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.

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2012 reflections and perching in the rain

Blimey, it’s New Years Eve already and time to reflect on 2012. It’s been a good year. We relocated to Chepstow from London at the end of 2011 and our second son arrived at the beginning of 2012 – it’s certainly been a busy, exciting and rewarding 12 months.

Fishing-wise, it’s been great fun getting to know the river Wye. It’s a special place; powerful, wild and at times moody – far removed from the venue I grew up fishing, the sedate Suffolk Stour.

After a great couple of days fishing with my mate Rob at the end of July, when we managed over 20 barbel and a similar number of chub between us over the two days, results on the same stretch later in the summer and into autumn were far less spectacular. But I’ve enjoyed some great pike fishing and the Wye is a venue where I can realistically expect to beat my near decade-old personal best pike of 22lbs 14ozs.

A lovely Wye barbel from the summer
A lovely summer Wye barbel

I usually aim to break at least one personal best each season and on my first visit to a local club water I managed a new, best crucian of 2lbs 6ozs, a lovely fish. I also had my first conger eel of 7lbs from the Bristol Channel in the summer.

My first conger eel from the Bristol Channel. It wasn't easy trying to hold the eel on what was quite a 'lumpy' sea!
My first conger eel from the Bristol Channel. It wasn’t easy trying to hold the eel on what was quite a ‘lumpy’ sea!

This year I’d love to get a three pound perch, ideally from a river and perhaps a sustained pike campaign could yield a new best. I’d also like to finally tempt a 20 pound carp, but such fish usually take quite a bit of work in locating and catching and I’m not sure I can justify a sustained campaign, but you never know…

I do miss having a small river close to home and the opportunity to simply spend a summer evening stalking chub at close quarters. Next year I plan to explore some of the less celebrated venues in my local area. I’ve walked by an overgrown canal that is only 15 or so minutes from my home and heard tales of big bream, feral carp and some serious chub. I’ve also come across a secluded and forgotten lake which holds nothing but stunted roach and rudd – at least that’s what I’d heard until I saw a blurry camera phone picture of a very nice perch from the lake that had obviously been feeding on those little silver fish.

I’d also like to have a proper go on the river Taff and the docks around Cardiff. It was on a sea fishing trip with Rob when the skipper of our little charter mentioned he’d been catching some perch from the system and not just little ones…

*****

I actually managed a few hours’ perch fishing yesterday on a local commercial fishery. I’d planned to be on the water at dawn and to pick up some maggots and worms the day before and generally be super organised. Of course, I wasn’t. I didn’t start fishing until well after 11 and had to make do with a few king prawns that I’d dug out from the freezer as bait.

Perch and prawns. Until the mini-boom in commercial perch fishing, worms, maggots, lures or small fish were the baits for targeting Perca fluviatilis. Using what is essentially a sea deadbait would have been unthinkable, but on some waters the perch have really taken to eating these little crustaceans.

I’d only dabbled with using them once before on this water and on a warm and clear May morning I succeeded only in tempting a large eel before the inevitable carp moved in.

But today, with no alternative, I stuck it out with sections of king prawn fished on light running ledger rig finished with a size 8 Drennan specimen hook. It was too windy to float fish effectively and combined with the regular downpours, sitting under the brolly watching a ‘tip seemed the only sensible choice.

It took a while for the first bite to arrive but by steadily feeding tiny, walnut sized balls of sloppy groundbait into the swim the desired small, silver fish eventually arrived and just as I was tying a spare hooklength, the tip went round firmly. I struck late, but still found myself attached to what was obviously a nice perch. I didn’t get to see how nice though as I paid the price for the late strike and the barbless hook pulled.

Perch lair
Perch lair

Luckily it wasn’t too long until a second chance presented itself and this time, despite some nervous moments as the fish splashed about on the surface, after a short scrap I netted what was obviously a good perch.

As I lifted it from the water, I knew it was my target ‘two’. At 2lbs and 6ozs it was my second best ever perch and I was delighted. Commercial water perch aren’t nearly as attractive as their river cousins, but I still find them a fascinating, challenging and worthwhile target when the rivers are out of sorts.

