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Summer Scratching - Michael Stewart

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Summer Scratching - Michael Stewart

It’s been a couple of months since I last reported in, so I thought I’d give you an update on how my fishing has been since my last post.

The back end of May and most of June turned out to be a poor month for me with a tench, a loss, and a 19lb 15oz mirror the week after my last blog. The following week the weather changed, with near minus temperatures on the Friday and Saturday night, and, although I did coax a take off the surface on Sunday which managed to cut me off in the weed, that was the start of a four week blank. I couldn’t buy a take!

I kept optimistic, though, as I knew things would change and my lean spell would soon come to an end. It did the following week with an 11pm take on the Friday. I had a feeling it would be a catfish and I wasn’t wrong. It took a bit of bullying but it was soon subdued, or so I thought until one last run saw the daft thing smashed head first into the board at the front of the swim. It actually knocked itself out! I unhooked it and when it regained its senses it swam off no worse for its attempt at being a battering ram! The following morning a 25lb 8oz mirror graced my net, followed by a repeat capture of a two tone linear which was around the 25lb mark on the Sunday morning.

The carp were not really on the feed, with bites coming to either the 12mm White Crave Pop-Up over some crumbed 10mm Crave Boilies, a little particle and pellet with plenty of extra attraction by adding Crave Liquid and Krill CSL to the mix (about 20 midi Spombs in total) or a 14mm Crave Dumbbell tipped with a 10mm White Source Barrel Pop-Up fished snowman style on a long braided blow back rig with just a PVA mesh bag containing half a dozen 14mm dumbells, a couple crumbed up, and a few Robin Red and Halibut Pellets in 8mm.

The next trip bizarrely produced the same catfish as the previous trip at the same time on the Friday night: same spot, same bait, and same rig! The Sunday morning produced a blank saving mirror of 21lb, from the same spot as the cat to the PVA bag presentation. The following weekend saw me end up in the same swim; it was giving me bites where other areas weren’t so it was daft not to get the rods out back in there. I had to wait until packing up time Sunday before another blank was saved with a 25lb 10oz angry male mirror who scrapped away in the lake like a brute before being a complete gent for the self takes.

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The carp were willing to feed but it seemed an area needed 24-36 hours after baiting before a bite was forthcoming. I’d also found a couple of previously productive spots were too dirty to fish with, baits, rigs, leaders, and even the leads were coming back with a foul stench to them.

Next session saw me last to arrive for the weekend and with limited swim choice I opted for the most water available at the far end of the lake. With only deep water after a couple of rod lengths out in front of 18-20ft I opted to fish all three rods close in with minimal bait. It was due to be the hottest weekend of the year so far and by 8am Saturday it was roasting. I’d not had a beep and at 10am switched all three rods over to 18ft zigs. After an hour or so I’d noticed a couple of anglers had left from the other end of the lake and with some shallower water available I was up for a move – even if it was 30 degrees! I had a bit of a lucky escape when reeling in the zigs ready for a move. Like a moron I was looking at the hookbait when the rig was closer in and completely forgot the lead was way above it, which smashed me right in the mouth. There were two saving graces: it was a small lead and my top lip took most of the impact so there were no teeth lost but I still had a fat lip and lots of blood!

I was ready for the move and halfway to the spot when I was informed that another angler had moved up there. It wasn’t a problem for me as where he’d moved out from had a banker shallow spot from the previous weeks session and I happily dropped in to the swim. The rods went to the same spots, two on the balanced dumbbell rig with small PVA mesh bags and one on the reliable short chod and 12mm White Crave Pop-Up combo. This received a dozen midi Spombs of the Crave 10mm/crumb/pellet/particle mix. By now I was roasting and the clear water in the margins was too inviting a cool off to ignore!

