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Grafting Season

This 34¼lb mirror was the biggest of four so far from my latest Kingsmead session

Now the temperature is dropping, Greg Ellis is on a mission at Kingsmead 1.

The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are slowly dropping. With the banks littered with fallen leaves, it’s pretty apparent that big-fish season is descending upon us, a time to start making that little bit of extra effort.

Over the past week I’ve noticed the fish on my chosen water have started to move around more and venture into the open water swims. With the weed slowly disappearing in the bays and the overnight temperatures dropping, they’re starting to show in the deeper areas where you’d expect to find them in the autumn and winter. Obviously the daytime temperatures are still warm, so you can’t rule out the shallower areas, as the carp will most definitely still visit them; it’s just a sign you need to start planning ahead. It’s something I’ve put into place in my angling now on RK Leisure’s Kingsmead 1.

Leaves littering the banks of Kingsmead 1 – big-fish season is here
Night over Kingsmead – it’s usually dark when I arrive
My obsession: Starry’s at 52lb, caught by Lee Wagner earlier this season

The same sort of scenario happened last season when I was concentrating my efforts on Horton Church Lake. I spent most of the summer fishing in the bays, which were heavily weeded at the time. As we all know, big dense weedbeds are carp magnets at that time of the year. With the weed slowly breaking away and drifting down the Lake on strong south-westerly winds (taking everyone’s lines out in the process), the carp soon started to venture out into the pond. Once again they were spotted in the areas where you’d most probably find them throughout the colder months. I decided to target the middle section of the Lake and do my thing in a couple of swims. Regularly baiting areas with boilies, etc. paid off nicely from the start. I landed a few big fish last October, including the famous Woodcarving.

The seasons have all changed now. We all used to get excited for September to arrive, but now we’re looking forward to October, as this is when you start to see real changes in big-fish behaviour nowadays. If you’re going to start a baiting campaign, introducing a different type of bait or boilie, then this is the time to start doing it. I used to fish with fruity baits in the winter and I’d start to feed areas and mix them with the bait I’d been using for the summer. These days though, I’ve got one bait that does it all. Mainline Cell has been my choice of bait for the past few seasons, and it’s an all-season boilie that will work in the heat of the summer and in the harshest of winters when lakes are half frozen. It’s a good all-round bait that gives me 100% confidence in whatever situation I’m faced with, and in my book confidence is the main reason behind an angler’s success. If you’re confident in what you use, whether it be bait, rigs, hooks, etc. then you’re going to catch. A lot of things in life are controlled by mind games, and catching carp comes into it too. If you think about blanking before you even get to the lake, because of certain things you’re using, the chances are that you will. The mind is set and you’re expecting it, therefore the effort you’re going to put in that session to try and catch is pretty non-existent. I’ve been there many times before while trying to find what was best for me and my type of angling in my younger days, but now I can safely say that I have confidence in everything I use. On a lake like Kingsmead I’m sure that if my bait’s in the right place and on fish, then I’m going to catch. Sometimes I get fish show all over me at the weekends and I can’t buy a bite, but I know it’s the carp and nothing to do with me or anything that I’m using. I’ll go back the following week more determined and seeking revenge, nearly always resulting in a fish on the bank.

Horton’s famous Woodcarving, caught last year

I’m currently sitting on my bedchair at Kingsmead typing this piece, so I’ll give you a little insight into my session and the prep work that’s been done during the week. It has paid off nicely and the sense of satisfaction is great. I’ve worked hard for these fish and each one is well earned and the end result of a proper bit of grafting; grafting that nobody else would do if they were in my situation on Kingsmead – fact! There’s a 50lb target fish at stake here and this is all-out war. It’s time to shift my game up a gear and be one step ahead. The fish in question is known as Starry’s and its last and only capture this year was at 52lb to my good friend Lee Wagner back at the start of May. Lee is a good angler, and a thinking one at that. He floats around all five of the waters we have on offer here at the Horton complex and is very consistent. I rate him highly in the big-fish game, plus he’s a right nice lad. When he called to tell me he’d had Starry’s, I was buzzing for him as he fully deserved that fish. It’s my turn now, though, and I’m going in big with everything I’ve got, as this is most probably going to be my first and last season on the water. I’ve had most of the big fish now, so staying on another season for just one fish would mean I’d probably have a lot of repeat captures until I got the one I wanted – not ideal. There’s a lot on offer out there and I want to explore some other big-fish waters in the South.

RidgeMonkey’s Bivvy Lite Duo on the red light setting is perfect for staying stealthy during the hours of darkness
My alarm is always primed to go off well before it’s time to get to work
The 29¾lb Kingsmead mirror I christened Wonky Chops

As most of you will know, if you read my last piece, I’m a working weekend angler. Quite simply, overnighters are pretty much ruled out on Kingsmead, because I live in Essex and it’s a 72-mile trip around the M25 to get to the Colne Valley, basically Heathrow, for those that don’t know. With a £40 diesel bill in my car to do a return trip, I usually come for two nights at the weekend to make my stay more worth it. However, I’ve got a local job in Grays at the moment, only 15 minutes from home, so I took full advantage and included a couple of overnighters. This is hard graft and last week I did two with nothing to show for my efforts. I fished the Tuesday night and managed to get on a lot of fish. I arrived in the dark, which is now a common thing for me (I’m now packing up in the dark too), so basically I can’t see what’s going on; all I know is that the distinctive sound of carp showing themselves was frequent. My alarm was set for 4.15am with a traditional 15-minute snooze beforehand, so I could quickly pack up and be on the road just before 5am. I should’ve got a bite that night, but I didn’t, and at 4.30am I was catapulting four kilos of Cell out into the darkness before reeling in.

I was at work up on a roof that day and couldn’t stop thinking about why I didn’t get a bite; it was really playing on my mind. They must be doing something in the upper layers that I can’t see – that was it! At 8pm on Wednesday I found myself back in the same swim, this time with a zig on one rod and a bottom bait on the other, just in case they’d got on the bait I’d put out that morning. The 4.30am alarm soon came around and another blank came with it, but the fish were still showing in the area, so I gave them another four kilos of Mainline’s finest. I drove home scratching my head, not knowing what was going on, but like I said earlier, it’s nothing to do with my bait or rigs; it’s down to the carp.

One of Kingsmead’s most popular open-water swims, Right-Hand Point
Feature writing in the bivvy

On Friday evening I was back in the same swim. The fish were still showing and this time they were feeding. The heavy midweek baiting paid off and at 3am I had a 24lb 14oz mirror. This was followed by a 20lb mirror and a repeat capture of a character I’ve now nicknamed ‘Wonky Chops’ – you’ll see why from the photos. The day was quiet and the fish seemed to move out. It was pretty apparent that morning that the carp were smashing up the small fry – they were everywhere. The following night produced the biggest fish of the session, a 34¼lb mirror at 3am. If I hadn’t put that bait out during the week and got one step ahead, then I probably wouldn’t have got those bites.

Big-fish season is here! It’s now officially time to start putting in those quick night sessions and getting some bait going in a few different areas. Get out there and do your thing!

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