Remarkably, it seems that my opening statement in last week's blog proved to be spot-on! I reported an apparent Spring re-awakening of the carp in the specimen lake at Wetlands and went on to predict that one or two of the larger residents might grace it's banks in the near future. Happily, that is precisely what happened for Pat, who netted the Mirror known as "Timms" at 27lb 0oz and a young lad who banked the larger of the two new Commons at 25lb 8oz and duly christened it "Ginge." The website catch gallery bears appropriate shots of the carp concerned, held proudly aloft by their ecstatic captors. Well done to both of you!
This week, I found myself once again wrestling with the fact that carp anglers (me especially) are apt to get stuck in our ways, tackling each peg in exactly the same way, week in, week out, with hardly a hint of change. I suppose it's something akin to the way in which a seasoned thief will carry out a series of identical burglaries, giving rise to the term "modus operandi". However, in our case, it has more to do with the spots fished, the methods deployed and the bait used. Why are we so fixed in applying the 'same old, same old', without deviating in the slightest? In this context, I find myself thinking back to our dear old Labrador Chloe, now departed, who shared similar fixations regarding her favourite occupation. In her scavenger-related case, it referred to the matter of searching out anything that could vaguely be called food. Chloe was without doubt the world's greediest dog, capable of finding a minute morsel of broken biscuit in a bramble thicket at 200 paces. But the most amazing aspect of her highly accomplished art, was the fact that she never forgot a lucrative spot. Any park bench, bus stop, shop doorway or neighbours garden that ever yielded a nutritious prize was eternally etched into her brain and would be examined with unabated rigour on every passing visit. Now, I suppose this tells us something about the tendency of animals to be creatures of habit. No doubt our piscatorial quarry have Labrador like qualities, when it comes to remembering potential food larders and as a consequence, accommodate them unstintingly in their regular patrol routes. Also, we know from experience that specific carp are habitually caught from the same spot, time after time. Likewise, anglers have a marked tendency to fish exactly the same spots, season after season. The problem is that we often become unduly attached to our favourite hot spots and cast obsessively to them, even if they have long since ceased to produce the goods. Inevitably, there is a high degree of mobility regarding carp feeding locations. Food larders such as weedy areas and bloodworm beds are frequently present one minute and gone the next. What's more, angling pressure can rapidly cause fish to shy off hitherto successful areas. In conclusion then, there is some mileage in repeatedly targeting active hot spots, but a dynamic approach is essential, to keep apace of changes. As ever, good old fashioned watercraft is of paramount importance.
Anyway, this week's session served to teach me a salutary lesson regarding hot-spot philosophy, as will become clear. I ended up in peg 5 again, for lumberjack duties, rather than anything of a nobler fish spotting nature. Richard says that if I continue in this mode, I'll exchange my camouflage gear for a checked shirt plus leather trousers and start singing "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain" - heaven forbid! Mercifully, with an expertly sharpened chain saw (thanks, Richard) the job of reducing branches to stove friendly logs became much easier and it didn't take too long to half fill the back of my estate car with combustible material. I could then concentrate fully on the business of catching carp, after attempting to remove all traces of 2-stroke fuel from my hands with soap and water (in the toilet block), followed by a good dowsing with lake water.
And this is where my hot-spot habits took a good battering. For some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to deviate from the norm, other than one rod that I cast towards the area in front of (unoccupied) peg 4. I figured that occasional glimpses of sunshine might encourage carp to pass through this area on their way to the shallower adjacent bay. Initially, I tried to put a single highly flavoured Indian Spice pop-up onto the area and my first cast landed perfectly on the money. Unfortunately, I failed to feather the line properly, such that the wind carried it into the trees on the left hand island. Inevitably, my frantic tugs to free it dragged the end tackle out of place and eventually dragged it through branches, leaving me with an opened out hook. Argh! Not a great start! Rather than re-tie the hook link all over again, I reached for another rod bearing a basic 9 inch braided hook link incorporating a size 8 wide gape, loaded with a bog standard snowman. The latter comprised a Wet Baits LG0 16 mm boilie topped off with a white 10 mm Krill pop-up and PVA mesh bag of Skretting mixed course pellets (dipped in matching soluble bait soak). When I launched the new arrangement out to the intended spot in front of peg 4, being careful to feather it down effectively, it fell somewhat short. Nevertheless, I decided to leave it where it landed and subsequently rejoiced that I did.
My middle and right hand rods, under pure force of habit, were consigned to regular spots at 40 yards towards the snags and 30 yards just beyond the peninsula to the right. Rigs and bait were identical in all cases. As the day slowly ebbed away, I began hatching a plan to escape to the match lake, if no action occurred. In fact I got as far as collecting together most of what I would need for a quick evening sortie, when events dictated otherwise. As you might expect, the left hand rod that was well out of position was the one that signaled a rapid take at 4.10 pm. The culprit, intent upon gaining sanctuary in the bay area to the left, kited rapidly in that direction. Maximum side strain and rapid winding succeeded in bringing it into closer, safer waters, where it plodded around for ages, hugging the bottom and taking out one of my other rods in the process. Every now and then a huge orange tail broke the surface and waved defiantly at me. Eventually, it was subdued and reluctantly bundled into the waiting net. A large framed Mirror with deep orange under belly fidgeted on the unhooking cradle and finally tipped the scales at 15lb 12oz. It was indeed a magnificent and hard fighting old warrior.
Consequently, a trip to the match lake was no longer required and I basked in the evening sunshine as the daylight ebbed away. Maybe I was lulled into false sense of confidence, such that when I re-did the rods for night time, every rod went to a standard hot spot, namely: 40 yards out towards peg 3; 40 yards out to the snags; and in the marginal area to the right. My OCD nature allowed not the slightest degree of variation and it's hardly surprising that I paid the price. I woke up at 7.40 pm after an uneventful night and bemoaned my stubbornness. Oh well, maybe one day I will become more flexible. Nonetheless, I still returned home with a smile on my face, having enjoyed the session immensely.