As we move in to November we could well be wondering if the winter is actually coming at all this year. I am certainly not complaining though, the weather conditions throughout October have been perfect for carp fishing and my catch rates have been a reflection of this.
At the beginning of the month I moved back onto Monks Pit, in Cambridgeshire as I thought it was about time I targeted some large carp again. I have enjoyed my summer excursion on the large gravel pit in search of unknown monsters but, with the year getting into its last quarter, I wanted somewhere to settle down on, in readiness for the colder weather.
Monks has been good to me in the past and I have had a total of five different fish over forty pounds from the venue. I thought, at one stage, that I had finished with the place but, recently, I got chatting to a couple of mates who still fish there and realised that there are probably still three or four over that weight I haven’t caught so a return for the winter seemed more and more like a good idea.
My first trip was an impromptu affair, pulling off the big pit halfway through a session when I thought I should be making the most of big low pressure system, and turning up at Monks with just an hour and a half of daylight remaining, just enough time to get the carp fishing tackle sorted and setup for the night.
Having not been on the lake for two years I would have preferred a bit more time to walk about and suss the place out a bit but, instead, I opted for a swim that I had always liked in the past. The swim I chose was in the middle section of the lake, always a good bet to start with and it gave me a good view if anything topped elsewhere.
The carp at Monks do like a bit of bait so I spent the next hour spodding out a bed of boilies, hemp, tigers and corn, setting all three carp fishing rods at the same distance in a line across the swim.
That first night went by without any action and I was just thinking about a move when a good sized fish topped right over my right hand carp rod. It couldn’t have even been a full minute later when the line tightened up and the tip pulled down towards the surface, signalling my first bite.
Right from the off the fish felt heavy and incredibly powerful, but then I had been used to catching twenties from the big pit over the previous months so I was unsure exactly how much bigger this beastie might turn out to be. He fought well in the deep and clear water eventually weeding me up in a big bed of Milfoil down to my right. After trying all the usual tricks with no success I had to resort to going out in the boat to free him, this is always a lot easier and safer with heavy weed once you actually get right above the fish and change the line angle as it enters the weed-bed. After a few hairy moments I managed to get him free and then it was just a matter of playing him out in open water. With the clarity being so good I could clearly see him ten feet below the boat, twisting and turning on the line and he did look very, very big indeed. Although I’d never seen the fish before I recognised him from a description I been given only the previous night and, as he went into the net, I knew I’d cracked one of the few remaining big fish in the lake that I hadn’t already caught. He was a fish known as the ‘Hartford mirror’ and he weighed just a little over forty pounds, what a way to start a return to Monks!
Once I had sussed where and how they were feeding I juggled the rods around a bit and kept a constant supply of bait going in over the area and, during the next twenty four hours , I managed to bank a further five carp up to mid-thirties but the Hartford mirror really was the star of the show.
If I had had any doubts about where to pass the colder months of winter then they have been dispelled now, with fish of this stamp only an hour from my doorstep I reckon that Monks will be seeing quite a bit more of me and Paddy over the coming few months, I can’t wait to get back out there.
Well I had two more trips after my initial success on the North Met, only these were not quite as successful, mainly due to the fact that the fish were practically living in the out of bounds areas, either that or deep within a huge reed-bed, just trying to make the most of the pretty poor levels of sunlight we were having.
On my fourth visit to the water, a short one night trip due to the bank holiday stealing half of my session, the weather had picked right up and it was actually hot for a change.
I set about walking the entire circumference of the lake and determined not to set up until I had found something to fish for.
The first thing I noticed, being the day after bank holiday, was the litter everywhere, not from anglers I hasten to add but from the general public as the North Met is actually part of the Lee Valley parks and is used by a multitude of different people. Just why people think it is alright to leave all their discarded wrappers, bottles, bags and even used nappies laying around the place I do not know. If they turned up for their picnic and found the public areas looking like a rubbish dump then they would be disgusted and go elsewhere but they think it is totally acceptable leave it in this state, just who do they think cleans up after them every time?
Anyway, rant over, but I do so abhor litter in any form whatsoever and there is just no need.
