17 September, 2017 |0 Comments
My head was fried from fishing my syndicates hard for the last few years and I’d been promising myself a chilled couple of nights somewhere for as long as I could remember.
Eventually myself and a very good friend of mine named Richard managed to coordinate some free days and after much deliberation we decided it was criminal that we had never paid the famous Linear Complex a visit. A date was set, the cars were loaded and we set off on our adventure.
Long before I arrived at Linear Fisheries, I was running several plans and scenarios through my head.
It was crazy. Even though the initial plan was to have a couple of relaxed nights fishing, I just couldn’t stop my instincts from kicking in. I could feel myself getting worked up as I was so aware that we only had a couple of days to achieve a result and on top of that it was of course my first visit to the fishery. I therefore tried not to plan too much ahead as I didn’t want to be blinkered, suffering from tunnel vision because I just didn’t know what I was going to be faced with when we arrived.
Like many successful day-ticket venues, Linear is very popular and swim choice often being dictated not by where the fish are, but by which swims are free! Having spent much of my more ‘serious’ carp fishing on often quiet syndicates and club pits, where you can bait areas and kind of have a rough idea of where you’re going to be fishing before you arrive, a busy complex like Linear forces you to adopt a different mindset altogether. You have to accept that it’s going to be busy and there will be a lot of activity going on for much of the time you are there.
Every angler wants to catch. So not only are you pitting yourself against the fish, you’re competing with a lot of people who all have the same goal. Many of which you can bet will be regulars and will know the place inside out.
When we arrived, we decided to split up and keep in contact on our phones so we could better search the various lakes on the complex. We’d done our homework and done as much up-to-date research on the place as we could.
Originally, we wanted to fish St Johns, but it was extremely busy. As too were Brasenose One and Two. Fast running out of options, we found some swims on Smiths/ Hardwick, where we stood on the bank and stared hopefully into the blue.
We did see fish cruising almost immediately and a few topped. We even saw what looked like some very fishy bubbles breaking the surface. Looking at each other and without the need for words, a knowing wry smile to each other meant we were happy and eager to get the gear out. With no better options that we could see, it was a pretty safe bet. So, in time-honoured tradition, we dumped buckets in the swims and went off to load up the barrows.vBack in my swim, I just wanted to have a couple of quick pulls through with the lead, just to make sure it wasn’t choked with weed and then get some bait on the spot. I used the fishing rod rather than the marker to have a quick feel about just so I could clip up and get measured out a little bit quicker. The bottom felt smooth with no weed until approx 20 yards out. That was good enough for me.
I wanted to get a really mixed bag of bait on the deck, so opted for a mix of Dynamite Baits’ particles – hemp, tigers and maize. I also mixed in plenty of Complex-T liquid and a good helping of 15mm Complex-T boilies. It looked and smelled amazing and I couldn’t wait to get it out there.
Unleashing the Spomb – wrapped and clipped at range – I began baiting up. It was also the perfect opportunity to give my new reel, the Shimano Aerlex XTB Spod some abuse. It’s first use out of the box and it did exactly what I wanted it to do, launch and retrieve a Spomb with as little fuss as possible. Now, this is where I thought I was being clever. With a lovely mix of particles and crushed Complex-T settling on the clear spot and fish clearly still in the area, I resisted the urge to cast out for an hour or two, just to give the swim a bit of time to settle and encourage the fish to feed confidently by giving them a safe zone in which to do so. Holding off from getting lines in the water asap is such a hard discipline to master as it just seems to defeat the object of why we were there. It has taken me a long time to adopt this mindset and the first time someone suggested it to me I thought they were mad! To sit there without rods in the water, what is the point of that? It just felt so wrong. But I have witnessed just how effective this tactic can be.
To explain this in another way, if you think about the way those cute little robins fly down to see us when we’re fishing. They come into our bivvies, they perch on the edge of the bait bucket happily feeding away. I’ve had them land on my knee before and I’ve even seen photos of people feeding them from their hands! The robin has learnt through experience and now knows that anglers not only provide a free food source but most importantly they provide a safe place for them to feed. If every time the robin landed near us for a free meal, we clapped our hands or tried to grab it, it would soon work out that this was a dangerous way to obtain food and would exercise much more caution in the future. Carp are no different. They know they’re being fished for and have learnt through trial and error that neat little piles of food on the floor can be dangerous. So, if they feed at all, it will be with caution.
Now, allow those same carp to feed for some time without getting a small metal splinter in their mouths and they will start to feed more confidently. The longer this process is carried out, the better the result can be when you eventually introduce some lines. On the syndicates that I usually fish, you can do this in several places for as long as you want and fish them in rotation. I’ve seen first hand how effective it can be. But coming back to a place like Linear, where a long-term baiting campaign is impossible, allowing the swim to ‘rest’ for just a few hours can give the fish just a little more confidence to feed, putting the odds a little more in your favour. Some may baulk at this ideology and say that a carp has low intelligence. Believe what you will, but the will to survive is the strongest force there is and these fish have not existed for millions of years by being stupid. It’s the species that refuses to adapt is destined to become extinct.
As evening drew in, I dropped just two rods on the spot in a bid to reduce the amount of lines in the water, of which I have no doubt the fish contend with every day. One rod was baited with tiger nuts, whilst the second had a Complex-T Fluro pop-up on. I felt a bit more comfortable now and settled down for the evening. I was pleased with the swim and the spot I was fishing and the fact there were fish nearby. With the high stock of fish and with so many shows in front of me, I was convinced I’d be up all night dealing with a few runs. What I wasn’t pleased with was waking up in the morning and seeing the rods exactly as I’d left them as well as plenty of fish still showing all over.
