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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


04/03/2020 - Day One and Two of Storm Dennis

a nice common carp


Several weeks ago I was asked if we could house sit for some friends who were going away for a two week Caribbean cruise, the answer was an immediate yes as in the ground was a lake containing carp, roach, perch and tench. Kate was also happy as she would enjoy the break and do some shopping in a new town, though little did we know when we accepted the offer the weather would be bad to say the least. Saturday 15th February our first day of house sitting, when got up this morning the rain was lashing the window panes of this old house built in 1785, with its own lake which was stocked with Leney carp in the late 1950's. The trees on far side of the lake were being given a rough shaking from storm force wind as if a giant was trying to up root them, first thing this morning before breakfast, I was taking Dusk the Labrador for a long walk, to collect the daily paper, an hour later we were both home well battered and wet through from the storm which didn’t reach its peak until late evening, I then had breakfast of porridge followed by toast and home made marmalade with a big mug of Yorkshire Gold tea, which made me feel a lot better.

Spooked Carp

Despite the rough weather I got kitted out in waterproof clothing, then had a slow walk around the lake, spooking a couple of carp at the top end of the lake where the wind was blowing, but thankfully the rain was not so heavy, I was lucky to find a small gap in between the Rhododendron bushes, which offered some shelter. On my walk I also spotted several grey squirrels which I reckon I could shoot as I quietly waited for a bite, the trees they were they were using were in easy range. Back at the house I put together a converted Sharps salmon fly rod, I’d used the top two joints, part of the butt joint was fitted a new cork handle, today was going to have its first outing, I matched the rod with a centre pin reel holding 12 lb breaking strain line to which I'd attached a size 4 barbless hook, I had a choice of my baits, sausage meat paste, potatoes, lobworms and bread. In my chosen swim, I put in four pieces of sausage meat paste, my seat was a bit of sponge to sit on. Having loaded the rifle and adjusted the scope, I used another bit of sponge to rest the rifle on, I reckon I was quite well camouflaged from the squirrels.

First Fish Of The Session

For some unknown reason the rain stopped as the light improved greatly, suddenly it was a different world. I'd been quietly sitting to see if a fish would show itself, when some thirty minutes later I spotted a carp rooting around close to the bank some ten yards to my left, where I had dropped in the free offerings, five minutes I could see there were two fish slowly moving in my direction, baiting with a pigeon egg size piece of sausage meat I made a gentle cast along the bank dropping the bait about three feet from where I thought the fish was. I pinched on a piece of silver paper to act as a bite indicator, truly 1950's carp fishing. I didn't have to wait more than fifteen minutes, when I noticed the bow in the line tighten at the same time the silver paper moved forward, all I had to do with lift the rod and set the hook.

Immediately several yards of line were taken from the reel the ratchet protest sounding more like a piece of timber being cut in a saw mill, the rod was well arched over, twice I had to cramp down hard. First as the fish went off on a very fast run first toward a boat, the second for a submerged tree, both times the pressure of my well balanced tackle done its job, as I got the fish back into open water. After several more minutes I could see I got as lovely looking common carp, eventually it was safely in the landing net. Staking the net safely in the water I went off to ask Kate to take a quick picture, we watched the fish glide off to deeper water.

Magpies and Squirrels

I then left the swim to quiet down, spend the next hour watching for squirrels, though my first two shots were at magpies which had come down for some bread on the opposite bank, a short time later I shot them both within minutes of each other, if fact the second one flew off a short distance then perched on a branch looking down at the dead one trying to work out what had happened, it then flew down to its mate which is a common practise with these pests, the second one was quickly dispatched, they would no longer take the song birds eggs or kill the fledgling’s in the nest.

Time For Some Dog Training

After a quick lunch with a mug of tea, the next hour was spent in the driving rain, which was now monsoon like being driven by the strong wind, every now and again there would be an extra heavy squall, Dusk was doing some very good dummy retrieves in thick cover working to whistle and hand signals, often I would place two dummies in very thick cover, but she didn't get fooled finding them each time, at the end of the session I was most impressed. After a mug of tea I sat down between the Rhododendron bushes hoping for a squirrel in some forty minutes I got two. As I shot the second squirrel, I spotted a carp take a chunk of crust from the surface about the top end of the lake, creeping low to the water's edge using as much cover as possible, I found a carp tight to the bank in shallow water stirring up the bottom, known as smoke screening. "That fish is for catching" I said to myself then slowly made my way back to collect my tackle also sausage meat and lobworms. Back in the spot the fish was still creating an area of muddy coloured water, I changed my size 4 hood to a size 8 hook fishing a peanut size piece of sausage meat, adding a single AAA shot three feet from the hook, as I didn’t want the fish to get spooked by toughing the line.

