We were on a package arranged and guided by Paul Hunt, a UK angler whose knowledge of the fishing on the Canadian side of the river is exceptional, and I was so impressed that I wrote an article about the trip for the magazine of the British Carp Study Group, a Society whose President, a few years ago, asked me to be a member. I was proud to accept, and so they put me among a group of members called 'Senior Fellows', rather a nice way of describing old carp anglers. Then again, in my case it is perhaps a reminder that one is old, and not still aspiring to great things in the carp anglers world, although to be absolutely honest, I was always a bit lazy for that and there are Senior Fellows that do catch mighty carp from hard waters. I digress.
My reason for this piece is that recently, Kay and I went back for more of the action, and for a second time we were greatly impressed with the fishing, so much so that I make absolutely no apology for enthusing about the place again, and describing the results of this trip, which was even more successful, unbelievably so, than the first effort.
Paul collected us from the airport arrivals area in Ottawa, as arranged, with the warning that it was very hot outside. Hot! It was 42 degrees Centigrade - in Canada, where one is inclined to think of snow and of generally a cold climate, but before the carp' my only fishing in Canada was to the North West Territories after Great 1ake trout, somewhat further north. But this year in June in Ottawa, whew!
Before I leave completely the mention of air travel, it might help any angler who wishes to emulate our carp fishing trip after reading what follows, to know that we travelled via 'Canadian Affair', which we found to have the most competitive prices. They have Boeing 757-200 and Airbus 320-200 aircraft, with good leg room, essential on long flights. They also fly from Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, as well as Gatwick for we southerners. If this sounds like a commercial, I'm only telling it as it is.
The air conditioning in Paul's vehicle for the hours drive to his Canadian home was a blessing. It was not usual for a heatwave to be so intense, and thankfully, although it was still hot for the rest of our week's stay, unlike the excessive heat on our arrival, the temperature did not belt the mercury through the top of the thermometer. We were to stay with Paul and his lovely Tessa, as they can accommodate seven anglers, and we were to join five other guests who were into their second week. They told us that it had been fabulous fishing, and that many twenty and thirty pound fish had come to their rods during the previous week. That sort of conversation makes one somewhat keen!
Mike and Lin Holcombe, Roy Northeast and his two sons, Dave and Ian, were the anglers we joined forces with, although, during the previous week, Mike and Lin's son Kevin had been with them, doing great things too. Anglers are nice people and so we were soon friendly, swapping yarns, and very soon, angling banter. Also, Mike and Lln have very kindly supplied me with an exact account of the numbers and weights of the fish they encountered during their holiday, and I think it would be very remiss of me not to pass on that information - it will make your eyes pop out! I will give you details of their son's catch here, as unfortunately we did not meet, as he was on his way home as we were arriving. Mike and Lin's catches - later!
Kevin was a man with a purpose when he went to Canada with Mike and Lin Not a dyed-in-the-wool carp angler, but an all-round angler who had yet to catch a twenty pound carp, he wanted to beat his mother Lin's best carp of 241b. 8oz., and his brother's best at 291b. 8oz. He did that on his first day, as included in his ten carp catch were two over twenty and two fine fish of 331b. and 371b.8oz. Some start to a fishing holiday! During the five days he spent beside the magnificent St. Lawrence River he banked 87 carp, which included 30 fish topping 201b, and 7 upwards of 301b. The total weight of his catch was a staggering 1,638 pounds. It is an amazing catch, but it is not unusual for most anglers fishing with Paul to have similar results, to which I am sure Kevin will agree.
