Why stalking carp is such a hard art to master

Annalisa Barbieri

At last, I've been carp fishing. After begging everyone I know to take me, my friend Mick Rouse of the
Angling Times took pity. I'd been trout fishing almost continuously for several weeks and I was desperately in need of some new stimulus: new tackle, new bait, new fish.

At last, I've been carp fishing. After begging everyone I know to take me, my friend Mick Rouse of the Angling Times took pity. I'd been trout fishing almost continuously for several weeks and I was desperately in need of some new stimulus: new tackle, new bait, new fish.

The day we decided to do it was that weekend when it was almost too hot to live. We headed off to the Pisces Fishery in Wellney, Norfolk (01354 610257) which is stocked with various coarse fish, carp of course included.

There was a phenomenal amount of kit. And chairs, which I viewed with longing. Mick set me and Pete up. Pete decided to fish quick and fast for small rudd, using single sweetcorn kernels as bait, fished below the surface. My bait was bread flake - literally a piece of white bread moulded round the hook and flaked out at the end so that it looked like a little white bell. This went out to fish on the bottom, with a float so that you could tell when something was having it.

First, however, we had to lure the fish over to our side of the lake by loose baiting. This involves hurling out tiny fish pellets. It's a bit like feeding the ducks. We moistened them so that they would sink and Mick instructed me to do it once every two minutes or so, even while actually fishing. Carp are bottom feeders and, he said, you could see if they were around as lots of bubbles rose to the surface.

Now, I've heard a lot about carp. How big they can get, how very hard they fight. Mick kept stressing this, "Hold on, or they can take your rod with them." At one point, after loose feeding, the water started to bubble like a cauldron. I sat there, rod in hand, bait in water, waiting for goodness knows what to drag me in (which is what I always secretly suspect will happen). I was absolutely petrified. Mick and Pete laughed at me as I was praying I wouldn't get a bite (I used to be like this when I first started fly fishing too). Of course within half an hour, I was quite over myself and desperate to hook a fish.

It took me quite a few goes to get the strike right. I kept trying to strike up, like you do in fly fishing, whereas what was needed was a short, sideways jerk to miss the trees. The moment Mick's back was turned, my float went down, I struck and I had a fish on. It was a very nice tench of just under 4lb, very beautiful and green. I didn't want my picture taken with it as I just wanted to get him back into the water as soon as possible.

Nothing happened for a good long time after this. There was an enormous amount of wildlife. Huge dragon flies, damsel flies arched in mating. A couple of times Mick and I saw mink scuttle across our path. They looked like rats. I manically applied sun lotion every half an hour while Mick, browning nicely in the sun, looked on wearily.

As the afternoon wore on, I caught a 10oz rudd and an 8oz roach on paste (a mixture of pellets mixed with egg). Mick was still desperate for a carp for us. A big, show-off man opposite kept giving us a running total of how many fish he had caught: an obscene amount and made me think he hadn't been in company for a while.

Mick went off to stalk a carp. He came back a little bit later, flushed with excitement, to say he had found one in a corner of the lake. We went over and, creeping down low, threw slices of bread in to make the carp confident. Then, Mick made what's called a tampon: a slice of bread rolled up and wound up with line, with the hook threaded through: a very rudimentary bait. Mick cast for me (it was some distance) and he said, "Don't strike until you see him really open his mouth for it." In this sense, this surface method of fishing is like dry fly fishing: very, very exciting.

The little rudd started having a nibble and there's always a danger here that they will eat it all before the carp. Then silence (as the rudd run away when the big carp comes along) and a very different and distinct sort of munching started. The carp, getting cocky, decided to go for the whole bit of bread. He opened his mouth and I struck. He tried to get into the reeds but by applying some side pressure we netted him. He was "only" 4lb but seemed enormous to me.

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