This month I’d like to talk about the last eighteen months that led to my recent big catch. It certainly hasn’t been easy… following a struggle and a wash out, yes that’s right you read it right; it was a long hard road. It looks easy when you see the picture of me holding that fish but I have struggled big time with my fishing over the past eighteen months – my Mrs calls it “Fisherman’s block!” Frustration, self doubt and the pressure of being the Greys and Chub Carp Academy Manager have all added to my internal struggle to catch this magnificent fish and here’s how it came about…
Over the last eighteen months it has been frustrating that I haven’t been catching the big fish. I think that it’s swings and roundabouts for all of us and many of you will be able to associate this with your own fishing. Eighteen months ago I joined a new syndicate with several large Carp in it and I was mad keen to get started and get catching. You think that you will do things differently from the other lads and it won’t be too hard to catch. Well I think that was the start of the dry patch for me when it all started going wrong. I was keen alright and going to the venue regularly but could I catch, not a sniff, it’s then that you become your own worst enemy.
Tackle, rigs and bait are all scrutinised and changed, but why? I have used all of these on other waters with no problems and caught plenty so what’s changed? Sometimes I’m sure it’s partly luck but when it’s gone, it’s gone and you start to beat yourself up over it. Being sponsored is a tough challenge in itself, try catching big fish constantly, knowing you need to keep the flow of pictures coming. So the new water was a non starter, what do I do now?
Last November I was lucky enough to secure a place at the world renowned Rainbow Lake in France. Having fished there before, albeit in the winter I know that it’s no pushover and what makes it worse is a misconception that it’s Rainbow and you only have to cast out and reel in a wacker. If it really was that easy we would all get bored and fish elsewhere and there would not be such a long waiting list to get a swim. The truth is that people just don’t get to see the weeks of struggling, blanking and that’s across the board from Rainbow virgins to accomplished well known anglers. I have been to Rainbow and either blanked or just had one fish in a week. That can be soul destroying, especially when you’ve driven for ten hours to get there and taken a week off work. The fact is that we all know what is in there which is what keeps drawing us back time and time again.
Back to the trip and guess what; surprise, surprise our swim starts off slow, only a handful of fish to our names. I then catch a lovely 63lb mirror – was my luck starting to change? I was really pleased with this fish as I had only managed to catch fish into the mid fifties in the last eight trips which I think is testament to how difficult it can be. That was it for that trip, onto the next trip in March of this year and back to Rainbow full of hope. Surely after that fish I’m back in. In short I fell flat on my face. I was fishing known spots but nothing, not a bite in two weeks. This was now screwing with my head as just to prove how bad it was there was one major hotspot in the swim that me and my mate decided to share. That’s not fishing I know but it was such a banker spot and it was the only fair way to do it, so we took turns to fish from it. First turn my mate caught a forty, then I caught a twenty, he’d have a fifty, I’d have a grassy and so on, then the action dried up.
Back home at the syndicate I was catching the odd fish but the big boys were evading me. In June I went on a trip to Soussaie which had in it a rather large common to get my hopes going, hope was all that it turned out to be. Camping again while I watched everyone around me catch and I blanked. Surely this can’t keep going on I have responsibilities, lady luck has really left me! Back to the syndicate and the wheels on the van keep on turning but that’s about all that is. The odd fish comes out and the lads at the syndicate are really getting stuck into the mickey taking now. I sound like its all doom and gloom and I’m having a good old rant but this is really the way that things have panned out for me.
Now I come to the trip that this is all leading up to, off I go, van loaded and another two weeks on the bank. We arrive and we were last out of the draw, here we go. First night in we only put a couple of rods out as we have got two weeks and we are knackered from the trip down. Come the next morning we both have a fish each, that’s a nice start. All rods are out now and my hopes are running high and there are definitely fish in the swim, they were showing quite a lot. Bait-wise, for the trip we had decided to use a bit of a mix up to keep the fish guessing, what you need to remember is that these fish are pressured 7 days a week 52 weeks a year.
