Click images above to enlarge
If you read my Angling Journal on a regular basis you will know that I recently fished pool number one at Woodland Lodge. On the Kinver Freeliners ticket, there are two pools on site and although they are both similar in size, make-up and proximity, in effect they are entirely different propositions. Pool one, as I highlighted on my visit, is full of small carp. Even though the conditions were harsh and a northerly blew throughout the night, I still managed a few fish. It’s one of those places where you might not catch a big carp, but if it’s just a bend in your rod you’re after then definitely a banker venue.
However, pool two has a different personality altogether. Apart from the fact that the carp are fewer in number yet of a larger size, they certainly don’t yield themselves freely. Last year I fished it a few times and blanked on every occasion. But my recent visit to pool one stirred up a desire within me to get back and give it another go. And so, on a warm evening that’s exactly what I did, driving the reasonable distance into Shropshire, passing the first pool and driving across the rock hard ground to where I was going to spend the night. In appearance both ponds are pretty much what you might refer to as ‘commercials’. Small, standard depths, a few trees around the edge and the obligatory island.
That’s the island visible on the right of photograph 1. But rather than a bare raised plot of land, it is covered in vegetation including willow trees with branches hanging well over the water. It was to the branches that I fished one rod, let’s call it the right rod. The left rod was about a length out in the margins. That might not seem as instant a feature as overhanging branches on an island, but in effect margins are great places to fish, particularly at night. On a well-fished venue the fish know that there will be a buffet awaiting them, as many anglers throw their unused bait in front of them at the end of the day. Whilst that’s not likely to happen at Woodland Lodge, as it isn’t fished heavily, nevertheless the margins are still definitely worth exploring as they are a drop-off and natural food will collect there.
If you look at the accompanying video you will see my baiting-up approach on camera. It’s quite simple really – pigeon conditioner seeds and a small amount of brown crumb to mould them together so that I can throw them out by hand. Although bait boats and spodding have their place in angling, if I can do it the simple way I will. I didn’t go heavy on the brown crumb, just enough to make sure the seeds went where I wanted them rather than dropping all over the place, which is what would happen if you threw them out on their own. On the subject of seeds, preparation is essential. Dry seeds if used that way will swell in the stomach of a fish, with disastrous consequences. That’s why they need to be prepared properly so that they take on water and are at maximum size.
My tackle set-up on Woodland Lodge was pretty straightforward. Sufix Synergy mainline and a short braided hook length. The lead was 2oz and fixed courtesy of a couple of beads and a power gum knot, so very safe in the event of a break. Bait-wise I fished with a 12mm M1 pop-up boilie on the left rod and a 14mm M2 bottom boilie on the right. Hook size was 6 on the left and 4 on the right. Everything was nicely balanced; the evening looked good and it was with confidence that I cast out and put the rods on the bank sticks. Woodland Lodge is such a quiet place, not only is it very lightly fished, but being totally out of the way you don’t get bothered at all by anyone. Off a country lane, down a couple of tracks, and in the case of pool two, across a field. You can only just occasionally hear the odd car in the distance. Apart from that it was skylarks, blackcaps and chiffchaffs that broke the silence.
The night itself was quiet, very quiet in fact. But as someone who prefers to sit it out for a big fish rather than catch lots and lots of small ones, that suits me fine. As day broke though, so did the alarm on the right-hand rod come to life. While most people are fast asleep, I was playing a fish at 5.00am. Striking into it, I found myself reeling in slack line at first, as it had come straight in to the bank. Once it realised that it was on the end of a rod though it headed back out into open water. I was surprised it didn’t go for the overhanging branches, rather than trying to outsmart me that way. I knew that unless I had a hook pull I was firm favourite to net it and so in due course, after giving me the runaround, it was safely in the mesh. Once on the unhooking mat, I thought to myself that this could be a ’20’.
Not only was the fish a good size in terms of length but it was a good depth and more importantly well-filled out. You can catch chub the same size that can vary between 3lb and 5lb depending on whether they are ‘hollow’ or ‘full’. Therefore with a bigger fish like a carp the difference can be quite appreciable, so I decided to weigh it. You can see the scales in action in photograph 3, with images 2 and 4 of the fish itself. I was over the proverbial moon and even more so with taking the venue into consideration. As I so often write, it’s not the stand-alone weight, but rather where it came from. I let Steve Williams, the secretary of Kinver Freeliners know of the catch, and he promptly posted on the club forum ‘First 20 off pool 2’. In fact I decided to use that as the heading for the article!
I was back on the venue the next night, and as before, I had the pool to myself. My approach, tactics and bait were exactly the same, other than tying a new rig on one of the rods nothing had changed at all. I arrived a couple of hours before dark, cast out, put the rods on the bank sticks and waited. This type of fishing involves not only patience but also self-belief. When you cast a rod out and know that you may not touch it again until ten hours later, that requires absolute confidence. If you’re worrying whether the bait is still on, if you’re in the right spot or if there’s a tangle, you’ll have a restless time. Yes sometimes these things might happen, but that’s where experience kicks in. Plus there are little things that you can do to minimise problems. For example, I cast out using PVA bags and that helps to avoid issues with the hook lengths getting into a tangle.
The night was very quiet, apart from the tawny owls that are resident in the area. I heard at least three individual birds through the night. Morning brought on an impressive dawn chorus with blackcaps and chiffchaffs among the ornithological orchestra. I also saw a skylark singing in flight as well. The fish however were back to their elusive ways and so packing away, although I left the rods till last hoping for a late take, nothing materialised. But that’s specimen angling for you, as I mention on the accompanying video, that you can watch via the link at the foot of the page. (Originally published May 2011)