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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Great Roach, Tench and Crucian Carp from the Same Swim - Martin James

This season I have been fishing some of the gravel pits in the Cotswolds Water Park in and around South Cerney Gloucestershire, where several of the pits are controlled by the Watermarks company. These waters can be fished by purchasing a day or season ticket with no bait bans or silly rules. One of the gravel pits in this complex is Little Horseshoe Lake not to be confused with Horseshoe Lake at Lechlade controlled by the Carp Society.

I first got to know about Little Horseshoe lake when I visited Watermarks Trout Fishery back in April 2004 to record an At The Waters Edge programme on BBC Radio Lancashire. During the recording about the excellent trout fishing available, Adrian Davy fishery manager and his assistant Philip Leibbrandt told me about the quality of the coarse fishing available on Little Horseshoe Lake, where the cost is just 10-00 for a day ticket. If you want to fish for 24 hours, the ticket will cost 16-00 and a season ticket at 200-00

Unlike many of today's course and trout fisheries, the Watermarks trout fishery or Little Horseshoe lake are not a hole in the ground fisheries, that are over stocked with fish. Both waters are well managed and mature gravel pits with lots of trees, bushes, reeds, water lilies, wild flowers, aquatic and wild life. Bird life is plentiful, you will have the chance to see or hear Green Woodpeckers, various Owls including the Barn Owl, If your extremely lucky its even possible to hear the Nightingale in June. Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins, Wrens, Warblers, Blackcap's can be spotted. It's always interesting to watch and be entertained by the Great Crested Grebes. As you sit quietly at the waterside you will see foxes rabbits and perhaps a badger. The Signal crayfish can prove a bit of a nuisance, but they provide food for the fish and the Grebes.

Its A Water With Some Specimen Size Fish.

The best carp taken from the Little Horseshoe lake weighed in at 32lb, several 8lb plus tench have been caught with three nine pounders, from what I have seen I feel you have the chance of catching double figure tench, Roach fishing can be good with a very realistic chance of catching a two pounder. Its possible to catch big crucian carp also perch topping 5lbs. The best perch weighed 5lbs 2 ounces. Assistant fishery manager Philip Leibbrandt has caught two three pound perch. From the trout lake Philip had a perch of 3lbs 4 ounces on a Montana nymph, and one of 3lb 8 ounces from Little Horseshoe on worm bait. Philip Chun of Cotswold Bait Creations in South Cerney has had tremendous success with carp, his best at 21lbs on a Tock Special boily bait. Tom White from Swindon fishing a Tock Special has taken the best carp at 25-10-0 this season.

A Great Summer Fish is the Tench

I suppose I have fished many of the gravel pits in the Cotswolds Water Park on and off for over 40 years, one fish I could rely on was the tench. Its a great fish of summer and Autumn, its a powerful and beautiful looking fish, that could grow to 16lbs or more. With the present record tench weighing in at 15-3-6 caught by Darren Ward from a southern still water. In the 1950's and 60's my target weight was a five pound plus fish. Having caught tench to 8lbs plus, my target size fish these days is seven pounds. A tench of five pounds is still a good fish in my book. I still enjoy every tench I catch, whatever the size. These days I don't bivvy up in my chosen swim, I don't do any all night sessions. These days, I don't enjoy sitting for hours behind a rod waiting for an alarm to sound in the darkness. I have gone through all that in my younger days. At 67 I enjoy a good nights sleep. My fishing day on this latest trip were between nine in the morning until dusk with breaks for lunch, dinner and mugs of freshly brewed tea, I also took the chance to read the Daily Telegraph from cover to cover.

The swim I had chosen to fish, had five feet of water under the rod tip going to a depth of 12 feet some thirty feet out from the bank, on my left were some water lilies with lovely white flowers. Along the bank to my right and left were some reed mace with its furry brown head. It gets its name for its mace-like appearance, often mistakenly called bulrushes, which it isn't. There was plenty of bank side cover from willows, alders and bank side vegetation. Having raked my swim I had a good clean area of gravel between Canadian pond weed, which I baited with some ten pounds of ground bait. It was a mix of brown bread crumb from a local bakery to which I added some of the Cotswolds Baits Creations I-Berry ground bait, cooked hemp, sweet corn chopped boilies and chopped worms. Within thirty minutes of raking and baiting the swim, I had a few tench in the swim.

A Red Tipped Quill Float and Centre Pin

I chose to float fish using a powerful 13 foot rod, centre pin reel and 6lb breaking strain line to which I attached a size 10 barbless hook. The chosen float being a peacock quill with a red painted two inch fine insert to take two AA shot, I used double rubber to fix the float in place. After plumbing the depth, I positioned the float to fish a foot over depth. then lightly pinched on a BB shot some eight inches from the hook, a further two feet up the line I lightly pinched on the 2 AA shot. Baiting with a lobworm which I injected with a small amount of air, so the tail would be just off the bottom. I then added a grain of corn. With an underhand cast I dropped the baited hook down among the tench. Within minutes I had my first fish about 4lbs. This was quickly followed by three other fish averaging 4lbs. After a quiet spell lasting about thirty minutes, I had a sail away bite with the float burying itself. Setting the hook the rod tip was pulled savagely down towards the water. I was forced to give line. After a tense tussle I had a super looking tench in the net. It pulled the scale needle down to 6-9-0 I punched the air with delight. On a trip two weeks previously my best tench weighed 7 lbs 7 ounces. On that occassion I was float fishing with a lobworm.

