Do you do much research into a new venue before you arrive, or do you just prefer to scope it out yourself?
It depends on the type of venue I am visiting for the first time really, if its somewhere that’s for a social trip or a fishing break, then I don’t tend to do that much research. I will always do the basics, like have a look on google maps and establish which way the prevailing winds will blow; the standard compass navigation obviously has great effect on all lakes. I will also use the maps to see if there are any really obvious features, such as pronounced gravel bars, shallows and islands. Other than that, I wait till I get there and do my first few laps of the venue with a coffee in one hand and a bucket in the other. I place so much emphasis on what I see and what my gut tells me and react to that far more than any social media information or venue websites etc. Usually, that is just a snap shot of good information, it’s the headlines if you like, so I trust my own eyes and ears. If the venue contains a target for myself, a fish I will be looking to spend weeks in pursuit of, then I will look to do a lot more research. More specifically, research into that fish; moon phases, previous captures, areas of the lake it favours and the type of bait it prefers. Extensive research to add those small percentage gains is vital when targeting individual fish.
How much influence does this research have on your initial approach?
It boils down the type of fishing it is really, if it’s the one off, fun fishing or social trips then it will have a little impact. I will look to the heavily fished areas, because on well stocked lakes there will always be fish in these areas because they regularly see bait. It is that vicious circle I guess, more rod hours means more bait, means more fish feeding means more bites. On my campaign waters, it has an influence obviously, but it’s more about my own hard work, effort and observations to put me on the right track. Past capture history will obviously give me a starting point, but after that I put it all on my own shoulders to figure it out.
Location is obviously a key factor in fishing, but, like today where there has been very little in terms of showing fish, what factors do you then take into consideration?
It’s late February as we sit here, it’s a fresh easterly wind blowing, by fresh I mean bloody freezing and although the late winter sun is lovely, I will look for areas sheltered from these really cold winds. I will always be looking for what I class as obvious holding areas; covered island margins, reed beds, areas of heavy weed growth that still remain from the previous summer and areas of dead lilies will all feature in my thoughts. A lot of it is based on gut when your not seeing much to go on a this time of year, but as the water warms and the seasons change, you will always see signs if you keep your eyes peeled. The biggest factor for me is the areas that are receiving the most warmth; be it through sunlight or wind, as carp will naturally flock to these slight changes in temperature.
What type of areas do you look to target on new venues, are these clean areas of gravel or those often-overlooked areas of silt?
For me this is a difficult one to answer, because it’s gut feeling a lot of the time, if you get what I mean, a spot will ‘feel’ right when the lead smacks down, be it on gravel, sand, clay or whatever. It all depends on the type of lake your fishing, if it’s a clay pit then I’m looking for the smoother areas, that let the lead glide like your pulling it across glass, but leave little traces of blue on the lead. On a gravel pit, I will be looking for the seams between gravel and silt predominantly. On a silty lake, I will initially be looking for the shallower areas of silt just so I can get a decent presentation then build on it from there.
On busy venues, angling pressure can often affect the fish’s behaviour, do you take pressure into consideration and does this influence your angling in any way.
I always take angling pressure into account for one very big reason; line angles! If the same spots get fished from the same swims, and the fish are regularly visiting them, they soon become adapt to dealing with line angles. As a result, their behaviour changes and they may only feed and enter the swim from certain angles. If you change that line angle, potentially by fishing a spot from a different swim, this will no doubt catch the carp off guard. This is one major factor that can increase bites off heavily pressured spots where the carp have become accustomed to lines entering from specific angles. The other reason I look at pressure is I like to do things my own way, and the quiet areas can often let you get something established without others jumping on the back of your hard work. Carp angling involves a huge amount of dedication, time and bait, so there is nothing more satisfying that getting areas that receive no pressure going!
I know that you incorporate a variety of bait into your angling throughout the year, boilies, particles, liquids etc., but do you rely on one bait when setting out on a new water?
If I’m targeting a fish then my research will come into play when it comes to bait choice, but initially, if I’m setting out on a campaign water it will be an out and out boilie approach to start with. There is no doubt about it, big carp love them, they are good at preventing nuisance fish captures and they are convenient. Once I’m a few trips and hopefully captures in to a campaign, I will start to look at whether I need to introduce hemp and corn and pellet, depending on what I’m seeing and the type of spots I’m finding the fish have a preference for. Often, fish will react differently to differing baiting situations, so I will look to monitor catch rates after applying different types of bait.
What is it about a new challenge that fires you up and gets you motivated?
It’s all about exactly that, the new challenge, a fresh challenge brings a fresh buzz, fresh rewards, new experiences and new friendships, new memories, both good and bad. Too many people forget to smell the roses along the way, it is ultimately about the capture, but if the challenge and the adventure are great then the memories of the capture will be all the more rewarding. To my mind, nothing good comes easy and that’s what keeps the buzz there for me! I love figuring out the pieces and building up that picture that leads to every capture, it’s all part of the fun for me. If that goes then it’s time to take up something else.
