Friday, 14 March 2014

Last Day Success...

Last day of the season, for me anyway, for this season I’ll be hanging up my coarse fishing rods, packing away the creels and for three months I’ll spend any fishing time chasing bass in the creeks and harbours local to me. It feels good too, to let the rivers and lakes I love heal themselves after nine months of constant pressure. So today was originally going to be spent fishing a river with a good friend, but at the final minute the trip fell through and I had to make other arrangements. 

Right up till this morning I still wasn’t sure where I was actually going to fish. I thought about Waggoners, I thought about the clear pond I’ve been fishing for big perch and dark scaly beasts, but with a cold and foggy morning I opted not to travel too far, thinking that it wouldn’t be until the afternoon when the sun shows its face that I’d get any action. So Tithe barn was settled upon, and after a quick visit to Tesco for bait and Handsfords for hooks I made my way to the venue through an extremely misty Fareham. 

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I couldn’t see from one end of the ponds to the other such was the thickness of the fog, and it felt very cold with it. The first pond had a fellow angling the far corner, so I left him to it. The middle pool was devoid of anglers, but the surface (what I could see if it) looked deathly still. When I got to the top of the top pond and scanned the weed I saw a couple of pieces starting to move, the carp were stirring. 

I set up the 10ft Sharpes Cane Stalker, added a Mitchell 300 and a size 4 hook was about as complicated as the rig was going to be. On went a chink of tin loaf and with a quick dip in the margin I hoofed it out as far as I could, which landed with a plop about 15 yards out. That cast was wayward and went the right distance but in the wrong direction. I quickly wound in, cast back out and this time got it spot on. I gently teased the crust back to where the fish stuck its nose out and waited, and waited, the fish had obviously moved on. 

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I stood watching for a while but it went quiet. I walked the rest of the pool looking at all the likely spots but the fog seemed to be slowing things down. I decided after an hour of searching to have a drink from the flask and revisit the middle pool. On the swim opposite the island I spotted movement in the weed just a few rod lengths out. There were a handful of fish visible all working the weed trying to sniff out some breakfast. With a chunk of soggy crust on my hook it was just a case of which fish to cast at. 

One particular snout looked to be quite substantial, visibility still wasn’t great but I could certainly make out carp noses pushing up through the weed, which still hasn’t died off since last year and is still top to bottom. The cast I made hit the channel on the other side of the weed; I drew in back gently but too far as it dropped into the channel my side of the weed. I thought for a second about winding in and trying again but the carp came out of the weed, through the channel and after a few seconds under the crust moved forward and sucked it in. 

I knew from the off it was a hefty fish, very powerful were the lunges but by keeping it on the move I avoided letting it get stuck fast in the weed. Surprisingly it was ready for the net quite quickly, for which I was very thankful, and upon netting it she came to life beating the hell out of me on the bank. A wonderfully framed fish a little over 25lb who behaved tremendously for the self takes. I released her and dipped back into my flask. 

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With the day made I fished on with much less urgency. If the day had ended right there it would still have been a success, but minute by minute the fog lifted a little more and the sun finally started to shine through the haze warming the morning nicely. I revisited the top pond hoping the carp there would have woken up a tad, but all was as quiet as before. On the way back I spotted a carp in a weed gap through a small stalking gap that occasionally works for me. I cast the crust, drew it back and with no hesitation the carp took the bait down, I watched as the line crept across the surface, struck and was puzzled as all that came back was a bare hook. 

Back on the middle pond I spotted from my earlier pitch two carp swim towards the inlet in the far corner. With net, bread and rod in hand I tiptoed round to investigate and saw the two fish join three others. I threw out four small crusts to see their reaction; one common came up twice but turned away both times. As the shoal moved a lone mirror happened upon the free offerings and swiftly gobbled down two crusts. I quickly attached a chuck, swung it in the carp’s path and after one more freebie disappeared the hook bait was taken. 

In the water the carp looked a scraper double, which was very confusing as once it was hooked it doubled in size and gave me a right old run-around. Thankfully there is no weed in this corner, it’s usually stuffed with pads, but they aren’t up yet, so I had plenty of room to play the fish out and gradually draw her closer and closer to the awaiting net. She glided in nicely and took quite some lifting ashore. I half expected another twenty, but the needle settle a few ounces over 19lbs. Another corker of a carp, I was over the moon!

