Winter 2016-17 must rank as my best ever in terms of big pike, but come March 14th and the start of the close season on rivers, I was glad that the pike gear could be packed away for a bit. It was almost time to start the spring campaigns, but rather than make a start on the mega-tough low-stocked gravel pits right away I decided to have a bit of fun and spend a few weeks fishing some day ticket fisheries. Now, partly this was to have a break and to get back to the simple enjoyment of catching a few fish, but also there was another motive – to get a few magazine features in the bag too.
As it happened it was an enjoyable time to be out on the bank, with often unseasonably good weather too. Most of the venues that I visited were in the south of the country, which is quite a drag from my home, but meant that I could stay with my parents and then just fish day sessions.
My first stop was Milton Lake on the Old Bury Hill complex near Dorking. I have fished the lakes here for many years now and they just seem to get better and better. Almost every type of coarse angler is catered for, be you interested in catching specimen carp, bagging up with smaller carp, catching predators, or putting together a big catch of roach, bream or crucians.
I rate Milton as one of the best day ticket fisheries in the country. Not only is it very picturesque, with lots of fish-holding features, but the stocks of fish are superb. Loads and loads of crucian carp, some cracking tench and roach to over two pounds are some of the highlights.
The plan was to shoot a feature for Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine on spring fishing. In fact you can read the article in the latest issue. I dug out my old MAP 15-foot waggler rod and matched this with an ABU Revo reel, which has a very sensitive front drag. Using just 4lb main line to a 3lb hooklength I was really fishing for the smaller species, but had to be conscious that the odd carp could put in an appearance.
To begin with the session didn’t quite go as planned. My sensitively shotted pole float fished at the base of the marginal slope just refused to go under. I was feeding a mixture of chopped worm and caster. A classic catch-everything combo, but the fish obviously hadn’t read the rules. A couple of perch and a pound and a half roach got me off the mark, but were not really enough to make a feature.
I was pinging out maggots about three-rods lengths at regular intervals and was encouraged that the odd big roach was topping in my half of the lake. I really fancied setting up a loaded waggler and having a go for them on the drop, but we were here to do a job and that wasn’t it.
As a back-up, I had been feeding another line tight to the marginal reeds with Dynamite Swim-Stim groundbait with loads of krill powder. Now, if this mix doesn’t attract tench and crucians then nothing will. Eventually, I relented and shallowed the float up a couple of inches and dropped a 6mm expander pellet over the carpet of groundbait. The bite wasn’t instant, but soon I was into the first hard-fighting crucian, and over the next couple of hours several more followed, along with a lone tench. The groundbait was certainly attracting the fish, but with several cru bites missed it was obvious that the cold water was still having an effect on them.
We had to be away mid-afternoon, so with the pictures wrapped up there was unfortunately no time to rig up the waggler and have a go for those roach. Never mind, they will wait for another day.