2003 Carp Journals – Part Two

At the end of my previous piece I’d just had my first two carp for the year from the Top Pool. I was made up with the result although neither fish were of the size one would normally expect; at 12lb 4oz & 8lb 12oz. No matter though, I’d attained the target I’d set myself at the beginning of the season of having a fish out before I went on holiday at the end of June. The holiday was still a week away and so I couldn’t resist sneaking back on to try and tempt a bigger fish before I went away. As anyone who has read previous pieces on the Top Pool will know, the fish aren’t used to a great deal of pressure and spook really easily. With a few anglers fishing the place during the first few weeks I decided to try a midweek overnighter hoping the quiet banks might just bring a result.

I snuck up on the Wednesday night to find the place completely empty. I dumped my gear on the Point Swim and went in search of the fish. It was around 7pm and the fish are usually to be found up in the shallows at this time and they didn’t let me down. As I approached the Top Boards Swim I could see a number of the sprat-pack close in to the bank, and as I looked down at them I wondered if the two fish I’d banked at the weekend were amongst their number!

On the far side I could see some bigger fish moving right along the edge of the sedges in around twelve-inches of water. They were moving in the area where I’d been stalking a few weeks earlier and I knew there were a few good clear spots close to the bank where the fish were moving. Presentation from the peg I was on would have been a nightmare, and hitting the clear spots which were only a foot wide would have been even harder. There was only one thing for it; to trek my gear all the way around the bay and up the other side of the lake.

Ten minutes later I had my gear past all the swims on the woods side, finally reaching the point where the fish were showing. There’s no swim as such and the spot is much further up the lake than the top swim I’d fished at the weekend. I crept to the edge of the sedges and peered over to see a number of 20lb plus fish all close into the edge. The clear spots looked perfect, although I feared fishing tight-lines could spook the fish; on the other hand I also wanted instant detection of bites. I agonised about how to fish the spots as I set up, eventually deciding to fish one slack and one tight and see what happened!

The two spots were about a rod-length from the bank and I soon had a single Shellfish B5 boilie positioned on each; one on a simple fluorocarbon boom-rig with a half-ounce lead, the other free-lined using a simple braid rig I’d tied using some 22lb Snowbee high tenacity braided polyester backing line, which I’d nicked from Dave at Tackle Bargains - I’d been itching to try this out for a while as it’s very, very supple.

I set up the shelter a little way from the rods as the ground was really boggy underfoot. Waders were donned for the night ahead as I’d probably need to go into the margins if I had to land a fish. Once set up I ate my tea (cheese sandwiches!) and then climbed the nearest tree to see what was going on. The fish were still in the area and every now and then one would move close to the baited area increasing my heart rate on each occasion. There were no freebies on either of the patches; just a few handfuls of Shellfish B5 Active Breakdown Pellets. The pellets are made to the exact same recipe as the boilies but are built to breakdown over about twenty minutes. This allows me to give off a massive B5 food signal without having loads of bait on the lake bed which could reduce the chances of a take on the hook bait. As it was, the presentation looked perfect so I climbed down the tree, lay on the bedchair, opened a can of beer and soaked up my surroundings. It was the first time I’d done an overnighter this far up the lake, for as I mentioned earlier, there isn’t really a swim, but if the carp won’t come to Mohammed…

As darkness fell I was happy to settle for an early night so turned up the Delk’s a touch and turned in for the night. I must have slept soundly, which is extremely unusual for me, for the next thing I know its daylight and the Delkim gave a bleep alerting me to a twitch on the left hand rod (the free-lined bait). A split-second later I heard a massive ‘Boodoosh’ as the water erupted and the alarm now sounded a full-blooded take. As I scrambled down to the rod I somehow knew this was a decent fish and as I lifted into the run and looked out over the sedges I could see a huge fish bolting out of the margin heading at speed into the middle of the lake.

Check out the Pondweed!

The fish gave a terrific battle from start to finish, and as it was unable to go deep (the whole area is only about eighteen inches deep) it’s only course of action was to charge up and down the margin in an attempt to reach a snag. It was a case of give-and-take as it kept making powerful lunges up and down the margin, and there were a few nervous moments as it nearly made the sanctuary of the overhanging rhododendron bushes to my right on a couple of occasions. Eventually however, I managed to coax the fish into the net, although it kept thrashing like mad once in, soaking me completely… bothered?

I climbed up out of the boggy margin and carried fish and net up to the unhooking mat. There was a mountain of weed in the net but I was in no doubt it was well over the twenty pound mark. As I pulled back the weed a perfect mirror presented itself, and as I saw the size of its tail and a couple of scattered scales on its flanks I straightaway knew it to be a fish I’d had before at around 25lb. Aside from a few spawning scrapes the fish was in absolutely mint condition and I could not stop grinning as I slipped her into the sling for weighing. The Avon’s whipped round and settled at 25lb 9oz - result!