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Soon after I had lunch which consisted of cheese and pickle sandwiches. Whilst enjoying lunch and the day I removed my jacket, the sun had really started to get warm and I was licking my lips at the thought of just how good the afternoon would be. Unfortunately the second half of the day never lived up to expectations, but I couldn’t complain, I’d already had a day to remember. I did have one more chance, at the opposite end of the pool where another area usually covered in pads had a handful of fish cruising around. Most fish were low in the water, but an immaculate fully scaled mirror was milling around looking well up for a crust. I cast too close to the fish and spooked it, and that was my final chance gone. 

It was around 5pm when I packed away and loaded the car for the journey home. The temperature had started to drop and the fog returned. I closed the gate behind me and closed the door on another season, only this time I’ll not angle for carp, crucians or tench throughout spring. I’m sure it will be hard at times, especially on nice days, but spinning for bass is a challenge I’ve been meaning to take on for a while, and this year I’ll get to remedy that.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

An Unbeleivable Send Off...

With just a couple of weekends left of the course fishing season I knew exactly where I was headed, the land of the scaly beasts. The morning was set to be overcast and the afternoon bright, so the plan was to fish for perch early on and switch to carp later in the day. Being Friday I hoped there wouldn’t be many anglers there before me, or throughout the day for that matter. The venue lends itself well to being able to bait up multiple swims and to fish them in rotation. To be confined to one swim would be to miss out on a lot, but with it being 1 hour’s drive away, beggars can’t be choosers.

I left early, not as early as I used to when I wasn’t a parent, on this particular morning I had to wake Jessica, dress her, make her breakfast and drop her off at my parents on the way out, so I was en-route sometime around 8am. I pulled into the venue car park to the tune of four cars, not ideal. The first angler I came across on the way to the perch swims was a carp angler who’d been there all night. The next angler was someone I knew, my old friend Bumble, to be honest I knew it was him from afar, you can’t miss that hat.

To my delight his fishing partner for the day was Mr Proctor, it was good to see the pair of them, and it turned out I’d just missed all the fireworks, as Mr Bumble had just returned a perch of 3lb 2oz. Well done that man. With the best perch swims taken I decided to have a look into a few along from them but found no fish. Then I moodled up to the fallen tree which was back towards the car park and after wading out a few feet across the flooded banks I peered into the margin and saw just what I wanted to, a dozen or so dark scaly carp drifting from one side of the fallen trunk to another.

As calmly as I could I revisited my tackle and after a brief conversation with Bumble and Gary I was back at the tree in double quick time, laying my gear high up the bank away from the water and was tackling up the Sharpes 10ft Stalker with a small Aerial reel loaded with 8lb line and attached a size 6 hook. I deposited a few broken prawns to the left side of the trunk opting to use this side to angle from; the other side was a little too snaggy for my liking. I observed the fish for a while, let them get used to me being there and just as soon as they started to show an interest in the loose feed I swung the prawn out in an arc mindful that it would swing inwards and onto the gravel before me.

I watched the prawn hit the surface with a gentle splash, gently flutter through the water and before it reached the gravel a carp shot out from the tree and snaffled it. I struck and immediately ran to my right in an effort to increase the distance between the fish and the tree whilst being mindful of line stretch. Steer the fish to safety I did and after a few minutes of watching a perfect carp twist and turn in the crystal clear water I guided her over the net and claimed my victory. It all happened so fast. I carried my prize to Bumble who congratulated me and took a few snaps for me.

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It was another of those carp you just don’t want to let go, beautiful colours, massive plated scales, not the biggest carp in the world but possibly one of the best looking. I released the incredible creature into the margin and poured a cup of tea from my flask with one almighty smile on my face, my day was made and I’d only been fishing five minutes.

After the capture I revisited the spot but, as expected, the coast was clear. I popped to the other side of the trunk and peered into the water spotting three good carp skulking among the snags. I looked and the channel of entry, worked out what way the branches laid, tested the strength of the branches which confirmed they were brittle and made my mind up that I could quite easily extract a carp from there should I hook one.

