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With the summer seeming like a distant memory & the seasonal temperatures beginning to take a distinct nose-dive, weíre now at that point of the year where I look forward to my fishing excursions with earnest. There just seems to be something about waking on a cool, crisp morning at the waterside, firing up the kettle & savouring the atmosphere that as anglers we know only too well. The slow start to my Spoonbill campaign seemed to gather some momentum after catching three fish in quick succession, but things have really slowed-up for me again of late & I think Iím starting to get my head around just why that isÖ Iím forever evaluating my sessions & even whilst Iím not catching, as long as Iím learning then it gives me something to work on when I am next able to get on to the bankside. My recent conclusions are derived from examining the results of the more successful anglers on the lake in direct comparison to myself & in effect, the biggest discernible difference is quite simply, time. Overwhelmingly, my sessions are limited to a quick end of week overnight session where there is a limit to the amount of hours that I can devote to locating fish in direct relation to time actually spent with a bait in the water. Whilst I donít evaluate my level of success by the success of others, it can become quite frustrating while some anglers are catching relatively well by virtue of the amount of time they are able to commit to the pursuit of their quarry. Not that I am envious or jealous in any way Ė on the contrary, I applaud their success. Whilst some may consider that they are unable to Ďcompeteí with the more successful anglers & fish elsewhere, it makes me more determined to find my own solution. In simple terms, I need to swing things in my favour & by simply turning up, chucking in a few kilos of boilies, going to sleep then waking up in the morning to pack up & go home isnít the way forward & truth be told, has really never been my style, so Iíve been working on a few edges that might hopefully improve my results in the near future. Remember, itís not a competition Ė Iím not trying to catch more or bigger fish than the other anglers on the lake, I simply want to be able to keep a few fish visiting my unhooking mat from time to time in the relatively short periods I am able to spend there. Itís all about utilising my time more effectively. In some ways, it can be a little embarrassing. Here you are fishing with some of the countryís Ďeliteí carp anglers & when they are catching fish consistently & you arenít, there are times when you can be made to feel quite silly, but thatís fishing. Iím solely reliant upon being in the right area, with the right bait presented in the right way with a relatively small window of opportunity & even the best get it incorrect occasionally. However I realise that there are certain things that I can do to hopefully swing things in my favour & I certainly donít feel as if Iím out of my depth fishing amongst these good anglers.

 

In recent weeks, Spoonbill has produced its first thirties, culminating in an awesome lake record fish of 36lb+, testament to the progression of the residents of the lake. Of course, the political wrangling will ensue upon such captures & to be fair, Iím not privy to these discussions & ultimately, I donít actually care too much for the political side of angling. As I see it, itís a hobby, a pastime that I enjoy & if people want to immerse themselves into the political arena, then thatís their prerogative, but itís not where I see my place. Ultimately, these are great achievements & should be celebrated as such. Specifically in the case of the new lake record fish, I personally admire the captor for his result - make no mistake, he deserves it wholeheartedly for the amount of effort he has put in, not only in a fishing sense, but in all areas of the development of the fishery & for this I publicly applaud him (a well-known angler, I donít need to name him here). Iím sure that over time further discussions will take place as to the origins of these fish, but when all is said & done, does it really matter? Letís celebrate such achievements for what they are Ė big, healthy fish in a wonderful, thriving environment. Their future is bright, let us not lose sight of what we as anglers are trying to achieve.

 

Further to developments (or lack of) in my own fishing, my favourite subject of rigs has ironically been in my thoughts once again. More specifically Iíve been once again wondering if it is possible that at times, we may be overcomplicating things unnecessarily. My reasoning stems from a period of trial & error at Spoonbill where of late Iíve been employing hinged stiff-link presentations with minimal success. To my mind, if I could only use one rig for all of my fishing then this would be the one, but more & more Iím finding that simple, uncomplicated setups are producing most of my takes. In light of this, Iíve spent more time concerning myself with trying to ensure that my rigs are presented as undetectable as possible, whilst maintaining solid rig mechanics. Ultimately, what I am trying to achieve is to put three pieces of the jigsaw together - bait, rig & location & by satisfying the first two which I have total control over, this will leave me to concentrate solely on the latter. 

