EVERY Friday we hand over to Carl and Alex Smith – known online as simply Carl & Alex.
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Wonderful winter carp
STEPPING out the door we felt the cold chill blow across our faces. The temperature was a stark contrast to the mild air we had experienced in Madeira the week before.
It was strange, we had spent our time on holiday planning and preparing for our first winter carp session, and now here we were, stepping out the house into the cold.
We arrived at Tanyard Fishery, full of anticipation, enthusiasm but most importantly, covered in warm clothes. We knew that if we were to enjoy our session, staying warm would be essential. A long walk around the three specimen lakes showed no signs of activity, but as we sat on the fence alongside specimen lake 2, fry began scattering behind the island.
Upon closer inspection, dark shapes drifts beneath the surface, brushing the dying reed stems and terrorising the shoals of fry which were also held up in the area. We needed no better reason to set up in this swim. Alex and I fished close together but we set up our bivvys far from the water’s edge. We wanted to keep bankside disturbance to a minimum and desperately did not want to scare away the carp we had spent so long trying to find.
We fed a mix of crumbed boilies and maggots which we then added a glug to. The aim was to produce a feed which was high attract but would not fill the fish up. We lay down a bed of boilie crumb by spodding with a mini spomb and then spent next few hours spraying maggots, pinch at a time over the top. We have never found a feeding approach which works better than little and often with maggots. People tell us that all the maggots are being eaten by silverfish, but in this cold water small fish are much less active. Even if the roach, rudd, perch and bream ARE eating all the maggots then it still seems to be the carp excited. In my opinion, the small fish activity has a lot to do with getting the carp to feed. It works the same with babel in a river; you feed the chub pellets and as soon as they start crunching away the barbel appear!
The spots were baited and simple maggot ball rigs were cast out, I fished within inches of the island whereas Alex fished to open water. Before it was even dark Alex had a run, an enormous swirl hit the surface seconds before the alarm let out a series of bleeps. Once he had reeled in he noticed the silicone over the bend of the hook had been blown back to the eye. He was disappointed but duly recast and we went to sleep.
At 1.00 in the morning my bobin hit the rod and the rod hooped over. I struck into nothing, but then shone my light out towards the island. There is was, a huge swan sat right on my spot looking a little bemused. I had been done by a swan! My recast was a little short of the island but it was dark, I had tied my PVA bag in the pouring rain, I felt the lead down and I just hoped it would be good enough.
Half an hour later the same thing happened, line was ripped from the spool before stopping I shone my light back to the spot and once again the swan had its head down on my baited area. I put my head back onto my pillow and felt sorry for myself. Just as I was drifting back to sleep the alarm let out another bleep, this time I got out my bed and started reeling in, but this time I hooked into a carp, and a good one at that! I realised it was not the swan that last time and in fact the carp had been on for about 5 minutes!
The battle was long but not particularly unusual; the fish hugged the lake bed and simply swam in circles in front of us. Eventually we lifted the net and looked down at a fish known as ‘the ghosty’ it was last caught at just over 20lb and is an incredible looking fish. After photographing and filming the fish we released it in the margins and watched it disappear back into the water…
Our next session was cold, very cold; we struggled to get a bite and ended it on a blank. The third session was just a repeat of the previous one; we failed to find the fish so just had to take guesses at where they might be shoaled up. The weather was colder and wetter than ever so we decided to move on, maybe try and find somewhere with a more realistic chance of a bite.
It took us a while to come up with another water to try, and in fact we remembered it by chance when our friend Ollie got in touch because he had gained permission to fish it. Visiting this intimate water brought back some memories, like the day my brother and I were caught hiding in the bushes looking at the carp and the day we spotted the golden orfe (at the time we thought it was a giant goldfish). We were buzzing to get back down there and prepared our day session kit ready for a bit of ‘mobile’ fishing.
We walked to the lake and met Ollie in the morning after a quick look around we noticed the carp were shoaled up in the shallow water beneath some overhanging branches. Stalking with bread flake was the first tactic but after losing two in the snags, we just flicked a couple of solid bags into the open water and hoped for the best. Half an hour later Alex’s spool spun out of control and a carp dived towards the snags, the carp in this pond really fight hard, especially when you hook them in the shallow water. The fight was short but exciting with the fish twisting and turning in the margins. It was a semi linear with the most amazing reddy brown coloration. Sadly that was all the time we had that day so we packed up quickly and walked home.
We have returned to the house pond a couple of times since then, but only managed to catch one more of the carp. What a fish it was though, an absolute beauty and by the looks of the underwater filming we did, this may well be the biggest fish in the pond.
On a short after school session Alex walked to a wild estate lake with his rucksack and a couple of rods. He only fished for an hour but just as dark fell his rod ripped off with a five or six pound mirror. It was an old looking fish but it led us to believe this lake could have potential. A session was planned for the next weekend to try and discover what the estate lake held…
We only had 3 hours but decided to make the most of our time by taking the bus over to the estate lake and getting the rods out. Funnily enough we arrived just as the rain began to pour from the sky. We sheltered under an umbrella and rigged up our rods.
The hail arrived soon after and there was still a patch of hailstones in the net when I finally had the chance to use it. A small common ripped off with my bait and boy did it put up a little scrap! The fish was a golden example of the fish in this lake, wild, mostly uncaught and all of them little characters in their own right.
Alex followed suit with a small mirror, another beauty and one of the prettiest I’ve seen for a while. We checked our watch and realised we better be heading back to the town to catch the last bus…
After our success at the estate lake we decided to have one more session at Tanyard before winter drew to an end. Alex left in the morning because I had a driving lesson at midday so would join him later.
I paid so little attention in my driving lesson because my mind was on Specimen lake 2, would they be feeding, would Alex have found them? I kept asking myself.
As I drove down the hill to Tanyard I caught a glimpse of Alex running along the bank, rod in hand. My foot almost hit the floor as I whizzed down to see what was going on. Alex had hooked a carp, and by the look of the tail patterns hitting the surface it looked like a big one. I scrambled around to get the camera ready and could barely film properly because I was shaking so much. Alex however stayed calm and gently drew the fish towards his waiting net.
‘Yes’!!! We both let out a cheer as a big common sunk down into the mesh. It was a long lean common and we agreed straight away that it was the biggest fish we had caught that year. On the scales it went 24lb and as Alex lifted the fish for the waiting video camera we felt like our Winter Carp Adventure had been worth the effort.
We spent the next two weeks editing solid, every available minute we would be sat in front of the computer piecing together the music, voice over and footage. Two weeks later we sat back and waited for the video to upload to YouTube. We hope you like it.
THE CARL & ALEX BLOG RETURNS HERE NEXT FRIDAY.
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