Carp catching machine, Kev Grout, returns for the 4th instalment of his website blog...
As I tend to do a large amount of my fishing during the summer months, I had a great deal of time planned on the bank for July, during which time I was to spend a week at Linear fisheries in Oxford, and numerous nights at my syndicate water, West Stow.
Without a doubt Linear Fisheries is my favourite place to go carp fishing in the UK. I think it’s the mixture of action-packed fishing and stunning large carp that really attracts me to Linear. I have had some of my best ever fishing sessions at the fishery, which include fantastic memories of catching numerous carp over 35lb, and competing successfully in over 8 national semi-final or final events.
It’s a place that I always aim to visit at least once a year, and with my BCAC semi-final being held on B1 in late July, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a few days tackling my favourite of the Linear waters, the legendary St Johns, prior to the match. Fishing at a place like St. Johns can be quite stressful with regards to getting in a good position near some feeding fish as the lake is generally very busy, so the arrival at Linear is always quite interesting to say the least. Gladly I have learnt to expect this and with a good idea of where I was likely to find some fish, I just had to hope there were some viable swims available. To my absolute surprise peg 1 and 2 on the road bank were free and after seeing a dozen fish show after only standing in the swims for 10 minutes my decision was quickly made. Buzzing like a kid on Christmas morning, I quickly ran back to the van, gathered the required tackle and bait, and got on my way to the chosen swim. Although a week session at Linear was in Natalie’s words ‘a bit over the top’ she did decide to join me for the first night of my session to try and snare one of St Johns residents. So wasting no time we quickly set up our tackle and got the rods positioned for the first bite.
Tackling St. Johns is always a bit tricky. To say the fish are ‘moody’ at times is an understatement. Having said that there is a very large stock of carp in the lake so I knew that if we could work out what food the fish are willing to except, then we could be on for some instant action. So with this in mind we decided to try an array of different tactics and then switch the rods accordingly. Active fishing is definitely key on waters like St. Johns, where the slightest tweaks to a tactic or rig can make all the difference. So we positioned two zigs at different depths, 1ft and 3ft below the surface, and two bottom bait rods (one on a solid PVA bag and one single hookbait wafter presented on a Fluorocarbon D rig). We also used different coloured hookbaits, which included black, white, and red foam plus white Milky Malt and yellow P.B. DNA Bait Wafters. By initially starting with such an array of different tactics we were sure to maximum our chances of an early bite. By this point the wind had reduced slightly and we could see that the bay our swims commanded was black with carp, which made us extremely excited to say the least. Before long Natalie’s left hand rod screamed off and she was into our first fish of the session.
After a rather nerve racking battle where the fish seemed completely determined to swim through every weed bed in the swim, Natalie landed this stunning 19lb St. Johns common, not only Natalie’s first carp from St. Johns, but also her new zig rig P.B., and it only took her 30 minutes to catch it. A massive result I am sure you will all agree, top angling as always Natalie! Knowing that she managed to catch that common on a zig 1ft below the surface I quickly repositioned my rods with the same rig and sure enough the rods came alive. In that afternoons fishing we had 12 fish to 26lb 10oz, with the majority coming on the zigs. Its situations like this that reminds me how important it is to be flexible and adaptable with the angling techniques I use, tailoring my approach to each angling scenario I face. If we had just approached the start of the session with bottom bait tactics, we may not have caught half the fish we did. After that hectic start to my week at Linear, the next three days fishing were most definitely at a more relaxing pace, however, I did still manage 18 fish in total over the 4 day period, predominately on the zigs, but also a few on my ever reliable Fluorocarbon D rig. Unfortunately I did not manage to catch any of the big residents this time, but I could not be disappointed with the number of fish I caught.
BCAC Semi Final
So after packing up from St .Johns it was onto B1 for the BCAC semi-final, which with prefect weather conditions, was looking likely to be another busy weekend. Although I did not feel the need to practice on B1 for the match as myself and Luke know the lake very well, I did sneak two hours fishing in on B1 and manged to catch a 23lb stunner.Although this capture just seemed like a nice coincidence at the time, it actually turned out to be quite significant to the result of the match, as I will explain later. I always find competing in the BCAC and tournaments alike very exciting, but to make things even better this year we have the company of Lee Morris who intended to film and photograph us throughout the match, with the aim of capturing some of the intense competitive action. One of the things I am really passionate about is increasing awareness of our sport, so I could not be happier to take up this valuable promotional opportunity; however, I must admit it did increase the pressure of what was already going to be a very tense competition.
