Sunday, 30 November 2008

Red Letter Days Pt3

Burton Mere - The Capture of the Fat Common

I first started carp fishing in June 1989 on some local ponds and pits, it wasn’t long before other anglers were telling me to get myself down to Burton Mere if I wanted to catch big carp. Every week I went fishing I kept getting told the same story and within a couple of months of converting from pleasure angler to carp angler I’d paid my first visit to what local anglers thought of as Wirral’s top carp venue.
My first session on Burton Mere was a story in itself, suffice to say the place caught my attention and during the rest of the 1989 season and the early 90’s up until 1994 I honed my skills as a carp angler and got myself a solid grounding in the basics of fishing for carp.

The syndicate carp lake known as Burton Mere was a lovely water, at the time, it held around 200 doubles with around 8 x 20’s up to 24lb but it was de-stocked for the 1993 season with most of the small fish being removed and around 30 of the biggest carp being left in there, a few more stockies were added and amongst these fish was a chunky fish that was affectionately known as ‘the fat common’.

Now the fat common was not a normal fish, it swam round most days with the top lobe of its tail poking out of the water. The fat common certainly made locating carp easy, this fish was rarely alone but due to the fact that he swam round on the surface regardless of the weather conditions he was always the first carp to be spotted on a trip around the lake. Most of the carp syndicate thought this particular carp had a problem with it’s swim bladder, I’m not sure what was wrong with the fish myself but it did appear to exhibit some strange behaviour on a daily basis!.
Despite the fat common being visible day after day, it actually turned out to be ‘the’ hardest carp to catch. For some unknown reason, this particular carp just didn’t acknowledge boilies as food!. Every carp in the lake came out to boilies in the first few weeks of the 1993 season except this one. By the time August came around this fish virtually had a price on its head, every day it would waddle round the lake with its tail out of the water refusing everything that was offered.

It was Tuesday 17th August 1993 when that finally changed, it was a hot day and I was bivvied up on a two day session at the time. Nothing was happening so I’d wound the rods in and taken a few bits and pieces to try some stalking up the far end of the lake. I’d done quite well stalking carp on Burton Mere and as I made my way up to the far corner of the lake the sight that greeted me suggested I might have a chance. Most of the carp in the lake were cruising round on the surface so I crept into position and fed them a single pouch of chum mixers.
The response from the carp was slow, at first they ignored the biscuits so I held off putting in any more and opted to wait and see if they’d respond. I’d gone fishing in a very loud and very bright aqua coloured t-shirt which wasn’t exactly the right sort of clothing for stalking carp, to counter act this I wore a black leather jacket to try and blend in more and make myself a bit less conspicuous!. I was roasting but I dare not move from my spot as the fish were literally just a few feet away from me.
Eventually, one of the mirrors nosed a chum mixer, it swam away, only to return a few minutes later with another two mirrors in tow, this time it ate the biscuit and over the next half an hour a few more chum mixers started getting taken. All the time this was going on the fat common was in the area but never once did it show any interest in taking a free chum mixer. Whilst watching the fish I’d decided to try a freelined mixer, the carp were happy to take a chum mixer close to the bank and I was up close and personal, so close I could flick them a freelined bait!.

The fat common came along the margins flanked by two slightly smaller mirrors, at a guess these fish were no more than two yards from the bank and I knew this was the chance I‘d been waiting for. I had a single chum mixer super glued to the back of a size 6 drennan super specialist hook which was tied directly to my 15lb big game line. There wasn’t exactly a lot of finesse in my floater setup but I was fishing next to a thick set of lily pads. I flicked the freelined hook bait out well in front of the 3 fish as they slowly made their way along the margins towards me, the fat common might not be interested in a chum mixer but I’d have been happy with either of the mirrors as surface captures on the syndicate lake weren’t that common!.
My heart was in my mouth as the 3 carp approached the hook bait, I’d put my chum mixer in exactly the right place and as the fish approached the bait, the fat common was right on course to intercept my floater. I gripped the rod as it slowly waddled up to the chum mixer, for a split second I actually thought it was going to take it but at the very last second it’s mouth lowered slightly in the water and it swam straight underneath my hook bait!.

Damn it, that must have been the closest any angler on the syndicate had got to getting a hook in the fat commons mouth, so near but so far!. I watched as the fish continued underneath my hook bait, it was obvious the fat common was the leader of this group of 3 carp, when he changed direction in the water, so did the two mirrors flanking him.
The carp had moved about 6 feet past my hook bait when the fat common began to turn, it came round in a slow ark until it was on a collision course with my hook bait again, the two mirrors had come with it and again I found myself clutching the rod tightly as the fat common waddled up to my single chum mixer. At the last minute its mouth rose this time and I watched in slow motion as a big pair of rubbery lips engulfed my mixer not two yards away from me!. I paused and watched as the carps mouth closed around the hook bait and the instant those rubbery lips were sealed I rolled my wrist and struck the hook home!.
That was it, all hell broke loose as both the fat common and the two mirrors all bolted for open water!. There was a big bow wave out into the lake as he made a bid for freedom. Unfortunately for the fat common, he wasn’t built for a scrap. He was a fat fish with a small tail and I was well and truly in charge with 15lb big game line going straight to my hook!. The fight didn’t last long, once the fat common had gone 20 yards or so he pretty much gave up the fight and just waddled round in circles until he came to the landing net. I slipped the net under him and gave it one massive shout, ‘fat common’ I yelled at the top of my voice!. One of the syndicate members heard my shout and came to investigate. ‘Fat common, off the top’ I said whilst giving it the clenched fist like you do!.

Chris smiled and said ‘I’m off to get the camera’, he disappeared for a while and when he returned we weighed the fish and rattled off a few photographs on both our cameras. For the record, the fat common weighed just 16lb 4oz, this was 3-4lb lower than the average estimate from fellow syndicate members but at the time in August 1993, he was both a pb common and a pb surface capture and given how hard he was to tempt I still rate and remember this capture all these years later.

The Fat Common from Day Ticket/Syndicate Carp Water Burton Mere

I was glad to be able to unzip my leather jacket, whilst getting absorbed in the moment I’d forgotten just how hot it was!. With the pictures done I released the fat common and thanked him for making my day.

This carp had confounded everybody by avoiding capture and I’d been the only angler to get him on the bank and in spectacular fashion, I was just a little bit pleased with myself that day!.
Chris, the guy who’d helped with the photographs, he was a talented angler and he was the only other person to work out that the fat common just didn’t eat boilies. He became the next and only other angler to bank this unique carp when he caught it twice inside a couple of weeks on maggots. Apart from his two captures and my surface capture I don’t think the fat common ever saw the bank again. He continued to annoy the rest of the syndicate by swimming round on the surface every day but apart from the two captures on maggots, he never did slip up again whilst I was a member of the syndicate.

Tight Lines

Red Letter Days Pt2

A Special Cheshire Carp.

My second instalment of red letter days is about a carp fishing trip to a local Cheshire carp water, the date of this fishing session was 3rd May 2005. Early May is always a good time to be out fishing and the first week of this particular month is traditionally a time I head south to one of the Oxfordshire gravel pits at Linear. This year I’d decided to give Linear a miss, the previous May it had been stupidly busy and I’d decided not to visit the lakes again, the prices were getting silly and the shear amount of anglers fishing meant I’d struggle to get on the fish. I’d done my fishing time in Oxfordshire and this year I’d decided to stay nearer to home.
One of my clubs had an up and coming water that was beginning to throw out some decent carp, the club has a publicity ban but in recent years it has been relaxed and pictures could be published as long as the water wasn’t named. This particular Cheshire carp water was a fair size at around 15 acres. There was a piece of bank that was out of bounds and it was here the carp would spend most of their time. The carp knew the ’no fishing’ bank was a safe area and even fishing at maximum range it was a real struggle to reach the fish, if there was any kind of wind blowing you couldn’t get near them.
Two swims in particular gave access to the ‘no fishing’ bank, both swims were ‘points’ and they were simply known as ‘big point’ and ‘little point’. The little point was my personal favourite but on this particular carp fishing session I dropped into the big point despite my favourite swim being empty. The reason for this was a nice steady wind blowing up the lake towards the car park and away from little point. I figured the carp might follow the wind but I wasn’t sure as the out of bounds bank was such a magnate for the fish so the big point was a compromise on my part.
I was set up and cast out by mid afternoon, I’d seen a few fish on the far bank so I was happy with my swim choice but I wasn’t convinced I had the range on my casting, despite having 12ft 3.5lb test curve infinity x rods it was still hard work getting a bait cast to the far bank.

