Well as usual, I’ve been so busy fishing or planning upcoming forays, I’ve not written for a bit, so I thought I’d give you a little insight into what I’ve been up to over the last month or so and what I’ve been planning for the coming autumn and winter.
My life as an angler is different from most in that I love to flit around in the summer; a spot of floater fishing here and there is my mainstay through the sultry summer, but when good bottom fishing conditions prevail I have the odd trip fishing more traditionally behind the buzzers. I’ll be honest in that I find myself searching more and more for quiet bits of angling away from the more contested waters.
I’ve always over the last decade at least tried to steer clear of the circuit type venues for anything other than social trips and instead throw all my efforts into finding out of the way or forgotten places where I can indulge my passion in peace and quiet. You see carp fishing shouldn’t be hard, it’s other anglers that make it that way and with so many carpers at every turn it’s very easy to get disillusioned with it all. To avoid my fishing going “tits up” I do all I can to target places where I’m sure I’ll be able to bait and fish on good weather where there is little chance of having my efforts capitalised on by other anglers and if that means compromising on the size of the fish I’m after then so be it.
But, continuing year in and year out to keep coming up with waters that fit my bill is getting more and more difficult and I find that much of my time is spent searching for those little gems, but I’ve grown to love the search. My years of sitting behind rods for 300+ plus nights a year are well behind me, partly because life catches up with all of us in the end and partly because I’ve evolved as an angler to the point that I can get the rewards without having to invest lots of time to get a few bites and catch the fish I’m after. Of course, venue choice plays the biggest part in the outcome as well as the enjoyment factor and as most of you know by now I fish for myself no one else, the fact that I fish for a living has no bearing on my decisions in that respect.
I’d been doing the odd bit over Farlows, a busy day ticket lake near my home in the colne valley. A more contested, social-media fuelled water it would be impossible to find, in fact many have been surprised that I’d been having a dabble at all. I’ll be honest, I’d been asking myself the same thing as it’s so so busy every day, but it holds a mega stock of mixed strains and the angler in me loves that, you never know what’s going to be on the end when you get a bite and I thrive on that, always have and hopefully always will.
I’d been very successful there on the floaters and on the bottom but the incredible turnover of anglers soon started to grate on me and I had started to spend more and more time heading there to fish and more often than not ending up driving around looking at other lakes in the area. To me, that means it’s time to do something else and I began going back to all the lakes in the area that I hadn’t looked at in a long time, lakes that more importantly I hadn’t heard mentioned for a long time. It’s fair to say I have my finger on the pulse, I know what’s happening and where on any given day. I started one day, when I was fishing with my friend Tel, to compile a list of all the waters, no matter how small, that I’d fished in the past that I’d not looked at in the last 15 to 20 years. The sort of waters where I’d maybe seen the odd fish in the past, but nothing to inspire me enough to actually fish there. After a couple of hours chatting and jotting stuff down in the notes on my phone I had a nice list of lakes to explore for old times sake if nothing else and as the weather was still consistently warm it seemed that I might as well get started.
I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed the following week or so driving around checking out all the waters on my list. Some over the years had become club waters and were crossed off the list and some had disappeared altogether but I kept on looking and walking over the next fortnight.
Within a week, my nice list of possibles had dwindled to a mere handful and I was feeling a bit despondent but I kept on, crossing off some and adding the odd extra as they came to me. It was while racking my brains that I remembered a couple of small pits well out of the way that I’d looked at once maybe 20 years ago that I was told held two twenty pounders. At the time I went to look at them, they were choked with duckweed and pads and I never so much as glimpsed at a carp so didn’t bother ever going back. Either way it came to me one day so I went for a look.
It had been so long that I couldn’t even remember where they were exactly so I spent a bit of time on Google Earth searching for them and eventually found them and set off the next morning for a look. Twenty minutes later and after taking a few wrong turns, I parked up in a lay by on a quiet lane and headed off along an overgrown path through the morning mist, it was clearly going to be another warm one and I felt sure if there were any fish about I’d see them. I remembered the little pits being very open but of course over the intervening years the trees had grown up and the little pit I eventually stumbled upon was so overgrown and mature I couldn’t believe it was the same place from all those years before.
