Tuesday, 2 April 2013

And so it begins....

With the river season over it was time to start looking at the local ponds, spring time meant carp time. The rivers had been kind, and that side of my angling had improved nicely with another good season on flowing water under my belt. This time last year the carp had woken from their winter rest and were showing all the usual signs, this year was somewhat different. Freezing conditions still gripped the country and an overnight stay was going to be an uncomfortable one. But with the right gear it would be just like any other winter trip, just at the wrong time of year.

Throughout the cold winter months I’d been playing around with my fishing kit, chopping and changing various items. My reels of choice were now Allcocks Delmatics, for the lighter bottom work anyway, the 300s will still feature for the heavier work. My beloved 11ft Tom O’Reilly Mark IV made way for a new 10ft original version to match my other and I’d acquired some delightful Crabtree style ash hoop landing nets, for crucian and tench fishing through the summer months.

I mentioned to Steve that I had a pass from Corrinna to fish Easter Sunday into Bank holiday Monday and that I quite fancied Vale Farm for the chance of a few fish. I phoned the owner, Nick, for an update and was told that, although very cold, fish were being caught. Steve decided to join me for the social as it had been a while since we’d fished together, and that Claire would be joining us. Good job I recently purchased the larger Base Camp Kelly Kettle as I knew that most of the trip would be about how much tea we could drink. We planned to meet at McDonalds in Cosham at 1pm on the Sunday and head down together.

We arrived around 2pm and just as soon as we left the cars we felt the cold wind on our faces. It was bitter and blowing from an easterly direction. We headed down to the bottom pond, the trickiest of the three and found that nobody was fishing there, which suited us just fine. The other ponds had anglers dotted around, and it seemed we weren’t the only mad ones willing to spend the night. We unloaded the cars and made our way to our chosen spots, which took some time to decide upon due to having the place to ourselves. With the wind on our backs we made camp, fixed up our tackle and began fishing. A light bed of pellets were scattered where I thought the fish might be, around a third of the way across and with sweetcorn as bait I cast my two rods out and readied the KK for a nice pot of tea. I always opt for sweetcorn early season; there aren’t many spring carp that will turn their noses up to a couple of grains of gold.

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I think it was around 5pm when we had the first of the action, my right hand rod was doing its best to go for a swim and after a spirited battle on my new Mark IV, Steve netted a lovely common carp for me. The colours were amazing, especially against the drab backdrop. We took a few snaps on the camera and released her into the margins. It was a wonderful feeling to have one on the bank, so early into the session too when we wondered if we would catch at all. But fish or no fish, we were just happy to be there, have a catch up and a good few laughs too. Holding that fish up for the camera was chilly work, it was like holding up a block of ice, but I really didn’t mind too much.

First blood…
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With the rods back out we returned to the jolly, it was a great atmosphere despite the harsh conditions, and much laughter was had. An hour or so after the carp I caught a bream of around 4lbs, and although it was another fish on the bank, I kind if hoped they’d leave me alone through the night. There is nothing worse than leaving a warm sleeping bag only to venture out into the arctic to do battle with a bream. I have nothing against bream, when I’m fishing for them. Soon after returning Mr Smelly back to the water I set about making another pot of tea which coincided with Steve getting a flurry of activity to his rods.

Steve with one of his common’s…
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…and Claire holding up another…
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In quick succession he landed no less than three carp, two of which were only minutes apart. The action certainly warmed the soul and with five fish landed already it looked to be gearing up for an excellent session. None of the fish were big, but what they lacked in size, they more than made up for in appearance with a real show of splendid winter colours. With things quietening down the fish front and the sun eventually beginning to set at around 8pm, we began making our evening feast.

Fun with the Kelly kettle..
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Job Done…
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Steve brought the chilli sauce and nachos and I provided the mince, chopped onions, grated cheese and brought it all together creating a meal perfect for taking our minds off the plummeting temperature. With dinner over, washing done and another pot of tea on the go we sat back and did our best to keep warm until it was time to retire to our shelters. The day was fabulous; we had such a good time and caught a few fish along the way. Now it was time to rest up, to keep warm and to look forward to the following day’s angling.

I’m not sure what time it was but I woke to a stuttery run and hoped it would go away. It was warm in my sleeping bag and not so outside. I actually called across to Steve asking what the temperature was (he has the weather app on his iPhone) and he called back that it was minus three. The stuttery take continued for a few more seconds, not a full blown run, just a series of random bleeps and I knew exactly what it was long before I peeled myself from the bed.

