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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/07/2023 - In Search Of A Wild Carp Part 1

 For some time I’ve wanted to try and catch a wild carp, back in the 1950’s I had several waters where such fish were present, but not always catchable. What ignited my interest in these fish was the book Fennel’s Journal Wild Carp published by Fennel I quote the following

Fishing for wild carp is about adventure, history, atmosphere, mystery and emotion: searching for and discovering secret waters and forgotten strains of ancient fish. Wild Carp captures this aplenty, describing Fennel’s 20-year quest to find the oldest strains of carp in the UK. But it’s also about nature connection and a desire to uncover the seemingly impossible – a place where we can discover and live out our dreams, to completely indulge the mantra of ‘Stop – Unplug – Escape – Enjoy’.

I recommend this book to all who want to escape from the modern carp scene or commercial fishing venues. It hasn’t been easy in finding waters that contain wild carp these days, in fact I believe venues are rare with few in number. I’d been told of five venues that held these “ Legendary Fish” I describe them as such, as they were probably the first carp introduced to these islands. After many enquiries I got to know five waters, one in Wales the other in the home counties. After further research, I selected two waters where I might catch a wild carp. I had a choice of three waters within a 30 mile radius of where I was staying, one water had produced several wild carp, I was fortunate to meet two of the captors of these special carp David Wolf who had fish to I think 14lbs, the other angler was Gary Hoad after a few visits I realised it wasn’t going to be easy, both gentleman who offered me some help and information more so as I have been diagnosed with severe spinal canal stenosis, not sure what it means, but it’s painful. Currently waiting to see a neurosurgeon.

My first task entailed a walk about 2 miles before I reached the wood, walking through the trees was so pleasant and cool, what I would describe as a beautiful English wood land full of deciduous English trees, Oak, Beech, Silver birch, Sweet chestnut Ash, Elm, Alder, Ash, Cedar, Black thorn, not forgetting the large number of Hazel trees, the latter loaded with nuts. also there were some very large Pine trees.

During my travels I spotted 4 green woodpeckers, 5 Roe deer, coming out of the wood I got a brief glimpse of the water through a row of very tall beech trees, fifteen minutes later I’m pushing through waist high ferns, brambles and thick undergrowth, suddenly I’m out into the open. Down in the valley I could see a large expanse of water, in the early morning sunshine, the lake with its surroundings looking magnificent. walking over some very rough ground was hard going, pushed through bushes, brambles, nettles etc.On my first visit to look around I reckon I spent nearly two hours to reach the water, but the hard walking often crawling to get close to the water, it was enough for one day.

On my second visit with binoculars and tough walking boots with a strong staff, I spent some 3 hours scanning the surface for life, I did spot several carp but they were all mirrors around 7-10 lbs at the most. I then moved onto another water, again no sign of the mystic wild carp, I wasn’t going to give up saying to myself “I will come back tomorrow and walk all round the water so I could explore the small bays.

It Was A Tough Christening

These day not being able to drive I enlisted the help of my daughter to drop me off as close to the water as possible, then when I wanted to return home I would give her a call. Having put all my gear and bait in the vehicle it was off for a 45 minute drive. Pulling into a lay bye I unloaded my gear saying “I’m off” Sharon returned home. It wasn’t a pleasant walk wrapped in waterproofs, but slowly I plodded on towards my target, with two stiles to negotiate I had to unload my gear, climb over the stiles then get loaded up once more. After I had done about 2 miles I had a breather for ten minutes.After a tough painful walk along a rough track, I’m just a few yards from the waterside. Unloading my gear, it was time to explore, with camera bag tucked inside my jacket, binoculars in hand, secateurs in a pocket in case I need to clear a few branches that would allow me to fish an area, should I might spot a wild carp.

