Carp Letter from America: June 2018
Simon Blanford and Andy Bell let us know what they've been up to this month...
June sees a shift in the goings on of carp on our waters. A cool spring may well see them still spawning, or on the point of spawning, and usual swims may be devoid of anything willing to pick up a bait. Conversely, a warm spring and all canoodling will be over and the carp dispersing out from their spawning areas. Now location can become more difficult as the warming water pushes fish away from many of their early spring haunts.
Andy didn't care about these mental gymnastics though. Last month he was in England stripping down and repainting the mother-in-laws garage along with sundry other tasks expected of a loving son-in-law. Now back in the States he was eager to get fishing and he was buggered if any spawning lark was going to stop him. Accordingly he and Mrs Andy headed south to General Pinochet lake at the beginning of the month to see what might turn up. Simon couldn't make it - end of the school year being not the sort of time for him to disappear for a few days.
General Pinochet has been a prolific venue. Both of us, Andy in particular as he has fished the lake more often, having been reduced to using just one rod at times the action had been so fast. But the place has yet to yield a really big fish. If the heavyweights hadn't all disappeared to relieve themselves of their eggy burdens there was a very good chance that he might make up for this omission.
On arrival Andy immediately set about baiting with the usual particles alongside the novel addition of several pounds of peanuts. The weather was warm, had been for a few days so there was every prospect given the generally benign weather for the last week or so, that the carp had already spawned.
Andy had booked in to a new camp pitch on the other side of the large bay from where we’d previously fished. Once there he realised that the camp site actually gave access to two potential swims. Fortunately both were easily accessible - fortunate as his mobility was somewhat compromised; several broken ribs and steep banksides do not happy bed-fellows make. Quite how playing a decent fish would pan out remained to be seen. Both swims, though weedy, offered open silty patches in 8ft of water only fifteen yards from the bank. Thankfully spodding, with its attended strain on his sorely tested intercostal muscles, would not be required. On the other hand the easiest swim contained a healthy smattering of rocks that would frustratingly dull countless hooks.
By 4pm the first rod bearing a wafting peanut and corn cocktail was in and within minutes it was away. A reasonably powerful run saw the fish gamely taking line as it headed out into the body of the lake. And then it was gone. On retrieval the fish's mode of escape was readily apparent: the size 4 Korda Wide Gape now almost straight. Really? Cue re-arming with Arma Points and a steady stream of fish from the lake burnished in late afternoon sun: a thirteen was followed by an eleven, a sixteen and then, just as Mrs Andy was getting tetchy regarding the need to eat, a chubby late spawner at almost 22lb. Hell, even the ribs were holding up. Post dinner and dark saw the inevitable catfish, a singleton and then the action died.
The subsequent days proceeded in a predictable fashion: dawn to midday were hectic with small brethren coming every twenty minutes; rarely was there more than a solitary rod in the water. As the afternoon progressed so the runs slowed but the quality improved, seemingly as if the weightier fish were returning hungrily from their nuptials. A typical sequence read: 17.8, 19.5, 20.4, 20.3, 15.8. And then with nightfall and the first cat so the carp disappeared. There was no desperately anticipated thirty, but sixty fish including six twenties made for a decent first real outing of the season. The General is certainly heaving with fish although, sadly, this time at least, peanuts did not prove to be a specimen-selecting bait.
Peanuts are a nice addition to out rather limited bait repertoire. It's fair to say that we have relied on the golden grains for almost all of our fishing. It's not simply because they are easily available (though of course they are). It's not that we are skinflints (well, come to think of it ...). It's because, as every carper knows, they work so well. Why on earth would we need to use anything else. Here, catching carp consistently so as to put yourself in with a chance of something outsized, has much more to do with picking the right area of the right water and fishing at the right time than any bait that you might use. Having said that, there is one thing that pushes us towards other baits. Boredom. We all know it's nice to experiment with something else: different cuisine, putting the toilet seat down, cross dressing. All anglers do it. The limited attention span we have leads us to continually gaze across the fence at the possibility of a greener bait just over there. And we have tried other baits. Of course we have. We've used maize, which isn't really that different, as well as luncheon meat, chick peas, tiger nuts, pepperoni and peanuts. Although we have had good fish to over twenty pounds on Spam, chick peas were a failure, tiger nuts too expensive to persist with, peanuts a work in progress and pepperoni (and in fact Spam) attracts catfish usually faster than it attracts carp.
To that end we've made a concerted effort this year to have a go with boilies. To do so, and because we refuse to spend $16 on a kilo of Mainstream or CC Moore's finest when that kilo isn't even enough for one day's baiting let alone a proper campaign, we have been making our own. The main one is a fruit flavored nut and birdseed based effort with a couple of added secret ingredients. Miss Simon No. 2 tested the mix and commented that it tasted like something found on the bottom of her hamster's cage. We called this new boilie Rat-P in honour of her description. While this may be an inauspicious name and given that we really know little about boilies and boilie making, what we do know is that Rat-P works. In testing on a local pond the naive fish were onto it very quickly. After this we subsequently caught on The Lake relatively rapidly too. That may not be saying much as The Lake gets significant inputs of other carpers boilies in certain areas so the fish are most likely already primed. Even so, fished as a bottom bait or as a corkball pop-up (the cork coming from a bottle of previously consumed wine - we have an endless supply) it has caught fish.
