Monday 2 December 2019

A Touch of Early Summer

Our elder son has been working in Zürich all year, and I really miss his infectious enthusiasm for fishing. It was Rob who blew on the embers of my first love just a few short years ago, and rekindled the passion that used to get me out on the bank in all weathers as a lad. But I have struggled in his absense. As I type it is basically freezing outside, so I've just been cheering myself up with a few photos from early summer. Memories of June, early July, and a pretty little lake...

Good coarse fishing is at a premium in this part of the country. It is there, but mostly you have to travel. The Exeter Canal is an hour away. In the opposite direction, the Hampshire Avon or Dorset Stour are at least that and more. Finding something close to Bridport that actually ticks my boxes has been impossible...until this year. There are fisheries nearby, and one or two have produced a few very large perch, for example, but you are far, far more likely to latch into a dozen rabid carp before a decent specimen of another species gets a look-in. Probably I'm fussy, but loads of hungry little carp put me right off. I really do not see the attraction and am so glad that kind of fishing wasn't available when I was young. Anyway, back in May I found myself looking again at one local water which I'd written off for this very reason. Because I discovered that despite what I thought, it isn't actually stuffed with carp at all.

But it is a carp lake. They don't run to huge proportions - the lake record is just over 20lb - but there are just 45 or so in a pool of around an acre, and they are not easy to catch. A few of those carp have been in there more than 30 years and are proper characters, and the stock is occasionally enhanced with younger fish, all of them lookers. It is quiet, extremely well cared for, and very, very pretty. I can fish it all day on a modestly-priced club ticket (and at night for a few quid a time) and it is a mere seven-minute drive away. At the start of June I had a go...

My first visit was a short evening trip. Just a single rod. No bites.

June 5th, around 19:30. Warm. Still at least a couple of hours of light. Mmmmmm...

The next morning I was back again, early, and quickly found some feeding fish bubbling away in the edge. Gingerly I plonked a bait amongst them. The bubbling ceased immediately. They had melted away like seasoned old warriors. Brilliant! I love it when the fishing is a bit tricky. This may sound daft, but believe me, when there's no challenge there's not much fun either. About an hour later, a rod I'd cast out to my left was suddenly being tugged sideways in the reeds, and I was in...

My first one. A golden torpedo of around 9lb.

All my visits were short ones, sometimes just a couple of hours. Once or twice I didn't even cast a line, but just strolled round the lake, peering into the corners, the pads, the margins, looking for a stalking opportunity. The water is not crystal clear, but fish - or signs of fish - were often visible. Sometimes just a tell-tale nudging of reed stems, or wafting lily pad. I absolutely love fringed water lilies. Nymphoides peltata is the species, and this lake is full of it. It only grows in the shallow, marginal water, and the beauty of this particular lily (as opposed to the bigger, brutish beast-lilies that have underwater scaffolding lurking below their deceptively pretty flowers) is that you can fish right in the thick of it with relative impunity. I've caught near 30-pound carp in the stuff. The point is, carp love it too. They like to lurk in its shade on hot days, hiding from the angler and chuckling at their cleverness. One scorching afternoon in early July I found about five or six fish right in this lot...

I sorted myself out a Nash 'Bread Bomb' (which is basically a neat way to fish a lump of floating bread without it falling off your hook) and carefully lobbed it out onto the pads. As it landed, its weight forced the pads sideways slightly so that it floated on the surface, gently oozing its white, sliced, farmhouse pheromones into the lake. I could see at least three carp within about six feet of it in various directions. I waited patiently for the fireworks...

Nothing happened. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. One of the carp had its back very slightly out of the water, and my eye kept returning to it. That fish remained in the exact same position for at least 45 minutes. On the other hand, one fish was constantly shifting position. Back and forth, closer to my bait...and then away again. It was exquisitely unbearable.

Of course I was constantly checking the bread bomb itself. After an hour it was still just sitting there, totally inert.

And then suddenly it vanished! One second it was there, the next, gone. Sucked beneath the surface without a sign. Not even a ripple.

I struck.

The pads absolutely exploded! My heart was in my mouth like I was a kid again, and after a short, frantic scrap it was mine...

Again, not big (it weighed 13-something) but stuff like this ticks the right boxes for me. Massive fun.


  1. Some good summer memories there, especially for those of us daft enough to go out chasing fish in all weather - frozen fingers and toes now... And hopefully a pike or two...

    1. Thanks Brian. Hope you get a few this winter.

  2. Single rod carp fishing has way more thrills and spills than sitting behind a battery of rods. I had a week in France in June but since then it's been one rod and nervous tension for most of my carping.

    Your lake looks ideal, I hope you find a perch or two before next spring.

    1. Thanks Dave. Your 'one rod and nervous tension' angling is a great description and right up my street. I love stalking. I once caught an immaculate 25lb common from the Rickmansworth Cons in exactly that fashion, watching the fish take the bait on its third visit to the spot. It froze momentarily with its pecs out stiff, then bolted for the weed. Fireworks! I rate it as one of my favourite captures, and can picture it all in vivid detail. Despite the carp being smaller here, the thrills and spills are the same!