The stealth factor

Another visit to the float pond at Picks Cottage, this time with Matt, who had done some whip fishing for small roach and rudd previously. He was keen to develop his angling skills and catch some larger fish.

At the start of the session, we could see patches of bubbles coming to the surface in all areas of the pond, indicating fish feeding on the bottom. Resisting the temptation to cast in straight away, we got on with my usual dry land fish-playing exercises. Matt needed to know how to handle the gear if a carp was hooked, as these fish fight hard. We also worked on some different casting styles and then we were ready to fish.

As Matt made his first cast with a waggler float, the bubbling seemed to have slowed down, indicating a reduction in feeding activity. Sure enough we had quite a long wait for a bite. Eventually it came though, and Matt found himself putting his fish playing skills into practice:

playing a carp

Soon his first carp was on the bank:

Picks Cottage carp

After that, it was very quiet. As the sun climbed higher, we were able to spot carp basking at the surface here and there. Bubbling had now ceased. We reeled in the line and went for a walk around the lake, spotting more groups of carp mooching about and clearly not feeding. We were trying to be stealthy – staying well back from the water and walking slowly – but even so we still managed to spook some of these fish. A good lesson for the future.

Back in the fishing spot, Matt resumed work. On his second cast, the float slowly sailed away and another carp came to the net. It seemed to support a theory of mine that stopping fishing for a while is sometimes followed by quick results when you resume. Perhaps it is the stealth factor again – the regular splashes from casting might scare fish away, but when you stop they come back.

The way of the waggler

Catia and Pierre travelled to Rib Valley from central London having got the train to Ware. They then tried to walk the rest of the way (scoring 10/10 for effort) but got no further than the A602 which has no footpath, so I picked them up in the car. They were hoping to take up fishing as a hobby and this would be their first session.

Whip fishing was productive from the off and we were able to cover all the essentials – making and using groundbait, baiting the hook, striking, handling fish, unhooking them etc, as well as learning to tie the relevant knots and set up the tackle. This is essential if people are to fish independently in future. Here Catia is baiting up with maggots:

baiting the hook

Next we looked at using a rod and reel. We probably spent 45 minutes covering use of the drag, how to play fish (bring them in without the line breaking) and casting. This was dry land practice, so we didn’t have a bait in the water. It was worth it for Catia and Pierre though as it means they will be able to fish much more effectively in future. They also practiced recovering from tangles at the reel which are a common source of frustration for novice anglers.

Having mastered these new skills, we applied and refined them by waggler float fishing for the last part of the lesson. Bites were slow at first but we got the swim going again by catapulting maggots in. Here Catia is on maggot duty while Pierre is poised to strike:

waggler and catapult

Compared to whip fishing, the waggler places greater demands on the angler, to cast accurately, keep the line straight and strike smartly. My students found it tricky but rewarding:

waggler fishing

Escape from the city

To Picks Cottage Fishery for a coarse fishing session with Tim, who travelled from central London on public transport. Apparently it was pretty straightforward – tube to Walthamstow then a bus which dropped him close by. Total journey time 80 minutes.

The float pond is like an oasis of calm and green close to the City (it will be even greener when some of the recent marginal plantings establish themselves). Tim was visibly chilling out as he took in his new surroundings.

The aim was to cover the essentials of fishing with a rod and fixed spool reel – how to assemble the tackle, cast out and play a fish (“playing a fish” is bringing it to the landing net without letting it break the line). I also wanted to cover some different methods and baits and talk about knots, watercraft and other fishy subjects.

It took 45 minutes to do the usual tackle handling drills, to the point where I felt Tim was ready to cast in and then land a carp unaided should he hook one. The next step was to rig up the method feeder and prime it with bait using the mould – a bit like making a sandcastle:

method feeder

The first cast sploshed in and we sat back to await events. Nothing happened for a while, until I noticed the line had fallen slack – it looked as if a fish had dragged the feeder towards us (a “drop back” bite). As Tim wound down, the rod took on a decent bend – he was into a carp:

playing a carp

After a minute or two it was in the net and being held up for a picture by its happy captor:

Tim and carp

Another fish followed soon after (this time giving the more usual pull on the line) and we then changed to the waggler float rod with maggots (aka “wag and mag”).

We had been spraying said maggots with the catapult for the last hour, to encourage the carp to get stuck in, so I hoped for instant action with the new method. This did not happen, but we were anyway kept busy, as the cross onshore breeze meant we needed constantly to work on line control to achieve good presentation.

Eventually Tim got a good cast away, closer to the far bank than his previous efforts. Soon after the float went under and he connected with a fast moving carp, which put his fish playing skills to the test. My only intervention was to suggest he slacked off the drag when the fish was plunging about on a short line.

The last half hour brought no more bites and we packed up. Tim said he had enjoyed the float fishing more than the method feeder. It required more active input from the angler and the light gear made playing a fish more involving.

It had been an enjoyable session in pleasant surroundings.

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