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21 Jul 2016
by Simon Blanford and Andy Bell
Carp Letter from America - June 2016
Simon Blanford and Andy Bell let us know what they've been up to in June in Carp Letter from America...

Last month’s trip to the Other Lake had been rather disappointing. We’d arrived as the carp were in the middle of all that splashing about between the bed sheets and though we salvaged some pride by spending a night catching on a different lake, the Other Lake only produced after Simon had left and Andy picked up few gay stragglers. Knowing that the connubial shenanigans would have finished by the time we returned for two separate sessions in June we were eagerly looking forward to the first trip of the month.

Simon arrived first with Mrs Simon and Miss Simon 1 and 2. While the females unpacked the male of the family bravely volunteered to get fishing. Even before his third rod was secured on the rests he was away to an enthusiastic low double. This might have signaled hectic activity. It didn’t. Andy arrived shortly afterwards and also picked up a quick fish but as is often the case here nothing else happened through the night.

Andy didn’t take long to catch.

Still we were entertained in kind. Simon slept out on his new camping cot. Swinging in a hammock is all very well but his back has been increasingly bothersome since he tried a particularly violent contortion while dancing an experimental version of the Macarena a couple of years ago. Andy too had a cot. One of those fold up beach beds that your parents used to place on the patio for the one day the sun shone each English summer. Mrs Andy picked it up from the front of someone’s house. They had put it out for rubbish. Unsurprisingly Andy spent the night collapsing into various interesting positions.

Although that was entertaining enough a particularly audacious raccoon turned up to add to the mirth. Around midnight, a pair of red eyes popped up over the top of the bank nearly giving Andy a hernia as he leapt away from the demon that had suddenly appeared in the lamplight. For the rest of the night we were engaged in a persistent war with the animal, it alternating between raiding our bait by the rods and making flanking moves to the cabin to rummage through the rubbish even though it was supposedly hung up out of reach.

Raccoons like going through the bins. But they prefer CC Moore’s Equinox boilies.

Before daybreak, and after Andy had retired to the cabin to get a proper kip, and just when Simon had thought they’d vanquished the little bugger, he was awoken to find that the Raccoon had returned and was holding the bag of C.C. Moore’s finest Equinox boilies in it’s mouth. Thinking that the animal would stay and attempt to open the packet, Simon groped for his catapult and was disconcerted to see the bandit dash towards the bushes carrying the whole kilo of boilies. Galvanised into action he rushed after it only to see it disappear into the dark undergrowth flashing a V sign as it went. It’s not as though these Equinox boilies had caught anything, in fact they had caught sod all, but it was a bit cheeky to nip of with the whole bag.

The first of Simon’s run of twenties.

The following day was Simon’s. A succession of fish came to his rods and most came from one swim, the near point swim where the shoreline turned into our bay. Fourteen fish were landed from it, seven over twenty pounds all topped by a fine twenty-eight.

An immaculate twenty-eight

Andy’s swims were relatively quiet. He was fishing two rods over the marginal lily pads and far enough out to get beyond the eel-grass that grew everywhere shallower than about twelve feet. We’d had a shedload of fish from these swims last year but this session they were comatose. Until the following morning that is when Andy had a run on his left hand rod. A strange battle followed with something that was clearly heavy but not dynamic and, close-to turned into Andy’s old friend, the snapping turtle. Luckily it was lightly hooked in the leg and so was sent on its way with only a bit of hissing.

Chelydra serpentina, the snapping turtle. Andy’s friend.

Our usual rig approach these last couple of years has been a simple knotless knot, line-aligned affair. We’ve mucked around with ‘Pecky’ rigs - enough turns on the knotless knot to get the hair to exit opposite the point of the hook - but we’d become curious about the more aggressive forms, those that might come from the ‘cat’s claw’ stable of rigs. Cat’s claw will be obvious to anyone who has owned a cat. Yes, they are an annoyance when they sharpen those claws on your recently purchased Persian farsh, a rug you had to source from the grubby Armenian dealer with the east-end accent and strange cast to his eyes who said he was taking the food from his children’s’ bowls by offering you said item at a price that would only just cover the cost of keeping a moderate central American country afloat for a year. But more important is the knack those claws have of getting caught in any stray fabric the bloody animal takes to resting on. The design of a cat’s claw should be used as a model for all rigs but in particular the group containing those that use a length of shrink tube curved to a nice aggressive angle: Withy rigs and the so called “sit-up-and-beg” rig and the like. Curved hook lengths on a chod rig might fall into this category but they don’t. As we all know, chods are for amateurs.

Andy makes consummate rigs and Simon tries to copy him. He asks Andy “does this look right?” and the invariable response is, “umm, …..well,….it’s okay”. But Simon’s okay sit-up-and-beg rig was working well on the point swim that was producing all the fish. Until he ran out of the pre-tied rigs. “I’ll just bung on our standard rig and quickly make up some more cat’s claws,” he said so convinced was he that it was the rig that was producing all the runs and good hookholds. “You’d be better just sticking with our standard rig and see if it makes a difference,” Andy sagely replied. Simon acquiesced. And carried on catching. On these waters, with these carp, fooling around with rigs is fun, but we’ve never found it necessary.

The following day was much more even with fish coming in a trickle to all rods. The bigger fish were absent until Andy had all packed up and was ready to depart when Simon’s buzzer sounded and he was into what was obviously a good fish. It headed out into the lake and as this is the safest place for it to go, Simon let it following along the bank to get beyond the lily pads and allow the fight to be conducted in open water.

And off it goes. Again.

