'Secret' weapon tempts me more than the carp

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The Independent Online

A few weeks ago, with the promise of a big Sunday lunch at the end of it, we set off to go carp fishing with our carp-expert friend, Mick. The routine is quite familiar to me now, we park up, unload an obscene amount of equipment from the back of Mick's car, put on 10 layers of clothing, then waddle down to the bank with huge bags, chairs, rods etc. Often it takes three of us two trips to get all the bits and bobs to the water's edge.

My boyfriend had packed our fishing gear but, because he hates it, he had "forgotten" to pack what he calls my "care in the community" hat which is nevertheless very warm. Luckily Mick had a lovely one to lend me: big, fleecy and with ear flaps that I buttoned down. I had so many layers on that my arms stuck out at 45 degrees to my body. I looked amazing. However this did not stop the north-easterly wind finding every weak spot in my sartorial armour.

We set up two rods and Mick started mixing a big bucket of pellets, mixed with water and some sweetcorn. He had a new "secret" weapon he wanted to introduce us to and this turned out to be Pepperami which had worked very well for Mick on this lake, in Peterborough, in the past. (Although in the end for every bit of Pepperami the carp got, Mick had at least twice as much.)

At first we tried a system called – I realise that carp purists regularly turn to my column for technical data so here it is – The Method. This was pellet paste wrapped around a plastic cage buried in which was a hair rig and the "hook" bait – in this case the Pepperami. This is very effective because it's a big ball of bait so the carp feed off it, grow confident and then don't realise when they take the bait attached to the hook.

Well, that was the idea. There were no bite indicators being used so we had to keep an eye on the tips of our rods. Apparently they would quiver up and down a few times then, as soon as we heard actual line being taken off the reel we were to get up and set the hook but not strike as such.

My tip-of-rod did nothing. For the full half a day and through various re-casts/changes of bait and methods it was a lazy sod and didn't move at all. It was fun watching it though – bonkers though that might sound – as the movement of the water behind the tip lulled me into a stupor.

After about an hour, and half a stick of Pepperami down, my boyfriend's rod started twitching. It was very exciting. He was poised to grab the rod. But the twitching never became anything more than that. We settled back into our hunched poses by the water, hands in pockets, chins resting on chests as we looked from under the brims of our hats at the rod tips.

Cold + inactivity + no fish always equals snacks to me. As I'd eaten an entire packet of Bakewell tarts whilst fishing the day before, and seven filled rolls, I'd left the snacks in the car. The idea being that at least I'd have to walk to get them. However, at precisely this moment my boyfriend announced he fancied chocolate so was going to the car; would I watch his rod for him?

This injected a bit of adrenalin into my system as the thought of both rods going at once, and me having to play them both in, one off each hip, filled my head. Of course champion carp would be at the end and I'd have my picture taken for the local fishing press. This isn't what happened, not then, not at any point during the day. It was just too cold and the carp weren't interested (the very next week, Mick called us from the same spot to say he was netting his 12th carp...)

Eventually, however, the inevitable happened and I needed the loo. There was precious little cover and fishermen everywhere. At last I spotted a hole in a hedge and crawled through: on the other side of which was a vast open area of sand, all very sheltered; not a soul about. As I removed the necessary layers and crouched down, I started to take in the lovely sandy view... then looked up. Right next to me was a sign saying "Danger. Quicksand" with a picture of a man drowning. But when a pregnant woman has to pee, not even quicksand will stop her.

We packed up not long after and compensated ourselves with a huge roast lunch. Amazingly, even though we'd had a day of relative inactivity, we had loads to recount as we tucked into thirds... and the red glow of a hard morning's fishing lit up our cheeks.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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