Thursday, 26 July 2012

Oaks, Cedar - 23rd July - With Alan Scotthorne

After a disappointing match on my first ever trip to Langwith on the Sunday I was looking forward to a day’s coaching with Alan Scotthorne up at Sessay. The days coaching came from the “Win a day with the stars” competition on the forum. I’d entered a few previous competitions to win days with anglers such as Tom Pickering and Bob Nudd but to no avail, so when I discovered I’d won a day with Alan I was over the moon. As this was a day for two I decided to invite Gordon along (as he needs the most help) and he’s been very good to me over the years with all things fishing so it seemed an apt way to pay him back. We met Alan in the cafe at the Oaks Lakes at 9am and had a quick chat over breakfast before deciding to do a bit of fishing. Venue expert Ghandi was on hand to give Alan the low down on what was working at the minute and what areas to concentrate on so we’d have a rough game plan. We drove around to the first arm and I eventually plonked all my gear on peg 15, with Gordon on peg 13 so it was more like match circumstances with a spare peg. I started to set up my gear, getting my box levelled and attaching all my arms and trays etc. Now I was under the impression that I had a relatively good setup and always seemed fairly comfortable. One look at my setup and Alan was already asking questions, why was my side tray so high? Why isn’t my box exactly level? The positioning of my nets? The positioning of my top kits? Soon all these queries were addressed and as soon as I sat on my box everything felt much more comfortable, closer to hand. Not that my setup was terrible in the first place but the creases have now been ironed out. Even down to putting my carryall a bit further behind me to rest my landing net on so that it’s a foot closer than it used to be, it’s all these little extra stretches, twists and turns that probably add to the equation of back ache at the end of a match. Now my station was set, I got my pole out and a few top kits. This last year I’ve taken to using lighter doubled elastics for most of my fishing, and on Cedar I generally use doubled 6’s. On stretching these softly set elastics from the pole Alan deemed them a bit heavy, and so we used my doubled 5’s instead which were also deemed a touch too heavy at first stretch. Being the top bloke that he is, Alan dug his top kits out from his bag for me to use but unfortunately they wouldn’t fit my pole. But having a stretch of the laggy in these top kits, they had a similar power to my doubled 5’s but everything was much much smoother, he had the Drennan Bungee in these, it was either green or yellow, being colour blind doesn’t help! So, now onto rigs. The first swim we’d look at would be in the deep water as far out before the bottom started sloping up again. I got out my usual slim pencil float rigs but these were soon turned down in favour of one of his own, not because they were wrong necessarily but because he obviously understands his own rigs and how they work so would be able to better understand how they were working when watching from behind me. This was a 0.3g slim Didier Delanoy Rive float with a carbon stem and a cane tip. This was on 0.16 mainline, which may seem heavy, but justified in the fact that it may see some stick throughout a session and with the pressure of the shot on the line there’s no point creating an unnecessary weak link, especially when you’re using a hooklength which is essentially all the fish should see. I’ve been doing this myself in recent months, tying my rigs to 0.16 and using hooklengths from 0.10 to 0.16 as it also makes it much easier tying lots of the same rig up instead of a couple on 0.12 a couple on 0.14 etc, turns out there was method behind the madness and not just making my life easier. Shotting was simple with six No.9’s spread two inches apart above the six inch hooklength. The hooklength was 0.117 to a size 18 hook and a micro band in a hair as close to the hook as possible as we were going to fish with hard pellets today. With the rig attached he shipped out to around half way across, lowered the rig in with a nice heavy plummet and found the bottom, he then shipped out half a section and did the same again, he did this until the depth started to shallow up. Back came the rig, moving the float down to the approximate depth and repeating the process to find the bottom of the far shelf, having a look left and right too it was evident there was a nice flat spot though it did go fractionally deeper the further left he went. So, rig ready? Not quite, with a lash of about 12 inches between pole tip and float, he equally space out two No.9 shot, these backshot would be held out of the water but would help control the line above the float and keep everything a bit more direct. Adding a small homemade sprinkle pot to the end of the top kit we were ready to rumble. Slipping a 6mm hard pellet into the band I started to load the pot up with hard 4mm’s before Alan told me to flick my rig into the water whilst I was filling the pot, chance of a bonus fish that way! “You’re not going to get a fish if the hook isn’t in the water”! So armed with hook bait and a full pot I shipped out, picked my marker on the bank and on my pole and lowered the rig in before tapping a few pellets over the top. Straight away I was getting dips on the float but I was still waiting for a “proper” bite. All these dips were “proper” bites, in fact they were the best bites, according to Alan. “You shouldn’t be choosing what bites to lift on, lift at every movement on the float”. When I started doing this, I started putting a few fish in the net, in fact one every put in. My strike was still too aggressive though, I thought that I was just doing a gentle lift, maybe lifting a foot to eighteen inches out of the water, but by lifting only the float out of the water at a bite, if I missed the bite, by only lifting this distance, you’re essentially presenting the hook bait right in the fishes eye line, this proved correct as when I started only lifting the float out of the water at a bite, if I missed I’d get a bite straight away again. If I didn’t get a bite then I’d lift in the same way as “striking” and present the hook bait again, if after another thirty seconds or so