Sunday, 5 May 2013

A PB Tench and an Old Friend...

A lot of preparation and leg work had gone into this session, so as well as hoping I had as great time beside one of my favourite pieces of water, I also hoped I got lucky. The first moat carp of the season was going to be a special fish, all I had to do was trick it somehow. I arrived at around 1pm, walked the banks to see if anyone else was angling and to check whether or not there was any activity over my spots...the answers were no, and no.

The dilemma I had was the choice of swims, they were all free, the toughest decision of them all. All the swims were tight, especially for a night session with extra kit, barring a handful of larger gravelled swims which aren't in the area I prefer. The swim I thought I had the best chance in was particularly tight.

I began to set up camp in the stalking swim (28) but soon realised that spending the night in there would be impossible, so I opted to make camp two swims down and just around the corner (27). I could stalk my original swim until late, spend the night in the larger pitch and then get back to stalking at first light. With all of my kit loaded into the night pitch I set up a rod and crept quietly into 28, lowered my hook-bait into position with a handful of free offerings over the top and sat back to see what materialised.

Half an hour went by until I saw the first sign, a carp flashed its flank at me then fed very close to my own bank, within inches from the swim board, I was fishing too far out. I The tail was catching the main line but its head was pointing in the wrong direction. When the fish moved off towards the snags I lifted the float out and repositioned it scattering a few more morsels around the quill and sat back to await the carp's returning.

Return they did, a number of times they visited and each time they did the float danced but failed to go under. It was stating to get warm by now, almost 3pm and as the clouds dispersed the sun shone brightly, but the stiff breeze remained. I fed the swim once more and retreated to camp for some late lunch, a cuppa and to rest the swim a while. I returned to the stalking swim just after 3:30 and this time fished close to the swim board with ledgered luncheon meat and watched the slack line for any movement.

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It was almost 4pm when the line tightened and the Mark IV tip looped round, I picked up the rod, set the hook with one hand clutching the spool and tightened the drag as the fish tried to swim around the snag tree. Powerfully the fish swam to my right and as it did so the line became caught up with some low lying branches. I played the fish with as much pressure as I dare and finally the fish and the line came free.

The fish charged around in open water for a while and then switched it’s efforts to the deep margins, boring round and round. Eventually the fish tore enough for me to guide it over the net, at long last, my first moat carp of the season was a portly mirror carp with a dark back and a pale, chunky belly. I took a few self take photos, released her and immediately put the kettle on for a well earned celebratory cup of tea.

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I figured that with all the commotion, the swim would probably die so I topped it up with a few more baits and returned to the night swim ready to get going. The swans were a pain and very tame, sometimes feeding within a metre from where I was fishing. A gentle prod with the landing net pole moved them on, but not for long and they were soon back making a pest of themselves again.

With both rods now fishing, one in each margin, I sat back and recounted my previous capture only to be disturbed by a bream hanging itself on the right hand rod. This was swiftly unhooked in the margin with a gentle word before I released it asking him to tell his friends to leave me alone. Single bleeps every 5 minutes from the Optonics signalled the warning fell upon deaf ears.

Another cup of tea was made, mostly to warm my hands, a low cloud now filled the sky and the temperature was dropping somewhat, and as I was due to sleep in the chair with just a 40 inch brolly to shelter, I really hoped it wouldn't get too cold, or rain. I did have Steve's Thermal bed cover with me so I still had that as a back up if things got too chilly, and then there was the car with its heater as a last resort.

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The next fish came at 7:30pm on the right hand rod again. As I lifted the rod it was almost ripped from my grip. I was confident this was another carp, but when an emulsion brush tail slapped the surface I was surprised to realise that it was actually a heffing great tench. It was big, very big, certainly much bigger than my PB of 5lb 4oz. Although, I didn't have any scales with me so can't go claiming any numbers. I took a snap of it in the grass with the rod and Mitchell 300 by its side, you can make your own assumptions as to how big you think it was.

