Sunday, 6 January 2013

A great way to start to 2013...

Unlike previous January’s, it was 9 degrees when I left the house well before sunrise. The weekend was originally planned to be spent trotting for grayling on the Itchen, but due to commitments I found myself on my own and remembering a conversation I had a couple of weeks previous. Rob told me that the fish at Vale Farm were still wide awake and that he’d recently enjoyed an afternoon there landing five winter carp.

Vale Farm is a wonderful little fishery comprising of three ponds. It will never go down as a big fish venue with car averaging 4-8lbs, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another venue that provides so much fin and fish in tip top condition all year round. So when I was left with deciding where to spend the day, it didn’t take too long to make my choice.

When I arrived it was still dark, just after 7am and I was the first one there. I unloaded the car, made my way to the lakes and started to walk them one by one weighing up the best plan of action for the day. To be honest, there were half a dozen people fishing before I actually made my first cast, but these days it’s not all about getting fishing straight away, but assessing the situation and finding the best possible swim to start in.
View from the point swim

After watching the fish on the top pond crash out for a while, I opted for a muddy outcrop in the centre of the pool commanding a lot of water and acting a channel for fish to pass from one end to the other (shallow to deep end). I put together the Mark IV carp rod, attached my Allcocks Delmatic and fished with just a hook and a piece of fresh crusty bread bought still warm that morning.

The crust was dipped in the margin to give casting weight and landed with a plop in the centre of the channel. It didn’t tae too long for a pair of lips to break the surface and engulf the bait, and as soon as the vortex appeared I struck and the Mark IV hooped and bucked. I was half expecting the rod to jag around a lot, the smaller ones do that, bouncing the tip up and down, but this one hugged the bottom, ploughing around, just like the better ones do.

The fish broke surface after a couple of minutes and was starting to see my side of the argument, a very pretty common of low double figures was almost ready for the net. As I scooped and lifted I was surprised that I’d caught such a fine specimen on the very first cast, I guess all that walking and thinking does pay off sometimes. One thing I wasn’t surprised at was the condition of the fish, very clean and wonderfully coloured.
A lovely start

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With fish number one photographed and released I quickly set about making another cast and caught another, much smaller carp, almost instantly. Sport was great and within the first hour I caught five carp with the first being the biggest and the other ranging from 5 – 8lbs. Things slowed up a little after that, the fish were taking but avoiding getting hooked. It was time to wander off to the middle pond for a look.
Winter bronze

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Another golden scrapper

On the middle pond there were four other anglers, during the summer it’s tricky to find a swim to fish but I had a fair amount of the pool to wander that day. With the wind over my shoulder I started to break up pieces of crust and let the gentle breeze carry them out across the pool. No carp surfaced but the coots seemed hungry. After half an hour I upped sticks and moved on to the bottom pond.

The bottom pond has always been the trickiest of the three, perhaps the smallest of all this pond is the one I plan to spend more time this year, for within it’s waters lie some fascinating carp, fish to over twenty pounds with big plated scales and flanks of chocolate. I did one tour and didn’t see anything, fish or other anglers, but when I completed the circuit they appeared, not big fish but a shoal of half a dozen carp in the high singles bracket.

Somehow these fish, although the smaller ones, still seemed much more wary than the fish in the other ponds, shied away from crusts and moved off whenever I tried to creep up on them, however quiet and stealthy I was. Watching from behind some freshly chopped branches that were laid on the ground acting as a shield I saw the group again and watched where they went anticipating there next move.

I made my cast several metres ahead of their path and crouched down hoping to intercept them without them knowing I was around. Soon enough I made the strike at the second swirl and a bottom pond common charged around spooking the rest of the shoal. Netting was tricky as the swim wasn’t really a swim, but in the net she went first time. It was around 7 or 8 lbs, perfectly proportioned and sporting superb seasonal colours.
Bottom pond success

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I stayed for another hour or so looking for more fish. I located the same shoal again and hooked and landed two more commons from it, both slightly smaller than the last, but I didn’t spot any of the biggies the pool contains and at half two decided to return to the top pond for the final couple of hours. In the summer the final two hours can be very hectic sport and usually some of the larger fish gain confidence and feed as dusk falls.

Back on the top pond I found the same six anglers as before in the same spots which was handy as I fancied fishing opposite where I was before with the wind over my shoulder, this is always good when floater fishing as it keeps the line straight and allows you to cover more water. The lads to my right were already starting to flick out a few crusts which were drifting in front of me ad were being eaten by hungry carp. To see such activity isn’t much of a surprise at this venue and in the height of summer, but January?

I was excited at the prospect of those last two hours and it didn’t disappoint. The question was how quickly I could land them, get a quick snap and cast back out. Before dusk fell and I couldn’t see what I was doing any longer I landed another thirteen carp, taking my tally for the day to twenty one, more than I could have ever imagined at this time of year. The carp came in various shapes and sizes, from small scale perfect commons to larger, leathery streamlined mirrors. All the while the camera was on the tripod set up ready for a quick self take, here are a few of that final flurry of fish.

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So with the rod and net dismantled I made my way back to the car in the dark, much the same as the start of the session but in the opposite direction. If at the start you’d told me I’d catch twenty one carp on floating crust in January I’d have said you were mad. Needless to say I can’t wait to get back….


  1. An exceptional catch in every way SK, but you'd better get back quick, things are turning cold this week ;o)

  2. Dave

    I did hear that the cold snap will be returning soon. I'll ride it out at home with the family and venture out when I can. That'll be the way this year, nicking the odd opportunity twhen it comes.


  3. Very interesting. I noticed a few carp this weekend slurping on the surface this weekend but didn't have suitable gear! They looked so care-free. Probably because they knew I wasn't fishing for them! Makes me wonder whether carp anglers are missing a trick during mild. high pressure spells......

  4. Peter

    I think the key is to go fishing and to be ready for whatever you might find. It might mean using up your sandwiches as bait instead of eating them, but if it gets you out of a situation and helps put a fish on the bank then surely it's worth it.

    I'm due back out this coming Sunday, the weather looks to be turning colder so I'm not confident of another catch like this one. Perhaps I might get to watch a float for a while, that would be nice.