"Ignore the margins at your peril". Sound advice, that if followed with dogged persistence can, on the right day, yield spectacular results. Many an angler has fallen foul of its inherent warning and watched open mouthed as a veritable monster has drifted by, nonchalantly picking off discarded bits of bait from right under his or her feet, with no hook-bait in the vicinity. The trouble is, that margin fishing, like 'zig' fishing, requires real commitment, not just a token, half-hearted nod in its direction, that is abandoned at the slightest whim. Such is the thread that links my two latest sessions, one week apart on Wetlands peg 2.
Both sessions were conducted under conditions of high angling pressure, namely on August bank holiday Monday and a week later, at the end of the school summer break. The first turned out to be a red hot, sunny day in contrast to the second, which was predominantly cloudy, ultra still and muggy in the extreme. On week one, peg choice was non-negotiable, given that every other peg was occupied from the previous night, such that my extra early start earned me no special favors. Having said that, peg 1 was available on both occasions, but the water level is currently so low that landing carp in its extremely shallow margins is not really viable. On week two, peg 7 was also available, but to be honest, I dropped into peg 2, hoping for a chance to capitalize upon my unfulfilled margin observations from the previous session.
And so, on week one, I unloaded my gear as quietly as possible, tip-toeing across the elevated walkway to its banks, in an attempt to minimize vibrations. I sat motionless for a while, to assess potential carp holding locations. After half an hour or so, in the absence of anything obvious, I opted for my three favourite spots, including the bloodworm bed over the hump to the left, the central channel towards peg 1, and the bay area to the right. The plan was to deliver a bait boat payload of Skretting 4mm course pellets, a handful of crumbed Wet Baits M3C boilies and in each case, a pair of identical 16mm dumb-bells as hook-bait, attached to a PVA mesh bag of the pellets soaked in dedicated soluble bait soak. The heat of the sun soon had me seeking shaded sanctuary inside the bank side hut, whilst sweat poured from every pore. By midday several carp had drifted into the area and for the most part hovered just beneath the surface of the right hand bay. Unfortunately, they showed absolutely no interest in dropping down onto the bottom for a munch, even after I'd catapulted a carpet of M3C boilies right across the area.
I've noticed before, that on hot sunny days the carp seem more inclined to navigate the close margins and on occasions can be induced to have a bit of a feed. Therefore, it should have come as no surprise that one or two carp waddled past, picking up the odd discarded morsel as they passed. Not being one to miss such an opportunity, I wound in the left hand rod, replaced the bait with a boilie half on a short hook link and lowered it carefully beside a few strands of weed and concealed the mainline as best as I could. I didn't have to wait very long before another roving carp visited the spot. This time though, instead of dipping down for a feed, it spooked suddenly and vacated the area, sending up deep, V-shaped furrows across the surface. Accordingly. I lifted the rig to check its integrity, before replacing it even more carefully than before. Astoundingly, within an hour exactly the same scenario had enacted itself before my eyes. Now at this point, I should have persisted with the approach, but to my shame, I lost patience with it and returned the rig to its original left hand, 20 yard position.
Inevitably, I lived to soundly regret that decision. At 5.00 pm a group of three sizeable carp came purposefully across from the direction of peg 1 and made straight for the hitherto hook-baited margin spot. The smaller pair upended excitedly, to sample the offerings and when all seemed OK, the larger member of the group joined the party, feeding aggressively to clear out the remnants. Once every last grain had been consumed a large dorsal fin broke the surface, as if in a two fingered salute of defiance. I could only shake my head in agonizing disbelief. Tentatively, I again wound in the left hand rod and put it back on the margin spot, but it would ultimately prove too late to benefit from the tactic. At 7.20 pm my middle rod signaled a sudden take and the line lifted on a tight clutch. Naturally, I was on it in a flash and took the strain, intending to tease it backwards away from the threat of going round the back of the intervening, dot island. For a split second, a stalemate situation existed, until a muscular spurt from my adversary ended the matter. A sudden loud crack echoed across the lake, as the line parted at the leader knot and I was left to bemoan my misfortune once again. Just to rub salt into the wounds, at 10.00 pm a rapid take on the right hand bay rod also ended in disaster. As I ran across to pick up the rod, my left foot somehow picked up my catapult, which had been left lying on the ground. The pouch end lodged over my foot, whilst the handle flapped uncomfortably around my heel on its elastic. My efforts to dislodge the unwelcome appendage (by violently shaking my leg), failed miserably. Hence my concentration was seriously impaired, and in the commotion and intermittent slack line, the hook pulled.
And so, a week later, after such a catalogue of frustrations, I came to peg 2 for a repeat session, with a consulate determination to put matters right. This time I had invested in some weed effect leader material together with a similarly attired 3oz lead. In my armoury I also had some "Stonze" real pebble leads and fluorocarbon leaders to try out. Certainly, one incognito rig would always be present in the margin, whatever transpired. The rod to the central channel was placed as before, the only difference being that I'd swapped the Wet Baits M3C's for the latest version of LG0 (now called LG1). Everything else, including the Skretting pellets was identical. In the near margin I carefully placed my halved boilie rig, cunningly disguised amongst the surrounding weedy strands. To increase attraction I added small quantities of hemp seed, maggots crumbed boilie and Skretting pellets. Further down the margin to the right went a Tiger nut baited rig, attached to a stone weighted short hook link.
You can probably guess the outcome of my highly orchestrated margin tactics. Not one single carp ventured anywhere near my cunningly engineered traps. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the rig down the right hand margin came tantalizingly close at sunset, when a single bleep heralded some panicky behaviour from a carp that bolted from right to left, emitting a large bow wave in its wake. Whether it actually sucked in the bait and got away with it, or simply spooked off the line remains a mystery. When I finally retired to my sleeping bag around ten o'clock, it was with a heavy heart and a fear that another blank might be on the cards. To my delight, I was awakened at 11.00 pm by a ferocious take on my rod in the central channel. At first, in my drowsy state, I thought it was the middle margin rod that had burst into life and I played it relatively gently. It eventually dawned upon me that there was more line out there than would otherwise be the case. Thankfully, by this time the carp had already come readily through the island gap into open water and was relatively easy to tame. As it neared the bank, the fish became more lively, going on one or two spirited runs as it neared the waiting net. Eventually, it succumbed to sustained pressure and greeted the spreader block without too much drama. Once in the cradle, the fine, almost leather Mirror flipped about like a demented soul and subsequently recorded a weight of 17lb 2oz.
What a relief! It felt so good to put a carp on the bank at last, after a period of fruitless near misses. In the end, it was standard tactics that produced the goods, rather than my badly timed and overly contrived foray into margin fishing. Had I seized the moment when it first presented itself, maybe the outcome might have been a happier one. Oh well, it all goes to show that each fishing session is unique and there's no substitute for good watercraft on the day in question. In particular, its important to respond directly to fresh opportunities as and when they arise. A retrospective, belated attempt rarely pays dividends. Next week beckons with intensified appeal.