2lbs 6ozs perch that took a liking to a king prawn
2lbs 6ozs perch that took a liking to a king prawn

I added a second good fish of 1.14 before a heavy and prolonged spell of rain killed things dead and I headed home well before darkness began to envelop the valley.

I’d only spent around three and a half hours fishing, but it had been an enjoyable end to my 2012 fishing year.

Tight lines in 2013 to all the great people I’ve conversed with both on and offline as a result of writing this blog!

Call the police!

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon on the Cefn Mably complex near Cardiff last week. After a couple of hard sessions on the Wye, I decided to try somewhere a little more ‘straightforward’ where a simple wag & mag approach would surely result in a few bites.

I did harbour hopes of connecting with one particular species though. As with so many commercial style lakes, perch are usually the apex predator and as a result they can grow very large in such food-rich surroundings.

Armed with a pint and a half of maggots and a few worms, I settled into a quieter corner of the main lake where a large overhanging tree provided some natural cover, its branches weaving their way into the water – surely the prefect home and ambush point for a big billy.

Late winter swim
There must be a big perch or two living in there

After trickling in a few maggots every minute or two whilst I set up a simple waggler rig, I was ready to make a cast.

First a plump roach, then a skimmer, and then, after a quiet few minutes, a sprightly mirror carp of three pounds or so put in an appearance, testing my light tackle and bringing a grin to my face as he made the clutch of my reel whizz.

As the afternoon wore on I added a small tench, plenty more roach, including a couple around the 10oz mark, skimmers, a better bream of around two pounds and even a little eel.

Then, after another quiet spell, I hooked a better fish that felt like a decent perch, but slipped the hook before I managed to get a look at it. On the next cast I made contact with something that felt similarly perch-like and so it proved as a nice stripy of about a pound and a half came to the net. What perch from murky stillwaters lack aesthetically in comparison to the stunningly marked fish from clear water rivers or lakes, they often make up for in bulk – and this chap was no exception.

perch
A chunky perch

Frustratingly the next cast resulted in another decent fish shedding the barbless hook. That was it in terms of perch, but by now I’d amassed six species of fish.

The seventh species was a stillwater first for me – a lovely barbel of about two pounds that scrapped all the way to the net and was in immaculate condition. At first I thought it was a BIG perch, then after a minute or so struggling to lift it off the bottom, I thought it may be a tench – certainly the fight was more reminiscent of a tinca than that of a river barbel of a similar size.

I don’t know what the mythical barbel police would make of him or his surroundings. But if the fish are happy and healthy in their environment, I don’t have a massive issue with stillwater barbel. I’d still rather catch them in flowing water though.

Call the police! A stillwater barbel

I finished the day with a carp that took floating bread after a few half-heartedly scattered crusts were slurped at enthusiastically as the sun went down. I hastily set up a heavier rod and my freelined crust was eventually taken by a nice golden common that gave a solid account of itself in the confines of my swim.

I’d really enjoyed myself and that’s what it’s all about, after all.

A golden common that took a floating crust at dusk

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A challenge I’ve long thought would be great fun would be an attempt to catch ten species of freshwater fish over 24 hours.

Having read Jeff Hatt’s ever-magnificent Idler’s Quest yesterday and his plan to embark on such a challenge, albeit targeting a far more tricky 15 species, I think I may have a go at my own bloggers version of The Great Rod Race this summer.

I’d be confident of tempting eight species across a day on the Suffolk Stour. Roach, rudd, dace, gudgeon, bream, perch, pike and chub would be tricky, but do-able, with the outside chance of a ruffe, bleak, eel, zander, bullhead, carp and tench.

If undertake the challenge locally, on waters I don’t know nearly as well, I’d probably target a mixed commercial pool such as one of the lakes at Cefn Mably and then move over to the Wye in the hope of tempting ten species in a day.

Sounds like a fun challenge!