At last after being insanely busy with musical commitments in the run up to Christmas I finally found myself on the banks of Wetlands specimen lake for a December session. Don't get me wrong, I greatly enjoyed doing the six concerts with the band OUTCRY, but the amount of work involved in putting together and rehearsing a full set of Christmas songs was immense and it impacted heavily on everything else, including my precious fishing time. The venues involved were immensely varied (a prison, a girls brigade, a local pub, a black gospel church and a Methodist church), and each needed a slightly different approach, adding to the workload. What's more slight changes in line-up meant that I found myself flitting between roles, including lead guitar, rhythm guitar and drums. Happily, it all went splendidly well and when it was all finished, I was more than ready to unwind behind the rods.
At 7.10am on Tuesday morning when Wetlands front gates were opened, it was still very dark, so I parked up in peg 5 and went for a walk around the lake whilst daylight slowly dawned. Little did I know that, in characteristic fashion, the session would end in a particularly memorable drama. The weather forecast was for high pressure, wispy high clouds and a fair amount of sunshine, with temperatures around 7 degrees Centigrade maximum. A strong frost was predicted for overnight, but the severity of it (minus 6) would proved to be more than I had bargained for. Anyway, pegs 6, 7, 1 & 2 seemed altogether lifeless, with a flat calm surface and no evidence of fish (even the ubiquitous bream). However, as I skirted around pegs 4 and 5 the odd fish ring disturbed the surface and in one case a carp actually spooked a short distance out from the margin. So, with not much more to go on, I drove round to peg 4 and quickly got a single hook bait (and small PVA bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets) onto the precise spot where the eruption had occurred. That effectively took care of my left hand rod and I bided my time with the other two rods, waiting for signs of fish presence before targeting definite locations. Following a further sighting of surface rings, my middle rod, similarly primed, was assigned to a shallow area approaching and to the left of the main snag bushes. With no further shows of fish to prompt me, the right hand rod was eventually deployed to launch a single pop-up towards the nearest island.
I was mightily glad of the winter sunshine that warmed me during the middle part of the day. In fact it became extremely pleasant to relax in such glorious surroundings. In spite of getting regular single bleeps throughout the day (presumably from bream), nothing more transpired. Accordingly, in view of the less than conducive conditions, I concluded that a move to the match lake was in order, to stand any chance of putting a carp on the bank. And so at 2.30pm I wound in and transferred my gear to peg 3 of the match lake. Within half an hour or so, I had seen plenty of fish shows on the far side of the lake in front of pegs 27 and 25. Consequently I put all three rods tightly grouped in the zone. As before each bore a bright fluorescent, highly flavoured single pop-up or boilie attached to a PVA bag of 4.5mm pellets. Thankfully, I managed to get my bivvy up before darkness encroached around 4.00pm.
As soon as the sun had set, the temperature plummeted and before long I found it necessary to retire to the confines of my sleeping bag to keep warm. Not surprisingly, action was slow in coming, but around midnight a few bleeps from the middle rod had me tentatively lifting it's tip. The move was not greeted with any resistance, other than that from the cat ice that was steadily forming across the lake. Unfortunately, the action had the undesired effect of moving my back-lead further out into the lake, thus raising the line angle; something I would later come to regret. At 7.00am, just as I was beginning to think that a blank was on the cards, the right hand rod emitted a few bleeps and line began to peel off. As soon as I lifted the rod (it was still quite dark) it became apparent that the whole lake surface was frozen over. Fortunately, the back lead had remained in situ, so I steadily drew my quarry towards the banks and was able to break the margin ice sufficiently to net my prize, along with half a bucketful of ice. After hauling it onto the cradle and removing the extraneous ice with my fingers, a fine gleaming Common nestled in it's folds and weighed in at 11lb 6oz. What made the episode particularly satisfying was the fact that this was the first time I had ever landed a carp from under a full covering of ice, so I was well pleased with the achievement. At this point I began to hear the sound of the spool turning rapidly on my middle rod. The bite alarm was so frost encrusted that it hadn't registered a bite.
This time though landing the attached carp was not going to be easy, given that the line entered the lake around 20 yards out. I managed to get the fish to the point where line entered the lake, but the surface ice formed an impenetrable barrier. There was no alternative but to put the rod down, loosen the clutch and look for heavy objects to bombard the ice with. Dave eventually came to assist, armed with a rock on a rope. Regrettably, the rope wasn't quite long enough, such that when Dave heaved it towards the lake, the rope left his hand and promptly landed out of reach. Several attempts to retrieve the loose end with the landing net handle and discarded branches failed miserably, such that waders seemed like the only alternative. Frustratingly, the boat house lock was frozen solid, so Dave returned to me empty handed. By this time the attached carp had managed to free itself, such that the hook flew back towards the bank, embedding itself in the stray rope. After more delving with branches, we eventually managed to draw the rope close enough to grasp it and return the end tackle plus rock to the bank.
I was bitterly disappointed to lose the second hooked carp of the session and kicking myself for the back-lead displacement. Nevertheless, it was very highly gratifying to have caught a carp under extreme conditions. Needless to say, I returned home with a skip in my step and a smile on my face, gleefully anticipating what 2017 might bring in carp fishing terms.
Best fishes for 2017,