DRAYTON RESERVOIR IS WELL KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE CARP FISHING WORLD AS ONE OF THE MOST PROLIFIC DAY TICKET WATERS IN THE COUNTRY. THE RESERVOIR IS ACCESSIBLE FROM THE A361 NEAR THE NORTHERN EDGE OF DAVENTRY AND IS A FEEDER RESERVOIR FOR THE GRAND UNION CANAL
In relation to rules on the venue they are pretty relaxed compared to most day ticket venues, but it goes without saying you still need your basic carp essentials. A little tip from me after fishing the venue throughout the last five years is bring two landing nets. You can only fish using two rods at Drayton, but on regular occasions you will find both rods bent into fish at the same time – especially during the height of the summer.
I would estimate the average weight of the fish you are likely to catch at the reservoir to be anywhere between 14lb and 16lb, which considering the volume of stock, is astonishing. As far as prices go it’s basically your standard day ticket fees with £12 for a day session and £25 for 24 hours. There are also a couple of Portaloos on site, should you need to answer the call of nature – but one polite message from Mark, who runs the fishery, is make sure you clean up after yourself and leave the toilets as you’d expect to find them.
All vehicles must be parked on the dam wall in a single-file line, and there is no facility to drive round the reservoir to each swim – so a barrow is essential to transport your gear. All the cars are locked in at night with a gate and a combination lock at either end of the dam wall. The sailing club also use the lake for their own recreational use, so please be mindful that if they are out on the lake then don’t be casting leads towards them unnecessarily, as in the past there have been issues. Both anglers and the sailing club need to show an element of respect towards each other and the reservoir is there for us all the enjoy. There are no fishing pegs from the last peg on the dam wall until the first peg on the boards and, in between these, is the sailing club’s property and boats.
With regard to bait, it goes without saying that it’s no good turning up to this venue with a small bucket of pellets and a few pop-ups, and expecting to have hundreds of bites. Yes, you will still inevitably catch fish but there are a few little things you can do to turn an ordinary session into a brilliant one. Personally, I always take more bait than I feel I will need. I take two bags of Mainline’s Souper Zig Mix should I feel the need to use zigs during my session. I also take two big buckets filled with pellets, particle and anything else I can get my hands on – it usually amounts to between 10-20kg of bait for an average 24-hour session. With that said, it doesn’t have to cost you the earth to do this. You can go to your local pet shop and buy a 10kg sack of Vitalin which will cost you around £12 to start with. Secondly, you can buy one kilo frozen sacks of corn from your local supermarket for less than a £1 – so already you could have 15kg of bait by spending roughly the same value in money! My last little tip with bait is if money is really tight, and you want to fish zig rigs and spod over the top of them, then Tesco do their very own porridge oats for 50p a bag. This will have the same effect as any other bait if you mix the oats correctly into a soup, and maybe add a cheap tin of condensed milk, which again will cost you around 50p.
Over the years I’ve had some great sessions at this particular venue and I normally use it to have a social with a few close friends every now and again throughout the year. If I was going to Drayton at any time of the year there are certain pegs I would head for, either the middle of the dam wall, the boards or the point swims. The reason behind this is that these pegs control the middle of the lake where the fish tend to shoal up; not only this but due to the lake being extremely busy it ensures no one else can affect your fishing, especially if you’re having it away!
One of the most memorable sessions I had was in the summer of 2015 when myself and my best friend took part in a charity event for Cancer Research. We had set ourselves a target to catch 100 carp in 24 hours. I think we ended up with 225 carp between us, and by the time the event finished neither of us had any energy left to barrow our gear back round to the cars. My point being is if you fish the lake correctly, and employ the correct tactics, you can catch as many carp as you wish to and they’re not exactly single-figure fish.
Moving onto my most recent session, I decided to head down in the middle of January with Jon ‘Shoes’ Jones to do some filming with Mainline Baits on zig fishing. We booked peg 27 on the boards, on the advice of Mark, that the fish had been grouped up tightly out in front of this area at around 100 yards. It is worth mentioning that if you want to do the night at Drayton then either the boards or the point are your best options – you can comfortably get your bivvies up and pre-book your pegs. Another small piece of advice is you will need peg screws in order to secure your bivvy to the decking or, alternatively, a pack of screws, screw gun/driver and washers. The boards have also recently been relaid and not only are they now wider but they are also spirit level straight – so they are perfect for fishing from securely. Obviously, if you need the screws for your bivvy you will also need to use stage stands for your banksticks and/or alternatively use a pod.
Because the boards swims are so popular for anglers who want to fish for 24 hours or more they are booked on a rotation system, which basically means you can fish from 12pm until 12pm the following day. There are signs on both the dam wall and the boards with a full list of names for those who are booked on, so there can be no confusion. With that said Mark and Angie are both relaxed, and if the peg you are due to fish has no one occupying it the night before you arrive, then they will allow you to get set up and start fishing prior to the 12pm change over.
Fortunately, when I arrived at the lake around 7am there were no other anglers booked on peg 27, so this allowed me to get the gear set up and in place before the cameras arrived. I first went about setting up my Tempest V2 with its groundsheet for a couple of reasons before getting the rods out. The first reason the groundsheet is essential is because if the water level is high and the lake has a wind on it then, occasionally, water can leak in-between the boards causing your gear to get wet. Secondly, I always set my bivvy up first because if you put your rods out you simply won’t have enough time to get everything sorted and settled before you start getting action.