With the bream released and the rod recast I climbed back into the bag which had now returned to its icy state, it was like climbing into a chest freezer. The best you can do in this situation is hold still and wait for your own body temperature to warm the fibres of the bag, thus regaining the heat you had before. I continued to receive line bites through the night but no more fish were caught. We woke on Monday morning to overcast skies, a stiff breeze and although it was up to 2 degrees, the wind chill felt more like minus 2.

Steve prepared bacon rolls for breakfast and I provided yet another pot of tea, which went down very well. As well as topping up my spots with pellets and sweetcorn, I wandered along the bank and baited a few marginal spots in the hope of doing some float fishing later on if anything materialised. It got to almost lunchtime, the rods remained quiet and the margin spots were devoid of fish. Then a guy arrived, sat in the opposite corner and began fishing under a willow in the teeth of the breeze, which had now gained in strength quite considerably.

Within half an hour of his arrival he had two carp on the bank. Scratching our heads Steve and I realised that they must be following the wind, which we didn’t think would be likely due to it being such a cold easterly. With this I made a cast all the way across the pond to a willow opposite me and within a few minutes I had carp number two on the bank, a lovely little mirror of around 5lbs. after a couple of quick photos I decided that the best plan of action would be to bite the bullet and stalk the carp from the far bank. It would mean sitting with it full in my face but I was sure it was the best way of putting a few more fish on the bank.

From the willow…
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With the two rods, unhooking mat, net and pocketful of bits, I trudged round until I was opposite my pitch and dropped the two sweetcorn baited hooks into the margin either side of me and loosened the clutches. First it was the tip of the right hand rod near the willow which pulled round and another pretty common carp was landed. Next up was the left hand rod, although that one threw the hook before I saw it. By now Steve had joined me and was fishing along to my right, and soon after he had gotten settled my willow rod was arching over again and yet another superb looking common was brought to shore and released without too much fuss.

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By now my belly was rumbling and every exposed part of my anatomy was freezing, so a pot of tea, lunch and some respite from the harsh weather was the plan. I cast the two rods back onto my usual spots and tucked into my meat and potato pie whilst waiting for the KK to boil. I didn’t much fancy going back round the other side after lunch, so decided to see out what time we had left sheltering from of the wind and drinking more tea.

At the ready…..
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With an hour to go I found myself dashing to my rods and playing a lovely looking mirror in the deep margins, it came in quite easily but didn’t much fancy slipping into the net in a hurry, but soon enough the fish tired, Steve scooped my prize up and was snapping away with the camera. Again, holding the fish was hard work, they were just as angry out of the water as they were in it, and were so cold that when the fish was returned my fingers were well and truly numb.

Nice Mirror…
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At 3pm we decided to call it a day and pack up ready for the 50 minute journey home. Steve and Claire made one trip to the van as they had lots more kit than I did, and I had started to dismantle camp and ready for the inevitable. With only the rods, that were still fishing, left to put away I had a final take on my right hand rod and lifted into what was obviously a much better fish. It was real heart in the mouth stuff as the fish got closer and we could see a really lovely common twisting and turning in the gin clear water trying to free itself from the size 8 hook.

The fight lasted an eternity and with every few feet gained another few feet were taken. Finally, and with both anger and fish exhausted Steve slipped the net under the last carp of the session, and what a fish. Classic colours, well-proportioned and just the send-off we needed. It was smiles all round, the photos were taken, the fish was released and with the rods broken down we headed back to the car laughing and giggling.

Last knockings…
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Slipping her back…
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Off she goes…
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Before setting off we said our goodbyes, it was a marvellous 24 hours, great company, great fishing and at one of my favourite places. I had taken a tin loaf, some mixers and the float fishing gear hoping we could partake in more seasonal methods, but it wasn’t to be, nothing visited our margins and nothing cruised around the surface. That said, we still had our fair share of fish, so all was not lost. I’m now looking forward to conditions improving so that I can apply some of my favourite methods to my angling.

As soon as we left the country lanes and joined the motorway the sun appeared for the first time…..typical!


  1. Those Delmatics do look poodle's noodles Stu, some cracking looking firsh too. Not sure about the flame thrower though :-0

  2. Cheers Dave, it was a superb trip.

    The KK does that when I blow into the base, no harm done, gets the water boiled in extra quick time though.


  3. Hi Stu,
    Is that an Agutters' net? Was thinking of treating myself but have heard conflicting verdicts on them. What's your opinion, that is, if it is one :-)...lovely fish bud.

  4. Hello Gurn old chap...

    Yes sir, it is an Agutters, and I love it. Bought this one from Jon Berry. Does the job for me. Granted it's not a Barder, but it doesn't command Barder prices. I think you'd be happy with one. I would love a big enough ash hoop for my carp fishing, but again, we are talking some serious money.

    Hope this helps bud