Well, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t believe it was already the end of May and time for the Carp Societies annual Junior Carp Camp at Horseshoe lake. It’s been a real tough start to the year for me on Rockford with very little to show for my efforts, other than a couple of unfortunate losses. As a result, I was really looking forward to going up to Horseshoe for a break and by chance it happened to work out well timing wise as they decided to spawn on Rockford during this time too.
The Camp is a brilliant event for the youngsters, and I participated for the first-time last year as a coach and was fortunate enough to be asked back again this year. The youngsters were set to arrive on the Thursday morning, which just so happened to be my 30th birthday too, so I had arranged to travel up the day before on Wednesday so I could get everything set up in advance and have a bit of a birthday social during the evening with Lee Wagner – whom I had not seen since the previous year’s event. My allocated swim was right at the top end of the lake again and one of the longest walks from the nearest car park with the kit! After two trips and a long rest I finally got everything sorted and ready for the few days that lay ahead. I made sure I had enough rigs and bait etc. prepped so we could get the youngsters fishing effectively right from the off. With everything ready I popped down the bank to Lee’s allocated swim for a bit of a social before finally flicking a couple of rods out for the night, despite not really seeing any signs of fish yet in my allotted swim.
The night passed uneventfully and by 9AM all of the coaches (bar the usual last minute.com Lewis Read!) had gathered at the lodge ready for the arrival of over 40 youngsters that would be paired off and allocated a coach for the next four days. Once my two lads; Lennon and Ben had arrived we made our way on the long journey around to our swims with their kit and set about setting up base camp for the next few days. We didn’t have long though as we had to be back at the lodge for midday for lunch which was followed by a floater fishing slide show for the youngsters by Alan Blair. The first day is always a struggle to be honest, but after dinner at the lodge at 5pm we didn’t have to reel in until dinner the following day so would have plenty of time to get things properly sorted and start covering some of the points the lads wanted to learn.
After another uneventful night for the three of us, we spent much of the day on our toes trying to find an opportunity as we clearly weren’t on the fish – the main pack of fish were holding up on the entrance to summer bay opposite and there were a few down to our left some way. As much as we looked and tried for an opportunity, but nothing really came to any fruition and there weren’t all that many areas to look with camp being so busy this year. We decided to retreat to base camp and get a few things sorted and ready for the night before heading down to the lodge for dinner. The service that is offered by the staff of The Carp Society during the event is second to none, with the biggest sausage and bacon baps being delivered to each swim every morning, followed by a packed lunch at midday and a massive cooked evening meal and dessert in the lodge at 5pm.
Once we were fed to the point of barely being able to move, we made our way back to base camp to get the rods out for the night. We then spent a couple of hours covering some rigs and both Lennon and Ben could barely stay awake during this time as they were exhausted from all of the walking and looking for a chance during the hot day. We decided to call it a night early and I sat up watching the water hoping some fish might push up into our area. Usually the fish really bounce around on Horseshoe Lake, however this year it seemed the main bulk of the fish loitered on the entrance to summer bay with another shoal of fish at the bottom of winter bay and neither group showed any signs of moving. The anglers in those areas were caching regularly, with Josh Boyes and his youngsters really showing everyone how it was done. By this point they were already catching very regularly through both the day and night from their swim at the entrance to summer bay.
I was up at first light again the following day, but the only signs of fish remained in front of Josh and his lads and after a quick text to him it was obvious that he had been up all night catching and working the swim and was exhausted. He kindly offered to let my lads go around and sit on his rods for a bit so they would hopefully have a chance of landing a Horseshoe carp. After breakfast we wound in and made our way around to peg 53, which was a scene of utter carnage to say the very least and my lads sat on Josh’s rods with eager anticipation whilst I tried to give Josh a bit of a rest by helping with the spombing and wrapping up of rods, etc.
It didn’t take long before one of the rods was again in action and Lennon stepped up to the mark. Unfortunately, the fish became heavily weeded and the barbless hook eventually popped out. He was really gutted, but with the way things were going another chance would be on the cards later in the day. We all kept working the swim and the bites kept coming, Ben then had his opportunity and after a very hairy battle where an angry carp dived from one weed bed to another, he eventually landed a beautiful dark Horseshoe mirror at a new P.B weight of 25.08lb. Ben was over the moon and took his P.B. bucket of water like a champion!
After getting the rods back out and spots topped up Lennon eventually had another opportunity and after everything went much more smoothly this time, he went on to land his new P.B. A fine linear of 18.12lb and I had two very happy young lads!
Whilst I had been helping Josh during the daytime, he had encouraged me to move in opposite him for the final part of camp and fish mega long in the hope I could pick up a fish or two off the back of him. I decided to bite his hand off and that evening found and baited an area in the middle of the lake. Although it was still a long way off of the fish, I felt much more confident. If any of the carp bounced away from the pressure, we might just have a chance!
Three Ronnie rigs with small yellow pop ups were dispatched to the zone, that was fairly heavily baited with chopped and whole Carp Company Nut Mix boilies and lots of sweetcorn (a bait the Horseshoe carp just seem to love). We all sat back a little more hopeful that night and after showing the lads a few more bits and pieces, such as tying up solid bags and zigs, we all decided on an early night so we could be up watching for signs at first light.
I was awoken at 4.30AM, just as it was brightening up, by a drop back that quickly picked back up and turned in to a melting take. I lifted into the fish and shouted to try and wake both the lads, so one of them could bring the fish in, however as much as I tried, I couldn’t wake them so ended up netting a lovely 24lb 6oz mirror for myself. After waking the lads and having a quick snap with the fish I got the rod back out and topped up the spot with another six Spombs, hopeful that another bite may be on the cards. Unfortunately that was our only bite of the morning with the fish clearly back in Josh’s swim we decided to spend the day searching for a chance again, but it seemed everyone had the same idea so all we managed to do was wear ourselves out in the heat of the sun!
After dinner we returned to our swim for the final night and got everything sorted but decided to change one of the long rods over to a zig set just off of the baited area. It was a bloody good decision as no more than five minutes later the 6ft zig, fished with a small piece of yellow foam was in absolute meltdown. Lennon was first at the scene and took over the rod to commence battle with another angry Horseshoe carp. The fish put up a brilliant account for itself at long range and I was convinced that he was about to break his PB again – should we get it in the net! I’m glad to say that everything went to plan, and a lovely dark Horseshoe original rolled in to the net first time of asking. My suspicions were also confirmed when we weighed the fish at a new PB weight for Lennon of 22lb 12oz, and to say he was buzzing would be the understatement of the year!
After rolling off some pictures and returning the fish the zig rod went back out and another rod was switched over to a zig too, but that was to be the last of our action despite my best efforts that final night.
I stayed up fairly late that night, regularly recasting the rods and topping up with a few Spombs periodically, hoping we could get one more bite so Ben could also land a second fish. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but we packed up the following day having had another brilliant year at carp camp. The lads had both managed to land new personal bests, but more importantly they had learnt lots to take away with them to apply to their own angling and were already better anglers than when they arrived. Junior Carp Camp really is a brilliant event put on by the Carp Society each year for the youngsters and everyone involved in making it happen year after year really do deserve a pat on the back.
It’s back to the grind on Rockford for me now, and as they have spawned hopefully, they might let their guard down a little more as they look to replenish lost weight and energy. Fingers crossed!