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The evening past with not a liner of a show and I retired for a fitful sleep in the muggy conditions. I awoke at first light to a set of rings over the chod spot. I put on my glasses and was greeted with a carp poking its head out a bit further off. I put the kettle on, had a brew and some breakfast, and started to pack the bulk of my kit away while it was relatively cool, all the while keeping one eye on the lake and seeing the odd carp roll in the area – surely it had to go soon! By half eight the temperature was rising and my confidence was dwindling, with just the rods on the alarms and the landing net left to pack away I thought I’d give it another hour or so before heading off. Right on cue the banker spot rod gave a few beeps on the receiver and the 20lb X-line whipped up though the water to the locked up clutch! I picked up the rod and walked backwards, coaxing the fish out from the island margin tree line I was fishing under, the steady pressure soon had it kiting out into open water and I adjusted the clutch a little. I could feel some weed on the line and this soon slid down right over the carp’s head. After a couple of slow runs it was ready for the net. A dark long mirror kissed the spreader block – Sunday 6-10am was definitely bite time! Although it was very long it lacked the bulk to be a very big fish, but at 32lb 12oz I wasn’t going to grumble. I sat down looking out at the lake while the Advanta Rehab Cradle and Recovery Sling dried out in the sun I glanced at my rods and there was a kingfisher perched on one of the tips. I couldn’t get to my camera without spooking it so I got a couple of shots with my phone.

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The following week there were a few members down but the swim was empty… if it ain’t broke, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that!

Nothing happened Friday night, as usual! If I’ve caught on a Friday I usually follow the capture up with two or three more fish but at present it’s taking a little while longer to create a chance. By 10am nothing had happened apart from another visit from the kingfisher, which I did manage to capture with the camera lens this time. I re-baited the island spot with another 20 Spombs of mix, got rigs and PVA bags ready to put out later and wound the rods in. It looked good for a chance from the surface and I stated to put a mix of 11mm Dynamite Expanders and dog biscuits coated in a mix of CSL Krill Liquid and Marine Halibut Attractant. I use a dedicated 12ft Greys surface rod. It’s got a soft tip with a nice through action coupled with a Daiwa SS2600 reel – an old reel now but the clutch is perfect for floater work. This is loaded with 10lb Drennan Supplex Mainline. Korda Interceptors are my choice of controller with a 10lb Drennan Double Strength Hooklink of around 4ft with a size eight ESP Big-T Hook whipped on with a short hair. I don’t put the line through the eye; rather I have it exiting the back of the whipping knot as it sits better on the surface film (a little trick shown to me by a good friend). I  baited four swims in a line as I now had most of the bank to myself, letting the floaters drift on the breeze and the oil in the liquids flatten off the ripple. There was thankfully a distinct lack of flying rats (gulls) with only the odd one nicking a bait (or 12). The swans and ducks were a different matter but there was, however, the odd carp slurping bait here and there between the birds in one particular swim.

It was now 2pm and I’d fluffed a couple of chances. Floater fishing is very frustrating at times but the rewards are there if you’re persistent or, in my case, downright stubborn! If I cast long the fish turned up close in and visa versa. I decided to feed a kilo or so of floater into the area and go and have a cup of tea! I returned about an hour later and put a few pouches out – the swans were soon on them but so were a couple of carp. I cast long to the right, mended the bow in the line, and let the controller float drift into the zone. There was a swan either side of a couple of feeding carp when one of the carp took the hookbait. I don’t know which moved more water, the hooked carp or the two startled swans! After a spirited fight with the fish going for the reeds either side of the swim, everything held firm and a very untypical light and scaly little mirror was in the net: a 21lb 7oz blank beater. I really messed up another chance an hour later and the carp did the offski!

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I put the three bottom rods out and had something to eat. Around 8pm fish were rolling over the banker spot but no take occurred and it was the same the following morning; fish rolling for an hour but no bite? I wound the banker rod in last a little despondently only to find that the hook bait was impaled on the hook! That was a lesson learnt: if you think you should have had a bite check the rig and recast! At least I hadn’t blanked.

