Surface Fishing Adventures

I had a full days fishing planned, and possibly a night as well – a rare occurrence of late. My intention was to do a day on Capesthorne Main Lake then fish the night on the Top Pool. I got on the Main Lake at about 8am but nothing was showing. I stalked a couple of big doubles on the Top Pool for a while but they seemed too happy in the dense Canadian pond weed to come within distance.

I moved down to the Main Lake and settled on a couple of swims after seeing a few decent fish in the margins – and then came the rain. Heavy showers rolling in from the West, each lasting for perhaps ten minutes before a brief rest bite, then just as everything livened up and the fish started topping, in rolled more dark low-lying clouds and another downpour ensued as thunder rumbled away overhead. Normally I’d favour such conditions, but the fish that shortly before had seemed quite active had now disappeared. Over the coming hours I did a few laps of both lakes and climbed various trees but the storm seemed to have knocked them down, at least for the moment. I stuck it out until 2.00pm and as nothing had changed I decided I needed to effect a change if I was to bring about a result. I surveyed my options. There were another couple of waters close by but chances of the fishing being much different than at current were slim. Having checked the weather online before I left the house, I knew the storms were covering most of the bottom end of Cheshire, where I was at present, but were predicted to be less severe back towards home. I stood half crouched under the shelter of an old Ewe tree (no brolly just stalking gear) as another bout of rain moved overhead. I looked up as if hoping the skies would tell me what my best course of action would be but nothing materialised other than rivulets of rain on my neck, which fast found their way down inside my jacket to wet my T-shirt.

I had to move, but where? I ran through my options and decided to have a drive over to my new little water to see what, if anything, was occurring. It was back near home, near the Staffs Moorlands / Derbyshire border. I’d only fished the place once before; a quick evening session the week previous which saw me hook two fish off the top but net neither. I don’t know what drew me there, as after just a few hours fishing on the venue I could hardly predict what the inhabitants might be up to, but nonetheless, after an hours driving I found myself arriving at the lake. The roads were wet so they’d obviously had rain, but dry spots could be seen beneath the canopies of large trees which lined the small lanes on the way to the lake so they’d not had much.

That said, just as I was getting out of the car there was a torrential downpour – just my luck! However, as I looked up it was clear to see I was right on the edge of the storm, looking North to where I’d just come from it looked bleak, yet just behind and above me to the South it was clear, and looking West, the approaching clouds were brighter and much higher – Maybe it was not so bad after all. I had a walk round the lake and after a while came upon the bay I fished on my last session, just as a thunder cloud rumbled ominously overhead. The odd fork of lightning shot down to strike somewhere over the Moors just a few miles away to my right and the relative brightness of a few minutes previous was suddenly replaced by near darkness as the eye of the storm moved over the lake. As I stood and watched the bay for signs of life I saw the odd ‘carpy’ swirl just under the surface, the fish no doubt stirred up by the sudden change in pressure.

I took a handful of mixers from my pocket and threw them as far as I could into the bay. Within minutes you could see the odd floater disappear as the carp began to stir. It was quite surreal watching the carp feed as the storm raged away overhead; their distinctive ‘schloooop’ sounds all but drowned out by the constant rumbling of thunder!

Despite the conditions it was clear they were up for it. I looked back at the fast moving storm cloud just as another streak of lightning flashed down, and figured it would pass by within ten minutes leaving clear skies - without even knowing it I was already on my way back to the car for my gear! I grabbed my stalking rod plus a few odds and ends and was soon heading back to the bay and its feeding fish. They were finicky feeders however, tending to come up from underneath and have several ‘plays’ with each floater before taking it in. As such, I had to have a play about with presentation before I started to get some serious grabs.

The first fish came just as the dark skies lifted. One of those moments where everything seems to slip into slow-motion and you instinctively know it’s about to happen; a carp came up and took a mixer six inches from the hookbait with real fervour and returned almost immediately for desert. Its head broke the surface, mouth wide open, letting forth a huge ‘schloooop’ as it sucked in everything around it. The mixer disappeared deep into its cavernous mouth before extended lips closed fully around it. Its target achieved; the carp slipped back below the surface as inertia took effect from its original upward motion. All that was left was a swirl of displaced water and a rapidly tightening hooklink!