25lb of tail! Taken on free-lined Shellfish B5.

I took a couple of quick photos on the mat, and then gently carried the mat down to the waters edge. The fish had the last laugh; whacking its huge tail against the water as it powered off into the margin, again covering me in water - I just let out a loud laugh and punched the air. As I made my way back up to my shelter the alarm-clock on my mobile phone sounded, letting me know it was time to get up! I was back at ANHQ an hour or so later and wasted no time in telling Elt
on that I’d just whipped out a twenty from the Top Pool!

With the holiday now just days away I thought the chances of another trip were rather remote, so had put the Top Pool to the back of my mind. We went away on the Monday morning and had the usual stuff to sort over the weekend before we went, so I was more than surprised when Lisa said it was all in hand and I could sneak the Friday night if I wanted - Don’t need to tell me twice! As it turned out I never even got to the Top Pool! I’d planned a steady trip, leaving the office at around six, planning to be there and set up for around eight. However, early in the afternoon I got a call off Miffer telling me that he’d just had a call of one from the Redesmere regulars who was set up in the shallows watching a boat load of thirties cruising around in front of him. What’s more, he informed me, there was nobody else on. At the beginning of the season the shallows are usually packed as this is where most of the fish come from during the warmer months; Miffer’s 33lb common a few weeks previous from the Neck is testament to this. Miffer explained he was already on his way up and intoned that if I fancied a dabble I should ‘do-one’ up to the Mere before all the swims went.

Miffer with ‘The Male’ at 33lb from Redesmere

I put it to the back of my mind and kept working for a while, though pictures of the Redesmere thirties wallowing around in the shallows kept coming into my head. Needless to say I was soon on the phone to Elton explaining the situation - As I would be able to finish my remaining jobs the next day Elton had no problem with me finishing early (He’s just such a nice guy:-) ). I was on the Mere within the hour.

Usually I’m not one for fishing Redesmere; the fishing can get a little crowded and in some cases it’s just a case of cast’em out and wait - Not really my kind of fishing. That said, you can’t argue with the quality of fish stocks, the water is known nationally in specimen circles for its head of carp, there are perhaps thirty fish over twenty five pounds with around 13 fish capable of doing 30lb at any one time. The record is just shy of forty pounds so its no wonder the place proves popular. Double figure bream and tench, along with pike into the high twenties are also present.

I pulled onto the shallows next to Miffer and climbed the tree to have a look out over the shallows. Straightaway I spotted a couple of good fish cruising about fifty yards out skirting quite a dense weed bed. The mere extends to some 40-acres, and the shallows at the north end cover a good few acres so there’s plenty to go at, especially as the shallows are only fishable from the east bank. It would be no problem presenting a bait as the water was only a few foot deep and the weed beds were easily visible from the bank whilst wearing Polarized glasses. Although the fish were visible until darkness fell, nothing developed through the night. This was no real problem mind, as Miffer and I just had a bit of a social to celebrate his thirty and my twenty-five.

The following two weeks in Crete meant my rods lay idle back at home as Lisa had banned me from taking any gear with me! Not that this was a problem, I enjoyed a really nice break and even managed to come back engaged! Teach me to drink too much in the sun, eh?

Shaun with a double figure common taken off the top

The weekend after I got back was Miffer’s 40th birthday do, so again no fishing. The week after was the 26th July, which meant it was the 24hr carp match on Blackwood Pool; the club water we control. The carp match is just an excuse to have a bit of a social really, and we usually try to fit three in during the year with the aggregate winner taking a trophy. No fish fell to my rods during the session which was weird as they were all over me when we set up on the Saturday afternoon. Chris and Shaun managed to sneak a couple off the top whilst Miffer’s brother John took the early lead with a handful of single figure carp on bottom baits. Mart showed the way forward during the late afternoon and evening taking a number of carp on the Shellfish B5, eventually taking the win the following day. Mart has really struggled to get amongst the fish so far this season, so it was nice for him to get a few fish under his belt, even if they were only babies:-).

Mart with one of the small carp that gave him the eventual win

The first weekend in August I was over in Suffolk with Elton to help him move his business; what a ball-ache that was! The closest I got to a fish was sitting in Elton’s back garden feeding the koi’s in his pond! One person who was doing a bit whilst I was away was Chris; fishing The Swamp just outside Milton, Stoke-On-Trent. Chris had been taking a couple of fish off the top up to double figures and then scored a perfect hit with this 23lb mirror taken on bread flake. A cracking result for Chris who’s angling is improving immeasurably session by session - Top angling, mate!

