Experience shows that red hot conditions are rarely conducive to catching carp. The weather forecast predicted scorching hot conditions and for once, it was bang on. I arrived at Wetlands on Monday at 7.00 am, to a lake whose surface was as still as glass. Having parked up in peg 5, I stared out across a seemingly lifeless expanse of dark green water, whose perimeter was adorned with floating scum - nothing stirred. In view of Corey's success from the same peg a week ago, I went through the motions of quietly casting a couple of rods out to close-in spots, in the hope of gaining a quick bite, but it soon became apparent that this was an entirely vain hope. After 30 minutes or so, Dave turned up and informed me that the lake had been hard going for the last couple of days. He'd managed to winkle one out of the margin, but precious little else had been caught. Apparently, he and Dean had witnessed quite a bit of bubbling going on, but both had failed to get a pick-up from the areas concerned. Peg 3 had contained surface cruising carp, but they seemed uninterested in feeding.
Following such a pessimistic review, I wound in and began a circular walk around the lake. My hopes were immediately raised by the sight of several carp towards the willow end of peg 3. At one point a large dorsal fin arose from the water, proudly held aloft like the sail of a yacht, glinting in the sun's rays. That was all the encouragement I needed to bring the car round and commence unloading. Having been reminded by my wife that one of our freezers contained bait that had languished in there for several years, I had taken it upon myself to have a bit of a clear out. Consequently, I had brought a significant quantity of assorted luncheon meat tins and Tupperware boxes of scalded pellet paste, with the intention of creating a bed of meaty delights to tempt an unsuspecting monster. Hence rod number 1, bearing a 1 inch length of peperami (attached to a PVA mesh bag of Skretting mixed course pellets) was cast 20 yards out from the bank into the centre of said meaty patch.
At this point it became clear that this session might contain more than the usual quota of challenges. Bait boats are wonderful tools when it comes to placing baits underneath the overhanging fronds of a willow tree. However, three attempts later, I finally accepted the fact that the hopper was not going to open by remote control and in all probability my trusty Viper was long overdue a thorough overhaul. And so, for rod number two (bearing a tandem of Wet Baits Plum-ex 16mm boilies, plus the usual PVA bag of Skretting pellets) was cast as close as I dare to the suspended branches. Rod number 3, similarly baited, was cast 40 yards or so, towards the central islands and a wide spread of freebies delivered to the zone via a throwing stick.
As predicted, it became unbearably hot and humid, as the day wore on! Sweat poured from every inch of my skin and ran down my forehead, filling my eyes with stinging salty water, that had me squinting uncomfortably and dabbing frantically with a tea towel. Nevertheless, I was glad of the meagre shade afforded by my recently acquired Stetson hat in magnificent real tree camouflage. At 12.30 my middle rod (on the baited patch) emitted a couple of bleeps and the indicator ascended slowly to the top of the rod rest, whereupon I instinctively lifted the rod and found myself in contact with a carp. My quarry began kiting to the left and out of the way of my other rods. However, my initial relief that the fight looked like being played out in open water was short lived, as a hook pull robbed me of the proceeds. As ever, I shook my head in disbelief, as I bemoaned the loss of what should have been a done deal. The rod was duly replaced.
Towards late afternoon, some of the surface cruising carp, that had been circling the bay all day, began to visit the margin and even dipped down to sample items of discarded bait. Without hesitation, I wound in the 40 yards rod, replaced the end tackle with a heavy in-line lead and a short 4 inch hook link, and baited it with half a boilie. I lowered it very carefully into the margin, only 4 yards from my feet. The line lay was carefully arranged so as to disguise its presence. Around an hour later a large Common waddled along the margin from right to left and subsequently up ended in the target zone. I froze and held my breath, waiting for line to begin peeling from the reel. Incredibly, nothing happened and the Common passed on its way unperturbed. Much to my dismay, I later discovered (after several more unproductive visits) that the cunning creature had done me. Somehow it had scoffed the boilie fragment without getting hooked. Unbelievable! Further attempts to turn the tables on the elusive Common and some of its mates were just as unsuccessful and eventually I gave up the quest and returned the rod to its previous 40 yard role for night time.
Sleep was hard to come by under such sweltering conditions. If I lay on top of my sleeping bag, the sound of buzzing mosquitoes soon had me diving for cover under the bedclothes, only to emerge five minutes later bathed in sweat. Just after midnight the rod on the baited patch produced a barrage of bleeps, rather than a full blooded run. When I lifted the rod, it was obvious that the culprit was not a carp, but was nevertheless a very muscular opponent. In the head torch I subsequently spotted an enormous eel. It was well over a meter long and as thick as a man's arm. Once its figure of eight contortions finally made it into the landing net, I was much relieved that it ejected the segment of peperami, allowing me to bundle it unceremoniously back into the lake. At 3.30 am an almost identical scenario unfolded as another (slightly smaller) eel snaffled the peperami. This time though, just as the slippery creature was about to enter the landing net, the hook and half chewed bait came flying out of its mouth. Unfortunately, the terminal tackle shot rapidly into the branches of a silver birch tree above my head and stuck fast. Not surprisingly, I couldn't be bothered to go to all the trouble of sorting the rod out, only to have yet another slime covered beast make a trip to the bank. And so the rod was left dangling from the branches. Without doubt the luncheon meat feast had attracted eels in their unwelcome droves.
Having suffered many a midnight angling disaster, I always take the precaution of bringing a spare rod with me. I've lost count of the number of times that a spare rod has got me fishing again without having to waste half the night sorting out tangled lines or lost end tackle. And so the spare rod was quickly deployed, but this time I ensured that it was safely in the margin, well away from the hot bed of eel activity. Strangely enough, it was the very same rod that went into meltdown at 7.00 am. Although I was on it in a flash, I picked up the rod to absolutely zero resistance. Yet again my efforts had been thwarted. And that wasn't the end of it either. When I finally got to the point of winding in my rods after the customary slow pack-up, I found that the left hand rod was well away from its original placement. It seems that a carp had picked up the bait and kited at least 20 yards to the left before ditching the hook and all without causing a single bleep of warning from the bite alarm. And so my somewhat disastrous session ended with a definitive blank. Still, it wasn't without its moments of excitement and no doubt I'll be back again next week with renewed enthusiasm, by which time my swollen mosquito bites should have stopped itching.