Carp Fishing – Not Just A Walk In The Park – By Lewis Read

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Carp Fishing – Not Just A Walk In The Park – By Lewis Read

Yes, the title’s most definitely a bit of a tongue in cheek, initiated by the fact that the prevalent opinion is that Welly is easy!

Standard “Forty a chuck” or “Welly Fish don’t count” banter and the usual murmurings are based on a lack of understanding. In fact, make those statements to the competent carp anglers that have fished there all spring and summer (it’s mid June as I tap out this intro) having caught 1 or 2 fish in 2015 despite making consistent etiolated efforts to nail a whacker come rain or shine – they may have a choice retort to give…

Perhaps a little bit of back ground information to enlighten the uninitiated will help. Like everywhere, the stocks have dwindled naturally over the years, and the years of pressure have ensured that the fish are well aware of what it means to be angled for. Like most park lakes the fish are happy to drift tight into snaggy corners that are next to busy paths that are festooned throughout the day with a constant parade of young mums, screaming children and bored husband’s – many of which wistfully look at us lucky anglers with a distant gaze and a look of “I wish I was fishing too” clearly showing on their tired faces…

The lake itself is relatively shallow, averaging 4 to 5 feet and size wise would probably equate to 35 acres of water. A nice size that is helped by thoughtful placement of the swims by the anglers that initially fished on there (guys like Nat and Laurie who made many of them) before the trees matured. There are a number of swims that have overgrown over the years.

Stock wise, you may be surprised to learn that there are not hundreds (neigh thousands) of ravenous carp swimming around literally pouncing on every boilie as if it would be the last chance to feed. Even the esteemed Editor who is well tuned into the carp scene generally was somehow under the impression that there was 5 or 600 carp swimming in there – eeeerrrr – NO! Try somewhere in the region of 100 to 140. Some are rare visitors to the bank and others are not so shy, but all are treasured as being immensely special. To my mind that number of fish spread over 35 acres is bordering on a relatively low stock density (I won’t say biomass as that is very different).

Pre spawning (now) there are certainly four 50lb commons in there. Yes, 4 in one lake! That’s a statistic that on its own is a truly astonishing statistic for a UK water. Add another 10 mirrors of that size and you’ll start to understand why there is an extremely common syndrome amongst the anglers that seems to cause a number of us to suffer from insomnia whilst on the bank. It’s just so utterly exciting. If you know you’re on them and getting liners the nervous anticipation is just unbelievable with each and every bleep causing palpitations.

Then there are the 40’s too! There’s big ‘Ghosties’ in there as well, with a number of 40’s and 1 fifty (why haven’t I caught one of them yet!) swimming around. I love ‘chunks’ – they remind me of some of the old CV fish I adore – so a lake full like this is heaven on earth…

My own Welly adventure started just over 1 year ago on June 1st 2014; gaining membership and starting the same time as a few friends (new and old) feeling unsure of quite what to expect despite the articles and videos I had trawled in the run up to the new season.

The season started with clear water and weed. The fish had spawned in May, but when they had another big go at it the bailiffs did the right thing and closed the lake for a couple of weeks to let the stock get it out there system once and for all – which they did in a great orgy of fins and mucus. Luckily, in the intervening period I had managed to get off the mark with a few bites including a very empty “Small Tailed Mirror” at 41.6, a common of 30lb and a lovely round tailed chestnut mirror of 35 (possibly one of the nicest looking fish in the lake too). I was already hooked…

Like a skag-head desperate for my next hit I just couldn’t stop thinking about the lake and its inhabitants. A trend that has really only got worse since! Unfortunately, a few weeks into June mother nature intervened. Just like many other lakes Welly suffered a severe algae bloom of such savage proportions that the lake was necessarily closed as vast rafts (several acres in size) built up on the windward banks as tonnes and tonnes of rotten weed lifted up from the lake bed and got pushed in when there was a breeze.

