When I think back to the summer of 2011 it seems like eons ago, yet just six years have passed. What were very casual and light-hearted encounters with Longshaw Farm carp have been catalyst to the evolution of a completely different challenge.
|A scamp common from Marshside Fishery - a wonderful little day-ticket venue just like Longshaw Farm (July 2013)|
When I got back into "specimen angling" carp were probably the least likely species to spark any desire. I'd done with carp fishing; a very successful period in 1983/4 had seen me target the species and have a right result at a municipal park lake in Welwyn Garden City. Instead it was to be pike that captured my attention during that initial period of rediscovery. Then came barbel, what a roller coaster ride that turned out to be? Chub and perch haunted the periphery of my angling effort and eels made an incredible impression during that crazy winter project of 2015/16. Yet there can be no getting away from the fact that, since July 2015, carp have become an increasingly dominant factor in my angling.
|February 25th 1984 - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City (23 lbs 14 oz - still my PB!)|
My diary notes make fabulous reading - looking back?
"The fish came to a single boily (as per Kevin Maddocks) relying on the quality of
my bait/rig...... these fish are heavily pressured and although wary, keep returning due
the supply of anglers baits that are regularly deposited in the general area."
It was a revelation when I read my accompanying diary notes which describe the capture of that fish, along with the tackle, and tactics, I employed. Did I really use a single hook bait with any confidence way back then? As for the description of, or implying that, my bait/rig being of exceptional quality is stretching the boundaries beyond breaking point. The bait had a base mix of semolina and soya flour. If we were cutting edge, then the dietary supplement "Complan" was also added to the mix before we over dosed with Geoff Kemp's Cream flavour and a spicy enhancer that I'd been asked to try by Keith Sellick - proprietor of Middlesex Angling Centre. If we wanted colour, then custard powder was the norm, although Rod Hutchinson was already selling bait dye and red was dominant during the period.
And so onward to the 6th July 2015 - a monumental day in my angling adventure and, as is so often the case, a complete accident due to events way beyond my control. I'd planned to go barbel fishing on The Stour in Canterbury, but EA weed cutting had made it impossible. A quick change of venue, although not bait or tackle, was to see me relocate to a small East Kent drain where I thought I might have a chance of a decent tench? With just a bucketful of mixed particles for attraction and some 14 mm halibut pellets as hook baits, I sallied forth and set out my stall. My efforts were not in vain, although it was not tench which responded to my tactics but a magnificent wild carp of 18 lbs 2 oz. (plus a 3 lbs 6 oz eel!)
|The fish which kicked it all off - a complete accident! How much more of a part can fate play in my angling adventure?|
If ever there was a spark which ignited a flame, then this was it for me. Back, just four days later, and my first carp over twenty pounds, since that fateful day in 1984, found itself engulfed in the mesh of my landing net. Another magnificent wild common carp - all fins and attitude! How stupid would it be if I ignored this opportunity? The chance to explore an unknown and un-tapped potential.
My early efforts were undertaken using my particle approach. Swims, once chosen, (these initial sessions saw me fishing to features, not locating fish before hand) were given a liberal dosing with my barbel "munga" mix. Which wouldn't have been too much different if I'd made it deliberately for the carp but, because all the ingredients were already present in my bait cupboard, it made no sense to go out and purchase more until I'd used all that I had. My local pet shop, where I buy the seed for my aviary and garden bird feeders, sells a pigeon tonic mix for 90p/kilo and this is the main ingredient. All I do, for added attraction, is put in hemp seed and away I go. Soak it for twelve hours prior to a six hour spell in the slow-cooker at medium setting (Cookery lesson over!). The resultant bait is further enhanced by the addition of liquidized sweetcorn, really cheap stuff that Tesco sell for 35p/tin. I've also played around with added sugar, rock salt and tuna in brine; there's no doubt that it changes the bait yet I can't honestly say that I've any noticeable improvement in results directly attributable to these tweaks? Conversely, it hasn't made the bait any less attractive so I suppose it's all down to personal opinion as to what does and doesn't make a decent "munga".
|My back-up maize rig - that pop-up grain of Korda IB plastic is key to the whole presentation.|
From the off my choice of hook bait was very easy, I'd used curried chick peas way back in my early days and was extremely confident that, given the circumstances, they would still do the job in 2015. And so it has proven ever since. It doesn't matter if I'm at a heavily pressured day ticket fishery or out on some remote drain, chick peas are always my first choice any time from early Spring to late Autumn. As a back-up, and a direct consequence of using pigeon tonic mix, I started to play around with maize (not sweetcorn!) in conjunction with a fake grain for added buoyancy. This simple ploy has resulted in the heaviest carp of the project, thus far. I landed "The Football" - it's called this because I named it - and came within 4 oz of my PB when this fish made the mistake of picking up my baited rig.
|"The Football" - no need for an explanation?|
I carried on fishing the East Kent drains but, was already aware of far larger carp than I'd been catching, inhabiting The Royal Military Canal. Why does size matter? In all honesty it doesn't but, being me, having made a promise to my father about catching a thirty on a sixty year old split cane rod (a family gift for my 60th) I have to fulfill my part of the bargain. When he passed away in August of 2016 I became focused on delivering my promise, with Bev in full support, I am now embarked on a mission. Obviously daily reality cannot be ignored - work, mortgage, bills, etc... have to be dealt with before this folly can take centre stage. I can afford it so much time and that is dictated by other family priorities. Yet, because it's there, I have purpose whenever I am able to cast a bait into the canal.
Of course there is always the chance that I've missed a trick and the (un-named) carp, I so desire, actually swims in the waters of The East Kent drains? With this at the back of my mind I have no plans to ignore them, but they are covered by the "close season" as decreed by the EA, so, all I have until 16th June, is the canal. These fish are a completely different proposition, as they are subjected to the attentions of a small group of very talented carp anglers. If I am to have any chance of achieving my target then I'll have to be at the top of my game. I'm finding myself rather enjoying the challenge. Am I good enough? Tough question, even tougher to take should the answer be "no" and I fail to realize my dream. So with these factors spinning around in my thinking it was inevitable that I would have to confront reality and attempt to utilize modern baits in my angling effort. It doesn't mean that I've lost sight of my original goal, or even that I have sold out. The best bait in the world won't catch fish if it's in the wrong place! Fish location, bait presentation and watercraft still have a major part to play in my challenge.
Casting a boily on a sixty year old split cane isn't something I ever thought about, during my original planning, it was going to be particles all the way. Strange things happen when you realize that time is no longer an ally. I am now fully committed to using whatever terminal tackle is required, be that rigs or bait, to ensure the best chance of delivering my promise to Dad. However, I have not yet completely abandoned the original project which required the fish to be of wild origins. I'm not about to go rocking up at some trendy day-ticket complex to catch "Wendy" at thirty-six - "she went thirty-four, seven last time out" - just to get a result. All the time I'm fit enough to get up for work, then I'm well enough to go fishing and long may it continue! Bait and wait ain't likely to happen, any time soon, either. The last time I did an over-nighter was 15/16th June 2016, the last time I used a bivvy was Scotland in April of the same year. If I am to achieve this ambition it will on my terms and under my rules. I hope that ability will allow me to by-pass the methodology of the time bandits and deliver a result due to an angling apprenticeship, learned, when all fish were equal?