The F Word
Mr F’s extraordinary run of luck shows no sign of abating, with another mix of stunning and large carp destined for the album this month...
Mr F’s extraordinary run of luck shows no sign of abating, with another mix of stunning and large carp destined for the album this month...
Once again I’m happy to report that my good fortune seems to be endless. I’m not entirely sure of the hows and whys – maybe I’ve trodden in some lucky dodo poo, as yet again every trip has somehow
resulted some amazing carp. Towards the end of the summer heatwave I continued with my short overnighters on the nearby Stour Lake – to be honest, I’ve enjoyed not having to travel too far (some seven miles), plus I was getting to fish the best hours anyhow... through the evening, night and early morning, then departing at around 7am for work. I’d had a fair amount of success too, nothing overly massive but some cracking fish though, with both commons and mirrors up to high twenties.
My first trip back to the Tip Lake was a breezy Sunday afternoon in late August where, after weeks of sizzling temperatures, the barometric pressure had finally dropped and grey clouds were rolling in. After seeing a couple of shows on my way around the lake, I’d dropped in a swim somewhat strangely named Margaret’s... I know, but that’s what it’s called. I’d never even wet a line in there before, but it was, I thought, about time. Two islands in front, at less than 30 yards range, meant it seemed like I was fishing on a canal. It is also fairly obvious where to cast your baits, although this makes you, or certainly me, feel a bit restricted. Anyhow, most of the ground close to the islands I found was clear-ish, apart from the obligatory carpet of blanket weed – but that was still well presentable in my opinion, so it was along here I flicked three baits and a scattering of freebies. Less than an hour later, and much to my surprise, the left-hander ripped off with what turned out to be one of the most fabulous looking commons I’ve ever seen... honestly. I think it’s called The Perfect Common and I’m sure you’ll agree it definitely is. For those to whom it matters, it weighed 33lb and, although nothing else happened for me on this particular trip, it definitely focused my mind to concentrate my time on here.
A change in weather systems meant some
proper carpy stuff was at last reaching our shores and, taking advantage of the fact that a fair dollop of the long overdue rain which was forecast for the last Wednesday of August, I’d loaded up my van the evening previous for an early start on the Tip Lake. For me, there is still nothing like the buzz of actually being there on the water, looking for clues at first light whilst most carpers are still in the Land of Nod with their bivvy doors zipped up. As I pulled through the gate in the half-light, I was convinced the rain actually intensified a notch or two, meaning (a) – it wouldn’t be light for a while and (b) – I was going to get soaked!
As keen as ever and having made the effort to get here I threw on my trusty old army Goretex, followed by a pair of waders and set off for a lap. One of my mates called Lee Dean was the first angler I came to, in a swim called The Rails – it was time to put the kettle on. Nothing much had occurred during the night it transpired but, over a much needed cuppa, we concluded that my best plan would be to chuck a couple of rods out in the swim next door then watch from under some cover until the rain eased up. Indeed, for many reasons (some not all that obvious at that point in time) it was a cunning plan. For a start, I’d fished the swim a fair few times recently with varying degrees of success and so knew a couple of clearer, and therefore more presentable, spots in this very weedy little water. Most importantly we all knew it was ‘bite time’ and I needed to get some baits in the water quickly to actually give myself a chance – maybe the best chance of the entire day too. So, grabbing a brolly and the bare essentials from the van, I could now sit and watch a fair bit of water both left and right for signs of carp. The rods went out surprisingly well, both first time efforts, landing with a firm donk on the spots near the island, followed by 20 or so freebies. In previous weeks I’d taken stock of the fact that everybody, bar none, were using pop-ups on Ronnie rigs and so I decided to be a bit different and use my favourite, bog-standard hair rig with a bottom bait. Nothing remotely complicated, or even wafting, just a straight out of the bag 18mm Cell boilie, reasoning that even though there was still weed on even the clearest spot, it was only the rough blanket stuff and I was sure that I could present well enough on it. Anyhow I’d got them out and had been sheltering for no more than 20 minutes when the right-hand bobbin lifted up to the top and stayed there. I wasn’t sure whether it was a take or what was occurring, but I picked the rod up only to find nothing there – obviously a liner. Whilst winding in for a re-chuck the left-hand rod burst into action, the line literally ripping from what was a very tight clutch. Dropping the one rod, I picked up the other to immediately feel a heavy fish on the other end – within seconds it was weeded solidly in thick milfoil. Not wishing to allow it to get buried even further, I held the spool and walked slowly backwards pointing the rod directly at the fish. Ever so slowly it began to move, a few inches at first, then a foot or two, then I felt its tail kick and I
breathed a sigh of relief – it was still on. All I had to do was keep it coming. Lee had heard the take and was now waiting by my side with the net. Once it was close enough, I could see it was a mirror – not a bad one either, but the fight did feel weird... It is difficult to explain but definitely weird. Anyhow, it was only when it went in the net that we realised that there was another line tangled up with mine and what’s more there was another fish on the end of it... Lee expertly hand-lined the second carp, a low-20 common, into a spare net which I’d quickly set up, unhooked it and slipped it back, apparently no worse for its ordeal. The poor fish had been trailing at least 30 yards of line, plus the rig and lead, which had somehow got snarled up with both my line and bundles of weed. It had also, more than likely than not, caused the earlier liner on the right-hand rod.
