The F-word

Things are, as ex­pected, cool­ing off a bit for Mr F this month, but, there ARE still fish to BE HAD, For those putting in the ef­fort as the sea­sons change

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Paul For­ward

Things are, as ex­pected, cool­ing off a bit for Mr F this month, but, there are still fish to be had, for those putting in the ef­fort as the sea­sons change

As the day­light hours shorten dra­mat­i­cally so with it do my chances, or at least my choices, for a mid­week overnighter. The Stour syn­di­cate lake, which is a mere 10 min­utes from both my home and work, of­fers my only re­al­is­tic prospect of a cheeky ses­sion squeezed in be­tween work days. So, ba­si­cally, it’s a toss-up be­tween mak­ing the ef­fort to rush down to the Stour and then pack away at first light, or no fish­ing at all un­til the week­end. And even the mer­est prospect of the lat­ter fills me with hor­ror. Pre­dictably, I found my­self yet again on the banks of the Stour, on a Tues­day evening in late Oc­to­ber, just as the light be­gan to fade. For the time of year it had been a glo­ri­ous day dur­ing which the sun had shone and tem­per­a­tures had crept into the low teens – a soft, southerly breeze rip­pled the sur­face on the deeper, car park end of the lake, mak­ing it look very ap­peal­ing. Even know­ing that Leon, who was much fur­ther up the lake, had seen a good num­ber of fish in what is the weed­ier part of the venue, couldn’t sway a strong gut feel­ing I had... Call it in­tu­ition, if you be­lieve in that sort of thing.

Be­ing mid­week, the lake was rel­a­tively quiet, with maybe four or five other an­glers on, most of those plot­ted up in ei­ther the mid­dle, or the top end of the 20-acre venue. As much as I hate be­ing rushed, the light was fad­ing fast and a choice had to be made! Quickly weigh­ing up the pros and cons, I plumped for the car park end, mainly be­cause of my gut feel­ing, but also due to the fact that I thought it had a bit more night-time form. I’d fished Swim 1 many times in the past, and even man­aged to catch a few fish from it, so it didn’t take me too long to get all three baits in po­si­tion and a light scat­ter­ing of boilies around each one. I’d opted to fish close in too, with all three within easy cat­a­pult­ing range. Be­ing an end swim its most ob­vi­ous fea­ture is the out of bounds bank to your right-hand side, which is both lined with reeds and holds deep wa­ter – some 8-10ft in places. Then, as you move away from the reeds, the ground slopes up to around 4ft, where there are sev­eral nice grav­elly humps and fea­tures for use at your dis­cre­tion.

As the tem­per­a­ture dropped and the breeze faded away through­out the course of the evening, my con­fi­dence was boosted by the sound of the odd one crash­ing out, a cou­ple of which weren’t too far away ei­ther! One of our younger syn­di­cate mem­bers, Calum, was on the op­po­site bank, be­hind an is­land and I was sure that he must have heard them too. As an aside, whilst I’m out on the bank, one of the things I ap­pre­ci­ate most is just sit­ting qui­etly, out­side the bivvy, prefer­ably on the wa­ter’s edge, just watch­ing and lis­ten­ing, whether it be day or night – magic mo­ments in­deed.

Any­how, all too soon, time was tick­ing by and with work in the morn­ing, it be­came nec­es­sary to snuggle up in the warmth of the bag and get a few hours kip. I’d prob­a­bly only just nod­ded off when the mid­dle rod burst into life, star­tling yours truly into ac­tion. The fish, a pretty, scaly mir­ror which was per­haps an up­per dou­ble, was wel­come but, in truth, I was still half asleep and couldn’t be both­ered with any pho­tog­ra­phy – so af­ter un­hook­ing it care­fully in the net, I slipped it back to fight an­other day. Af­ter all the com­mo­tion and faff of deal­ing with a fish, I al­ways find that get­ting back to where I was in the Land of Nod is dif­fi­cult. But, as I lay there, wish­ing for the sleep fairies to visit again, I did hear at least an­other two carp crash out of wa­ter. Again it was dif­fi­cult to pin­point ex­actly where­abouts, but judg­ing from the as­sumed di­rec­tion of sound, and the rip­ples com­ing back to the swim, they weren’t far away.

