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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


19/11/2016 - A Window of Opportunity

A heron waiting for breakfast

November isn't in my book a time to seek the carp, but as Kate and I were house sitting for 2 weeks where we had access to a pool holding carp perhaps to twenty pounds, also tench roach and crucians, I chose to try and catch a carp or two, I had no buzzers bolt rigs or boilies. It was back in time a bamboo rod, Mitchell 300 reel as I would have done in the 1950's, my bite indicator was a piece of silver paper folded over the line. My baits would be gentles, lobworms, bread crust, bread paste and Lone Angler cheese paste, the latter often fished as a balanced bait where the cheese would be moulded around a piece of bread crust so it would sink slowly to settle gentle on top of the silt. There were half a dozen swims around the pool where it was possible to fish, at the top end of the pool behind the sedges I could sit quietly and drop a bait in the margins where the fish had grazed off all the weed leaving a clean area about the size of a large dining table, no doubt an area where the carp feed on blood worms, on my previous visit I’d often seen and caught carp in this area. Another swim was half way along the west bank, where I had often seen carp moving from left to right or vice verso, again there was an area of grazed weed, extending a weed free bottom that extending three yards wide, a similar size in length. When we arrived for the start of our house sitting while the owners were away on a cruise, the weather was horrid cold clear nights with frost plus an easterly wind, the water temperature was 40 degrees F. I didn’t fish on the Sunday being Remembrance Day I feel all of us should do to remember those who gave everything for us to go fishing as free people. Over the next two days the water temperature had dropped to 36 degrees F not very promising for catching carp, in the first 4 days we didn't see a single fish, on the 4th day the temperature dropped to 35 degrees F , surprisingly the next day a fish around 15 lb. slowly cruised over the clear area at the top of the pool before disappearing once more into the weeds. Half a pint of red gentles were put in the grazed area, for the next 48 hours they remained there untouched, the next day was bright sunshine with a light wind, I chose to fish a carefully balanced cheese paste and bread crust on a size 6 barbless hook. From my small gap in the bushes I looked across to the far bank straight in front of me were some overhanging oaks that created what can best be described as giving cavern like appearance, to the right some brown withered sedges where a pair of moorhens could often be seen, to the left was large bed of water lilies which were half shaded by a large over hanging willow. My rod rests were two forked Hazel twigs I'd cut from a nearby copse. The rod was a 10 foot 2 piece Constable Forty Fore De-Lux which has been responsible for many carp over the years, this was matched with an old Mitchell reel, described by many of my friends "As sounding like a coffee grinder", this no doubt because they were fitted with a roller in the bale arm back in the 1960's by big fish angler and engineer Len Arbery, these reels have never let me down, line was 15 lb. braid to which I tied on a size 6 hook with a Palomar knot. Despite the horrid conditions I would fish from around 1300 hours until dusk, though I didn‘t catch I occasionally spotted a good carp slowly drift by on one occasion a pair of fish I reckon in the 20lb class moved through the swim, one fish picked up a free offering then moving on. For company I had a resident robin for company also a pair of resident kingfishers would often be seen fishing, they were more successful than me, no doubt that's the reason for the name 'Kingfisher' In the grounds were some splendid Oak, Ash, Horse chestnut, sycamore and Beech, as one can imagine they were a riot of autumn colours, I doubt if it was possible to fish in nicer surroundings.

Some Nice Roach

After a few days the weather improved, the water temperature had gone to 38 degrees F I had noticed during the previous day as the light started to fade roach would start priming, some of these fish looked as if they could be around the pound mark which in my book are good fish. Today an hour before dark roach again started priming, I immediately put together some float tackle using my Fred J Taylor rod with a centre pin reel and 4lb line to which I attached a size 12 hook, the float was a 4 BB shot quill float, bait would be either sweet corn, bread flake or crust, starting with corn I had a bite within five minutes of casting the float moved slowly across the surface then submerged, my first roach weighed around 10 ounces, what I would term a "Goer" In the next six casts I hooked and landed 4 more roach of similar size. After a quiet period of about 5 minutes the float went off like a train, a bite I couldn't miss. As I set the hook the reel screeched as line was pulled off the reel, Yes you guessed it was a carp, eventually I netted a mirror around 6lbs. I ended that session with about 20 roach best fish around the pound mark, I can only describe it as a very pleasant session. After dinner I returned to the pool fishing for the carp until 2300 hours without any sign of interest, the water surface remaining undisturbed

Despite the low water temperature, the roach would feed around dusk, where I then enjoyed some good sport, the carp were noticeable by their absence, apart from a good fish moving through my swim, an occasional fish was spotted moving slowly in the weeded areas. In one of the grazed area where I'd put in a lot of red gentles the bait was ignored even during the darkness. Looking in the swim the following day I could see plenty of bait, it was the same in an area I’d fed with corn, 2 other baited area also remained untouched. I needed a change in the wind direction with a thick overnight cloud cover, the next morning the wind changed to a south westerly direction with rain, that evening I checked the thermometer and getting a reading of 40 degrees F. The next morning it was 42 degrees F during the day it went to 44 degrees F, I then noticed the odd fish moving towards the bottom of the pool, before returning to the top of the pool and the grazed areas, I quietly catapulted gentles into one spot, corn in the other. Next morning all the bait had gone also the water temperature had now reached 46 degrees F. It was my window of opportunity, I'd perhaps 24 hours as a cold front from the north east was forecast with overnight frost with snow to follow. I quietly roamed the banks of the pool with tackle bait bag and landing net, looking for any sign of moving fish. At the edge of some Rhododendron bushes I spotted a carp Smokescreening, which is caused by the bottom being soft with lots of silt, where I needed to use a carefully balanced bait of bread crust wrapped in Lone Angler cheese to sink very slowly and settle gently on top of the silt. Within minutes I had a nice mirror carp around 10lbs heaving a sigh of relief as the fish went into the net. I fished on into the darkness until 2200 hours without any more signs of fish.