3rd May 2005 was the night Liverpool knocked Chelsea out of the champions league before going on to win it. I was settled into my swim with a small radio on listening to the build up to the game. With 20 minutes before kick off a carp rolled on the far margin, I knew my bait was cast short so I decided to have a go at repositioning the rod as the wind had dropped a little. It took me a few goes for my timing to click but eventually everything fell into place and I hammered a single chick pea hookbait to the far bank, it was such a good cast I was 50/50 about it hitting the far bank itself but I resisted temptation to feather the cast and it landed as tight to the bank as I could have hoped, a distance of around 120yds with 15lb line and no shock leader. You know you get a feeling for when something is right and I knew this was the one.
With my recast rod sitting back on the pod and my delkims all back on again I settled down to listen to the game. Even through my radio you could tell Liverpool were up for the game, the commentators voice was drowned out by the kop singing ‘you’ll never walk alone’ before kick off and when the game started you could hear the crowd as loud as the commentator every time something controversial happened.

I was sitting listening to the game and watching the water for fish when the commentators voice rose up a couple of octaves, I focused on the game when I heard Yeeessssss Liverpool have scored!. I didn’t get the chance to shout yesss myself, at exactly the same time as the goal went in the recast rod just tore off!. The game had to wait, I was on the rod and into the fish straight away. I wound down and struck hard, there was a lot of mono out and I wanted to be in contact with the carp as soon as possible. When the line tightened and the rod whooped over I knew straight away that the fish was kiting to the left. There were no snags here so I could just keep a steady pressure and a bit of side strain to make sure it didn’t go too far down the lake. The carp came in slowly and it felt like a reasonable sized fish. Only when the fish was in the margins did it start to pull back a little, I spent 5 minutes trying to get the carps head up as it bored up and down the margins in front of me. At one point this carp was threatening to take out my other two rods but by this time I was able to exert enough pressure to control the situation and eventually my prize popped up for the net and went in first time.

Cheshire carp of 21lb 6oz caught at just the right time!

I secured the fish in the margins and went straight for the unhooking mat, scales and my camera gear. Once I had the camera and unhooking mat in position I lifted my fish from the water, unhooked it and got it weighed as quickly as I could. The carp weighed 21lb 6oz, not the biggest fish I’ve ever caught but I hadn’t had a 20 for quite a while at that time and the fact that it had picked up my bait just as my team scored made it a very special fish for me. I’m not sure if the fish actually has a name but to me, this particular carp will always be know as ‘luis’, after luis garcia who scored…or didn’t score?! that all important goal.

I took a few pictures and returned the carp to the water. Despite another good recast nothing else happened on the fishing front that session. Liverpool went on to beat Chelsea that night and ultimately went on to lift the European cup after that legendary comeback in Istanbul. Me, I remember the semi final just as well, knocking out Chelsea and catching a 21lb 6oz Cheshire carp made that particular session a very memorable one!.

Tight Lines

Red Letter Days Pt1

Red letter days are those brilliant days in carp fishing when everything seems to fall into place and you get a good result, sometimes its just one carp, other times it can be a big hit of fish, either way these kind of days don’t come along very often and when they do, you remember them for years to come. My first instalment of red letter days is about my first ever carp fishing session on famous Yorkshire carp water selby 3 lakes.

I’d been travelling to linear in April/May time for a few years and fancied a change of venue. At the time, April 2001, selby 3 lakes had not long changed from syndicate to day ticket and after a chat with my mate barney we decided to have a 2 day trip to this famous Yorkshire carp water rather than our usual trip to Oxford.
Little did I know just how packed out selby 3 lakes gets, even though we’d booked a place on the lake I wasn’t expecting every single swim to be taken!. On top of it being packed, the two anglers due to leave were pulling off two dud swims on lake one which meant me and barney were going to be fishing a poor swim regardless of where we actually wanted to be.

I wasn’t happy, being herded in like sheep and having no room to move was not my idea of a fishing trip. I like to angle for my fish, I like to go looking for my carp then watch them and work out the best way to catch them, its simple fishing and the only thing that really spoils my chances of catching is other anglers occupying swims and blocking me from getting my baits on the fish. Selby 3 lakes was looking like my worst nightmare and having set up camp half way up the right hand bank from the bungalow on lake one, I had no choice but to live with it for two nights.

Once I was set up and cast out the complaining started, I had itchy feet and I wanted to move out of my dud swim to try and give myself a chance of catching. My baits were out for roughly two hours when I decided on a plan of action. I wound the rods in and did a couple of laps of the lake to try and pin down the carp. They were stacked up in lake 3 and one particular bar had fish cruising up and down it constantly. There looked to be some right lumps in lake 3 and with only two nights fishing I figured I had to get a swim in there as soon as possible. Unfortunately, nobody was going home the first day so I spent my first night about as far away from the fish as I could possibly be.

Needless to say I blanked that first night and in the morning I went for the first of several walks round the lake. I think it was on my 4th journey round that I noticed an angler on one of the cut throughs had just started to put some of his gear outside his bivvy. I stopped and enquired what he was doing and it turned out he was starting a slow pack up. That was enough for me, I virtually ran back to my swim to start moving but instead of packing up I grabbed a gas bottle and went straight back to lake 3 to lay claim to the swim. I don’t know why I did that but I was so glad I did as two anglers arrived just after I’d claimed the swim!. I went back for the rest of my gear and a couple of hours later, I was set up in a flier of a peg watching lumps cruising along a bar to my left and the odd fish in the cut through to my right. Unfortunately the new arrivals had to take the only peg left and that was my old peg!
Over half of our trip was gone but at least my persistence had got me onto some fish, a few hours later the guy on my left began to pack up too so I was straight round to barney and by nightfall we were both fishing lake 3 and on the carp.

I’d watched the fish for a few hours and decided the best plan of action was to cast one rod to the bar where the carp were cruising and the other tight to the far side of the cut though where I thought carp might pass if they decided to move from lake 3 into lake 2 or vice versa. Being a day ticket water and seeing how busy it was I opted for single hookbaits. I figured there was more than enough bait going in already and that I was probably fishing over someone else’s freebies anyway so single hookbaits seemed the logical choice.

I woke up on the last morning with nothing to show for my efforts. Looking around I noticed most anglers were recasting first thing in the morning so I left my rods alone. I was due off late afternoon anyway so it was all or nothing for me.
I’d dozed off for a while early afternoon and was awoken by a full on screamer from the rod fished in the cut through. I was on the rod straight away as instinct kicked in but it took me a few more seconds to clear my head and get focused on what I was doing. The carp ran away from the cut through and went into deep water in front of me. It felt like a solid lump and it took me quite a while to get the upper hand, once it was in front of me boring up and down the margins I knew it was a matter of time before it came to the net. The water in selby 3 lakes was quite clear and I could see the fish deep down in the margins. This made me nervous because it looked to be a decent fish. Several more minutes passed and the fish began to tire and come up in the water, by this time barney was at my side with the net and a few minutes later my first selby carp went into the net first time.

Selby 3 Lakes 25lb 8oz Mirror Carp, I felt like I'd won for a change!

