Two gray blobs drift away from me as I approach the edge of the bank. The water is moving quite fast, a result of the enormous amount of rain we’ve had this year. Today is the “First Fishing Folly” Carp Anglers Group tournament. The idea is to get out on January 1st and catch a carp, something that can be pretty tricky considering it is, well it is supposed to be, winter.
November was unseasonably cold and now January has been unseasonably warm. Is it global warming? A chinese hoax? Some bizarre conspiracy? Whatever it is, the weather sure seems nuts. No lie, one of my biggest fears in life is for something out of my control to prevent me from fishing. In time the rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay but cor blimey I better be able to go fishing!
Another fish ghosts by as I watch from behind the birch trees. It’s important at this spot that you physically locate the fish. I guess that can be said for any place you are fishing but in this spot in particular you must absolutely find them. Once you do, you can watch them and decide what the best plan of attack is. This is why I am here on January 1; the fish are either here or there or over there. Today I brought a few worms from my garage compost bin as well as some of the old “yellow peril” (been reading Chris Yates). The worms are something I am trying out as one year I came for a visit in January only to find the fish completely and utterly dormant. Even a few grains of corn on their actual nose couldn’t elicit any response. The term is “torpid”, I believe. Anyway, I was thinking if I found them in the same state, they wouldn’t be able to ignore a few worms. This isn’t the case though, the fish are moving around and casting a worm in would likely result in a white sucker. Instead I put out a few handfuls of corn and cast out my rig. Today I am using a “new” rig for this place - 15lb fluorocarbon with a size 8 out turned eye hook tied on with traditional snell knot. The hair is whipped on after wards with a piece of braid since the fluoro is so stiff. Now we wait and while wait, let me finish telling you about the end of 2018.
In September my family and I went to England. It was a lifelong dream of mine to travel and it had been delayed by my reluctance to become an american citizen. In case you are wondering, I was born in Mexico to legal residents who lived along the border of Mexico and Texas. When you live in that area, it is not uncommon to go back and forth across the border. Some folks live in Mexico and commute to Texas for work everyday and it has been like that for a long ol’ time. I will keep it at that for now as we are on the verge of politics. SO ANYWAY I was saying, I got my citizenship and applied for a passport the very same day. A few months later my passport arrived in the mail and soon after, my wife and daughter’s did as well. Initially, I told myself my trip to the UK was not fishing motivated, I mean what kinda lunatic goes to England to fish for chub and carp? However, after a few vacation planning sessions, I had to admit to myself that this trip was indeed fishing motivated and I was very very excited.
In order to accomplish my grand tour of England, we had to rent a car. Driving a strange car with the steering wheel on the right side, while driving on the “wrong” side of the road is perhaps the most horrifying thing I have ever done. It didn’t help that I got no sleep on the plane ride over. The delirium combined with the backwards driving made that whole experience feel like a nightmare. It was only after about 6 days of driving around that it become more “normal” feeling. That being said, I suggest you absolutely give it a go if you are overseas. While the driving may have proved more challenging than anticipated, the country itself was even more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Our first few days were spent in a small apartment just walking distance from the river Avon. Originally I had planned to bring almost every fishing rod I owned, what I ended up with was just my 6ft Scope and a handful of reels. It is a versatile rod, my go to rod for tossing bread at fish. It felt like fall and the streets were empty on the morning I set out to explore. I had taken a walk the night before just to get an idea of where I could fish and had spotted some chub hanging diligently in the current. The river was alive with roach that morning and something about it felt unpressured. The small fish happily took pieces of bread off the surface just a couple feet from the bank. After just a few cast I landed my first ever river Avon roach. Not long after, I noticed a curious chub having a look at what was going on. Eventually the chub was tempted enough to take the hookbait. There was a short burst of power and before long I had my very first river Avon chub. My short morning session was over by then but I was thrilled to have crossed off two bucket list fish. After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and headed off for Wales were had a picnic at an old castle. We then continued our tour of the southern half of England and made our way to the Cotswolds where I had booked us a room in a very old house that just happened to be next to a pond.
The house was a beautiful old manor in the middle of the countryside. The owners were kind and we eventually learned that one of them had gone to school in Connecticut for a period of time. What a small world we live in. Each morning we were greeted with fresh croissant and coffee. We’d then drive a short distance to the nearest town and go for a wander, stopping in at any shop that looked interesting. In the afternoon I was free to explore the pond. It was small and shallow and the bank was overgrown with stinging nettles. By the way, getting stung by the nettles really sucks. There wasn’t much bank access but from the bridge that served as a connection for the public footpath it was possible to see a few trout in the small stream that connected the pond to the river. They were the spookiest of trout I’ve ever encountered and despite my efforts to scale my tackle down, those fish went uncaught. Perhaps a well placed fly would have fooled them. After a few drizzly days in the Cotswolds, we were heading out again. This time we were off to Cambridge where I would have a chance to fish at one of the Nash tackle lakes.
