Welsh Carp – Hidden Gems

You could never claim Wales to be at the centre of the carp fishing universe. Yet its famous wild carp fisheries, Pant y Llyn and Llyngwyn offer a genuinely unique experience for those interested in the history of carp in the UK and some of Wales’ urban waterways – in Cardiff especially – but also Newport and Swansea, offer exceptional fishing with some big, beautiful and even unknown fish. Alan Blair’s brilliant Urban Banx series recently covered Cardiff Wharf and the film is well worth a watch.

I expect some of the huge, deep reservoirs hold carp and potentially some very big ones too. I think a serious, long-term campaign could reveal some genuine surprises – but that style of fishing just isn’t my thing.

There are many day ticket and club lakes, rivers and canals too – from busy, muddy holes in the ground stuffed full of pale, pellet-stuffed pasties to some genuine hidden gems – quiet, beautiful waters holding some lovely carp. And of course the most famous carp fishery of all time sits just on the border of England and Wales…

I’ve spent a couple of evening sessions over the last couple of weeks enjoying the last days of summer doing some surface fishing after work on my own favourite south Wales lake. It’s usually fairly quiet on weekday evenings and while even a twenty pound fish is a rare beast here, the variety of carp – from scaly mirrors to long, lean commons means it’s a place I love to fish. My requirements for carp fishing are simple – I want to be able to fish relatively autonomously, without endless rules and regulations, ideally stalking fish and preferably off the surface.

As the day draws to a close the carp begin to take baits off the top
As the day draws to a close the carp begin to take baits off the top

The carp here can be spooky – taking free offerings cautiously but ignoring the hookbait and disappearing completely with undue noise. One evening a guy started flicking the odd boilie into his swim a good way round from me, yet the two carp I’d got taking crusts confidently simply vanished.

The two highlights have been a beautiful long, dark and scaley linear mirror carp of 11-and-a-half pounds and a big mirror carp of over 16 pounds that took a crust literally under my feet and that I saw eye-to-eye before it took. The noise of that fish bolting as the hook was set was quite something!

I’m really enjoying this carp fishing lark and sooner rather than later I’ll make a real effort to track down a Welsh 20.

A stunning scaly Welsh mirror carp
A stunning scaly Welsh mirror carp
A long and lean Welsh common
A long and lean Welsh common
16_4-mirror-web
16lbs 4ozs Welsh mirror carp

Sleeping Swans and Rising Rudd

My local canal is an engaging place to fish. It’s overgrown, weedy, deep and gin clear with little boat traffic and it sits relatively off the beaten track – I’m sure it’s capable of producing a big roach or rudd.

With a decent number of prolific club and day ticket venues nearby it also receives little angling pressure. It suffered a major pollution a few years back and while it had reasonable carp and bream form prior to this, I think they are ghosts now.

However the silver fish population has recovered, to an extent. There are not large shoals of fish, but they are there in pockets. Fishing bread flake over small amounts of bread mash over a couple of short sessions last season I had a couple of dubious rudd – both around a pound in weight, some good roach of a similar size and a silver bream/rudd hybrid. Using maggots I added dace and a canal trout!

Not a brace of fish you see to often - canal rudd and trout
Not a brace of fish you see very often – canal rudd and trout

I was keen to try again and see if I could locate a decent rudd. With the numbers of roach, silver bream and all manner of hybrids, it may be that there are no genuine rudd in there, but I’m enjoying trying to find out. So, armed with some bread, a rod, net and camera I ventured out for a couple of hours in the morning, in the hope of making contact with canal gold.
The sleeping swans were alert to the bread mash feed, but fortunately after this unexpected alarm they wound their necks in and went back to sleep.

Sleeping swans and rising rudd
Sleeping swans and rising rudd

It didn’t take long for a positive bite and a silver bream was the first fish to find the bait. A fish of maybe eight ounces, it was the first genuine silver I’ve caught.
Soon after a nice roach getting on for a pound put in an appearance, before numbers of much smaller fish moved in and attacked the bread on the drop, giving unhittable bites. I persevered for half an hour, but it proved frustrating.

