A Man for All Sea­sons All things seem pos­si­ble in May

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Dave Lane

There is some­thing fresh and new about the world in May – the greens are just that lit­tle bit greener, the bird song is just that lit­tle bit more vi­brant. Dave be­lieves May is a great time to be on the bank when op­por­tu­ni­ties are rarely bet­ter for big fish

There is some­thing fresh and new about the world in May – the greens are just that lit­tle bit greener, the bird song is just that lit­tle bit more vi­brant. Dave be­lieves May is a great time to be on the bank when op­por­tu­ni­ties ARE rarely Bet­ter For BIG fish

In the late 1800s there was an au­thor named Henry Van Dyke and, although I haven’t read his en­tire works, he did once make a quote that I whole­heart­edly agree with: ‘I’m only wish­ing to go a-fish­ing; for this the month of May was made.’ May is one of those ‘prime months’ when dreams can be re­alised, and huge fish can be landed by us­ing a bit of guile and a lot of mo­bil­ity. The winds in May can be very in­flu­en­tial, as are the ar­eas of shal­low wa­ter and the way they face into the south and east­ern skies. Un­like the wa­ter tem­per­a­tures dur­ing April, the wa­ter in May will be con­sid­er­ably warmer, the fish will be pack­ing on nat­u­ral weight for spawn­ing, and the warmth is some­thing they seem to crave al­most as much as food. Shal­low is­land mar­gins that face into the sun are ex­cel­lent ar­eas to find fish dur­ing the day­time and I have caught count­less carp by fish­ing right up on the shelf in very shal­low wa­ter. Gravel bars are also a mag­net for carp and they of­ten pa­trol the en­tire length of these fea­tures, us­ing them like road­ways around large pits.

Weed is not usu­ally a im­por­tant fac­tor at this time of year, although it won’t be long in com­ing, and this means you can con­fi­dently fish a sin­gle hook­bait just whizzed out there for a few hours dur­ing the day. When I was on St Ives a cou­ple of years back, the fish used to pa­trol the east­ern side of a long is­land on a daily ba­sis, bask­ing in the clear sun-drenched wa­ter and, oc­ca­sion­ally, stop­ping to scoop up the odd of­fer­ing. It wasn’t the ideal sce­nario for lots of bait, as the coots would drive you mad in the shal­low wa­ter and the fish were not ex­actly up there to gorge them­selves – if that hap­pened it would be dur­ing the night or early morn­ing, in slightly deeper wa­ter. For an ex­tra bite, how­ever, it was the per­fect method.

The tops of bars act in the same way, catch­ing the sun­light and warm­ing the wa­ter above them. I love fish­ing on the bar tops in May and June and this is also an ideal op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish a few spots and get the fish to strip back the silt which will, in turn, hold back weed growth and cre­ate feed­ing ar­eas that will last you all sea­son.

Reedbed mar­gins are also a main fea­ture at this time of year and dur­ing the day the carp will hap­pily go up in only a cou­ple of foot of wa­ter to grab a few rays of sun­shine, and I am con­vinced that reeds ac­tu­ally trans­fer warmth down the stems into the wa­ter be­low. This may only be a tiny amount but ev­ery lit­tle helps at this time of year when the fish are look­ing for pre-spawn­ing com­fort dur­ing the day­time.

Again, on St Ives, I re­mem­ber one spe­cific day when I was just mak­ing my way back to the mo­tor at the end of a ses­sion and I stopped off for a quick look in the shal­lows. I climbed a ridicu­lously tall tree on the bot­tom bank, one that over­looked a large, east-fac­ing, reedbed on the mouth of an out of bounds area and there, in no depth what­so­ever, I spot­ted two fish. One was a com­mon around low twen­ties but the other was a very big, long-bod­ied

mir­ror and both were just parad­ing up and down the outer stems. I knew from pre­vi­ous wad­ing ex­ploits that the wa­ter was knee deep at most, but I still thought that it must be worth a try.

Rather than fish from the base of the tree, where a small swim gave you a chance but a ter­ri­ble an­gle for play­ing and land­ing a fish, I opted for a plot on the op­po­site bank and an 80 yard cast up against the reeds. From here I was dead straight on and any pres­sure I ex­erted, should I hook one, would pull them away from the dan­ger area of the reeds.

Even though I only had an hour or so of the ses­sion left, I ac­tu­ally man­aged to catch both of those carp be­fore I left, by fish­ing a small yel­low of­fer­ing as a sin­gle bait, placed right on their pa­trol route. The first was a mid-20lb com­mon and the sec­ond, the long grey mir­ror, was the sec­ond big­gest fish in the lake and weighed 46lb.

