Monday, 10 August 2015

Crucian Carp — After Noon

Crucian carp are one of those fish that are fairly easy to find round here. Perhaps I should say that fisheries that contain them are not that uncommon. They live in many local ponds and lakes. Catching them however, is another matter. These venues are not at all like Harris Lake at Marsh Farm where you can fish for crucians specifically. Their bites being very easy to differentiate from those arriving from their main competition, which is tench. All you have to do there is strike at every little indication — tench will pull the float straight under. There's no problem seeing which is which.

A tip off from a local angler fishing the canal put me onto a new prospect. A local free pond where just because it looks as if it should hold them I've tried for them once or twice, but unsuccessfully. He mentioned having caught one to his surprise whilst enjoying a day's general fishing. Asking what kind of size it was he opened his hands and indicated a length that I reckon would be about 2lb, depending on body shape. 

So I went over with a rod hoping to find one for myself. Unfortunately, because the venue is free to fish, not cared for as a fishery should be, and not fished very often, it was choked with weed and so there were just two viable swims open. Before setting off I'd noticed a wind knot in the hook length but forgot all about retying before commencing fishing. It cost me the only bite of the short session when what was certainly a small carp pulled the float straight under, snapping the weak spot under little strain.

I do think it worth a very early morning return soon, and to a swim prebaited the night beforehand to get the fish out of that weed and into the clear. Seems like a plan to me.

My next effort was at Monks Pool in Bulkington. This would be an entirely different prospect. I have caught a crucian there but just the one. It was taken on a prawn intended for perch in early springtime. They are rarely caught because no-one ever tries for them at Monks. All anyone seems to care for are its king carp. It is full of all kinds of species, though. Millions of individuals. Most present in every swim. And therefore crucian bites are impossible to tell from any other. 

I don't think I arrived quite early enough. It was a warm morning and bound to get even warmer later. That would mean after noon it would probably turn into an endless round of arm wrenching tussles with sub double-figure carp. I was not to be proven wrong... 

First swim I managed small rudd and roach, hybrids, perch and bream on both prawn and corn. Moving about I caught more of the same and gudgeon too. No crucians though, and no signs of them either. Of course I knew at some point there'd be carp crashing the party. So I rigged up a barbel rod and flicked out a piece of free-lined crust just to have the first caught by design. It wasn't in the water longer than three minutes before it was engulfed by a pair of rubbery lips attached to 8 pounds of muscle. 

After that three minute knockabout I went back to my float fishing. I'm thinking 8lb would suffice for still-water carp points — I'm probably not going to camp out in hope of a twenty at any point unless it be down the river or the cut. But carp were beginning to show themselves all round the lake by eleven and I just dreaded the thought of getting attached to an endless series of them on a three-pound bottom with all the attendant hassle of re-tying new hook lengths. Then of course, the float zipped away and a small carp stripped twenty yards of line from the spool in seconds. 

Here we go...

It took a little while to tame but was netted and without breakage. Clearly the old bulk spool of 3lb Sensor in my bag was still serviceable and my tying of the spade-end fine-wire B911 up to scratch. But then a swim move brought a proper problem. I'd trickled mashed prawn into the reedy margins of a quiet corner where I'd not seen carp movement, then plopped the baited hook amongst it hoping for a delicate little lift of the antennae to strike at. 

Which I got...

At first I really did think I'd hooked my target because it felt like a two-pounder of one species or another. But then the fish, that clearly had no idea it was actually hooked, became heavier and heavier and heavier. After about fifteen minutes of guiding the fish around in circles in an attempt to tire it, the float appeared and then the shot, and then the huge tail paddle of a carp the like of which I'd thought this lake did not hold. For a while I really thought it was a twenty-pounder. But in the murky water I wasn't sure. 

Very risky short line hook and hold tactics in play. Kept it out of the reeds though...

I didn't see it again for another twenty minutes. I don't think I'd actually tired it much — bored it more likely — but it had begun wallowing. Which was a good sign. I thought I might actually net it eventually if the hook-length could stand the strain of my trying to get it up in the water more often than it was down on the deck.

