Making The Most Of It!

A beautiful sunset on the syndicate

Most people have a full-time job which restricts fishing time massively, but this shouldn’t affect your catch rate. You just need to make the most of the time you actually have, says Andy McFarlane.

Personally I like fishing two nights per week in between work, with my actual fishing time around 12 hours for each one. If you think about it, that is actually plenty of time to get a few fish under your belt.

The most important thing to get right first is location, even more so when you are restricted to the overnight slot between your regular work hours. Upon arrival at the lake, I normally have a quick walk around (time is of the essence), making sure to check all the areas which have pegs free for signs of fish. Most of the time there is something you can go on; showing fish or bubbling for example. On the odd occasion that the fish aren’t really evident in any specific area, I go purely on past form. Doing your homework on your target venue, finding out when certain areas are doing well and what the weather conditions were at the time, will help you make an informed decision if there is no fish activity to go on.

Secret 7 – a consistent fish catcher since its release
The new test bait from DNA – very different

Once I decide on my swim, having got as much information from other anglers as well as my own past captures, I know the location of clean spots and areas which see regular amounts of bait, so it is simply a case of using some marker sticks and clipping up to known spots. It’s very easy to do. Just note the number of wraps in your phone; that way you will never forget. Most of the time, I prefer to fish at least two if not all three of my rods on one area. This means I can concentrate the bait on one spot. This has proved a successful tactic, and several times I have had double takes from the same spot when a group of carp has obviously just come in and got on the feed. It truly is devastating!

Now for the big one: bait! I have total confidence in everything in the DNA Baits range; no matter what I have tried, it has always done me proud. I started off using the Secret 7, having great success on it, but more recently Jase and his boffins have come up with a new bait. It’s a unique boilie which has produced plenty of big fish already, and it’s been producing the goods for me ever since I switched over to it. Most recently it produced four fish in a morning for me, and that certainly makes the effort worthwhile!

The syndicate lake I am currently on really responds well to decent beds of bait, so on my short sessions I normally put out around two kilos of bait to begin with. Not only have I found the carp love the bait in there, but so do the bream, so I am in no way worried that the bait won’t get eaten; in fact it’s quite the opposite I am actually more worried that the bream clear my swim of bait before the carp even get a look in! This has led to me using bigger and bigger baits. At the moment I am having success on 18mm baits, but when the bream were really a problem I switched to 22mm hookbaits over the top of 18mm freebies. That may sound extreme and big for UK fishing, but trust me, those carp can still very easily get a 22mm boilie in their mouths!

To maximise my time even more while on the bank, I tie up rigs at home or during the period after I have put my rods out and sorted my swim. Now, this could be 9pm or even 10pm in some cases, especially if I have had an early fish. However, it is so important to have everything prepared, so I tie up at least six spare rigs, changing them after each fish to ensure I have super sharp hooks which aren’t going to let me down. The rigs I normally favour are no different to the ones I have always used: simple blow-back presentations with size 6 curve shank hooks, long hairs and soft coated hooklinks, fished on a short piece of leadcore with a lead clip. It’s very simple and easy to have loads tied ready for changing once I have had a fish.

One of four in a morning on the test bait
22mm hookbait and a long hair – don’t be scared of big baits
Plenty of pre-tied rigs

These tactics and methods have certainly stood me in good stead and, despite no longer being able to fish long sessions, I am still able to string together catches and be very consistent. One of the most notable captures since I started fishing work nights was the capture of my current PB mirror. As usual on a Tuesday, I beavered away all day in the office, venturing out every now and then to do some photography work for our website. During these outings, I couldn’t help but feel that the weather was perfect. The pressure was high, but not so high that the fish would be uninterested in feeding. I was absolutely itching to get going and raced out of the gates at half five sharp!

Upon my arrival, I was pleased to see that the lake was quiet, with a couple of anglers fishing in the open water swims and another by the large snaggy island. On my wander around, I saw a couple of fish in a snag on the far side of the lake, but this area didn’t appeal to me as much as the swim called the Point. All I was going off here was gut instinct and past form, but the swim had been doing fish regularly so I decided to drop in for the night and wait upon events.

As I mentioned, having a phone bulging with information on the lake is a massive help, so it wasn’t long before I had an idea where I wanted to place my rods. The Point swim has an underwater structure along the opposite margin, an old out building to be precise, and the fish love to use it as a hide away. I wandered over to the far side once the rods were clipped up to the right spots and baited accurately by hand, before going back around and casting the rigs one by one to the building.

I got settled in for the night and drifted off, but it was apparent the fish were in the area as every now and then a single bleep on the alarm had me bolt upright in the bed. Snag fishing really doesn’t do your nerves any good! At around 12pm, the right rod wrenched over and I shot out of bed, hitting into a heavy weight. I guided it away from the snag, and had it coming in like a dog on a lead until it went to ground in a lily bed under my feet. I lifted carefully, keeping steady pressure on it and soon the flank of a large, deep mirror broke the surface in my torchlight. My legs went to jelly and my head was in bits, but eventually she succumbed to the pressure and went in the net first time of asking. I recognised her straight away as a fish known as Cut Tail, one of the lake’s A-Team. On the scales she went 32½lb, a new PB and a fish I had been after for nine years! As there was no one I really trusted to take pictures of such a special fish for me, I set about doing self-takes, which came out much better than expected! I also dedicated the capture to my late grandpa, who never got to see me achieve my goal, but I donned his cap with pride for the photos!

A full-time job or other commitments is no excuse for not making that extra effort and getting out on the bank for a night in between! You never quite know where your efforts might lead!

32½lb new PB on a work night - well worth the effort

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