After putting my landing net under a PB crucian in May my thoughts turned straight away to targeting a potential PB carp. I had a water available that contained a “50”, and at the right time of year could possibly hold two or even potentially three “50s” prior to spawning; so was clearly the place to concentrate my efforts on while trying to better my PB of 45.02. The gravel pit was fished by members, but also open to day tickets and because of the size of the carp it contained it was always busy and targeted by plenty of very capable carp anglers. The carp were therefore well “clued up” and the water classed as “tricky” at the best of times, but by all accounts it seemed as though this year in particular the carp were proving extra difficult.
My initial efforts did nothing to dispel the “difficult” tag and I was “blanking” in fine style. However the time spent at the pit wasn’t wasted as there was always something to learn and I had also noticed that the tench that were often to be seen rolling close in, especially early in the morning, appeared to be of a good average size. A few years ago when I’d done some fishing on the same water I’d seen a load of the tench following each other about in the clear margins as they got ready for spawning, but at the time they hadn’t looked to be anything special size-wise. However it looked as though they might have grown on a bit since then and after quizzing some of the regular carpers it seemed as though the tench were very rarely caught, but of a good average size, with one of the tench caught the previous year weighing into ‘double figures’.
For the next couple of sessions on the pit I decided to hedge my bets and go prepared with tackle and bait to fish for both the carp and the tench, leaving the decision on how exactly to go about it until I’d made the first swim choice. The first time I tried this it worked out very well almost immediately. I’d put out a couple of carp rods fishing further out, but also fished another rod close in, aimed at the tench, with a maggot feeder and a combination hookbait of Enterprise imitation maggot and castor, hair-rigged to a size 12 on a short braided hooklength. Within an hour or so I was ‘away’ on the feeder rod and after a spirited tussle landed a tench of 9lb 12oz! Over the duration of the session the carp rods again failed to produce a fish, but I had several more tench on the feeder rod, including a couple more female tench weighing 9lb 7oz and 8lb 6oz, plus a handful of males, the best weighing 7lb 5oz.
Obviously with the initial success with the tench I was keen to try for them again on the next trip to the pit. However the first 24hours of the next session failed to raise a bite from either the carp or tench and I decided to move swims, back to the one that had produced the tench on the previous visit. Initially things were quiet but suddenly, in the middle of the scorching hot afternoon, I had a bite on the tench rod which resulted in plump female tench weighing 10lb 3oz. I had to wait a further 24hrs for any further action and had repositioned and changed tactics on the tench rod after spotting the odd fish roll really close in on a shallow, gravely spot. I’d swapped over to fishing a little semi-stiff rig, with a piece of Enterprise buoyant imitation corn on the hair and a couple of real maggots threaded onto the size 10 hook, fished over a couple of handfuls of dead maggot, hemp and corn and a little PVA mesh bag of pellet nicked onto the hook. As is quite typical of gravel pit tench, the bite came during the middle of the afternoon, with the scales showing a reading of 10lb 3oz again. It wasn’t until we were just about to start taking photos when I realized that it was the same big fish that I’d caught the day before! The rest of the session produced a further handful of tench, but the larger females appeared to have drifted off somewhere and I could only catch a series of males, all around the 5 to 6lb mark.
On the next session I was again keen to see if I could locate some decent tench in a different swim, but I only had the one good sized fish, which amazingly turned out to be the same big female that I’d caught twice on the last trip, but this time a few ounces lighter at 9lb 15oz. I also lost two carp, which was very frustrating. One unfortunately managed to get entangled around a load of line after someone had obviously lost their end tackle and a good deal of mainline, with my fish coming adrift as I was untangling the whole mess. The other, which felt like a proper good ‘un, managed to pick up an old silted-up branch as it kited round to the left on a long line, which eventually ended up sliding down the line and bumping the hook out!
Fortunately I faired better with the carp on the next trip, with the spell of back luck replaced with a bit of good fortune. I was still looking at targeting both the tench and carp on the pit as opportunities presented themselves and despite the fact that we were now well into July it seemed as though neither species had managed to get started with their spawning activities with any amount of certainty. I’d started in another swim, but things were slow and I was looking at another recently vacated swim when I noticed several tench following each other around through the weedbeds growing on the near shelf, looking as though they were trying to rev themselves up for a spot of ‘nookey’. What was really interesting was the fact that there was a couple of decent carp tagging along behind the tench, almost as if they knew what they might soon be up to and were waiting for the opportunity to have a feast on some lovely fresh tench spawn.
I decided up “up sticks” and move into this new swim and use one of the rods to present a bait off to the left a bit, where the tench and carp appeared to be using the weedbeds most often. There was a nice firm, clear patch just behind the weed that looked a good place for a bait, so I ended up using a large snail selected from a tin of Dynamite hemp and snails slid on the hook down to the eye and a piece of dendrobaena worm covering the rest of the exposed hook shank. A couple more rods were positioned further out using more regular baits and methods, but it was the one close in just off the weed that I had the most confidence in.
It was just before dawn when the alarm on the snail baited rod burst into action as a carp tore off, clearly non too happy with its mistake. It was a fierce fight with a strong fish and dawn was spreading a soft glow onto the scene when I was eventually able to paddle out and draw what I could now see was a good common into the landing net. It was clearly a big fish and the subsequent weighing revealed a weight of 42lb, my second biggest common ever!
I managed to round off the month with a few more tench, with both males and females to over 8lb, but I was getting keen to land a few more carp and decided to concentrate on them rather than anything else for the next few sessions.
I’ll try and bring things reasonably up-to-date with my fishing in August/September in my next piece.
Until then… happy fishing!