Having sorted out the trailing fish and the messy web of line, we peered in the net and realised that my fish was much larger than we’d first thought – in actual fact what we had was one of the big girls. Upon closer inspection we agreed it was Hercules – the second largest mirror in the venue. On the scales the long, dark, chestnut coloured mirror went 43lb. What a terrific start to the day! It is unbelievable really but, when things are going well, these miraculous events can and do happen.
Once I’d sorted out the whole sorry mess, the rain did slowly start to clear but a couple of hours or so later the swim began to look a bit lifeless... not surprising really, given the disturbance I’d caused. Still, I gave it until lunchtime just in case.
The heavy, grey skies had cleared by now and warm sunshine was at last breaking through. Picture book fluffy white clouds dotted the sky, so it was time for a proper look around the 5-acre venue. A gentle breeze had picked up from a northerly direction which was blowing down into a swim called The Point, which is also the weediest part of the lake. The trees are relatively easy to climb on the end bank, which is technically out of bounds for fishing as there aren’t any swims, but I’d be casting over that way from The Point. From my vantage position in the tree tops, I could see several grey/blue shadows passing through the holes in the heavy weed – the odd one sending up telltale plumes of bubbles as it tipped and fed. This looked promising, I thought to myself and so, after a quick scan of my other options, my day gear was loaded on the barrow and swiftly transported around to The Point.
In the swim there is an island out in front at around 30 yards and the aforementioned out of bounds bank to my left. It was plain to see that my only options were the two holes in the mat of weed on the surface. A bait could be cast to into each one, which was about as big as a bed chair, plus a little clear strip down the left margin. A couple of flicks with a light lead confirmed that the right-hand hole was clear, the other not so, yet still presentable. Both holes were close enough for me to be able to catapult a couple of pints of fresh hempseed plus 50 or so boilies around each hookbait, the rod which was down the edge was easy enough to bait by hand.
During the late afternoon and evening, carp were visiting the area and occasionally sending up plumes of bubbles as they tipped to feed – each time they did so, my pulse rate increased a few levels. As darkness fell I’d still not had as much as a liner but with so many fish about, I felt confident of a take in the night. I awoke just before first light feeling disappointed and a little bemused to find the bobbins hadn’t moved an inch and, as you do, I put the kettle on. As the daylight began to break and I mulled over what could possibly have gone wrong, the middle rod suddenly burst into life. I was on it in seconds but somehow it had dived into the weed and now felt pretty solid.
Repeating the same procedure as the day before – walking back slowly, whilst pointing the rod at the fish did the trick yet again; the only trouble was that this time I’d uprooted a giant raft of a weedbed too and the whole lot was steadily coming towards me, but as yet I couldn’t see the fish. All I could do was to net as much of the weed as possible and hopefully the fish with it. The next thing I knew though, the net handle broke, snapping clean off next to the spreader block. Even worse, after managing to reach it with a spare net
and bundle the whole lot ashore, the fish wasn’t in there! After ripping away more of the weed, I discovered the line was actually coming back out of the net and down into the margins. As luck would have it though I immediately felt a tug – the fish was still on! Carefully I hand-lined the carp close enough, then into the spare net it went first attempt! Simultaneously, I let out a huge sigh of relief and punched the air. The Big Fully Scaled, in all its majesty, lay on the mat. Yet another one ticked off my most wanted list and once again there was no doubt I’d been a very lucky fellow...
