Looking back, I have generally found January and February to be the most challenging months of the year, characterised by unfavourable weather conditions and reduced catch rates. Nevertheless, any winter carp that do visit my landing net are highly prized and their capture makes any personal discomfort more than worthwhile. Imagine my delight then, when a relatively mild winter day afforded an unexpected winter bag-up session.
First though, I must fill in an important detail that I somehow omitted from last week's blog. It's strange how we sometimes overlook the obvious, like failing to notice the presence of carp right under our feet in the margin, whilst we persist in casting to the horizon. However, this was a different kind of oversight. You see the latter part of last week's session was conducted under conditions of acute physical pain. How did that happen? Well, in the early hours of the morning, whilst in a zombie-like state, I went through the process of re-casting my margin rod. Given that an energetic underarm cast was all that was required, I adjusted the length of swing, so that the lead could be readily grasped with my left hand, then gave a smart flick of the rod with my right hand, intending to let go of the end tackle at the critical time. Unfortunately, although I did release the lead at the correct instant, the hook link showed some reluctance to embark upon the intended trajectory. In fact, the hook point punctured the nail of my left little finger, passed underneath it and emerged some 6 mm further towards the finger tip. Ouch!!!! So there I was, now wide awake, with a size 6 barbless (thankfully)hook firmly embedded in my left hand. Very slowly and carefully, I prised the hook from its fleshy sheath, then spent the rest of the session with half screwed up eyes, trying to avoid touching the delicate digit in any way whatsoever. Naturally, I will be more careful with underarm casting in future and advise others to learn from my woeful mistake.
Back to the plot. This week I spent most of the daylight hours in peg 6 of the specimen lake. With a growing phobia about not putting in too much bait, I opted for the traditional winter tactic of using single, highly flavoured pop-ups, with a conker-sized PVA mesh bag of 4 mm Skretting pellets as ballast. One rod was cast around 80 yards to the deeper water in front of peg 4 and another around 60 yards to the water in front of peg 5 (midway between the margin and the 3 snag bushes). The third rod was cast diagonally right, far into peg 7 water. In like manner to last week, hardly a single bleep interrupted the Wetlands sound-scape and by 4.00 pm I had called it a day, moved into peg 6 of the match lake and had 3 rods in place. This week the match had been won with a weight of 44 lbs (mostly small carp and bream), caught on soft pellets from the middle of the lake. Rather than continue with a total pop-up approach, I switched to a snowman rig (plus PVA bag of pellets) on two out of three rods. That way I could compare results from the two mid-lake rods on different techniques. The third rod (snowman equipped) was simply underarm cast (extreme care taken this week) to about 10 yards out from the margin. Clearly, the mild conditions had stimulated a feeding spell. Having lost my first carp at 4.10 pm (10 minutes after casting out), I then went on to catch steadily, until midnight, when I finally gave in to tiredness and pulled my rods in for decent nights kip.
The catch log read thus:
[4.10 pm - Lost carp to hook pull]
5.10 pm - 7 lb 14 oz Common (40 yds RHS), pop-up.
5.55 pm - 8 lb 8 oz Common (40 yds LHS), pop-up.
[6.40 pm - Lost carp to hook pull at net]
7.15 pm - 8 lb 4 oz Mirror (40yds RHS), pop-up.
7.20 pm - 11 lb 8 oz Common (40 yds LHS), snowman.
8.40 pm - 13 lb 4 oz Common (40 yds RHS), pop-up.
9.10 pm - 6 lb 2 oz Common (40 yds LHS), snowman.
10.35 pm - 5 lb 12 oz Common (40 yds LHS), snowman.
10.40 pm - 8 lb 8 oz Common (40 yds RHS), pop-up.
12.00 pm - 5 lb 8 oz Mirror (40 yds LHS), snowman.
In conclusion then, I banked 9 carp in 8 hours of fishing. Of these, 5 fell to pop-ups (DNA 15 mm Milky Malt) and 4 fell to a snowman combination (Mainline 15 mm Essential IB, plus Magnum 10 mm Winter Wonder). The largest carp was a fine Common of 13 lb 4 oz. After such an active evenings fishing, a good nights sleep, a nicely healed little finger and an egg sandwich (courtesy of Richard, Bless him!) I made way home with a satisfying smile on my face. What more could a carp angler want on a January morning.