These days we seem to hear much about maximizing so called 'customer choice' and I can see why businesses might benefit from increased sales, as a consequence, but sometimes there are just too many options, leading ultimately to outright confusion. My wife regularly says the same, every time she attempts to buy a pair of tights and inadvertently comes home with a pair of pop socks instead. So too, in carp fishing, we are faced with so many variables of one kind or another, that we are in danger of drowning in a sea of conflicting choice. Margin or open water; gravel, silt or weed; move or stay put; heavy baiting or singles; 'bait and wait', or little and often; fruity or fishmeal; boilies, naturals, particles or pellets; long hook links or short hook links; heavy leads or light leads; in-line or clip; small or large hooks; straight point or curved, fluorocarbon or mono filament, and so on ad nauseam. The list seems endless. So much so, that we could very easily slip into a pit of self induced mental torture.
And yet, the actual combination of factors deployed on a given day can make the difference between a good and poor outcome, or worse still, between catching and blanking. Why is it that some anglers seem to catch with breath taking consistency, whereas the rest of us are at best 'hit and miss' in the carp catching stakes. Undoubtedly, the top anglers are able to use their highly developed watercraft skills to simply put the right bait, in the right place, at the right time.
Anyway, I arrived at Wetlands, slightly earlier than usual this week, with such thoughts filling my head as I waited for Clive to unlock the front gate. Once inside, I made my way round to peg 7, dropped a bucket on its empty banks and went for the customary lap of the specimen lake. A clear blue sky confirmed the weatherman's prediction that, with high pressure dominating, two days of scorching hot conditions would follow. Dave, ensconced in peg 5, added to my unease, by reporting that the fish had been off the feed since Sunday, when the period of relentless sunshine began. Saturday had been good though, with Pat banking a couple of twenties overnight. These included a recapture of "Tim's Fish" (down in weight at 26lb) plus a previously uncaught original Mirror of 25lb, which Pat subsequently named "Zig-Zag." Sunday had also been unproductive for the angler in peg 6.
Feeling a little apprehensive, but having not seen much evidence of carp elsewhere, I stuck with my initial choice of peg 7 and started the process of setting up. It didn't take long to encounter problem number one, namely that my bait boat refused to work properly, even though I had extensively re-wired it. Sure, the refurbished high brightness LED lights glowed attractively, but the drive motors and trap door release mechanism were completely dead. That meant, that I would struggle to put a hook bait right under the overhanging bushes in the right hand corner bay. Conversely, my the other favourite spot in the right hand bay would be more achievable with a short overhead cast. However, with the water level currently at a particularly low level, I wanted to make sure that I was fishing in at least 2 feet of water. So, out came the marker rod to help identify the gravelly slope behind the bar. Once satisfied, that I had located a spot at the base of the slope, I left the float in place whilst I baited the area with around 0.5 Kg of 10mm boilies (via catapult) and put a white chocolate and coconut cream pop-up on top. The customary PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4mm course pellets was attached to the hook, before casting, to add extra attraction, provide anti tangle properties, and theoretically prevent the hook bait from sinking into any silt.
For my left hand rod, I chose a spot to one side of the dot island on the margin of the boathouse banking. Given the present shallowness of the lake, I made sure that the hook bait (a Wet Baits 16mm M3C dumbbell) was far enough out from the bank to be in a couple of feet of water. Around it, I catapulted approximately 50 free baits in a fairly tight formation. The attached PVA bag of pellets was equally important, for the three reasons mentioned above. At this juncture, I tested my bait boat once more, and oddly enough, found that it to be working once again. Intermittent faults can be frustrating at times, but I was glad nonetheless at its mysterious recovery. I wasted no time in getting a tiger nut hook bait under the corner branches, along with a hand full of Skretting Elite FR 8mm trout pellets (which blend nicely into the silt), half a dozen free tiger nuts and a few crushed M3C boilies. The latter, being black also added extra attraction without being too blatant.
And so, the waiting began, with me half expecting late evening to be the prime time, if at all. In times past, night time has been by far the most lucrative period, but recently there's been a bit of a reversal with most action coming in daylight hours. Unfortunately though, daytime bites have been few and far between during hot sunny conditions, so I was hoping that the carp might switch on a bit in the cool of night. I derived some comfort from the fact that Pat's two monsters came in the early hours of the morning and who knows, a change in feeding habits might be on the cards. Once 4.00 pm, 6.00 pm and then 7.00 pm had drifted past, I was beginning to pin my hopes on a night time awakening. Suddenly at 7.20 pm the customary evening phone call to my wife had to be hurriedly aborted as the corner rod kicked into life and the line lifted up from the water on a tight clutch. Possibly, the fact that I was fishing an in-line drop off lead helped matters, as the carp rose up in the water and was relatively easy to steer away from the left hand peninsula and the right hand overhanging branches. At 9lb 10oz, the resulting Common was exactly the same weight as one I'd caught the previous week. A strange coincidence! Still, at least I hadn't blanked, and there might be more to come. Thankfully, the bait boat functioned perfectly this time, enabling me to replace the rod forthwith.
As it happens, I had to wait until bang on 10.00 pm before any further action occurred. This time it was the rod in the middle of the right hand bay that signaled a take. From the outset, the culprit was on a mission to get round the back of the peninsula, but steady pressure steered it around the danger point and into open water. As I eased off a bit, thinking that the hard work was done, the hook pulled and I was left shaking my head in disbelief, wondering what fish I might have lost. Naturally, the rod went back to its original position, but the remainder of the night was uneventful.
Well, I hadn't blanked, but I was left wondering whether I had made the most of the conditions on offer. When I wound in the left hand rod the uncoated lead had turned from a natural mid-grey colour to a very dark black instead, suggesting that it had lain in some rather potent thick silt. Worse still, the right hand corner rod had the hook buried in a tiger nut rendering it entirely ineffective. What's more the middle rod, equipped with a pop-up on a relatively short hook link seemed to be well plugged into the lake bottom. I came away thinking that I really need to give some consideration to some of the variables I mentioned at the start of the blog. For instance, if I were to switch to long hook links and light leads in conjunction with highly flavoured, impervious boilies to sit above silt would that improve my results? Alternatively, I could make every effort to avoid silt altogether and target the gravelly patches. Oh well, there's only one way to find out, but that will have to wait until next week.