I was delighted, when I’d arrived I couldn’t see anything but doom and gloom with so many carp anglers on the lake. With just an hour or so to packing up time, my hard work and tenacity in getting onto the carp had paid off. The carp was unhooked and weighed in at 25lb 8oz, a proper 3 lakes lump. The pictures followed and my mate barney did a cracking job as a small crowd of anglers looked on. Once the pictures were completed I released the fish back to lake 3 and watched it slowly disappear into the depths with a big smile on my face.
I recast my rod back to the cut through again in the hope of picking up another carp but none were forthcoming. I only fished for another hour, most of which I spent packing my gear away. I wasn’t sure about selby 3 lakes as a venue, there were some big carp in there for sure but the sheer number of anglers fishing there made it a nightmare. Despite this, the drive home was made so much easier with the thought that I’d actually won this time.

Tight Lines

Frustrating Times

It’s nearing the end of February and I haven’t been fishing since the first week of January. It’s been work, work and more work since the turn of the year. My carp fishing sessions throughout the winter only total 5 hours per week but despite this, I still miss them when I can’t get away for a few hours. At the moment, I know I’ll be fishing again from the middle of March onwards, simply because I’ve got two and a half weeks off work then. I had a lot of holidays left over and being unable to carry them over into the next tax year, I opted to take them all as late as I possibly could. March is a good time to be out, it’s still regarded as being too cold by most fair weather carp anglers yet the carp on most north west lakes will be starting to stir around this time and I thought I’d try and make the most of the fish beginning to switch on after a long winter.

No fishing for an active carp angler like myself is frustrating, one thing I’ve kept going over in my mind these past few months is my plans for the year ahead. Through the carp fishing forums I’ve kept in touch with happenings on the bank and one thing that keeps getting repeated over and over again is the sheer amount of carp anglers one of my north west fishing clubs have let in. Every angler I’ve spoken to has reported large amounts of new members walking round waters asking questions about lake stocks etc. A few of the waters have actually been rammed out with no swims left and this is in February, a time when traditionally, only dedicated anglers are sticking it out.
The constant reports of busy north west carp lakes has been playing on my mind for the last month and at the moment I don’t seem to be able to make any firm plans for the waters I’m going to fish this year. If things are as bad as some of my mates are saying I may well find myself river carping again come June.
At the moment I plan to fish several north west venues this year. I tend not to target one particular carp water and fish it through thick and thin. I prefer to target certain venues at certain times of the year when I know they will fish well and with this in mind, I’ve divided my fishing up and plan to spend the old close season on one water, then move onto another water which still observes the old close season and will open on June 16th. Fishing like this I’ll get the best time on both waters and when we reach late summer and things have got harder, I’ll move again onto the rivers where I know the carp won’t have been subject to any angling pressure.

I’ve a few things I’d like from my fishing this year, strangely enough neither of them relate to the carp that seem to take up all my time. I’d quite like to catch a north west wels catfish and I do have access to one particular water that can help me achieve this aim. I’ll make some time for a couple of wels catfish sessions when we reach high summer and I know the temperatures will be plenty high enough for this species of fish to feed. The other aim I have is to catch a personal best barbel and I intend to save this one until I start my river carping later in the year as I can combine fishing for both carp and barbel when the time comes.
My 2008 fishing plans are flexible, obviously if my fishing clubs waters turn out to be a busy as some angling friends say they may be then I can always move on to somewhere else, at the end of the day, I like a bit of piece and quiet when I go fishing and I need swims to be available if I’m going to be able to locate and move onto fish with a view to catching them. If I find I can’t do this then I’ll change my plans and find a new venue rather than put up with crowds of anglers.

Free Spirit Rucksack, I was lucky enough to win this in the raffle!

I’ll end this weeks diary entry by mentioning the Bromborough carp show that happened on Friday evening (22nd Feb). Danny Fairbrass and the korda developments team were at the show and the talk Danny Fairbrass did was very good. The microphone broke down a couple of times during his slide show and to his credit, he carried on and didn’t let it phase him. There were plenty of hints and tips for people beginning carp fishing, I didn’t agree with everything Danny Fairbrass had to say in his slide show but I enjoyed it none the less. I managed to pick up one of the free korda dvd’s too, it’s called ’carp, tackle tactics and tips’ and although I haven’t had time to watch it yet, I’m sure it will provide me with a few hours viewing during my absence from the bank.
The Bromborough carp night was in aid of macmillan cancer support and being a good cause, I always have a tenners worth of raffle tickets to show my support. Up until this particular carp show I’d never actually won anything but I got lucky this time and came away with a nice free spirit rucksack. My new rucksack is like a box and has extending legs, the top of the rucksack actually converts into a table and I’m sure it will come in handy for overnighters in the summer. If I find myself fishing out of a bivvy again I certainly won’t have to do my cooking on the floor like I usually do. I’d just like to say thank you to Peter and Kirk for organising the event and thanks for the nice prize, I hope I’m as lucky when I finally manage to get out fishing again.

Tight Lines

Keeping One Step Ahead

The north west carp scene is getting to be a bit of a nightmare these days. Over the years I’ve watched things change and without doubt the biggest influences have been the rise in popularity of both carp fishing and the internet. It’s so easy these days to just log onto a fishing website, post a question, then get an immediate answer. Good north west carp waters are now getting hammered because it’s so easy to get information on where the big carp are in our region and some anglers don’t realise they are actually making their own fishing harder when they give things away so easily.
Finding big north west carp doesn’t require any effort or discipline anymore, information is freely available on fishing forums and unfortunately behaviour standards are dropping as competition for swims on our popular carp waters increases. One thing you have to accept about the modern north west carp scene is that sooner or later, another carp angler is going to see you catch a carp and jump into your swim!. Carp fishing has always been the same, the minority of anglers work hard at finding the carp and prebaiting swims to get results whilst the majority of anglers just go camping. If a camper is lucky enough to see another angler get a good result you can guarantee he’ll be set up in the poor guys swim next week. The camper won’t care if the other angler has spent months of time, effort and a considerable amount of money finding the carp and prebaiting in an attempt to catch them, he’s only interested in catching a fish and he doesn’t care at who’s expense that might be!.
So how do you keep ahead of the hungry carp anglers who are just waiting for an angler to get things right before they swoop on them?. The short answer to that is you can’t, no matter how careful you might be, sooner or later someone will see you catch a fish from a certain area of the lake then start fishing there themselves because they saw you catch. If you ever hear the term ‘sheep‘ used on the carp forums, these are the type of anglers being referred to. All you can do is give a little thought to how you approach your own fishing and try to be as discreet as you can, what follows are a few hints and tips that have helped me avoid the attentions of swooping carp anglers.

Bite Alarms
No self respecting carp angler should be without a remote system these days, I’ve seen it written that noise can be transmitted down the line when a bite alarm sounds. I can’t say I’ve ever had my head underwater when I’ve had a run so I’m not sure, although it does sound plausible!. Not only will a remote help you combat this possible effect, it will also give you something far more important and that’s discretion. The ability to shut off your alarms and just use a quiet remote sounder carried in your pocket means remote systems like delkim txi's are worth their weight in gold. If you can get runs and remain undetected by other anglers on the lake then your already ahead of the game and there’s no way I’d ever consider going fishing without my txi’s and remote sounder box!. Obviously there’s more to this than just having your sounder box on a low setting. Finding the fish is the important part, after that, you should give a little thought to swim choice and ask yourself a few extra questions. How many swims can I reach the fish from? Can I land the fish safely from every swim? Of the swims available, are any of them out of sight from other anglers?. All you need to do is apply a little bit of extra thought to your swim choice and tuck yourself away. If things go your way you’ll be walking off the lake complaining about how rubbish the fishing is with your wet landing net concealed in your holdall!.

Delkim TXi Plus bite alarms, excellent for remaining discreet

If you have to ask another angler on the lake to do some pictures for you you’re screwed!. Not only will he know where your fishing, he’ll also have ample opportunity to get a good look at your baits, your rigs and just about anything else your doing too. It’s also likely every other carp angler on the lake will be up to date on what you’ve had and where you caught it from when he’s finished chatting to them!. Learning to do self takes is an absolute must if you don’t want to get swim swooped by another carp angler!.

