How can you catch the largest and reputedly more desirable specimens from a widely stocked carp water? That is a question that has exercised many an angler's mind over the years. And of course, there is no definitive answer. Over time, various tactics have emerged to single out the monsters from the rest of the field. Most anglers are content to play a basic numbers game, where the goal is simply to catch as many carp as possible, in the hope that at least a proportion of them will be relative giants. At the extreme are the dedicated specimen hunters (the Terry Hearn characters of the fishing world), who are willing to invest untold hours in tracking down specific fish, studying their behaviours and movements and deploying bespoke strategies to bring about the downfall of their target.
Unfortunately, for most of us, putting in endless hours is not a practical possibility. Another limiting factor is the matter of water clarity. If the water is highly coloured, then no amount of traipsing round wearing Polaroid spectacles and a peaked cap is going to yield the critical sightings that are required to profile the object of our dreams. Even if we have access to a glass bottomed bucket and a boat, or the latest underwater technology, the task is challenging, to say the least. I once asked Darrel Peck how he manages to catch the enormous carp that he does. His answer was surprisingly straightforward. "Large carp are large because they eat a lot of food" was his answer. "Therefore, if you bait heavily and frequently with a good quality bait, you will get amongst the big ones". Sound advice, but once again, few of us are able to put in the time needed for a regular baiting campaign, even if we could afford to buy bait in the huge quantities required.
Pat, who catches 20lb plus carp more frequently than most Wetlands carpers, has a different take on the subject. "He who dares wins" is his self confessed motto. His approach is based on exploring every part of his swim, bait selection and sheer daring. He responds to even the slightest indication of carp presence by putting a bait on the spot, even if it is in an area that is bordering on inaccessible. He is perfectly happy to sit on locked-up rods, ready to spring into action at a moments notice. If a bite doesn't come soon enough, he will try different baits until something pays off. It's hard work, but it undoubtedly reaps rewards for Pat.
Anyway, so much for the philosophy of targeting massive carp. The discussion was inspired by the results of my recent endeavours, in what was very nearly a blank session. As it happens, I have a theory that the odds of catching a large carp are higher when bites are thin on the ground and this week's outcome appears to support the hypothesis. The rationale behind it, is that the weightier specimens need more food to sustain their size and consequently are inclined to continue feeding somewhat after their diminutive siblings have lost their appetites. All will become clear.
And so, I pre-booked peg 10, as I intended to spend the morning fishing for small carp in the nearby stock pond, so that the fruits of my labours might be relocated to new surroundings in the match lake. Interestingly, the task went rather well, such that a net full of approximately 9 inch long Mirrors and Commons were transferred. Included in the haul were a couple of larger Mirrors estimated to weigh around 9lb and 11lb respectively. These were returned to their original home, after demonstrating admirable fighting skills for their size. I returned to the specimen lake just before midday and set about the task of putting three rods out to the spots I had primed with Skretting 10mm Course pellets and Wet Baits Tuna boilies earlier in the day. From left to right, my three chosen areas were: mushroom island margin; dot island; and the right hand bay. The left and middle rods were each baited with a single 18mm Tuna boilie (plus a PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets). The right hand rod was assigned to bream catching duties. Hence it bore a method feeder (loaded with Protec 4.5mm scalded pellet paste) and a tiny Krill dumb bell on the hook.
Before long, it became apparent from the total lack of bream activity that my chosen peg was devoid of fish activity of any kind. Nothing dissected the surface and no dark shapes stirred below. Regrettably, by prioritising my stock pond activities, my specimen lake results would be severely impaired. And so, a sense of impending doom shrouded me until mid afternoon, when a minute ray of hope dawned upon me. I saw the unmistakable wake of a surface cruising carp, as it ventured into the right hand bay from the direction of the boat house. However, I was concerned that the only rod I had in the vicinity was of the bream targeting variety, with a size 10 hook and miniature bait at the business end. Nevertheless, I didn't want to risk spooking the piscatorial visitor by replacing the rod with another, so I had to stick with it and hope for the best.
The anticipated bite finally came at 4.25pm, but to be honest, I thought it was a twitchy bream bite. Hence, I lifted the rod in a 'matter of fact' sort of way, not expecting to feel much resistance. Surprisingly, I felt the presence of a dead weight on the end, which immediately transformed itself into the form of a large angry carp determined to put as much distance as possible between me and the boat house. Desperately, I hung on for dear life, expecting the hook to tear at any moment. Thankfully, it held firm and after a period of stalemate, I managed to raise the rod tip above the tall marginal bushes and walk steadily backwards until the contender rounded the corner of the boat house channel. As soon as my quarry passed the point, it embarked upon different tactics to elude capture. It put maximum effort into reaching the right hand tree lined margin and almost succeeded. Given that peg 10a juts out into the right hand bay, I still had the difficult task of bringing my adversary around its protruding front edge. My first two attempts failed miserably, but by stretching out the rod tip as far as possible, I eventually succeeded in bringing it out into open water. Once in the marginal water in front of me, it circled round and round, hugging the bottom stubbornly, as my arms grew progressively weary. Finally, after several tense minutes, its huge frame neared the surface and it took a gulp of air. Two minutes later, it reluctantly flipped over the net chord and the long awaited prize was mine. What a relief! I heaved the awesome creature onto the cradle and weighed it at 26lbs exactly. I returned her to the net whilst I found a willing match angler to do the honours with a camera. What a magnificent and powerful carp she is, and what a glorious outcome. Pat identified her as "Loony". It just goes to show that even the most hopeless of situations can be triumphant in the end.
The remainder of the session passed without any further action, but rest assured, I returned home absolutely delighted at having caught yet another member of the Wetlands "A-Team".