See­ing an op­por­tu­nity and grab­bing it is what May fish­ing is all about, but you have to be pre­pared to re­assess the sit­u­a­tion reg­u­larly and move off if needed be­cause that’s ex­actly what the carp will be do­ing. Dur­ing my spring on the mighty Burgh­field lake the carp were get­ting no­tice­ably ac­tive dur­ing the first two weeks of the month of May, mainly right out in the mid­dle of the lake where they would show like crazy ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing. It was deep wa­ter out there, but the fish were def­i­nitely gang­ing up in the area. The near­est swim was, un­der­stand­ably, very pop­u­lar at this time, de­spite not re­ally do­ing many fish, if any.

I even­tu­ally man­aged to get in there at the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond week of March and I was re­warded on my first morn­ing with a brace of thir­ties, the big­gest was 35lb and show­ing signs of pack­ing on a bit of tim­ber for spawn­ing. I knew that it would still be a few weeks away but the carp, as they do on a lot of pits, had started to group to­gether in large num­bers and this presents the per­fect op­por­tu­nity.

I had taken a week off to fish as there was a ma­jor lu­nar event oc­cur­ring later that week, an align­ment of the plan­ets and a full day­time moon which, ap­par­ently, was a very good sign.

Hav­ing waited weeks to get into that par­tic­u­lar swim, and then to have caught two carp straight away, it would have been tempt­ing to just plot up for the whole week, but things can change very quickly in spring­time. By early the next morn­ing I was get­ting very twitchy in­deed as no fish had shown at first light, I hadn’t had any more ac­tion and the air tem­per­a­ture had risen dra­mat­i­cally.

I de­cided to wind in for a walk, which I did for about four hours un­til I even­tu­ally found the fish only 100 yards or so from where I had been fish­ing. The big dif­fer­ence, how­ever, was that the wa­ter where they were now cruis­ing was only six feet deep rather than 16 feet deep where they had

been for weeks – and that is why they had moved.

I re­lo­cated all the kit and over the next three nights I added at least half a dozen more fish from the new area, in­clud­ing two over 40lb. This just re­in­forced my the­ory that ex­act lo­ca­tion is key and just be­ing in the right area of the lake is not al­ways enough – you must be in the cor­rect depth as well. Those fish stayed in that gen­eral area for the best part of two weeks and then, all at once, they dis­ap­peared en masse and turned up ready to spawn in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent part of the lake. On large gravel pits I have seen this time and time again where the ‘meet­ing ar­eas’ are not the spawn­ing ar­eas and you can get a pe­riod of a few weeks when a huge head of fish are us­ing one nice com­fort­able sec­tion of the lake, ei­ther just in the day­time or some­times dur­ing the night as well.

On Son­ning for ex­am­ple there was one par­tic­u­lar bay that was lined with snags that, once again, faced into the east and it was here that the big­ger fish trav­elled to, at dawn, ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing through­out the first weeks of May. They would just laze about all day and then dis­ap­pear as the sun set into the west­ern skies ev­ery even­ing. The op­por­tu­ni­ties for ac­tion came by plac­ing baits on the tran­sit routes, in and out of the bay, which were, ob­vi­ously, the tops of the bars and I had a few nice fish by do­ing just this. Ev­ery day the fish grew a lit­tle big­ger and ev­ery day they would just lay in the sun once they had ar­rived. On the fi­nal morn­ing of this be­hav­iour they were look­ing huge and the next sun­rise brought noth­ing, not even a sign of a carp but, so it tran­spired, they had moved out into the main body of the lake and fed like mad be­fore pick­ing a to­tally new spot the next day and spawn­ing like crazy.

Some years, de­pend­ing on the weather, it might be June be­fore this hap­pens, even later if the weather is bad, but the gang­ing up is a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in late May and the fur­ther from spawn­ing the bet­ter re­ally as you get longer to cap­i­talise on the sit­u­a­tion. You are not fish­ing for spawn­ing carp here, you are not even both­er­ing them at rest re­ally, you are tak­ing ad­van­tage of el­e­vated feed­ing ac­tiv­ity in the morn­ings and a greater den­sity of fish in one area – as the other stuff will hap­pen else­where and only when they are ready for it.

Carp in May-time are ca­pa­ble of eat­ing a fair quan­tity of bait as well but, like I have al­ready said, only in the right ar­eas where they go to feed rather than the shal­lower cruis­ing or sun­bathing ar­eas in the heat of the day. The early morn­ings can be a bo­nanza of feed­ing and some bumper catches are on the cards if you hit ev­ery­thing just right.

