Keeping the fish coming at Seven Oaks with Giles Cochrane

Friday 19th April

Friday couldn’t come fast enough for me this week. I had asked Giles Cochrane, one of top match anglers in Wales, if he could do an article. Not only did he agree, but he also offered to meet me on the bank and show me how he does things. So myself, Gary and my uncle John made our way to a lovely water Seven Oaks fishery run by June and Terry Rosier.

On arrival, we were told that the far bank had been put aside for us to use, to allow for photo’s and the like. I thanked June for her kind offer, but said there was no need, as we wanted it to be as natural as possible, and as it turned out Giles wanted to fish the opposite bank so he had the wind in his favour. We said our hello’s and Giles set of to get himself ready. An hour later, I grabbed the cameras and made my way over to Giles.

On the morning, the weather conditions and atmospheric pressure were quite favourable to putting together a decent weight of carp. However, the high barometric pressure (1050) which had arrived on Wednesday, had not given the carp sufficient time to acclimatise to the change, causing their feeding to be sporadic. The wind direction was a major consideration, as it was Easterly and cold. The clarity of the water suggested that the fish had not been feeding well, as it is seldom that clear. This factor was possibly attributable to the varied and unsettled pressure over the past few days.

The wind was severe at times, blowing into the right side of the lake, which meant that the opposite side represented the best position for fish to be feeding. The wind direction actually changed mid morning and blew directly down the middle of the pond so it made little difference at times.

Initially I set up the waggler with the view to catch towards the middle of the lake where the fish often position themselves when the water temperature drops, but after about 30 minutes it was evident that the fish were not responding to my feeding pattern. This consists of feeding caster at regular intervals to create competition in the swim. The rationale behind this approach is that when bait hits the bottom, very often it becomes redundant. Fish regularly stop to feed when bait falls in front of them. The philosophy is, then, that the more often the bait descends through the water, the more chance there is of stopping fish that swim by. Competition is created by the sheer numbers of fish that can turn up with this approach. Very often, the larger species such as carp, bream and chub have to feed very shallow to compete with the smaller samples. The method involves feeding with a catapult at regular intervals but it is better to fed around three or even six casters, every few seconds. As difficult as this sounds, it is the most effective way of getting fish feeding near the surface where they can be caught with relative ease.

Giles feeds constantly 3-6 casters every few seconds, it wore me out just watching him, but this is the key to keeping the fish coming.-Gray

The set up for the waggler involves 0.14 diameter mainline (3lb Maxima) tied to a 0.13 hook length of around eighteen inches using the loop-to-loop method of attachment. The knot used for the loop is a ‘figure of eight knot’ which prevents the line cutting through itself and to that is tied a size 18 Drennan Specimen Barbless. At Seven Oaks it is necessary to start off by fishing around 3.5 feet deep with a view to fishing shallower as the day progresses. The reason for this is that when there are a lot of carp in the peg you need to avoid foul hooking fish at all costs. This is done by fishing twelve inches deep and regulating the feeding pattern to dictate at what depth the carp will be. This approach is better than fishing ‘on the drop’ as some anglers advocate. With a little effort, feeding can be perfected which is the most important aspect of carp fishing.

On the day, this approach failed to produce any significant results, so another approach was tried which meant fishing around 11 metres on the pole to find a shelf that the fish feed near.

The problem with Seven Oaks is the depth, and in places, it can reach ten feet which is unproductive for carp. The species will feed at that depth but ideally you need to find a depth at which they choose to live rather than forcing them to feed in an area that they would not normally live in. That ideal depth is between three and five feet depending on the venue and if shelves are present they offer a realistic chance of predicting where the carp are going to be, either on top of the shelf or down it.

It takes less time to get bites or indications if the bait is fed near to where the carp are and for this approach a Sarfix Pony pole float (4 x 14) with a long carbon stem was used with 0.14 Sensas Feeling mainline, direct to a size 20 Drennan specimen Barbless. It is best to fish at the exact depth of the water, rather than fishing over depth because carp cause too many line bites when they feed and this ‘exact depth’ approach eliminates foul hooked fish. When the float goes under, it is sometimes better to lift gently as opposed to striking because this way, the fish tend not to ‘bolt’ out of the swim but move gradually out at a more controllable rate. The elastic for this approach is invariably Roubasienne pure latex in size 10 and is put through the ‘top three’ (around six feet in length) feeding with this approach is best done with a small pole pot to feed corn while loose feeding caster over the top. At times, with a steady feeding pattern, the fish will move off the bottom to intercept the falling bait, making them easier to catch than bottom feeding fish. Again, on the day, this approach failed to produce more than five small carp in the 1.5 to 2.5 lb.

