The past two weeks have had it all for me, with a real roller-coaster ride of carp fishing emotions! The tale below is completely true....
Picture the scene.....
It's your birthday. You get up at 5am, open your birthday cards and hang them in your bivvy. It seems almost surreal, waking up by a carp lake on your birthday for the first time. You make a coffee, put your chair by the water's edge and survey the lake.
Move ahead one hour....
The world has become even more surreal. You're staring down as the carp sack is unzipped. The biggest carp you've seen in your life is slowly revealed. How can a common carp grow so big and yet still remain in such immaculate condition? You're already pretty certain it beats the lake record, which had stood at 40lb 4oz, as a quick weigh beforehand took it well past that mark, but you need to double-check this. You've zeroed the scales with the weigh sling attached and now bend down to take the weight. Straining, you raise this beast of a fish from the ground and, using all your might, steady your arms so that the two others present can read the scales accurately.
43lb 4oz! You can't believe it. It's smashed the lake record by a country mile!
This genuinely happened to me on 5th May, 2009.
Only trouble was, it wasn't me who caught it, but my old mate Glyn Llewellyn!
Yep, at 6:15am on my birthday (have I mentioned it was my birthday?), I got a call from Glyn asking if I had my camera, as he thinks he “might have broken the lake record”. There are only two swims being fished, and I haven't had a bleep all night. I'd kind of expected it, though, and had got up early to attend my rods more closely at what I considered to be the best fishing time – 6:30am-8:30am.
There's me, who's never had a 30, let alone a 40, being asked to reel in my rods on my first carp trip of the year, at the peak feeding time, on my birthday (just thought I'd get a mention in), just so that I could weigh and photograph a fish for someone else. If I wasn't such a selfless, well-balanced, friendly kind of chap, I'd have screamed....or told him to clear off! The git.
So, without fuss, I reeled in, removed my baits (those bloody tufties would have spotted them hanging off my pod from a mile away!), grabbed my scales, weigh sling and camera, and plodded off to do the decent thing (no, not chuck him in).
As I wandered back to my swim, I couldn't help thinking how, whatever I caught now, it would never beat that.
All day, the old song “It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)” played over and over in my head (on account of it being my birthday and all that....).
The Bit In The Middle
Two days later, having not had a single run, I found myself in another swim. I'd seen fish moving over that part of the lake and have vowed to put more effort into my angling this year, so stuck to that vow and upped-sticks. I also had an ulterior motive for choosing that swim – our annual Anglers' Net fish-in was due to take place the following week and we had to choose a swim. Knowing that Si, our friendly admin guy, wanted to fish the swim I'd previously been in, I chose one that would give me various options. The fact that it was nearer to the daily BBQ had nothing to do with it, so please don't listen to any of the other members who attended!
Anyway, back to where we were.....
Nothing happened all day. As is so often the case with any fishery, as soon as I moved swims, the fish started showing somewhere else. I put it down to body odour and vowed to buy some Nash Roll-On Carperiser when I got back (okay, no such product exists, but if anyone studied carp fishing to such a degree that personal odour was found to be a crucial factor, then it would be one of the Nash crew!). Still, I was happy with the spots I was fishing and re-baited for the night. The bait was Nash Scopex Squid Livers with Robin Red, a bait that Gary Bayes had personally recommended to me a while back, so I fished it with confidence!
It was a bit late by the time I got sorted, so my lamb steaks and noodles would have to be eaten in the dark. Oh, how I suffer for my hobby.....
You guessed it! Just as I took the first mouthful, off flies my left hand rod for the first time this year, a fact that my trusty Fox Micron STR seemed to take great delight in making me aware of. It was like the line had been hit by a passing train, such was the speed at which line was vanishing off the reel! Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!
What followed was one of the best angling scraps I've ever had. A combination of a scrappy common carp and a rusty carp angler meant that I really did get good value out of this fish. Every time I got it to the net, it would take off again and disappear into the depths of the lake. Eventually, I just managed to get it into the safety of the landing net. At this point, I was over the moon....and very relieved! That feeling of relief was magnified by a million when I went to unhook the fish and found that the hook had come out already. That was too close a shave for comfort!
The fish looked enormous, so big in fact that once it was sacked, I rang a mate and told him, “I've got my first 30. It could even be bigger!”
