Big Scaley carp ready for release

Big Scaley carp ready for release

After the success of my last session which had seen me bank half a dozen fish, topped by a stunning scaley 32lb+ mirror and my first forty of the year I was on a high and itching to get back to the same area to capitalize on the feeding spree the fish were obviously engaged in.

LESSONS LEARNT

I can be stubborn at times but when it comes to fishing (any species) you have to not only learn from your mistakes you also have to accept them and indeed welcome them. I have found it is much better to fail and learn valuable lessons than to bury your head in the sand and hope for the best! My first blank session had taught me that I needed to use visual and buoyant baits in order to combat the silk weed and also to employ a set-up that would allow the rigs to be presented on top of any weed that they landed on. I could have used the chod rig for this effect, but wanted the added bonus of some immediate attraction around my hook bait. Thus I opted for solid PVA bags, which also would float off the bottom for a few seconds before settling on top of the weed.

Solid bag

Solid PVA Bag filled with glugged pellets

BAITING APPROACH

When using PVA products you do have to be careful with the baits you can incorporate. Obviously, anything with water in it will be useless! But with the inclusion of oils, PVA friendly glugs and salt you can definitely boost your PVA offerings. Personally, I am a big fan of salt in the spring. Coming out of the winter carp are craving salt in their diet and other nutrients and minerals such as Lysine. A lot of theories are out there in the ether about this topic but from my own experiences I am confident that whether the carp are looking to ingest the minerals/nutrients or absorb them through their skin they are no doubt seeking them out. Not all salts are created equal! Ionized or table salt is something I avoid, instead I prefer a good sea salt or kosher salt. Rock salt (or breaking down a salt lick) would be my #1 choice; however, not the stuff you use to clear ice as this has all sorts of chemicals in it and is not fish friendly.

Salt, a great bait additive

Salt, a great bait additive

One thing to remember with any additive is that moderation is the key. Don’t be putting in cups and cups of the stuff, instead a few handfuls will go a long way. Another key aspect to my spring fishing has been the addition of pellets to my armory. I have used many forms of pellets over the years with success and this spring I have opted for a slower breakdown pellet that I can add either oil (halibut/corn or peanut) or a glug (Dynamite Liquids). These pellets are then added in the PVA solid bags along with crumbed boilies.

SUCCESSFUL RETURN

On my next session I once again teamed up with a friend and we fished a 24 hour session, aiming to maximize the hours of darkness. Although I don’t fish many sessions over 24 hours I will regularly fish 12-16 hour night sessions as I prefer the solitude and quite banks the night time hours offer. I was pleased that my fishing partner had immediate success with a nice upper double on the banks, but for myself I had to wait until nearly 2am for my first action. It was worth the wait though. A slow steady ticking of the clutch was at first mistaken for undertow, but on picking up the rod ¬†I received a small tap on the rod top which saw me bend into something very solid! I slowly pumped the weight towards me, thinking I either had a big ball of weed or a tree limb attached but after 5 minutes I felt the familiar lunge of a carp, at which point I put on my waders so I could get into the water. Another 5 minutes or so and the fish was in the net and what a beauty she was. She weighted well over 37lb’s and was not only a solid fish but was in pristine condition with some magnificent scaling.

Scaley Tank

Scaley Tank

RETAINING FISH

After putting the fish in the sack I re-baited and got back into my sleeping bag. One thing to mention is that I am not a fan of retaining fish for long periods of time and in certain situations not at all. In hot conditions or shallow water it is not a great idea to sack fish, but with a decent depth of water and regular checking, a few hours in the sack will not do any harm. Generally, if I am going to weigh or photograph a fish I will put it in my retaining sling to allow it to recover for a few minutes, before taking it to the mat. It is usually a good idea to give the fish a few minutes in the net or a sling before bringing them onto the bank, especially if they have fought hard. If you do plan to sack a fish, make sure you have a good depth of water that is oxygenated and that the fish is well secured. Modern sacks are usually supplied with a floating ‘H’ block, so if the unthinkable does happen you will still be able to locate the fish. If in doubt, DO NOT SACK the fish. Also avoid sacking fish for long periods. Use common sense which is sometimes hard to come by! Sacking multiple fish in the same sack or sacking fish for over 12 hours in not recommended.

