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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.