Dave Coster's Fishing Diary- January 2019

After relatively mild weather during the Christmas break it turned a lot colder early January. The local rivers still looked gin clear and uninviting, so not fancying long biteless hours I decided to have another go on the prolific Match Lake at Woodland Waters. I was the only angler daft enough to be out on the bank and was greeted by a black swan. I haven’t seen one of these for years, but thought it might be a good omen, as one of these unusual birds used to visit a lake I owned many years ago.

Due to the cold I didn’t intend to feed very much. My plan was to fish the long pole in deep water, cupping in 4 balls of dark groundbait, laced with a few casters and some chopped worms. To help fish find my dark groundbait in deep, silty swims, I sometimes add a bit of colour. I’ve been doing well recently mixing a few bright Dynamite Robin Red and yellow F1 Low Feed micro pellets into my darker non-fishmeal groundbaits. Apart from the specks of colour, having just a tad of fishmeal doesn’t seem to do any harm in the winter.


As expected, it was a slow start. No bites fishing a couple of inches over-depth during the first hour. I kept dinking in a few casters to try and induce some interest, but nothing happened. I decided to sit it out with a small piece of worm on a size 18 hook for the next hour, twitching a bit of movement into the bait occasionally, which eventually brought a quick bite. I was using 0.10mm Advanta Rig Line and a light number 4 elastic in my pole’s top kit, which saw a good fish giving everything a good pull. My tackle held up okay as the fish plodded around in the depths and gradually I pressured it up towards my landing net. A nice plump perch.

I had a few more indications on pieces of worm but only small perch and a 4oz skimmer resulted, so I switched to single caster on the hook. I missed a couple of ghost bites, where the float slowly went under, but connected with nothing. I pushed up my olivette bulk weight and tried holding the tackle on a tight line, so the hook bait took a little longer to settle. This brought a savage response from a good roach. Amazing what a small tackle tweak can do. I often think cold water fish ignore hook baits that don’t look right on the way down. When mine behaved more naturally, it was grabbed straight away. Three more good fish followed before bites dried up.

I had the suspicion something bigger had moved into the swim because after that flurry of roach nothing happened for the next hour, apart from a few tiny bubbles fizzing on the surface occasionally. I tried switching baits, but in the end sat it out on caster and finally my float slid under, resulting in something sluggish and heavier attached. I gradually coaxed the fish up and it turned out to be a bream, followed by another a few minutes later. That was to be the end of the action.

I had been sitting in a café in Grantham having an early morning cup of coffee when I got a phone call from Pete the bailiff at Woodies, asking if I fancied joining him for a few hours on the River Trent at Farndon. It was cold outside, but I thought a bit of running water fishing might provide a chance of catching something. Pete had caught a good double figure barbel from this day ticket stretch recently and the good thing about the venue is you can park behind most of the swims. An hour later I was on the bank and ready for action.

I tackled up next to Pete, who had two heavy duty quivertip rods out, set skywards in a rod pod. This is the way most anglers fish for barbel on the Trent these days, but I also noticed a float rod and stick rig craftily made in in reserve. I set up a similar stick float rig in the next swim downstream.

To cut a long story short, I flogged the swim for several hours. My float was running down the glide perfectly, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t buy a bite. Pete struggled too and if there was a barbel about, his tactics looked spot-on to catch one. I noticed his comfy way of fishing, casually sitting in the back of his four-wheel drive. A lot more sheltered than I had been, perched over the water like a frozen heron, with a freezing cold wind in my face. I packed up and went home.

There had been signs that the big roach were beginning to feed more confidently on the deep Specimen Lake at Woodland Waters on my last visit, so with heavy rain forecast, I headed for the sheltered wooded section. First thing I saw was the black swan again and to my amazement he had found a mate. Someone somewhere was missing their prize birds.

I decided on a two-pronged attack. It took ages to get bites on the pole last time, so I Kicked off with a cage feeder, while regularly feeding the pole line with a few casters, after an in initial dose of groundbait. It took a while to get bites on the feeder and the first couple were so half-hearted I missed both of them. But when I did eventually connect with a tiny indication it was from a small perch. A few more followed, along with several missed bites, but nothing decent turned up.

The rain moved in and as the feeder wasn’t going anywhere, I packed that rod out of the way and put my brolly up, ready to concentrate on the pole. I had earlier fed down the shelf at 12 metres, in around 10ft of water. My plan was to start with a 1g pole float and olivette, backed up with a lighter 0.75g rig carrying a strung bulk of number 8 Stotz weights. I had the olivette rig set a few inches over-depth and caught small perch straight away on it, switching between red maggots and segments of worms. This prompted me to try a dark caster, which got through the small stuff and after a long wait pulled a bite from something bigger and more powerful. A beautiful big roach was soon in my landing net.

I caught a few smaller roach on the olivette rig, but something wasn’t quite right. I was missing delicate bites, which after bumping out of a good fish, I was sure were being caused by big roach. I switched to the reserve strung bulk rig, which slows the fall of the hook bait as it descends closer to the bottom. Apart from making the hook bait behave a bit more naturally, slightly spread number 8s, tend to pick up any underwater tow better. Whatever the reason, it worked, and I caught a flurry of big roach as the rain died away and the light began to fade.

Pete the bailiff turned up to take a catch shot, made a bit easier because I had only been putting the bigger fish in my keepnet. But one thing I have learnt about big roach, is you don’t get a true feel for their size with distance shots like this. I had a better idea.

I had an unhooking mat laid out ready and after spreading my keepnet on this. I quickly arranged the biggest fish on top. Absolute corkers! Surely the biggest roach, second from bottom, was over two pounds? Pete told me off for not bringing scales and he was right. It would have been nice to know how much that biggest fish weighed as I slipped it back into the water. Never mind, a good excuse to come back and do it all again next month!


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