In applying my bait I was looking at the big picture. I did not want to attract one carp into the swim. After all, what would happen after I caught it? No, what I wanted was to attract lots of carp so I tried to increase the degree of attraction gradually, introducing small pockets of bait - groundbait, pellets, crumb and boilies - that all incorporated Ultimate E-Liquid to a greater or lesser extent. This is a consignment of bait it is just about right for three rods, introduced from a bait boat.
There is plenty of 'soft' material in there, pellets crumb and Frolic dog food, which will break down quickly leaving behind only a mush of food particles and the powerful attraction of the Ultimate E with which they were glugged.
I am not big on tinkering. I have my Uber method that I employ in most venues, changing only when it becomes clear that it is not working. That tactic has stood me in good stead for many years. It involves using one bottom bait and one pop-up rig carrying baits that I am near 100% positive will work. Nine times out of ten the Uber strikes gold! So it was that I started off using HNV Pro pop-ups on a couple of rods and HVN Pro Waters on the other two. On her rods, Tat used pure bottom baits straight out of the bag on a simple nylon hooklink to a size 6 long-shank. We both used JPrecision hand sharpened hooks.
My mate Bill Cottam had suggested I use the JPrecision hooks and if Bill says something works you can take that to the bank. That said, I have always had confidence in using hooks straight from the packet and if the point needed a bit of attention then Gardner's Point Doctor would suffice. Hand sharpened hooks have never previously figured in my thinking, so why start now? Well, the choice was entirely down to Bill's recommendation. I have known the guy a very long time and his carp catching pedigree is impeccable so I trust his judgment entirely. This is a 360 Rig tied on the size 4 Longshank Curve.
And this is my very simple wafter rig, double hookbaits on a supple hooklink to a size 4 JPrecision Wide Gape hook.
I have never really taken to coated hooklink material. Don't know why…it is perhaps an irrational ambivalence. My go-to braid is the old 25lb Kryston Supa Nova, which I have been using since Noah was a lad. However, I was impressed by a sample of the (then) new Fox Coated Braid called Cortex Tungsten. The strippable coated braid is lovely and supple, it knots well and it sinks like a stone thanks to its Tungsten coating. I used the 20lb version but I intend to try the 35lb version soon.
I use a 1.5m length of Gardner Camflex leader on the end of my main lines to pin down the gear at the business end. The Hydro Sink braid is itself super-dense so it sinks under its own weight anyway, but being so fine in diameter it cannot be used straight through as this would put a hooked fish at risk of damage to its flanks and head during the scrap. The Camflex being much thicker is far more fish-friendly and cuts out any risk completely. I splice a loop at each end for easy attachment to mainline and hooklink swivel. The needle is a Fox Splicing Needle. A bobbin threader will do the same job.
We had the majority of our fish on these HNV Pro hookbaits.
So now, at last, we come to the fishing itself. The trip started slowly…very slowly. In my defence, the conditions were right against us with air temperatures in the mid-thirties and the water temp of twenty-six degrees. This was not a breath of wind and frankly, the lake looked dead. It was dead to all intents and purposes and it wasn't until Tat broke her foot that at last, I had some action. Out of the blue, I had a nice fish from the far end of the lake. Fish had shown sporadically down there for a few hours and I felt it was only a matter of time before I had a chance. It was a nice mid-thirty in immaculate condition. It had a huge single scale on its right-hand flank. I had a feeling it might get a nickname soon!
Tat was hampered considerably by the plaster and was unable to fish or even to help out and when the weather changed dramatically she became more or less housebound as she could not risk getting the cast wet. In the end, I fashioned a semi-waterproof covering out of my unhooking mat sleeve. Mind you, the change in the weather worked wonders but with only a week left I needed the carp gods to smile on me…which they did, big style. Here I am dripping wet with a nice common on the mat. Who cares about the rain!
Mind you, it wasn't just the rain that got me soaking wet: an angry fish on the mat came to do the same job!