As always we had to endure the dreaded draw, but after coming 3rd from last out of the bag, we were relatively happy with our choice of swim. The good thing about B1 is the fairness of the pegging. There are a huge number of carp in B1 and I am a strong believer that if you fish the lake right, you will get a chance to catch some fish during a 48 hour period. Soon enough we were set up in our swim for the weekend and ready to go. Like I’ve mentioned previously preparation is so important when competing in high profile tournaments like the BCAC, so we were kitted out and fully prepped well before we arrived at Linear for the match. So with regards to tactics, normally all matches are won on B1 using zigs whilst spodding sloppy ground bait over the rigs. If you speak to any of the top match anglers they will tell you that zigs are the way forward on B1. I’m even aware of top anglers who simply will not place a rig on the lakebed in B1 because they see it as a complete waste of time. However, as we all know the carp write the rules, and on this occasion they certainly mixed things up a little.
Referring back to my capture on B1 the previous day, I actually managed to catch that fish off the bottom using a P.B. wafter presented on a Fluorocarbon D rig. Although at the time I did not want to read into this too much as I was sure about using zigs, it did stick in my mind as I also knew an unusually large number of fish had been caught the previous week, also on rigs presented on the bottom. So the start of the match came and we positioned four zigs at around 90 yards and started to spod sloppy groundbait over the top, like planned. Although Luke managed a quick bite on a zig, after an hour or so it just didn’t feel right, and strangely by this point we had a huge number of fish showing very close in. Being able to make quick decisions in matches can result in valuable captures, and again this comes down to being adaptable and prepared to change tactics. After 10 more minutes of no action we decided to move two rods onto the showing fish close in. As we did not want to scare the fish where they felt vulnerable, we opted to try two bottom bait rigs fished with very little bait around them. So we positioned one solid bag and one Fluorocarbon D Rig on the active fish, and instantly started receiving liners. Standing by the rods watching the fish feeling slightly confused, I could not have been more surprised when my close in rod rattled off and I was into the first fish of the match. As Luke retained the captured fish, I quickly repositioned the rod and within minutes I was away again. What a result, at the time it felt like I had caught two bonus fish as a result of our quick thinking, now it was game on.
After the two quick captures the swim went a little quiet and after only two more fish on the zig rigs by sunrise, we knew by the morning that we had to try a different approach. Although zigs are normally deadly on B1 you do have to bait up very accurately to ensure bait is constantly falling through the water, around your hookbaits. So considering there was a strong southerly wind blowing straight into our faces, we had at this point only been fishing around 90 yards out to improve our accuracy. However, we were very aware that the fish in B1 tend to shoal up in the middle of the lake, away from the angling pressure. During the early hours of the morning we started to see an increasing number of fish showing in the middle of the lake around 110 to 130 yards from our peg. By 11am enough was enough and we decided to position all four rods very tightly together on one spot at around 110 yards out. By doing this we could work together, baiting up over a slightly larger area, which was just big enough for all four rods. Spodding constantly is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times, so consistently spodding over one rod at 110 yards in 30mph winds is just not realistic, but by having 4 rods in as tight area as possible we increased the chances of bait being present round the rigs at all times. This was doubly improved when we both spodded to the spot at the same time, reducing the amount of time between each spod baiting the spot. Based on the recent activity fishing on the lakebed, we also decided to position the two bottom bait rigs that we used previously, on the outside rods whilst fishing two zigs on the inside rods. Due to the strong wind and the depth of the water, we also decided to spod a heavier mix of groundbait, pellets and corn to ensure the bait was falling around our rigs. Sure enough our decisions to change tactics paid off and our rods suddenly came alive. At this point we were comfortably in 3rd position on around 150lb and looking good for the remainder of the match.
Sticking with our new approach we kept the action coming consistently for the duration of the match. Although I must say it was extremely hard work fishing at that range, in the conditions we faced, especially during the early hours of Sunday morning after very little sleep for two nights. I actually managed to fall asleep with a rig in my hand at 3am Sunday morning, and got rudely awoken by Luke telling me to ‘man up’ and get on with it. All factors considered the last 16 hours of the match could not have gone better where we caught over 400lb in weight and safely secured our position in the BCAC final at Wraysbury in September. Although the match was quite tough at times I was completely chuffed with the result, not only because Lee managed to catch some brilliant footage of the crazy match action, but also because this will be our third BCAC final in a row, an achievement in its own right, let alone the thought of having another chance of winning the British Championships at such a legendary venue.West Stow
Besides my hectic but very enjoyable weeks fishing at Linear, I also managed another four nights on my syndicate lake were I captured another three fish to 22lb 10oz. So in reflection another productive month for me, but I must admit I am starting to wonder if I am going to catch any large fish this year. By this time last year I had captured 5 x 30lb + fish to 38lb and one 40lb 15oz mirror. I haven’t had a single 30+ this year, however, I keep telling myself I am saving it for the BCAC final, and my last few months on West Stow for this year, but I will keep you posted on that.