What had I done wrong? Surely one fish would have slipped up.
I really was a bit surprised and had to sit and have a think. I decided to leave the rods in position right up until 3pm, when I figured the feeding spell (if any) would be over. As the curfew came and went, frustrated, I wound the rods in.
I decided on a change of tactic and put high vis pop-ups on both rods. A Dynamite bright pink Crave on one and yellow fluro on the other, both topped up with a few more spombs of mixed particles and crushed Complex-T.
Same as before, I let the swim rest for an hour before sending the rigs back out again. I also set up a third rod with a similar pop-up set up, but kept it as a roaming rod, to cast to ‘showing’ fish. As I stood on the bank, with the roaming rod in my hand, it didn’t take long for one to break the surface, at close range. I held off casting straight away just to see if anything more promising showed, when the same fish rolled for a second time. That was enough, so I dropped the roaming rod, complete with fluro pop-up right on his head. I settled down again hoping this time for some action…
I know the pros who fish these types of water won’t sit on their hands if nothing’s happening. They’re always adapting, changing and tweaking things until they start getting bites. I tried to think the way they must do. I needed to escape from my syndicate ‘box’ mentality and adapt to my environment. I also toyed with the idea of zigs. I had experimented with them in the past, but only briefly and I’d never had a bite on a zig. But, with so many fish showing and topping, I was starting to consider giving them another go.
Richard, in the next swim down had managed a nice 21lb mirror in the night, which was a great confidence booster, so I hadn’t given up hope that they weren’t feeding just yet. Unfortunately, I again woke to ornamental rods and fish crashing all over the place. I was getting extremely frustrated, surely it shouldn’t be this hard? On my syndicates, if I’m not catching, I just ride it out. I know what I’m doing will work as it’s worked before and the reason I’m not catching is because the fish have moved or they’re simply not having it. I also know that when I leave after a blank, I’ll be back down again soon and I could just as easily catch next time. But, sitting there at Linear, knowing I’m on borrowed time and with the clock ticking and a blank fast approaching, I found myself getting really worked up.
Why wasn’t I catching?
There were clearly fish in front of me. I was using a quality bait that I’ve caught plenty of fish on before. The spot I was fishing felt lovely and smooth, not gravelly, just perfect. I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. The title of this piece is so aptly named, I really did feel out of my comfort zone. I felt like I was trapped in a strange environment and I didn’t know which way to turn. I really was a fish out of water. Pacing the bank in pure frustration and getting more and more worked up as I did so, trying to find some logic in all of it. I was due to leave that morning but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I decided to stay another night and give the zigs a go! Now, I’m no expert in zig fishing, but I knew the principles; find the depth of water they’re feeding in by fishing three different depths and then adjust to suit when a bite is forthcoming. It was approximately 14-feet in front of me so I went for four, six and eight- foot hooklink as a kick off. I used a Dynamite pink Crave pop-up on two rods and a trimmed down Complex-T on the other. Using size 12 hooks for the zig rigs to maintain their buoyancy, I couldn’t remember the last time I used such a small hook. They looked lost as they sat on my palm. Adopting the ‘mug’ technique (never a technique quite so aptly named I thought) to place the hook in while I cast, I managed to get all three in position a lot easier than I thought it would. I sat on my bedchair, nervously, and watched events unfold.
I did receive a lot of liners and no more than an hour later the middle rod dropped down, then tightened up nicely and appeared to indicate a fish was on! I could scarcely believe it when I wound down to discover that I’d actually hooked one on the six-foot zig on the pink Crave! The lead had dropped as I’d hoped and the fish put up quite a tussle, terrifying on such a small hook. It wasn’t long and he was in the net….
Relief, I’d say. It saved the dreaded blank. It wasn’t a big fish, but surely, I’d cracked it and would be set for more action now. I sorted the fish out, took a few ‘self-takes’ and slipped him back. I knew then what I had to do. Whipping the other two rods in, I swapped both to six-foot zigs with a pink Crave pop-up hookbait and got them back on the spot asap.
I was excited to not only have saved the blank but also to have landed my first zig caught fish, but I was cursing myself for not trying it sooner! I was practically hovering over the rods expecting them to go off any second, I could hardly sit still. Hours went by and the sun sank, as did my spirits. Nothing happened for the rest of the day. I left them in position all night and all morning, but still, nothing! Yes, I was pretty gutted.
I really thought I was going to get a few after that. I did speak to a passing angler who asked me how I got on and it turned out he was a regular and said he hadn’t had anything either and that it had not been fishing well. Some consolation I suppose. When it was time to leave, I broke all the gear down and loaded up the truck. I was soon leaving Oxford, which I have to say I never realised was such a beautiful part of the country. Long may it stay that way.
I won’t say I came to Linear thinking I was going to catch a sackful, but I did think it would be easier than I found it.
In hindsight, of course I wish I’d tried the zigs earlier. Perhaps I should’ve gone all out with the marker float and really had a good look around. I was so seduced by the area the fish were showing in that I thought I was on to a winner. I’ve certainly learnt that there is no ratio of fish on the mat to how highly stocked the lake is. It’s a false confidence, if they’re not having it, you’re going to be struggling for bites no matter what you do. If I’d have stuck to my guns I wouldn’t have caught that fish and I’d have said they simply weren’t having it.
Seeing how quick a change of tactic bought me a bite when all else was failing has seriously caused me to rethink my approach in general. I’ve said several times how when I’ve been fishing my syndicates I knew that what I was doing was right and if I wasn’t catching it’s because the fish have moved on or they’re simply not having it. I knew without question that I was right. Or at least until now, I thought I did…