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Stories, photos, tips & advice from recent coaching & pleasure angling sessions and events. Years of experience, knowledge and advice passed down with in-depth tutorials.

February 13, 2008

The Three Amigos - first coaching event of 2008

With the carp-forums winter work shop event being cancelled and a new set of dates offered, many of the original delegates were unable to make the event due to work and family commitments. Dave, Matt and Lyndon were three of these unlucky people. Dave, keen to not miss a coaching opportunity, called Smart Carping to arrange a coaching session for him and his mates and I was able to put an agenda together that fully met their needs:

- Marker rods, feature finding and watercraft (mainly signs to look out for)
- Spod mixes and spodding
- Casting technique
- Rig construction and camouflage

With the agenda sorted we agreed to meet at 7.30am on February 12th at Cemex's Thorpe Lea in Egham. The day promised to be bright and sunny with temperatures reaching 12C. We eventually met up at 8.00am after the trio got lost - someone forgot the directions!

The morning was very cold at 2C with freezing fog covering the lake. Not the best conditions to coach in or tempt a winter carp.

With the usual meet and greet out of the way, we all made our way down to the lake and commenced setting up to tackle the water in front of us. It was obvious to me right from the start that these guys had a fantastic rapport between them; jokes and banter echoed across the bank all morning!

For the event I had brought with me three marker rods and three spod rods from Chub and Greys. These included the standard and distance variants for the guys to use and try. The fog stopped us from using these rods until midday as we were unable to see further than 20 yards!

Bankside set up

With all the tackle set up we walked to each swim in turn and looked at everyone's bankside set up and made recommendation to them where needed. Suffice to say very little change was needed. Without having met these guys before you would say they were at the top of their game. Their skills, ability and knowledge plus the thousands of pounds worth of top end tackle would easily have you believing they were carp anglers who have been fishing for many years. The truth is that these very skilled anglers had only been carping for just about one year!

With the fog still very bad we set about looking at and discussing rig construction and camouflage. I started by demonstrating a range of lead systems and went though how they worked, their strengths and weaknesses. We also discussed where each rig would be best applied. We followed this with leads, there style and weight and the best application for the swim.

Leads & lead core

Lead core was next on our agenda and after a demonstration of splicing lead core everyone was given a splicing needle and a length of lead core. They followed me as I went through the process of splicing a lead core leader, step by step. It was like a scene out of the generation game - all sizes of loops were being created!

In the end we managed to put together three very presentable chod rigs.

Hooks & hook lengths

Thorpe Lea carp get fished for 365 days a year. They have seen every bait and most rigs many times over. With this in mind, to ensure constant action we need to fish a little differently. With the leaders and leads completed we moved onto hooks and hooklengths that would fool the wary Thorpe lea carp. All of the guys were immediately at home but did struggle with the size of the Korda size 12 Longshanks we were using, being more at home with size 8 or 6 hooks.

The size 12 Korda longshank hooks were being used in conjunction with double 10mm baits fished either critically balanced or double bottom baits.

We used a hook length that matched the bottom of the lake. The best product for this is Suffix Kameleon, in 15lb breaking strain.

Double HBS day tripper baits which are 6mm dumbells were considered. These baits are a lot smaller than everyone else uses and as such the carp are far more likely to pick these up. To compliment these we would be using a high attract stick mix.

Stick mix & spod mix

Winter carp do not need much food to fill them up so we needed to create a high attract mix that would stimulate the carp to look for food without offering them anything substantial that might fill them up. Both the stick mix and the spod mix had to meet these criteria as bites at this time of the year are at a premium.
The stick mix was made up in a match angler's 4 pint maggot bait box. We added 1/3 of a bag of Sticky baits Bloodworm & Shrimp fish method mix ground bait to a tin of Tuna in brine and mixed together. To this we added a small hand full of 2-3mm pellets and twenty grains of sweet corn. The final mix was very dry but still slightly sticky when you compressed it. This would be ideal for use in the Korda long chuck PVA system to make PVA sticks that would be threaded up the lead core prior to the cast.

Lyndon with a finished rig - complete with stick mix (see how dry it appears) and twin HBS day tipper baits.

To kick start the swims and keep the carp looking for food items we used a spod mix made up from a bag of Bait Tech Special G ground bait, 3/4 jar of Bait Tech hemp, 500grams of 2, 3 and 4mm pellets, 500 grams of crushed hemp, a tin of Tuna in Brine and a hand full of sweet corn. This was mixed up in a large ground bait bowl to a dryish consistency. No further liquids were added apart from the water of the Hemp, Tuna and a little sweet corn liquid.

The fog lifts

Eventually at midday the sun breaks through the fog and the day starts to warm up very quickly. Now we can to see the water in front of us the guys set about using the marker rods to feature find there swims. It soon became apparent these guys knew how to cast a long way. One by one they all started to report a shallow plateau 4' deep at around 110 yards out with a deep 12' gully just in front of the plateau. With the midday sun warming the shallow water on the plateau I recommended the guys fish to it and advised them to mark up their lines with pole elastic on their marker rods. They set about casting to the marker float with their spod rods and carp rods, marking these up too.

Let the spodding begin!

All of the guys had spodded before so they all new what to do. Today however was different. We were trying to spod at 110 yards, no mean feat in anyone's books. I set up a spodding station in the first swim which consisted of the spod mix bowl placed upon an up-turned groundbait bucket to make the spod mix easy to reach at waist height. Next to this a bucket of clean water was placed to wash your hands and a towel was placed over the edge of the spod mix bowl to wipe your hands dry. Once comfortable in the swim I set about demonstrating how to fill the spod whilst keeping your hands clean. Then I set about showing the correct body and arm positions needed to achieve effective long range casting. Once we have launched the spod next we needed to demonstrate cushioning the cast so the spod landed on the marker without snapping the line or the line clip.

