Why is it that winter weather windows always seem to jostle their way across the North Atlantic to arrive over the British Isles at the most in opportune times? Normally, midweek when I’m languishing here at my desk beaver’ing away at Gardner HQ, or typically on a weekend when there’s something unavoidable (occasionally horrific) going on that would cause a world of pain if I swerved some onerous social event.
Well, as usual, the current run of the amazing warm conditions that engulfed the UK last weekend coincided with Moley’s annual ‘Carp Spectacular’ show at Brentwood and that meant one thing, getting out and enjoying the unseasonably mild conditions was going to be tricky to say the least…
Just logistically it meant making a bit more effort and being committed enough to get down the lake in the dark after two full days of show labour. Even though I had pre-warned TLSW (The Long Suffering Wife) that I would very likely be going fishing as soon as I got in the actual event was met with a slightly frosty agreement. Honestly, I wouldn’t say there was an air of hostility, but at one point I thought Trace was going to kick seven shades of sh*te out of me as I loaded the carp van trying to get to the lake as quickly as possible.
Over the last couple of weeks the lake had started to do a few bites – not loads but enough to give you the inkling the effort would be worth it, and having had my PB mirror on a show night a couple of years back I propagated an underlying resolve to venture forth.
To be fair this year’s show was one of the best I have attended for a long time and the two days flew buy in a blur of jibber jabber and frolics and it was soon time to carefully disassemble the stand, stack it, wrap it and get it all safely in the van. Luckily the lads with me are ninja’s at this type of thing and I was on the road ¾ hour after the show closed. Heroes I tell you – UTTER HEROES!
I arrived at the lake at around 6:30PM and it was warm and blustery. Heavy cloud cover racing across the moon and as I unloaded the van I realised that for the second Sunday running I had contrived to leave any kind of shelter at home. Well I was way too frightened to ask the wife to bring it along again, so I stuck out my chest and thought ‘sod it’, a January night under the stars it is then.
I popped my face in and said hello to the chipper chappy friendly angler, Carl Udry, who was fishing in the Arm and he filled me in on recent events.
Considering the air temperatures and humid air in comparison to the low water temperature the windward end had to be the zone that would be benefiting from a positive temperature gradient and loads of lovely oxygen to get the carp moving about (and maybe having a bit of a feed too).
Previous experience, from several winters gone by, along with a few recent bites by the angling supremo Edwardo Wade and another lush angler seemed to point me straight in the direction of the Wides Swim as a good an area as any to spread a few rigs. It was down the windward end, had half decent winter form (I have caught form there before but normally on an Easterly) and critically had been left alone for a couple of days.
I stood there with the wind battering from left to right thinking that I must be mad but unsheathed my rods – gave the hooks a little bit of a buff up with a Point Dr and slung three balance hook baits with tasty stingers in the general direction that I hoped would be likely to offer a chance of a bite. After a few years I know the lake pretty well I find its far more important to get hookbaits out with minimal leading rather than cast repeatedly trying to land inch perfectly on a feature that is probably more in my mind less than significant enough to change a carp’s path – basically the lake bed is a bit bland really and you can present a hookbait almost everywhere.
All three rods went out nicely, and I was particularly pleased I had dropped down to one of our 2 ounce Distance Pears as the wind sailed it out about 55 yards to my favourite zone in the swim.
I cooked dinner – rehydrated myself with a plethora of beverages and laid down with the ineffectual wind block doing nothing in terms of stopping the bag being blown up now and again…
I was just settling down, relaxing and slowly winding down to a point when I could drift off when the bobbin on the RHR pulled up tight causing a couple of bleeps (scaring the living b’jesus out of me) and then dropped to the floor like a stone. It was only 9 o’clock and I was amazed that I’d received action so quickly, especially as my last bite had been mid-November with Lumpy.
I commenced the awkward and ridiculous clumsy ‘ballet of the chesties’ and finally walked out into the margins keeping a nice gentle tension on the rod tip as the fish on the end started wallowing on the surface on a relatively long line about 35 yards straight out in front. The fight was really very odd, and I even doubted it was a carp at one point as it just wobbled all the way in on the top, a bit like pike do sometimes (they fight almost as hard as Bream IMHO).
In the end I teased the fish over the net and was pleased to see a carp nesting in the folds of the mesh. What a start! I weighed her at 31.14 and after a few snaps we returned her to the water, hopefully none the worse for a brief visit to the bank to be admired.
A fresh stringer of lightly glugged freebies, and another trimmed down snowman (half a bottom bait and half a pop up) were mounted on the Clone rig and I checked the size 4 Covert Dark Chod hook was still sharp enough to fling back out. Another buff and all was good and out sailed the little lead, and I feathered the cast just before I guessed it would hit the water, just to be certain that the stringer didn’t cause the rubber Covert Safety bead to pop over the silicone stop (obviously, mentioning these components this was mounted on a short leadcore leader).
First cast was sweeeeeet – that was staying exactly where it landed – minimal disturbance is key in the winter. I tidied all the gear away and laid on my bed ‘buzzing out my nut’ shell shocked that I’d caught a January carp in such wonderfully quirky circumstances.
I tossed and turned restlessly, too excited to sleep, listening to some weird sploshes going on out in front – that could have been carp in the wind and waves – when the receiver indicated the same rod was off again! This time I had to reel about 10 yards before I caught up with a carp and when the rod was settled and the fish was pulling line off I started falling over trying to shuffle into the waders once more (I hate that bit – as I nearly always stumble about every single time!), eventually getting sorted and marching into the water again to meet my foe.
This battle was a little more spirited, but the fish soon succumbed to gentle pressure (no point in bullying lethargic cold water carp when you don’t need to) and I recognised ‘Melted Tail’ – a lovely old leathery mirror I’d caught once before a few years ago.
What a touch! If I was excited before I was bordering on peristalsis now! The motivation to get out and do a night had paid off handsomely and the rod was back out in double quick time. This time the weighed in at 33.12 and was in lovely condition – his buttery flanks glistening with a thick winter mucus coat. Girt lush! A character, but by no means a munter.
Same rod – same trap – same range – out the rig went into the blackness. Pub chucking at its finest, and I was thinking I definitely needed to try and get some sleep, but adrenalin and a buffering wind put paid to that.
At about 2am the right hand rod once again lit up and the sounder box squawked at me to deal with a more positive bite – the bobbin pulling up tight and then popping out the clip and slowly trundling off as I got to the rod.
“Oh – My – God! This is utterly mental” I muttered to myself as a slower, weightier fish slowly put a greater distance between us. I was shaking like a leaf, dumfounded by how the evening’s events had unfolded. I can’t say the fight was full of mind bending powerful runs. Mid winter battles rarely are, but the huge, deep oily swirls in the waves meant I knew it was a bigger fish and I was eager to maintain our tenuous link until she was ‘mine’. Gentle pressure eventually cajoled her in and I was filled with joyful exasperation! Honestly, red letter sessions like this are the thing of dreams for any angler – but this was January FFS!
The torch light made the fish glow as only ghosties do (I’m no longer prejudiced against them – and haven’t been since I first saw some of the mega ones that live in Welly) and I carefully weighed the chubby beast at a scrape over 44lb! That’s still a colossal fish no matter where you fish, and I was positively jubilant.
We carefully did the pics, got her back very quickly and I got the rod back out again just to lay there on my bed hoping for more action and suffering from insomnia. Oh how I wished I could stay another day – but there was no chance! A million and one tasks beckoned at work, so at 6AM when the alarm went off I soon had all the gear on my barrow and was heading home, still shocked at the events of the previous 10 hours.
God I love carp fishing! I can’t wait to go again…