A good retaining sling will keep the fish safe while you sort out your scales and camera!

A good retaining sling will keep the fish safe while you sort out your scales and camera!

A few hours later I was in action once again and this time a mid double common was the culprit. I unhooked it in the net and released it as I wanted to get the rod back out as quickly as possible in the hope of a bigger fish. This proved to be a good move as shortly before first light I landed a fin perfect common, just shy of 30lb’s but in no way a disappointment. Commons are a bit rarer in the area I was fishing so to catch one over 25lb’s is always a nice result and a welcome diversion from the mirrors.

Lovely colors and in great condition

Lovely colors and in great condition

DEALING WITH ADVERSITIES

Just after first light I got the pictures taken and released the fish, with both swimming off very strongly. After a great breakfast of bacon, eggs, beans and toast I was re-energized for the chore that is packing away. Most of my gear was in the car by 10am and I really was not expecting any more action before my noon departure, however I was surprised by a violent take about half an hour later. A big problem ensued as just as the fish picked up the bait I had a large tree limb floating over my lines. I didn’t see it at the time as I was focused on the screaming Delkim, but on picking up the rod my braided line became ensnared in the branches. The fish itself was around 100 yards out at this point with the tree limb about 50 yards out, so rather than panic I slowly pumped the snag back towards me. It took some doing but after 10 minutes I was able to free the braid and concentrate on the fish which fortunately was still attached! It must have expended a lot of energy already as it was in the net in no time and my prize was a real old warrior of 32lbs+. The fish had damage to it’s tail which had healed and also an old wound on it’s check, where no doubt it had been foul hooked. Even with it’s injuries it was a lovely fish and I was well happy to be taking pictures with it.

Old Warrior

Old Warrior

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

To say I was happy with my spring so far would be an understatement. I was elated with the results. Everything was working well and my tactics to target the bigger fish were paying off. Luck plays a big part in success but I am a firm believer that to attain sustained and repeatable goals you need to put the effort in and work at your fishing. Even though I was well on my way to my yearly targets I was not going to bask in my success. I decided that the fish were feeding in anticipation of the spawning period and so my plan on my next visit would be to give them more bait and see if I could get them feeding more competitively. In the meantime I managed an exploratory trip to one of my favorite spring areas to see what the fish were up to. My luck was holding as I landed a couple of nice fish, topped by a low scatter scaled 30lb mirror. I also observed the water closely to see where the majority of the fish were moving so that I could maximize my chances of success if I did indeed return the following week.

Scatter scaled 30lber

Scatter scaled 30lber

 ADAPTING TO WEATHER PATTERNS

The following week saw unsettled weather and so I decided to keep my options open. I would return to my target area, but decided if the wind speed increased then I would pack up and move to another spot that has produced for me in the past when there have been strong South winds, whether from the east or the favored west. The session started with two quick bites, but the culprits were double figure commons, not really what I was hoping for! I settled in for the night and was rewarded with two bigger fish in the early hours. The first was a real character, a two tone mirror which was blind in one eye. The second fish was an absolute stunner, one of the nicest fish I have ever caught and at a little over 30lb’s was another solid fish.

Blind Two Tone

Blind Two Tone

Another scaley lump

Another scaley lump

The morning bought two more bites but again they were double figure commons. I had a choice to make. I could stay where I was and probably catch several more fish, but the majority in the area seemed to be smaller carp. Alternatively, I could gamble, quickly pack up and be on the road for 6.30am in order to get to my second spot. With the wind blowing hard it was an easy choice and even though I was leaving active fish I thought it would be a worthwhile move. Sometimes it’s best to trust your instincts and mine were telling me to haul butt and get myself to the other spot. Would I catch? I’ll let you know in Part 3 of Spring Awakenings.

Nice fish but not what I was looking for!

Nice fish but not what I was looking for!

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