Let bat­tle com­mence

Peter Cock­will gets his string pulled by pow­er­ful carp for a mod­est ticket price...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents - Words: Peter Cock­will Pic­tures: Peter Gather­cole

Peter Cock­will picks a scorch­ing sum­mer day to tar­get pow­er­ful carp with a fly

IN the Mil­len­nium year I was se­ri­ously get­ting into f ly f ish­ing for carp and with word get­ting around that this was a great al­ter­na­tive to trout, in our in­creas­ingly diff icult sum­mer sea­sons, it was time to pub­li­cise. My f irst carp fea­ture was pub­lished in this mag­a­zine back in 2002 and cer­tainly stirred the pot with many read­ers up­set that we were veer­ing away from trout, while oth­ers quickly re­alised that here was a way to catch big f ish on the f ly ver y in­ex­pen­sively and with­out the need to travel far. We took those f irst fea­ture pic­tures at Willinghurst in Sur­rey, which in 1968 was one of the ear­li­est of the stocked trout f ish­eries but is now en­tirely over to coarse, with an ex­pand­ing com­plex to what is now an es­tate of 10 lakes. Its owner, Mark Syms – a life­long f ly fisher – has al­ways wel­comed the carp f ly f ish­ers and many, other wise se­ri­ous carp an­glers, have come here to ap­pre­ci­ate how their favourite quarr y is a test­ing beastie when tack­led on the f ly. The f isher y’s best so far on the f ly is a 34lb com­mon to Kent’s Andy Parker, who of­ten con­trib­utes to this mag­a­zine. A nother of A ndy’s favourite wa­ters is in the vil­lage of Newdi­gate, also in Sur­rey, and it’s here that I put the chal­lenge to a group of friends to catch some f ish for Peter Gather­cole’s cam­era. Some­how, in the mid­dle of change­able weather, I pick an ab­so­lute scorcher of a day and as soon as we start mid-morn­ing the carp are quickly up on top for our cat­a­pulted free­bie dog bis­cuits. Out goes the deer hair ‘pel­let’ f lies and bat­tle com­mences. I have to say that it’s nowhere as easy as it was some 17 odd years ago. Quite sim­ply be­cause carp are smart and ver y quickly learn that some dog bis­cuits aren’t nec­es­sar­ily ed­i­ble. Time af­ter time you get

what seems to be the most per­fect take, which re­sults in noth­ing, no mat­ter how you time the strike. I’m a great be­liever in an in­stant re­sponse but it’s a while be­fore the f irst fish is on. The carp here at Newdi­gate Fish­eries are a re­ally se­ri­ous f ight against 7 and 8w t rods and our fish to­day range from 12 to 16lb and a mix of com­mons and mir­rors, which when hooked give plenty of ac­tion for Peter to pho­to­graph. Lit­tle sur­prise that it isn’t long be­fore my gear is com­man­deered by Peter who wants in on the ac­tion. He’s an ex­cel­lent, long dis­tance caster and is able to put the f ly out against an is­land where the most pos­i­tive takes seem to hap­pen. Hav­ing said that, it’s open wa­ter hook-ups for Stu­art Bar­rett who’s tak­ing a break from man­ag­ing Dever Springs, and prov­ing that he can han­dle big carp just as eas­ily as the tro­phy trout he rears at his fa­mous Hamp­shire fisher y. Come mid-af­ter­noon we’re all a bit sun­burnt and the f ish have pretty well sussed our ef­forts so it’s job done and time for us all to hit the road. I know for ab­so­lute cer­tainty that the evening would have been by far the best of the day’s sport, but the f isher y is only a half-hour for me and I can come back again.

What to ex­pect

You must ac­cept that carp are smart and you’ll have days that can be re­ally frus­trat­ing along with oth­ers when you truly think you have cracked it. These f ish are no dif­fer­ent to oth­ers in that their be­hav­iour is strongly inf lu­enced by the weather, their need for food, se­cu­rity and com­pany with the big dif­fer­ence for us in that they get caught many, many times in their long lives and they most def initely learn! These past few years I have so en­joyed do­ing guided evenings for carp on f ly and it’s real fun when se­ri­ous trout guys come along to just ‘see what it’s all about’. In­vari­ably they quickly re­alise it’s not quite as easy as it seems and that these f ish re­ally do pull back. Ver y soon they are carp con­verts!

