Tom Maker explains how keeping it simple but effective with his go-to mix will keep the bites coming in the colder months
December Carnage - Text Only
Steve Cliff is no stranger to taking hits of big fish from Elstow Pit One, but luckily Dan Wildbore was with him this time, to record the carnage!
The forecast is off the scale; it’s almost T-shirt weather despite it being December. Sitting in my office typing away I gaze out of the window, wishing that I could be on the bank taking advantage of such conditions. This is when I get a phone call from Steve Cliff.
I answer the phone expecting a bombardment of captures that he has accumulated during his stay and I wasn’t disappointed. He’s done 24 hours and already managed to catch eight fish from Elstow Pit One. This is very rare, as they don’t give themselves away that easy.
Still, Steve has a way of making places look easy and as calm and as modest as he is, he explained the session so far. I couldn’t take it any more and after him telling me that bite time was during the day, I had to go down in the hope that he could catch some fish for the camera. If he didn’t, then it would be a nice break out of the office and I could rob his tea all afternoon.
I arrive less than an hour after putting the phone down and could see him at the front of the swim. I grabbed the camera bag and made my way round to the swim. Steve is the only one on the lake and it looks incredible. I walk in to the swim to see a retainer and two nets. “It’s carnage geez,” was the welcoming line from Steve. “Mate this is crazy, I’ve pretty much just had a three-rod wipe out. I have only just netted the last one so you’ve missed your chance of a few action shots… for now.”
Peering into the nets, one certainly looks the best part of 30lb and the other is a mid-twenty. I ask him what he’s got in the sling and he just laughs. “That’s one of the best fish in here mate,” he states joyfully. “It’s a fish known as the Pump Snag Linear and it fought like stink. Flat-rodded was an understatement with that thing, the fight was incredible and when you see its tail you’ll understand why.
“Basically, while I was landing the 26lb mirror, the middle rod busted off. Once I netted that one, it was then case of fighting that old girl for a good 15 minutes. Once that was in, I realised that both nets had carp in them and there was every chance the other rod was going to go off. I decided to weigh the Pump Snag Linear, which went 38lb on the nose, before slipping her in the sling. Not a minute after putting it in the water and setting the net back up, the other rod was away, which explains why I have nets full of carp and no rods in the water.”
He has a rod already clipped up, and a few rigs rigged up with PVA bags and balanced hook baits. He clips a fresh rig on, dips it all in a small pop-up tub of liquid and makes a perfect cast to the spot.
“Right then, let’s deal with this lot,” he says. “I reckon we should do one of the fish in the nets first, just so that I have got one in case the rod rips off.”
The first fish, a lovely, clean mirror, weighs just over 26lb. The second is bigger, weighing 31lb 10oz and is one of the old stock of carp that have been in the lake for over 35 years. The detailing on the fish is incredible; years of battle scars and spawning blemishes cover the old leathery flanks.
Then it’s time for the main event and I am exited to see such a special carp on the bank. I’m not disappointed and what an incredible creature it is. The scaling is out of this world and the tail is huge, it was no wonder the carp fought so hard.
We rattle off a load of pictures and in no time she is back in her watery domain. With no time for tea and talk, Steve gets his other rods back to the spot and tops up with some more bait. Once all that is done, it is time to pick his brains and talk about how the session had unfolded so far.
“Well, as you know Dan I’ve been fishing over here this autumn,” he explains. “It’s always a good place to come because when other lakes begin to shut down, Elstow just seems to come alive. I had been doing really well up to now, landing a load of fish to over 38lb. Myself and my old mate Rob had been chatting a lot about bait, rigs and so on. We had both came the conclusion that firstly, they love the Krill and secondly, the Pure Krill liquid is incredibly effective.
We call it the tar mix; mainly because the consistency of once it is made it looks like tar. We mix just under half a bucket of chopped and a few whole boilies together. Then add a similar amount of Bloodworm Pellets in 2.3mm. All that is left to do then is add a good amount of Krill liquid – over half a bottle in fact. Ideally, it is best to do this a night before your session really. The idea being that the liquid gets in to the bait as much as possible. I want the baits to be a carrier for that liquid. That is the key, they love that liquid and it oozes so much attraction from the spot. I don’t hold back either; I’m not afraid to give them 2kg or 3kg to start with; if they are in the area they will find it.