What would you describe as your toughest challenge to date targeting an individual fish from start to finish?
There have been a couple that have really tested my drive and desire that’s for sure, but there are two that really pushed me, both mentally and physically really.
The first was without a doubt my favourite capture; the Caravan Park Linear. I went quite a while on that lake without even seeing my main target, I was seeing other known fish on a regular basis but never that one and people were saying it was gone and I was fishing for a myth. Eventually, I got that one sighting that really gave the game away, several things fell into place after that one sighting, and suddenly in my mind that carp become really catchable with the right effort and work ethic. After what I classed as monumental effort, 4 hr round trips to bait up before and after work, 5 hr fishing nights just to keep the bait going in, I finally had my moment, which trust me, really made it all worthwhile. I was physically beat after that capture so left the rods in the garage for a good few weeks afterwards, but nothing will beat that rush of adrenaline when that fish slips over the cord!
A fish’s habits will certainly change throughout the year, with varying weather conditions, what time of year do you prefer to start out on a new water?
I’ve got a better way of answering this one really; I don’t like starting on anywhere after spawning. The fish’s behaviour and movements are normally all over the place, they need some rest and recuperation, so I hate starting on somewhere later in the year. If that’s when the ticket starts I won’t normally venture out until the autumn. However, the obvious answer to this question is March and April, before the busy season if you like. I like to get my homework on a venue done before I ruin my chances of getting on fish quickly and efficiently.
Once we start getting the brighter warmer days then the North East corner will always be an area I will keep an eye on, the warm South- Westerly’s will start to push through and the carp will react and follow them; it’s generally only angler pressure that changes that. So, if you can be the first to capitalise on them waking up and reacting to the weather changes then you will reap the reward of it. You cannot rule out the upper layers and zigs, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not my favourite method by any stretch of the imagination but they will catch you fish from pretty much any venue at that start of the year.
Do you have a particular go-to rig and end tackle set-up that you can rely on for any new water, or does this vary from lake to lake?
I’ve obviously got my starting point, that I am very confident in. With fishery rules allowing, I have two go to presentations when fishing, no matter where or what for, and that’s a helicopter set up on a leadcore leader using either a multi-rig or fluoro D-rig. Depending on the nature of the spot I’m fishing over, whether I want a balanced bottom bait out there or a trusty pop up to combat low lying weed or similar types of debris. Ultimately, I’ve caught big fish from several venues on both and I have the upmost confidence that if I can get the ‘drop’ I’m looking for when I’m on fish then both will do the business for me. The joy of a rotary/helicopter rig is its versatility, a few tweaks with the positioning of the top bead and you will be able to present a bait over pretty much anything with a bit of patience and a well balanced bait.
Not long ago, we met up at Hardwick Lake on the Linear Complex at a time when the venue was fishing incredibly slow, this was your first visit to the venue but you managed to tempt one of the lakes big commons. Can you briefly describe the lead up to that capture?
We did, it was early autumn, I arrived first and spent a good few hours walking and looking; we’d decided in advance that we were going to fish Hardwick so I did the usual bit of brief research a few days in advance. I spend a good few hours walking and looking, having arrived at gate opening, I think it was about midday, if not a bit later before I headed back to the van to grab a bucket to pop in a swim, and another hour or so before I finally dropped into a swim. I’d seen that Hardwick was extremely up and down, so I’d taken the marker rod and soon had an appreciation for what was in front of me. At about 80 yards range, I found an awesome flattish area in about 15ft of water pretty much surrounded by 20-25ft deep areas, so opted to fish two rods on the spot and one off into deeper water. I baited quite heavily with boilies, whole and chopped, hemp and corn and a good dose of liquid food just to add to the attraction. My trusty fluoro D-rigs with balanced hook baits over the top and as you say, was fortunate enough to catch an awesome warhorse of a common weighing over 35lb, so you can imagine how pleased I was with such an awesome fish. A little time and spot consideration certainly played its part in the downfall of that carp.
Do you have any new ventures up your sleeve for the coming year?
I’ve got a couple of new adventures which I’m going to start this year and I’m really excited by the challenge of both of them, one of them is a relatively local lake, about 7-8 acres in size, crystal clear weedy gravel pit with a massive stock of fish, all 17 of them! Two of them are quite simply the best commons I have ever seen and both of them aren’t the most friendly of fish, so I really can’t wait to get stuck into that one! I already know that challenge will require a huge effort to crack open, but I can’t wait. The second is one I wasn’t expecting to come up yet, but I’ve got the chance to fish for a massive common in the Nene Valley, and it’s an awesome carp too! Completely different challenge to the first I’ve set myself for this year, but another one that I can’t wait to get stuck into full on. It’s quite a busy lake, but there’s a good head of fish so it’s going to be about learning the habits and routines of the one I really want to catch.
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