I must confess that one aspect of carp fishing I'm woefully poor at is that of carp identification. Certain high profile anglers are amazingly adept at the art, even being able to distinguish between Common carp of equivalent weights, that have no missing scales or blemishes of any kind to characterise them. One name that springs to mind in that respect, is that of Simon Crow, who has often written about his habit of carefully cataloguing the carp in any lake of interest and subsequently being able to recognise individuals instantly. I don't think that my brain is wired for that kind of skill and I certainly struggle to identify generously scaled Mirrors, let alone near leather carp with very few standout features. Just lately though, the business of recognising target carp, particularly large Mirrors, has become somewhat topical. In the first place, I have been rather puzzled by the fact that Wetlands Lakes now boasts at least 8 named big Mirrors, (or rather 7, allowing for the tragic loss of Timms). All of the Mirrors I'm referring to are of a similar high shouldered, near Leather, fast growing strain. However, only 5 such Mirrors were introduced into the lake in 2015 at weights of: 31lb 8oz, 29lb 0oz, 28lb 0oz, 23lb 9oz and 23lb 6oz. To my simplistic mind these Mirrors equate to: Big S, Timms, Quasi, Esmerelda and Chuck Norris, respectively. However, the catch gallery holds some notable additions, in the shape of Loony, Zig Zag and Split Tail (All 3 are original carp). The second reason for my renewed interest in carp identification has to do with my recent capture of a Wetlands whacker that for several agonising days proved difficult to identify. All will become clear, as my story unfolds.
Thus far, my A -Team catch list reads as follows:
27 April 2015 28lb 8oz Timms
4 July 2016 22lb 4oz Quasi
25 July 2016 22lb 14oz Long Common
30 Jan 2017 22lb 4oz Quasi
22 May 2017 27lb 8oz Timms
22 Aug 2017 22lb 6oz - Loony
28 Aug 2017 27lb 10oz Timms
18 Sept 2017 28lb 8oz Timms
4 Jun 2018 23lb 6oz Quasi
6 Aug 2018 26lb 0oz Loony
24 Sept 2018 23lb 4oz Chuck Norris
Interestingly, all of these high status captures were made in the warmer months from April to September, with only one exception, namely a true winter capture of Quasi, in January 2017. So much for Dave Lane's theory that Autumn is the undisputed key season for catching big carp. Anyway, returning to the plot, my blog combines the details of two consecutive Monday sessions at Wetlands. The first of these on 24th September found me opting for peg 2 after a 7.00am circuit of the specimen lake. Unusually, I decided to stay put for the whole session, rather than spending a complete morning on the stock pond, removing small home grown small carp and transferring them to the match lake. This gave me a full 24 hours at my disposal, a privilege that I gladly embraced. Given that autumn is almost upon us, I decided to bait relatively heavily, hoping that the carp might be inclined to have a good feed-up in preparation for the colder months. Hence my bait boat was duly loaded to the gunnels with Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets and 10mm Course pellets for each excursion to my 3 chosen spots. Having exhausted my stocks of Wet Baits 18mm Tuna boilies, I had to settle for Nash "Key" 15mm hook baits instead, together with a smattering of matching free baits. From left to right, rod 1 was fished to a gap in the left hand tree-lined margin; rod 2 covered open water straight ahead towards peg 1; and rod 3 covered the small bay at 45 degrees to the right. To my surprise, the left hand rod gave a few stuttery bleeps at 11.30am, sufficient to prompt me into lifting the rod. Said action was immediately greeted with rather more than an equal and opposite reaction, as an angry carp did its utmost to bury itself beneath the marginal overhanging branches. For a few seconds the rod was arched over at full test curve and nothing gave. Then, my adversary gradually eased back towards me until it reached the water beneath my feet, whereupon it ploughed up and down, taking out my other rods out in the process. Eventually, it tired of the game and reluctantly allowed me to ease it over the net chord. When I attempted to lift it out of the water, it became apparent that this was no small carp. A magnificent slab bodied Mirror subsequently gleamed in the sunshine, as it lay on the unhooking cradle. Thereafter, it recorded a very welcome weight of 23lb 4oz on the scales. With no other anglers nearby, I quickly photographed the beast on the mat and returned it quickly to its watery home. Later in the afternoon a huge Common carp slowly glided into the margin, less than 2 metres from the door of my bivvy. It nosed about in the sparse marginal weed for a couple of minutes before drifting off. It returned 5 minutes later for a second brief sortie and then disappeared altogether. I rued the fact that I had neither a hook-bait in the vicinity, nor my bream fishing whip, with which to gently lower a float fished maggot. Undoubtedly, it was a prime opportunity missed. After that the remainder of the day and night passed without incident, but I returned home well satisfied with the capture of an as yet unidentified biggie. The next session on 1st October started in customary fashion with a circuit of the specimen lake that had me settling in peg 3 in response to a definite fish sighting. A decent sized carp poked its head aloft around 15 yards from the bank. Naturally, I wasted no time in getting a hook-bait (a Nash "Key" 15mm boilie and PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4.5mm pellets) onto the exact spot amidst a scattering of half a dozen free baits. This subsequently became my middle rod, whereas the left hander was fished against the central islands near the boundary with peg 2. My right hand rod was committed to a known hot spot below the big Willow tree to the right (pegs 4 and 5 were unoccupied). My bait boat loaded with a hopper full of Skretting pellets was used to dispatch each hook bait to its intended target. I was hopeful that my earlier fish sighting might be the prelude to a rapid bite from the accurately baited spot. As it turned out, nothing happened all day and I eventually hit the sack early, thinking that my chance had gone. Thankfully, the middle rod ripped off at 10.30pm with an ultra hard fighting carp at the other end. Time after time I pumped it to within two rod lengths of the bank, only for it to set off again, stripping yards of line off the spool on each run. When it finally tired itself out, allowing me to scoop it into ungraciously into the net, I was surprised on two counts. Firstly, it was an absolutely magnificent highly scaled Mirror, but secondly it weighed a mere 15lb 8oz. I say that, not because a carp of this weight is in any sense small, or unwelcome, but because it had given such a powerful account of itself that I was convinced it was going to weigh twice what it actually did. That said, carp fishing is very much about the quality of the battle and I had without doubt just experienced one of the most memorable tussles of my carp fishing career. So there you have it, two fine Mirrors to show for my efforts, one from each session. The 23lb 4oz specimen was eventually identified as Chuck Norris, so I am now in the very happy position of having netted 4 out of 5 of the A-Team Mirrors and 1 of the 2 big Commons that were released back in April 2016. That just leaves 'Big S' and 'Ginger' on my most wanted list. Roll on next week, maybe the autumn has more jewels to give up!
Best fishes, Kelvin