After spending the majority of my fishing sessions wearing miss-match clothing and jackets that weren’t fit for purpose I thought I’d invest in a “proper fishing jacket”. After doing my research I came across one that just seemed to tick all of the boxes for me, the Vass-Tex 175 ‘Team Vass’ Khaki Winter Edition Smock.

As someone who takes a keen interest in other anglers I obviously knew of Vass, their trademark yellow strapped waders adorn the shoulders of most top anglers the world over but I wasn’t aware they did smocks!

My first impressions were great, as someone who is openly a tackle tart aesthetics are super important to me. If something looks the part, more often than not, it does the job. This obviously isn’t all that I looked at though, it’s got to be comfy, it’s got to be waterproof and it’s got to be durable. I’ve had the smock for four long overnight sessions and a few day trips and I cannot speak more highly of it.

It’s extremely warm when it needs to be, trapping in vital heat (this can be helped by closing up the drawstrings on the waist) or incredibly cool when it’s raining but warm (British summer) and the padded warm inner lining on the winter version of this smock is really comfortable.

One of the sessions it rained torrentially whilst I was packing away and I had no issues whatsoever with my top half, I battened down the hatches on the smock and I was dry as a bone after 2 hours plodding through biblical rain, my bottom half was completely drenched after wearing supposedly water resistant trousers (not Vass), I should invest in a pair of their waders to complete the set!

I can’t comment on the durability for now really as I’ve not had it too long but it’s not had any teething issues, no pulls or frays in materials as you get with some other stuff after a couple of wears. Best of all if it gets mucky all it takes is a wipe over with a damp cloth and it’s in pristine condition once again.

Overall I’m super happy with the purchase and won’t think twice before using Vass products in the future.

Price: £85

Availability: Most good fishing retailers will have them in stock

Fit: As a 5ft 10 bloke who weighs around 14 stone I found that the medium smock fitted me best, just right to fit a couple of layers underneath comfortably.

www.vassrainwear.co.uk

Fishing overnight on your favourite lake can be a great way of increasing your chances of catching some gorgeous fish as well as keeping you happy fishing for a longer period of time. Most lakes which are a bit slow during the day spark into life as soon as dusk hits so it can be essential. Over the course of my time in fishing I have done a lot of overnight sessions and wanted to share some wisdom I have gained through trial and error in the hope it might help you out.

See below for my tips when fishing overnight and what to avoid doing:

Do’s:

  • A few days before your session get all your luggage inside your house, empty it all, tidy/organise what’s in there and then you can check if you’re running low on anything required.

 

  • Even if you go for regular overnighters, preparation is key, my first top tip would be to create a list of all the gear that is absolutely essential to fishing overnight (rods, reels, bait & bivvy etc) and tick it off as you load it into the car.

 

  • Lots of people load their car up the evening before going fishing and I’m one of them, but make sure anything you don’t load up the night before (Food, battery pack etc) you set an alarm for on your phone to remember about 15 minutes before you’re due to leave. The worst thing is being at the lake with no juice in your phone and no food.

 

  • Start organised & stay organised – As I’ve said before and I may well repeat it again, staying organised is key. When you arrive at the venue don’t do anything by half, you’re building your base to lay siege on the lake so you want a strong foundation. All of your gear should be neatly organised and easy to get to and it should be kept that way. Have you ever tried to find a baiting needle on the grass at 3am with a head torch? I have.

 

  • Preparation is also key – if you’re fishing with PVA stocking or bags ensure you have enough prepared to see you through the night before it gets dark. You can never have too many and after being woken up at 2am to land a cracking carp you don’t want to spend the next half an hour stumbling around in the dark getting your rod back out.

 

  • Pre-night spotting – If you’re building up an area of bait and fishing to it, you want to know that you’re hitting that same spot at night. The best way to do this is to pick a large natural landmark that you’re sure you’ll be able to see at night and fish to that. If you want to be extra cautious you can also clip up so you know that you’re in the right place. If you do this make sure you remember to take the clip off as I’ve seen rods get dragged in at night and there’s nothing you can do about it.

