Tails Up boss Ash Bradbury talks to one of the regular faces in the news pages.
Ash Bradbury: Tell us about yourself and how you became an angler?
Peter Chmiel: My deep interest in connections with the natural world has always steered my direction in life, including my choice of career as a landscape architect, my home on the edge of Salisbury Plain and my key hobbies: fishing and archery. Growing up on Dartmoor fuelled my passion for the natural environment, and from the age of six I enjoyed fishing and discovering the wonders of the local clay pits, tumbling moorland rivers, granite quarries and coastal piers. I believe these early years of fishing and the natural progression of fishing for rudd, then perch, tench, trout, mullet and pike, all within very contrasting environments, certainly provided a solid foundation for the next 40 years in pursuit of carp. My first 20lb carp, caught in 1982 from Salamander Lake in Cornwall, really did drive the passion forward and started my obsession with collecting carp literature and keeping meticulous records on all my sessions and observations.
AB: What inspires you about carp and fishing for them?
PC: For me, it’s all about understanding the contrast between the rhythm and poetry of seasonal carp behaviour, and how this changes dramatically between the varying natural environments of the gravel pit, clay pit, silty mere, canal or river. In particular, I am driven by the challenges of winter carping; they just look so stunning in winter colours. I also love the intimate complexities of small-water fishing, and I am a great believer that pressured small-water carp present a real challenge. Being able to observe their reaction to bait and rigs is of paramount importance to me. It also keeps me highly motivated if I cannot catch a target fish – at least I can observe it and dream!
AB: There are many things in carp angling that enable you to be successful, bait being just one of them, but what drew you to Tails Up?
PC: I first came across Tails Up in the late 1980s. A group of friends on a very silty estate lake containing some stunning old fish used the old Protavit Liver and Protavit Mushroom to very good effect. Fast-forward to 2011 and I was fishing the peaty lakes of the Somerset Levels and looking to start a baiting campaign. Something reminded me of the good old Tails Up days and a quick Google found the company still existed, but under new ownership. Further research found it was clearly in good hands, so I placed my first order. I started with the OCM, which really worked well both in the UK and France. I particularly like the way it mushed and clouded up when washed out, and this become a favourite method. Fishing in France over a marginal spot, I managed the Long Common from Old Oaks and seven upper forties, all in 48 hours. It was crazy watching the reactions to the OCM slop. One of the qualities of the bait is that it’s not overly hard and I am convinced this helps get quick bites in the winter months. On returning to UK, I continued to use the OCM and available matching products, but started mixing in the Pro Seed and often fished a mix of 10mm, 14mm and 18mm baits. It’s always fascinating to observe what the fish pick up first.
AB: What do you look for in terms of your fishing and the carp you target?
PC: These days the qualities I look for in my fishing are beautiful venues, considerate membership and some character fish. On the whole it’s about old-school values where everyone celebrates a capture and respects the environment and fish.
For me, the target-fish aspect goes hand in hand with my meticulous record keeping. Sad, I know, but it really gives me a buzz getting a prediction right in respect of when and where a target fish will slip up. I also think there is a natural cycle of contentment with carp fishing that starts with the ambition to just catch a carp, then to catch lots, then just big carp, and finally returning to being happy to be catching carp! That said, I still always look for a PB, but have learned with age to stay mellow (thank you, Martin Head).
Recently the social side has become very important, and I often enjoy fishing trips overseas with my friends and family. This mellow, social, summer fishing means I can stay motivated throughout the long winter campaign.
AB: You have fished around the Somerset and Wiltshire borders regularly since you joined Tails Up. How do you approach each individual lake?
PC: The Somerset Levels offers many challenges, and some of the key qualities needed are stealth and observation. The lakes are natural peat and often just being heavy-footed can make the rods bounce for several seconds. On Godney Moor nearly all my fish were caught between 1am and 3am, and you just had to be awake and recast to the fish when they showed, or constantly search for them in the days. Many a time I used to find them tucked away in the undercut banks. I’m a very impatient individual and have tried to use this as a fishing asset, either changing things or looking for opportunities.
Bait application also plays a big part, and I regularly feed spots without fishing them for six or even nine months, just dropping 50 boilies on to a spot that seems to gets ignored by others – you know, those swims with no visible features or ‘no-carp corner’. I also look to learn any patrol routes to known hot spots quickly with the view to finding those cramped, unpopular swims. When joining a new venue I also set a target of fishing all the swims before the winter sets in.
AB: How have you found success on your present lakes?
PC: During my last winter campaign at Leverets the key was down to finding the movement patterns related to weather and angling pressure, and consistent bait application to ‘featureless’ areas. The past two winters have been great fun, producing a cracking PB common of 42½lb, 30 thirties and numerous high twenties. It’s is a very special place and certainly one to watch. I’ve now just moved on to the New Forest Water Park and immediately found it a very friendly, well-run venue. I’ve enjoyed some lucky first-trip catches by watching and casting to signs of feeding. I’m certainly looking forward to the winter.
AB: What rigs and baiting approach have you been using?
PC: I tend to favour three contrasting rigs. The first is a simple 15lb Maxima hooklink with a Drennan Barbel hook and mini boilies on a long hair. The second is the classic hinged rig with a 14mm pop-up, and the third is a very over-weighted short rig that really kicks itself out. The short rig produced nearly all my winter thirties and consists of a weighted shrink-tube boom, a short section of soft braid, a longshank hook and a very heavy boilie. Given it’s fished in silt, it really shouldn’t work, but after watching the local farmer catch five good thirties in a row, I couldn’t ignore it. At the venue it’s now called the harvester rig! Interestingly, I used it this June at Ultimate Carp Dreams in France, catching 10 high forties and a fifty on it.
Bait-wise, I will continue to use my party blend mix of 10mm, 14mm and 18mm boilies of two flavours and colours. On Leverets the combination of Pro Seed and Pro Fruitz certainly caught them out. They did seem to have a preference for light or dark baits on certain days and in certain conditions. It’s nice to have all options covered.
AB: What lies ahead?
PC: I am now focused on my next French trip to Lac Serreire in September. I love the social aspect and try to fit in at least three trips a year to France. On the New Forest Water Park I would love one of the real characters, but for now just being invited on and learning my way is exciting enough. Hopefully this winter will be kind to me.