"Tis better to have hooked and lost than never to have hooked at all." That somewhat corrupted version of a famous quotation from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson floated around my mind at regular intervals throughout this week's session at Wetlands. Having lost a sizeable carp the preceding week to a spectacular hook-link breakage, I had become immersed in thoughts of what might have happened, if I had used a more robust material and whether I would be granted another opportunity to even the score. On the plus side, I must have done something right to have engineered the bite in the first place and I certainly enjoyed the adrenalin rush that the brief episode afforded. On the negative side though, would the culprit be even more wary than before, destined to go for months without relaxing it's guard; pre-occupied with naturals and turning it's piscatorial nose up at anything that had the faintest whiff of anglers bait about it?
Not surprisingly, with more sunshine forecast for the day ahead, I opted to have another crack at peg 7. That part of the lake has relatively shallow water, overhanging branches for cover and it receives direct sunlight from morning until mid afternoon. Hence, it is usually a good bet for a bit of daytime activity, especially in the prelude to spawning. The downside is that it quickly cools down in the evening, especially just now, when overnight frost is still a feature of our peculiar British weather. As things turned out, parting hook-links continued to be an issue during the proceedings, but hopefully, it has enabled me to identify the individual root causes and fix them once and for all.
This time I put the first rod out to the end of the narrow peninsula on the right hand side. To deter bird life, it simply consisted of two tiger nuts on a combi-link rig, with half a dozen freebies, plus a small PVA bag of pellets to avoid tangles. The second rod was bait boated out to the back of the main bay (tight to the margin of 'mushroom island'). Double Wet Bait Liver and Garlic 16 mm boilies were the chosen bait, plus a handful of crushed and whole freebies on a bed of Skretting pellets. The third rod was used to put an inch of salami sausage out into the narrow channel opposite, attached to the customary PVA bag of pellets.
At 9.45 am the RHS rod was the first to signal a take, in the form of a screaming run. It came just as I was cleaning my polaroids and the ferocity of the take caught me by surprise, such that bits of kit went flying in all directions as I scrambled to hit the run. Fortunately, I managed to prevent the carp from slipping round the corner into the little bay beyond. Before too long a 12 lb 8 oz Mirror was safely in the confines of my landing net. Next away was the rod covering the opposite bay, but within seconds the line went slack and the 5 inch, stiff section of Amnesia returned to the bank minus the short length of armoured braid that had previously attached it to the hook. I couldn't work out whether the five turn grinner knot, tied to the miniature rig ring, had slipped and pulled through, or whether the braid had parted under the strain. Having said that though, the amount of pressure applied to the rod didn't seem to have been that great. Another possibility was that I had applied a drop of super glue to the knot and that it had deteriorated the braid. To cover the unlikely possibility that the braid had weakened with age and/or exposure to sunlight, I tied up a couple of fresh rigs with an alternative 20 lb braid and substituted the rigs on two of the rods.
By 6.00 pm, no further action had transpired; hence an hour or two on the match lake testing baits, seemed like a worthy distraction. So, without further ado, I transferred 3 rods to the match lake and fanned them out, all cast to around 30 yards from the bank and all equipped with the same 6 inch combi-link arrangement. To the left went Liver and Garlic 16 mm double boilies, to the centre went dumbells (made from ground up Skretting pellets) and to the right went a Dynamite squid and octopus barrel over halibut pellets. At 7.20 pm the first take came to the LHS rod, but unfortunately the hook-link (the last remaining armoured braid equipped one) parted once again, under hardly any pressure. Given that the hooked carp was a small single figure specimen, a slipped knot seemed to be the most viable explanation, even though I had left a tag end of at least 5 mm. Accordingly, I replaced the rogue hook-link with ESP 20 lb braid and went on to bank an 8 lb 2 oz Mirror from the same spot. Meanwhile two takes also occurred on the middle rod courtesy of the ground-pellet based dumbells; namely Commons of 8 lb 10 oz and 4 lb 8 oz respectively.
Disappointingly, the RHS rod failed to produce a carp, even though plenty of knocks and bleeps had been evident. I concluded that the halibut pellets had successfully attracted carp to the spot, but the squid and octopus barrel that served as the hook-bait, was a tad too large to be taken readily into a small carp's mouth. Mind you, at 26 mm long by 23 mm diameter, the barrels are certainly not small.
By 10.30 pm, I had transferred all three rods back to the specimen lake. Two occupied their previous positions in the main bay and opposite channel, but the third was now deployed to cover the cut-through to the left. The latter was baited with a single, salami sausage hook-bait over a scattering of ageing 'soluballs' that had been deposited much earlier in the day. I continued with Liver and Garlic boilies in the main bay, but the rod cast to the opposite channels was now baited with a large Skretting Halibut pellet (in a 'shrink-wrap' protective coating) accompanied by a handful of matching, but unprotected pellets. Unlike last week, when the overnight temperature remained high at 9 degrees C, this week, the thermometer plummeted rapidly to near freezing. At 11.20 pm I suffered an unwelcome hook-pull to the rod covering the main bay. Still, at least the braid remained intact! This was followed at 00.50 am by an energetic take on the halibut pellet. After a protracted scrap, during which the carp circled endlessly in the near margin, it finally gave in and entered the net at the third attempt. A chunky 15 lb 14 oz Mirror was the joyful outcome.
In total then, the spoils amounted to two caught and two lost from the specimen lake, plus three caught and one lost from the match lake, with the largest a fine 15 lb 14 oz Mirror. Not quite as productive as the previous week, but enjoyable, all the same. Hopefully, the issue of hook-link unreliability is now fully sorted, such that when that all important big fish take occurs, it will end with tears of joy rather than of sorrow.