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"The real carp angler, in my book, is he who consistently catches carp. How big they are is largely irrelevant." Richard Walker. 1975.
What, in my view, is the true appeal of carp fishing? The appeal lies in the nature of the water. The deepest appeal derives from a heady combination of atmosphere,
mystery and heritage.
The atmosphere arises from age, even antiquity: a certain mood which is cast over a lake or pond whenever there is a long-established colony
of carp. The mystery lies with the unknown. After all, the moment an angler can quote the weight of the largest carp in any given lake, the mystery dissappears.
heritage arises through the voices of the past: though anecdotes, spoken and published. These voices help to elevate a water to a mythical level in one's imagination, until there is an "otherness" associated with its name and a hushed, awed tone whenever that
name is mentioned; the prime example of this being Redmire, of course.
It can be seen, then, that the majority of modern waters usually fail to satisfy on any of these
points: atmosphere, mystery and heritage, and therefore their appeal, at best, is limited to me.
Many other anglers, I am certain, will hold rather similar views.
Gary Bills. 2016.
STRANGE TECHNIQUES PART I: Sight-bobbing....
IF I'd been a better float angler, I would never have discovered the joys of sight-bobbing in the first place Yes, I know, the "bob" is a fly-fishing technique, right? Well, that depends on how you use one.
When I resumed half-serious carp fishing, about five years ago, I thought that the lift method with the peacock quill waggler was the only
way to get a carp on a float, down the side. The problem was, I kept missing bites - not every take, but enough to make me tear my hat off in frustration and throw it into the bushes. I was fishing a pretty little water, one I call "Clay
Farm Pond", and on the the day I kept missing 'em, I'd brought a few bobs along, as make-shift surface controllers. What would happen, I wondered, if I used one as a float? I was in a little bay called "The Dead Arm", for some reason, and the margins
were absolutely fizzing with bubbles... I was sick of being "done" and so I ripped off the normal float rig and decided to effectively free-line, only using the sight-bob as an indicator. The bait, as I recall, was ordinary sweetcorn. I cast
the bob in, among the bubblers and, within seconds, it shot away. "Oh God," I thought, "it must be foul hooked..." But I struck all the same and was glad I did, because it was a plump mirror, just a few ounces short of ten pounds, and nicely hooked in the
top lip. Since then, I've had hundreds of carp on the bob, literally hundreds, and for close range carping in shallow water, between 2ft and 6ft, I am convinced it will always outfish conventional floats. I tend to use fluorocarbon line
- ( Yep, I must be a noddy!) - my favourite brand is Spiderwire, 12lb, and I can tell you that it casts well and, when attrached to a bob, it doesn't sink immediately. If a section does sink above the float, it helps to keep
the bob in place when there is a chop - much as a matchman might put a small shot above his waggler, for the same reason. To return to fluoro, I am sure it gives me a real edge at times. Why so?
Well, in May 2012 I was fishing a Shropshire pond and I'd had two
carp, to 9lbs or so, on a mono rig with a braid bottom - similar to the float rig recommended by Rod Hutchinson in "Carp Inspirations". Again, the carp were down the side, fizzing away; but my bites had died. I took off the porcupine quill, reeled
in and set up the bob and fluoro rig - and the takes were immediate and positive. I caught seven more carp that day, into double figures, and I was a very pleased and convinced gnome, I can tell you!
One troubling caveat, however, is the tendency for fluorocarbon to go "brittle" with time and use, and this affects the wet knot strength in particular, no matter how excellent
the knot. My own recent tests indicate that a reduction in knot strength of 20 per cent or more can occur, which is alarming. The advantages of fluoro are manifiold, but it is also important to see and treat it as a new material, which it is, really, and to
accept that it is not perfect. Regular tests of line strength are, therefore, highly recommended.
On the subject of knots: for fluorocarbon
tied direct to the hook, I would recommend the double-looped, four turn, tucked half-blood knot, and nothing else.
Where a water
is particularly snaggy, such as "The Other Pool," I use a modern "floater" line for sight-bobbing, and I recommend Korda Cruiser Control. This, of course, is designed for surface work, but it's an excellent float fishing and freelining line as well. It will
sink, slowly, if the bait sinks, and I think that its bouyant qualities make it "critically balanced," once it gets below the surface. It's a mono line, but almost as invisible as fluoro below the surface, and it's a thin but incredibly strong mono. It usually
breaks somewhat above its given rating, so that's a big bonus.
The depth you set the sight-bob is important, for sensitivity. I
recommend putting between four and six inches on the bottom - drawing back the bob a little, after casting, so that everything lines up nice and straight. Where the bottom has weed, however, you may just have to cast and not draw back at all.
The takes are interesting and illuminating. Usually, the start of a take is indicated by a slight "drifting" of the bob, to the right or left, and sometimes
a miniscule ripple can be seen around the bob. This is caused by the carp sucking the bait in. As the carp's head lifts, the bob will shoot one or two inches across the surface. Once the carp begins to move away, as it usually does - feeling absolutely no
resistance and being unable to see the fluorocarbon line, the bob will disappear at a slight slant below the surface. This is the time to strike!
- it really works!
DON'T KEEP THE CARPING GNOME UNDER YOUR HAT!
IF IT'S A BIG THUMBS UP, THEN SPREAD THE NEWS!
ABOUT THE CARPING GNOME...
WELCOME to the Carping Gnome, an eccentric site, which is dedicated to all things carpy.
Gnomes are lovers of secretive, quiet
places where they try out their own peculiar methods to land, they hope, bigger fish than they have caught before.
Not for them, the banks of mushrooming bivvies, but instead they seek out the half-forgotten
farm ponds and moody lakes, those waters often reachable by foot or bike or local train. After all, you don’t find many gnomes that drive a car.
