Carp­ing at the Car­a­van Park

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Craig Banks

One of a se­lect band to have an­gled for, let alone caught, its most revered in­hab­i­tant, Craig re­lives his pur­suit of one of the most de­sir­able carp in the coun­try, the Car­a­van Park Lin­ear

One of a se­lect band to have an­gled for, let alone caught, its most revered in­hab­i­tant, Craig re­lives his pur­suit of one of the most de­sir­able carp in the coun­try, the Car­a­van Park Lin­ear

II still clearly re­mem­ber get­ting home from fish­ing one Sun­day af­ter­noon in May, a few years ago, with my head full of thoughts of re­ally want­ing to fish a very spe­cial wa­ter for a cer­tain stun­ning lin­ear mir­ror carp. I’d seen the huge fish on the cover of Carp-talk years be­fore and was just in awe of it. Its length and scal­ing were some­thing else. The lake sounded very ex­clu­sive though and I didn’t even know where it was. As with all these things, I pushed it to the back of my mind and then slowly for­got about it, think­ing I’d never have a hope of fish­ing there.

Some years later and it was back on my mind. While won­der­ing where I should fish next, that im­age was rekin­dled in my mind’s eye and I thought if I didn’t try to get into that syn­di­cate now, then I never would. Armed with the ad­dress of the owner, that same night I wrote quite a long let­ter ask­ing very po­litely if there was ever a pos­si­bil­ity of me hav­ing a place in the syn­di­cate. I didn’t ex­pect such a swift re­sponse but just a few days later I re­ceived a re­ply from the owner with what looked like a stan­dard let­ter say­ing there were no places as they’d all been filled but to get back to him next year.

The fol­low­ing April I sent off a re­minder let­ter. I then went abroad on hol­i­day for a fort­night. When I re­turned, I recog­nised my self-ad­dressed en­ve­lope, sit­ting there in the pile of mail on the door­mat. Ex­pect­ing an­other de­clin­ing let­ter I opened it. There, to my shock, was an of­fer of a place. I couldn’t be­lieve it but pan­icked be­cause the dead­line for pay­ment was a few days ear­lier while I’d been ly­ing on a beach in Mex­ico. Typ­i­cal!

I quickly called the phone num­ber on the let­ter and ex­plained my de­lay and the owner as­sured me there was no prob­lem and to send him the money if I still wanted a place. Did I ever! The cheque was writ­ten and posted be­fore the cases were un­packed! I’d just spent a for­tune on a hol­i­day, what was a few hun­dred quid more – Ouch!

I felt I’d got a ticket a lit­tle too eas­ily. I sus­pected I had one or two friends be­hind the scenes that may have helped me and I’ll be for­ever thank­ful and in their debt. And not for­get­ting the owner – I met him only the once while he was strug­gling to pull a boat out of the lake on his own and I helped him with that and then thanked him for the op­por­tu­nity to fish there. He’s sadly no longer with us but seemed a nice guy.

The lake is a ma­ture gravel pit of around nine acres in a small, ru­ral vil­lage, set be­hind elec­tric gates and quite pri­vate. Huge trees, the height of which I’d never seen at a carp lake grow on one side and large, old fir trees dot­ted around the lake give a kind of man­i­cured and land­scaped feel. Parts of it were once used as a car­a­van park and it seemed a few ev­er­greens had been planted here and there many years ago to make it look nice all year round I guess.

The very first time I saw the lake was on my first fish­ing ses­sion. I hadn’t seen the lake up un­til that time, not even a pho­to­graph! I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed that’s for sure... the place was stun­ning which­ever way you looked. I was aware it held some great carp but not sure of ex­act num­bers, or their sizes, but I was well aware of the 50lb-plus lin­ear that swam be­fore me, some­where. I had never joined a wa­ter that I knew so lit­tle about be­fore. It was all very ex­cit­ing and just added to the awe and mys­tery.

At a glance it was ob­vi­ously ex­tremely weedy and after try­ing to find some clear ar­eas for a while I was soon aware this was go­ing to be no pushover and some work and thought would be re­quired. Dur­ing that first sum­mer I got lucky and found

some nice spots and caught a few – more than I ex­pected any­way. All of them were very nice and old-look­ing, but healthy with small, with­ered fins and leath­ery flanks. My first was a deep-bod­ied 34lb mir­ror on my third ses­sion. I felt like I’d won the lot­tery just get­ting my ticket for the lake, never mind a chance at catch­ing these fan­tas­tic big carp!