Trouble was the fish rather liked the middle of the lake and decided to stay there for a while. When it did come back it found something fascinating to investigate at the bottom of the bay we were fishing. Pressure seemed to make very little difference and it was only the fish’s desire to change the scenery and see something closer to the bank that it ended up under the rod tip. And there it stayed. Andy’s head popped round the bank-side bushes every now and then to make pointed comments about Simon’s fish playing ability. With twenty minutes gone nerves were getting frayed. How big was this thing? Finally, grudgingly the fish hit the bottom of the net. It was immediately apparent that this was not a thirty. Nor anything near.

The Yates carp.

On the scale it went twenty-four pounds, an astonishing weight for the battle it had given. The fish had a large tail and huge pectorals, which it must have flared every time Simon tried to pump it back to the surface. We were reminded of Chris Yates’s story of his best fish from Redmire - a fish of similar weight that took an age to land and had them all thinking of the King. Yates had called it his best fish. Simon wasn’t sure if this was his best fish, but damn, it couldn’t be far off.

Andy left then and Simon idled along, rarely having all three rods fishing at the same time and pulling off the water the next day after another busy morning with fish coming from all points and the final twenty needing an expedition in the kayak to free it from a snag.

As we’ve said before these lakes are large, often deep and full of all sorts of food including fist-sized snails, a host of freshwater clam and mussels and herds of crayfish.

From the shellfish larder.

These and good conditions for spawning mean that many of these lakes have very healthy carp populations. It does make you wonder what they might taste like. No really. You guys back in the UK are so removed from the origins of carp; your angling is now so effete that the idea of bonking a carp on the head is a near hanging offence. Here it’s very different. As we pointed out last month and talked about last year, the two questions we get asked are, “what you fishing for?” and then immediately after we’ve told them, “are they good to eat?” This isn’t from local hillbillies just back from making piggy squeal, but from all sorts of anglers on both bank and boat. During the winter Simon attended a meeting where some American carp anglers were trying to persuade district fisheries commissioners that carp are worthy of attention. The commissioners were typical stuffed-shirts, political animals that obviously knew nothing about carp. Even though the multi-million dollar nature of the catch-and-release sport that has built up around carp in Europe was impressed on them the only thought they could come up with to promote carp fishing was that they should publicise carp recipes more widely.

We’d descended on the Other Lake for our second stint of June. The usual suspects were there and The Neighbour joined us too. You met The Neighbour last year (he of the large disposition, short rods and fondness for beer) when he broke his carp virginity with a series of twenties from The Lake. With Andy, Mrs Andy and the Neighbour all fishing from the cabin frontage it was going to be tricky to squeeze in Simon’s rods. So he instigated a cunning plan to set up a bivouac on the far side of the bay and fish an area we had often seen carp showing.

Given that CC Moore’s finest hadn’t set our angling world alight we’d had also brought some plastic corn to try. Over the couple of days we picked up fish regularly. The plastic bait actually worked, a perhaps unsurprising finding for UK anglers but one that has to be experienced by us old timey carpers who still think cat food paste a dastardly innovation. In the end Simon fished all his rods on the plastic and, in between the frustrations of a bass boat that thought the best place to be was on top of a carp Simon was playing at three o’clock in the morning, he landed some nice fish.

The perils of taking a selfie.

Back at base they were also landing fish regularly. Andy was fishing to a far bank swim that coughed up fish throughout the session.

One of the better fish from Andy’s prolific far bank swim

The only trouble was the rig had to be rowed out in the kayak each time to get the positioning just right. Noticing this The Neighbour sprang into action poaching two twenties off Andy’s close-in rods including the largest of the session, another long common of twenty-four pounds.

The Neighbour likes to hug carp

The boat traffic had escalated since our previous visit, a consequence of the schools being out for the summer and the great unwashed descending on any bit of wet stuff to soak up the sun and cast a line. Andy suffered two propeller cut lines and exchanged a few choice words that may have escalated into another bloody war of 1812 but didn’t thanks to the fact that “tosser” isn’t yet in the American lexicon.

Boat cut lines weren’t the only problem. Andy had got hold of some Fox Soft Steel Camo line and we’d enthusiastically loaded a couple of our reels with this low diameter, camouflage stuff. On a session last month at The Lake we’d had a couple of clean breaks on this line but had put it down to operator error and fast moving carp. On this session both Andy and Simon had clean breaks for which we couldn’t blame carp, the snags or ourselves. The line could not be trusted. We binned it and reloaded with a bog standard mono made by Trilene. It may not be the most sophisticated line out there but it is the closest we can get to our beloved Maxima.

In between these events Andy landed a monstrous fish of four pounds. We’d already passed up on one of six pounds, our ingrained sensibility not allowing us to dispatch it. But curiosity erodes finer feelings and this fish was executed, expertly filleted by The Neighbour, carefully cooked by Mrs Andy and eaten by all. Was it good?

The carp, that great culinary delight.

Yes, it was bloody delicious.

Simon and the Neighbour left and Andy spent one more night and morning on the water. Fish continued to come but by Sunday morning, the height of summer holidays, the boat traffic in and out of the bay was becoming a chore. Added to this was a bass competition that saw competitors fishing over, around and underneath Andy’s lines from five in the morning and after a few more fish that was the end of the second session on the other lake.

Andy with another long lump.

Once again the Other Lake proved itself to be a fantastic venue. It is prolific, has a regular smattering of twenty-pound fish almost all of them in immaculate condition. The lake is booked for the rest of the summer so it won’t be until the autumn that we can get back. Until then we’ll have to hunt up some big fish from other venues. And next month Carp Letter from America will offer a slightly different perspective on the whole carnival that is carp fishing here in the U.S.A.

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