Big fish are my passion and the bigger they are, the more I enjoy them. That's not to suggest for a moment that I don't enjoy catching small fish because I do, just so long as they are pointing at something larger to come but when the times arrives when it is clear that a water will not be throwing up any more surprises in terms of ever larger specimens then my enthusiasm wanes away to nothing. Quickly.
However, my concept of what constitutes a 'big fish' is entirely relative, that is to say that I see big fish as being big only in relationship to context of their capture, therefore a two pound crucian carp from the ancient Parker's Pool in Bedworth, a tree-lined and weedy farm pond out of the classic mould where I have enjoyed what appear to be equally ancient crucian carp an ounce or two in excess of a pound, would be an absolutely impossible monster of a fish, whereas a two pound crucian from, say, Marsh Farm in Surrey, a modern commercial fishery only recently carved out of the Earth but nationally famous for holding some of largest crucians in the land, would be a personal best fish and cause for brief celebration but as a fish in its own right, would barely raise anyone's eyebrow let alone mine.
It would amount to a 'so what'.
As it happens, Marsh Farm received a visit from yours truly just a few days ago. Phil Smith, one of the country's most venerable anglers, invited Keith and I, two of the least, to share the considerable fuel bill of a trip down South after the aforementioned fish, and of course we bit off an arm apiece. He'd grown a new pair by three o'clock Thursday morning and then drove us the 100 odd miles from Coventry in his fully-fishing-equipped white van in what, because of the incessant fishing chatter of three equally lunatic-about-angling, anglers, seemed like the blink of an eye. Before I knew it, I was striding out tackle-laden and full of beans to my first swim of choice.
Phil fishing at right and Keith, middle
I set up in the farthest flung corner in peg 23 and slightly out of the wind whilst Phil and Keith chose pegs a little further along and right in the teeth of it. At first the wind was cold but bearably so, however an hour in and despite the fact that I was getting bites on caster, probably from roach or rudd, I was frozen to the spot so I upped sticks and went fish up the leeward bank where I had the pick of the calm, and as it transpired, bite-less water.
Crucian fishing = fraught idleness
When the day warmed up enough I ventured back to my original peg and settled in there for the day. On the way back I witnessed Phil's friend (? John) with his long rod hooped over and in the process of landing the day's first crucian, a fish of just under three pounds. This was easily the largest crucian I had ever seen but with the very real possibility of a four pounder in the offing and viewed through the distorting lens of such high-expectation it looked inconsequentially small.
Nevertheless, we were off the mark and now I expected the crucians to go on a bender. Phil managed a pounder from his margin swim and then Keith had a tench on ledgered pellet out in open water. Things were looking up. Myself, well I was missing bites, an expected and necessary part of crucian carp fishing of course, as everyone who knows, knows, but I was sure that once I got my eye in and if the wind ever died down enough for delicate bites to be registered more easily, I would have my first crucian.
Phil loaned me a very fine float as mine was not ideally suited to the conditions (I don't ordinarily buy floats that can't cope with canal tow!) and a handful of pellets as I had left mine at home. Twenty minutes later I struck a clear lift and was attached to my first feisty fish of the day, one that darted about in fury at having been snatched up from its blameless world. It was my first crucian, and not only that, it was a four...!
Ouncer, that is...
Keith then had a crucian of his own at two pounds three ounces, a new personal best for him.
I thought that now we would have an afternoon of furious crucian action especially when my swim suddenly showed signs of incoming fish in the form of eruptions of large bubbles. A further bite on prawn resulted in connection to a powerful resistance that I hoped would turn out to be a major specimen of Carassius carassius, but alas it was only a tench pushing four pounds.
I say "alas", but actually it was a personal best fish! Like I said before, grand expectations distort reality...
I fished on like this for the rest of the afternoon, hoping against hope for crucians but getting only tench, putting six on the bank by close of play with a further PB of four eight along the way.
It was great fun though, fighting these great sporting fish to the bank against their furious pugilistic will with even the smallest tench of the day, a fish of just half a pound, putting up a scrap to embarrass a carp four times its weight.
No-one else had any crucians after the brief feeding spell around midday. I guess the chill North Easterly, which blunts even the keenest angler's edge, just put them down. It was not to be and so we scarpered back to Cov with our tails between our legs having collectively failed in spectacular fashion to charm one of Marsh Farms grand old residents into our nets.
Ah well, next time...