Some days don't get off to a great start, especially when you own two ageing and somewhat incontinent Labrador dogs, who rarely manage to make it through the night without some kind of bladder or anal accident. And such was the case at 5.30 am on Monday morning, as I gingerly opened the kitchen door, only to scrape the top off a recently deposited and rather sticky pooh, shunting it neatly against the stainless steel pedal bin behind. A wiggly trail of urine decorated every inch of the kitchen floor, and a dotted line of diarrhoea stretched across the entire length of the garage. Oh, what a start! Could anything else happen to delay my eagerly anticipated angling adventure any further? Once the mess had been dealt with, I was at least 20 minutes behind schedule and after enduring the usual 10 minute delay at Sutton-Cum-Lound railway crossing, I finally arrived at Wetlands only to discover that Peg 5 (a favoured winter peg) was already occupied by a couple of anglers. Enthusiasm unabated, I sat in Peg 6 for a while, hoping to see some signs of fish. However, nothing materialised and after 45 minutes, or so, I decided to spend the day in Peg 7, on the basis that the weed bed in the small bay to the right would have mostly died off by now and the decaying vegetation might harbour a few invertebrates for the carp to feed upon. Also, a long range rod cast to the back of the main bay would be as close as possible to the central snag-ridden holding area. The narrow channel opposite, that runs through to the Bird-hut peg was also of interest. Accordingly, a 12 mm cell pop-up attached to a golf ball sized PVA bag of mixed 2 mm and 4 mm Skretting pellets was launched to each spot and the waiting began. Amazingly, the weather was unseasonably warm for December. A constant south westerly wind put a moderate chop across the lake surface, beneath a grey sky that occasionally threatened rain, but never delivered more than a hint of drizzle. I couldn't help thinking though, that the deeper water in front of pegs 4 and 5, on the end of the SW wind, would have been a much better area. Indeed, Scot, one of the the anglers paired up in that spot, had apparently lost a carp within minutes of his first cast, caught an 18 lb carp at 9.00 pm on Sunday evening and went on to catch a 16 lb carp at around 3.30 pm on Monday afternoon. Well done, mate!
Meanwhile, my own efforts on the specimen lake proved fruitless and eager to catch a carp on the first day of winter, I made the decision to switch to the match lake for the night. And so, as soon as the match anglers had wound in, I hurriedly gathered my tackle together, loaded it untidily into my estate car and made my way round to peg 5. This was where the majority of daytime anglers had been clustered and where most of the bait had been deposited for the fish to mop up at night. Once the match weighing and packing up was completed, I got set up as quickly as possible, aware that darkness would be rapidly upon us, given that the previous day had been the shortest day of the year. Tactics for the match lake were to be completely different from the specimen lake. Firstly, a long range chod-rig, bearing an Indian Spice 16 mm pop-up (sprayed with Hutchinson's Secret Agent) was dispatched beyond the centre of the lake. Then, double 15 mm Trigga Ice boilies on a 9 inch braided hook-link, nicked into a bag of mixed 2 mm and 4 mm Skretting pellets were delivered to a central location to the left of the choddy. Before attaching the PVA bag, the boilies were immersed in Skretting bait dip, then shaken around inside a pot of Skretting shrimp flakes to fully coat them with additional attraction. Finally, a method feeder, bearing a 16 mm Cell dumbell and 10mm DNA Malty-milk pop-up (to make it semi-buoyant), on a 3 inch braided hook-link, was under-armed out to pole distance from the fishing platform. The method mix in this case was composed of scalded Skretting pellets moulded around an ESP semi-fixed feeder. After only a few minutes the double, boilie-baited rig was away, but unfortunately a hook pull robbed me of the prize. Nevertheless, I only had to wait until 5.00 pm before the after-dark action kicked in as expected. In fact, I had two small Commons in separate landing nets at the same time, one from the Method rig and the other from the central braided rig. By 7.30 pm three more takes had occurred, the first ending in a hook pull, but the next 2 providing a 9 lb 2 oz Mirror (Method rig) and a 13 lb 0 oz Mirror (double boilie). At 8.30 pm, just as I was playing a carp on the chod rig, Richard the owner arrived for an evening chat. Once the 10 lb 10 oz Common had been returned to its watery home, Richard experienced first hand the delights of Hutchy's Secret Agent spray. Having given the Indian Spice pop-up a good coating with the evil smelling liquid, I accidentally got a piece of bramble caught up around the lead core and being the ever so helpful person that he is, Rich unhesitatingly grasped hold of the coated pop-up and proceeded to free it. In spite of my warning that Secret Agent is a highly potent concoction that remains on ones skin and clothing for at least a week, he merely wiped his fingers on his trousers, saying; "It can't be any worse than some of the other smelly things I come into contact with in the animal park!" Well, believe me, this stuff is absolutely wicked and if Jo his partner hasn't complained by the time I return, I shall be very surprised indeed. It has such a powerful smell that I am banned from using it before visiting the homes of certain close relatives, and not without good cause. No doubt the words "I told you so!" will figure in the conversation before too long.
Anyway, the carpy action continued long after Richard's departure and by 01.40 am tiredness got the better of me and I wound in to get some much needed sleep. The capture log read thus:
[4.10 pm - Lost carp to hook pull]
5.00 pm - 6 lb 0 oz Common (Method/10 yds).
5.05 pm - 6lb 8 oz Common (double boilie/ 40 yds).
[6.00 pm - Lost carp to hook pull]
7.15 pm - 9 lb 2 oz Mirror (Method/10 yds).
7.30 pm - 13 lb 0 oz Mirror (double boilie 40 yds).
8.30 pm - 10 lb 10 oz Common (Chod rig 40 yds).
[8.45 pm - Lost carp to hook pull]
[9.00 pm - Lost carp to hook pull]
10.15 pm - 9 lb 6 oz Common (double boilie/10 yds).
11.45 pm - 9 lb 8 oz Mirror (double boilie/10 yds).
00.20 am - 6 lb 2 oz Common (double boilie/10 yds).
00.25 am - 8 lb 2 oz Mirror (double boilie/40 yds).
00.45 am - 8 lb 0 oz Common (double boilie/10 yds).
01.40 am - 9 lb 8 oz Linear Mirror (double boilie/40 yds).
It's worth pointing out that by 10.00 pm I had lost several carp to hook pulls on the close-in Method rig. I came to the conclusion that once hooked, the carp were shaking the ESP method feeder violently from side to side (on the short 3 inch hook-link) and in so doing, the hook was coming out prematurely. Rather than lengthen the hook link or make it completely free running, in an attempt to overcome the problem, I simply swapped over to using the dipped and flake coated, double boilies on 9 inch braid, instead. I continued to catch regularly from close in, without losing any more to hook pulls, thereafter. So the final catch tally was 11 caught and 4 lost. The biggest was a 13 lb Mirror, which for the match lake is a decent carp. There are a few known larger carp in the match lake (caught by match anglers and returned). Hopefully, further endeavours will put one or two of them on the bank for me.