I needed a reminder of what catching a fish actually feels like so when the opportunity to have a couple of hours at the easy place (AKA Pretty puddle)materialised it was too good to resist. I arrived in the late afternoon on a bright and breezy day but was disappointed to find the place was ram jam packed. It crossed my mind to go home right then. There had evidently been a match but thankfully it appeared to have just finished as people were packing up. I had a walk around and was relieved to find a few areas without brightly coloured boxes and bits of carbon fibre laying around. Thankfully there were areas of the lake that hadn't been hammered today, one was a bay I'd not yet fished with a nice looking overhanging tree to provide cover. This would do me so now it was just a case of waiting for the matchmen to bugger off.
All too slowly the matchmen weighed in and departed. It's amazing to me that they ever catch anything with the amount of noise they make. I suppose to them it's all friendly banter but the language involved made me glad my children hadn't come fishing with me. Oh yes I can curse with the best of them but I try not to when my kids are around. I watched a couple of anglers weigh in. I know there are people who get too precious when it comes to “fish welfare” but I'm sure a blind throw over the shoulder isn't the best way to return a skimmer Bream. This same group insists on the barbless hook rule on grounds of 'fish welfare' but I and many others are convinced that a barbless hook actually does more damage. This is especially so if an ultra stiff carbon pole is used to pull a thrashing fish over a landing net in double quick time. I'm not anti matches or a match anglers, I'm sure most are sensible people who are good at what they do but this lot...It struck me that these people were a poor advert for the sport of angling, luckily this water is on private land with no access to the general public.
By 1700 I was fishing with two rods and happily had the lake to myself. I cast a method feeder across to the overhanging trees opposite me, this was baited with a 15mm pop up boilie on a short, stiff hooklength. My second rod was a float rod, fished slightly over depth and baited with fake corn & maize. This was cast to a snaggy area to my right. To begin with all was very quiet, had the noise and hammering put the fish off? After a while a few Carp began to show on the surface. I usually prefer to catch these fish on bottom rigs, I suppose it gives me confidence that the methods work when I fish 'The Marsh'. However today I just wanted to catch by any means possible so broke down the float rig and instead tied a size 12 hook straight onto the mainline. I began feeding a few chum mixers and soon had a few fish moving on the surface. On my first cast with a freelined floater, after about ten seconds, a Carp slurped it down. Within a couple of minutes a small common was bullied into the net.
After a slow start I began to get a few fish interested. Firstly on the floaters, a pretty little mirror followed by a nice, torpedo shaped common that was easily into double figures but I couldn't be bothered to weigh it. After that I got more action on the method feeder with a succession of little commons that were like peas in a pod. There were still fish interested in the floaters but they were a little finicky and moved in and out of the swim. At one point I was playing a fish hooked on the floater when the method feeder screamed off. I bundled the first fish into the net but by this time the other was long gone. For years I've always played fish by back winding but here I was experimenting with playing fish off the clutch. It felt weird to begin with but with a decent reel, unlike the Mitchell 300's I grew up with, in theory the clutch should be better??
Time was passing quickly and I really ought to have been going but I told myself 'just one more fish'. That last fish is always a lot more tricky than all the others and so it proved. Eventually a floater was sucked down and I set the hook into a Carp that tore across the bay taking line off the clutch. The rod was hooped over and I was in no doubt that this was the biggest fish I'd hooked all evening by a distance. There are a few Carp in this water that are big by any ones standards and this felt like one of them. I hung on for a minute or so as the clutch made noises but just as I felt I was gaining control the hook pulled out. Bugger!! Actually the words I really used would have made the matchmen blush. Should have tried to back wind??
That was it for the night. I quickly bundled the gear into the back of the car and hit the road. I'd enjoyed myself, it was nice to have a few fish that pulled back, nice to have a bend in the rod and nice to be driving home feeling that I'd achieved what I'd set out to. Well almost...