 

  • Enjoy it – Far too often I’ll be leaving to come home from fishing and feel like I haven’t truly appreciated what I’ve just done. Even when I blank I love fishing, I love the nerves, annoyance and constant self-questioning.

 

 

Don’ts:

  • Do not take anything you know you’re not going to use. I see it constantly, anglers who bring the kitchen sink even when they know it’s not needed just because “maybe” it will come in handy. Yeah well “maybe” you’ll get struck by lightning but you don’t plan for it. Take what you need and keep the gear to a minimum.

 

  • Don’t lose faith after half an hour – You had a plan on how you were going to fish the venue and you should stick to it. It’s fair enough if by halfway through your session nothing’s happening and you fancy a change but far too often people change their attach plan within too short a time and potentially spook away the fish for the entire session. But at the same time if it’s fairly evident the fish aren’t where you are, don’t be scared to move. A mobile angler is a successful angler.

 

  • Drink to excess – I’m fairly happy going fishing with someone who plans on having a beer or two, but fishing isn’t an excuse for a piss up and taking it too far. You could damage your gear, hurt yourself or even worse damage the fish.

 

  • Don’t keep your alarms on full volume for the entirety of the night. This is one of my biggest gripes and even though I’m a super heavy sleeper people who leave their alarm volume on full the entire night annoy me. I think it should be mandatory for everyone who wants to fish at night to have a receiver. If you’re reading this and you do it just know that everyone on the lake hates you.

 

  • Don’t lose faith – We all have night fishing sessions that are a bust, all that preparation and time and money spent for “nothing”. It all pays off in the end though, even if you don’t catch that night, the experience of that disappointment will help you be more motivated next time.

Drastic changes were needed – I needed sleep but, more importantly, I needed to catch a fish!

I decided that I would fish more accurately, setting up some measuring sticks so that I could accurately measure my rods casts to ensure they were dropping right on the areas I had spodded up. On top of that I lost patience with a rig I was trying out, the stiff hinged rig, perhaps a bit too hastily as it was more than likely due to my dodgy accuracy more than anything else as to why I hadn’t caught yet.

Before I got all 3 carp lines in the water I decided to have a little go on my feeder rod, fishing the ‘method’. I had 4 decent sized bream (2-3lb each) in about 3 hours, I desperately wanted a carp now. I set to work in the mid-afternoon of the second day by spodding up 3 separate spots, I probably put 5-6 spods out on each spot, I then cast out all 3 rods perfectly right on the button and settled in for another day.

Not much time had passed before my rod nearly tore off the pod, spool screeching and my bite alarm sounding like frenzied Morse code. I struck in to it and felt an immediate sense of pleasure, the type of pleasure only a carp fisherman feels when he knows it’s not a bream. That instant weight chugging at your line when you know you’ve got a bit of a lump on the end of it. The fight was fairly brief but in the time I had it on it had managed to unearth one of my other lines that was back leaded down – “great” (but for a fish i’m happy to re-cast all of them!). Once the lump graced my net I got a bit confused.. it had no dorsal fin. I couldn’t work out if it had been ripped off or it was a growth defect as there really want much more than a few nubs in its place. On top of that it had some of the smallest pectoral fins I’d ever seen, like nemo (look closely at the above picture and you’ll see it). Barni decided to say it was “you if you were a fish” – Cheers pal

I won’t bore you with the intricacies of the next couple of days fishing instead i’ll just reinforce what this session taught me, if you want to catch fish you really do have to work for it. Ok sometimes you get lucky and they are queuing up to jump into your net, we’ve all had those days, but most of the time it takes a lot of effort to catch and it’s all worth it. Also, make sure you don’t do an all-nighter before you start a session, it’s really not great haha!

