Tuesday, 10 March 2015

An Old Friend....

The air felt decidedly warmer this weekend, a sure sign that spring is finally beginning to stretch its arms, take a big yawn and open its eyes. Snowdrops are fading away, making room for bluebells in their infancy, the leaves are there, but as yet the buds are still sleeping. Daffodils are already beginning to open at Carron Row, the place I settled on visiting on my day off work yesterday.

I had spent a fruitless day there last Monday, nothing much moved at all, it’s incredible the difference a week can make. The whole place felt so much more alive, carp were stirring early on among the places I used to find them, for this was a visit of sentiment, a revisiting of an old haunt. Pond 3 is a tricky lake, always has been, sit long enough and you might snare one but will miss out on so much, but be stealthy and quiet and you can come face to face with some marvellous carp. A plus point was that I had the pool to myself, a must if you are to experience the full potential of the place.

It is where I learnt my trade, the ways of the stalking carper. I was getting tired of approaching a bank only to spook a good fish from under my feet. Now, not only do I approach much more gently, but I can use what I learnt there to work out where they might be at certain times throughout the day, bait in preparation and creep into position once their feeding confidently. This put me in good stead yesterday and helped me capture an old friend.

I arrived shortly after dropping Jessica at Nursery, sometime around 8am. I carried my minimal kit to the island swim on pond 3 and began my tour of the spots I used to find them. It was like I’d never been away, there were carp behind the island, although they are quite safe from me there, there were carp next to the root system across the bay, and I thought they might turn up at the shallows later in the day, and they did.

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I started by setting up a Mark IV, a reel loaded with 8lb line and tied on a size 4 hook. My first port of call was to target those carp behind the island. From the causeway point I dipped my hooked crust and swung it sideways hoping it would fly under the overhanging branches and land as close as possible to the island first time, yet at the same time not spooking the carp. It took 3 attempts until the cast landed right, something that didn’t fill me with much confidence, it was little wonder the crust simply wafted around with the carp going about their business underneath completely unfazed.

I still wanted to target those fish, there was a really big common amongst them which I recognised as the one I’d seen a photo of before at 28lbs, and it looked all of that. So from the Steps pitch I cast out a ledger rig with luncheon meat alongside the island and threw half a dozen chunks around it. It was quite nice being sat there watching the world waiting for the centrepin to scream, but something was missing. I felt helpless, the rod fishing for me, not knowing what was going on down there. It’s not how I fish anymore; I need to be on the move, looking, thinking and making it happen. I had to get stalking

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I left my gear behind and set off around the pool for signs. I came to the bay between the trees and stood above the water peering in through polarised glasses, and there they were. It was a completely different colony from those beside the island, like split clans. This bunch included more nice commons, but with a smattering of nicely coloured scaly mirrors, just my cup of tea. I watched them for a while whilst hatching a plan to extract one. It looked difficult, but there’s always a way, and the more obstacles in the way of a capture, the more special that capture becomes.

One of the carp I watched looked a lot like the old Apple Slice, a carp I’d had the pleasure of meeting twice before, only it looked bigger than its previous weight of mid doubles and now boasted its winter splendour. The large scales on its flanks had almost black centres, making it an unmistakable carp, and one I dearly wanted to meet again. I figured that if I could get them picking up a few morsels from in front of the tree, I could swing a bait in sideways from the Board swim. With my plan hatched it began putting the wheels in motion.

I returned with some small chunks of luncheon meat, scattered them untidily around the root system and retired to the Steps to contemplate some more. Whilst there I tiptoed along the bank to the shallows, just left of where the old sunken tree used to reside and deposited some free offerings there too. If the sun came out the carp were bound to visit there at some stage, and when I did find them, I wanted to find them busy, preoccupied, far too engrossed to worry about little old me walking past and making a gentle cast.

