My sense of smell seems to have declined steadily with age. Evidence of said demise, is to be found in a recent landmark event, that saw me not only tolerating my wife's acquisition of a bottle of relatively expensive (compared to the price of a bait spray) bottle of Jimmy Choo eau de parfum, but actively contributing to the selection process. Come to think of it, I even paid for the item. Now there was a time, when my attitude towards ladies wearing what I disparagingly referred to as 'puff fumes', could only be described as antagonistic in the extreme. Many a time, in days gone by, I literally staggered out of the lift at John Lewis, to escape the choking atmosphere imparted by a female who had been a little too generous with the scent spray. Seemingly, I have mellowed significantly since those heady, youthful days, but perhaps not to the extent of being able to tackle a full on, heavily soiled, baby's nappy without retching uncontrollably. As ever, the Christmas period is characterized by a deluge of television adverts for expensive perfumes. Oddly enough though, the C of E has been banned from incorporating the Christmas message into a TV advert, on the grounds that some people might find it offensive. What a strange world we live in!
What on earth has that got to do with carp fishing, you might justifiably ask? Well, it may surprise you to know, that it all stemmed from a conversation I had with Richard (owner of Wetlands Animal Park) about some commonality between game hunting and fishing. Apparently, an experienced hunter would never set an animal trap without first cleansing it thoroughly and then immersing it in boiling water, until every trace of human odour has been totally eradicated. Furthermore, disposable gloves would be used to handle it thereafter, and in the interim, it would be stored in a sealed polythene bag, until deployed. As you might expect, animals very quickly learn to associate danger with human scent and even recoil from allied conditions, such as the sound of a Land Rover engine. Naturally, all this triggered a few thoughts about piscatorial behaviour. One thing that I have noticed at most venues I have fished for consecutive seasons, is that the catch rate seems to follow a Sugarloaf Mountain shaped profile. Usually, there is a slow increase in catch rate, as I get to grips with the most effective fishing methods, followed by a plateau and then a steady reduction. No doubt the tailing off, could be explained in terms of the carp getting wised up to my approach (assuming that I don't change my tack quickly enough to counteract it). Having said that though, I do sometimes wonder if the carp I have banked, have the capacity to remember my personal scent and actively avoid any bait that bears it's label in future. Of course, repeat captures do occur, but not that often. It also begs the question as to whether washing ones hands in lake water before handling bait, or coating baits in dips and sprays makes the slightest bit of difference. Perhaps, one day, the truth will be revealed?
Anyway, I had it in mind to fish peg 4 at Wetlands this week, given that it was kind to me last week and the banks command a good view of a high proportion of the specimen lake. However, the plan was scuppered by the fact that Dave had already spent a night (albeit it fishless) in the peg, intending to follow it with another. He had treated several of the deeper spots to a good helping of M3C and Banana/Maple boilies, in the hope that day 2 might reap the rewards. Regular top ups had kept the bait going in and succeeded in satiating the ducks, to a reasonable extent. Peg 3 was also occupied by an overnight angler, so as daylight increased, I took a slow stroll round the lake, scanning it for signs of carp. Disappointingly, the surface was flat calm and I failed to spot even the slightest tell-tale sign. Everywhere looked lifeless and uninspiring. The forecast was for a gradual warm-up during the week, amidst drizzly, misty conditions. I finally opted for peg 6, after, dismissing shallower pegs 1, 2 & 7. My intention was to explore some of the deeper margin areas regularly inhabited by Bream shoals. I figured that if Bream liked the spots, then carp might visit them too.
The left hand rod, bearing a Wet Baits 18mm banana/maple boilie topped with a 10 mm Magnum Winter Wonder 10mm pop-up, was fished at 40 yards down the left hand margin (attached to the customary PVA mesh bag of Skretting course pellets, for tangle resistance and extra attraction) . The middle rod sporting a method feeder bearing scalded Skretting pellet paste, plus a Wet Baits M3C dumb-bell on a 4 inch hook-link, was underarm cast 10 yards out from the bank and re-done at hourly intervals to keep bait going in. The right hand rod was cast 20 yards towards the main snag bushes - the 18mm banana/maple boilie was topped with a 12 mm Citruz pop-up and a PVA bag.
This week only 2 anglers turned up to fish the Monday competition on the match lake. Accordingly, Clive (Richard's Dad) joined them to make a threesome. I gazed across in their direction regularly throughout the day, but there didn't appear to be frenzied activity. They called it a day around 3.30 pm, just before darkness began to fall. The weigh scales and tripod emerged, so they must have caught something, at least. Having had no action myself on the specimen lake, I quickly wound in and transferred a couple of rods to peg 29, in the hope of getting a quick bite over the next three hours. I fished the (banana/maple and winter wonder) snowman equipped rod to the centre of the lake and the method feeder armed rod to around 20 yards from the bank. As anticipated, all the bites came from the deeper mid-lake area. The captures included a 7lb 4oz Common at 4.45 pm, a 10lb 10oz Scaly Mirror at 5.55 pm, a 7lb 4oz Mirror at 6.20 pm and a 7 lb 8oz Common at 7.30 pm. What's more, as I wound in the mid-lake rod, a strange thing happened. I'm not sure whether the bait was grabbed by a decent sized predator, or whether a large carp had taken the bait and kited back towards me without triggering the bite alarm, such that I eventually made contact with it, as I wound in. Whatever, the cause, I found myself in sudden, jolting contact with an very hard fighting fish that pulled strongly to the left, flat-rodding me in the process. My attempts to slow it's progress made little impression upon the mysterious beast and before long it became ever nearer to the fishing platform to my left. Fearing that it would get round the platform legs, I increased the pressure to the maximum I could muster. Sadly, the hook pulled and I was left shaking my head in disbelief. I never will know the identity of that phantom monster from the deep!
I returned to the specimen lake around 8.00 pm with the intention of getting the 3 rods back in place a.s.a.p. However, the operation was not helped by the fact that a particularly determined rodent had scaled my vertically propped third rod and bitten off the hair, enabling it to escape with the bait. Needless to say, rectifying the damage meant re-tying a whole new hook-link. I retired to the comfort and warmth of my sleeping bag and slept through, dead to the world, until 8.00 am. Not even Dave's night time prolific activities disturbed me. I was completely oblivious to the fact that he caught a 14 pounder and two seventeens, plus lost a further two before midnight. Top fishing mate - well done! It seems that relatively heavy baiting and regular topping up of the spots had paid dividends.
Oh well, I have one more session penciled-in at Wetlands, before a planned trip to China, so I'm hopeful that I will leave these shores on a bit of a high. Time will tell.