As a plethora of vehicles converged onto the lake at 10am this morning, I was already well into my packing up ritual. I had a smile on my face as I loaded my equipment into my 4 x 4, and chuckled to myself as the anglers, arriving for their weekend competition, began to appear in the distance. Car doors slammed shut. Car horns honked. Keen and excited anglers shouted to one another from across the lake. I had got my fish though, and I knew it was time to leave. Watercraft is a big part of fishing but I rarely see it exercised to any sort of level at Sierra Brava. Each to their own though!
Last night did not disappoint, well not altogether? I got my rods and spot sorted at 5pm. I recast one rod to my 70 yard area, and then wound in the 100 yard rod and walked it out to my 70 yard mark. Apart from fishing my rods yards either side of my baited patch, I also decided to fish another rod in the vicinity, but placed about 15 metres to the left. I prepared this rod with a very large hook bait offering – two 26mm bottom baits, tipped with a piece of yellow plastic corn. My other rods were sporting snowman arrangements with a 26mm bottom bait and a 15mm pop-up. You may think, “Wow, they are big hook baits!” It works, and from the very little fishing I have done this year, using bigger baits has certainly caught me some better sized fish. You may get less runs, but that I don’t mind.
There are lots of carp in Sierra Brava and therefore lots of hungry mouths. There are plenty of big fish, but I have realised the smaller fish are certainly getting to the hook bait first, especially when using small hook baits In order to give the bigger fish the opportunity to find your bait, and providing the big fish are present, and conditions are right, then larger hook baits seem to work. There is no guarantee that a smaller fish won’t occasionally be caught, but by baiting an accurate patch with plenty of smaller items of food (spomb mix), it seems to keep the smaller fish occupied, producing activity, which in turn can draw in an older more experienced fish who may hang back. By fishing off the baited patch, you then have a trap set for such a fish.
I have always been a fan of large hook bait arrangement’s anyway. At Cassien I always fished with two 20mm baits or sometimes even two 28mm baits. You only have to look at the enormous size of a large carp’s mouth to realise its potential for eating large food items. These fish can get a large swan mussel in their mouths so what are a couple of large boilies in comparison? I know Tony Davies-Patrick is a fan of large baits and he will often use 35mm hook baits. Just look at some of the fish he has caught. I started using this big bait technique at Sierra Brava last November; I caught a 40lb common and a 38lb mirror. I did a similar thing in May and captured three upper thirties. It is clear it works and now I am solely fishing with the aim of catching something much larger. It will happen and it is just a question of when? In fact, I may have missed an opportunity at 2.30am this morning…
A belting run woke me up. Action stations! I put on my boots and calmly took the rod off the pod. The fish was running. This was the rod I had brought in from my 100 yard mark. This was the rod with two 26mm bottom baits!! As I slowed the fish and began the battle the line then went slack. I thought at first the hook had pulled but on reeling in, I realised that my shockleader had been cut. What bad luck. Gutted. The fish had obviously pulled the line through a slice in between some sharp rocks on the lakebed. It was all over before the fat lady had sung. There is obviously no way of knowing what was on the other end, but it certainly wasn’t a pasty. Back to bed.
I lay there fuming for a short while. A wounded soldier nursing his cuts and grazes. I was starting to drop off when a single bleep from my middle rod woke me. The led turned off so I rolled over once again. Minutes later, another bleep woke me. Liners. Without doubt. My confidence grew, but my mind was still punishing me for the earlier loss. My eyes closed and then the third bleep arrived, followed by another, then it went into overdrive. The Inter-city express was on the other end as it took off at high speed and with great power. In my boots I held onto the rod as the fish took line. I couldn’t stop it and it just kept going and going. At this rate it was going to beach itself on the other side of the lake! Finally I managed to turn the fish, being extra careful, and ensuring I didn’t apply too much pressure. I am using my NCT rods at the moment, and at 3.25lb/tc, they are a million miles away from my SK3 2.5lb/tc rods that I normally use. The Nano Carbon technology means the NCT’s are lighter and stronger, but also stiffer. I am still getting used to them by all accounts.
This fight was the perfect test for the rods and myself included. After five slow minutes of gently coaxing the fish back towards the bank, I heard my powergum marker ping through the rings. I was back where I began. The fish was still 70 yards from my landing net. A game of cat and mouse. The fish then had other ideas and decided he wanted to show me what he was capable of. Ten yards. Twenty yards. A real tough contender!
Kiting slowly to my left and nodding his head from side to side, I focused on the task in hand and slowly began to get him close. He was now a stone’s throw away, yet he wasn’t done yet. More line was taken, yet with each burst, the runs began to shorten. I was confident, bar any disasters, that he was almost mine for the taking.
With the moon almost directly above me I could see adequately. Suddenly the fish broke the surface and then just stayed there. Defeated. Exhausted. Noble. I lifted the net gently from its stand, and smoothly guided the fish till its nose touched the spreader block. The earlier loss suddenly faded into insignificance!
At first sight I actually thought this was the same common I caught last November. Same shape, roughly the same size. I didn’t care though, as just to see the fish lying there was enough. As it turns out it isn’t the same fish as I checked in the morning, comparing some of the pictures. The fish weighed 40lb 10oz or 18.4kg, and after slipping the fish into a retainer, I made a welcome cup of tea, and got the rod back out. I even made up the rod from earlier, and also knocked up some spomb mix and delivered that to the spot. A good fish can turn everything around and does wonders for your energy levels!
After eventually getting back to sleep and having dreams about my precious common escaping, I was relieved when dawn broke at 8.15am. The coffee pot went on, whilst I set up the tripod and sorted out the shot. With the sun due to rise behind me, I was keen to get it done quickly, and I am glad to say the fish was returned by 8.30am no worse for the experience. I packed up and left the lake at 10.15am and I have a feeling I will be back in the swim very soon. Watch this space.
Have a good weekend, especially if you are out fishing.
Jake and Flash.