I was recently invited along to a private lake in deepest Essex for a meeting with Allan Crawford-Plane, the marketing director of TF Gear, and Dave Lane, one of the UK's top carp anglers.
I was there to get a first hand look at TF Gear's innovative new product, the FishSpy.
Basically it's a marker float with a built in camera allowing the angler to get a close up, underwater view of his chosen spot via a wi-fi link back to his phone or tablet. And before you get worried you don't need an internet or phone signal as the FishSpy generates a connection direct to your device.
Operation of the product is easy, with the set-up being the same as using a standard marker float (they recommend you use at least 50lb braid on your marker rod) then once the FishSpy is cast into the chosen area and allowed to sit on the surface, you open the downloadable app on your device, which is available in both android and iOS, and connect to the float.
Hit the record button, then slowly lower the float down to your spot. As it submerges contact will be lost, however, let the float return to the surface and after reconnecting you'll have a detailed recording of what the bottom looks like beneath your marker. Moving the float back towards you a few feet at a time will gradually allow you to build up a complete understanding of the lake beds topography around your swim.
Getting to see what is actually on the bottom within a few casts also stops you bombarding your swim as often happens when using a standard marker, and clipping up as normal helps you get straight back on your viewed spots.
FishSpy works up to 100 metres range and is waterproof to 10 metres depth. With over 4 hours of battery life it is able to record up to 7 hours of footage.
Now for the practical demonstration and Allan soon had the float cast out into the lake. Connecting up quickly he started recording, then slowly drew the float down to the lead before releasing it back up for it to deliver it's recording to Allan's tablet. As we watched, our view was initially featureless, but slowly shapes started forming and it soon became apparent that we were heading into a reasonably dense weed bed!
Another cast, then through the routine again, and now we saw a much clearer area, this time silt with sparse tufts of weed dotted about, I was beginning to get an idea of how useful this product could be.
With Dave now casting out to a shallower marginal spot Allan was able to get us a live feed, then Dave proceeded to drop a Spomb close to the marker allowing us to watch hemp, corn and particle slowly work their way down through the water and scatter across the bottom.
So I've now seen the FishSpy help locate a good area, confirm that the loose feed is covering the spot, and putting the icing on the cake, Dave then pops a bait right next to the marker and we watch as the rig settles and presents his pop-up perfectly. All these situations are usually left to chance with the hope that all is well, but now you can actually check each stage of your set up.
Chatting to Dave he recounted an interesting story that occurred during field testing of the product. 'I'd just returned a nice forty pound plus carp and was about to top up my spot with some more bait, thinking that the carp would have munched it's way through most of the original bed I'd put out the night before, but then I thought I'll have a quick look with the FishSpy first'.
'It turned out that the carp had somehow managed to pick up my pop-up straight away and had left the bed of boilies almost untouched. Now all I had to do was recast my hookbait into position and I'd be fishing perfectly again, so it actually stopped me from over baiting my spot'.
Allan was very keen to point out that the FishSpy was the result of two years of development by the guys at Total Fishing Gear, and with the design, manufacture, and assembly of all the units being kept in this country, it's a true British product, which is always nice to hear.
He went on to explain how fishery owners have also welcomed the float as it will help with fish welfare. With most anglers knowing how carp love snags and often placing their baits tight to these features without truly knowing what lies under the water, the FishSpy can now give them a much better idea of where to safely present their rigs.
I think I arrived at this demonstration with a few preconceived ideas about whether this new product was somehow cheating and not really in the true spirit of fishing, but I have to say I gradually changed my mind over the time I was there.
Using the FishSpy still takes a certain amount of skill in its use, just like a normal marker does, and all it's doing is giving the angler extra information which he still has to interpret himself. It doesn't detract from rig choice, casting skills, bait usage, or picking the general area to fish within the venue in the first place.
If you're serious about your carp fishing then the FishSpy will give you that added confidence of knowing you're on a good spot that's properly baited, and that your rig is perfectly presented. Don't think many of us would be unhappy with that!
The FishSpy retails at £249.95 and is available from www.fishspy.com