The wonderful world of fishing is the one thing all of us anglers have in common, from fly fishing to pole fishing, no matter which style or method you use the end result is to achieve the same goal…catching fish!
As a young lad, I used to go fishing at Somersall River for Trout and it was there that my passion for angling started. I was also lucky enough to occasionally fish Walton Dam, because my Grandad, Steve Calton worked as a Printer at Robinsons, they owned the Dam and would only let employees and family become members. Whilst fishing there with my grandad for Roach and Perch I remember watching these large black silhouettes in the water cruising around in the sunshine. I would occasionally cast at these fish in anticipation that I may actually catch one to show my Grandad, they seemed impossible to tempt and if you had caught a Walton Dam Carp it was classed as a major achievement, as they were renowned for their cunning, power and stealth. Tales of the one that got away were far more common than any tales of success.
So my personal challenge in 2009 had to be catching a Walton Dam Carp. My quest was driven by a promise I had made earlier in the year, I had told my children many times that I would catch one of these elusive Carp from Walton Dam and dedicate it to my now late Grandad, because I know how happy it would have made him. It may sound a bit soft but you sometimes need that bit of extra motivation especially when targeting a water like this. It is a fair size with only 50 resident Carp and is only 6ft deep in the deepest part with 3-4ft an average depth and with at least 3ft of silt to contend with, it is a bit daunting, I’m told that it only produced 6 Carp last year and there were no record breakers, in fact the biggest carp in there is rumoured to only be around 20lb. These fish were stocked around 20 years ago proper Old English Carp that over the years have seen all the tricks so know that little bit more than the average plus not having to compete for food is a real bonus for these fussy fish and not so for us anglers, It would be a safe bet to assume that some of these fish may have never been caught before.
I started by having a good look around the place looking for obvious features and patrol routes, It seemed the Weeping Willow and mangrove of snags was an obvious place of sanctury for Carp.
The Mangrove of Willow branches and roots
The Willow tree is famous with us fisherman, because for what ever reason, they are fish magnets. The cover and security a Willow offers to all fish is second to none, could it be that the Willow branches and leaves absorb the sun’s energy and this energy is some how transferred to the roots, does this warmer water become a fish attractor? who knows?- I can only speculate.
Bait wise I generally use Dynamite baits and Nutra baits especially on the rivers but fancied a change for this still water, so I decided to go with one specific size and flavoured boilie and the plan was to get them pre-occupied with the flavour so after some good results last season I decided to stick with the bait company CC Moores and their Meteor range of boilies pellets and dips.
Session Pack from CC Moore Baits
In all honesty I think we all get slightly obsessed with nutritional value and flavours in the bolie mix but in reality I think so long as its fresh and from a good reputable bait company, stick with it and eventually the fish will get on the feed and then your going to catch.
Having decided to fish snags there is a lot to consider as snag fishing is probably one of the hardest forms of Carp fishing, in that you have to be alert all the while and ready to ‘strike at the first bleep’ there is no wandering about socialising in the next peg when your fishing snags.
“The safety of the fish is the most important thing when fishing snags”
I also need to make sure that if and when I do get a run on the rig suitable to entrap my quarry that it is safe enough to allow the fish to escape should the worst happen, so I decided to modify my lead clips snipping off the plastic that secures the lead securely in place, just enough so it will still hold the lead but should easily release the lead should it feel any resistance.
Modified Lead Clip for Snag Fishing
The other tactic I decided to incorporate was rather than just casting a rig right into the snaggy areas at first cast I baited up a good 6-10 ft or so away from the snag to encourage the fish to come out for their food.
I tied up some rigs on 20lb ESP Striptease to a size 8 snag hook barbless with a 14mm Meteor pop up tipped with a 10mm flouro pop up so it is more visible together with a PVA stocking full of crushed and chopped Meteor boilies.
Simple Pop Up Rig with modified lead clip
In preparation I had previously walked around the Dam a few weeks before, putting a few hands full of boilies in here and there just to give the fish a free taster and hopefully it would be to their liking. That morning prior to my evening session I again pre baited my chosen swim hoping that it would give the fish more confidence in feeding away from the heart of the snags.
I Put both rods out with the minimum of disturbance and then sat right back with the clutch on both reels set tight, the reason I do this is because it does not matter what rig or set up you are using if you are not in place to stop that initial run the fish will build up unstoppable momentum.
“Most fish are lost in snags on the initial run”
I sit quietly observing the water looking for any signs of feeding fish over the next four hours, there has been a few tell tale bubbles but I put them down to Tench I had a single bleep which I suspect was a fish moving over my line, the light is now beginning to fade and even the Swan has given up chasing the Geese. Everything seems relaxed and calm, it is coming up to what we all know as the witching hour, all the birds are quiet and the light is now fading fast, it is then the alarm screams the left hand rod jolts round I grab the rod, clutch tight I wind down frantically rod high to stop the fish in its tracks, I move up the bank to my left drop the rod tip down to my left and the fish kites to my right away from the snags into open water, I then click off the back wind and play the fish off the reel now its away from the snags. It really is heart stopping stuff this snag fishing but you can never underestimate just how much ground a Carp can cover and just how quickly it can do it, often people angle within inches of snags failing to realise that simply the compression of the rod and stretch of the line are enough to allow the Carp to reach the snag.
I continued to carefully play the fish and it really gave a good account of itself. Eventually I got him up to the surface gulping air i then eased the net under, looking into the net I could see a fully scaled Mirror Carp an absolute beauty, having placed the fish on the mat I then inspected the mouth and took the hook out of the bottom lip, on closer inspection I notice there are no marks in or around the mouth and with the diaphragm in the roof of the mouth is still in tact that suggested to me this fish had probably never been caught before.
Old English Fully Plated Mirror Carp
I was over the moon with this perfect specimen in fact to say I was happy is an understatement, what a beautiful looking fish, fully bronze plated with loads of potential for the future a truly fine example of quality English Carp, admittedly not the biggest fish you will see this year, but you will seldom find a better looking example, I think my Granddad would have been proud.