Well I had two more trips after my initial success on the North Met, only these were not quite as successful, mainly due to the fact that the fish were practically living in the out of bounds areas, either that or deep within a huge reed-bed, just trying to make the most of the pretty poor levels of sunlight we were having.
On my fourth visit to the water, a short one night trip due to the bank holiday stealing half of my session, the weather had picked right up and it was actually hot for a change.
I set about walking the entire circumference of the lake and determined not to set up until I had found something to fish for.
The first thing I noticed, being the day after bank holiday, was the litter everywhere, not from anglers I hasten to add but from the general public as the North Met is actually part of the Lee Valley parks and is used by a multitude of different people. Just why people think it is alright to leave all their discarded wrappers, bottles, bags and even used nappies laying around the place I do not know. If they turned up for their picnic and found the public areas looking like a rubbish dump then they would be disgusted and go elsewhere but they think it is totally acceptable leave it in this state, just who do they think cleans up after them every time?
Anyway, rant over, but I do so abhor litter in any form whatsoever and there is just no need.
I took a long slow stroll around the lake, with the dog charging on ahead at every opportunity and chasing anything that look stupid enough to run, squirrels, other dogs, ducks, sparrows, he’s not particularly fussy although he couldn’t actually catch his own tail but that never stopped him trying.
After a good hour or so of looking I climbed a small tree situated on the mouth of a dead end bay. It was a perfectly situated swim as it sits adjacent to a gap that the fish have to pass through on their way from one end of the lake to the other, a natural bottleneck with a small bay set to the side for resting and sunbathing in. A very shallow bar cuts across the swim about twenty five yards out and forms the mouth of the bay so that, once the fish have passed over it, there is nowhere else to go but into the bay, passing right through the little swim I was now standing in.
I stood up the tree for a bit and then saw what I was after as a carp appeared over the bar and slowly cruised beneath me, shortly followed by three more and this was all the encouragement I needed, I was off like a rabbit for my carp fishing rods.
Luckily I had stashed the barrow about five hundred yards away when I arrived, being almost at the end of my first circuit meant that I was nearly back to the fishing gear anyway and it didn’t take long to get everything into position.
Before casting I spent another ten minutes up the tree just to make sure I was picking the best spots and then I flicked out three rigs into the best looking interception points, scattering about a dozen free baits around each one.
It was one of those situations where you just know you are going to catch, definitely the best chance I had since starting on the lake and I wasn’t at all surprised when my left hand rod signalled a drop back after only half an hour of casting.
The fish had kited around into the bay, away from the bar and the small island in front of me, perfect really and it was a good tussle in deep clear margins that followed. I could see about ten feet down into the water so I knew it was a decent fish way before I got him into the landing net.
He was a nice long and old looking mirror of thirty one pounds, almost a leather along his flanks with a great big head, what a way to start a trip.
With the photo’s done and the rig back out there I put the kettle on and sat back to bask in the sunshine but not for long!
This time it was the left hand fishing rod and that was where the danger really was, the shallow bar had a snag growing out of the top and, had he managed to clamber over it into the main lake than I really would have been in trouble, I was a real battle of wills for a few minutes and huge surges of water washed up the side of the bar as he tried over and again to gain the sanctuary of the open water.
Eventually he realised I wasn’t going to give in that easily and he tried to make it into the bay but he’d gambled his biggest energy reserves with the bar and I soon had him under control.
Once again I could see him way below the surface and this time I knew I had hooked a real biggie. Every time he turned and twisted below the rod I could clearly see his deep flanks and huge shoulders and I knew he was somewhere around the forty pound mark; quite a scary thing really knowing just how big they are so long before they are beaten.
Beaten he was though, eventually, and into the net he went with a last defiant slap of his tail.
On the scales he stopped just short of forty, just a few ounces mind and still a real whacker.
This one was more of a big pit chunk, a real deep bellied, broad shouldered beast and he looked just fine with the sunlight bouncing of his orange flanks.
With two fish under my belt I knew I was staying put for the night, even the swim was tiny and barely more than a little grassy slope to the water.
