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Features
11 Aug 2017
by Alex Grice
A common occurrence
Luke Bowns has been keeping mobile in an attempt to trick the pressured carp of Farriers Lake in the Cotswolds...

Luke Bowns has been keeping mobile in an attempt to trick the pressured carp of Farriers Lake in the Cotswolds which have led to a number of bites during his spring campaign topped by one of the many jewels for his determined effort

Old Cotswold trees, such a beautiful place to fish
A strange but characterful place
A unique lake nestled among the Water Park
One sugar or two?
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What was it about the lake that had a real draw to yourself?
“My good friend fished the lake around 13 years ago, back then the water was a phenomenal stalking water, you could watch the fish feed close in, dark shadows gliding through the crystal clear depths. It was quite mesmerising, as I had never seen anything like it at the time. The Society rules were different back then, you were allowed to bring guests to the lake for a social and at the time, I had just passed my driving test and I was keen to venture wherever I could. Back then, the lake was completely different, the trees were in their infancy and the stock was mainly 20lb commons. I guess looking forward to today, having seen the venue matured so much, it was something I just fancied and a place to go with a safe future and in beautiful surroundings.”

For those who don’t know Farriers, can you briefly describe the lake?
“I guess the lake is around 25-acres; it is quite a strange shape with a few shallow bays that hold an abundance of weed. This year, the lake has been dyed to help with the weed, but in general the lake is shallow and weedy. For those that don’t know the Cotswold Water Park, there is a large amount of water present in the area, with probably over 200 individual lakes. The Farriers is your typical ‘Water Park’ venue: a lake that was excavated for gravel a number of years back and stocked with a good number of lovely looking carp. The Water Park is also famous for other species including big pike, tench and silverfish.”

Did you do much research into the venue before you started, or did you just do things your way?
“I knew of a few friends already fishing over here, so I did manage to get a bit of inside information from those guys. I was mainly doing quick overnighters when I joined last summer, and at the time I had a different job, so simply couldn’t commit to any longer sessions. As a result, I was fishing quick overnight sessions between work and more often that not, going on a hunch as to where the carp would be. I tried to not get tied up with pegs, but instead, fish different pegs each trip in order to build a better picture of the lake and get a good idea for the clearer areas of the lake for future reference. Every trip I was learning and I think that was key in my first year on here in order to gain a better insight into the lake as a whole, for when I could get a few extra days. I made notes of every trip in my note pad for reference.”

How did you find the work overnighters?
“The overnighters proved to be worthwhile, but equally difficult at the same time. The lake wasn’t fishing particularly well at the time, so I ensured my time spent fishing the overnighters was based around learning. I was catching a good number of tench, one night in particular I had about 16 tench, so I knew the spots I was fishing were being fed on. Those nights were pretty tiring to be honest, but while the lake was fishing slow overall, getting a feel for the place and keeping a vigilant eye on different areas would hopefully pay off later in the year.”

Was there any particular things you began to take note of?
“I thought my work overnighters were coming together nicely, I was keeping disturbance to a minimum, while taking note of goings on around the lake. I wasn’t always in a rush to get my rods out either, I would often do a few laps of the lake into darkness in the hope of hearing and seeing a few. One thing I noticed was the amount of fish activity in the shallows at night, these areas of the lake were always ignored as many members didn’t believe the shallows did bites during the hours of darkness.”

Despite most of the fish being commons, they were still unique
A Farriers beauty coming ashore
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How did the autumn of 2016 fare for you over here?
“Just as I was beginning to get somewhere with my fishing over here, other things in my life started to go the other way. Autumn in general was pretty poor throughout the whole of the country, but to make things worse, I came down pretty ill towards the back end of 2016. To cut a long story short, I was in hospital for some time with pneumonia, which caused a major set back on my fishing. I was pretty gutted as I felt so close to a fish on a few occasions, but I guess this fired me up even more for my return in the spring.”

