Carp Letter from America - September 2016
Simon Blanford and Andy Bell let us know what they've been up to in September in Carp Letter from America...
In the hiatus of the last few months during which Mrs Simon and Mrs Andy and then Brian Wingard kindly took over CLfromA, we missed a lot of good fishing time. Unlike last year the real world seems to have leaked into this year bringing with it all those trivial facts of life, work and family responsibilities, that are the curse of fishermen everywhere. As a consequence great chunks of our time, chunks that might otherwise have been spent on the bank of lakes and rivers, have disappeared. But that’s not to say we haven’t been out at all in the last couple of months. Here’s what happened.
Early in the month we had stolen an overnighter at short notice. A quite unearned session but one we needed given the paucity of fishing time we’d had since our last trip to The Other Lake. We went to The Lake with the intention of fishing a swim we had never tried before. On arrival the place looked unprepossessing. Comfortable to fish in yes, but featureless and in a part of the lake we had no experience with. We bagged it for next time and went to a different area. This was not a comfortable swim but in front of us was an area of water that held much promise. Trouble was the promise was of the gritty determination to ‘winkle-out-one-or-two-fish’ type, rather than nonchalantly relaxing around the rods and inviting one another to pick up the next run. “Why don’t you take this one?” “No, no, old boy. I’ve had five already. Be my guest.”
We both looked across the large bay to a swim we had fished regularly and had had a lot of fish from. It was easy, relatively comfortable and, well, just over there. We made a beeline for it set up and fished through the rest of the evening, the night and a chunk of the following morning. Our reward was two low doubles. Just desserts for our lack of ambition.
A few weeks later we managed to steal a little more time. Simon could get away for an afternoon and night but Andy could filch two whole nights. He took the Neighbour and decided to reinvestigate the swims we had dismissed last time out.
Plan A was to fish a swim round the corner from the first one we’d looked at earlier in the month. It nestled up to an area Simon had investigated and then fished fairly intensively last season and from which he’d caught a number of fish. That swim had been small and uncomfortable, certainly not one you’d willingly spend the night in but the one the Neighbour and Andy looked at now provided clear access to a bay we knew held a good head of fish. The two of them did the usual. Plumbed the depths, found the edge of the ubiquitous weed bed that extends from the bank out to the ten or twelve feet deep mark, and ventured forth in the kayak to bait up the subsequently marked areas. All this done they settled back only to be quickly disturbed by the first run of the day and shortly afterwards the first fish, a nice double. Recast and with a bit more bait spombed out the two of them sat a little nearer the edge of their chairs in expectation of more to come. What came were a couple of Park Rangers.
Have we mentioned that the Park Rangers here go round armed? With guns and mace. And handcuffs and bullhorns. And foldable tin helmets they can put on at a moment’s notice, with walkie-talkie back up to summon drone-strikes and the option of calling on a pre-emptive thermonuclear launch if the angler looks at them a bit squint? No? Well that’s how it feels when you’re facing a couple of these stern-jawed uniforms.
“Are you camping here?” they asked hitching up their utility belts that had fallen well south of their avoirdupois.
Andy went straight for his air of innocence. “What us gov’ner, why would you think we were camping? Honest as the day is long we are. This “arrangement” (Andy waves a dismissive hand at the tarpaulin shelter the Neighbour has erected) is just a temporary structure y’r honour, just to keep the rain off while we fish.”
The Park Rangers looked up at the blue, blue sky and then turned their skeptical gaze back on Andy.
“Shade,” Andy said quickly, “shade I meant to say. Keep the sun off. Know what I mean?”
“Well, alright sir. But you’ll have to move. There’s going to be some work done here to stop the bank erosion. Be a couple of days and then no fishing for a week or so. Should improve the fishing when it’s finished,” he added over his shoulder as they left, clipping the safety straps on their holsters back over their sidearms.
Andy and the Neighbour moved all their kit round the bay into another swim, one that we had also surveyed on a previous trip but had yet to fish. This one had been recommended to us before, and in fact, in a moment of rare egalitarian brotherliness, half the American carp fishing community as well. The swim (swims more accurately), had a comfortable bank to fish from, trestle tables to sit and eat food at and a convenient public toilet just over there. Also the car park was close, a boon to all the asthmatic types who view a trundle along the bank as akin to the Long March. Or perhaps, given the latter’s Maoist overtones, anathema in these Trump lovin’ times, the Trail of Tears.
More bait went in and the rods were cast out upon the water. A fish came. Another low double. Then nothing until the early hours of the morning when amid much crashing about from the fish runs came thick and fast. Fifteen in a short few hours. But only three fish were landed. Rigs were lost, line was frayed and patience disappeared up the Khyber arse. Eventually only one rod was left fishing as neither Andy nor the Neighbour were in any mood to retackle for the umpteenth time.
