Tackle shop owner and Fox-sponsored angler Rob Shanks kicks off his first ‘Blog’ instalment with a look back over the recent winter period…
I start my new blog off the back of probably one of the least productive periods of angling I’ve known for a long time, and not just my own fishing! Being the owner of a tackle shop means I get to hear about lots of different venues and stories of woe from various anglers across different disciplines. The general consensus was of venues not producing or anglers struggling for bites with any regularity. Like the cold, dull, foggy weather that had ensconced Norfolk since late November, the fishing was unpredictable and inconsistent.
Above: Cold, dull and foggy...
Back in November I made the decision to switch venues after a particularly handsome mirror carp on my to-do list made an appearance to another angler and more by coincidence than planning I decided to have a little flirt with a small, low stock venue containing a particular difficult common. Knowing what I do now about how the winter was to pan out and only fishing short day sessions, it was probably carping fishing suicide and I’d have almost certainly fared better on a more prolifically stocked venue, but the seed was sewn so I promised myself to at least keep at it with some form of regularity until my new tickets started in April.
Above: My only reward for my efforts in November.
Around late November I was rewarded with a small common and I foolishly felt for a brief second that I was getting to grips with it but along came the ice, ice and more ice and the lake was pretty much frozen until mid-January putting all my hard graft out the window.
Above: Can't catch much when the lakes are like this!
Combined with the festive period and having a wife and young family my fishing time was put on the back burner until the end of Jan. My first trip back down coincided with some sharp, bitterly cold weather and delivered nothing of any note, the following week was interrupted by my wife treating me to a few days away for my birthday, which to be fair was just what the doctor ordered and it was the second week of Feb when it started to look like I could get into a routine with my fishing again.
The weather took a turn for better around this time and I managed a day session in some glorious sunshine, my god what a difference it made to feel some heat from the sun and the lake was clearly feeling it too. On recent trips the venue had looked lifeless but there were signs that things were waking up, a few pin prick bubbles here and there, probably bream, but it looked a lot more positive especially with the weather threatening to improve with consistently higher temperatures forecast for the weeks ahead.
The following week saw me head down to the Bridge Inn fishery in Norfolk, I’d arranged a long overdue social trip with my good friend and fishing buddy Chris, we’d planned to do the night with double figure temperatures forecast but both of us were suffering from the dreaded man-flu, Chris called off completely and I manged a day session in glorious spring like conditions, the sun was out, blue cloudless skies with temperatures reaching the mid-teens, I thoroughly enjoyed the weather but my application was completely lacking due to feeling like death warmed up. Simple tactic’s on the day consisted of Sticky Baits Signature pop-ups being deployed on my faithful multi rigs to the shallowest, sun bathed areas of the lake but the fish just weren’t playing ball so I packed up a dry net later that day.
Above: Confidence in a bait is essential at all times of year but never more so than in winter.
I’d expected a bite or two to be honest, in previous winters the water had been kind to me but on this occasion it wasn’t meant to be. I spread a few Manilla boilies and a good helping of Manilla crumb around some likely looking areas before I left knowing I’d almost certainly be dropping back there at some point over the coming weeks. The ‘Bog Common’ would have to wait, the need for a confidence boasting bend in the rod after a tough winter was burning away at me and so I returned the following week off the back of storm Doris – hoping that as well as claiming the roof off my shed she’d maybe also got some fish moving! The capture of the Parrot to Terry Hearn suggested that to be the case and if that wasn’t enough to inspire you to go out and have a go nothing ever will be.
Above: The perfect tool for applying boilie crumb onto the spots.
I returned to the Bridge Inn Fishery dropping straight back into the swim I’d vacated the previous, a couple of White Chocolate singles were deployed over the same shallow areas whilst I made myself a coffee to kick start the day. To my surprise the thrill of an RX woke me from my trance and I was almost in shock, 45 minutes into the trip and my bobbin was kissing the micron and I was into a lively fish doing its best to rid the hook in amongst the hidden subsurface pad roots. After a slight panic attack when the line pinged free and I thought I’d lost the fish, it was all plain sailing once in the edge and I quickly netted a mid-double common, my first, well-earned carp of 2017 and boy did I appreciate it.
Above: Finally my first carp of 2017!
I’d like to pretend it was the start of a stream of frenetic activity as I‘ve had multiple catches from the water in previous winters once they had woken up but it wasn’t and the rest of the day was spent revelling in glory. I dropped back in the following day for a few hours, not able to get back in the same area, deciding to take the mobile approach and fish a few different swims to try and track them down.
Above: Pre-baiting with Manilla boilie crumb ready for my next trip.
They had obviously moved the previous day once I disturbed them. I saw my first carp show around 2pm, quickly moved round the lake and got my rods on the money on good spots that had done me a lot of bites in the past but it was soon time to go home. The wife had bent my ear that morning, only agreeing on me fishing that day if I was home to participate in the annual pancake flipping ritual with the kids, so that was that for another week and my fishing throughout February. I baited the area with lashings of lovely Manilla boilie crumb and headed homeward bound for the who could eat the most competition that accompanies every Shrove Tuesday in my house – and I won!
Above: Can't beat Pancake Day!
Hopefully next month I will have a few more carp to share with you all…