How did the spring shape up? Did you begin to get a feeling for certain areas?
“I guess after that knock back from illness, it wasn’t until around the end of March that I managed to get my fishing head back on properly. 2017 was going to be a different year for me, as I had left my previous job to work for myself in the hope of freeing up some time in order to give me some degree of fishing flexibility. I could now commit to doing 24hr sessions instead of the work nights I had been doing the previous year. At the same time, I had also been offered a ticket for another special venue in the Cotswolds, which meant I couldn’t justify keeping my Farriers ticket. That was all that I needed to kick me into gear and get my head into fishing over here before the ticket went.

“My plan was to use what I had learnt from the previous year from fishing various swims around the lake in order to adopt a mobile approach. When I got back in the spring, the lake was still relatively slow, but the fish were showing themselves in lots of areas around the lake.

“I turned up for a session in the first week in April. I had done the night and unfortunately lost one, but I had seen them showing on the other side, so I packed down and got round there. I quickly flicked a pop-up to the area they had been showing and not long after I had a real long, old looking common lying in the net. I was buzzed to get off the mark, but after slipping that fish back I noticed the pack had moved off. I quickly loaded the gear back on the barrow and headed round. After a quick look in the swim they were showing, I flicked the rods out to a noted area in front and yet again, I was soon staring down at a pristine Farrier’s common in the net.”

The buzz was always there!
Perfect in every way
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Did you begin to notice any particular habits of the fish that helped you along?
“Following on from what I had seen the previous year and through the spring, the fish seemed to be held up in three main groups. Sometimes the groups of fish would be bigger and at other times, these fish would be spread a bit. My main aim in my mobile approach was to always try and get onto one of these groups of fish. I would always try my hardest to find these groups of fish moving about the lake and after a while, they were holding in the weed in a few distinctive areas. Because the lake is reasonably shallow, by looking hard for these fish, they were often findable. The fly hatches over here were a big draw to the fish; a big hatch would often attract large numbers of carp, so keeping my eye on the surface and in particular areas of the lake often revealed their feeding presence.”

Farriers is generally shallow and weedy, did this influence your choice of spots?
“The weed initially wasn’t an issue, it was low-lying at the beginning of the spring which meant my casting to showing fish approach worked well, as I didn’t have to worry too much about presentation with the Naked Chod Rigs I was using. The information I had gained from last season started to come into play when the weed got up, as I could drop into swims with notes on clean areas present and ready to go. I certainly felt the lack of disturbance helped put extra fish on the bank, as I could get away with very few casts, a few pouchfuls of bait and I was fishing effectively.”

Did the angling pressure affect your approach in any way?
“With Farriers being fairly shallow throughout, angling pressure certainly has an effect and the majority of the lake is taken up come the weekend. The fish seem to behave distinctively different, with most bites coming from certain areas where the fish hold up in the weed to avoid lines. After the weekend has passed, the fish will begin to become more active again and move about. My main aim was to predict their movements and if I had 24hrs ahead, position myself in the areas they were likely to move into. Staying mobile helped if I noticed the fish move off elsewhere, but over time I began to understand where they would go a few days after the lake was busy.”

Spring was the time for me
A new season and I was off to a flyer with this old fish
Checking the hook point was vital between every move and balancing the rig was crucial over the low lying weed
Final rig adjustments
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What other factors affected their behaviour?
“A new wind was certainly something that they love over here, so keeping my eye on the forecast and trying to plan my sessions around quick changes in the weather certainly helped. Most of the weather throughout the spring became stale after a few days, with consistent wind directions, so noticing those slight changes had a big effect, which is why staying mobile was key.”

Were you pre-baiting to help improve your chances?
“Initially, that light baiting and moving onto fish approach worked well. Pre-baiting simply wasn’t an option for me initially, because I was staying mobile and gaining the rewards by doing so. The active style of fishing certainly helped motivate me and keep me thinking, which I feel was important at a time when I wanted to make the most of the opportunities I had. As the spring went on, I started to apply more bait, but only to areas where I felt they would get on it and eat it. To me, location was the key factor, if I felt like conditions dictated they would be up for a munch, then I would happily introduce a few kilos of bait in the attempt of holding them in an area.”