I didn’t fish the lake too hard – in fact, I only fished the sum­mers over the next three years and didn’t even fish it at all one year. Look­ing back now I think I was sim­ply savour­ing it, fish­ing at the best times and in the best weather. It was as though it was my re­treat and oc­ca­sional treat. The lake is just so spe­cial I didn’t want to have too much of it too soon. I wanted it to last for­ever.

As hard as I looked for the carp, I never once saw the big lin­ear in the snags, on the shal­lows, or crash out ever. That is un­til this spring. The win­ter had merged into spring this year and it was one of the cold­est I’d known too. So on the first prop­erly warm, sunny day of the year I was soon scan­ning the out-of-bounds shal­low bay think­ing the carp would be there. They soon made their pres­ence known. They were mostly grouped up and sun­bathing with the odd smaller one mooching around. One or two passed by the over­hang­ing tree I was lean­ing out on and I recog­nised a few of the fish. There was still no lin­ear to be seen though.

The pair of swans also thought the shal­lows would be a good place to visit at this mo­ment and as they moved through they spooked a few fish and got the group mov­ing about. One swan dis­ap­peared be­hind the lit­tle is­land and as it did so I heard a

It was as though it was my re­treat and oc­ca­sional treat. The lake is just so spe­cial I didn’t want to have too much of it too soon. I wanted it to last for­ever

com­mo­tion – it had ob­vi­ously spooked some fish and out drifted some more carp. The en­tire lake’s pop­u­la­tion was prob­a­bly on the shal­lows now, I thought. As a cou­ple of those carp came to­wards me one looked ex­cep­tion­ally large and, as it swam un­der­neath me, I could clearly see it was the one! I was stunned and shak­ing with the ex­cite­ment of this very first sight­ing and I laugh­ingly held out my arms in front of me to try to gauge its length and width... it was huge. I re­turned to my plot to get the rods out, with a big smile know­ing it was still alive and well.

I blanked that ses­sion. The wa­ter was still very cold and I think the fish were more in­ter­ested in sun­bathing than feed­ing. The fol­low­ing week­end the carp seemed a bit more ac­tive in the main body of the lake and I caught a lovely old 20lb mir­ror. The lake was wak­ing up...

The next week­end I was itch­ing to get down again. I’d been con­cen­trat­ing on a cer­tain swim known as The High Bank that I was do­ing okay in, but when I ar­rived early that Fri­day morn­ing there was some­one in the swim next door. So, as it was prime bite time, I left him in peace and went around the op­po­site side of the lake to The Reeds swim and whacked out three Sticky Baits’ white Manilla pop-ups to where I wanted to be. I left the bait­ing up as there were ob­vi­ously fish present and thought it best to leave it as quiet as pos­si­ble – un­til the af­ter­noon at least.

Com­ing straight off a night shift it was time to get my head down for an hour or two. I’d nod­ded off for a few min­utes when I got a take. Well, it took line from the spool and I thought it was a take, but it just stopped and there was a huge bow wave close to where my rig was. It was quite pos­si­bly an aborted take, or more likely a liner. I picked the rod up to re­cast it but as I did, I could see more carp cruis­ing in the area. I had two other rods out there close by that I knew were on the money so I chanced it and put the rod back down and hoped the bait was still pre­sented okay. Back to sleep!

It had only been half an hour or so when the same rod ab­so­lutely tore off! I rolled off the bed and stum­bled down the bank and hit it quickly. The fish pulled the rod back down, tak­ing line from the clutch and then caus­ing me to back­wind fran­ti­cally once I had man­aged to flick the anti-re­verse off. I was fish­ing at 90 yards and it had taken 30 or 40 yards more on that ini­tial un­stop­pable run – so now it was a long way out and it had be­come im­mov­able in the dense weed. I pulled... hard. It inched a touch but I don’t think I was in di­rect, straight-line con­tact. I slack­ened off and put the rod in the rests to see if any­thing moved and to get my head to­gether. That wasn’t hap­pen­ing though. I was fairly cer­tain that I knew what I was at­tached to – only one fish could pull like that in this lake!