The first free-lined prawn I send down was taken immediately, but by a small perch of around 6oz. The next time down attracted a couple of mirrors who pushed up face to face with the bait but turned away at the last minute sensing something was a bit odd. A small common was next on the scene although this one showed no hesitation and was swiftly hooked. I steered the rod away to the left and had the fish clear of the snags very quickly, but to my utter surprise the hook slipped and all fell slack.

It was just bad luck, these things happen; I was gutted but felt sure I’d get another chance. It took a while but another opportunity did appear, I had switched to luncheon meat and a dark mirror with big random scales looked, swam round it then sucked it in as if just to have a taste, that was good enough for me and in no time there was one angry carp trying to rid itself of the hook I’d just stuck into its lip. I had to apply more pressure to clear the snags than the last fish due to sheer size, and just as soon as I’d cleared the danger the rod fell back once more, only this time I had no hook.

Perhaps the line had grated against a branch, perhaps I never tied the hook on properly, it could have been a number of things, but after licking my wounds, switching to the Mitchell 300 with 12lb line and attaching a larger size 4 hook I was back in action. Another hour passed and whilst waiting for the carp to gather confidence once more I strolled along to Bumble and Gary and had a brief chat along with checking a few more swims for signs of carp should mine dry up.

When I got back to the tree they were back, including a very strange orange and black koi linear. I dropped the meat down and held it mid water for a few minutes, out cruised a mirror that took the bait and swam off as if nothing had happened, until I struck that was. With my beefed up tackle I had the fish in open water quite quickly, and there it gave me the right run-around almost reaching the snags a few times before slipping into the net.

Yet another gorgeously dark scaly mirror carp was lying on my unhooking mat looking splendid in the first of the day’s sunshine. The young lad to my left did the honours with the camera and after admiring her for a few minutes we watched as she swam off to re-join her friends. After two loses it feels great to finally put one on the bank. After this capture the tree action dried up and it was time to move on, but not before catching another perch of almost a pound.

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Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent watching carp cruise through the swims I stalked but without actually getting any of them to stoop down and feed. A couple showed an interest in the bait falling through the water but the sun shone brightly and the increased visibility meant that the 12lb line I was using stuck out like a sore thumb and I was reluctant to scale it down any.

At tea time Bumble and Gary left, we said farewell and the first thing I did was squeeze into the stalking gap Bumble was using and look for carp. They were there, five of them, and after fetching the rod I lowered a prawn onto the spot they were laying in the hope one would suck it in. They didn’t, but a good sized common to the left did as the bait fell through the water. I pulled into the fish and felt a powerful lunge as it tore off at speed. It was such a battle, none of the carp I’d caught there fought that hard, diving under the bank and then back out in open water again, with me nowhere near getting its head up. Just as I thought I was getting somewhere the hook pulled. More bad luck, it happens I guess.

That loss hurt, I’d made amends with the last mirror but this score needed settling once more. With the fading light and my time on the bank dwindling away it didn’t much look like it was going to happen. It was soon after that I heard a splash at the top of the pool where the water runs in. I looked up and saw a ghostie leap. That was good enough for me and ran round to investigate with rod and net in hand.

There were carp cruising through the channel caused by the in-rushing water, they seemed to be playing and not feeding, but I thought it well worth a little cast or two. It was through the gap in the trees I caught my first carp from this venue, so I knew all about how tight it was, but nothing ventured and all that!

As I flicked the prawn out it drifted round in a circle enticingly, and on the third trot a mirror shot through and grabbed it. It was an epic battle in the half light but finally I’d made up for the loss of the common and landed the final fish of the day. It might sound a bit cliché but I had been well and truly blessed by someone up there, the three carp I’d landed were nothing short of marvellous. The young lad was still there so did the photos for me.

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As the carp was released I broke down my tackle and headed back to the car. I saw my first bats of the year flitting between the tree tops and as the sun sunk beyond the horizon I said goodbye to carp fishing for the next three months and felt delighted that they’d given me such an awesome send off!

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