The New Season... Richard Howland

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The New Season... Richard Howland

With the weather starting to warm up and the birds singing in the morning, the carp should be waking up from their winter slumber. So, with that in mind, I decided it was time to try out the bait that I had been putting into a couple of lakes that I intend to fish this year, the Advanta Pineapple & Coconut Boilies.

After seeing the good lady off to work on Thursday morning, the car was loaded with the carp gear. Muskett, my faithful fishing companion, was sitting by the car knowing full well where I was going and was not going to let me go without him.

After a 20 minute drive Muskett and I arrived at Loggies, which is part of the Stour Valley Fishing Complex. With eight people already set up fishing I had a chat with Frankie, the owner’s grandson, and took a walk round the lake to see if any fish were moving or showing. Not seeing anything, I opted for swim 17 which I had caught from around this time last year. I always bring too much gear and in the time it took me to start setting up some new rigs on the rods I noticed that the guys opposite in number one and two swims were packing up. Frankie had told me that there were fish moving about in front of number one so it was decision time for me: stay put or move to number one. I walked round to have a chat with them and learnt that the guy in peg two had caught a couple of Tench and his mate had caught an 18lb from peg one. That was enough for me to put a bucket in the swim while I gathered up all my gear, ready to set in number one instead!

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The day had started out cold but was warming up nicely and I was eager to get the rods out. Knowing the areas I wanted to fish, I took time out to walk along the bank looking for signs of fish in the reeds and to spread a couple of kilograms of chopped and whole boilies around.

I put two rods with combi-rigs out – with Fox Illusion for the boom, Korda Dark Matter braid, and size 4 Korda Krank hooks. As I said, I wanted to try out using the Advanta 18mm Pineapple & Coconut Boilies, which I drilled and to which I added cork in order to create wafters. The other rod was fished with my good old stiff hang rig made from Fox 20lb Illusion (again for the boom section), a very short Korda mouth trap section and a size 4 Krank Choddy hook. The hookbait was the same as I used last year, Mainline Milky Toffee pop up soaked in Tigernut Goo.

With all three rods out it was time to get started constructing my home for the night, as well as thinking about getting a bite to eat. I had just got the bivvy tension bars on and a couple of pegs in the ground when the middle rod was away. I was on it like a flash, as it was around 100 yards out and with a large reed bed to my left, half way between me and the fish, I had to try and steer the fish away from it.

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As I thought, the fish went straight for the reeds and did its best to bury itself in them. Giving no line and getting up on the bank behind me to get higher, I soon had the fish in front of me and ready for the net. On the scales this lovely common went 13lb, not the biggest by far but my first carp this year.

With the bait back out on the same spot and another kilogram of boilies scattered around the area, I still had yet to get the bivvy up and pegged down properly for what the weathermen were saying was going to be a cold one. I was on edge waiting for the next take, thinking the fish were stacked up in front of me fighting over my hookbait. But, like always, things never turn out quite how you imagine them to!

By 4pm my friend Jason Hodge had turned up to fish next to me in peg two and I hadn't had a single bleep from the Delkims since my first fish. I was starting to think that maybe the rigs were tangled or the fish had moved out into open water. After all, how many times do we get off to a flyer, only for it to go dead after?

Jason set up in his swim with two rods on a gravel patch about 25 yards out and his third rod right across in my water, as we agreed this was the best spot to get a bite from. He had decided to sleep in the back of his truck to save time in the morning - we both had work and the next day was all about getting up, packing down, and getting away. I repositioned my three rods with new bait just before dark; hopeful that fresh baits would draw the fish back into my swim and encourage them to feed. With the rods sorted it was time to think about food to keep us warm, as by the looks of the stars it appeared as if the weatherman’s promise of a cold night was going to come true.

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One phone call later and we were sat on the bank with a pair of large chicken kebabs and our bottle of red wine, watching Mark Pitcher participate in his Fox Challenges on YouTube. It’s at times like this, under the stars with a good friend, when I truly appreciate that fishing is about so much more that simply catching fish.

With us and the dogs fed and watered it was time for bed in anticipation of all the action through the night. We live in hope! The temperature dropped steadily throughout the night and I was glad I had my five season Advanta sleeping bag to keep me warm as the frost was forming on the bivvy next to Muskett, who was nice and snug with my coat laid over him in the corner.

At 3.30am the bobbing on the right hand rod started to rise to the top. I was out like a shot (unzip the bag, put the shoes on, unzip the door, turn the head torch on, trip over the dog) and striking into what felt like a good fish. Like the first one, it headed for the reeds to my left and, as before, I headed up behind the bivvy to higher ground to try and get the line and the fish up and away from the worse of them. After what seemed an age, the fish decided that the reeds were no longer the place to be and headed out to open water, which suited me just fine. Once the fish was in close the noise finally woke Jason up, who emerged from the back of this truck (complaining about how cold it was) to help me.

In the net was my first fish on the Advanta Bait. It was a leather carp and, with the dial going round to 30lb on the dot, I was one happy angler!

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We both agreed that it was far too cold to be out of the sleeping bag for long. So, with the fish safely in the Advanta Discovery Flotation Sling and attached to a bankstick, it was time to get back into the warmth of the bag and try and get some sleep. It only seemed like I had my head down for five minutes when, at 4.10am, Jason was in to a fish from the spot across the lake. After keeping the fish away from the reeds (and my lines) we landed the second fish of the night. Eager to get back to beds and warm up, we weighed the fish at 20lb 4oz and slipped her back into her watery home.

By first light the fog was so thick that you couldn't see more than 10ft out into the lake and everything was covered in frost. But seeing the flotation sling sitting in the water holding a big fish was a nice sight to start a working day! Before I had chance to get the fish out of the water, the bobbin on the right-hand rod was being pulled up to the top, striking the rod. It was apparent that it was already to late: the fish was in a snag and, after a couple of minutes of me thinking I was getting somewhere, the hook pulled and I was left with that feeling when one gets away. Always one to look to the positive, at least it was another take on the new Advanta bait. I packed that rod down, as I was going to start the job of packing away once the fish in the sling was photographed and put back anyway.

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With the two remaining rods still fishing it was time to get the leather carp out of its cold watery home and into the cradle. Unfortunately for me, it had now fully recovered and was eager to give me a hard time in front of the camera! It had Jason laughing so much that he was struggling to take a decent photo – especially since the fish was doing its best to beat me up in the process! With the photos taken and the fish back in the water I started drying myself off as I was soaked from my battle with the carp and getting cold. All of a sudden one of the two remaining rods was away. It was Advanta bait again which had been sitting out there all night.

On striking the rod I felt a weight on the end and then nothing. It was off!! Reeling the rig back in, I couldn’t see anything wrong with it: the hook was still sharp and it wasn't tangled. Like Jason said, ‘you can't win them all mate!’

With all the gear packed away in the car it was time to make my way home, and get ready for another busy day in the shop,  Four bites, two fish, and three of the four takes on the Advanta bait I decided it wasn’t a bad start to the new season.

Tight Lines,
Richard Howland

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