The night was quite eventful as well, I had a further four takes before it grew light, two of these I unfortunately lost but a pair of twenties finished the session of perfectly. As if often the way at this time of year I awoke to a completely different day, the sun had been replaced by cloud and rain and the fish had moved off to find more suitable areas to live in but I packed up happy with my results.
Next week I will be starting my campaign on a huge 250 acre clay pit, full of bars and mystery with an unknown stock, right up my street!
Here we are then, April has finally arrived, the official first day of spring has been and gone and the clocks have gone back to provide us with a glorious extra hour of evening light. Of course the next line should read “The sun is blazing down on the lakes, the daffodils are all out in bloom, and nature is resplendent in all her glory” but the reality is that it’s still snowing!
Never mind though, let’s just ignore that fact because the time has come to get out there with your carp fishing tackle and catch some fish, who cares what the weather man says, it’s April and the fish must be starving by now. I have had two more trips to the Estate Lake, possibly my last two for a while because it is nearly time to move onto pastures new.
One of the two visits doesn’t really require much in the way of a blow by blow reportage as I just cowered away in my Hard-core Bivvy, sheltering from a bitter North-Easterly wind and snow flurries, but we are not going to mention that again are we?
The other trip was far more productive, the air temperature rose a couple of degrees, the fish decided that it was in fact spring after all, and I caught not one, not two, but four carp in a frantic twenty four hour period.
Not only were the bites forthcoming but, for the first time this winter I managed to get two of the pick-up’s from a new area, rather than just out in the middle in the silt.
There is an island out to the left of the swim I have been concentrating on and it has a hard gravel shelf that runs around its perimeter. There are various trees and bushes that overhang the margins out there and these provide the perfect haven for carp. By clipping up and adding a yard at a time I managed to place a bait tight between two of these snaggy overhangs and present, for once, on firm and clear lake bed, a perfect trap for any island margin patrollers.
I have obviously tried this ploy a few times over the last couple of months but always without success so I was over the moon when this was the first rod to rip off. More than just another capture this was a sign that the fish were finally on the move and willing to leave the sanctuary of the deep silt in search of food and sunlight.
Over the next twenty four hours I managed another island bite and two more fish from the old spots in the middle. Although none of them were monsters I was still well happy with four carp to mid-twenties after the previous week’s non-entity of a trip.
It really does take such a little change in the elements at this time of year to kick start the chain reaction that results in a successful session, a few hours of sunlight or a swap in the wind direction can be all it takes.
Talking of which, look out for the weather this coming weekend as they are forecasting the first bit of South based wind for months, on the strength of this I am predicting some big catches all over the country so make sure you are out there to cash in, remember where you heard it first!
I will be out filming the new TF Gear DVD all next week, we have some exciting new products to showcase and, hopefully, there will plenty of action on the rods as well, I can’t wait!
Well, it’s been a few weeks since my last blog as I have been a bit busy with my writing schedule, carp shows and trying to extricate some carp flesh out of the Estate Lake.
What a terrible month it has been for weather again, this winter seems to be the longest I can ever remember and every time we think we are through the worst of it, along comes yet another cold snap.
As I write this the date is showing on the computer as the 8th march and the little weather symbol is threatening yet more snow at the weekend followed by temperatures as low as minus five for my next session on Monday. I don’t know about the rest of you but I can’t wait for a nice bit of sunshine where we can all sit out side in the evenings in a pair of shorts with a cold drink and watch the sun slowly setting over the lake as you wait for your carp rods to scream off.
I think the fish are in a bit of a quandary as to what’s happening as well, February is usually a very productive month but not so this year.
It started off well enough, in fact it started very well indeed and on my first trip of the month I managed to bag myself three nice carp.
I had set up in the same area that I had my previous captures form, figuring that the carp were not going to move far in cold water. The first day was un-productive but, just as the sun started to creep across the horizon; I had my first take and duly landed a common of around twenty four pounds.
As seems to be the way on this particular venue, one fish usually means there are more to come and a couple of hours later I was away again on the same rod. This time it was a mirror that graced the banks, not quite as big though, he weighed in at eighteen pounds.
Although this is quite a small fish in comparison to some of the beasties in there I was still well happy with my result. Two fish in a morning in February is good angling in my book, no matter what size they are.