Kay and I don't start our fishing very early these days, but we are always prepared to get up early if that is what is required, and with the hot weather, it was sensible perhaps to start reasonably early. Around 6-6.30am. saw our group arriving by the river on most days, and we were always greeted by leaping carp. It is half the battle to know you are fishing where the fish are, and that they are likely to he in a feeding mood. Our first day however was a much later start. We were a little tired after the long day previously, the journey to the airport, the flight and all that, and were happy that we had to delay an early start in order to obtain our weekly licences, and so we missed the first part of the day when the rod is permanently bent. It was not until 9.30am. that we lobbed our baits the 20yds or so to where the fish should be, in 20-25ft. of water, and although we took a few between 15 and l91b, we had to wait until nearly midday before I had the first good fish. It was 31 lb. This Canadian carp fishing is so fantastic that I find I am almost grumbling here about waiting for a whole 2hrs before catching a nice carp, and we considered it to be a slow day as we had only had 19 carp when we packed up at 5.45pm. Included in that 19 fish however, Kay also had a 31 pounder and a couple of twenties, and I had three twenties, best 281b, plus the 31 pounder. We also had five fish cut the line on zebra mussels and I had two hooks opened out. These are very strong fish!
Paul fished with us on our first day, as guide and friend, to make sure we were correctly into this business of catching lots of carp. I did not list his catch, apart from a note that he had a 29 and 301b fish. It was noted because Kay took a photograph of Paul and I together with a couple of twenties which we both netted at the same time, Paul's 29 pounder and my lesser fish of 21.
There is something nicely civilised about going home for a shower and a decent meal after a day's fishing, rather than a cat's lick, and the mess thrown in a pan from whatever packets or tins one has humped to the fishery, as happens here in the UK, before one settles into night fishing mode. The young of our group went into town for (?) whatever, while we oldies talked fishing, politics, and etc. before turning in early. And we slept like tops in a cool room, ready to be on the river by 6.30am. That air conditioning is the 'tops' too!
Paul said it would be nice if one of our group, young carp angler Ian Northeast, fished with us on our second day, as he would happily net and unhook our fish if we wished, and generally look after us - and he did just that. There is a lot to be said for this geriatric lark if you play your cards right! Paul obviously thought we old codgers should not be left alone - perhaps he's worried about his insurance cover?
Fifteen minutes went by before Kay was into the first of the day, a 19 pounder, and before it was landed I was playing a 16 pounder. We then had a 171b. fish each before the first 20 pounder graced the net, exactly 201b, and 50mins had gone by for that fish. I was thinking that it was not an auspicious start if one hoped for plenty of twenties during the day, but as it was being returned Kay had a 22! Silly of me! That's two twenties in the first hour!
As it turned out, this second day was marvellous fishing with the rods continuously under stress. On two or three occasions the three of us were all playing fish and we barely had the time to eat and drink. You know what it's like when fishing in our normal venues, and things are a bit slow, just as you pour out the tea, away goes the line. On this day, if we waited 15mins without one of us having a run, we thought it might be a chance to get at the grub, as maybe the fish had moved on or gone off the feed for a while, but not once did we finish eating before one of us was into a fish.
I have never seriously kept a diary. Once or twice I have started to, listed a few days fishing, but then forget, or cannot be bothered, but I can recall much of my fishing over the years by photographic record, as I do have a few albums, and occasionally I glance through them to remind me of my angling life. One's life is all in the past, we have no knowledge of the future, so the albums are a pleasure and a key to many memories. Kay on the other hand does keep a diary, and a good job too, or I would never keep many an appointment, or do what is required of one during the controlled part of our life. She also fond of statistics, and so she lists the fish caught on holidays, or when she is fishing, the time, the place, and any relevant matter. Because of Kay's diary I can tell you, that on this second day she caught 27 carp, and 11 of them were over 201bs, with her best making 271b. Her total weight was 493lbs 8ozs, not a bad day's fishing!
Ian did not fare so well, but as he spent much of the day netting and weighing our fish, he did not put the effort into his fishin6 as he would have otherwise, and he had already caught lots of 20 and 301b fish, as had his father and brother, prior to our arrival on the scene. Nevertheless, he still managed 14 good fish, 4 of which topped 20. His catch weighed 2371bs 8ozs.
I was not quite in Kay's league with the top weights, I could not get over 261b, and only had 9 twenties to her 11, but I did get 31 fish which made 4991b 8ozs. Kay has not totted the total weight in her diary, but if we sum up, the three of us took 72 carp from one swim, fishing from 6.30am, until 5.30pm, and total weight was 1,2301bs 8ozs, - more than half a ton! What a day!