The session totals were:

Jack: 78lb Carp total

20lb 2oz Common

15lb 10oz Common

13lb 8oz Common

10lb 8oz Mirror

10lb 4oz Mirror

8lb Mirror

 

Barni: 69lb Carp total

15lb 5oz Common

10lb Mirror

10lb 2oz Common

9lb Mirror

9lb Common

8lb Common

7lb Common

 

(Barni caught lots more bream than the 3 I managed on the feeder, but who cares 😉 haha)

When: Saturday 1st April 2017 – Tuesday 4th April 2017

Where: Willows Lakes, St. Albans, AL4 0RY

I’ll start this off by saying I spent my Friday afternoon helping my good friend Barni, who will be featuring in this blog post (and is pictured above with one of his beauties from the session), move house from his temporary digs in Nuneaton back down to Hertfordshire. This was a job that I thought we’d have done and dusted by 8pm latest but I actually ended up walking through my front door at well past 3am on Saturday – I was due to leave for fishing at 5.30am. Because I’m so much of a keen bean I’d already packed my car and got completely organised, all I had to do was get dressed and go.

You would have thought I’d have felt tired but I didn’t yet, I didn’t have time to feel tired, I ate a pizza, got dressed and then set off down the M1 to Willows Lake. Arriving at 6.30am I had a bit of a stroll around the complex and found out that it was pretty busy, the pegs that I had considered had all been taken and I was a bit worried about our chances. The other situation I had was that Barni hadn’t arrived yet and with an influx of anglers parking up in the car park I was worried that we’d be left with nothing if I didn’t grab a spot quickly. I chose a spot just before a big finger in the lake and intended to leave the last swim before the finger empty due to it looking a bit suspect but when Barni arrived he chose that swim and what a good move that would turn out to be.

(I was in the blue spot & Barni was in the red)

As soon as I got my Fox Supa Brolly System set up I started casting a lead around to see if I could find any features as there wasn’t much in the way of activity on the surface giving carp away. I decided to fish around 90-100 yards out which felt like it had a bit of a gravel shelf and was handily in line with the tip of the finger. By this time though I was feeling reaaaly tired and in hindsight should have got a couple of hours kip as I made a few silly mistakes that could have cost me the session. I got really lazy and as I was spodding out I didn’t use marker sticks to measure the distance and clip up my rods I just guessed it. Probably fishing nowhere near my spodded spots and relying on luck more than anything else (as Barni tried pointing out to me, but I couldn’t be bothered).

By this point I was really struggling to stay awake and realised if I was actually going to enjoy myself I’d need to sleep a bit. On top of this another one of our friends, Tom, decided to nip down and join us for 24 hours so I thought I’d wait until he was here, say hello and then have a sleep. After Tom got set up in the peg to the right of me I said hello and quickly squirmed off back to my bivvy. I must have only been asleep for an hour (I’m terrible having short naps, I feel worse) when I was woken up by Barni and Tom saying I had a screaming run on one of my rods and that they tried so hard to wake me up, literally screaming in my face to no avail. They tried to strike it but it came off. Great, no sleep and missed a fish.

Part 2 coming soon.

(Picture was at the same peg on the same venue a couple of years later)

Why do you catch a fish and put it back?

The first time I ever remember fishing being considered a sport or a hobby I really didn’t understand it. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old at the time and the whole concept of it seemed so weird to me.. Sorry I’m going to go off on a tangent because you know, I STILL get asked the same question now as I was asking back then and I want to address it:

“Why do you catch a fish and put it back?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why people would ask that question, as it’s the same thing I asked my dad, but it seems as though catch and release fisherman get asked it to try and take the mickey out of our sport and other people with sports that we see as a bloody waste of time don’t get picked on at all. You could say to a cyclist “sorry pal, but what do you get out of riding your bicycle down country lanes on a Sunday?”. It’s the same for all sports, it only makes sense to people who have got the bug! If it’s not for you or you don’t get it, keep your mouth shut.

Anyway, back to my original topic, fishing didn’t make sense to me at all at first, and when I say at first I mean for over a decade. My dad has been fishing pretty much his entire life and even though he did have a couple of years where he didn’t go regularly, over the past 10-15 years it’s no stretch to say it’s been his life’s obsession. I think the longest period in that time when he wasn’t on the bank was probably a week at the most and now even after 2 or 3 days he starts getting fidgety. When I was between the ages of about 11 and about 18 my dad was desperate to get me into fishing, it’s all he used to talk about and I just used to nod and pretend I was listening.

