Sunday, 26 August 2007

River Carping - River Dee Carp

Big north west carp lakes tend to attract a few dole scrounging bums these days. If you fish one of the better known circuit carp waters you’ll notice this type of angler tying up swims for weeks on end. Only being able to get a decent swim when one of these bank tramps decides to go home for a wash is not a happy situation to be in and I’ve been left frustrated many times when I’ve been unable to move onto fish because of these dossers.
Thankfully, there are some places these lazy carp anglers and indeed most other carp anglers won’t go and that’s our rivers. The river weaver in Cheshire has been quite a well known carp water for many years now and it was the first river I targeted for carp. The fishing on the river weaver was actually quite easy and I well remember not seeing another angler for months on end, I also remember catching a shed load of carp including some lovely 20lb+ fish.

Having had a real hard time getting on the carp on some of the popular north west big fish waters recently I decided the time was right to try and catch a river dee carp.
The river dee is not a known carp water, I’ve actually been gently digging, probing and doing homework on the location of river dee carp for a couple of years now and got nowhere. The carp of the river dee would seem to be very elusive creatures!. Despite the lack of information I decided to have a night on the river recently and see for myself what I was up against.

For the last few weeks I’ve walked the river a bit and checked out a few likely looking areas, after a handful of recce trips I picked an area which looked like it might produce a carp. The area in question was on the inside of a large sweeping bend, somewhere I thought the carp might prefer as the flow on the inside of this particular bend was very very slow.
Having fished for river weaver carp for a few years I’m well aware of how much prebaiting can help so prior to my first trip I made a couple of covert visits to the river dee to bait up. Over a couple of days, 8 kilos of chick peas, 3 kilos of tiger nuts, 5 kilos of hemp and 1 kilo of boilies were introduced to the river on the inside of this large bend. When I arrived on the river for the first session one thing was apparent straight away, there was the large amount of fish showing in the area I’d put the bait but they weren’t carp!. I tried to ignore this, after all, the same thing happened on the river weaver when I fished there, lots of roach and bream showing over or near the baits wasn’t unusual on the river weaver, the carp would always follow under cover of darkness and I hoped the river dee would be the same.
I'd missed a night of baiting then went back next night with the rods, I set up just as it was going dark and dropped a couple of boilie hookbaits over the area I’d baited up, I topped up the area with more chick peas too, both rods were given quite a good scattering of bait in the hope of intercepting any carp that might be present or passing through in the night.

I’d been fishing for around two hours when I had a few bleeps from the right hand delkim, bream was my first thought, I decided to leave the rod a while to see if anything developed, after another bream like drop back I decided to wind the rod in and re-position it. I topped up with a small handful of boilies just to make sure there would still be bait out there with the bream around. The rod was only back in for 5 minutes when the rod tip slammed round!. I couldn’t quite believe it, the speed and ferocity of the take was amazing, I’ve never seen carp run as fast and hard as this fish was!. I slipped off my bedchair and down the bank and lifted into the fish gingerly, I was flat rodded straight away as one seriously angry carp went charging off down the river. Steady pressure took its toll and eventually I managed to turn the fish and bring it towards the bank, despite the carps initial strength it was no match for a 3.5lb test curve daiwa infinity rod and 15lb berkley big game line, with plenty of playing power I was able to lead the fish back and despite putting up a hard fight you’d expect from a river carp, I eventually slipped the net under my first river dee carp. It wasn’t a big fish and on the scales it just made double figures, a nice common that weighed 10lb 8oz. Well!, that was a good start, a couple of hours into my first session after river dee carp and I’ve got one already!.

First River Dee Carp at 10lb 8oz

I did all the usual things a carper does, after sorting the pictures, I returned all my gear to where it’s kept, having everything at hand is good practice especially when night fishing, there’s nothing worse than not being able to lay your hands on something you need in the dark and putting my gear back in place is routine for me. Camera, scales, torch, tackle box, bait, pva mesh etc etc, everything has a place.
I replaced the hook bait with a fresh boilie and re-positioned the rod again, a quick top up of the area with more boilies and chick peas and I was hopefully ready for another fish. The night passed quietly until 3am when a repeat performance saw the left hand rod go screaming off this time, the take was absolutely vicious!. This carp fought even harder than the first one, at one stage it was steadily swimming upstream against the flow and against the pressure I was applying and despite this it still run 30yds up the river!. Eventually I got the carp under control and into the net, surprisingly this carp turned out to be smaller than the first, also surprising was the carp itself, a ghost/mirror carp cross that looked lovely despite a few red blotches on its body and tail. The ghost mirror turned the scales to just 8lb 2oz, not massive but a nice surprise fish and I couldn’t help wondering how it ended up in the river dee!.

Surprise capture, an 8lb 2oz Ghost Mirror!