Last weekend saw only one other angler present when I arrived, so without even looking I went off to the same swim again! It was the same routine as the previous weeks: rods out and baited, not a beep Friday night or Saturday morning and hardly a show to go on. I followed the same pattern as last week, topping up the banker spot and getting rigs and bags ready to go out later on, wound the rods in and went surface fishing. If last week was stubbornness then this week was sheer bloody mindedness! The breeze was a lot stronger and from the south-west rather than the north-west making the drift and bow in the line a real pain in the backside. The swans and ducks were ravenous and the carp finicky. By 3pm I’d fluffed one chance and was in need of a cool down but, before then, I fetched some more floaters from the car and baited the other end of the lake in the lee of the stiff breeze. I spent an hour watching for a surface slurper in the calm water but the carp just were not there.

It was staring to cool down but the breeze wasn’t so I put another kilo or so of floaters out to drift down and hopefully flatten the ripple off. Most were still being eaten by the bird life. I had something to eat myself and then at about 7pm the breeze eased a little. I put a few more pouches out and went to search for some surface feeders on the drift line. The next swim down from where I was based I found three fish that were, for the first time, actually ‘pac-manning’ down the floaters. After a couple of casts I just couldn’t get the angle of the drift I needed to be on so I introduced a another couple of pouches and was just about to cast when I noticed that dreaded little over hand knot in my hooklink, an inch from the hook. I bit it off and retied with a five turn grinner as the whipping knot I use had the hookbait firmly attached to the shank of the hook – that will do, I thought.

Another member had wandered down for a chat and a brew so I said I’d give it a couple more casts then get the kettle on. It was down to the last cast, I ‘pulted out the last of my floaters and whipped the controller out beyond them, slowly reeling it back into position I thought I saw the hooklink fold on the cast, which could mean I had a knot in it again, but I had no time to dwell on it as I finally connected with a fish after nine hours on and off and 8kg of bait! A very slow and unrushed fight ensued whilst trying not to think about that possible knot in the hooklink before I knew what was what it was in the net. Result! No matter how big it was or wasn’t, to be honest I hadn’t looked and thought it would be a mid double – it was a little bigger than that. Fish were still feeding out there but it would do for me – a 27lb 1oz mirror was photographed and returned none the worse for its capture. I got the three bottom rods out with no fuss and put the kettle on for a celebratory brew!

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Around 9pm a savage liner had my attention on the banker rod. With last week’s rig issue in my mind I clipped the rod up checked the rig, which was fine, and recast it back to its spot, first time too, I might add!

The night passed all too quietly as did dawn, not a show seen. The next morning called for brew, breakfast, and a slow pack down. Around 9am I was reaching to pack down one of the landing nets when the banker rod locked up solid. I walked backwards with the rod but could feel the line going through a lot of weed that must have lifted up off the bottom during the weekend. Applying steady pressure I could still feel the fish on when the line came free and I was in direct contact with the carp who was very, very unhappy and very powerful – from open water to 40yards down the left margin in five seconds! I got the rod down low and didn’t give in to letting any line off, managing to turn the carp back towards me. I was slowly gaining line over the next ten minutes with the ping off the line from over hanging branches being felt all the way. The carp was now in front of me boiling away so I eased the clutch off and let the rod do the work. It really was not a happy bunny! Another ten minutes had passed when it picked up the line on the left hand rod. I knelt down and opened the bail arm so it wouldn’t impede me too much. Just then the fish surfaced and surrendered and I lead it straight into the net. It was another dark fish that looked to be 30lb. I let it rest in the net while I sorted out the mat. The scales read 33lb 2oz and the photos were done – every time I slid my hands under it to lift the fish off the mat it tensed up like it was made of steel, fins all out stiffly! No wonder it fought so hard, it was solid – wiry muscle, no fat, and all tail and pecs!

With everything dried off I finished packing away and headed for home a happy angler.

Until next time be lucky (or stubborn!) like me.

Michael Stewart

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