A Wet Muddy Start

Starting my trek it was certainly tough going as I pushed my way through brambles bushes, I’d gone about fifteen yards through a dense growth of rushes, suddenly I sunk down in the silt above my knees, it was hard getting out, I virtually had to lay down, grabbing at the reeds also a small bush I eventually was on firm ground no doubt looking a mess covered in stinking mud, having my cameo gear on helped a bit, three walkers appeared, they looked aghast at my state, then soon one said “Are you OK”? I smiled explaining what had happened, they then went on their way. Thankfully I’d noticed a cattle drink before I entered the wood, retracing my steps, then having taken off camo gear, boots, socks and trouser, I got in the water to wash away the mud and slime, then washed my cloths as best as I could, squeezing as much water out as possible, then put the gear back. Yes, it was damp but its summer time, so I got on walking around the lake, this time not taking short cuts through the reeds. An hour or so later I was back to where I’d started, on with the jet boiler, then with a mug of tea, a bacon and pickle roll, life was looking good, more importantly “I’d spotted what looked like wild carp”.

Choosing a quiet but picturesque spot near where I spotted my quarry, I put together, a Sharps 13ft double handed cane rod I’d converted for carp and barbel, it had proven itself on several occasions over the past years, I matched this with a centre pin reel holding 12lb bs line, unlike most carp anglers I attached a porcupine quill float taking 3 AAA then a size 8 barbless hook.I was going to start off with a lobworm as bait held in place with a soft plastic red gentle, I find this perfect for keeping a wriggly worm on the hook. Catapulting out a few chopped lobs, I sat back to rest the swim for some fifteen minutes, also watching a Great crested grebe fishing in my baited area, several times it surfaced with a silver fish in its beak, sometime it swallowed the quarry, other times during the day it fed a two youngsters. Making my first cast, I sat holding the rod, over the next two hours I must have caught a dozen perch nothing bigger than a pound, a few goer roach and rudd, probably averaging 12 ounces plus 2 eels around 3lbs, which really did put up a good fight often making the reels screech in their bid for freedom, certainly great fun.

Switch To Floating Crust

Having removed float shot and hook, tied on a size 4 barbless hook, bait was a thumb size piece of crust, casting out towards some reeds, I let the wind slowly push the crust towards the reeds, a foot off the reeds, the crust was sucked down, as the line tightened I set the hook. After a good scrap I netted a common estimated around 14lbs, not what I wanted but I was happy with the result. In some dozen casts I had five more carp mirrors and commons, between 8lbs and 12lbs estimated, no point in weighing them. Time For A Brew As I waited for the jet boiler, I fired out some prawns to land under a large bush to my left where I’d heard fish moving. Fifteen minutes later tea finished, I baited with a prawn, casting it some twenty feet the prawn landing with a slight splash, I put the rod in the rest with a silver paper on the line as an indicator, then sat back to wait events, it was probably an hour, when the indicator moved up to the second guide. Picking up the rod I watched the line tighten, then set the hook into a fish that could move fast out towards the centre of the lake

,“Could this be the fish I so desired” I thought. After quite a long fight this greyhound of the carp world certainly put a bend in the rod, often making the reel scream like a scolded cat.Some ten or more minutes must have passed, then I got a glimpse of my prize, a dark long lean carp, slowly I gained line eventually I got the fish in the net, I heaved a sigh of relief as I gazed at my prize estimated around 7lbs, my first since the late 1950’s, taking out hook from the top lip, I put the net in the water, but not deep enough for the fish to escape. I set up my camera, that I’d only had for a couple of weeks, so everything was new. Eventually I lifted the net laying it gently on the mat, parting some of the mesh. I shot two pics, feeling well pleased with myself. Back at my daughter’s home, Sharon plugged in the lead from camera to laptop so I could transfer the pics. I soon realised my mistake when I took a picture of my prize, I’d pressed the motion picture button. Yes the pic of my prize looked ok on the camera when I played it back, it was rubbish when transferred it to the laptop. I was gutted with the result, a mistake I should not have made.

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Martin James Fishing
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