Surprise Roach

After an hour with no more bites, though I could see tench moving around in my swim, I decided it was time for a bait change. With minutes of changing the bait from worm to corn on a hook size 14, I quickly had another good tench of 5-12-0, this was followed by five fish around the 4lb mark and two more good five's 5-10-0 and 5-14-0. The bites then dried up, the swim was barren. I couldn't see a single fish.
I decided to push the float up the line another two feet and fish further out. Within minutes I had a good roach of nearly a pound, this was quickly followed by five other roach, all around the pound mark with the best at 1-6-0. These were top quality fish and a complete surprise. I was over the moon. Roach have always been one of my favourite fish, but sadly over the past fifteen years roach fishing of quality has been thin on the ground. Even on my lovely river Kennet, roach are often very hard to find. With the light fading I called it a day, Supper and a mug of tea were the order of the day.

Over breakfast the next day John Bodsworth and myself discussed the roach fishing, I said "Lets have a serious go for roach" John agreed. At the waters edge, it was time for a tackle change, I chose to fish a 3lb line and size 14 hook, with the same rod and float set up choosing sweet corn as bait. For the next couple of hours I caught a lot of roach, between ten ounces and a pound and a half. It was like roach fishing back in the 1950's and 60's. After lunch we carried on catching roach, I was keeping a score of my pound plus fish. An hour after lunch John fishing the next swim, stopped by to give me a mug of tea and some more corn. We discussed the quality of the roach fishing and how nice it was to catch on the float. As we talked, the float disappeared. I struck and hooked a fish, which made me give a few feet of line. "Small tench" I said to John, I then spotted a flash of orange, realising it wasn't a small tench but a special roach. As I pulled the fish over the landing net I said to John "That could be a two pounder". The scales gave a different story it weighed 1-15-0 This was a picture fish and the best roach I have caught in the past few years. This was certainly roach fishing at its best. Philip shot a couple of pictures before we released the fish.

About 5 PM, the bites ceased, for an hour I was bite less, I changed over to a size 16 hook and fed half a dozen casters every couple of minutes. For half an hour I couldn't get a bite. Suddenly the float disappeared, on striking I found myself attached to a Signal crayfish. In the next half a dozen casts, I hooked four more Signals. A quiet fifteen minutes followed. I then had a sail away bite connecting with a powerful fish. A tench which pulled the scale pointer round to 6-3-0 a few more tench followed along with some roach and small perch. With a storm brewing, I called it a day and headed off for a fresh brew.

A Personal Best Crucian Carp

With storms forecast on my final day, I decided I would head off home early. It was 8-30 in the morning when I arrived at my swim, I couldn't see any tench, roach or crayfish. The swim looked dead. I threw in a handful of gentles and casters, then sat peering intently into the crystal clear water. Suddenly from my right a crucian carp appeared then started hoovering up the loose food items. Phil Leibbrandt stopped by to see if I was catching, I said "No but I have a crucian carp in the swim" Philip peered in the water then said "That's a good fish" We agreed it might be difficult to catch, the fish would stay for a minute then move off. I threw in some more free offerings of casters and gentles. The fish would appear often only for half a minute.

I decided to change over to a size 16 hook on 2lb bs hook link. I plumbed the depth allowing just two or three inches of line on the bottom with the BB shot some twelve inches from the hook. I then buried the hook inside a single caster before dropping the baited hook among the free offereings. For over an hour the fish continues to appear, pick off some free offerings, then disappear under the water lilies. I could see a hole the size of a tea plate in the lilies about two feet in from the outer edge of the leaves. I said to Philip "If I dropped some free offerings through that hole in the Lilly pads, perhaps the fish wouldn't be quite so spooky". I spent fifteen minutes or more dropping half a dozen gentles and caster in the hole then hoping the fish was still picking up the free offerings, I dropped the baited hook in the hole with more free offerings..

If the fish picked up the baited hook, I could pull the tackle and fish to my right, then hopefully beat it in the open water. For ten minutes I stood with bated breath peering intently into the water, I could just see far enough under the pads where my baited hook was. I watched the fishing moving into the baited area, then take a few free offerings. Suddenly the crucian up ended. Head too hell, tail too heaven right over my baited hook. The float slowly submerged I tightened then pulled hard to my right Shouting to John "I have the Crucian". I was lucky as everything happened as I had planned. I quickly had the fish out into the open water. Provided it didn't dive into some Reedmace, I was confident the fish was mine. As John arrived I pulled the fish over my landing net. I felt elated, the planning had worked. On the scales the fish weighed 3-3-0 a personal best. I went across to the on-site tackle shop and said to Philip "I've just caught that crucian". He then came across, shot some photographs on my digital and SLR cameras. We then watched the crucian swim away, hopefully to grow into a four pounder.

Further Watermarks Fishery Details

Philip Leibbrandt can be contacted on 07711513462, He can give you details about the other gravel pits in the area including the Bradley's which holds carp of forty pound plus and pike to 34lbs. Watermark have some excellent accommodation in New England style homes details from 01285 826680. The trout fishery is fly only, with a good stock of brown and rainbow trout, Its a water that offers some excellent buzzer fishing, but make sure you have a goods selection of nymphs. A nine foot rod rated for a six weight line is ideal, I suggest you take floating and slow sinking lines. I use leaders between twelve and fifteen feet with a two pound tippet for buzzers, a 4lb for small nymphs and a 6lb pound tippet when using the larger nymphs. The on-site tackle shop carries a good selection of tackle, flies and baits from Cotswolds Bait Creations. There are also good clean toilets and showers on site.

Martin James Fishing