In the split-second during which its lips closed confidently around the hookbait, I gently arced the rod sideways, knowing full well it was already hooked. I played the fish from the next swim along so as not to spook other fish from my feeding zone, and after a nice little tussle slipped the net under a mirror that fought a great deal harder then its weight suggested at perhaps 9lb, ten at a push. A lean fish but long in the body. After the events of the morning I was over the moon with my first carp from this new water and carefully slipped it back without weighing, a broad smile etched across my face.

Shortly afterwards I was in again; a demon little common that was doing all it could to evade the net. After a heated battle on 7.9lb line, I finally got the upper hand and guided the fish into the net. It was a few pounds heavier than the first fish, granted, but at say 12lb it still seemed to have put up a battle worthy of a much bigger opponent. Again it was very lean (if not thin) and very long in the body. As I looked down at the bronzed lump before me, something nagged. Something did not seem quite right when considering its size in relation to its fight. As such, I decided to weigh it - just to see if my estimate was correct. It wasn’t!

The fish went 14lb 12oz on the scales and I was completely flummoxed! I think it was the length in the body that threw me; they just looked pasty’ish. This of course meant that the first fish was prob
ably nearer 13lb than 10lb and thus I’d had a brace of doubles within an hour – a happy man!

More was to come however. After a quiet spell, what appeared to be a decent fish started mopping up a few mixers as it moved along the far margin just a few feet off the bank. A tricky cast plopped the hookbait close to the far margin directly in line with its current path. After picking off two more freebies it made a poorly timed attempt at the hookbait and missed completely. However, much to my surprise, it nailed itself on the follow-up.

The instant it was hooked it melted the spool on my bait-runner, skinning forty yards of mono on its first attempt. That said, I was happy to let it have as much line as it wanted in the initial stages. It hugged the bottom out in the middle for some time and I wondered just how long it might take to tame this mighty beast – I also wondered just how big it was! I took my time and slowly but surly started increasing the pressure. Soon after I was able to encourage the fish up nearer the surface, at which point I got my first look… and what a look! The fish was massive! A beautifully proportioned mirror light in colour with a cracking scale pattern. It was still not ready for the net, mind, and kept plodding up and down the margin about a rod-length out. It was on one of these little runs, just as I’d turned the fish again, that the hooklink snapped just above the hook – Gutted does not come near. The fish stayed there for a split-second, as if not quite realising it was now free to leave of its own accord, and then suddenly it woke-up and did-one. Ho Hum. I don’t much like putting weights on lost fish as you never truly know what it would have been unless up on the scales. However, what can say is that had I managed to bank it, it would doubtless have been a new PB surface capture; and a damned impressive one too boot!

Irrespective of this, I got straight back on the horse and was in again within twenty minutes - Another nice double, weighed at 13lb 6oz. With another fish under my belt I put the loss of the big mirror firmly to the back off my mind; been there and done that when it comes to dwelling on lost monsters - and believe me, it does you no good! Indeed my thoughts were firmly entrenched with the possibilities that lay ahead, only my second session on the water and with no more than five hours fishing I’d already had three good doubles and a close encounter with a big kipper.

As is always the case when you’re engrossed with your fishing; the evening had flown by. The light was fading fast with the time approaching eight thirty - almost home time. I could barely see the mixer anymore so just let it drift as I tidied up my gear and put a few odds and sods back in my stalking bag. Moments later I heard a loud ‘bosh’ as a fish broke the surface towards the back of the bay. As I looked up to see where the commotion had occurred I noticed the rod tip arc round violently - I lifted without hesitation and was in again. As the battle unfolded I let the fish dictate the pace, again happy to let the fish tire itself out before applying some pressure. Whilst the battle was not as prolonged as that of the lost mirror, it was clear that this was a good double, and perhaps a little better than those banked thus far – at least it felt that way! Luckily, everything held and I soon had the fish wallowing in the margins before carefully scooping up my prize.

I heaved a sigh of relief as the fish slipped over the cord and into the folds of my waiting net. As I lifted the fish from the water an uncontrollable grin spread across my face, clear in the knowledge that the fish, a lively common which was now on the mat and slapping water all over me, would easily eclipse the fourteen pounder I’d taken earlier. Once transferred to the sling I held my torch aloft to see the needle on the scales whip round to 17lb and ounces. I let out an exuberant cry – although much less than the big mirror I’d lost earlier, this little beauty had really taken the edge of things and I knew I’d be driving home a very happy man!

Julian Grattidge