I've been called many things by many people over the years, but one rather derisory title that could never be justifiably leveled at me is that of 'tackle tart'. As it happens, carp fishing is not the only obsession that consumes significant amounts of my time, money and effort. Given that musical instruments (guitar, drums, bass and keyboards) and photography are numbered amongst my other pastimes, it's hardly surprising that the consequential dilution of funds prevents me from treating myself to top of the range angling equipment. That's not to say that I am not in favour of investing in the very best tools for the job. There's no doubt that I would derive immense pleasure from researching and tracking down a set of ultra high end rods and reels and everything else that goes with it. It's just that, at this point in time, I really can't justify spending several thousand hard earned readies on such an investment. And so, I soldier on with my original Sonik SK3 rods and Shimano Aeros, consoling myself with the knowledge that it's the last 12 inches of tackle, at the business end, that makes the most difference to catch rate. In other words catching carp depends ultimately on consistently being able to effectively present the right bait, in the right place, at the right time.
Having said that, I must confess that currently I am struggling somewhat in the carp catching stakes. With three blank specimen lake sessions under my belt at Wetlands, I could feel a sense of despair and frustration creeping over me. Fortunately, we are on the cusp of the spring awakening, when suddenly carp will be active, visible and hopefully willing to give themselves up with a naivety hung over from their extended winter slumbers. At least that is the theory!
Having had a break from fishing last week (to avoid the inevitable Bank Holiday rush), I arrived at Wetlands with customary optimism, encouraged by the weatherman's forecast conditions of low pressure and intermittent showers. I soon encountered Dave, holed up on peg 7. However, he'd caught nothing for two days, so the anticipated spring switch-on had seemingly not occurred yet. Every peg had been occupied over the preceding week, with just a handful of banked carp to show for it. Without much hesitation, I opted for peg 4 and headed over there, shortly before other anglers arrived and slotted into peg 6 and 2, respectively.
An hour of avid water watching provided me with no clues as to the whereabouts of any carp, so I eventually went for three well worn spots, namely: in front of the island to the right; 40 yards directly out front; and under the Willow to the left. In expectation of some hassle from wildfowl, especially the resident pair of swans, I deliberately chose harder baits for the shallower spots. Accordingly, large drilled Skretting halibut pellets were deployed to the right hand spot and tiger nuts to the left. Both were delivered by bait boat, together with a couple of handfuls of Skretting mixed course pellets. I entrusted the deeper middle spot to Wet Baits LG0 18mm boilies, but used a PVA mesh bag to convey the accompanying course pellets.
Initially, I thought that I had craftily managed to dispatch all three rods without alerting any birds to the presence of a potential meal. Frustratingly, a Coot homed in on the halibut pellets and appeared at the surface shaking its head violently to discharge the hook, whilst a flurry of bleeps interrupted the silence. The other spots remained untouched. Sadly that included any piscatorial interest.
I amused myself by watching a young angler on peg 2 engaging in casting practice. At least that's what I assume he must have been up to, for every time my eyes drifted across in his direction he was casting. Now, Rob Hughes is well known to advocate frequent casting in colder months, with the purpose of exploring every part of the swim, in an attempt to reveal the hiding place of our quarry and hopefully get a bite. Theoretically, the disturbance may just induce a bit of feeding in order to replace the expended energy. However, in the case of said youngster, he seemed to be aiming at exactly the same point on every cast. Inevitably, one cast went too far, resulting in an irretrievable tangle in a tree, that necessitated the use of the rowing boat to release it. Certainly, the swim was given no opportunity to settle down and the only positive outcome was that he kept himself busy and warm.
By 7.00 pm, no action had occurred at my end of the lake so a swift venture to the match lake was called for. I took a couple of pre-baited rods around to peg 5, together with minimal gear. The intention was to fish a pop-up bait on one rod versus a bottom bait on the other, to see which produced the first bite. In this case, an old favourite 'Rosehip Isotonic' was pitted against a Mainline Essential IB, both in 15mm format, and both cast towards the centre of the lake. Clearly, conditions were not conducive to rapid action as it took until 9.00 pm to get a take. Rosehip Isotonic did the trick, in the shape of a 5lb 0oz Common. Oddly enough it looked suspiciously like the same carp that saved the day two weeks earlier, recognizable by its slightly deformed, downwards-bent front end. How strange!
I returned post-haste to the specimen lake and re-did all three rods for the night ahead, but this time Wet Baits LG0 was the bait of choice, with the customary PVA mesh bag of Skretting course pellets, as ballast and extra pulling power. I figured that the unwanted attentions of wildfowl would not be a problem in the hours of darkness. Whilst this did indeed prove to be the case, I had neglected to factor in the lighter mornings, and at 6.00 am I was awakened by a flurry of bleeps from my middle rod, that turned out to be induced by the a Tufted Duck. Sadly, the slow pack down ended with a fourth successive specimen lake blank and I returned home with a heavy heart, longing for more lucrative times ahead. Oh well! Sometimes you just have to keep going, mindful that desirable rewards await those who display dogged persistence and determination.