Norfolk-based tackle shop owner and Fox-sponsored angler, Rob Shanks, touches base with the 4th instalment of his Web Blog series for foxint.com
It’s been a long while since I had a chance to put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard should I say) in regards to my fishing. When asked to do this blog on a regular basis I knew it was going to be a tough ask, but the brief did include warts and all, so I’m not going to lie, it’s been one of the toughest and most frustrating periods of angling I’ve experienced for a few years, and even though I’ve been concentrating my efforts on a water with a social media ban, I have very little to write home about in relation to my fishing throughout the later part of May and June, I did have a bit of a result in May but since then, being entirely truthful I haven’t had my mind on the job at hand and when fishing for these old, hard to catch carp, every 1 percent makes a difference. The inevitable happened back in May as the temperatures soared into the 30’s and the carp decided to spawn and with that came a few weeks of very little activity.
Just as things looked like they would pick up, disaster struck and I managed to write my long loved Van off. I’d had the poor old girl for 9 years and I was devastated, all the towing’s and froing with various insurance companies and garages etc ensued for the next few weeks along with the dreaded task of trying to find another vehicle, by the time I got back on the road I’d lost the best part of three weeks, along with pretty much all my enthusiasm for fishing and money. Within the blink of an eye we were quickly starring the later part of June in the face. I managed a few trips but I was not on the ball at all, completely out of touch. At this point in time my wife got offered a good job and we made the decision that she would go back to work full time. It was a hammer blow to the fishing time but obviously my family always take priority and all the adjustments with changes of routines, school run’s, learning to cook and working hours finally settled down and by the middle of July it was starting to feel like life was finding a balance and some time was negotiated with her in doors to give me a chance to get out fishing again on a weekly basis. Just the small job of my sister’s wedding to get out the way first and just maybe I could get back on track. I know this has very little to do with fishing but for me my angling has to be part of a balanced happy life and for all those around me and although it can feel very frustrating at times, if it isn’t settled I just don’t apply myself to my angling in the way it deserves and requires to be successful. Ultimately I take my fishing seriously but it’s still only a hobby, not the be all and end all. I’ve never been one to sit it out on the bank for three or four nights a week. I don’t enjoy it, I get my kicks out of trying to achieve good results on limited time.
It was toward the end of this period that I decided that a spot of floater fishing would be the ideal way to get the old juices flowing and maybe give me a chance to put a few fish on the bank, build some lost confidence and start to re-align my thoughts and light the fire again. So I am just going to write about a few things I noticed over a few sessions in regards to the tackle, baits, sets up and methods I like to use.
For the last few years I’ve been using a slightly different way of attaching my hookbait to the hook with great success. I’ve been using the Edges Zig and Floater hooks in size 10, a lot of people look at the hook and can’t believe I use a hook that size, but they do everything I need them to do. Firstly they are super sharp which is so important when surface fishing in converting takes into hooked fish, they are unbelievably strong for their size but remaining inconspicuous enough to not be seen and strong enough to land hard fighting fish. I’ve been fishing the Bridge Inn Day Ticket in Lenwade, Norfolk and it’s full of pads and snags and I’ve had no problem bullying the fish out of difficult situations. Coupled with the super thin (0.26mm) and strong Edges Zig and Floater Hooklink in 12lb, I’ve never had to doubt the set up. I start off mounting my hookbait not as most would but by trapping a small rig swivel on an Edges Hair Widget on the back of the hook. This gives me a few advantages, it allows me to mask the hook under the bait against the silhouette of the sky, it also adds a degree of 360 degree movement to the hookbait which allows the hook, hooklink and bait to all sit perfectly aligned and straight as possible.My float of choice is always the Edges Bolt Bubbles in Medium or Large, I do use the X-Large versions when needing more range, because filled with water they will easily cast 80-90 yards but it’s very rare I need to surface fish at those sort of distances. I have always loved bubble style floats, my whole carp fishing life started as a young boy fishing the local Reepham Fishery in such a way. As a teenager I spent a whole summer with my cousin Chris going surface fishing every day. We’d get dropped off in the morning by one of our moaning fathers with all the tackle required for a day, armed with a French stick, a pocket full of dog mixers and enough food and drink to survive until tea time when we would get collected. I love how simple they are to use and the fact you can just add water or take it out to effect the weight for casting or if you want to create a bolt effect, they allow so much fine tuning to be done with ease during your session with no need to keep re-rigging. I always start off with a 6 foot hooklink but rather than go longer if I’m finding bites hard to come by, or the fish are really shy, I actually shorten them down and add weight to the Bolt bubble, hoping they hook themselves against the weight of the float. I never worry about the float spooking them, I’m not convinced they are that worried about them, how many times have we all had a carp frustrating try and take the float while ignoring the hookbait? Bait wise I always use CC Moore’s 6mm and 11mm floating trout pellets and recently I’ve been giving them a good coating of CC Moore Hot Chorizo liquid Extract. I give them a light drizzle a few days before I go and leave them to take it in and dry off for a few days. I certainly feel we make a lot of effort adding extra attraction to our boilies, stick mixes etc but very few make the same effort with their surface baits and getting them into a feeding frenzy on the top and competing is the key to getting bites. Feeding wise it depends on the range and scenario I’m fishing, if I’m fishing in a quiet corner I’ll go in very softly, using the catapult to feed little and often, maybe half a dozen pellets at a time, I love using the wind to drift baits into fish as opposed to feeding straight at them if possible. In complete contrast a lot of my recent feeding when floater fishing is with the use of an impact spod, particularly on the Bridge, the fish spend a lot of time under the central pads, 40 to 50 yards out, away from catapult range, but by being subtle and casting down wind of the fish, I’ve been feeding very heavily with the impact spod. It’s surprising how many pellets you can go through using this method, the carp absolutely hoover them up and can become very easy to catch when you can get big groups of carp competing. I always look to get the carp feeding or “Pac Maning” as I like to call it before I even cast the rig into the feeding pack. I either overcast it if possible and slowly draw into the group or again use the wind or flow to drift the hookbait into position. If you watch carefully there always seems to be one spot in the swim where they seem most comfortable to take the surface baits so I aim to drift the bait over that area and more often than not you can predict the bite coming.I hope there’s a few tips there to hopefully inspire a few of you to have a go on the surface rather than sit behind motionless buzzers while the summer weather is still with us. It can be extremely frustrating but when you get it right there is no method as fun as catching them off the surface, the adrenaline pumping through your veins as you watch a big old carp approaching the hookbait is hard to rival. I’ve had a couple of good trips just having fun catching doubles and it’s certainly got the juices flowing again. With my favourite time of the year on the horizon and the enthusiasm back, I’m hoping for a more productive period of angling ahead, but that’s the joys of fishing, you have to take the rough with smooth.