Above - the lilies of Poplar Pool
IT is strange to relate that, growing up as I did no more than 12 miles from the Severn Valley, I have never touch-ledgered for barbel.
I do, however, touch-ledger for carp from time to time.
My first barbel came in 1979, and I remember seeing the tip of my glass carp rod twitch while I
waited for the archetypal gut-churning wrench, and I was not disappointed.
Later on, I discovered that barbel takes could be far more subtle, and I remember fishing a slack
at Hampton Loade, close to a fallen willow that was breaking the current with its outer sunken branches, and waiting the deliberate bow in my line to pull tight.
a number of barbel that day, and a few years later I had another good day, fishing the Severn in flood, and striking two inch nods on the rod top.
So I gathered that even
the mighty barbel could be subtle takers, but I never thought to touch ledger for them, and it never occurred to me to touch ledger for carp, until one winter’s day on a pond I shall call “Poplar Pool”.
Now, Poplar Pool no longer lives up to its name, for the majestic row of ivy-clad poplars has been felled, recently, leaving just stumps behind and a feeling of sadness or regret for the anglers who
loved those trees.
But a few winters ago, it was still quite an attractive day ticket water, with a history going back a hundred years or so, although the condition of some
of the carp left much to be desired.
This was caused by two things, really. One was the extensive lily beds. Many anglers simply could not deal with carp that, once
hooked, would turn for the lilies.
The fish would then be pulled at and tugged at, with the predictable woeful consequences.
Another problem was the high level of matches that took place on the pool, but I shall say no more of this.
Needless to say, on that day in mid-winter,
I had the water all to myself.
It was cold; - a wind was blasting from the north, over the wooded brow of a hill, and I was ready to blank.
I had been there for around four hours when I saw a fish jump by one of the islands. Then another carp jumped, and another; and spreading sandy-coloured clouds, from the ruddy Herefordian clays, revealed that carp
were actually feeding.
It was too far to cast the sight-bob I was using, by the remnants of the lilies, and so I set up a ledger rig, broke out the Optonic, attached the
bobbin and awaited events.
The bobbin rose steadily on several occasions, but I failed to connect; and so in desperation, for some mad reason, I decided to touch ledger.
Within five minutes I was astonished to feel the line tug across my bent index finger and I struck. It was a common carp, about 6lbs in weight, and it was most welcome, given the conditions.
I caught another one or two like this, with the hook always ending up nicely in the top lip.
used the method since, and the thing that amazes me most of all is that one single tug – never a second, in my experience.
It is as if the carp sucks the bait
in, moves on, and then spits it out.
I don’t think the carp are spooked in these cases. I think they are simply feeding how carp like to feed – sucking and blowing
– and that single tug tells you that the bait is in the carp’s mouth and a strike should follow, immediately and without hesitation.
In this way, the carp is
hooked at the instant of its first and probably its only mistake during a feeding session.
I understand that touch-ledgering has been used at Redmire. During the Hilton syndicate
period, an angler called Pete Badley touch-ledgered to catch a superb 31lb common from the shallows, and so there is clearly both history and mileage in this method.