Catchin’ ’Em

I was blown away by this stunning creature – 42¼lb and a new PB

Bonesy finds cold-watersuccess at a new venue.

Like many of you reading this I only have a very limited amount of time to get the bank. That means we have to work that little bit harder and not settle for “it will do”; if it’s not perfect, we keep going until it is. This is especially the way of thinking I apply when fishing competitions, and am sure it contributed to mine and partner Neil Rivers’ success last year in winning the British Championships.

A couple of months ago I was invited to fish a 48-hour session by a good friend of mine Rob Hughes. It was to be my last session of the year due to work commitments taking me to the French Alps for four months; I work in the ski industry through the winter.

Camotex and a PB wafter on one – winner!
Wraysberry pop-up on the other and I was away
Don’t forget the dip – it really really really does make a difference

After a couple of phone calls with Hughesy, I discovered that the lake was a crystal clear sand quarry with plenty of weed, but a bit of work with the float clear spots could be found. Preparation is key to success so it was time for a bit of prep. 15lb main line with Trans Khaki Fluoro leaders for the clear water. The lead setup would be decided after a little work with the marker. I always carry a rig box that contains a good range of rigs to cover most situations, again limiting any down time upon arrival.

Next up was bait, and at this point I would like to give you a little insight into how I feel about bait and testing bait. I’m lucky enough to be part of the DNA Baits team and have access to many new things, some of which they are bringing to the market, from liquids to the new bait going through its test phase. I see many people connected to a bait company being almost too eager to use any new bait that’s available. As soon as a bait is released they start asking for something new, forgetting that the bait’s gone through years of testing already to be as good as it gets. Fair enough, if I had endless time on the bank I would love to be part of the testing phase, but they change so much at times that I feel a proven bait is always my best option. Having such a limited amount of time fishing, I’m happy to leave the testing to the guys who have the time to do it. If they say a bait is good, that’s good enough for me, and the team trust at DNA is brilliant – they really are a team.

My decision due to the time of year was to go with SLK, a bait designed for the cooling and cold months and one that has a proven track record. I also had matching pellets and a mixture of pop-ups and wafters should a situation arise when I felt they would be a better option than a bottom bait. So with prep done the last thing was food; I knew my companion would have none if past experience was anything to go by! Van packed, postcode entered and I was off.

I arrived at the lake at midday to find a lovely 30-acre pit called Holme Fen, which is run by the Premier Carp Fishing/Fenland Fisheries group. After a quick chat we decided we would go to the far side of the lake and follow the wind; I went lucky left, Rob went right.

It was close to three o’clock and daylight was fading fast, so the marker was dispatched promptly. After several casts a nice clear spot of 9ft was found with 6ft to the right and 7ft around it, indicating a large hump of sorts with heavy weed all around like a snaggy ambush waiting to happen! The water temperature was still quite high – upper single figures, so I opted for 9ft and a nice cast of 60 yards with good horizon marks to aid with the falling light and lack of moon. With the weed present I went with a drop-off inline lead setup to guarantee losing the lead on the take and bring the fish to the surface, away from the nasty weedbeds. In came the marker, which was quickly wrapped round my marker sticks. That way I could wrap all the rods and keep everything as accurate as possible, plus with line markers the rods can be back on the spot in record time.

DNA Fluoro Booster Liquids are something I genuinely never go without – they are a massive edge and a winner when it comes to boilies, particles or maggots
I Spombed out a bit of Parti-Blend and corn soaked in PB Booster

A mixture of chopped 15mm and 18mm boilies, pellets, a few scoops of Parti-Blend and a glug of matching food dip was mixed and Spombed out; 20 Midi Spombs being a good start. Over this I fished PVA bags of pellets that would present perfectly over the sandy bottom. A multi-rig with a size 5 Arma Point SSBP hook on a short Camotex Soft hooklink was my rig of choice, finished with a Wafter hookbait on one and a pop-up on the other, and I was ready on two. I set up the third rod on a lovely little margin clear spot by an overhanging willow in the bay to my left at about 10 yards. With a sprinkle of chopped boilies over the top, another little trap was set.

The first night was quiet for me, but Rob caught as usual, landing a stunning mirror over 30lb, so I knew they were in the area. I was sure I would nail one before the session finished as the spots were so right. Others fishing the lake had informed us that the majority of bites tended to be in the hours of darkness and through to late morning, so as lunchtime approached I brought in the two rods from the spot, tied new bags, wrapped them to the mark and put them back out ready for the coming night. Then I topped up with another 20 Spombs of pellets to freshen up the spot.

At about three the bailiff popped round for a brew and gave us the low-down on what had been coming out, also saying that most bites had been coming in the hours of darkness, so I was still hopeful of a bite. Just as the sun was setting the left-hand rod bleeped once and immediately all eyes were on it... Bang – the reel went into meltdown! I was on it like a shot and as I pulled into the fish it instantly felt heavy. I thought, “Please god don’t let it find that weedbed!” Luckily the lead had done its job, coming off on the take, and the fish was near the surface. About 10 minutes later, after a bit of winning and losing, the fish passed the cord and was in the net! Rob looked up, saying, “It’s a chunky ’un,” and gave me a cheeky grin. The fish was left to recoup while a new bag was tied and put back on the spot in minutes.

37½lb of Holme Fen lump

She was weighed at 37½lb. Happy days! The pictures were done just as the light was fading and I was a happy bunny; an upper thirty on my last trip before I had to go away would end my season perfectly.

We had just finished an awesome steak dinner cooked by yours truly when the other rod burst into life and I was in again on the same spot. This time the fish took off into the dark night, stripping line off me at a fair rate of knots. I eventually managed to turn it, and slowly but surely I was gaining ground. At about 30 yards the fish turned on the surface, and in the torchlight it was clear it was another good fish and I got a slight leg wobble! Two minutes later she was safe and sound in the net. We both looked down before looking up and grinning then adding the compulsory fist bump; it was another stunning mirror well over 30lb. The mats were prepped, scales zeroed and we were ready. Out she came, into the sling and I hoisted her up... With a little grin on his face, Rob said. “Forty-two four, mate. Boooooom!” My last session of the year and new PB – get in you dancer! What an awesome fish, a real pretty ’un too with three very distinct scales down her side.

I’d been saving this for my first forty – I’m not any more!

Pictures done she was returned and it was time for a carpy brew before bed. Hughesy caught again (as he does, but that’s his story) and the rest of the session was quiet for me. What a venue, though, and what a session. Two nights on a lake I hadn’t seen before, and fish of 37½lb and a 42¼lb under my belt. I got up and started the standard slow pack up before it was time to leave. I had to be in the Alps in two days and still had a lot to do!

That session was my last opportunity to fish for a few months, so I had to make sure everything was spot on. Remember to always put the chances in your favour. Quality bait, sharp strong hooks, and being as accurate as you can is a good start, but above all be prepared and leave nothing to chance. By the time you read this I will already be on the slopes, so have a great winter on the lakes. For me, the mountains are calling...

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