This week's session at Wetlands is deeply etched on my memory. What's more, the reason has absolutely nothing to do with carp fishing. Rather, the powerful images concerned are a potent demonstration that at times nature can be extremely cruel. I'm referring to a scenario that unfolded on Monday evening whose emotional impact shook me. At several points throughout the day my attention had been grabbed by a pair of Greylag geese, together with a single fluffy gosling that followed them round the lake, as if connected by a length of thin elastic string (like that on a paddle bat and ball). Every time junior got a bit behind, its tiny legs would whirr like the blades of a cake mixer to reunite it with its proud parents. I found myself wondering why only one gosling was present and not the customary 4 or 5. I concluded that there might have been others, who had met with some kind of unknown disaster. And then around 8.00pm in the evening, my peace and solitude was suddenly interrupted by an horrendous squawking sound as two Greylag geese hurtled across the banks of peg 5 and launched themselves into the lake, hotly pursued by a large brown fox. Meanwhile, their separated squeaking youngster rushed madly around the open ground behind the bank and within seconds was readily picked off by the fox and silenced forever. Thereafter, the traumatised parents sheltered beneath the branches of an overhanging tree, muttering low moaning noises, as if to express the pain of loss. They remained in situ until the following morning, when the relative safety of daylight hours emboldened them to embark upon a search for their lost offspring. They waddled backwards and forward across the fateful area for an hour or so, before abandoning hope. They returned to the lake as a lone couple, robbed of their short lived family status.
I suppose that witnessing nature at close quarters is one of the aspects of carp fishing that elevates the sport well above its humble foundations and at the same time imparts a sense of sober perspective upon our privileged lives. Anyway, philosophical thoughts aside, I was mightily glad to be back on the banks of Wetlands this week, having had a two week gap, that included a cottage holiday in Rye, Sussex. The focus of our vacation (at least from my point of view) had been heritage steam railways, of which there are at least five in the area. Naturally, we managed to fit in rides on the four major ones, namely the Kent and East Sussex railway, the Bluebell line, the Watercress line, and the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch railway. I gather from the fact that my longsuffering wife slept through a significant proportion of the excursions indicates that she does not share my love of steam engines. Come to think of it, she doesn't share my love of carp fishing either. Nevertheless, I'm grateful that she allows me to indulge my passions relatively unrestrained.
The weather forecast indicated that the cold snap we have endured for the last couple of weeks would continue, fuelled by north easterly air currents from Scandinavia. The surface of the specimen lake was duly ruffled by chilly winds, apart from a small area in front of pegs 5 and 4. Rob was already bivvied up in 5, having spent a night in there. He'd had a bit of action too, with one carp banked, one lost to a hook link breakage and a couple of abortive runs (possibly bream). Accordingly, I parked up in peg 4 and went for a walk around the lake before settling in my original choice. The wind certainly had an uncomfortable bite to it, thus reinforcing my theory that the carp would seek refuge in the more protected parts. These days, I prefer to wait and watch for a while before committing rods to the water, but in the absence of any indicators of carp presence, I resorted to the time honoured ploy of targeting the historical hot spots. Hence, the right hand rod put a bait 40 yards out towards peg 5; the middle rod gave a short underarm cast out from the margin; and the left hander launched a bait 30 yards towards the area behind the snag bushes. It was the latter that received most attention in terms of baiting. Before casting out, I peppered an area the size of a table top with several bait boat hopper loads of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets, and proceeded to catapult out six Wet Baits 18mm KCG Chocolate boilies on an hourly basis. Hook bait was an identical boilie topped with a 12mm Indian Spice pop-up, snowman style. The other two spots were treated to a more sparse baiting pattern, involving double 15mm KCG Plum boilies as hook bait, allied to a PVA mesh bag of the Protec 4.5mm pellets. A scattering of 20 or so, free baits was applied to each spot.
The session turned out to be a grueling affair with nothing to break the monotony of inaction other than the Greylag goose episode already recounted, plus the occasional unwanted attentions of bream tinkering with the baits. Daylight hours passed without piscatorial incident, as did the unseasonably cold night. In fact, it wasn't until well past dawn (5.50pm to be precise), that the left hand baited patch came up trumps. A very jittery movement of the bobbin had me hovering over the rod, debating whether or not to strike at what seemed like more bream interference. In the event, I lifted the rod but felt no initial resistance. Thinking that a bream had messed with me once again I began winding in. Suddenly, as the slack line was taken up, I felt a very solid resistance, that kicked the perpetrator into angry battle mode. For the next 5 minutes or so, it went mental in the relatively shallow marginal waters. I was amazed by the strength and endurance of the fight, given that it didn't appear to be overly large. I estimated it to be around 11lbs maximum. Eventually my adversary tired and allowed me to tow it across the surface into the net.
At that moment, Steve from peg 7 appeared behind me and kindly helped me with the weighing and photographing. To my immense delight, as I lifted the net out of the water, the effort required was considerably more than expected and a fine modestly scaled Mirror greeted our gaze. On the scaled she registered a respectable 15lbs 8oz, thus turning what seemed like an inevitable blank session into a triumph. Thankfully, the session will be remembered for more than just the gut wrenching twists of nature.