TROUBLESHOOTER | Farlows Lake (Video)

IR: This month we’d originally organised to head up to Linear Fisheries to fish Oxlease as it was a venue our client David (or Geezer as we jokingly referred to him!) had fished a couple of times before without any luck, and we’d hoped to change that! However, it turned out that some abnormally heavy rain had left the Linear Fisheries site (and half of England) under water and so the whole site had been closed with ever-increasing flood water levels.

As it turned out this actually worked in our favour as we decided to head to Farlows, one of my favourite-ever day-ticket waters. Incredibly, David hadn’t heard of the venue, despite it actually being on his doorstep!

DT: “When Ian and Matt suggested heading to Farlows I was happy enough to head wherever, but when I found out that it was pretty much down the road I couldn’t have been happier – not only was I getting out on the bank with Ian, but I had also found a new place to fish and saved the cost of the Premier Inn I was going to book into the night before. (It would also save getting up at silly o’clock to get up to Oxford for opening time!)

“In fact it was perfect for what I wanted to get out of the session; I needed Ian to show me, and all old codgers returning to the sport like me, exactly how to approach a new water – which of the features that I’ve discovered leading around I should fish over, which of my perfect rigs to use, what baiting strategy to use and most importantly WHY!?

“Back when I was a youngster my mates and I would spend every waking hour fishing somewhere local in my home city of Leicester; we were pretty good too – one of my pals and I were selected for the (first) Leicester Likely Lads junior national squad and were lucky enough to get a bit of tutoring from the late and great Ivan Marks.

“Alas, with the passage of the next few years, first women, then kids and then responsibilities put an end to fishing. But now, 40 years later, aged 60, I have fallen back in love with the sport, and have at least a little more time for it now. But what the heck has happened in those 40 years? Everything I knew is no more. Bait on a hook… float fishing for carp? LOL. In my day rigs were in the North Sea and gave us our oil and gas.

“Now, I have already amassed more books and magazines than my shelves can comfortably support and my YouTube subscriptions are all carp fishing related (my missus is insisting she wants a Carp Dog). I can tie multiple rigs, all perfectly. I can chuck out a marker float and lead my swim. I know how to wrap to make sure my baiting and fishing distances match. I have discovered the joy of a Spomb opening at the top of my cast showering me with hemp and smelly goodness. And I tie a killer PVA bag. But after a number of trips to Oxlease I remain fishless and I realise that while I’m comfortable with all of the ‘hows’, what I need to learn now is the ‘whens’ or the ‘whys’. I don’t mind a blank if I’m doing everything right – blanks are part of the rich tapestry of fishing – but I do worry that I am doing something fundamentally wrong and will still be sat there in 40 years, theoretically spot on but still fishless!”

IR: With the venue sorted, we turned up to the gate at 7am when it opened. Geezer, Matty the editor and I headed for a walk about and bucketed a couple of swims along the smelly bank, before continuing to do a full lap of the lake looking for other options or a potential plan B should things not work out in the open water. We did manage to find a number of fish in an area we call Pike Alley, but it’s a one rod snaggy situation, so a bit hit and miss when you are trying to accommodate at least two anglers!

We left them to it and headed back to the smelly bank, but we kept it in the backs of our minds as a potential option for the next day should we need it.

David got set up in Peg 39 and I dropped in next door where I slung the rods out to the usual marks in the deeper soft stuff just behind the bars. Back in David’s swim we took a short while leading up to find what we were looking for. Now we immediately went to the roughly 20-wrap mark and worked around that sort of distance until we found something and the reason for this was simple – it’s where most people tend to fish and therefore where the fish see regular bait.

Most day-ticket anglers like to fish out at a reasonable range and for many, the 20-wrap mark is about as far as they can comfortably and consistently cast a spod or Spomb. Aim at a far-bank marker such as a tall tree on the horizon and you can be pretty confident that there will be a spot there!

However, with temperatures in the single digits and due to drop further still we weren’t going to be putting any additional bait out, just single hook baits or little bags of goodness for some additional attraction – we don’t want to feed these fish, we want to catch them. In these situations you aren’t looking to build a big hit of fish, it’s just about getting bites.

DT: “It was a massive relief to know that I wasn’t being a complete idiot and that actually my rigs and tactics were all fine with no glaringly obvious issues! Despite regular ribbing about my unmatching rods, it was good to know the fundamentals were there. Sure, things needed a little finessing; my casting needed some improvement and we made a few small rig tweaks, but it was a massive confidence boost for sure, knowing that I wasn’t unknowingly doing something drastically wrong!”

“It was also interesting to see that Ian’s preferred tactic for the session was to go in with minimal bait, which initially seemed a little counter-intuitive to me at first, but I now see the logic behind it completely.”

IR: As luck would have it, as evening drew in we began to see the odd fish show out in front of our swims, then just after dark we were welcomed to a spectacular aerial display! With the shop’s lights staying on, we could easily see as the fish continued to show out at 70 to 80 yards through much of the evening, bringing great anticipation and the odd savage liner!

We got our heads down relatively early as the odd fish continued to crash in the night, but I was surprised when I woke at 4am to motionless rods. To be fair to him, David was already up too and we turbo-charged the morning with his little espresso maker!

At this point I’d already seen a couple of shows in my swim, a bit closer in at the 50-yard mark. All three rods were cranked in, I refreshed the hook baits and hooked on little two to four-bait stringers of Monster Tiger Nut boilies before flicking them back on to the fish, then we did the same with a couple of David’s rods too.

Just on first light, my left hand rod whizzed off with a lovely deep, chestnut brown fish of just over 20lb, which was a great start to what turned out to be a fantastic session. The showing fish had moved noticeably more left, so having got that one back I shifted a couple of the rods a little further left to my boundary and not long later, one of these recast rods was away too!

Now this felt a different beast altogether, taking a long time to get in and when I first saw it I thought it was a big fish called the House Common. As it turned out it wasn’t that one, but another stunning long common of 31lb!

However, after this the activity dwindled significantly, but having had a few we decided on setting out our stall here until at least 10am. The next couple of hours were filled with coffee and chat, and as time approached we got the vans loaded to head off and see if we could nick David a carp along Pike Alley. Then, just as we began winding in the rods, I heard a cry of “IAN!” coming from the swim next door! Having just wound one of his rods in, the other rod had burst into life and David was bent into a fish!

He had told me that he’d love to beat his Personal Best of 18lb and as the fish relentlessly charged around in front of the swim I could clearly see it was somewhat bigger than that! After a bit of a panic (on my part mostly) as it tried to charge for some snags, we managed to bundle a long, lean fighting machine of a common into the net. At 24lb 2oz, it’s safe to say his PB had been well and truly smashed!

DT: “Well. what a way to end the session! To be honest I would have been more than happy enough even if I hadn’t caught anything, but to have caught a new PB too, I’m just immensely grateful! Seeing the tactics we talked about put into practice and work has been exactly what I needed for my angling.

“It also taught me a massive lesson in patience too, as that was actually the rod I had left out for nearly 24 hours since first casting it out! In the past I never had much confidence in leaving a rig in place for more than a couple of hours, often wondering why things aren’t happening. I’m sure that, unless it’s been to recast on to showing fish as Ian had done this session, this will have no doubt cost me fish in the past.

“There are always going to be days and times when you aren’t going to catch fish, especially when fishing for these bigger carp, and you’ve just got to accept that and not let it knock your confidence – this is where experience in your fishing pays dividends. To be able to tap into Ian’s experience for just 24 hours has simply been invaluable – god knows how long I would have had to sit by lakes fishing on my own to have gained what I’ve learnt in this session.”