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Shaun Harrison's October 2021 Diary

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 8 December 2021 |

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Storm Barra is kicking off as I sit in my oak clad retreat, tapping these words out whilst reflecting upon my angling leading into this winter. The wind is roaring through the weeping willow that surrounds my hideaway, it is now mostly stripped of leaves, a few succulent ones still hold in there, but the wind is now able to funnel through so much easier than a few weeks back. Storm Arwen removed most of them and what a storm that was. I was out in it under my umbrella for the two days it battered the U.K. I enjoy the forces of nature, it helps to point home just how ferocious mother nature can be and the respect we need to give it. I chose my pitch carefully for Storm Arwen; knowing it was coming I made sure I was out of reach of any potential widow makers. For those of you not familiar with that phrase, it is a name given to trees that are likely to blow down – thus making another widow if some poor soul is unfortunate enough to have a large tree come down on them. Trees are a tad heavy!


Not a massive one this time, but it could have hurt

I had a close call in the early to mid-80’s when one came down at the side of me one winter night. Since then, I have tried to be extra careful. As it happens, I had a large branch crash down just behind me during Storm Arwen. Had I set up taking advantage of the extra shelter from the mini copse, then it would have hit me. Instead, I had weighed the situation up and set up in the open but as close to the copse of trees for a little protection from the gusts as I dared. It turned out to be one of my better decisions.

As always, I have started off rambling on about things other than I had meant to start off with. Last month’s blog was a catch up of a few months where I had been very much out of action health wise. I ended it at the beginning of October, so that is where this one is going to continue from.

I had changed venue that I had been concentrating on in September and was managing to find and fool some nice fish. October started with a trip to France to view some improvement work on a venue we (Dream Fishing Holidays) had been promised the exclusive bookings on. Everything had been put in place as promised, so now we have added Leon’s Lake to our portfolio. Now this really is a special venue and one we will be filming our next Free Spirit Fishing film on, but this isn’t the place to do a selling job on Leon’s Lake.

Jamie in swim

Jamie rig tying at Leon's Lake

I travelled out there with Jamie Simpson who owns Custom Angling Solutions. I have known Jamie for 35 years now, we have fished in Italy together but up until now we had not fished together in France. I asked Jamie if he fancied a trip as he understands the fishery visit scenarios realising that the pictures and information gathering is more important than the actual fishing. Pictures from all parts of the venue need taking in decent light. A grey and stormy sky isn’t the ideal as regards publicity work for selling holidays, so one must be ready to ‘up sticks’ at all times and get those shots in the bag.

Then there are the facilities to picture, the route in pictures, explore the local area and find the nearest supermarkets, tackle shops, restaurants etc. Nearby hotels or bed and breakfast, hospitals and so on. These are all things that must be thought about and pulled in during a visit as well as the angling.


The sun didn't start to break through until mid-day

The weather was cruel for us. It was the start of the frosts and each morning started with a thick pea soup fog. We saw no sun breaking through until the afternoon each day which made it very frustrating regarding fish location. We were hearing the odd one but couldn’t see exactly where they were. It didn’t help that we were the only 2 anglers on over 40 acres of water. We were the only ones creating any disturbance so these fish which run to 80 lb plus could easily drift away. We fished 3 different areas of the lake during our stay. The first swim we chose more for being able to see a lot of the lake than anything else, but with the fog, that didn’t help.


A bit of blue sky so rods wound in and another lap taking shots

During one of the brief periods of sun we wound in yet again to get some more pictures in the bag and found what appeared to be several fish fizzing up as far away from where we were set up as would be possible. There was nothing for it but to go back, pack up and move around as stealthily as possible.

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We found them fizzing up close in once the sun came out

We both caught but it was soon obvious that the venue needed more anglers on it as no matter how careful you think you have been, a few leads going in and a couple of captures and the fish drift off to quieter water. With others disturbing them as well they can end up feeling more comfortable in your area than that of others. I base a lot of my angling around that. Keeping the water in front of me much less disturbed than the water in front of others. I pay massive attention to what time I introduce bait as well. I see so many get this so wrong on big fish waters. Something that works in a carp concentration camp where they turn up to the sound of the Spomb because they ‘have to’ compete for food, rarely works on sensibly stocked venues where they haven’t exhausted all the natural food.

