More and more privately run Stillwater fisheries stocked with thousands of small, easy-to-catch carp are being created every year, offering increasing numbers of coarse anglers the chance of a decent day’s sport in scenic surroundings.
One such fishery is Mallory Park, a complex of five lakes in Leicestershire. To compete in matches here can require a lot of bait – sometimes a gallon or more of maggots — but to show what the average pleasure angler can do, Ben brought just pints of mixed red and white maggots, a tin of sweetcorn and a small bag of groundbait for our early season visit.
It was a hot, windless morning, so Ben opted for the relative shade of the larger of the two ‘Lakes in the Trees’. At about acre it might more accurately be called the ‘Pond in the Trees’, but despite its size it is heavily stocked with commons and mirrors to about 7lb . It also contains a sprinkling of other fish, including skimmers, roach, tench, perch and gudgeon.
Because he wants to use the long pole later, Ben decides to fish about 10m out. As depth throughout the lake is only about 0.9 – 1.2m and he expects bites on the drop, he chooses a short, 15cm insert peacock waggler taking 2AAA locking shot and just five no. 10s spread evenly down the line.
In deference to the hard-fighting carp, Ben decides on 3lb main line with a 2lb hooklength. To match the line his hook is forged and barbed but, as maggots will be the bait, only a size 20.
There are five lakes at Mallory Park near Kirkby Mallory in Leicestershire, either within or close by the famous motor racing circuit.
The main ‘Match Lake’ is the largest and contains mainly skimmer bream and carp.
Slightly smaller is the ‘Foundation Lake’, with islands, and again mainly skimmers and carp.
The smallest lakes, the ‘Concrete Bowl’ and the two ‘Lakes in the Trees’, hold mostly carp.
Mallory Park can only be fished by a limited number of annual permit holders. No day tickets are sold. Applications for annual permits to: Roy Marlow, Mallory Park Fisheries, Marks & Marlow, 39 Tudor Road, Leicester LE3 5JF. Tel: 01533-537714.
Ben prefers to plumb with a swan shot as it creates less disturbance than a commercial plummet. So he pinches a swan shot on the hook. Finding the depth is about 0.9m at 10m out, he begins fishing with his float set at full depth. Hookbait is a single red maggot – red being the colour carp seem to prefer.
Mallory Park’s two ‘Lakes in the Trees’ may be small and shallow, but they are stuffed with carp. They also hold a sprinkling of other fish, including bream, skimmers, roach, perch, tench and even a few gudgeon. On a hot and windless day, Ben chose a swim in the relative shade of the larger ‘Lake in the Trees’.
Ben’s plan is to attract passing carp by constant loose feeding of maggots. So every 20 seconds or so he catapults in some half a dozen maggots.
The occasional pouch of sweetcorn goes in as well to create an attractive carpet on the bottom. However, because of the heat Ben expects to catch mostly up in the water -perhaps even on the surface, or ‘up in the air’ as it is known. For this reason he puts a handful of maggots in with his sweetcorn so that the juice will turn them into floaters.
Despite the constant loose feeding, Ben has not had a bite and there are no signs of any fish in the swim: no bubbles, no line bites -nothing. And all the while the sun is getting hotter and hotter.
A gentle breeze has got up as well, and is blowing masses of tiny seeds from the trees on to the surface. They stick to Ben’s line, making casting difficult and sinking the line almost impossible.
Ben tries two red maggots on the hook and gets a sailaway bite straight away, but it’s only a tiny gudgeon!
Ben’s float dips, the first sign that fish are at least moving through. The maggots on the hook aren’t touched, however, so it was only a line bite.
Ben sets his float deeper so that about 30cm of the hooklength lies on the bottom, but no real bites are forthcoming, suggesting that any fish in the swim are moving about up in the water. So he shallows up and moves three of the no. 10s to immediately below the float, leaving only two no. 10s down the line to give a slower fall to the bait to attract bites on the drop. He reverts to a single maggot on the hook.