As with April, you will also still have some ma­jor hatches go­ing on in May and these are def­i­nitely worth keep­ing an eye on by ob­serv­ing the be­hav­iour of swifts, swal­lows, house martins and even gulls, who will all give the game away as they smash into any free bounty of food as it leaves the sur­face of the lake and you can bet that the carp will be there be­neath them do­ing ex­actly the same.

Be­cause my pri­mary love in carp an­gling is fish­ing large wa­ters and one of the best times of the year on a big pit is dur­ing May, most of my knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence is based on those types of venues, and carp might act dif­fer­ently on smaller lakes where an­gling pres­sure is a huge fac­tor and sanc­tu­ary is hard to find. How­ever, dur­ing May the fish will still want to be to­gether a lot of the time but of­ten there is a pe­riod of time when the larger, fe­male fish, will be apart from the bulk of smaller males, as the fe­males of­ten spend

more time just ab­sorb­ing the sun­light in shel­tered ar­eas.

I have no­ticed on places like Son­ning, Brog­bor­ough, Burgh­field and other huge pits that the males will be very ac­tive and zip­ping about on any breath of a new wind, be­hav­ing ex­actly as you would ex­pect carp to do, but this is not al­ways in­dica­tive of where the big girls are – and this is also worth keep­ing an eye on, if you can. At Son­ning the males spent a lot of pre-spawn­ing time on the shal­lows, mov­ing in packs, whereas the fe­males were about half a mile away at the other end in the snags. Yes, the males might have been eas­ier to catch in that sce­nario but it’s the big ’uns you re­ally want to catch so, quite of­ten, I would ig­nore ob­vi­ous signs of carp to try and tar­get the cor­rect group.

Just watch­ing ‘The Eye’ and her mates laz­ing un­der the branches all day was so ex­cit­ing that, of­ten, any­thing I did catch was just a bonus re­ally.

On Mary’s pit a few weeks be­fore spawn­ing com­menced I re­mem­ber one day when I was re­turn­ing the boat to the boathouse, hav­ing needed it to land a mid-20 that got stuck in the weed. I was mak­ing a di­rect line across the lake to the com­pound when I lit­er­ally ran over the six big­gest fish in the lake, all lay­ing out in the open, shal­lower wa­ter, side by side like sar­dines. They just moved slowly aside to let me pass and then re­grouped again. With just one look I could pretty much tell that the chances of catch­ing one in this area were re­mote and this turned out to be ex­actly the case – but I still had to try, didn’t I?

Aside from the ac­tual fish­ing dur­ing May, the nat­u­ral world around you is such an awe­some place to in­habit and the banks of a big wild lake are like a par­adise at times. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion and ev­ery sin­gle day can seem more glo­ri­ous than the one that it fol­lows.

This just re­in­forced my the­ory that ex­act lo­ca­tion is key and just be­ing in the right area of the lake is not al­ways enough – you must be in the cor­rect depth as well

I usu­ally have my first night spent sleep­ing un­der the stars about now, a fan­tas­tic way to sleep and, although you get very lit­tle ac­tual rest, it is such a great feel­ing to be part of it all. It can be a bit tricky if, like me, you take a dog along with you, though, as they also think it’s a great idea and spend most of the night rat­tling around in the un­der­growth or chas­ing rab­bits up and down the banks as they don’t have the con­fines of a bivvy to hold them back.

A few times I have wo­ken to find Pad­war ex­actly where I left him, asleep in his bed, but mys­te­ri­ously cov­ered in mud and soak­ing wet!

So, as good old Henry once said, the month of May was made for go­ing fish­ing in, so what are you wait­ing for?

Aside from the ac­tual fish­ing dur­ing May, the nat­u­ral world around you is such an awe­some place to in­habit and the banks of a big wild lake are like a par­adise at times

BE­LOW Son­ning, from the top of the bars TOP RIGHT A big St Ives 40 from two feet of wa­ter MID­DLE RIGHT Out in the mid­dle at dawn BOT­TOM RIGHT Mid May and a ma­jor lu­nar event

LEFT From a warm is­land mar­gin

LEFT Re­turn­ing a large Burgh­field mir­ror TOP RIGHT The Son­ning Eye, on the right, just soak­ing up the sun BOT­TOM RIGHT A May-time 40 af­ter a short move

ABOVE A pretty May morn­ing BOT­TOM LEFT First night un­der the stars BOT­TOM RIGHT Knack­ered af­ter a nigh­t­ime ex­cur­sion

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