I know you’ve been a member of Farriers for a number of years now Duncan, but what initially attracted you to the venue and where were you fishing before getting access to the Cotswolds haven, owned by the Carp Society?
“Six years ago I was offered my ticket, I was fairly new to the area at the time and I was fishing a fairly hard lake on the waterpark. I was with Mistral back then and I kept seeing pictures of these huge commons from Tim Wagner who was also with Mistral. This naturally spiked my interest and I kind of hinted at wanting to know where they were from, suggesting the Cotswolds to which he let onto me about Farriers. At the time there wasn’t a waiting list, but the agony of calling the office phone in excess of a thousand times to get on the first come first served places was unlike anything you can imagine. With two phones continually redialling on my lap as I sat on a lake down the road eventually the phone was answered and to my surprise I bagged myself a ticket that year.
“The lake record at the time was a mighty 45lb, with several other 40lb carp and a large quantity of thirties, even back then it was a premier water. It was the quantity of carp that really attracted me, the chance of a few more bites. Every angler loves the solitude of a sea-like, open, windswept pit containing a handful of stunning, huge carp, but for a man like myself – full-time job, young family and everything else that goes with modern life, it simply isn’t practical to wait for three bites a year. I love my carp fishing, but I love catching too, and Farriers would offer me that in abundance.
“It’s comfortable fishing at Farriers, by that I mean you catch within 60 yards range, and you can catch on overnighters. The syndicate members all get along so despite it being busy there is no friction and obviously a key addition was the otter fence two years ago. I don’t need to go into detail but every angler is fast learning the benefits of a fence to secure a fisheries future. I kept my Farriers ticket while fishing other venues and in the six I’ve had the ticket, only really spent considerable time on there in the last two years. A year on Christchuch followed by one on Stoneacres saw me move onto Acton for two years which saw me only do five or six nights a year for those first four, but I still managed to catch a few. It’s a lot of money to hang onto the ticket but I knew it was somewhere that suited my demands for a fishing lake.”
Although you caught well in the first four years despite minimal time fishing the lake, what made you switch Farriers to your main water last year?
“I was fishing Acton at the time, and when I got my ticket for the water, I hadn’t quite appreciated the parameters of the ticket. The full implications of the time restrictions on the ticket meant you could only do 48 hours per week, but what I didn’t know was that also included only one trip per week. So my plan to do two overnighters and a morning or afternoon totalling no more than 48 hours went completely out the window. Add to that the two-hour drive to get there and the water was just out of my reach in reality, but the lake got under my skin. I really wanted fish from there and I perhaps stayed on there longer than I should have but that’s hindsight. A thousand pounds for what was probably 20 nights a year was very frivolous, fortunately I caught what was probably the biggest fish in there down in weight, but two mid-forties were enough to call it a day and concentrate on Farriers.”
What were your hopes and aspirations when you eventually began fishing the water more? I know there are countless big fish residing in there but what was your ultimate aim fishing there more regularly?
“Because I’d been away for a while there were a few good fish coming out, I simply wanted to enjoy my fishing. Long drives and a lot of pressure was put on myself fishing Acton and that was something I wanted to get away from, I just wanted to enjoy my fishing again. I didn’t have a great year last year, or at least I don’t think so anyway. I did alright, had a couple of good hits but also some blanks where I felt I should have caught. If you’re doing a quick night turning up after 6pm, the air’s still warm and you’ll do a quick lap to find the fish. In certain areas, like the weedy or those directly in the sun, would always hold fish to some degree. During the hours of darkness, the weed will suck in all the oxygen, pushing the fish out, so I’d wake up in the morning and the fish had done the off in the dark and would be somewhere, elsewhere up the lake. It took a bit of punishment before I twigged what they were doing so didn’t feel like I fished that well. It was okay if you were there for a couple of days because you could track their movements and get on them during the session, but on overnighters I never had that luxury.
“It’s been similar this season in some respects. You’ll see them in an area, catch even sometimes, and then if you get back down a day or so later expecting them to be in the same area with no changes in the weather and they’re up the other end of the lake. My decision making was poor last year and I was constantly trying to get on the fish for my overnighters. This season has changed and I think my decision making has been paying off. Rather than getting on the fish I’m using my knowledge from last year and recent sessions to pre-empt where the fish are going to be. Fishing areas where I know they’ll turn up means I’m ready for them, traps set. This is obviously educated guessing so I never expected it to work every time, but a spot that should do a night time, or early morning bite has certainly accounted for more fish so far this season that the one previous.
