Carp Fishing ~ Baby Black ~ Nigel Sharp

Carp Fishing ~ Baby Black ~ Nigel Sharp

Carp Fishing

About two decades ago I came to realise that I’d probably never fish for a record carp for so I decided to set my own targets. Over the years I’ve achieved such targets as the hat trick (common, mirror and leather over 40lbs). Since achieving that I’ve set myself targets of catching fish over forty from park, club and day ticket waters and even added a fully to the collection. In more recent times I’ve added a 50+ mirror to the album to go alongside the mighty Burghfield Common, so you could say what next?

Well next was to finish off what I’d started on a local club water called Mill Lane, but that didn’t exactly go to plan and around this time last year the main target fish “Taffs” rolled over and died. Having had a lion’s share of the other fish from that little lake and the second biggest twice, it was time to chuck the towel in and walk away.

Luckily during my time on the Reading waters namely Burghfield and Pingewood I’d met some local lads that became very good friends and still are to this day. During a friendship that now spans nearly two decades I’ve learned a lot about what was in all of those waters. One of the many lakes in that area which is sandwiched between Pinge and Burghfield known as Engy is a lake I’d looked around in the later 90s with Terry and Lewis when we were looking for somewhere after Yateley. Back then it only had a small amount of carp residing in it and we kept hearing the same names like Twisty, Steely Blue, The Fully, plus a few commons. All were apparently Leneys and reputedly seriously hard to catch. With strong belief that Twisty (the big’un) had passed away at the time this wasn’t an option. Obviously during my 5 year campaign on Burghfield I asked questions and my good mate secret Stu told me the answers. Del (the club chairman) had restocked Engy with 28 canal fish in 2001. Stuart wasn’t best pleased about this because since his mate Dans capture of The Burghfield common Stuart had backed off that campaign and started fishing Engy again. Now Stuart considered those canal fish to be a pain in the arse as they kept getting in his way while trying to catch the originals. I did sympathise with Stuart because not only did he have stock fish to contend with on Engy, Burghfield had also been gifted about 100 odd Blue pool fish during the floods and was also attracting the attentions from other anglers so his back garden was changing fast. Well as you can imagine Stuart confided in me and most of what he caught didn’t even get photographed but the few canal fish that he did were fast growing bangers which caught my eye.

Spinning the clock forward a few years those fish became a bit more sought after and soon word was getting out and the 50 acre lake became a little busier. During this time (around 2012) one of the larger canal fish died not long after reaching mid 40s. During the aftermath of that unfortunate death the lake became quieter but knowing what else resided in Engy I kept my ear to the ground and one of the other local lads I know (Billy) started fishing it in 2015 and in a pretty quick space of time banked 6 fish and lost one after prepping an area which Stuart had put him onto in the swim now known as The Blocks. One of those fish was a canal fish named The Baby Black at mid 40s. Knowing Billy as I do I headed over to congratulate him and hear his stories. From that visit I learned he’d had another 40 which was a 2012 stocking from what’s now known as Junction 12 (RDAA stock pond) it’s certainly not a stunning fish but one that shows young fish grow fast in the mature Engy. There were others up to 38 amongst Billy’s captures but Baby Black was the one that caught my eye more than any of the others.

GT-HD Main Line

Trusted Covert Dark Chod Hooks

The following year which was 2016 and Billy pretty much mirrored his captures from the previous spring again after a bit of regular prep on the opposite side of the lake to where he clumped them in The Blocks the year before. More interestingly he recaptured Baby Black at a lake record 47lbs 4oz so you can imagine this was to become my next stop once I’d finished on Mill.

