At last! After weeks of concentrated striving and many a disaster along the way, everything finally came together for me in this milestone session, as one of Wetlands A-Team jewels was cradled in my arms for a euphoric, triumphant photo.
In most forms of human endeavour, you only get out of it what you put in. In other words, effort equals reward. In carp fishing, minute attention to detail can pay dividends, as we all know. A quality bait, on an effective rig, placed with pinpoint accuracy onto a known feeding spot can certainly stack the odds in our favour. Furthermore, when it comes to targeting a specific fish, hours spent in avid research, tracking it's habits, history and whereabouts can hasten success. Much too, is spoken about the merits of a positive attitude, particularly in regards to persistent and determined pursuit, that is not deterred when things go wrong, as inevitably they do.
And yet, hand on heart, I cannot attribute success on this occasion to a rigorous and focussed campaign. I'm reminded of the eventual capture of serial killer Peter William Sutcliffe, "The Yorkshire Ripper", which came about as a result of a routine police stop, rather than to the massive, highly organised and prolonged manhunt that accompanied it. One officer simply described the capture as; "a bit of basic, good coppering", or words to that effect. In my case, I must attribute the capture of Timmy's Fish, the smaller of the 'Two Fat Ladies', to a bit of decent angling, plus a good measure of divine providence.
Returning to the start of this memorable session, I drove through the gates of Wetlands Animal Park, slightly later than usual at 7.15 am, as it had taken me ages to scrape off ice from the windscreen, plus don extra clothes to combat the unseasonably cold air temperature. Nevertheless, a bit of sunshine was forecast, so I was keen to fish one of the pegs that have relatively shallow water in front. Normally, that would mean peg 7, but this week I fancied a change and initially had it in mind to have a stab at peg 2. Apparently, every peg had been occupied over the weekend, but surprisingly the whole lake was now devoid of anglers and I had the luxury of a free choice. For some reason though, peg 2 just didn't feel right. It had a lifeless feel to it, such that, after staggering down the steps with my bed chair and rod bag, I gazed around for a couple of minutes, about-turned and clambered back up again, panting heavily. Instinctively, peg 1 had a different feel to it. Although the shaded corner banking felt bitingly chilly, the open water was beginning to receive sunshine and there was an air of expectancy about the place.
Based on previous captures in the adjacent peg 7, I opted to put one rod out to the nearside margin of 'mushroom island'. Having run out of Wet Bait Liver and Garlic 16 mm boilies and forgotten to pack my Halibut pellets, I settled for a KSC 16 mm bright yellow pop-up over a couple of large handfuls of Skretting 2 mm and 4 mm pellets, together with some spicy hemp. I then took my time over the remaining two rods. To combat bird life, I eventually put out a double, tiger nut baited combi-rig to 'Andy's spot' at the back of the main bay. For the third rod, knowing that a pair of large orange Koi frequent the narrow channel to the right, I lobbed a length of Pepperami, attached to a small PVA bag of mixed Skretting pellets into the middle of it and sat back to watch the water.
Before long Dave turned up and filled me in on recent events. It turned out that the larger of the two big Mirrors, introduced on February 15th, had been caught last week at a weight of 31 lbs 12 oz and subsequently named 'Big S' by it's captor Simon. "Well done Simon - top angling mate!" But I have to confess that I was little stunned by the news. My desire to catch the larger of the Two Fat Ladies and name her Chloe, after our beloved black Labrador, who died in March, was now shot to pieces and I felt somewhat disappointed. Dave kindly offered to drop me off another batch of LG boilies, so I sat there complaining bitterly in my soul, as I awaited their arrival. It was then that the smaller Koi came into view and I watched with great fascination as it drifted around the stumpy island opposite, keeping tight to it's margin and gliding beneath the overhanging branches, thus avoiding my baited hook with nonchalant disdain. Mmm! The wily fish had stitched me up good and proper! Without further ado, I wound in the rod, attached a fresh PVA bag of pellets and boated it out with absolute precision, to rest directly beneath the aforementioned branch, only 12 inches from the island, in about 18 inches of water.
Meanwhile, Dave delivered his LG specials, so I re-positioned the mushroom island rod, instead placing double 16 mm boilies in the gap between three nearby islands, over a bed of the Skretting pellets with a handful of Coppens carp pellets mixed in for good measure.
At 1.30 pm, as I sat back, thinking that action this week, was a bit slow in coming, the rod fished to Koi channel caught my eye. Even though it was mounted, 'locked-up solid', on very firm rod rests, driven well into the ground, and pointing directly towards the hook-bait, there seemed to be a slight curve in it. As I stared hard at it, the end twitched and the bobbin rose slightly, with not a sound emitted from the bite alarm. In a flash, all became clear. I had forgotten to switch the alarm on and a carp was mouthing the bait. As I reached out and raised the rod tip, it was met with very firm resistance and a heavy splash erupted, as the culprit attempted to head for the sunken branches further back in the channel. Resolutely I held on, refusing to allow it any slack. Stalemate lasted for what seemed like eternity, but in reality was only a few seconds and steadily I began to gain line as my adversary inched it's way towards me. Mercifully, it kept coming in a straight line, with no attempt to kite one way or the other. Eventually, as it neared the waiting, net it made a sudden sideways lunge, necessitating a second attempt. This time, it glided gracefully over the net-cord and as I raised the mesh to reveal my prize, it's huge head and frame emerged from the depths. Wow! The significance of the capture hit me like a train and a huge smile adorned my face. I'd only gone and caught one of the biguns!
Visitors to the animal park joined Richard and day workers in the celebratory photo session as 'Timmy's Fish' smiled somewhat reluctantly for the cameras and it's weight was duly confirmed as a conservative 28 lbs 8 oz. After the cascade of admiring exclamations had subsided, the party ended and I was left to contemplate the immense satisfaction of those few fleeting moments alone. The remainder of the session passed by like some kind of dream, where I had to keep pinching myself to remind me that it was indeed real.
I can hardly remember the rest of the session, other than to report that the rod fished to the island gap produced two more carp. The first, at 8.30 pm was an 11 lb 6 oz Linear Mirror with gorgeous apple slice scales and a body so dark chestnut in colour that it was almost black. A staggeringly beautiful fish that looked as old as the hills. The second at 01.15 am was an 8 lb 4 oz Mirror.
Last week I was bemoaning a problem of unreliable hook-links that cost me fish and hoping that the issue was now fully resolved. Little did I know that the very next week, I would be putting my remedies to the ultimate test and come out of it victorious, with a new personal best Mirror. What started out as a bit of a negative session ended up as one of the best angling experiences of my life. So, it all goes to show, you never know what piscatorial delights await around the corner.