Every second counts
Getting ready for the springtime rush is an annual ritual in Simon Crow’s carping life.
The longer you’ve been carp fishing, the more you notice how important some of the minor aspects can be. This is the reason why you’ll always see me having a good clean out of my gear at this time of the year. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been fishing hard through the winter or if I’ve had a few months off, I make sure I put aside a couple of days to sort everything out before spring kicks off.
Spring is the time of the year when I always go fishing a lot. This is when I stack up most of my nights on the bank and when I’ll put my fishing in front of almost everything else in my life (bar my family). I live a very hectic lifestyle, always dashing between home, my kids’ house, my girlfriend’s house, work and the lake. Every second counts in the spring, so I’m reliant on having my gear in tip top shape and making sure I have everything I need in working order.
The arrival of March is when I completely strip down all of my gear, replacing any worn out items with new bits of tackle. I go through everything with a fine tooth comb, making sure I’ve got more than what I need, restocking little items of end tackle like swivels, hooks, hooklinks, etc. I replace my baiting needles, especially those with gate latches, which always seem to clog up with bait, change my braid scissors so I’m carrying a sharp new pair, as well as giving my tackle box a complete makeover. I’m so very different to the lads who carry pre-tied rigs in immaculate tackle boxes; mine usually looks like a bomb has hit it by the time March comes around. I’m usually too busy to tidy it out at any other time of the year.
I restock on gas for my stove, making sure I have enough to get me through the whole of the busy part of the season. A trip to the tackle shop in the middle of spring might take me an hour. That could be the difference between getting in a going swim or not, meaning I might miss out on a good catch. I much prefer to stock up now while I have the time. Only last week I made the most of a great deal Eric’s Angling has on offer of six C500 gas canisters for only £17.99! The same gas canisters cost almost twice as much at my local camping shop, so I bought two boxes of six, which will see me through until the end of summer at the very least.
I’ve given my shelter a detailed once over to make sure it is in full working order. I fish a lot of overnighters in between work during the season and the constant packing up and down takes its toll on even the hardiest bits of kit, especially when in my hands. I’m not the tidiest person in the world and I’m quite heavy handed, packing things away in an almost destructive manner if I’m in a rush. The Titan usually gets broken down and rammed in the bag, wet or dry, and at the back of last year I accidentally pushed a peg spike through the roof which caused a hole. As you can imagine, the hole started off tiny and has grown a little bit with use, which has needed repairing. I’ve also replaced a few lost pegs which just fall by the wayside when I’m rushing to pack up. I’ve even clipped on my mozzie net door, which I never carry in the winter to save on weight. I like to know I’ve got it with me in March because you never know what the weather is going to bring. I hate being completely zipped in the bivvy without a flow of fresh air when the mozzies are about.
Other items of tackle get a look at too. My bedchair gets opened up and swept down, because you’d be amazed at how much muck gathers during the year down the side where the mattress is. As soon as we get a bit of sun I’ll also give it a good airing to dry out. The same goes for the sleeping bag: mine always ends up full of dust, which by the time the warmer weather arrives causes me to itch if it’s not cleaned. I’ve spent ages before now cleaning my bag, whacking away at it while it’s hung on the line to get the dust out. It really is amazing how dirty it gets on the inside from constant use.
My rods will get washed down too, then dried and polished. I pay a lot of attention to the reel seat and the eyes especially. The reel seat gets clogged with bait from when I’ve been spodding, which then dries hard. Only the other day I couldn’t get the reel off one of my rods because it was clogged in with dirt and bait. Eventually I got it off with warm soapy water, but I had to take care because I once broke a reel seat collar as I tried to free a reel that was wedged in. I fill a bucket with warm water and Fairy Liquid when cleaning my rods, using an old washing up brush with fine bristles.
Rod rings also attract lots of dirt through use. I scrub them with the brush and then give the rings a polish with the duster, making note of any whippings which are coming loose or any rings that are scratched. Scratches cause damage to line so these need replacing. I take mine to the local tackle shop as it doesn’t cost much to have a new eye fitted, and £20 or so is much better spent than risk losing a fish or loads of line to a cracked-off cast.
As for my line, this gets replaced at least twice a year religiously. The shelf life for a monofilament line is less than a year depending on use and how exposed it has been to UV light. You’ll notice the knot strength will go in time, especially when using strangulation knots like the Blood Knot. You won’t be able to bed it down without it snapping within half a dozen attempts if it needs changing. I’m used to changing line in March and usually again by the end of the spring. I replace it completely, as I take no short cuts in this area. I know some lads who try to save a few quid by turning their line around (swapping the open end with the one buried at the bottom of the spool), but I’d rather just strip it down completely and start afresh. I rarely use backing on my reels these days. This was something we all used to do years ago because spools were so deep it was always a waste filling one up with 400 yards of new line when all you were going to use was the first 180 yards of it (we used to leave 200 yards of old line on as backing). Of course it depends on how far out you are going to be fishing, but a lot of today’s modern reels come with the option of using shallow or deep spools to save on line usage. I usually opt for the shallow spool and fill my reel with about 250 yards, knowing I have some in reserve for cutting bits off, etc.
Everyone has their own favourite way of respooling their reels and mine is done by placing the spool of line in a bucket of water, about twice as deep as the spool. I’ll then thread the line through the butt ring eye of one of my rods and then attach it to the reel. I’ll then reel the wet line on to the reel in exactly the same way as I would if I was reeling in a cast-out rig. I’ll apply a little bit of tension on the line, but not so much that the line beds down too tightly it all comes off in a birds nest on the cast. I’ll leave the spool in the bucket to bob around as it goes too, rather than hold it in a fixed position. Line twist can be such a big problem with some monos I’m always very conscious of it, and I think the more you fix the spool into position the more chance it has of being twisted when it’s put on the reel.
Get stocked up
I’ve already sorted the tickets for the waters I’m going to be fishing this year well in advance. I’ve got three nice waters in the North on which I’ll be concentrating most of my time, with the odd trip elsewhere for a few days. All of the northern venues contain fish over 38lb, which is a massive carp up here, and I’ve put the research in on all of the venues to help me. As a result, I already know which baits I’m going to be using to target the carp I want to catch, so the final piece of my pre-season preparation is to make sure I’ve got enough bait in stock.
I’ve paid the price for being caught short with bait before and it can be very frustrating waiting for a new batch to arrive when you haven’t any in stock and the fish are having it. Bait makers are always rushed in the spring because of the amount of orders they have to deal with, so get yourself a big chest freezer and make sure it’s well stocked up with your chosen bait for the year. This season I’ll be using either The Key or 4G Squid on the waters I’ll be fishing. I know that both baits work well on lots of different waters so I won’t need to prebait either, although I will be trickling them in any time soon, knowing that it will pay off in the long run.
It’s so easy to dis pre-season preparation as something only the carp geeks carry out, but the fact is it will help everyone in the long run because being organised on the bank and efficient with time management gives you more opportunities. I can think of plenty of times when I’ve not done it and ended up wishing I had.