Although the day had started nice and sunny, by mid-afternoon the clouds had thickened and a wickedly strong wind had whipped up, to be honest it looked like even more snow was on the way.
About five o’clock I had a third take, this time a real belter and the fish I’d hooked into was obviously far bigger than the previous two. He charged about all over the place, three times I managed to get him close to the net before he turned and belted back out into the middle again.
Eventually though, he waved the white flag and slid over the net cord and, just as he hit the bottom of the mesh, the skies opened.
Huge great flakes of snow like white mice were whipped across the surface, almost horizontal in the force of the wind. I pinned out the landing net with the fish inside and darted for the cover of the extended porch on the Hard-core bivvy, from here I could crouch down out of the weather but still keep an eye on the net. It fell so hard and fast that I thought I might, at last, get the snow carp picture I so wanted but it turned out to be far too windy for it to settle. After about ten minutes it eased up and battled my way out into the wind to take the photos.
Although there was no snow on the ground there are obvious signs of it bouncing off my jacket so I suppose I am getting closer every time. To be honest though, I’d rather give up on the snow photo and catch one in the blazing sunshine instead; surely it can’t be long now can it.
This lovely orange coloured mirror tipped the scales at a shade over thirty four pounds and he turned out to be, not only the last fish of the session, but the last fish of the entire month so I have no idea what went wrong there.
The lake just seemed to shut up shop totally, although I did manage one more bite the following week but that turned out to be a twenty pound pike!
Hopefully at some time in the next two weeks I will be moving onto a new water for the spring and summer, I have a good one in mind that is stacked full of thirties, a few forties and, hopefully, the odd surprise, I can’t wait, and I’ll keep you posted as to how I’m getting on.
Good luck with whatever waters you target this coming year and lets all hope for a nice warm spring.
Well that was that then, the second coming of the ice age soon put paid to my little run of catching carp.
I turned up last Monday full of confidence of finally achieving my lifetime ambition, a big carp in the snow. The white stuff was falling out of the sky in flakes the size of white sugar mice and an even crisp coating covered the banks, but not enough to put a damper of my carp fishing enthusiasm.
The drive through the Estate was pretty hairy as, half an hour before light; mine were unsurprisingly the first set of tyre tracks on the lane. Even in four wheel drive it was more than a little slippery but I arrived in one piece and with no dents or scrapes.
Pushing the barrow was easier than normal though as the sloppy mud on the paths had frozen solid and I trudged straight up to the swim I had been so successful ion the previous two visits.
Surely this would be the week that I returned victorious with a camera full of images a big golden carp against a Christmas card background?
I knew I was up against it though as the forecast was for a rapid deterioration in the conditions and hideously cold temperatures during Tuesday night, this combined with a swing in the wind to the East meant there was a very real chance of the lake freezing over.
To start though it looked perfect, the snow kept falling and the baits all went out in the right spots first time. I put the bivvy up to shield my kit from the snow and settled in for the duration.
The first bite time came and went, shortly followed by the afternoon chance without as much as a sniff.
As soon as grew dark I knew I was in for the long haul as I have only had the one take in darkness and the nights seem so interminably long at this time of year but a film on the mini DVD player and a good book helped to pass the time.
Once again the morning feeding spell came and went and I busied myself by making a snowman for company, it was looking really good until Paddy decided to eat both his stick arms!
Once I had re-cast all the rods with fresh baits there really was very little to do apart from sit and wait some more and consider the sanity of doing another night as they were predicting temperatures of minus eight that night.
Luckily I had come well prepared and the layers of thermal fishing clothing I had on kept me nice and warm despite the biting easterly winds.
Once again darkness fell only this time the forecast came good and by midnight I knew that my chances of that magical snow photo were as far below zero as the thermometer was.