The ghost mirror turned out to be my last fish of the night and I packed up at 7 a.m. in order to avoid being seen by anybody, the last thing I wanted was another carp angler latching on to what I was doing. I didn’t want to be seen by anybody at all whether they were a match/pleasure angler, carp angler or even just a dog walker, at the end of the day people talk so it pays to be discreet.
Before leaving I baited the area again with another 3 kilos of chick peas and 2 kilos of tiger nuts as part of my preparation for the next session, in between now and then I’ll keep the bait going in and hopefully entice more carp to visit and stay in the area I’m fishing.
If someone had told me I'd catch on my first river dee carp session I'd have taken that!, with success on my first session I can't wait to get back for another go, in an open river system you have no idea whats coming next and having an element of the unknown in my carp fishing definitely makes it more exciting. Roll on next week and another unknown river dee carp.

A walk along the Meadows in Chester City Centre

Tight Lines

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Carp Fishing - Capesthorne Hall Uncovered Pt1

A heron has landed on the bridge, click to watch.

Capesthorne Hall has long been one of the north west's top carp waters, its been producing good numbers of 20lb+ carp since the seventies and continues to be a top north west carp venue today with several carp topping 30lb+ at the right time of year. For details about capesthorne hall please visit the Sotas website, there is a link to the Sotas website on the right hand navigation on this blog under 'North West Angling Clubs'.
During my time on Capesthorne the dam wall sprang a leak and for a time, the lake was drained whilst repairs took place, the following pictures were taken when the lake was all but empty of water. Like most people, I struggled in my first year on capesthorne hall, my results were strictly average and I managed 6 carp in my first season, thats not a lot of fish when you're fishing there 2-3 days per week. The following pictures had a massive impact on my results on this lake, once I sat down and studied them I began to relate showing fish to the underwater features in the pictures, the next season produced 24 carp for me as I was able to use the photos to understand the carp movements around the lake.
The following pictures relate to the 'park pool' side of the bridge, a long area of the lake known as 'the shallows'. This area of the lake can be very productive as the carp like to cruise round the shallows in the afternoons.

This first picture is a swim known as 'the cattle drink', it's not a very popular swim due to it's restrictive nature, from the surface it looks very difficult to extract a carp from and it is 'hook and hold' fishing. As you can see from the picture, apart from the trailing branches of the yew tree theres little else for the carp to snag you up on and you can safely extract carp from this swim if your competent at snag fishing. This swim is highly under-rated and allows you to fish much closer to the yew tree than from the popular main pads swim opposite. Fishing close to cover is a big thing on capesthorne and the closer you can get to it the better. The cattle drink will produce carp regularly and is particularly good if the lake is busy as the carp tend to favour the cover of the yew tree when they are under angling pressure.

The next picture begins to deal with the 'stream bed'. Capesthorne hall is an old estate lake, it was created by damming a small stream which runs in from the end of the shallows, the lakes water level is regulated by the 'plug hole' up by the dam wall, what water flows in one end, then flows out via the plug hole and into the syndicated bottom pool. The old stream bed still exists and it didn't take me long to realise that the carp would follow this feature quite a lot. Looking from the main pads swim, the stream bed flows through the second arch of the bridge, it's quite pronounced here and has a fair depth of water, despite looking very good, fishing in the stream bed here has been unproductive for carp, in this particular swim the carp seem to prefer the cover of the yew tree and the pads and usually pass through arches 3,4 and 5 when moving between the park and garden pools and vice versa.

Changing the picture angle from the above shot you can clearly see the stream bed meandering its way through the shallows of the park pool, it comes close in to the bank just before the rodey bushes on the hall side before going back out to the middle of the lake. If you can get a bait in the stream bed anywhere down the shallows I think you have a chance of picking up a carp, for this reason I never used to break my neck to get into what are known as the 'popular' swims near the bridge, if you find the stream bed your in with a chance from any swim on the shallows.

The next shot below looks at the rodey bushes on the hall side, this clump of bushes is just under half way down the shallows from the bridge. As you can see from the photo, the stream bed passes through this swim as it does through every swim on the shallows. Take a look at the far bank on the hall side, if you look carefully along that bank you can see a line were the silt starts. Along this bank the margins are sandy to start off then a couple of rod lengths out the silt starts. If there are carp cruising the hall side then a bait placed precisely on this line is in with a chance of being picked up. You really need to be quiet when fishing capesthorne hall, particularly so if fishing the margins. If the fish are there and you can get your bait on the line and avoid being detected by the carp, this sand/silt line can produce a carp. Incidently the remains of the fallen tree were removed!.

