Now where to begin? In early summer 2011 I was fishing the famous billing aquadrome complex’s willow lake. This is the same lake that was made famous by a capture of a certain 40lb common by Ray Clayton; this made the willow lake 2nd to the famous redmire pool back in the day. The lake was also renowned for its big hits of large carp where braces of twenties were boasted from the complexes gates.
I think it’s important to have an understanding of the history of the lake you are going to fish (if it has history that is) but if it doesn’t I’m very reluctant to fish such a place. Carp fishing is all about history and if you can have the opportunity to fish somewhere with a bit the captures are far superior in my book.
My relationship with the river at the back of the aquadrome started when my current water “the willow” had been unexpectedly closed due to an oxygen scare, and rightly so I might add.
I first laid eyes on this beautiful stretch of the Nene on a hot summers day, I took position on top of a large bridge that allowed me to view the crystal clear water and the grass like weed gently waving in the flow. On the “dead arm” side of the bridge a shoal of dark wild looking bream slowly swam against the current. Now I am no bream angler and there are many a fish I’d rather catch, but the size of some of these fish gave me the shakes, as I had never seen bream with shoulders like a double figure carp before.
After watching the huge bream for a good ten minutes I focused my attention on what I was really after, a river carp.
I then watched contently for around fifteen minutes watching on the other side of the bridge. Just as I thought “right I’ve got to go down and search them out” a long golden common drifted from around the corner straight below me, my heart now was giving it large.
The huge carp was a very “koi” character and spooked and became thrisky at every little noise. This “noise” was a person walking across the bridge, the carp backed off slowly, but with a few minutes it was back below me. Then a dragon fly made a bee line straight to the fish (that was in the upper layers of the water) and managed to spook this common with the flutter of its wings.
To this day I have never seen a fish so aware and acute to its surroundings and my 1st impression was that if this carp was anything to go on my campaign on this river would be a challenge, and rightly so because if they got caught every day there magic would be lost.
After seeing such a fish in such close quarters it was a no brainer of where I need to set up. So me being me I ended up finding the fish in a place there was no swims (just the way I like it) half an hour (and red stung legs and arms) later id managed to quietly knock down a forest of bramble’s and stingers to make an area to fish from.
Within an hour I was having a brew from the bridge watching my spots intently. That night I caught a few bream with no signs of the common or any other carp for that matter. Although that night I did spot my first otter, now in my book this was a bad thing and gliding across the water it looked more like an alligator than anything else I was shocked to how big one really was. Due to the otter and the bream it gave me two rather strong excuses to pack up and go searching for them.
Easier said than done, a quick look turned into four hours of hard graft pushing a fully loaded barrow up and down the river. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black shape ghosting across a small weed bed this was yards up top where I originally did the night.
Funnily enough I had trekked all the way to the opposite lock about 1.5 miles away and they were still in my swim I started in, carp fishing is carp fishing because they make the rules, I can only guess what hand they are going to play next, and on this hand they definitely tricked me.
After seeing one, I started seeing more, many of them being huge framed pigs with a figure resembling a submarine, big dark old carp. Now my favourite method of carp fishing is floater fishing followed secondly by stalking them in the edge in clear water. This is how I get my major buzz from carp fishing, because I feel more connected to them as I can see them 90% of the time.
I shakily unloaded my essentials off my barrow and got a few loaves of bread out and continued to fire it in upstream. I could lie and say I got them taking straight away like you hear most people say…….. well it took me three hours to get them going and I had to move down stream some more to follow them. By this time I was getting more and more excited because seeing carp bigger than I have seen before let alone caught munching on bread was a spectacle to me, especially in a river in the middle of a holiday park.
I finally set up a rod out as I was feeling confident they were going to stay and eat some more and not move off. By the time I was actually angling there were another 6 carp plus another different sizeable common, and for the record there 6 were bigger than this particular common.
After many a trot down on an old mate’s custom twig float he kindly made me, my bread drifted over a few of the larger carp then out of the blue a big dark common came up out of the cabbages and grassy weed and snaffled the bait instantly.
There was no noise to the take not a sound the only sound was the sound of the fish turning as it was hooked, truly heart wrenching stuff, and the stuff my dreams are made of.
With my heart pumping I struck the bite, and the next 15 minutes was a blur. You always hear people saying that river carp are the best fighters etc, and do you know what they are talking some sense this time.
I was towed all over the river upstream, downstream, just about everywhere. The rod did its job and managed to tame it to the net cord when the fish turned and had one last run, this ended up with the fish locking me in a big bed of weed off the marginal shelf.
My stomach turned to the thought of losing the fish I had managed to hook. So I put the rod on the floor on a tight line and slowly un did the clutch to let it take line if it chose to come out of the weed.
Due to the light breaking strain of line I couldn’t give any pressure or hold any on the fish as I was so damn frightened it would cut me off if it shook its head violently in the weed.
After the longest two minutes of my life (with many negative thoughts of losing my 1st river carp and a load of negative French words) the line started to spin from the spool, within seconds I grabbed the rod before it went for a swim and dived in the margin with my net to try and get a better angle on the fish.
After a few minutes of it going up and down in the silty margin kicking up the debris I slowly inched her over the net cord and lifted it with all my strength (at this stage I had very little).
I’d done it I had caught a beautiful fish from an amazing piece of river. I stood there for about a minute just looking into the mass of big beautiful English carp that was sitting blowing wildly in and out in my net.
Even thinking about the moment now my hands shake with excitement and pride, I have caught bigger carp but none mean as much as this carp. The weights for me are immaterial it is the fish, the look, the history, and the way it was caught that matter to me.
Weights can sometimes hide the beauty of a fish, as too many people get caught up in how much the fish weighs and not about what the fish means.
After getting my head sorted I managed to phone a friend with slimy shaken fingers to come down and do me some pictures, he knew I wasn’t pulling his leg with my tone of voice that was similar to a high pitched girl who had bought a new pair of shoes.
After breaking down the net and taking the hook out I lifted what seemed a snagged weight I checked underneath the fish to make sure the net wasn’t caught, no it wasn’t but it didn’t solve the problem of the fact I couldn’t actually lift it with the weed included. Luckily my mate had arrived to help with the photos, oh and the lifting of the fish.
When I heard my mate say 30lb and 2oz I had realised what I’d done, a river thirty is a massive achievement by anyones standards and I had just achieved it and what a way to catch it.
After the ceremonial snaps the fish was put back in the water to swim away for another day. I’m sure you will agree it is the best part is watching them swim away as happy as you saw them when you watched them swimming before you caught it.
So after a major common like that of course I was gagging to get back on my next opportunity to try and outwit some of the others, well to cut a long story short I blanked the rest of the year on the river for carp…..
But it made my capture so much sweeter.
It was a proper carp, from a proper place, caught the proper way.
Tom Betts Causebrook