Wow, what a great month February is turning out to be, as always really, it really is one of favourite months of the year.
After a horrible winter with the lakes frozen solid for most of time the first big low pressure system moved in at the beginning of the month and everything really kicked off, so many lakes all seemed to wake up at the same time and a string of good fish were caught all across the country and, hopefully, the best time is still to come.
Traditionally the lakes start to wake up at some time during the final two weeks of the year and I’m sure it has more to do with the light levels than anything else, temperature and actual weather conditions can be whatever they like but the carp still feed with abandon. This early feed up though was definitely triggered by the big south-westerly winds that scoured the land and I made sure I was in the right spot to cash in on the action.
I’ve been targeting Monks Pit for what little of the winter has actually been fishable but my last fish, and the last one to come out the lake at all, was back in November when I had the thirty one pound common.
I fished the last week of January and was lucky enough to find a few fish lying up in the mid water layers in about fifteen feet of water, which is where I’d expect to find them really, I do think that they spend a massive amount of the time in the winter nowhere near the bottom of the lake, which is why I favour zig rig fishing in the colder months, particularly in these deeper pits.
Turning up on the Monday morning I found the area angler free and, even though it was on the extreme back of the wind, I still plonked myself straight in there, figuring that the fish do not generally move far at this time of year.
It just goes to show how much difference one week and a bit of favourable weather can make really, whereas I had sat on fish for two nights without a touch the previous session, I had a take on a mid water zig within minutes of casting out this time. It took me by surprise a bit and the new sample rod I was testing was still lying on the ground as I searched through my fishing tackle for the rod rests! As soon as I heard the whine of the clutch I struck into him but, unfortunately he had already made the cover of a large and unyielding weedbed and no amount of pulling was going to get him free so it was on with the lifejacket and out in the boat.
Now, I class myself as a pretty competent boater in most conditions but, in a gale force wind, I was having all sorts of problems. I got him up out of the weed without too much ado but every time I stopped rowing to net him the boat just shot off backwards with the wind. In the end I towed the fish right over to the opposite bank, 220yards from my swim and netted him as I crashed backwards into a reedbed!
Despite being absolutely knackered and soaked right through I was over the moon with my first fish of the year, a lovely mirror of twenty three pounds, that I had to carry back round the lake in my zip mat. They are brilliant for carrying fish (although obviously not usually that far) because of the padding and the fact they zip up tight the fish is totally protected and the straps just fit perfectly over you shoulder allowing you to support the bottom of the carp with your hand.
Once he was photographed and returned I set up the alarms and, no sooner had IO turned them on than I was away again, unfortunately this one came adrift straight away but that sometimes happens with the zigs.
Both the bites had come on the right hand side of the swim so, figuring I was maybe just on the edge of where the fish were hanging I upped sticks and moved one swim further along, giving me room to get more baits into the bite zone. It was a good move as it turned out because about an hour later I had two fish on at the same time, it had suddenly turned into spring style fishing in the middle of winter. Two and a half months without a bite and then I’ve suddenly had four bites in one morning, it was madness really but I wasn’t complaining, especially as I landed them both, despite having no end of problems with the weed again, the first being an eighteen pound common and the second a mirror of just over twenty pounds. The one thing that was noticeable was the size of the fish as Monks is a renowned thirties water with a handful of fish over forty and also a good head of upper twenties, the fish I was catching were all on the smaller side of the scale but you never know what is waiting just around the corner do you?
I have spent the last god knows how many years trying to catch myself a forty pound common, I’ve had shed loads of thirties but never broken that magical forty pound barrier, in fact that was the very reason that I joined Monks in the first place because it has one very large common in there, very large indeed and that’s the fish I always sit there and justify to myself the fact that I’m freezing to death, or soaking wet or moving for the fourth time in a day, I always think that one might be next!
At about four o’clock and with an hour or so left of daylight, unbelievably, I had yet another take, once again on a little piece of foam fished six feet of the bottom but this time I’d decided there was no way it was going to reach the sanctuary of the weed, I’d had enough of boats and wind for one day. I piled on the pressure right from the start, relying on the tip action of the new rods to cushion the effect of the strain on the six foot hooklink and size eight hook, which it did perfectly. Despite being able to cast to the horizon these rods really are a dream to play carp on and I can’t wait to get a full set of them to fish with as, at the moment, I am using one of each test curve to test all the actions.
I kept the pressure on that fish right the way to the bank and, despite his frantic headshaking, never really gave it a chance to do anything much at all. As it rolled up through the gin clear water I could see it was a common and, as it rolled over the net cord I could tell it was a goodun but it was only when I went to lift the net I realised exactly which one it was.
As I replayed the fight in my head and realised how many liberties I’d just taken with such light tackle and such a big fish it was frightening but, nevertheless, there he was in the bottom of the mesh, forty six and half pounds of common carp, a new personal best and one of the nicest looking beasts imaginable, what a way to start the year!
I did manage to catch one more fish the next morning before the lake closed back down and the fish just switched back off again but I’d already caught what I was after and given the new fishing rods the ultimate test, and they’d shone through perfectly.