During the day the oxygen levels were supersaturated as the algae photosynthesised, but at night these levels plummeted and aerators were called upon to protect the irreplaceable stock. Meanwhile Pete Rossario (one of the bailiffs) toiled pretty relentlessly day after day to get as much weed out as possible. Between Pete, a few syndicate members and a bit of help from park employees literally tonnes and tonnes of rotten stinking putrid weed were dragged out in an effort to break the cycle – as the decomposing weed would only feed the algae. Get the weed out and starve the algae and the advice was the algae event would not last as long…

The lake was possibly teetering on the precipice of annihilation; it was that bad! Having the pumps on each night saved the vast majority of these special carp and consequently steps have been taken to manage this cyclic problem – but we’ll come back to that a little more of that later…

By the time angling recommenced it was 6 or 7 weeks later into the summer we were all extremely eager to get fishing again. It may be a little crass to admit (honesty is the best policy) but it hurts on a ticket that costs a lot to sit and wait for the opportunity to fish again. I suppose it’s not just the money – you just want to be there. Luckily I still had my Roach pit ticket which helped me get my fix and distract me at weekends.

When it reopened the lake bed was covered in gassy algae and locating the fish was far less challenging. Even if they were not ‘showing’ the tell tale bubbling gave away their location and a considered approach using balanced Nut Mix bottom baits mounted on Clone Rigs. Incizors and Trick-Link monofilament hooklinks meant that hookbait presentation was consistent and I soon got into a pattern of a work night mid week and a couple of nights at weekends.

The combination of the Carp Company nut mix boilies and a sweetened particle was very effective in terms of getting bites, but as the summer went on the fish were getting noticeably less tolerant of leads. I had managed to nick a few bonus bites finding them in bays and flicking out washed out hookbaits with small bags of crumb and light leads. At first I got away with the well feathered plop of a small Bolt Bomb – but by August this had changed. The lack of weed meant the fish were flighty and more often than not the same approach saw the fish flee to quieter parts of the lake away from harassment.

Fortune had smiled down on me as I had managed to work a couple of swims – getting regular bites from baited areas before being followed by other members keen to get a bite. On a busy lake no swim was mine so in honesty no grudge was held. They had simply noticed the captures and reacted. Inevitably the activity in these areas would then die down – whether down to extra pressure or ‘contamination’ I’m not sure but it would mean finding a new quiet swim and starting again. Time to learn a new area then… Am I the only one that just can’t fish the same swim over and over? Sweet lord that’s boring…

A fabulous highlight of the summer was definitely having my daughter with me one Saturday night – involving a lovely BBQ and special daddy time. Being with my lucky charm (and angling pretty well) meant a 3 fish catch over night and a super ‘lush’ time that makes me smile broadly even now. In fact it’s certainly my most treasured memory from the summer in the park and she did a great job with the camera too. Good job Soph!

Sometimes there’s more to fishing than just fishing… SOMETIMES

In September I put in a bit of a campaign in a shallow bay called Bramble. A lovely tree lined bay with deep water around the edges and an expansive gravel plateaux in the middle. I fished and baited and fished and baited and was rewarded in the form of a great lump of a carp called ‘Little Big Head”. At 49.14 the fish astonished me and was the first time I bore witness to the brutal power that these fish could exert upon tackle. A ridiculously sharp pre production sample of one of our Chod hooks had taken hold in the fish’s mouth and as she came waddling and coughing air as I drew her over the net cord I was shocked at the scale of this animal. Once again the clone rig and balanced hook bait over a scattering of the Nut Mix boilies had tricked a chunk. Jamie Lord popped round to help with the photos and we both giggled and joked as we carefully weighed, photographed and returned a very memorable fish. Shortly after this the bay did a brace of 50lb commons and I knew I was close. The extremely amicable Martin Pick and big Ian Hayden caught the Chinese Common and The Big Common respectively. I felt so close – but timing had cheated me of a dream common…

At the start of the winter my mate ‘Jabba the Hut’ Richardson nailed a couple of awesome fish; an upper forty and a fifty and the prospects for the winter looked good and I was most fortunate to make acquaintance with an awesome chunk of carp called Shoulders! My PB inched up – and whilst it sounds slightly blasé I had put in an enormous effort in the run up to the winter show season to catch another fish. I’m sure there are lots of anglers that relish a break from their fishing to attend these shows – but I love winter fishing.

We thought we had a method sussed but instead of a winter with the prospect of occasional activity the lake kicked most the syndicate square on in the gonads! It wasn’t that cold was it! But it was cold enough to ensure next to nothing got caught. One weekend (19th January) did bites but apart from that activity of any type was few and far between; just a constant tick over of tinca’s.

The fish never seemed to feed enough to get caught and whilst the winter stalwarts pondered on how to get a bite (and many theories were banded about as to why) the outcome was a poor winter with numerous nights on the bank. The situation never really kicked off through the spring.

