It was time again for the biggest carp competition of the year – the British Carp Angling Championships. It was going to be slightly different this year as I would be competing with my new match partner – one of my best friends and current UK Carp Cup champion Kevin Grout. We joined forces back in October when we travelled over the pond and competed in the Euro Carp Angling Championships, where we finished 4th overall. Now the time had come around to join up again and fish the BCAC qualifier representing team Carp Talk on the Big Hayes Lake at Todber Manor fisheries in Dorset. Kev has fished the lake for the past 4 years in the qualifiers, so he had a good amount of knowledge. He would normally practice himself, but unfortunately couldn’t get the time off work this year. As I have never fished the lake before, I decided to venture down from Norfolk to Dorset (a monster 5 hour of journey) for a 48 hour practice myself the week prior to the match.
I had been checking the fisheries Facebook page on a regular basis and the lake was clearly fishing well. After days of preparation, my van was loaded and I made my way down the country to Dorset. It was a very sunny day, with not much traffic so the journey didn’t seem as bad as I had imagined. I had arranged to stop off at CC Moore HQ to pick up mine and Kev’s bait. Finally I got to the lake to find only 5 or 6 anglers fishing. I had a quick stroll around the lake and it seemed that everyone had caught a few. I had seen a few fish showing on a warm south easterly wind, so it looked a good place to start.
It was 6pm by the time I had finally set up camp and got all of the rods sorted. My plan was to try three different tactics each on my three rods – these being; a boilie approach, a flatbed method feeder and a solid bag. All of my of my reels were freshly spooled up with 12lb Mirage as I have got the upmost confidence in the fluorocarbon, it sinks so well and is very strong and virtually invisible – this will always be a massive help when fishing for very heavily pressured fish. My rods were staggered with one in open water and the other two at each end of an island, where I had seen around ten fish show at dusk. In the middle of cooking my dinner, the right hand rod on the solid bag sprung into life. I quickly jumped up and pulled into the rod with great excitement – I was in to my first Todber Manor Carp! After a good scrap, I finally slipped the net under mirror that tipped the scales at 16lb 4oz.
I got the rod back out and it wasn’t long before my boilie rod in open water screamed off resulting in a 22lbs 2oz mirror. That signaled the start of a productive hour and I landed another two fish within the hour. I finally got my cup of tea and managed to relax for a bit before getting my head down about midnight. My first night turned out to be a very sleepless one and when I woke up to another run at 6am I had received ten bites, landing nine fish in the first 12 hours. Most of the bites came on the boilie rod which was made up of a 4ft Mirage 25lb leader, Covert Lead Clip, a 2oz Gardner Flat Pear lead attached, 9 inches of 15lbs Sly Skin hooklink tied to my favourite hook of all time – a size 10 Covert Continental Mugga.
Gardner Inline Flat Pear lead, a short 3 inch 15lb silt Trickster Heavy hooklink and a size 10 Covert Continental Mugga.” alt=”My solid bag rig was made up of a 4ft Mirage 25lb leader, a Drop Out Lead Insert, a 2oz Gardner Inline Flat Pear lead, a short 3 inch 15lb silt Trickster Heavy hooklink and a size 10 Covert Continental Mugga.” width=”776″ height=”517″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13857″ />
I decided to move up one swim to my left, so I could fish all three rods in open water. Before packing my gear down I decided to cook breakfast and banked a couple more fish up to 24lb. I soon moved my gear and got the rods positioned in the new swim. As I hadn’t received any bites on the flat bed method, I changed all three rods to this ‘method’ to try and see if they do actually work or not. Within an hour and a half I had landed 3 more fish, so obviously they did work! Next I tried mini zigs, so I changed all three rods again, but I only received one bite during afternoon, so it was clearly not going to be something we would use during the match.
Before darkness fell I got all three rods out back out on the boilies and there were a number of fish showing to my right over one of my rods, however I only managed one bite. I decided to switch a rod to a solid bag and soon had it positioned where the fish had been showing. Two minutes later my Bug Indictor slammed up into the alarm, resulting in a lovely 18lb mirror. After getting the rod back out again, within a matter of minutes another mid double was safely unhooked. Maybe the solid bag tactic would be the best approach for the quick bites?
I reeled in for the night to get some much needed shut eye, so I wasn’t fatigued for the match. I wouldn’t normally do this, but I felt it was the right thing to do. The next morning I woke at around 7am and recast the solids resulting in two very quick takes, one of them resulting in the biggest fish of the session so far – a 25lbs 14oz mirror. My solid bag rig was made up of a 4ft Mirage 25lb leader, a Drop Out Lead Insert, a 2oz Gardner Inline Flat Pear lead, a short 3 inch 15lb silt Trickster Heavy hooklink and a size 10 Covert Continental Mugga. I ended up with eighteen fish and lost three during the practice, so I felt I had achieved what I set out to do before the match.
I spent the next few hours clipping up in a few swims and writing down the amount of rod wraps to each spot, so if we drew any of the pegs we could get the rods out with the least amount of disturbance possible. Just as it was getting dark the heavens opened and Kev had arrived, so we took a walk around the lake so we could start to get our swim choices sorted for the match. We got bivvied up for the night and did any final preparations that needed to be done for the match. Morning came and we were greeted by a lovely cold and steamy morning, the lake was looking very carpy and we had been hearing fish crashing all night. We got packed down then did a couple more laps of the lake before the draw. The draw is always the worst bit, I find it nerve racking waiting and hoping for your name to be pulled out. Luck was on our side and for the first time ever we got called out first – what a relief! We chose a peg that we thought would be the safest bet for qualification, an end peg that has qualified four out of the last 5 years.
We decided to fish one rod each on a flatbed method and one rod each on a soild bag. I used the same mixes as I did in practice, which consisted of marine pellet powder, salmon fry crumb, Live System stick mix, 2mm trout pellet and a few 4mm trout pellets. My chosen hookbaits were 8mm Mini Bites in pink, orange or white.
Not long after the match got underway and during the first day we got off to a good start managing three fish to put us in 3rd place going into darkness. Both Kev and I stayed up for most of the first night and by day break we had banked a total of five fish putting us in 2nd place and this is where we stayed for most of the day. The centre of the lake was doing quite a few fish and we were hoping that some of the fish would push up into our corner. Going into the second day, the wing picked up pushing down the opposite end the lake and by mid-afternoon we had slipped down to 3rd. We had been informed there was a big number of fish showing down the other end of the lake, which was bad news for us as we only managed to catch one more fish weighing 6lbs 14oz on the Saturday.
We both stayed motivated as best we could going into the last night, we kept praying the fish would come back and visit us through the night. We stayed up till 2am with no action, so we decided to get in the bags ready for a bite to happen or wake up to our alarm clocks at 6am. I opened my eyes as my alarm clock woke me and I was disappointed at the lack of action. Our marshall came to have a chat and he was the bearer of some bad news, as the lads at the other end had caught five and another pair and caught a few, pushing us down in to 5th and our chances of qualifying was looking very slim. We gave it one final push the last morning, but the fish just never came back and this was how the match ended with us finishing in 5th place.
The five hour journey home seemed like ten thinking about everything. We felt we made the most out of the swim and caught as many fish we could whilst they were there, but you can’t win them all. I am now looking forward to my UK Carp Cup qualifier at the end of May at Coking Farm, hopefully I will have a better end result there.