I snuggled down for the night and, as I awoke on Wednesday morning, I was actually surprised just how nice and warm I felt, I had my trusty Hard-core Sleeping bag tucked up around my chin and the fleece lined cover keeping in all that lovely warm air, it was quite a shock when I peered out of the bivvy doorway and saw fifty ducks all walking in single file across the middle of the lake, my quest for a carp had failed but I suppose my testing of the new winter range of clothes and sleeping bags had been a roaring success. I was tempted to just stay in bed and pretend I was still fishing but, eventually, I had climb out and start the long and arduous task of packing away a frozen bivvy and breaking the ice to retrieve my lines with fingers that felt like frozen sausages.
As they say though, you have to be in it to win it and there is still plenty of winter left to try again, and plenty more snow on the way.
Well it’s all back to normal again, the tinsel is keeping the mice warm in the loft and the tree is all folded up in its box again. I had a bit of a lay off from fishing over the holiday period but I was breaking my neck to get back out there at the beginning of this week, especially with the mild weather we have been having.
I set off on the Monday morning for Northampton and a return to the Estate Lake, arriving just as it was getting light. Apparently nobody had even thought about carp fishing the place for two weeks and I wondered if the carp would still be holed up where I caught my last three fish from?
Obviously this was going to be my starting point and it didn’t take long to get three rigs out there on the spots.
I was sticking to my successful method of a standard hair rig with a bottom bait and the addition of a small PVA bag of 10mm baits, just to give the carp something to home in on through the thick silt.
With the fishing rods out I quickly set up the Hard-core Bivvy and then stuck the kettle on for a brew but something seemed different, quieter than usual, and then I realised there were no sheep. Usually there are woolly Ovines wandering around everywhere, sneaking up behind your bivvy and startling the hell out of you with a sudden loud bleat but, for some reason, they had all disappeared today; maybe Lamb had been on the menu at a big New Year’s Eve dinner at the manor house!
I didn’t have to wait long to find out if I was in the right spot, sheep or no sheep, the carp were definitely still there as I had my first take about ten o’clock in the morning. After a bit of a tussle in the silt where the fish sent up huge sheets of bubbles as he tried to bury himself under the mud, I managed to steer him into the margins where he just plodded up and down for a few minutes before waving the white flag and rolling up into the net.
This was a nice welcome back present and a great way to start the New Year but I couldn’t help but wonder what I might have missed out on over the previous few weeks. On the scales he registered twenty eight and a half pounds and, after a couple of pictures, I slipped him back into the cloudy water.
With such a quick result I had high hopes for the rest of the session; especially when the next rod ripped off at three in the afternoon. This fish fought far harder than the previous one and I really did think I had hooked one of the really big commons for a while but, as he eventually came over the net cord, I could see he was another mirror. Incredibly pale in colour, probably due to the lack of light getting through the muddy water, he weighed in at just over thirty and a half pounds.
Now I really was confident and I could see a session to remember stretching out ahead of me but, as is the way with carp fishing, the lake had other ideas. It was as if that last fish had pressed a panic button and all the carp retreated to the bunker for the next two days as, apart from two bream, the alarms remained silent.
The weather just got better and better and I still find it hard to believe that nothing else fed although I certainly am not complaining at two big fish in the first week of January.
I hope the rest of the month goes as well, although they are forecasting some horribly cold conditions over the next few days so let’s just hope the lake doesn’t freeze over as that’s about the only thing that will stop me being out there again next week!
Happy New Year to you all, 2013 is here and once again we have survived through another ‘end of the world’ scenario.
This time it was the Mayan calendar coming to its last page on 21st December but, despite the lunatics sitting on a hilltop waiting to be rescued by aliens as the world crumbles around the disbelievers, we are all still here and live to fish another day. I reckon this must be at least the fifth such event I can remember, what with George Orwell’s ninety eighty four, the millennium bug, Nostradamus predictions and the lining up of various planets to ensure we all perish in a ball of fire. It does make me chuckle but I suppose it gives Yahoo news something to write about eh?
Personally I had a great end of the world party down at the Estate Lake, having struggled for a few weeks prior to this trip it was as if the fish had decided to have a last supper as well, just in case.
The last capture from the Estate had been my twenty two pound mirror over a month before but on the Tuesday morning, after my first night of the session, I received my second ever bite from the lake. I was wandering up and down the bank looking for signs of fish when the Sounder box from my Mag-runner bite alarms screamed out in my pocket as something made off across the lake with the bait.