After everything was in place I clipped my two rods up along with my spod rod to the exact same range – at 25 wraps, or 100 yards. I went about putting 15 spombs, purely of maggots, out to start with. This is another tip of mine – throughout the summer it doesn’t matter what bait you use but during the winter the carp in Drayton are still carp at the end of the day and occasionally they can shut down. Maggots are probably the number one winter bait and on their day, during the colder months, no other bait comes close to them. So, having a few with you can only improve your chances of getting a few bites. Once I had finished spombing out I cast out one of the rods with my faithful multi-rig constructed from Korda 20lb Kamo and a size 6 Kurv Shank hook. Hookbait-wise I decided to use a Mainline 14mm Pink Cell fluoro pop-up which had been soaked in Bumble Berry Goo. It didn’t take long for the first bite to come and, literally within seconds of setting the Stow indicator, the rod was away, resulting in a cracking 20lb mirror. The first thing I did before even dealing with the fish was I secured it in the landing net and went about introducing a few more spombs to the area. This is absolutely crucial if you want to produce a big hit of fish. Feeding spells can be short during the winter and, quite simply, you have to maximise the time that the fish are in front of you and prepared to feed.
Once the fish had been photographed I changed the hook over on the multi rig and got the rod straight back out onto the spot. The multi rig lends itself perfectly to fishing Drayton Reservoir, in the sense that you don’t have to reconstruct a new rig every time you catch a fish – you simply just change the hook over and you are ready to go again, which will save you a massive amount of time! My second rod was then placed on a 6ft zig made from 11lb Korda Zig line, a small size 10 wide gape hook which had a small piece of silicone tubing just to trap the hair in place and bring the hookbait as close to the hook as possible. This is extremely important when using zig rigs. My hookbaits of choice were yellow and black Mainline Ziggers, soaked in Supa Sweet Zig Liquid. Alternatively, I have also used a piece of yellow foam if I’ve needed to use a larger hook size, due to its improved buoyancy. With having a rod on the bottom and one on a zig, I was maximising my potential for finding where the fish were and what they were currently doing. What I then do, if one particular method starts getting more action than the other, is to switch both rods onto the same tactic in order to produce more bites and hopefully put some extra fish on the bank.
As I’ve already mentioned, when using zig rigs I like to spod over the top of them with a sloppy mix, and to this I either add maggots or sweetcorn. This is just to give it some visual effect and also, once the bait does settle on the bottom, it will give you the confidence in knowing you can always switch over to bottom baits if you need to. Once I started to introduce bait regularly to the swim it quickly became apparent that the fish were swimming around in the upper layers as, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep the zig rod in the water for more than five minutes. After the first few hours fishing I’d managed 18 bites!
What happened next though was unexpected, and as soon as lunchtime came the lake seemed to switch off just like that. Over the course of the next 12 hours or so, very few fish came to the bank. I managed just a couple of takes throughout the hours of darkness, even after continually getting up every half an hour to spod out.
It’s worth mentioning that although Drayton has a very high stock of fish, and some anglers even claim you can catch on cigarette butts, they are still carp at the end of the day. During the winter all carp shoal up and they don’t feed all the time as their metabolism slows down. It’s not uncommon for Drayton to go through periods of inactivity. Many well-respected anglers have suffered blank sessions on Drayton over the years during the winter period, and if the fish aren’t in front of you, you can’t catch them – it’s as simple as that!
There are, however, a number of things you can do to nick you those extra few bites when the fishing slows down and the carp ‘shut up shop’. Whether I’m targeting the fish on the bottom or using zigs, one of my favourite ‘get out of jail cards’ is to tie a few live maggots either on top of my multi rig or on top of my zig. Sometimes this extra bit of colour and the liveliness of the maggots are too much for the carp to resist, and often on a harsh, cold winter’s day this can save you from a blank. I adopted this approach during the long spells of inactivity throughout my session and it did keep the bites coming every so often – which proves the effectiveness of maggots.
The final morning came and I was up at first light spodding away continuously for the first few hours – but for some reason the fish still seemed not to be interested. For the last few hours I decided to go really long at around 130 yards, with one zig again at 6ft – but with a plain, yellow zigger and a few maggots on top. With my second rod I came short from my spot at around 70 yards, with the same set up and rig, hoping to entice one or two more before we had to call it a day and head back up North for home. The changes certainly worked and I slowly and consistently started to catch fish on single zigs on both rods. The fish that were shoaled up in front of me seemed to have dispersed and, in the end with perseverance, I managed to track them down.
It would be easy to think you’ve invested a lot of bait on one area and to put all your eggs in one basket, and then just sit on it – but sometimes you need to go to the fish and don’t be scared to move if you need to!
When the session came to an end I had managed over 30 bites in 24 hours fishing, with fish to over 20lb. Jon managed to gather some great content and put together a short video clip on all the tactics I’ve mentioned throughout this article. The video is on the Mainline Baits Facebook page and also their YouTube channel should you want to check it out for yourselves. It gives viewers an introduction to the venue, as well as the rigs and bait I employed in more detail.
One last piece of information regards Drayton reservoir is that it is a great place for having socials with friends. There are plenty of awesome takeaways close by and, if you ask some of the regular members or the owners, I’m sure they would be more than happy to supply you with menus and pricelists. For the last 13 years Mark and Angie Ryder have worked endlessly to turn what was a prolific match venue into what can only be described as the ultimate day ticket runs water. This venue provides superb sport for anglers of all capabilities – it doesn’t matter whether you have been fishing for generations or whether you have never fished for carp before. The time, effort and money that the couple have invested into this venue is now clear for everyone to see, as the banks of the reservoir are always extremely busy, even in midwinter. If you fancy a few hours fishing throughout the colder months of the year, and to be in with a chance of a bite or two, then look no further than Drayton Reservoir.