Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Carp and Catfish Fishing, Furnace Lakes Fishery, Slinfold

One Rod Army!!!

Roman Lake, Furnace Lakes Fishery, Horsham, West Sussex. UK.

Furnace Lakes Fishery
A week off work!! what to do?!? now that's a silly question if you know me! Fishing! With the bitter after taste of losing a monster Catfish estimated 60lb+ earlier on in the season, burning inside me, which I blogged about The One That Got Away.  It is revenge I want! And a new PB, I've fished this place enough times by now, and somehow I haven't managed to catch my first fish over 20lb., and it's really beginning to bug me now. Its full of big fish! and I cant think of anywhere better to catch my first 20lb, so the plan was simple, fish big, for the biggest fish!

The superb Shimano super baitrunner XTR
I set off at silly o'clock, which is probably normal for most anglers, and arrived at 7am, armed with a lot of new tackle and equipment which I've been amassing over the last few months for a imminent Carp fishing trip to France. not only did this give me a brilliant opportunity to test the equipment, but was exactly what I needed for fishing here. 3 x 12" Fox Ranger XTS 3lb test, 3 x Shimano Super Baitrunner XTR 8000RA spooled with 20lb Korda Subline. All I needed now was a fish!

homemade boilie rig.
I was to fish one rod, very close in the margins with a simple running leger with ridiculously large 4" cubes of Spam (luncheon meat) hair rigged onto a homemade rig, made from 40lb Catlink and a eagle wave 2/0 barbless hook, this was to be heavily ground baited with loose cubes of Spam. My second rod was to be a live bait rod, using a ready made Catfish pro polyball live bait rig which was to be fished here, there, and everywhere I could. And my third rod......well, I couldn't resist! I left this for carp, a homemade 15lb braid, size 8 hook boilie rig. to be fished tight against the far bank, with 12 boilies be catapulted out every cast.

Ready and waiting.
After 2 arduous hours of setting up! I was finally ready to fish! I cast out my boilie and Spam rods, and using the live bait rod set up a quick and very crude float rig with the smallest size hook I had on me, a size 10!!!, bad planning, I know! Using 1" pieces of lobs worms I set about catching my bait. Luckily! the  tiny fish didn't seem bothered by the 20lb line and big hook, and it wasn't long before I enough Roach to start live baiting. I lost the first live bait straight away as it simply shook itself off the barbless hook and landed in the water to make his escape even before I'd even cast!! so a quick think and rummage through my tackle box saw me find a very small rubber corn which I placed on the hook and pushed down to the bend of the hook after the fish to keep them on. First cast was 1 meter from the far bank underneath a over hanging willow tree. I let the poly ball float on the surface as a visual aid, it didn't matter to much I was barely fishing in 2' of water.

First fish, a beautiful common carp
All three rods were out. as I took the time to relax. I could see the backs of several big carp just breaking the surface swimming along the far bank, I fired 2 boilies at my baited area with the catapult, the distinctive sound made from the elastic snap followed by a  "plonk, Plonk" as the boilies hit the water. Immediately two of the carp accelerated towards my baited area, and a third fish even turned around to follow them before they disappeared under the surface. I couldn't believe what I'd just seen,  I rubbed my hand in excitement and waited, I could see the fishes tails break the surface occasionally in the baited area, I knew they were feeding. My plan to spread loose boilies over a large area had worked, and now I had the fish confidently looking around and feeding on my loose Monster Tigernut 15mm boilies. It wasn't long before I had my first run. In the next four hours, I took 6 carp from 13lb to 18lb all from the same area.

Last carp of the session
The night was a different story, my boilie rod fell silent as the Carp seemed to change their habit, probably going on patrol around the lakes island. I hadn't had a touch on either of the Catfish rods yet, but I felt this would change during the night. It didn't!, just the occasional big tug of the live bait was just enough to make the alarm bleep once, The rods were silent all night. Even though, I stuck to my guns, I knew these tactics were working for other anglers on the lake, one of which had 7 Catfish to 32lb during the same night only a few swims down from me. At 3am the boilie rod kicked off again keeping me up for the rest of the night, but it wasn't Carp this time, small bream had taken their place, I managed to hook and land 6 even though I missed most of the runs because the fish were fairly small and probaly couln't get the boilie in their mouth. and then a surprise catch, again on the boilie rod the smallest kitten Catfish I'd ever seen, about 1' long and weighing a whopping 1 lb 3 oz, OK it wasn't the monster I was after! Not even close lol, but it was so cute! I really wanted to show a picture, but due to a broken camera that couldn't focus, and low battery on my phone that refused to allow the flash to work, I had to release him without a photo shoot, his day will come I'm sure!