Chris with his surface caught 23lb ‘Swamp’ mirror

Once back from Elton’s I had just a few days to get ready for our week on Birch Grove. Most specimen carp anglers will no doubt be aware of the recent spate of fish deaths on this legendary water, a real shame as most of 30lb fish have been lost. The water is fished on a weekly basis with a maximum of four fishing at any one time. There’s been a massive amount written on this water by some of the
countries leading carp anglers, so I won’t spend too much time explaining the set up, but basically its about four acres in size, completely fringed by trees and overhanging bushes, and fishable from just one side with three or four swims positioned along its length. We usually fish in pairs in the Compound Swim, and Bottom Boards Swim. Swapping over midway through the week.

Looking out to the left of the Compound.

This year Shaun and Miffer were fishing together for the week, whilst I was paired with Darren (Shaun’s brother) until the Wednesday, after which time he was going home to look after his pigeons (don’t ask) so Mart was coming on for a few days. Chris also came along for the trip as a non-fishing guest (cook!).

Each party fishes Sunday noon until Sunday noon, so we set off around 10am heading for the sleepy village of Baschurch just outside Shrewsbury. Once at the water we pulled all the cars into the compound next to the caravan, and sat down to read the log book filled in by the previous crew. We were only the third party back on since the water had reopened so were eager to see what, if anything, had been taken. The log didn’t make pretty reading, as only a couple of twenties had come out over previous weeks with a few doubles. However, it had been red hot the previous week which may also have had an effect, so we started lugging the gear round to the swims still full of optimism.

The water was looking a little sick, with brown blooms showing just below the surface. We could not see much action on top, where usually there are fish boating about everywhere. Irrespective of this we got set up and got the rods in. For the first part of the week Darren and I were in the Compound; my four rods covering the features to the left towards the Caravan Swim and the Black Hole, whilst Darren’s rods went out to the right towards the Thirty Bush. The first few day’s were pretty much a non-event, we hardly saw a fish move and the water quality did not look to clever. As such, with no action to speak of, we spent a healthy amount of time with the rods wound in, down at The Admiral Duncan! As if things could not get any worse the Pub managed to run out of ale when the cooling pumps broke! That said, it was soon fixed and we were well looked after for the remainder of the week, so our thanks go to Lisa (Brittney) and Bethan along with Sister Christine, and last but not least; the chef Tim (nice burgers fella!).

Rob Hughes called down early in the week and spent some time chatting about the fish deaths; a very sad tale indeed. That said, we were heartened to hear that good fish still remained - even if they weren’t showing yet! Tuesday night and I had the first bit of action, a run on my right hand rod placed out towards the sedges. I hit in and the fish continued to take line then snagged. Rather than pulling for a break I went straight for the boat as I could still feel the fish on the end. Chris rowed us out and as we neared the point the extra height on the rod freed the fish, unfortunately it then headed straight into another snag and spat out the hook. At least it was some action, so I casted the bait back out hopeful of another take. Nothing else came during the night, but the next morning Miffer had a result - a 23lb 6oz common of the Boards.

First Blood - Miffer with his 23lb 6oz Birch common

The conditions were now changing fast and the water quality seemed to be improving greatly as well. What’s more, we were now starting to see fish moving around. At dinnertime we switched ends, so I was now setting up on the Boards where I started to see fish all over the place. As such, my confidence was growing by the hour. Mart turned up just after tea and set up his rods on the left of the swim whilst mine covered the pads around the right. Miffer had decided to break from Shaun who was now moving onto the compound, instead opting for the Helipad Swim which lies in between the Boards and Compound.

Thursday morning came and fish were defiantly moving over the spots we’d been baiting. We were using a combination of chopped Shellfish B5 boilies & B5 Active Breakdown Pellets, and also a cracking particle-mix Miffer had made up from products in his local pet shop, which we were mixing this with extra hemp. In terms of set-up, I was using 16lb Top Line mainline, 25lb Kryston Super Mantis hook lengths, with size 7 VMC Vanadium triple micro-barb hooks. I tied these using the knotless knot with no core stripped back. Hook baits for the week were 20mm B5 boilies and naturals; corn, beans, and maize.

The business end! Mantis rigs with VMC hooks on 20m B5 pop-ups over chopped boilie & B5 Active breakdown Pellets

Not surprisingly, one of my far bank rods burst into life shortly afterwards. I was fishing at distance so had to gather some line back pretty quickly to halt the fish from reaching the sanctuary of the pads. The fish put up a spirited battle, but once in open water I was able to play it with relative ease. Mart did the honours with the net and lifted what was an obvious twenty pound mirror onto the mat. The fish was perfect and in good condition, and had obviously taken a liking to the particle mix which it was now excreting all over the mat! The fish went 21lb 14oz on the scales, though size was unimportant; I was just happy to get a Birch fish on the bank.

