First Sessions with Pallatrax Baits – Tony MilesPallatrax Angling
Although I’d first met Simon and Tini in 2003, and had been using The Hook and Stonze ever since, I wasn’t to get on to a Pallatrax bait until the start of the 2007 carp fishing at Acton Burnell. Until that season, I had been using a very successful boilie but it had become difficult of supply. After talking to Simon, I decided to switch to Jungle.
My first session on the bait in early July 2007 was notable not just for good fish but for high drama as well. Before setting out for the water, I had telephoned one of the bailiffs to enquire about the state of the banks, because of the appallingly wet start to the summer. The right hand bank swims of Acton top lake are accessed by driving around the field; I suspected that could be difficult if not impossible with my van if I had deep mud to contend with. He confirmed my worst fears. Apparently the field track had become a quagmire. Even a four wheel drive vehicle had become stuck in deep ruts. So, fishing that bank would be a matter of parking on the hard standing at the gate and then lugging the gear several hundred yards through the mud. You would even be struggling to use a barrow and the old fashioned way, with the gear on your back, was the only option.
The first two swims on the left hand bank, Sandy Point and The Steps, are accessed by driving around the left of the bottom lake on the gravel road, and parking on hard standing near the dam that separates the two lakes. From there, a fifty yard walk through the trees finds you at Sandy Point. Because of the wet conditions, I reasoned that these two left hand bank swims would be very popular and were almost certain to be occupied on my arrival. It would be a similar story with the closest two swims on the right hand bank, the New Swim and The Reeds, but I had a plan in mind. On the long walk along the right hand bank between The Reeds and my favourite swim The Conker was a tight little swim named The Willow. For some reason, this swim was rarely fished; in fact I’d never seen another angler fishing it. But, the previous season, I’d been forced to fish there when the lake was so busy that it was the only swim vacant. I’d ended the session with a brace of 39lb 8ozs and 41lb 14ozs! So, I would be more than happy to set up there again, but to get there I faced a walk of some three hundred yards along the edge of the lower lake, up a muddy slope, past the dam, and the last lap from the dam to The Willow. It wasn’t a prospect I was relishing.
On my arrival, I decided to drive round the left hand bank to the hard standing, walk to Sandy Point, from where I would have a good vantage point to see which of the right hand bank swims were occupied. I’d realised that a better plan was to park on that hard standing and then ferry my gear across the dam to the Willow. It would certainly be easier walking. However I was amazed to find Sandy Point free. In the soggy conditions, that was a real bonus and I moved my gear round in short order. It was now around 7.00am and in late morning an event occurred that convinced me that finding Sandy Point free had almost certainly saved my life. I was standing talking to another member Nick, who was fishing next door in The Steps, and I was telling him of my original plans to fish The Willow when there was a sudden ominous cracking noise and the huge willow, from where the swim got its name, came crashing down across the clearing where my bivvy would have been standing. When I walked round later to view the devastation close up, I realised how lucky I’d been. The swim had literally vanished. In its place were tons of fallen timber. I would not be penning this feature now if I had set up in that swim, as I’d originally planned.
When that tree came down, the wind was just a moderate south westerly, but the event proved an ominous portent of what was to come. By dusk, there was an incredible gale roaring out of the west. As darkness closed in, I admit to becoming increasingly nervous. All the swims at Acton are among tall trees of ancient woodland and through the dark hours many of these trees yielded to the maelstrom now upon us. Cracking and creaking noises, with occasional loud crashes, seemed all around me. I did sleep fitfully for a while in the early hours, but was woken with a start by a loud thump on the bivvy. When I investigated, I discovered a thick, twenty foot branch draped over my shelter. I blessed my decision to equip myself with the pram hood design of a very sturdy Armadillo bivvy which had withstood the impact. A flimsier shelter would, I’m sure, have collapsed under the weight and I could have been badly injured.
When daylight came at last, with the wind wilder than ever, I could see the full extent of the chaos the storm had wrought. Fallen timber was everywhere. Thirty feet to my right, a substantial willow had fallen into the margins, while only a few feet behind me another tree was lying across the access path. And then there was a thunderous crash that seemed far too close for comfort. I was to find out later that a 70ft tree had come down across the dam itself, forming a crazy arch where one of the major branches had dug into the earth. At about 7.30am on Friday I telephoned my wife Fran to get a weather forecast update. If the wind was to remain storm force or intensify, I would pack up as it would be taking a stupid risk to stay on. But if the forecast was more encouraging, I would stay put. Thankfully, in the light of subsequent events, the latter was the case.
