Carp Against The Clock

My first carp against the clock session came about sooner than I had imagined. I had a meeting in Stoke which wrapped up sooner than expected and, after a quick visit to the feed merchants to pick up some pellets for the Meadows, had just over an hour to kill before I needed to get back to pick the kids up from school.

Therefore, I decided to drop in at Blackwood Pool for an hour on the way back. After a quick detour to pick up some maggots, I arrived at the water about fifteen minutes later, and knowing it takes fifteen minutes to get back to Leek from the water, had exactly an hour to try and find some carp!

It was a hot day at 21 degrees, so I had a fair idea the fish would be showing well in the shallows, hence stopping off for the maggots, although I also had some mixers in the boot should a surface approach be favoured, along with a few other baits that will stay in the car for these sessions, like sweetcorn and tinned hemp, etc. 

Carp Fishing LakeAs I made my way down from the car park there was a gentle breeze pushing towards the shallows, which whilst making observations a little difficult, added greater probability of fish being in the area. This made the decision as to where to begin my search.

The water had quite a lot of work done a few months ago, which involved a partial drain down, and the level is still about a foot down which means the shallows are even shallower than normal. I decided to have a look here first, and after donning my polarised glasses almost immediately, spotted a group of four or five fish milling around in just over a foot of water just a few feet from the bank.

I very carefully got myself into a better position along the shallows bank in order to get a vantage point above the fish to see what they were doing. A quick glance at the clock and I’m nearly ten minutes in already, though, daft as it sounds, I was in no rush. Far better to work out what’s going on and get it right, than rush the approach, spook the fish and miss the opportunity.

As such, I just sat watching for a few minutes to see what I was faced with. There were four or five fish, mainly mirrors, sizes ranging from about 8lb to 12lb. They were all tails up mooching around on the bottom. They had obviously been there for some time as the water was like chocolate, which actually helped me get pretty much right on top of them as their visibility was obviously reduced.

Over the next five minutes, fish came and went from different areas, but there were always two or three in the area, so it was ripe for an attack! The depth was just over a foot, so maggots seemed like the natural choice, and a scattering was applied to the area whilst I backed up the bank to ready my rod.

My stalking rod was spooled with 6lb mono, onto which I quickly slid on a self weighted four inch float, then a size 12 Fox match hook, with a shot two inches up just for it to hold bottom. Three maggots were attached, the depth over set at about two feet to try and give the fish more confidence and I was set to go. Time in; 20 minutes.

I carefully made  my way back down to the spot to see one fish up ended slightly obviously getting its head down on the maggots, at which point the adrenalin kicked in – there’s nothing like the buzz you get from close quarter stalking!

With the water so coloured up, I could drop the rig in very close to the fish without fear of spooking, the only issue would be if they’d see it! Usually with maggots, it’s the visual attraction that works as much as anything else, as carp, being curious creatures, can’t help but investigate, but in this instance they’d more than likely be mooching blind. I made a little flick cast just over the spot, slowly drew back the float in order that the hookbait would come to rest just on the edge of the area the fish were in, and sat back in eager anticipation.

RoachThe fish continued to move in and out of the area with confidence and I was hopeful I’d implemented the right approach. One thing I had not counted on was the amount of roach getting in on the act. Getting on for 700lb of silver fish had been netted out of the water a couple of months prior, but those which remained were making the most of a plentiful supply of maggots. Whilst the fish were all totally mint and unmarked, they frustrated my efforts as each time a carp moved into the danger zone a greedy roach would wolf down the maggots in a second!

Therefore, I had to switch to spot casting, whereby I waited 'til the fish came into the zone before casting out the float just ahead of its path, so that the bait just has time to sink, settle and be ripe for investigation a split second before the carp gets there – all without spooking the fish of course!

Over the next ten minutes, I made a number of casts to moving fish, and despite getting the bait right in the zone, no pick ups followed. I wondered if visibility might be the problem, so added a nice bright yellow imitation maggot to the hook along with the real ones in the hope of making them stand out a little better.

There was one fish, a very scaly mirror of around 12-13lb that kept coming out from the nearby fringe lily to my right to have a quick pass over the area before heading back under cover. On its next trip out I dropped the bait right in front of its path. It stopped as it hit the first loose maggots, upended and started to feed. My heart was pounding as it moved slowly forward, feeding in total confidence. A split second later the float trembled and I tensed my grip on the rod. I held off striking as I could see the tail of the fish and it was still feeding, and then it bobbed three times before sliding under… as the line started to move I lifted into the fish to meet solid resistance – for the briefest of moments – before everything went slack, at which point the surface erupted and the fish made a lucky getaway – talk about gutted!

Worse still was that all the fish currently milling about in the shallows all spooked with it and headed out into the main body of the lake. Hmmm. A quick glance at the clock and I’m forty minutes in. I surveyed my options; I could either stay in place and hope other fish not here at the time of the commotion quickly came back into the area, or have a wander to see if I could see anything else. I decided I’d give myself five minutes to have a look around, giving me another fifteen minutes fishing.

I walked all round the other shallow areas with not much to show, but then spotted the tell signs of a carp back on the first spot so headed back round for a final attack. I’d love to be able to say I snuck one with moments to spare, but unfortunately no opportunities presented themselves.

In summary, I was very happy with how I approached the session. I quickly found the fish, got them feeding and even got the take - it was just a shame I could not convert it to a fish on the bank! Before I headed off, I did do a quick lap of the lake just for the sake of it and spotted three fish nestling against the pads in deeper water areas that ha
d I had the time, I could easily have offered a line to, so it was a shame I’d not done a full circuit of the lake at the forty-five minute stage - mental note made for next time.

It was a pleasurable hour spent on the bank and I came away full of determination and enthusiasm for my next foray.

More on that in the next piece…

Julian Grattidge
July 2011