One of the greatest facets that really keep the long-term appeal of any discipline in the world of angling has got to be the fact that every week, every trip, every season is different and unrepeatable.
Now, this is obviously because we are dealing with a broad range of influences and factors that affect the fish; these are as diverse as wind direction, humidity and temperature, to moon phase and air pressure. Add into the mix that we are fishing for carp that don’t particularly want to be caught and are spooky of lines, leads and any unnatural man made angling activity and things get a bit trickier on all but the hungriest venue.
After a pretty lacklustre winter, this March has already proven to be one of those magical once in a decade wonderful Marches, where the weather, water temperature and daylength come together to kick start an early flurry of carp feeding and happy carpers. Make the most of it, as March can be horrifically tricky, especially if we get a chilly northerly – which seems to happen a lot, unless my memory is horribly skewed.
So, I only got my head back into carp fishing after the New Year, with my angling needs sated over the Xmas break with a bit of Chubbing on the mighty River Cack-Water. Welly can be a bit of a twat in the winter, if you know what I mean. I’ve fished it the last 6 winters and 5 of them have been somewhere between ‘Grade A Punishment’ and ‘may as well not bother’. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go anywhere else, as it’s a wonderful quiet safe venue when the park is closed in the winter, and there’s always the chance of a true blue enormadon.
So, after a winter of mild discontent; working at shows and angling whenever I could, I lumbered into March with the normal pants results for the efforts I had made. However, the focus was there and I knew I just had to grind out a bite as I wasn’t willing to just turn up when the lake started to fish (just the thought makes me feel all grubby and soiled). Luckily I caught a whipper snapper scaly stocky on a Friday evening from a swim called ‘The Three Trees’ – which at least meant that I had now caught a carp from every bivvy swim on the lake and was off the mark. Being buffeted by recent storms had been hard work but a tipping point had been reached and the fish went into one. Darrell had snuck a couple out just after the last big storm, and then when Paul caught the Birthday Fish off Boat House Point it seemed like the time had come. With a couple of mega mild nights in the second week of March, a trigger was flicked and the fish stirred as they started sucking and puffing at the lakebed. The lake had started fishing really well with carp suddenly getting caught most days.
To be frank, clubbing season had come early and this last weekend I got down the lake to find it MUCH busier than all winter and having been round to say a heart-felt ‘fair play’ to the lovely Mr Finn, for catching the magnificent (but mildly fugly) Willow, I popped round to shake Ian Lewis’ hand after his capture of one of my 2 targets. The awesome Chestnut Common. Ian was suitably made up and after a chat and a cuddle (no exchange of fluids) I was off to find a quiet zone on what was suddenly a very busy lake.
Luckily, my favourite part of the lake was bereft of fishers so I slipped into the Cold swim for the night and despite having the feeling there were fish passing through (single bleeps on slack lines regularly through the night) I was up early as Ian was off an the zone he was in really is prime zone for Scruffy Bob (my other target). Having got set up and all rods flopped out into the zone one showed to my left along the tree line and really I thought Was finally in with a hope, but those that were out on Saturday night will tell you how windy the weather got and the fish had either backed off due to the cooling effect of the wind, or had already bumped out the area after Ian’s fish. All I know is I woke up wind battered and mildly angry and frustrated with myself for sitting there for 24 hours. I got home a bit early and whiz the hoover round the house whilst TLSW Tracy was still out walking LushKev, my uber gorgeous chocolate Labrador. Then we went to Tesco’s and I made a truly terrible tactical choice. When I was asked what I wanted for dinner I couldn’t think of a response! My mind was screaming “say something you div” but the base line mental acuity simply wasn’t there!
You see, as I had left in the morning, I needed to pick my van keys up off of Cheeky Chubby Chops Charley as KKK’s Internet Lover (Moany Luke) had got something out my van earlier in the day, and whilst I stood there I saw an absolute unit/beast/chunk/monster shuffle the top third of its body out the water, just in front of a vacant swim and I said “I might be back later” but never said what I had just witnessed.
The only problem was I had done exactly the same the previous weekend, when I had seen fish Sunday morning (when I was supposed to be leaving) and ended up staying for the third consecutive night, and I KNEW how much Tracy would disapprove if I did it yet again. By mid-afternoon the mental image of that monster sloshing out was a driving me mental… So, I asked!