We started with some pigeon conditioner as lots of this gets put in and the fish are used to feeding over it. Next we mixed in some hemp seed, a few maples, some grains of maize which is used just for visual (not too many though) a few tiger nuts, brazils and almonds. What we were trying to do was give the fish bait that they recognised as food. This mix contains different shapes and sizes which conceals the hook bait making it harder for the fish to identify. I also used a few pellets in the mix, when a fish is feeding on the spot a visual flat spot appears on the surface giving you an idea what is happening below the surface. To the mix we then added some boilles of different sizes from Rollin Baits (Inception) including barrels just to keep them guessing. The rods that I was using were the rods that I use in England (Greys Torsion) as I felt that I didn’t need to change them as they have plenty of power. The rods need to be powerful as sometimes you have to physically walk them away from the snags when you are playing a fish. The snags are sometimes know as ‘Woodwork’ at rainbow. I had also spooled up with 40lb powerpro braid as nylon is a definite no no as this stretches too much and the fish could end up in the woodwork before you even get to your rod. At the business end I use a 45lb nylon leader because it is more abrasion resistant. If you were to use a braided leader and hook a fish and it ran into an unseen snag the braided leader tends to cut into the old wood and becomes stuck fast resulting in a lost fish.
I then attach a ACE 45lb camo core leadcore leader, lead clip, 10 ounce lead, 45lb quicksilver hooklink and size 4 Drenan super strong hook. The reason for such strong tackle is the severity of what’s under the water. You just cannot let the fish get their heads turned towards the woodwork. They will even pull you down the bank given half the chance!
Why does the time never go so fast when you are at work? Before we knew it the first week was nearly over and for a change I was on the fish catching steadily. The nice thing was that I was getting action from all four of my rods in four different areas.
Just before first light on the Saturday morning the alarm sounded, a couple of bleeps got me out of the cot once again. The thing when fishing locked up and not letting the fish take any line is that you only get a single bleep or two which is why alarms that have vibration sensitivity are needed. The only thing that moves is the rod tip pulling over a little. Anyway back to the take, I was in the boat and chasing after the fish. The fight wasn’t anything spectacular, just a heavy plodding which normally means that a better fish is on the end of the line. Five minutes later and her head popped up. I thought she didn’t look too bad and back under the water she went again, I still had no idea how big this fish was going to be. Another minute and up she popped, normal routine head to the spreader block and then lift. LOL! The tail was still hanging out. Down she goes again this time into the bottom of the net. Back to the bank and I passed the net to my mate to hold onto while I secured the boat. When dealing with large fish it is essential not to lift them out in the landing net. This is because the lifting and folding of the net can cause damage to the fish. The best way to lift the fish out is to use the Chub Eazi-Flow Floatation Weigh Sling and slide it under the fish in the water engulfing the fish in the net. Two people can lift the fish out in a comfortable and safe position. We then place the fish on the mat and it feels like we have bought half the lake with us due to the weight. Opening up the sling and net and seeing all of the scales is something I will never forget. That’s massive! Up and onto the scales, I was told not to look by my mate Mav. The hand lands on my shoulder, oh my god – you have got an 80!
83lb 4oz was settled on and the fish was returned to the retaining sling to rest a while .We were like two little girls sitting on chairs giggling for the next few minutes while reality set in.
With a few lads around to help with the photos and video footage it was time to release this magnificent fish back to the lake to fight another day and make someone else’s dream come true. None the worse for her capture and of course there are other fish that are bigger than her also waiting to be caught. The rest of the trip turned in a blur, congratulations were flowing in as the news spread and still are to this day. Isn’t it good to catch the fish of your dreams and be appreciated by so many others as I would feel the same to any other angler who caught the fish of their dreams too.
You never stop learning new things about your fishing and about yourself, it’s about keeping plugging away, always ready to try new techniques that may or may not work. It’s about having those ups and downs and self belief (that can sometimes escape you) that then reaps the reward that you so desperately desire. Where to go now, that is my next chapter in my journey, a 90lb, another venue to try, different bait and techniques, the possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to get out on the bank and start trying.