Harley Doughty, Cats & Carp
Posted on 19th May 2019 at 13:19
You join me now in the last week of April and everything has started to come to life. Even the sun has started to make a regular appearance, with temperatures getting well into the 20s and with that water temperatures have increased massively. I will take any chance or excuse I can to get out on the bank and this spell of weather was more than enough to boost my motivation, so I gathered my gear and loaded the van ready for a day session at the Farm Lakes. Although my targets are still very much set on my target water I fancied a bit of a change, so my first session was at one of their other lakes with catfish as my target. Over the last 3 years I have spent a short time in spring focusing on catfish.
Earlier this year we saw some new additions make their way into our bait range, one of which was the Seafood. As soon as I got my hands on a few of the testers, before its public release, I knew that this would not only be a great carp catcher but also that the cats would love them too. Now most carp anglers see catfish as a bit of a nuisance but there is something about them that I love. They are, in my opinion, the fiercest predators that you can find in freshwater and probably the strongest pound for pound. With this being said, when targeting catfish you must make sure you have the tackle and gear that's up to the job, strong line, end tackle, rods and some good quality reels are all things you should ensure you possess before effectively targeting catfish.
Unfortunately I got to the lake a bit later than I would of liked, due to the van deciding it would drink all the coolant, so I had to make a stop off and fill it up, especially with this hot weather. Luckily it was not too busy when I arrived so I made my way round to my swim of choice and got setting up. The swim I had chosen was one that I know very well as I have landed numerous cats and carp from there over the years up to 60lb. The main reason I think this swim is so productive is because of the island to the right and, unlike most islands on lakes, the water around it has depths of around 6 or 7 foot so this is great place for cats, and carp alike, to hold up as its very sheltered. Much to my surprise it was a slow start just receiving the odd liner and twitch of the bobbin. I like to do a little trick throughout the session that I picked up watching some of the old Matt Hayes videos years back, where he would be fishing for giant cats out in Spain and France and they would use a tool called a clonk, which is like a hand held wooden paddle that, when hit on the surface of the water imitates the sound of little fish on the surface and this can often kick the catfish into feeding mode when usually they may just be lying on the lake bed not really looking for food. As I don’t have such a tool or a boat I try to imitate this the best I can and threw in some boilies one at a time bit with a slight difference to how you normally might do so when Carp fishing. I like to throw them up into the air so when they impact the water they make a deep plopping sound. You don’t need many, just a handful at a time, and leave about 20 seconds between each one, but I will do this throughout my session when it's a bit quiet and more often than not it results in a catfish taking my bait. I had to wait until just after midday to get my first pick up and when I did I was on it in a shot, lifting into what was undoubtedly a catfish. I fish with the drag or free spool as loose as I can as catfish don’t like any resistance so that, paired with a running rig is another tip, but when picking up into a catfish I like to tighten the drag until its locked up so no line can be taken. This ensures that I don’t get a fish tearing into the snags that hold up round the island. After a great battle I finally slipped the net under my first cat of 2019 and it went 21lb so it was a decent start for the Seafood. The bites then came thick and fast as only 30 or 40 minutes later I was into another one, this time a plump 28 pounder which was closely followed by a 27lb cat.
The day came to an end and I packed all my gear up leaving the rod on the floor so all that was left to do was reel the rod in. I picked it up and I still don't know why I did what I did but I just had a thought in my head to twitch the rig before reeling in, just in case there was a cat in the area and I could get a reaction out of it. Much to my surprise abouy 5 seconds after twitching the rig I had a pull back, then it slackened off so I twitched it again and then the spool just started melting line off it in my hands. I quickly tightened the drag and lifted into what felt like a better one. After a ridiculous fight I got the net under it and I bundled it in. I was correct in thinking this was a better one tipping the scales to 31lb.
I went home happy but aching a lot, but by this trip being such a success it meant that I had kind of got the catfish out of my system early in the year and I could now make sure the rest of my focus would mainly be on the big lake in search of a few big carp. The next day I headed back to the Farm Lakes and got myself ready for a session on the big lake, much to my disappointment it was another uneventful one. It had been a very windy day and this meant that locating them was almost impossible for most of the day.
In an attempt to cheer myself up a bit and prove that I could still catch some tricky carp I headed out for a day the following week to a little place that not many people seem to know about. It is only around an acre in size and with an island in the middle you could pretty much fish any swim just needing an underarm cast. This may make it sound like it would be an extremely easy venue but believe me it is anything but. Excluding the big farm lake the carp in this small weedy pond are probably some of the most difficult fish I've ever caught. As I expected, upon arrival I found myself in the perfect position of having the whole lake to myself so I went to have a look about. As usual locating them here was really easy and I only got half way round when I saw load of black backs peeking through gaps in the weed. Eager to get a fish I swiftly returned to the van and grabbed a few essentials. With the weed being so abundant I opted to fish with chod rigs with some pink VNX+ pop ups to start off. I have had fish here before on the same tactic and as the week was already nearly over it was my best bet to present a bait effectively.
To my surprise it didn't take long to get my first run, maybe only around 30 minutes and I was playing what looked like a stunning mirror. It took a bit of doing guiding him through the dense weed beds but eventually I got him over the net and I was so relieved. It wasn't the biggest fish as are none of them really, but at 11lb I was over the moon, little accents of purple under his belly and a dark back made for a wicked looking carp.
I took the fish down the opposite end to return it as the fish in here are extremely spooky and cautious but even doing that didn't make much difference as they all seemed to move off out of sight. Shortly after this the heavens opened so I grabbed all my bits and headed back to the van which was parked lakeside. I sat watching for a while until the rain finally let up and I re-emerged to the waters edge, but I started seeing some worrying signs, they looked as though they were getting ready to spawn.
I was now on very limited time as these fish were hard to catch when they are in a feeding mood let alone when they have spawning on their mind, so I headed back round to see if the fish had returned to where I had the mirror. Thankfully I could see a few moving in between the weed so I got a rig ready to go back out there. This time I changed my tactics slightly, opting to fish with a solid bag and a VNX+ Wafter in the hope that a little parcel of food might deter one or two from spawning and would draw a quick bite.
A couple of hours passed and I started thinking about calling it a day and then the rod tip pulled over and the alarm sounded. With the weed so thick and by having to fish in small holes in it that are sometimes only a few feet in size, it's important that I have the clutch set locked up, this ensures that the fish cannot run straight into the weed beds surrounding the clear spot where the rig is positioned, it also usually results in the fish coming higher to the surface and it's the only direction it can go. This makes life a lot easier when playing them and the weed will always be weaker at the top and makes directing the fish easier too. Even by doing so this one still managed to get me into a giant bed of weed. I stayed relaxed and kept steady pressure on the fish. Eventually I felt a slight hit of movement followed by a bit release where the weed had come free this actually worked in my favour as the weed that remained on my line masked the fishes vision and I quickly grabbed the net and bundled it in. When getting it onto the mat it seemed to be a bit bigger than the first one and up on the scales it went just over 17lb and, as usual with this venue, it was a beauty.
Not long after I slipped that common back I decided to call it a day. I was more than happy with the result and it has given me even more motivation to get back to the farm lake as soon as is possible and hopefully, it won’t be too long until one of those will be gracing my net.
Tagged as: Harley Doughty
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