This weekend’s short session was just that, short. But it signified something very special, not only the first visit and fish from a new venue, but it was the first time I fished without being dressed like an Eskimo. The six month long winter finally looked to be waving the white flag, squirrels were spotted, two herons flew overhead and one of the trees at work was clad in pink blossom. Things were on the change, and the world was ready for it.
For a couple of weekends I’d been dipping my toe into the realms of my beloved carp stalking, but I hadn’t planned on any more angling for another couple of weekends. Little did I know that Corrinna would ask if I wanted to spend Friday afternoon fishing as she was taking Jessica to the Airport to see her father off, an out of the blue chance and one I agreed to rather rapidly, and I had just the venue in mind.
Oaks Melt Pool (as I’ve named it) is set amongst woodland; dense woodland which at present is clad in its winter colours, but woodland I just know will look splendid when summer arrives. The pool is split through the middle by a long causeway making it a horseshoe shape. The water is deep and clear and there are bays aplenty. Soon the weed will start to grow, pads will appear and I will spend many lazy days there, sitting, thinking, writing and, perhaps, angling from time to time. It’s quiet down there, doesn’t get crowded and is, I think, the place I’ve been searching for.
I was told of carp, old carp that have lived there for years. Mostly common carp they don’t grow to huge proportions, but those are the fish I want to angle for, fish with character, wily old carp that have seen it all. They are carp that, because of their size, aren’t hunted by the local specimen hunters, but they are carp I wish to see out the season with, sharing the pool with them, watching them, learning from them and, perhaps, catching one or two for a closer look at their ancient features.
I travelled too heavy on Friday; I always do when first I visit a new location. Unsure of what I’ll find, what they like to eat, where they like to eat, whether they like what I have brought with me. I had visited briefly once before, but that was during the winter and nothing moved. Now I would have to work it all out, their hiding places, best times of day, that sort of thing. One thing was for sure though, with my new surroundings it was going to be a fun time working it all out, and even if I didn’t emerge successful in my angling, I would love every minute spent at this new found paradise.
As I said previously, I had already enjoyed some spring carp action with some fish being taken from the bottom and some on the surface, so with the practice sessions done and the rustiness removed it was time to test my skills on these dinosaurs of the deep. I carried a creel, rod holdall with two rods and net handle, unhooking matt, camera and a bucket of floaters. I now know that I will get away with much less kit, but for that session I had to make sure I had everything at my disposal, just in case.
The sun shone intermittently and showers were frequent, the wind blew in gusts and circled the valley meaning it could come at me from any angle. I started on the end of the causeway; a narrow channel which separated each side of the horseshoe and seemed to be a patrol route from one side to the other. Whilst I stood there during the first half hour I spotted half a dozen or so fish cruise through, but they did just that stopping for nothing. Along the back left hand corner I threw out a few pieces of crust and let them drift close in under the cover of overhanging trees, but nothing showed interest to the surface baits I offered. Over to the right there seemed to be some activity so I removed myself from the causeway and started the trek around the perimeter for a better look.
When I got there my eyes were immediately drawn to a white fish, a koi of some description that swam with a group of four others, all dark commons and all good fish, the ones I’d come for. If they stayed with this white intruder then at least they would always be fairly easy to locate. For the rest of the afternoon I kept spotting this fish, althought it wasn’t always with others, spending much of its time alone, but it was fairly pleasing to watch anyway.
So, this bay had two pitches, one to the right with a deep margin that shelved off quickly and a reed bed to the left. The next was the other side of said reed bed and was an open space with a shallow silty bottom with many undulations culminating in a snaggy bay to the left. When I got there I thought I’d hit the jackpot, a dozen good carp milling around, some sifting through the silt, other keeping a look out whilst their friends fed and the white one looking quite odd. Very quietly and in slow motion I flicked out a few mixers, sat back and watched them get blown onto the snaggy bay by the gentle breeze. Nothing took, they all ended up getting washed up on the beach at the end of the bay.
Next up I tried bread, six small pieces of crust were deposited in the same area, drifted along over the top of the carp and were, once again, ignored. Back in the right hand swim and away from the fish I put a Mark IV together, added a Delmatic, quill float, two AAA shot and a size 4 hook. I set the float well over depth, attached a chunk of luncheon meat to the hook and crept back into the bay swim. I cast my float half way across letting the meat rest between to silty bars (with the hook-bait visible), let the quill lay flat on the surface and sat down to see how the fish reacted to the whole thing.