I was now down to four rods, two on the pontoon and two in the corner. The tactic of introducing Ultimate E-laced free offerings, and in PVA bags and stocking mesh was paying off in spades. In a break in the rain when the sun came out I had this lovely mirror. Jean-Noel was on hand to do the photos and he said he didn't recognise the fish. There was some confusion over the weight. I and Tat read the scales at 53lb 8oz so less 4lb for the sling making it 49lb 8oz. However, Jean recalls the initial reading as 51lb 8oz, an adjusted weight of 47lb 8oz. Strangely enough, the same fish came out six days later and this time the adjusted weight was 49lb 8oz! As if to confuse the issue still further, the fish was caught once more a month later and weighed in at 48lb 8oz. Whatever its weight it is one gorgeous creature!
Even though it was not immediately recognised we would soon know it's history. Most of the carp in the lake are tagged with an electronic tracking device, which can be read via a hand-held tag reader. On checking up his records it transpired that the lovely creature had not been landed for well over a year. You can tell it was a cautious old soul by the immaculate condition of its mouth.
The swims were buzzing now! I was crying out for Tat's help but she was total hors de combat so I was more than grateful for the assistance of the ever-helpful Jean-Noel, especially on one occasion when I had two takes almost simultaneously. Here Jean lift out one of my prizes ready for its appointment in front of the lens!
I was forced to bait up fairly sparingly as it was by now clear that the HNV Pro was much to the carps' liking. Sadly I had only brought five kilos with me and the level in the bag in the freezer was going down on a daily basis. I doubted it would last the day. With that in mind, I asked Jean-Noel for a bag of his house bait, a freezer bait from the Belgian company Eddy Sterckx. Thankfully I still had the HNV Pro hookbaits and I felt sure that the continued attraction given off by the Ultimate E would hold and maintain the carps' presence in from of me.
The wet weather continued to maroon Tat inside the house so I put the long lens on the Nikon so she could do the pix from inside the conservatory, which with its sliding door, enabled her to shoot pix while sheltered from the storm. They came out pretty well in my opinion. "By heck…Look at that scale reading!"
Jean-Noel also holds down a full-time job, working a continental three-shift system. Anybody who works a similar pattern knows how it knocks seven bells out of you. So it was always nice to welcome him to the house and lake. Additionally, he also seems to bring a fish with him. What a diamond geezer!
I cannot speak highly enough about Jean-Noel, his lake, his carp, his house and his vision as to what constitutes a proper carping vacation.
The general consensus regarding bait placement at the Secret is to find the hard spots. However, it is plain to see that the carp also love to grub about in the silt: they bubble and fizz all over the lake! Like I said at the beginning, this blog was never intended to be a 'how to do it' instructional; that would be far too presumptuous of me as better anglers than I have fished there and caught more fish than me. Watch Steve Briggs's videos for his definitive guide on the best way to approach the venue. However, if these Blogs help future visitors then I am happy. I just hope they have as good a holiday at this magical place as we did.
I have to give big thanks to Tat who helped as best she could all things considered. Here's a lovely story:
It had rained almost non stop for five or six days on the trot but on our last day the sun came out and the banks dried sufficiently to allow her to come to the water's edge to share a glass of wine or two, sit in the sun and watch the world go by. Wearing her waterproof boot over her cast she sat with me in front of the conservatory. " You can have the next run," I told her, "seeing as you have missed so much of the action."
It was a lovely afternoon and the wine was slipping down a treat…so much so that I was despatched to the kitchen to refill our glasses with lovely cold Sancerre. Returning bankside I saw Tat hobbling towards the pontoon where one of the rods was kicking off. Struggling with the cast on the pontoon she picked up the rod and bent into a powerful carp. I carried one of the garden chairs out to her so she sat down and played that carp into the net like a trooper.
It turned out to be the biggest of the session, a common of 51lb 15oz! That's my gal!
While the sun beamed down we had five fish in nine days. Once the weather changed we had twenty-three fish in four days. As always we fished only the daylight hours and invariably took a long lunch hour, perhaps fishing a total of six hours a day. God knows how many we'd have caught if we had been trying! Big thumbs up to Haith's, Ultimate E, Blake's Baits and Eddy Sterckx.
I won't bore you with statistics. However, here are a few trophy pix to sum up.