without a bite I’d tip a few more pellets in. It was very busy fishing, always moving, always working. Normally I’d ship out, tap all my pot of bait in and sit and wait for five minutes, if I didn’t get a bite I’d lift my rig out, drop it in again and if I still didn’t get a bite I’d ship and start over, not working very hard at all! I started putting a decent run of fish together and must have started doing it all correctly and feeding regularly enough because Alan had stopped shouting “lift don’t strike”, “feed”, “lift”, “feed”. If on the odd occasion I didn’t get a bite and I’d tipped all my bait in I then started pinging 6 to 8 pellets over the float to spark a response. Generally when I did this, I’d lift my rig, lower it down then feed, but I was told that the five seconds after your float has settled is probably the most important time to concentrate looking for the bite as the fish has seen your bait and will now be looking for it so by waiting five seconds you’re concentrating on your float and not feeding. It all makes perfect sense its now just a case of making it a habit. After a spell of a fish a chuck it went iffy for ten minutes, the float was also sitting slightly lower in the water making it harder to read bites, I brought the rig in and we nipped a no.9 off and put an no.11 on, back out and the float was now sitting taller than before and the bites weren’t as positive, it was quite puzzling as we nipped another no.11 on, went back out and started catching straight away again. It turned out I must have spun the pole round maybe a foot to the left (obviously not in line with far bank marker) and I was now in the slightly deeper water, with the weight of the pellet dragging the float down that extra bit. So an important lesson, something as silly as being a foot away from where you should be can make you go from one a bung to nothing, “once you’ve picked a marker, stick to it”. After a couple of hours I was still catching well on this line but it was time for a new tactic, now in a match circumstance I’d have stayed on this deep line as I was catching but it was purely a day of learning today. Whilst fishing down the track Alan had been telling me to feed a pinch of casters to 9-10m by hand. Now, I’m a left hander, so feeding casters this distance with my right hand posed a problem, I was throwing them all over the place! I kept trying but ended up using my catty instead to keep the feed more concentrated, it wasn’t as quick but a damn site more accurate. It’s something I’m going to have to practice though because I missed a few bites when picking my catty up to feed, apparently I’m the worst person he’s seen throw bait in (then again girls can’t throw). So after feeding the line with casters for two hours the fish were boiling on the top every time a pouch full hit the surface. There were quite a few silvers boiling on the surface too, hopefully they wouldn’t become a nuisance. Whilst I’d been fishing down the track, Alan had set up a shallow rig for me, he quickly talked me through it and we were soon fishing again. I’d feed half a pouch whilst baiting up the rig, then drop the rig in the middle of it, if I didn’t get a bite, I’d feed a full pouch and drop the rig in again, I was getting the odd twitch on the float but eventually the pole buried under surface with elastic pouring out and it was another good F1 in the net. I fished this for around two hours again and it was a fish a chuck, I had the odd silver get in the way but the odd 2lb Ide isn’t so much of a nuisance! The F1’s were all a slightly better stamp than the ones I’d been catching down the track too so it was proving more beneficial fishing here. It wasn’t even a case of fishing really, it was more just keeping a track on the feeding and letting the fish hook themselves, it was almost, dare I say it, too easy! Now I’ve caught shallow before but never to this extent. When the casters ran out I started pinging pellets instead, it took five or ten minutes without a bite and constant feeding before the fish gained the same confidence as they had before but then it was back in the same routine again. Feeding casters seemed to draw the silvers in, closely followed by the F1’s and carp, where as when feeding pellets the silvers didn’t show an interest and it took a little longer to get the carp going. Again, after catching for a few hours, the swim was still going strong but it was time to have a look down the edge. The right hand edge of my peg had been cut back nicely and I had a lovely area to have a go at. Alan had been feeding a cup full of stodgy groundbait in one hole for an hour or so and we’d seen the odd tail pattern so it was time to have a look. I had two F1’s on a single grain of corn before I could get a proper bite. By changing to half a worm I was soon attached to a margin lump. Even though only still using doubled 5 elastic down the edge I soon tamed a big common around 8 or 9lb. This would be my last fish down the edge as they’d obviously backed off. In a match this would be the time to go back on the shallow line and carry on as normal and hope to see more tail patterns down the edge, but the session was drawing to a close and we decided to call it a day. Unfortunately for Gordy, with myself being so useless, Alan spent the whole day sat behind me and didn’t get chance to observe Gordy, though he still picked up a few tips and I filled him in with all I’d learnt on the way home so hopefully it wasn’t a wasted day. Lifting my nets out at the end of the day for the final catch shot I had over 60lb from only a few hours fishing. I can’t wait to get back on Cedar next week and put all I’ve learnt into practice. I’d learnt more today than I’d probably learnt in the last ten years of fishing, my whole approach to a match will hopefully benefit from this day if I put all the tips and tricks into practice. It was also proof that there are no secrets in angling, all day we used normal rigs, normal baits, it really is down to feeding and presentation! As a final note, thanks must go to Steve Guy and Kev Allen for organising this and who both do a fantastic job for the Big Bash and a massive thanks to Alan for sparing his valuable time to sit behind a numpty like me for the day!

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