When I'd managed that I began to see the fish more frequently and it was clear it wasn't quite so large as thought, but still, it was obviously into double-figures so it was well worth being careful with. I netted it (and it only just fitted in the frame) only when I had it make the mistake of coming in close and high at the same time. If I hadn't teased the lump into that position, I might have been at it all day long! 

It was thirteen-pounds nine-ounces and quite a handsome mirror. But was nigh an hour in the beating! 

Because I rarely fish for carp specifically these days, it is the largest I have caught since August 2008 when I was lucky enough to catch a 15lb river fish. I was dead chuffed with this capture. Really pleased. And very impressed with my entire outfit which had coped with a fish it wasn't really built to tame without ever feeling near breaking point. It feels balanced and correct. Forgiving but man enough to fight well above its weight. And that's nice to know when I might encounter a canal carp I cannot afford to lose when fishing for silver bream or roach.

And therefore I'll do something I have never done before and endorse the lot...

Rod: Korum Neoteric XS 11ft Power Float — Feels capable, absorbs lunges perfectly. First proper test of this rod.
Reel: Korum CS 3000 — Predictable smooth clutch without sticky spots, Again, performance when it really mattered.
Main line: Daiwa Sensor 5lb — Cheap and reliable. Doesn't seem to go off with age if kept in the dark.
Hook length: Daiwa Sensor 3lb — Ditto
Float: Drennan Glow Tip Antennae (2 No1) — A peerless float without equal for the lift bite method. Think the larger sizes better for general use. This was the smallest version I think. 
Shot: Dinsmores Super Soft — Does not damage light lines.
Hook: Kamasan B911 (barb-less spade-end fine-wire) size 12 — Holds fish of all sizes without complaint. Surprisingly strong for such a lightweight hook.
Hook tying tool: Stonfo. — Ties super strong knots to spade ends with little effort once the technique is learned. Five turns is best. More or less than five makes for a weaker knot. 

One of the uncommonly encountered  fully-scaled mirrors. Lean and wiry. Like a wildy in many ways.
By far the toughest scrapper I encountered through the day and actually the fairest test of the tackle

After that it was one carp after another and wherever I tried I simply could not avoid them. I think I banked another five or seven. I can't remember quite. I got so used to playing these fish in by degree that I entertained myself by taking selfies mid-fight. Not something I would attempt when playing barbel!

My day concluded with earnings of forty odd points and a climb of another couple of notches up the scoreboard into a comfortable 7th place. Not bad work. I only got my license a month ago and was at the very bottom in last place not so very long before. More importantly, though, this challenge sees me fish with burning desire, zeal and passion. I really do want to do well at it. It feels good to try hard but work harder.

It even feels good to catch carp again...

Every now and then, I might add!


  1. Hi Jeff. Interested in your views on the antenna as I have found it a poor version of its predecessor, the Stillwater Blue. Its a bloody difficult float to shot. I find that if you try to dot it right down, the weight of the hookbait - even double maggot - will sink it. The alternative is to undershot but I've found this leads to fiddly bites, and lots of missed ones. I can see how it might be less of an issue with the lift method, but whereas the SB was a great float for fishing hemp and tares, I've struggled to get the antenna to do the same job. As for Drennans pole float 'upgrades'...

    1. That extreme sensitivity to even the slightest extra weight is what makes it so great for registering lifts. I shot so that a bulk strung 12 inches from the hook has the antennae fully exposed, then add one more shot an inch or so from the hook that is just enough to sink it. Doesn't take much.

      The shot sits on the deck, the bread floats above it and off bottom. Bread is buoyant so the shot must be enough to sink the float plus anchor the bait. Tricky shotting.

      When a fish picks up the bait that last shot is subtracted and the entire antennae shoots up in the air so fast it's shocking. I developed the use if it this way when I realised roach down the cut were picking up bread but ejecting it very quickly just as as I'd observed they do with ledgered bread. Just as with quiver tipping it's all about accurate timing with roach because they hardly ever hook themselves.

      You hit the bite on the rise. If it reaches top they've spat it. Tough work in winter when it's one bite every ten minutes or less!