Friday, 24 August 2012

A Fordwich First!!!

Following my last blog, Fordwich Frustration, I made several trips to try and catch my first Fordwich carp. Every time I fish I am learning all the time, always on the look out for fish movement, observing how that corresponds with the conditions and also take note of my own strengths and weaknesses. Over the last couple of trips instead of beating myself up about my incapability to cast particularly far I have chosen swims which a) face the wind and b) have features within my reach.
Today the wind was blowing up towards the part of the lake known as 'the deeps' and the swim known as 'dungees' fitted this description. I still found making the far bank features a little ambitious but first cast on each rod landed on the money. I only fish two rods, one was placed tight to the far bank lilies and the other between the lilies and a dead sunken tree.
The dungees
My choice of rig was a snowman combi-rig attached to a helicopter setup. There was logic behind all of these choices: when using small / standard size baits I have ended up catching bream which when not your objective can be frustrating. So the snowman solves this issue thanks to its sheer size whilst also being 'balanced' and slow sinking so I could be confident it would sit nicely above the silty bottom. The helicopter rig is simple, almost tangle free but most important of all, casts better than any other setup.
Snowman combi-rig/ helicopter rig

I put about 1kg of 20mm boilies across the two locations with a throwing stick and then settled down for the night. At 4am I was woken up by the sound of my alarm screaming at me and the rod I had cast to the lilies was bending round. The fight was strange as after I turned the fish from the snags it swam towards me until it was almost at the net so I found myself winding in frantically! However, when I submerged the net the fish made a valiant bolt away in a bid for freedom. After a short scrap the net was lifted and I was grinning from ear to ear! It didn't matter that this was not a huge fish, what mattered was that after 3 years of trying to crack Fordwich I had finally done it! I now regret making an effort to hide my ecstasy when posing for the photo. 

10lb 7oz - Not a 'monster' but an achievement!
When it was light enough for me to see what I was doing I repositioned both rods on the lilies and put out more bait with the stick. At 7am the same rod screamed off again. As I picked it up I was taken with how much more power this fish had than the last. I had to bully it away from the lilies which resulted in something of a tug of war. Normally in this situation I would give line but could not as I didn't want to loose the fish in the snags. Suddenly the fish came up high in the water and leaped out. As it made contact once more with the surface of the water I could no longer feel any resistance - it had beaten me!
Again, I was quick to get the rods back out and bait up but this time a large flock of gulls and terns took every boilie I threw in. I tried waiting until they went away but one always kept look-out and squawked to alert the others whenever I so much as picked up my throwing stick! Then tiredness and frustration started to kick in - I made a few duff casts and got a bit grumpy. I can't seem to cast so far with pva sticks or bags and I didn't have a spod with me so had no way of getting the bait out with out it being intercepted. So I decided to be wise and quit while was ahead. I am over the moon that I seem to have sussed out a way for me to be successful at Fordwich and banked my first carp from this tough water at long last!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Fordwich Frustration!

Of all the waters I fish, Fordwich is the one that promises to fulfil my boyish fantasy of catching a true monster carp. Ever since watching 'A Passion for Angling' as a child I have been obsessed with this quest and to a certain degree have been successful in my pursuit. However, the waters I fished until joining Canterbury & District Angling Association 3 years ago just didn't hold fish equal to the size of those in my dreams.
The one problem is, Fordwich is a hard water for those that do not know its secrets and by those in the know, the secrets are well kept.
Thankfully, it is one of the most beautiful places to spend ones days and, especially as the sun rises and sets, I have whiled away many an hour trying to capture its beauty whilst capturing its carp eluded me.

In the autumn of my first season on Fordwich, the very thick weed that had bloomed in the silty areas between the gravel bars had started to die back. The wind was westerly and coming directly towards me. I had both rods set up with the infamous chod rig and had spread just a handful of boilies across the swim. Admittedly, I am not in the know about which baits catch well here but had ascertained that fishmeal based baits are the way to go and so that guided my selection. Within 30 minutes of my first cast the alarms were screaming. Could this be the monster I had been waiting for?!! It certainly fought like a spartan and managed to remain deep in the water so I could barely catch a glimpse until it was near my feet. I reached for the net and foolishly allowed the line to slacken momentarily and with a roll and a splash the fish was gone. My biggest confession and deepest regret is that this happened two more times before the session was out.

