fish. Having fished the venue for a few months now, I have a good idea of spots from various swims, so in the case of finding a few fish in one area I can get rods clipped up to productive areas close by. Your eyes are your biggest tool in carp fishing and I would much rather spend more time looking for signs of fish than have lines in the water. It is incredible how quick action can come when you get the location right.”
Just as I was finishing my brew, Dan had a quick walk up the bank to an overgrown marginal area with a small inlet pipe. The area had a plethora of lilies growing around the marginal shelf and just as Dan crept through the gap in the trees, a couple of carp ghosted through the area.
“I have regularly seen carp in this area in the past, so I am going to trickle in a few handfuls of boilies that I have boosted earlier in the hope of tempting them in. With so many large roach in this lake, I choose to fish whole baits, but give them a good boosting at home prior to my session. This way, I am fishing with potent, highly attractive bait that needs little introduction. Especially on these short, roving trips I am looking at getting quick bites after moving onto fish. When I am happy with the spot, I will only look to pult out a few handfuls of boosted baits, enough to draw them in and get a bite. I am a huge fan of balanced bottom baits, but tipping them with a small amount of colour to give the fish that visual target to home in on. I believe this is the most effective tactic when roving, giving them a strong food signal to draw them into the area, providing instant visual attraction over the top to gain quick bites”
The sun was slowly breaking through the dismal Norfolk sky when one of Dan’s rods positioned in open water started to signal a few bleeps, before pulling tight and taking line at a rate of knots! That rod had only been in the water about an hour after settling into the swim.
“I was pretty confident one of the open water rods would go, I have seen fish fizzing up and topping around that area this morning, which made me get round here and get the rods out confidently for a few hours. This fish is pulling hard down to the right of me where there are a set of snags, but with a bit of pressure it will hopefully steer clear of these”
After a spirited fight, the carp finally slipped into Dan’s net and looked to be a nice fish! On the scales, the chunky mirror spun the dial around to over the magical 20lb mark, a result on a short session. We carefully slipped her back and Dan got about tying up another PVA stringer to get the rod back out.
“Fish like that certainly make the effort of getting up before first light worthwhile, having a good look around and moving onto a few shows paid off as that rod has been in the water less than an hour. I always make the effort to get that rod back out onto the spot as quickly as possible, as there may be numbers of fish present and feeding in close vicinity.”
Dan quickly gets another stringer tied up, incorporating three spread bottom baits to match his Pacific Tuna hookbait. With the rod already clipped up to the mark, Dan punches the baited rig out with ease before sinking the line and clipping the bobbin on. Dan mentioned how cagey these fish can be, which is why he often chooses to fish a semi-slack line, allowing the heavy monofilament to hug the contours of the lake bed close to the baited rig. After clipping the bobbin on, Dan sits back watching the water with intent.
“I am always looking for the next bite on these short sessions, even when I have had a fish pretty quickly, it can be easy to sit back and think they are still there, when potentially they could have moved off. I always ensure I get a good view of the lake, even if it means sitting right next to my rods to get a wide view of the water. Location is the most important aspect to getting consistent action, if you can present a good quality bait they want to eat in front of them, chances are you will be quid’s in”.
It has been about an hour since Dan slipped back that last fish and despite the odd fizz in front of him, he assures me that he thinks the carp are elsewhere. He quickly winds the rods in and grabs his polaroid’s before taking off around the lake.
“It’s not always about having baited rigs in the water, I am happy to reel in and have a look around. I have often found opportunities arise minutes after winding in and going for a look about. I have just walked down to the bottom end of the lake and already started noticing a number of fizzers around the area close in. All I have to do is quickly nip back to my swim, stick the rods on the barrow and we can get down here in next to no time”.
A swift move sees Dan getting two rods carefully placed in areas where the fish are fizzing, followed by a handful of bait to draw them in.
I am due to leave shortly, but with fish clearly in the area I hold it out for a little longer in hope of seeing another on the bank. Well, Dan didn’t disappoint and shortly after, the carefully placed rod rips off with a lovely clean common making a welcome appearance. Dan certainly works for each and every fish, but employing his lightweight, roving approach has led to two lovely fish on the bank on what is a short, day only session. Would he have had the same success if he employed the wait and bait approach, probably not? Stay mobile this Autumn, keep vigilant and get on those fish for consistent bites.
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