 

As far as bait is concerned, Iíve been working tirelessly over the last few years trying to come up with a bait that I am 100% happy to employ anywhere. During the last decade, Iíve pretty much stuck to the same recipe, but played around with various different liquid additives with a modicum of success, although as much of my fishing has been on low-stocked waters, it is difficult to interpret this level of success for this reason. I have always been in debt to Wayne Dunn for my thoughts on bait & whilst Iím no Ďbait guruí, Wayne did explain to me over two decades ago how effective bait formulation is achieved. In recent times, I have been messing about with base mix ingredients, trying to strike a balance between palatability, solubility & nutritional profile as after all, what tastes good to me will surely taste good to the fish, right? Take a look at some of the most successful carp baits of modern times Ė bread, sweetcorn, nuts etc, all have a high degree of palatability to us humans. Texture & nutritional benefits of a food source will also have a large impact upon our acceptance of a food source, particularly the latter. I often refer to a session I fished on my local canal back in the mid-eightiesÖ Along came Wayne, he sat down beside me & immediately asked ďwhat bait are you using?Ē. When I showed him my very basic mix concocted with items found on my local supermarket shelves, he proceeded to crumb it up in the palm of his hand, sniffed it & to my horror then tasted it! His assessment I will never forget. He said ďit smells okay, has nice consistency, but tastes bloody awfulĒ! Gutted at his appraisal of my mix, I decided to stick with it Ė catching very few fish in the processÖ The more I thought about what he had said, the more it made sense & Iíve strived to achieve something close to perfection ever since.

 

When I began employing fishmeal into my bait formulation when it was commercially available, Iíve pretty much stuck with it ever since as it was the one single ingredient that had a major impact on my results when I moved on from birdfood / milk protein based mixes. In fact, the idea of omitting it from a mix fills me with dread at the mere thought & with Wayneís advice, I continued to use it through the winter months with no discernible detriment to my results. My biggest issue with using fishmeal derivatives was that in most cases, a bait would have an inherent bitterness. Having played around with sweetener & oil levels, I have been able to negate this to a certain degree, but not to the point where Iíve been completely happy with the end result. Ironically, one of my biggest successes was to employ sweetcorn oil, which made a fishmeal mix much more palatable by softening this bitterness. My biggest discovery in recent years has been the use of essential oils, amino compounds & spices within my mixes. Iíd long believed that a simple base mix with a flavour label was sufficient & it took me a while to realise how wrong I was! Iíve lost count of the amount of small batches of trial mixes Iíve made over the years that Iíve just thrown straight in the bin afterwards, but if I havenít got confidence in what Iím using, then I see no point in using it.

 

Personally, I couldnít care less if my Ďperfectí mix is fruity, spicy or fishy, as long as it satisfies the criteria I require. Having stumbled across an ingredient that I first employed a few months ago, immediately I knew it was what I was looking for & with that, I have worked to build a bait around it. As I write, Iím confident that Iíve got a mix that is as good as I can get it & whilst it is obviously at the testing stage, Iím genuinely excited about its development. Certainly I have selected each individual element within my mix to complement each other, with just a couple of Ďunknownsí (these include so-called appetite stimulators / feed inducers) that I have only minor knowledge of that I believe will enhance my food source even furtherÖ Ironically I wanted to create a simple, uncomplicated & low-cost mix, but Iíve actually ended up heading in the other direction! It isnít as complex as other mixes Iíve seen, but it has changed & evolved over time, as Iím sure it will continue to do so. Iíve also taken some time to compare my mix with other Ďprovení baits & presently, Iím more than comfortable with the conclusion of my comparisons. There is however an issue that continually enters my mind & to be truthful, is one that can never be rectifiedÖ By way of an analogy, itís unlikely Iíd choose to eat cornflakes for lunch or a curry for breakfast & to this end, do fish have preferences too at certain times of the day or season? I fully understand that at various times of the year that natural food sources will become more prominently available & that essentially, they are not in a position to pick-&-choose their diet at will, but it does beg the question with different anglers using different baits, do they have a preference for one particular bait at a specific time? Similarly, we as humans can quite quickly become bored if we have too much of one thing, whereas we are led to believe that the more of one good food source that is applied, the better the long-term effectiveness of it will beÖ A balanced diet is key, after all whilst protein is good, a diet of nothing else than high protein is of no benefit to us, after all if we chose to consume the type of whey protein that bodybuilders supplement their diets with to the exclusion of anything else, Iím sure it wouldnít benefit anyone in the long term & we would certainly get pretty tired of it. In this case, a pizza or chocolate bar would almost certainly be a much welcome change!. A balance of protein, carbohydrates & fats is much more beneficial. Again, as humans a craving for carbohydrates is a common condition Ė do fish have a similar requirement???


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