Wednesday, 12 April 2017

At Last - Fish!

A few days ago, a mate who lives down on the coast in Kent offered me some gear that I was interested in. I suggested I would drive down and collect it. As it turned out, he said he was fishing near Sittingbourne and if I liked he would take it there saving me a few miles driving. He was fishing at The Willows Angling Centre, formally Bax Farm Fishery. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning will know this is the first place I ever went fishing back in September 2014. Although I did return a couple of times, I have not been back for a couple of years.

The fishery is under new ownership and over the past couple of years they have made a lot to improvements to the venue. A huge amount of work has been done to make it a better place to fish and to improve the tackle shop. The original specimen Lake has been enlarged and restocked with a good selection of fish to 30lb. There is a good mix of fish in Pan lake and The Stream is stocked with fish for the matchman and pleasure angler. It was here that my mate and his cronies were fishing their match.

Farm Lake - A bit choppy today
I thought it would be fun to fish Farm Lake, which was the lake I fished on that first day. The lake has been netted and restocked since then. It now has a good stock of fish all small, but great fun to catch.

I had decided to lob a cage feeder plugged with Two Dog groundbait holding in about ten maggots with a red on the hook. You have to be quick as they will be out of the cage before it is cast, so it is hook bait first, then fill the cage and cast. I managed to drop the feeder just short of the little island of reeds. A finger on the reel, feathered the cast and it entered the water with a satisfying plop - Perfect! - Even if I do say it myself.  I gave it thirty seconds and gently pulled it back about a foot (the length of my hook length) to place the hook bait amongst the small pile of groundbait and maggots. No sooner had I settled the rod in the rest it was off. A good whip around and a lot of tugging ensued. What ever it was it was not going to grace us with its presence without a fight. It turned out to be the smallest mirror carp I think I have ever caught, but it really did put up a scrap for such a little fish.

This little mirror carp fought like mad to resist being landed and photographed - but failed! 
I continued to catch baby carp and F1s for a while until it all went quiet in that spot. At this point I changed tactics. Somebody on the Maggot Drowning forum had been talking about hooking banded pellets to improve presentation of the bait. Personally I was not sure about this but I thought I would have a go. I filled the feeder once again and instead of using maggots I changed to pellet; moistened 4mm pellet mixed with Two Dog in the cage feeder and a 6mm pellet banded to a hair. This was producing results for a while and that too dried up.

To give that a bit if a rest I changed to my short, 4.5m (after elasticating) whip/pole thingie. This has to be the cheapest bit of kit I own but it never fails to deliver bundles of fun and excitement if I hook anything over a few ounces in weight. Today was no different, first cast landed a small roach who could not resist a single white maggot, then another and another culminating in one large enough to photograph.     

Yes it is a roach - it got me wondering for a bit. I find small silver fish hard to identify
I decided to go back on the feeder and try the hooked pellet again. The cage was filled just as before and I hooked the banded pellet to hold it on the bend of the hook.

Hooked, banded 6mm pellet
I cast into the same area I had been fishing earlier and caught a fish immediately, and another and again. To be honest there was no obvious difference between hooking the pellet and not, as far as I could see. However, this was only the first time I tried it and I will give it a go in future to see if it makes a difference if the fish are playing hard to get.

Feeder fishing this small lake was continuing to be far too easy. I was catching fish every chuck and usually on the drop. Time to try the waggler rod. A few minutes plumbing up to be just off bottom paid off with some fun fishing. A huge No.12 hook and a couple of maggots produced the first of many small  F1s.   

There are a ton of small fish in this lake and the first F1succumbed to a couple of maggots
I continued to fish the same spot, alternating between the waggler and my short pole, changing the bait between various combinations of maggot when I landed a very pale skimmer on the pole. It was almost white. I have never seen one this light in colour before.

A decent sized skimmer for this lake, but what a light colour
As time went on, I continued to fish alternating between the feeder and the waggler. The fishing was now being done between stopping to chat to the odd visitor. A friend of mine, John, who lives relatively locally dropped in to have a chat with me and Mick, who was fishing a match on the stream. John also had some trolley wheels and tyres for me he kindly dropped off - but that is another story! My brother, Tim lives locally and he also popped in to say hello on his way home to bed after finishing a night-shift.

I was joined on the lake by a dad and a couple of young lads. They set up waggler rods and set about trying to catch a fish. As I pulled out fish after fish the lads kept complaining to their dad and saying "he's caught another one!" I was thinking about offering the lads a go with the cheap whip, as I had got that off to a fine art by then, when they upped sticks and went. A little while later the bailiff came around and said they could not understand why they had caught nothing when the bloke on the other side of the lake (me) was catching lots of fish... I must have learnt something in the past couple of years since I fished here last.

As the afternoon drew on, the wind got up and it became quite blustery. I decided to re-plumb the shallow margin and see what was lurking about in the reeds. The fish were still taking the bait, more maggots on the hook and a few dropped in as loose feed. This lake just keeps on producing these small fish. if you are looking for something bigger, then pick one of the other lakes for the next couple of years until this lot grow up a bit. I had a really good fun day and I liked the mini fish, especially the little mirrors of which I caught lots and lots. I gave up counting very early on but I must have had well over a hundred fish out over the day. My favourite catch of the day has to be this perfect linier carp only just slightly bigger than my hand.  

Perfect little fellow - I bet he will go on to be one of the prised fish in this lovely little lake
During the couple of years I have been away from this venue a lot has changed. It was fairly scruffy last time I went but today it was looking very neat and tidy and one of the bailiffs was out on the mower making sure it was looking its best. One of my dislikes about the venue was its open position with no shelter from the wind on some of the lakes. This is being addressed with the planting of trees all over the site. Obviously this will not make much difference immediately but it will help in the future.

Next to Farm Lake a new lake is being dug so they are not sitting on their bums letting the world go buy. The improvements already made to the specimen lake are impressive and although that is not really my style of fishing, I am sure that is where the money is as they now run a booking scheme for longer sessions.

The Stream 'lake' is a section of the stream, that runs through the site, which has been widened to about 14m to allow pole fishing the far bank as fishing is only permitted from one side. It makes a great match venue and has the advantage of being low down on the site which affords better shelter from the wind.

I will be back soon and with a bit of luck, as it is almost walking distance from where Tim lives, I will get my reluctant 'little' brother out to join me, once he gets off of the permanent night shifts he is doing at the moment.