The picture below looking back towards the bridge gives a different angle from above, you can see the line of sand/silt along the near margin, its just beyond were the old barbwire fence finishes, or used to finish as the fence is now gone!. You can also see the stream bed and that the far bank has the most cover. I mentioned above how important bankside cover is to these fish, I can only assume the carp feel safer with cover close to hand, they are more likely to try baits in areas they feel safe in, which I guess is true of all carp in all lakes. When a lake see's as much angling pressure as capesthorne though, it's crucial if your going to stand a chance of banking one of these tricky carp!.

To sum up the park pool, you should always pick a swim based on sightings of fish, don't worry about people running straight for the main pads swim, it's a good swim yes but because of the constant angling pressure it sees it's not as good as it once was. If you start getting obsessed about this, or any other swim then you've fallen into the trap of 'swim chasing' and you'll be in for a hard time.
The carp in capesthorne hall pretty much follow the same daily pattern, in the morning they begin to pass through the arches from the garden pool into the park pool and up to the shallows. They spend the day cruising the shallows, then, as we get to late afternoon, they begin heading back up towards the bridge and through into the garden pool again. It's worth fishing along the shallows through the daytime then moving to the garden pool early in the evening. The garden pool has slightly deeper water and it's one big natural feeding area, in part two I'll go through the pictures of the garden pool when its empty.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Carp Fishing - The Best Laid Plans

Usually I have my carp fishing sessions planned down to the last detail, bait, tackle, rigs and venue are all meticulously chosen!. Despite my careful forward planning, my carp fishing always seems to end up somewhere else and this week has been no exception!.

A week off work was supposed to see me heading south to horseshoe lake for a crack at some easy southern carp, however, my timing couldn’t have been worse. A quick phone call to the carp society revealed that some swims where still under water after the recent flooding, coupled with this, the carp mecca known as linear fisheries was still closed and the kids were on their school holidays. I made the decision not to waste my money going to horseshoe lake, those easy southern carp would have to wait a while longer!.
This cancelled fishing trip left me at a loose end, a whole week off and no idea what to do with it!. I decided to spend Monday night on a local big fish water, I knew I was up against it but I had to do something. Needless to say I blanked on Monday night, I did see half a dozen carp show themselves but they were rolling in a safe area well out of casting range, which is not unusual on this particular carp water.

Having done Monday night for nothing I decided to give the carp fishing a miss for a few days, I bummed around the house wondering where I could go for a bend in the rod and the chance of a decent carp.

A friend of mine invited me to do a night on another Cheshire carp water on Thursday night and with nothing else on the horizon until Friday night I accepted. I arrived at the lake late Thursday evening, my mate was already installed in what was regarded as a hot peg, he’d actually waited a couple of hours for a bream angler to vacate the peg and judging by the carp rolling in his swim he did the right thing waiting!. As this was a bit of a social session I opted to set up in the peg next door, not a brilliant choice but this session wasn’t really about catching for me, I’d never fished this carp water before so it was more of a recce trip to see if it was worth while spending some time fishing there, I'd heard good things about the carp in this water and I just wanted a first hand look for myself.

I fished through the night with no bivvy or bedchair, just me sat on my jrc cocoon recliner quietly listening for fish crashing and trying to get a feel for the lake. The lake itself was deep, the margins were deep too and it was here I’d decided to place my hookbaits. A light sprinkling of boilies over each rod was all I used, just enough to fish for them one carp at a time.

Odd carp crashed but the night was quiet, I was actually asleep on my chair when just before 4am my middle delkim burst into life, straight away I was flat rodded by one very angry carp!. I applied some heavy side strain in order to keep the carp away from some overhanging trees off to my right, the steady pressure eventually began to work and I slowly edged the fish away from the trees and into open water. Everything was far from straight forward though, this carp was mental and it just didn’t want to give up, the fish circled in front of me and made repeatedly long runs into the deep open water before I managed to get it close to the bank. Once close in it managed to pick up one of my other lines despite me using a backlead.
The whole fight lasted perhaps 20 minutes before I finally managed to bundle the fish into the net, by this time my mate was with me having heard the carp splashing on the surface. We peeled back the landing net mesh to reveal one stunning looking carp!, a ghost like common that ended up turning the scales past that magic 20lb mark, the carp weighed 20lb 12oz and was just mint.

20lb 12oz, A cracking looking carp !!!

I couldn’t believe how long the fish was, or how big it’s tail was, it was a real bullet shaped fish and it was easy to see why it had given such a good fight in the deep water. A truly stunning carp!. Naturally we got the pictures over and done with quickly and returned the fish to the water, the rest of the session passed uneventfully for me, I was hoping for another carp through the early morning period but all I got was a cricked neck and a stiff back after falling asleep on my chair again!.

