With a wet and windy weekend forecast I wondered if I would get any fishing in at all. I was back to work on Thursday, then in Friday morning and off for a couple more days, so the hope was that I’d at least get a couple of hours somewhere at some point.
Work was quiet, less than a handful were in and most disappeared by lunchtime. I finished at 2pm and made my way home, all the time thinking what a lovely day it was for January. It was quite warm with sun shining and plenty of blue sky. I got to my parents and found Jessica playing happily. I told them of my predicament to which they urged me to get out now and spend the rest of the afternoon at the lake.
I quickly gathered a few things, basket, net, Mark IV Avon and Aerial. For bait I nicked a tin of Mum’s sweetcorn from the cupboard and after kissing jess on the head I made tracks. It was a very short journey, Lakeside is only a stone’s throw from their house, I was exiting the car only 3 or 4 minutes after setting off. I arrived at the lake just before 3pm.
I looked at three or four swims, mostly looking for signs of fish in the fairly deep but quite clear margins. To be honest they all looked pretty similar and quite devoid of activity, but then I saw it, a rise of bubbles. Now at this time of year I don’t associate a rise of bubbles with feeding fish, more a release of gas from the lake bed, but you can read bubbles and these looked ever so slightly fishy.
I watched on and a few more broke surface and the randomness of them and size led me to believe that something was down there. I quickly deposited half a handful of sweetcorn on the spot (around 2 rod lengths from the bank) and set up the rod. I was pleasantly surprised to find a depth of nearly 5 feet with straggly weed also present. I began fishing with 8lb line straight through and two grains of sweetcorn on a size 12 hook.
Although the sun shone, the clouds that did appear hurried by and I felt sure that the nice weather would be short lived. My hand started to get cold practically as soon as I began angling, a reminder of the season we were in. The float was acting rather seasonally too, with not so much as a tremor, but still those bubbles rose, and now it seemed as though there were multiple fish feeding down there.
After around twenty minutes I started to wonder if I’d located a shoal of crucians. I’d heard of a few being caught through the summer, and that they were reaching a pound or more too. With this in mind, bubbles still popping up and the float still stationary I changed tactics slightly. First I added another split shot to dot the float down further. Then, after a few more minutes I attached a hook-link of 3lb bs and a size 16 hook. On went a single grain of sweetcorn and a cast with renewed confidence was made.
I think it must have taken around five minutes for the float to twitch, and I almost missed it, but it came out of the blue and like a lightning bolt. I lifted the rod half expecting that jagged little fight only crucians give, but instead there was solid resistance, the Avon arched over and what was obviously a carp made off at an alarming pace. The little aerial reel spun like never before and from the outset my mind was focussed on that tiny hook staying in.
I half expected carp in cold water to be lethargic with their runs, but this one showed signs of a fish hooked in summer shallows. After a time though it came up, took a gulp and from then on it was a case of gradually bringing it closer to the awaiting net. I felt rather relieved when it finally went in and I lifted the ash frame. My prize was a beautiful winter common carp, not the biggest, but certainly a very pretty fish.
I was made up, such a spur of the moment decision to go, but then, they are always the best ones. I released the common in the next swim along, mainly due to the fact that a quick glance revealed that the bubbles were still rising. Perhaps it was just remnants of the battle that had just taken place, but maybe, just maybe…….would it be greedy to ask for another?
Out went the float and another dozen free grains. The bubbles were intensifying, almost as much as my heart rate. Just the slightest dip on the float tip and I was ready to strike, and bearing in mind I only had 2mm of the tip exposed. I could sense the light beginning to fade, it was close to 4pm and the patches of blue were now quite infrequent. It dipped once, rose and dipped again, a swift strike over my left shoulder set the hook and once again over went the Avon.
This one felt heavier from the off, ponderous, slow, all the classic signs of a bigger fish hooked. Round and round in front of me it plodded, not really exerting too much energy but certainly letting me know all the while who was boss. With light line and a tiny hook I daren’t apply too much pressure, try to bully or speed things up, the fish dictated much of the fight and I waited until it showed me it was ready for the net. With the sky darkening all the time I knew it would be the last fish so I was in no rush.
Eventually it slid towards me and into the net, another gorgeous chestnut common slightly larger than the last and I estimated at around ten pounds. On the mat it behaved much like the first one, stiffening up and curling its tail like one of those red plastic fish one used to find in a Christmas cracker. The colours were spot on, like an artist’s impression of how a carp should look. I couldn’t have been happier.
With the fish released and still more bubbles rising around the spot I deposited another few grains of corn in the area and sat on my basket contemplating one last cast. It was getting ever dusky, but I felt sure there was another fish in it for me. The cast was made, and through squinting eyes I spotted the float sit still for a minute of two then slide away out of sight The hooked fish felt scrappier, with lots of head shaking, a sign of a smaller fish.
Smaller or not, I was privileged to find such angling in January and treated the fight with the same respect I’d shown the others. This way and that way, it even took a few yards of line on more than one run but finally succumbed and was netted first time. Although smaller than the previous two, it was by no means any less wonderful, scales perfect it was like yet another marvellous belated gift.
It only took me five minutes to break the tackle down and get home. Pie, mash and beans were quickly consumed and Jess and I said farewell and thanks to Mum and Dad. What a delightful afternoon!!