A chance remark from Pat on the afternoon of this session, set me off on a train of thought that ultimately may have had a hand in my re-capture of an A - Team carp. Pat happened to mention that whenever he introduces bait via his remote controlled boat, he subsequently has more success, if he casts his end tackle out separately, rather than drop it amongst the bulk of food items. Now, it's all too easy to dismiss such information as mere fantasy, or alternatively to come up with some kind of weird and wonderful explanation that gets assigned to the trash bin for eternity. But what if there is some truth in the statement? And what if there is a perfectly logical explanation for the conundrum? Well, first up, there is a widely held belief that the larger carp are inclined to hold off from a baited patch, allowing the smaller, less cautious carp to test the area for traps, first. In the interim, their impatience may cause them to pick off the odd, seemingly less suspicious morsel from the periphery, potentially leading to their downfall. However, another aspect to this, is that there is a marked difference between the manner in which carp feed on a tightly clustered bed of bait, compared to the way in which they pick up widely spaced individual food items. On a baited patch they graze close to the bottom, barely moving between mouthfuls, such that a boilie on a 10 inch hook link is likely to be mouthed and rejected multiple times without setting the hook. Conversely, a carp moving between spread baits, is much more likely to tension the hook link and encounter the full weight of the lead, thus driving the hook firmly home. The standard remedy, of course is to use a much shorter hook link, if you're fishing directly on a bait cluster, preferably allied to a heavy in-line lead. If the rig is delivered via a bait boat in relatively shallow water, then it's possible for the business end to alight fairly gently on bottom, without disappearing into silt, if present. Having said that, it's better to use this approach on a good firm clear patch, rather than in thick silt. Given that many of us prefer to use a longish hook link at Wetlands simply because of the preponderance of silt, there may well be a good case for combining this methodology predominantly with spread baiting. Alternatively, if cluster baiting is our thing, other ways of presenting the hook might be in order, such as PVA bags, the method, or even the humble 'chod rig'.
Anyway, deliberations aside, I ended up opting for peg 5 this week, as Rob was already on 7, three anglers were on peg 4, and a couple of anglers were on 3. A gentle warm breeze was blowing directly into peg 5, so in the absence of any obvious fish sightings, it seemed like a better choice than 1, 2, or 6. Initially, I cast out some single hook baits to close-in spots, in the vain hope of tripping up an early morning margin rover, but then set about preparing some more permanent spots for the duration of my session. Not surprisingly, I targeted my three favourite areas, namely: at 40 yards out towards peg 3; at 40 yards out towards the middle snag bushes; and on the end of the peninsular to the right. In each case, a single hopper full of Skrettings Protec 4.5mm pellets and flaked Wet Baits 15mm KCG Plum boilies was delivered to the intended zone. In the first instance, the hook bait, an 18mm boilie, plus 12mm pop-up (snowman combination) was delivered in the same payload.
By mid afternoon, 4 extra persons had swelled the ranks of carpers at the lake, in the shape of Dean and Dec on peg 4 (the previous 3 anglers had departed), plus Pat and his mate on 2. Of course, they all called round for a natter before setting up, and it was in the midst of his pre-fishing discourse that Pat made the aforementioned comment about needing to cast out separately from his bait boat trip. Interestingly, not long after this, a flurry of bleeps on my middle rod was proceeded by a huge bow wave, as a spooked carp evacuated the area. In hindsight, I'm inclined to believe that the offender had indeed got away with it on an unduly long hook link over a tightly baited patch. Thankfully, I took this as an opportunity to test Pat's hypothesis by re-casting all three rods prior to night fall.
By the time darkness had descended I was beginning to feel somewhat despondent as Dec, Dean and Rob had already opened their score sheet with a decent double or two and I was still fishless. Eventually, I retired to my sleeping bag, fearing that a blank might be on the cards. To my immense relief, I was awakened at 20 past midnight by a rapid run on my middle rod. The first run took a while to slow down as the culprit headed purposely towards the left hand snag bush. Fortunately, I managed to bring it to halt in time and slowly cranked it back towards me. It made one or two short lunges in the margin before entering the net gracefully. It wasn't until I attempted to lift the net that I realised that my quarry was no small fry. I heaved it onto the unhooking mat and recognised a familiar frame. She was none other than Timms fish, for the second time. I weighed her at 27lb 8oz, before returning her to the lake whilst awaiting Dean to kindly do the honours with a camera. Thanks Dean!
It was then that I learned that measuring 10 wraps on distance sticks is not as hazard free in darkness, as it is in daylight. Somehow the line slipped off the markers and got into the 'mother and father' of all tangles that resisted successive attempts to free. Eventually, I gave up, cut the line, re-tied it all, and cast out to what I estimated to be the correct distance. Clearly, I must have got it right because the same rod produced another take near dawn. Before that though, at 01.20 am, whilst I was still wrestling with a fluorocarbon birds nest of a tangle, the right hand rod ripped off, producing a Common of 17lb 14oz after a relatively short and fairly well controlled battle. The Common had a couple of distinctive scale free patches on its left side. Eventually, I returned to my bivvy after a much longer break from slumber than intended. As you might expect, the excitement of catching an A -Team carp occupied my thoughts for quite a while before the adrenalin levels reduced and sleep returned once more. And then at 04.45 am, the middle rod went into meltdown as another carp made a mistake. This time though the fight was much more intense from the off. Having, prevented it from reaching the central snags, I then struggled to bring it under control as it kited first left and then right. As it came closer in, it made a bid for the overhanging bushes to the right. As I held it in check in the shallow water a huge tail popped up above the surface and gave me a defiant wave. Just when I thought I was gaining the upper hand, it shot to the left, straight under my middle rod. As I applied as much side strain as I dare in an attempt to bring it towards the waiting net, disaster struck and the hook pulled! As usual, I shook my head in total disbelief, and felt absolutely gutted.
Certainly, this session was amongst the most memorable of my fishing career, not least because of the welcome joy of an exhilarating capture. Nevertheless, the question of "What monstrous beast did I so nearly catch?" will always haunt me.