A couple of the fish got slightly nervous and swam out of the bay, but they soon returned. Then to my utter amazement one of them approached the float, upended and went straight for the bait. I could see it for a second but then it was gone and a puff of silt rose from the bottom like a mini underwater explosion. I think I let the excitement get the better of me as the most obvious thing to do was to strike, and upon doing so the float ended up in the tree behind me and the fish charged off into the pool.
I cursed my amateur attempt at catching a fish and retrieved my float from the tree. Funny thing was that most of the fish were still there in front of me, and a couple were sniffing around the area where the meat was lying previously. I attached another chunk of meat, cast back to the spot with a gentle splash and sat back as the same thing happened right down to my float ending back in the tree again. I watched the mouth open, I watched it close and I watched the meat disappear, but still I failed to make contact.
There were less fish in the bay now, but there were still fish present, and still there were fish visiting for a looksy. I made another cast, but this time decided to watch the float instead of the hook-bait. I waited a while, maybe twenty minutes until a carp came a-sniffing. It upended under the float and my gaze stayed fixed on the quill, which slowly started to right itself and then slipped away under the surface. I struck, but this time made contact and with the rod bent double and the reel singing the battle commenced.
It was immense watching the whole thing, the bay was shallow enough to watch the fishes every twist and turn as it tried to break free. A few times I had it close to the awaiting net but each time it powered off with a series of swipes of that big old tail. The wrist of the tail was quite prominent, thick and powerful and the old Mark IV knew all about it. It took about ten minutes to finally beat that fish, a stunning common carp, with withered fins and the look of something that had probably been around longer than me.
I managed to stop admiring it for a few seconds, long enough to set up a self-take and watch her return to the water watching every flick of that huge tail as she made her way out into the centre of the pool to sulk. It felt electrifying, the perfect start to my campaign, a fish on my first visit, I felt very honoured. I sat there for a while, just watching the water, enjoying the afternoon and hoping they’d come back, but they didn’t, and it was a good thing, it meant I could explore more of the pool and hopefully find other such holding areas, or just nice spots to while a few hours away.
The terrain was tricky to manoeuvre, especially as we’d had a few showers making the clay under foot slippery. I lost my balance a few times and fell over once, but then I fall over quite a lot so I find it odd if I don’t these days. I did a couple of tours of the pool and failed to spot much until I got to a bench but the beginning of the left hand side of the pool. Here, as with everywhere else, the margin sloped away quite steeply and disappeared into nothingness. I was attracted to the spot by the white fish, he wasn’t alone this time but had a couple of really nice commons with him, so I laid my tackle down, sat on the bench and watched a while.
These were the same fish that had vacated the bay I was fishing beforehand, still a little spooky but happily cruising around and coming quite close to the bank. I wondered if they might go down for a chink of meat so broke off a few pieces and deposited them at various depths down the margin. Although the fish continued to cruise, they ignored the bait I’d put down for them so I decided to try the surface baits again. Half an hour I sat and watched various baits drift the length of the pool, only to be washed up on the shallow margin opposite me without so much as a second look.
Back on my travels I was starting to get tired, my shoulders were aching with the amount of tackle I was dragging around with me and I made the decision there and then that next time it would be one rod, net and mat and a pocketful of tackle. I found a few likely spots along the way, spots I made a mental note of, perhaps for next time, but I felt myself being drawn back to the bay thinking perhaps that the time spent away, without disturbance, would mean the fish had started to gather back in there.
When I got there I had a warm feeling inside, for there were a couple of bigger fish than I’d seen previously milling around searching for food. I attached a chunk of meat to the size 4 withy trembling hands and cast out beyond the two fish. Ever so gently I drew it back until it was within smelling distance and sat back to watch their movements. The larger of the two fish vacated the bay but the other, still a good fish, turned and moved towards the bait. It was slightly deeper here and I couldn’t quite make out the hook-bait but the float twitched, up righted and slowly moved off.
I made a firm strike and upon feeling the fish noticed that it was heading for the snaggy bay rather rapidly. With a fair amount of side strain I tried my best to coax the fish out of the danger area but the line and fish became attached to some trailing line hanging from an over slung bush. It was stuck, over twenty pounds of old common carp was thrashing around with my line and someone else’s being tested to the limit. I was thinking about stripping off and wading out to it when I heard a snap and the fish charged off into the pool free from the bush and free from me.
I was left attached to the bush and the trailing line, pulled for the break and luckily managed to get my float back….but that fish. It would have been quite something to capture two on my first visit, and although I was more than happy with the one I’d landed, this one I’d just lost was a special one. I guess you can’t win them all, and I will be back soon enough.
I wandered around the pool a few more times, spotted the white one again and a couple of others cruising through the centre of the pool, but I never felt the urge to cast again. I was just happy to see out the last hour of daylight watching and thinking.