I dropped the bait in close to the fish then watched the line like a hawk a few minutes later the line twitched then moved a couple of inches I set the hook into a very angry fish which wanted to put as much distance as possible from where it had been hooked. The fight from this fish was quite exciting, it tried every trick in the book to get rid of the hook, trying several times trying to get into far bank snags, but again the balanced tackle handle the fish perfectly. This cut down salmon rod was the perfect weapon with its lovely all through action with some power to spare in butt section, after it was netted I could see it was a similar size fish to the first one, so it was released back into the water quickly. That was be end of my session as the weather was turning even worse if that was possible. I could hear branches breaking off the trees, it was time to get clear of the danger.

Day Two

I was up before dawn this morning, unable to sleep with the roar of the wind around the house, after some tea and toast, I got wrapped up in my waterproofs then as the light improved I ventured forth to give the dog a good run also I wanted to see if any fish were moving in the lake, the weather was horrendous, I had planned to walk through the wood with the dog but considered it far too dangerous. We then walked the country lanes, then around the lakeside, where I was lucky to shoot a magpie, I was also surprised to see three or four carp rolling along the wind swept shoreline in less than two feet of water. Back at the house I grabbed some sausage meat from the fridge then went back to the lake where I put in five chicken egg size samples of the sausage paste. Then it was off for breakfast, still the rain and wind continued. After breakfast I had to spend a couple of hours clearing some streams of rubbish to allow the water to flow freely, as the two stream were over flowing into the nearby fields.

Time To Fish

I now had time to try and catch a carp, hopefully they would have found the free samples and stopped in the area, what surprised me was seeing a lot of small fish leaping clear of the water, "Perch" I thought, tomorrow Kate and myself would be going into the town, while I’m there I will get some lobworms. As the tackle was all made up from the day before all I had to do was bait the hook with sausage meat then drop it into the wind swept margin, then sit and wait, with the rifle alongside in case squirrels or magpies come within range. I was lucky within a few minutes a squirrel slowly made its way up a nearby tree, within a minute it had been liquidated.

A Hook Up

I suppose it was an hour later, when I thought I'd had enough of the rain and wind, at the same time giving a big thank for my water proof gear, I’d been sat out in the elements for some considerable amount of time, it’s rare for me to use a brolly I find they are just a nuisance, I have a large heavyweight black plastic bag where I keep all my gear and bait, my Jetboiler works in any weather so it’s easy to make a brew, I did have a certain amount of shelter from the wind by the Rhododendron bushes either side of me. Without warning the silver paper jumped two inches off the ground, it wasn't the wind as I had a small stone holding the bite indicator in place, picking up the rod I pushed it forward, as I did so the bow in the line tightened, striking to my right I felt a heavy plunging weight on the end, as line was quickly ripped from the screeching reel.

The rod was well looped over, in fact I could feel the power of the fish as it headed up the lake, after some thirty yards it veered off to the left towards a sunken bush that had crashed down in a previous storm. Time to increase the pressure, it’s amazing how this old salmon fly rod coped with the pressure being exerted by the fish also with me leaning hard trying to stop the fish seeking sanctuary in the sunken bush, eventually the pressure told as the fish tried going off and kiting to my right. All the time I was battling the storm force wind with ran sheeting down in monsoon like conditions, the lake surface presented a picture more like one would see on the coast as wave after wave rolled towards the bottom of the lake where a huge amount of foam had built up on the shoreline. As I increased the pressure on the fish, I also realised if I didn't do anything foolish this fish would be mine as I slowly got line back on the reel, then some twenty feet out the fish rolled on the wind swept surface a nice mirror carp, which certainly looked in a fit condition. Slowly I was winning getting line back on the reel if only a foot or so but it’s pointless trying to bully the fish to the net especially in the storm force wind which occasionally made the rod shake, I suppose five minutes had passed since I got my first glimpse of the fish which was now wallowing on the surface a few feet from the sunken net, slowly I lowered the rod taking in some line then drawing the fish over the net, as I did so I lifted then said “yes” I heaved a sigh of relief, after a quick picture I rested the fish in the net for a few minutes then lowered the net deeper in the water the watched the fish swim off strongly. I’d had enough for today and returned to the house, after a shower I sat down to a rabbit and pheasant stew we had taken from the freezer the day before then thawed out in the fridge overnight, all Kate had to do was heat it up in the microwave. The end of two interesting days.

First of several dead grey squirrels

Black Lab Dusk

A mirror carp caught using cane rod and centre pin

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Martin James Fishing
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