Steve Briggs’s planning pays off on his latest trip to Rainbow Lake.
I guess I’m lucky to have so many trips away – at least that’s what people keep telling me! However, that is no guarantee of success. In most cases it will still be a one-off trip for me and, whether or not I have other trips to different venues lined up makes no real difference, getting it right for that one trip is so important.
I tend to plan quite a bit in advance of any trip so that when it comes around I will already have a good idea in my head of how I want to approach the fishing. Of course things can change and I might have to reassess what I do, but in most cases being prepared really does help. I’m no stranger to Rainbow Lake but every swim on there is different, as are the times of year. It’s certainly not just a case of turning up with the rods and going through the motions. For my latest trip I was booked into swim 2, which I’d fished twice before. One was a two-week struggle when I had just one fish on the last morning of a freezing cold January trip, and the second was in April when I had plenty of action but only from the shallow bays and margins. Previous experience in this case wasn’t really a lot of help and I knew that this time around it would be nothing like either of those previous trips.
Not everyone likes the idea of booking a swim in advance and not having the chance to move, but at Rainbow it works. All swims produce the big fish at some stage of the year and you just have to trust your luck on that front; for me the target weight is normally 50lb and anything better than that is a bonus. Knowing what swim you have gives you the chance to plan what you are going to do. Unlike before, my plan was to fish deeper water of between 14ft and 18ft and fish the open water spots well away from any fallen trees and snags. There will always be hidden snags somewhere between the rod tips and the rigs, however, and for that reason I planned to use the bottle rigs on all rods. For those that don’t know the bottle rig, it is simply using a small drinks bottle on the line as a buoyancy aid to keep the line up from the bottom, like a heavier version of normal float fishing.
The main focus for me, though, was the baiting approach. I really think that getting the baiting strategy right is one of the biggest edges you can have if you want to maximize results. I just figured that the fish would be feeding well late on in the year; many reach their best weights around that time, and that is only through eating bait! I also think that using more bait can relax the fish more and induce them to make a mistake. My plan was to use around four kilos of boilies and a good helping of hemp around each hookbait. Four kilos of boilies doesn’t sound much when you say it quickly, but when you are actually putting it out by hand it is a fair bit, believe me. Still, I’m constantly surprised by how much carp will eat and, even if I had to wait a few days for action, I felt it was the right way to go.
As I stood in the swim that first morning I was filled with confidence as several fish showed out in front of me. My job was not only to catch some of them but to keep them there as long as I could. The first day is always a hard one with setting everything up, although the 2-Man Titan is the easiest big bivvy I’ve ever used, but it’s the disturbance out on the water, too, which is unavoidable really but necessary.
With all that bait in the swim I was expecting to wait a while for a take, but early the next morning I was into a 49½lb common! A nice enough start and proof that the fish were getting their heads down. It was a new bait for me on Rainbow too; I’d gone for the TG Active, which has just been released after an extensive testing and development program. I already knew that the bait had produced some impressive results and as soon as I saw it I was convinced it would work well on Rainbow. I decided to mix the mid-brown coloured TG with the bright white Coconut Crème, which of course had already proven itself many times. Later that day another rod produced a 47lb mirror – things had started in style.
The fast start took me a little bit by surprise but the action kept coming and four carp later on Tuesday morning I got my first fifty of the trip at 53lb. As I said, 50lb was the target weight so I was happy with that, but the next day I got a bigger mirror of 57½lb along with four others up to 48lb. Obviously the fish were already there, but I really believe that the baiting strategy was the key factor in the action coming thick and fast. Without wishing to sound unkind or big headed, it was sort of proven by the lack of action happening in most other swims.
It seemed like I had a lot of fish in front of me, and that isn’t always a good sign for getting one of the real big ones. Of course I am always chasing one of the real monsters, but they are proving to be a real challenge, to put it mildly. Still, I could hardly complain with what I was catching. If anything, it seemed like I had a whole group of fish between mid-thirties and mid-fifties out there, with most of the fish being mid-forties – I was literally losing count of the 40lb carp ending up in the cradle! The pleasing thing was that, with a little bit of tweaking and moving, I managed to get all four rods working.
I guess that with more bait in the swim, some fish were feeding and getting away with it, while others were getting caught, but it was keeping them interested all the time and the action never slowed at all. Action came every day of the trip and most days saw multiple takes. I had one more fifty, a 50¼lb common, and several more forties and it was a session to remember. The plan had worked a treat! Okay, I did get through a lot of bait overall, but it was obviously what they wanted and they were still jumping in front of me as I packed up. Not every trip goes quite so well and next time it could be very different, but I will be as well prepared as I can be. Who knows? Maybe next time I will get one of those monsters…