Friday 22 April 2011

Summer Carp - A Hard One Off The Top

We went on a long, long walk last Sunday, Judy, the dog and I. A nice Sunday morning stroll that then became a hike and later a near marathon when we decided, with good reason, to take a trip up the Ashby canal as far as the Lime Kiln pub on the A5 and then turn about on ourselves after a pint (me, two) of cool beer. What we hadn't bargained for was the incredible inaccuracy of canal-side visitor maps that contract and compress the canal into an illustration comprising of mostly bridges and other landmarks but without any true indication of distance between each - so what we thought was a couple of extra easy miles turned out to be a further arduous five in addition to the four from home to the Coventry/Ashby Canal junction, so the entire outward journey finally came to nine miles and was therefore a round trip of eighteen, plus...

We'd set out for just five!

In all that way I saw the sure and certain signs of just two fish! That's the first difficulty of canal fishing for you - the fish don't show themselves in the main and only briefly when they do. The Ashby Canal was beautiful though - far more so than the Coventry Canal with its constant drift of wind blown urban flotsam, and, it looked decidedly 'tenchy' in parts with extensive banks of reeds along the far bank so I think I'll be conducting at least part of my summer canal tench and carp campaign there.

I had intended to start this campaign later in the week but despite having weather just perfect for it I lost heart and caved in to other pressures, decorating mostly burt also the necessary business of reclaiming and cleaning several hundred georgian wire-cut bricks from a local skip for my summer project of a brick built outhouse in the back yard that will serve as my dedicated fishing shed. Judy wasn't entirely happy about this 'waste of time, money and effort' but a lucky and entirely accidental overnight escape of maggots in the parlor soon convinced her of the clear sense of it...

Monday morning I met up with Keith and Pete who were on an overnighter at Weston Lawns, and Danny too who picked me up bright and early. I went there for a spot of carp fishing. My theory is that the largest carp in the lake inhabit a very specific part of it at certain times of the day. I fished that specific part of course and with two rods on bobbins and buzzers with corn on the hook. I had loads of line bites and aborted takes over a period of two hours with the water out front boiling from time to time as large carp fed over the free corn samples. Clearly I am going to have to get clever with these highly pressured fish in the future as I only had the one six pounder all day long and that was long after the larger fish had cleared off, and whilst two lads on the opposite bank had fish after fish after fish, all afternoon long.

I got out fishing again yesterday with Martin Roberts. We went to a local lake, a pretty and well manicured low-pressure commercial fishery that has banned most of the possible things that could make for an unpleasant day - boilies for instance. I liked it straight off and chose to fish a quiet corner fringed with reeds and hoping for a half decent rudd. I got a lot of half decent roach and roach/bream hybrids by fishing red maggots on the drop but just the one tiny rudd in the first three hours and so a move was in order midday.

I decided to try a little further along but on the way spotted a pair of dark carpy shadows out in the open water. I had to try for them so I hastily set up a crude floater rig on the barbel rod I had in the rod bag with a controller made out of a guinness widget float and threw out a single dog biscuit to them with a handful of freebies scattered around. The carp became interested immediately and soon became a small shoal of five or six individuals who slurped down every morsel except the bait as the bright white round float was clearly frightening them off.

I was considering tying on a stick instead but Martin had spied me working for the carp and came around to watch. He decided to go fetch a more suitable outfit, a lighter rod and a reel with just six pound line, a set up that would be able to flick two biscuits rigged in tandem and without a controller for casting weight, the required distance. Now I was in business and the first fish was duly hooked.

The fish was more powerful and somewhat larger than its appearance in the water had suggested. What had seemed to be just a near double-figure fish was clearly well into high double figures and strong with it. The fight, at first a slow and ponderous but powerful affair, suddenly became a real battle ten minutes in when the fish decided, at last, to really fight back hard. Twenty arm aching minutes later and with Martin ready with the net, the fish finally tiring and showing on the surface, the hook pinged out...

