If there's one factor that keeps carp anglers coming back for more, it's the fact that at any moment (whilst ever a baited rod is in the water), even the most unpromising session can be turned in the blink of an eye into a glorious triumph, should a fish of our dreams choose to suck in our bait and get firmly hooked.
As I arrived on the banks of Wetlands Lakes at 7.00 am on 10th June 2019, had I known what epic adventure awaited me, I would have approached it with rather more enthusiasm than was actually the case. After several days of persistent and mood dampening rainfall, with only the prospect of more to come, little wonder that I struggled to find much appetite for the 24 hours ahead. Worst still, the dank conditions were to be accompanied by a cold north easterly wind. If ever there was a time when the conditions seemed wholly unpromising, this was most definitely it. Even though the rain had eased off for a brief spell in the morning, more was expected before midday and a distinct nip in the air called for several layers of warm clothing instead of last week's T-shirt and light weight trousers.
Not surprisingly, Richard had greeted me at the gates with the news that all the pegs were currently free. However, he suggested that I avoid pegs 3 to 5, so that a couple of anglers practising for the British carp cup matches might be able to fish together when they arrived later in the day. Richard had also plied me with a couple of bags of free test bait to trial, with a view to developing a bespoke, lake special boilie range.
One was a reddish-brown boilie with a "Fishy" aroma and the other test bait was a washed out yellow colour with a fruity note.
Naturally, I did a slow lap of the specimen lake, looking for signs of carp, before finally opting for peg 10. My choice was prompted by the immediate sighting of a couple of carp in the peg, one in the near margin and the other adjacent to mushroom island.
Thankfully, I managed to get all three rods in place and my bivvy erected before the rainfall started in earnest. Rod placement followed a well established pattern for peg 10, with the exception of my left hand rod, which covered a spot next to the newly installed, large diameter pipe (that now provides a connection across the causeway to peg 9). My middle rod placed a bait in front of mushroom island and my right hand rod was dedicated to the right hand bay, in front of the inlet from the growing pond. Bait choice for the left and middle rod was in each case, a double 18mm reddish brown "test" boilie, whereas the right hand rod bore a double 18mm yellow "test" boilie. All the boilies were as described, from the trial range, including a dozen or so free baits scattered around each location.
As expected the wet and cold conditions took their toll upon the fishing (not even the ubiquitous bream appeared to be feeding with any sense of commitment) and a sense of gloom invaded my mind, as I huddled for protection inside the bank side hut throughout the long, slow day. By late evening the rain had eased slightly and morphed into a pervasive drizzle, such that I retired to the comfort and warmth of my sleeping bag somewhat earlier than usual. Not long afterwards, the rain regained its strength, drumming constantly on the bivvy roof. No other sound interrupted the night and I awoke at 6.00 am to the fading tones a rather muted dawn chorus. Surprise, surprise, it was still raining, so the prospect of a wet pack down greeted me. What followed was an attempt to fold up and cover my sleeping bag, bed chair and assorted paraphernalia whilst still inside the bivvy, before stacking them inside the hut to keep them dry. To some extent, I succeeded, but my folding seat had already become wet through, even though it had been tucked under the hut roof all night. By 7.00 am virtually everything was packed away in my estate car. All that remained was to wind in the rods.
At this juncture I peered down at the rods and was surprised to see that the hanger on the middle rod was on the ground and the line was reasonably taught. Strangely enough though, not a single bleep had been emitted by the bite alarm. Instinctively, I lifted the rod tip to determine whether the end tackle was still on its original spot. As I did so, I felt a distinct kick at the other end. Miracle of miracles, a carp was most definitely still on the other end! However, it was clear from the line angle that the fish concerned had kited to the right and managed to get around boat house point. There was nothing for it, other than to move as far to the left as possible in the hope of coaxing it back towards the main bay. If all else failed, I was prepared to wade (in my shoes) across onto the causeway, in order to get a more direct line of pull. Thankfully, that wasn't necessary, as steady pumping succeeded in bringing my quarry into open water. Nevertheless, the game was very far from being over just yet, given that the water level is currently lower than normal that there are some very shallow areas between mushroom island and the marginal waters. Wayne found that out to his cost recently, when a hooked lump got momentarily beached on a shallow area and subsequently made its escape.
With my heart in my mouth and my pulse racing, I carefully steered my adversary to the left of the main bay, thus avoiding the shallowest area. I relaxed slightly, as the carp came through the natural channel into open water in front of the peg. But, immediately, the carp woke up big style and began ploughing backwards and forwards, like a demented soul, in the relatively shallow water beneath my feet, churning it into a dark brown soup. I hung on for dear life, fearing that at any moment the hook might pull. Somehow, it remained firmly attached and finally, at the second attempt, a mighty beast of a Mirror slid over the draw string of my landing net. I breathed an immense sigh of relief and secured the net in place (with the carp still submerged), as I paused to regain my composure.
At that moment, had I realised what mighty fish languished in the net, I would have let out the loudest, most heartfelt cry of jubilation imaginable (Hallelujah!, or words to that effect). Of course, when I came to heave my prize out of the water, it became hugely apparent that this was probably one of the A -Team Mirrors, but at this stage I had no idea which one.
On the scales it recorded a satisfying weight of 27lb 12oz. I am most grateful to the angler in peg 9 who very kindly did the honours with his smart phone, as I proudly held the magnificent creature aloft. From the quick photo I took beforehand (with the carp still on the unhooking cradle) Dean has subsequently positively identified my prize as "Big S". Without doubt this capture is at the very pinnacle of my success on Wetlands and a long awaited answer to prayer. Although the much sought after Mirror is a few pounds down in weight compared to that at the time of her introduction, in many ways this is immaterial and in no way lessens the magnitude of this feat.
My log of Wetlands big fish captures now reads thus:
27 Apr 2015 "Timms" 28lb 8oz - PEG 1.
4 July 2016 "Quasi" 22lb 4oz - PEG 7.
25 July 2016 "Long Common" 22lb 14oz - PEG 5.
30 Jan 2017 "Quasi" 22lb 4oz - 22lb 4oz PEG 4.
22 May 2017 "Timms" 27lb 8oz - PEG 5.
2 Aug 2017 "Loony" ? 22lb 6oz - PEG 7.
28 Aug 2017 "Timms" 27lb 10oz - PEG 4.
18 Sept 2017 "Timms" 28lb 8oz - PEG 7.
4 Jun 2018 "Quasi" 23lb 6oz - PEG 2.
6 Aug 2018 "Loony" 26lb 0oz - PEG 10.
24 Sep 2018 "Chuck Norris" 23lb 4oz - PEG 2.
25 Mar 2019 Mirror 22lb 4oz PEG 10. [Not Identified]
10 Jun 2019 "Big S" 27lb 12oz - PEG 10.
In conclusion then, what looked like being one of the most miserable and least productive sessions I have ever endured at Wetlands, became the most memorable session of all time, with the unbelievable capture of the most highly regarded Mirror in the lake. Undoubtedly, there are times when we question our sanity. But the triumphs make it all worthwhile. Carp fishing just doesn't get any better than this!