Fishing Woodlands Lakes

It is one of our regions biggest and most popular match venues. In the summer months, big weights are always needed to win here. With the five main match lakes all looking pretty much the same, and containing large heads of both carp and silverfish, it provides a very even playing field , and has played host to countless national finals and semi finals over the years.

‘Fishing4Fun’ joins local expert, Shimano Quaker’s Johnny Maddison, for a low down on the best ways to tackle Thirsk’s Woodlands Lakes complex in real match conditions.

“I’ve drawn on Kestrel Lake today, and although I would expect some of the better pegs on Partridge Lake to fill the framing places, I am confident of a good weight off here, and I should hopefully be able to win my section. As this is a pairs league,that me and my partner Graham Skerritt are already winning with two matches to go, I would consider that a good result on the day, as it should bring us a step closer to picking up the overall honours.

End Peg

Johnny was on 21 peg, an end peg with a very strong, but warm wind blowing into the corner above him. Although he was one peg off the boards, he still felt confident of a few fish from down the side. “In the open matches here you are allowed to fish as far towards the boards as you like if you are an end peg, but the rules in this league unfortunately dictate that you cannot go any further than half way between you and the next platform. This is a major disadvantage for me, as I would definitely catch more fishing long down the side, but in terms of the league it makes things fairer, so I haven’t got a problem with it. I will still catch down the side, but probably have to wait longer before the fish come in.”

With this in mind, Johnny began plumbing up his lines. At six metres, he was about as far down the side as he could legally go, and he plumbed up for two lines here. “Its always better to fish two lines down the side, one at the top of the slope and one a little further down, maybe three metres from the bank. Look to feed both lines all day, trickling bait in on both, but only fish the bottom one until the last hour, when the line at the top of the slope should really come into its own.”

Rigs down the side were made up of 0.16 Shimano Silk Shock Antares, matched to a size 16 Tubertini 175 hook and black Hydrolastic. In terms of floats, he opted for a 4X14 dibber on his deeper line, while choosing a Malman 4×10 float on top of the shelf.

Interestingly, on all Johnny’s rigs, he missed the eye of the float out altogether, choosing instead to thread the line through a float rubber and onto the body of the float above the eye. “I got sick of big fish ripping the eyes out of my floats, but now I do it like this its much better, floats seem to last twice as long”.

He plumbed two lines out in front of him. The first was at six metres, about half a metre past the bottom of the slope. It was around four and a half feet deep here, so he opted for a Malman 4×14 float, 0.14 line to a size 16 Tubertini 808 hook. He matched this rig to a 12 latex. “I prefer to use latex when fishing longer lines because it’s lighter, and doesn’t weigh the pole down as much. It seems just as soft and supple as hollow elastic, and is a fraction of the cost.”

Johnny also plumbed a line at 13 metres, but due to the heavy wind and subsequent tow on the water, he opted to fish a 4×16 float here. The rest of his rig was the same as at six metres. “I don’t know whether I will be able to fish this line for very long due to the increasing wind, I’ve got a feeling I may have to abandon it mid match” he warned.


a-kinder-pot-is-a-must-have.jpgAn interesting feature of Johnny’s rigs for his six and 13 metre lines was the shotting pattern he adopted. He didn’t use any droppers at all, just a bulk of No10 Stotz around 15 inches from his hook. “I prefer to shot all my meat and pellet rigs like this at the start of the match, as it strikes me that often fish like to watch a bait falling through the last foot or so of water, they seem to take it with a lot more confidence. The beauty of using stotz, which slide on the line a lot better than shot is that if I start missing bites, I can slide one or two down to form droppers if I need to. Another trick that works for me here is to spread the stotz out along my line, and fish meat on the drop. This can often tempt you a couple of wary fish when the going is really hard. Unfortunately, with the wind and tow being what it is I doubt that this will be an option today.”

Johnny’s next step was to set up a bomb rod. This consisted of 4lb maxima mainline, a small free running bomb stopped by a leger stop, and an 18 inch 0.16 Shimano Antares Silk Shock hook length complete with a Tubertini 175 size 16 hook. Attached to this was a half an inch hair, complete with Preston ‘Quick Stop’.

“These are fantastic for bomb work; they cut down the time it takes to load bait onto the hair by half.” Johnny explained.

All In

At 11:00, the all in sounded, and Johnny began by potting half a pot of soft 4mm Dynamite Baits pellets onto his six metre line, along with 10 grains of corn. On his 13 metre line, he fed three quarters of a pot of hemp, with around 20, one quarter inch cubes of ‘Plumrose’ luncheon meat. He also fed half a pot of pellets and corn both on his bottom and top margin lines.

“The reason for my choice of lines is that it is important to feed a variety of baits here as you never really know how the fish are going to respond. Pellet often (but not always) works better when the going is tough, and will often tempt you some big skimmers, while meat is an out and out bagging bait here. By carrying and feeding alittle bit of everything you are covering all your options” he advised.

With his lines fed, he flicked two pouches of meat out over a relatively large area at 20 meter, before flicking his bomb over the top of it, with two pieces of meat mounted on the hair. “This is always the best way to start, no matter what lake you are on up here. Feed all your pole lines before going on the tip. Not only does this give fish time to settle on the pole, but you often snare a couple of mug fish on the bomb as well.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and with 20 minutes gone Johnny wound in without so much as a liner on the tip. His next move was to go over his 6m line with a pellet on the hook. His float settled and then buried almost instantly, and he was into his first fish of the day. After a brief fight he landed a lively little common around the 3lb mark, before filling his kinder pot with 20 or so pellets and going back out on the same line.

