Hindsight is a wonderful thing! And it seems upon reflection, that I might have made a wrong decision this week regarding my night fishing tack. I was fooled into thinking that the clear blue sky that appeared in the afternoon, heralded yet another very cold night, with poor catching potential. Hence I moved, somewhat prematurely onto the match lake, only to awake to very mild conditions the following morning. Had I stuck it out on the specimen lake, who knows what glorious outcome might have arisen? Oh well! At least I caught plenty of carp, but I can't help thinking that I might have missed out on this occasion. More of that later.
The other thing that threw me a bit this week, was the fact that the clocks went backwards by an hour over the weekend. Now, I know that nature is completely oblivious to man's little idiosyncrasies regarding time keeping, but the impact of this minor adjustment upon my angling prowess is significantly greater than one might expect. Firstly, it means that the gates at Wetlands open 1 hour later than in summer, such that the early morning carp feeding spell is all but over by the time I have done a lap of the lake, settled on a peg, and cast out the rods. Secondly, at the other end of the day, darkness falls correspondingly 1 hour earlier. Not a problem you might think, but the issue for me, is that it is no longer possible to sneak a couple of catch boosting hours on the match lake after the match has finished and return in good time for the night. To do so would now mean re-casting the rods in total darkness. Wetlands is located in a deeply rural setting, such that the amount of ambient night light is considerably less than in an urban setting. Granted, for some pegs, the hot spots are readily targeted by 'clipping up' and aiming at markers on the horizon, but conversely, many contain awkward spots, that demand an accurate cast, that is difficult even in bright daylight. Also, the sky line is apt to be somewhat complex and confusing in places, devoid of suitable aiming points.
Anyway, after taking an overdue 5 day holiday in Scotland last week, that included an utterly breathtaking steam train ride on the 'Jacobite' (of Hogwarts fame), from Fort William to Mallaig, I was raring to get back to some serious fishing. Nevertheless, I was feeling a little out of touch with the lake. I began with the customary circuit of the specimen lake, stopping en route to talk to Dean and Dave. In spite of there having been a record 33 rods in the water over the weekend, only a handful of carp had been caught. Two of those fell to Dave on Friday, two were to an angler in peg 3 (also, early on in his session) and Dean had caught one and lost one. Apparently, plenty of carp had been spotted cruising about, but they showed little inclination to feed. Most of the activity had occurred around pegs 7 and 1, so I made the decision to drop into 7a. On my way back round the lake, I passed the lower half of the match lake and noted quite a bit of movement, roughly 10 yards out from the margin of peg 35 and also on the adjacent corner of the island. The information was duly noted for later, in case a move was on the cards.
I wasted no time in putting 3 rods out to my favourite spots. The left hander was bait-boated up the channel that cuts through from peg 3 (a.k.a. the M25). Bait consisted simply of a double Wet Baits LG0 dumb-bell on a short braided hook link, together with a handful of Skretting pellets and half a dozen crushed LG0 boilies. The middle rod was deployed in identical fashion, to the margin of so called mushroom island (rear of main bay). Similarly, the third rod was given charge of the small right hand bay, to a spot in front of the pumped inflow. At 10.45 am, I thought I was off to a good start with a vicious take from the M25 rod. Everything seemed to be under control, when it dawned upon me that a struggling duck was reluctantly making it's way towards me in sideways profile. The closer it got the more frantic it became, with frequent bursts of attempted flight. Thankfully, Dave was on hand to assist with grasping it, whilst I removed the hook from a wing joint and set it free, relatively unharmed. Not the start I was hoping for, but I soon had the rod back in place. Only 20 minutes later the same rod signalled another spirited run and this time there were no feathered friends in sight to steal the show. At first, all seemed to be going smoothly, with what was obviously a carp being coaxed steadily back down the channel, by walking slowly backwards. It was then that I made the mistake of pausing momentarily, instead of keeping it moving. Clearly, it wasn't quite in open water yet and managed to dive sideways into a gap in side-wall. Inevitably, it seized it's opportunity for freedom and exchanged itself for a large underwater branch that completed the journey to the bank on it's behalf. Mmm, foiled twice in the space of 30 minutes. Not a great start!
Presumably, the commotion had put paid to any further action from the M25 spot and the rest of the day slipped by without incident; by mid afternoon the sky had cleared to a cool, unbroken blue. Fearing that a blank session was on the cards, a night on the match lake seemed like the best option to put a curve in the rods. Once the last match angler had vacated his peg, a race against time commenced, to get moved and set up before darkness set in. Naturally, I slotted straight into peg 35, where I had previously clocked some movement. One question that interests me greatly, at this time of year, is how the carp change their location and feeding habits as autumn progresses. In many ways, the behaviour patterns observed on the well-stocked match give clues to trends on the specimen lake. Hence the rods were dispatched to 3 strategic locations, by way of comparison. My left hand rod covered the near margin bush to the left - this was simply an LG0 dumb-bell amidst a scattering of Skretting mixed-size, course pellets. The middle rod bearing an M3C pop-up (attached to a PVA mesh bag of pellets) was dispatched to island corner. Finally, the right hand rod, equipped with an ESP method feeder, an LG0 dumb-bell and scalded/moulded, Skretting pellet paste was under-armed 10 yards out from the margin. Within less than 10 minutes, the latter was away and a welcome 9 lb 10 oz Mirror had broken the blank. At 6.00 pm the same rod signalled another take, but alas, the hook pulled seconds later. Then followed a succession of carp on the same rod, at roughly one hour intervals, including a 9 lb 12 oz Common, a 10 lb 14 oz Mirror and a 10 lb 2 oz Mirror. My experience has been that carp frequent the margins less often as the winter approaches, but by this time, I was a bit mystified that the longer range rod had not contributed to the action thus far. Accordingly, I reeled it in and exchanged the pop-up for a snowman style bottom bait, plus PVA pellet ballast. This seemed to do the trick, as the next two takes came from the modified set-up, in the shape of a 10 lb 0 oz Mirror and 9 lb 0 oz Mirror. Later the method style rod produced an 8 lb 8 oz Mirror, followed by a 9 lb 4 oz Mirror on the long range rod. By 11.30 pm I was well pleased with the outcome, but much in need of a decent night's sleep, so I wound in and retired for the night.
As previously mentioned, I woke early the next morning, in a bit of a sweat, as the temperature had soared overnight to ultra mild conditions. OK, so I'd caught 8 carp in around 6 hours (total weight 77 lb 2 oz). Bearing in mind that the winning weight for the earlier match was 60 lbs, that was a good result by anyone's standards. All the same, I couldn't help thinking that I might have missed out on something better had I stuck it out on the specimen lake. Oh Well, I will never know the answer to that, but rest assured I will pay more attention to the weather forecast, next week.