“Anyway, back to this session. I did a night in the Monks to no avail. I knew the main bulk of fish were in Alcatraz, which was occupied, but I did see a couple. I knew that the guy in the swim was leaving the following day, so I wasted a night in the Monks and moved to Alcatraz when he left. Alcatraz has a bar 60 yards out, and from what I had been told by little Rob, it was really clean. Bret had managed a couple of bites from the swim and it looked like they wanted to be fed.
“I wasted no time in getting the rods clipped and the marker settled on the spot. It felt rock hard and clean on the first cast, so I left it there without feeling the need for any further investigation. Despite the crazy 30mph crosswind, everything went smoothly and with three rigs all cast at the same bit of tree, I sorted the lines out and got to work with the spod rod. Once everything was settled, it was a little over an hour before I had the first bite, followed by another. They were both little stockies, so I recast the rods and topped the spot up with some more tar. I had barely finished topping up and it was away again, this time a 19lb stocky. It was going off and the conditions were like nothing I have seen in years.
I noticed that it was the right-hand rod that was receiving most of the action and as I stared at the bobbin, it smashed up tight and was away again. Again, one of the stockies was responsible, but this time it was a little bit bigger than the others at 23lb. I topped up with another couple of Spombs and re-cast the rod.
“As darkness crept in, the right-hand rod was away yet again. I knew the fish were hanging around to the right of the swim and keep venturing over for a feed. This one felt a lot bigger and I could see in the clear water a long, leathery mirror twisting and turning. I eventually slipped the net under it and it looked very close to thirty pounds. It wasn’t; it was a little over 28lb, but still a lovely fish. I snapped off a couple of self-takes and slipped her back, before casting the rod back out to the spot. The light was virtually gone when the rod tore off again; it really was getting a bit silly now! Again, I could tell the better fish had arrived and this one knew what it was doing. It held deep and when it wanted to go, there was little I could do about it. When she was eventually beaten, I could make out a big set of shoulders as I slipped the net under a proper one. It was a fish with no name, but weighed over 36lb. She was really clean and one that does not see the bank too often.
“I rattled off a few self-takes again and slipped her back. I’d barely managed time for a fag; let alone a tea or something to eat but I put the rod back out and topped up with some more bait, supplies of which were running dangerously low. That was it for the night though. I set the alarm nice and early and re-cast all the rods and introduced half a bucket of tar over them. I quickly nicked a couple of fish, a stocky and a 27lb mirror, which leads us to where we are now mate, finally sitting here, having a bit of chill time.”
The bivvy can only be described as organised chaos. The only things sitting neatly on the side are supple hook links hanging out of a pop-up tub.
“Right, here’s what is going on,” Steve tells me. “I’m fishing with around 2ft of Dark Matter tubing, down to lead clip with a 4oz lead clipped on. I then have a Quick Link with an eight-inch Dark Matter hook link down to a Slip-D hooking arrangement (a size-8 Krank featuring a D-rig created by the braid). I’ve screwed half a 12mm Pink Krill pop-up to it, which balances perfectly. Like all my rigs, I thread a small PVA bag of pellets down the hook link which helps prevent tangles. Before I cast it out, I always dip the rig in Hemp Oil as a confidence booster and added attraction round the hook bait.”
As we sit talking about how crazy this session has been, the right-hand rod is away yet again. Thankfully, the fish kites left and the fight is a steady one, with no real snags or obstacles to deal with. He soon has an orangey looking mirror in the net. The fish is a real corker and with a plump winter belly, she weighs just short of 27lb. The short winter day is drawing to a close quickly now, and I’ve got to get away. It’s been a great experience watching such a good angler on form. Everything is routine… like clockwork in fact. I wake the following morning to another string of texts. Steve has landed another couple of fish before packing up; mirrors of 27lb and 31lb 15oz. This brought his tally to 16 fish, quite extraordinary for December.