Well with my hand forced this time last year I started walking Engy and being a shallow weedy big pit it wasn’t hard to find them on my many tours last summer. When I find carp I want to catch them so it wasn’t long before I started fishing it. This is where I made yet another poor decision last year because the lake was basically in a poor state with gloopy Blue Green Algae which was killing the weed in high summer, so it soon gassed up and pretty much totally covered the lake like ice. Well I did try and enjoy every night and even got close to The Baby Black mirror a number of times in the Stumps swim. I think I did a total of ten nights but eventually backed off until a change of weather came in to clear the floating weed out of the way so I could angle properly rather than fishing at all costs over miles of weed. That wait went on for a few weeks but I continued baiting and when the winds did arrive from the west the rafts started to clear and one of the first areas to become fishable was around The Bomb Hole and Bumper swims. The angler who’d camped out there for pretty much two weeks cashed in with a multiple capture and basically in doing so caught Baby Black and brought an end to my plans for last year.

To be honest the period from mid 2016 to late 2017 wasn’t the best for me. We all suffer from time to time and I just didn’t get things right but in doing so I learnt. Sometimes learning the hard way is the best way and after my short flirt with Engy last year I started planning this year’s assault. Even whilst fishing through the winter on Frimley my head wasn’t in it, it was on Engy and I was thinking and plotting and even started walking it during the winter.

I don’t know if I’m a bit strange but I like to start looking at a serious target lake once it’s either frozen or the water temps hit rock bottom. To me this is when a lake resets itself so it’s also my starting point.

Once I start walking a lake I’ll walk it so many times in different weathers and at different times of the day that I lose count. I’m not one that likes to count nights fished as I consider everything part of a campaign right down to ordering new rods which was another thing I did.

As we all know we had a crap start to the Spring and my expectations of finding them in the edge wasn’t to come as early as I’d expected, so I just kept walking it until such a time arrived. During my many walks I saw a few fish show at ranges where cheating with boats would have to be involved but from my experience of big pits I believe the secret is to bait them to you and make it easier for yourself. Going on Billy’s past results and other info this was possible and going to be my attack.

Luckily Billy is a good mate and showed me his exact spots. One evening in mid March whilst stood with Billy in The Little Reeds (where he’d caught Baby Black the second time) I saw a tench roll over the spot. This started to excite me as both Stewart and Billy had previously said that was the key to drawing the carp in. I think Billy had caught something like 25 tench before his first carp bite both Springs, so this was the start to me. All I needed to do was become consistent with my looking and baiting until I saw the carp at close quarters.

Winter Walking

Tench Were Encouraging

A few days later we had a lovely sunny Spring day with a Southerly breeze and an afternoon temperature of 10 degrees. For some reason I just knew where I’d see them and drove straight around to the North Bay, parked up, then walked into the woods and climbed the first tree I came to. From my lofty position I could see the whole of the bay and most of the bottom at a glance. Just as I was having a quick scan to get my eye in, a mid 20 common with a missing scale on it’s left flank drifted along the margins from my right. The water was so clear it looked like it was in mid air. This was what I wanted to see and with my eyes well in, I tracked it as it swam up to my left and disappeared under some snags. I stared at where it had entered the snags for several minutes and then suddenly 3 smaller fish appeared and swam right underneath me and then went back into those snags. Soon after the first fish reappeared it did a circuit under me then headed off right again. Minutes later the other 3 appeared and did the same. I lost track of those fish for about half an hour but decided against walking the rest of the lake and hung around to see if others arrived. During the wait I went and got some Red Spicy fish pellets from the motor and dusted the corner with some of them. Not long after doing this all the fish came back and the common was definitely the biggest in the group. As they swam over the pellets they appeared interested and circled the area but didn’t actually drop and feed.

After a few circuits they again went back under that snag to my left and whilst looking at the entry point I saw a group of spawning pike emerge from the snags then further up the bank a couple of bigger, darker fish entering the corner. Just as I clocked them the breeze picked up which didn’t help with identifying them, but I just made out that they also went in under that snag. This got me curious and after seeing spawning pike exit that area I suspected that’s what the carp were interested in, so I had to get a closer look. That was a great idea but an expensive one because to get and look in that snag meant penetrating brambles and all sorts of other undergrowth and the Snug-Pak jacket I was wearing wasn’t exactly made of Kevlar.