I moved round to a shady position and fed some more mash further out into the channel. It took a while, but eventually fish began topping and some of the ‘slaps’ were from much better fish – big rudd?

I managed to extract three more good roach – all taking the bread once it had sunk right down in around eight feet of water. It was nice to get the roach and I’ll certainly try for them in winter, but no sign of the rudd this time.

That final shake of the head from a good roach
That final shake of the head from a good roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach

A Good Start on the Wye

With a little extra water in the river and the first month of the river season generally seeing cloudy, blustery days – it’s been a great start on the Wye.

I’m really lucky to be able to head over to the river for a few hours after work as and when conditions dictate. I’ve made a couple of short and sweet trips to the river fishing for three or so hours each time, travelling light with the aim of tempting the odd chub or barbel.

I’ve no real desire to haul in barbel by the dozen, but it’s always nice to get a few fish in the quiet and beautiful surroundings of the Wye valley.

Interestingly, over the two trips I’ve had plenty of shoal size barbel fishing feeder and pellets into the fast water, but a trio of much better barbel and some stonking chub have come to big chunks of meat freelined into a deep slack, right under my feet.

With hot weather on the way and the holiday season about to start, it’ll soon be a lot busier on the river and I’ll probably leave it alone until the autumn. But there are lots of other angling adventures to be had…

The Wye web

Barbel fight web

Wye gold web

Wye chub web

9lbs barbel 2 web

net web

Freelined Chips

Ah, June the… well, 20th. Surely the time to hit the Wye and bag up on barbel? No! Time to hit the M4 and the M25, in the relentless rain and travel to… Hemel Hempstead.

I was off to visit my mate Rob on his home patch. He has a wealth of water available locally and while the Grand Union Canal or the River Gade may not have quite the same pull to the travelling angler as the Wye, there really is some superb fishing available in and around this bustling Hertfordshire town.

Rob’s had all sorts from the Grand Union since he’s lived over here. Carp to just shy of 20lbs, 3lbs perch, big bream, numerous chub over 5lbs and even one over 6. Big fish for anywhere.

He had a few spots for us to try and a couple of wild cards up his sleeve. We started off on the canal, just as the rain subsided on the Monday. I was hoping to try for a carp at some stage and perhaps a chub on the river. We also wanted to have a go at the big bream shoals that patrol the canal.

It was pretty tough going though. We did get some nice roach on lobs and a few quick, violent bites –probably chub – that we failed to connect with.

A move to a renowned perch section saw us get a few decent stripeys, but it was fairly quiet for the most part. We snuck off at 7pm to catch watch England against Slovakia and by full time, wished we’d stayed out fishing! Still the beer was cold and the sun was shining…

The next morning we made an early(ish) start on the canal, but it was even slower than the previous day. The bright sun wasn’t helping and we moved onto the river. By mid-morning the cloud had moved over and we began to get a few bites. We soon had a bream each and plenty of good dace on the stick float. But it wasn’t easy and the fish would arrive in bursts before drifting off for periods of time. We all know early season river fishing can be very hit-and-miss and so we agreed, following a bit of lunch, to make a final move to another stretch of canal, via a quick stop on a much shallower, faster flowing stretch of the river Bulbourne.

canal web

And that’s when the day got interesting! Straight away we found some good chub on the river, cautious but clearly up for a lump of Spam rolled gently through the swim.

I tied on a size 8 and impaled a chunk of meat. And first run through, just as the Spam bumped past that most classic of chub features (an enormous tractor tyre) a good chub dashed out and literally grabbed the bait from under the nose of a smaller fish. I saw the bait in its mouth, waited that agonizing couple of seconds for the fish to turn, and… wallop!

I was buzzing after that. I’ve not stalked a chub in that way since the back end of the season before last. Raw, exciting fishing.

But the best was yet to come! A feral canal carp is something I’ve wanted to catch for a long time. I’ve been especially inspired by Jeff’s writing on his mission for a canal carp a couple of years ago, and Rob has done well fishing for them, ever since he landed his first from the canal the last time I was in town.

