I write quite a bit about the importance of watercraft and how you should never stop looking for opportunities that could result in putting a few fish on the bank. Obviously, I know it’s sometimes easier said than done, and at this time of year when the conditions are pretty grim, it’s often the case that no matter how hard you look, there’s nothing doing. However, no matter how bad the conditions, I just keep on keeping on – you never know when you are going to get the break and it’s sods law that the one time you decide you can’t be bothered is the one time you’d have seen the clue that leads you to the fish.
A good example of this was a day session I fished on Wednesday with a friend. It was the first time we’d had the chance to fish together in ages and, with both of us involved with lots of interesting bits and pieces at the moment, it gave a good chance to catch up. However, I think we both had very different ideas on how the day was going to pan out…
My friend, by his own admission, has always been a bit of a lazy angler. He’ll set a trap and wait for the fish to come to Mohammad, if you know what I mean, whereas I’m the total opposite; up and after them given any opportunity. Once at the water, we picked an area that had potential and each set up rods and shared my shelter between the two sets – which was needed – the temperature was hovering just above zero and there was a hacking Easterly blowing in at about 16mph. The water sits very high up with very little cover, so it comes fast, keen and biting! The wind chill put the real-feel at about minus eleven degrees!
Once the rods were out, we got the shelter up, got the kettle on and got ourselves warm. We started to chat and catch up, and yet all the time from the minute we sat down, I was scanning the water and checking my watch. By comparison, now that my friend had got his rods out, got a brew on and got settled, it was as if he’d kind of switched off, as if the hard work had now been done. Granted, the conditions were pretty miserable and you would not want to be out of the shelter for the fun of it, but for me, once the rods out is when the hard work begins – you are never ‘done’ when it comes to watercraft. If you switch off just for a moment, there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the opportunity when it comes knocking!
As such, even though we’re deep in conversation catching up, my eyes are rarely of the water, and as soon as my rods have been in half an hour I announce I’m off to check my spots. Five or ten minutes later and I’m back. All quiet and nothing doing – though I half thought I saw a fish moving out of the margin into open water. Therefore, I made a mental note to half the time before I go to check again. More chatting and, as soon as another fifteen minutes have passed, I’m up and away again. This time I spend more time looking at the spot where I thought I spotted the fish but nothing doing, so I’m back into the shelter. Two reccies in and my friend has not even looked up – never mind got off his chair!
On my next check, my rods have now been in an hour. I have one up the right margin and two in open water. All had gone out with very light bait, as I felt it could well be the case that I’d be moving them should I spot anything. All of my friends rods had gone out with quite a bit of bait – leading me to think they could well be staying put for the duration! On this check, as I’m coming back to the shelter, I spot two shadows, stationary, no more than a foot off the end of my left hand rod, tucked right into the margin. The only problem was that the bait attached to this rod was out in open water! The fish, a mirror and a common, slowly moved off down the margin but stayed very close in, hugging the bank. Had I stayed tucked up I the shelter, there’s no way I would have seen these fish. Now that I’ve had a spot I’m back up and out in five minutes to have another look. This time I spot two more fish up to my right tucked into the margin. On my next check, I spot more fish up the margin, and on the following check I spot the same common, very close to where I first spotted it, right in the edge.
I feel like I’m on the fish now, but my rods aren’t, so I’m already formulating a change of plan in my head. All the signs are that the fish are in the margins, and if I want one I need to make it happen. Now I just need to think about the best place to put the bait. I’m into the shelter to tie two maggot PVA mesh stockings. I’m chatting to my mate, but all the time I’m thinking about my options; whether to leave one rod in open water or to move them all under my feet - as soon as the bags are tied it’s once more unto the breach to try and narrow the best place to drop the rigs.
This time I’m spotting fish all the way up the margin and as I come back down, the nice common is back on the very same spot where I first saw it – location sorted.
I carefully bring in my left hand rod but having seen just how close in the common was (about a foot from the bank in a foot of water) I decide against the mesh stocking. Instead I lower the maggot rig on its own in order that I can get it to sit exactly how I want it. Shortly afterwards, the imitation hookbait is popped up with six little white maggots wriggling away on top, placed just to the side of a couple of stones – perfect. I then trickle just half a handful of maggots around the hookbait.
With the spot so close in, I had to move my bank sticks back from the water’s edge and readjust everything to get sorted but it was all part of making the effort; fish had been spotted, an opportunity had presented itself, and I was going to do whatever it took to try and make the most of it. Once I’d moved my other open water rod into the margin, and recast my right hand margin rod, I was finally able to get back into the relative warmth of the shelter for another brew. It had just gone midday and we’d been fishing for about two hours.
Less than ten minutes later and the hand placed maggot rod is away – and it’s immediately apparent the common I’d kept spotting is now on firmly stuck on the end! Minutes later, it’s on the bank and I’m one happy chappy. Fishing in the harshest of February conditions and I’ve banked a pristine winter fish a foot from the edge!
The commotion of banking that one put paid to the margin spot, so that was it, I was away. Despite the conditions I rigged up my float rod and went of stalking up in trees where the fish now seemed to be showing. Unfortunately, the terrain was a bit tricky which prevented me from getting the bait just where I wanted it – but, nonetheless, I had two or three very close encounters over the next few hours before we packed up. I went home blast frozen, but very happy!
My friend? Well, he stayed put in the shelter all day without so much as a bleep. His baits only went out once, and he probably only ventured out of the shelter four or five times from start to finish. The results? I’d say they speak for themselves - I guess the upshot is that nobody else can make it happen for you, you’ve just got to get on with it and make things happen for yourself!