Over the years, throughout the course of this series, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how many of the top names in the sport fish. Some of them are highly skilled, some make the odd mistake and others have been somewhat eye-opening (take that as you will!) There have been lads that have bounced onto the scene with galactic recent results and some of the older crew who have been around forever. This month’s guest, Frank Warwick, has been round forever but he can’t really be classed as totally old school. Why? Because he never was. He was new school when the old school anglers were round because he is always coming up with ideas, trying things a bit differently and generally “mixing things up a bit”. Back in the day, Frank was a bit of a pioneer of new techniques. Here and now he still is, but has the backing of experience behind him too.
I joined him in Shropshire at Rob Hales’s stunning Weston Park Lake where he was part way through hosting a tutorial week where he was imparting some of his words of wisdom. I find Frank sat in a cracking looking swim opposite the meadow, so I begin with the obvious: why here?
Every year I host a week on Weston and the lads draw first and I pick last. The swim isn’t as good as it looks and I ended up in the middle so I was close to everyone. I would never usually have chosen this swim. The fish usually come from features, especially Rhodies and shallows, particularly at each end. However, I’ve got it and want to make the best of it. There has been a lot of fish out of the venue over the last couple of weeks and typically, at the start of our week, the weather turned cold and all the fish that were caught were from under features.
“The lake is very shallow, very silty and very weedy. In the main it’s 3-4ft deep and I saw a fish move on the far side so I put a bait over there and within a couple of hours it was off and I picked a 22lb common up. I had another shortly afterwards so I have one spot that’s producing and my other spot is an open water area which I have baited. The baited spot produced nothing but then I had one randomly on a Chod after giving it quite a bit of bait but I haven’t put any more out for 24hrs as I knew you were coming and wanted to see what was left.
“The weed is horrendous so I’m using trilobe leads to get them back easier. I also think that they sit better in the silt as they don’t drill in as far. For the far side rods, I’ve got two out there on 3oz trilobe leads, a PB coated hooklength with the last inch peeled back with an ACE Longshank hook which I’ve managed to get hold of. I love these hooks, but unfortunately they don’t make these anymore, however I’ve managed to get hold of some old stock from Erics. Finally, the hookbait is one of my own white Fruit Juice pop-ups.
“I’m casting over to the other side which I reckon is approximately 90-100yds. As you get over, I reckon it’s 3.5ft deep with a lot of green silkweed, hardly any clear spots and I reckon the weed sticks up about this high (gesticulated 12- to 18-inches). That’s what I found if I cast short and feather it down and stop it. As you get a bit closer to the bank, I think it gets thinner with not as much weed sticking up and it’s clear along the margins. There’s little rocky areas with stones on it but not too many as the coating on the lead isn’t cracking. Because the strip I need to land in is narrow, I risk landing in the weed if I feather it, so sometimes I’m having to let it go to get it on the spot properly as I don’t want to keep casting and casting.
“I’m using a trilobe because I think they stun when they hit the water and you can fish them in situations where you’ve got silkweed and other types of weed and they don’t go into it as far; they tend to plane down when I’ve done tests with them. You can present in weedy situations where conventional leads would bury down, particularly silt and they are a very underused tactical edge.
“I hope my far side rigs are in the channel, close to the bank, but I think they are further away from the bank than I first thought they were. I reckon I am about rod length off on the oak tree rod (right) and the second one on the left was slightly shorter but I don’t mind. The right rod was getting the distance and was feathered, whereas the left rod wasn’t as I thought I was dropping short so I let it go.
“For the open water rod, I’m a little over halfway over on a what I would say is a poor spot. There’s less weed around so it maybe a bit open but there is a small spot that feels really good but it’s very hard to find. I found it earlier but struggled again, however, I am in the area. I have used a marker float to find the areas but don’t use a marker float boom and I rely on the float coming up to let me know when the spot is ‘fishing’. I think a boom is ridiculous because no matter how poor the spot, when you use a boom the float will rise. If you don’t, it won’t, and that’s what I want, as if the float rises I know I can fish there.
“I put 5kg of sweetcorn and a kilo of boilies out 48hrs ago and had one bite off it 24hrs later and nothing since. I should have topped it up but didn’t. I used a stick to top it up with boilies but I think there is nothing left.
“For indication I’m fishing tight lines with springers. I want the indication to be instant in the weed and they give me just that. I don’t want a load of slack line sat in a load of silkweed so I don’t have to lift up a washing line later on. I’m happy to trade off tight line lay for good indication.
“Finally, I’d like to add that, unlike a lot of the young lads these days, I wouldn’t normally put two rods on the same spot as you limit your chances too much until a pattern has developed, but I’m fishing in a lot of perceived shit, so my plan is that by having two rods in the main area with so many problems around, one of them is likely to land well and that will produce a fish.”
'And with that I got into the pond...'
The first thing I saw was weed, and a lot of it. It wasn’t just weed, it was death by weed. Thick, slimy stuff. Thick, not slimy stuff. Heavy stuff, and then a load of candy floss cotton with filamentous algae that moves around just to top it off. Land in that and it’s game over. No arguments.
There was the odd hole going down to silt but they were rare and too small to hit, and after about 30yds of looking down onto green muck the swim opened out into clear, silty bottom, very light strands of candy floss algae and nothing else. I headed to the area Frank had baited up but saw nothing but a flat deck of silt. Then I saw a Choddie in the distance, standing proud, and on its own. There was no bait anywhere to be seen and a circle of the area being careful not to disturb the silt produced one boilie and no corn. Very little left for a 6kg bait up… They’d cleaned him out!