There was no pre-amble or hesitation, it was just a full on take as line was ripped from the clutch. The following fight was not quite as impressive as the run however, and before long a chunky mirror with a big floppy tail rolled into the net, a chunky mirror that looked incredibly familiar as it happens. I’d only gone and caught the same fish again, two carp in five weeks and it was the same fish both times!
I was pleased to have had another bite but a bit disappointed with the result and, after weighing him a full pound lighter than the last time, realised that even he had probably not fed for a while so the others must have been on a strict diet.
Later that evening though, about seven o’clock and in total darkness, I had another pick up and this fish felt a lot heavier, plodding about in the shallow water and silt in front of me. As it rolled into the net I caught a glimpse of golden scales and realised I’d got a common, and quite a big one at that.
On the mat I could see he was way over thirty pounds and, on the scales, I was proved right when he spun the needle around to thirty six and a half pounds.
Thirty six pounds plus is still a huge size for a common in my book, I think I have only ever had three or four bigger in my life so I was well chuffed. I popped him into a hard-core safety retainer for ten minutes while I sorted out the camera equipment and then took a few shots before sliding him back into the lake.
Nothing further happened that evening and, after a nice warm night’s sleep, I woke up quite surprised to find that I hadn’t had another bite as the conditions were perfect, mild and overcast with a light wind, about as un December like as you could imagine.
I had to be off the lake by one that afternoon and I was all packed up on the barrow and hovering behind the rods as my time ran out. In fact I waited until about ten past before walking towards the first rod, just as the line lifted and started kiting around from the tip, the alarm sounded and I was in again, talk about last second!
This fish fought a lot harder than the other two, repeatedly tearing off across the lake and refusing to be netted. Eventually though, the rod wore him down and I brought him up and over the net cord. Because I am fishing a smaller venue than usual I have recently swapped over to a set of three pound Nan-Tec rods, lighter than my usual distance versions and a pleasure to play fish on, I do like to see that tip cranked right over and feel every twist and turn from the carp, it makes it all so much more fun.
In the net I could see that I had landed something special, the biggest mirror in the lake weighing in at thirty five pounds and twelve ounces, what a lovely Christmas present and, if the world really was going to end in three days’ time, I was going to perish a happy man.
Well it looks like winter has finally arrived, the flooding and wild winds have been replaced by freezing temperatures and half the lakes in the country have a lid on them already.
I have managed to find myself a water at last having spent a couple of months in the wastelands, so to speak, a nice little Estate lake in Northampton. The setting is about as stereotypical for an English estate as you can get, like a film location for a period drama. There is a huge manor house atop a small hill and rolling lawns meandering down into a six acre lake, dammed at one end with a small stone bridge and inlet stream at the other. Sheep wander freely over the entire area and often straight up to the bivvy door at first light, their sudden Bleating can almost send you through the bivvy roof in shock!
I have even had a take from one when he decided, out of curiosity, to turn my reel handle with his nose to see what would happen, what happened was me and the dog came flying out the bivvy and fifty sheep went charging off up the hill in panic.
Over the years the lake has seen the passing of millions of gallons of water fed from the stream and the fields and then pushed over the outlet onto the lower ground of the valley below but what it has left in its passing is silt, I wouldn’t like to even guess how deep but I know for a fact it has gone from 14 feet deep to 5 over the last couple of decades, and that’s the deep end!
Most of the six acres are between three and four feet deep and hold around sixty fish including one very big common of around forty six pounds, so how after nine nights spread over five weeks have I not even seen one single fish roll or jump?
It always amazes me on these little shallow lakes, just how elusive the carp can actually be, although I am not sure that the middle of winter is the best time to start looking really.
I have managed to catch one though and it’s always nice to open your account on a new water; I had a lovely fish of twenty two pounds one oz mirror on my second trip, fooling me into thinking that I had sussed the place and I would have a hat-full by now!
My last two visits have coincided with the arrival of a new ice age and I am actually now at home writing this when I would normally still be fishing but yesterday half the lake froze over and by midday I still had ice coated lines and freezing fog masked the far bank. The forecast last night was for minus four degrees and, looking out of the window, I can see they were right and there is no way the lake could survive that.