The fish with the biggest smile :-)
Morning was quiet, the Catfish rods were still doing nothing, I landed one more Carp about 14lb on the boilie rod, but that was going to end shortly as I was down to my last handful of boilies. So I decided to pack up before the heavy rain showers that were forecast reached me. With the other two rods packed away, the boilie rod baited with my very last boilie, went screaming off, I took my time to strike this time, to savour the moment and enjoy what was going to be my last fish. I struck................the rod bent, bent a bit more and what was on the end pulled harder and swam further than any of the fish I'd caught so far. Was this Carp over 20lb?, it definitely felt like it! I played the fish tentatively as I didn't want to loose it. The fish didn't surface till the very end and by the way the fight went with slow powerful runs, and lots of those horrible moments when it feels like your fishing line is being pluked like a giant guitar string, causing a nervous wobble of the rod tip, I wasn't suprised to see a Catfish poke his smiling head out the water. Finally what I'd come for!!! still not a monster! and definitely not my PB weighing in at little over 8lb, but a very fitting end to a surreal 24hour session. I would almost count on catching catfish here at Roman lake, whilst the crafty carp are very difficult to catch, but today that got turned on its head. Just like the fact that I've never been so successful with boilies, I've never been a big fan, normally opting for baits such as worms, sweetcorn or bread, but they proved their worth today. And with all the tackle and bait I had with me, all I needed was just one rod, and 1 kilo of boilies. I still haven't beat my PB, and I'm really beginning to wonder why??? I think god may have other plans for me. but in the meantime there's nothing more fun, than trying!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Smooth Hound Fishing, Reculver

The Hounds Of Heaven

Reculver Towers, Reculver, Kent, CT6. UK

Reculver Towers
Summer is in full swing here in England, sun with a grand temp of 25 degrees Celsius "don't laugh to loud!", a gentle neap tide so not much floating weed to make you trip hell, wind at about 4mph = flat sea, and  high tide at dusk. I don't think I could of picked a better time to hit Reculver and try for my first ever Smooth Hound. I have been carefully keeping a eye for this window for a while, and by a sheer twist of fate, The day before my planned trip, work left me 10 mins away after my last job, so I was able do some recon. And this was the final nail in the coffin that resulted in all other plans for Sunday being cancelled. during the hour I was there, I saw 4 smooth hounds caught and one fisherman gloating in Ecstasy, whilst rubbing his hands in glee "I can't do nothing wrong!!!" He had caught nine in total, one a big double,  he was so happy, and that's an understatement honestly!  this just egged on the excitement in me, nothing was going stop me returning with my rods.

Fish Hooked
I invited Jerry, my cousins husband with an out of the blue phone call cheekily saying "fancy shark fishing tomorrow?", after a very short pause a "OK". The details were discussed. I've been fishing plenty of times with Jerry before, but always carp fishing, I did have to wonder if he thought I was mad with this new proposal, but he loves his fishing too, and the lure of catching a Smooth Hound would appeal to most fisherman. We meet at the railings along the seawall at 2pm, over eagerness or stupidity? the tide was so far out it made fishing impossible from the railings as it meant pulling any hooked fish over a small mountain of weedy boulders. We could of fished off the beach, but from my recon I knew the fish were coming from here, the water was deeper, and I felt that we should just set up and wait, rather than lose the swim to another fisherman, and why not, it was a beautiful day and I found just waiting very relaxing.

juicy soft peeler crabs
The time wasn't totally wasted waiting for the tide, we went foraging for crabs in the rock pools, although we had some frozen peeler crab, you really can't beat fresh bait from the beach your fishing, it's exactly what the fish are eating. We found about twenty crabs,  but the feisty crustaceans had a great escape planned, which left us with ten.  I did wonder how to fish them as they had hard shells, but we was lucky, one of the large crabs was soft, he had just shed his shell, I keep that ace up my sleeve. The rigs were simple enough, a straight though running leger rig with a 5oz breakaway lead, a 1 meter, 35lb clear mono snod with a 2/0 tronics big dog hook. I was using my 11' 6" Shakespeare extreme bass rods and Shimano Biomaster reels loaded with 15lb mono and tapered leaders, I had absolute faith in the reels, but a fisherman's comment about my rods left me in a little doubt, because they are on the lighter side. But the sea was calm, and I just thought I've played big carp and catfish on lighter rods with ease. I was only going to find out one way, I had to hook a Smooth Hound.