Not for them the devious, modern techniques,
that hook a fish before the angler can even reach for his rod.
Instead, gnomes rely on gnomish instincts and cunning and ancient lore, to outwit carp that, in all probability, have greater brain
power than the gnomes themselves.
We gnomes are fond of old, favourite rods, and we have even been known to brandish cane on occasions. Venerable, trusty reels, such as cranky Mitchells, fill us
with unreasonable delight.
In public places, such as real ale hostelries, our tatty tweed jackets may repel other imbibers, due to the clinging odours of elderly cat or wet Labrador.
But, there, settled by the fireside, our talk will be of gnomish fables; of haunted ponds and great deeds of the past, accomplished by our angling heroes of yesteryear, all gnomes to a man.
Yes, - welcome to my site. It’s lovely that you could join me.
Now, pull up a comfy chair...
Ashperton Moat - an Elegy for a Carp Pond.
SHALL I take you to Ashperton Moat? We’ll fish for the carp there, with floating bread, and worms and sweetcorn too.
We’ll park by the squat medieval church then follow the narrow path, through the ancient leaning gravestones.
We mind our
rods beneath the looming yew, until we reach the simple wooden gate.
It is truly astonishing how few local people realise there is actually a pool just yards beyond this point
. It is an enchanting and a secretive place, and to approach it gives the curious sense of entering a wooded valley, down a slope.
Look to your right, through the hawthorns
and the hazel trees. You will observe the unmistakable shiver of dark water.
The pool is narrow at first, rather like a canal. But it soon widens out to a rippling frown, -
too wide, perhaps, for float or crust to reach the other side.
All sense of the village and modern life has vanished. We stand in a hollow of rolling fields and woodland, facing
the island where once a castle stood. Now the island is the home of owls and herons, and strictly off limits for anglers.
The water that remains of the moat is our pond, and
we must make do with this bank, for rules are rules.
See how the pool widens out? - here where we stand in tree shadows, and also further on: where the water lilies are in
flower. The yellow blooms are shining in the dawn light.
Several fish are already clooping in the pads, as they suck down juicy water snails.
I decide to try crust: running stout line through the rings of my old split cane carp rod and attaching a size six hook.
are not large here, but they are wary. Redmire is just thirty miles away or so, and local legend has it that the pool was stocked by Donald Leney on the very same stocking run. That would be back in 1934.
The moat would have had its deep, unsilted places in those days.
Now it is shallow: too shallow some fishermen say.
Local rumour has it that the severe winter of 1963 saw off the larger fish.
The corpses of forty pounders were removed from the
Today, we shall not expect a double.
If we land any carp it will be old,
with its own true dignity and status.
But isn’t that a decent fish? - there, in the shadow of the yews, close to the lily beds?
I flick out a chuck of floating crust. It lands just a yard away from the drifting blue shape. Oh will it rise?
I close my bail
arm manually, to make sure I send no shock waves down the line.
The carp approaches slowly, it’s body taking on details as the fins beat.
It is a mirror carp. I can see the charcoal outlines of its big plate scales.
But, with a single flick of its tail, the fish has
gone, leaving the crust bobbing foolishly over deep green ripples. Did the fish see my line?
Perhaps I should reel in now, and try for a carp with float tackle?
I tell myself, be patient, and my inner voice is right.
The carp is back, making a crooked orbit round
I see the India rubber lips break surface then watch the line trail after my fish, down into a gentle swirl.
Who can remember striking at moments like this?
I only know the rod is hooped over as the carp dives deep for the roots of a yew.
The clutch is still complaining and I’m yielding too much line.
You’ve come with the net at last. You took your time!
But the fight is far from over.
Now the carp is running straight towards us, skirting the lilies then swinging away into a narrow channel. I reel as quickly as I can, to keep
a tight link to the hook. But now the fish has seen the roots of an overhanging ash, just yards along the bank.
The carp takes line again.
But the clutch is only talking to me in snatches. Then suddenly, almost miraculously, our carp rolls before us and you only need one chance with net.
In the cool damp grass we lay down our prize: admire its fully-scaled body, where browny-grey shoulders slant down to squiggled signatures of gold, before the Trojan shields from gill to tail.
But its belly is surely its glory, almost dazzling with amber and butter-yellow tints; all this set off with pearl and amber fins.
Please, let’s not
I remove the big hook from the corner of her mouth then, with the chance of a photo taken and a few more admiring glances, I lower her to the water and release her.
She sinks from view, her paddles beating softly.
We fish on through the morning, but no other opportunities are forthcoming.
I’m sorry that you failed to catch a fish! Still, there’s always another day.
Only, there will be no other days quite like this.
I want to find someone to blame, to point my finger.
Yet perhaps is nobody’s fault, that the pool is
almost devoid of carp this year.
I heard rumours that the club, which holds the lease, had taken to removing the better fish: to stock another lake nearby.
But perhaps its members were concerned about the falling water levels in the shallow, spring-fed pond.
water levels have indeed been low. Was a farmer taking too much for his fields, or is the dam leaking?
The presence of mink was probably the final blow.
Permission for traps, so I heard, was sought and obtained.
But what chance of escape could any old carp have, in a pool that had
lost half its water?
Cheshunt, Croxby and Dagenham: to write the history of carp pools is often to write an elegy. It seems to be the melancholy way of things.
Now, at least the memories remain, and a clutch of cherished photographs.
Ashperton Moat was an obscure pond
that never raised the eyebrows of the angling world; but to me, and a handful of others, it was carping heaven as it should be, and we shall miss it.
By Gary Bills. Article first published in Waterlog 72.