Most bailiffs are nice guys and they do a great job but be aware that what you tell them, they will repeat it to every angler on the lake!. With this in mind, be pleasant to any bailiff you meet but tell him nothing about your captures if you value your peace and quiet. I’ve found the best way to deal with them is to moan about how badly the lake is fishing, not only does it conceal your captures but it will help give the impression that the lakes fishing hard to other anglers, which in turn, may well help send some of them to another water or keep mobile phone anglers away.

Carp Baits
Be prepared to throw a few blinds when fishing. Whatever bait your using keep it under wraps, your bound to get visitors to your swim at one time or another, carp fishing can be quite a social hobby after all. I always have a bag of the worst bait I can find in full view for other anglers to observe. It’s a good idea to leave the odd rubbish bait on the floor when you leave too, if another angler finds the dropped bait he’ll get the impression that’s what your using. Its important to look transparent, leaving your bait in full view and telling people what your ‘using’ gives the impression that you don’t hide anything and if your lucky enough to be regarded as an open carp angler you’ll be able to winkle out the odd carp without anyone being any the wiser.

Rod Positioning
The position of your rods is important. When another carp angler walks into your swim one of the first things he will observe is the direction of your lines from the rod tip. It’s human nature to do this and all anglers visiting someone else’s swim do it. It gives the visiting angler an idea of the general area you may be fishing and that’s information that can be concealed by having your rod tips underwater. With no line visible from the rod tip it’s a lot harder to pin down an area someone might be fishing and the further you can get your rod tips submerged the harder it will be for your visitor to work out what direction you’ve cast in.

My rods with the tips underwater, ideal for preventing other carp anglers from working out which direction you've cast in. The other rod is missing as I've just landed a fish from a hotspot I've managed to keep to myself for a few years!

Wet Nets and Unhooking Mats
Wet landing nets and unhooking mats are a dead giveaway that a carp has been caught, I always make a point of putting my mat away as soon as the fish is returned. Most anglers leave theirs out to dry and they might as well hang up a big advert saying ‘carp caught here’ for everyone to see. Drying your unhooking mat and landing net at home is a minor inconvenience and a price well worth paying if it conceals your capture and helps keep your going swim free of other anglers. Once you’ve landed a fish, you can position your net in the water for the rest of the session and put it away wet, if anyone comments you can always say you’re just being cautious and that you like to be ‘prepared’ and have your net ready in case you get a run!.

Casting and Baiting
If possible, casting and baiting should be done either out of sight of other anglers or after dark, particularly if your prebaiting. Casting in the dark can be quite tricky but with the use of a line clip and a line marker its possible to hit the same spot every time, even in the dark. My preference is for a small length of size 4 pole elastic tied on the line in a simple overhand knot. The elastic locks on itself when pulled tight and when you want to remove it, a simple pull on one of the tags and it’s off. You need to be as thoughtful with your casting and baiting as you do deciding swim choice, if you can do it un-noticed by other anglers all the better. If an angler pays you a visit whilst your dealing with a fish, unhook the fish and drop your rig back in the water where the other angler can’t see it and never recast until he’s gone. As a rough guide, if your visitor has any kind of angling etiquette he’ll wish you luck and leave you to your work, if he’s a swooper, he’ll hang around like a bad smell waiting to get a glimpse of your bait and rig and where your going to put it. In these situations I usually chat but give one word answers until they leave and I never sort the rod out whilst someone I don’t know or trust is milling around, even if it means missing out on the chance of banking another fish. It’s better to keep your productive areas concealed for another day rather than hand them on a plate to another carp angler.

Carp fishing is hard enough on our north west carp waters and the above paragraphs aren’t exactly the kind of carp fishing tips you’d expect to read but all are valid when it comes to our harder circuit waters and getting amongst the carp they contain. If other anglers know a lake is fishing well you can expect it to be busy as the mobile phones start ringing so anything you can do to give the impression it’s quiet is a help to you.
There are other little tricks anglers can use to stay ahead but they very much depend on circumstances. One simple trick I used to get myself a bonus fish was the use of the flash on my camera. Sometimes carp can be very predictable and on a few waters I’ve noticed that fish will turn up in a certain area of the lake at a certain time of day. If you know what time the carp pass through an area you can drop in there a few hours in advance, set your traps and fish through the productive time. I’d been doing just that on one water and was unlucky enough to be seen. This resulted in the swim having a bivvy in it every weekend despite it being unproductive most of the time. Although I’d been caught out and the angler who caught me was fishing my swim, I’d hidden my spots well and he hadn’t caught. One time, an hour after dark, I went behind the back of my brolly and took 4 or 5 photographs of nothing. The flash was seen by the angler who was hogging the swim I wanted to get back in and next time I went fishing he was encamped in the swim I’d used the flash in!. Talk about extracting the urine!. Little did he know he’d been thrown a blind and he bought it completely. I managed to secure the swim I really wanted and when it was quiet I snuck my baits into position and managed to winkle out another carp at the productive time.

Being discreet about the carp you catch and the methods you use to catch them really pays dividends. In a world of instant communication via mobile phones and internet, keeping a low profile will keep you ahead of the game and ensure it’s you whose rewarded for your hard work and not somebody else.

Tight Lines

Winter Carp Location

Locating Winter Carp

I’ve fished for carp in winter for the last 17 years or so now. Depending on the water I fish, I can sometimes catch more carp in winter than I do in summer. Obviously having access to a well stocked carp lake helps but even on a productive winter carp water, locating the carp is still everything when it comes to catching a fish at this time of year.
Looking back at the time I’ve spent carp fishing in winter, I’d have to say the best advice I can give is to throw away the rule book. Yes it’s true the fishing is harder, the carps metabolism does slow down and generally they become less active but when it comes to the most important part, actually finding them, the bottom line is they will be where they will be. I’ve found carp in so many different places in winter, shallow water, deep water, off the bottom, on the back of the wind, in the teeth of an icy wind, they can be just about anywhere but they absolutley have to be found in order to catch consistently when its cold.
The only way to find the carp is to get out there and get fishing. By far the best pointer to getting a bait on the fish is actually spotting them moving. If you see a fish roll or jump during the winter months then get on it straight away. If you just sit there and do nothing when a carp shows then you deserve to blank. Personally, I’m usually already getting my gear together ready for a move before the ripple of a crashing fish has disappeared. That one fish showing can sometimes be the key to finding an area the carp hold up in so ignore it at your peril!.

The result of observation and casting at a showing carp in winter, 25lb 2oz common from boxing day 2007

With no carp sighted things get a lot harder. This is where water craft and previous experience comes in. Myself, I’ve found that carp will nearly always hold up in an area they feel safe and in most cases that will be around some kind of feature. That’s not really rocket science is it? Any feature is a potential carp holding area in winter and as such should be fished a few times before being discounted. In my own fishing, I tend to arrange features into a certain order in my head then fish them in turn, the order in which I fish any features is purely down to experience, the features I’ve found carp around the most in winter are the ones I fish first.

If the lake I’m fishing has any kind of snags at all, these will be the first areas I’ll look at and fish. Carp love snaggy areas and it’s not uncommon to find the fish stacked up against and round say, a fallen tree for example. One of the best examples of carp stacked up around snags is Cheshire carp water bolesworth castle on the stoke on trent card. During the winter months the carp hold up against the willow tree snags that are opposite the first swim in the field at the end of the woods. The first time I found the carp there I had 4 double takes (both rods off at the same time) in the first hour landing all 8 fish. Finding the carp and being first to cash in on fishing their holding area, the action I had in that swim was frantic to say the least. I fished short day sessions from midday until 4pm in that swim and during the winter I averaged 5 fish per session until I was caught playing a fish by a fellow member, once word got out the swim was never the same although you’ll still catch from it today.

