We all dream!! It’s what anglers do best.
The dream keeps the passion and the fire burning, pushes you on when times are tough and if you’re lucky, that dream someday becomes reality. Then your dreams changes to the next milestone. Well like most I had a dream, yet my dream was classed as almost impossible. Having fished for Thames carp for the last fourteen years, my dream had gradually grown bigger and bigger. I now dreamt of an unknown mid-thirty and to some this is no way an impossible dream. On the Thames twenties are few and far between, with thirty pound carp being a fish of a decade and mid thirties a fish of a lifetime. Unknown forties are about as common as rocking horse poo, no matter where whether they are from a lake or a river. You may then start to realise my dream was more than likely going to be just that – a dream.
Not that I cared one bit as I just love being out on the river, having grown up living working and angling on the Thames. It’s been a huge part of my life and will always be a place I hold very dear to my heart. It’s a true privilege to have spent such a big part of my life on such a vast and ever changing water and seen how it’s evolved over the years. It’s not about the size of the fish it’s so much more than that. At the same time though, that dream is in the back of your mind that just maybe one day, one day you might peel that mesh back and be greeted with a proper river monster.
Over the years I have had a good number of repeat captures from the river especially some of the bigger, known fish. Also keeping a close eye on other Thames catch reports you will soon realise there are not as many fish in the river as some will try and make you believe. 90% of fish reported are known fish which travel massive distances and can go years without being caught. Obviously I don’t hear about all that is getting caught as there are still a few that keep their captures very close to their chest. However, I do hear enough to work out the stocks are forever changing from stretch to stretch on a daily basis. There is always that outside chance of an unknown biggie popping up, but at the same time over the last few years I really had started to think it would never happen.
This year I have really put the effort in keeping the spots baited and fishing a good number of work nights through July and the beginning of August. Some weeks I did four or five nights and I had a good little routine going. Although it made little difference as the river was not giving up its gems easily at all. Also, the fact that I was packing up on the work mornings at 6am and most of the bites I was getting seemed to be on my days off when I could stay for longer. By the time I set off on holiday in mid-August, I had racked up eleven bites and landed eight. This was good going as reports up and down the river were slow and not many seemed to be hauling fish.
After two weeks in the sun with the family I was buzzing to be back on home turf and ready to tackle my favourite month of the year, September. No sooner had I stepped in my front door I was on the way back out with my bag full of bait and heading for the boat. I settled straight back into the main swim I had been concentrating on before I went away. I fished a quick night before nipping off mid-morning to bait a few other areas.
My second night back was a work night and just as I woke up to start the pack up one of the rods was away. A stunning low double common making me almost miss my bus to work that morning.
My next night was a Saturday meaning no early pack up, so confidence was high even though the last fish came early I still could not wait to have the rods in that bit longer. Just after 8am one of the rods gave a few bleeps and the tip pulled round ripping the ever faithful Hydro Tuff from my spool. You really don’t realise how tough this line is until a party boat goes through your lines at 2am and you try and pull for a break only for the twenty tonnes of steel to nearly grind to a halt. If you don’t have your footing steady your getting dragged in either way and nowadays I keep a knife next to the rods just in case this happens. After a good battle in the weed another Thames gem was safely nestled in the folds of my net. Hoisting her up for the pictures I soon recognised the carp as one I had caught back in 2009 a few miles upstream. Although a repeat I was made up as she is a stunning old Thames carp and it had even gained 4lb since our last meeting.
I had a good feeling the fish were starting to arrive back in my area and although I could do the work nights my next day off was not till Friday. I knew I needed to be out there to make the most of the fishing that might only be on offer for a few days at most. A few strings were pulled with the HR lady at work and my Friday day off soon became a Thursday. That was the best she could offer and I was not going to turn my nose up as I could bait for two days and fish Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The days at work were busy making Wednesday arrive in the blink of an eye. The bus home was late which always winds me up especially as the nights were now drawing in. It’s a race to get sorted seeing as I don’t get home until 6:30pm, then spend half hour with the Mrs and nipper then make the mad half hour dash to my mums house where I keep the boat. Getting the rods out was a palaver that night. Where it was so weedy and I could only get bites off a small clearing that the fish had made. I had to use the boat to drop the rigs in just to make sure they were spot on. Casting accurately at short range with 5oz and 8oz leads is nigh on impossible, especially at dusk or after dark no matter how well marked the spot is. The use of the boat normally makes this a hell of a lot easier, although on this evening I had a real nightmare. The wind was blowing me all over the place and combining this with the flow of the river and it took me a full fifty minutes to get the hook bait onto the spot. This area had seen a lot of particle since late May and since I had been back from holiday. I had also been putting in small amounts of a new boilie I’m playing around with from a mate over at Upstream Baits (this is a bait made for by a river angler and has a few tweaks to keep it working for longer in the flow). This bait has a bit of a track record for big Thames fish and in its first autumn of testing it did not one, but two dream fish for a friend. Understandably confidence was high, especially seeing as the spot had been doing fish. Rig wise I had made a few tweaks and was now using 35lb Vigilante braid as a hook link due to the muscles in the weed having cut a link clean in half back in July. To this a simple knotless knot was whipped onto a size 4 Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip hook and a lovely big black tiger nut from the guys over at Deep Blue Particle was slid onto the hair and balanced with half a crushed cork S2 from Specialized Hookbaits.
