Artful Angler

Rob Kavanagh's fishing blog

ROB KAVANAGH

The inside line on fishing

Tortworth Dawn Start

Tuesday 27th July 2010

A dawn start was called for today with the intention of stalking a carp. I've observed them in the past earnestly grubbing around the margins at an early hour only to switch off as soon as the sun climbs over the trees, and hoped to intercept one on its morning patrol before they became more cautious. Aided by a fried-egg butty and a big mug of tea I was on the bank by 4:30am but it was still too dark to see much happening. I set up my tackle in a leisurely fashion, watching the lake for signs of feeding fish as the light grew, encouraged by many fizzes of small tench-bubbles with the odd patch of bigger ones accompanied by the tail-swirl of a hungry carp in shallow water. The water level was down a couple of feet, whether lowered for repairs to the dam or just low as a result of the recent hot weather I'm not sure, and had a fair bit of colour in it, further muddied in places by the actions of feeding fish.

My approach would be centred around maggots as I felt it would give me the best chance of getting a bite or two from carp that are obsessed with the abundant natural life in the lake. I've spent far more time watching how these carp react to baits and rigs than I have successfully catching them, they seem very cute indeed.... On one occasion I was tying myself in knots watching a large common staring intently at the hookbait sitting not three inches from its lips for half an hour before deciding that something wasn't right and cruised slowly away taking his two pals with him......
Lobworms would be another good option I suspect, but my worm pulling abilities seem to have deserted me and I fear I'd be shot if I dug up the lawn to get at them. Along with the maggots I had some jumbo corn and a few homemade fishy boilies to try if the maggots got too much attention from nuisance fish. About a dozen fat grubs were mounted on a maggot clip hair-rigged to a size 10 on 10lb line with a homemade self-locking float up the line above a couple of swan shot to form a light float-ledger rig. After casting all I had to do was tighten up slowly until the float cocked, no faffing about adjusting shot or floats to fish different swims.

Setting off on a quiet circuit of the lake I planned to cast towards feeding fish as I came across them, catapulting in a couple of pouches of maggot and hemp several yards away on their predicted route in the hope of not spooking them. I was a little concerned in the semi-light of sneaking up on the resident geese and startling them into a flurry of wings and lake shattering crashes as they panicked into the water, but fortunately they were already bobbing about in the centre of the lake and of no concern to the stealthy angler. Along the dam wall lilly pads were animated by the knocks and shudders of fish rooting about and some loose feed went into the clear spaces linking the lilly beds to encourage the carp out from under the dense shelter and into more open water later on.

Creeping along the bank I soon came across a nice fish grubbing confidently at the edge of a lilybed a few rod lengths out. A gentle underarm swing sent the rig on its way a with only a gentle plop disturbing the quiet as it landed in position a couple of yards away from the steady boil of bubbles. So far so good, the fish was still munching away sending up bubbles and the odd tail pattern, and all the while edging towards the bait. I felt sure of a take, only for the fish to stop feeding abruptly a few feet away and rise up in the water where I watched it cruise away on the surface to the sanctuary of the island. Bah! I felt sure I'd done nothing to spook this fish, but perhaps it felt the vibration through my toes from my heart beating so hard in my chest as I watched, transfixed.

Continuing on round I soon came across another likely candidate just off the island kicking up a lot of silt in just a couple of feet of water. I cast out with sufficient noise to send him into the lilly beds but he returned shortly, feeding sporadically in the area. Resolving to sit it out for a while I fed the odd pouch of maggots every so often and sat back watching the rabbits and a heron that landed in the swim next door. After an hour I was keeping my eye on a pair of ducks that had been mopping up any grubs that landed on the lilypads when the float dipped. I thought it was one of the birds catching the line as it swam over it, but the next thing I knew it was zooming off under the nearby pads. Surprised to learn this was no duck I lunged at the rod desperate to stop a hooked fish making for the heart of the roots and struck. I'd forgotten to disengage the baitrunner and striking one handed I only touched the fish as the loose line fizzed off the spool when the rod arced upwards. I reeled in cursing myself for such a schoolboy error. I'd gotten lazy and had set the rod down next to me to better watch the wildlife around me instead of the float before me. Ah well, it didn't feel that big, maybe a nice tench though.

Making my way back around the lake I checked up on the areas I'd put a bit of bait in earlier and settled into a lilly strewn corner of the dam wall. Several carp were evident from the knocking of the pads and the occasional glimpse of a thick-set common shouldering its way through the stems. Lots of tiddlers were made visible by their dimpling and swirling of the surface, so instead of using the catapult I nicked a small mesh PVA bag of maggots on the hook to get the feed to the bottom intact. The float was only in the water a few minutes when it bobbed up then belted off away from me at a rate of knots. Striking I connected with a big fish that bulldozed its way through a weedbed determined to smash my tackle, the reel grudgingly giving line against a tight clutch, . I was getting the upper hand when the hook inexplicably pulled. Reeling in revealed the hooklength had parted right above the eye of the missing hook, perhaps the seam of the hook had a rough edge or maybe I hadn't wet it enough before I pulled it tight and weakened it. Whatever the reason, that was lost fish number two. Not good enough!

A warm south-westerly breeze picked up with the occasional light shower giving everything a much fresher feeling. Shortly after the last shower I finally managed to land something in the spirited shape of a small but perfectly formed tench of about 2lb. The carp had gone quiet so upping sticks I headed to the opposite side of the lake to fish one rod out for carp by the island whilst float fishing next to the marginal lillies for tench. Tiny perch took a liking to whatever went on the hook and it was a fish a cast, often taking the bait almost as soon as it touched the surface, and I quickly tired of them mobbing my bait no matter how I tried to avoid them. On the other hand, the rod set up for carp was like a tench magnet with three nice fish coming to my baits, the first of 3lb on a piece of jumbo corn and the other two - 3lb 6oz and 3lb 1oz - to my homemade boilies wrapped in paste. All the takes were absolute belters, the alarm just one-toning as the scrappy little fish charged off. For their size I've found these Tortworth tench to always fight like tigers, which is why I love to catch them on the waggler or lift-method close in the margins on far more sporting tackle than the heavy gear I was using for carp today.

Every so often I would do a stealthy lap of the lake to see if any more carp were showing, spotting a small one in just six inches to a foot of water in the other corner of the dam wall before a clumsy footfall sent it back under the lillies. By lunchtime with no further action I decided to call it a day, but not before having a go for the little common in the corner. I tried a nice fluffy piece of breadflake but he wasn't interested. Every time he disappeared a much bigger fish would appear on the other side of the lillies. No sooner had I made a cast at the new fish, he reappeared whilst my new target would take a disdainful glance at the bait before vanishing itself, leaving me to have another go for the little one and so on..... Needless to say this formidable display of lack of patience resulted in me failing to catch either and so with the pleasant warmth of the morning giving way to an oppressively humid day I made my way home, carpless.

Rob, 28/07/2010

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