With a strong desire to hold one particular fish, the one I have a photo of on my phone and regularly stare at, it was time to begin my season on the moat. I’d be enjoying some peaceful summer days there targeting the tench and crucians, but a longing to get amongst the carp was also high on my list, with one especially beautiful old and dark mirror being the pick of the bunch. I was under no illusions though, my days of mounting a serious campaign on a target fish are behind me, well at least whilst I have fledglings.
Some lovely fish had come out to those who had put the time in. Very few anglers target the carp there, but with some constant trickling of bait into certain areas, sport has been enjoyed through the winter by a hardy handful. My own campaign started in a very similar way, visiting during my lunch break for a look, then to start introducing a little bait onto spots I'd had success in the past. With a final look and bait up on Friday, the plan was to fish Saturday night into Sunday, this being only my second ever night on this moat.
The forecast was for mostly dry weather, the wind was due to increase in strength throughout the weekend, but the spot I chose to fish would provide a fair amount of shelter from whatever was thrown at me. After lunch on Saturday I loaded the car, it was strange carting the bed and bivvy from the shed to the car, its last outing being mid-October. The drive to the moat was short and fairly hassle free, I parked up, loaded the trolley and made my way to the pitch.
The steps leading down to the swim were a touch slippery due to the drizzle, and on my second trip down I twisted my ankle, fell and landed on my backside. My hand landed first taking a nice gouge out of my palm too, so my ankle, back and hand were all throbbing at once, not the best start. I wrapped my hand and cursed my rotten luck. As soon as it stopped bleeding and everything else stopped hurting I continued to ferry my gear into the swim and got everything set up.
The first thing I did was set about making a pot of tea, which was tricky due to the dampness of all the surrounding kindling. I got there in the end and enjoyed a nice brew before thinking about where the rods were going. There was a nice bush on the far bank at 2 o’clock, and a grassy point with a couple of feet of water off the end of it at around 11 o’clock. I baited these spots and cast both rods out. The swim was long but not very wide, so I had to place the bivvy on a slight angle, but I could still see everything that was happening so all was well.
It didn’t take long for the bream to show up, the first one weighing over 5lbs, which happened to be the smallest of the session. They came to both rods, and very surprisingly they fought very well, one actually taking me on a run and causing me to backwind. Anyone who tells you bream don’t fight hasn’t caught a moat bream. Amidst the action I spotted a carpy little area just along the right hand margin, there was a fairly substantial overhanging bush, quite snaggy but with a natural cavern, I just happened to glance in that direction and see a plume of bubbles rise, very interesting I thought.
With the bush at 2 o’clock looking like the banker I wound the other rod in and set up my newly restored Sharpes rod, attached an Allcock Aerialite and popped a luncheon meat rig under the bush. It was a tricky swing that had to be let go at precisely the right time, but it went in nicely first time. A few free offerings and I set the rod fishing fairly tight, I didn’t want anything hooked getting too far amongst those snags.
From late afternoon until dark I caught 8 large bream, and at 7pm I caught my first tench of the year, not by any means a big tench, but a very welcome one all the same. I sat outside throughout hovering over the snag rod ready to snatch it up at any moment and steer anything hooked away from danger. It was around 8pm when the snag rod twitched a couple of times. I hit the bits but instead of the intended quarry, a bream came flapping its way ashore. I replaced the rod back on the spot, just a little closer to me this time. The plan was to leave that spot alone and fish open water during the night, but the lure of a carp was too much, so I positioned the rod so that I could reach it from my bed in a second should the Heron sound.
The bream action slowed down, by midnight the rods went quiet allowing me to get some much needed rest, I say rest as when night fishing for carp, you don’t actually really sleep. Drizzle came and the wind strengthened, the bivvy moved and creaked some, but it was quite well anchored down so had no need to panic too much. I nipped out to attend to the call of nature at some point in the early hours and my attention was drawn to a movement in the water a rod length out. I switched on the headlamp and was met with a couple of frogs casually swimming past; spring is most definitely getting a firm grip.