Now let me tell you about the fishing. So far that season the fishing had been very patchy, with most members blanking and only the odd fish out. My neighbour Nick had endured a two day blank, and he told me that since his arrival on Tuesday not a fish had been caught and that very few were showing. Despite that, I decided to tackle the fishing in my usual way. I would lay out a substantial bed of bait of mixed particles and hemp, together with plenty of Jungle boilies, and wait on events. It had served me well in the past and so I embarked on an hour’s spodding to lay out three separate banquets. From Sandy Point there are no features as such to search for, so my approach was to create my own features with bait. At fifty yards, the left hand bait would be aimed at a V shaped gap in the far bank trees, the middle bait at a more substantial gap, and the right hand bait at a horizon feature that resembled the horns of a buffalo. After the first cast with the spod, the spool was firmly taped so that each subsequent cast would land dead on the money. Baiting up complete, it was now time for a quick cup of tea before getting the rods ready. The casting distance on each rod had been established and the correct range marked with a thin sliver of insulating tape at the spigot. At 11.00am three baits were cast into position. The hook bait was a 14mm Jungle boilie wrapped in paste, accompanied by a five bait stringer. It was now time to prepare a meal, sit back and wait.
By mid afternoon, the weather conditions were deteriorating rapidly. The wind had now become very strong and rain was beating down with a vengeance. As the hours ticked by, conditions became wilder and wilder. Although the rain stopped just before dusk, I was already becoming a little concerned for my safety, as I’ve already said. The other problem I had was drifting weed, which was skidding across the surface at a fair pace on the storm force wind. Every few minutes, I was forced to wade in the margins to remove little rafts of the stuff from my lines, which were causing annoying constant bleeping on the alarms. When I eventually tried to get some sleep, it was fitful at best, with the regular bleeping, the howling gale and the crashing trees. At times like those, I do question my sanity. At 3.00 am, I was off my bedchair yet again to deal with drifting weed and then the right hand alarm gave an altogether different sound; it was away in a screaming one toner. After I had struck into the fish, picked up the big net and waded into the margins, I was nearly blown off my feet. That was a hairy battle in the dark. The swell was incredible and although I had only waded to my knees the waves were breaking over the tops of my waders. The carp fought fast and hard, and right from the off I suspected a good common. My analysis was spot on. Ten minutes after the run, I was hoisting ashore an immaculate common carp of 24lb 8ozs.
After slipping that fish back, and repositioning a fresh bait, the first signs of daylight were appearing, much to my relief I have to admit. As the morning wore on, the wind remained incredible, although I had decided to sit it out after speaking to my wife. By 9.00am, it was easing slightly, although still strong, and then the left hand rod was away. This second fish really gave me a right old tussle, before eventually surrendering to the net some twenty minutes later. I recognised it immediately. The previous August, I’d taken a pug nosed common of 30lb 8oz. Here it was again, now at a very portly 34lb 6ozs, obviously still carrying a fair amount of spawn.
By 2.00pm, when my third run occurred, this time to the middle rod, the weather conditions were improving rapidly, and I was really pleased I’d made the decision to stay on. This third capture proved the highlight of the session. It just did not want to give up. Time and again, I’d get it near to the net cord, before it was away in twenty or thirty yard runs that were totally irresistible. But, the eventual outcome was inevitable, as it always is if you keep a cool head and your tackle is balanced. At least half an hour after the fish was first hooked, a colossal mirror sagged into the net. Shortly after, I was confirming my tenth forty pounder, 40lb 8ozs to be precise.
The rest of the session, until I packed up at 7.00am on Saturday, gave me another four screaming runs. They resulted in a common of 15lb 4ozs at 6.00pm on Friday, and then I pulled out of a fish just on dark that I suspected was either foul hooked or a pike. It didn’t feel right somehow. It gave a peculiar jagging sensation, like a giant eel. The last two carp I landed came at 1.30am and 2.45 am, two more cracking mirrors of 29lb 12ozs and 31lb 10ozs. What had promised to be a disaster had turned into a very memorable session indeed.
Apart from the fish I’d had, I hadn’t seen another carp caught. To my certain knowledge, that water had never seen Jungle before and I couldn’t possibly have asked for a more instant response, especially in light of how difficult the other members were finding things. Six carp, including two thirties and a forty, was a tremendous introduction to a very special carp bait.
My next session two weeks later yielded a further four big carp, with two twenties and mirrors of 33lb 14ozs and 39lb 4ozs, while the last session at the end of the month produced three fish of 29-04, 33-12 and 38-08. During that period, I know from others that the bulk of the fish that had come out that season had been the ones I’d had on Jungle.
I believe I would have gone on to a record breaking season, but only a week after that last trip my wife was diagnosed with lung cancer. Obviously, my fishing stopped in its tracks and would not resume until the following January. Thankfully, Fran made a full recovery despite losing half a lung and she still remains my inspiration for the tremendous courage she displayed through those frightening weeks.
To sum up, then, in just three sessions at what was a particularly difficult season at a never easy water, the Jungle had given me thirteen big carp, which had included one double, five twenties, six thirties and one forty. I have had absolute confidence inn the Jungle ever since.