“Most of the captures are in daylight on Farriers. With a no sacking rule it’s clear when the fish was captured so again my overnighters are somewhat limited with my expectations to catch. That first light bite is what I’ve been choosing areas for and perhaps more luck than judgement has seen me have a good hit of fish this spring.”
You say more luck than judgement, but by angling in a way that focuses on having your rigs set for first light bites, and predicting where they’re going to turn up as they move around a lot is exactly what you set out to do.
“At the beginning of April I set up for a work night, getting my rods out in the dark, fishing an area that I didn’t know that well. One rod was fished to a clear area I found in the dark and the other over some light weed, and I had a bite from the clear spot at first light. While I was playing the fish I saw two or three fish show in front of me and throughout that morning I saw around 12 shows before I packed up for work. I slung the rod back out as soon as the fish was netted with an hour to go and rattled a few self-takes off on the camera, but I was soon barrowing to the car with just the one 20lb carp for my efforts – a welcome fish none-the-less.
“It was Easter before I next got to the lake and it was rammed. I slotted in between a couple of anglers and had a strip of about 20 yards to fish, that’s it. I did the Thursday night and the day on Friday, set my stall out for the night, and just before dark on the opposite side of the lake I saw a fish show in my peripheral. I concentrated my attention over there and saw another one. An angler had been in the swim for a few days and not caught, the coots were dropping and picking up the bait still in the water, but I’d seen shows in two different areas of the swim. I packed everything up in the bivvy keeping an eye on the water, saw another one, and just as I had everything wrapped up ready to take the rods out, I received a big liner…
“I saw another fish on the far side so made the decision to move, wound my rods in, threw everything on the barrow and made my way round the lake. In fairness the light was pretty much gone when I got there but I opted for zigs. You know when you see fish top and you feel like they’re on flies rather than just the head coming out. I got up at 4am, still dark, and began questioning the depth of my zigs. I felt it was necessary to chuck a marker out to check the depth and clunk, hit a fish on the way down. Hoping I’d not spooked them I messed about with the zigs for a short while before noticing bubbling in an area, at which point I switched to fish the bottom. I soon had a 24lber resting up in the net.
“Later on that evening I got two spots baited ready to go and just after casting out a nose popped up in a different area. Consulting my book, I wound one rod in, wrapped up and cast right onto where the fish showed with the clip, a few pouchfulls of boilie over the top and it wasn’t until the next morning that it was away.
“My barrow was loaded with everything but the essentials ready to leave. With literally five minutes before leaving the bobbin smashed into my blank and the tip arced round such was the ferocity of the take. At forty yards the fish wallowed, heavily across the lake with meagre attempts to bury itself in the weed to no avail. A huge-framed 38lb common was photographed before I had to rush off and get home, but that split decision accounted for two fish that session.”
So you left that morning for Easter with the family, when did you next get down?
“It was bank holiday before I was back to the lake on a Sunday, the lake hadn’t been fishing too well but a quick walk around found some patches of bubbles in one of the corners. More than one fish being the culprit due to the varying locations within a small area. I thought that’d be worth a night, the area is known for holding fish through the night and there was quite a cold north-easterly blowing across the lake. It’s a tight swim with not a lot of water to go at so it was no surprise that the swim was free. The pin prick bubbles gave me all the confidence I needed to drop in for the night and I could have easily missed them, close in, if I wasn’t really looking for them if you know what I mean.
“By the time I got back in with my gear I’d seen two nut out and followed the shows with singles trying to keep disturbance to a minimum. There was quite a few fish topping before I fell asleep, and then again at first light. I’d had a couple of big liners on my left hand rod but I’d also seen shows further to the left, so I wound the rod in to move it over when my heart sank. As the rig broke the surface I could see the hook point had passed through the swivels eye on the chod – I was devastated to say the least.
