Wet through, on my knees at the waters edge with an empty landing net and the rod laid on the floor by my side. Deflated, dejected and emotional i looked out into the lake with my hands clasped behind my head trying to accept a fish loss, unfortunately I had seen the fish at very close quarters before the hook pulled and had identified it as one of the most sought after mirrors in the lake. Little did I know that i was about to begin an obsessive journey that would take up 4 years of my life, a journey that would play with my mind , the lows seeing me so close to madness. And a high that would eventually see me succeed in my desire to land that ultimate carp.
The well known saying that “time heals all wounds” applies in angling and a fish loss eventually becomes just another distant memory, seven days had passed and my wounds had healed but were not forgotten. Revenge was now at the forefront of my mind.
The warrior would have been a special capture of an elusive mirror that would have ended the relentless run of commons that the back pit was renowned for. Don’t get me wrong the commons were all cracking fish that were large and each one belonged to a group of three or four different strains but they weren’t mirrors. The weekly sessions after the loss saw the ritual upon landing a carp of looking down into the net and seeing another thirty pound common. In all honesty it was becoming boring and the task in hand was beginning to hit home as to how hard this could actually be.
Some readers may think that my comments are stupid and ludicrous and that’s fair play, it was a little sad that these fish didn’t really mean anything anymore they were fish that like tench and bream had scuppered my best laid plans to catch a mirror. I think the bounty hunters of the carp world adopt this attitude and the longer it takes to capture a target the more tunnel vision and selfish you become.
Whenever an angler goes through a baron patch the masses always shout “don’t change anything”, “you’re not doing anything wrong” or “it will come good”. The exact same thing was now happening to me but in a different way. I was getting bites but off commons and not mirrors and I was starting to question why. Was I fishing the wrong areas of the lake where resident commons outnumbered the mirrors. Was I fishing bait presentations that stacked the odds in the commons favour. The mental madness had begun, these thoughts in hindsight should have been thrown from my mind but I think it’s only natural to question things and maybe it sometimes can have a positive effect.
I conferred with a good friend of mine on the lake. Kyle Stainton was one of the most consistent anglers on the back pit and had caught the warrior twice and numerous other mirrors yet was still after a thirty pound common even after a few years of fishing the back pit each week. I found this unbelievable as I had notched up literally dozens including two that would have been definatly over forty pounds if I had weighed them. We exchanged information and the only difference between us was that Kyle was fishing pop ups and I was fishing snowman presentations. I spent hours scrolling through information as to where previous captures had come from but no patterns emerged. I studied many photographs of the fish to check on the anatomy of the fish’s under slung mouth and came to the conclusion that it would be far easier to hook the warrior if like Kyle I was using a pop up presentation.
I made the changes with the rigs and fished locations of the lake that id never really fished before and after a month or so it became apparent that my conclusion was total and utter shite, it was like saying a hungry monkey wouldn’t eat a banana on the floor and only from the highest tree tops or that commons don’t have fins and cant swim to other areas of the lake. I repeated numerous common captures from the new areas, I did however catch a couple of the smaller elusive home grown mirrors but was this from adopting the new approach or simply through luck or chance…..i think the latter.
The pop up rig wasn’t dismissed but I decided on a percentage theory where one rod would be fished with pop ups and the other two rods would be fished back on the snowmen rigs that had accounted for the majority of my back pit bites.
The season was quickly passing and I felt as though I was no closer to catching the warrior than when I first started on the pit, it felt as though it was never going to happen and at times I felt as though I could easily walk away from the back pit and rid myself of the monotonous head banging that each Friday brought.
