Here is the account from my Red Letter Day a couple of weekends back.
For someone who was supposed to have hung up his carp rods for the winter, I seem to be doing a good impression of someone who hasn’t!!
After enjoying a great perch session a couple of weekends previous, I returned to the scene of the crime expecting naively to find an empty car park as before. It all seemed so perfect in my mind on the way to the venue, pull up, unload the car, creep quietly into the swim and extract unsuspecting monster sergeants from their lair. But alas, things don’t always go to plan…
When I arrived the car park was awash with cars, a dozen I counted, and around the 2 acre pool was the same number of green tents with three rods poking out of each one. I think if I hadn’t already popped my ticket money through the letterbox I might have turned around and fished elsewhere, but I decided to make the best of a situation, and after a few minutes of watching Hares and Red Kites in and over a nearby field I could think of no better place to spend the day, I’d just have to find a quiet corner to hide away.
Things looked quiet and nobody seemed to be enjoying any action, something I often associate with so many lines in the water, but I felt confident that if I could discover a little tucked away haven, far from the other anglers, I could find something to pursue. The day was bright with very little in the way of cloud cover, so natural bankside cover would be where the perch were bound to be hiding. I hoped I could tempt one out with a nice juicy prawn; well that was my strategy.
It felt quite liberating, walking past such high tech anglers with my flat cap, tweed jacket, wicker basket and canvas rod bag, from one extreme to the other, yet the hunter instinct present on both sides of the fence. I was delighted to find the gap amongst the brambles being vacated by three anglers, bivvies were being packed down and shiny bank sticks pulled from the ground. Out of courtesy I admired the Hares a while longer frolicking in the adjacent field, something I don’t have the pleasure of experiencing all too often.
Once the three piscators had left the scene I set up my pitch well back from the water and to the right of the gap I‘d be fishing. With my polarising glasses on I crept into the gap, peered into those crystal clear depths and hoped to see perch a-prowling, but instead I spotted carp, a good number of them, and some very fine specimens in what can only be described as a veritable aquarium. One or two small perch were present, along with some small fingerling roach, but the carp took my breath away.
I set up a Mark IV Carp rod, attached a small Aerial reel loaded with 8lb line and on went a small orange tipped reed float, three small shot and a size 4 hook. I opted for luncheon meat as the quarry had changed to carp, and proceeded to deposit a few broken pieces into the swim in order to observe their reactions before starting to fish for them. There were commons, linear mirrors, fully scaled mirrors and even a rare leather carp. None of the fish were huge by any standard, but what they lacked on size they more than made up for with their looks, each one was a sight to behold, and in February I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.
After watching two or three of the smaller carp show interest in the bait I had laid down, I attached a chunk of meat to my hook and gently lowered it onto the gravelly lake bed. It was all of 6 feet deep but I could see every pebble, every scale and my hook-bait. An hour passed and although nothing was caught, I was more than happy and felt I had a great chance just so long as I stuck to the plan. The fish were there; eventually one would have to slip up. I broke for lunch at midday and rested the swim for half an hour.
Back amongst the undergrowth I continued to hunt those armour clad warriors of the deep but couldn’t help to realise that they much preferred to swim mid water rather than near the bottom where I was fishing. With this in mind a brainwave led me to shorten the distance from float to hook and move the shot upwards. Next drop I watched the chunk of meat flutter down through the water and into the mouth of a chocolate coloured common carp.
As off guard as I was I still managed to strike and immediately felt a powerful lunge on the rod tip as the torpedo shaped fish charged down and bored deep into the undercut bank. The old cane rod was creaking beautifully and the reel sang sweetly. Eventually I began to gain the upper hand; the fish came to the surface and glided gracefully over the ash framed landing net. The battle was immense with every twist and turn of the fish visible through the glacial-like clear water. A common carp so well proportioned, a real golden bullet, my day was complete.
After all the commotion I half expected the swim to be ruined, but once the photographs were taken, a cup of tea was consumed and once my hands had stopped shaking I crept back through the jungle of brambles, peered into the water and saw that the fish were still there. I fetched the rod and net and carefully poked myself back through the gap and into position. I repeated the process of letting the meat fall through the water four times, the last drop resulting in another carp sucking in the bait and bursting into life as I firmly set the hook.
With the infinite water clarity I could see from the off that this one was a bit special, it’s body armour was reminiscent to that of an armadillo, bronze plates overlapping each other; random, yet perfectly placed. Again the fish twisted and turned and tried to seek the sanctuary of the snags below me, but with constant pressure using my thumb on the spool I managed to keep my prize from reaching dangerous territory. With my net arm stretched way out I scooped as soon as the fish came up and luckily in she went at the first time of asking.
It was one of those moments you wish could last forever, the colour of this carp epitomised the season, the placement of the scales was unreal, if ever there was a fish to sum up why I do what I do this was it. The photographs were taken, the great fish was thanked for making my season and reluctantly I let her go watching in awe as she swam graciously out of my life.
I spent a while after the capture chatting to some of the anglers around me, listening to their own stories of victory and building up more of a picture of how the angling differs here throughout the seasons. The day seemed to be very quiet for everyone else, with stalking obviously being the most successful yet overlooked method. I must have left the swim alone for the best part of an hour realising when I got back to the swim why I was there in the first place, to catch a perch!
Half expecting to see more carp I was taken aback when I spotted three good perch just sat there with their bold stripes and red fins looking splendid against the light gravel. They all looked like good fish, easily over two pounds apiece. As it was getting towards the latter part of afternoon the sun was behind me causing the area below me to be plunged into shade, therefore out came the perch. I watched four prawns spiral down towards them and got very excited as they were all scoffed before they’d even hit the ground.
The next prawn sent down had my hook inside it and as those gills flared the prawn disappeared in a split second and my first perch of the day was hooked. Not as powerful as the carp but still full of attitude I played the fish to the surface where it splashed around a while until being drawn over the mesh. Such an impressive sight is a big perch, and just out of interest I weighed this one at 2lb 14oz. A perfect specimen by any standards and it made an already unbelievable day even better. The wonderful fish, after being released, sat beneath the boards that marked the front of the next pitch along with just its head protruding looking rather annoyed that I’d disturbed its day.
I returned to the gap for one last throw of the dice in the hope of snaring another perch. There were none to be seen so for five minutes I kept one eye on the prawn and the other on anything that might enter the swim. Finally a fish did come through, a dark portly mirror carp with an untidy looking linear type scaling. I half expected it to pass on through, but instead it upended, sucked in the prawn and made off taking the reed float with it. Carp number three was hooked, circumnavigated through the dense forest of obstacles below me and into the net, followed by a little cheer and a thank you to Isaac.
I never just cast out and wait these days, mostly because time is precious. My time is much better spent searching for an opportunity rather than waiting for one to come to me. Have a look for them before you reach for the rods, seek and ye shall find.