The annual TFF board meeting was due and we were busy looking for a suitable venue finally settling upon the linear complex in Oxfordshire. I’d fished there the year before and had some good sport during mild conditions at Hardwick Lake when I spent a pleasant day’s floater fishing with Chris Ball.
A few days before the event the weather looked to be unseasonably cold but with the chance of some sunshine, so my plan of teasing those Hardwick carp with surface tactics was looking to be a good one. The day before the meeting (Saturday) the spring sunshine made an appearance and was forecast to continue into the following day, so I was rubbing my hands together at the prospect and readying the tackle for a day spent stalking them off the top.
When we arrived, however, and assessed the situation, all was far from ideal. Some of the lake had patches of ice where seagulls stood. We took a quick tour looking for signs of cruising fish but it looked to have been a wasted journey. Those who were there for the duration, with bivvies and multiple rods were struggling, so things didn’t bode well for the piscators in tweed sporting wooden rods and little floats.
We decided to have a look at the pond on site. Hunts Corner Pond, as I was lead to believe, was stocked with smaller fish and I thought we could probably have a decent day there catching silvers and small carp. We drove across to the other side of the complex, left the cars in the car park and headed for what we hoped would be a little tucked away paradise where we could spend the day having fun. But when we got there we were far from inspired. It didn’t look fishy at all, didn’t look very accommodating and with this we all agreed that a half an hour drive to Fernhill Farm would be a much better option.
We followed Nigel to the lake and parked our cars full of optimism. Set up camp in the point we pitched up in last time we were there and whilst Mark and JT tackled up I set off towards the match lake to see if I could find something that wanted to feed. “I’ll just go catch a carp and then we can have tea”, I said confidently. Opposite the first swim there was a gap between the islands, here I spotted a couple of fish cruising, small carp, and with Mark IV, Delmatic, net and bucket of mixers I fought my way through the veritable jungle until I was opposite my previous observation point and on top of the fish I’d seen.
I deposited a few free baits close to a weed bed and tackled up the rod. This coincided with the sun appearing and all of a sudden things felt more spring like, which, in turn, made the enthusiasm levels raise considerably. Soon enough a small mirror carp started to trough the free baits and after gently lowering a single soft pellet in its path it was only a few seconds until the fish was hooked and the battle commenced.
A mirror carp of around 3lbs was landed and returned to the pond. Happy that my craving for carp was satisfied for now, I returned to the others and proceeded to light the Kelly Kettle and make a pot of tea. We all had the cups mark gave us before Christmas, branded with the forum logo and our usernames so once tea was made and poured I saw a lovely photo opportunity.
After tea and a bite to eat (it was close to lunchtime by now what with all the kerfuffle) we all wandered off with rod in hand, sun on head and a watchful eye for anything that moved beneath the surface. Things were always going to be tricky with a colony of Canada Geese to deal with, following our ever move, plus a few mallard just for good measure, but with constantly moving I was sure we could get to see something pretty on the bank.
Mark was first into a middle pond fish, a gorgeous scaly mirror carp he landed very close to the bank after seeing a group cruising along the margins, creeping up on them and gently lowering a crust in their path. As great feat of angling and the benchmark was set.
Next up was my turn, and just opposite the island I spotted a good number of fish of all shapes and sizes milling around the weed and decaying pads looking as though they were waiting for me. The bread I pinched from mark was fresh, too fresh to cast any distance, so while I waited for it to stale up a tad I started fishing with my lunch, Tiger Rolls, who doesn’t like Tiger Rolls!?
A crust cast into a gap in the weed soon got the attention of a group of small carp that were weaving through the dark green candy floss and at the third attempt one of the little critters managed to get the bait in its mouth and a common carp of about 4lbs was landed and returned. Soon after I was into a bigger fish and a mirror carp was swiftly netted, laid on the soft ground and photographed. Just then Trevor arrived for a look around and was surprised to see us there.
