Bubbles Bailey still gets it wrong with his baiting

Prepare your swim properly and you could be holding a bream like this one. Picture: John Bailey

Prepare your swim properly and you could be holding a bream like this one. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

I used to think the carp lads at Lyng Lake were a decent, caring, sensitive lot.

They might sit half asleep in their bivvies, day and night, but that doesn't mean that some of them don't work hard, aren't observant and top-notch water craftsmen.

Yes, I had come to admire them as anglers and feel some gratitude, too, for the way that they had looked after my gear over the years from mid-afternoon, until my arrival back next morning. That's all changed. It seems that my nickname around the lake is Dolly, as in Dolly Parton. Nowadays when I arrive, they all start to sing, 'Fishing Nine Till Five' at me as I walk round past them, refreshed after a good night's sleep. Rapscallions. But I'll get my own back. I'll find some excuse or another to kick them all out of the club so that they have to catch five-pounders for the rest of their lives on waters miles away.

Of course, I've had nicknames before, mostly unprintable but one of them back in the 70s was Bubbles for a while. I discovered the extraordinary pulling power of flavoured hemp seed and was having a fun time turning carp and tench lakes everywhere into a bubbling cauldron of feeding fish. It seemed that everywhere I went, bubbles were bound to follow. The trouble was that I couldn't catch anything. That's the problem with getting fish preoccupied on a bait that is very hard to present.

In the 70s I did it first with hemp and then I managed to do exactly the same with parboiled grains of rice. It's very much like fly-fishing. If there is a hatch of mayfly, it's pretty silly dragging a shrimp pattern along the bottom. You need to have something on your hook that you can fish efficiently and that the fish are looking to take.

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I'm a great believer in pre-baiting swims wherever I possibly can, but it seems to me that this spring, I've probably been putting too many different foodstuffs into the mix.

I reckon I've been spot on with my base of Vitalin, but then adding casters, maggots, corn, mini-pellets, hemp and a mixture of seeds has simply confused the issue. Perhaps I'm just better using the base and corn, for example, that way there is no doubt what you're going to put on the hook.

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I think there is also the question of how much bait to put in. The adage is that you can put it in but you can't take it out. At this time of the year, when spring is really bursting, though, I think it's almost impossible to overfeed on most lakes. Carp, tench and bream are really shovelling the food up as spawning approaches. If a group of 20 tench, averaging six pounds, wanders through your swim, they can absorb kilos of the stuff. If you put out just a few handfuls, you are never going to pull these wandering shoals down to feed for longer than a few minutes.

That excellent carper, Robert Shanks, from Wensum Valley Angling, recently threw another idea into the mix for me. He suggested that when I go about my business laying down big carpets of bait, what I'm actually doing is not attracting the fish but a whole host of invertebrates, caddis and the like, upon which the fish naturally feed. What I'm really doing, Robert suggested, is creating my own micro aquatic world down there. It's not my bait that the carp and tench are quite so interested in as the invertebrates that are drawn to the baited area. Whatever, the invertebrates on any lake will certainly be eating their fair share of any bait you put in.

I wanted to talk about some crucian carp I have been targeting, too, but time has caught me out. I've had to get up really early for those, let me tell the carp lads. They haven't seen the last of Dolly yet!

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