The response I got was probably deserved, but I still got changed into carp angling attire and slunk out the door torn by guilt and excitement. On my drive back to the park I rang Charlie, just to see if anyone had dropped in the swim – and hinted at what I had seen. When I arrived to sign in and get my mat, net and sling I popped up to see hm to tell him all – it was only fair. I’m not sure he believed me entirely at first, but when I pointed across the bay and another fish showed, and then another smaller one flopped out in the same small area within 30 seconds of the first there was no chance I was pulling a stroke!
CCC Charlie was saying he couldn’t believe it, as he had watched the same zone all day and seen nothing, but I was off, with my little legs propelling me up the path as quickly as they could. Puffing and wheezing (that would be Corona!) I arrived in the swim and deposited the barrow claiming the hot zone like a fat kid barging to the front of a queue in a sweet shop. What a relief… Now all I had to do was not totally ‘faf’ it up and do something stupid!
After a quick hello to the gorgeous Dr Dave in The Wides swim, I threw up the shelter and un-sleeved rods. Everything was going wonderfully until I misjudged the first cast and put the little one-ounce lead and PVA bag of slow steeped HNV-Pro boilies straight up the tree, just above the exact spot that the last couple of fish had shown on. Dear god! What an absolute pro-nod. Without pause I grabbed one of the other rods, checked the hook and honed the point and flipped it straight on the spot absolutely perfectly. Charlie never saw the disaster cast, just the second one, and he was well impressed.
The other two rods went out the same. Tiny 1-ounce Gardner leads, with ‘Clone Rigs’ tied with size 5 Incizor hooks and 25lb Camo Trick-Link. These were baited with a trimmed down 15mm HNV Pro boilie topped with a slither of one of Nigel’s new signature yellow pop-ups. Both rigs again had high-attract bags of 12mm HNV-Pro boilies, that had been pre-soaked over a long period in lovely mixture of Minamino, GLM and Liver powder and then a dose of gloopy Blakes Hydrolysed Fish glug.
The 2 open water rods were easy and were simply ‘plipped’ out at short range into open water with absolute minimal disturbance, dropping around the area that the big carp had shown in the morning. When it’s a balance between hooking mechanics and keeping the casts as quiet as possible I always ere on the side of caution and go really small on the leads, after all logic dictates that it’s better to have rigs fishing in an area with carp present than go in with lumps of lead and end up fishing super effectively in an area devoid of fish, isn’t it?
With the bivvy set up on a high bank I sat with the bivvy door down to stop any torch light being shone near towards the areas the hook baits were in whilst tidying up the tackle strewn across the bed and then tried to be as quiet as possible. With that done and the torch off I chucked the door back up over the roof and watched the water as the last vestiges of daylight faded away.
It was going to be cold so I suspected if I was going to get a bite it would be sooner than later, plus this swim is notoriously pants for doing night bites…. This concern was strengthened when Charlie had a lovely common, that made just over 40lb from Boathouse. Had he nicked a bite as they moved out?
At just after 8PM the middle rod gave a sharp series of bleeps and I crept down to find the tiny Nano Bug held tight to the front of the buzzer and the line pin tight, as it tugged the line from the clip on my GTD+ I tightened into it a fish that wallowed loudly about 40 yards out in the darkness, the still night air accentuating the noise. I wondered whether it was going to be another stocky; the fish hitting surface had confused me.
Suddenly it went slow and ‘sand bagged’, feeing convincingly weighty. I did the little dance of the chesties (and I didn’t fall over for a change either!) and got myself in the water and comfortable, ready to deal with the fish should it kite. Luckily it didn’t and within a couple of minutes I had a chunky head coughing water as it edged over the cord on the net. I may have muttered “thank **** for that!”.
It may not have been a new fish for me, but it was a very chubby looking Pretty Sutton so I rang Dr D and he popped down and helped me deal with the fish on the bank, photos and treatment of the fish. The last time we had met was in the Snags Swim when she had weighed 38lb something. This time she was 45½lb! At the end of a laborious Welly winter that would do to get the ball rolling – and with Chestnut having been out my mind is now necessarily fully focused on trying to nab a bite off of Scruffy Bob before my ticket expires at the end of May.
I packed up early the next morning, with iced fingers, it had been a bloody cold night, with my mate Jabba The Hut Richardson waiting to drop in behind me. It could have been worse I suppose. He could have caught one too!
*Footnote – Dear Carp God, please let me catch Scruffy Bob! I’ll be a good boy for at least a day or two after. Promise! Or I’ll try… Oh, and thank you Tracy! The Long-Suffering Wife.