With the stuffing hanging out the rips in my jacket and woolly hat from a trailing bramble I eventually found myself perched in a tree above those snags. Once my eyes focused I could see several carp feeding on the pike spawn and whilst watching them a big mirror came from under the branches and aggressively flanked the area spooking the others off. As it flanked there was no mistaking which one it was and it was indeed Baby Black. After he had flanked the area it swished around in the clearing like a wild animal looking for prey and bolted out of the snags then boshed out 3 times as if it had the right hump with the other fish stealing it’s food. Afterwards he came back in under the canopy, had a little feed until the light started to faid. What a moment that was and like I did each year on the neighbouring Burghfield I vowed to always carry at least one rod every time I visited the lake after my first up close and personal sightings. This was the rocket fuel I needed and made me up my game with my visits and baiting especially as this corner was close to one of the open water spots I’d already been baiting in The Little Reeds.

The following week I found myself back in that area fishing my baited spots while keeping a close eye on that corner. To be fair we did actually get the weather I needed and the only fish I saw were showing at range, past the island in the mornings. After 3 days of this I wasn’t put off because I’d nailed a tench from Billy’s spot and the middle zone didn’t interest me as I wanted to do it my way, rather than get desperate and cheat. Billy and Stuart both encouraged me to stick to my plan so on leaving I baited the two spots in the swim. One was obviously Billy’s spot and the other was one along the up shelf which another mate (John Bartley) had shown me.

The North Bay

The following week I returned to the same swim and I repeated the process of casting chods out on the baited areas and scattered a few freebies around each. Again the weather wasn’t all that great but I saw numbers of tench constantly rolling over the spots and even nailed one from the spot John put me onto. This told me both baited areas were fishable and it was just down to the carp to show up again and play. Again I baited on leaving and because the lake was starting to become busier I baited the Blocks as well so I had two options when I returned the following week. I suppose baiting two swims that the Black was known to be caught from during past Spring was high risk, but that was a risk worth taking in my mind.

The following week I managed to slip back in the same spot again and we had the weather required and the carp showed up in numbers. So did the anglers and forgive me if I’m wrong but when an angler is in a bay next to me angling etiquette is that you don’t go climbing trees over the snags in that area to see what that angler has in front of him, but this wasn’t the case. I was actually starting to boil up and felt I was about to lose it but then I thought all the time this was going on it proved I was on the fish and these modern day anglers were a step behind, so I calmed myself down.

The following week I returned to the same swim and I repeated the process of casting chods out on the baited areas and scattered a few freebies around each. Again the weather wasn’t all that great but I saw numbers of tench constantly rolling over the spots and even nailed one from the spot John put me onto. This told me both baited areas were fishable and it was just down to the carp to show up again and play. Again I baited on leaving and because the lake was starting to become busier I baited the Blocks as well so I had two options when I returned the following week. I suppose baiting two swims that the Black was known to be caught from during past Spring was high risk, but that was a risk worth taking in my mind.

The following week I managed to slip back in the same spot again and we had the weather required and the carp showed up in numbers. So did the anglers and forgive me if I’m wrong but when an angler is in a bay next to me angling etiquette is that you don’t go climbing trees over the snags in that area to see what that angler has in front of him, but this wasn’t the case. I was actually starting to boil up and felt I was about to lose it but then I thought all the time this was going on it proved I was on the fish and these modern day anglers were a step behind, so I calmed myself down.

That session was actually quite enjoyable and I even ended up trying some floater fishing but that was to no avail. The fish just seemed to be swimming around investigating their lake in the early spring sunshine and not at all interested in eating. In fact all that seemed interested in eating was the tench and again that’s all I caught that week.

The following week the weather took another dive and the carp stayed out a long away from the angling pressure and appeared to be getting on one of the many hatches that takes place on the big pit. One angler did nail a couple by breaking the rules with a bait boat but that’s his story and if that’s how he wants to fish then so be it. I just stuck to my plan but I did wonder if it was going to work because I didn’t even nail a tench over my standard 3 nighter.

