Woodside was looking it's very best yesterday, in verdant June. The trees were in full leaf, the lily beds were coming into their own and the reeds - which had been cut back last
winter, were re-asserting their perfect right to be there in strength. I had thought of trying out my "new" vintage Alpha Carp at a freshly-found "off the radar" water, where carp may or may not exist; but I really wanted to feel the rod bending and
so I went to the nature reserve, courtesy of the Davies family, in the knowledge that action would be forthcoming. This is not to say there would not be challenges - both the ducks and the rudd were in a ravenous mood, in sultry heat, and the only way to help
both bottom and surface baits to survive was to fish close to the side, where the ducks and rudd were less inclined to arrive mob-handed. My final tall was seven carp - including the lean and powerful 9lb 10oz common which fell to margin crust and put up a
terrific fight - really testing the old Alpha (which until I bought it off Ebay recently hadn't been used by anyone, apparently...must have been in someone's attic...) It was good to use glass again....I'd forgotten how "forgiving" glass rods can be, especially
with close range battles. I know that many black bass experts in the US are returning to glass for this very reason. Perhaps the age of the glass rod isn't over, after all?
I caught fourteen carp at Woodside yesterday and lost two others due to hook pulls - which is rather too much action for me! I was exhausted by the end of play, after playing
so many carp - not that any were particularly large. The biggest, in fact, was an 8lb 10oz leather - which I also caught two weeks ago, at the same weight. This repeat capture proved to me that, despite the high numbers of carp being landed, much of the fishy
population was still holed up in one area of the pool - their winter resting ground? (I was pleased to note that, even though large beds of bulrush were grubbed out during the winter, the rushes are already growing back in force. It won't be long before the
pool shows its usual, more pleasant face.)
All of the carp, but one, fell to floating crust; the one that didn't was fooled by sight-bobbed flake. But this was barely
an option yesterday because the extensive rudd shoals had woken up for the spring. Bottom baits there can be literally drilled into the mud. The rudd target floating baits also; but the trick is to use large chunks of crusty bread, which may stand a real battering
for longer. When the carp show up, the rudd usually move off. Another reason for using floating crust was that it gave me the option of attempting to target specific carp, although this didn't happen much yesterday. There was one very large mirror in the surface
early on - I would say over 20lbs. I tried to target this fish by forcing my way through bushes with a net and rod and by making a precarious cast from (already) flattened reeds; needless to say, however, by the time my late middle-aged bulk had managed
to do this, the carp had vanished.
Woodside is a lovely camp site and conservation area and I only get to fish there by the kind permission of the Davies family, who own
it. Yesterday, there were quite a number of tents being pitched and, with the tourist season about to get going in earnest, I may have only one or two more chances this year - at least before the autumn - to target that larger fish - while the pool area
is still relatively undisturbed; but that, after all, is the nature of carp fishing. We have to take our chances while we can, don't we?
The weather forecast wasn't too promising yesterday and I arrived at Woodside to a downpour, which had me huddling under my brolly. The pool, which is part of a holiday site and
an award-winning conservation area run by the Davies family, had changed its appearance over the winter. The pool I fish, the largest of several at about one acre in size, had undergone a degree of restoration. Gone were the extensive reed beds which made
one bank virtually unfishable last year. Now the pool was altogether more open - but where to fish? I picked a bay where the gusts had brought in a mat of cut dead reeds. Surely that would be sheltering one or two carp? I didn't feel all that confident when
I started off by sight-bobbing flake in around 3ft of water, just off the reed mat. I was actually huddling under my brolly still (cursing the strength of the mad March winds) when my sight-bob vanished very nicely - and I missed! I missed several more - feeling
rusty after the long winter lay-off, and it was no use telling myself that these were merely takes from little rudd. I knew what they were! The water was rocking! At the close of the day, I had managed to catch three carp on the sight-bob, using flake
as both the hook-bait and the limited free offerings. But the larger carp fell to surface crust, fished by or actually among the reed mat. My best was the common shown here - 10lb10oz and my first most welcome double of the year; but I also managed a 9lb 3oz
mirror; an 8lb 12oz linear and and a genuine leather of 8lbs 10oz - these are all quite big carp for Woodside, in fact, which was stocked around 14 years ago but is yet to produce a verified twenty. My final tally was nine carp - a semi-outrageous result
for this time of year; but I was painfully reminded of my shortcomings and will confess that I probably lost the largest carp I hooked yesterday through sheer stupidity. I decided to change a hook while carp were literally inches from the bank. I tied on the
fresh hook with trembling hands and lowered in a hunk of crust. I didn't check the knot, however - normally I inspect every knot and give it a number of harsh tugs - this time I didn't. A large pair of lips rose and took the crust. I struck at close range
and a hefty plated mirror (which felt like a sack of spuds at the end of my line) rolled before me...and the knot failed. I least it was a barbless hook and at least I'm now sure there are one of two larger carp in the pool...but it was a harsh lesson. Before
yesterday, I hadn't experienced knot failure for about nine years. However, we live and learn, don't we...?