Skimmer Trouble

He didn’t have to wait long for his next bite, but unfortunately it wasn’t the carp he was hoping for, a greedy 5oz skimmer had guzzled his pellet. It was much the same story for his next couple of drops, so he decided to re feed his short line and have a look long.

Meat and hemp are usually the best baits at Woodlands“The thing to remember about the short line here is that it only really fishes well early and late on in the match. After you’ve caught a few fish off it, they seem to back off further out into the lake, only really returning late on in the day, when they come in looking for food.” With that in mind, Johnny fed the line again with half a pot of pellets, before going out onto his longer line, a piece of meat on the hook.

Once again, his float cocked and then buried straight away, yards of elastic ripping from his pole tip. The fish showed no sign of stopping, and Johnny had to put some real pressure on it to get it to come back towards him. Frustratingly after he had being playing it for about five minutes, for no apparent reason the hook pulled, leading him to suspect that the fish was foul hooked.

He went back on the long line, re feeding it with his kinder pot as he did so, but with the wind getting stronger all the time it was becoming harder and harder to present his bait properly. After five or so minutes of trying to hold his pole at 13 metres he decided it was time to abandon the line.

A quick look on his margin line at the bottom of the shelf didn’t produce a bite, so he re fed both his margin lines by throwing five or so grains of corn on each, a practise he repeated at half hourly intervals throughout the day.

“With everyone on the lake looking to be struggling like me, I think it’s just going to be a matter of winkling fish out where I can. I expect the margin line to produce well later, but in the meantime I will keep trying the six metre line, and introduce some hemp and meat at about 10 metres, I should be able to fish here without being hindered too badly by the wind. I will feed this line straight away, and then have a go on the bomb again to see if there are any fish in the middle of the lake. “It’s not an ideal situation, but in circumstances like these you’ve got to make the best of the lines you are actually able to fish” he reflected.

Once again, his tip sat motionless however, and a look around the other 28 anglers on the lake seemed to suggest it was the same for everybody. With half the match gone and around 10lb in the net Johnny went over his newly fed 10 metre meat and hemp line. As the bait was falling through the water, Johnny’s elastic shot out and it was another good fish on.

Johnny with the net busting carpSmash!

Keeping his pole low, he bought the fish slowly back towards him but again the way it was fighting suggested it was foul hooked. A tense few minutes later, Johnny slipped his net under the beast as it lay breathless on the water, the hook lodged firmly in its tail. That was the end of the struggle… or so he thought! As he lifted it from the water, the fish flipped in the net, breaking his landing net handle clean in half! It ended up in the keep net though, and that’s what mattered, weighing over 12lb it was a welcome addition!

Unfortunately that was the only bite he had on his longer line, and with the last hour looming, he decided to focus on his six metre and margin lines, reserving his feed for these two key areas. A bite less half hour on pellet on his six meter line saw Johnny keen to change something. He put a piece of corn on, and trickled four or five pieces around the float with his kinder pot. Two seconds later he was into his next fish, his tactical switch provoking an instant response. Although it was only a small fish weighing around 2lb, as Johnny pointed out it goes to show the difference a change in bait can make. A second drop in with corn didn’t produce a bite, which suggests the solitary carp was in the area perhaps feeding on the feed pellets, but didn’t want to touch his hook pellet, the different colour and aroma of the corn tempting it into in to taking the bait. A switch back to pellet just produced a couple of small skimmers, which suggested that there were no carp present at all.

He re fed the line before moving on to his lower margin line, double corn being his hook bait of choice. He took two small carp perhaps 2lb each straight away on this line. “Its strange, the carp seem smaller than I had hoped. Normally you get bigger fish down the edge, but today they seem smaller than ever” he commented.

Down The Edge

I found it surprising that after he landed the second of his fish off this line, he chose to re feed it and have a look on top of the shelf instead of dropping straight back over the line to look for another bite. “Theres no point putting too much pressure on either of my margin lines, as if they back off, I can’t follow them out. Its far better to nick a couple of fish and re feed, if I lose them with the time I have left, I may never get them back”.

A look on top of the shelf saw a 15 minute wait before a five pound fish came to the net. While it still wasn’t frantic, Johnny was starting to put a good weight together, getting a bite every put in.

Following his five pounder, he re fed the top of the shelf, and went back on the lower line. Still, he seemed to be waiting a long time for a bite however, so he decided once again to try a change of hook bait, putting a pellet on the hook. This provoked an instant response from a 4lb ghost carp. He stuck with the pellet and took two more 3lb fish straight away. You could tell when the fish were on the line and feeding, as the bites came almost instantly, it was just a matter of working out what bait they wanted.

Again, he re fed and switched to his line up the shelf, taking another 5lb fish on double corn before the all out sounded. Johnny estimated he’d got 35lb in the net, and hoped it was good enough for a section win.

When the scales arrived, they confirmed his weight as 41-04, which was good enough for a section win and put him 4th on the lake. The pegs on the middle of each bank had fished the best, with the top three all drawing central pegs. From an unfavourable draw, with a number of factors working against him, Johnny had managed to put together a good net for the camera, and win a few quid in the process. Just imagine what he would have caught if he had been on a good peg!

A good bag of fish on what ended up being a tough day

Below are a selection of other images from the feature…..


  1. jake walker

    May 05, 2009

    Whats the best way to fish fox covert.

  2. David jones

    Aug 25, 2011

    Excellent article from a good fisherman who thinks what the next move will be.
                              tight lines


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