This week's blog is a tale of bait boat breakdown, bait blitzing birds, and an involuntary game of 'hook-a-duck'. Fortunately, it all came good in the end. You may recall that in my last blog I indicated my intention to concentrate on the specimen lake from March onwards. This was undeniably influenced by the addition of two new large Mirrors to the lake, plus the prospect of enhanced action, as seasonal temperatures began to rise. Incidentally, on the subject of the new residents, the special pair have yet to be named and from time to time I find my mind idly considering worthy titles. For some reason, my thoughts turned to the sadly departed, way larger-than-life hosts of the BBC cult favourite cookery programme, Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright. I then found myself engaged in a bizarre 'guess the weight' exercise in an attempt to work out which of the so-called "Two Fat Ladies" might represent each carp. In the end I opted for Clarissa as the 31 lb 8 oz Mirror and Jennifer as the 29 lb Mirror. How does that sound?
Anyway, back to the plot. I turned up at Wetlands around 7.40 am on Monday morning to find the specimen lake empty of anglers, other than a couple of young lads just settling into peg 5. Not wishing to cramp their style by dropping into the adjacent Sandbank peg 4, I drove round to peg 1 (the Capybara). This was the only peg that had not, thus far, received my winter attention and apparently Andy had winkled one out from here over the weekend, so it was well worth a go. Having brought my bait boat with me this time, the plan was to load it's hopper with mixed Skretting pellets and fish each rod over a small patch of bait. The boat would enable me to stealthily deliver the cargo to 'hard-to-cast-to-spots' without getting tangled up in overhanging branches and the like. Everything was ready for delivering payload number one when disaster struck. Pushing the joystick forward failed to activate the jet motors and the boat just sat there, gently circling, whilst my fingers became numbed by a biting cold wind. Hmm! Not a great start and to make matters worse, I hadn't brought a spod rod with me. Hence, a plan B had to be hatched, which might still allow a bed of pellets to accompany each set of end tackle. The easiest to achieve was a coconut cream/malty milk snowman rig, under-armed into the small, branch-bordered bay to the right. The latter is well within catapult range, so it was a simple matter to fire several pouches of pellets over the top. Rod 2 was used to launch a similar creamy snowman rig into the channel opposite and diagonally right, but in this case it was attached to a PVA mesh bag of pellets. Three similar bags soaked in Skretting matching dip were catapulted into the area. Rod 3 was used to deliver a fruity snowman rig in like style, into the channel opposite and diagonally left. After an hour, or so Dave turned up and very kindly offered to lend me his spod rod, which was duly delivered a short while later. Good man! This enabled me to add a generous sprinkling of Skretting pellets over the top of rods 2 and 3.
By mid afternoon the only action to have occurred, was in the form of constant harassment from wildfowl of every kind. Coots, mallards, canada geese and even seagulls took it in turns to mouth the baits and in one case actually get hooked. I gave the offending male mallard a good telling off before returning it unharmed to the lake. At that point Richard turned up and his eyes lit up at the prospect of doing some make-shift electrical repairs to my bait boat. He disappeared with the boat and re-appeared half an hour later, with a triumphant grin upon his face, having re-wired the malfunctioning parts. We excitedly re-attached the battery and tested it on the bank, whereupon a jubilant "YES!" erupted as the motors kicked into life. Marvellous! That meant that I could retrieve the two more distant rods and put them back out to more exact positions on a bed of pellets. This time, at Richard's suggestion, the rod that had hitherto covered the left hand channel was placed far down the left bank, at the foot of some silver birch trees, a spot where carp had previously been spotted. The rod occupying the channel diagonally right was retrieved and put back out again just before dark, but this time slightly further back towards the rear of the available water. To my delight, it was this rod, bearing a creamy snowman, positioned over a bed of Skretting pellets that eventually signalled a jittery take at 8.15 pm. The culprit was a 12 lb deep orange Mirror that cruised readily from the back of the peg until it neared the margin, whereupon it burst into life. After several tense moments, when it peeled line from the reel at an alarming rate, it eventually gave in and found itself within the confines of my newly purchased carp cradle. No further action interrupted the night, leaving me to remain warm as toast within my old aerolite bivvy (yes, I have managed to resurrect it since an aluminium rib broke last week), whilst sub zero temperatures and an unbelievably chilly wind prevailed outside. There were several reasons why I was immensely pleased with this session. Against the odds, I had managed to avoid a blank, on a day when conditions were very far from ideal and on a lake that has not given up its treasures readily over the winter. What's more I have now caught from every peg on the specimen lake, which gives me a great sense of achievement.However, I couldn't end this blog without paying tribute to the amazing team work that makes all the difference at Wetlands. Without Dean's initial advice, Dave's tackle lending kindness, Andy's shared hot-spot info and Richard's astounding resourcefulness and generosity, none of this would have been possible. I just need one or both of the two fat ladies to slip into my landing net and my euphoria will be complete!