Ant Perry's tale of 7 nights, nine public waters and 1000 miles drive
Gaz Fareham – An Early Stalking Opportunity
2nd April 2020
Gaz Fareham made the most of an extra night’s angling after a tuition, making the most of a stalking opportunity to entice this scaley stunner from the edge on a subtle maggot rig…
“Early March saw me heading up to Oxford for a 24hr tuition. Despite the fact that I spend the majority of my time these days fishing big, wild places in Europe, I still thoroughly enjoy my trips to Oxford, and even though the lakes are always really busy I enjoy the challenge of slotting in to whatever swim is available and trying to get a few bites from whatever is left. By rights and on paper, I should hate it, but I thrive off the challenge it offers and feel like it keeps my angling keen and sharp and if anything, is just another angling situation to try to succeed in. Arriving Monday you would hope you’d have a few decent options, but pickings were already lean, and so with bottles in hand we headed off. After half an hour, we’d seen a couple off the back of the wind and tucked ourselves into a little bay off the back of the wind on Manor, somewhere I’d seen them turn up in springs’ passed, and also always one of the last swims to go, offering little in the way of options if they’re not in there. These sorts of corners can be useful areas on busy lakes, with lots of lads seemingly wanting to turn up and put a big bucket in somewhere out near the middle, the quiet corners and bays can often see a few turn up, away from the pressure. They’re never the kind of swim you’ll catch a load from, but in difficult times, they can be great to nick one or two from.
With some zigs out quickly for the day in the area we’d seen the show we settled in to work on some rig and tuition bits before finding a few in another, even smaller bay down to my right. It was just a couple at first, but as the morning progressed a dozen got in there and it was clearly looking prime for a bite. A few handfuls in close got them going and so the lad I was fishing with Matt quickly shipped a rod up and grabbed a single stick and we got a rod in, just peppering the cloud with a light handful of crumb to semi-spook them off. A few dark shapes ghosted out and Matt swung his rig in. Eventually they came back, and a short while later, either an aborted take or a massive liner saw them leave. I was up the tree narrating and had the unfortunate news of a group of 6 good uns hastily heading out of the bay to deliver! In the end, we abandoned the stalking effort to focus on the task at hand, and worked through the spot finding, tactics and rig stuff for the night. A couple of zigs out there set at ¾ depth and one on a little gravel patch amongst the silt were the traps. Just a short while later, Matt bumped one on the zig and although it had been a tricky start and no fish banked as yet, we’d nicked a couple of chances already from an unfavoured area.
A torch in the face just before first light saw an excited Matt relaying the tale of a battle royale with a big common, and although my three zigs had remained motionless for the night, I was way more chuffed Matt had bagged one, a new tactic for him as well. We shot the lovely clean common which came in a little under 30 pound just after first light as the crisp March sun lit things up, and celebrated Matt’s birthday morning with a few rounds of coffee. After a bit more rig trying stuff and some tech tweaks we said our goodbyes, Matt headed off home happy and I decided to stay on for another night.
First thing was to check the bay, whilst it wasn’t quite as warm as the previous day, within an hour I’d seen a few and thought there might still be a chance to be had. I’d put a tiny handful on a little gravel strip on the river bank side of the bay that morning, after wondering if they would be happier feeding on that side because of the cover and nearby snags. It didn’t take long before a couple dropped and started grubbing around on the bits, clearly still well up for it. After Matt had struggled for a bite the previous day with his set up I went for something different and bit more delicate, an old winter favourite of mine and given the crystal clear water in the bay, it seemed perfect. Just a super short 12 inch lead core leader, with three big blobs of putty above it on the fluorocarbon was the terminal set-up, and the faithful stiff D set up, tied extra short with just 4-5 inches of 30lb Think Link to a size 5 OE. At the hook end was the faithful Hook Ring Swivel set up with a tiny piece of black foam pulled down over the barrel and just 7 white maggots tied neatly to the top eye. It balances beautifully, the maggots hovering just barely proud of the bottom and the hook sitting flat. It’s a devastatingly neat and effective rig and has caught me carp to over 45lb here in the UK and given the reluctance of them the previous day to fall for a trimmed down white wafter, I figured it was my best shot. I grabbed a net, and headed round there, creeping down the little rabbit run into the gap above the spot.
With none about, I tied up a tiny golf ball sized bag of whites, nicked it on, and swung it out. I watched the rig fall through just a few feet of water, crack down and settle on the gravel. Within 20 seconds the bag had broke and suddenly the patch of white maggot looked way more blatant than I hoped, to be honest I was shocked how bad it looked in the tap clear water and doubted it would be good enough to get me a bite. Nice try I thought….! Ten minutes later one ghosted in from the right as all the ones I had seen so far had done, straight over the spot and instead of dropping, if anything looked uneasy about the situation and left! I cursed the bag. Another ten minutes passed and I held my breath as good linear appeared from the left out of nowhere. Approaching the spot from the wrong angle, and along the direction of my line it was all wrong. It dropped onto the bag though but drifted away at the last second, causing just enough disturbance though to distribute the bag and flutter the contents out, breaking up the outline. Suddenly it all looked a bit more promising.
Another few minutes passed and she returned, this time from the right side and on a much better line. I could see the big plated scales as she dropped and twisted, feeding off the few remnants of bits on the back edge of the spot I’d put in that morning. The spot was only the size of a mat, so within a few seconds she’d approached the bag, I held my breath as she dropped, and then watched as she lifted, shook her head and headed off at a rate, looking down to the rod laid in amongst the brambles the clutch was purring and the tip folded round. I reckon she did me for forty yards at least on that first run, clearly massively unhappy about being stung off a tiny little ‘safe’ spot in the back of an un-fished bay! It was one of those situations I suddenly doubted the intelligence of and wondered how the hell I was going to get her back, and into the net from the very back of a bay, flanked by big snags. Finally she succumbed, and let me draw her back into the bay, but not before giving me hell in the tap clear water at my feet for another ten minutes. Thankfully the hook hold held firm and she went in! One of the lads off the Road Bank had spotted me playing it and nipped round to help which I was grateful of and we carried her round to the nice soft grass, weighed her at 35.06 and shot a few pictures. It was an old one, The Hardwick Lin, and one with a nice story as well, having come over in the floods years ago.
I settled back after that, sorting out the chaos, whipped up some fresh zigs and got them back out there for the night, with a nice brace of 28 and 30lb mirrors capping the trip off nicely. As it turned out, it was to be the last trip for a while!”