It took an eternity for the tide to come in enough to start fishing, it was getting on already, and to a beautiful sunset we cast our lines out, baited with frozen peeler crab. My first couple of casts at full range of about 80 meters seemed to find themselves landing straight into seaweed beds. and resulted in me struggling to reel in a large mound of bright green seaweed, Jerry on the other hand wasn't casting as far and avoided the weed. By the third cast I had found a clear patch at about 80 meters. I had some funny bites that I didn't recognise, almost vibrations with single little pulls imbetween showing on the rod tip, possibly crabs or maybe seaweed hitting the line, I never really did find out. But I knew they were not Smooth Hounds, I was excited to see how a Smooth Hound bite would go, The clutches on the reels were set light enough to allow line to be striped from the reel during a take and strong enough hold line in the current, every piece of Smooth Hound fishing advise I read, says how extreme the bites are and how easy it is too lose a rod. I wasn't going to ignore it,  I needlessly rechecked the drag on mine and Jerry reels repeatedly whilst waiting for a bite.

beautiful sunset
About a hour had passed, and I was seriously wondering why we hadn't had a bite yet? this time yesterday over ten had been caught from this spot. Was it the frozen peeler bait? maybe not, the other fisherman to the left and right hadn't caught anything yet either. But a cyclist commented as he slowly passed by, carefully riding round the ends of our rods " They're on there way! they've just started catching the on the other side of the Towers." I didn't think twice, it was time for the one shot weapon, our one and only fresh live peeler crab!, cut in half, one for me and one for Jerry. We left the legs and claws on, laided the hook shank along the cut flesh, with the point as far away from the legs as possible, I then bound the bait to the shank of the hook with elastic carefully going between each leg and claw with a few extra turns at the top and bottom. Perfect!! What a difference to the frozen peeler crab, It smelt nicer, was juicier, had more colour and a full set of intact legs, we cast cast out and waited with even more anticipation.

I ain't nothing but a hound dog!
Then just as dusk was starting the guy to our left had one hooked, I immediately walked to my rod to check the drag again, now definitely a habit!, and as I touched the reel its screamed loudly! as quick as it started it stopped, was that me? I looked around to see if I had kicked the rod, I hadn't as I looked up and rod tip swung round in a big curve to the left with a continuous screaming clutch as line was taken. I definatly wasn't losing this rod, it was already gripped in my right hand. I lifted the rod and held the spool to stop it spinning, and struck! the rod bent right round almost at a 45 degree angle, I quickly set the drag. Woo...A proper fight! it ran for a bit more before I stopped and turned it, then I gained a lot of line very quickly as it headed straight towards me, then it ran again stripping about 20 meter of line. I was in no doubt that this was a Smooth Hound, Apart from the power of the fish, I also noticed that it was also fast and kited along the water, It was a good fight, the best I'd ever had sea fishing! I found the rod was fine for this fish, and being lighter than the average beach caster made the fight a lot more fun. Although I admit I could be singing a different tune if the Hound was twice the size. After a few more smaller runs I had the fish at the waters edge. I walked along the wall to the largest gap between the weedy boulders and carefully guided the Smooth Hound through the gap, Jerry had gone down the steps to the 4" ledge, which run along the bottom of the wall, he grabbed the leader and pulled It too him, holding the shark by the tail he lifted him straight up in the air. YES!!! my first ever Smooth Hound!! A Beautiful Starry. It was strong and took quite a effort from both of us to hold it still on the unhooking mat, the hook was perfectly hooked in the middle of the lower lip, and came out easily with long nosed pliers. And a very big thank you to Jerry for going bare foot down a very slippery concrete ramp and balancing on the slippery boulders to release the fish back into the water without throwing him, which could result in the fish landing on the submerged boulders as the tide wasn't in quite enough.

I have to say I was over the moon and punched the air a few times in celebration, I had done what I set out to do, for some strange reason I wasn't concerned about catching anymore, But I did want Jerry to catch one, and even gave him one of my rods. unfortunately we just had the frozen peeler crab left, but nothing, no more bites, so we decided to pack up before dark, it was late, and we both had a long drive home with work the next day. All in all, and for a change, It had been a beautiful day for fishing, and believe me there have not been many this year, yet! I had carefully planned and successfully targeted a Smooth Hound, a new species to me. And what I learnt for next time is to make sure I have the best quality peeler crab I can get, the frozen peeler crabs I had seemed washed out and broken, I just got the impression that we should of had more bites than we did. I would also love to do a night fish for them, but that involves having two days off work in a row, and that's a luxury in my trade. Its been a while since I've been so happy about a session, and looking at a few of the pictures in recent blogs I really have to say that I don't seem to smile much. well I do! and today! I couldn't stop ;-)

Smile for the camera!

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