It was somewhere around 6:30 when the Heron woke me, I automatically grabbed the snag rod, struck and whilst slipping my shoes on walked left to steer whatever was hooked away from the snags. It worked too, obviously a carp, but now it was trying hard to get back amongst the roots and branches, my headlamp had fallen off and was in my sleeping bag, so I did as best I could in the early half light. The Sharpes did its job well, a powerful tool purpose built for extracting carp from pads, weed and snags, now given a new lease of life and doing what it does best. I slipped the net under a wonderful looking common, rested it a while whilst setting up the camera and smiled.
It was a lovely old fish, not huge but a decent size, I’d guess mid to upper doubles, and fairly dark along the back with a slightly underslung mouth. I loved it, it was a real pleasure to cradle that fish and pose for the camera, a perfect welcome back to the moat and the best possible start. After a few snaps I held it in the margin and let go as it waved its tail telling me it was ready. I tidied the swim, lit the Kelly Kettle and enjoyed a pot of tea and some breakfast.
The drizzle continued throughout the morning, and the wind strengthened further. It was odd, but where I was situated the wind came from the left and from the right. The patch of water directly in front of me was quite still, but the swirling wind came every so often, and from varying directions. A Heron landed opposite, I reached slowly for the camera, took off the short lens and attached the long one. Lifted the camera to my face and then just as I was about to depress the shutter release it flew off squawking as it went.
With breakfast done I decided to remove the shackles and reach out, and by that I mean pack camp down, return most of it to the car and go in search of carp. I took the bivvy, bed and everything else I didn’t need back to the car, leaving just a couple of rods, the net, matt and camera gear. Just along the bank there was a corner, I’d been trickling some bait into over the previous few days, and seen a couple of fish there too. It was a very exciting prospect.
In position it was horrendous, the wind was coming into this corner with all its might, I actually had to run after my hat twice. The spots looked prime though, with one just tucked in to the right under a branch where the gravel was shining with a couple of feet of water over it, and the left hand rod cast down into the very corner where an old trunk covered in ivy reached over the water a metre or so. I sat there with the rods out with the wind’s full force hammering me, it was uncomfortable, but I was so pumped up by the prospect it didn’t bother me too much.
After around an hour my enthusiasm for the spot began to wane, but a good carp lumping out a few feet from my left hand rod kept me there for another half hour. After this time and with no more signs I decided that perhaps the one common was enough to ask for, and that I’d have to ease myself in slowly. I reeled the rods in and headed back towards the car peering into a few spots along the way.
I stopped at the top of the pitch I’d spent the night in, looked at that marginal snag spot and as it was sheltered from the now gale force winds, thought it definitely worth half an hour. I flicked the Sharpes back among the branches, being a little more daring now what with it being light and being able to actually sit on the rod, and flicked the other rod out to the far bank bush. After ten or so minutes the far bank rod ripped off, I struck and immediately had to back wind, carp on I thought.
I managed to get the fish under control and slowly worked in back in front of me, and believe me when I tell you just how shocked I was to see a bream with my hook in its bottom lip. I’ve never had a bream fight like that; it was like a new species. I unhooked the fish in the margin and watched it charge off. The rod went back out on the spot followed by a catapult of freebies.
It was another ten minutes later when the tip of the Sharpes nodded and pulled hard round. I’d placed a stick into the ground next to the rod to act as a snag bar, but I didn’t need it really, I was on it in a flash. I stood up and walked quickly away from the snags; the fish got close but soon came out into open water. A few times it got close, but the majority of the battle was out in front of me, with a very angry mirror carp trying hard not to go into the net.
Finally I managed to scoop it up. I secured my prize whilst calming myself and the fish and set up the camera kit. During this my camera tripod broke at the swivel rendering it useless, so I had to balance the camera on its bag, prop it up with stuff to get it level and make do as best I could. Under the circumstances I think the shots came out quite well. It was a lovely fish once again, similar size to the common ad quite dark along the back.
A common and a mirror on my first trip of the year, couldn’t ask for more than that, and on the rod I’ve recently restored, maybe it’s my lucky rod now. I happily packed my few things away and headed back to the car. They might well make me wait, and there might be a few memorable trips along the way, but I’d like to think I’ll stick this one out until I catch the one I seek.