Dave Levy has fished some of the most challenging circuit waters the UK has to offer, his angling skill and natural ability to choose the right rig for the job has not surprisingly brought him some outstanding captures. One thing that stands out for me is his confidence to take on the challenge that any water throws at him and consistently come out on top. As we all know, trying to get the tactics right on a new venue can be daunting and test your confidence. Dave seems to have a raw confidence that probably comes from his time in the Parachute Regiment and his many rounds in a boxing ring. Whatever it is, be it confidence or a sixth sense, selecting the type of rig he thinks will bring him the best results in different situations has paid dividends. I met up with Dave, at an undisclosed Kent venue, in February to discuss that side of his fishing in a little more detail, and this is what I found out…
Mike Kavanagh: You’ve fished some of the toughest circuit waters in the UK during your time Dave, amongst those is one particular venue where you can tear the rule book up when it comes to rigs and throw it on the fire, Dartford’s Sutton 2. During your time there, you were, as you have been on most of the waters you’ve tackled, very successful and caught your share of its prized carp, so given its reputation for kicking most anglers in the lower regions, how did you approach it rig-wise and what led you to your success and final choice of rig?
Dave Lane: Well as you know, Mike, Sutton is your typical, small and pressured water, but what makes it a lot harder, is it’s days-only. With it being a small pit, the carp are used to dealing with rigs on a daily basis, whereas on larger waters, the carp may go weeks without coming across them. The thing about those Sutton carp was they seemed to know exactly what they were doing; almost to the point where they were quite happy to feed over your rigs and clear you out. When I started to do well it was because I was baiting up every 30 to 40 minutes, putting in up to ten big pouches of boilies over each rod with a catapult, and because I was only fishing at short range, within minutes I’d start getting liners. I knew they were having the bait and up until then, had been getting away with it. I decided supple braid hooklinks were out of the equation, because they were obviously being ejected, so I went for a very short, stiff rig, with a size-6 hook, a bottom bait and a comparatively heavy 4oz lead. As soon as I started the regular baiting and combined it with the shortened, stiff hooklinks and heavy leads, things very quickly turned around and I was lucky enough to catch the fish I’d joined for, plus a few others. I should have put more effort in really, but I had other things on my mind at the time.
If Dave is meticulous about one thing, it’s choosing the right rig, to use at the right time
MK: I’ve fished Sutton myself and it reminds me a lot of a similar venue, in terms of its all year round, weed-free topography, and by percentage mainly silt bottom, I’m referring to the Top Lake at Weald Country Park in Essex. Rig-wise, that place tested the patience of some of the best, seasoned carp anglers at the time. I had to ask myself why, until it occurred to me the common denominator is the absence of weed. It’s only a theory, but I’m inclined to think carp in weed-free waters are not going to experience the daily sensation of soft, single strands of weed entering their mouth when they feed, like weedy water carp do. So, when a soft hooklink crosses their lips they will be acutely aware of it. I can only assume a soft hooklink in that instance will be associated with a sensation that spells danger and quickly ejected. So the fact that you caught your Sutton carp on short, stiff hooklinks, kind of supports that theory I think, because those carp are used to the feel of marginal debris in their mouths such as small, fine bits of twig, etc. that may have fallen from overhanging branches. I reckon it’s only on the odd occasion pressured carp in weed-free waters accidentally slip up and get caught, would you agree with that?
DL: To a certain extent I would Mike, but, I think most of the carp we hook get caught blowing out the bait or feeding while mobile, as in moving to the next food item. Fishing for carp and hooking them on rock-hard lake beds, featuring gravel for example, has always been way harder than hooking them over silt areas in my opinion, just because of the amount of loose foreign objects they have to sift through. If I can present a bait in weed, I find it’s often easier to get a bite; because the carp are picking off naturals from strands of weed and stems while they forage through it. I remember last year at Wraysbury, trying to get a bite on a patch of clean gravel that I was fishing on, was almost impossible. I actually watched the carp clear me out. In the end I caught fish by coming off the gravel onto a weedy spot close by, where they were feeding and where the rig was less easy for them to detect.
This is an image of Sutton Lake 2, all those years ago now
MK: Talking of weed and its effect on how carp feed, a lot of anglers struggle with having the confidence to present a hookbait in swims that are dominated by it, of all the weedy waters you’ve fished, which one did you find the most difficult to present a hookbait in and how did you go about it?
DL: With regards to weed, I have a really simple theory that I follow at any weedy water. I look for an area the carp are using and the first thing I try to do is map it out with a bare lead and braided main line. If I can’t find a reasonable spot, I search for the lowest lying weed in that area and fish it with chods. The chod rig is made for that type of presentation, but how you bait up around the rig is really the key. I make sure the baits are broken and crumbed, so they sit within the weed and don’t fall through. By doing that, I know I have bait suspended in the weed surrounding my chod rig and that really makes a difference to the number of bites I get, and to the quality of the hookholds. I really believe the chod rig has opened up areas that were once thought of as unfishable. So I suppose that rig has really influenced me and the way I now approach fishing in weed. I would also include solid bags for weed fishing, something I think anglers fishing for big carp often overlook. Solid bag fishing in weed can be devastating because you’re able to present the shortest rig, with a big hook, perfectly concealed in amongst the bait. At the end of the day, fishing in weed does come down to confidence. A lot of anglers are way too easily put off by it when it can actually be great for location. Having said that, if I do get a good drop with the lead, then I’ll present a very different rig, something like the blow-back rig and I’ll incorporate strong tackle, such as a 35lb hooklink and a size-4 hook. That may seem a bit barbaric, but I’m fishing to land them and I want to reduce the chance of losing fish, or worse still, leaving tackle in them.
