For years Carp fishing has always eluded me. Primarily I am a game angler specifying in Trout (I am a level 2 UKCC Game Angling Coach and the youngest female game angling coach in the UK), I have worked at Hardy & Greys for nearly four years and I have always been intrigued by the obsession anglers have with Carp.
Looking in from the outside, Carp fishing seems to devour everything in its path, it’s more like an obsession than a sport. It seems Carp anglers rave about their catches more than anglers from any other discipline, always wanting to catch bigger, better and prettier fish and those that catch them seem to command a kind of a respect that few others can achieve.
In this article I am going to write about a few of the experiences I have had whilst Carp fishing, and my thoughts as I ‘cross over’ to what I once thought was the ‘dark side’ and of course, what it’s like as a female in a largely male dominated world.
To us game anglers who have never experienced Carp fishing, and I was one of them until recently, we find the idea of naming a fish, driving hours to ‘bivvy up’ and ‘camp’ for days if not weeks in all weather conditions on what Carpers term ‘sessions’ just ludicrous. Being away from family, friends and everyday amenities, I mean are you (and now me to some extent) all mad? Maybe not, please read on…
My first opportunity to try Carp fishing was on a day session with the great legendary angler, John Bailey. We were accompanied by Lee Collings, Hardy & Greys Carp Product Development Manager and also a very accomplished angler. It was a session that went back to basics with the lads using bread as bait and fishing on the top. With the boys’ help I managed a real beauty at just over 17lb – what a great start to my Carping career!
What did baffle me with that first capture however, was when we are Trout fishing we’d quickly release the hook and slip her back, or knock the fish on the head for tea. But John and Lee gently popped her into a net large enough to carry at least fifty of my usual quarry before then heading to the bank where they carefully laid her down, ensuring she had enough water on her as one would a Whale that had been washed ashore.
The guys marvelled at her ‘beauty.’ Well, I was stunned – beautiful I thought? To me it certainly wasn’t that! However, as time passed and the boys continued to be overwhelmed by what was to me, a monster, but to them a minnow, it was hard not to start to marvel at the beauty that I’d caught, its colours of yellow and orange, the scale pattern across the length of its body was actually incredible, maybe I was just starting to get it. After a few photographs it was time to slip her back and I was astounded. As before the release John and Lee gently placed what looked like antiseptic on the Carp’s mouth. What was this? I asked, “It helps to heal the wound caused by the hook entry” Lee informed me. The care and pure respect that the boys took over the fish once having caught it was wonderful to see – something some of us game guys could really learn from! And that was it for my first session. It left me with a lot to think about, and if I was honest I liked the immense fight and the sheer size of the fish filling the bottom of the net.
My second Carp fishing trip saw me visit a syndicate lake with Lee this time for a 48 hour session. It was September and already there was a distinct coolness in the air. Lee advised to bring “lots of layers, thermals and waterproofs.” We arrived at the venue late afternoon, checked out the lake before deciding on a spot to bivvy up.
Half way through carrying all the kit out of the car to our swim it started to rain. But it wasn’t just drizzle, oh no, this was heavy rain, it was total chaos. Everything was getting soaked. Just my luck I thought soaked through and nowhere to dry off or shower for at least two days. Great! Although Lee did inform me this was completely normal, and to be a Carp angler you needed a certain amount of resilience so, not to be outdone as a female and a game angler I bit my bottom lip, smiled and just cracked on.
The night was kind of surreal; I laid in my bag shaking thinking I am not sure this is for me. But eventually I was warm and slipped into a peaceful slumber. The peace could not and did not last. Around about 2am the third rod lit up the night sky with a deafening piercing scream that could have woken the dead. I flew out of the bag (luckily I was testing out the new Chub Cloud 9 5 Season Sleeping Bag with crash zips) and I was off and playing what was to me an absolute giant. The rod lunged and creaked and the spool was out of control taking line with no respect for me whatsoever. My heart was beating out of my chest, and my legs were shaking, it was magical, but almost violent with the beast’s brute force, has he would stop at nothing in his bid for freedom. God if I never realised before, yes I did at that moment, I got it, I knew why you all pursue your quarry with such desire. She tipped the scales at 16lb 4oz, a minnow to many of you but do you know the weight didn’t matter, I felt it at that moment and I had become part of the obsession.
My most recent Carp fishing trip saw me visit a syndicate lake in the South West of England. The 72 hour session saw a much more confident Lucy on the bank, but was always going fairly pedestrian after the last outing. It was April, spring was in the air and the idea of ‘bivvying up’ was quite appealing. The session really was great. I managed a pretty little 10lb mirror and more importantly, a sun tan!
For me going Carp fishing was something totally new, something totally different. Having fly fished for over twenty years I now feel pretty competent at it, and sometimes a new challenge reawakens the soul and the mind. And, you know what, why not? Why not try something different, something out of your comfort zone? Why stick to doing what you know – you never learn something new by not giving something a shot. We are always looking for new experiences in life and for me Carp fishing is something I still know very little about and certainly something I’d love to learn much more about if I get the opportunity.
Fishing runs through my blood, it really is in my veins, and I guess that’s what has been the biggest lesson for me in all of this. We are all bonded by our beautiful sport no matter what discipline we pursue or gender we are, and I had always seen Carp fishing as something totally different. But, when you look deeper into it it’s not really that different from any other form of angling. Next time you’re thinking you would like to pick up a fly rod, go predator or sea fishing or anything else for that matter, don’t hesitate to give it a try, I did and I have loved every minute of it.
I’d like to finish this article by thanking John Bailey and Lee Collings for introducing me to Carp fishing. I’d also like to thank all the Carp guys out there who have been only too kind to give me their top tips and tricks. I’ll keep you updated on my adventure…
I hope you enjoyed this article and Tight Lines.