Reluctant though I am to admit it, the fact is that I have really struggled this winter. Snow and ice have all too frequently conspired to rule out fishing altogether. What's more, the temperature has been up and down like a yoyo, consequently reducing the carp's inclination to feed. Nevertheless, around half a dozen carp have been banked from the specimen lake in the last month, so I have to accept that I haven't been fishing as effectively as I might. Even though the periods when carp appear to have been willing to feed have been remarkably few and far between, I have definitely been present on the lake when other anglers have caught, so I can't use the excuse that I was there at the wrong time. Now that advance peg booking is the order of the day at Wetlands, watercraft is more concerned with predicting where the carp will be on a particular day, rather than finding them live. Hence, the sport is now much more to do with forecasting weather conditions, wind direction and other relevant details, a completely different ball game altogether and one that I am not particularly adept at.
One bright splash of colour on an otherwise grey winter canvas has been the Northern Angling Show in Manchester, which I attended and enjoyed immensely. In particular, I had a long and inspiring discussion with Danny Fairbrass about Embryo Angling and its role in enhancing the future of carp fishing. Also, I caught up with my old mate Shaun Harrison, with whom I had many a chat at Walker's of Trowell, long before he left to develop his own bait business. To cap it all, those kind people at Skretting gave me a great welcome and ensured that I came away with as many buckets of high quality pellets as I could carry on my train journey home. All in all, a most pleasing day.
Anyway, back to the plot. I turned up at Wetlands on Monday morning at the usual time of 7.00 am, having booked peg 9 for a 24 hour session. The weather forecast was for bright spring sunshine, turning to rain overnight. The rationale behind my choice of peg was that sunny conditions might encourage a few carp to take up basking position along the tree-lined left hand margin. Peg 10 is also well known to harbor sunbathing carp along its tree-lined margin in spring, but to my knowledge, the peg hadn't produced a carp since the excavation work was completed, so peg 9 was favourite. As things turned out, I probably made the wrong choice, but that's the nature of carp fishing. Tactics wise my left hand rod delivered a Wet Baits Red Liver 18mm boilie (attached to a golf ball sized PVA mesh bag of Skretting Protec 4.5mm pellets) to a protruding tree branch along the left hand margin and I scattered a handful of broken free baits around the area. My middle rod, similarly baited was given a short underarm cast in the direction of peg 7. My right hand rod was cast along the central island margin somewhat short of the snag bushes on the peg boundary.
The warm sunshine was certainly a welcome change from recent sub zero temperatures and by late morning two or three surface swimming carp had drifted into the area. Encouragingly, they sporadically drifted over my baited spots, although they showed no inclination to dip down for a munch. By early afternoon several carp had taken up residence in peg 10 next door and were stationed beneath the peripheral branches. I tossed a few 10 mm milky toffee pop-ups within feet of them and watched carefully as the white spheres were carried by the breeze above their heads. Disappointingly, the free offerings elicited no feeding response from the carp and merely served to put them slightly on edge. All the same, I couldn't help thinking that peg 10 might have been a better choice than 9, given the potential for a night time bite.
By 5.00 pm no action had occurred to my rods (although an angler on peg 3 had apparently bagged a 19 pounder), so I wound in and headed off for a brief spell on the match lake in peg 29. Little did I realise that this would be no 'easy pickings' either. I figured that the onset of spring might encourage the odd margin feeder, so the obvious task was to drop a couple of handfuls of (mixed sizes) Skretting Protec pellets near the corner of the fishing platform and lower a single 18 mm Red Liver boilie onto the spot. Next I cast a customary boilie/PVA bag combination towards the island margin.
It didn't take long before several bream started mopping up the pellets near the platform, occasionally disturbing the hook bait but not initiating a run. I was hoping that a carp might join the feeding frenzy, but an hour later, having topped up the spot numerous times none had materialised. Finally at 6.30 pm my margin rod was pulled violently forward in the rests and all hell broke loose. In spite of the fact that I had pounced on the rod in an instant, it wasn't soon enough to prevent the culprit from diving under the fishing platform on which I stood. Thence followed a tug of war, during which I attempted to pull the carp back out into open water. The platform juddered and bumped as the line went backwards and forward in sea saw motion. At one point a long Common appeared to my left, presumably having gone around a support leg and back out via the entry point. In hindsight I should have held still and attempted to net the beast as it thrashed about near the surface, but unfortunately I opted to continue hauling away, with the predictable outcome that everything locked up solid and the carp gained its freedom. What's more I ended up losing my end tackle plus flying back lead into the bargain.
Thankfully, at 7.10 pm another opportunity presented itself in the form of a jittery take on the margin rod. This time, I don't think my adversary was even aware that it had a hook in its mouth, as it caused the slack line hanging from the rod tip to twitch in telltale fashion. As I lifted the rod I had no difficulty in steering the carp smartly away from danger and landing it without drama. On the scales it registered a modest 8lb 12oz, allowing me to make a hasty return to the specimen lake, at least having put one carp on the bank. As darkness descended, I put all three rods back onto their original positions and wondered whether night time might be rewarded with a specimen lake capture. Sadly, it was not to be and I awoke at 6.00 am to a cold rainy morning that numbed my fingers as I packed everything away before 7.00 am.
Oh well, when spring eventually injects my fishing with the shot of adrenaline it requires, my long winter grind will be a distant memory lost amidst the euphoria of summer successes.