I was driving past pits on the complex that also held good fish and I decided to take time out, get my head together, catch a few fish then head back over to the back pit with a fresh outlook. The following months on the front pit saw me catch the fish I wanted from there. Some stunning mirrors. It was an intimate water and the spots were all close marginal areas where the ability to bait up and watch the fish feeding and reacting to bait was mind-blowing at times but the more times they were fed and left alone the more their confidence grew and it was then simply a case of picking them off one by one. The spot had longevity and I repeated captures of a couple of the larger mirrors. Eventually id had the ones that I wanted apart from the big common that resided in there. the floppy tailed common. This was apparently the easiest A teamer in the front pit to catch as it was a fish that loved bait. It was caught a silly amount of times whilst I was fishing but yet it still eluded me, id seen it feed on the spot on numerous occasions but the other fish must have luckily beat it to the hook bait.
Autumn was now passing and I was left with the decision of which fish I really wanted, the Floppy tailed common from the front pit or the warrior from the back pit. Bearing in mind we were coming into winter which the front pit had previous form but the back pit did not. The only angler I knew through research who had had a successful winter on the back pit was a guy named Rob Curtis, hed caught a few but this was some 10 years previous when the fish were smaller. Since then no one had really given it a go due to the cut up grass in winter and the problems of getting stranded in a bogged down vehicle was off putting to a lot of the lads. So it was a bit unknown on how it would fish. The thought of the warrior in winter appealed even more and I decided that I was going to go for it. I had resided myself to the fact that I would most probably be the only one on there apart from the odd piker but I was strangely buzzing for it. Each year I always tell myself that ill never do another winter for carp, if im honest the colder months and the lack of light don’t really float my boat but this one was different, the challenge had been relit but winter dictated that the goalposts would be reduced by a considerable margin.
I sat on the bed looking out through the letter box opening of the bivvy door, every morning, every evening, every day wondering where that fish was within a lake that looked void of life , a lake that was only a short time ago brimming with the vibrancy of summer, it looked sorry for itself and I knew that any bite that came in the next 4 months would be a bonus. I fished different areas each week and baited other areas in order to move onto them the following session. To cut a 4 month story short, I saw one fish show three times early one morning , I moved onto it but never caught a thing all winter and I knew id given it my best shot. I was back in the depths of despair but pulling me out was the thought that spring was here and a full season of angling in warmer temperatures was just around the corner.
My first fish that year came in early march, a common taken from an area I had been baiting through winter. I had another two bites from the same spot in March but the area was a popular swim in the summer months so I decided to look for a lesser fished areas where my percentages of getting back in there the following weeks would be increased. I was always the last to arrive on a Friday night due to work commitments and the travel time it took to get there so choices of swims were limited and had to be taken into account.
An area that interested me was reachable from a swim known as the royal box, the swim used to be one of the most popular on the lake but id noticed for some unknown reason it had fell out of popularity with the lads on the lake. The chance of getting something going in there was a possibility; the narrow pass through around the back of the island was always used by the carp in order for them to get to a tree line that was inaccessible to the angler that was unable to wade due to fishery rules. This was a safe area and the carp were seen on a regular basis under the tree roots and away from angler pressure. It also gave access to the silt area that I named no mans land due to it being on the borders of three swims and the possibility of an argument or shouting fest meant that the lads were careful with there distances. But on days when the other swims were unoccupied it would be fishable. The under slung dark mouth of the warrior screamed silt.
For four consecutive weeks I found myself in the royal box, the island spot I was fishing was producing bites but the silt spot had yet to throw a fish up. Id continued to bait it each week quite heavily with around 5 kilos of the formula, the bait was producing on other spots but not on the silt and I was beginning to think the spot should be dropped….maybe one last week.
The lads on the back pit are a great bunch, proper anglers who are there for the whole enjoyment what comes with angling. Each one taking note of who’s where and where not to tread so to speak. Thursday night arrived and I was itching to get back in the royal box on Friday evening, I posted on face book that I thought I had a spot rocking from the royal box and that id hopefully get the chance tomorrow, it was a gentle reminder to the lads and the hope that they would see the post and hopefully leave me to it. I arrived on the Friday around 6pm and driving onto the back pit I noticed it was busy, the first couple of swims were taken which were usually ignored, I drove around the corner towards the royal box with my eyes virtually shut fearing the worst. I opened them to see the swim left vacant. I think every swim was took apart from the box, the post on face book had obviously worked and a great set of lads had given me the chance to make a dream come true.