This sort of fishing can become very boring and rather akin to camping but historically the bait and wait thing was how to catch them, so while others charged around flinging chods at them I stuck to my plan and watched the weather patterns closely. From what I could see we were going to get a nice warm Southerly mid week then a warm North Easterly would follow it. This was good for both areas but my main aim was to get back in The Reeds for a day of South Westerly’s then maybe move to The Blocks for the end of that session. With all the best laid plans and regular baiting this was to change because a random angler dropped in The Reeds, so I was forced to fish the Blocks for a few nights and I waited 48 hours for the North Easterly to blow in. When it did the fish did turn up and on the last morning of that 4 night stay the angler to my right in The Shitting swim only went and caught The Baby Black. Normally I’d have been pretty pissed off about this, but I was actually happy for him and even happier the following week when I returned to find an empty lake.

It seemed that capture had put everyone off coming back. Not me as I was as happy as a ‘pig in poo’ and I got all my baiting done at both ends of the lake and then settled into The Reeds with a nice warm Westerly gently rippling past and the flat water caused by the point of the sailing club. That flat water was covered in willow fluff and just screamed carp.

Little Mirror

Once the rods were baited and settled I took in a lovely evening and just before dusk I started seeing carp repeatedly rolling beyond the right hand spot. It’s hard to explain but I just knew something was going to happen and just as the sky clouded up in the small hours the right hand rod signalled a tench like take. Obviously I responded and started cranking in what I thought was going to be a tench but just as it got closer in it woke up and I was clearly into my first Engy carp. A minute or so later the fish was in the net. It might not have been one of the big’uns but it was a carp and I was so chuffed to catch it. I’m one that’ll photograph pretty much everything and being as it was a first this little mirror wasn’t getting away without entering my album.

After returning that fish I thought I’d keep it quiet because that’s how I wanted the lake to remain. The few days which followed that capture the fish pretty much stayed in the area but I wasn’t gifted with anymore action, but it was enough to encourage me to stick to the plan. At the end of that session the carp started spawning in front of the sailing club, so not being one that will fish for spawning fish I packed up early, but made very sure to bait up heavily because I knew for a fact that Baby Black was a male fish and he’d be hungry after performing his annual ritual. After emptying every bit of bait I had in the car including shelf life’s and pellets, both the spots in the reeds had a good helping. I didn’t bait the Blocks for two reasons. One because a regular weekend angler was next door in The Blank and Marcus had caught from there during the week so it was a no go for that exit.

The following week I came back armed to the teeth with bait. My reasoning behind this was from what I’d learned during my time on Frimley’s Pit 4. Once those carp (mainly males) had spawned they get hungry and mass baiting starts paying off. I’d also planned on a longer stay of 5 nights so I had buckets of hemp, salty cut maize, tigers and the usual ten kilos of boilies. The weather was bang on and forecast to be hotter which was perfect for the Little Reeds. After quickly baiting The Blocks I headed round to the Reeds and with carp in the area quickly settled in. All three rods were cast to their marks and like the week before I just scattered boilies out with a throwing stick so not to spook the carp which were milling around under the willow fluff in the corner.

Two nights past uneventfully and the carp didn’t seem to leave the bay. I don’t know why but on sorting the rods for the third night I got it into my head to spomb out a load of gear and swap the Chods for the good old D-Rig and fish it Pit 4 style. After pretty much emptying a bucket of everything on each spot a D-rig baited with hardened Red Spicy boilie tipped with real tiger was cast out on each. The third rod was to be the only one to still have a chod rig on it and that was to be fished as a single along the tree line where I’d seen fish constantly patrolling. That night past uneventfully but again the carp still remained in the bay. I think part of the reason the fish liked it in there was because of the calm water covered in willow fluff and the temperatures were increasing daily. In fact, it got that hot on the Thursday that I actually had to cool off by pouring a bucket of lake water over myself then have a baby wipe wash after readying my rods for the fourth night of that stay. I didn’t bother to re-bait the area as I didn’t see any point in filling it in again after not receiving any action.