Another small common was caught before Nigel arrived to angle to my right. After pleasantries were out of the way we both resumed angling just as a group of better, darker fish came into view. I watched them for a while, worked out that they liked to swim through the large gap in front of me and as soon as they’d moved on I placed my crust into position.
A few minutes passed (whilst watching a scaly mirror of high double figures just basking half way to the island) until they came back towards the gap, paused for a second and continued towards the trap I’d laid. The first two fish ignored it but the third one tilted upwards, opened its mouth, swallowed the crust and turned away. I struck and immediately had to give line. Although the weed was old and practically dead, I was still mindful that it could still pose a problem, along with the old pad stems, so pressure was applied with a view to keeping the fish on the move.
Nigel came across to me just in time to slip the net under an old character, the kind of carp that really gives me the buzz these days. Not big, size is irrelevant these days, but it was weathered, dark and scaly. Nigel did the honours with a few snaps and as she swam away I felt that if I didn’t catch another fish for the rest of the afternoon it wouldn’t matter at all.
The scaly mirror I’d kept seeing and trying to catch appeared further out. It sat high up in the water and its big plated scales were very highly visible in the bright sunshine. A few times I cast a crust just beyond it and teased it back only for the fish to totally ignore it. I was beginning to think it was either on a wind up or on its last legs. I made a new cast across the weed bed a metre or so in front of the beast, only this time instead of ignoring it, the fish bolted towards it and swallowed the crust in one gulp. For a split second I just watched in amazement, then just as soon as I’d realised what had just happened I struck and pulled the hook from its mouth. The chance had gone begging and I was rather cross with myself I must say.
As it happened I did catch more carp, and two superb looking common carp came in quick succession. The first was a real scrapper, twisting and turning and giving me the fight of something twice its size, it wasn’t a long fish, built was very deep and built for power. It didn’t much like being on the bank either so we were as quick as we could be with the snaps and she was soon back with her friends.
The second of the two was a pearler. Commons don’t hold as much appeal to me as mirrors, mainly due to fishing ponds in my early days with nothing but commons, but this one was special. Again, not a big fish, but the scales were like polished coins shining in the early spring sunshine. Yet another glorious fish was photographed and released, the day was just getting better and better.
Soon after the capture of that last common the swim went quiet, geese moved in and mallards followed soon after. Nigel caught a superb looking linear mirror though, again a very pretty fish regardless of its size.
I decided to leave the swim and head opposite and to the corner of the island where it seemed the fish had moved off to. I stood in position for a few minutes scanning the surface and watching the movements of the wild fowl and then suddenly the carp appeared. A group of mirrors, all touching double figures were swimming along the back of the island and circling the entrance of the weed bed. I made a cast as close to the weed as possible and was pestered at first by a group of smaller fish that couldn’t quite get the crust in their little mouths.
Then a much larger pair of lips surfaced and encompassed the bait, a swift strike and a long, lean mirror was chugging around doing a great impression of a twenty pounder. It took what seemed like an age to land that fish, even to get it under some kind of control. In the net it looked tiny considering the scrap I’d just had with it. I’d guess it was somewhere around 8lbs, but boy did it had attitude. I slipped it straight back whilst still in the net and cast another crust back out to the same spot.
Mark came into view just as my hook bait disappeared and came around to help with netting and photographs. Another long mirror carp with bags of energy, perhaps it was the sunshine that had given them so much oomph, but it was almost as if they been at the tins of spinach.
By now the geese had twigged that every time I made a cast there was a little meal in it for them. So another spot was overrun by winged hooligans. Back at base I called the others and another pot of tea was made and helped nicely with washing down more of Mark’s fruit cake. I bumbled off to the match make again for one last cast and caught a small mirror of a couple of pounds before winding down camp and having one last natter before heading for the cars.
Yet another TFF Board Meeting was over, and again not much was discussed. Our time together was spent fishing, drinking tea, eating cake and talking about all of the above. Perhaps now the sun has woken up we can set about planning some gatherings…..