I took a long slow stroll around the lake, with the dog charging on ahead at every opportunity and chasing anything that look stupid enough to run, squirrels, other dogs, ducks, sparrows, he’s not particularly fussy although he couldn’t actually catch his own tail but that never stopped him trying.
After a good hour or so of looking I climbed a small tree situated on the mouth of a dead end bay. It was a perfectly situated swim as it sits adjacent to a gap that the fish have to pass through on their way from one end of the lake to the other, a natural bottleneck with a small bay set to the side for resting and sunbathing in. A very shallow bar cuts across the swim about twenty five yards out and forms the mouth of the bay so that, once the fish have passed over it, there is nowhere else to go but into the bay, passing right through the little swim I was now standing in.
I stood up the tree for a bit and then saw what I was after as a carp appeared over the bar and slowly cruised beneath me, shortly followed by three more and this was all the encouragement I needed, I was off like a rabbit for my carp fishing rods.
Luckily I had stashed the barrow about five hundred yards away when I arrived, being almost at the end of my first circuit meant that I was nearly back to the fishing gear anyway and it didn’t take long to get everything into position.
Before casting I spent another ten minutes up the tree just to make sure I was picking the best spots and then I flicked out three rigs into the best looking interception points, scattering about a dozen free baits around each one.
It was one of those situations where you just know you are going to catch, definitely the best chance I had since starting on the lake and I wasn’t at all surprised when my left hand rod signalled a drop back after only half an hour of casting.
The fish had kited around into the bay, away from the bar and the small island in front of me, perfect really and it was a good tussle in deep clear margins that followed. I could see about ten feet down into the water so I knew it was a decent fish way before I got him into the landing net.
He was a nice long and old looking mirror of thirty one pounds, almost a leather along his flanks with a great big head, what a way to start a trip.
With the photo’s done and the rig back out there I put the kettle on and sat back to bask in the sunshine but not for long!
This time it was the left hand fishing rod and that was where the danger really was, the shallow bar had a snag growing out of the top and, had he managed to clamber over it into the main lake than I really would have been in trouble, I was a real battle of wills for a few minutes and huge surges of water washed up the side of the bar as he tried over and again to gain the sanctuary of the open water.
Eventually he realised I wasn’t going to give in that easily and he tried to make it into the bay but he’d gambled his biggest energy reserves with the bar and I soon had him under control.
Once again I could see him way below the surface and this time I knew I had hooked a real biggie. Every time he turned and twisted below the rod I could clearly see his deep flanks and huge shoulders and I knew he was somewhere around the forty pound mark; quite a scary thing really knowing just how big they are so long before they are beaten.
Beaten he was though, eventually, and into the net he went with a last defiant slap of his tail.
On the scales he stopped just short of forty, just a few ounces mind and still a real whacker.
This one was more of a big pit chunk, a real deep bellied, broad shouldered beast and he looked just fine with the sunlight bouncing of his orange flanks.
With two fish under my belt I knew I was staying put for the night, even the swim was tiny and barely more than a little grassy slope to the water.
The night was quite eventful as well, I had a further four takes before it grew light, two of these I unfortunately lost but a pair of twenties finished the session of perfectly. As if often the way at this time of year I awoke to a completely different day, the sun had been replaced by cloud and rain and the fish had moved off to find more suitable areas to live in but I packed up happy with my results.
Next week I will be starting my campaign on a huge 250 acre clay pit, full of bars and mystery with an unknown stock, right up my street!
Well, I said last week it was prime time to grab the rods and get out there on the banks and it looks like I have proven myself right.
Luckily nobody else on the syndicate took my advice though because the lake was deserted as I pulled into the car park at first light on Monday morning. I knew exactly where I was headed; back out on to the peninsula where I had landed the six fish from the previous session, the only thing I couldn’t decide was which of the three swims to fish. There is one off the end and one on each side, fishing into totally separate bays. As it turned out I ended up fishing all of them and I’d taken three of the new landing nets with me in case this was the outcome. I started out just fishing off the barrow for the day, spending half an hour looking across one bay and then half an hour in the other. Even though there is only a few yards between the swims I’d made a note of the colour of the carp bite alarms and kept the sounder box in my hand, ready to run in whichever direction I needed should a take occur, which it did and pretty quickly too.