Winter mirror from the willow tree snags on bolesworth

Dead Lily Pads
After snags, dead lily pads would be my next choice for finding winter carp. I’ve seen it written that dead lily beds offer the carp a bit more warmth, a sort of insulation if you like. I’m not entirely sure that’s true, having never taken the water temperature in such areas I wouldn’t like to say if the ‘more warmth’ theory is right or wrong, either way, dead lily pads can be exceptionally good holding areas and are well worth checking out during the winter months. One lake where dead lily pads used to produce carp in winter is former day ticket carp water burton mere. The extensive lily pads at the house end of the mere often held carp during the colder months and it was here that I caught my first ‘winter 20' on the 3rd January 1994, just an hour after the lake had thawed out.

First ever winter 20 at 22lb 4oz, caught from a dead set of lily pads

Burton Mere circa 1994, this whole area is dead lily pads right out as far the the island on the right, a top carp holding area!

Dead Weedbeds
Similar to and of equal importance as dead lily pads, if there are dead weedbeds on your lake these areas are well worth investigating and sooner rather than later when you’re looking at locating winter carp. On one little known north west carp water I used to fish, there was a small weedbed in one area of the lake and it was here I quickly located what turned out to be just about every carp in the lake. This particular dead weedbed never failed to produce and I banked the lakes largest inhabitant along with all his mates, all between late November and early march one winter. The weedbed was like a magnate for the fish and no matter what the conditions the carp where always in or around it.

Big winter mirror of 25lb 6oz caught from a dead weedbed

Dead Reed Beds
Again similar to lily pads and weedbeds, areas of dead reeds can quite often hold carp and if they are present on your lake they should be investigated. There was a small bed of reeds on burton mere water woodland pool, the carp hung around the reeds during the winter and runs would come from reedbed like clockwork, I remember it was a standing joke between me and my mate, whoever had a rod on the reedbed would catch a fish at exactly 13.05pm!. Run time was so predictable I once stopped an angler in mid conversation, tapped my watch and said 'sorry mate, its run time and the left hand rod is about to go!'. With that, the left hand rod duly rattled off and the look on the poor guys face was a picture!. It was just one of those funny moments in fishing and it proved that carp can sometimes be very easy to catch in winter, once you know where to put your baits.

Early 90's winter carp from the reedbed behind me, we always caught at 13.05pm!

Overhanging Trees
You usually associate overhanging trees with margin swims and it applies to both lake and island margins. Trees overhanging the water can provide cover and shelter for carp and after snags, lily pads, weedbeds and reed beds, overhanging trees would be the next feature I’d investigate. One such water where overhanging trees can produce carp is famous north west carp water capesthorne hall. Capesthorne hall main lake might be a very well known carp water but what isn’t so well known are the areas that can produce carp in winter. One of the very best areas for catching a winter carp on capesthorne main lake is a swim known as the plug hole. There are trees overhanging the water opposite the plug hole and baits positioned under these trees can produce carp during the winter months. Runs don’t come along every session as it’s not the easiest of waters. However, if you can get some time in the plughole swim you have a great chance of bagging yourself a real winter whacker.

Capesthorne winter mirror, the water behind me is frozen and this fish came from a 20yd strip of ice free water that stretched under the trees in the plughole

In the absence of any of the above features to investigate I usually start fishing on the back of the wind, not only is it more comfortable during the winter months, it enables you to set up in such a way as to be able to see most of the lake. With none of the above features to go on I’ll get myself comfortable and watch the water for signs of carp. In the winter months this requires a lot of concentration which is why I prefer short intense fishing sessions during the colder months. I don’t enjoy being bivvy bound at this time of year and I think you work harder when you’re on limited time.

There is always the marker rod if you’re prepared to sacrifice a session or two, unseen underwater features are just as likely to be winter carp holding areas as the features I’ve outlined above. Remember, the carp will be where they feel safe and only the carp themselves can decide where that is. Personally, I think a marker rod is vastly over rated. I’ve been in the fortunate position of seeing a couple of north west carp lakes emptied of water and the bottom was nothing like the impression I had from the marker. With this in mind, I no longer bother feature finding with a marker rod, I do have one but I only use it for baiting up open water swims accurately. As a feature finding tool I think marker rods are rubbish and I much prefer to let the carp show me where they are prepared to feed, even in winter.

In order to catch carp in winter you really just have to get out there and do it, on one particular 16 acre sand pit I eventually pinned the carp down to a shallow area barely 2 feet deep. The pit had been a working sand pit and when it was flooded things were left behind. In the area I found the carp I would occasionally get my hook caught on some rotting wood. Bits of this wood came in on the hook now and again and it was the only feature in the area. Despite the water being shallow, there would be carp round this feature constantly and I only found it by being there and watching the water constantly over a few short sessions.

On my current winter water, the margins and shallows are superb in summer but during the winter, the carp prefer deeper water. Although the lake is pretty featureless, all the areas I’ve caught consistently from in winter do have one thing in common. I regularly retrieve bloodworm on the hook. I’m constantly making mental notes of the areas I’m picking up fresh bloodworm from and in the absence of carp sightings I try these areas whilst I’m waiting and watching for a carp to show itself.

Top left corner for a winter carp holding area on Capesthorne Hall

Sometimes locating winter carp can be a long and painful process, particularly if your chosen water has a low stock of fish. You won’t catch anything sat at home though. Keep watching the water and move on a showing fish straight away. If you can’t find them then start investigating the features in the lake one by one whilst keeping your eyes peeled for showing fish, not just rolling and crashing fish but bubblers too, if you see signs of bubbling then keep an eye on the area, if its gas, the bubbles won’t move but if its fish you can expect to see maybe a small amount of movement as the carp grub about on the bottom. If you’re not sure then investigate it with a rod anyway, sometimes you can just stumble across a productive winter hotspot by accident, if you don’t try the area or go with your hunch you’ll never know.

To give a rough idea about my own mindset when it comes to winter carp location, I'm quite happy to accept that when I fish a new water in winter, it might be the winter after before I manage to pin down a holding area and start getting my rewards, sometimes you can get lucky and find carp easily but I always expect it to be a long and drawn out process of elimination as I search different areas and continually look for the fish.

Finally, and for the lazy tossers out there, other anglers can be a help in winter, if you’ve no idea where the carp are and you see someone else catch then it can pay to keep an eye on the area they are fishing and what they are doing. I’m not very comfortable about using this method to get on the carp in winter but the way the north west carp scene is, most anglers would jump in your grave for the chance of catching a fish. I've been stung a few times in the past when other anglers have stumbled accross me playing a fish then jumped on my hard work so I now operate on the ‘do unto others as they do to you’ principle, not very nice I know but all’s fair when it comes down to locating winter carp!.

Tight Lines.

Winter Carp Rigs and Tactics, click below to watch

Winter Carp Diary Pt11

Since starting my winter carp diary back in late Novemeber 2007 I’ve always known that the end of the Christmas holidays would also effectively see the end of my winter carp fishing for this particular fishing season. For the last few months my work colleagues have been working late and putting in the hours to get ready for the arrival of a new computer system at work. I study at college in the evenings so the only time I have to help out at work is my weekends and my fishing time.

With work and time pressures piling up it was time to hang up the rods and give the winter carping a miss for a few months. Hanging up the rods is hard at any time but when your on top of things and catching some good fish its even harder!. The festive period had been very good to me, a 25lb+ winter common on boxing day, 5 carp to 18lb on new years eve and a new years day 20 were the highlights. I wish I could have carried on fishing through January and February but there was no competition when it came down to it, I had to put the hours in at work.

My new years day result was published last week and its now early February as I write this short piece, I haven’t been carp fishing since new years day and it’s unlikely I’ll see the bank again before the spring as my weekends are now work only until we get on top of things.

