All things big and small

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Ian Chill­cott

Chilly con­tin­ues his re­cu­per­a­tion with a visit to a his­toric, old es­tate lake, set in the Hert­ford­shire coun­try­side for a char­ity week­end. What he finds, so en­chants him, he’s soon hav­ing a word with the man­age­ment to get a place on the syn­di­cate

Chilly con­tin­ues his re­cu­per­a­tion with a visit to a his­toric, old es­tate lake, set in the Hert­ford­shire coun­try­side for a char­ity week­end. What he finds, so en­chants him, he’s soon hav­ing a word with the man­age­ment to get a place on the syn­di­cate. With im­me­di­ate ef­fect...

II sat gen­tly on the edge of my bed­chair, spark­ing up the ket­tle for a cel­e­bra­tory brew. The morn­ing seemed to be shap­ing up rather nicely, just as the sun was mak­ing an ap­pear­ance through the lower branches of the trees to my left. The golden orb seemed to be climb­ing some­what ur­gently to the top of the wooded area, rac­ing to­wards the free­dom that the clear, dawn sky pre­sented. For a while, all could do was watch the floata­tion aids on my re­tainer gen­tly dip and sway as a carp set­tled into its rather alien, and very tem­po­rary, abode. It wasn’t un­til the spout of my ket­tle let the steam pour from it that I was wo­ken from my day­dream, could life as a fisher of carp get any bet­ter than that? There was an­other fel­low a cou­ple of plots away from me, and as the carp had only been landed min­utes be­fore, I would get him to come and do the pic­tures in a short while.

As the en­vi­ron­ment and its wildlife be­gan to shake off their dor­mant night time slum­ber, I just wanted to soak up the at­mos­phere. In fact, I gulped it down like a thirst-quench­ing drink of icy wa­ter, it was cer­tainly the most re­fresh­ing of mo­ments. It gave me a chance to re­flect on the last 11 months and, con­sid­er­ing the amaz­ing lo­ca­tion I was now in, just how much my pas­sion for carp had helped me get back on the road. I smiled as I sipped my brew, and once again gazed at the wa­ter as the fun­nels of early mist pirou­et­ted across the pond. It was spe­cial for so many rea­sons, in fact I couldn’t help think­ing it was... well... per­fect!

Once I had fin­ished my tea, I thought about how I had caught that fish. The ef­fort made to find the per­fect spot, how I had baited it a lit­tle dif­fer­ently than most, and how the fish had wo­ken me at first light with the most vi­o­lent of takes. It is times like that which make me sit back and take note. There is lit­tle point in even do­ing it on the way home ac­tu­ally, and with the scene laid out be­fore me, I ex­am­ined what I did and how it had worked so well. There was one other thought which wres­tled for my at­ten­tion, and that was the size of the venue I was fish­ing. What bear­ing could this sit­u­a­tion have on a big­ger lake, and most of all, how could I achieve the same level of per­fec­tion?

I had been for­tu­nate enough to be in­vited to a char­ity event at Hook Lake in Hert­ford­shire by my friend, and fish­ery man­ager, Richard Stan­groom. With the added bonus of fish­ing along­side my friends Tim Pais­ley and Dave Lane, I didn’t re­ally give a thought to the fish­ing. Hav­ing not been able to spend time with peo­ple over the last few months

of my life, the com­pany would play a huge part of this ad­ven­ture. How­ever, be­cause this was go­ing to be the long­est drive I would have made, by some mar­gin, since get­ting my li­cence back a month be­fore, I de­cided to ar­rive the night be­fore the event. I would cer­tainly need the sleep, just to get through the next cou­ple of days. The sit­u­a­tion for me changed very dra­mat­i­cally when I let my­self through the gate, and stood open mouthed as I laid eyes on the fish­ery. I had fished at Red­mire a few years be­fore, and I well re­mem­ber how the le­gend took my breath away. In all hon­esty, this was no dif­fer­ent, and the two and a half acre, dammed, farm­land lake had me gasp­ing for breath too. It looked ma­jes­tic in its wood­land shroud, and when a carp leapt silently in the cen­tre of the pond, I knew I was to­tally in love with the place. The irony of the sit­u­a­tion is that Tim Pais­ley, the per­son I shared that ses­sion with at Red­mire, was com­ing down that night be­cause of the long jour­ney from up north.

