Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


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If you are feeling a sense of withdrawal from the lack of sea fishing material, please have a look at the new Tackle and Tactics page.

I'm not a fair weather fisherman but as I get older I tend to be a bit more choosy about when to go out and get soaked. The past couple of weeks have been atrociously windy and rainy so I've stayed at home and done some, long overdue, decorating. This week's contribution recalls some of my summer fishing.

It is years since I have done any still water fishing so it was a surprise when the chance arose to fish some local lakes. I decided to try and catch some carp (which I knew were in there). Now I have to admit that I'm old fashioned and have not kept up to date with modern ideas on carp tackle, baits, rigs etc. which seems to be a branch of angling on its own. My approach is still based on the 'Richard Walker' principle of line-hook-bait and nothing else unless its absolutely necessary.

I decided to concentrate on 'surface fishing' because I find it exciting. In the old days I would have used bread crust but I have moved with the times enough to know that dog biscuits stay on the hook better and are just as effective. I bought a big bag of 'Chum Mixer' and some size six hooks and they lasted me all season. Totting up my catches I averaged a carp about every two hours fishing with the best one just on 18 lb and an average weight of almost 10 lb. Together with all the anticipation, missed bites and the odd fish that came unstuck it seemed (to me) pretty entertaining. The only down side was that it distracted me from the sea on quite a few mornings through the summer.

The same tactics were used throughout. On the evening before fishing I put a few handfulls of mixers in a poly bag, covered them with water and after two minutes poured all the water off again. The bag was then tied up and left. By morning the dog biscuits had turned into little, tough, spongy spheres that can easily be pushed onto a hook. Two of them totally cover a size six, strong wire hook and keep it afloat indefinitely.

I generally fished just after dawn (no night fishing was allowed) and used my bass rod (12 ft, 2 lb TC) and reel loaded with 20 lb BS braid. The tactic was to chuck a handfull of mixers into the marginal reeds or willow bushes, lower a hook baited with two mixers onto the surface into the same spot (on a tightish line, reel in gear, clutch set) lay down the rod and crouch beside it. Usually I baited up two nearby swims as back up before starting.

As a rule, after a mild night, the fish began to feed on my free offerings within minutes but sometimes it was a lot longer. The first sign of activity was often a slight change in the ripple pattern spreading from the baited area and indicating that a fish had engulfed a dog biscuit. It was just as thrilling as I remembered to hear the first slurp or to see the reeds or twigs shake as a carp began to feed.

Sometimes it was possible to see the bait taken but usually it was just a mad grab for the rod as it whanged over to the pull of a fish. I'd forgotten just how hard carp fight. The biggest fish of the season came unstuck after a long run (what's new?) and one or two others managed to shed the hook. On the whole it was easily possible to extract the fish from the marginal cover. Usually hooked fish charged out of the reeds into open water and it seemed that the trailing willow branches did not extend far under the surface. By dunking the rod tip it was possible to play the carp as normal.

All in all it was an enjoyable diversion. I don't suppose I shall fish for carp again this year (I neglected too many good bass dawns!) but I can see why carping becomes an obsession. I had several decent tench off the top while I was carp fishing but they are worth another page on their own.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -



January 23 2002

This was one spot that consistently produced fish to floating baits. The branches hang right down into the water. Note the rod 'ready for action'.

The fish usually fed in the bushes on the right and the bait had to be hard up against the trailing willows.

A carp in excellent condition.

Fish ranged from fully scalled 'commons' to almost completely scaleless.

A smaller fish.

Similar scale patterns to the first.

Yet another - this time in my old net.

I have to say I still prefer fish with a full set of scales.

Steve Pitts' daughter Hayley came and fished with me one day and had this tench 'off the top'.

The fish was caught by poking the rod through the gap in the bushes just behind us.