A Few Loose Ends
When you register a blog on you also get several other accounts and through these accounts I can monitor traffic through my site and through the rss feed that it delivers. I can also see what pages are being returned in google searches and one that comes up with monotonous regularity is Capesthorne uncovered pt2. Part two hasn’t actually been written yet. I’m extremely busy trying to balance work and college study so I’ve no time to go fishing at the moment let alone complete the capesthorne piece. If I do find myself with a few spare hours I’ll be out with the lure bag enjoying a short pike fishing session rather than sat in front of a word processor!. I will finish part 2 when my workload eases off a little bit so in the meantime those of you interested in it will just have to be patient, I’m sorry lads but it’s not a high priority at the moment, in fact it’s not a priority at all.

I do have a few other bits and pieces that have been written to ‘fill in’ between blanks when the carp fishing is slow and I’ll try and get the odd offering published now and again but for now, there won’t be any more updates to this blog until the end of march at the earliest.

I wish you all well with your winter carp fishing and I hope you all bag a whacker soon.

Tight Lines.

Winter Carp Diary Pt10

After ending 2007 on a high with 5 carp to 18lb on new years eve I was keen to get back to the lake to try and open my account for 2008. The journey to the lake was a bit shorter than usual due to the lack of traffic on the roads, new years day morning was the quietest I've ever known and at one stage I felt I could well have been the only person on the motorway.
I arrived at the lake around 10.30am, I was immediately scanning the water for signs of carp as soon as the lake came into view. I spent a few minutes sat in the car park just watching the water before I got out of the car and went for a walk around. On new years eve the carp had done a disappearing act on me during the afternoon so I figured they wouldn't be on my baited area. I looked there first anyway but my gut feeling about them not being there was right. I found them in the bay round to the left. The fish were stacked up in the same area I'd caught from on boxing day and on the saturday between christmas and new year. There seemed to be quite a few carp stacked up in the bay and as I dropped my gear in the bay swim I was confident of catching my first north west winter carp of 2008.
I started off with one rod on a spot I'd seen several fish rolling over the christmas period, I'd picked up a low double mirror from the area last saturday but I'd seen several other fish roll in the area and it was close to the bank and an easy cast. A single piece of peparami on the hair rig and a two bait pva mesh bag completed the setup, my rig was the usual 8 inches of kryston silkworm with a kamasan b175 hook in size 6 that was tied knotless knot style. I made a short 25 yard cast and trapped the line as the lead hit the water, I let the lead sink on a tight line and it landed on the bottom with a nice thud. Once the first rod was set I cast the other rod to a mark about 70 yards out, there were fish actively moving in this area and I was confident the second rod in particular would produce something during the five hours I had ahead of me. The baits were out by 11.10am and I sat back to concentrate on watching the water for signs of fish.
It really pays to watch the water when you're looking at locating winter carp. The time I'd spent looking for carp over the last few weeks had really paid dividends and I was on them again today. I'd have preferred a little wind to be blowing today but it stayed flat calm. It made locating carp easier but at the same time, a lead landing on the fish was harder to get away with and there was always a chance they would vacate the area as they had done on new years eve.
After casting out both rods things seemed to go quiet for a while, the carp certainly stopped showing in the area I'd put my second rod. Nothing showed for over half an hour after my leads had hit the water. When a carp did give itself away it was to the right of my second rod and it looked like the fish had drifted off a little after me casting out. I was so busy looking for fish on my right that it came as a bit of a surprise when the left hand delkim bleeped twice, this was the rod that was positioned close to my bank. I focused on the left hand rod and a few seconds later the tip pulled down and the delkim sounder box signalled a slow run. I was on it quickly and after a quick strike the fish was on. After only a few seconds of playing this fish I had just one thought in my mind, it was heavy. No charging round, it just plodded round in semi circles on an ever shortening line just as my boxing day biggie had done. By the time the carp was in the margins I was convinced my first fish of 2008 was a 20+. I caught a glimpse of the fish in the water, it was a common, a long fish that did indeed look like a twenty. After a short scare close in with the other rod I slipped the landing net under the fish. It certainly looked to be over the magic twenty mark and my initial guess was somewhere around 21lb-ish. I secured the net and got everything ready for the weighing and pictures. As I lifted the fish from the water I knew it was a new years day twenty and the scales gave me a reading of 20lb 6oz. Well that was it for me, I didn't care what happened for the rest of the day, I'd kicked off 2008 with a cracking twenty pound winter common.

First carp of 2008, new years day twenty at 20lb 6oz

Once the photographic duties were completed I returned my prize to the water. I watched the fish disappear out of sight then turned my attention back to the rod. The peparami was still on so I simply tied a fresh pva mesh bag and dropped the rod back on the same spot. Nothing else happened during the afternoon, it took a few more hours of observation to work out that the carp had indeed moved to the entrance to the bay. It was just before 3pm when I worked this out and I wound in the right hand rod and repositioned it to the area I'd seen the odd fish. I planned to fish until 4.30pm so I had an hour and a half with a bait in the last area I'd seen a carp. With time running out I packed my gear away, by 4.15pm my tackle box, camera gear and unhooking mat were all neatly away and my rucksack was ready to go, only the landing net, pod and rods remained out. I'd already decided to pull the left hand rod in first, I'd caught a twenty on this rod but no fish had showed in or near the area for hours so I bent down to wind it in and as I did the right hand rod ripped off. I was quite surprised, I'd already accepted I was only going to get one fish so this one was a real 'last knockings' bonus fish. A few minutes later and I'd have been on my way home!. I hit the rod and began battle with my second new years day winter carp. Funnily enough, I had a feeling of deja vu as the fight off this second carp played out just like the first and when the fish went over the net I looked down at what could well be my second new years day twenty. I emptied the rucksack and got myself ready for the weighing and photographing, it was a 50/50 fish and as I lifted it from the water and transferred it to the unhooking mat I wondered if it was going to make it over twenty. It fell short by quite a way in the end but at 19lbs even, it made up half of a cracking new years day brace of commons to start 2008 with.

A few minutes longer I'd have been on my way home, 19lb common at the death

Once documented, I slipped the fish back none the worse for its trip to the bank. I packed the rods and the rest of my fishing gear away quickly and cleared off home with mixed feelings. Catching my first twenty of 2008 made it a very special New Years Day session, getting a ‘last knockings’ 19lber made it even better but as I drove away from the lake I couldn’t help feeling a little bit sad. I’d had a great couple of weeks off over Christmas and I’d caught some lovely winter carp but I knew the time had come to hang up the rods for a while but more about that next week.

Tight Lines

Winter Carp Diary Pt9

New years eve was a mild day, I was at the lake for 11am for my final five hours carp fishing of 2007. After slowly driving down the track to the lake I pulled up in the car park and went for a quick walk around to see if I could locate some carp. I looked in the bay I'd caught a couple of doubles from on my last winter carp session, nothing showed in the bay but I did notice a fish roll back in my usual swim. I didn't see the carp break surface but from the rippling ring it left behind it looked to be pretty much on top of the area I'd been prebaiting throughout this winter.

My favourite winter carp swim

That was my starting point sorted out, I unloaded the fishing gear from the car and walked the short distance to my peg. Having put my gear down I had a good look at the swim. Sure enough, there were signs of carp in the area, in fact there seemed to be quite a few fish present and I couldn't get the rods out quick enough. The first rod went into the area I‘d been baiting up, a gentle lob of 40 yards saw my rig and pva mesh bag land perfectly, I trapped the line and sunk the lead on a tight line then put the rod on the rod pod. I pulled a bit of slack line off the clutch and set my monkey climber into its normal postion, I still had the monkey climber in my hand when it was ripped from my grasp by a full blooded run. That’s the kind of start I was looking for! away in seconds!. I was straight into the fish and after a short scrap I netted my first winter carp of the day, it was a small common that didn't look like it was going to make double figures, a quick weighing confirmed a weight of 9lb 8oz, my smallest carp of the winter so far. I slipped the fish back without a photo and got on with the business of getting the rods out again.