The fish that were getting caught were immense – huge weights – with almost all of them being considerably larger than ever before but applying beds of bait seemed to be the kiss of death. Ronny showed us the way and his stringer only approach saw him catching consistently when all the rest of us numpties struggled like hell. He deserved it and he reaped the benefit of some absolutely amazing angling.

A few of us realised what the score was (thanks Ronny) and this lead to my next piece of good fortune. I had seen a couple of fish showing in the bay between Boathouse Point and Animal Farm and set minimalist traps. Almost only stringers were despatched onto ‘transition spots’ between the large silt beds and the gravel and a few Boilie Rockets of whole and halved boilies were gently dropped accurately over the hookbait so about 20 baits in total – which was once again a balanced Nut Meal boilie, but this time mounted on an uber aggressive size 4 Mugga and Trick-Link combo.

A couple of hours after I‘d heard Ronny shout the name of the lakes ultimate prize (The Turtle at an astonishing 59.8!) I found myself attached to a whacker of my own. The Ulcer Fish battled hard for its freedom torque’ing the FMA-1 painfully round (thank god for a forgiving tip section), and I gasped as I finally looked down on its bulk filling the 42 inch net!

Utterly dumfounded indeed!

I couldn’t quite believe it and I asked Chris to pop up to my swim to photograph it. At 52.10 I was absolutely thrilled. So many nights, so much walking and looking and spodding and time away from home had culminated in a gigantic mirror that blew my socks off! The hookbait was repositioned (with a fresh stinger) and at 10am it was off again with a chunky pristine high shouldered ghostie of 37 (I think!!)…

After a long gruelling winter this was more than just the tonic I needed for my efforts and my motivation peaked. A couple more fish came my way during my once a year 5 day trip (a privilege that enables us to really live the Welly dream for a couple days longer) and I loved every second. A couple of 30lb commons were my consolation reward for working my socks off.

The last morning was full of drama! A move for the last hour and a half of my allotted stay onto a pod of hugely proportioned commons that were leaping and with 10 minutes to go – and nice Hugh stood waiting to take over the swim one of the rods rattled off. A monumental run down the right side (I have no idea how far it went) and a bump and the dream was shattered! I slinked off broken. It was a week of such dramatic highs and lows – every second of it had been superb!

My very understanding (and long suffering) wife relented and let me go fishing that night and I caught a wonderful old carp from a very, very special water. That dulled the blow of the loss. Incidentally, Hugh moved into the swim as I left and had The Big Common an hour and a half later at 54! Bloody thing was following me – or was it simply I had put myself on that pod of giant great scaley carp…

My final bite of the year came on a regular school night – and was incidentally my only bite of the year from the famous ‘Hole in the Bush’ swim. I had fished the night previous in the Snags and as I left Big Ian H had mentioned he had seen fish out in front but no more than half way over… Ian was now on the same bait so it made sense to drop in there when I arrived in the evening. A couple of rods out on the ’normal’ areas at 25 wraps to the right and one with a stringer hurled as far as the Mirage fluoro mainline and a 3 ½ ounce Bolt Bomb would allow past the gulley and onto the harder, shallower lake bed at about 90 yards.

Just before dawn that rod signalled a bite and I grappled with the chesties as a heavy old carp was begrudgingly led nearer the bank. As the fish came in close it surged under a big bush to my right and exploded noisily right at the back of the overhang. It was a proper sphincter clench moment as the fish repeatedly did this despite maximum pressure on the rod with the tip held down under the surface. It was all absolutely brutal and went on for at least 10 minutes!

When the fish was beaten and in the net I looked in and in the pre dawn darkness it looked like a BIG ghostie – pale and immense but it was a trick of the light… I got a torch and looked down and thought ‘Eh?’.

It wasn’t a ghostie! It was an absolute girt great common and I recognised those big square shoulders. I lifted it up and looked at the top lobe of the tail and I knew. The Big common was mine and a weight of 54 sent me over the edge. Richie Rich assisted in the photos and she was utterly amazing. Like a common carp – only bigger

What a fish. What a venue…

When I started fishing I honestly thought that I’d only want a ticket for a couple of years, well the second year has just started and I honestly can’t see me ever dropping the ticket right now. Every minute on the bank is thrilling and time spent in the company of the friendly syndicate is a true pleasure. God I love fishing!!!

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