Monday, 9 March 2015

The TFF Board Meeting 2015...

Things were certainly warming up, but as you’ll be well aware, warm spring weather usually means the obligatory showers will also bless us with their presence. I had two days back to back planned, our annual TFF Board Meeting to be held at Fernhill Farm near Oxford, and a day off work on the Monday to fish locally. I just hoped they wouldn’t end up being a washout.

I was the first to arrive at Fernhill, it was just under two hours in the car so it felt good to stretch my legs and have a walk around the lake. We were obviously much earlier than in previous years, the backdrop showing bleak winter colours and foliage. The water on the middle pond was fairly clear and there was weed present in some parts, this was a boost for me, I just knew the carp would be here if the sun shone later.

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The banks had been chopped back somewhat, which seems to be a trend for fisheries these days. A real shame for the mobile/stalking type of angler, but I guess we can’t have it all ways. The top pool was coloured up and already had a few anglers on who’d done the night, so we left them to it. The smaller back pool was also very coloured, but with rumours of big perch it was where we set up once everyone had arrived.

The TFF Board Meeting was the first thing to take place, which was the usual. “Forum’s busy”, followed by “Aye”. With the meeting out of the way we could get down to some angling. We fished in a line near some dead reeds. J.T. was first into a fish, not a perch but a lovely looking linear mirror of around 5lbs. It was a great start and fuelled the optimism of the rest of us. The fish was returned and we all shook Jeff’s hand and congratulated him.

I tried both sides of the pool; I’m a very fidgety angler who just can’t keep still too long. I did have one chance among the reeds to Mark’s left, but the fish broke my hook-link. We fished on and chatted until almost lunchtime. This was when I decided to take a stroll back to the car to fetch my nibbles. I walked back round the middle pool peering into its depths hoping to spot something.

My prayers were answered when I got to a bay behind the big island sheltered from the wind. In the jade water I spotted shapes, some dark, some quite big, around twenty of them in all. I tiptoed past them, grabbed my grub and took the long way round back to the others. I told the guys what I’d seen and that after a bite to eat I’d be popping round with a rod to see if I could tempt one of them into feeding. Well that must have been the fastest pasty ever eaten.

I approached the spot very gingerly, with a Mark IV, reel loaded with 8lb line, a net, a mat and a slice of bread. I poked my head above the reeds to see if they were still there, and they were, some were quite close too and I could see that there was a mixture of long commons and beautiful dark mirrors. The plan was to squeeze a piece of bread flake on the hook shank, to cast and let it fall through the water slowly. I made my cast causing only the gentlest plop as the bread hit the surface, I watched it flutter down then lost sight of it but watched the point the line entered the water. There was a sudden jerk, then another followed by a steady pull. I struck and felt a very satisfying lunge.

The other fish bolted, and the one I was attached to tried its best to follow suit, but after getting momentarily stuck in a weed bed everything slowed down. I kept the pressure and swung the rod from side to side, then I felt movement and the fish was off again; I could once again breathe. The rest of the battle was played out just in front of me. I had to be careful as there were some sunken branches directly under me, but I managed to avoid any mishap and slipped the net under a wonderful carp. I rang Mark, who kindly came to the rescue and helped with some photos.

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It wasn’t the largest carp in the pool, but I reckon it was having a pretty good go and being one of the best looking. It was showing off tremendous winter colours, chestnut flanks, a dark back, random scale pattern, just the way I like them. I thanked Mark for helping with the photos and released the great fish just around the corner just in case there was another chance from the bay.

I sat quiet for a time; I always do after a good capture, and usually with a great silly grin across my face. I watched the bay and noticed a few fish drifting back in. Within ten minutes it was almost as it was when I discovered it. One Particular group of three fish circled close to my position, far too close for me not to cast a piece of crust to them. It landed a few feet past and as I gradually teased it back they turned and headed straight for it.

I thought it was going to be instant, but instead they all took turns to nudge it and turn away. It was here I realised there were two typed of carp in the pool, the nudgers who just aren’t interested in feeding, the inquisitive ones, and then there were the ‘throw all caution to the wind and snaffle it’ kind, which happen to be my favourite ones. With a few more fruitless casts, both with floating and slow sinking bread, the carp seemed to move off.