His persistence paid off one day when I was about 18 and he invited me to come fishing with him to Stanborough Lakes in Welwyn Garden City. He assured me that he would provide everything I just had to sit there and try to enjoy it. I still remember how ridiculous the set up I used was to this day. Just to clarify before I share it with you, my dad is a proper tackle tart and tackle hoarder. If you can think of it, he’s got two of them and you can bet it will be the two best ones. He obviously had little faith in me though because I wasn’t allowed to borrow the really good stuff, just the stuff he didn’t mind if it got ruined. The set-up he lent me was a Nash Hooligan 3 lb test curve 12ft carp rod and a Shimano baitrunner reel, which I think was older than me. As my dads not a carper (feeder and float fishing usually) to top it off, he didn’t have any alarms. This meant I was set up with a washing up bottle cap on the line, between my reel and the bank stick, laughable now. The rig I was using was a fairly simple one luckily for me, a 2.5oz flat lead on first, held onto the main line with a quick-change bead, a 15” size 10 quick stop rig slotted on to the quick change bead with a spicy crab Pellet-O on the hair and a premade sack of match fishing sized PVA bags to hook on.

I was now fully set up and ready to fish, he was sat in the peg next to me with nets and all the other gear, so all I had to concentrate on was casting out and waiting. My first cast wasn’t a complete disaster, but to be honest at the time I didn’t have a clue if I was doing anything right anyway. I plonked the rod down on the bank sticks and even got the bottle cap to rest nicely on the line in case of any indication. I wasn’t expecting anything but I wasn’t waiting long, the bottle cap started going crazy and in the few split seconds I spent watching it, I got such a buzz of excitement and nervousness that I don’t think I’ve ever felt anywhere before. That was it, that moment hooked me on fishing. Now the relevance of the 3lb test curve carp rod comes in as I reeled in a roach that was about ¾ of a pound. I didn’t even feel it coming in! I caught 15 roach that day, up to about a pound each, on a simple rudimentary set up and that’s where my angling adventure began!

Stanborough Lakes, Stanborough Road, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6DQ

£7 per rod during the day

£16 to fish the night (maximum of 2 rods)

 

Stanborough Lakes are based just on the edge of the Welwyn Garden City-Hatfield border in Hertfordshire. The lake itself is a part of the Stanborough Park complex which is owned by Finesse Leisure (aka the local authority) and the fishing is looked after by WGC Angling Club. It’s use is split between a boating lake and fishing lake and although some of the wanna-be sailors can be a bit annoying it’s no trouble really. This is a lake I have personally been going to since i started fishing and it still holds my UK personal record common carp (24lb). The lake itself is a little over 16 acres and as with any big water there are a few special spots that always seem to produce, which I’ll list in order of how good they are, starting with the best:

 

1.) The Oak Tree

The Oak Tree peg is the first fish-able peg on the left-hand side of the lake (from the car park). It’s got a plant cage to the right of the swim and a few scattered boilies with a simple hair rig next to this will tempt multiple fish out. This peg has it’s perils though, if you fish close to the cage you must stay locked up or it will wrap you around snags. You can fish directly out in front of you for decent results too. Don’t use any boilies under 15mm as you’ll encounter some greedy bream that can fit 14mm in their gobs.

2.) Peg 1,2,3,4,5

The first four pegs used to be float fishing only but this rules has now been relaxed. These pegs are the first pegs on the right hand side of the lake (from the car park). It’s fairly simple fishing from these pegs, aim towards the boating area next to the restaurant and ping it as close as you can. This end of the lake is the most prolific with massive numbers coming out. In the summer months if you fish floating crust or dog biscuit (biscuit might be banned) on the surface you’ll bag up.

3.) Top left corner

I’m not certain of the peg number, I think it’s peg 21/22, but its directly infront of an water pump on a massive tyre and for some reason this is a fantastic holding area for carp. My best ever session on Stanborough was in the top left hand corner. Myself and a friend, Ryan, caught 25 double figure carp (best of 24lb) in an 18 hour session overnight.