As anglers, we all have a comfort zone, the sort of venues you can turn up to and no matter where they are in the country, the styles of fishing are pretty much the same. But certain venues like to throw a spanner in the works, often blowing peoples minds before they have even got their gear out the car. A perfect example of this is Barston Lakes, an unexpected oasis in the urban jungle that is Birmingham.
But what is it about this venue which strikes fear into so many anglers, is it the slightly awkward walk past the well dressed golfers as they get ready for a morning tee off, whilst wearing a bib and brace which smells like someone died in it? More likely it’s the daunting twenty-five acre expanse of water that is in front of you, packed full of big carp that are determined to smash you up.
This is the common theme for most match anglers who get comfortable fishing the smaller commercial venues up and down the UK, where you can sit and fish anywhere in the peg with a pole, when faced with a venue the size of Barston it’s a case of either, “I’m sure I was washing my hair that weekend” or digging out that 14ft Super Mega Power Feeder Rod they paid £400 for an used once!
But thankfully there is another way, catching shallow on the pole! On big venues like this, everyone feels inclined to grab the waggler rod and chuck as far as they can but with a few small tweaks to your normal shallow set up, you can be bagging up in pole range.
We’ve decided to make things a little bit trickier today by picking one of the windiest days I’ve ever seen! The lake resembles the North Sea with whitecap waves rolling past so holding a pole is going to be interesting. So the first thing to do after setting up the pole was to work out where we can fish given the conditions. I don’t want to go further than 14.5m but if I angle myself slightly to the left so the wind is coming straight down the line of my pole it makes life a bit easier. So long as the direction of the wind direction is relatively consistent then it’s always worth setting up like this to give yourself the best presentation and hopefully avoid any crunching carbon!
Next thing to think about is bait, now pinging half a dozen little 4mm pellets every few minuets isn’t really going to cut it! Big water, Big Fish… BIG BAITS!
There are a few reasons for this, first up as mentioned earlier, Barston see’s a lot of pellet waggler or bomb fishing, both of which will see rafts of 8mm pellets rafted into the lake. It’s what the fish are used to eating, like presenting a fat kid with two slices of cake, he’s always going to go for the bigger one given the choice! Next up is the noise aspect, which is like ringing the dinner bell to these big hungry carp and monster F1s. Finally as an added bonus today they are far easier to be accurate with in the wind.
My pellet of choice as always are the Spotted Fin Catalyst version, for those of you who haven’t tried them, the Catalyst is a flavour used within one of the boilies from the carp range. A lovely sweet caramel sort of smell, which is absorbed all the way through the pellets rather than just a coating, which washes off straight away. On any venue that see’s a lot of boilies going in, they just seem to massively out fish your standard plain pellets. To further boost the attraction I give them a quick squirt of the matching booster spray, your hands end up smelling lovely and it seems to help to mask the smell of that bib and brace!
On smaller waters, you could almost guarantee that fish will be in front of you from the off, but on bigger waters the fish have the space to travel around so priming a shallow line is of upmost importance. This is where that noise really comes into play, so by regularly pinging a few 8mm pellets in the area, you can slowly get a few fish interested.
In a match situation you would want to be starting off on a rod, a little method or pva bag to try and get a few early bites whilst you prime your shallow line, this could be for a couple of hours before they really turn up. But seeing as today wasn’t a match, I’ve been a little bit lazy and just set up my two shallow rigs to avoid too much kit getting blown down the bank. But it really did serve to demonstrate how a peg can develop.
Starting out, I’ve not even fed anything and just shipped out and started slapping my rig over, if fish are in the area this can be a great way of nicking a quick bite, I was almost proved right as the float buried and a decent carp was hooked, unfortunately it decided to ping off and that was about all my action for nearly two hours.
If you’ve never done it, that’s an awful long time to be sat pinging pellets and slapping a rig over with not so much of an indication! I was beginning to get more than a little despondent, my cameraman was clearly bored and I was beginning to think we might have made a bit of a mistake. With these thoughts running through my head and the lovely bar beginning to sound more appealing, the float suddenly buried again! Carefully playing in a decent F1, I breathed a sigh of relief as it slid over the net. I pinged another couple of pellets out before shipping out, a couple of slaps and bang! Another decent F1… They had arrived!
This pattern continued for the rest of the day, but just to reiterate… Don’t sit there for two hours without catching anything, but it was the perfect example of how your swim can suddenly switch on. It’s a case of keeping the faith, having a quick go ever so often, then once they turn up you can really do some damage and put a big weight together.
Gear wise, as always I never like to go over the top, a nice soft yellow Garbo Fighter Elastic which is a 10-12 rating. As Barston is relatively shallow the first run from carp can be a bit wild, this gives them plenty of stretch to tire themselves up whilst slowly powering up. If you start going up to elastics which are in the 20+ rating which many seem to like to do on big fish venues, all you end up with is a load of unwanted disturbance in your peg and often rigs blowing up. So the key with the softer elastic is just let them leave the swim nice and calmly, re feed to settle any other fish down again and start shipping back. Keep the pole tip as low to the water as possible and nine times out of ten they will just follow you in like a dog on a lead. Tension up the elastic using the puller and once they are close enough, lift the kit and net them first time!
You do get the odd one that doesn’t read the rules, but once you get used to it, you can easily land some massive great carp with very little hassle on light gear.
Rig wise was a slightly modified 0.2g Garbo DC C41, by cutting it down it makes the perfect shallow float and I use it for all my mugging too! 0.18mm hook length and a nice strong size 14 hook to match the 8mm pellet and you are good to go. I do pinch on a single shot just below the float to cock it slightly, but other than that I don’t have any other shot down the rig, I find you get far more fish with the slowest fall possible. Don’t forget to account for the extra weight of the 8mm pellet too, if your rig is perfectly dotted down before you put your bait on you might find you are getting a lot of bites just at the pellet reaches full depth!
So it really is as simple as that, grabbing a couple of bags of big 8mm pellets, then using the same sort of gear you would use on any other commercial, you are ready to have an awesome last couple of hours of your match at these big carp waters. Just remember to keep priming that shallow line whilst you fish elsewhere, keep having a quick look every half hour or so and get ready once they do arrive!