Yours truly with a 21lb 14oz Birch mirror

As runs on Birch can often come from one set of rods we take it in turns to hit them; by going ‘on strike’. We find this a fairer way for a weeks fishing, hopefully ensuring that we
all manage to bank a fish. To start off with you each have your own rods until a fish is banked, then the next person has all eight rods to go at. As such, Mart was now on strike. As evening fell we were confident of another fish as the conditions continued to improve. In the early hours I heard an alarm sound further up the bank, hopefully meaning one of the other lads was in, and not long after, my right hand margin rod burst into life as a run picked up, I left it for a brief second as it was Mart’s strike but heard no immediate response from his bivvy. As such, and twinned with the fact that I heard Miffer on the Helipad jokingly shout across to Mart “Are you going to hit that or what?” I decided I’d jump up, hit it, and ask questions later. The fish was going under the pads to my right so I applied heavy side strain with the rod tip down to my left. After a brief moment of resistance it turned and came back out. At this point I handed the rod to a bleary-eyed Mart who was only now stumbling down the boards, all he needed to do now was guide the fish to the waiting net! After netting the fish I looked back to see Miffer arrive on the swim, brew in hand with a big grin on his face. “Latched one, youth?” I enquired, “Oh, aye” he replied “24lb 7oz and 16lb 6oz, both commons”. Things were certainly looking up!

Miff with his 24lb 7oz common

After sorting Mart’s fish, a good looking mirror which went 23lb 12oz on the scales, I had a walk up to Shaun who had also seen some action during the night banking commons of 26lb 8oz, 4lb & 5lb. Result! Mart’s fish put me back on strike and I was confident of another before going home. In the early evening one of Mart’s rods situated out towards the far bank gave a couple of bleeps and I struck in. The rod bent double as a good fish powered off. Unfortunately something in the setup gave way resulting in a lost fish. To say I was gutted would have been an understatement, as without doubt it was a good fish. I dumped the rod outside Marts bivvy and told him I could give him lessons in knot tying for five pounds an hour!

Mart with his (cough!) 23lb 12oz mirror from my margin rod

As Saturday came the fish were still showing. The warm weather had brought them up on top but they took little interest in mixers, even though they were splashing about all over the place in the pads. Shaun tried the same at the other end of the lake with similar results. During the day I spotted a group of about fifteen fish with some really big ones amongst them - a couple of which were easily thirties. It was nice to know they were still in.

Shaun’s immaculate 26lb 8oz Birch common

We went down to the Duncan in the afternoon as we would be heading home the following day, luckily for us they had just kicked in a barbie so we ended up getting fat on burgers all afternoon! No action came to my rods that night although I received a take on one of my pad-line rods the following morning. I was standing over it when it went off and was on it in a split second. The fish kited right though I was pumping the rod and gathering line back at a good rate. At this point however, the line suddenly went limp and I reeled in to find a perfect clean cut straight through the mainline with no abrasion marks, nicks or grazes whatsoever. The fish had obviously found a very sharp snag of sorts, and there’s not really a lot you can do about it. To be honest I was a little dumbfounded, as this is the first time this has ever happened to me! It just goes to emphasise the importance of always using safety clips in your set-up so the fish won’t then tether themselves.

Looking out over my rods on the Boards Swim

Luckily, Shaun faired much better during the last night in the compound, taking yet more commons! Both fish were perfect, weighing in at 15lb 12oz and 28lb 12oz, a perfect finish for our week on the water. All Shaun’s fish came from the same rod near to the sedges on the far bank, near where I’d had the lost take on the Tuesday night. What’s more surprising is the bait that every fish he had fell for; although Shaun’s wish is to keep that quiet… for a little while at least!

Soon after that we began the worst part of any fishing trip - the packing up! Once the cars were full we filled in the fishing log; happily reporting six fish over 20lb, two decent doubles, and a couple of singles, by far the best week since the water reopened.

Shaun with his final night success at 28lb 12oz - Result!

I was disappointed with my lost fish; well, very disappointed to be honest. Had those three runs been converted to fish on the bank it would have been a very different week, but these things happen I guess. That said, I was happy with the fish I’d had and it was a great week overall. I just can’t wait to get back on there and put things right!

First light on the Boards Swim - I can’t wait to get back on Birch!

That brings us up to date pretty much, I’ve been back just a couple of days and already I’m itching to get back on the Top Pool. I’ve planned a quick overnighter for Friday night, so here’s hoping…

As a final note (and a blatant plug!) I’ve started a light-hearted angling site with input from most of the lads mentioned above. It’s mainly concentrating on the waters we fish throughout the North West, which may be of interest to those who regularly email me via Anglers Net about the Top Pool and Redesmere: http://www.northwestcarp.co.uk

Until next time…

Julian Grattidge