Ben is getting odd movements on his float all the time now, so fish are definitely in the swim, but they are still only line bites.
A small carp cruises along the surface through the swim. Ben puts a couple of floating maggots on his hook and casts in front of the fish’s nose, but to no avail.
Ben’s float tilts and dips constantly as fish bump into the line. The constant loose feeding has definitely attracted interest, but the fish aren’t really in a feeding mood.
Suddenly the float shoots under as a fish takes the bait on the bottom, but it’s only a 5oz skimmer.
Ben catches another skimmer on the bottom. At 10 oz it’s a fair fish, but it’s carp he really wants. He puts away his float rod, certain that if it was going to work he would have had at least one carp by now.
He sets up an lla ft leger rod with a soft push-in quivertip. Line strengths and hook size are as before. The end rig is a simple paternoster with three swan shot as casting weight. The hooklength is 1.2m for bites on the drop and on the bottom.
After casting, Ben tightens the line so that the slightest bite or liner will register. At the same time he continues to loose feed maggots constantly.
The quivertip pulls round as a small perch picks the bait up on the bottom. Next cast the tip trembles and twitches as fish bump into the line. ‘There’s lots of carp out there now,’ says Ben and as if to prove him right one sticks its head out of the water!
Carp are swirling each time Ben fires in maggots. Just as he is thinking of switching to the pole his quivertip slams round and a small carp is on. In no time he nets a 1lb common.
Ben is more certain than ever that the pole will score best today as the carp, though swirling at the loose feed, are not making the water boil as they would if they were really feeding well.
He sets up a 10m pole fitted with internal elastic and 1.5m of line to a light, cane-stemmed, balsa-bodied, bristle-tipped float taking just four no.8s.
Were it not for the troublesome seeds covering the water Ben could have used an even lighter pole float on such a still day. As it is, a certain amount of weight is needed to sink the hooklength through the seed-covered surface.
Because of the elastic, he can get away with a lighter hooklength than on his waggler and leger rigs. Hook size is still a 20.
The 1.5m of line between the pole tip and float allows Ben to lower the hookbait gently into the water in different spots without having to pull out to recast. This avoids constant splashing that might frighten the carp. It also allows him to lift and twitch the float as he likes to move the hookbait attractively, to tempt bites.
Ben was right. The better bait presentation of the pole quickly tempts several skimmers, roach, perch and gudgeon, and a second 1lb common. All take the bait on the bottom. Bigger carp are still in the swim, but off the bottom and very reluctant to feed.
Ben decides desperation tactics are called for to tempt the larger carp. The easy-does-it loose feed approach hasn’t worked, as he hasn’t caught on the drop. So with nothing to lose he mixes up some groundbait, adds a liberal helping of maggots and sweetcorn, and puts in three big ‘Jaffas’ . He then rests the swim for 10 minutes to give the carp time to settle on the groundbait.
Ben’s done it! First drop in he hooks a much bigger carp, which stretches the elastic almost to its limit. He keeps the pole tip up and holds it steady, letting the fish tire against the pull of the elastic. Only when he sees the elastic creep back into the tip does he break down the pole and reach for the landing net. Safely netted, it’s a 3lb mirror.
The swim went quiet for a while after the disturbance of catching the mirror, but now the carp are back in force, foraging on the groundbait and giving constant line bites. As Ben lifts the float to twitch the bait a carp is accidentally foul-hooked and leads him a brief, but merry, dance round the swim before coming off. A scale left on the hook tells the tale.
Ben still isn’t satisfied the carp are feeding freely, so he starts feeding golf-ball sized helpings of groundbait regularly, ‘to see if they will come to the plops,’ as he puts it.
In no time he hooks a surprise 1lb 12oz bream. A 4lb mirror follows after a good scrap – his best fish of the day. It proves to be Ben’s last carp, however, and after netting a 10 oz tench he catches a succession of skimmers before calling it a day at 4 o’clock.