Simon Mansbridge – Serreire in December 2015

During the first week of December 2015 I had planned to fish Lac Serreire, but in the days leading up to my session I had seen a few carp show on Badgers Holt and it looked good for a fish or two. So I decided to start with a couple of nights on Badgers before moving down to Lac Serreire. After fishing very hard for two nights on Badgers, I was totally exhausted having been up most of the nights, but I was very happy with three nice forties. The big lake was calling though and it was time for a move to Serreire.

12314566_482472071933325_8679088542640384560_oI set up in the Outflow Swim because it offers plenty of options and covers a lot of water. Very few fish had been showing the last days and conditions had become absolutely freezing with temperatures down to -5C at night. I hadn’t seen any fish showing in their usual places down to the left of the swim in the outflow corner lily pad area. The few fish that I had seen in the previous few days were scattered out in open water around the central area of the lake. So I decided to get the rods ready, but not start fishing for a few hours, and watch the water. The stove and kettle were set up and I sat making cuppa after cuppa watching for any signs. With a gentle ripple on the water it wasn’t easy to see activity at long range but mid-afternoon there were two definite flat spots close together in an area that I had previously had a lot of fish from, approximately the same time, the year before. I was pretty sure that carp had caused the flats and on Lac Serreire this happens a lot. The fish don’t always crash or head-and-shoulder, but they very often disturb the water and cause small flat spots if there is a ripple on the water.

If I had just been fishing for a day or two then I would have put a couple of singles bang on the spots where the flats had occurred and fished for a bite at a time. But as I had a week ahead of me, and knowing how big hits are sometimes possible on Serreire, I decided to try to create a feeding situation for the days ahead so that I could hopefully have a few fish. Based on previous experience and our winter feeding program in previous years, I knew that the fish would still feed quite heavily so long as the food source was low in fat and very easily digestible in the cold water conditions.

12322470_482300025283863_6209290150672020324_oThe activity had been in an area about 170yds out and in a direction a little to the right of Heron Point. I decided to put two rods in the area. The hook links that were already on the clips were removed and I replaced them with 5ft of line and a poly ball on each rod. These were bait boated out, one towards Heron Point at 170yds and one 30yds to the right and at the same range. Once I was happy with where the two poly balls were bobbing around in the water, I took a rowing boat out but stopped about 50yds short of the area and catapulted a line of bait between the two poly ball markers and behind them. I was careful to not bait at all in front of them since I always prefer to fish on the near side of any baited area and always at the ends if I bait in a line. About 7kg of the cold water emulsified version of the Serreire Crayfish and Squid HNV baits were used in mixed sizes. The emulsifier increases digestibility and cold water attraction and we recommend this version of the boilies on the complex early and late in the year when the water temperature drops. For this session I had also glugged the baits for a couple of days in a new liquid that I had been testing. This new bait glug is based on the same hydrolysed marine protein liquid food source and low level flavours that are used in the boilies and will be available on the complex in 2016. It is an almost pure liquid food source as opposed to many glugs that are just carriers for flavours. It dissolves into the water providing a plume of food signals around a baited area for long periods of time and can be added to boilies or pellets. It had already proved successful in Badgers Holt the last two nights and I also knew that this glug had been used on some difficult high pressure UK waters with excellent results in the last year, so was excited to try it on Lac Serreire.

31lb(2)Next the lines were marked, trees on the far bank horizon lined up and the two poly balls wound in, removed and replaced with baited rigs. I often use the poly ball temporary markers in place of hook links as I personally don’t like permanent markers and this method is extremely accurate.

Rigs were my standard D-blow-back set ups with barbless Korda Wide Gape B size 6 hooks, 5 inch hook lengths and 2oz dumpy pear leads mounted on MCF clips. Hairs were 40mm long and hook baits were single Crayfish & Squid wafters.

The third rod was cast to about 100yrds range to the right, towards the Woods swim where I had seen one fish show two days earlier. When range permits, my preference is to cast every time if can. Bait boats are a useful tool when spots are beyond reasonable casting range, but so many people seem to use them all the time now that I am sure that by the back-end of each year the fish become wary of small tight clusters of bait. I have always said that it pays to be different and I always look at standard methods that the majority of anglers are using and try hard to not do the same. Carp aren’t clever, but their survival instinct makes them very good at learning by association. If everyone does them same things then it’s easy for the carp top associate those things with danger – So just look for common themes and do things differently.

P1040910I used a double glugged wafter on this rod but no free baits at all. The line was marked and a far bank tree noted so that the position could be hit again using the spool clip if needed. This is my standard approach when the fish aren’t showing much; two rods, one at each end of a line of bait and one as a roving rod that can be re-positioned as soon as a fish shows. Because the roving rod is fished with hook-baits only and no freebies, there isn’t a load of bait spread around the swim every time that you move it. Later in the session, if a spot starts consistently producing then the rod can be committed to that spot and some bait applied if necessary. I always think that you can put more bait out, but you can never take it back in if you decide later that it wasn’t the best spot.