Light caused a rethink and Andy mentioned another swim he and Simon had found. It was a tricky prospect. The majority of the bottom was covered in dense weed. But there were some enticing clear patches amongst the green stuff and the bottom in these patches was firm and full of clam shells. With a sense of adventure (and an urgent wish to leave the debacle of the night before) they moved again and spent some time setting up, kayaking out to survey the best areas and poking a pole down in the substrate to test its firm nature. They baited the best of these areas, marking them with floats to aid recasts and to deter bass boats, and then sat about trying to recover from their sleepless night. It grew hot. The sun blazed down from another cloudless sky. Prospects looked slim. Then Simon turned up.
“You’re not fishing here?” he asked, diplomacy left some way, way behind. Andy and the Neighbour looked at him, displeased. A conversation ensued in which Simon volunteered to go back to Plan B and see if there as anything more to be made of it.
On arrival he deployed the depth finder and leaded around the long bank on which Andy and the Neighbour had spent their eventful night. It soon became apparent that just a little to the left of where they had been fishing there was a solid bottom and the lead came back clear only occasionally bumping heavily against what was likely to be larger rocks down there in the deep. To the right Simon lost the lead and marker float on what was presumably the snags that had played so much havoc the previous evening. Well beyond this though was another firm bottomed area and that ran adjacent to extensive weed bed, possibly the site from which Andy and the Neighbour had had all their runs. Very tempting. Simon returned to Andy and the Neighbour who sat heavily on the folding chairs, sullen and debauched, contemplating the vast expanse of water in front of them. Nothing had materialised, the sun continued to beat down and the water was unbroken by rolling fish. It didn’t take much persuading to get Andy and the Neighbour to shift one more time.
Return to Plan B
Andy baited up an area to the left of the swim he had fished last night, cast out and then joined the Neighbour who was already slumped in his chair, tinny in hand. Simon donned the snorkel and mask and went to investigate the area next to the weed bed. This turned out to be a promising looking patch of firm clay littered again with many clam shells. On the way back he dived down to investigate the swim Andy had chosen. He was fishing in deep water. Simon swam down. And down. The light left the world, the tons of water above lay heavily on him. By five miles down it had become cold, gloomy and oppressive. “Hell, monsters might be down here,” Simon thought. “Great, scaly beasts,” and then, his imagination running away with him at the same rate as the oxygen supply in his lungs, “great scaly beasts with huge scimitar teeth and little blobby lights dangling from their foreheads looming up from the bottomless depths to engulf an unwary carp angler stupid enough to go snorkeling.” Simon gave up trying to find the lake-bed, headed for the surface and on breaking it gave Andy the thumbs up. “Yup, all looks good down there, bait’s nice and tight and your rigs are sitting perfectly.” He swam to shore, baited his area and cast out.
By now evening was approaching and the fish were conspicuous by their absence. The Neighbour departed, though whether in disgust at the lack of action or because he had reached his fill of talk about carp wasn’t clear. A little while later and just as the light of day gave up Andy’s buzzer sounded. He proceeded to the rod in his usual sedate manner and tightened into a solid object down there in the depths. The fight was unspectacular (it probably had decompression sickness) and the fish, aside from a bit of chugging around under the rod tip was soon in the net. Now this season Andy has been the king of the big twenties. While our quest is for carp of thirty pounds or more has been unsuccessful, Andy has, in the meantime, landed more fish between 25 and 30 pounds already than all of last season and that despite us fishing considerably fewer days this year. Come to think of it, here are a few of them.
The fellow from the depths now on the mat tipped the scales at twenty-seven and change - Plan B (redux) was paying dividends. To a certain extent at least. Though the carp displayed that wanton disregard for the peace and quiet of the night by crashing and splashing for an hour or so either side of midnight no other runs were forthcoming. We had to wait for dawn. Simon, bringing himself together after a fitful night, was watching his floats (his swim required float-ledger tactics to keep the line above the snags that had frustrated Andy and Neighbour the previous night) and saw one of them bob, dither and then, like the shark-attached barrels in ‘Jaws’ take-off across the still surface, submerging slowly as it went. This fish decided to visit friends in the extensive weed bed to the right of the swim and after a bit of toing and froing patience was lost and it was hauled unceremoniously into the net. Another good twenty from amongst the morning mist.
Those trivial bits of life, the responsibility, family, work etc., meant that we had to pull off the lake promptly that morning. As everyone does we packed up around our rods and just as it was time to finally reel in Simon had another run on the weed bed rod. This was a slightly smaller but still solidly built fish to end the session. It hadn’t been our most productive visit to The Lake but we had learned a bit about some new swims and maybe – finally – Andy had been convinced of the utility of the float-ledger.
Next month Simon is looking forward to his team being crowned National Champions and Andy is seeking to become the public face of the local brewery. Based on volume consumed alone he should be a shoe in. Amongst all this excitement we might even get out to do some fishing. If so we shall report it here. If not, well, perhaps we’ll see you next year.