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One of the fish Jamie had the first night after the move. Still foggy and cold.

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The sun shone for me

Two days into the new swim and we had to move again to get back on the fish. We also prepped another area knowing the fish would move again if we hooked anything. Another frustration of these trips is needing to be close for film work and squirting camera buttons. Because of this we agreed on a one rod each approach with light leads to disturb the fish as little as possible. We had learned what to look for, the fish didn’t show often, but they can’t avoid fizzing up and with the cold nights and mornings, it was obvious where they would be when a little bit of warmth hit the water and that is exactly where we found them. Close in wherever the sun was the warmest.

Not wanting to set up camp on top of them we decided to return to base camp for the night and snoop around in the daylight exploring the areas we had prepared in anticipation. Things felt good. From knowing very little about the venue or the habits of the fish, in just a few days we had seemingly worked out a very good approach. But this is where it went a little wrong for us; we had not realised that several French anglers would be turning up and the areas we had found fish in and prepped, were taken by the other anglers. So, we never did get to reap our rewards properly.

It was a frustration being in a swim we felt we had pushed the fish away from and the areas left didn’t really appeal to us. All we could do was sit it out and hope that the disturbance from the others would push fish back to us and it did.

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The fish had been spooked back to us.

No-one else on a venue is lovely, but can also make things very difficult if you aren’t prepared to get off your bum and keep tracking them down.

So, with the French trip out the way it was time to get my head back into my main angling here in the U.K. I’d managed to sneak another fish from the pit I was fishing just before the French session, so I was hopeful that the two weekends away the fish were still going to behave similarly. October 21st was my first chance back. I was still hearing the doom and gloom that the venue was fishing poor and that the few fish coming out were small fish. Friday night was quiet but Saturday morning whilst chatting to someone I had not met before, I just mentioned that we were right on time for action judging by how it had been before the French trip and sure enough I was away. A decent fish was hooked and held its own quite nicely; then the rod sprang back. It was off; we all know that empty feeling. At least my mix of Magnum White and Rock Pool Rahja had encouraged another to feed just as it had been doing before and once again it had sorted out one of the larger residents, albeit getting off.

I ended the weekend with 3 big fish all totally different looking.

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Welcome back to England.

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And then a golden common

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The third of my welcome home prizes.

I do like venues with a mixed stock of different carp strains. Interestingly, the three nice fish I landed were all on different rods in different areas. I do like this when you have more than one spot in a swim producing. This was also a swim that I couldn’t remember the last time I fished. It seemed I had little need to change anything bait or rig wise.

29th October saw me having to barrow my gear and set up in heavy rain. We were due a lot of rain and big winds and I admit to choosing a swim where I wouldn’t have to put the front on the brolly. I am getting on a bit you know. I was in that nice place of knowing if I got my location right, then simply doing what I had done for the past few sessions would catch me carp. I had zero bait doubts and zero rig doubts. What I had done though was slightly drop the ratio of Rock Pool Rahja boilies but upped the ratio of the Magnum White and added a few Magnum Maples as well, plus a handful of Rahja Spice for a different visual on the bottom.

Carp showed but not where I had committed my rods. I really had to sit on my hands to stop me putting a rod on them. I am sure on this venue they show to see if they get a lead hurled at them. Whenever I do this, it is rare I catch more than one, but; if I already have rods relatively close and just let them keep showing without crashing a lead on them, they find me and feed anyway. Once they are feeding, the water colours and you can get away with more, plus you are more likely to have more than one chance. Remember what I said earlier about keeping your swim as undisturbed as possible?

8pm that first evening I was rewarded with another of the better ones. Life felt good. I did catch a common later that weekend just under 20lb which lowered my average right down, but I was certainly not complaining.

flash night

My month ended well.

Well, that was my October 2021. I was going to write about November as well in this piece but alas I have rambled on, and the word count is already much higher than I usually write for a blog. We are almost into magazine article territory, so November can wait for another day.

Storm Barra is becoming rather violent now and the rain has started. I think I will fire up one of the stoves and make a coffee enjoying a few moments semi out in the wild.

Best wishes as always

Shaun Harrison

About the Author: Shaun Harrison

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Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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