Everyone picked up the skills very quickly and all too soon the water was being hammered with 6oz spods just missing the marker floats. The instruction was to just put 5 spods accurately on the target area. I forgot to ask if anyone was numerically dyslexic as Dave did his best to empty the spod mix bucket in his swim, I caught up with him on his twelfth cast and said he might have over done it. Dave knew better and put another 4 more spods in!

Time to get fishing

By the time the rigs were in the water and everyone had settled down it was 2.30pm. Almost immediately we started getting occasional line bites. The anticipation was huge. I stood with Matt watching his bobbins gently lifting and lowering as the carp in his swim gorged on the stick mix. Matt asked me if he should strike at these indications but before I had the chance to answer his Shimano reel went into meltdown! One of Thorpe Lea's resident carp made a mistake and got nailed by Matt's rig. Matt quickly picked up his rod and gently lifted into a heavy fast moving carp.

A slow and steady fight commenced in the deep clear margins a large gold flanked winter mirror started to appear

Soon this winter whacker was netted and was placed on the unhooking mat

As we uncovered the carp we soon realised this could well be a twenty. Matt stated that his PB was a 20lb carp he had caught on his syndicate lake last year. The hook was removed and the rod was put back onto the rod rest whilst Dave administered some fish care products to the hook hole in the carp's bottom lip.

With the weigh sling wetted and the scales zero'd the carp was carefully lifted and the Ruebens swung around and settled on 20lb 5oz.

A new PB and a winter twenty to boot!

The day was still young

Flushed with his success and brimming with confidence Matt set up his rigs again and cast out to the spot from which he hooked his last fish. With the first fish on the bank the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was on tender hooks watching the water in front of them and jumping at every line bite that sent the alarms screaming.

At 3.30pm Matt's rod started to signal a lot of activity around his rig and sure enough seconds later his solar bobbins slammed into his ESP vertex rods and sent the Shimano clutch into overdrive as another Thorpe Lea carp fell to Matt's simple long range rigs.

A long, steady and dogged fight lead to yet another very big carp nestling in the deep landing net

Could this one be even bigger than the last one? The Roubens would soon tell us. The scales bounced around the 20lb mark and as they settled we all saw Matt had his second PB in a row at 20lb 8oz!

Another carp, another PB!

The pressure mounts

Lyndon and Dave, despite fishing the same baits, spod mixes and ranges were just getting liners with no real takes. You could sense the pressure on the bank. No one wants to blank, especially when you are fishing with your mates! Rigs were brought in, re-baited and re-cast regularly to no avail.

Then without warning Lyndon's right hand rod screamed off. Lyndon was on it in a flash and soon his Greys X-flites took on their full fighting curve.

All too soon the carp managed to shed the hook. What can you do except reel in, re-bait and try again?

The day was racing to an end. Matt had so far had two carp on the bank, Lyndon had hooked one and lost it and Dave had just watched his bobbins dance with line bites. At this time of the day it's important to stay focused as the carp could come onto the feed at any time. Without any warning an alarm screamed behind us as. We all turned to see Matt's right hand rod screaming off again. This time the fish was determined it was not coming in and made many long hard runs, stripping line off Matt's reels and doing its best to melt the Shimano clutch. Matt took the pressure in his stride and calmly played what felt a very large fish into the bank and waiting landing net.

In the fading light as we lifted a very lumpy carp to the unhooking mat the fish looked big. The rig was removed from the carp and it was carefully lifted into a weigh sling and placed onto the Rubens. The needle swung wildly around as the carp struggled in the sling. As it settled the scales stopped at 21lb, another PB! That makes three consecutive personal bests in one day.

What a result, three winter twenties in an afternoons session!

The day draws to an end

As the light fades and the temperature starts to drop everyone resigns themselves to the fact that we have to pack up to get home. The three amigos have got a long journey home and need to get their kit packed away. With much reluctance tackle is slowly picked up and packed away. Dave had his back to the water when his left had rod burst into life.

The new Century NCS and even newer Shimano Ultegra MgS at last were being put to the test

The NCS easily handled the angry carp as it strove to escape. The power of the Shimano winched the fish yard by yard closer to the bank. Dave was being very cool and taking everything very carefully as this was his last chance. The carp fought hard for nearly five minutes and had been drawn to within 10 yards of the bank. Due to the low light levels we were unable to see the fish as it fought hard in the deep margins. Then, disaster struck as without warning the hook pulled.

At that point I felt for Dave and shared the immense frustration you can easily feel at losing a carp at the last moment. To my delight Dave was not concerned about losing the fish and went onto say that he'd really enjoyed the day, learning much from the coaching and shared Matt’s obvious elation in catching such lovely carp. The day was after all a coaching day with the emphasis on coaching techniques and practices. Putting these to use and bagging a winter whacker is just the icing on the cake!

Job done. Three happy carp anglers make their long drive home to sunny Dorset. Rigs have been discussed and techniques have been demonstrated and practised. Hopefully lessons have been learnt and will be put into practice in their future fishing. If these guys continue striving to improve their fishing skill at the rate they are, they'll be emptying every lake they decide to fish on!

Tight lines guys - look forward to sharing some quality bank time with you again in the future.



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