Planning and Booking the Trip
Our planning had started eight months previously when my wife Liz and I sat planning our holidays for 1999. In the past we have travelled to France in search of big carp whilst combining the fishing with a holiday that keeps us both happy. We had enjoyed our trips to France and had caught numerous carp into the mid-30’s but this year we fancied a fresh challenge. After reading one or two articles in the angling press we visited Martin Founds at Anglers World Holidays and before you could say ‘big common’s’ we were booked – a week in Ontario, Canada in September 1999. Everything was arranged for us, from flights and accommodation, right through to the groundbait for fishing. The cost was a pleasant surprise, as there wasn’t much difference to our last trip to France – sorted!!!.
Here at last!
So now after months of planning, buying new gear and bait we were finally on Canadian soil. We collected the 4×4 from the Hertz garage and we drove the 21/2 hours northeast to a small town called Lakefield right in the heart of Ontario. The driving was easy, once you get away from Toronto the roads are long, straight and by no means busy – after two years of fighting the M6 each day this was bliss!
We arrived at our resort – Englewood. This was situated about two miles from Lakefield and overlooked the magnificent Katchewanooka Lake. Tony, the owner, greeted us and showed us to our home for the week. This consisted of a two bed-roomed wooden cabin, which was clean but basically furnished and with a view which was absolutely breathtaking. We were situated about 20 yards away from a large bay, which opened out into this massive lake. The far bank was about a mile away and it is approximately 12 miles long. And you ‘big pit anglers’ think you fish large waters – get a life!
Tony told us that the Lake had fished well earlier on in the year and fish to 28lbs were taken in June/July. However he told us that no fish had been caught from the bay for a few months and recommended that we stuck to the Trent Severn River System where the carp are more obliging.
Before we hit the sack we travelled up to another Lakeside Resort called Young’s Point and collected our rod licences for the week. In Canada you are only allowed to fish with one rod and licences allow you to fish any public access waters or permitted private waters (Like Englewood) in the area. They cost approximately £ 15 each and although Liz isn’t a keen angler I bought her one also – see taking the wife can have its uses!. A quick point about licences though – don’t break the rules – the water bailiff’s do patrol regularly and they carry guns – enough said!
The next morning saw us up at first light and on our way down to the river. Now this river varies dramatically in width. In some places it is similar to our Upper Trent and Severn Rivers, whilst in others it is 300 yards wide. It runs in stretches, moving through massive lock systems about every 3 miles.
Martin at Angler’s World Holiday’s had kindly supplied us with a map of proven fish holding areas therefore location was not a problem; in fact we were spoilt for choice! We settled on a swim with a depth of 10 to15ft deep at about two rod’s length out, and after setting the gear up I cast out into the crystal clear water and fired out about 30 Jaffa orange-sized balls of groundbait and 20 pouchfuls of boiled maize. The hookbaits were 20mm Nashbait Scopex Boilies.
Just a quick note about the water, so clear and clean. You can see the bottom even in deeper stretches. Just as well really, so that you can see some of the huge rocks that make up the river bed.
Tackle and Bait.
Tackle for our trip consisted of normal carp fishing gear but with one important thing – it must be very strong! I used 12ft 2 1/2 test curve rods, either Daiwa Tournament Big Pit/ Shimano Baitrunner reels with one spooled with 15lbs and the other with 30lbs Powercable Braid. My rigs are very simple – 2ft to 4ft of Fox 35lb Leadcore (Good abrasion resistance), 2oz to 3oz leads or Richworth method feeders and 10 inches of either 25lbs Kryston Silkworm or 30lbs Powercable hook lengths. I also took some Kryston Quicksilver to use as an abrasion leader but I must admit I didn’t use any. Hooks need to be big and strong – my choice was size 2 Fox Series 3 hooks, finished with the simple ‘no knot’ hair.
You may feel that this is heavy-handed but these fish are very naive and they fight like demons! A great tip on braid is to buy it when you get to Canada – much cheaper.
Other important items of gear to take are a large landing net, electronic bite alarms, indicators, scales, bank sticks, catapults (and spare elastics, etc) and lots of spare hooks and rig tackle as you cannot buy these over there. I also took a smallish unhooking mat, which I managed to fit into the base of a suitcase. The banks over there can be hard so I advise that you take care when dealing with the carp on the bank. By the way we flew schedule flights to Canada and that gave us 50kgs (2 pieces of checked hold baggage) each. Charter flights are cheaper but you will have a lower allowance (approx 15kgs).
Meanwhile on the bait front, as I previously mentioned, the groundbait was waiting for us when we arrived in the resort, kindly organised by Martin. This comes from the local animal feeds supplier and consists of Chop, a light seed mix that sinks but has no binding quality, and Oilcake, a great binder that has a high oil content. I mixed this at a ratio of two parts chop to one part oilcake and I got a great mix.
Another excellent pair of fish pullers is maize and wheat (also available from the animal feeds supplier). Preparation for these is simple – I soaked them for 24 hours then boiled for an hour to soften. These were then flavoured to match my boilies and either loose-feed, or added to the groundbait mix. For hookbaits I used double 20mm Nashbait Scopex ready-mades or four to five grains of flavoured maize. Any quality readymade will work and I believe that flavour dips help me put more fish on the bank.
The key to carp fishing in Canada is to pile the bait in; prebaiting is recommended. and then top up the swim regularly as you fish. These fish are very greedy and are not shy of baited areas. Holding the fish as they move through your swim is crucial; otherwise they will ‘mop up’ your bait and then move on. I fed my swims so much that I returned home with a very sore hand due to the excessive use of my groundbait catapult!
Back to the fishing
We found the daytime fishing tough due to the high temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit! But, once the power of the sun begins to fade you start to get line-bites as the fish move into the baited area. If you are using a method feeder then you have to be ready for some violent liners and you need to almost sit on your hands until the line streams from the reel. Imagine that you are fishing one day and your hook gets caught on a passing speedboat doing 50 mph. Well, playing a Canadian carp is a similar experience!
I hooked my first fish of the week at 6pm on the first day. The power of these fish is incredible. Most have never been hooked and 100yd runs are not uncommon! But once you have subdued them and slide the long mean common carp over the waiting landing net you will see that it is worth the loss of energy. My first fish weighed just over 23lbs and was one of the longest carp I’ve ever caught. Now I agree that fish of this size are ‘as common as muck’ in the UK but I feel that Canadian Carp fight twice as hard. They are pure golden muscle machines with massive tails and big mouths – my double 20mm bait looked tiny in comparison.
During that week I accounted for over 25 fish from the river, most of which came between 5pm – 10pm and 90% were over 22lbs. Each day we would go out for the day, sightseeing and eating (the food is another long story – if you love your grub, then Canada is the place for you!) then we would get down to the prebaited swims for about 4-30pm ready for the action. And what impressed my missus was that we were leaving at 8-9pm after catching half a dozen 20’s, back to the cabin for a good meal and a few beers! I have been told that earlier in the year it is possible to catch up to 20 fish per day if the carp are ‘having it’. We did meet some guys from London were fishing all night and caught over 100 fish each over a two week period, including a couple of 30’s.
In Part Two of Canadian Carp Adventure Paul tells us about the unidentified animal that appeared in the dark. They fish Lake Katchewanooka for a biggie. And he gives ten top tips to get the most from this superb Canadian carp fishing and supplies details of how to get there.