Dave Coster's Fishing Diary February

At last some prolonged rain had put a bit of colour into the River Witham by the beginning of the month, so I picked a nice-looking pool below a weir. The current was swirling around on both sides, but there was a steady glide down the middle of the river. I set up a small stick float on a 13ft float rod and found I could run my tackle through at a nice even pace, having to hold most of the main line off the water to keep the float running in a straight line.

First fish was a minnow. Amazing how a tiny fish like this can pull your float tip under so fiercely! I missed a few bites after that on maggot, suspecting they were caused by more minnows, so I switched to a caster on the hook. I was feeding a mixture of hemp and casters, hoping these baits would find some decent fish.

Another positive bite resulted in a bend in my rod and the next fish twisted about in the current like crazy; had to be a grayling. I’ve caught a few of these fish from the Witham over the past couple of years and it’s great to see them. This one was only around 12 ounces but a good sign for the future. A few small dace turned up next, followed by a proper bend in my rod as something bigger surged around the swim. Too quick for a chub. A decent trout was soon in my landing net, followed by another a few minutes later.

A few missed bites led me to try altering the depth of my float rig and this made a difference immediately. Suddenly I was connecting with a string of dace, including the odd 6 to 8oz sample. I know this species doesn’t grow very big, but I just love catching dace. Considering their size, these fish give a good account of themselves and help you to hone up your reactions. You have to be super quick to hit the lightning fast bites they give.

Sadly, there’s not many places where you can catch a good bag of dace these days, thanks to predation from cormorants, otters, mink and the like. There have been too few occasions over the past couple of decades when I have enjoyed catching fish like this.

Towards the end of the session I tried stepping up the loose feed to try and see if anything big was lurking in the swim, but all this did was pull in another lively trout.

I needed to do a photo shoot sometime during February with the Angler’s Mail photographer, but where? As quickly as the colour had appeared in local rivers it was suddenly gone again and most stillwaters had fallen asleep due to some very cold nights.

I eventually decided to have a go on Birch Lake at Woodland Waters. This is only a small pond really, basically a carp pool, but I remembered meeting an angler who said he had been catching a few decent skimmers from the place while targeting carp. I would be more than happy to get a few bites at this tricky time of the year!

I set up pole and fine tipped waggler rigs, but while plumbing the depth, was a bit taken aback. The water was a lot shallower than I had expected, the most water I could find anywhere was just over two feet deep! The water was also quite clear and after such a cold snap, I wasn’t confident at all.

I kicked off with the waggler but couldn’t buy a bite, switching to the pole line after an hour, where I had fed a couple of soft balls of groundbait, some chopped worm, a few casters and a smattering of pellets. I worked through the various baits at my disposal and finally got a tentative bite on a caster, which I missed. Then, after a few more half-bites I finally connected with a 6oz roach. Another followed, then a skimmer around the 10oz mark. The sun was out now and it was tricky to see my pole float in the glare, so I switched back to the waggler.

I had been flicking a few casters out with a catapult on the waggler line and it wasn’t long before I got a good bite and something was putting a decent bend in my 12ft float rod. I gently coaxed the fish in and it turned out to be a good-sized skimmer. After that the swim magically came alive and I caught steadily, switching between the waggler and pole.

An interesting pattern immerged where I began to catch more skimmers over my pole line - where I had fed groundbait, and mainly roach on the waggler - where I had only loose fed casters. I made up my mind that I would feed a bit more heavily on the pole when doing the photo shoot and just give the waggler a go during any quiet spells. On this occasion the pole line dried up and then the carp finally woke up and I pulled out of a couple of good fish on my light waggler rig.

I’ve walked by this small lake many times and not given it a second glance, which proves you can’t go by looks alone. It turned out the place is full of silver fish, which I imagine get pushed into the background when the carp are more active. After taking this nice catch I returned a few days later and caught even more silvers, including a few proper bream and some quality roach, a few not far off the one-pound mark. Amazing for such a shallow pool.

The only other place I could find good sport during February was the nearby Specimen Lake at Woodies. Being much deeper, this water consistently keeps producing bites during the colder months. A pattern had emerged this winter where the long pole has been scoring best for me, using 0.75g or 1g fine tipped floats and small size 18 hooks, switching between red maggot, caster and small segments of worm as bait. It can take a long time to get the pole working, so I normally start off on the feeder…

On one trip this month I was pestered by small perch on the feeder, but eventually caught this decent roach on it, after switching to a single caster on the hook. I missed a few tentative bites on the feeder after that, but couldn’t really make it happen at long range. For the last couple of hours of daylight I stuck it out with the pole.

Sure enough, as the low winter sun dropped behind the trees and the light began to fade, the big roach came out to play. I managed a late trio to add to my earlier good fish, along with some smaller silvers, which I returned. Bites were very shy, even with a sensitive pole float. Very often the float tip

would just dip a fraction without going under. If it was left alone, nothing would happen. I tried moving the float around, having the rig at exact depth and then a few inches over-depth. The latter worked best, and I managed to connect with the late bonus fish.

I fished the same area again as the month was ending and found the groundbait feeder better, after getting little interest on the pole. There was a hint of spring in the air and it was very bright, so maybe that’s why I struggled closer in. I got out of trouble with a single red maggot on a medium length trace. I had a pound roach early on, then a big skimmer, followed by a proper slab-sided bream. Signs that things are changing. I’m suddenly looking forward to March!

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.