It was mar­vel­lous to spend the evening with him. He had been al­most fa­ther-like dur­ing my re­cov­ery, and I wanted to spend some time with him.

The other point we cov­ered was the wa­ter we were go­ing to be fish­ing. It was so small, in fact, that by the end of the con­ver­sa­tion we had au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumed noth­ing would be caught. Six­teen rods (seven­teen if you in­clude Laney’s snide, of course!) would be a mas­sive amount of angling pres­sure on fish that were only used to one or two an­glers a week fish­ing there. But that’s the ex­cit­ing buzz of the an­tic­i­pa­tion we get when we chase carp around, and al­ways leaves me feel­ing: what the hell do we know? Not a lot, thank good­ness, and it could never have been truer in this case.

We drew for swims the fol­low­ing morn­ing, and all got a plot that none of us had ever seen be­fore. We got to know the peo­ple we would be fish­ing with; and the fun and games be­gan. I was in an area, the cor­ner of the lake with no angling in­ter­fer­ence, that screamed carp... nice! I sat and watched sev­eral mir­rors and com­mons swim in and out of the bay, ca­su­ally go­ing about their busi­ness. As the day grew hot­ter they va­cated the area, de­cid­ing to sun them­selves in the mid­dle of the lake. It was the ideal chance to put an op­er­a­tion into ac­tion, the op­er­a­tion I had thought my way through on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. I needed to look at an area on the other side of the bay un­der an over­hang­ing tree, and the best way to do that was to wade out. As luck would have it, I was able to

get right above the spot, and in the end I found a small fea­ture about two feet square and some six inches deeper than the sur­round­ing ground. Even­tu­ally, I waded across and put a rod in there, baited with ten mesh PVA bags of my favoured 10mm and 15mm Hy­brid boilies. I had lit­tle idea about the other rod, so I po­si­tioned it about three yards to the right and baited it in the same way. Once back on dry land I slack­ened off the line, placed the bob­bins on the floor and once again sat back to wait for events, if any, to un­fold.

So­cially, it was a won­der­ful event, and quite re­mark­ably in the early evening Laney got a bite. It turned out to be one of the lake’s spe­cial old war­riors and we all ‘oohed and aa­hed’ as they posed for a pic­ture or two. We were all amazed, but in truth it just poured some fuel on my fires. I was fish­ing the other end of the lake, in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion; per­haps that is, the ar­eas the carp would head for when the leads started hit­ting the sur­face? Time would tell of course, and as I set­tled down for a much-needed sleep, I couldn’t help feel­ing a bite was on the cards. The next thing I re­mem­ber was hang­ing on for grim death as an an­gry carp tried to make good its es­cape. Once in con­trol, how­ever, I soon had it in the net. All I could think of was

Six­teen rods (seven­teen if you in­clude Laney’s snide, of course!) would be a mas­sive amount of angling pres­sure on fish that were only used to one or two an­glers a week fish­ing there

get­ting the rod back on the spot as a carp rolled right over it. With my prize wait­ing pa­tiently in the net, I re-po­si­tioned the rod as stealth­ily as I could. And after put­ting the fish care­fully in the mar­gins to pre­pare for the pho­to­graphs, I sat by the rods ut­terly amazed I had caught one. But hey, one’s lucky, two’s skill... or so they say!

