As most of you know this winter has been the wettest on record but on the plus side it has been one of the mildest I can remember. Unlike a lot of anglers that hang up there rods for the winter I actually relish the winter months as yes it can be some of the hardest fishing of the year, but it can also be some of the most rewarding. Another aspect of winter fishing is that the banks are at their quietest and particularly on the park more often than not I have the place to myself.
As I said in last winter's blog in recent years I’ve had some great winter’s fishing on the park as the shallow nature of the lakes means the fish respond to changes in weather conditions and in late winter and early spring the lengthening days much quicker than if the lakes were deep.
Despite the rather up and down weather that we've had this winter I have had some great fishing and in fact only had a total blank on just one session.
As with all of my Cosgrove Caster's blog's I like to keep my ear as close to the ground as possible, keeping you informed with the latest catches, but even with the unseasonably mild weather there have been very few anglers fishing on the park. Mick Linford has been out lure fishing for pike on a few occasions catching some nice pike just into double figures and I have seen a couple of anglers fishing Fountain View 2 but received no catch reports and that's been about it apart from my own fishing, so I guess I will have to bore you with my own ramblings!
As I have said on a few occasions throughout the winter I like to try something a little different and this winter as with last winter I wanted to target the big roach that I believe inhabit the Ski Lake. My plan was to get Christmas out of the way before starting my campaign. To be quite honest I had such good fishing leading up to the holiday period and with the weather taking a turn for the worse in the new year I bottled it and changed my plans. I wanted to do a little more pike fishing this winter and in fact I had a couple of moderately successful sessions before Christmas taking pike just into double figures on both lures and dead-baits, but once the park had flooded on Christmas Eve I decided against it as I have only had limited success when the lake is full of flood water and is the colour of coffee! Likewise some river fishing that I wanted to do was on most occasions completely out of the question.
Early in November I had right result that made my winter - whatever else happened. On Friday 15th November carp fishing with a friend on the Residents Lake and I was not having so much as a touch! My friend Mike had taken a lovely 13lb common carp so I was happy for him and it gave me some confidence. I sat watching motionless indicators all day, but it occurred to me that we were sitting in the shade and it was freezing, however the far side of the lake had been in the sun all day and I just wondered if the fish might take advantage of that fact and wander into the far margin late in the day. How right was I. As a last ditch effort just before dark I whacked a single bright - over flavoured pop up across the lake. It is a good throw of around 100 yards to the far margin and was happy to drop it 'on the button' first cast. 45 minutes later I had a tentative bite that was just that a bite not a proper run. Fortunately I was sitting by my rods as (school boy error) I had forgotten to turn on my Fox buzzer after casting and actually watched the bite develop. On lifting into the fish I could feel it was a good fish. A lot of really big fish don't roar off like young fit fish do, but it thumped really hard and kited off to my right. Really I lead the fish in and it was only when in my own margin did it start to pull a bit, mind you at this point I saw the fish that I thought was a good '20' and I really started to get the wobbles and was praying it didn't drop off. On this occasion the fishing gods were looking down kindly on me and it went in the landing net at the first attempt. Straight away I realised that this wasn't a big '20' but was in fact the second '30' I had taken from park waters. I carefully zeroed the weigh sling on my Fox digitals and was grinning like a Cheshire cat as they read 31lb - a new park PB.
My friend did the honours with the camera and got some good shots. During this time we had a good look at this stunning linear mirror carp and we both came to the conclusion that this was the same fish that Paul Hickson had taken at 27lb in back August!
During December I had several enjoyable piking sessions taking pike on both dead baits and lure just into double figures. As a swim finding tactic I was lure fishing during my lunch break and it was during these 'mini sessions' that I located some pike that would later prove helpful in finding some new locations for my day sessions. I took some nice pike to just under 10lb during these lunch break sessions, but what they lacked in size they made up in acrobatics. Some of these fish fought really hard even tailwalking in the unseasonably mild water conditions.
Even though I was enjoying my pike fishing I couldn't help thinking that in such mild winter conditions that the carp would still be willing to feed. I had a couple of low doubles from The Residents Lake that gave me an idea as to there location on that particular lake, but on the Friday before Christmas I had a result that I could only dream about during the winter. It had been mild all week and I actually put out a little bait during my lunch breaks a couple of days before my session, but I thought the weather had at last changed when on the Thursday night we had the lowest temperatures of the winter thus far and my Friday session was greeted with a hard frost that I felt would probably kill the fishing. I sat for 5 hours and I felt my suspicions were coming true. One of the nice things about having the lake to myself is that I can experiment with different locations and tactics without worrying about other anglers. As it was so slow I changed tactics on one rods to a 'Zig Rig' set mid water. This is a tactic I have used and caught fish on before as there are times during the winter that the fish are not on the bottom but are grouped together sitting in the mid layers that are more comfortable for them. For an hour I tried a piece of yellow foam on a 'Zig' without success but within 10 minutes of changing to a piece of white foam I had an amazing 'single toner'. The fish fought hard and eventually kited into my left margin and the hooklength was promptly cut through by what I later found to be a pile of bricks covered in razor sharp Zebra Mussels - "bug---".
