I knew just as soon as I got out the door on the morning dog walk down the cut that I'd be having another crack at the carp of the local commercial fishery, as the weather was just perfect for the approach and likely to remain that way the whole day long.
I arrived at the fishery to find a string of pegs occupied by an group of old fellas having a friendly, all with the vacant clueless stare of those who'd caught not much at all. My desired peg was occupied but just along there was another with a bed of lilies where I could see three or four carp basking in the sun.
I rigged up the one and three quarter pound Avon rod with eight pound line straight through to a size 6 barbless hook (six pound line was cutting it too fine last time out) with a stubby loaded waggler stopped two feet from the hook for extra casting weight and crucial visual reference for those frequent occasions when the bread would either slip behind a lily pad, or become saturated and sink just below the surface becoming lost to sight in the surface flotsam.
The first fish fell within twenty minutes, a six and a half pound mirror carp with the most appalling mouth damage I have ever seen in my life. The wound is so very severe that poor fish really has just a small opening (the size of a roach's mouth) to breath and feed through. I really don't believe that this damage was inflicted by a careless angler because it bears all the hallmarks of a very bad case of mouth rot (please visit this link, it matters I think) of the kind that affects garden pond koi carp kept in poor water conditions. However, the fish was perfectly healthy and strong despite this, and the rot seemed to be well healed apart from some vestiges of redness on the bottom 'lip'.
I fished on at that lily bed for a while and missed bite after bite. Well, bite is too strong a word. As the hours wore on the fish became more and more cautious, the crusts would be investigated and mouthed, loose feed samples would be slurped in and out, and often rejected outright. The fish were becoming almost impossible to catch. I considered packing down and leaving it till another day. The old fellas vacated their pegs and pulled up almost empty nets. I had the s=deserted lake all to myself, but the prospects were not looking very good at all.
I became so despondent about the crust fishing that I caved in and ripped open a can of corn, but all I got for that was loads of unhittable bites and a single small roach that had managed somehow to get the big hook in its little mouth.
As evening approached it was clear I was not going to get any where near a challenge point, but as a last gasp, wishing to put just one more fish on the bank, I devised a baiting strategy. I would use chub tactics, throwing loose feed over three or four swims and fishing them in rotation as and when I saw visual signs of activity occurring.
The fish became interested very quickly and I choose a likely position from which to exploit the situation. I hooked and lost a fish almost immediately, and then I hooked and lost another shortly after from the same place. I shortened the tail to just six inches from the float for instant visual confirmation as I believe that wary fish were being hooked lightly or even outside the mouth as they blew the suspect morsel back out again.
This had an immediate effect with the now willing to feed fish and I was soon attached to a powerful common carp that gave me a proper run around. It went just three and a half pounds, taking my days total to ten pounds. Just out of curiosity I began keeping a tally, not that I thought i'd a chance in hell of making sixty pounds plus, but just so that I could measure things out over the hour or so of fishing available before darkness fell, for future reference.
The loose feed seemed to be working so I kept up a regime of a handful of shredded bread every fifteen minutes or so. This had the effect of pulling carp in from outside the area and bringing them up from below. I began to bring in carp on a regular basis and only stopped in near darkness when the original bait supply of a loaf and half had dwindled to next to nothing.
By that time I had amassed a weight of thirty one pounds of carp with fish of (rounded to the nearest half pound, I was in a hurry!) 6.5, 3.5, 4.5, 3.5, 8.5 and 4.5lb.
Then I decided for one last cast into a swim with a dense lily bed to the left. The bait was taken almost immediately but the fish ploughed straight into the lilies on a surprise first run of brutish power. I just could not stop it and it pulled me through the bed and out the other side. We were now at loggerheads, stalemate, the fish having turned around the lilies and putting a 'U' shaped twanging string between the both of us.
I's been here a few times!
I see-sawed the line under pressure to cut through as many stems as possible. Then pulled on a straight line to cajole the fish back along its exit route by a few inches. I kept up this routine for twenty minutes winning an inch of line at a time and giving none away - eventually the gap was closed, the fish broke surface and then charged straight out along the path of least resistance, which was toward me, as planned. It still had a surprising amount of energy left but was duly netted, Not a bad performance at all, for a barbless hookhold, I thought. The fish was the largest of the day at just under ten pounds.
Interestingly, all the common carp were in perfect condition, with undamaged mouths and fins, but all the older looking mirror carp had either minor mouth damage or fin damage, or both.
I'd failed to achieve my total but had had a furious late run of fish taking the total to forty pounds that had I not run out of time and bait, or if they'd started feeding in earnest somewhat earlier, would have assured it. Nevertheless I had learned a great deal about fishing crust in commercial fishery situations. The essential stubby float for instance, an aid to proper bite registration that I would have been floundering without.
A six inch tail seemed the most efficient - when a wary carp would suck at the crust, if the float did not promptly vanish in the boil along with the bread, but bob about in it, then I would not strike as the bait had already been blown back out by then, but if it disappeared sharply then I found that a strike would invariably meet with a proper hook up. The longer the tail, the more uncertain I was about the timing of the strike as there would be a delay of up to a second or more between the bread vanishing and the slack being taken up between bait and float and a positive bite registering.