It’s strange how the passing of time changes your memories and the little pit before me bore no resemblance whatsoever to my memories of it, for starters it had two islands and a couple of bays, it certainly looked the part. There were no real signs of it being fished to any great extent, certainly not by carp anglers as there were no real swims to speak of. There was however lots of rubbish; crisp packets, drink tins and old sweetcorn tins and the like so it was clear that the local kids fished it. Now rubbish really gets my back up and I told myself that carp or no carp I’d return with some black bags and have a good tidy up!
I found a nice spot to sit and I poured a cuppa from my flask and made myself comfy and watched for a while. Apart from the odd small fish flipping I saw little of interest so I set off to do a lap of the lake. I guess I’d battled my way halfway along one bank throughout the stingers and brambles when I noticed the water rocking beneath a snaggy old tree whose limbs lay half submerged in the margins. As I crept nearer, a short, stout common of I guessed mid twenties came out of the snag and flanked enticingly against one of the branches. Although not a giant, the hairs on my neck stood on end and I froze as it waddled past me literally inches from the bank and disappeared beneath the next snaggy overhang. Then, just as I was about to head off after it for another look a dark shape appeared from beneath the snags and a long, grey linear ghosted into view in the clear water and I froze, my heart pounding as it came straight toward me blissfully unaware of my presence. Even after all these years, two modest sized carp had my heart pounding, but of course it wasn’t about how big they were but what they were. Both looked old and “proper” and I’m sure I don’t need to outline what I mean when I say that.
I ended up spending most of the morning at the little pit, apart from the odd muntjack deer I saw no one else and I couldn’t find any signs of carp anglers anywhere. I had that magical feeling that I may just have stumbled on something very unique. I saw a few more carp that day but with the water being so clear and the fish so flighty it was hard to tell their size but that was the last thing on my mind. I nipped back to the car and grabbed a jar of hemp and a kilo or so of pellet and baited a few likely spots before heading off with the intention of popping back the following morning for another look.
I drove home literally buzzing which will no doubt surprise some reading this. I’ve fished for carp my entire life, over 30 years “seriously”, I’ve fished all over the world and fished most of the most famous venues in their prime, yet here I was still buzzing after seeing a couple of what would be seen as “modest” carp these days.
I was up at first light the following morning and set off; coffee in hand back to the little pond. The hemp I’d put in was gone, as was all the pellet and the water had a slight grey tinge to it. I guessed it had been recently eaten so sat back to see if the culprits would return and I didn’t have to wait long.
Maybe ten minutes passed before I became aware of movement and a big dark shape ghosted out from beneath the overhangs, it was a mirror and an old looking one at that. Through the little holes in the duckweed, a wrinkly blue back passed right beneath me as the humpy backed mirror wobbled past the spot with slow sweeping strokes of its tail. From its appearance it looked very old and I wondered whether this could be one of the two twenties I’d been told about all those years before? It was certainly nice to think it may be.
The little pond had a funny air about it, almost like it was lost in time, like I’d stepped into another world when I pushed my way through the overgrown path on my way in and I likened it to Narnia. I certainly felt like a child again walking round and round the little pond, spellbound.
Within a few visits, I’d pretty much put the stock at 10 carp give or take and I’d seen a few special ones amongst them, no giants, the best a common of maybe mid thirties. Certainly I’d be giving it a go and so I began to bait it a couple of times a week with a couple of kilos of tuna baits and a jar of hemp and mixed particles. On each bait up, I took a roll of bin bags and cleared a bit more rubbish and took it away when I left.
Of course, although distracted by the discovery of a little bit of heaven, I kept on with the search and slowly I worked my way through my list and stumbled across another water nearby that I’d fished a long time before and was reminded of when I was driving home from the small pond when it popped into my head out of nowhere, just like that. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten about it as it was close to the small pond.
