Wednesday, 27 May 2009

An Angler Most Stupid...

Keith, who came over to Longford a while back for a go at the canal, picked me up yesterday afternoon for a trip to a water that was completely new to me and apparently contained a fish that I have not caught or even seen for perhaps thirty years; the mysterious shy biting creature, the crucian carp.

Snitterfield reservoir

Crucians figured in my adolescent hauls from a small triangular pit full of canadian pond weed in Stanford Le hope, Essex. The lovely lake was part of a complex of four gravel pits dug from the Thames terrace gravels, the eldest two of which, The Warren ( a big complex pit, a 52lb pike was found dead in the margins once) and the Little Warren ( the one I'm talking about) were well stocked and well fished at that time and being just a six mile pre-dawn bike ride away from home and easily the most diverse and interesting fishing available locally, were fished by me as often as I could...

I doubt if I have ever been more eager to go fishing and by the time Keith arrived I was straining at my leash in anticipation, and all because crucian carp do represent a particular time in my life when I had just reached a level of competence where I could say I really was an angler, and not just a fisherboy. I wanted to revisit that time.

The lake, Snitterfield Reservoir near Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire turned out to be a small local supply reservoir, a roughly triangular bowl, and in size, more or less exactly that of the Little Warren. It was deeper though; my swim of choice was a steeply shelving affair and depending on where I cast, anywhere up to and probably well over ten feet in depth and because the bottom was actually the man made bank of a reservoir this depth change was continuous and smooth, so finding depth was less a matter of accurate plumbing and more matter of over shotting the float with a BB shot four inches from the hook and pulling the tackle back up the shelf till as much of the float tip showed as was necessary.

Being so used to the deadness of the surface of canals and having to read the most subtle of signs in order to ascertain the presence of fish in those places, the sheer amount of fishy activity visible here was a revelation; everywhere there were fish of all kinds doing the things fish do when they are happy and hungry. I knew we would catch plenty just by the smell of the place, and sure enough within minutes of the first cast the float started bobbing. Half an hour in and Keith caught the first, and as it was to turn out, the only crucian of the day weighing in at a pound and three quarters, and it fell to sweetcorn. Of course I switched baits right away.

Then the roach started to show, and then came bream. A steady trickle of both fish came to my net, but in my swim, and especially after I had switched to double grains of corn on the hook, the bream not only dominated but came in progressively larger sizes, whilst Keith landed just a single bream all afternoon amongst a catch of many roach to ten ounces, plus a solitary bonus rudd.

Keith threw a handful of breadcrust into the weed beds to see if they would tempt the carp, and then switched over to bread flake fished shallow to catch one of the rudd that pecked at them constantly. I kept an eye out for the tell tale signs of interested carp, as you would, and set up a second rod to fish a big worm under the bush to my right. I had bites on the worm that failed to connect and then a strange jerk-jerk bite that went no further, probably, I thought, a line bite, but when that rod was finally retrieved I saw that the terminal tackle had suffered something I've not seen for years - a hook link bitten clean through - a chew off.

Could have been anything.

I decided to use this rod, a light Avon with six pound line and a size ten hook to freeline a big crust into the weed, tackle that some may say is just a little too light for such fishing but in a past life, when I was something of a hook-and-hold snag angler for carp, I'd made a virtue of landing carp from seemingly impossible situations and the water hawthorn I planned to fish into was not really what I would call difficult circumstances it being a deep water aquatic plant with long thin stalks that line cuts out of very easily, but only if the rod is held as high as possible against a running fish. Besides, it was the strongest tackle I had on me, I thought myself up to the task, carp were there for the taking and actively seeking the crusts - it was a red rag to a bull, and I had to have a go.

The crust landed with a plop just where it should have, I let out some slack line that floated around in a big arc, set the rod down and pulled off some slack line between butt ring and reel and put it under a piece of stale bread on the deck to act as a back up visual indicator, just in case I missed the visual cue of a tightening line. My plan, if a carp took the crust was to hold the rod high and give line grudgingly...

I was still fishing the float rod, but this was to turn out to be a very big mistake, for it got hooked up to the biggest, strongest bream of the afternoon just a few seconds prior to my hearing an ominous slurp in the weeds followed by my crust vanishing in a boil of water, the slack line snaking across the surface and the stale bread indicator flipping a yard in the air as a carp hooked itself against the reel and bolted straight out - the rod lurched toward the water, the reel screamed into life as the butt ring jammed in the rod rest which then began to tilt over and I found myself with two bucking rods in hand - a beaten fish in the left hand waiting for the net - and in the right, a big carp ploughing at a breathtaking rate of knots through the weed beds, ripping the mainline off the spool while my spare fingers desperately fumbled through the bail arm which as luck would have it was in just the wrong position, to find a grip on the spool...

I yelled for Keith but he was already coming having seen the wake of the carps phenomenal first dash, so I threw the bream rod down on the ground and gradually locked up the clutch, as far as I thought I could get away with. The carp finally came to a halt but what I then failed to see was that the mainline was exhausted, just forty yards of it had been on the spool which is more than enough for canal fishing, but this was open water and now I was on the backing, of just three pounds breaking strain! I tightened up to the fish and blithely pulled hard against the fish...

The fish lunged, and the line parted. I stood there and berated myself, threw the rod down, picked up the other and landed the poor bream still swimming around in circles in the margins where it had been abandoned.

It could so easily have been far, far worse, in fact I was very lucky, because the anglers very worst nightmare of having rod and reel towed irretrievably out into the lake had been narrowly avoided; the lightly set clutch had saved the day. The fish escaped with just a small barbless hook in its rubbery lips that will fall out soon enough and trailing much line, but thankfully with nothing else attached that could snag and tether the fish, but consolations aside I have to hold my hands up, admit to the guilt and endure the shame of being, without any reasonable doubt...

An angler most stupid.

No comments:

Post a Comment