It was as I sipped my cel­e­bra­tory brew, some 30 min­utes later, that the same rod ripped round again. Once more I held on for dear life. The carp was a tad smaller than the last, and once I had con­trol, it didn’t take too long to bring to my net. A few min­utes later, my part­ner for the event, Jon Butcher and my­self, posed with the carp for the cam­eras. Once alone how­ever, as al­ways I started to dis­sect what I had done. I was so en­am­oured with the place that I even­tu­ally asked Stan if there was a place for me in the syn­di­cate, and five min­utes later I was a mem­ber! As al­ways on small, in­ti­mate wa­ters, I was con­vinced the ac­cu­racy of the spot I had cho­sen to fish was the key. Both bites had come from that one tiny dip in the ter­rain, and if there were any doubts in my mind, the next visit the fol­low­ing week would cast them all aside.

On ar­rival, after a very ex­cited and prob­a­bly far too fast blast up the M25, I once again opened the gate and let the unique at­mos­phere calm me down just a lit­tle. This was a dif­fer­ent ses­sion to the last of course, and the fish’s care­free move­ment was ob­vi­ously be­cause there was no one fish­ing there. This time it was me ver­sus them, and I spent a cou­ple of hours qui­etly scan­ning the lake for in­for­ma­tion. Even­tu­ally, the spot I had fished the week be­fore seemed to be the best op­tion, and

know­ing it so well made sure I could present my baits with the min­i­mum of dis­tur­bance. The only dif­fer­ence this time, was that I fished down the mar­gins to my right. With the weather re­mind­ing me of the days I had sol­diered in sev­eral deserts around the world, I de­cided to set the traps later and spend the day chas­ing some carp around on the sur­face. A tac­tic, I had been told, which was al­most im­pos­si­ble on this wa­ter. It was prob­a­bly pure and ut­ter stub­born­ness that got me where I wanted to go, but by the time I re­turned to my swim later in the day I had landed the most glo­ri­ous 24lb 12oz mir­ror! And by the morn­ing my thoughts about my lit­tle trough un­der the tree had been con­firmed. An 18lb mir­ror had fallen for the spot that had pro­duced the only bites the week be­fore. That num­ber of fish was a great re­sult for this wa­ter, but it got bet­ter. The fol­low­ing day I landed an­other fish off the sur­face, this time a 22lb mir­ror. In­ter­est­ingly, it came from ex­actly the same spe­cific spot as the 24-pounder, the day be­fore. They fed with ex­treme cau­tion in other ar­eas, but it was there that they did so with enough gusto for me to get a bite. And if you think that was a one off thing, the fol­low­ing week when I was do­ing some film­ing for Fox, I landed an­other mir­ror in ex­actly the same tiny area of lake, al­though it was a lit­tle nearer in this time. It’s amaz­ing how lo­calised bites can be on small wa­ters, what­ever way we want to fish for them, but I couldn’t help feel­ing just how we man­age in big­ger en­vi­ron­ments. It caused my mind to go into over­drive, and when I landed an­other fish from the minia­ture spot un­der the tree in the bay that night, my mind was awash with ques­tions as I made the jour­ney home. Did these tiny ar­eas ex­ist on big­ger wa­ters? Did it mat­ter that we can’t find them sim­ply be­cause of the ge­og­ra­phy of the larger venues, or does none of this mat­ter in a lake that they travel around, not be­ing so fa­mil­iar with their in­ti­mate homes?

It threw me back a few years and my first, and only as it hap­pens, short time on Son­ning Eye. There are vary­ing dis­crep­an­cies with its size, and be­ing no ex­pert my­self, the most reg­u­lar num­bers I heard were 480 acres. Now, I know peo­ple will say that for­eign wa­ters are, in gen­eral, much big­ger, but when you can use a boat and the lake is stuffed full of carp, the fish­ing be­comes so much eas­ier. I’m talk­ing about us­ing a rod and line, and angling for the carp, as most of us have to do in our nor­mal, ev­ery­day fish­ing. The win­ter that year had dragged on, and on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in March the lake had frozen, fol­lowed in early April by flood­ing. Both weather ex­tremes meant I couldn’t get onto the wa­ter, but even­tu­ally I was able to drive through the gates and look at the venue for the first time. It was mind-numb­ingly huge, but the weather was warm­ing and I could only think that the carp would be mak­ing for the warmer ar­eas of the lake. Un­be­liev­ably, I found the big­gest fish in the lake in a small bay in the area the south­west­erly wind was pound­ing. Game on!

