New Rods – Making Moves

I expect most keen coarse anglers own a rod or two dedicated to fairly specialist tasks – perhaps a crisp, fast action float rod, designed solely with long trotting pacy rivers in mind; an ultra-light lure rod that brings to life the most tiny little jigs; or even one of the legendary Drennan Tench Float rods, designed for, erm…

However, it’s usually the most versatile kit that’s first in the bag. I’ve used the same Shimano Aero 2 ¼ lbs test curve rods for years – mainly for barbel fishing on the Wye, using the ubiquitous feeder and pellet approach, but also for light carp and pike fishing, distance bream fishing with alarms, and even for lobbing ragworms into the sea!

But for the heavier aspects of carp fishing that I find myself more and more engaged with – PVA bags, snag fishing and distance casting on larger waters – I have found myself under-gunned on more than one occasion.

So I was really excited to receive three brand-new, Fox Warrior + rods, together with a Warrior + S&M (Spod & Marker) rod and Warrior + net and handle from the great guys at Tackle Fanatics a couple of weeks ago. These models are exclusive to Tackle Fanatics and are a brilliant, modern update on the all-time classic Fox Warrior range of rods.

The 3 ¼ lbs test curve and 12ft length means distance work is a doddle and chucking a 3oz lead a long way or big PVA bag is no hassle.  The rods feature full cork handles and lovely slim, low-profile blanks. I knew straight away the rods would be up to the tasks mentioned, but I was still keen to make sure they’d be subtle enough to deal with lively, double figure carp close-in.

Being able to nip out after dinner for a couple of hours carp fishing really is a lovely thing to do at this time of year. I tend to travel light at the best of times, but for these super-short sessions I just have the rods, net, and everything else is tucked away inside a zip up sling mat. I tend to move around a lot and sometimes even do away with the buzzers and fish slack lines with the rods on the floor.

Making moves – I had this lovely common carp on a small piece of bread fished just sub-surface

What I really like about my favourite local pool is the variety of carp that live there – I’ve had dark, scaly mirrors, chunky commons and even some ancient looking carp – they’re all characters. One lean mirror carp I hooked close-in on a little white pop-up gave an explosive take and quickly took line from a tightly set clutch, making it quite far under some dense trees that weave extensively into the water. But by applying some hefty pressure and dunking the tip of the rod right down into the water, I turned the fish and eventually got it in the net. The rod was right up to the job, showing lovely progressive power and in that instance and I’m convinced I’d have lost that fish with the lighter rod.

A lean, powerful mirror carp that really tested the new gear

I’ve been really impressed with the Warrior + 42 inch net too. I brought a pricier net made by another well-known brand and while the net itself was fine, the handle was poor with the thread loose and poorly attached to the handle.

The Warrior + net is really strong, but subtle and light too, perfect for moving around easily. I’ve used it to push into a really tight, snaggy swim to net a long, angry common and its deep profile means it’s perfect to rest a fish quickly in the margins after a tiring scrap. The handle is as lovely and solid too and with a properly attached, sturdy thread. It’s a bargain at under £40 and, again, they’re exclusive to Tackle Fanatics.

Success! One in the net…

I’m really looking forward to testing the rods on a larger water I’ll be trying soon that requires a serious chuck and heavy baiting at range. They also look perfect for some of the heavier Wye tactics that come into play when there’s a bit of extra water on – conditions I love!

Tackle Fanatics currently have a top deal on three Fox Warrior +, full cork handle rods for just £209.99 down from the RRP of £519.99 – absolutely brilliant value for what is a superb, high-spec rod. Get them here!

 

 

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Spring Carp – Rain or Shine

As another Great British Summer (TM) slowly but surely lumbers into our collective consciousness, its traditions, old and new, shape those precious few weeks when everything feels different.

Seaside. Silly Season. Fish & Chips. Camping. Cricket. Mr Whippy. BBQs. Brexit. Wasps. Lager. Pub Gardens. Headlines. Headaches. Nostalgia. Knees. Festivals. FA Cup Final. Music. Mud. Sweltering public transport. Traffic. Tennis. Trump. Shorts. Shades. Sunburn… Rain.

Tenby, West Wales. Great British Summer 2016

And as spring turns to summer, even that big burning ball in the sky makes an appearance a bit more regularly. And with it, carp return to the upper layers of the water, searching for food items on the surface.

After a sweltering day in the office, an evening by the lake, quietly floater fishing for carp, offers the ideal tonic.