My first rod went straight back onto the baited area with another pva mesh bag attached. There had been a couple of fish showing in area c on my little swim diagram so I put the second rod out to that spot, again with a pva mesh bag for good measure. Once the rods were out I settled down to watch the water. There were signs of fish all over the place and having caught one so quickly I was confident of a multiple catch. Just half an hour after the recast, the baited spot rod was away again, another short fight saw another small common slip into the net, it was bigger than the last one and on the scales it went 12lb 14oz, probably an average size carp for the water.

12lb 14oz Common, my second fish of the day.

Two fish before midday meant I could well be in for a bumper end to the year, I dropped the rod back onto the baited spot again and at the same time I moved my right hand rod to cover a new spot further to the right, I'd seen several carp show on this spot, all in the half an hour between runs, there certainly seemed to be a few fish knocking round the new area and I sat back expecting action sooner rather than later. Just under an hour passed by with no action, a few fish had begun to show in area c again and I was kicking myself for moving the rod in the first place. I sat and pondered moving it back when a single bleep came from the right hand delkim. I watched the rod but couldn't see it twitching at all, a second bleep had me hovering over the rod waiting for it to rip off, I still couldn't see any sign of a hooked carp though, no twitch of the rod tip, no nothing?. The twitch came half a minute later when the rod wrenched round and the delkim sounder box signalled the run, I was standing next to it at the time so I was straight into the fish. It had been hooked a fair way out but despite this the fight was quite short, the fish came straight into the margins where it charged round for a few minutes before rolling into the landing net. It was another low double common, in fact it was a very low double common that weighed in at 10lb 6oz. I did a quick photo purely because it was a double and I document all my double figured winter carp.

With three carp under my belt before 1pm I wondered what was in store for what I consider to be the most productive part of the day, the mid to late afternoon. When I repositioned the right hand rod I went for area c again, I'd been pondering moving it back there anyway so it seemed logical to cover the carp that had been rolling out there. That turned out to be a smart move on my part as the right hand rod on area c was a away within five minutes of it hitting the water. Again a single bleep from the delkim had me standing beside the rods when a full blooded run developed. This fish fought a bit better than the others, probably due to the extra few pounds of weight it had, after netting it and going through the motions of weighing and photographing, my fourth carp of the day turned out to be a 14lb 10oz common, not quite a mid double but at least the fishes weights were going in the right direction, upwards!.

14lb 10oz Common, a decent winter carp for the water.

New years eve was turning out to be a decent day. Four fish in the first couple of hours was quite a result and after recasting the right hand rod back to the same area I decided to grab a bite to eat before anything else happened. I needed to tie a couple of spare pva mesh bags too, things had been a bit hectic and I needed to get myself sorted out. I managed to eat my sandwiches and tie those couple of spare pva bags and it was just as well I did. As I finished the last one, the right hand delkim burst into life again. This was getting silly, it wasn't even 1.30pm and I was playing my fifth carp of the day. This fish felt a bit bigger than the others and it took me a while to get it into the margins, when I did get it close in, it kept deep and made a few decent runs before finally rolling on the top and into the waiting net. It was a decent fish, certainly my biggest of the day and after going through the weighing and photography routine I returned a lovely 18lb common to the water.

18lb Common the biggest of 5 winter carp landed on New Years Eve and my last fish of 2007.

Amazingly, that 18lb common turned out to be my last fish of the day, I usually expect action from 2pm onwards on this water but it was like someone had flicked a switch, all carp activity ceased and I was left runless for the rest of the day despite it usually being the most productive time. I couldn't complain, 5 carp landed on new years eve and my last fish of the year turned out to be a mint conditioned 18lb common.
That fish was a fitting end to my 2007 north west carp fishing. It had been a mixed year for me, the highlight was my first 20lb+ carp from the river dee, a capture that will remain on my mind for a long time to come. I'd ended the year on a high note too, a superb 25lb 2oz common on boxing day and a nice five fish catch on new years eve.
I hope my form continues in 2008. By the time this entry is published it will be a bit late for festive good wishes but I'll wish you them anyway. Tight lines for 2008.

Tight Lines

Winter Carp Diary Pt8

After my 25lb 2oz winter carp on boxing day I had a few days away from fishing. I did have a couple more sessions pencilled in for both Thursday and Friday but I didn’t bother going on either day, opting instead to take a break and catch up with a few odd jobs around the house.
I was back at the lake again on Saturday 29th December. I had a decision to make now, the bay had done me a big fish and I was a little surprised not to catch another as there seemed to be a few fish rolling during the afternoon and I’d had them covered. I stood in my usual peg for 10 minutes just looking for carp, a fish crashed at around 100yds range. Usually thats just about within casting range but there was a big wind pushing down the lake and I’d struggle to make the cast. I went and stood in the bay swim I’d caught my mid-twenty from a few days previous. Sure enough, a fish rolled in the bay only it was a lot closer and well within range. That was enough for me, I abandoned my usual winter carp swim and opted for the bay.
I started with a rod in the area the carp had just rolled, it seemed logical to go straight to the area where the fish was so I cast a pva mesh bag to where I’d seen the carp. The pva bag contained a couple of pieces of peparami and the rig was my standard 8” kryston silkworm hooklength with a piece of peparami on the hair rig. The second rod i cast to the area I’d seen fish but not caught on boxing day. Late on boxing day a few fish had rolled in a tight little area close in and I figured it was worth trying again in the absence of any other carp showing.
Over the first hour or two I noticed odd fish roll in the bay, they were around the first hookbait that had been cast to a showing fish. Despite seeing the odd carp it remained quite quiet, the wind was howling accross the lake, I didn’t mind the wind blowing a bit, I was well wrapped up in my igloo3 so I just sat in the teeth of it watching and listening for fish. Around 1.15pm I noticed the clouds getting thicker and blacker in the distance, they were just about on top of me and I knew the heavens were about to open. I grabbed my brolly out of the holdall and began taking it out of the bag. I never managed to get the brolly out before the first drops of rain started hitting me, it was quite heavy and made worse by a strong and gusting wind that was lashing it straight in my face. My brolly is a JRC stealth brolly and for those of you that don’t know, the stealth has a retaining screw that needs to be removed in order to open the brolly then replaced to make sure it stays open. With the wind and rain driving in my face I’d just managed to get the retaining screw off when the right hand delkim burst into life. I dropped the brolly and put the retaining screw in my pocket for safe keeping. I was on the rod quickly, the line was peeling off the spool at a nice steady rate, I put in a light strike and the rod hooped over with the line singing in the heavy wind. The fish was a fair way out but I made steady progress bringing it to the net, I couldn’t tell how big this carp was, there were big waves crashing over the bank and I didn’t even see the fish until it popped up ready for the net after 5 minutes or so. When the fish rolled into the net I recognised it as a common I’d caught a few weeks previous at 16lb 6oz.
I secured the landing net with the fish still in the water and went to sort out my gear, the rain was still coming down and everything was getting soaked, I got the stealth sorted first, once it was pegged down over my gear I got the weighing and camera gear ready, even though I’d caught the fish a few weeks earlier I still like to go through my routine and document everything accurately. Once I had everything ready I had a quick look in the landing net to double check that it was a repeat capture but before I could lift the fish out onto the waiting unhooking mat, my remaining rod slammed round suddenly as my other delkim went into meltdown. I secured the net and hit the rod. I was in a bit of a mess now, the second fish was a ‘charger’ it charged off and generally went mental which indicated a small fish and this was confirmed when I slipped the net under a low double mirror after a short but hectic fight.
I’ve been in the double take scenario quite a few times before so I was ok when it came to dealing with the situation. I carry an old Rod Hutchinson sling sack combo in the bottom of my holdall and this along with my landing net provides the solution for dealing with two carp reasonably safely. Once the sling sack was wet, I lifted the net with both fish onto the unhooking mat and unhooked them both, I threw the rods and rigs to one side, I could untangle them later. The common stayed wrapped in the net and zipped into the unhooking mat so it couldn’t move. The mirror i slipped into the sling sack which was then secured in the margins. My landing net has weighing/carrying handles stitched into the sides so I was able to weigh the fish, do a quick photo then return it and deduct the weight of the landing net afterwards. With the net deducted the common weighed 16lbs even, a loss of 6oz from when I last caught it in winter carp diary pt3.

