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Dave Coster's Fishing Diary - April 2018

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Dave Coster's Fishing Diary - April 2018

April started much like the rest of the year has been so far, cold and miserable. My mate Andy was in town, so we decided to have a session on sheltered Lake One at Priory Fishery. There wasn’t anyone else mad enough to be out on the bank, giving us the pick of the swims. We opted for the ones in the far corner by the footbridge, where there was plenty of cover from the chilly breeze.

The water still had an icy looking greenish brown tinge to it, so I only set up a couple of pole rigs, starting off on a full depth one, having a shallow set tackle in reserve for later.

As the water wasn’t very deep, I kicked off feeding a couple of soft balls of groundbait laced with casters and some chopped worm. After that the plan was to regularly dink in small amounts of casters with a light action catapult.

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When I have been on this lake previously, I’ve discovered once regular loose feed starts going in, a lot of fish move up in the water. My favourite rig for this consists of a modified pole float with a sensitive fibreglass tip, a slim body and a wire stem. The latter is a length of the tungsten wire predator anglers use for their traces. This is bendy but springs straight again, as opposed to the normal wire you get on pole floats, which once bent stays bent! I have carefully made a few floats like this and used them very successfully for many years. They only take three spread-out tiny number 13 Stotz weights, so once laid on the surface the tackle cocks itself and the hook bait sinks very slowly. This is perfect for fish competing up in the water for loose feed like casters, maggots and hemp.

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Andy had kicked off with a small banjo feeder, loaded with pellets and a small hair rigged wafter. He cast this to tree cover on the far side and also enjoyed plenty of early action, but only from small skimmers, not the sizeable carp he was hoping for.

He quickly switched to the long pole, but unlike me, his plan was to attack the swim with pellets. He was getting plenty of early indications with an over-depth rig, but the bites were a bit tricky to connect with at first.

Andy is a very positive angler, no matter what the conditions. He has this uncanny knack of always being where the fish are. Even if he doesn’t know a venue, you can bet your money he will still pick a swim stacked with fish. If he is match fishing he will simply draw a flier peg, hence his nickname: Epicentre! Over the years I have learnt to trust his instincts and fish close by. After all, the only time I ever drew next to him in a match I won it!

On this occasion I noticed Andy was feeding quite heavily compared to my more careful approach. Then again, I don’t draw hotspots as often as he does!

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A 12 oz skimmer came my way, followed by another, followed by a net roach. Blimey I thought to myself, Epicentre is missing a trick here. People would pay to sit next to him if the fishing is always this good where he parks his seat box!

It didn’t take long before the constant trickle of fresh, crispy casters going into my swim provoked fish to start competing for them as they hit the surface. Time to switch to my shallow rig. To begin with, a lot of these were small roach and rudd, but I didn’t mind wading through these, because past

experiences have taught me bigger fish would soon butt in on the action. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before better sized silvers were stretching the light elastic in my top kit as they darted in and almost hooked themselves. There was a proper feeding frenzy going on just below the surface. Next, a lively one-pound crucian carp ran me a merry dance on my light tackle, scattering the roach and rudd for a while. I cupped in another helping of soft groundbait and casters and went to see how Andy was getting on.

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Of course, by this time Epicentre was living up to his reputation. His swim was fizzing with skimmers and he was now playing a better fish, a proper bream by the look of it. The fish in this lake go like the clappers and this one was giving his pole elastic a good old pull. Watching Andy playing the fish, I was amazed that we still had the place to ourselves. What a top fishery to be producing this kind of action and yet where was everyone? Then I remembered it was Easter Sunday and most other anglers were probably involved with family matters, also that while we were fishing our womenfolk were probably out shopping in the bank holiday weekend sales. Oh well, a small price to pay for an action-packed day on the bank!

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Andy landed a proper bream, caught on a soft pellet. He wasn’t getting as many roach as me, preferring to sit and wait for better sized fish with his on-the-deck-rig. But like all good anglers, he was constantly experimenting with his feeding and adjusting his rig to maximise catch potential.

I returned to my swim and once regular casters started going back in it came alive with swirling fish again. I got into a good rhythm and really bagged up for the rest of the session with my shallow rig. No monsters but loads of quality roach, plus a few rudd and smaller skimmers.

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I got Andy to take a photo of my catch and he estimated it at well over twenty pounds. He reckoned I had just edged it over his mainly skimmer haul, saying he had wasted too much time at the start trying to catch carp that were obviously still dormant in the cold conditions. One thing was for certain, our combined total in pounds wouldn’t match what our partners were likely to spend in real money in the shops over the long bank holiday weekend!

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I was back on Priory a fortnight later, on Lake Two for a Ropsley club match. Lake Two is the main match lake and as it was double booked, the pegging was very tight. After speaking to some regulars from the other match at the draw, they told me the carp hadn’t been showing, so along with the cramped pegs I quickly came up with a plan. I set up a long pole with a full depth rig and a waggler as back up, just in case I needed to search further out for bites.

