I frequently come across magazine articles that deal with the subject of "How to single out big carp". Often they are written by high profile anglers who seem to have plenty of time at their disposal, plus an endless supply of free bait. They have the luxury of being able to study their targeted fish in great detail, usually in gin clear water where location and feeding habits can eventually be deciphered and used to catch their quarry. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for these guys, who have worked incredibly hard to become masters of our sport, but the harsh reality is that most of us mere mortals have very limited time and resources to devote to our beloved art. What's more, the waters we fish are often highly coloured, making it difficult to locate carp at all, let alone be able to identify specific individuals. Whilst previous catch history may nudge the statistics slightly in our favour, it's not always possible to get into potentially lucrative pegs at the right time and a baiting campaign may be beyond our means. So, at the end of the day we persevere, undaunted by slow results, always optimistic, believing that one day conditions will all come together in a triumphant conclusion.
And so, at 7.00 am on an overcast Monday morning, with a head full of philosophic thoughts, I opened the gate at Wetlands and did a tour of the site. Apart from Dave and Simon, resident in peg 4 and another Simon on peg 2, the lake was relatively free. A slight and warm breeze was blowing into the north east corner and apparently carp had gathered in numbers on the end of it over the weekend, resulting in some decent catches. Conversely, pegs 1 and 7 were flat calm and looked lifeless. Peg 5 would probably have been the best choice (to benefit from the south westerly breeze), but preferring to leave a bit of space between me and adjacent peg 4, I finally opted for peg 6, which I have only fished once before.
Being something of a novice regarding peg 6, I was guided by previous advice from Dean. Accordingly, one rod was used to fish the area behind the central snags and another covered the tree line to the left. The third would be my roving rod, starting off in the entrance to a small channel opposite. This was on the edge of a known patrol route to peg 7 and I had already seen a cruising fish nearby. My baiting strategy was the same in each case, namely a double 18 mm boilie on a 9 inch braided hook link, delivered by a bait boat bearing half a hopper-full of Skretting 3 mm pellets. A PVA mesh bag of similar pellets (soaked in matching soluble bait dip) was attached to each hook. Wet Baits LG 1 boilies were the bait of choice for two of the spots, with Mainline Hybrid being deployed behind the snags, to ring the changes.
By midday, the cloud cover had parted sufficiently to allow sporadic sunshine, such that a few carp began to drift into the shallow waters of peg 7. Interestingly, a few carp began to circle the tiny bay next to peg 6. As I was considering my response, a coot made off with the tree-line located bait and promptly buried the hook in a branch. My attempts to retrieve it resulted in the line parting at the leader knot, thus depriving me of yet another set of end tackle. This spurred me into setting up a short, 4 inch coated hook link to a curved shank size 6 hook on a pear lead, bearing a single LG 1 boilie (butterfly-style). The latter was carefully lowered into the RHS margin, without spooking the resident carp. A hand full of crushed boilies followed it. The move obviously paid off, because the rod burst into life at 12.30 pm resulting in an energetic tussle, fought at close quarters in shallow water. An 11 lb 10 oz Mirror was eventually enfolded in my landing net accompanied by a copious amount of decayed leaves that coated everything in sight, including the weigh sling, cradle and fish itself. Naturally, the rod was re-baited and returned to it's margin spot, producing a further Mirror of 11 lb 8 oz at 2.50 pm.
Once the competition was finished on the match lake at 5.00 pm, I treated myself to a brief interlude on there, float fishing under the rod tip, at the edge of platform 30. The margin set-up (that had accounted for two carp on the specimen lake) was also fished, 1 metre to the right of the float, so that I could compare the effectiveness of the two methods. The float was baited with a whittled-down, 15 mm Active 8 boilie, designed to emulate a Skretting 10 mm course pellet and it was immersed in soluble bait soak, before being lowered into position.
The margin set-up (baited with an LG 1 butterfly) was first off the mark at 5.35 pm with a 7 lb 10 oz Common, followed 10 minutes later by an 8 lb 10 oz Common to the float rod. 1 hour later the float rod produced a 9 lb 2 oz Common. The margin rod evened the score 30 minutes later, with a 10 lb 4 oz Common. The final two carp fell to the margin rod, in the shape of a 6 lb Common and 8 lb 10 oz Mirror, before I called it quits at 8.00 pm and returned to the specimen lake for the night, having enjoyed a couple of hours of immense fun.
For the night, two rods were returned to the tree-line and rear of snags positions, whereas the third rod, baited with double LG 1 boilies was underarm cast 10 yards out front, accompanied by a few catapult pouches of 3 mm pellets. Before positioning the short distance rod, I needed to plumb the depth carefully, as the water in the cut-through is currently only about 6 inches deep. So armed with my float rod and plumb bob, I attempted to squeeze through the bushes onto the narrow peninsula which overlooks the spot. Unfortunately my left foot was planted on sloping ground and I slipped unexpectedly down the bank, immersing my foot in a foot of water, thus giving me a wet sock for the night. Not what I wanted!
Two lads, who had arrived late evening and settled into peg 5, caught five carp during the night - all from off the top of the bar that runs in front of the snags. Simon having had three productive nights in succession, enjoyed a quiet night in peg 4, after catching a couple during the day. For my part, all was still until 5.00 am when I was awakened by a few bleeps on the rod fished to the area behind the snags. As I hovered over it, another slight tremble occurred, whereupon the bobbin very slowly crept up to the top, without shedding the clip. Mmm! A Bream, I thought. I decided that if the bobbin moved again, I might as well hit it, rather than suffer frequent disturbance for the remainder of the night. As I lifted the rod, very little resistance was transmitted back to me, seemingly confirming my suspicions. I continued winding in, until the supposed bream reached 20 yards or so from the bank, when an almighty kick nearly wrenched the rod from my grasp. This is no bream I thought, as battle commenced big time. The closer it got, the harder it fought, giving me more than a few tense moments. Thankfully, my quarry eventually tired and reluctantly flipped over the net chord to my relief. As I lifted her from the water a large framed Mirror with a beautifully scaled tail and very white underbelly greeted me. On the scales she went the tiniest smidgen under 19 lb, so I recorded her weight at 18 lb 14 oz.
Now, the "Big S" has only been caught once, since it's introduction (at over 31 lbs) earlier this year, and that was also from the area behind the snags. Naturally, my decision to put a bait on that spot was fuelled by a desire to put her on my captures list, but believe me, that near 19 lb Mirror, though more the result of luck than judgement, gave me a massive thrill and sent me home a very happy man indeed!