"Should it stay, or should it go?" A misquote from a classic song by English punk band 'The Clash', released in June 1981. It's a question I find myself asking numerous times over, whilst preparing gear and bait for each and every fishing session. I don't know about you, but I find myself torn between two extremes. At one end is the temptation to take everything bar the kitchen sink, in an attempt to cater for all possible eventualities. At the other end, is the drive to be minimalistic - simple and uncluttered, so that (theoretically, but rarely the case) I can move onto fish at a moments notice. A couple of weeks ago, I remember being immensely impressed by the comprehensive list of bait that Pat had brought to peg 5 for a day session. It included many different brands, sizes, colours and flavours of boilies and pop-ups, plus tiger nuts and various other natural alternatives. His philosophy was that if fish were in his swim (and they definitely were!) then it was just a matter of determining their preferred taste for the day. The theory seemed to work well enough, as his mate caught a nicely proportioned 16 lb Mirror on a tiger nut, within minutes of casting out. Dean, of course has taken the art of detailed preparation to hitherto unknown, stratospheric levels - something to do with his army background, I guess! Who else could make 50 plus trips in and out of his bivvy door, to get everything nicely set up and precisely in place, before fishing? Another thing that amuses me these days, is the number and variety of cases you can buy to store angling paraphernalia. If you had a case for every single item of tackle, plus bigger cases to store all your smaller ones, you'd need a removal van to transport it all to the lake!
In my case, having fished quick overnighters (in between work days), for many years, much of my approach was, of necessity highly streamlined, so that I could get fishing or packed-up in under half an hour. Hence, tackle was limited to the bare minimum and I rarely took more than 1 Kg of bait, in total. Nowadays of course, I normally fish 24 hour sessions, but a 'hit and run' mentality is hard to shake off and I remain intransigent in many respects. Just recently, Dean took pity on me and kindly donated his old brew kit to me - I have greatly enjoyed the benefits of a hot cuppa ever since, but 6 months ago the concept would have been unthinkable. Anyway, for this week's session, I adopted a mean-minded attitude toward baiting levels. I must point out that this wasn't just a whim, but the result of some careful observation and thinking. Other anglers had reported increased catches on single hook-baits, suggesting that the carp were shying away from baited patches. Accordingly, I had it in mind to restrict baiting levels to a single hook bait and no more than three free offerings. Naturally, I would continue to attach a golf ball sized PVA mesh bag of 3 mm Skretting course pellets (soaked in matching soluble bait dip) to the hook, not just to avoid tangles, but because I'm convinced that the extra attraction draws fish in from a wide area.
Given that the newly formed peg 7a, (which offers previously unavailable access to the central cut-through) was up for grabs again this week, I dropped into it without hesitation, in the hope of milking it some more, before the carp wised up to it's perils. A single Wet Baits LG0 18 mm boilie hook bait, it's attached PVA ballast and 3 loose boilies was transported via bait boat to each of my 3 targeted spots. These included: half way down the main cut-through (recently dubbed the M25); the rear of the main bay area; and, in the far corner of the right hand bay.
Said like that, it all sounds so simple, but in actual fact I had major problems with placing a bait in the main bay. The water level had dropped a couple of inches over the weekend, with the result that my bait boat ran aground in freshly exposed silt and stuck fast, necessitating a trip out in the rowing boat. Eventually I managed to throw a rope (log attached) over the bait boat and pull it towards me, in order to retrieve it and start again. Unfortunately, several other things went wrong during the rescue operation. I had failed to adequately bail out the excess water from the bottom of the row boat and paid a heavy price for my omission. Apart from getting two very wet and uncomfortable feet, I also attempted to sit down on the rear bench seat, misjudged my aim and ended up sprawled out in the rear compartment. Although I instinctively threw out my arms to steady my descent, the action was insufficient to prevent my backside getting immersed in the process. What's more, before my retrieval task had finished, steady rainfall commenced and I ended up setting up camp in wet (inside and out) conditions.
I was pleasantly surprised though, when at 10.00 am the rod fished to the M25 suddenly burst into life. A spirited tussle ensued, but by walking steadily backwards I managed to steer my adversary away from the gaps in the channel sides and bring it under control. Dave was conveniently on hand to net my prize, which turned out to be a 10 lb 6 oz Mirror. Shortly after midday, an almost identical procedure put a 12 lb 0 oz Mirror on the mat. By mid afternoon, the rain had subsided and I enjoyed some pleasant sunshine, as the skies cleared and thankfully my damp parts dried out a little. At 7.00 pm I had a third take on the same rod, but this time the culprit got the better of me. It buried it's head in some tree roots and the hook pulled. Again, at 11.30 pm a steady take on the M25 rod had me rushing from the bivvy. Unfortunately, a stray tree branch served as refuge for the offender and the branch was duly hauled back to the bank with my hook buried in it. Hmmm! Two losses on the trot was hard to bear, but I had the consolation of having put a couple of carp on the bank and went home with a satisfied smile on my face, spurred on by the lure of a hot bath and dry clothing. As usual, I can't wait for next week to come round once again!