Use the right gear

De­pend­ing on where you are go­ing to fish I re­ally can’t see any point at all in tack­ling carp with in­ad­e­quate gear. It’s not fair on the f ish or in­deed the f isher y and if there is a pos­si­bil­ity you will make con­tact with carp over 10lb then you need a min­i­mum 7 w t and no less than a 10lb leader. There are stacks of read­ily avail­able carp f lies and they all have their mo­ment, but the deer hair ‘pel­let’” pat­tern prob­a­bly ranks as the num­ber one choice. Be­cause you’ll cer­tainly miss a lot of

“You must ac­cept that carp are smart and you’ll have days that can be re­ally frus­trat­ing along with oth­ers when you think you’ve cracked it.”

takes the f ish in your area will be­come more cau­tious and that’s when I tend to start tr y ing other pat­terns, which might well not look like your free of­fer­ings but are nev­er­the­less taken by the ev­er­cu­ri­ous carp. The white deer hair pel­let pat­tern is a good op­tion and so too are Boo­bies in black or white. A mini pel­let pat­tern can work some days, as can the slow sink­ing ‘Bread Fly’. This one is es­pe­cially good on days when you can ac­tu­ally see the carp cruis­ing just sub-sur­face. It takes a ver y ac­cu­rate cast to drop the f ly into the f ishes’ path so that it is in­ter­cepted by the cr uis­ing f ish, but it is re­ally ef­fec­tive in the right hands on the right day. A nother tech­nique I use to good ef­fect is a sor t of re­verse to the carp an­gler’s ‘zig rig’ where a sim­ple Egg Fly is sus­pended un­der an in­di­ca­tor. Good­ness only knows why the carp take it, but they do and just as frus­trat­ingly they will also have a go at the in­di­ca­tor. These are cu­ri­ous fish that will tr y most things they come across. You will see them take loose feath­ers, catkins, bits of leaf and all man­ner of sur­face de­bris so don’t

be shy about tr ying some­thing dif­fer­ent. I have many times caught them on Mayf ly and Sedge pat­terns, as well as a sim­ple length of foam tube lashed on to a hook. And while on the sub­ject of hooks, don’t take a cheap op­tion. It takes a good hook to with­stand the de­ter­mined, pro­longed pulling of a big carp on a heav y leader. I don’t use long lead­ers but I do of­ten use a f lu­o­ro­car­bon tip­pet length and a f ive-foot f loat­ing polyleader to keep the main leader from sink­ing and get­ting fouled by cruis­ing carp, which can then lead to foul hook­ing. Be­lieve me, you don’t want a foul-hooked dou­ble-fig­ure carp. Not ever y coarse f isher y will al­low you to f ish the f ly but there are stacks more carp wa­ters than there are trout f ish­eries and for cer­tain there will be one in your area. You ab­so­lutely must have an un­hook­ing mat, a big enough soft mesh net, and check other f isher y reg­u­la­tions. Hooks are al­most al­ways bar­b­less and this is usu­ally com­pul­sor y. Some­times you must also have a cer­tain size net and ap­pro­pri­ate un­hook­ing gear. As al­ways, the fish them­selves de­mand your re­spect, as does the f isher y and I don’t have a prob­lem oc­ca­sion­ally go­ing around a favourite wa­ter and hav­ing a lit­ter clear-up. Lit­tle things like that will al­ways gain street cred for us f ly f ish­ers (note this mag­a­zine’s Bank­side Clear-up Cam­paign).

To­day’s set-up

On this trip, I used a 9ft 6in 7wt rod, f loat­ing line and a nine-foot length of 10lb ny­lon. All types of dog or cat bis­cuits can do for the free of­fer­ings and you may well need a half bucket of bait for a ses­sion with more if you need to tr y and ‘feed off ’ a lot of ducks, geese or swans. It’s stag­ger­ing how much our feath­ered friends can eat!

“As al­ways, the fish them­selves de­mand your re­spect as does the fishery and I don’t have a prob­lem hav­ing a lit­tle clear up.”

Hook­ing and play­ing a carp on fly gear won’t leave you dis­ap­pointed.

Carp on fly ac­tion is fe­ro­cious so make sure tackle is strong enough. Dever man­ager Stu­art Bar­rett (right) poses with a mir­ror carp. A beau­ti­fully-scaled com­mon carp rolls dur­ing the fight.

Deer hair pat­terns spun in the shape of dog bis­cuits are pop­u­lar. Stu­art weighs a fish in the net be­fore re­leas­ing .

This par­tially-scaled mir­ror carp is a thing of sheer beauty.

Black flies stand out in coloured wa­ter.

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