Thank­fully I must have dozed off again, be­cause the next thing I knew the same rod I’d re­cast was away again. By now it wasn’t far from day­break. This one felt a much bet­ter fish too, lit­er­ally strip­ping the braided line from the spool at an alarm­ing rate, as it went off on sev­eral pow­er­ful runs. Once in the net I could see by the width of its shoul­ders that it was over 30lb and then, in the torch­light, I re­alised what an ab­so­lute stun­ner it was too – this heav­ily-scaled lin­ear looked al­most un­real in its win­ter colours. It felt a real priv­i­lege to be able to hold such a mag­nif­i­cent crea­ture. On the scales it weighed 32lb plus a few

ounces, not that it mat­tered at all be­cause I’d have felt blessed, no mat­ter what the scales read. Calum, who, if you re­mem­ber, was fish­ing op­po­site also had a night to re­mem­ber, land­ing one of the very much sought af­ter, orig­i­nal scaly mir­rors, also at a sim­i­lar weight. As his cam­era was mist­ing up and gen­er­ally play­ing up at first light I popped round to do the pic­tures and must con­fess that af­ter wit­ness­ing Calum’s carp in the flesh, I should very much like to catch this old war­rior my­self. So al­though th­ese short overnighters can be, and let’s face it, are, a lot of ef­fort for what can seem a com­plete waste of time, when it all comes good you re­alise ex­actly why we put our­selves through it all, in­stead of sit­ting on the sofa at home (bored)! The sense of achieve­ment and sat­is­fac­tion is im­mense and, for me, makes it all worth­while.

Judg­ing from the two week­ends I spent on the

Tip Lake in mid-oc­to­ber, things were slow­ing down some­what. Ar­riv­ing on a Fri­day af­ter­noon af­ter work in my ex­pe­ri­ence is never a chilled af­fair. For one thing we’re fight­ing against the light, and then, per­haps more im­por­tantly, there aren’t go­ing to be many, if any, clues as to where the carp ac­tu­ally are! The sim­ple fact is that I could count the num­ber of fish I ac­tu­ally saw show dur­ing both week­ends on one hand – most of those be­ing af­ter dark, and the bub­bling, which a few months ago would of­ten give the game away, was now non-ex­is­tent. To make lo­ca­tion even more of a lottery, the sun, when it ac­tu­ally de­cides to show it­self, doesn’t ac­tu­ally climb high enough in the sky to pro­vide the nec­es­sary light to en­able us see into the wa­ter. I’ve been do­ing this carp fish­ing lark long enough now (read 40 con­sec­u­tive win­ters), to know it’s a tough game on ‘proper’ wa­ters dur­ing the colder months and it’s only go­ing to get harder un­til spring ar­rives.

Any­way, back to the story. I ar­rived at the Tip Lake, late on the Fri­day af­ter­noon and a quick lap told me noth­ing, apart from who’s plot­ted up and where. Of the va­cant swims, I quite fan­cied one called The Hinge, mainly be­cause it is an end swim with an is­land in front, but also be­cause it of­fers an out-of­bounds bank to cast to on the right hand side. Oh, and also the wind was due to change to a brisk but ob­vi­ously cold northerly. To be hon­est I re­ally didn’t know whether this was a good or bad thing, with half of me sus­pect­ing the carp could be com­fier on the back of it!

Al­though I didn’t have any ac­tion at all on the first night, I had heard and seen a fish, in the cool light of the moon – def­i­nitely a carp too – roll over in the mar­gin to my left. That gave me a much needed boost of con­fi­dence, perk­ing me up no end – so much so that I’d sat out un­til well past ten o’clock as it was a dry and pleas­ant evening. I en­joy just be­ing there chill­ing out and ‘do­ing my thing’ away from the hus­tle and bustle of work and home. Nor­mally, I’d move af­ter a blank first night but, to be hon­est, af­ter care­fully weigh­ing up the sit­u­a­tion in my mind there wasn’t any­where bet­ter than this to move to. So, what to do? Sit and hope? Well, in a way, yes!

With a whole day and night still in front of me, I thought I’d try and fish the swim a bit dif­fer­ently and per­haps bet­ter than I had done the pre­vi­ous night, where, to be fair, I had seen a carp but maybe been in a bit of a rush to get the baits cast out be­fore dark. One thing I was de­ter­mined not to do was overdo it with boilies. I’d put maybe 20 baits fairly tight around each hook­bait the pre­vi­ous evening and, al­though I couldn’t be sure, I knew that there was a strong pos­si­bil­ity that they were still ly­ing there, un­touched. With this in mind and af­ter check­ing

The skies dark­ened and it ab­so­lutely chucked it down all day – and all evening too for that mat­ter, forc­ing me to won­der about my own san­ity

my pre­sen­ta­tion was good, I put the two rods on the out-of­bounds back in the same spots and baited with just hemp and sweet­corn – and no more boilies! I moved the third rod to the left mar­gin where the carp had shown the pre­vi­ous evening, first care­fully check­ing the spot, then bait­ing it spar­ingly with 10 boilies – and half a bucket of par­ti­cles!

