Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fishing with Neil...

After Wednesday's debacle, A trip to Monk Lakes to meet with fellow member of the Maggot Drowning Forum, Neil, turned out to be a the perfect answer to a lack of bank time. Neil is due to fish a couple of matches at Monk Lakes tomorrow and Saturday and offered to drive down on today and meet me at the venue.
I was there in plenty of time to wait for the gate to open at 07:00. No oversleeping today. I have only fished at Monk Lakes once before at that was on the huge Bridges lake. Like last time I was a few cars back from the gate and as I waited the queue grew and grew. This place is very popular, and like last time I was here, two of the four match lakes were booked out. Neil had said he would like to fish a match lake so I planned to meet him on whichever one I could get on.

The view from my chosen peg, No.155
Of the four match lakes, two of the newer ones were being used. This suited me as I did not fancy the rather functional rectangular lakes. I know this is what the match fisherman crave, but I prefer something that has at least a nod to a natural lake. Lake number 4 is a little less formal and has 29 pegs. For those of you who know the venue, I picked peg 155 after a stroll around the lake. I was looking for somewhere for the two of us to fish within striking distance of each other. Peg 154 was just the other side of a bush. The lake has a gravel road that circumnavigates the perimeter of the fenced area allowing easy access to the pegs. Don't be put off by the literature and website that says that cars can only be used on the fishery for loading and unloading of tackle. Both times I have been there, I was told that I could park at the pegs the only stipulation was to keep all four wheels on the road. Today this rule must have been 'bent' somewhat as there were dozens of match anglers vans parked on the grass behind me.

The calm flat water started to ripple by mid morning. As you can see, this place is very popular.
The peg, like most of them here, is a strong wooden platform built on a sturdy steel frame. This is the first time I have fished from a platform and was a bit of an eye opener for me. Really nice to set my box up on something flat and rigid, however, I must remember that it is not a great idea to step off the platform to the side as what appeared solid ground was actually some flattened reeds covering the edge of the water. It is also not advisable to drop anything as it either slides off the deck into the water or gets stuck between the cracks in the boards. I discovered a new use for my disgorgers.

Feeder fishing using a different technique for me with the rod pointing at the feeder - worked fine
I set up my box and decided to try a spot of feeder fishing. The lake is fairly small and it is an easy chuck to the island. My 9ft 'Picker' rod seemed to be the perfect choice for this. Casting short distances accurately is much easier with a shorter rod, my success rate of hitting the spot once I had established the distance and clipped up, was better then 90%. for me that is good and as time goes on it does seem to be getting better.

Lots of small Mirrors in this lake
A few casts of the feeder loaded with the infamous Two Dog got the carp interested and I was landing several small mirror carp. Those little fellows really fight hard for the size of them. I continued to fish at distance, on what was a very calm flat water, until the bites dried up. I had been watching the fish just under the surface for a while and feeding a few pellets every now and again. Time to try the pellet waggler. The feed pellets were not creating much, if any, interest and no amount of changing depth seemed to encourage any interest whatsoever. Just as I was about to give up, something showed an interest. Hello little skimmer!

You're not a carp!
I tired of trying to catch carp on the pellet waggler and decided to see if there were any silvers to be had. The cheap and cheerful 'Hippo' got is regular outing and as usual did not fail to perform. fishing just over depth using maggot as feed and on the hook, I was swinging to hand little roach one after the other. none of them very big but good fun all the same.

By now it was getting on for 10 o'clock and just as I was thinking that the match must be starting soon on the other lakes, the Klaxon (or more likely an air horn) sounded and there was a flurry of simultaneous activity on the lake next door. There had been a pump running all morning that was gushing water into the corner of the lake. It was an ambient noise that I had not really noticed until it suddenly stopped. This combined with the lack of chatter as the match started, plunged the lake into a sudden silence that was very strange for a few minutes. Time for a munch while I packed away the Hippo and moved up a gear to my 9.5m Maver pole. There is nothing nicer than sitting on my box, surveying my surroundings eating a nice fresh sandwich. The small cheap Maver pole is very portable and using only the top kit and a couple of sections is great for close in fishing. No need to mess about with rollers and lots of gear, just a ripple bar to rest the unused sections and spare top kit on. I just had time to land a few more skimmers when the phone rang and it was Neil. He had arrived and was on his way to the lake.

Say hello to Neil...
I do like to meet fellow anglers I have conversed with over the internet. Our internet persona can give a very different impression of ourselves compared with the person. It is like listening to the radio and constructing an image of the person talking, here the voice gives a few more clues to the person but how many times do you get to see someone that you have heard and get a surprise when you get to see the person.

Getting an impression of a person from text only can be even more difficult. In this case, Neil has posted a picture of himself on his blog and, like me, is a fairly prolific poster. This helps a lot and when he arrived he turned out to be exactly what I had imagined, a very warm and friendly fellow angler. We were chatting straight away and it was obvious that we were going to get along. I helped Neil get his gear to the peg and he gave me a brolly that a fellow Maggot Drowner had given him to pass on to me after her very generous offer.

Neil has been fishing a bit longer than me, thirty eight years longer in fact. The one thing you can't accuse Neil of is being a 'tackle tart'. He proves the fact that you can catch fish with a minimum of kit and bait if you know what you are doing. He sat down and started catching fish at a much faster rate than I had been achieving. With this, I decided that I had to see where his fishing differed from my own. I shipped my pole in, removed the bait and wondered around the bush to Neil's peg. The first thing you notice about Neil's technique is the speed at which he does everything. Confidence in what he is doing, combined with a well tested routine, leads to an efficient method that catches fish.

We discussed lots of things and I went back to my peg to try out some of the tips I had just picked up. These included fixing back-leads to the line above the float. This will sink the line and means the float is less vulnerable to being victim to a breeze. A small No.11 shot is fitted to the line, just about level with the top of the whisker.  This single shot on its own is not heavy enough to break the surface tension as well as overcome the stiffness of the monofilament line. A heavier No.8 shot is fitted close to the pole tip. The heavier shot will sink the line and the smaller shot. Once the line has sunk the pole is raised to lift the heavier shot out of the water leaving the lighter shot and line sunk. A simple thing that maybe everybody else knows but I had missed. The other thing I was obviously doing wrong was to have too much line above the float.

I went back to my peg and modified my rig. I added a small clip on feeder cup to the end of the pole and started fishing. A few grains of corn in the cup plus a few pellets and the odd maggot topped off with a small amount of Two Dog ground bait, accompanied a single sweetcorn kernel on the hook. Feed, reposition the float into the feed area and let the bait sink. Lift a few inches and bang! The elastic was in the water and it was fish on. I repeated this several times and and my catch rate was improved no end. Nowhere near as efficient as Neil, but a lot better than it had been.

After a short break for lunch and another natter, Neil went back to his peg and I ended up spending the afternoon picking his brains and watching him fish, which he was more than happy for me to do. I learnt a lot today, and met yet another fellow angler. There is nothing like spending a day with someone who can already do what I am trying to do. The hands-on help and advice I received today has helped a lot, just like all the other days I have been out with other more experienced anglers.

If you are reading this as a beginner, try and find someone with experience to show you how to fish. For me it is much easier to have someone there telling you what you are doing wrong than just reading books and watching videos. My thanks go to Neil for a most enjoyable day and putting up with my endless questions.