OBSESSION??

Carp fishing is often referred to as an ‘obsession’, generally by non carpers, friends, family and spouses! It can bring out the worst traits in human nature, with the obsession leading to¬†shattered friendships, relationship breakdowns and tattered reputations. Even in the USA where carp fishing is still relatively unpopular, I see some of the same behaviors that are all too common in the UK and Europe. Like life, fishing also needs to be balanced. Fish too much and you risk the alienating the people you love.

Looking back at my fishing career, I can honestly say fishing has been a ‘passion’ rather than an obsession. Even when I was single, working a job that allowed me to fish a few days at a time I can not recall many sessions where I fished beyond 48 hours. In fact my longest session was 6 days at my Syndicate water and I realized early on that I much prefer to fish than ‘camp’. At times I do become very focused on certain elements, whether it be targeting a certain fish, breaking a PB or conquering a new water. However, as much as I love fishing I also love life. Having a great group of friends, a loving family and a rewarding job are all part of the puzzle for me and I would never sacrifice one of these just to fish more. For me, short sessions are my bread and butter. I generally get 12-24 hours every few weeks, and I try to make the most of these by taking weather, locations and the water conditions into consideration before making my decision of when and where to fish.

Over 20 years ago, when I dreamed of a 20lb+ common

Over 20 years ago, when I dreamed of a 20lb+ common

For the last few years I have sacrificed one element of my fishing to focus on another area. About 5 years ago I picked up my carp rods again, for the first time in the USA and was only interested in catching fish, no matter their sizes. I spent the first two years fishing a number of different waters and catch carp I did, with over 1000 carp hitting my landing net. As I continued to move forward the passion for larger fish returned and I gradually widened my horizons first fishing rivers with 20-30lb fish and then moving onto what I will describe as ‘Specimen’ Waters. I realized early on that while I could catch large numbers of 20lb fish, they were generally not going to be in the same locations as the much larger specimens.

My first American Twenty

My first American Twenty

Fishing for larger fish is not always easy and sometimes you will spend several sessions with the odd fish before you start to work out what you need to do in order to achieve success. Let me ask you a question; if you had to catch 80-90% less fish in order to catch the fish of a lifetime would you do it?? It’s a hard choice to make and certainly, when you see other people hammering fish of decent sizes the urge to abandon your own convictions is sometimes strong.

Fishing for big fish of any species is mind set. You have to accept that you WILL blank, you WILL leave your rigs out for over 24 hours at a time, you WILL question whether you are in the right spot and you WILL question your tactics. However, the work you do from session to session will all add up in the big picture. Sometimes you will be lucky and catch ‘specimen’ fish right from the off, other times you will really work for it.

My first 30lb+ common that took me over 2 years to break

My first 30lb+ common that took me over 2 years to break

So back to my ‘Common Obsession’. After a few years fishing in America I really wanted a 20lb common. I was primarily fishing a river with lots of small mirror carp and having never caught a 20lb common in the UK (19lb+ being my best) I decided to move onto the tidal Merrimack River. I achieved the 20lb mark relatively quickly and enjoyed several sessions fishing for these amazing carp, which fought like they were on steroids. As my PB got up to the mid twenties I moved back onto my mirror waters and put the common fascination aside. I realize for most American carpers this is back to front as the majority of you fish for common carp, with mirrors being very rare. I’m lucky as the North East of the country has many waters with mirror carp. I fished the next year or so on these mirror waters catching some cracking fish with the occasional trip to the St. Lawrence River to try and tempt a 30lb common, which I eventually achieved.

Fast forward to a year or so ago and although my common PB was now up to a respectable 36lb+ I very rarely fished waters where they grew to this size with any regularity. On one particular session in the early spring I was fishing with friends and had to return to work after 24 hours, only to receive a text in the middle of the night that one of the boys had just caught a massive common well over 45lb’s. After I saw the pictures I knew that I just had to have this fish in my own photo album.

I can't be disappointed with the lack of big commons when I can catch fish of this stamp!

I can’t be disappointed with the lack of big commons when I can catch fish of this stamp!

I fished the water regularly through the spring, summer and fall and although I caught some absolute belting carp I did not see the common and the season ended as the snow fell on the North East again. Fast forward to this year and again, this was going to be my target fish. Why? Well, the first reason is because I wanted to catch it, but the second reason is because I always fish better when I have a target. Any other fish I catch along the way are appreciated but I would be focused on tempting this fish and using tactics that I knew would give me the best chance, usually at the expense of catching other fish.

Unfortunately for my fishing, my job became really busy but as I stated at the beginning this is part of the balance of life. Yes, I was envious of some of the fish caught in the spring, but I was also happy with what fishing I could manage and knew that once the fall arrived I would have a little more time. My first trip to the area had to be aborted due to a few different reasons but a week or so later I was able to get in a night session.

I arrived well after dark, not getting my rods and rigs sorted until around 11pm. Knowing the area helped and I got the rods out with no problems, fishing one rod over a tight pile of bait and the other over 200-250 boilies scattered over a large area. At 4am the rod fished over the boilies melted off and on picking up the rod I was amazed at the first few runs the fish made. Fishing with braid, everything is amplified and this fish was trying it’s best to get rid of the hook, shaking it’s head non stop for at least 2-3 minutes. After 5 minutes the fish stopped charging around and kited into the bank making me think the battle would be soon over. Think again!! Another 10 tense minutes under the rod tip and I could see it was a very long common. Was it my ‘target’?? It was hard to say but I knew it was a very big fish and I knew I wanted it in the net. Eventually, I did scoop it up and after transferring the net into the retaining sling I made my way to the unhooking mat. Lifting the sling up it was obvious that the fish was 40lb+ and once I saw the width of the fish I was now thinking it was the target.

On the mat it was obvious it was a new PB

On the mat it was obvious it was a new PB

I unhooked the fish, gave it a quick weigh and then slipped it into the margins to wait the 1 hour or so before first light. During this time I arranged the unhooking mat, set up my camera and weigh sling and generally paced around, buzzing as I knew I had shattered by common PB. On the scales the common went over 43lb’s and she behaved very well for the few pictures and quick video I took of her.

A glorious big common in the Fall

A glorious big common in the Fall

Returning her I then checked out the pictures and after matching them up with my target I knew that it was not the fish I was after. Disappointed? Hell no. It was a new 40lb fish for the water, a new PB common and even better my target was still out there. Hopefully, we’ll meet in the spring but until then I will be more than happy with this fish being my PB and my ‘obsession’ can continue.

Hard to be upset even if it was not the one I was after!

Hard to be upset even if it was not the one I was after!

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