As the day un­folded, the wind turned to the north as fore­cast, the skies dark­ened and it ab­so­lutely chucked it down all day – and all evening too for that mat­ter, forc­ing me to won­der about my own san­ity. It was so thor­oughly cold, damp and mis­er­able and I’ve never en­joyed be­ing con­stantly stuck un­der the brolly ei­ther. When the rain eased off a tad, ev­ery now and again, I’d pop out and bait the spots with more par­ti­cle as the sil­ver fish in here are rav­en­ous. I’d checked this out by feed­ing a spot close-in and most of the small seeds were be­ing taken mid­wa­ter – some­times even be­fore they hit the bot­tom. The warmth of the bag was hard to re­sist on this squally, cold night, so, af­ter a hot sup­per, I re­tired ear­lier than usual, and not feel­ing all that con­fi­dent about my chances.

I hadn’t seen any more fish by this point, with not even so much as a liner, but tried to con­sole my­self with the old adage of: ‘You’ve gotta be in it, to win it’. Some­time around 5.30am the next morn­ing, a cou­ple of bleeps on the left-hand rod saw me leap­ing out of the bag and sit­ting poised over the rod. A mo­ment later, the line pulled tight and the tip started to pull round – I was in! Apart from try­ing its level-best to bury it­self in the weed a cou­ple of times, the fish didn’t re­ally do much – steady pres­sure won the day and soon enough a fairly large, grey shape rolled over the net cord. The fish, a dark Tip Lake mir­ror, weighed a lit­tle over 33lb on the scales and, I must say, warmed my cock­les no end. The sky had cleared too, which was good news as ev­ery­thing I owned was sod­den wet and, al­though I was head­ing home later that morn­ing, I thought it would be nice to dry a few thing out be­fore pack­ing up. As luck would have it, one of my mates, called Richard, popped his head around the front of the brolly a few min­utes af­ter first light and vol­un­teered him­self as cam­era­man for the price of a brew.

All was go­ing more or less to plan, that was un­til I de­cided I needed an­other bucket of wa­ter to pour onto the fish. The wa­ter in the edge didn’t look very deep and any­way, as ever, I was wear­ing my waders. It was in fact, very, very deep and, so no more than a split sec­ond af­ter plant­ing my left boot in the wa­ter, bucket in hand, I found my­self, much to my hor­ror, up to my armpits in freez­ing wa­ter – feel­ing be­mused, as well as look­ing a bit silly! Richard was, un­der­stand­ably, in bits, laugh­ing as I groped my way out of the Tip Lake, put the fish

back and then emp­tied at least a cou­ple of pints of cold wa­ter from each of the waders. Now it was safe to say that truly ev­ery­thing I had with me was soaked, in­clud­ing my­self. The only spares I had in the van were shorts and a work T-shirt and it wasn’t re­ally that kind of weather. And so there ended that par­tic­u­lar trip. Look­ing back I’d had a right re­sult, and fished well, as noth­ing much else had been out to my knowl­edge, and al­though my early bath wasn’t part of the plan, no real harm was done and I can laugh about it now.

My next trip was again to the Tip Lake and again at the week­end. This time the re­sult was a re­sound­ing two-night blank in sim­i­larly crappy, aw­ful weather. I fished as well as I know how, but the only fish out was a stun­ning 39-pounder to Grant Atkins, who was fish­ing op­po­site in The Point. I popped around to do the pho­to­graphs for him and the smile on the young fella’s face said it all. Very well done that man!

By the way, Laney and my­self are do­ing ‘An Evening of Carp’ on Fe­bru­ary 1st in Don­caster, with Jules and the big man him­self, Tim Pais­ley – it’s sure one not to be missed, so come along and join us – £7 on the door.

That’s all for now, so tight lines un­til next month – Mr F.

ABOVE Never knock be­ing busy... Even if it is play­ing havoc with your fish­ing sched­ule! ABOVE RIGHT Calum’s stun­ning 32-pounder RIGHT An awe­some 32lb mir­ror from the Stour

RIGHT A sign of things to come. It was ab­so­lutely chuck­ing it down in The Hinge swim

ABOVE A blank-sav­ing mir­ror from my sec­ond night on the Tip Lake BE­LOW Grant’s 39-pounder from the Tip Lake

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