On arrival my smile grew wider to realise that the cold winter weather had scared off all other anglers and the lake was completely deserted. My peg mates for the session, Jeremy Planson and his dog, Gotan, and I had only two nights at our disposal so it was going to be a tall order to expect to score big, but we were going to give it our best shot.
I am a black-sheep that tends to steer away from the flock. If there is one thing I’ve learnt in fishing, it is to stick to your guns if it is a proven method that consistently produces carp, and not to be constantly changing baits and rigs just to keep up with the in-crowd. I also do not turn up my nose or try to change the methods and views of other seasoned anglers. Jeremy was a case in point, and although less than half my age he had enough big-fish captures under his belt from different waters to be classed as a top angler.
Jeremy’s hope was to catch a number of carp of any size with maybe some decent ones amongst them. My aim was to narrow the target to only the biggest specimens living in the lake, and if that meant only catching one fish and a higher possibility of blanking then I was happy to follow that route.
I am often rebuked for sticking to my guns when all those around me are getting bites or pulling in fish, but they soon realise there is method in my madness when something twice as big as average picks up my rig. I would rather catch nothing if it meant that hooking those smaller fish lessened my chances of a really big fish picking up the bait.
With only two rods to set up it did not take long for us both to be ready. A quick look at our tackle and rigs showed how completely different our tactics were in the hope to foil the same species of fish. Jeremy chose a semi-fixed helicopter rig that revolved around a soft plastic sleeve and stopped by a sliding bead. The end section of mainline was a 3ft long length of lead core tied with a knot that the hooklink ring could pass over, and fixed at the other end by a clip to a gripper lead. The clip was protected by a wide rubber sleeve. A 30cm long hook length of Nash Armourlink 35lb Teflon coated sinking braid was tied at one end with a large-ring swivel (for smoother rotation) and the other end was a size 4 hook tied using a knotless knot. The upper hook shank and eye was coated with a silicone line aligner that essentially lengthens the shank and curves the hook more sharply inwards. To accentuate the twisting properties of the hook point, a tiny lead shot was fixed to the hook via a small ring of braid that slid freely up and down the shank behind the barb. Three separate small lumps of lead putty were squeezed onto the sinking braid hooklink to help pin it to the lakebed. The hair rig was an extension of the hooklink material and to this was threaded two 20mm boilies.
To me it looked over-complicated and a nightmare to tie up, but I’ve used similar rigs in the long ago past and knew it could be ultra-efficient if fished correctly. Tony Davies Patrick
To me it looked over-complicated and a nightmare to tie up, but I’ve used similar rigs in the long ago past and knew it could be ultra-efficient if fished correctly. Each of Jeremy’s reels was spooled with heavy coated JRC 35lb sinking braid to facilitate in pinning the line to the lakebed. The sheer diameter of his mainline made it look more like a roll of tow rope to me!
My own reels were spooled with my favourite 22.5kg Spiderwire Stealth which is non-sinking and tends to become neutral buoyancy when wet – after years of watching carp react to lines and rigs while diving, I certainly don’t believe that mainlines or hook links need to be of the sinking variety. What became immediately noticeable was that although my line was 9kg test stronger it was less than half the diameter of Jeremy’s main line. I also used the exact same Spiderwire Stealth for my hook length. Again it was amazing just how more supple and thinner diameter my non-sinking uncoated braid was compared to the coated, sinking type Jeremy used.
My hook length was only 10cm long. There was no putty on the braid to pin it down. No line aligner or shot on the hook to help it turn. I threaded the line through the back of the hook eye (opposite to most people) and then tied a Domhoff knot. The tail was then tied in a simple extra overhand knot slightly further down the shank to clamp the hair in the upper central portion. The hair formed an extension of the knot with a small loop at the extreme end to hold a boilie stop.
To put it in plain terms, my rig was very short and uncomplicated whereas Jeremy’s was long and complicated.
The only real similarity was our bait choice. We both chose to use the same high attractant bait that was a proven carp puller and one that hadn’t been used by others at the lake. Our bait of choice was the Triple R Garlic boilies made by MTC. Yet even here there was a difference because Jeremy mounted two 20mm boilies on the same hair, and I mounted two large 25mm boilies on the same hair. So in essence his bait was 40mm and mine was 50mm.
Shortly following a hailstorm an opening in the clouds provided a welcome brief sunny spell that made it more pleasant to get our rigs in position. Jeremy jumped in the tiny boat and I watched him sail towards the distant tree line. Jeremy fishes with the latest Shimano Ultegra reels (that have no baitrunner facility) so to fish at such close range to the snags he opted to keep the drag nuts on his spools fairly tight and to not stray too far from his rods. Soon he glided back out across the lake until he was level with the extreme far right of the submerged tree line, and then lowered a second rig into position. He then repeated the same process of scattering freebies in a fairly wide zone around his rig.