I’ve spent a couple of evenings trying for carp on my local lake recently, most recently under a clear blue sky and warm sunshine, but the first in torrential rain. And I caught some lovely carp on both occasions. I really enjoy the simplicity of it all, a rod, a net, some bait.

Just the essentials…

The carp here aren’t big – in the grand scheme of things – but the lake is peaceful, the fish are a challenge and landing one feels like an achievement. The common carp pictured below would drift in and casually take a mixer or two that I’d been feeding right under my feet, before ambling back into the middle of the lake, refusing to even consider the hookbait maybe a dozen times.

Finally, as dusk approached – I stopped feeding mixers and trying to chase fish around the swim and tore off a large crust, lowering it just past the reeds under my feet. The common had it straight away.

12lbs mirror web

Welsh Carp Challenge

From Jeff’s canal carp quest to Mick’s hunt for a canal double figure zander; James’ search for giant chub or finding tench in the Kent marshlands – the idiosyncratic angling blogger challenges often make for really interesting, and at times gripping, reading.

Personally, targeting and catching a few bigger perch became a campaign of sorts, I had a very half-hearted go for a local canal carp and the first bloggers challenge was great fun – but I’m just not single minded enough to set myself a dedicated and sustained fishing mission.

However, I really enjoyed getting back into carp fishing last summer. The gnarly old mirror carp I had from the Grand Union Canal near Hemel Hempstead with my old mate Rob was a real highlight, but I enjoyed stalking carp on floating baits from a local pool just as much.

Returning a memorable canal carp.

I’m certainly not ready to ditch fishing for other species yet and become a full on bivvy dweller, but I can see myself doing a bit more carping this year.

So I’m going to create my own little challenge – catching a carp from as many open access Welsh waters as possible. I’m planning to include all the venues I’ve caught carp from previously in the challenge, which gives me an excuse to get out and fish some new venues if nothing else. I’m determined to find a few from places slightly off the beaten track, as well as from more established venues.

The only rules are that the waters must be in Wales and open access (ie anyone can get a ticket or fish for free). And of course the carp must be, erm, #carpy.

I almost certainly won’t be doing nights or fishing windswept, sparsely stocked mega lakes in search of uncaught monsters. I probably won’t use chods or spods and I definitely won’t be extolling the virtues of the latest wonder boilie. But hopefully I’ll have a bit of fun and catch a few fish from some interesting new places. I’ll record what I’ve been up to here.

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

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

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

Viaduct carp

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot recently – finding a genuine carp fishing adventure. Exploring new waters off the beaten track; perhaps even landing a special fish. But of course these things take time. So it’s a very loose project that will take place over years rather than weeks or months – but I’m determined to find it.

For all that, my carp fishing skills are pretty rusty. I don’t really know my chods from my Spods to be perfectly honest. So I decided to ease my way back in and head to a day ticket water in an effort to get to grips with catching carp again.

Viaduct fishery in Somerset is a well established venue. The largest, most mature lake features some huge arches that give the complex its name. They loom large and offer a dramatic backdrop to what is an attractive lake. There are enough shady corners, shallow bays, dense overhanging trees and reed beds to give the angler plenty of features in which to find carp.

Viaduct fishery in Somerset.
Viaduct fishery in Somerset.

And on a warm afternoon, floaters take some beating. Although the Viaduct fish are plentiful, they are not mugs. I hooked two carp quickly, but suffered hook pulls on both occasions. The fish were very cagy after that. Some would intercept all the free offerings without ever going near the hookbait. Others nudged it along the surface, testing it before spooking as the line moved. I must have had two-dozen near misses before I swapped from bread crust to a small, single imitation mixer. Even this failed to work until I actually moved the mixer ever so slightly up the line and added a piece of bread flake to the hook that sat just underneath the fake dog biscuit. A six or seven pound common carp was the result of the hard work and I was delighted – the first carp from a new venue is always a memorable one.

Fishing for carp using floating baits is enourmous fun.
Fishing for carp using floating baits is enourmous fun.

Soon after a nice mirror carp made the same mistake before, just as I was beginning to clear the gear away, a confident, lumpy fish muscled in and took the mixer as bold as brass. The carp put up a great scrap and eventually a bullish mirror of just over 14 pounds rolled into the net. I took some photos and released the fish carefully back to her watery home.

A near-double from Viaduct.
A mirror carp from Viaduct.
The best carp of the evening.
The best carp of the evening.