Solid bag fishing is something I rarely do, but over the years dabbling with the presentation has accounted for fish, and I’m certain it’s a method I could utilise much more. I’m a regular at Willow Park Fishery big lake and although I often don’t struggle to catch, sometimes I don’t think I’m exploiting my time on the bank to its fullest.
The water clarity is quite low at the minute, so I have to rely more on the smell and attraction of my bait than the visual side of things. I had a 2-night session planned and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a good go and get more confident in fishing them. With other waters on the horizon honing the tactic would pay dividends in the right situation. The plan was to find a nice feature to fish to, I like the idea of having something to fish up to, and if there are any holding in the feature then you’ve presented that small offering for them to snaffle.
I arrived at the lake mid afternoon on the Saturday and had a good walk round for a couple of hours, said hello to a few of the anglers, but mainly kept my eye on the lake. The winds were up and there’s a bay right in the teeth of the then south-westerly that was pushing across the lake, sending water crashing against the front of a trio of pegs that were perfectly positioned for the conditions. The bay is closed off with a rope to allow an angler a section of water right in the bay itself, but it was the entrance I wanted to target, and before long I was in the swim getting the gear set-up and ready to go.
I had a big bucket of mixed pellet to fill the PVA bags with, made up of largely 2mm pellets with a smattering of 4mm and 6mm thrown in there too. Again a variety of pellets from halibut to sweetcorn pellet, offering different colours, sizes and flavours to hopefully draw the carp in and make the bait irresistible.
I wasn’t joined by the camera’s until the following day, but with a friend down for the night with me, it would have been rude not to get the rods out and see what occurred. I fished one rod with a very simple, short bottom bait rig made of an uncoated braid and a small kicker to help the hook turn, and the other on a pop-up rig. Both were fished to the snag line on the far bank between gaps in the trees, fairly high up the shelf. Before getting the rods out I made a short link of heavy coated braid, attached to a 3.5oz dumpy lead, to cast to the spots and clip up. I needed the large lead to replicate the weight of a made-up solid bag and the link was a couple of inches longer than my short PVA bag leaders, meaning there were no chances of tangles once the bags were tied up – mis casts when solid bag fishing are not only hazardous for tangling in the trees opposite, but it also means tying one up again needlessly. I know fishing solid bags allows you to cast over near enough any bottom detritus, but knowing the depth was also vital as I wanted to be fairly near the top of the shelf.
With the checks, wraps and clips set, it was just a case of looping a couple of my pre-tied bags on after I’d filled them with liquid, one a sweet, the other a fishy tuna, again to help boost the pulling power in the less than favourable clarity the lake was currently holding.
Within 20 minutes I had a mid double on the bank after it fought like a train – a stunning fully scaled mirror. Again around 20 minutes or so later my second fish came, and over the next few hours I totalled 7 fish, each one welcomed and a joy that my confidence was now sky high with solid bag fishing. Every bite registered as a drop-back as the fish lifted the leads off the shelf and they fell away, swimming towards me slightly, so it was important to think about my bite indication, which I fished with only a short drop on my light slug.
Like a light switch that night, as total darkness filed the sky the bites stopped. The steady stream of fish that totalled seven became zero. My friend did manage a few in the early hours in open water but the fish seemed to have moved off. I did get some attention on the one rod around the same sort of time which I put down as fish knocking the lines as they would have been up in the water with me not fishing very slack, but in the morning it was clear the cray’s had been at that rod.
The cameras were due down in the morning and as I sat watching the water with a coffee in hand, I began to fear I’d peaked too early. I’d been challenged to catch some live for the camera’s, and as I sat there looking out it looked great for it, as it did for the majority of the day, but still no action. The day passed with the winds continuing to push the lake in towards the bay I’d covered. I re-chucked the solid bags several times on the Sunday afternoon, moving them slightly up and down the shelf to try and entice a bite but nothing seemed to give. Just before dark in the final hour or so of daylight I began to investigate open water towards the centre of the lake – I’d been alerted to the sound of a couple of fish showing out in the open water, but nothing enticing enough to make me move then. Now that it was beginning to look a little quiet I was leading around out there weighing up my possibilities…
… Out of nowhere there were a few bleeps on the right hand rod, fished tight to the tree line, high up the shelf. The wind had begun to slow as is often the case as evening draws on, but my extricator was bent double into what felt like a good fish. Although not fighting hard, a short, spirited battle where the fish just used it’s weight instead of its power cam e to a head with the fish buried deep in my landing net. I was overjoyed to have banked one, and it looked to be one of the better size Willow residents, stark contrast to the previous evenings run of doubles. The solid bags were proving to be effective for the bigger fish too which was good, and as we weighed the immaculate common in at 20lb 15oz, its pec’s and tail were notably large, typical of the larger residents in the lake.
As we slipped the fish back my confidence in the swim had returned so naturally I stayed put, and it was just a few hours after re-casting the rod with a pre-tied solid bag before it was away again. Well into dark now, this fish gave a much better account of itself. It made a run at every possible angle under the rod tip so it was a relief when I finally netted it – a stunning fully scaled mirror of around mid double size. A few photos were captured to document the fish and with work the following day I got my head down.
The light of the morning was filling the sky as I lifted the fish onto the waiting mat. The first signs of daybreak had long woke the birds as they tweeted and chirped in full song. I unhooked another victim to the solid bag tactics and placed him back in the deep margins to get the kettle on before I woke the camera man up – you can’t get the staff. Five minutes passed as I drank a coffee and before I could finish my drink the second rod was away.
A strong, determined battle saw the line angles move and dart all around the swim in front of me. The culprit was certainly making a nuisance of himself and I was glad the other rod was on the bank, or I’d have almost certainly been passing rods under and over each other to prevent tangles. The commotion had woke the sleeping giant and with help on hand we soon had the fourth fish of the session in the bag – what a turn-around.
A perfectly proportioned little common was to blame for the rugged, almost uncomprehendable fight, solid muscle that fish I’m sure. We got the two fish photographed and the rods back in position for the last hour or so before I had to be off to work. Before I knew it the gear was being loaded ready for the off with just the rods left lying on the deck. A final 10 minutes effort came to no avail and I brought the rods in more confident than ever that solid bags really do have a place in my angling, and probably a larger part after that session. I’d totalled 11 fish over the two nights on simple solid bag tactics, something I will undoubtedly exploit more often.