I stood to the right of the bay looking out towards the island, there was some disturbance among the weed, a sure sign that they’d not vanished, simply taken up residence elsewhere. The worst thing I could have done was follow them and start flinging lumps of crust at them. If any more were to be caught they’d have to have time to settle, to feel safe and confident among their new surroundings.

I turned to pick up my things and go meet the others when I looked into the bay and clocked two fish, a small common and a larger mirror. I had nothing to lose so attached a crust to the hook, dipped it in the edge and cast a few metres past the two fish. I slowly inched it back, heart in mouth, and when it was a foot or so in front of them I stopped. They looked at the bait, hung mid water with their fins working all the while. The small common slowly overtook the mirror, just my luck, and hovered inches from the hook-bait sniffing. Then, just as I thought it was going to take it the mirror shot forward and without hesitation sucked in the bread and turned.

As I struck the Mark IV arched beautifully, twisting and turning it was obvious from the start that this was one angry carp. Funny enough the common followed the mirror around for most of the battle, a characteristic I’ve noticed before. I was weeded twice, but not heavily so avoided too much drama. The marginal snags caused me one or two missed heartbeats too, but thankfully I finally slid my prize into the waiting net. This one was larger than the last, and was one of those carp that just makes you say “Wow”!!

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Mark did the honours once more and we marvelled at the incredible fish before us. It’ll be a long while till I catch a carp that pretty, that’s for sure. With the fish released and the bay now devoid of life I returned to the chaps just in time for Nigel to light the Kelly Kettle. J.T. had caught another two carp taking his tally to three. Mark was having fun teaching his worms to swim and Nigel was hell bent on missing bits. We did have some laughs though; we always do when we get together.

After tea and a dip into Nigel’s Army Rations Packs, I decided to spend the last hour or so at the back of the island (near my previous captures) as it looked rather perchy. Nigel joined me, J.T. went off for a stalk and Mark bade us farewell and headed off home. I think I sat in position watching my perch float for all of ten minutes; I had itchy feet and just had to wind in and see if those carp were still amongst the weed around the other side of the island.

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I crept up behind a bush and peered out across the pool, there was a channel in the weed at around three quarters of the way to the island, I’d guess roughly twenty five yards or so. As I watched a group of three carp cruised through this channel, came towards me then swam through the weed a rod length out, I froze solid not daring to move an inch. As they moved off my gazed was drawn back to the channel, a group of four carp coming down left to right and another four coming right to right meeting in the middle.

I went back to fetch my stalking rod and told Nigel where I was headed. Once in position I waited till the coast was clear and made my cast without the possibility of spooking anything. On the edge of the channel was a stick, obviously a small branch that had fallen from the tree, but it stuck up in the air around eight inches and was perfect for my plan. I cast beyond this stick, would back till the bread was on the far side of the channel, then as the wind caught the crust it carried it around trailing from the stick and stopped it dead, which avoided letting it just drift into the weed and out of sight. Cunning eh?

Three separate groups of carp cruised through, but they were just nudgers, then two good fish a metre apart came through but they were deeper and moving quite quickly. Then I spotted a group out to the left circling and snapping at leaves and debris on the surface, this was the group I was waiting for, I knew one of these would slip up. I could actually hear my heart beating as the fish approached, the first one reached the bait but swam past, my heart rate increased further. The second fish raced the third fish to the bait, but neither fish managed to swallow it. The fourth fish pushed the others aside and engulfed the crust in one go, the battle was on.

As the previous two, the fish found refuge with the weed, but it was no real issue, the weed was old and posed no real problem for eight pound line. As always, as long as you keep them moving, you’ll be fine. I was just glad there was some weed present. There was what looked like the remains of an old jetty to the right of me close to the bank, I noticed it when the fish tried to get behind it, a scary moment but with side strain I kept it free from danger. I netted the fish along with a big wodge of weed, peeled the weed back and there in the bottom of the net was yet another lovely dark carp.

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Nigel helped with the photos, it just started to rain as we posed for the camera and the downpour got quite heavy. With the fish safely back in the water I weighed up my options. It was about half an hour before I had to leave, the sky was growing darker by the minute and so to avoid getting a soaking I shook Nigel’s hand and thanked him for his wonderful company. AQll the way home I thought about where to head tomorrow....

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