I never use more than three rods on Lac Serreire and two rods on Badgers Holt and I am firm believer that less-is-more when it comes to lines, disturbance, etc. We see so many people rush to put the maximum rods out that they can as quickly as possible and it often works against you in the end. If you watch the water enough then one rod on the exact right spot is worth ten that have been put out in the hope of finding the right spot. On Badgers I often even only fish one rod if I have seen a fish show. I often think these days that having the rods actually fishing with the rigs out is just the final part of the jigsaw puzzle of catching carp, the most important part however is watching and finding the exact spots before rushing to put as many rods out as are allowed.

With the rods finally out, I sat back and put the kettle on again. There was no activity at all during the rest of the day. Just after dark, I heard a fish out at range to the right but slightly further than the spot I was fishing. I decided to sit tight and keep the roving rod where it was unless I heard more. But by about 9pm I had heard three or four more fish all in the same area, a bit further than the right rod was positioned and a bit to the left of it. I decided to re-position the right rod, as best I could in the dark, in the area that the fish were showing. Again just a double wafter hook bait and no freebies were used and the line was again marked after removing the marker for the first position. It turned out to be a good move as this rod was away with a flier of a take around midnight resulting in a nice mid-30 mirror. I always look really carefully at exactly where fish are hooked as it tells you a lot about how the rig is working. This fish was hooked in roughly the centre of the bottom lip indicating that the 5” hook length was about right for the way that this fish had been feeding. My view is if the fish is hooked in the side of the mouth then the hook link was a little too long and the fish moved a distance before getting pricked by the hook, if it’s hooked in the centre of the bottom lip an inch or so in then it’s perfect and if it’s in the centre but only just in the edge of the lip then the hook link was a little too short.

P1040881The line was put back in the spool clip and the rod cast back to the same spot. By this time it was so cold that the wet landing net had frozen solidly to the wooden platform and a bucket of water had to be poured over it to defrost enough to move it.

By 2am I drifted to sleep but set my alarm for an hour before first light. Just as it got light the left rod dropped back and I found myself connected to the first fish off the baited line which was a good sign based on the amount of bait that was on the area. During the next few hours the baited area produced a number more fish including mirrors of 42lb and 43lb within a 15 minutes of each other. Looking through binoculars there were the odd vortices and tell-tale movements of the water on the baited line but no proper shows. There were certainly a few fish feeding on the bait, but unless binoculars were used and the spot was studied really carefully, there were no signs and it just goes to show how subtle the signs often are.

Mid-afternoon the activity died off so I used the bait boat to take the left and middle rods back to the two spots with the temporary poly ball markers again using the line markers and tree line for accuracy. I boated about three quarters of the way to the spot and catapulted another 5kg of boilies on the line. I never boat right over the top of an area once I am actually fishing especially when fishing shallow water.

The rods were then wound in, poly ball markers removed and replaced with the rigs again which were bait boated back to the spots. The third rod was left on the spot where I had the fish the night before.

Over the next couple of days the baited area produced a flurry of activity around first light and last light each day. Twice I found myself with two carp on at the same time. The feeding was intense but for quite well defined shortish periods. Each day I topped up the baited area around 2pm which was the time when there seemed to be the least chance of feeding fish on the spots.

35lbThe roving rod had produced a couple more fish but the baited area was definitely producing the most. Then in the later part of the week, the bites from the baited area slowed right down. This was probably a combination of rapidly reducing water temperatures and the fact that many fish had now been hooked in the area and, with nobody fishing the rest of the lake, there were plenty of quiet areas for the fish to move to. On the Thursday I literally sat on the end of the platform and studied as much of the lake as I could from first light right through the day. Nothing showed at all day then just as it started to get dark, two carp showed within a few minutes on the same spot. It looked like two different fish, but I couldn’t be sure. The area was much further to the right and a long way out. I lined the spot up with a tree on the far bank and a shadow on the water, quickly wound in the right rod and managed to get the double wafter on the new spot and the line once again marked. Over the next 24 hours this rod produced seven fish with just one more off the baited area. Once again proving that watching the water is so critical. Had I not seen those two shows and moved that rod then I would not have caught those last seven fish. I often say that seeing one show can turn your whole session or even whole season around. Many years ago I had a fantastic winter on a very difficult UK lake. One show in December showed me the spot. I never saw another fish show all winter but could only get takes from that exact one spot. Had I not seen that one show then the winter would have probably been a total blank.

43lb(2)The week ended up with 43 carp to mid-forties and a lot of good thirties. Lac Serreire is not an easy lake to fish on your own or in very small groups because the fish can always move away from you to unfished areas and I would always recommend at least four anglers fish on any given week to make sure that most of the lake can be covered. However the key to catching, as always, is watching the water like a hawk, listening at night and finding the spots that the carp are prepared to feed on. 31lb second fishDon’t use lights at night whilst listening and watching since they destroy your low light vision. Without lights it’s amazing how much you can still see. Be prepared to move if you are not on the fish – Effort definitely equals reward as they say. I never zip down the bivvy door as I want the best chance to see and hear any shows. Zipped down bivvy doors cost anglers a lot of fish in my opinion. Once the spots where the carp are feeding are located then it comes down to having a food bait that they really want. In the lower temperature conditions, bait choice is even more important than ever. It’s definitely not the time of year to use something new that they haven’t seen before.

Never stop watching the water, use the best nutritional quality food bait that you can and be different to everyone else! Tight lines for 2016!