I ain’t afraid of no blank (carp article and video, entry 423)

Click images to enlarge

One of the great things about the angling life I lead is that I can please myself and fish for what I like, where I like, and enjoy it to the max. I don’t have editor deadlines to meet, no-one requesting a feature for this or that species and no directions to target a particular venue. Whilst the angler who makes a total living by fishing may arouse a certain amount of jealousy in others, the reality is that it’s not all it appears to be on the surface. Beneath the glamorous veneer it’s just another job and not something I would even be remotely interested in. I love the freedom of doing my own thing, and this week that liberty took me in pursuit of carp.

My first session was on a lake that I have fished recently, and although I have caught tench and rudd while after carp, my chosen species eluded me. But fancying a crack at them again, I got my gear ready so that as soon as I got back from church on the evening I could load the car and set off for the venue. Time was tight and I was sort of racing against the clock to get everything set up before dark; it was a race that I just about edged by a head. By the time I erected the shelter, got the bedchair up and settled back for a cup of tea it was well into headtorch time.

As you can see from the accompanying video, I baited up with pigeon conditioner seeds using brown crumb and ground wheat as a carrier with some SBS corn steep liquor. It really does look and smell good, although of course I draw the line at taste. But as I moulded the mix into balls to fire off into the lake it certainly helps the confidence level, which incidentally was pretty high anyway. I even recorded on the video that I was going to catch. That wasn’t an arrogant David Haye ‘I’m the best and I’m gonna knock him out’ kind of boast, but rather an expression of just how positive I felt.

One thing I had worked out in regards to the lake was that a pop-up bait was going to be more effective than a standard one on the bottom. I had only done a few sessions previously but figured that was the way to go. I had struggled on bottom baits whilst my two fish, albeit not carp, had fallen to boilies an inch off the bottom. So with identical rigs I cast out and waited. Using leads fixed between beads I tied a power gum knot that created the bolt-rig effect I wanted. The short braid hook length eventually led to a 12mm hair-rigged SBS M1 boilie. The boilies were put in PVA bags with pellets added but no other boilies. The approach was to fish just the single boilie over the seeds.

In the early hours of the morning I had a run that saw me lifting into a decent enough carp. I brought it in slowly but surely, totally in command. With no snags at all in the area I was firmly in control. But then sometimes things happen beyond our control and about 3-4 lengths out I had a hook pull. Ah well, these things happen I told myself and I just recast and started all over again. I needn’t have worried though as an hour or so later I was back alongside the pod and into another good fish. This time I was pleased to slip it into the net, and that’s the fish that you can see in photograph 1.

Before I had chance to get the rod back out again, the other one was off. And the result of that is the second common in picture 2. No more fish followed which meant that both my carp were caught within minutes of each other. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I had known I could have saved my time and just turned up in the middle of the night, cast out, caught the fish and then gone back home again. Well not really; it doesn’t work like that, as I wouldn’t have had a baited area to attract the fish in the first place. And wouldn’t it take the fun out of fishing if we knew what we would catch and when. The anticipation and mystery of not knowing when our next fish will come is part of the attraction for me.

My second session and I’m on a different venue – the Staffs/Worcs Canal. Having done a number of trips there in spring it was good to get back and have a summer dabble. I arrived at dusk as the volume of boat traffic at this time of the year means it’s a waste of time otherwise, but even then I had a late one come through. I had baited up and put one rod out when along it came. But it passed and thankfully no more disturbed the water from then on. Not that I have a problem with boats, in fact I’ve shared my thoughts on numerous occasions about the fact that we share the water.

I fished two rods and although they were fairly close together the bait approach was different. The right rod was a 12mm M1 pop-up boilie fished over corn steep liquor pellets and M1 boilies while the left rod was a bottom M2 18mm boilie fished over M2 boilies and pellets. Both hook baits were dipped in their respective flavours and I nipped off some of the M2 which I often do, particularly with larger boilies, either by hand or by scouring with a baiting needle. It exposes the interior of the bait and releases flavour.

I had three fish, all of them bream, and all of them on the pop-up rod. The canal itself was very still, but as midnight approached that peace and tranquillity was broken by something larger revealing itself. I stayed till 1.00am but it stayed elusive as far as I was concerned. But that’s the Staffs/Worcs canal; it isn’t a recognised carp venue and it’s evident from the vegetation at the water’s edge that vast stretches are unfished. The access points and the area around them see a few anglers but in the main walk a few minutes and you’re on virgin soil as far as angling is concerned. Just how I like it.

Session three and I was back on the lake. It should have been my fourth session really as a couple of days before I had arrived, baited, got everything set up and then realised I had barbel rods in my holdhall instead of carp ones. I couldn’t have fished properly so I packed away and went home. In my defence I had been involved in a couple of draining issues during the day so when I grabbed my gear at the end of it, I simply forgot to change rods over. These things happen, particularly when you’re rushing around.

Apart from the rats that boldly came right into my shelter during the night, I had no disturbance from the bite alarms. I fished one pop-up rod as per my previous lake visit and a bottom boilie on the other. Although I think the former is the way to go I still try new things out, in this case a bait – Phaze 14mm boilie. But nothing was showing. However, as the title of this piece suggest, I’m not bothered about blanks. The sort of fishing I do, they are just part and parcel of the package. And for those who may be wondering at my grammar or what the actual heading is about, it’s a play on the theme tune from Ghostbusters!

Although I didn’t catch any fish I was enjoying the natural world around me – apart from the brown rats of course – with a brief visit from common terns being the highlight. On the flower front there were lots of pineapple weed growing around the lake. That’s what you can see in photograph 3 above. Like many of our native species they are often overlooked, and in their case, the word ‘weed’ in the title doesn’t help at all. But once you get down and close-up you realise that they are beautiful, intricate works of art in their own right.

Then there were the cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on common ragwort that I came across. You can see one of the caterpillars in photograph 5, even if you didn’t know what they were I’m sure you’re familiar with them. Although having said that, they have declined in recent years, in line with many of our native species. So you may not have recollections of them as I do from my younger years.

The final visit of the article saw me back on the canal. Fishing two rods, one was a 12mm M1 pop-up while the other was a 20mm M2 boilie fished on the bottom. Both were immersed in their respective dips with pellets and boilies in the PVA bags. Pellets were corn steep liquor and M2 respectively with pellets and boilies also thrown out by hand. It was about an hour into dark when the hanger on the M2 rod shot right to the butt of the rod. Nothing else happened so I didn’t realise I had a fish on until I lifted. That’s the carp you can see in photograph 4. It wasn’t big but due to the circumstances of its capture, ie on a stretch where you hardly see an angler of any description never mind a carper, I was over the proverbial moon. A great way to end my carp fishing article. (Article published August 20 2011)


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