The 'infamous' chod rig
I have tried to replicate this scenario on many occasions, sadly to no avail. I was once mocked by a neighbouring angler for using the chod rig. He has since become a good friend but I must admit resenting his comments back then as this was the first time we met. It's too complicated, he said, everybody is using it and the fish are sussing it out. He encouraged me to simplify my approach, advice I heeded gladly and have done ever since. Besides; copying everyone else will only ever work for a time until the fish wise up. It is far better to do your own thing.

So since then I have been using variations of a simple hair rig, tipping the boilie off with some maize or fake corn to balance the bait and blend in with the loose feed or stick mix that I am hoping will keep fish rooting around in the area. Unfortunately, whilst this approach has paid off elsewhere, at Fordwich I have still caught nothing.

Well, that's not strictly true! I have had 2 bream in excess of 10lb, which equals the club record. I wish now I had taken decent photographs and had the captures witnessed. I guess at the time, whilst pursuing carp, I did not value these bream as perhaps I should or would have if I had set out to catch them intentionally.
Another species I have been fortunate with at Fordwich is pike. Although my PB of 13lb 4oz was taken in the River Stour and hasn't been bettered here, I have enjoyed catching numerous jacks in Fordwich this last winter on float-fished dead baits.

A jack pike of around 5lb.
Until the magic combination of factors align serendipitously in my favour once more, I will continue to keep faith in my approach and keep it consistent. Hopefully someday soon I can write the final chapter in this story and draw conclusions on successfully tackling this formidable water.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Bream; a little dream...

Early this morning I set out in my kayak to explore a lagoon near Chislet which was created in the early 1950s during a tidal flood on the Kentish Stour. Before I continue I must state that this water is only available for members of Canterbury and District Angling Association to fish and permission must be obtained from the land owner before commencing. Although I am aware of the wide variety of coarse fish that inhabit the Stour I had no idea idea before arriving (after an hour of paddling upstream!) what I would find.
Chislet Lagoon is home to a wide variety of wild fowl including *hundreds* of Swans!
The first thing I couldn't help but notice was that the water was crystal clear and about a foot deep. My paddle could push down an additional foot into very soft silt. My first impression was that this lagoon was completely baron. However, I am told it is 48 acres and had by no means explored the whole thing. Moving further in I saw an amazing spectacle; a large shoal of big bream all feeding, noses down and tails out of the water! I wish my camera was good enough to capture this but alas I could not do it justice.
This is the life!
Before long a quiver rod was set up and out amongst the shoal sporting a small method feeder loaded with a ground bait made of bread crumb, hemp and maize, a couple of grains of maize on a simple hair rig and a size 10 hook. The first fish took a long time to come but I kept the feed going in little and often in the same place each time and sure enough...

Giving up after a surprisingly hard fight!
Under usual circumstances I am not a big fan of bream. I must admit that they always seem to be an unwelcome surprise when angling for other species but today, targeting them for the first time, I was really excited to have caught this. It went into the keepnet, a second rod was assembled but all the time the water level was rising...
An hour passed before my next decent bite and during this time both rods had met with the rising surface of the water so that the reels were submerged. I could not fish like this so gave up on the bank sticks and rested the rods on my kayak. To prevent the boat from moving around I had to stand in the water (as there is very little accessible bank) with bare feet in the silt- nice!
Then came the rain... and then 6 more good sized bream! 

Having fished from 8am and being soaked through, at 4:30pm I decided to call it a day - after all, I still had to paddle for an hour back to the car! The bag weighed in at 26lbs. I know this doesn't break any records but it had been a real joy to have got out on the boat, explored a new and fascinating water and fished outside my natural comfort zone, finding unexpected pleasure in this underrated species.