One thing I will say though, having just fished in such bitter conditions, is how warm and comfortable I managed to stay while I was there, I was genuinely amazed when I woke up to find the lake, my bivvy and everything all around encased in ice. The lid was frozen onto my water bottle and yet I was snug as a bug in my sleeping bag and oblivious to it all.
Thermal carp fishing gear has come on in leaps and bound over the last few years and I look back in horror at just how unprepared we all used to be, in Argos sleeping bags with an old blanket over the top. I now use the Hard-core sleeping bag with the Comfort Zone Peach-skin cover and, to be totally honest, I wouldn’t actually like to be any warmer for that would mean stripping off layers of clothing which is all well and good until you get a run in the night dressed in just a T-shirt and your Sponge Bob Square pants, pants!
The beauty of this system, for me, is that it still crushes down into the bed-chair when I pack up and, as long as you un-clip the cover and tuck it inside the frame, you can fold the bed totally flat so that it goes back on the barrow nicely.
As for actual winter clothing I am now spoilt for choice, being in the fantastic position of having to test the new ranges of kit I have so much warm gear to choose from that I couldn’t catch a chill in the Arctic.
My personal choice at the moment though is the big Force Ten jacket for in the daytime when I am out and about in the elements and the Thermo-Tex survivor for dossing about in the bivvy in the long hours of freezing darkness, this thing is like a portable sleeping bag and so comfortable and warm it’s incredible.
Anyway, I gotta be off now, I have a load of cold wet gear in the back of the truck to dry out and I’ve just spotted a low pressure system moving across the XC-Weather site, apparently it’s going to be eight degrees by the weekend so get your warm jackets on and get out there while you can.
With still no winter tickets on the horizon I decided to continue my tour of various waters, I even tried a few hours on the river at one stage but to no avail.
At one stage I had burnt about fifty quid in diesel and not even wet a line, looking at, and then rejecting, three waters in one day. I’m not sure exactly what it is I am looking for but I am fairly sure I’ll know when I find it. After having such a nice time all summer and a water practically to myself it’s hard to drop straight back into the hustle and bustle of busy lakes so, in some respects, I suppose I have been spoilt a bit lately with my carp fishing.
With a lot of time wasted and one night left to fish I decided to pop over to a lake nearby to home, owned by another mate of mine affectionately known as ‘Delboy’ for all the normal reasons!
The lake is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and I suppose that an ‘Estate Lake’ is probably the best description although lacking the actual estate.
It’s only a few acres in size and is long and narrow with an island running half its length. The bottom is varied, mainly silt due to the forest and years of falling leaves decaying on the lake bed but there are strips of hard ground and even a bit of gravel here and there.
I love fishing these intimate little venues where everything is up close and personal and you can actually see the carp bubbling up from the bottom and track their progress by the little ‘chufa trains’ as they break on the surface.
It didn’t take long to find a few fish, just in the open water at the end of the island, I saw four or five fish roll in quite quick succession and was soon scrabbling for a rod in the back of the truck.
Rather than fish over any bait I decided to start with just two rods on single pop-up’s and see what happened for a while.
Even though I only made three casts in total the difference in the ‘feel’ as each one landed was amazing, one was so soft that I re-cast, the second seemed like firmer silt while the third went down with a resounding thump that could only be exposed gravel.
There was only one other angler on the lake and he seemed a bit surprised when, ten minutes later, I appeared in his swim to ask if he could take a photo for me!
I acted all nonchalantly, as if happened all the time, but no-one had more surprised than me when the rod cast onto the firm ground had ripped off within about two minutes of casting out.
It was a lovely little mirror of around seventeen pounds or so and a great start.
After re-casting both rods onto the hardest ground I could find I set up the tea making equipment and a low chair and sat back to watch the water, still not sure if I might need to re-locate before nightfall but a second fish an hour later convinced me I was definitely in the right spot so up went the bivvy as well.
As darkness fell and my new neighbour cooked us both a fantastic chilli we sat and listened to the lake come alive, it seemed as if fish were jumping everywhere but the small channel at the back of the island seemed the noisiest spot by far.
