Alex West notches up his second Yateley 50-pounder using his watercraft skills to make the most of a natural insect hatch.
To break up the outline of the hook Alex threaded on a fleck of foam.
Alex watched as a group of seagulls took advantage of an insect hatch. Fishing on this hatch he took advantage of the carp’s liking for natural food, by imitating it with a zig-rig hook bait. It was this hatch that led to the downfall of an English fifty.
STEP 01 – Alex halves a bottom-bait boilie.
STEP 02 – He then wraps a piece of dissolving foam around it…
STEP 03 – … and puts the parcel in some PVA mesh.
STEP 04 – The weight in the PVA bag reduces tangles on the cast, ensuring the rig is fishing reliably every time.
In the late spring of 2015 I had my first walk around an exceptionally busy lake deep in the heart of Yateley. Like other nearby lakes it contained a low stock of old English fish, was shrouded in mature trees and thick foliage, with a long history and an electric atmosphere of expectation and anticipation.
However, like many circuit waters it was busy. Almost every swim on the lake was occupied, with rods covering every nook and cranny. Despite this I liked the look of the place, with plenty of nice margins and massive weed beds, silty gulleys, sandy spots and gravelly features.
On my eighth night, at the end of October, I stumbled across one such feature. Up until then I had fished various areas with only tench to show for my efforts. The swim covered a central area of the lake and I put quite a bit of particle out to encourage a feeding response, which I did, but only from a tufty the next morning. Fortunately, while sitting up late and listening for carp I heard and saw a number of fish rolling in front of a swim a little way to my left. Just after first light I walked round there and spotted a large frothy set of bubbles to one side of a patch of weed.
I moved a few hours later and found what I was looking for after a few casts with a light lead – a clear bit of sand about the size of a dustbin lid, right where I had seen the bubbles. I had to clear a load of surface weed so I could keep the lines down. After this had been done I placed the rigs on the spot with a smattering of particles.
At 6am the next morning my left-hand rod’s tip pulled down and the clutch started ticking. As I lifted into it I could barely raise the rod as it was caught on some weed that had drifted over the line, so I got in and cleared it. After a short scrap where the fish fortunately got some weed over its head I netted the lot. At this point I thought I’d caught another tench but it turned out to be one of the biggest mirrors in the lake. Yes! First blood in the shape of a 42lb 14oz mirror!
After that, I decided to pull off for the year, and it was the last fish caught until the following February. I decided to do the odd night in the spring and a few anglers were putting in lots of bait into one particular area around one of the islands.
Doing another two-nighter I was in the swim on the opposite bank and knew the fish were in the area. At around midday, the guy in the hot swim started packing up. Needing no further encouragement I reeled in, shot round there and placed a bucket in the swim. Once there I could see a group of smaller residents, including one of the ghosties and a few commons. These ghosties were easily visible and often gave away the whereabouts of the “more” prized fish.
I set the same particle trap that had worked before, fishing in around six feet of water at the bottom of the gravelly shelf, where the drop on the rod was firm but not rock hard. An hour after putting the rods out the right one bleeped a few times and the line pulled up tight. As the line pulled from the clip I struck and met a solid resistance; a bit of side strain brought the fish away from the island and after 15 minutes I netted a fat common of 34lb 8oz. Happy days.
That summer I fished a park lake closer to home and only did a few trips until this spring. The lake is known for doing a few bites on zig rigs, a method I really didn’t have much faith in, especially at night. I went down for my first trip at the start of April when my old mate Lee Petty gave me a few pointers. Using that information and my limited experience, and nicking a few bits of black foam and zig aligners from another mate, I set up.
My swim looked out towards the opposite end of the island to my last capture. From a tree I could see the fish cruising in the upper layers; one particular route off the island and the open water seemed to be favoured, so this is where I placed my rigs.
