June was a month of highs and lows. Or was it lows, lows, lows, lows, highs? Whatever it was, it was a challenging month in more ways than one.
Early in April, I had told myself I would not actively compete in the CAG (Carp Anglers Group) Big 3 Spring competition. Maybe it was fear of failure; maybe it was fear of success. At some point it was mentioned to me that historically the winner of the Big 3 would have to average a fish of 28lbs per month. The idea of feeling like I “needed” to catch a 28+lb fish, three months in a row, seemed like an impossible task. It was not something I wanted looming over me every time I was on the bank. After all, isn’t fishing supposed to be about relaxing? Lo and behold, after some struggle finding fish during our early spring, I was fortunate enough to catch a 25lb common. I was “chuffed to bits” as they say and despite my reservations I submitted my catch to the Big 3. It would be the biggest fish submitted for the month, but only by a few ounces.
By the time May arrived, things were really rolling for me. I mean there were blanks, but at one point, I had a session that included not one but three 20lb fish. It seemed like big, spawn filled fish were simply everywhere. However, the days were getting hotter and the inevitable spawning period was eminent. Ultimately I would land a 21.5, two in a row actually, and that would become my May submission for the competition. Once again, I had submitted the biggest fish for the month by a few ounces. Full of confidence, I started planning the next month; a month I was warned would be the most difficult.
With no assurances of when the fish would be spawning, I started off the month at the river. Having had some biggish fish last year on some hot days, I figured it was as good a spot as any. While the river did produce some decent fish, I got the sense that most of the fish were in the mid-teen range. After a few sessions there, I decided it was time to move on. My next stop was a still water I’d never fished before. Not really knowing what to expect, I was surprised to encounter leaping fish almost as soon as I arrived on my first morning. Even though I saw way more carp there than I had imagined, I was disappointed to find that all of the fish I caught or saw were small, lean, commons. After conferring with another carp angler who happened to be fishing the same area, I decided that this place was not going to be where the next big fish would come from. By now it was mid June and any confidence I had was beginning to waver. I moved to a different water where I encountered the same situation. With just a week left before the month was over, I had time for just 2 more morning sessions. I spent the first one of those on a river I’d never fished and unsurprisingly blanked. Things weren’t looking good. My biggest fish till then was 15lbs and that simply wasn’t gonna cut it. I had one last idea, an idea so stupid I had to try it. It was my hail marry.
On the last morning of June, I found myself fishing on what I consider to be my “hard” water. It’s a place I’ve written about before, where the carp are known to be large but with the weeds, the turtles and the catfish, blanking is commonplace. To top if off, it is one of the bigger bodies of water I fish and up to then I had failed to positively locate fish. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that locating fish is absolutely key. Looking for fish in a big ole’ (as we say in Texas) piece of water can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? As it so happens, the last time I fished my “hard” water and blanked, I caught a glimpse of a fish rolling about 20 feet directly in front of the bank. Could it be that this is where they feed? The image of the rolling carp was burned into my mind. Carp are creatures of habit and in my experience, once you find them, lets say near a fallen tree or something, it is probable that they will be there day after day. For example, in the spring, I fished one particular spot a lot at night. Almost every night I fished there, around 8:30pm, I observed what was probably the same fish swim by the edge of bank that I was on. It was so predictable it was almost comical. Naturally, like with everything else in fishing, there are exceptions to this rule. For this last session in June, I decided to put this theory to the test.
That morning I tried to keep things simple. I would fish one rod on maize and one rod on the bait that has produced most of my fish this year, a tigernut. Both rods where fished at 2 rod lengths away, approximately 20ft. To protect the hook on the way down into the weedy water, I attached a small PVA bag stuffed with a mix of crushed hemp, crushed koi pellets and chickstarter. The mix had been tossed in the hemp oil I found one of our local supermarkets. As the session progressed, I fed balls of groundbait into the swim little and often. After about an hour, I decided I would recast the tigernut rod only to make sure that it hadn’t been snagged up or covered in weeds. I refreshed the PVA bag and out went the rig again followed by a few balls of groundbait. About 30 minutes later that very same rod tore off. I was quickly on it and soon realized I was connected to a very powerful fish. It kited right and must have gone straight into a clump of weeds cause for a minute or so everything went solid. I kept steady pressure on the line and shortly began feeling the fish shake its head as it came out of the snag. In that moment I recalled a book I had just read by Chris Yates. In his book “The Lost Diary: A summer fishing in pursuit of golden scales”, he describes how wonderful the feeling of successfully freeing a fish from a snag was. It truly was wonderful. The fish pulled hard again. This time I could feel the line rubbing up against something horrible and I did my best to forget that I only had 12lb line on. The line held up and a few heart wrenching minutes later, it was safely in the net. My first attempt at weighing the fish resulted in a broken scale. Luckily I brought a back up that registered the fish at 25lbs including the weigh sling and a wet net. After returning the fish, I subtracted the weight of the weigh sling and net, giving me a fish of 23lbs. The hail marry had worked. It was only around 7:30am and I could have continued to fish but as far as I was concerned, I was done for the morning. I submitted my fish from the bank and took my time packing up. I got to work early and you better believe I had a big stupid smile on my face.
Ultimately I came in 2nd place in the Big 3 with a few ounces separating me from 1st place. I can’t say I was too disappointed as the last 3 months have been a conglomeration of small victories. Carp fishing is exciting in a way unlike other fishing. It’s been said that carp fishing is a marathon not a sprint and you must keep that in mind to get the most out of it. It can be a lot of hard work at times and sometimes it can be very easy. I’m sure the other anglers who participated in the CAG competition worked as hard if not harder than I have and each of them has their very own version of what you just read.
Here’s to more pond tuna in our nets. Ta!