All in the timing

A few weeks ago I did a feature for Improve Your Coarse Fishing at Lakeside Pocklington and really enjoyed it, so when I was next fishing with usual angling partner Graham Drewery I suggested he join me for a day there, fun fishing at it’s best I told him, but it didn’t quite turn out like that.

I recently had a conversation about angling pressure with an experienced carp angler who has forgotten more about fish biology than I’ve ever known. He was saying that Carp and several others of our common freshwater species are scientifically classified as diurnal feeders, which basically means their natural preference is to feed during daylight hours, particularly early morning and before dusk, but on busy waters this is often suppressed because the fish become nervous of the angling pressure. The outcome, very tentative feeding during the day and strong feeding during the night. That’s fine if the water allows night fishing, but what if it is day only, just like Lakeside?

So to our day at Lakeside. Our days fun fishing did not start well because the weather was dire, and as we arrived it was blowing a gale and the rain was, shall we say, persistent! Job one was to get a brollie up and staked down. The weather gradually improved as the day progressed but the fishing didn’t really kick in as I knew Lakeside could. It’s a well stocked water and despite trying various baits and tactics we only had the odd line bite, a decent chub each, and several cups of tea. We were definitely not bagging up.

Mid afternoon and it’s time for a serious rethink, we could carry on doing what we were doing, but had no evidence that things would improve, so we needed an alternative strategy. The lake was quite busy angler wise, and no-one was doing well. We were fishing in one of the popular areas, in a line with several other anglers. The far end of the lake was empty and had been all day, possibly because it faced into the wind and the rain!

Graham opted for a move and “tough” lad that he is went round to fish the far end into the wind. I decided to set up a float rod and try a few margin spots. So I packed all the gear away, and took it back to the car, just keeping out the basics for a bit of margin float fishing, but before I left the swim as I was fairly certain it was too late for anyone else to arrive or move, I threw several handfuls of my pellet, sweetcorn, maggot mix in the margin for later, just in case.

My float set up for margin carp fishing is simplicity itself. A basic waggler attached using a float attachment held in place with a short length of silicon tubing. At the business end a fluorocarbon hook-length and tungsten putty moulded around the rig swivel. The float is set well over depth and after an underhand swing, the rod is laid on the ground, the reel clutch slackened and the spool hand turned to take up the spare line and cock the float. Once everything is settled I scatter a small handful of my chosen bait around the float and repeat as and when appropriate, using float movement to judge fish activity. My rod for this is an Infinity Barbel rod, perfect for margin carp, and a Regal 4000Z BRi reel loaded with 12lb line.

It wasn’t long before odd twitches and dips on the float signalled fish in the area and I was well pleased when suddenly one of the dips kept going and I was grabbing the rod as a fish powered off. It’s great when a plan comes together, and a while later I slipped the net under a nice mirror. I hoped it was to be the start of a run of fish but it wasn’t the case, and the float did not move again, so I wound in and went for a chat with Graham. He was doing well and his move into the wind was paying off handsomely with three carp to mid double.

The sun was sinking lower, and the lake was due to close in just over an hour, I wondered if the fish had found the bait I had thrown into the first swim before I had left it, only one way to find out.

I left Graham to it, and quickly returned to the first swim. Everyone had packed up and the area was deserted. Very quietly I approached the swim and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was a phenomenal amount of activity in the margin, swirling, bubbling, lots of signs of fish rooting around, I knelt down, unhooked the already baited hook from the butt ring and gently swung it out into the margin. The float didn’t settle, it just landed on the surface, stood up, and kept going awesome!

It was to be my best fish of the day, but it didn’t finish there, what was amazing was I had three more in that last hour. Twelve hours of quite difficult fishing and one hour of mayhem. I had thought there was a chance of a fish or two coming into the margin, but I was totally unprepared by how strong the activity was, it was a stunning example of fish behaviour being influenced by angling pressure.

On the way home Graham and I discussed our day, and two things kept being repeated.

1) How important location can be, and the swims nearest the carp park aren’t always the best options because they can be the swims that regularly get more pressure.

2) Timing, how often do you see a lake empty of anglers late afternoon, on busy waters fish get used to that and know when to feed safely. My day was made in the last hour, success was most certainly… all in the timing.

Best of luck with your fishing, but perhaps you can help make your own luck, but going that extra mile, and either taking a bit longer to locate the fish or by staying that bit longer.

Good luck, Brian