I had every intention of moving there in the morning but two more fish in quick succession just after it got light kept me grounded and I ended the session with four nice carp for my efforts, not bad for a single night session and the best of was that I only had a fifteen minute drive back home for a change.
It’s nice to be out at this time of year as well, there is nothing quite like the colours of Autumn as the leaves turn to red’s and gold’s and yellow’s but I was glad of my ‘Force Ten Jacket’ as we sat out eating that chilli I can tell you, it won’t be long now until the full thermal outfit is pulled out of the bottom of the drawer and dusted down for the long winter ahead.
It’s been a bit of strange few weeks for me since catching that big leather over at Northants. I suddenly found myself without anywhere to fish, a situation I was neither familiar nor particularly happy with.
It would have been the ideal time to start on a winter water, getting a bait established and learning a bit about the fish movements etc while they were still active but as I had nowhere in mind or no tickets in hand I decided to visit a few of the places I have been meaning to try some carp fishing for ages.
The first one of these was my old mate Alan Taylors place over at Ecton, also in Northants.
The Ecton complex is an extremely pretty chain of lakes comprising of three syndicate and one private lake all of which are well established and have many islands and peninsula splitting them up and making them seem smaller than they actually are. As a result of this my first walk around the complex on the Monday morning ended up taking me five hours, mind you I was looking for signs of fish feeding and somewhere to actually angle so I was taking my time.
Eventually though I spotted a couple of fish rolling on the biggest of the lakes, in a channel between a shallow bar and long island, and I decided to load up the carp barrow and make my around to there.
The swim looked hardly fished, probably due to the fact that it was the opposite side of the lake to the track and the swims on the track side could be fished practically from the car.
The bar in front of the swim almost reached the bank and it ran parallel to the bank, a bit like a road going through the swim, the water on top was very shallow so anything hooked would probably have to be netted by wading out to the drop off.
I set up all three rods with yellow pop-ups and fanned them out over the thirty yard gulley between the end of the bar and the long island that made a backdrop to the swim, scattering a fair spread of boilies over the entire area.
Any fish moving through would come across bait and hopefully stay around long enough to find a hook-bait as well.
I waded the landing net out and propped it up on a long bankstick, just on the drop off where the gully started as I was sure this was where I would end up netting the fish but, just to be sure, I set up a second net on the bank as a fail-safe. I always carry at least two nets with me and quite often three, I think they are such an inexpensive item compared to a lot of the kit we carry and having the option to split your rods up in adjacent swims or either side of some bushes etc, improves your chances of multiple catches no end. I love to have one rod on its own waded along the margins with its own net and fishing far more effectively with a short line between the rod tip and the bait.
Anglers who don’t use bivvys or any kind of shelter, regardless of how short the session could be caught out with this temperamental British weather… Kit and clothing will take the brunt if not kept safe and dry. With everything set and the bivvy erected I sat back to wait but as soon as I did the first rod was away. A lively scarp, a bit of well-planned wading and I was soon waddling back with a common of around eighteen pounds in the net, perfect!
Later that evening I had to repeat the whole affair again, only this time it was a mirror of similar size. I was glad I’d had the little bit of practise in the daylight though because I could have easily come unstuck as I stepped off the bar into the slightly deeper margins close to the bank.
The swim died a death after this second fish but I suppose all the paddling about couldn’t have helped much still, two fish from a new water in a one night session wasn’t a bad result and I drove home a happy man.
Well, I said last week it was prime time to grab the rods and get out there on the banks and it looks like I have proven myself right.
Luckily nobody else on the syndicate took my advice though because the lake was deserted as I pulled into the car park at first light on Monday morning. I knew exactly where I was headed; back out on to the peninsula where I had landed the six fish from the previous session, the only thing I couldn’t decide was which of the three swims to fish. There is one off the end and one on each side, fishing into totally separate bays. As it turned out I ended up fishing all of them and I’d taken three of the new landing nets with me in case this was the outcome. I started out just fishing off the barrow for the day, spending half an hour looking across one bay and then half an hour in the other. Even though there is only a few yards between the swims I’d made a note of the colour of the carp bite alarms and kept the sounder box in my hand, ready to run in whichever direction I needed should a take occur, which it did and pretty quickly too.
