On the whole 2019 has a been a bit sporadic in terms of fishing time. One of my first and fondest sessions of the year, lured me away from carp fishing down to the local Mecca of pike angling, Chew Magna. I had a day booked on there with my friend Alan and we were extremely lucky that it coincided with a sensationally crisp and still dawn. Being a complete pike angling novice Alan showed me the rigs, which were simple dead bait running rigs and there was not a lot more to it. As even more luck would have it, I managed to snare a Pike that day, not a monster by the lake’s standard, but a new PB all the same. I even had a rather large trout snaffle the dead bait, which topped off a lovely day.

My first proper carp fishing session of the year wasn’t until early May, and what a session it was. This session had a dual purpose of having a social with my friend 1D-Dave, and of course exploring new lakes in France. A quick trip by aeroplane across the channel and I was soon reunited with me old mate and his pup, discussing what lake to have a go on for a few days. The particular lake that we chose was a tricky venue, but with a bigger stamp of fish it also had the added fun and games of being ‘days only’ (something I didn’t have too much experience in).

When we arrived at the lake we headed off on a walk round and the first set of snags we looked in I caught sight of a large mirror carp and then another one shortly afterwards; both were estimated to be over 50lb in my opinion. That was good enough for us, as it was already the afternoon and time/daylight was precious! In no time at all we had rods in the water and we were angling. Most importantly the BBQ was on and we could sit back and relax for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any action that day, so we made an extra effort to walk round the lake in the hours of darkness to find them, a tactic that was to pay dividends.

The next morning, after locating the fish, we set up ready for first light and we saw enough activity to show that we were indeed in the right place. I had geared up to be fishing at range, spooling up with Kinetic Distance Braid coupled with GT’s Sinking Braid shock leader, and typically we didn’t end up fishing more than 100 yards out!

A few Ronnie rigs were strategically spread out where we had seen fish show and the traps were set. It didn’t take long for Dave to get a take and we soon bundled the first carp of the trip into the net!

Early in the afternoon Dave repeated a demonstration of his tactical supremacy and landed one of the longest commons I have ever seen, weighing in at over 50lb! Luckily, I got in on the action with a 48lb mirror before the end of play! The following day we managed another 3 bites before the weather took a turn for the worse and the fishing slowed. With just part of a day’s angling left, the weather relented so on the final day the it looked as good as it could for a bite at first light. In fact, Dave’s Ronnie Rig couldn’t have been in the water more than 10 minutes before it rattled off! We had to be off the lake at 4pm, so that I could get back to the airport in time for my flight home. As time ticked away, I had a take on the short rod and after the classic ’heavy plod’ battle of a big mirror was plunging away in the deep, clear margins. Fortunately, even at close quarters the braided setup held firm and the huge mirror was in the net. It weighed over 55lb and was a new PB.

Now, obviously I was over the moon with this few days fishing, but the lake had one more gem to give me. After a carbon copy battle of the previous lump I soon had another big mirror rolling in the margins ready for the net. Once in the net, this one looked even bigger than the one before, however upon the scales it was a pound shorter, but that was irrelevant. A quick brace of public lake 50lb’ers and it was time to pack up and get to the airport. What a trip for us it was, a 50+ common, 50+ mirrors and great BBQ’s!! It was excellent…

Not long after I got back, I was lucky enough to be roped into doing a Total Carp magazine feature down at one of my favourite venues, the Carp Society’s Horseshoe Lake in Gloucestershire. I had 24 hours at my disposal and after arriving at the lake I chose an area where I could tightly bait an area at range and fish all three rods on the spot, a tactic I had previously used successfully on the lake in the past!

For this session I was using 15lb GT80+ (good reliable tow rope) combined with a lead clip setup to reduce the risk of line damage due to the weed. After getting the traps set for the night, with a nice helping of bait applied over the top I received a bite in the early hours of the morning, but unfortunately the hook pulled mid battle. Unfortunately, on a lake where there is a barbless hook rule combined with weed there is always an increased chance of a hook-pull.

