There is more than one way to skin a cat (carp article and video, entry 411)

Click images above to enlarge

My Angling Journal is read not only by people in the UK, but is visited by anglers from many different nations around the world. And on that basis, perhaps it would be good to explain the heading of this week’s article. It’s a saying we have here, and it’s not literal – in other words I’m not advocating animal cruelty! What it means is that there are many ways to achieve a result. And that’s where I want to kick off with in this piece. What we fail to realise so many times is that angling is very subjective, yet so often we hear statements presented as hard facts. The latter for me has to be something like ‘Don’t bother fishing for pike with sweetcorn’ and ‘Your wasting your time targeting roach with a plug’. Those are straightforward statements that cannot be argued with. But so many times we hear what in effect are just opinions, but they are presented as if they are universally held facts.

There is nothing wrong with opinions of course, but we need to differentiate between a fact and an opinion, otherwise our angling will suffer. Take canal carp fishing for example, some anglers will tell you with absolute conviction as if that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that you need to pre-bait. Others will say you need to put a kilo of boilies out, then some will say pellets. And so on and so forth. Now of course, there is nothing wrong with any of those views, but that’s exactly what they are. We need to think for ourselves, think outside the box, and maybe use a different approach for each session as opposed to a one-size-fits-all line of attack.

And on that, I gave my first session of the week much thought. I decided to head for a section of the Staffs/Worcs Canal where I have caught carp before, but some years ago. Back then, when I decided to tackle the canal, I had no idea if the carp were there. But what I did was do some walking and choose a spot, that if carp were in the section, that’s where they would be. And it was great to actually get amongst them. I had a number of fish into double figures. Not big fish but due to the nature of their capture, ones that still to this day bring a smile to my face. But that was then, this is now. Would they still be there? Has the winter we have just gone through killed them off? Well, there’s only one way to find out and that’s to get out there and give it a go. And that’s exactly what I did on the Monday evening. As dusk set in, and the weather took a turn for the worse, I had both rods out and I sat back and waited.

My approach was to fish a 12mm M1 pop-up on one rod and a same-size M2 bottom boilie on the other. I put no extra bait out other than that in the PVA bag on casting. The M1 was on its own with just pellets, while the M2 had loose boilies and I poured some dip in the bag as well. While on some venues you may be expecting large numbers of fish, I was fishing for just one at a time. Then if that one came, another; very much a take-them-as-they-come philosophy. But being happy with one fish isn’t negative or small-mindedness. In situations like this it’s realism. I didn’t have long to wait until the dream became a reality though, as within the hour the M2 rod shot forward to the extent that even though the baitrunner was engaged, I thought it was going to fly off in to the canal. Typical small carp run!

After a really feisty battle it eventually succumbed to the net, and after a photograph (number 1), was released back to its watery home. I didn’t weigh it but it was a really solid fish and I’d say it was probably between 7 and 8lb, certainly not a double. Unfortunately we live in an angling world very much mirrored by the wider one around us, and for many fishermen it’s quite simply ‘the bigger the best’ attitude that prevails. But for those like myself who see beyond just a read-out on a dial, we appreciate each fish for its own worth and value. As I say on the video, it’s not one of my biggest but it’s certainly one of my best. The moment I returned the fish the hanger on the other rod dropped to the ground and I found myself reeling in – as opposed to hanging on to for dear life – a small bream. No more fish meant that all the action happened in the space of a few minutes. The session in total was not much longer than three hours, but as I so often write, it’s better to be fishing at the right time for an hour than to spend hours when it’s not.

My second and final session of the article was even shorter, in fact I chopped an hour off the time spent at the water’s edge. But the philosophy of being in the right place at the right time paid off as I again caught a carp (photographs 3, 4). This time it was at first light that I set up on the towpath. Everything else was the same though, down to bait, tactics and tackle. Like my first trip it was about an hour into fishing that I had a take, this time though on the pop-up bait. The initial evidence of a fish on the other end indicated that although it was hooked it hadn’t quite sunk in. And although I’m always reluctant to make the claim that something has never been caught before, in this case it may well be true. But whatever, instinct kicked in and within a second or two, the lazy movement on the hanger switched to one that hit the rod butt as the fish went crazy.

With the canal being well used by boats there are no snags as such to speak off, no dumped cars or trees, and with it being rural, no shopping trolleys either. It is just a case of being firm and allowing the fish to tire itself out. Fishing with 10lb mainline and the same braided hook length and a 2.5lb test curve rod, there are no worries about being under-equipped as far as tackle is concerned. So within a reasonably short period of time I slipped the fish over the submerged net and lifted it on the bank. It was bigger than the first one caught, and although hardly likely to win any prizes, it hit the spot as far as I was concerned. After 6 blanks on the canal, including 5 overnighters, I had caught on consecutive sessions. I was certainly one of those happy bunnies. No more fish, but as I said on the video, this sort of angling you have got to be more than contented with one. Anything else is a bonus.

The vegetation looked really healthy and the recent rain had obviously had its effect on the growing cycle as everything looked so much more developed than during the previous dry spell. As a keen naturalist I always keep an eye on the world around me, and amongst the common nettles, white dead-nettles and butterbur that were in the area I fished I noticed the pink of the red campion! Yes, although it is called by that name, the flower is indeed pink. They are common plants and will flower late in the year; in fact a couple of years ago on the canal I saw one that went right through into December. I love the British wildlife scene and can you believe it, although I’ve seen the African big 5 in their native environment, I actually get more of a thrill from the natural world here in the British Isles.

You may be wondering what photograph 5 is all about at the top of the page. One of my interests is football and this extends to a season ticket at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Our recent game with our local rivals WBA, which we won 3-1, was screened live on Sky Sports. When the second goal went in (we won 3-1), both Miriam and I started to get texts from people saying they had seen us on TV. That’s my daughter in the photo and you can also see me next to her, although I think the cameraman was more interested in Miriam than me! Anyway we got home and our respective facebook pages were full of more notifications, and Mimi was even featuring on twitter from random people who had seen her and tweeted! My mate Stu Maddocks, who is also a keen angler, sent me the clip off TV, and also some stills by email. I ended up doing a video, which you can see on my YouTube channel.

And talking of facebook, the carp I caught last week featured in a competition I ran. It was basically guess the weight and win a prize. It was interesting to see the variation in estimates, with the lowest coming in at 13lb and the highest peaking at 26lb 9oz. With the fish more than doubling from the one to the other, it just shows how opinion can be so different. I didn’t run the competition for that, but it does highlight the range of verdicts. For the record, it was 22lb 5oz. (Originally published May 2011)


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