The single rod fished off the end of the point was the first one away, a spot that has been very productive for me over the last few sessions.
I knew it was a big fish straight away as it kept deep and very slowly plodded along bottom of the gully that runs around the point. The water on the near side of the gully is exceptionally shallow so I stripped down to my pants and waded out a few yards until I had enough depth for the net. With the pressure now right above the fish it didn’t take long to coax him up through the water and into the net. As soon as I set eyes on him I knew which one he was, the big Italian, third biggest fish in the lake but, unfortunately, a re-capture for me. That’s the problem though with fishing for only one or two target fish, you are bound to have a few repeats along the way but I was sure I must be getting closer to my goal. This was my thirtieth capture from the lake this year and, with only fifty fish in there, it could only be a matter of time before that big old leather carp rolled into my net.
After weighing him in at thirty seven pounds, I decided to take a couple of quick snaps of him and, just as I was sliding him back into the lake, the blue light lit up and sounder box started howling away. This was the rod I’d placed in the middle bay, an area I’d yet to catch from but somewhere I’d baited and was convinced the fish had started using over the last week or so. Whatever I’d hooked in there decided that it wanted to put as much distance between himself and me as was possible in a short space of time and the rod was almost wrenched from my hands as he tore off through the weed. Eventually he came to a halt as he locked solid in a huge bed of Canadian Pondweed and nothing I tried would persuade to come out again. Eventually the only option was to tighten right up and slowly walk backwards, ripping the entire weed bed free and bringing it slowly across the surface towards the bank. It seemed to take an eternity to get it to within netting range and, just as it was drawing close, the fish bolted out of the side of it and buried in the weed at my feet. I’d got a good look as he went past and I was fairly sure it was a fish known as the ‘Bullet Hole’ common, the second biggest carp in the lake and one I dearly wanted to catch. Although he was only a few yards out it was a full half an hour before I eventually landed him, having had to go in up to my neck in the water and free him using my feet in the weed!
On the bank though it all became worth the effort as I hoisted him up for the camera, also thirty seven pounds in weight but, unlike the Italian, perfectly proportioned and covered in big golden scales.
This was turning into quite a session and with the common ticked off the list, realistically, it now only left the big leather for me to catch.
I was amazed not to get a bite throughout the hours of darkness as there were obviously a few fish about but I did see a very big fish show right over my second middle bay rod, the swim I had eventually decided to set up camp in.
Both the other fish had come in the morning so I was practically hovering over the rods as soon as became light. Typically though, it wasn’t until I was busy re-casting one of the other rods in the margins to my right that the first bite came, and what a bite it was. Total meltdown is about the only description that fits and the spool was a complete blur. Unlike the common though, the fight was a dour affair and, barring the odd roll on the surface, the fish came straight in to the bank like a dog on a lead. It was only at the last moment, as he rose up over a bank of weed, that I realised exactly what I had hooked. There on the surface, not ten yards in front of me, was the most enormous chunk of leathery back just rocking on the surface. Whether I hesitated or whether he just realised what was happening I don’t know but he chose that moment to wake up and he dived straight down into the same weed bed I had had all the trouble with the previous day. Not wanting a repeat performance of that fiasco I just piled on the pressure and lifted him straight back out again, before he could get too entwined. Up he came, out of the weed and, as he hit the surface in bewilderment, I just slid the net straight under him before he could plan his next move.
Wading back out cradling a net full of carp was such a mad feeling, all those nights wondering when and how and, sometimes, if, that big old beast would be mine and now here he was. It was as if I had been working to a script, first the common and now him, all forty five pounds and twelve ounces of him.
My Northants campaign had come to an end and what a way to finish with the three biggest in the lake one after another. Not wanting to break the spell or ruin the story with a little common as well, I wound in the remaining rods and, after a mammoth photo shoot, packed slowly away for the last time, sporting a grin so wide that it almost joined up at the back of my head.
All I have to do know is find somewhere else to setup the carp fishing tackle and target some other large carp!