Don’t Lose the Carp Fishing Buzz

Perry Alabaster takes a break, sorts out his gear and pays a visit to Elphicks.

After five seasons of concentrating on the same venue, I’ll be the first to admit that my fishing was in danger of becoming a little stale recently. That’s not to say I’m bored of fishing, far from it, but after a few consecutive blanks in November, I realised I was just going through the motions without putting in the effort I normally would. I decided to take a few weeks break from my syndicate water before I totally lost ‘the buzz’.

Naked chods worked well on the day
Don’t overload the barrow!

A short break from fishing always provides a good opportunity to sort out the gear, so with a couple of new waters lined up for next season, I figured that cutting down on the weight of gear I’ll be barrowing around would be beneficial. Despite fishing two nights a week throughout most of the year and getting into a regular routine, I’d somehow accumulated way too many items that I don’t really need to take to my swim. A bag of leads, a weighty tripod, a pair of wellies, half a bag of mixers and some banksticks could all be relegated to the spares bag. My largest bucket could double up as a bivvy table and the chair I’ve not sat on outside since September could stay in the van. A new, smaller phone charging device and a set of lightweight aluminium pegs are two very handy birthday gifts from the wife which can replace the old, heavier charger and pegs. Suddenly I’ve lost nearly 15kg of weight from an often over-loaded barrow…

This 27lb bar of gold was the first to fall for a DNA Milky Malt pop-up
The biggest common of the day at 31¼lb, caught on a zig fished just below the surface
First mirror of the day was this perfectly conditioned 33½-pounder

With some extra work crammed in and a few brownie points earned with the wife and kids over Christmas, it’s been time well spent away from the bank. Nevertheless, the passion still burns within and the thought of going fishing again is always at the forefront of my mind. If the idea of spending the whole winter on one particular water doesn’t fill you with excitement, making plans for the coming season is a great way to refocus your mind and give yourself something to really look forward to. Now may be a good time to take a look around a few venues and maybe add yourself to a waiting list or two. Seasons come and go all too quickly and you don’t want to be stuck with nowhere to fish come springtime.

How about booking in some match fishing or a French trip? There’s an increasing number of carp match opportunities out there these days with the BCAC, UK Carp Cup and various regional and charity matches up and down the country. Carp matches provide a great opportunity to try something a little different from your usual everyday angling, as fishing for carp in a match situation is a million miles from chasing the big ’uns on a club or syndicate water. The buzz of competition fishing and catching for a real purpose is a fantastic feeling, and the different techniques involved and effort required can only improve your angling skills in general.

As for France, I hadn’t really fancied fishing abroad until about six years ago because I thought it would spoil my English fishing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As long as you can differentiate the whackers you might catch abroad from the stamp of fish you’re used to catching at home, a trip overseas can be a great way to break up the season.

Sometimes a change of scenery can be all that’s needed to get that buzz back and there’s no shortage of well-stocked day-ticket waters around these days. When you’ve paid good money to fish a syndicate water all year long it can be a difficult decision to suddenly go and pay top dollar to fish a day-ticket venue, but a social session with mates and catching a few carp regardless of size and weight can be a great tonic to shake off the winter blues.

All the bait that was needed for the session – if only it was always this simple

With our BCAC eliminator venue already booked in, I felt a little pre-Christmas trip down to Elphicks Fishery in Kent to catch up with my match partner, James, was in order. Expecting the North Lake to be busy, we arrived at the Fishery well before the gates were due to open, keen on giving ourselves the best chance of getting in some decent swims. To our amazement, the North Lake was devoid of any other anglers, so we were able to take our time with swim choice. There was a brisk south-westerly wind blowing straight into one bank. It felt a little uncomfortable when facing it head on but we agreed it was where we thought the majority of fish might be. Anyway, if we wimped out and opted for dryness and comfort on the flat-calm side, someone was bound to jump in opposite us and start hauling. We decided on two adjacent swims at the deeper end of the Lake, fishing into open water.

As it’s a fairly flat clay bottom, we were able to keep everything totally pinned down as stealthily as possible by back leading. James opted for a steady baiting approach which has served us well on winter sessions at Elphicks in the past, while I chose the more conservative approach of fishing single, critically balanced baits on naked chod rigs. That way, if James started catching I could muscle in on his baited area with my right-hand rod, and if I started catching on singles, James would… er… be stuffed basically! I’m considerate like that…

With no fish showing, I cast my first rod to the back of the wind line about halfway out and, by complete luck, a decent carp gave its location away when it spooked as the lead hit the water. I quickly set up a zig for the second rod and lobbed out a small piece of black foam to the spot where the fish had spooked, hoping at least one fish was still in the vicinity, laying up near the surface. It may not sound like the wisest choice in the world to cast a 4oz inline lead to a showing fish, but with a small barbless hook on the end to comply with the lakes rules, I figured I’d need something substantial on the deck to drive the hook home on the take. I fished the inline lead drop-off style, which worked well. Within 15 minutes, I had a take, the lead discharged and I was in direct contact with a hard fighting common which eventually conceded defeat and went 31¼lb on the scales. A short while later I had another common of 27lb, this time on the choddy.

As darkness fell, the rain came down harder but fish kept coming – keeping the rain off the camera screen whilst photographing this 34lb 2oz chunk was pretty much impossible

The DNA Milky Malt pop-ups on chod rigs continued to produce throughout the day with with mirrors of 33½lb, 34lb 2oz, and a 39¼lb beast at 7pm in the pouring rain. After that hectic first 12 hours the takes dried up, as the constant rain seemed to put a halt to any further action for us. Only Martin, a mate who joined us for the second night, managed to snare another fish in the shape of a 28lb mirror.

Reflecting on that trip down to Kent, I’d say it was just the tonic I needed to get my fishing head well and truly back on and I’m loving every minute of my fishing time again. If you’re totally honest with yourself and you ever get the feeling you’re just going through the motions on the same old water, you’re probably not fishing half as effectively as you could be. Having a break or trying somewhere different might be all you need to relight your fire.

Last fish of the year – this 39¼lb lump rounded off a memorable session

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