I did five nights fish­ing over the next cou­ple of weeks, they were the only nights I ever did at Son­ning, but I man­aged to catch 11 of the hun­dred carp which lived in that vast, sprawl­ing en­vi­ron­ment. I moved as of­ten as I could, depend­ing on the wind, and did try to find fea­tures when I moved into ar­eas. How­ever, I never felt that ac­cu­racy was the most im­por­tant part of the equa­tion. It was sim­ply be­ing in the right area at the right time. The carp them­selves weren’t too fa­mil­iar with the real es­tate they moved into due to the wind, be­cause they spent so lit­tle of their time there, and con­se­quently, the bait be­came the fea­ture. Which, of course, they took ad­van­tage of un­re­servedly! In re­al­ity, even if I wanted to find a small, two feet square hole that was of in­ter­est to the carp at a 120 yards with a marker float, it was to­tally im­pos­si­ble to do. On larger wa­ters it seemed as if I had to make the most of a sit­u­a­tion I could rarely con­trol. This sit­u­a­tion has arisen at many other larger wa­ters I have fished. Not as big as Son­ning by miles, but Westhamp­nett down near Chich­ester, sang to the same tune. It wasn’t un­til I started to in­vest in my ar­eas in the mid­dle of the lake at dis­tance, an area not many could reach, that the cap­tures started to oc­cur with any reg­u­lar­ity. I couldn’t find fea­tures out there re­ally, and I be­lieve it was sim­ply the bait that got me the bites.

All wa­ters have a char­ac­ter of their own, yet the big­ger they are the more those char­ac­ters change and just as im­por­tantly, that of the fish. A carp in the 2½ acre pit I am fish­ing at the mo­ment, can swim the cir­cum­fer­ence of the lake with only a few flicks of its tail and there­fore be­come very fa­mil­iar with ev­ery strand of weed and ev­ery grain of sand. On big­ger venues, the time of year, and the weather con­di­tions, will dic­tate where the carp will want to spend their time. I be­lieve they are very con­ser­va­tive about us­ing en­ergy, and are hardly likely to swim three miles just to eat some blood­worm be­fore swim­ming those three miles again to get back to the place they feel com­fort­able in, are they? It’s the eclec­tic na­ture of the wa­ters we fish and the chal­lenges they pose that makes carp fish­ing so en­chant­ing for me. It has lit­tle to do with the size of the carp I am fish­ing for ei­ther, a new chal­lenge will mean that any carp I catch will be spe­cial... just as it should al­ways be! Chilly.

ABOVE Jon Butcher and I at the Hook Lake char­ity event

BOT­TOM One off the top, but it was only in one area I could get a bite

BE­LOW The tiny lit­tle spot pro­duced all of my bites off the bot­tom

Wrays­bury’s Measles, his­tory and hap­pi­ness! TOP

ABOVE Son­ning was A mas­sive wa­ter AND It never mat­tered How BIG THE fish were

Your eyes are the most vi­tal piece of kit, what­ever wa­ter you fish RIGHT TOP

LEFT ABOVE Wrays­bury, WHEN It was A BIG, UNDERSTOCKED LAKE was truly A CHAL­LENGE

RIGHT BOT­TOM NO Mat­ter THE fish’s size, It’s THE CHAL­LENGE THE SON­NING FULLY SCALED PRE­SENTED that COUNTED

LEFT Just BE­ING THERE Is ALL that RE­ALLY Mat­ters

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