Afterthought... I'm wondering if it
was the knot - a Hutchinson "grinner" which failed me after all. The end of the line was slightly crinkled, which made me think of knot failure, naturally; but having talked over the circumstances with my brother, Dave, I'm leaning towards his suggestion that
I was broken..on 12lb line! Of course, there could have been a fault in the line, but I tend to think now that the sheer bulk of a heavy fish rolling on the surface, immediately beneath the rod tip, might well have been enough. I remember
thinking how the fish felt like a rolling sack of spuds, which probably meant the rod was already at full bend. The clutch was set properly, but I may have dropped a finger to the drum - which would have been an error. I can't be sure of this... It all
happened so quickly, of course. Apart from that, I don't know what else I might have done - but I do now think it was the line which went, which begs the question, how heavy was that fish? Will I manage to encounter it again? The pool is just one acre but
well established and deep in the middle - 10ft or more. It could hold secrets.
I just thought I'd post a quick note, explaining that I haven't gone away! I haven't done much fishing over the winter, partly because I was diagnosed with diabetes shorly before Christmas. I'd been
feeling unwell for some time - perhaps for as long as the past year. Well, I've lost some weight and I'm on the pills, so I feel I'm turning a corner now and, in fact, I've already resumed fishing - a blank at Hoveland! Next week I'm at Woodside where winter/early
spring carp fishing can be productive - fingers crossed! (And Tight Lines to you all).
PHOTO: What I'm looking forward to this year - a gorgeous looking common, caught last October.
It's been a mild November so far, but this month is usually classed as the start of winter by carp fishers, and so I suppose I can legitimately claim the double figure common
I caught today, from the pool I call Hoveland, as my first winter carp of the year. In fact I caught two doubles - but a mirror came in foul-hooked in the flank, and so it cannot count, unlike the common. That fell to a critically-balanced crust rig I've been
dabbling with, with a sight bob as the float.The common took close to the branches of an overhanging willow and, immediately when hooked, rose to the surface with its dorsal raised - most impressive! I only wished the snap I took of it on the mat wasn't so
'washed out". I think my camera has seen its best days..
The fishing, however, was perhaps the least dramatic moment of a somewhat disturbing, even an upsetting day. I
arrived to find I had the pool to myself and, as per usual in such circumstances, I decided to do the rounds, to see where fish were showing etc. The water was quite clear and I was surprised to see numbers of roach in the margins, clearly gasping for oxygen.
Soon I was spotting carp doing the same, then three, then four dead carp..! I looked at the water level and saw it was very low - perhaps 1.5ft down on its usual level - and this is a pool where the average depth normally is just 3ft. I decided not to fish
but to find the lady farmer instead. She was as shocked as me and asked what should be done. I suggested an aerator but she suggested opening the pipe up for an ancient bore hole well and allowing fresh water into the pool. It is fortunate the well was there.
That spring-fed pool is old - dating back to at least very early Victorian times, and probably before then. The bore hole well is evidence of the pool's antiquity. Soon enough water was gushing down a pipe into the one acre pond. One hour later, it was as
if the crisis hadn't happened at all, aside from the floating bodies of a few carp and one or two dead roach. I didn't expect to catch but decided to fish in any case - not least because I'd been dropped off by my wife and suspected she would not appreciate
an early call back. Well, the morning turned to the afternoon. The pool had risen by at least six inches and there was evidence of carp just being carp - clouds of mud, bubbles and so forth. I decided on the pop-up approach because I was bringing back a load
of sticks and leaves on my conventional bottom rig. It was pleasing to fool that common with the pop-up rig, and once it was safely in the net and on the mat, I felt that my decision to stay had been justified after all.