Windy repeat capture at 16lb

The smaller mirror was retrieved from the water and weighed in the sling sack, again I deducted the weight of the sling after returning the fish and I was left with a weight of 11lb 2oz, not massive but not a repeat capture either.

Second winter carp in 5 minutes, an 11lb 2oz mirror

Getting those two winter carp documented was hard work with a big wind blowing straight in my face but I eventually managed to get both fish returned. I got on with the job of untangling the rods and getting them cast out again. The two carp had come at roughly 1.30pm and 1.35pm so I still had a few productive hours left to fish. After preparing a few more pva mesh bags i put both rigs back in the areas I’d just caught fish from. I spent the rest of the day dodging the rain, when it came I sat under the brolly, when it stopped I sat out watching the water the best I could with that big wind blowing in my face. I saw a couple more fish show in the vacinity of my baits during the afternoon but disappointingly another run never came. This was the second time I’d fished the bay and had carp showing either near or right on top of my hookbait with no run coming and I wondered why I wasn’t getting pickups. I fished on until around 4.15pm and packed up.
Before I left I chopped up a few sticks of peparami and catapulted them around the area I’d seen most fish. My usual halibut pellets I put in my usual peg along with a small amount of dynamite hemp and maize as I was returning for my traditional new years eve day session on the 31st. Going fishing on new years eve day passes the time before the evening festivities and its something I’ve done for as many years as I’ve been carp fishing. Last year I fished new years day for the first time ever and this year I intended to do the same provided I wasn’t at risk of being over the limit on new years day morning. With my baiting up and preparation for my new years eve fishing completed I headed for home still wondering why I wasn’t getting pickups when fish were rolling on and around my baits. I hoped a little bit of free bait would encourage those winter carp to feed a bit heavier in the bay, which in turn, would hopefully bring me another good winter carp catch.

Tight Lines

Winter Carp Diary Pt7

Fishing for carp in winter can be slow at times. It’s funny how a couple of blank sessions with nothing happening can affect you. It’s so easy to just give the carp fishing a miss for a while and return to it when you’ve had a rest. With the persistent cold weather we’d had recently I’d actually thought about not going carp fishing on Chistmas Eve. If it hadn’t been for the fact that my Christmas eve fishing sessions were a bit of a tradition, I’d probably have stayed at home. Similarly, I had second thoughts about going on boxing day too. In the end I managed to drag myself out of bed and after making a flask and some sandwiches I loaded the fishing gear into the car and headed for the lake in the hope that I might catch another winter carp.

The temperature had certainly risen quite a bit, not only was it mild, it wasn’t raining either which meant I was in for a comfortable day on the bank if nothing else. On arriving at the lake I unloaded the fishing gear and headed for my usual favourite swim. I had a quick wander round but with no carp sighted I settled into my peg and started where I’d left off on Christmas eve, one rod on the spot I’d been putting bait on regularly and the other ‘on the chuck’ as far over to the out of bounds bank as I could get. I was fishing by about 11.30am and I was due to wrap it up at 4pm which gave me 4 and a half hours to try and catch a winter carp.

Despite the milder weather no carp showed for the first few hours. It was roughly 1.30pm when I spotted a carp roll, the fish turned over in a bay that went behind me on my left hand side, I couldn’t reach that fish from where I was fishing so I made an immediate decision to move. Before the rings had disappeared from that rolling carp I was gathering my fishing gear together. Once it was packed away, I pulled the rods in and moved round into the bay.
From my new swim I had a couple of easy casts to reach the general area I’d seen the carp roll. I did wonder if I should wait for another show but in the end, I only had a couple of hours left so I took my best guess and put both rods out with my usual pva mesh bag on each rod. I really should have waited before casting the rods in again as just 10 minutes later a carp rolled again. I wasn’t particularly close to it and I had no choice but to pull a rod in and recast. I left the pva mesh bag this time, I was close enough to where the carp were showing and a single peparami hookbait would do the job. Another 5 minutes after repositioning the left hand rod, another fish showed slightly off to the right. These two spots were roughly 40 yards apart. I made another snap decision to move the right hand rod and I dropped another single peparami hookbait on top of this fish too.

It was just about 2pm when I’d finally got myself settled down again. I was confident something would happen this time, with both hook baits cast to rolling fish it was surely just a matter of time before one or both of them were picked up. Usually on this water, baits cast to showing carp are picked up pretty quickly but on this occasion it didn’t happen. I’d been literally sitting on my hands waiting for one of the delkims to signal a run and after an hour of no further carp showing and no sign of that run I began to think my luck was going to run out again.

I put the radio on to catch the 3pm news and to see how the boxing day football was coming along. They gave Villa and Chelsea as a 4-4 draw which was a bit of a surprise, Liverpool were only just kicking off and with no live commentary to listen to I waited for a quick weather forecast which usually comes at the end of the news bulletin. I never heard the weather forecast, just before it came on the right hand delkim bleeped a couple of times then went into a full blooded run, I looked up to see the right hand rod tip pull round and the line begin to peel off the spool. Brilliant, after a coupe of blanks a screaming run was most welcome. I was on it straight away, as soon as I struck I instinctively knew I was into a decent fish. I’d hooked the fish just 20 yards out and I made no impression on it at all for the first few minutes. It just felt like a big heavy weight, a sure sign I was playing a good fish. I applied a steady pressure, just because the fish wasn’t moving far didn’t mean I had to try and crank it in, I kept a steady pressure and sure enough I kept gaining the odd yard of line. The carp never actually took any line off the clutch. It just seemed to plod around, kiting from side to side on a gradually shorter line. After what seemed like an age but was probably no more than 5 minutes, I caught site of the carp in the clear water. It was a long fish and I had a half an idea it was a twenty. I kept calm and kept the pressure steady, the fish circled round in front of me a few times before eventually popping up on top, having caught site of the width across the carps back, probably a twenty turned to definitely a twenty and as it wobbled into the waiting landing net I knew it was going to be another one of those fist clenching ‘yesss’ moments that all north west carp anglers love.
I was gazing into the net at my prize when that familiar ‘got to get to work’ thought kicked in. I secured the net and left the fish safe in the water whilst I got the weighing and photography gear ready. When I broke the net down and eventually lifted the fish out of the water I changed my mind about its size. I was thinking 22-ish but when I lifted it out onto the unhooking mat that estimate went up to 25+. It was a real pig of a common, not only did it have a back like arnie, it had quite a gut on it too. My new 25+ estimate turned out to be as near as damn it right as the scales revealed a weight of 25lb 2oz. I rattled off a few pictures on the digital camera and released the fish back to its watery home, I watched the fish sink down in the water and slowly swim off until it was out of sight. Once the carp was gone, I got on with the job of sorting my gear out.

Christmas cracker, my 25lb 2oz Boxing Day Common!

I quickly had the rod sorted out, my peparami hookbait was still intact so I simply dropped the rig back in the area I’d just caught from. Despite seeing another carp roll near to the other rod nothing else happened and at 4pm I packed my gear away. Once I’d loaded up the car for my return journey home, I dropped into my original peg and left them a bit of bait ready for my next winter carp session.
After struggling for a few sessions I drove home with a big smile on my face, a boxing day 25lb+ common was more than I could have hoped for and I was glad I’d made the effort to go. I’ve sort of reached a crossroads in my winter carping now, 25+ is about as big a fish as I’d expect to catch from this particular winter carp water and I’ve a decision to make, do I carry on fishing there knowing I probably won’t better that fish or do I move on to another north west carp water for the rest of the winter?. I think I’ll be giving that decision some thought over the next week or two.

Tight Lines.

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