With it still being dark, and knowing I still had two other rods fishing on the spot, I didn’t recast as we were coming into the classic first light feeding spell. On cue, as dawn broke my little ATTs went into meltdown and I was once again in battle with a hard fighting carp. With the added pressure of the Total Carp camera snapping away I gingerly coaxed the mirror in and swooped the net under a gorgeous mirror carp that was in the upper 20 bracket; a great carp from Horseshoe!

During the summer I took the time to rack up the brownie points for a forthcoming trip to France. This included the usual stuff like family holiday, weddings and christenings to attend, the usual stuff that hinders fishing time!

September came around as quickly as I had hoped, and this eagerness was because I was going to be tackling the mighty Lac Du Der. The amount of preparation I had to put into this far surpassed any other angling adventure I had been on before. I had to get 12oz gripper leads, load up my reels with thin Kinetic Distance Braid (to deal with the range), consider leader materials, beef up my hooklink material to at least 30lb Mirage Fluorocarbon, and equip the fleet of inflatable dinghies with enough batteries to see me through the week.

Once we arrived my initial reaction to seeing the lake for the first time was sheer anxiety and fear at the prospect of being sat out in the middle of that huge expanse of water. Basically, the total opposite of claustrophobia! However, the boats were loaded and my partner for the week Mark and I were soon cruising 1.2km to our peg for the week.

With the lack of experience fishing a venue like this my target was just to catch a carp, I didn’t care how big! It was more about being realistic and I just wanted to educate myself enough to catch a carp, knowing that next time I will go back to Du Der as a better angler and hopefully catch more.

I took the boat out, equipped with the echo, to see if I could find any features, unfortunately there was little out there, and the lake’s topography was actually pretty baron up to 400m out! With this being the case, I spread my four rods out and set small traps fishing for one bite at a time in the hope that if a pod of fish came through one or two might drop down and have a feed.

My setup for this was the Distance braid, a 50lb mono sure shock leader and a Camflex Leadcore leader attached to a Covert Lead Clip setup. The rigs were German’s tied with a nice meaty size 4 Incizor hook and Mirage hooklink material. On this I mounted a homemade hardened 22mm hookbaits wrapped up to help protect them from crayfish interference, tipped with a piece of fake maize.

After the first few days when the weather was not at all favourable due to high air pressure; the inevitable clear skies, hot sun and no wind were far from ideal on such a vast body of water. We needed wind and cloud to get the fish moving and there wasn’t a blow due to arrive until the day before we left. I persisted in trying different areas in front of me but with the conditions being so rubbish I don’t think the fish were moving around much, and therefore less likely to find my spots. I did have some mid-week action, when somehow a bream had foul hooked itself on my rig and then got mauled by a catfish! As exciting as the bleeps were on the sounder box I was hoping for some more significant cyprinid action!

On the penultimate day of the trip we finally had some wind and even saw a carp or two (albeit at about 600m range!). I set the rods for the final night hoping for a last gasp bite. With the wind strength increasing I was getting the odd bleep on the sounder box. I vividly remember thinking after a couple of these wind bleeps “please please just rip off!” and literally about 5 seconds later there was the whistle of the ATT receiver and the wheel glowed red! I ran out through the mud to the rod and hooped the little GTC 10ft wand over, into the unmistakable resistance of a carp! Straight in the boat I needed to get above the fish, so it didn’t get snagged up on the underwater forest of tree stumps that are strewn across the lake. Having got out to the fish I got it in the net without too much hassle, and although it was not huge it was certainly one of the most rewarding carp I’ve ever been lucky enough to catch.

That for me was mission accomplished and the capture of a single Du Der carp made the journey back home across the channel all the much sweeter.

With the end of 2019 quickly looming, my thoughts are turning to next years angling, I will be targeting a special fish on a tricky park lake not far from home with the odd social and guesty along the way!