The single rod fished off the end of the point was the first one away, a spot that has been very productive for me over the last few sessions.
I knew it was a big fish straight away as it kept deep and very slowly plodded along bottom of the gully that runs around the point. The water on the near side of the gully is exceptionally shallow so I stripped down to my pants and waded out a few yards until I had enough depth for the net. With the pressure now right above the fish it didn’t take long to coax him up through the water and into the net. As soon as I set eyes on him I knew which one he was, the big Italian, third biggest fish in the lake but, unfortunately, a re-capture for me. That’s the problem though with fishing for only one or two target fish, you are bound to have a few repeats along the way but I was sure I must be getting closer to my goal. This was my thirtieth capture from the lake this year and, with only fifty fish in there, it could only be a matter of time before that big old leather carp rolled into my net.
After weighing him in at thirty seven pounds, I decided to take a couple of quick snaps of him and, just as I was sliding him back into the lake, the blue light lit up and sounder box started howling away. This was the rod I’d placed in the middle bay, an area I’d yet to catch from but somewhere I’d baited and was convinced the fish had started using over the last week or so. Whatever I’d hooked in there decided that it wanted to put as much distance between himself and me as was possible in a short space of time and the rod was almost wrenched from my hands as he tore off through the weed. Eventually he came to a halt as he locked solid in a huge bed of Canadian Pondweed and nothing I tried would persuade to come out again. Eventually the only option was to tighten right up and slowly walk backwards, ripping the entire weed bed free and bringing it slowly across the surface towards the bank. It seemed to take an eternity to get it to within netting range and, just as it was drawing close, the fish bolted out of the side of it and buried in the weed at my feet. I’d got a good look as he went past and I was fairly sure it was a fish known as the ‘Bullet Hole’ common, the second biggest carp in the lake and one I dearly wanted to catch. Although he was only a few yards out it was a full half an hour before I eventually landed him, having had to go in up to my neck in the water and free him using my feet in the weed!
On the bank though it all became worth the effort as I hoisted him up for the camera, also thirty seven pounds in weight but, unlike the Italian, perfectly proportioned and covered in big golden scales.
This was turning into quite a session and with the common ticked off the list, realistically, it now only left the big leather for me to catch.
I was amazed not to get a bite throughout the hours of darkness as there were obviously a few fish about but I did see a very big fish show right over my second middle bay rod, the swim I had eventually decided to set up camp in.
Both the other fish had come in the morning so I was practically hovering over the rods as soon as became light. Typically though, it wasn’t until I was busy re-casting one of the other rods in the margins to my right that the first bite came, and what a bite it was. Total meltdown is about the only description that fits and the spool was a complete blur. Unlike the common though, the fight was a dour affair and, barring the odd roll on the surface, the fish came straight in to the bank like a dog on a lead. It was only at the last moment, as he rose up over a bank of weed, that I realised exactly what I had hooked. There on the surface, not ten yards in front of me, was the most enormous chunk of leathery back just rocking on the surface. Whether I hesitated or whether he just realised what was happening I don’t know but he chose that moment to wake up and he dived straight down into the same weed bed I had had all the trouble with the previous day. Not wanting a repeat performance of that fiasco I just piled on the pressure and lifted him straight back out again, before he could get too entwined. Up he came, out of the weed and, as he hit the surface in bewilderment, I just slid the net straight under him before he could plan his next move.
Wading back out cradling a net full of carp was such a mad feeling, all those nights wondering when and how and, sometimes, if, that big old beast would be mine and now here he was. It was as if I had been working to a script, first the common and now him, all forty five pounds and twelve ounces of him.
My Northants campaign had come to an end and what a way to finish with the three biggest in the lake one after another. Not wanting to break the spell or ruin the story with a little common as well, I wound in the remaining rods and, after a mammoth photo shoot, packed slowly away for the last time, sporting a grin so wide that it almost joined up at the back of my head.
All I have to do know is find somewhere else to setup the carp fishing tackle and target some other large carp!