“In one passing hour since recasting I had several liners, two where my slug on a semi-slack line hit the blank they were that severe. On the second, as I’m always dubious as to how much a carp is shaking its head trying to rid itself of the hook on a chod, I reeled down and lifted the rod. Nothing there. I checked the hook point again and recast back to the same area. I’d already upgraded to a 4oz lead after my earlier tangle with a 2oz lead, and I felt that should negate the same happening again. I followed it with 10 or so baits this time, and 15 minutes later… bang!
“At first I thought it was a tench. It came towards me before breaking the surface when I then knew it was a good one. I assumed it would do the usual big fish wallow into the net, until it stripped 50 yards and proceeded to play cat and mouse with me as it neared the net and stripped line continuously for a good ten minutes. I’d worked myself into a right mess picking the other line up and I could see these big scales gleaming in the morning sunlight. I finally landed it – this huge 35lb 2oz common.
“I’d seen two fish show during the fight to the side of the swim so as soon as the pictures were done I moved a rod over. Adding a little bit of bait the rods were motionless for the rest of the day, but I fully expected them to return through the night. I had to be away at 7am, but around 5am I banked a smaller double figure carp from that rod.
“I got back down to the lake on the Tuesday for a night between work. Although the lake looked dead I had a few areas where I though the fish would be for morning bite time. The spot I’d had two from the few days previous and another the opposite end of the lake. A few had been seen cruising in the daytime up that end and after umming and arring I eventually decided to head for the new area. It’s known for big fish and despite the stiff breeze pumping up there I had spots marked in my book, and when it’s already dark, it makes things much more practical to get set for morning.
“Two casts if I was accurate proved to be the right choice. One where I’d had the 38lb common from previously and the other on a spot which I actually baited on that last trip in the swim but didn’t fish. I could see some fish out in open water beyond where I was fishing but then I noticed a carp gently break the surface with its nose 10 yards beyond my rod. Shortly after I was lifting the rod after a savage take and it was like hitting a wall at six in the morning. The culprit had buried into the weed, the head shaking and that almost longer lunge of the rod had me considering its size, almost certainly a bigger one I remember thinking. As it hit the surface I could see these huge shoulders, it wallowed in towards the net and I knew straight away it was a proper one, eventually weighing in at over 41lb.”
“The next few days away from the lake were hard going, fortunately I was back down again on the Saturday, eager to kick off where I left last time. I’d booked Monday off with the time of year proving to be good over the years. The lake was busy with not too many captures so I loaded the barrow and set off with the full intention of dropping in where the fish had been caught that morning. As I rounded the corner I saw one show, which obviously stopped me in my tracks. I went off for a chat and returned a short while later realising I knew nothing about the swim. A choddy went out where the fish had showed and I leaded about for the second rod, which I put four spombs of Cell and Essential cell over the top. I’ve not been putting too much bait in but it had proved over the previous weeks that I needed to put something out to keep the carps interest in the area.
“Later that afternoon two shows over the bait had me on the edge of my seat, but it wasn’t til after dinner that a tench-like bite signalled from my alarm. A lot of up, down and shaking of the head, coupled with the fish swimming towards me and burying in weed had me thinking it was a tinker. Once it kicked free I knew straight away it wasn’t. It plodded in, pinging off the weed strands as it did. Those big scales rose from the depths again and proceeded to go mental in front of me, boring into the weed at every opportunity. I couldn’t shift it. I was desperate to avoid my other line as these strands of weed continued to plume to the surface. Fortunately, it was in the net soon after, and the width of the carp in the net was phenomenal. Most of the Farriers strain are big-bellied, but this one was streamlined and bullet-like. I knew it was easily a high thirty but when it went 40lb 2oz on the scales I was shocked – I couldn’t believe it. Because of the fight and everything I was trying to recast and bait up and my hands were shaking. They were still shaking an hour later as I was trying to write it into my record book.”
It sounds like you’ve had the perfect Spring campaign Duncan, and executed your plan with precision meaning your fortunes have changed completely from the season previous, what are you hoping for the rest of the year, and have you got any targets?
“To be honest I can’t do much more than I have. Pre-empting where fish will be come morning bite time has helped with my short sessions between work and if I’m being totally honest, I wanted two forties this season. I’ve been lucky to catch forties from the venue before but never more than one in a season, but being a carp angler, I’m always chasing another so we’ll see what the rest of the year brings.”