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I released the impressive specimen to the water and kind of hoped I had some scales with me. I really must get those Avons I've been promising myself for a while, just for moments like this. Another, smaller tench came an hour later to the same rod, just as the sky began to darken slightly. The wind dropped and with it went the chilliness. It felt as though I could be in for a fairly mild time of it.

In the half light I could see, and hear, rudd splashing. A deer walk past, speeding up as it neared the swim and then slowing back to a walk. In the tree above me was a jay and a noisy wood pigeon slapping its wings together as they do quite often. Robins and a blackbird sang as the swans surrendered for the night. The goats that live on the old fort were still grazing and continued into darkness. A pike thrashed and I realised I was surrounded by so many of my favourite things, It was good to be back.

At 8:50, whilst sipping on another hot, sweet tea, I witnessed my first bats of the year, a very welcome sight it was too. I could hear them clicking as they flew over head. Ducks drifted about like noisy paper boats, a rodent rustled and a mosquito bite was one familiar feeling I didn't enjoy.

At 10:20 I caught another bream, a much larger one with white lumps all over it, it was quite ugly. With the rod back out I began to make a tea to warm the fingers, only to find two slugs in my tea spoon and one in my cup – Great! It was whilst enjoying that soul-warming brew with a handful of chocolate chip cookies that I had started to hear some quite peculiar sounds. The kind of sounds you associate with fishing alone, at night. I think these sounds were amplified by my having no shelter too.

The place is safe enough, to enter you have to get past armed guards so no worries there, but it still has that feeling that you're not alone, with frequent glances towards the top of the steps, just in case. At one point I thought I heard what sounded like a very drunk badger coming at me looking for a fight; it got close, but not close enough to see it, then it stopped.

At 10:50 I landed another tench of similar size to the last one, around 3lbs. Once the rod was fishing again it was time to don the Thermal cover, more more as an attempt to curb any more bites appearing on my ankles than to keep me warm. I was woken by more tench at just after 11 and at 1:15am, not that I was actually sleeping much, I had already vowed never again to have such a hair-brained idea as to sleep in a chair all night. It was probably the most uncomfortable night I've ever had to endure. Whilst I was up after returning the last tench I treated myself to a pork pie, a wee and a tea, settled back into my throne and did my best to drift back to sleep. It was deathly quiet.

At 3am, my left hand rod received a take, I struck into what felt like a tench with lots of violent head shaking but the rod sprang back as the hook slipped. Before casting I wound ion the other rod and went round to the stalking swim with some bait and topped up the spots in preparation for the morning. After re-casting I didn't quite feel so tired so I sat a while, made some tea, finished the cookies and watched the bats, all the while wondering why I'd not heard any bats. By 3;30 the birds began to sing and I contemplated what time dawn might break.

The plan was to pack up base camp and position myself back in the stalking swim for the day. Could I make it there before the swans was the question. A question that was answered twenty minutes later when in the distance, out of the twilight appeared what looked at first like a ghostly vessel getting closer and closer. As I watched , I noticed it stop to feed on two separate spots before reaching mine, and I remember it stopping at the same places last evening too.

Perhaps they were spots that other anglers had baited, maybe they were just areas rich with natural food, but one thing is for sure, we can learn a lot of we watch what is going on around us. I made a mental note of these other spots for a later date. I sat watching the world awaking whilst slapping my face every 30 seconds or so as another mosquito buzzed past, it's a wonder I didn't come through the night punch drunk.

It was now just past 4am, a time I find wherever I fish it seems to be the quiet time, nothing bites and nothing stirs. Oh, and one more thing about the swans before I forget, I don't honestly think for one minute that its a bad thing them feeding on spots we're baited, quite the opposite in fact, especially if it's smallish particles you've baited with. I actually think they do us a favour, disturbing the bottom and burying some of the food which, in turn, will make the fish root around the area longer. Just a thought.

At 4:20 another tench was hooked on my right hand rod, but with the head shakes the hook slipped out once more, which was actually quite a relief by now, it meant that I could wind in, inspect the bait and hook point and recast without getting up or removing the thermal cover. It was still decidedly chilly you know!

