Well, I'm just a few hours back from a 24 hour overnight session at Pridewood in Herefordshire. Let's set secret squirrels aside, enough for me to reveal that this is the pool I have usually referred
to as Hoveland on this site. It's a 1.25 acre pond with a map history going back to 1846. When it was announced that we could go fishing again, I imagined Pridewood as I have known it...just one of two anglers at the very most. It is, after all, not a very
large pool.... However, by 2pm yesterday there were ten folks there, all fishing for its carp. Of course, I cannot blame them - we were all celebrating the same liberty. I just hope the liberty to go fishing lasts...but I digress. I was going to say that angling,
at any time, is a whimsical mistress. I couldn't help but notice how some anglers were blessed with action, while others struggled. A party from Wales - three men and a woman, managed at least eight carp between them. Eavesdropping, I heard that the largest
was 15lbs. Others blanked. Still others had to be happy with a bonus roach. The roach, in fact, are of a decent size. I struggled at first, only managing my first carp of the session, a double of 10lbs 12oz, at around 3pm. The carp had, by then, retreated
to the far end of the pool, to shelter under overhanging bushes, and that is where I fished. That first fish fell to margin crust - my rod top poking out between branches and a hunk of crust immediately below, with no line at all on the water. The challenge
was to stop the carp from getting to the roots, so immediate side-strain was needed; plus the trick of walking sideways, rod at full bend, to get the carp away from those branches and roots and snags. I did lose one carp which did make the roots - the line
being severed promptly; but I caught another three carp - all doubles, to bring my session tally up to four doubles. Two of those came as dusk fell and a degree of tranquility returned to the pool, as folks left for home. On the evening, I had two commons
of 11lb and 12lb 8oz. Both fell to a flake bomb, which was floating close to branches in the water. They were powerful, torpedo-bodied fish which put my AKN 116 into its full fighting curve. I stopped fishing at about 11pm, yesterday evening, because the temperature
was really plummeting. Getting up, cold, for a call of nature, at 1.30am, I noticed how the sky was clear, dark and brilliant with stars. By 4.30am, and the rather impressive dawn chorus, there had been a mild frost. I returned to my bed, only resuming fishing
after 8.30am. A hunk of crust by the branches did the trick, and I was soon weighing another torpedo-bodied common, of 11lb 3oz - the last of a memorable session.
I wanted this year to be different, in terms of carp fishing. Well, it's certainly different so far, but not for reasons any of us anticipated! I'm only glad I got one small session in at Woodside,
before the lockdown came into effect. I only caught to high singles - but the rod bent... the rod actually bent.. Ah, memories from a diferent world, and merely a few weeks ago...! When will all this over? In mid-April I was all set for three days on a very
ancient water in the South West of England, with three friends. We'd planned - we'd looked forward to it...but it's now completely off the table, of course. I cannot complain. Nobody can complain about restricted movement, at a time like this. But let's assume
the nightmare will end soon, - what am I still looking forward too? Well, there's a completely off the radar and long-established water I mean to try...I've seen a picture of a roach angler holding an 18lb common (caught by accident, and which was a big surprise
for him). I think it might have been a Leney.. I'll call this water, Cider Pool, after my late and much-loved cat, Cider - and I hope to be writing about it fairly soon. And there's another pool - completely unfished - which I've more or less been promised
solitary access to.... many a slip between cup and lip...but it's a remote pool of around 4 acres, and deep in places. I'll call this, Beer Pool - and why not? It might hold little of interest, actually; but I'm betting otherwise. Closer to home, the water
I call Hoveland still has some unfinished business - I've caught the third and fourth largest carp in there, but I've only hooked and lost the second largest, on an unsuspected snag. As for the largest carp - it's a silvery common. I've seen it just
once, and I would put its weight at 25lbs plus....that's certainly still on my radar. Happy planning and searching to you all! Hopefully, it won't be long before we are all back on the bank....
The picture shows a typical Hoveland common,
caught by me. The king of the pool is a much larger common, rather silvery with, from what I could tell from just one sighting, deep red instead of orange fins...
Weather reports shouldn't really be trusted, should they? Today it was supposed to be a mild March day, with temperatures up to 12 degrees Celsius (hah!) but in my neck of the woods,
winter was keen to make a return in the shape of a chilling East wind. Yes, I was cold, and I didn't feel too confident either, even though I was setting up at Woodside, which is a decent water for wintry conditions. Sometimes you can even take them off the
top when it is near freezing!
Now to a confession. After ten years without using the hair, I am allowing myself to use the hair, if I so choose. It will be for hard baits,
really, and I will not be using heavy leads for self-hooking rigs etc. But I feel that, if anyone has deserved the right to experiment in a 'new' direction, after a decade of not using the hair, then I'm that angler! I wouldn't have missed the last ten years
for anything, in terms of fishing pleasure, because I do feel that I've gained insight of what the early carp anglers had to contend with, and as a result I have become a better angler than I was, with far more 'tricks' up my sleeve, - because my own angling
has developed and progressed in fresh directions. I hope this 'hair today' confession doesn't upset or disappoint anyone. For myself, I realise I have been running the risk of signalling 'no-hair' virtue at the risk of making some other anglers feel bad about
their own style of fishing - and, if so, that is unacceptable, isn't it? Don't get me wrong, however - the hair will not be my first choice on any water.
So what about
today? My first fish fell to a popped-up, hair-rigged scopex boilie, heavily glugged, and fished in conjunction with the sight-bob rig. Seeing the sight-bob slide away seemed so unlikely, on such a cold and windy March day, it was a delight to see it happen.
That fish was small but it bent the rod and was a gorgeous star-burst mirror. However, carp started to come in close, and my second carp of the day, a small common, fell to the margin crust technique, as pioneered by Richard Walker, with no line at all lying
on the surface. I noticed, however, that the larger fish were not coming in quite so close, and also that they were shying away from even free offerings of crust. My solution was to squeeze a ball of flake onto my size six hook, so that it would only just
float. Like an iceberg, most of the flake was actually below the surface. I cast it about five yards out, between trees. This worked a treat, in that a high-single leather - a known fish at the pool, came up and sipped the offering in. I would love to report
that my vintage Alpha Carp rod and Mitchell 300A took a close range battering - but they did not. The leather seemed rather comotose and barely fought, compared with the two smaller fish, but I wasn't complaining. I suppose the satisfaction I can take from
today is the fact I used tackle, rigs and approaches from across a wide spectrum - from techniques that the Carp Catchers' Club would have recognised, to modern boilies and the hair-rig. I have to point out, however, it was simple freelined bread which fooled
the best fish of the day!
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?