A superb 40-pounder caught on Dave’s Chod Rig following a sighting in a similar situation to the one he described
A stunning Horton 50 for Dave, taken on his favourite reverse combi-rig
MK: When the situation allows, would you say you tend to fish pop-ups the most, or bottom baits, which do you prefer? Or put another way, based on rig mechanics, of the two, which do you think is the most effective?
DL: I come from a background in fishing where you would often need to adapt to catch a fish and with my carp fishing I’m no different. As a rule of thumb, if I’m getting the proverbial ‘donk’, as in, hitting a clear and hard lake bed, then I’m going to fish a bottom bait; because I believe it’s a more natural presentation. If the lake bed is soft, then I’ll use pop ups, which are nearly always fished helicopter-style, and my favourite rig is the reverse combi. Its hooking ratio to landed fish is almost perfect. I will fish pop-ups on a hard bottom early in the year when the carp are coming out of their dormant winter state because their guard is down and the long winter can make them somewhat naive, but this often doesn’t last past the spring. I’m talking about pressured, hard venues here too, not waters with 3000 carp in them, where they are forced to eat through competition for food.
Dave has total confidence in his standard Chod Rig, but it is only used when the swim dictates there is no other viable option
MK: Hook choice for buoyant hookbaits can, as you know, be crucial. Do you favour a straight-point, or a beaked-point, which do you have the most confidence in?
DL: I have the most confidence in size-4 beaked-point hook patterns. One of the rigs I like to use with a buoyant bait is the KD, but even though I know the KD rig fished with a straight-point is great for hooking fish, I’ve personally had hook hold problems; and I’m not willing to risk the loss of a good fish. So it’s generally our beaked point pattern for me, especially when it comes to buoyant hookbaits, and although you might expect me to say that because of my association with RidgeMonkey, the fact is, the hook hasn’t let me down and I genuinely can’t fault it.
For Dave, RidgeMonkey’s recently launched beaked-point pattern hits the spot with a buoyant hookbait every time
MK: Given your hard-earned experience and the knowledge you’re able to impart, your involvement with RidgeMonkey has obviously born fruit. How much influence have you personally been able to have in the development of the latest terminal tackle range?
DL: I’ve been really fortunate in my angling to have been around a lot of very good anglers, some I now class as my best friends. Over the years I’ve had input into a good few products that are still out there now, so when the opportunity to join RidgeMonkey came along, I was really excited about it. I’ve come up with a lot of the end tackle we supply, but it would be unfair to take credit for all of it, as we have a great team around us who all have input. Big Jay, and also Max Cottis, who in my opinion is one of the best at sourcing materials, have both been a great help. Max’s product-knowledge is second to none, our lead-free leader is the perfect example. It is that heavy, that some of the team have been using the 25lb variant for hooklinks and done really well on it. That, combined with someone, who, like me, is absolutely mad about fishing for carp, makes for a good team. There is still so much more to come from RidgeMonkey, as you’ll soon see, we can’t reinvent the wheel, but we can improve on what’s already out there.
The all-new RM-Tec lead-free leader – it’s also good for hooklinks!
MK: We’ve talked about bottom bait and pop-up rigs, if you were choosing one of the new RidgeMonkey hooklink materials to present a wafter on an area of clean gravel, which of them would be your first choice?
DL: I really favour our soft-coated camo in 25lb, we have a spot on brown colour as well, but I prefer the camo because it blends in really well with most environments. If I have to cast any distance, I use the same camo hooklink, but the stiff-coated version to avoid any unnecessary tangles. When I’m fishing wafters, I generally like a slightly longer hair as well, so the hook has room to drop down and find flesh at the first time of asking.
MK: Speaking generally, it will obviously depend on the situation I know, and the type of water you’re fishing, but when it comes to lead size, shape and weight, is your choice based purely on the range at which you’re fishing, or its effect on the rig’s hooking potential?
DL: I often find myself having to fish leads in a drop-off fashion, simply because of the weed on the waters I’m fishing. I like heavy leads of over 4oz because I believe the simple physics of what we are trying to achieve lends itself to the heaviest lead we can get away with. After all, we’re trying to pull a very sharp hook into a carp’s rubbery flesh. On pressured waters the carp get very good at using the weight of the lead to actually get rid of the rig by shaking it violently and literally throwing or dropping the lead, and then using the slack to shake the hook out. In those situations a running lead is the one for me, I like a 3-4oz flat-pear shaped weight that holds bottom. Once the initial jolt sets the hook, the running lead stops the carp from being able to use the weight to its advantage because the carp has nothing to pull against or to shake to dislodge the hook. If carp anglers only knew how many of those quick up and down pulls on the bobbins are missed bites, they’d be switching to a running lead straightaway. All I can tell you is it’s worked for me for the last ten years and hopefully it’ll work for another ten!
MK: Thanks for your time Dave, it’s much appreciated.
DL: No problem Mike, you’re welcome.
Note how the hook on the stiff-coated version can drop nicely over a carp’s bottom lip when a small section of the coating below the hook eye is peeled back
This is Dave’s favourite hooklink material for bottom bait and wafter presentation
Two versions of the same blow-back rig for bottom baits and wafters with favoured beaked-points. Top is the soft-coated version, bottom is the stiff-coated for distance fishing