I’ve been asked to attend the Carp Society’s annual Junior Carp Camp for the last five years, however due to working as a full time angling coach until last year it meant I was unable to attend as I always had my own coaching commitments during the busy half term periods. When I was invited again this year I could finally take up the offer and booked the necessary time off of work.

I arrived on the Wednesday evening and made my way around to my allocated swim to get set up before the kids would arrive the following morning. I was pegged right at the top end of the lake and had fellow Gardner angler Lee Wagner in the nearest swim down from me. That night with a few fish present I flicked solid pva bags out to the areas I had seen them showing and chilled out with Lee before getting an early night ready for the madness to ensue when the kids arrived. I was surprised not to receive any action but upon reeling in it seemed my rigs had been completely covered over with silkweed, so the bags may not have been the best approach. All of the instructors made their way around to the main lodge and it wasn’t long before the kids started to arrive. I had two lads for the duration, the first was Riley who had some reasonable experience and the second was Archie who had never even caught a carp before and only ever fished on last year’s event where he unfortunately blanked.

We all made our way around to the swim and got the lads all set up with Archie doubling up with me and Riley going in the swim 5 yards to our right. It was then the real teaching could begin as we set about finding some spots to fish whilst going through all of the necessary points with the lads. We also decided to apply some bait over the areas we were going to be fishing before going to lunch for a burger around mid day. Unfortunately the fish that were present that first evening had done the off that morning before the lads turned up, so things remained quiet that first day and night but the lads remained positive and it gave us the opportunity to cover some more rigs and bits and pieces from their check sheets.

There seemed to be lots of fish getting caught down the very end of Winter Bay and the pressure that followed down that end of the lake ended up pushing the fish right up the lake to our end around an hour or two before dinner on the second day. Fish could be seen cruising into the bay to our left in small groups, so armed with a bucket of floaters and the necessary kit we made our way twenty yards up the bank to the next swim that I hoped would give us a chance of a bite on the surface. It took a while of steady feeding but eventually we got a few fish really competing over the mixers and a careful cast was made without spooking the fish and they continued to feed. It didn’t take long before the line whipped tight and Archie was into his first ever carp which looked to be an easy 20lb+ mirror. Everything was going really well and Archie was playing it like a pro when all of a sudden it fell off just 10 yards out!

To say we were gutted would be an understatement but I promised the lads there would be another chance with fish still around. We continued to feed for the next ten minutes building the fish’s confidence again before having to make our way around for dinner at the lodge. I told the lads to eat as quick as they could this evening, so we could get back around before the fish moved out again. The lads both scoffed like a pair of troopers and within 20 minutes we were back in the swim firing out some more mixers and again the fish were obliging almost instantly. I left Archie with the floater rod in position and ran down to Lee for some assistance with the feeding, so we could really try and get them going. He was more than happy to help and just as we were about to leave his swim I heard shouts from the lads up the bank as Archie had just landed his first ever carp, off of the surface and completely unassisted! Result! Lee kept the feed going out whilst I went through all of the fish care with the lads and helped weigh and photograph a beautiful 24.08lb linear, what a first carp!

Once the fish was released it was time for us to try and hook another one this time for Riley. There was one particular fish now present that looked pretty big with its back breaching the water every time it took a bait and that was the one we were going to try for. The cast went spot on first time and the fish drew closer to the hook bait with each mixer it took. It then took the bait and unfortunately a missed timed strike resulted in the controller float flying back towards us, but all was not lost as the fish was still visible feeding on the baits. A quick check of the hook and a second cast was made into the feeding zone just 40 yards out, which again landed bang on without spooking them and the fish we were trying for almost made a beeline straight for the hook bait.

As its shoulders rose from the water its mouth engulfed the hook bait and after my finest “John Wilson Predator Strike” the rod hooped over and Riley took up battle with what looked to be a very good fish. The fish was putting up one hell of a scrap on the light tackle but Riley was doing a great job and slowly coaxed the fish towards the bank. It was on reaching the margin where it decided to take off down the left past a reed bed and towards a snag. Riley couldn’t get enough of an angle on the fish to coax her back, so I had to kick my shoes off and wade in fully clothed with the rod to bring the fish back around into open water. Luckily everything held strong and Riley was soon back in action for the final part of the battle and as the fish drew closer to the net both Lee and I knew it was a bit of a chunk! Everyone cheered as it went in the net and we set about preparing all of the weighing equipment before lifting a rather large common onto the waiting mat. The fish was weighed at 35.14lb and was a new pb for Riley by almost 10lb!!

After doing some pictures and releasing the fish we hoped to get another opportunity or two for Lee’s lads but our success hadn’t gone unnoticed and the bay was now full of anglers all trying to catch one off the top, which eventually led to the fish moving back out under all of the added pressure. After all of the excitement we all crashed out early that night and the following morning the fish turned up in front of Lee’s swim and his lads took full advantage of the situation landing a couple of fish each including pb’s! They never quite made it as far up the lake to us before heading right to the end of Summer Bay for the remainder of the day. The majority of anglers descended upon them that day armed with surface rods, so we decided to sit it out in the hope that the pressure would again see them move to our quiet end of the lake.

With it being our last night we made sure the rods all went out spot on after dinner. We had called it right and the fish had turned up again after all the pressure they were under in Summer Bay. We all sat together that evening covering the last few bits on the check sheets and around 8pm Archie’s right hand rod on his baited area was away. The fish put up one hell of a scrap and as it popped up in the edge we couldn’t believe the size of it! The mirror was weighed 31.12lb which was another new pb for Archie who was now grinning like a Cheshire cat! After releasing the fish Archie clipped the rod back up and we tied on a fresh hook bait to his chod rig before whizzing it back out to the spot. We all sat up buzzing for another hour or so before deciding to get some rest as we would have to be up reasonably early to get packed down the following morning.

At around midnight just after I had fallen asleep Archie’s right hand rod was once again in meltdown as an angry carp was making a bid for freedom. Archie was up in a flash and stood bleary eyed playing another carp that was charging around with some real purpose. It was no surprise when up popped another chunk of a mirror which turned out to be 30.10lb! Archie had now caught more 30lb+ carp than he had any other weight!! Lee helped with some night shots after we dragged him from his sleep and the rod went back out before we all retired for the night. I awoke at first light the next morning and nothing more had happened although fish were still present, so we sticked out some more boilies over the spot in case all the bait had been cleaned out. It seemed though that the fish were gradually moving out as they were showing more to our right and in front of Lee as the morning wore on.

Lee’s lads managed a couple more bites that morning including another pb for Thomas in the shape of a stunning 27.08lb zip linear. For us though all remained quiet for the last couple of hours and we slowly packed up as three very happy anglers before making our way around to the presentation and buffet lunch.

Overall I think it’s fair to say that everyone had an amazing time at what is a truly great event. The youngsters get so much out of this event and are extremely well looked after with three meals a day, which are provided by the staff at Horseshoe Lake. My lads certainly won’t forget this year’s event and have some serious pb’s to try and beat now! The carp in Horseshoe are really quiet special and growing really quickly and its somewhere I think I may have to visit again in the not too distant future, and hopefully I’ll be invited back next year to help at this brilliant event!