My disappointment was only short lived. Just as I was re rigging back up I had another run on a bottom fished pop up. The fish gave a really good account of itself and resulted in a stunning 19lb common.
On Christmas Eve the park suffered its first flood of what proved to be a very wet few months. In total we had 5 floods that meant even when the water levels had abated the lakes were still 'well up' and the colour of tea. Although this period proved to be interesting and often frustrating I continued to catch fish. As well as trying to find there location I was having to keep a serious eye on just being safe!
On one session in February I was 'carping' on Fountain View 2. It had been raining for a few days and the river Tove was slowly rising so I was keeping a really close eye on it. I was enjoying a good session as I took 2 nice commons to 11lb 8oz in the first 2 hours of fishing when all of a sudden I heard a strange rushing sound. What I hadn't seen was the river flooding into Willow Banks then into Fountain View 1. What I heard was the sound of the lake bursting its banks and it flooded over into Fountain View 2. The far bank looked like a weir on a river. I immediately thought better to be safe than sorry and no fish is worth losing your life for. In fact within the few minutes it took me to pack up the lake rose about a foot and was the start of a serious flood for the whole park!
I continued to catch carp mostly around double figures and on one occasion in late February four tench from four different lakes so I was very pleased with my efforts. The weather at the end of March took a big turn for the better and Spring had truly sprung. On the last two Friday's I took advantage of this fishing Fountain View. I decided just for a change to use my match gear and took a lovely catch of 8 carp including 4 doubles to 11lb 8oz on 'Method Feeder' tactics.
The following Friday I had 2 lovely doubles on long pole tactics actually on worm! Great sport that caused me to bang on spare sections to follow the hard fighting fish out. Standing there with 14.5m of pole and with my size 16 black hydro elastic at full stretch I was not in control of those fish for several minutes.
'Looking Forward To April'
Until the weather warms up a little I would continue my approach as I have done all the winter, in other words for the carp, stick to bright coloured – over flavoured singles or small highly attractive PVA bags made up with boilie crumb and small pellets etc. Fish tend to steer clear of the marginal areas, especially with extra human activity associated with the park opening, so while the water remains cold look at the slightly deeper water.
The long range weather forecast for April is very good with mild conditions continuing. If the weather does stay mild April can be a really good for the tench that all the lakes on the park hold including some lovely specimens.
My favourite approach is using feeder tactics. I still prefer to use a multi rod set up on ‘buzzers’. My 1.5lb tc barbel rods allow me to cast a good distance when I need to and by using 8lb mainline I still have a good chance of landing any rogue carp that comes along. Although scaled down carp rigs catch a lot of fish, for me the ultimate has to be red maggots fished on a 14 hook fished in conjunction with a block-end swim-feeder. For fishing at distance I use a little ‘helicopter’ rig with the fluorocarbon hook-length rotating above the feeder. I also have had good success using 'method feeder tactics. Whilst fishing I rely on the feeder to deposit my bait to the swim, but as the conditions improve I start to spod/spomb a bit of bait out. Tench love particles and my mix consists of hemp, pellets, casters and dead maggots together with a little ground bait.
'2014 Match Dates'
I have now published the match dates for 2014. As in previous year I will be running a 10 match series open to all ‘residents’. The definition of residents for match entry is any angler who is visiting the park legally, in other words the matches are open to all existing residents, weekend visitors, family and friends. Entry to the matches held on Mallard and Grebe Lakes is £5 and is limited to 23 and will be on a first come first served basis, so book early.
Please note :- both Grebe and Mallard Lake's are reserved and will be closed to fishing from 10pm the evening before until 2pm the afternoon of the match.
The draw will be at 7.30am, fishing from 8.30am until 1.30pm. Although each match will be fished in its own right, points will be awarded - 12 to the winner, 11 for 2nd, 10 for 3rd and so on, with the best points score from 6 matches added up to find the top angler of the year and a trophy for this and the biggest match caught fish of the year will be awarded at the presentation evening held in October after the last match.
Match dates: - 12/04/14, 17/05/14, 31/05/14, 21/06/14, 05/07/14, 16/08/14, 30/08/14, 27/09/14 and 18/10/14.
With the park now being open my Cosgrove Caster’s blog will resume its monthly format. I hope to bring you information on all things relating to fishing on the park. Being a member of staff You may see me on the park but if you need any advice or have any success please pass on the details and any pictures. I can always be contacted at gary@cosgrovepark.Co.uk