After an hour the rod near the island picked up, I bent into it and after a difficult scrap where the fish picked up my other line, one of the other anglers netted a decent common. To my dismay, I’d foul hooked it in the head and before I could get a proper look at it matey unhooked both mine and a snapped-off rig from the fish, which was estimated at 35lb and slipped back.
The next trip down fell on a very wet and windy April Monday; I didn’t see anything and after my third lap I settled in an open-water swim facing a recent hot zone.
That night the weather became increasingly moody and I was glad to be on the back of the wind in a sheltered area. I was whacking the zigs about 90 yards and at about 11.30pm I had a twitchy take, and struck into thin air. I sharpened the hook and attached a tiny ESP PVA bag containing the usual half boilie and two foam nuggets inside, then gave it a whack as the wind and rain had increased, making things difficult. The line hit the clip, I felt the lead hit the water and then a nice donk on the rod tip followed. After checking the line I had another few bleeps, which I struck. The rod went into battle curve and another big carp was on. It kited around a weed bed and along the bank round a snaggy tree, through another angler’s lines. I didn’t want to pull too hard with a size 8 Mixer hook and 12lb Double Strength so I waded back to the bank. As I did so the angler shouted up to me and I ran into his swim to tell him it was my fish giving him bleeps. I found my line in front of him and fortunately upon handlining it towards the net up popped a big mirror! She went in for the second time of asking, and the hook was in the lip! At 39lb I was more than pleased.
Two weeks later I found them up the other end, again the ghosties giving themselves and about another four or five fish away around a patch of surface weed, with some really good ones among them. I decided to fish from the swim opposite where the weed wasn’t as bad. The barrow was loaded in a shot and the angler next door told me that he was fishing out to the right. This meant I would be able to fish a rod on each side of the weed bed.
It started to spit with rain so I set up the brolly and then sorted out my first rod, with the same hook link, PVA foam and half boilie in a bag. The hook bait was a piece of black foam – with a little fleck of coloured foam, which I had matched with a fly hatch that I found swimming into the margin the week before – soaked in Mainline Multistim, which has a nice neutral sweet amino taste to it.
I was wondering where to put my first rod, as I could see the fish in front but didn’t want to cast on top of them when I noticed four gulls hit the surface a few rod lengths to the left of the weed bed. As they flew off a carp came up and took something off the surface – that will do me! On the third try, I cast the rig to the spot and felt a thump as the lead hit the lake bed and foam popped up to the surface. Third time lucky?
The Rods lie in wait for a spring bite.
Four minutes later I was just screwing on my front buzzer bar when the rod twitched once. I stared at it and nothing happened so I carried on – next thing I knew it started lifting up out of the water.
I picked up the rod and felt the line was dead tight so I leaned into it. I could feel it moving, and keeping as much pressure on as I dared, very slowly it started to rise and move towards me, inch by inch.
Eventually, a large weed bed hit the surface about halfway out and as it did so the line came free. What a result, and I was now in direct contact with the fish, which stayed pretty deep. Under the rod tip, I thought that she was foul hooked as I felt a knocking on the line when she swam away from me. As she came up her huge frame hit the surface and I realised it was because the lead was still on. Seeing that I had a very large mirror on the end I stayed reasonably calm throughout the rest of the fight and eventually I slipped the net underneath her.
The guy next door didn’t recognise her but I remembered her slightly twisted mouth and little black fleck on the wrist of her tail – it was the queen of the pond at 50lb 8oz and a personal best mirror carp!
After spotting an insect hatch the zigs were deployed. Just four minutes later, Alex landed the mighty Yateley mirror, all 50lb of it.
Before I started the spring with the zigs my biggest fish on them was a mid double, and now I had my target fish on the mat. I shouted at the top of my voice, relieved and excited at the same time.
Twin Scale at 39lb gave Alex huge confidence in fishing zigs
To say I am over the moon is an understatement and even now I’m buzzing as I write this – so pleased I took the leap of faith of casting out single bits of foam on long lengths of mono.