A deep water swim at Rackerhayes

Newton Abbot Fishing Association kindly gave

Ian Heaps permission to use the Island Pond.

Here he explains what makes a deep swim good for big fish like tench and carp.

The Island Pond at Rackerhayes, Newton Abbot in Devon is just one of six ponds sited behind the Tesco store. Although the pond is reserved for full club members only, Open matches are regularly held here. Because Devon is exempt from the close season many of these take place between April and June and one match -the Two Mile Oak Festival – has become an extremely popular annual event.

Anglers travel from all over the country to compete and matches are often hard-fought affairs, with individuals from local teams such as Team Milo defending their own patch fiercely. Ian has a particularly good record on the Two Mile Oak having had four out of four section wins in two festivals and coming second and third overall. He puts his success down to locating the carp and tench.

Making comparisons

Ian says that whenever he sees a lake with clear water and healthy weed growth it conjures up a certain impression for him: a water with a good head of rudd near the surface, tench (with perhaps a few carp) down on the deck, and where casters are likely to score as the magic bait. This is exactly what Rackerhayes does for him.

Already there’s an interesting lesson to be learned here because according to Ian, half the time this is just what successful fishing is about – trying to understand new waters by comparing them to ones that you already know.

Appearances can be deceptive of course. It’s not enough to go for tench solely on the grounds that one type of water looks similar to another — there may be very few, if any tench in there – you have to fill out the impression with a few facts first, so make enquiries. But the general point is a good one and on many occasions Ian has drawn on his angling memory banks to tackle new waters and swims.

Old clay pits

The ponds at Rackerhayes are the flooded workings of old clay pits. Dug by hand, the pits were excavated in such a way as to leave ledges around the walls to support them and prevent collapse. This means that although about two thirds of the Island Pond has deep water close to the bank, there are shallower ledges too.

The Backwaters at the right hand (wooded) end of the pond are the exception. This is where the horses and carts which were used to remove clay entered and left the pit by way of a shallow ramp. Here the depth falls away steadily. Behind the back waters, in the conservation area, is a little pool which tench and carp enter to spawn all year round.

What makes a good swim?

The ‘island’ of the Island Pond is really a peninsula which juts out into the middle of the lake. Ian has chosen a typical deep water swim on the left hand side of the island (looking from Tesco’s) to point out the kind of features that he likes to see. Marginal platform Tench and carp are marginal patrollers, spending a good deal of time swimming parallel to the bank in search of food. Ian says that when the water is deep, one of the essential features to look for is a shallower marginal ledge. He describes it as a ‘platform’ and likens it to the dining table at which we sit to eat our meals. ‘What we are aiming to do,’ he says, ‘is to lay the table and wait for our guests to arrive.’ The ‘guests’ being any hungry tench or carp that happen to swim by.

Ian thinks that these ledges provide relief from the deeper, cooler water – a substitute for the warmer water of the shallows – where bottom feeders can browse at leisure close to the bank. A ledge by itself isn’t really enough though – you need something else as well.

Bankside cover Marginal weeds and reeds are always a bonus because they provide food and cover – they are obvious places on which to focus your attention -but when the water is as deep as it is here it’s unlikely there will be any weed.

A tree or bush hanging over the water is the next best thing in that it affords some cover and shade, and occasionally insects find their way into the water — creating an additional food source to supplement the relatively barren lake bed. To the right of Ian’s peg there’s an alder which serves this purpose admirably. But even a swim with a marginal platform and a bush may not be perfect!

A coincidence What you are really after is a swim where the platform lies directly under the tree. Actually it’s not such a tall order to find the two together. In most cases the platform – rather than being like an underwater paving slab – is part of a fairly continuous ledge that forms a contour of the lake bed or wall. So it is really just a matter of finding out where this contour runs under the tree, and the only way to do this is by plumbing up.

Finding a platform

Although Ian already knows this swim fairly well he took us through the procedure he uses for building up a precise underwater picture.

Pole and plummet A pole is an essential part of Ian’s tench and carp technique and it just so happens that this is the best tool for plumbing. The beauty of using a heavy plummet is that you can actually feel it knocking on the bottom – but the trouble with using one with a rod and line is that it tends to make a disturbance. With a pole you can lower the plummet gently with pin–’ point accuracy.

Ian sits at an angle of about 45° to the water – facing in towards the tree. Right at the water’s edge there’s a narrow ledge formed by the action of waves lapping against the bank. Using three sections of his pole (3m) Ian lowers the plummet over this ledge – just by the tree.

He adjusts the depth of his rig by moving the dibber float until it sits perfectly on the surface when the plummet is resting on the bottom. Then, having made a mental note of the depth, he adds another section to his pole and repeats the process a little farther out -but still by the side of the tree. Cross section All the while he’s trying to gain an idea of the profile of the lake bed. What he is looking for is a spot where (after adding another section of pole) there is no substantial increase in the depth – or at very least a smaller increase in depth than the rest of the sloping lake bed around it.

So for example, it may be that at 8m the water is not much deeper than at 7m, but that at 9m and 10m the bottom falls away again quite severely.

In fact the so-called ‘platform’ may amount to no more than a slight depression in the wall of the lake – but if it is large enough for the feed to collect, and is also under the cover of trees or bushes, then it’s good enough for Ian.