By lunchtime the wind was still as strong but it was felt that the carp would be more likely to be feeding at range ( the waggler line) so instead of feeding caster, corn was used and drip-fed to attempt to get the fish interested in coming shallower. After about ten minutes a carp of around 6lb was in the net. The method used to land reasonably sized carp on light gear involves the use of a rod without a spliced tip and a progressive through action. For me, the best rod for the job is ultimately the thirteen-foot Normark Titan 2000. There are plenty of rods suitable for this method but there is no need to spend a fortune on a rod. Despite the claims of certain ‘anglers’ that the Titan is useless for this approach, there is a tendency to forget that the method was actually invented using that particular rod. The method is not too difficult to master but it does go against how people have traditionally ‘played’ carp. First of all, when fishing shallow and the float goes under, there is no need to strike as bites are better connected with by turning the reel handle. It is then a case of applying pressure steadily with the rod tip under the water until the fish is facing toward the angler. This is signalled by positive pulls on the rod as the fish shakes its head f
rom side to side. The reason I invented this method is because a) the longer you play carp, the more chance you have of loosing them and b) it stresses the fish so it is better to get them in as quick as possible without. This can be achieved by applying less pressure than people have traditionally used because it limits the options of the fish regarding the direction it is able to swim in. With the rod tip under the water, the fish can only swim in one direction - toward the angler as it cannot turn its head to go in any other direction. When the rod is lifted, the fish can swim in any direction it wishes so by using this approach, it swims slowly and reluctantly toward the angler.

The real skill is being ready with the net the moment the fish breaks the surface.

The carp can be brought to the surface relatively easily on the first attempt but if the fish is not netted at this point it will mean applying more pressure and this is not the correct way to do it.

All the fish Giles landed where netted within 60 seconds, and most within 30, this really is a fast and very effective method, make sure though, you use a wide mesh net, I have used a carpmesh net for this method, and you just cant scoop fast enough.-Gray

After feeding the swim regularly, it was clear that the carp were present and feeding well but bites were proving difficult to connect with and when this situation arises it is better to fish the pole. This method is difficult to master as it involves fishing up to 16 metres while feeding the swim with a catapult at the same time. The rigs for this approach are usually short, around 2.5 feet in length, as the fish are usually caught at about two feet deep.

I attempted to feed caster, but it was clear that the fish were not interested in this bait and when this happens I find it better to try luncheon meat. For this I use 0.15 diameter mainline (Bayer Perlon) and a size 18 PR 27 hook (Preston Innovations) or Sarfix Toschiro size 18, depending on whether the fish are large or small. The floats are Drennan Caster in sizes 0.05 grm which take one number 13 shot.

Feeding should be done regularly (two cubes of meat every few seconds) to create competition in the swim and once this is achieved the carp tend to pull the elastic out of the pole, which is better than having to strike at bites, which incidentally is done through lifting the pole slowly so that the meat stays on the hook.

It was clear that, on the day, this was to be the most successful approach, resulting in a succession of carp in the 5 – 8lb bracket. There was one common carp which was around double figures but the rest of the carp seemed to average 6lb. The shallow approach does tend to result in a larger stamp of carp and in terms of weight building fish under competitive conditions, this is the best method for winning matches on commercial fisheries when all else fails. The secret of success is perseverance and no matter what you try, it is better than sitting there waiting for the fish to feed. There is every chance that they are feeding, but unless the angler tries different feeding patterns, depths and locations, then they will never know.-Giles Cochrane

Giles with a bag of 115lb of Seven Oaks carp.

After watching Giles fish, I have no doubt in my mind of the ability of his methods, Giles outfished everyone on the lake this day, and I will be adopting his ideas as soon as possible.

A huge thanks must go to Giles for taking time to do this article for us, a very interesting and informative day was had, can’t wait for the next one.

Seven oaks is a great carp water, if you need any information contact : June and Terry rosier on 01446-775474 for details or email them here