Friday, 6 April 2018

Overnight success!

It's been a long time!

I feel completely out of touch and out of practice with regards the finer points of carp fishing, having not spent a night on the bank since August and before that, March last year. The usual causes of abstinence, such as the stressful demands of work, have diminished recently following my uprooting and relocation from Kent to Wiltshire. Now my lack of presence by the waterside is due to a change in priorities, where family - especially my now 1 year old daughter Jessica, is right at the centre and what a blessing she is! However, once the addiction has taken hold, I think it is impossible for a carp angler to be cured completely.
I met Jake on one of my first visits to the magical moat where we both targeted crucians by day and carp by night. Green shoots of friendship began to grow, however geography hindered its fruition until I moved to his neck of the woods. Recognising my desperation for some fishing-therapy, Jake set up an inaugural outing- an overnighter on his syndicate lake.

My muddy set-up!
A fair amount of rain had fallen during the week but temperatures were rising and, on arrival, a reasonable wind had began to push into the South East corner of the lake. We duly positioned ourselves on the receiving end of these gusts and began to look for signs of fish activity. Nosing around the margins with polaroids proved pointless given the choppiness of the water, clouding of its own volition. Just as we were exploring the far margin with a lead from our chosen swim, a fish crashed out in open water to my left. As it happened again it seemed obvious that I had to get a bait on that spot! Three cross-wind obscured casts later the trap was set and the scattering of boilies  around the general area served as a welcome distraction from the embarrassment I was suffering owing to my rustiness.

I had opted to fish single pop-ups on what Martin Bowler has recently been calling a 'real Ronnie' but it is in essence the same as Lee Crampton's 'claw rig' which I have been using for years. I like this presentation as it affords the bait plenty of freedom to move and will turn and set perfectly when approached from any angle. I had however lost a number of fish due to poor hook-holds last summer when using an incarnation of this rig which featured a long-shank hook with a small gape. Whilst this was almost impossible to eject, it did not set deep enough and cost me fish. Therefore, to remedy this I went to the other extreme and tied the rigs up with size 4 wide-gapes. At home I wondered if this might be overkill but I had not forgotten the size of the mouths of the fish I was targeting and proceeded with my course of logic.
Once the rods were out and shelters assembled, gas stoves were lit, beverages poured and conversations commenced. It had been almost two years so we had a lot of catching up to do!
In hindsight the following sequence of events seems almost predictable but the sudden screaming of my left alarm interrupting the serenity of the moment could not have been more unexpected.
Line stripped rapidly from the spool as I clumsily tripped over my dormant right rod to get to the erupting left. As I applied my thumb as a break and the rod arced round the tempo slowed but I began to feel the power of the fish forcefully towing onwards. Erratic vibrations transmitted a warning of the lake's intermittent rocky areas down the line. Very little could be done to navigate a clear path through this treacherous topography. On one occasion all movement ceased and the line seemingly became fixed to a point in the water. A sudden ping and the line went slack. My heart dropped. 
A turn of the handle and I connected once more with what I initially thought to be the snag- until it started making its way off into the distance.
I had attempted to steer the carp with side strain, keeping the rod tip low to encourage the fish to rise. I realised this was futile as it kited across into Jakes line causing his alarm to sound. He reassured me that my apologies were unnecessary but I felt bad. Had I bullied it a little more perhaps it could have been avoided but losing this fish was not a risk I was prepared to take.
As a rather plump looking mirror carp finally surfaced and came cruising over the net cord we both cheered in celebration.

A scaly mirror in the net!

The carp had a considerable belly and a single scar on one side, otherwise it was in impeccable condition. The hook was set perfectly in the bottom lip and was reassuringly dwarfed by the cavernous mouth of my quarry. As I lifted the scales the needle pulled round to 26lb 10oz.

The wind slowed and the sky cleared and as the light began to fade the temperature dropped. A tawny owl could be heard hooting and rather excitable frogs fascinated with my bobbins set my alarms off sporadically throughout the night along with occasional gusts. This and my lack of appropriate clothing for the conditions (in spite good advice from my better half) caused me not to sleep a wink. The night was long.

First signs of summer?!
As the sun rose swallows appeared swooping over the waters surface in search of insects, a heron was seen busily nesting, buzzards soared in circles in the neighbouring field, an English breakfast sizzled enticingly and fresh coffee was consumed. Mist evaporating from the water obscured my view of the fish swirls and fizzing. My semi-slack line tightened up on my left rod once more and a single bleep sung out. I leapt to attention. The rod, though high in test curve, twitched like a quiver tip showing sensitive bites. As we debated whether or not this bite was worth hitting, the moment passed. Before long we agreed to pack up as we both had other commitments that day to get back to but who knows what might have been if we had stayed. It was great to be back on the bank, in great company, beautiful surroundings and thankfully, a tale to tell.

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