I moved off to the second spot and found weed again, heavy and impossible to fish. It then gave way to a channel about a rod-length-and-a-half to two-rod-lengths wide before the margin turned to reeds. It was almost exactly as Frank had identified, and I smiled thinking to myself how the chap had read his swim almost perfectly.
I found the first rig nestled up against the weed, looking pretty good, with the leader down and the rig clean. It looked good for a bite. There was no bait around it but Frank had been baiting short as he likes his hookbait behind his area and this was. I scurried along the channel keen to get out of the way as it was now getting towards bite time and I was on his best spot, but couldn’t find the second rig. As he had thought, it was a little bit short on the cast and had dropped into ‘death by weed’ so was un-fishable and also un-photographable (if there is such a word).
Stick or twist
I explained the SP to FW that he then had the option of a stick or twist.
“The left-hand rod is having a recast. I thought it was short and you have proved it, so back out it goes again. The open water rod is also coming in and I’m going to change it from a Choddie to a less obvious bait. I reckon that’s why I haven’t caught. They’ve clearly been in and cleaned me out and the high Choddie has cost me a fish. The fish I had on that spot was on a shorter Choddie but it’s coming off. The advice from other people was that you have to use Choddies but I’m changing it to a pop-up on my usual rig and I’ll use a bag of crunched boilies and foam as a parachute.”
With that, Frank balanced a pop-up and re-chucked the far rod and changed the open water rod over to a stocking mesh bag of crushed boilies with five pieces of foam in the top end and topped the area up with about 100 boilies through the stick. I didn’t go back out to investigate as we were now getting towards bite time and Frank had caught each evening before dark and I didn’t want to spoil his chances on such a shallow and technical lake.
The evening came and went with no fish and I reckon I may have contributed to this fact. I don’t usually say this as I’ve seen guys have bites within minutes of me getting out of the water and have swum with carp on many occasions but I will on this occasion as I genuinely believe it to be true. I don’t really believe in coincidence and he had caught every night in the evening on previous nights, but the one evening I go in he doesn’t. With it being so shallow I think I moved them out or maybe prevented them coming in to the far margin spot.
The open water spot was a different matter, though. I went out after bite time, about 11, only to find very few freebies other than a bit of scattering under the pop-up rig that he was using. They’d been in again and cleared him out. When I got to the rig the pop-up was popped up off the lead and the boilie was sitting 12-inches or so off the deck. The balancing shot had come off and the boilie floated up. Frank was gutted and admitted that he usually uses a No.6 shot but had run out and only had 8’s. Being so small they don’t grip very well as the jaws can’t open too wide and this was the reason it had fallen off. Incredible how something as simple as the wrong size of shot can have such a dramatic impact.
I got him to reset it so we could see what it looked like and we learned another important lesson. Five pieces of foam in the bag was too buoyant as the mesh around the hook melted first and the bait sank down quickly, but the rest popped off to the surface like a champagne cork, at an angle, taking the bait with it. It eventually melted and dropped a good rod length away and whilst technically it had done its job of lifting the hookbait off the silt, the bait didn’t fall round it.
Heading off the margin spot, the first rig from yesterday was there, sitting okay, but with a little bit of candy floss weed round it (it moves through the course of the day and night and has a habit of snagging up). The second rig was bang-on the money, but as it had gone in without a feather or hitting a clip it had done what they almost always do and gave a twist tangle.
This dive was a pretty technical one as it was so shallow, and fishing Weston is technical due to the weed and silt. It was past my elbow when I pushed my arm in so chucking and chancing and standard short rigs are a ‘no-go’, as would be a standard PVA bag as they would sink. I was very impressed with how accurate he was in his reading of the swim and the spots he found were as good as any. His bite indication was good too, resulting in the usual ‘elbow to finger’ distance moved. Frank clearly got a lot right as he caught quite a few fish on his trip, and as I said before, I reckon I probably spoilt his far margin spot on the last evening so he would have caught more.
It was a shame that one or two tiny points that had such a massive impact. We are very right when we say that attention to detail matters. A pop-up rather than a bottom bait made a difference. A tiny shot caused a problem, and the very-often-seen ‘not hitting the clip’ resulted in the very-often-seen tangle.
1. High point
“My reading of the swim. Realising that what I perceived in my mind was very accurate. Unfortunately I’ve run out of wafters as I’ve been handing them out to all the lads on this trip and my love of wafters that sit next to the bottom and don’t cause problems has been consolidated by the fact that pop-ups look blatant. In situations like this, where fish are feeding over silt, a wafter is exactly what you need. A straight bottom bait would sink, a pop-up is too blatant and gets ignored, so a wafter would work.”
2. Low point
“Seeing the shot coming off the rig and the rig popping up. I’d run out of my usual size 6’s and had to use an eight which is almost a dust shot. Pinching it on to braid is difficult with it being so small, and the attention to detail of such a small point can make a massive difference. This is why I don’t use putty to counterbalance a pop-up as it can come off so easily but it’s happened with a shot and it’s tripped me up. I’m genuinely gutted but it’s a good lesson learned.”
3. Biggest eye-opener
“It’s got to be regulating how much foam you should put in a bag and the importance of testing it in the edge to make sure everything works properly. Strangely enough, I was using so much foam because I thought the weed was so bad. I’m definitely doing more tests with your bag to make sure that it’s working the way that it should be.”
4. If you could change one thing what would it be...
“My underpants! No, I think I should have kept the bait going in and recasting a little more because of how the swim changes with the weed. I also think it’s got to be that I’ve got to stun the rig, stop it in flight, and lay it in rather than allowing it to dive in as this has caused me a tangle. It was tricky fishing up against a far margin as you’ve got to let it go to get to the spot but that has cost me fish because of said tangle.”