As soon as he was back I took my rigs out to the intended zones on the left-hand side of the sunken treeline at 185 metres from my pod. Jeremy preferred to take out his rods in the boat, drop the rig and return back to shore holding the rod pointing back at the lead with open bail-arm. I however left my rods in place on the pod and let the spools spin on a fairly tightly adjusted baitrunner to keep the braid taught and then eventually lowered the rig carefully into position.
I preferred not to throw my freebies in a wide area around the rig and kept it tight as possible, so poured a kilo of 25mm garlic boilies directly over the rig and chucked a few handfuls directly inside the densest sections of trees where it was impossible to place a rig. This was mainly to give the big or wary carp added confidence to suck in the freebies in total safe zones, and therefore more likely to also want to investigate those same smelling baits when entering the danger zones.
I then returned back to the rod pod and slowly tightened up any slack, making sure not to drag the lead back. I was using 140gm or heavier leads depending on wind strength. During daylight I chose to leave my baitrunner levers in the off position and fish locked-up solid. At night I knew it would take a few extra seconds to hit a take, so opted to push the levers to the on position but adjusted the baitrunner to their tightest possible setting.
The hole in the clouds had closed shut again and a strong wind began blowing across the lake as cold rain filled the air in a fine spray. At dusk the wind abated but the fine spray was replaced by heavy rain. Air temperature began dropping and as Jeremy lit a roaring fire Gotam snuggled up in her dog basket to keep warm.
In the morning his left-hand rod tip suddenly whacked over and was almost wrenched off the rod rests before he lifted into a really powerful fish. This powerhouse put up a really good fight before I finally managed to swallow it inside Jeremy’s landing net. Looking at the fish lying inside the unhooking cradle made us both realise why it fought so well – it was a glorious long mirror. It took two hours for Jeremy to get another bite, which turned out to be his third common carp, followed by a few more even smaller ones. His final take of the day actually straightened his Hayabusa hook, so I persuaded him to change to my thicker wired Ashima C887 Heavy Carp pattern hooks.
As darkness transformed the landscape into black silhouettes, heavy rain continued to pummel the ground, turning it into a quagmire of cold mud. The logs on the fire were by now sodden wet and the old derelict cottage began to be filled by choking smoke as Jeremy fought to maintain a flame. A sudden sharp note lit up my remote in a green glow and I flew out of the cottage, half excited and half glad to be breathing fresh air. Rain was still pounding the turf and my first reaction was that because the sensitivity control on my alarm was set on high that maybe the large water drops had made it bleep, but as the rod tip tapped to a second bleep I was in no doubt that something had picked up the two large boilies. A sharp strike set the hook point deeper and I leaned hard while at the same time stepping a pace backwards. The rod keeled over into its full parabolic curve until I felt the corks bending beneath my palms, locked into the full power curve until the tip eye began trembling and slacking off. My mind’s eye imagined something far out in the darkness shaking its head wildly and then suddenly rocketing off in a different direction. The fish began swimming fast towards me as I kept up pressure, but apart from a few short runs when the ratchet screamed in pain, the fish eventually was ready to slide over my landing net held by Jeremy. A flash of movement suddenly passed inside the torch beam.
“It doesn’t look so big…” I whispered as Jeremy stretched out with the landing net, sunk it deep and watched as a dark shape disappeared inside the 130cm arms. “No, it is big Tony. A very good one”!
I lowered my rod and quickly stood beside Jeremy to help him lift the beast from the water and carry it to the wet unhooking cradle. It was obvious by the weight and bulk that this was indeed a good fish. I slowly unfurled the mesh to reveal a lump of chestnut bronze. It was a big mirror carp in glorious condition wearing its full winter colours. I was one happy Globetrotter! It was by far the biggest fish of the session and Jeremy mentioned that he’d only caught a few from this lake of a similar size after many years of trying.
This was the only capture of the night until Jeremy finally had a run in the morning rain when a forceful take resulted in his largest carp of the trip. It was another amazing looking long mirror and possessed very pink flanks that he recognised, for he’d caught it a few years previous at a lower weight. It had a very large caudal fin that obviously was the reason why it fought so well. As I lowered Jeremy’s long mirror into the margins for a few moments his remaining rod began bouncing! That fish turned out to be a much shorter but far rounder mirror. Even though it weighed more than it looked I was not so impressed by its fight or bloated appearance. Like a sumo wrestler with fins. Jeremy however held it with affection because he’d watched it grow fatter over the years. Each to their own I say.
We remained on until midday until Jeremy hooked and landed the final fish, a stunning common carp with bright golden scales that almost ripped his rod straight off the rests before he managed to grab it. This was not Jeremy’s biggest of the session but it was the one that made him most happy. The amazing fact was that every fish landed by Jeremy came to the same left-hand rod. My own goal from the start had been to catch one of the larger residents of the lake, and so was also very happy.
As we packed up in the cold February wind and rain and then drove back with windscreen wipers on the van working overtime, I reflected back over this two-night winter session. We’d approached the same lake from different angles, using our own techniques and methods to reach our own targets… and succeeded. Isn’t that what it is all about in the end?
Check out more of Tony’s adventures at www.GIANT.FISH