What on earth have carp fishing and world championship snooker got In common? Well quite a bit it seems. Like many others I greatly enjoyed watching the recent 2018 world snooker final when Mark Williams finally triumphed over John Higgins in a monumental battle that had viewers on the edge of their seats, especially through the last two stages. One aspect that stood out to me was the advantageous impact of breaks between sessions. It was very obvious that both players benefitted from a chance to interrupt the emotional intensity of the game and regroup before the next phase. Undoubtedly, this easing of pressure enabled John Higgins to dig deep and pull off an amazing come back to level the score at 15 frames all. Likewise, the final rest period allowed Mark Williams to reinforce his determination to win, eventually (after a brief set-back that would have defeated a lesser individual) clinching victory with some stunning cue work.
Clearly, there are some angling parallels here, particularly those to do with persistence, determination to succeed and the ability to pace oneself carefully to keep the fires burning consistently. Coincidentally, I write this whilst taking a break in Scotland with my wife and Labrador. This is our second holiday of the year and we have at least another two in the pipeline for the remainder of the year. One immovable feature of our vacations is that fishing is definitely off the menu. By that, I mean the actual act of wetting a line rather than any of the associated stuff like browsing fishing shops or avidly reading about it. To that end I usually raid the bottom shelves of WH Smith and arm myself with as many carp fishing publications as I can get away with. Other than that, it is technically a self imposed break from carp fishing that maintains my interest at maximum level.
Interestingly, one key feature that has been repeatedly emphasised in the angling press is a unanimous conviction that the winter of 2017/2018 has been unusually difficult in carp catching terms. In article after article, high profile anglers have bemoaned the unprecedented instability of temperatures this winter with extreme freeze-ups and warmer periods sandwiched together like the layers in one of my wife's Lasagna dishes. What's more the dreaded “Beast from East” and regular doses of cold rain/biting winds have conspired to coax our quarry into state of persistent hibernation. Hence, there have been many aborted sessions this year interspersed with many blank ones. In my case, just a few small carp have been caught from higher stocked lakes.
Anyway, this dismal background set the scene for some rather more promising results as spring dawned. Water temperatures at Wetlands Lakes have nevertheless been slow to rise, even after a freak heat wave that lasted a few days in mid April. Needless to say, I was away in Plymouth at the time, so I returned to the news that Timms had been caught during the warmer interlude. I was therefore hopeful that the sunny conditions would still be in evidence when I turned up at Wetlands for my next Monday session. The introduction of a peg booking system meant that I opted for peg 10, in the hope that sunshine would draw carp into it’s shallow bays. Unfortunately, the weather decided to do something completely different, namely cloudy skies and a stiff southerly breeze that ruffled the margins of pegs 3 to 7. Not surprisingly, the aforementioned pegs were eagerly occupied by the likes of Wayne and Pat who duly benefitted from fishing very close to the windswept margins. Wayne did remarkably well by fishing only 12 inches from the bank. In fact he bagged 8 carp in around 24 hours, including Timms at 29lbs.
To be honest, I was somewhat surprised that the carp followed the southerly wind as willingly as they obviously did, given that it had a distinctly cold edge to it. I made the mistake of thinking that they would be more comfortable in the slack water on the back of it and paid the price. I therefore placed one rod in the small bay to the right, another in the main bay in front of mushroom island and the remaining rod down the wind-ruffled left hand margin beneath an overhanging bush. In each case the hook bait was an 18mm Wet Baits Red Liver boiled attached to a PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets amidst a light scattering of matching boilies as feed. By late evening I had been made aware of Wayne’s success and feared that I was in for a fruitless night, given that the bulk of the fish appeared to be on the opposite side of the lake. At 11.15pm I was unexpectedly ejected from my bed into heavy rainfall by a screaming take on the left hand margin rod. On lifting the rod I became aware of a relatively small but rather lively Common on the other end. In spite of it’s diminutive size it gave a good account of itself, ploughing up and down the margin until it eventually yielded, weighing in at exactly 11lbs.
The following Monday I arrived at Wetlands, with an altogether different game plan in mind. For a start, I’d pre-booked peg 8 for no other reason than that it might offer a good chance to catch a few bream and transfer them to the nearby match lake as part of the ongoing stock control plan. Under normal circumstances, bream make their presence very well known, being rather fond of carp baits and regularly getting hooked even on 20 mm boilies. Hence, I figured that if I turned up with maggots and a light float rod, I would be able to remove a decent number of the species from under my feet in the margin. The lake has a minimum main line limit of 15lbs monofilament, so a crystal float was threaded onto this with an 18 inch hook link of 10lb Drennan double strength, to a size 8 hook bearing 9 red maggots. My other two rods, setup for normal carp fishing were cast to two standard hot spots, namely one on the end of the right hand peninsula and the other 40 yards out towards peg 3. Each was baited with an 18mm Wet Baits Red Liver boilie attached to the usual PVA bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets for boosted attraction and tangle resistance. A scattering of matching boilies was dispatched to each area via a throwing stick.
My confidence that bream would soon be queuing up to the party gradually ebbed away as the morning progressed. The float remained in static mode other than drifting relentlessly from side to side under the influence of a gentle breeze. Eventually, the penny dropped that the recent return to colder conditions had moved even the silver fish out of the margins and into deeper water. All the same, there is something deeply mesmerising and oddly therapeutic about watching a float for hours on end, knowing that at any moment it might dip and sail away. Such moments, in my experience are usually heralded by a knock or twitch of some sort of signal at the float, such that when a proper take comes I am keyed up ready to raise the rod tip in timely response. Well, on this occasion, that scenario was only played out four times, resulting in two bream and two roach. Meanwhile the carp rods remained silent and I saw no evidence of carp presence anywhere across the lake.
Sunset came all too soon around 9.00pm and I retired to the warmth of my sleeping bag, fully expecting an undisturbed night. Before doing so, I topped up the 40 yard spot with a dozen Wet Baits Tuna boilies in the hope that it might arouse some interest from a passing carp. To my delight, the action was rewarded with an absolutely blistering take at 11.30pm when a powerful Common carp took off with the baited hook. Fortunately, the take was in open water, so persistent pressure eventually brought it closer in, after a series of amazingly boisterous runs. Two further powerful runs halted its energetic performance bringing it reluctantly to the waiting net. On the scales the broad shouldered Common registered 15lb 2oz, thus turning what seemed like a lost cause into an enjoyable session that included an epic battle.
Well, it seems that after a winter of discontent, I’m finally managing to get a few Wetlands carp onto the banks. However, I can’t help thinking that I need to dig deep (John Higgins/Mark Williams style) to up my game and improve my results. Certainly my holiday break will fire me up for the ongoing saga. Watch this space.