ADAM PENNING

Carpworld - - EDITORIAL -

When I look back now, they were hal­cyon days in the truest sense of the word. That might sound like my fish­ing these days is jaded or per­haps lack­ing some­thing – it most cer­tainly isn’t, I love it more than ever. The dif­fer­ence is that nowa­days my an­gling tends to be very in­tense and fo­cused, chas­ing tricky fish from test­ing wa­ters. Back in the early 90s, it was dif­fer­ent on many lev­els. Firstly, we didn’t try to catch a par­tic­u­lar fish, we sim­ply tried to catch a ‘a fish’ and se­condly, most im­por­tantly, we would drench that pur­suit in two key in­gre­di­ents: laugh­ter and lager.

Fish­ing as a close knit band of would-be fish­ing heroes: Paul, Mark and my­self would spend ev­ery sin­gle week­end on the banks of the Brox­bourne La­goons. It in­trigues me to re­flect on how the pas­sage of time has in­creased in tempo – there is no doubt that as you get older, time marches ever more quickly. Now we fish all year long and of­ten quite in­ten­sively, from April to Novem­ber, yet back then there was a close sea­son, mean­ing that we didn’t start un­til the 16th June. De­spite this late start, those sum­mer days seemed to last for­ever, much like school hol­i­days did as a kid.

Col­lec­tively, we fished the South La­goon, grav­i­tat­ing to a grassy area at the south-western end, ad­ja­cent to the car­a­van parks. We were less in­ter­ested in fish­ing ef­fec­tively by be­ing mo­bile, than we were with catch­ing them on our own terms when the winds brought them to us. We’d set up our brol­lies, pep­per the swims with Quench boilies then pop up the ‘offy’ for as much Castle­maine as we could carry.

Suc­ces­sively the sum­mers were good; long pe­ri­ods of high pres­sure bring­ing light northerly and east­erly winds which, rather for­tu­itously, blew di­rectly into the area we had our traps set. Don’t get me wrong, to us, carp fish­ing was a very se­ri­ous busi­ness, in fact we lived and breathed it through­out the work­ing week. We would strain at the leash of re­al­ity un­til fi­nally it snapped on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, then we were off, rac­ing up the mo­tor­way with the smell of beer, wet nets and bar­bie smoke in our nos­trils.

In spite of our rather static and he­do­nis­tic ap­proach to carp fish­ing, we caught more than our fair share. Mark’s suc­cess was down to re­ally good an­gling, Paul’s down to be­ing able to cast ac­cu­rately when he couldn’t even speak co­her­ently and mine down to the fact I was us­ing tiger nuts which were most def­i­nitely banned...

The fish in the La­goon were known to be big. In fact such heroic lu­mi­nar­ies as the Fa­mous Five had fished there, along with Zen and Nashy. The big­gest was a 30lb com­mon, one that had ap­peared in a Main­line ad­vert at a huge weight of 33lb. Be­lieve me, back then that was a very big fish and pos­si­bly the big­gest com­mon in the gen­eral vicin­ity, aside from the gi­gan­tic Snake Pit fish just over the county line, in Es­sex.

Mark came and woke me one misty, early July morn­ing. Some­thing mon­u­men­tal had be­fallen him and to­gether we walked down to his swim, the dewy grass soak­ing our train­ers. At the time, nei­ther of us had caught a 30lb fish – carp of that size be­ing re­served for the su­per­stars of the pe­riod, and we cer­tainly weren’t those. Mark heaved the fish onto the mat and as we peeled back the sack we were met by the most amaz­ing, dark, im­mac­u­late com­mon. We re­alised it was the big com­mon and it weighed 30lb 4oz; the most in­cred­i­ble thing ei­ther of us had ever seen.

The sum­mer blurred on in a haze of sun­burn, carp slime, ke­babs and sore heads. Late Au­gust and I was back but rarely on this oc­ca­sion, an­gling alone. Paul and Mark had fished the early part of the week­end but I had missed it due to a stag do and as I was best man, it was un­der­stand­ably hard to get out of. As soon as my du­ties were duly ex­e­cuted, I headed lake bound in the small hours of the Sun­day morn­ing, ar­riv­ing ex­hausted and sling­ing the rods in the edge.

I awoke mid-morn­ing and sur­veyed the scene. A fresh north­west­erly had be­gun to blow with vigour into the area. As I looked, the wa­ter was quickly whipped into white tops as the first real oxy­gena­tion in months coursed though the wa­ter col­umn. Af­ter a few min­utes, I saw a fish roll – then an­other and then an­other. The last one looked like a very big com­mon...

I re­baited the rods, cast­ing them to­ward the ac­tiv­ity and can still vividly re­call the tremen­dous drop I got as the rigs landed in shal­low wa­ter on hard ground, atop a bar that ran par­al­lel to the swim. I fol­lowed the rigs with some boilies, set the alarms and put the ket­tle on, all the while, glued to the wa­ter as I waited for an­other show.

The bite came per­haps two hours later, the soft Daiwa tak­ing on a sav­age bend as some­thing se­ri­ous surged off in the waves. And so be­gan a fight of rather epic pro­por­tions, last­ing maybe 25 min­utes and one which, for­tu­nately, I was al­lowed to be the vic­tor of. The fish was none other than the cov­eted big com­mon, the sight of which in my net, still gives me goose­bumps to­day.

At 31lb 4oz it beat my best by a cou­ple of pounds, was my first thirty and proved to me two things: that we could catch them from big pits and that we could do it on our terms. Hal­cyon days in­deed.

That feel­ing! The cov­eted big com­mon – Brox­bourne La­goon, 31lb 4oz

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