I fish mainly as a team with two friends, Adam and Sam. Fishing in this way, with three pairs of eyes looking at the lakes and three brains (well two and a bit) thinking about the fishes moods and movements has been so useful. I can't stand the way some carp anglers are so 'cliquey' as they say, never telling the whole truth and pulling blinds. When fishing or looking round a lake, I try to be 100% honest and open about everything I've seen and caught, in the plain hope that others will be as forthcoming with information. Luckily, fishing the types of waters I do, there is a real sense of camaraderie amongst the anglers and over the past few years I have been fortunate to make some good friends. This has made my fishing all the more enjoyable, and at this point I must say a quick thank you to everyone for the gallons of tea and the odd can of lager.
The title Carping Around is meant to reflect my style of angling, always looking at new waters and fishing several lakes at the same time, not literally. I do this to maximise my fishing time. During the course of a season, there are normally times on every venue when the fish are having it. These periods might be a week or a month, but in my experience every water has a hot period, and these times can be identified either by fishing, or just from observations. So by spending time observing and 'keeping in touch' with several lakes at the same time, experience will tell when to concentrate on a particular venue and when not to waste valuable rod hours when the fish simply aren't going to play the game.
Typically I fish gin clear, low stocked gravel pits, and enjoy a sense of the unknown to my fishing. Large waters don't put me off, and several of the venues I am going to be talking about have stockings of about a fish per acre. I like these venues because of the lack of other anglers, peace and quiet are the main things I look for in a venue but of course large carp also play a part!
Bait wise, I'm not really a boilie fan, but having recently discovered fishmeals, Sam and I ordered in 50 kilos of base mix (Premier baits Aminos with Robin Red) and rolled the lot in a couple of weekends over the winter, in preparation for the season. These 12 and 18 mm salmon flavoured red devils supplemented the usual large quantities of particle. A few sacks of hemp, half a sack of tigers, a couple of sacks of wheat, and father's shed was full to the brim, much to his annoyance I must say. I'm not really one to fish over large amounts of bait, but do like to put it in before and after trips, to prepare areas. Typically when fishing a lake I select a few areas that I've seen fish in, bait them all regularly and fish the most favoured, depending on conditions, when fish can't be located anywhere else. Baring in mind I'm normally looking at four or five waters at the same time, I can get through a lot of bait.
Preparation of large quantities of particles used to take a long time and cause untold hassle messing about with pressure cookers and saucepans. That was until I made a discovery that revolutionised my fishing, the cool-box. Hemp and wheat can both be cooked to perfection simply by half filling the box with dry seed, and then filling it up to the top with boiling water from the kettle. Leave the whole lot to stew overnight, and there you have about ten kilos of beautifully split hemp. Please do not attempt to cook tiger nuts in this fashion, these need to be soaked for 24 hours and then boiled for at least half an hour, in the usual fashion.
So, armed with a freezer full of fishmeals, a shed full of particles, a pair of the cheapest cooler boxes money can buy, a lucky carp hat, a pair of Polaroids, my lucky millennium-bugs carp mug, and about 10 different club books and syndicate memberships, March soon arrived.
Over the rest of the next few articles I will detail the times when I've concentrated on certain lakes and been successful. But for every fish banked, there are many hours, and days, spent looking at venues I don't end up fishing, and times when it just all goes wrong!
The Railway Lake is a relatively small water controlled by a good friend, and not an easy one at that. I've fished the pit on and off for the past three years. Takes were few and far between to say the least, in fact I'd banked my first fish from the lake after 18 months of trying! A low twenty I'd taken off the top the previous summer. Up until then I'd found the carp to be super-elusive and the other fish I had been lucky enough to hook had both come adrift.
In about 12 acres there appeared to be a maximum of fifteen fish present. The lake had suffered a fish kill some three or fours years before I started fishing it, cutting the stocks down to their current level. After the fish kill all the regular anglers had gone off to pastures new, leaving the surviving fish to go unmolested in a very rich water with now virtually no competition for food. In that time these fish had put on weight and were in immaculate condition.
This is the only water I've ever fished where I have never seen a carp roll or jump. Well, I have seen one, but that was many years ago whilst looking round the lake in search of a good tench water. I never fished it in those days, but can still picture the sight of a massive common lunching itself out of the water in the middle of the pit one evening.
I tried for a long time to catch a carp from the water, but only ended up catching bream and tench. That was until late last summer when over the course of two weeks I had about 6 chances of catching. The fish suddenly became visible, patrolling a secluded bay most evenings. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong, until eventually it all came together and I eventually put one on the bank.
During this time I got a good look at some of the fish, and what fish they were. The carp I caught was one of about three low-mid twenty pound mirrors. This group would be the most regular visitors to the bay, and really helped getting the other fish into feeding off the top, as they often threw caution to the wind and really 'got on' the chum mixers I was feeding them. The problem was that they would blitz the floaters for a few seconds and then just wander off for twenty minutes, before returning and having another feed. I found presenting a bait in the right place at the exact right moment very difficult. Often the evenings would get too cool and the fish would drift off into deeper water.
Another regular visitor to the bay was the fish I really wanted to catch after seeing photos of some previous captures. The fish was a common, quite a deep fish and strangely light in colour. This coloration had earned the fish the name of the Ghost Common. Last out at 28 and a fish that had steadily grown two pounds a year since the previous fish kill. I'd watched this potential thirty pound common many times and it was always the fish I was trying to present a bait to. Others included a fat mirror we all thought would be well over thirty pounds, he had a distinct lump on one side. There was another fish around the same size, but longer and slimmer, recognised as the biggest in the lake and uncaught for many years. I rarely saw these two feed on the top. All the fish were really old, jet black and 100% born and bred British.