I can’t explain how happy I was to have caught that carp, I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall chasing big north west carp and failing miserably this year, my supposed horseshoe session had to be cancelled and yet I found myself sitting on my chair beside a Cheshire lake at stupid o clock in the morning grinning like a Cheshire cat. Carp fishing does that too you, you slowly grind yourself into the ground loosing confidence and wondering why you even bother going then the next thing your on cloud nine and chomping at the bit to catch another!. Roll on the next session and another carp as nice as this one.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Carp Fishing - Session Update 4/8/7

As a reasonably experienced north west carp angler I try to target carp that are over 20lb in weight. If you've read my previous entries you'll know that carp of this size aren't exactly abundant in our region. The carp we do have that reach this size are generally under a lot of pressure as many carp anglers chase few big carp.

This week I was half thinking of those bigger carp again when I went to a new water for a few hours on saturday. I didn't actually fish, I just sat and watched, firstly to see if I could actually locate the carp and secondly just to get a feel for the place. Angling pressure on this particular water is low, despite not many people fishing there, it does contain quite a few big carp. It was easy to see why not many anglers bothered fishing there!, the place was rammed out with dog walkers and screaming kids, not my idea of a peaceful days carp fishing!. I stayed and watched for around 2 hours, I did spot one carp which crashed out in what was probrably the quietest and most inaccessible corner of the lake...which is typical of a carp really!. After deciding this particular lake would respond better to a dusk till dawn overnighter I made a mental note to return in a few weeks and do a night on there, I'm sure the carp will leave their safe area under cover of darkness and I'd get the peace and quiet you expect carp fishing to bring!.

Having completed my recce of this new lake I headed back to a local runs water which was 5 minutes up the road, as I drove down the dirt track to the lake I stopped for a quick look, the wind was pushing south westerly and was actually quite strong, as I looked accross the lake there were carp breaking surface all over the flat calm water on the opposite bank. It's not often these carp back off the wind but today they had, it was clear straight away that they were there in numbers too. To confirm this there was an angler on the far bank playing a carp. That was enough for me, I reversed the car back up the track and drove round to a small point that put me within easy reach of the carp.

My plan was to just put one rod out to start and then feed mixers for a few hours to see if I could get them going on the top. I put the one rod out, a two bait pva mesh stringer with one piece of enterprise dayglo maize as a hookbait, I dipped the fake maize in some boilie dip then attached the boilie stringer and cast it amongst the carp that were milling round in front of me about 50 yards out.

With one rod out I got myself comfortable and started to feed mixers close in, the intention was to let them drift out on the wind towards the carp. Getting the carp going and bringing them within casting range can be a long process and requires a lot of patience, I've managed to do it on a few occaisions and been rewarded with a big hit of fish each time and I hoped the carp would be up for it today. I'd been feeding biscuits for perhaps 15 minutes when the rod I had out bleeped once then tore off, I was on it straight away, the fish kited round to my left on a long line and I had to move slightly in order to play it round a large bush on my left. The side strain I applied eventually paid off and I got the situation under control, the rest of the fight was un-eventful and I netted my first carp of the day, a common that weighed 11lb 12oz, not massive but a sizeable fish for this particular water and another step towards re-building my confidence.

11lb 12oz, not massive but a decent fish for the water.

I re-postioned the rod after that fish and started feeding the mixers again, despite me keeping the mixers going in I couldn't get the carp to show any more than a passing interest in them, eventually I relented and put my other rod out. This rod was the same as the other one, two bait boilie stringer with a piece of dayglo fake maize dunked in boilie dip. The second bait was out perhaps half an hour when the rod tip whipped round and I was away again, unfortunately I bumped the fish off on the strike. A quick check of the hook point revealed nothing so I attached another stringer and cast out again.

The wind changed slightly as the evening wore on, it began to swing round quite a bit before eventually dropping off completely. Just as the wind dropped I was away again, same rod/area as the first carp. I couldn't believe it but I managed to bump this one as well!. Another quick check of the hook point didn't provide any answer as to why I'd bumped off another carp on the strike, it was sharp enough so I put a new stringer on and re-cast the rod to the same area.

With no wind I thought about feeding the mixers again. I started putting them in close to my bank and the carp started to show some interest in them, again I'd only been feeding the biscuits for perhaps 20 minutes when I was away again. No such problem bumping the fish this time and I slowly led in a small common which I guess weighed around 5lb. That little 5lber turned out to be my last action, I just couldn't get the carp to really go for the mixers, two carp landed (both commons) with two lost wasn't exactly a great result but it was ok under the circumstances and it was another step towards restoring the faith that every carper should have in what he's doing.

Sometimes your faith gets lost on our harder carp waters, long periods of blanking gets you wondering what your doing wrong, finding that faith again can be a struggle and I find that lowering your expectations and catching smaller carp can help you re-discover your confidence. This week, I feel I've taken another step towards finding mine again.

Tight Lines

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