Once the rods were out, I collapsed on the bed chair and fell asleep. The combination of work nights and work were slowly taking their toll on me. Next thing I knew I was woken by one of the rods bent double and the butt hovering off the floor as line was leaving the spool so fast it was a blur. I was almost scared to pick up the rod in my half asleep state. Bending into it there was no let up the rod just bent round more as the fish ripped line from a tight clutch as it made a powerful run upstream. It then just stopped and the rod took on less of a curve as the fish dived into a weed bed. Pulling fairly hard, I felt the lead release and heard the fish wallow on the surface somewhere out in the inky blackness roughly mid-river. She then made another run and the power was amazing, but I was still not sure what I was attached to. You really just never know out on the river. I’ve had 10lbers beat me to death and 30lbers come in like a dog on a lead. This one was giving a good ruck, especially as it got closer in. After ten minutes of praying the hook didn’t pop out as she charged up and down the margins, I managed to get the fishes head up and slip the net under her. Once in the net I had a very quick look and thought it looked a nice upper twenty. I secured the net and got the scales and camera set up ready to hoist my prize ashore. This is where I realised my estimation of an upper twenty was slightly out. With the net rolled up I slid the fish and net into a big padded sling making sure all her fins were flat to her body, I leant over the side of the boat and went to lift it. Jesus!! It was heavy! My initial thought was the sling had retained some extra water and I had to put the straps over my shoulder to step from the boat onto the bank as it was just so heavy. Once on the mat I started to peel the mesh back and the fish just got bigger and bigger. Slipping her onto the zeroed scales they span round to the forty pound mark and were bouncing between 39 and 41 because I was now shaking so much.
I decided I needed some help at this point but the swim I was in is far too dangerous to sack fish due to the flow twisting the sacks up so much the fish could get crushed. I did a couple of self takes (just in case she escaped) then slipped her back into the net off the side of the boat untill I could get some help. I phoned a few mates, but it was now half one in the morning on a Wednesday, so it was going to be like raising the dead. I then tried both my brothers and neither of them answered. I was getting flustered as I hate retaining carp and just wanted to get a proper weight and hopefully a few better pictures. Rolling a fag I went and sat on the boat to keep an eye on the fish when my phone lit up with an incoming call. My youngest brother was greeted with me saying ‘I can’t bloody weigh it and need your help’. Bless him, he is a non angler and does not really get the obsession, so for him to traipse off up the river to take a few pictures at 2am was not his idea of fun, even more so as he was flying to Italy at five that morning. I jokingly told him he woundlt miss his alarm now, as he fought his way through the undergrowth to reach my swim. Once he was by my side, we hoisted the magnificent beast back onto the mat and he clicked away with my camera. I then made sure the scales were zeroed before sliding the landing net pole through them and bracing it on our shoulders. As he read the scales out, he snapped away with his phone. My face was a picture after spinning the scales round so I could see them register for my own eyes – 39lb 2oz of river caught carp. I was ecstatic and the rush that ran through my body as the weight echoed through my brain was increiable. I was truly blown away! As I said at the beginning fish this size are really few and far between. A real once in a lifetime stuff on the Thames. Watching them swim off as you slip them back to their watery home always leaves you wondering where they come from and whether they will be seen again. On the bank I didn’t recognise her and having shown a few friends the pictures it’s not a fish we have seen before. I’ve had a good look back through mine and mates old pictures and it’s not even one we have had at smaller weights. So for now she is definitely a bit of unknown. Still now two weeks on, it’s not sunk in. I still get a wave of adrenaline rush through my body when I look at the pictures or relive the moments in my mind. Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would in fact come true.