Cambridge is a lovely city and it is actually one of the places I find myself revisiting in my mind. The plan was that my wife and daughter would spend the day exploring Cambridge while I would do some fishing at the nearby Nash lake, “Royston”. Royston is a day ticket lake, the kind you read about in carp fishing magazines. These are lakes that anyone can fish, you just have to pay an annual membership fee as well as the price for day access. Since I was visiting from out of the country, I only had to pay for the day ticket.
Throughout the trip my family had graciously followed me around several tackle shops. I had picked up two new rods (9ft Daiwa Powermesh), bait and a handful of end tackle which I organized the night before my session. While I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I decided to stick to my usual tactics - small baited areas and plastic corn on hair rigs. Even though I wasn’t allowed to start fishing till 9am, I made it to the lake by 7am to look around. The lake was located down on one of the many rural/agricultural areas just outside of Cambridge. All around the lake was a fence and you needed a gate code to get in. Could you imagine having managed access to your favorite lake? There were a few anglers on the small 4 acre lake when I arrived. Now, I am a bit of an introvert and the mere sight of anyone fishing on a lake that I am at is a real buzzkill. I guess I should have expected to see other anglers there, the shocker was that they were ALL fishing for carp, something I’ve never experienced. Back home, there are mornings where I have anywhere from 20 to 300 acres all to myself and maybe the occasional basshole (my term for inconsiderate bass anglers) shows up. Anywho, I had some time to kill and so I drove to the nearest Tesco to pick up some some breakfast.
I was back at the lake by 9 and by then 3 anglers had left and a new angler had arrived. The swims on the lake where laid out in such a way that you couldn’t really be too far from anyone. No wonder there is so much talk about “pressured” carp in overseas carp mags. The swim I had chosen somewhat arbitrarily during my morning recce was still available. The tackle shop owner who acted as bailiff to the lake gave me a few pieces of advice, “Don’t ignore the margins, follow the wind, use zigs, don’t ignore the center of the lake…”. It seemed so canned and contrived that I quickly decided I would just figure it out when I got there. The margins were deep and I positioned two rods about 20 ft out. A few scoops of sweetcorn and boilies followed. I almost felt self-conscious not setting up a bivvy or even a chair like the other anglers but I was simply fishing as a normally do. As I laid on the unhooking mat, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. I had consumed countless videos and articles and special ordered all manner of British carp gear and now there I was, carp fishing in England. How cool is that?
Nothing happened for the first few hours and in spite of the novelty of what I was doing, I was bored. I’d seen what seemed like a biggish fish bosh out on the opposite side of the lake and I recast one of my rods to it since the swim was empty. Another hour passed and I decided I would go for a walk. Royston is actually 2 lakes, Kingfisher and Wood lake. There is a path around both and I walked the entirety of it. Almost every other swim was taken, some had more than one angler in it. As I passed each person I couldn’t help but feeling like what they were actually doing was camping while waiting for their turn to catch a fish. It seemed stagnant, it hardly felt like fishing. Perhaps it is the outcome of commercializing fishing to such an extent that it becomes predictable and meaningless. It certainly made me appreciate what we have here in the US.
Needless to say - I blanked that day but I am grateful for the experience. In the end I fished for a total of about 6 hours. On the way back to Cambridge I pondered about how our “wild” fish and the domesticated day ticket carp are completely different beasts. The tactics used in the UK certainly work but I think it is best to do some experimenting and form some of your own conclusions rather than just jump into that scene head first. Somewhere between “Bread Ball Chuckers” and the Korda “Master Class” seems about right.
The remainder of our trip was spent at a friend’s house in London. By then, we were all tired from a week and half of driving around England and it was nice to be with friends. My wife took a jewelry making class with our friend Hannah and I spent a couple of mornings walking up and down the local canal fishing for perch. It was the loveliest of times.
England is a beautiful place. It certainly gave me some perspective on life and fishing (are they mutually exclusive?) We certainly met some lovely people and saw some incredible places. However, as this is a fishing related blog, I will just say this - we are truly spoiled for choice in the US when it comes to fishing and even more so when it comes to pursuing our lovely pond tunas.
As we walked back into our house my four year old daughter summed it up quite nicely, “Ah… that’s more like it.”