My next trip to the Tip Lake was in midseptember and a midweek one, the same as the last trip. I arrived before first light and loaded a few essentials on the barrow, then chucked ’em out again in Churchills, just for a few hours really, to give myself a chance of watching the lake for clues. As the clock ticked by and the sun began to rise in the sky, I saw a few movements and a bit of bubbling in The Rushes which is two swims further down the lake. Upon investigation, there were indeed a few about, maybe a dozen – some were cruising about in mid-water, whilst the others were as still as statues. But, more importantly, two of them were definitely big girls! There was no way I could definitely identify the fish at that range, but, I could clearly see they were big! Thinking back, I’d seen a really big one in this area the previous week and a few of the regulars had told me that the biggest mirror in the venue, called The Box, does like it there – and, more relevantly, does get caught there. One of the problems with having had a tremendous season already, and catching a fair few, is that inevitably I’d started not only ticking them off my list but, really and truthfully, there were only three or four of the 35-plus fish left that I really wanted to catch at this juncture. So, even though I really don’t particularly enjoy targeting individual fish, much preferring to catch as many as possible and see what comes along, I was, I must admit, starting to think along those lines, and The Box was definitely near the top of my list.
I’d only fished the swim a couple of times before and, to be honest, I didn’t really like it that much as you can end up feeling hemmed in if people go next door and opposite. The swim is in the centre of the lake and has two prominent bars running parallel to the bank – one at 25 yards and the other at about 40 – this one having a giant bed of fluffy topped rushes growing out of it like a small island and hence the name, The Rushes. On the bars the depth was about 4ft and in the gullies about 7ft, all of it weedy – with some of the milfoil up to the surface, a fair bit of Canadian and the rest, thick blanket and silkweed. It was the blanket and silkweed that I thought offered the best, maybe the only, chance of presenting a bait properly. After a fair amount of casting around,
I wound up with two rods fishing on the slope of the first bar, with the third one on the back of the second bar, where a blanket of new, luminous green, silkweed was covering the bottom. The carp of late seemed to be spending a lot of time feeding on and around this fresh weed – maybe because of the small snails and freshwater shrimp, or maybe because they eat the weed itself. I know that roach love the stuff!
As dusk settled I baited each spot with a further 50 or so boilies and sat with Richard who was in The Rails, next door. Unusually for me we had a takeaway delivered – American burgers, spicy chicken and fries, which was actually very tasty, washed down, obviously, with a few fine ales. Sometime, around midnight, I was awoken by a low 20lb mirror which, after an admiring glance at both sides, I slipped straight back to its watery home and jumped back in the bag. Just before first light a jittery, jerky take occurred on the longest rod on the second bar. Straight away the fish felt heavy, plodding up and down behind the bar. Determined not to let it find the sanctuary of the weed, I piled the pressure on and started to gain line. I tend to play fish hard anyway, especially so in weed, where you just cannot afford to allow them to do as they like. My line is tough, with a breaking strain of 20lb, so, after dropping the lead, I do try to keep the pressure on and their heads up. I’m pleased to report all went, swimmingly well, resulting in a rather large mirror carp gliding over the net cord. I didn’t know quite how big until I tried to lift the net – it was a proper unit, this one.
Once on the mat and still in the torchlight I opened the net to reveal the muscle-bound and almost purple-coloured flanks of a massive mirror carp, certainly way over 40lb. Although I’d never seen it on the bank before I had a sneaky feeling that this could be my target mirror! On the scales it registered a tad over 47lb. No joking, I had to shake my head a few times in disbelief – obviously worried for a moment that I was still dreaming. Shortly after putting it in a retainer to recover, Spencer and Richard called by to see how things were. Fortunately, both are excellent with a camera enabling me to get some fabulous shots of this truly magnificent creature.
With the autumn now in full swing, I’m going to concentrate on the Tip Lake whenever I’ve got the time, and fingers crossed, I’ll try for one of the other three highlydesirable 40s, namely The Anchor, Top Arthur, and, most desirable of all, the incredible Satan’s Linear. With the evenings drawing in now, I’ll also be popping down to the Stour Lake for a few overnighters, but, whatever happens, even if I don’t have another bite I’ll be more than happy with the way my season has gone.
Until next month, tight lines, Mr F.
P.S. On a sad note, my favourite uncle, Derrick, passed away recently. He was endlessly patient and understanding with me and my brother as kids and was the guy responsible for teaching me how to fish, as well as to respect the wonderful world in which we live. I will definitely miss him.
BELOW The Perfect Common – no, seriously, that’s what it’s called
ABOVE A lovely Stour Lake common
ABOVE One of the Lake’s big girls – this is Hercules, weighing just over 43lb
LEFT They were fizzing over my left-hand rod
ABOVE The view from above...
BELOW The Big Fully at 30lbplus
BELOW I don’t particularly like singular target fish, BUT I MADE AN EXCEPTION WHEN THIS ONE ROLLED OVER THE CORD. THE APTLY-NAMED BOX, AT 47LB
LEFT One for sorrow...