An hour later and the rods were on the spots, two on the island margins and one rod on the silt spot. I sat on the grass and enjoyed a well earned bottle of tiger beer after a hard week at work before retiring into the flea pit for a night of sleep. Morning arrived along with the first bite, one of the island rods was away with an aggressive fish which I lost mid battle, it had made the tree line and cut me off on a branch. Every time I lost a fish I allways used to think that it was the warrior Id just lost and the thought of putting the rod back out was surely a waste of time as id just lost it. The more aggressive the take and the fight the more likely it was to be the warrior. I gave the warrior the utmost respect In that he was the one that had eluded me for the longest time, in my mind he was the boss of the lake, the fittest, the strongest, the most cunning.
That afternoon my mate Stu Cobb called in to have a brew, I hadn’t seen him in ages as he was now fishing somewhere else. We enjoyed an afternoon chatting and obviously the topic of the warrior came up but was rudely interrupted by another bite from the island which turned out to be what looked like an upper thirty common, one of the long dark strains, Stu did me and the fish proud with the photos and later headed off home leaving me to re think.
I sat thinking after he had gone that the silt spot was dead, the island rods were the ones I should concentrate on so the silt rod was brought back in, in the hope of finding another spot in the margins. I rested the rod against the brolly still baited with 24 hr baits that were tainted by the smell of silt.
Usually casting at showing fish on the back pit is a big mistake, it will nearly always send them fleeing the area, I sat looking out at the lake and hoping the two rods Id got fishing would keep producing the goods. I glanced toward the silt spot and noticed some fizzing I could have kicked myself up and down the bank, 2 minutes later and a big mirror crashed out over the spot, then again. I thought shit or bust time, picked up the rod and clipped it up to the spot, wrapped a nugget of foam around the tainted hook baits and put it back to the silt spot and rested it back on the alarm.
Ray had just arrived at the lake and was doing the rounds deciding where to drop in, we sat having a beer chatting when the receiver let out the sound of a one toner, I immediately looked towards the island rods thinking it would be one of them that was away, the bobbins were motionless I turned to the silt rod which I still hadn’t set the bobbin on, the spool was flying, I lifted up and felt the solidness and stubbornness of a heavy carp that didn’t want to lose the momentum it had already achieved on the take, the slowing down of the fish seemed to last for hours until it found a weed bed , constant pressure and a few minutes later and it was on its way again me now being in some sort of control. Around 20 yards from the bank the fish kited left and found the line of one of the island rods, ray opened the bail arm of the island rod which seemed to do the trick. Ray was now in the margins with his trousers rolled up and waiting with the net. I started walking backwards keeping the fish on a tight line until it eventually made its way over the net cord, ray turned looking at me some 10yds away, ill never forget the grin.
The moment of looking down into the net at something you’ve wanted so badly for so long was immense. I walked away having to take a moment on my own to give myself a pat on the back. Emotion got the better of me for the next 5 minutes as I stood starring out into the meadow behind the swim. I couldn’t take it all in.
Upon returning ray was still stood there net in hand, trousers rolled up and looking down into the net. We laughed and I shouted at the top of my voice “freedom”,
Everyone on the lake obviously heard the war cry and started filtering into the swim to take a look at “the warrior”.
Over my time on bainton id always took notice of which lads knew their photography and id logged that information ready for this moment. My good friend jaye was called , he was at home some 40 minutes drive away but said to retain the fish as he wouldn’t miss this moment for the world. He did me proud with some stunning photographs and also brought along a bottle of bubbly he,d been saving for the occasion.
People often ask me why I don’t weigh fish, the personal battle between an angler and a targeted fish needs no weight attached in my eyes, the chase , personal mind games and respect between the two is enough.
Good luck hoggy