I've mentioned before that I absolutely love experimenting with bait, rigs and tactics in order to compare the performance of one with another. On this session, I was expecting to have an absolute field day testing all sorts of bits and pieces, courtesy of the team at Skretting, who had kindly supplied me with a range of goodies to try out. Amongst them were some basic raw materials, including low temperature fish-meal, seaweed meal and wheat gluten.
My first task had been to make up two batches of 12 mm dumb-bell boilies to be used in conjunction with Skretting pellets. One type was based on ground-up 2 mm Skretting pellets and the other incorporated the aforementioned meals and gluten. A search through my old bait making notebook had provided me with a couple of suitable recipes, thus:
7 oz Ground Skretting Pellets
1 oz Casilan 90 Protein Nutrition
1 oz Soya Flour
1 oz Codlivine
10 ml Liquid Pellet Oil
15 ml Sensas Aromix (Fish-meal)
6 oz Low Temperature Fish-meal
2 oz Seaweed Meal
1 oz Wheat Gluten
1 oz Casilan 90 Protein Nutrition
3 oz Milk Powder (Full Cream)
1 oz Brewers Yeast
And so, I subsequently arrived at Wetlands on Wednesday morning, proudly bearing the fruits of an intense evening of labour in a steamy kitchen. In my holdall were two freezer bags, one labelled "Pellet Dumbells" and the other labelled "Fishmeal Dumbells" and I couldn't wait to give them a whirl. What's more, Peg 7 turned out to be vacant, which (given the forecast, glorious sunshine and raised temperatures) promised to be an ideal location for daytime carp activity. However, I did have a couple of reservations. Firstly, the the in-car thermometer had registered only 2.5 degrees C, as I drove through the mist-shrouded gates and secondly, my chosen peg was teeming with wildfowl. The sounds of honking, screeching, frantic flapping and aggressive chasing filled the air with an unwelcome cacophony, as bad tempered bickering accompanied fierce competition for disputed nesting sites. I knew also, that the slightest whiff of an anglers bait would trigger their relentless dive-bombing thievery. Reluctantly, a plan B would need to be hatched and my bait testing ambitions would need to be put on hold until after dark.
Whilst pondering these issues, Dean arrived and began setting up in the adjacent peg 6. Apparently, a recently introduced big carp had been caught over the bank holiday period (the smaller of two) at a slightly reduced weight of 28 lbs 7 oz, to an ecstatic Ryan, who declared it to be the "best day of his life".
Anyway, the decision to adopt a minimalistic approach, using half a dozen tiger nuts on each spot (with a small PVA mesh bag of pellets attached to the hook) was soon made and three rods were duly positioned in likely looking spots. The RHS rod covered the tree-lined corner near the bridge, the middle rod sent a bait to the back of the main bay and the LHS rod delivered it's trap into the narrow channel directly opposite the bank. By 8.30 am the mist had lifted, the sun beamed down and the RHS rod signalled a take. After a few powerful lunges a 12 lb 0 oz Mirror succumbed to steady pressure and had its photo taken on the bank. Twenty five minutes later, the middle rod contributed to the score sheet, with an 11 lb 2 oz Mirror. Then at 10.25 am the LHS rod absolutely ripped off, in spite of a well tightened clutch. I had to walk backwards for several yards to ease the culprit away from danger and after a spirited battle, a fine 12 lb 14 oz Mirror arrived on the bank, in perfect time for Dave to arrive and photograph it.
For some reason, the carp seemed to lose interest in picking up a bait for the rest of the day, even though they were still clearly present in the area. Several lingered under the canopy of branches to the right, making occasional saunters out into the bay, but my attempts to tempt them with feed in the margin only succeeded in making the ducks more determined to sneak a free meal.
By 8.00 pm the last of the day anglers had left the match lake, thus providing me with an opportunity to do some eagerly anticipated bait testing. Could I get takes on my boilie specials and how long would it take? Well, the answer to that question was a resounding "not long at all!" By 9.15 pm I had caught 4 carp; the first (a 3 lb 0 oz Common) to a pellet-based boilie, cast to the centre of the lake; the second (a 5 lb 14 oz Common) to a fish-meal based boilie over a couple of handfuls of Skretting pellets; and a third (an 8 lb 0 oz Mirror) to a pellet-based boilie under-armed out to 20 yards. Having caught very quickly on both types of boilie, I changed to a Skretting 20 mm halibut pellet on the 20 yard rod (with half a dozen freebies), and netted a dark 9 lb 4 oz Mirror only a short time later. So that was it, job done - all of the new products had done the business in double quick time, so I could return to the session lake with a satisfied grin on my face, ready for the night ahead.
The three rods were returned to their previous hot-spots, but this time, all baited with the trial boilies. At 01.00 am I was summoned from the comfort of my bed chair by a series of bleeps from the RHS corner rod and eventually netted a 12 lb 8 oz Mirror which had snaffled a double, pellet-based dumb-bell. No further action interrupted the night, but Dean bagged a scale perfect near linear Mirror at 7.30 am.
Overall, the session had been immensely enjoyable - warm relaxing sunshine, a shared session in good company (Dean treated me to coffee and toasted sandwiches at strategic intervals, and rescued me from the conundrum of a double take on the match lake), plus the capture of 8 carp in total. What more could a man want? Well, I suppose, the only missing element was the capture of the big girl at over 30 lbs, but hopefully my day will come!