You mentioned briefly that you had one off the top; can you quickly talk about that fish?
“Come the spring, I always have my floater kit in the van, especially on a water like this where the windows of opportunity to catch them off the top are small but they’re to be taken.

“I was doing a lap of the lake when I saw a few fish in a quiet, sheltered area of the lake with their backs out the water. I was due to leave the lake that evening after catching a fish of a lifetime during the night. I watched these fish milling around in the warm sunshine close to the surface, of which they looked more than catchable off the surface. I popped back to the van, grabbed my floater kit and started introducing some small 6mm Floating Trout Pellets to the area they were present. At first, they were very cagey, but after steady application I got a few taking confidently. I rigged up with a floating hookbait and cast past the fish before drawing back. Moments later and I had a fish on which turned out to be a lovely fish just short of 30lb.

“For me, those small opportunities are important when fishing and without looking and having my floater kit ready to go, I would have been going home having not caught that fish.”

The Ronnie produced the goods on the cleaner spots
Nailed on my version of the Ronnie Rig
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The mobile approach is perfect for those opportunist moments; did you have any more occurrences like this?
“That was the only fish that I managed off the surface, but I was happy with that result, as they are generally tricky to catch in that way, especially with the birdlife on here. When I joined Farriers, I wanted to experience a variety of fishing, so for me the next challenge was to try and stalk one from the edge. The rules have changed over here in recent times, which means that you can only stalk from pegs, which does make catching them out the edge a challenge in itself. The fish are happy to spend time under the snaggy trees, but these areas in the edge are inaccessible which make the task even harder.

“Most recently I have been baiting a small spot in the edge off a neglected peg, I had seen a number of fish in this area and though it was the prime opportunity to get something going. Introducing a mixture of Live System and corn has certainly got them polishing off the spot, but I am still waiting for the perfect time to fish for them. Hopefully the next few weeks will throw up a window to catch one, I would love that!”

What was your plan of attack rig-wise?
“Rules of The Carp Society state that leaders are banned, so to get round this I have been fishing my main line straight through to a drop-off heli system. At the start of spring I was using Naked Chods, which allowed me to stay mobile and effectively cast to showing fish. Only recently has the Ronnie Rig come more into play, since baiting spots and fishing to cleaner areas. I have been fishing between light strands of weed, which the fish love to visit and feed among.”

A few pouches of boilies was all that I need to keep the bites coming
The fly hatches often attracted every carp in the lake
My margin mix consisted of crumbled boilies and corn
Luke’s approach revolved around using the sweet, creamy Live System
This special fish made all the effort worthwhile
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Did you have any targets in mind before starting on here?
“The fishing over here as been different to what I have experienced in the past, with a much higher stock of fish and greater angling pressure, the challenge has certainly been different. This spring has been very kind to me, having landed over twenty fish now, topped by an awesome forty-pound common. My target this year was to give it my all, fish and learn along the way and hopefully catch a few nice ones. When I knew I was giving up my ticket, my outlook changed and my desire to catch a forty-plus common took over. Luckily, with my mobile approach and effective baiting, I managed to succeed in the challenge.”

What is the atmosphere like when fishing in and around the Cotswolds?
“There is certainly a distinctive buzz around the Cotswold, I think this is because there are so many different types of lake on offer, with some low stocked and some much higher. I guess it caters for all types of angler and abilities, which is a nice feeling, as it attracts anglers from all walks of life. Certainly over here I have had a great buzz every trip, purely because I have always felt the chance of a bite is on the cards. Being confident in your angling certainly makes you enjoy every minute of it.”

Finally, what does the future hold for you, Luke?
“Like I mentioned previously, a very special ticket has come available for a lake not too far from here. It’s an opportunity I simply cannot miss, so as of June I won’t be renewing my Farriers ticket. The lake has been kind to me this year, but I will continue to enjoy my fishing over here in the stunning surroundings before moving on to new adventures.”

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