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I drifted off to sleep at some stage and was woken abruptly by the piercing shriek of a nearby heron. I looked up and spotted the goats coming down for their morning drink and I realised that I'd missed sunrise. The time was 5:20am. By 5:45 I was packed away and in the stalking swim fishing by 6am.

At 6:15 I watched the line from my rod tip tighten, I lifted the rod and hung on as an angry carp charged off into open water. Thankfully I managed to keep this one away from any snags and kept it on a tight line in front of me charging up and down and under the rod tip. With a couple of close calls to my right I was soon able to steer it over the awaiting net and carp number two, another portly mirror was posing for the camera. The morning was slightly overcast with patches of blue and a light breeze. It was a wonderful start to a wonderful day.

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It was then I met Dickie, another member of the club who had arrived for a work party. We chatted a while and got along very well, it was a pleasure to meet him. As he left to join his crew I contemplated whether to stay, or whether to go. I was very tired, I';d caught two carp and some cracking tench, and besides, I even had time for a quick stop at Carron Row on the way the choice was made and I retuned to the car.

When I pulled into the car park at Carron Row just after 9am I saw so many cars, I almost never got out, but curiosity got the better of me and I just had to have a look. First I bumped into Roy and Derek and had a quick chat, then Terry and we have a brief natter. I strolled up to ponds three and four as two was rammed apart from one, unfavourable swim, but after feeding mixers to a couple of fish I found, it was apparent that they weren't in the slightest hungry.

On the way back to the car I decided to have a quick peek in the one available swim on pond two. The swim itself isn't much good, but the margin it shares with the swim to the left is. As the fella in the Disabled swim was fishing straight out and to the reeds, my fishing the right hand margin was of no consequence to him. So a handful of mixers were deposited close to the marginal foliage and I set about setting up a Mark IV and a Delmatic with 8ln line, straight though to a size 6 hook.

I didn't see anything take the mixers, but I did spot a back, and quite a big back too. After working out which end was the tail and which the head, I gently lowered my size six hook baited with two mixers into position and within seconds they disappeared down the throat of the carp and the battle commenced. And what a battle.

I never felt in control at any point of the battle, not until it was safely in the mesh. The fish seemed to be on steroids, perhaps it has eaten a load of spinach, but whatever was the cause, that fish had immense power surging off on long run after long run with me holding on for dear life. It was a very impressive fish, a common which looked all of twenty pounds. Terry helped with the photos and did an excellent job. But it wasn't until later, when looking closely at the photos that I realised which fish it was.

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It was the first twenty I ever caught from Carron Row Farm, in 2007 and back then it weighed 22lb 10oz, so about right. It was fabulous to meet up with the old girl again, and great to know she is still the powerhouse she was back then. It was a little before 11am when I loaded the car and headed home....with one almighty smile on my face.


  1. Great session and an excellent write up Stu. Its a long time since I fished in a chair all night, my old bones wouldn't take that anymore :o) You must be quite mad!

    Pity you can't put a number on a pb tench, some fish deserve to be listed by a figure as well as the capture.

  2. Thanks chaps....

    I obviously thought I was much younger Dave, I was so uncomfortable it was unreal. A proper good adventure though. I am now looking for some scales I can leave in my bag, just in case...


  3. Excellent account!

    A set of brass tubular scales wouldn't look out of place in your kit SK.

    I carried a set in my motor as back up for years when Avon scales only weighed up to 32lb and before anyone carried the huge dial scales commonly used these days.

    I only ever had to go back to my motor once for them when I bottomed my Avons out and was so thankful I had them to hand then.

    I felt I was floating on the air during the long walk back to my car to fetch them, my brain was a total whirl, how big was the fish I had landed? It seemed nowhere near being lifted off the ground when the Avons had bottomed out.

    Another story for another time but I bet there are a lot of sets similar to mine kicking around that the owners will never use again. ask around any carp angler who was fishing big fish waters in the 70's early 80's as the chances are these will be what they carried and I would guess most would be willing to part with them for a small exchange.

  4. Great read Stu. all the best mate!