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Below the Surface: Billy Flowers
In the hot seat is highly successful competition carp angler Billy Flowers...

We thought it would be great to put one of the UK’s competition carping flag flyers on test, but as a break from the usual format where the angler gets to choose the swim, we’ve replicated the match style format and chosen his lake and swim for him.

In this case it’s RK Leisure’s amazing Wraysbury South Lake, a venue that has more features than most other venues we’ve ever seen. Make no mistake, Wraysbury South is a massive chunk of water that not much is known about. Originally a place for hardcore anglers, pioneers or time bandits, it’s gone through a transformation which will allow “normal anglers” access to a major piece of British carp fishing history. For sure there are some original beauties in the water, but RK have supplemented it with a good head of small fish to grow on for the future.

What this means is not only is Billy in the dark about the lake and how it fishes, but so is everyone else. Swims are only just being built and test fishing is only just commencing. This will be an interesting test…

“Hughesy hasn’t told me anything about the lake at all, and I’ve never been here. I don’t know anyone that fished it so it really will be a bit of a challenge. On the way over, I had in my head that it was a big chunk of water and that I would be in some form of open water swim and I was going to be trying to find an open water spot and fishing all three on it in a tight area. However, having now been put in this swim, all of my initial thoughts are out of the window.

“Straightaway when looking at this swim I’m thinking traps on the far margin. It’s a small tree-lined bay off the main body of water, and back in the day it was the area where the South Lake and the North Lake joined together through a small cutting. That has now all been filled in to make the two lakes.

“This bay looks like it could be a patrol route along the channels before the fish move into or out of the main body of water. To the left is an area known as The Finger Bays and to the right is a small cut through that heads back into the main body of the lake and the Famous Dredger Bay. It’s more or less 50yds across with what looks like a hefty amount of weed through the centre line and cracking looking margins of overhanging trees on the far side. The wind is now blowing into the gap from the main lake and I’m hopeful that it might bring some fish in to the channel with it. I’m fishing three rods, but instead of fishing one spot I’m going to fan them out.”

The iconic dredger in Dredger Bay was on the other side of the gap
Only a small part of a massive lake, and we chose the swim Billy should fish to make it a bit more difficult for him
Every angler that’s worth his salt knows that watching the water is key to success
Rig 1 is another favourite but simple rig. A bog standard PVA bag of pellets with a small wafter over the top. Simple
Bill uses a stem in his lead as he feels it makes tying them up a lot easier
Pack in, tap down and then twist lick and stick
The finished item, and the twist system allows the bag to be tightened up, making it explode more when it pops
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1. Rod positioning: The first one in position

“Talk me through where you’ve positioned your first rod and how you’re fishing it?”

“The left rod is on the far margin on a bit of gravel. It’s fairly tight against a tree and it feels like a nice hard spot. I haven’t markered, as I don’t feel that I needed too. I liked the look of the area as it screamed carp so I flicked a lead over and got nice crack straightaway. This was enough for me to think I didn’t need to thrash around with a marker. I cast out again, got the same type of crack, and giving it a short pull back it felt smooth so that’s enough to for me. I reckon it’s about 4ft deep tight to the trees but I may have dropped back down the slope a little into slightly deeper water. About 6/7ft deep guessing from the drop of the lead. I’m not bothered exactly how deep it is as it seemed deep enough without being too deep. It’s more the drop that’s important and it was good.

“I’m thinking it’s like a gravel smooth area. Over the top I’ve put just a straight forward solid bag. As I’m fishing tight to the margins a solid bag is an ideal parcel for a quick bite and it’s great for getting tight against trees where you need to be as there is nothing to catch on the fronds and I can get it really tight. I use this method a lot on venues like Walthamstow and any other place where I’m island or far margin fishing and it’s deadly.

“On the hook I’ve got an 8mm slow slinking plastic dumbbell. They are flavoured and I add a lick of Betalin on top. It then goes in the solid bag and that’s my approach. I think line lay will be okay but there is a fair bit of weed between me and the rig so it’s not going to be brilliant.”

“How tight are you?”

“I am as tight as I feel I could be. I’m at 12 wraps so it is 48yds out. When I cast, I hit the clip and follow through with the rod to take the sting out of the bounce back – however, will be interesting to see how far back it comes.”

#1: Billy's Solid Bag Rig
Hook: Size 6 Wide Gape fished
blow back style
Hooklink: Six-inches of 18lb Supernatural
Lead: Square 3oz In-Line
Bait: Plastic dumbell

“You’ll see I use a stem in my bags. This system is for speed. It’s a lick and twist method and it sticks to the stem without the need for string or tape. I also feel it helps stabilise the bag in flight, making it more accurate, however, the biggest advantage is that it is so fast.”

Stick mixes were the plan for one rod – and they’ve sort of been forgotten these days but they are devastating
Keeping it simple is Billy’s way: sharp hook, blowback rig and a couple of bits of balanced corn, either pink or yellow do the business
And a lick of Billy’s ultra edge just to finish it all off. Betalin: carp love it
Bill tends to snip the foot of the clip off in weedy waters to allow the lead to drop easier. He then PVA’s it back up for the cast
A couple of Spombs over the top and the trap is set
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2. Rod positioning: Rod 2's plan of action

“And what about the second rod?”