My line seemed to tighten slightly but I think it was per­haps just the weedbeds drift­ing and right­ing them­selves. I bent into it again, walked back­wards up the bank, which el­e­vated me slightly, but prob­a­bly made lit­tle dif­fer­ence to the line an­gle at that range – and I pulled from as many dif­fer­ent an­gles as I could in the tight area I was in but noth­ing felt any bet­ter. Again I put the rod down and walked around like a head­less chicken. Swim­ming, get­ting a boat... nei­ther was a sen­si­ble op­tion. I didn’t have a boat and I was not swim­ming that far in a weedy lake.

I was be­gin­ning to think I’d lost it now any­way. There was no move­ment at the rod end after sev­eral min­utes. I lifted the rod again some­what de­spair­ingly and pulled re­ally hard. It jolted back a few inches and I could have cried. It’s gone, I thought. I walked up the bank and tight­ened right down with the reel and started to walk back. I plucked the line and it sang its death throes. I was thank­ful for the thick 23lb Fox Ex­o­cet line at that mo­ment. The rod was vir­tu­ally point­ing straight at the spot and the line was un­der near max­i­mum pres­sure. I thought there was no chance that the hook would still be in a carp. I lifted the rod to put even more pres­sure on and it sud­denly flicked back, and then yanked back down! Yes! Some­how the carp was still on and started mov­ing to the right... straight into the next weedbed. It was mo­bile again though, so with the rod dou­bled over I shot back down to the wa­ter’s edge and kept pump­ing. I’d not felt that much power from a carp at such range be­fore. It took an age as it kicked from one weedbed to the next, un­til it was about 30 yards out just un­der the sur­face. To rub salt into my wounds, it then picked up my other lines and I quickly flicked the bail arms open. Could any more go wrong? It pulled those lines around for a minute and then they too stopped mov­ing as it left them be­hind. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing swim­mingly as it plod­ded to­wards me with the odd heavy pull to try to kite this way and then the other. I threw the net in the wa­ter and waded out.

Just as it was head­ing for the net I picked it up and it didn’t like it. It made off to the dead reeds to the right. They didn’t pose too much of a threat though. Off to the left it went next, right in front of my legs and the net got in the way so I quickly shifted that as the line just caught the edge of it

and pinged off. The trees to my left mar­gin were now a big worry though. I was fur­ther out in the lake than the fish was and the rod was hooped round to my left with that wob­bly feel of try­ing to play a fish that is too close. I buried the tip to keep the line away from the branches and it then turned over on the sur­face just on the very edge of the snag. As it righted it­self it started to swim away from me in slow mo­tion. I’d had enough and saw my chance, scoop­ing it up un­con­ven­tion­ally from the tail end. It was over! It didn’t like that at all but it was now too late.

With my emo­tions ev­ery­where and my body full of adren­a­line I shook and slumped over the net, looked at the great beast and laughed at what had just hap­pened. I should have lost it. What I’d al­ways felt was un­ob­tain­able was now, for this brief mo­ment, mine.

I’ll ad­mit I was quite emo­tional as I stood there in my chest waders lean­ing over the net ad­mir­ing the carp. My sis­ter had died a cou­ple of years ear­lier and the last text she had sent to me (which I still have on my phone) was one hop­ing that I would catch my “big fishy”. She knew how much fish­ing meant to me, hav­ing grown up with me do­ing it most of my life and some­times even tak­ing me to lakes when I was young. I’d caught this one for her. Any­way, I’m waf­fling, but this mem­ory will last my life­time and the emo­tions a good while yet – it also em­pha­sises to me, ex­actly why I like tar­get­ing these in­di­vid­ual spe­cial carp.

Is­sue 337

This 34lb mir­ror was My first CAR­A­VAN PARK carp They were wak­ing up! The Reeds swim – the scene of the bat­tle with the Lin­ear TOP LEFT BOT­TOM LEFT BE­LOW

It al­most didn’t hap­pen. Ad­mir­ing my prize! The Car­a­van Park is just a lovely place to be One of those mo­ments we all live for. I was quite sim­ply, in awe Purely for the record. The num­bers… ABOVE BE­LOW TOP LEFT FAR LEFT

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