Have you ever known you were going to catch a nice fish? Or the feeling, days before your next session, that this was going to be something special? You have formulated your plans over and over again in your head, your bait is made, your tackle is sorted. The weather forecast is checked twice a day. Sleep is not coming easy.
You know which swim you fancy, but you’ll have a look round never the less. You know the exact spots where each bait will be placed. All you do now is cross your fingers that the swim is available. But you know that it really doesn’t matter if every swim but one is taken. Something is going to happen.
The week leading up to my last session had been slow and my mind was somewhere else. All my thoughts were down at the lake. There was a howling south westerly picking up and despite a lot of the more experienced anglers on the lake telling me that the fish didn’t follow the wind, this was the first big south westerly of the year. The lake had been chilled for months by cold winds coming off the sea; the sun had borne little effect. It was slow to pick up from it’s winter chill, but reports coming from the other members indicated things were slowly picking up. And this big wind came at the exact right time. I knew the fish would be on it.
I arrived at the lake at 6am after a two hour drive from my home. As I pulled into the gate, two cars were leaving. The car park had been left deserted. One of the anglers had caught a fish the previous night on the back of the wind, but that didn’t deter me from my fancied swim. I parked up and walked over to the lake. It was windy. I watched the water for a while, a fish rolled in the margins off the point amongst the white caps. This was the swim I wanted and I did not need any encouragement. If a fish had rolled in the bay, I think I may well have pushed it to the back of mind and ignored it. The tackle was unloaded on the point.
It began to rain, horizontally.
The bivvy was up, the rods ready and the kettle on. I put out a marker rod onto the bar and soon found a gap in it. One rod, on a single bottom bait was placed here amongst 1 kilo of free offerings. This is a lot more that I usually feed, but previous sessions, where I had used just PVA bags and stringers, had resulted in a few twitchy runs and a fish or two lost during the fight. I knew my rigs were fine so I wanted to get the fish feeding with more abandon and figured I would do this by increasing their confidence with more free offerings before they encountered the one with a hook. But old habits die hard and the left hand rod was placed in my near margin just off the shelf, with a large bag of free offerings and nothing else. This was where I’d seen the fish roll and convinced myself baiting on top could spook any fish present. This left one rod. This was placed to the back of the island on the marginal shelf. Here, sheltered by the island, was slightly calmer surface water. Again I baited heavily, this time with about 2 kilos. The bait landed in a wide area due to firing it out across the wind. But it generally formed a line between the island and the bank, which appealed to me. I hoped I would intercept any fish moving here and draw them to my baited hook.
The first cup of tea was drunk and the rain had just stopped. It was about two in the afternoon. I sat there watching the willows buckle under the force of a still strengthening wind. Suddenly my left hand rod twitched a few times then the tip steadily pulled around and the alarm sounded. I was on the rod quickly, half expecting to see a duck pop up with the bait. There was no duck in sight and picking the rod up met with the satisfying thump of a hooked fish. The fish fought spiritedly but I soon had it coming to the net. Netting proved to be a nightmare. I could not handle the net in the wind. I eventually managed to get it in the water, but just as I was bringing a nice fish over the draw string the wind gusted, picking the net up and slamming it into the line dislodging the hook. I could only stand there as a fish of about twenty pounds hung motionless for a moment looking confused then turned and swam away. I recast and put the kettle on again.
Steve the syndicate leader joined me and as we both sat sheltering from the elements, Steve saw a nice fish roll near the island. Other people were arriving. There was a fish-in on the coarse lake and Steve ran off to meet one of the anglers who had just turned up. Just as Steve left another large fish rolled, this time right over my bait at the back of the island. Steve returned and I told him my right hand rod was going to scream off any moment. Yes you’ve guessed it, it screamed off. I knew instantly I was into a good fish. The slow ponderous runs of a large fish are unmistakeable. I was glad Steve was back after the mess I’d made of netting the last fish. The fish made some powerful runs and came up and over the bar. There was so much line out of the water that the wind was putting a massive bow in the line and I was worried that a gust may lead to disaster. I positioned myself out of the wind behind a willow and played the fish with the rod parallel with the water. This helped and I soon had control over the fish. I saw it roll near the net. It was a bloody big fully scaled carp. The biggest in the lake is a fully scaled carp. I saw the look on Steve’s face, I think he knew straight away what fish it was but chose not to say anything. Cheers Steve, I was nervous enough. The fish rolled a few more times near the net, each time it turned and went away, Steve stood in the waves patiently for his chance with the net and when that chance came he took it expertly. As I saw the fish roll into the net I said “that’s the big one isn’t it Steve?” He just nodded and smiled.
The fish was retained while I got the camera and scales ready. Steve called the anglers who had just arrived and they came over for a look. Enter stage left – Elton and Gaffer.
To say I was chuffed was an under statement. Steve said I was shaking, and in all honesty I was as calm as Southgate taking a penalty. She weighed thirty-six and a half pounds and was a new personal best. After photographs the rod was recast and another two kilos of bait were spread by the wind in a huge area. I wouldn’t have cared if my baits were up a tree. Two hours later the same rod absolutely belted off. Line was pouring off the spool at an alarming rate. By the time I had made contact with the fish it had already made 20 yards around the island. Keeping the rod low again I forcefully gained line until the fish was in open water. This fish fought like the proverbial clappers. On more than a few occasions it was taking line against a tight clutch with the rod beyond it’s fighting curve. This time I knew I had to net it myself. I waded out and the water flooded into my boots. In this deeper water I sunk the net fully out of the wind and at first asking swooped the fish into the mesh. I
t was another fine fish of twenty-five pounds and had probably given me the best fight a still water carp had ever done. Steve was called around for the photo session and was joined this time by Mally.
After the fish was returned the rod was repositioned and given the same bait treatment. A few hours later the rod was away again and after a very spirited fight a fish of 19lb was netted. This lean mean fish had a huge tail and certainly used it to zip about nearly knitting me a braid jumper out of my lines in the process. I self took a couple of pictures using a tripod and bulb release and returned the fish immediately. What a few hours. I sat there, smoked a cigarette and put the kettle on watching the odd cloud fly past the stars at an alarming speed. This couldn’t get any better, but there was to be a fish-in BBQ tomorrow and knew it would. I could feel it in my water.