Spring is upon us and the main topic amongst anglers at the moment seems to be plans for the year ahead, and a target in some form or another. Setting yourself a target can be great fun – it motivates you and gives you something to aim at throughout the whole year ahead. It can also be all consuming if you allow it, so try to keep a healthy balance. These days a lot of people would have you believe that size is everything, but that isn’t really something that I would advocate. It doesn’t always have to be a massive fish that spurs you on; after all, if the biggest fish in the lake is 20lb, it is still the biggest fish in the lake. There are also some stunning fish that are not particularly big, but would grace the pages of any photo album. It’s very much a personal thing, but you do have to try to keep your aims realistic and achievable.
So where do you start? Well believe it or not, as I have already stated, the most important part of a target is to make sure it is achievable. For example, if your target is to catch a 30lb Carp this year, make sure there is actually one, or preferably more than one, in the lake that you are fishing. It may sound obvious, but if there aren’t any there, you aren’t going to catch one! It also stands to reason that if you are fishing a lake with 100 Carp in, and only one is over 30lb, again it is going to be hard work. Do a bit of research, and try to find a lake with multiple 30’s as the more big ones that are present, the greater chance you have of bumping into one.
Many people chase myths and in the past I have fallen prey to the myth and invariably spent the entire year chasing a Carp of hippo-type dimensions that lives in a 60 acre pit, and had never even seen it! Nor did I see it, or anything that resembles it in all the time I spent there. These days, life is too short for me to be carrying out these sorts of campaigns and I like to ensure that whatever I am targeting actually exists before I allow it to be all consuming. Now is a very good time of year to go looking for these mythical beasts, having woken from a winter slumber they can often be spotted looking for food or bathing in the weak spring sun. Take a few days to explore the venue, and if you don’t find what you are looking for my advice would be to put it on the back burner until you do find some definitive proof. As I have already stated, life really is too short!
A large amount of anglers will be targeting known fish. There has never been such an abundance of big fish waters in the UK, nor so much information readily available. We have all flicked through the mags at some point or other and come across a carp that we would dearly love to catch, and these days it is relatively easy to find out where that carp lives, and also to gain access to it. If this is the route you chose to follow, there is still some ground work to do. It may well be that there are a number of big fish that share the water with your chosen target, in which case, do some homework. Try to discover which areas of the lake your target prefers, what baits it prefers, and also what time of year that previous captures have occurred. This will all help to narrow the chances of the fish of your dreams becoming a reality. For example if the fish prefers the shallow areas in spring, then that is where you need to be angling. If the last three captures of the beast have been on tiger nuts, then it obviously has a taste for them. It would be foolish not to use them. If it always gets caught in September, then maximise your time during this month, take holidays from work, and try to ensure you give yourself as good an opportunity as possible to catch the particular fish. Time spent at the lake is never wasted, so spend as much time on the banks as possible, even when you are not fishing. You may well be able to find a patrol route, or a tiny feeding area that your target favours. It all gives you the best possible chance of achieving what you set out to do.
Finally, if you do decide to set yourself a target, please try to enjoy it! I am fully aware that these things can be all consuming, but if you cease to be enjoying yourself then it really isn’t worth it. I have seen it on many a lake that I have fished in the past, and it can cost friendships and even relationships. I have witnessed people that are so obsessed with a particular fish that they will do literally anything to achieve the capture. It does nothing but make themselves miserable, and everyone else fishing the lake miserable. It really isn’t worth it, and this may come as a shock to some people, it’s only a fish!
Enjoy the journey, smell the coffee on the way, and remember effort will always equal reward.