Not long after settling down that evening I started seeing clusters of bubbles all around the bay and pretty much within an hour just as Marcus walked in my swim for a chat, Baby Black came clean out the water right over the right hand baited area where I’d caught the small mirror the week before. This obviously sent the confidence racing and after it had showed a couple more times I was fit to burst. Marcus didn’t hang around for too long as he was looking for a swim to fish for the night. Once he’d gone I was in fidget mode and found myself pacing up and down the public footpaths behind my swim until Young Joe who was fishing on the lake behind me turned up. Joe could tell I was a tad wired, so I swore him to secrecy and told him what I’d seen. Joe having mates who’d caught these fish started getting excited about what I told him and kept saying it’s going to happen tonight.

Trick-Link

After those 3 shows things went a bit quiet until just before dark, then like my first sighting just as the light started to go, Baby Black came out from the snaggy corner and continued to show right into dark. Strangely enough he went straight past the John spot where he had showed first then repeatedly showed over Billy’s old spot. Once it had gone completely dark the savage liners started and my heart was racing that much I couldn’t sleep. If it wasn’t liners the mozzies were becoming a right pest so I just didn’t sleep. I can’t tell you the exact time but I was actually getting tired and irritable and decided to ignore the liners and try to get some sleep. The next time the buzzer sounded it was a typical big pit take. A one noter which had me rushing to the rods as the spool spun. I picked that rod up and tried to bend into an unstoppable run. This run just kept going so I put on my waders while the clutch screamed. Once in the water I started gaining some degree of control as the fish kited left out of the bay. The only problem with this is as I tried to shorten the distance on what felt like a dead weight it started kiting toward some snags along the margins to my left. Like you do when gaining line I kept pumping and winding.

After God knows how much line had been gained there was a big explosion just on the edge of the snags about 20 yards to my left and what followed was another 40-50 yard uncontrollable run. This had me in panic mode as I now knew I was playing a big fish well past a group of snags that I’ve heard they tend to find. The only consolation was it was dark, so I hoped the attached wouldn’t find them. Luckily after that run, steady side strain eased it all the way back like a dog on a lead and after feeling the spool several times I knew the fish was close so I lifted the rod above my head. This brought the fish up in the water and in the inky darkness I could see one or two more winds and it would be mine so I pushed the net out and completed the last winds then drew it over the net.

I quickly staked out the net and then grabbed a torch. Once I carefully lit up my prize I could see it was a long dark mirror but on quick inspection I couldn’t make out which one because I couldn’t make out the scales I needed to see. Thinking it might be the long fish which could be around 40lb I let it be in the net and ran to my car to grab my big scales. Once everything was zeroed and the scales were tied to a tree I got the fish out and onto the mat. As I laid it down I straight away saw the scales I was looking for and realisation set in. I’d caught him, Baby Black. My target was there in front of me on my mat. Being as I was on my own I quickly weighed him then made a few phone calls to Tom Stokes, Chris Gardner and Byron who were fishing on Burghfield. They were only too happy to come over and help out with the photos and so was Young Joe, Sam and Scott Lloyd. Words cannot describe how much of a stunner this fish is and the pictures do not do it justice. You have to actually see it on the bank to appreciate it and this is up there with some of my past captures like Bazil etc. Quite possibly one of the best carp around at the moment…

Baby Black Capture

Normally once catching a target fish from a water I’d pull off, but being as I’d enjoyed my time on Engy and most of the other fish hadn’t been caught I decided to stay on for a few sessions to see if I could nail a few of the others before the algae and weed problems took over again. I stopped baiting The Blocks and focused my attention on The Reeds and did manage to bag another one in the shape of the common I mentioned earlier with a scale missing. That common turned out to be The Original common which happened to be the very first fish I had seen in the water so I was double happy to catch it being as it’s the oldest carp in the lake.

The Original Common

So Similar to my Horton campaign where I bagged the smallest, the largest (Shoulders) and the best looking (The Woodcarving) I’d again bagged the smallest and largest mirrors and the oldest so I’ll take that and I might return next Spring to see if the Leather, Two Fold, The Long one or The Big Stockie want to hook up. We’ll see!

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