Then I tried and failed to hook up to what must have been at least thirty or more takes but only hooked up to one more carp who was once again lost to an insecure hook hold. Clearly these fish were well and truly wised up to the nutritional value and inherent danger of eating floating dog biscuits as they'd appear as if by magic whenever they were scattered upon the water and would carefully suck them in and try them for any signs of attached line before committing to a mouthful. It was unbelievably frustrating sport but I persevered until at last I put a fish, a 13 pound, 1 ounce common carp, on the bank.

Happy that I'd put a few more points on the challenge board I then went back to the rudd fishing as Martin assured me that he'd found some over in the far corner. By the time I got to join him he had a number of said fish now languishing temporarily in his landing net hanging in the margins, some of which were pushing the pound mark. Nice...

I managed to get the water boiling out front in no time by constantly feeding maggots and proceeded to catch fish after fish, many of them rudd up to half a pound or so. It wasn't till I started to feed corn that I started to get a better stamp of fish culminating in the best roach and rudd of my day on successive casts. The roach was still-water personal best, as it happens, and the rudd gave a small two ounce increase over the year's previous best. Not much, but all points count!

Unfortunately, feeding corn creates an unfinished feast of free samples on the lake bed that the small fish can't get in their gobs as they fall through the water, and so, on a fishery such as this there is only one inevitable outcome. The very next bite saw me connected to what was either a record roach or a rudd capable of eating a record roach. I must say that the self-tied three pound hook-link to a size eighteen fine wire Gamakatsu hook was strained and stretched up to, and well over the limits of its strength before an unwanted double-figure carp finally gained its freedom, only snapping the line when I was forced to try to extricate it from a snag under the bank.

That was the end of my carefully built rudd swim and I decided to end the day after another carp off the top when the floating downy seeds falling from the local trees rapidly filled the surface film rendering fine tackle fishing nigh impossible. I hooked and lost yet another but by now I'd found out just why the carp were so very cute when it came to floating dog biscuits. A further two carp anglers had joined the fray by late afternoon, both sporting an orange bag of the tasty canine treats.

This is what a boily ban creates - a stalkers paradise!

After I had packed up my gear I took a walk around the island where I discovered an unexpected treat lurking in the long grass in the shade of the trees - a ring of plump St Georges mushrooms. These wild fungi are one of the tastiest treats to find at this time (or any time) of the year and are pretty much unmistakable for anything else being so early and with a distinctively strong mealy smell and really firm white flesh. They were found just two days earlier than their traditional arrival date of April 23rd - St George's Day - from whence they get their name. I filled my hat with them.

As I write this missive I can smell them cooking in butter as Judy makes lunch in the kitchen. Mmmm. A man's mushroom this! The french call them 'le vrai mouserron', or 'the true mushroom', as they are so damn good. I don't expect you to try them yourself but trust me they are worth it!


  1. It was a great pity the other carp came adrift Jeff you did well in the end.
    Banded biscuits was the way to catch them (martins style)
    Glad I could teach you a few things

  2. "a lucky and entirely accidental overnight escape of maggots in the parlor soon convinced her of the clear sense of it..." a lucky escape was it ?!?!
    Well 'my dear' take heed, one more of those & you'd better make the shed large enough to accommodate you and your 'wriggly friends'... J x

  3. Steve in Colorado23 April 2011 at 23:45

    Hmmm... I should think a canny bloke would do well to take 'anonymous J' at her word, Jeff... ;)
    Nice common, too. Around here we call them Rocky Mountain bonefish; they're skittish buggers and able to learn and adapt- as you well know.
    I read somewhere they have a larger brain than most fish...
    And a nice find with the 'shrooms. I like a quickly sauteed fungus myself... preferably with a steak or pork chop!

  4. I will be taking pains to avoid my shed becoming a home...

    Skittish is the word. Cute as hell they were and though that is normal for carp this was educated behavior, no doubt. I think fly fishing would be interesting, easier and just as productive. Roger Booth did a lot of that stye of carp fishing last year with great success and I see it is getting popular in North America