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With the shallows baited I returned to my kit, grabbed the stalking rod, my net and tore up a few lumps of meat and placed them in my pocket. In position in the Board swim I knelt beside the water and gentle swung the hook-bait under the canopy and close to the root system. I watched the line, waiting for it to draw off, to snake across the surface signalling a carp had taken the bait, but after close to an hour nothing had happened. I wound in and crept up to the bank behind the spot, and the carp were still there, in fact, a couple had their tails waving like little flags, so they were certainly feeding on something down there.

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Back in the swim I thought about how best to maximise bite indication, free-lining at such a distance wasn’t working well enough, a method best suited to closer work. It was then that I opted to try a twig, just a random twig attached to the line top and bottom with float rubbers. With the twig lying flat on the surface above the hook-bait I would signal any movement much quicker than if they had to move all the line trailing from me to the hook. With the new rig in position, and knowing the carp were down there feeding, I felt much more confident, even cocky enough to think about where I’d photograph my prize.

It took about ten minutes, the twig jerked and the water around it rippled. Then the tip dipped down followed by the whole thing disappearing, and as I struck I was delighted to see the rod tip arch over and the line cut through the water away from the snaggy roots. Out in open water the fight stayed quite close, no long powerful surges were made, but short violent head shakes, the ones that quite often dislodge hooks that aren’t in properly. But properly hooked it was, and for a good few minutes it stayed deep not allowing me to see what I was attached to, which grew very frustrating.

Eventually it came up to take a gulp, and I almost fell backwards when I realised it was the Apple Slice, someone was smiling on me. Suddenly it all got terribly serious, I’d been in this position before, on this very pond, with target fish hooked but lost before I could land them. The Leather and the Linear were both hooked and lost close to the net, losses that still hurt whenever I think about them. This one, however, was no repeat performance, and although I had her over the net a few times only for her to shimmy off again, I finally engulfed her and let out a fairly loud cheer.

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The Apple Slice was mine once more, and looked all of 20lbs. After leaving her in the water whilst I set up the self-take kit and weighing gear, I recorded a weight of 19lb 4oz and began a few photos of each of those awesome flanks. She was in wonderful condition, just as I remembered her and of all the fish in the pool I couldn’t believe I was actually holding her up, no wonder I was smiling so hard. With the photos done I gently held her in the water and reluctantly let her go. It was quite a moment, and in a funny way I was nice that it was just the two of us.

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I sat a while and just smiled, text a few friends and smiled some more. Then, once the pitch was tidied and the sling and mat hung to dry I set off to explore those shallows, I was on a roll, would asking for another carp be greedy of me? I think not, I said before that it’s a tricky pool, but if you ply enough patience and forethought, you can benefit from your hard work. This place certainly doesn’t look after those who wait for it to come to them; I’ve learnt that if nothing else over the years.

As I approached the shallows my pace slowed and my footsteps hushed. I peered into the water where I’d previously baited and at first my vision was obscured by clouded water, then I realised why it was clouded. On closer inspection I spotted 3 tails waving around as carp fed, I turned on my heels, returned to my pitch, fetched the essentials and got back into position as quietly as possible. With the hook baited with luncheon meat I judged the depth, slid the twig into position and lowered everything into water.

I knelt down and watched the twig, it danced around a little but never showed me any of the signs I was looking for. After a quarter of an hour I looked over the reeds and the spot was now clear, with no bait left and no carp either. Clever fish. I then spotted some disturbance further along the shallows; it was a ghostie amongst them that gave them away. I jostled into position and threw 2 small pieces of meat onto the spot, so to semi spook them but not make them bolt. I tend to think that this can be mistaken for some natural occurrence, like an acorn falling from a tree perhaps.

With the 4 carp now away from the spot I made my cast. Twice they returned and twice they completely ignored my hook-bait. Perhaps the water clarity meant that they could see something was adrift, perhaps they could see me even though I was hiding really well. Maybe asking for another carp was pushing my luck after all, but I saw out another half hour before thanking the pool for a marvellous day and heading off home.

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