“My other plan of attack will be towards the far side again but this time to the right, just to the side of where the channel comes through from Dredger Bay. I’m on a Stick with this one and the spot is a clear area between weed. There may be some light weed on the spot but it went down with a drop that I’m happy with. I think I’m on the clear area and I reckon there may be a bit of clay around because the drop and pull back on the test cast before the actual cast felt smooth.

“I’m on a lead clip system on this one, with the foot cut down to allow the lead to drop easier if needs be and for the cast I tape it up with a quick wrap of PVA tape. I’ve got a small Stick of Cloud 9 and Cell Stick Mix and I add some Liquid Betalin and also some Mainline Blackcurrant to it as the liquid to make it stick together. It’s basically a damp mix that oozes flavour and attraction and also helps prevent tangles.

“I fish it as a Stick and then Spomb a bit of bait over the top but not a massive amount. Basically I want enough to give them a bit of interest and get their attention, but as this is ‘patrol route fishing’ as opposed to big baited area fishing, I’m going to hold back on steaming in with a load of bait and just trickle a bit in, topping up when necessary.”

“My third rod will be used as an opportunist roving rod which can be fished anywhere for short periods – an hour here and an hour there, and it’s the same as Rod 1: basically a solid, chuck-anywhere bag that is pretty fail-safe.”

“What are your thoughts on how they’re presented?”

“I’m really happy with all three. The first two went down right and the last one seemed too as well but I didn’t have a chuck around with that one. I had tried a couple of spots with the rover but didn’t get any action. Towards the middle of the afternoon a few fish have started showing. I thought that they would come through the gap and head down the margins but I’ve seen a couple now head straight through the gap and into open water so I’ve banged the bag on where I saw the last one move. Hopefully that will do the trick.”

#2: Billy's Stick Rig
Hook: Size 6 Wide Gape fished blow back style
Hooklink: 15lb Camo coated hooklink
Lead: 3oz pear fished on a clip
Bait: Plastic corn (two pieces)

The tree-line was littered with “interesting stuff” like this piece of pipe work
Bill was fishing next to an old pumping station and the broken concrete deck made an interesting feature
The margin bag rod landed with a donk on gravel. However, the spot did have a bit of weed on it
Getting close up to it I could see why it felt a good donk. The gravel was hard and the weed very light
The pink pop-up was presented nicely but as the drop was quite a steep one, the lead had rolled down the slope or moved easily when the line was tightened
Fishing on a slope dropping back towards you always makes the line lay difficult and this was no different
The middle spot was indeed clay with a light bit of long weed. The Spombing was pretty accurate too
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3. The underwater bit: Over to Hughesy

“With Billy’s stall set, I jumped into the pond and trundled across the surface to the far side. Skirting the trees, the slope dropped quite steeply down and there was all sorts of stuff… Big stuff… on the bottom. Pipe work and big bits of concrete slab that had been broken through the vagaries of time laid on the slope eerily. A large T-pieced pipe hung in the water from 9ft up to about 4ft below the surface and with it a carp swam up to me, loitering for a while to see what I was doing, before mooching off, not particularly bothered by my presence.

“Wraysbury is a crystal clear lake and a very interesting one to dive. It’s weedy but then every now and again you come across incredible and amazing features. The silt is grey with big white patches, which upon inspection turn out to be decaying snail shells. It’s one of the only places I have seen where when you move the surface layers it gets lighter underneath rather than darker.

“I found Billy’s bag rig very easily. There was a large patch of gravel, like a slide down a marginal shelf that looked like someone had split a bag at the top of the slope and it had slipped down. It had weed growth on it, and from a distance looked like a weedy patch but closer inspection showed it was light. The bag had landed on it but the lead had pulled out of the pellet patch, either by the lead rolling due to the steep bank or being pulled back when he tightened up. It wasn’t fatal in anyway, but it wasn’t the usual presentation for a bag. You would expect the pink bait to stand out, but there was so much colour in the area that it didn’t. It was, however, well presented and ready for action.

“The second rig was in deeper water, about 12ft, and on the edge of a lovely clay/sandy lump right by the side of the concrete structure and slab. The end of the slab had snapped and was sitting vertically so could be a feature. A Spomb-load had been deposited on the hump and another two or three in the general area. The Stick rig was right up against some weed, once again clear and presented. If anything, you could say it was a little masked by the weed so a fish might not see it coming from over the weed, but hopefully the freebies would keep them in the area to forage.

That’s one of the things that we should always be aware of and why I constantly promote a recast if you haven’t had anything. The rig might be on the spot but not quite in the right place so it won’t be as effective. It’s possibly the reason why one rod does all the bites a lot of the time – i.e. it’s in the open as opposed to next to weed (or even vice versa depending on how the fish are feeding).