Downstream, Ian's brother David also caught a lot of carp including a couple over 30, and when Paul moved in downstream of him during the afternoon he took them up to 381b. Elsewhere on the river, Mike was also hauling them out, and Lin, who only fishes occasionally, caught one or two when Mike was away chatting - or whatever? Nearly 2,000 miles long, and in places 2- miles wide, the river is often called "The Mighty St. Lawrence". For carp anglers, that's got to be true!
Day three was the highlight of the holiday for me. Apart from catching 31 carp, which boring statistics showed included 9 'twenties' and a thirty, I was fortunate in taking a fish that beat 401b. Not by a lot, only ten ounces in fact, but never having sat myself anywhere with the intention of taking one of that size, being well content with fish of lesser proportions, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I knew it was a heavyweight when it hung out in the current making me work to regain line, but not until I netted it did I realise that I had such a barrel of a fish. My third day of the trip, and only my eighth day of fishing in Canada for carp had produced a 'forty.' I love Canada!
Kay also had a very good day with 32 carp to her rod. Ten of them were 'twenties' with the best at 291b, and although she did not quite make the 301b target, her day's catch was over 600lb. It is worth pointing out that only one rod is allowed per angler.
The next couple of days, which completed our five days fishing were not quite so good as we tried other swims, but we still added a further 17 'twenties' to our total, which, for the five days were, for Kay, 95 carp weighing 17621b. Thirty four of them were twenties, but she was a bit unlucky that only one fish was over 301b. That is, if you can mention bad luck when she caught so many. She also caught a couple of small catfish. For male pride, I am glad to say I caught the most - 96 carp, but my ego is deflated when admitting that the weight was less, 17061b. However, between us we landed more than 1.5 ton of carp in five days fishing.
If you think that sounds impressive fishing, read on. Mike Holcombe fished eleven days, during which he banked 195 carp, Fifty-eight of them were twenty pounders and 10 of them were over 30, the best of which was 361b 8ozs. In that eleven days he had landed 3,5331b of carp, over 1.5 ton. I already mentioned that Lin only picked up the rod if Mike had to go 'walkies. He must have drunk a lot as Lin copped 14 fish, 6 of them 'twenties', and one 'thirty'.
Unfortunately I do not have any figures of the catches made by Roy Northeast and his two sons, but they fared as well as the rest of us and caught plenty of 20 and 301b. fish.
Here are more facts of 1999 given to me by Paul. Since May, and up to July 16th, his customers have taken 1149 carp over 201b, 234 over 301b, and 12 over 401b. The best so far is 461b. Added to that is thousands over 101b of course.
More facts: In 1997 Paul and a friend fished for 10 days for a phenomenal catch totalling 12,0781b (5.75ton) made up as follows: 70 doubles, 289 over 201b, 85 over 301b, 6 over 401b, and one over 501b. Paul took the two largest in consecutive casts, which were, 49lb, and 501b 9oz.
This article is mostly a record of some catches made on the St. Lawrence River by clients of Paul Hunt, and I must say here that it is not at his request. Kay and I paid our way just as any other customer, and I think it was well worth it. There cannot be many other places in the world where carp can be caught BY THE TON!
Paul and Tessa's Canadian home has 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a small swimming pool, and is very comfortable. Paul runs a 22ft. wide beam boat to reach some of the swims, and they provide adequate packed lunches and liquid during the day. Tessa cooks the evening meal, but the nearest town is close if clients wish to eat out occasionally. To give Tessa a rest, we all voted to eat out at the end of the holiday anyway, for very little cost.
What Kay and I liked about Paul and Tessa's set up is that there are no hidden costs. The only extra is the cost of the fishing licence. Other than that, one does not have to spend a single penny. All tackle is provided, which avoids the bind of lugging rods and tackle around airports. That is always a nuisance, but on some of the trips we have had around the world, if you didn't take your own kit you had to fish with some pretty awful stuff. Not on this trip. Tackle is top class.
For brochures or information ring, Canadian Carpin, daytime 0956 664117, evening 01708 861244.