Many have claimed that boilies catch a better stamp of fish. For us this is still a mute point - there’s no rationale for this being the case and no real evidence. But we have upped the ante. Simon is now using a 30mm boilie on one rod, sometimes topped off with a 12mm pop-up. On his first attempt with a single 30mm he caught a twenty. A scraper twenty it has to be said, just making the mark by a couple of ounces. The other rod on corn caught a mid-double. This is where many would say "so I changed the rig/bait/position and caught" implying that the change itself was what had done the trick. We are of a more skeptical disposition (those with research backgrounds tend to demand a little more rigour) find that one carp caught on a large bait does not a summer make. But we can’t help the nagging thought: since one 30mm boilie can nobble a twenty, two might catch a forty? Or is it that doubling the number of boilies is not what counts but doubling the size - we should be using 60mm boilies for our forty pound carp. Such is the intellectual fun to be found in carp fishing.
The second half of the month gave us the opportunity of fishing together for the first time this season. For carp that is. Andy had moaned his way through a couple of sessions for not-carp pointedly using two of his rods to fish for carp in the middle of March. During a snowstorm. His distain for the long, lean pointy teeth kind of fish was muted now for here in late June we had the chance of two days dedicated to rubber lips. Simon’s children, enamoured with the sea and sailing after a holiday on the Pacific last year had persuaded their long suffering parents to book them into a sailing camp. Simon, reluctant at the thought of having to don a hat with a ship's wheel on it, wear cable knit, smoke a pipe and say “Arrrh!” a lot soon got over any qualms when he realised there was a perfectly reasonable weeks long sailing camp on The Lake. The children were immediately booked in and swims closest to the nearest camp site identified and baited.
Andy turned up on the evening of the first day’s fishing Simon having only just got his own rods out. Weed starts to become a problem at this time of year on many of our lakes. On this one it grows from a few feet out from the bank to water about ten or twelve feet deep. Consequently Simon had chosen an area over the back of the weeds at about sixty yards distance. Andy looked at this set-up and sniffed. Unlike Simon who committed all three rods to this mark he put some bait in at an angle to his left much closer to the bank and in the inside strip of shallower, but relatively clear bottom. Through that first night it pissed down. The long rods remained ominously silent. About ten in the evening Andy’s was away to a spirited upper double. It came on the left hand rod fished short.
The rain continued. Simon eventually departed for bed in the knowledge he had to get up and deal with children in the next few hours. Andy fished on and when Simon came back down the following morning to check on progress Andy informed him that the long rods had had two runs, both got off, and his own short rod had had another two fish. Simon departed and left Andy to fish. Nothing came through the long hot day and one of the rods was changed to a zig fished three foot from the bottom. There had been a few fish showing over the baited area and the reasoning was that if the fish weren’t going down on the bait they may well be cruising over it and so vulnerable to a bit of black foam. Back in camp at the end of the day Andy, slightly breathless in the telling, relayed the fact that the zig had had a screamer and on tightening felt what appeared to be a very big fish. It got off, the fluorocarbon breaking at the loop connection for some not obvious reason.
The second night was drier and saw Andy catching at regular intervals on his short mark to the extent that he put a second rod on the spot. A low twenty was the biggest of the handful of fish landed, a lovely chestnut specimen.
Simon’s long rods remained unmoved. By morning he’d had enough. Identifying his own short spot to his right he put a tin of corn on it and a rod. Almost immediately he was away. And lost the fish. The rod was re-baited and cast back and he was away again. And lost the fish. Beginning to despair he tried again and was finally rewarded with a low double. And then another. Andy took over as Simon had paternal duties to take care of, and landed four fish, three of which weighed nineteen pounds. Simon returned and landed one more low double before our time was up.
The session was a good example of how fish can come on and we catch a number in short time. With just one rod on it, Simon's right hand spot produced nine runs in three hours. In contrast the long range swim produced just three runs in forty-eight hours with at least three rods on it. We all know how important location is and never more so on the large lakes we have here, but swim type is key too - the carp just didn't seem to want to get their heads down on a nondescript bit of bottom out there beyond the weeds (even though the bait was obviously there and accessible).
Next month we are into the mid-summer doldrums, a time when the lakes become somnolent and every carp has to be worked for. Perhaps it's not the best time to test pastures new but that is what we're going to do - visit a new lake. An informant has told us there are mirror carp in it. Given that Andy has yet to catch a mirror and Simon has only banked three in all the years we've been fishing here, we are looking forward to it. Check in next month to see how we got on.