A Window of Opportunity

The next day just after 0800 hours the water temperature was a steady 46 degrees F, with sunshine and no wind, conditions I reckon were good, after breakfast I walked the banks of the pool, at the top end I found a fish Smokescreening, creating an area of coloured water about ten feet by two feet, after a few minutes of watching the area, I spotted the fish occasionally a tail lobe appeared, I dropped a carefully balanced piece of cheese paste that slowly submerged, a minute or two later the line twitched then twitched three more time on each occasions about an inch of line was taken, then without warning the line moved off as it tightened I set the hook. The fish made off for a patch of water lilies my balanced tackle was able to subdue the fish which a nice mirror around 8lbs, not a big fish but I enjoyed catching it in such delightful conditions.

 A Brace of Doubles

With the water temperature steady I realised how lucky I was to be at this delightful place, the sun shining bright and illuminating all the trees in the autumn colours, there was no wind to ruffle my pool, at the top end of the pool I spotted another fish Smokescreening, caused no doubt by the fish sticking its snout in the silt then sucking in a mouth full of bloodworm. I quietly backed away then continued my slow walk, spotting another fish doing the same, the fish were awake and feeding. Conditions couldn't be better. Back in the house I had a cup of coffee with buttered toast, then with tackle, landing net, some bread and Lone Angler cheese paste. I headed for the top of the pool. After quietly walking some forty yards along the bank I spotted another area of disturbed silt, I stood heron like watching the area for some minutes then spotted a tail which told me a fish was rooting in the silt, again I quietly lowered a piece of balanced cheese paste about a foot ahead of where I thought the fish was moving, within 10 seconds the line twitched, twitched again then about 3 inches of line was taken, I set the hook, as is usual in these circumstances the fish righted itself then shot off like a train for the safety of the lilies, I was ready and leaned the rod over to my right cramping on all the pressure I could, ten foot of quality bamboo told the fish, I was in control as it changed direction and headed down the pool then suddenly kited in towards my bank, pulling the rod over to my left I had to stop from taking me into the Rhododendron branches that trailed in the water. The action saved the day as the fish then headed towards the centre of the pool, a few minutes later I netted a nice common as I pulled it over the net, I thought of my Hero Dick Walker who had given me so much knowledge especially during the 1950's a time when we grasped every bit of information available from the Master, then heaved a sigh of relief as I lifted the fish from the water onto the padded weigh mat. After quick picture and the fish was returned back to its watery kingdom.

I then left the pool so things could quieten down giving the fish a chance of getting over all the disturbance. After a couple of slices of buttered toast with a mug off coffee, I returned to the pool, as I was nearing one of the grazed area among the cabbages I spotted a nice mirror carp around the 14lb mark, certainly a good fish to catch. Back to the bottom of the pool I collected my tackle, landing net and bait bag. Once back at the top of the pool I stood behind some brown wilting sedges, then watched the fish for a minute or two working out where to drop the baited hook, I decided an inch or so past the edge of some soft weed, this time it was a pea size piece of cheese paste with a BB shot a foot from the hook. I would only get one chance of dropping the baited hook quietly in the right spot, if I get it wrong the fish would be spooked, then slowly the fish turned broad side on, it was now or never as I made a gentle underhand cast allowing the bait to drop gently a few inches ahead of the fish. I got the impression the fish didn't know what to do with this pea size food item that had suddenly appeared, for a minute or more it was motionless then it slowly moved forward at a snail’s pace as it reached the bait its mouth opened then sucked in the bait, before slowly turning. I then set the hook, a very angry carp shot off down the pool. I can't say it was a spectacular fight, the fish occasionally changed direction taking a few feet of line but within five minutes the fish was in the net. With no means of keeping the fish safe in the net while I went off and get Kate to take a pic I released the fish, I was more than happy with my result. I planned to fish for the roach at dusk but they didn't show. With a change in the weather I reckon I'd come to the end of my enjoyable sport. The next day the weather had turned horrid once more with heavy overnight frost, I walked and walked around the bank of the pool for most of the day but nothing showed, I thought at dusk I might catch some roach, they didn't show. When I got up the next morning the banks of the pool had a covering of snow and during the morning we had blizzard like conditions, as I sat watching the snow fall and listening to the fall of the English wickets. My fishing for a few days  had come to an end. It looked as if my next trip will be after the chub.

A piece of crust with paste

Balanced paste

A perfectly scaled common

Top end of the pool where I had a good mirror

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Martin James Fishing
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