When the all-in call came, I cupped in a couple of balls of hard groundbait, heavily laced with chopped worm, casters and a few pellets at 13 metres. My aim was to keep everything very tight feeding wise, catapulting small amounts of casters over the top every ten minutes. I also fed a few shells and 4mm pellets further out, in case I needed to bring the waggler into play.

I only caught a few sprats during the first hour, while the angler next to me landed a decent bream, fishing shorter than I was on the pole. There was also talk of another bream further down to my right and a proper carp to my left. What to do next?

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After many years of match fishing, one thing I have learnt the hard way, is not to panic when falling behind the anglers around you. If you start changing your approach too early, you can end up feeding all over the place and going nowhere fast! I decided I was doing the right thing, hanging it out on the long pole, so in went another hard ball of groundbait, just in case the small roach and perch I had been catching had scoffed my initial feed. The extra cup full of grub did the trick and I was suddenly latched into a proper slab, soon followed by another. All eyes were on me now!

I resisted the temptation to step up the feed too much, because others had tried this and it didn’t seem to be working. I mainly stayed with trickling casters in, as no bites were forthcoming when trying pellets on the hook. I also had a quick couple of chucks with the waggler, but soon sacked that as the surface was towing too hard.

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Fishing never ceases to amaze me. If you read my Diary last month you will know I have been targeting the elusive chub on this lake and worked very hard to catch one last month. Well, after a flurry of small skimmers and the odd better-quality roach, my pole swim suddenly dried up. This normally signals the fish have moved off, or something big has arrived. Sure enough, it was the latter and suddenly my pole elastic was stretching out on a searing run. I had to grit my teeth because I was only using a number 5 shock absorber and a 0.10mm hook length, along with a fine wire 18 hook! At first I thought this had to be a carp, but after that first run the fight became a bit more erratic. A big perch perhaps? But then the fish tried ploughing into the nearside rushes, just like the chub I caught here before. Sure enough, when I got the culprit to the surface it was a decent chub.

Unbelievably, a little later I caught another identical sized one, looking as pristine as a fish you would normally expect from a river. I was doubly chuffed.

After that it was a case of getting my head down and working for bites from small fish and the occasional landing net job. It turned out to be a tight finish, but I just edged the match with over 15lbs.

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By the end of the month, the weather had turned wintry yet again so for the next Ropsley fixture on the match lake at Stretton, I was going to tread carefully. Thankfully I drew a reasonably sheltered end peg, helpful because the north easterly wind was bitterly cold and would make handling long poles tricky in more exposed parts of this snake style venue.

I had fished this place once before, not far from where I was now, so I had a good inkling about what to do. I set up a silver fish rig for the open water, a shallower long pole rig to try against the island opposite and a margin rig to try by some overhanging tree cover to my right.

I caught quite well to begin with on my light rig in open water, finding skimmers close to the pound mark, along with small roach and hybrids. But looking around, I could see other anglers were starting to latch into carp. I tried heavier tackle against the island, but the increasing wind kept pulling my float away from the feature. It didn’t feel right there so, I then switched to paste on my margin pole.

Feeding a light dusting of fishmeal groundbait and a few pellets. I was soon bullying a lively carp away from the branches, then another before I hooked a sunken branch and disturbed the swim.

Back out in open water, it was a skimmer a chuck for a while before I hooked into a proper lump of a carp. While I was carefully playing the fish I thought to myself, why does this always happen on the wrong rig? However, the fish started to tire. I wasn’t on a puller bung system with my silver fish tackle, so I had more pole sections and elastic out than normal when trying to net the animal. You can probably guess what happened next. Close to the surface the fish suddenly bolted, and my small hook pinged out of it. I always seem to manage to land monsters on light gear when pleasure fishing, but the same luck strangely never occurs in matches!

Anyway, back on my margin gear and I caught another couple of quick carp to keep me in contention, before pulling out another swim disturbing branch.

After that it was a case of switching about, catching a few skimmers, then the odd nearside carp, losing a few off the hook as well. This was going to be tight!

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At the weigh in I put just over 30 lbs on the digital scales. Although a nice catch of silvers and carp, I didn’t think that was going to be enough. The guy opposite had had a good run of carp and someone else at the other end had bagged up well I heard. Never mind, I was happy after such a busy session, along with taking home some section cash.

I ended up just a few ounces out of the frame, slightly annoyed with myself after losing enough fish for a win. It’s a long time since I’ve fished carp dominated venues, after living up north for so long. But I’m slowly getting the bug again, dusting down my pellet, paste and long pole dibber rigs. Hopefully next month will be a tad warmer and I will maybe enjoy some even bigger commercial fishery catches during the river close season.

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