In carp angling terms, this time of year is never easy, especially after the first proper frost of the autumn. Many carpers believe that lakes tend to shut down for a couple of weeks after the event, until the carp have adjusted to their colder environment. The situation is not helped by the inevitable carpet of leaves that simultaneously covers much of the lake bottom. Bait presentation can be significantly impaired by the masking effect, and the early stages of leaf decay may produce undesirable waste products. That said, nothing is written in stone and there's always the chance of a welcome surprise. Last week at Wetlands, Pat managed to engineer a couple of takes on single hook baits cast to showing fish, but he unfortunately lost both fish. With that in mind, I turned up this week with the intention of using a minimal baiting approach, with frequent re-casting to anything that showed. The plan was to set up three of my favourite pop-up rigs (standard, chod rig, and shot under the bait) allied to bright, over-flavoured pop-ups attached to the usual PVA mesh bag (winter grade) of Skretting 4.5 mm Protec pellets dunked in matching dip. To my delight, the plan paid off.
I arrived to find Pat set up on peg 5. He'd been there since the previous afternoon and was frustrated at not having caught. "One will do at this time of year" was his stated motto for the session, but he only had until mid afternoon to prove the point. Given the unseasonably low water level in the specimen lake, there are currently only 4 readily fish-able pegs, namely 3, 4, 5 and 6. My customary circuit of the lake provided no firm clues as to the whereabouts of any carp, so I chatted to Pat whilst watching the water for a bit longer. As I did so, a slight south westerly breeze ruffled the lake surface, with peg 4 on the end of it. With nothing else to go on, I drove round to 4 and commenced a slow set up, all the time watching for any tell-tale signs of carp. Clearly, there were plenty of bream present in the usual places, so these seemed like reasonable spots to target in the first instance. The right hand rod covered a dip in front of a pair of small islands, the middle rod was given a gentle underarm cast to about 30 yards out, and the left hand rod dealt with the spot under the overhanging Willow tree.
Before long, bream-like knocks were received aplenty on the middle and right hand rods, so I left them in place, hoping that carp might also be present. However, it seemed logical to use the left-hander as a roving rod. Accordingly, numerous locations were tried at roughly half hour intervals. Encouragingly, after midday, I started to see carp poking their heads out every now and then. One leaped clear of the water near the central snags, so the left hand rod soon covered the spot, or at least as close to it as was safe to do. At 1.15 pm a bright orange Mirror, propelled itself half out of the water just behind the middle rod position, prompting a "Did you see that?" from Pat. Oddly enough, moments later, it was my right hand rod that signalled a screaming take. To play the fish I needed to lift into the run, grab the landing net with my left hand and then launch myself off the bank (in my thermal wellies) into the shallow water below. After a determined battle, I steered my quarry into the waiting net, in slightly deeper water, 10 yards or so from the bank. Thereafter I heaved myself and the contents of my net up the steep bank. I triumphantly lifted my prize onto the weighing cradle. Her orange sides glinted in the daylight, showing off her few apple slice scales magnificently. She weighed 16lb 6oz and I was thrilled to bits.
It just goes to show how unpredictable and rewarding carp fishing can be, especially when the odds are against catching. Although the evening and night passed by without further action, I was well pleased with my achievement and returned home with spring in my step. Hopefully the change in tactics will continue to reap rewards throughout the colder months.