My self-take. My wife says it's the best photo of me she's ever seen!
When I weighed the fish, though, it 'only' went 27lb 8oz. Not only was it not a 30, but it was miles smaller than Glyn The Git's earlier fish. Feeling rather dejected, I set the camera up for a self-take. I took a couple of really dismal photos of myself without the fish first, just to get the framing right, and then went to take a couple of me holding the fish.
At this point, my remote control decided that two photos was enough for one day and refused to work. I tried different angles, pressing the button harder and even throwing it as far as I could in anger, but nothing worked, so I decided to take some photos of the fish on the mat and put it back.
I managed one before the battery packed up!
Once the fish was safely returned, I looked down at my pod and wondered how I'd missed the tornado that must have passed through. There were rods everywhere, lines twisted beyond belief, so the next 20 minutes was spent re-rigging and getting fresh baits into the water.
It was only after I sat down and took it all in that I thought, “You idiot, Elton. That fish was the biggest carp you've ever landed and you're moping about as if your wife's just run off with the milkman!” I smiled a bit at that point.....
27lb 8oz common carp. My new PB.
Fast forward a week and I'm back at the same fishery, in the same swim and feeling so much more confident. It's amazing the difference one fish can make. I'd managed to get my kit narrowed down so that apart from bedchairs,
chairs, sleeping bags, bivvies, rods, pods, landing nets and unhooking mats (!!!!!), I'd only brought one rucksack with me, which contained spare clothing, waterproofs, spod reel, marker reel, end tackle, stove, etc. I was really pleased with myself the previous night, when I'd packed it all into the car.
Until I got an email from Mistral Baits; “Have you had a chance to use that bait we sent you yet?”
Oops! They'd sent me 4-kilos of shelf life boilies to use and I hadn't used them the week before. I quickly rearranged my rucksack and squeezed in 2-kilos of 20mm Tune & Shellfish No Name boilies. I was fishing the trusty Nashbait on two rods and the Mistral Baits bait on the other.
At about midday, my right hand rod screamed off (do you ever get bites on the middle rod?). I struck into a fish and could immediately tell that it wasn't small. It wasn't as 'scrappy' as the previous week's carp, but had a more methodical 'weighty' feel to it. I was really pumped up – to catch a decent carp at one of the Anglers' Net fish-ins would be a real bonus. After what felt like ages, but was probably only about ten minutes in reality, I netted the fish and got it on the unhooking mat. Just as I was putting it in the sack, the fishery owner and four other blokes turned up. Purely by coincidence, Richard Capper, one of the forum members, had popped round to ask if I minded if he fished in the swim next to me and the others had tagged along to say hello (to be honest, at that point he could have told me that he'd just got a job as our village milkman and asked me to provide him a diary of dates I'd be out of the house and I'd have obliged!). So, here I was, with a monster carp and five witnesses. Even better than that, people to take photographs!
The doubts then crept into my head – I'd been wrong about the 30 a week before, so I said that I think it 'might' be a 30.
I shouldn't have worried. I held the weigh sling up and the fishery owner read the weight to me.... 35lb 12oz! This was no scraper 30, I'd done it by a comfortable margin. I was over the moon. The rest of it is a bit of a haze. I'm just so glad that the lads had turned up when they did, as the photos and video they provided have helped me remember the moment (they've also given me the ammunition to bore them all senseless with it over the coming months!).
And, in case you're wondering, it was the 20mm Tuna & Shellfish No Name that did the business, so my thanks to Caroline at Mistral Baits for 'reminding' me to take it with me!
Those of you who know me personally will know that my use of 'agony' and 'ecstacy' is with a pinch of salt. Not catching fish can be a bit irritating and catching a good one can be very exhilarating, but I'm a pretty grounded guy and at the end of the day, it's just fishing. As much as I enjoyed catching my new PB carp, it doesn't even register on the scale when you put it alongside moments like the births of my children.
The 43lb 4oz common that I mention could not have been taken by a nicer guy. Over the years, Glyn has been really kind to me every time I've visited the water in question, where he also happens to be a bailiff. He's also a very good angler and good fun to be around.
He's still a git, though.
P.S. If you're wondering why the video below has a funny soundtrack, it's because I might have just used a swear word a little bit at one point....