End of Season

In my last post, I talked about stumbling upon an imaginary location where feeding carp could be clearly observed. This fantasy I wrote about was the antithesis of what my fall carp fishing had been. However, in the last session of the year, I was taken to this exact place by a friend. It was the perfect ending to a hard year of chasing pond tuna.

I don’t know exactly how many carp I caught this year; I stopped counting early on. I’m not sure why I did; partly I’m just terrible at keeping logs and such. What I can tell you is that there were really good months and terrible ones. There was time spent trying to catch fish on experimental methods and at off the radar locations, sometimes fruitfully and often in vain. For example, I spent a week (three 2 hour sessions) trying to catch a fish off the top. I would get a group of fish feeding and then cast to them. When I finally hooked one the freaking knot slipped! There was at least one attempt at fishing mid-water zigs which are literally a piece of foam on a 3-foot hooklink in 7 feet of water, not exactly the most confidence inducing method. The weedy lake was discovered this year on a summer’s whim. It is the absolutely most difficult place I have ever fished and hours of scouting, baiting and blanking have gone into that lake. It is from the this place that my current PB (25lb 13oz) common came from and I am certain that the lake has more monsters left to offer. Being limited by time and geography, it is in my best interest to find new places and I foresee this pattern continuing. Fortunately, next year I get to start with more pieces of the puzzle than ever.

This year was the year of the tigernut. Last year I struggled feeling confident using anything other than corn as a hookbait and rightly so as corn is a super effective, instant bait. However, this year from about March to September, about 98% of my fish fell to a tigernut. In the summer, a crucial time to get away from corn, a tigernut out fished maize over and over. I was always surprised by its effectiveness as I hardly ever loose feed tigernuts yet the fish seem to appreciate their flavor. A tigernut is also a great alternative in our “no corn” waters. I usually pair it up a with a mix of small bird seeds and any sort of large pea or bean that I have on hand as loose feed. The idea being that once the carp get on the bait, the tiny seeds for example, milo and millet, will keep them foraging longer. As a side note, people have been using birdseed to catch carp for a long time and not just in particle form. Some of the earliest specialized base mixes were bird food based and they are still being made today. Most birdseed that I have found in RI tends to contain a lot of cracked corn and sunflower seeds. Neither of these seeds are bad, however you’ll need to make an effort to find a no corn mix if you are really trying to avoid it. Probably the holy grail for me of birdseed is no-corn pigeon mixes. You wont find these in RI, but if you really want to get it you can order it online and pay some hefty shipping costs or make a special trip to Connecticut or Iowa to get it. Believe it or not even after shipping you still get quite a lot of value for your investment as these mixes contain some really great ingredients such maple peas and even hemp.

Both seed mixes and tigernuts are easy to prepare and there are tons of articles and videos online on how to do it. I usually knock up a batch of tigers and keep them in jar in the fridge. They’ll last a while in that jar, I simply pull out a few nuts as I need them.

When blogging was new, I remember listening to a lot of “social media experts” explain how blogging was a sure-fire way to establish yourself as a sort of “thought leader” in your field. It seemed like the mere act of having a blog was enough to make you some sort of expert on whatever subject you decided to write about. My aim with this blog has never been to come off as some sort of know it all. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a know nothing guy who fishes a lot and fails a lot. Every time I fish, I learn something new. Countless hours are spent speculating on what was and what could be. That being said, if I can give the reader a single thing to take away from my carpy toil, it would be this: fish the margins. Time and time gain, no matter where I am, it’s been right in the edge where I’ve been most successful. In fact, some of my biggest fish this year have come from only 5 to 10ft away! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen fish swim right under my rod tip while my hookbaits are a long ways away. It is those types of situations that have beaten this idea into my head. The only exception I make to this “rule” is when fish are showing elsewhere and nothing is really happening close by. You can bet that I will be targeting the margins next year.

Holding a fish like a numpty as usual!

While the fall fizzled out, my season actually ended with the most memorable session of all time. My friend Kevin invited me to join him at a location I had always wanted to try but for one reason or another never did. Maybe it was that the logistics of the location seemed slightly insane. Regardless, he’d been successful there many times and I was eager to observe his technique. When we arrived, we began the process of searching for signs of carp. Eventually we spotted a few “big gray blimps” as he describes them, moving around in about 2 feet of water. It was just as he had previously described, carp hidden in plain sight. Now it was time try and catch them.

We set up upstream from where we saw these fish and dropped just a few handfuls of sweet corn in the water. I positioned my rig among the freebies and shortly after white suckers and carp began to drift into the baited area. We watched as both suckers and carp began grazing on the free offerings and gradually one of the suckers made their way to my rig. “You’re gonna get him”, Kev said as we watched the fish. Would you believe it, that sucker picked up my rig twice and spat it out! We were both slightly perplexed as we saw two carp do the same thing. After a while the fish drifted off and I brought my rig in for closer inspection. Two things struck me from what we had just observed. One: the incredible pulling power of sweet corn and its instant acceptance by the fish and not just the carp for that matter. Two: I’ve always known carp pick up rigs and don’t get hooked but watching it really makes extra paranoid about things like hair and hooklink length. I think it’s safe to say that when its cold you are better served with a short hair.

We rebaited the swim and soon the carp were back. This time Kevin’s rig was picked up by a mid teen common. In the mean time I switched out my hooklink from a short shank hook with a long hair, to my more standard long shank rig. I had a feeling that the hair on the rig was too long and I adjusted the shrink tube on the bend of the hook to reduce the hair’s length. Once again after rebaiting, the carp returned and this time, I hooked the mirror in the picture above. It was a gorgeous low 20 fish and the picture does no justice to just how great the whole experience was. It was the perfect end to my season and I am eternally grateful for Kevin’s willingness to share his special location and more importantly his friendship with me.

Well that about wraps it up. I’ll still be fishing till the end of the year, though not for carp. There are a few things I would like to try, for example, a cold-water pike. I also wouldn’t mind catching a cod or a saltwater white perch. Whether or not I actually do it is another thing. My energy is waning and there is a severe need to focus on neglected house things like getting all the fishing gear out of the garage before the snow starts. I’ll continue to write on the blog through out the winter. For any of you who read this blog regularly, thank you for doing so. It’s been a great season!

Enjoy your holidays!