My life this week seems to have been dominated by the recent arrival of a new carp dog, in the shape of an 8 week old chocolate Labrador we've named Lottie. Of course, she is utterly adorable, as puppies always are, but I'd forgotten just how playful they are, including the chewing and nipping of everything within range (including fingers and other body parts). I'd also forgotten the anxiety associated within getting dogs to sleep downstairs at night, until at least 5.00 am, without disturbing the whole household with heart wrenching whimpering and high pitched barking. Inevitably, my normal early start for fishing was delayed by the re-introduction of the once well rehearsed ritual of clearing up doggie mishaps from the kitchen floor and measuring out the requisite weight of dry food. Nevertheless I still managed to set off by 6.10 am and was relieved to find Wetland's front gate already open and no other anglers set-up on the specimen lake.
I parked up in peg 5 and set off on the customary lap of the lake. In contrast to previous weeks, there was a distinct nip in the air and gloomy grey clouds filled the sky, reminding me that autumn has well and truly come upon us. The water level is still well down though, in spite of some long awaited heavy rainfall. By the time I returned to my starting point, I had seen nothing that might give away the whereabouts of a few carp. And then, as I stood gazing out over peg 5, a decent sized specimen launched itself out of the water at around 30 yards out, diagonally to the right. I wasted no time in putting a baited rig (double 16mm boilies and associated PVA mesh bag of Skretting blood meal 2.5 mm pellets) on the spot, followed by 20 free boilies. Moments later a similar torpedo impersonation occurred at around 30 yards out, but this time diagonally left. Accordingly, I responded in exactly the same manner and placed the baited rig precisely on target at the first cast. I could hardly believe my eyes when yet another dolphin-like manoeuvre happened in the near right hand margin. Naturally, that determined where rod three (similarly primed) would reside for the duration of the session. So, in double quick time my rod placement was fully sorted and I was feeling significantly more confident of a bite than usual. The only aspect that troubled me was that all three acrobatic carp bore a remarkable similarity in size and appearance, such that a slight niggle planted itself in my mind. Was it actually the same carp I had witnessed on each energetic display, and if so, was it merely taunting me rather than signaling a desire to feed? Only time would tell.
Another reason for my boosted confidence level was that I had recently received a batch of new products from Skretting and was itching to give them a whirl. Amongst them were the aforementioned blood meal pellets, Protec 4.5 mm pellets, 2.3 mm micro pellets and 6.0 mm expanders, all in convenient 0.9 Kg pouches. The blood meal pellets are described as containing a superb, highly digestible attractant, with an increased oil content, designed to create a desirable slick for fish to hone in on. Evidence that the pellets work as prescribed, soon materialised. Within seconds of casting out a twitchy take was registered. Unfortunately, the culprit was a massive bream, rather than a carp, but the sheer speed of response is testament to the pulling power of the product.
Before long Richard joined me on the bank, followed by Dave. Luckily Dave was the bearer of fresh Wet Baits LG 1 boilies, enabling me to re-do all three rods with LG1, as I'd long since run out of the bait and was making do with some old freezer stock. Dave was full of the joys of wood burning fires, having just fitted one at home. Like most new converts to the technology, he was amazed at their ability to reach parts that other types of heating miss and by the dramatic manner in which his brickwork is visibly drying out (actual steam clouds). Once my guests had departed and the work of erecting a short stay home had been completed, I began to notice the drop in temperature. By mid morning, I had donned thermal trousers and jacket and sought refuge from the cool air in the bank side hut. My hopes of an early bite appeared unfounded and I began to pin my hopes on a late afternoon feeding spell. No further fish shows decorated the water in front of me and as the evening approached, I began to consider the merits of a brief interlude on the match lake. What finally swung it was the lure of trying out the latest 4.5 mm Protec pellets in the margin. Given that darkness currently falls around 6.30 pm, I would only have a very narrow window of opportunity to put a match lake carp on the bank, if I were to return to the specimen lake in time to re-cast in daylight.
At 5.00 pm the last match angler departed, thus signaling my hurried transfer to peg 29 with minimal equipment. Twenty minutes later I had one rod fishing a light brown dumb bell bait (soaked in Skretting soluble bait dip) a couple of feet off the end of the fishing platform. A handful or two of Protec pellets were duly deposited above the bait and I drew back to watch developments. Literally within minutes, vortex patterns erupted on the surface above the bait and the occasional carp tail broke the surface as a feeding frenzy developed. I sat staring at the display, wondering how long it would be before the pellets were all consumed and the mop-up procedure focused on the waiting dumb-bell. At exactly 5.40 pm the rod went into absolute meltdown as a panicking carp shot off towards the centre of the lake at full velocity. The offender stayed low in the water for longer than usual. When it finally surfaced, I was surprised to see it's diminutive proportions. On the scales the Common weighed a mere 4lb 8oz, but it certainly gave a more than worthy account of itself. I was pleased that the goal had been completed so easily and returned to the specimen lake post-haste.
Thankfully, all three rods were replaced in their original positions with relative ease, such that I was fully sorted before darkness descended completely. However, as I lay awake in my bivvy for the next few hours, I was aware of the occasional loud splash coming from somewhere in the vicinity of peg 3. It gradually became apparent that even though at least one carp had been present in peg 5 earlier in the day, it (and it's mates) had now vacated the area for the night. Hence I was disappointed, but not surprised when morning dawned without any action having graced my rods. Being brutally honest, if I were as dedicated as a top carp angler like Dave Lane or Adam Penning, I would have pin-pointed the exact location of any nocturnal carp disturbances and moved all my gear round to the epicentre. What's more I would probably have caught. No doubt, that's what separates the master craftsmen from every body else. Once again, it proves that results nearly always reflect the amount of effort put in.
The big question though is will I somehow find the extra determination and persistence required to make the next session a game changer?