Now let me bring you up to date. Autumn quickly drew in and the fish stopped frequenting the bay. I had done very little time on the lake over that winter, just a few short trips during a mild winter spell. I'd already decided to spend most of this season elsewhere, but was determined to continue my evening stalking sessions in a bid to bank another Railway carp. Throughout the warmest evenings in April and May I would pop to the lake if I was passing or was free after work. Very little was seen to give the carps' presence away.
Then, one warm spring afternoon in mid May, Sam and I decided to spend a couple of days at the lake after a week long session really struggling elsewhere. I arrived first and a quick wander around soon found me in a favourite area of the lake. Looking over the vegetation and through a few small gaps in the over hanging tree canopy, a flash of blue caught my eye. Salute on, a good lock-on ensued, following Mr Kingfisher to the far bank. That has got to be lucky I thought, the fish must be about. Sure enough the location of a group of fish was soon revealed in the much-loved bay.
The fish were too far out to identify individually, and the light was at an awkward angle, but carp they were, good fish too, cruising around on the surface. They were only just visible cutting the surface film, making tiny little bow waves amongst the surface scum. There seemed to be a few about, five or six different fish at least were visible from the start.
Sam soon arrived and together we watched and slowly identified a couple of the familiar fins. Little lumpy and the Big common were soon spotted.
I spent a number of hours trying to get one off the top, but while I had fish feeding in front of me, I just couldn't get one to take a hookbait, such is The Railway. As evening approached, we decided to get the rest of the gear and fish the night in the area. Sam set up in the bay, but I decided to move and fish a swim at the bays entrance, being unsure that the fish would stay in the bay over night.
The outcrop of reeds that formed the bay has a shallow bar running off the end of it, providing an ideal clean gravel area to present a bait on. In the past, I'd observed fish travelling over this bar on their way in and out of the bay. I thought that if, or when, the fish moved out of the bay, this would be their route. So providing the perfect point to position a baited ambush.
It was with some resentment that I left Sam to the fish in the bay, to set up near the bar. Two bottom baits on short snakebite hooklinks were accurately positioned on the end of the reeds. Using PVA foam, I overcast the bar with the little 1 1/2 oz leads landing nice and quietly. Gently pulling the rigs back up the bar, ensuring to feel the distinctive tap tap of the gravel, had them exactly where I wanted them. Up popped the foam, and about ten free offerings were dropped right on top of the area. I wanted to present a very small amount of bait for two reasons. One to discourage any unwanted attention of the numerous bream in the pit, and two, because I didn't think the carp were likely to spend a great amount of time feeding in the area, and wanted my hookbait to be one of the first baits they sampled. A single pop-up was also presented right in against the reeds, as the fish normally travelled very close to them when moving around the area.
With three rods out and the lines slackened off to ensure the leadcore leaders held the line well out the way of detection, I quickly got the floater rod back out and fed soaked mixers as far into the bay as possible. The fish were still in evidence and after about thirty minutes a couple of backs broke the surface close to my swim. Sam kept a running commentary on developments in the bay over the CB radio. He had a few fish feeding off the top again in front of him.
The two fish in front of me slowly began to feed on the mixers trapped up against the reeds. The fish in The Railway are quite well educated, despite not having been caught for a few years. The only way to avoid them spooking off a floating hookbait was to fish with a fine hook-link. I normally like to fish quite light when floater fishing anyway, but The Railway is a very snaggy water and this was before I discovered double strength fly leader (get on it!) so was using 8 pound Big Game straight through. A good fish came up to the hookbait and took it first go. As soon as it mouthed the bait it knew something was wrong and immediately rolled heavily on the surface. I swept the rod back and hooked my first fish of the season. Kiting right, an incredibly powerful carp stripped 10 yards of line from the reel and headed right through the middle of the reeds, seconds later the line parted. Gutted! It all happened so fast. After that no other fish fed off the surface, despite them spending all evening in and around the bay.
After dark I had several tench off the bar, and was concerned that the disturbance had upset the carp. But was able to position the rods back out on the bar in complete darkness, and happy enough with the presentation being spot on, should they still be about. I needn't have worried, at 4am, a time that proved to be a hot time for takes for the rest of the season, a twitchy tench bite saw me connected to a heavy slow moving weight that felt very carpy. The fish came in close to the bank, causing little problems with the reeds, and moved up and down the margins for ten minutes before rolling into the waiting net. I was pretty sure which fish it was before I even saw it, and on the mat I was proved right by the distinctive common carp scaling. The big common was finally mine. I quickly sacked the fish for a couple of hours until it was light enough to take the photographs. She weighed 30lb 8oz. My first thirty pound common.
During the rest of the morning fish were seen regularly, and at 11 am the pop-up rod yielded a little 8lb 6oz common. The biggest and smallest commons in the lake, a rare Railway brace.
A couple of weeks later I was to take another Railway brace. After observing fish patrolling over a really tiny, foot-wide gravel spot in heavy weed up at the other end of the lake. Accurately casting two hookbaits on the spot at 30 yards took about two hours, but proved worth the bother with a common of 26lb 14oz and a jet black mirror of 19lb 12oz taken in successive mornings. The same weekend, Adam was to lose four incredibly powerful fish in the reeds, proving that the fish were really 'having it'. However the lake quickly regained its usual character with very few sightings over the next month. It was time to be off elsewhere.
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