“I returned to bank to have a chat with Billy about a few bits and bobs and whilst out of the water we saw a fish move slightly closer in than the previous ones, on a chuck just to the right but in open water. We both saw it, both agreed it should have a bait on it, and Billy popped a bag ‘down the ‘ole’ where the rings had been. It landed with a reasonable donk.

“We were sat back chatting and having a brew when the re-cast right-hander rattled off before I could get out to have a look at what it was like. We were going to give it an hour or two to see if the fish would play ball and it did.

“He landed a stunning mirror and was clearly happy. I personally love an opportunist capture when short session fishing. It shows that you are on your toes and Billy is always on his toes. It’s noticeable the way he moves around the swim, how he watches the water, ties his bags and generally acts.

“Shots taken, Billy re-cast same rig in the same way to more or less the same spot and I dropped back into the water to see how it was presented. As I approached the area I could see a “motorway bar” running through the middle of the swim. Surrounded by high weed that appeared impenetrable from above, the bar snaked along and it was clear that fish would follow it.

“I found Billy’s bag right up against the edge of the weed and rather than sitting in a tight pile it has spread a little. This often happens with tightly wrapped bags and very small pellets. When the bag melts it explodes and the air comes out like a nuclear mushroom taking light pellets with it. This bag had done exactly that and once again, the lead, just like with the first bag, was sitting off kilter. It may have been the stem or more likely the weed that had “hinged” the line as it would have with the first bag. The presentation was effective and the first one had worked, and has for Billy on a number of occasions in the past.

“I had a mooch around the general area to see if I could see where the other bag had been, and sure enough, it too had landed on the bar, and the disturbance in the surface dust clearly showed where the carp had come in, eaten the bag, and been trapped.”

The Stick landed on the spot right next-door to some weed and just off the bait. It was still well presented and clean for a bite though
Although the middle appeared weedy, there was a big motorway bar running almost parallel to the bank. This is what the fish had rolled over
The re-chucked bag looked like it really exploded when it melted as it spread the bait quite wide
Interestingly on both bag rods the leads sat upright but we weren’t sure whether this was because of the weed or the stem
It wasn’t long after the cast that the opportunist bag rod rattled off
One of the cracking Wraysbury stockies that will help make Wraysbury South Lake a super water of the future
Looking round the vicinity of the bag that was picked up it didn’t take me long to find out where it had been. You can clearly see the disturbance on the bottom
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4. On reflection: Billy's thoughts

“That was mega interesting and great to be able to see how my rigs are presented. I always wondered about how the stem sat. The reason they sit like that might be a bit questionable as both rigs were sitting right up against weed so that may be the cause, or does it always sit that way? I’m not sure. It doesn’t look great but it works, and it has been effective for me and catches so I’m not overly bothered. I was also a bit surprised with the Stick rig as I thought the hooklink might be laid out more but it isn’t. I dare say, like many anglers, I thought the Stick would straighten out the link but it hasn’t. Maybe a light pull back would? However, it’s still presented well and works.”

High point
“Seeing the rigs has been brilliant. You have an idea in your head what they look like but actually seeing them is great. It’s actually pretty much opposite to how I thought they would sit (laughing) but I know that they work very well so although the picture in my eye wasn’t bang-on, they still work very well so I’m not bothered.”

Low point
“Thinking the spots were totally clear. I would have been adamant that both spots were totally clear but they weren’t. I couldn’t make out those little strands of weed on the right-hand spot with the marker alone and I thought the left was clean gravel. I have a grappler lead and that would have helped but I didn’t use it because I didn’t think I needed to. However, in future I won’t take anything for granted.”

Biggest eye-opener
“How much bounce back you get with the line. I was amazed how far it was and it means I haven’t been fishing as tight to features as I thought I was. I do a lot of fishing to islands and snags. I’m using a no-stretch line so I will adjust my casting when using this to take the sting out a little more and follow through with the rod. I always thought a stretchier line made it bounce back more but when you sit and think about it, and see it in real life, the stretchier line might actually work for you as a shock absorber and could lessen bounce back.” (Billy and I had a long conversation about bounce back and different lines and agreed that this will be a feature on its own and I will investigate it fully in the future).”

Biggest lesson learned
“There’s loads everyone can take from this. I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been great to have the opportunity to see what stuff looks like and how it behaves. I think the biggest lesson for me though is feature finding in more detail. You can’t take anything for granted and I will have the grappler out more often. Also, the way the rigs sit, especially with the Stick rig. I thought it would help kick the rig out straight but it didn’t.”

Genie in a bottle
Billy asked Rob: “Do you think there are any particular colours that work better at certain times of year?”

Rob replied: “For sure. Yellow is more visible in winter than in summer as the water is greener and there is a lot of green and yellow around with the weed. Yellow in the summer months is more of a camo colour than a high vis. Pink tends to stand out the best and a vivid dark pink/almost red is mega visible. Washed-out pinks work well too. White is more visible to my eyes, in either shallow or deep water. In mid-water it appears quite neutral. Yellow stands out much better in deeper water too, where there is less weed. Have a look at a colour chart and check out the difference in colours. Opposites stand out, similar colours compliment and disguise.”

Rob Hughes
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