It comes as no surprise, that I rarely do as well at Wetlands when the place is stacked out with anglers, as I do when I'm alone on the lake. I suppose you might reasonably expect the number of bites per angler to reduce, in proportion to the number of anglers present, on the basis that the action tends to get shared out amongst the field. Of course it's not as simple as that, given that more bait going into the water sometimes induces more fish to feed. Conversely, more anglers might translate into more angling pressure, causing the carp to become less interested in feeding, encouraging them to seek refuge in some out of the way hideout. The thing that niggles me most though, is when I make embarrassing comparisons and conclude that on certain sessions, my results have been significantly worse than the anglers around me. Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often, but on the occasions when it does, the inevitable outcome is a period of intense soul searching. Was it because my choice of peg was restricted and I ended up being in an unproductive area? Or maybe, my choice of peg was flawed due to poor watercraft? And then there is the business of baiting strategy. Does the fact that I have a tendency to fish for one bite at a time, (using minimal quantities of bait) work against me, compared to others who "fill it in" and sit on heavily baited spots, until they eventually come alive with intense action? Given that I fish short 24 hour sessions, I have generally found that heavy baiting works against me, namely that the fish avoid such blatant areas until long after I've departed. Usually, someone else then reaps the rewards of my generosity. Thankfully, I have sometimes benefited from the remnants of a generous baiting spree afforded by one of my fellow carpers, but not that often. Also, from time to time, I have been privileged to have been on the bank when conditions dictate that the carp get their heads down big time, throwing caution to the wind, regardless of the amount of bait used.
Anyway, as a result of the above deliberations, I arrived at Wetlands this week, determined to use significantly more bait than usual and monitor the results carefully. Note that I made a point of avoiding the potentially busy Bank Holiday Monday, so in a sense I was avoiding a full blown competitive situation. As it turned out, a fishing match had been organised for the match lake, open to regular carp anglers, rather than the usual match angling fraternity. It was scheduled for 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, which meant that I found myself blissfully alone in the daytime on the specimen lake. Having said that, a couple of anglers had fished overnight in pegs 6 and 7 (and caught three decent doubles between them), but they departed the specimen lake to join the match. Only one of them intended to return later that evening, after the match. Also, Simon was booked in for the evening, meaning that three of us would share the lake over night.
A cold, biting, northerly wind ruffled the lake across most of it's surface apart from a sheltered patch between pegs 5 and 4. Hence, I settled in peg 5, with a view to targeting what I hoped would be the warmer water. Sporadic sunshine in between drifting, cotton-wool-like cumulus clouds bolstered my confidence. A carp 'head and shouldering' over towards peg 4 at about 40 yards distance, dictated where my left hand rod would be aimed at. Hook bait would be the usual Wet Baits KCG 20mm chocolate topped with a 10mm Milky Toffee pop-up, plus the customary PVA mesh bag of Skretting Protec 4.5mm pellets for added attraction and tangle resistance. Initially, I put 40 or so free baits around it and then kept bait going in thereafter, at a rate of around 6 boilies per hour. My right hand rod took charge of the spot at the end of the peninsula on the boundary of peg 6. I used this one as a sort of control, with just the hook bait and PVA bag and no free baits. The middle rod was put out to a spot 10 wraps from the bank using my bait boat. This time though, I added 4 hopper loads of Skretting pellets to the otherwise identical hook bait, in a tightly concentrated format.
Interestingly, things were remarkably slow over on the match lake, such that it was extended to an 8.00pm finish. As expected the lake switched on properly at 5.30pm. The winning angler would be whoever caught the heaviest carp. I understand that this turned out to be a carp of over 14lbs. Any worries that the cold wind would kill any action on the specimen lake proved unfounded, but I had to wait until 3.50pm before my first opportunity arose. The left hand rod produced a fast run that found me connected to an immensely energetic carp that refused to give up easily. For 5 minutes or so it circled the margins and repeatedly sped off out into the lake to avoid the net. Eventually, a plump bellied Common pulled the scales down to 15lb 8oz before rejoining its mates. After that I had to wait until near darkness before the left hander signaled another take. This time a deep bodied 18lb 0oz Mirror joined me on the bank for a photo shot.
Hopeful of more action over night I retired early and was awoken at 02.30am by an absolute screamer of a take. I stumbled out of the bivvy in the hazy moonlight and lifted the rod expectantly. Unfortunately, when I raised the rod tip, it was met with zero resistance, leaving me to shake my head in disbelief and reel in to investigate the cause. Everything was intact apart from the 9 inch hook link which had totally disappeared. I can only conclude that the braid had been snapped at its looped attachment end pulling it completely out of the quick change swivel and anti-tangle sleeve. Aaaaah!
So, at close of play, I ended up with two decent upper doubles and one lost monster. A pleasing result, indeed! As far as heavy baiting is concerned, I came to the conclusion that the regular introduction of small quantities of feed improved matters, in contrast to one-shot heavy baiting, or minimal baiting. However, it's quite probable, that the reason all the action came from the left hand rod was more to do with the slightly warmer water in that area, rather than the baiting approach. Who knows? Still, carp fishing is made all the more fascinating by the uncertainties it throws up.