Having attended the Northern Angling Show on the preceding day, I approached this week's session with more than my usual quota of enthusiasm. Excellent talks by Adam Penning, Rob Hughes and Darrell Peck, plus the odd chat with the likes of Ian Russell, Sean Harrison and Martin Ford, had filled my head with a host of interesting ideas and I was well and truly fired up. What's more, the kind folks on the Skretting stand had plied me with armfuls of new products that I was itching to try out. Most of them (fish-meal, seaweed meal and wheat gluten) would have to wait until I'd found a suitable boilie recipe in which to incorporate them, but the new halibut pellets were certainly going to be given a try.
A cold and blustery North Westerly wind buffeted the lake upon my 7.00 am arrival. However, the weather forecast predicted occasional daytime sunshine giving way to heavy, sleety rainfall later in the day. Hence, Peg 7 seemed like a good choice, as it would be more sheltered than most other pegs and ideally placed to take advantage of any warm sunshine. For once, the peg was free, so I slotted in without hesitation. Shortly afterwards, another angler who'd driven up from Harrogate with his young daughter (that's dedication for you) settled into the adjacent peg 6. I was hoping that if the sun put in a welcome appearance, the carp would gather under the tree cover to the right, from where they might be enticed out for the a bit of a snack. Within minutes I'd bait boated a cargo of Skretting mixed pellets and a white Malty Milk snowman hook bait out to the corner spot. Unfortunately, the resident waterfowl rubbed their webbed feet together with glee and proceeded to dive relentlessly upon the spot, clearing me out in no time at all. Mmm! Not what I wanted! Clearly a change of tactics was required and the old faithful tiger nuts would have to be deployed (after changing from a 9 inch braided hook-link to a shorter combi-link). But alas! The feathery creatures at Wetlands are not easily put off by such measures and continued to give me grief, picking up the bait numerous times throughout the morning. It took me ages to decide where to put a second rod, but eventually I opted for another tiger nut hook-bait out into the middle bay. It was deposited at the point where the margin protrudes, prior to the boat hut inlet. Hemp seed and mixed pellets accompanied it. Once again, wildfowl found the baited patch in no time and continued the relentless onslaught. Hesitantly, a third rod was added to the armoury; in this case an identical tiger nut arrangement was launched a few yards into the narrow channel directly opposite my bivvy. Eventually, as intermittent sunshine warmed the nearside water, the occasional carp was seen to drift into the area, but it wasn't until 2.00 pm that the ducks vacated the area and a 12 lb 4 oz Mirror slipped up and made a spirited attempt to bury itself under the corner branches. Steady pressure persuaded it to abandon its escape bid and before long it slid into the waiting net. The little girl in peg 6 hot-footed it round to admire my capture with suitably widened eyes.
Apart from a couple of abortive runs, which didn't seem to be bird related, the afternoon passed by without further action. About an hour before dark I decided to give the Halibut pellets a trial on my middle rod. Not being sure how long they would last in the water, I deliberately left it until late evening, in the hope that the hook-bait would still be intact at first light. What followed defied belief. The moment my bait boat deposited its cargo of around 20 halibut pellets in the middle bay spot, it was as if the dinner gong had been sounded for every form of wildfowl on the lake. Canada geese, mallards, tufted ducks, coots, grey geese and seagulls all began to arrive in a steady succession from every direction, to join the feast. In times past, I used to wonder why ducks slurp lake water so frequently. Initially, I thought they must be very thirsty creatures, but eventually I came to the conclusion that they are actually tasting the water, and that they have an amazing ability to use taste, to home-in on anglers bait with pinpoint accuracy. Anyway, they went absolutely crazy for those halibut pellets and I suffered almost continual mouthing of the bait until complete darkness fell. Not even my green laser pen deterred their attentions in the slightest.
Subsequent jar tests have shown that if left undisturbed, the halibut pellets will last for at least 10 hours, but that is not the case if they are poked and jiggled about in the jar - whereupon, bits break off and cracks appear. Not surprisingly, when I wound in the following morning, the pellet hook bait was completely gone! Next time I use them, I'll be protecting them in shrink wrap tube or some other protective covering, such as a mesh bag. I'm glad to say that all was not lost though, as at 10.00 pm I received a drop-back from the right hand rod in the corner bay area. Without too much of a fight, a 13 lb 10 oz Mirror was duly netted. The fish was certainly unusual in appearance. It had a small tail, and a short but very deep body.
Not long after that, the weatherman's predictions came to fruition. Very cold rain, driven by a howling gale had me zipping up the bivvy front and burying myself deep within the confines of my sleeping bag. The plastic sheet I had placed over the carp-mobile to deter amorous peacocks was much the worst for wear by the following morning. The eyelets used to tie it to the body work had been ripped out and it had been twirled round and round from a single anchorage point, namely where it was jammed in the drivers door.
Ah well! Not the most comfortable, or disturbance free session ever, but I was well pleased to have caught a couple of carp and looking forward to more prolific times as spring progresses.