So, every moment relating to the capture of this canal mirror will long remain etched in the memory. My springy, unruly line; watching the carp – finally – slurp down the floating crust; the initial minute of absolutely brutal power; quietly helping the fish regain its energy; watching it swim away back into the deep, cool canal. I can’t really take much credit in catching the carp, as Rob had found them previously, but it was a memorable moment and fish. I just need to find my own, local one now…

We then sat down in another area to have a good go for some bream. And we had a few. And just as it was time for me to think about heading back, we found some more carp – warily sampling the odd bread crust.

I left Rob to it – I’d had my carp – and decided to scatter a few of my chips into a snaggy swim up from where Rob was. And it was a freelined chip, over a chippy groundbait, that produced not one, but two big bream, including the biggest of our trip by far. A great afternoon, in the end. Cheers mate.

Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.

13_8 Canal Carp 2 web

River Bulbourne chub web

bream and chips

Stags, Festivals and Tench

May has been fairly hectic all-round, yet I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of short early morning trips on my local tench pool this month.

Spring dawn - tench time
Spring dawn – tench time

The first session right at the beginning of May was fantastic – a number of big, lumpy tench fell to simple float fishing tactics using three dead red over loose fed dead maggots.

4lbs 2oz web

4lbs 12oz tench web

The silkweed in this clear, deep venue is really thick and carpets the bottom, so the dead maggot approach works well as they don’t crawl away and they’re light enough to not sink into the weed too deeply – plus the tench love ‘em!

Unfortunately so do the great big eels that live here and the second session was tench free – despite the swim, at times, absolutely bubbling away – it was only a couple of big snakes that took the hookbait.

eel web

Still, in terms of enjoyment, I can’t think of many things to rival sitting in the early morning sun catching big and wild fish on the float from a lily fringed pool, all before the world wakes up.

We also went along to the latter stages of the annual Wye River Festival that takes place along much of the river through spring.

The 2016 festival programme saw all sorts of activities, performances and locations – including a sound installation at Redbrook and torchlight procession at Llandogo. It was good fun and you can’t help but embrace the distinctly pagan undertones running through much of the festival.

The overarching theme was: Celebrating of the outstanding landscape of the Wye and our complex and universal relationship with water – undoubtedly something all anglers can relate to!

fish

crowd

These gentle activities were in complete contrast to my mate Joe’s stag-do over in Dusseldorf, also this month. A brilliant city and great people, we had a blast. A real highlight was heading over to Cologne to take in a third tier (3. Liga) match between SC Fortuna Koln and FC Erzgebirge Aue.

We’d timed it to perfection as Erzgebirge Aue needed a win to secure promotion, which they duly did. A full on pitch invasion took place on the final whistle which we all got involved in! Both sets of fans were great and it was a real party atmosphere. Good fun.

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SC Fortuna Koln vs FC Ezgebirge Aue

Fishing For Fun in the Afternoon Sun

The sun’s warming afternoon rays had enticed the great British public out to the beach in search of some traditional Easter holiday fun. Sand and sea. Shells and ice creams. Picnics and pints.

Sunset over the beach
Sunset over the beach

Shell web

While mooching around the beach, I knew the sunshine would be having a similar effect on the local carp population.

And so, a few days later, I decided to head out to a local, shallow pool for a few hours fishing for fun in the afternoon sun.

The carp here aren’t big, in the grand scheme of things, but after a winter of roach fishing a carp getting on for double figures looks bloody huge!

Common carp web

And I had a blast, waggler fishing under the rod tip, 4lbs line to a size 16 and double maggot as bait.

Despite the warmth, it had snowed up in the valleys a couple of days previously and I wondered if this spring fed pool may be feeling the effects of that. So I opted for maggots as bait and it proved a wise move.

As well as a number of lumpy carp I had four tench, each of which had me wondering if I’d hooked one of the pool’s ultra-rare monster perch.

There was no mistaking those carp though, as they tore off on those intital thirty or forty yard runs. Great fun.

One in the net!
One in the net!
A chunky mirror carp
A chunky mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp

Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.