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Cyprus Irae


Having been invited back to the lake where I was smashed up the other week, I had a decision to make. I could continue to try for roach and rudd in the hope of landing one of the many pound plus fish that are supposed to be there, or switch tackle and tactics and try for a carp.

As ever, I vaccilated between the two. Only an hour before leaving I was determined to fish for carp and had even dusted off my 'bite alarm' - meat skewer, length of 40lb line, a budgie bell and a hairgrip - in preparation. Then I changed my mind again. You see, if I weigh things up, I find that a pound roach is actually worth more to me than a 10 or possibly 15lb carp (after that things get less clear). So, float fishing again, cheese paste (now with extra cheese to give it more bite and stop it from falling off the bloomin' hook so easily) sweetcorn and luncheon meat. The only concession? A stiffer 12' rod.

Oh, and I didn't fish the same swim either. That trio of lily pads with the pool in the middle and channel down the centre just doesn't offer the space to play anything substantial, so instead I moved next door where there are lilies on the right but open water everywhere else. I thought that should I hook a carp, there was a decent chance it would head away from the pads, and into the body of the lake where I might stand a chance.

Things began well. Like before it fished briskly for the first hour or so, then went dead, then slowly warmed up again. So I caught a sequence of rudd courtesy of bite after sailaway bite. No two pounders. Not even a one pounder. Nice fish nevertheless.

Of course the carp came and of course it kited right, wrapping me round the lilies and throwing the hook. I saw it briefly, a bar of gold, longer than my forearm, rising furiously to the surface as it tore across the lake. After that the swim went dead until a little tench wandered along with about half an hour to go.

Next time I shall neither shilly nor shally. I shall instead, catch carp. I swore this by the light of the fullest moon I've seen for years as I drove back along the edge of the Downs. The way angling works, I'll probably catch a two pound roach...
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Rubbish


Sometimes when you go fishing, you're in the zone. Focussed, concentrated, knowing exactly what you're about - in tune with the fishing. Other times, you're not. Last night I thought I was, but turned out to be tuned only to static.

I arrived at the river late - about 7.00pm. This was by design. The day had been another hot one, and the fish would be sluggish. Because of the weed on the bottom I was going to float fish and try and trip the bait just above the weeds. Cheese paste again. Sigh. When am I going to give up on this dog's backside of a bait? I added flour to try and stiffen it up but by the time I got to the waterside it was soggy again and the first knock was taking it off the hook. I persevered. Kneaded it until I thought it had a better consistency. Made no difference.

Lots of bites then, but nothing very definite and tossing tiny portions into the swim showed small roach coming up from mid water to knock the bait back and forth. Too small to even take a size 16.

But I carried on. The temperature dropped and things became more comfortable, but nothing felt right. I was making basic mistakes, getting tangled up with my centrepin, not controlling the float properly. A kingfisher flashed by about 8.30pm and I decided to move. First cast in a new swim produced the best bite of the evening - a tiny chub about the length of my finger. I have small fingers.

Eventually I retired to the pool below the bridge where earlier I'd seen the shapes of both roach and chub, but I'd left it too late and couldn't see the float properly. As I said, I was rubbish.

So here's a photo of someone who wasn't rubbish. Who fished, in fact, rather well, and was rewarded with this - a tench of about 4lbs, almost black, and in near perfect condition. I left Ray where I had first seen him, hunkered down into the bank, almost invisible from the field, peering at his quiver tip.


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Carpe diem

Still smarting from the lost carp of last week, I elected to extract my revenge at a local lake that teems with them. I hadn't been for two years but it looked more or less the same - though the reed beds in the middle have either died off or been tidied away.


And there they were. Dozens of carp of indeterminate size, cruising around on or near the surface, nosing bits of debris, taking the occasional insect, bumping into the ducks. Great fun. I tackled up with a 12ft North Western, large fixed spool reel and 8lb line straight through to a size 6 hook. Bait was dog biscuits. Now despite what people say, these need virtually no treatment to make them soft enough for the hook. All you need is a plastic bag or a bait box and some boiling water. Put your dry biscuits in the bag/box and pour a little boiling water over them. Seal the bag/close the lid and give them a good sloosh around. By the time you get to the water, they'll be ready to use.

My first bite came courtesy of a horsefly. Oh how they love my sweet, sweaty flesh. (In Ireland two years ago my hand went up like a balloon after a bite like this). Second bite was a small common which tore into the dog biscuit as if chased by all the demons of carp hell. In all I caught six, of which the biggest is here - probably about 7lbs, but maybe a touch more. I lost three more, one of which was sizeable, but packed up before 10.00pm feeling happy and contented.

I don't actually like carp fishing much, but catching them like this is exciting. Sure you can see them coming a lot of the time, but after a while, you can almost sense them lurking beneath the bait, even if there's nothing to actually see. And that moment when the bait and water around it seems to drop, creating a little belly in the water when a fish is moving up from underneath to take the bait, is electrifying.

So, as long as there are no bite alarms and it's kept simple, then maybe I do enjoy carp fishing after all.

A nice mirror carp caught off the surface. Biggest of the season so far. The float's there for scale.

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Losing streak

This was surely a banker. Overcast, warm, settled weather (with perhaps the promise of rain to liven things up) a lovely little lake - and this swim, which virtually guaranteed tench and carp. I mean, look at those lily pads....


So, although I claimed to be after roach, I tackled up with 6lb line and a pretty stout rod, just on the off chance that something larger might pass by. In front of the lilies you see, is a slightly deeper channel where larger fish are likely to cruise up and down.


As it turns out, having plumbed it, the deep water is mostly in the left of the picture, between the two sets of pads - after that it shallows off to the right.


Anyway, cheese paste, corn and luncheon meat. Pellets for ground bait (and some sticky smelly nightmarish stuff that my host kindly provided - couldn't get it into the water fast enough) and off we went, about 5.00pm.


It was a good session. Lots of roach and rudd to about half a pound, first on float, later on leger. I lost a couple of decent ones too - they certainly knew all about those lilies.


Only one interruption really, when my fellow angler pitched up a little breathlessly carrying his landing net inside which was the biggest perch I've ever seen. Now I reckon I've caught a perch of one and three quarters and I thought that was big. This was 3lbs 10oz - a perchosaurus! Massive shoulders, huge mouth and when he released it, it swam off like a pike, fast and pissed off.


Last cast as light was fading I got a good solid take on corn. Struck and a large fish moved left into the lilies at speed. I managed to coax it back out into the open water in front of me. It circled for a bit as if sizing up the situation. Once it broke the surface. It was a double figure fish, I'm sure of that now. But things were OK. Six pound line, a stout rod, a bit of open water...it tore off like a train, heading straight for the pads in front of me. I simply couldn't stop it. The reel screamed, the line broke and I packed up.


This means war.

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