Spring can always be a tricky time of year, you need a bit of luck with the weather and it can be like flicking a coin as to when the fish will start moving and feeding regularly again. I’d had a week booked on Echo Pool in France since way back last year and it was one of trips I was really looking forward to. Despite being a small lake, the fish have grown on to immense sizes and of course I was hoping to maybe see one or two of those monsters!
Getting the baiting and tactics right is certainly not easy and any mistakes could be very costly so I thought long and hard about getting the approach right long before I arrived at the lake. I really wanted to give the Key and the Cultured Key a go there as I knew that the fish wouldn’t have seen it before and I just fancied that it could work really well for those big fish that know all about regular pressure.
"The Key isn't one you need to go overboard with..."
I didn’t think that I would need a great deal of bait, the Key isn’t one that you need to go overboard with anyway but it was still cold and the water temperature was still down enough to make me think that little and maybe not so often would be the way forward – and the Cultured Key would hopefully give that extra attraction that might just make the difference.
"1kg of salt to 5kg of bait keeps the bait in good condition..."
I’d actually used salt to keep the baits fresh for the duration of the session. Freezer space was limited and plenty of rain in the forecast meant that air-drying wasn’t an option, so coating the baits in salt at a rate of 1kg of salt to 5kg of boilies keeps the bait in good condition.
So, small groups of attractive baits fished in relatively shallow water was the plan. The depths go down to around 12ft but I planned to fish mainly in around 5 to 6ft. I tend to find shallower water fishes better in the spring and they were also roughly the same areas where I’d found success previously.
"it was one of the biggest in the lake..."
I must admit that the start took me totally by surprise as the rods had been out for only about an hour when the alarm sounded for the first time and it was clearly a good fish on the other end! A long battle lasting around 30 minutes ended with a big mirror sliding in to the net, but I hardly had a chance to see what I’d got as at that moment another rod was away and another long fight followed, this time from a sizeable common and I was worn out after two very tough scraps! The mirror turned out to be a fish called Dougie – one of the big ones at 73lb 12oz, I was blown away by that as I knew it was one of the biggest in the lake but the common wasn’t that far behind at 55lb to complete a fantastic brace in just over an hours fishing.
"Just moving a few yards can be enough to get more action"
During that first night I had two more good mirrors of 59lb 8oz and 58lb – real proof if I needed it that I’d got everything right. I only used one handful of 15mm x 10mm Key dumbbells and around fifteen 20mm round freebies over each Cultured Key hook bait. What I did find on my previous trip was that while the fish still wanted to feed, they became wary of areas where fish had been hooked from already and those first four takes had all come from one small area and not surprisingly it slowed up there after that. It’s something I’ve noticed many times in the past and it’s almost like the fish can sense the danger but often just moving a few yards one way or the other can be enough to get more action.
Two nights later after catching five smaller fish up to 47lb, I hooked in to another ‘bag of cement’ this time from the other end of the pool. This time it was Barrel, I fish I knew well from my first trip but it looked bigger now and the needle swung around to 70lb 12oz – my second seventy in three days!
"My second 70 in three days"
The weather up until that point had been dull and very wet but the fish were loving it. But during the second half of the week the skies cleared, which was a bit of a relief but it brought in a very cold north easterly wind that the fish didn’t like much at all. Things slowed up but I kept moving the baits around in the hope of enticing one or two more and towards the end it paid off with an afternoon take, which was the start of another 30 minute plus battle. Gordon the mirror was on the other end and at a new best weight of 69lb – so close to that hat-trick of 70s – but I wasn’t complaining!
It was an amazing week for sure, far beyond what I dared hope for but so pleasing that all my plans and preparation had paid off big-time. It would have been very easy to get it all wrong but using The Key turned out to be the right choice but also using it in the right amounts – even the best baits still require thought and application and I don’t always get it right but thankfully this time I did and it was a week I’ll never forget!