Anyway, I went for a look. This lake by comparison was much bigger but still only a few acres and very shallow, in fact I could see every inch of the lake bed. It used to hold a fair amount of carp and was quite coloured. When I finally found it after getting lost in the woods it was completely unrecognizable. Like the small pit, it had matured massively over the last two decades, the water was now tap clear and there were only a handful of carp remaining, but what carp! I counted seven in total and six bream and that was the entire stock but the biggest was an absolute bruiser of a common that looked every ounce of forty pounds – a square, wide, breezeblock of a fish. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven as the lake looked totally unfished, the old swims mostly grown over and sealed off, reclaimed by the dense brambles. Being so shallow, the pit screamed out as a good winter prospect so I decided to hold back until later in the year on this one and plan to return once the leaves have dropped.
Now life as we know it, certainly throws the unexpected at us and the last year or so had certainly been lets just say difficult for me as my wife and I had split after 13 years of marriage. Of course, this completely changed everything and my fishing had suffered hugely as a result. However once an angler always an angler and slowly as I got my head and life back in order the fishing buzz returned and I’ve started to feel the urge to start heading back overseas on my foreign adventures.
Over the past decade, I’ve fished on the continent a lot, some call it living the dream but to me it has always been a way of life. Since my last trip to pastures new in Slovenia a couple of years back, I’ve done very little which has been at odds with my normal routine of several trips a year and I’ve missed it terribly. With renewed optimism though I’m back to my old self, researching and planning trips. My friend Mike bBown and I had been talking about the upcoming autumn, we always have a trip at this time, but there’s lots of anglers on the continent these days and we find ourselves travelling later and later. The upshot of this on the type of venues we choose to target is that invariably you get less bites by going later but the upside is that the fish are bigger and the lakes are quieter. September for me now is out of the question as France in particular is full of anglers from all over Europe and we do not like to turn up at our chosen destination to find it busy and their is a very high chance that this will be the case. In recent times we have left it late, usually in November when most have done their autumn trips but there is still the chance of decent weather, not that it bothers us. A late trip also means the guard are far less busy which only increases the odds of a trouble free trip.
Mike and I like to keep away from the busy lakes and are always lining up something new, we try and pick venues with potential that haven’t been done to death but still offer the chance of something very special. It’s fair to say that between us we have a great knowledge of the fishing in Europe and so we have been chatting regularly and throwing a few new venue ideas into the mix and we have shortlisted a few good lakes for a November trip this year. Like the English scene, the European scene has become increasingly trend led and we’ve seen areas and lakes that have been as good as untouched swamped with anglers over a year or so as word spreads about good fishing in nice surroundings. Obviously, magazines and social media only serves to speed this up and because of this we’ve started to look at areas that haven’t been in favour for a long time. I guess the reason this has been the case is partly because of what I’ve already said but also because the fish haven’t grown as fast or the venues are not as scenic or perhaps they are well out of the way with little else nearby. Whatever the reasons the areas we are looking at are not “on the radar” to the Dutch, Belgians etc and are well worth an exploratory trip or two and we are both buzzing for it. Pastures new has always been what we are about, it’s a big old world out there and doing what everyone else is has never been our style.
In the meantime I’ve been priming the lakes I’ve talked about as well as having the odd night here and there as is my way. The occasional canal trip as well as the odd night on the river; no baiting up or anything just dropping in on little fished stretches away from the bivvies, chancing my arm as it were, I like it like that as it feels like proper angling and should one rattle off then great, if not no dramas. It’s funny how your outlook and goals change over time.
Anyway, enough from me this time, I’m off for a few hours barbel fishing this evening after a monster that lives in a tiny bit of river near my home. I’ve been trickling in a bit of tuna and they absolutely love it. I went for a couple of hours yesterday evening and first drop in the rod was almost yanked clean into the river, the result…a bloody carp, lol.
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