The Polaris ledger float did the trick with this Alder mirror carp
When I started fishing many years ago, the first rule was to always have the landing net ready and this was reinforced in the many fishing books that I used to devour at Meltham library. Over the years, and especially when fishing for carp with its large quantity of gear and setup time, this rule has slipped a bit and the net and mat aren’t necessarily the first thing you organise.
Paradoxically, running a fishery doesn’t leave that much time to fish. There are always jobs to do and other things get priority. However, this weekend offered a window of opportunity with nice weather and several weeks until the next booking on Alder. Taking a chance I went down to ‘Ragondin Island’ in the morning and put a marker float out in about 2-3 ft of water, just past the tree line. I baited up with a line of maize and party mix concentrated at the marker.
Later that afternoon I nipped down to Alder with a couple of rods and a float set up. I cut my teeth on float fishing and still get a kick out of a float bobbing about and sliding off. The sun was blazing down but the light wind was lifting a nice ripple. I headed to my favourite spot on the west bank of the lake. It’s sunny and looks towards the farm, and is an easy cast to most of Ragondin Island where we often see the fish cruising. The breeze was blowing from the south east so it was running right up into the bay.
I set up the two rods on the pod first of all, simple fish-safe rigs with a short hair. The first rod got a carp pellet tipped with fake corn and the second got a Special crab tipped with a crab pop up. These went to the left and right of the marker. The float set up was a Polaris ledger float; the float can slide until the line is tightened against the weight. Although I hadn’t caught with this before, I thought that it should register knocks, dropbacks and runs. Since I would be watching the float closely, I could risk it closer to the snags in the shallows.
I had just sat down when the carp pellet line took off, no ‘let’s get to know each other’ knocks, just bang and off. I grabbed the rod, knocking over the pod and tangling the line in the arm. I managed to get a little slack and cleared the pod and started to work the fish back, and that’s when I realised that the net was still in the back of the car – in bits!
Belatedly I remembered the first lesson. Well, too late now. I worked the fish gently to give me time to think and decided to play the fish until it was tired, get some photos in the water and then give it a weak clutch and make a grab for the net. I anchored the rod under the chair and speed assembled the net. Luckily the fish hadn’t thrown the hook in the meantime. I was able to steer it into the waiting net and transfer it to the cushioned unhooking mat.
I barely had time to draw breath when the left hand rod screamed off, still on its side hanging onto the rod pod. I set the hook and managed to cover the fish on the bank. This fish didn’t put up as much of a fight and was teased towards the bank. However, it wasn’t stupid, and with a slight loss of tension as I reached for the net, it too the opportunity to throw the hook and took off… no photographs this time.
With a little disappointment, but also relief at not having to struggle with two carp at the same time, I took my photos and and eased the 18lb carp back into the water. As I climbed back on the bank I heard a sizzling sound. Luckily I had set the freespool on the float rod and something was stripping the line off rather rapidly; so much for the finer points of float fishing. I grabbed the rod and hauled into the fish, wanting to turn him before he got into the snags. I piled on as much pressure as I dared, but he still made headway towards the snags. Finally I overrode the clutch and the rod arched into a stalemate. The line felt solid and I thought that the fish had outwitted me with a snag. I stripped some line off and gave it the slack, for what seemed like an eternity. Nothing happened and then the float started sliding off to one side. I tightened up and the fight started again.
This time the fish kited into the shallows and the grass carp exploded out of the way like sea-mines. The fish made a fast run right to left and this time made a dash for the hawthorns. I remembered what Paul Smith had taught me the previous year and I dipped the rod tip under the water. Sure enough, the fish reversed direction away from the overhanging branches.
The fish was clearly tiring as I manoeuvered it towards the peg, although it wasn’t yet prepared to give up. At last I slid him over the net and lifted up the edges. He was in the bag. He weighed in at 22 lbs, not a giant but definitely punching above his weight. After the photograph I slid him back into the water, this time knowing that there wasn’t going to be another surprise as all three rods were now out of the water.
I wondered if it was worth baiting up after thrashing the bay but the evening was lovely, so I thought ‘why not’ and put the rods out in the same fashion. There wasn’t much sign of activity, then after a few tentative knocks the carp pellets went off in a steady take. I grabbed the rod and set the hook, the fish took off for the snags but I bullied him out back into open water. However, not before he collected the float rig and started towing it around the bay. He crossed over the left hand rod and I waited for the bite alarm to signal a three-way tangle, but somehow he carried both lines over the top. In due course I got him to the net and lifted him out. His net weight was 19.6 lbs, another fine, fighting fish probably aided by the oxygen-rich water that never stops flowing into the lake.
I was well satisfied with four fish in less than two hours, and since I was feeling peckish, I stowed the gear and headed back to the farm for tea. I guess that there are compensations for having three lakes on your doorstep, and you can have them too when you join us at Alder or Notaire’s Lakes!