After chalking up more than 40 Yorkshire thirties in his career, Crowy finally achieves a personal milestone.
Carp fishing means different things to different people. Some lads like fishing down South and chasing the whackers, some like going to the day-ticket waters, and others like travelling overseas. I like dipping my lines into all different waters, but I must admit I have a real fondness for fishing close to home up in Yorkshire.
I’ve lived up North for over 20 years now, having been born and bred in the Midlands. It’s quite weird how I ended up living in both Leeds and Hull, the two cities where my parents were born. Eventually I settled close to Hull and since 1997 I’ve shared some great memories fishing for carp in all regions of Yorkshire.
Amongst lots of venues, over in West Yorkshire I’ve caught some fantastic carp from places like Nostell and Willows. In North Yorkshire I’ve enjoyed fishing at Selby and Drax, while in South Yorkshire I’ve been to Tyram, and over in East Yorkshire I’ve fished waters like Tilery, Motorway and Emmotland.
This might sound a bit strange, but these days I don’t weigh a lot of the fish I catch, often just taking pictures and then slipping them back. However, I confess to keeping detailed records about my Yorkshire fishing, I suppose because it’s what I spend the most time doing and I’m really into it. I weigh most of the fish I think may be over 25lb up here, and certainly the ones I’ve not caught before. I’ve never added up exactly how many I’ve landed, but I do keep a tally of the thirties I’ve caught, which now runs well into the forties. Surprisingly, up until recently, all of these fish have been mirrors, with my best Yorkshire common being 29¾lb, which stood for quite a few years.
It’s fair to say that other than Big C, the big common in Emmotland, I’ve never specifically chased after a 30lb-plus Yorkshire common. There have, however, been fish of that stamp in some of the lakes I’ve fished. Some of them I’ve caught below thirty, such as the now deceased Big Common in Willows, which went on to weigh mid-forties. I had that fish at 29lb 2oz when I fished there. There were three of them in Brickyards which made thirties; two of which I caught below that weight and the third one avoided me all together. The one in Nostell also avoided me, as I moved on once I’d caught the big mirror. The same happened at Drax, although I did come close to netting that venue’s biggest common (there were two 30lb-plus commons in there), which in hindsight would have been nice to have in the album as it now weighs over 40lb. It was around mid-thirties when I was on there and I came face to face with it one sunny afternoon up the top end. It was resting under some weed, sunning itself only a few yards out. I chanced a side-hooked, soaked mixer next to it and, quite surprisingly, it took it straight away! It was one of those moments you read about happening to other anglers. A right battle then followed, the fish ploughing up and down the margins before the hook ended up pulling, leaving me cursing all sorts of words under my breath! Not long afterwards I caught the lake’s biggest resident, which was a mirror, so I never fished there again.
It wasn’t until I started fishing Emmo’s Lake 3 in 2012 that I specifically set out to catch a big Yorkshire common. As the days have slowly passed since beginning that campaign, the more breaking into the elusive YC30 club has started to interest me. It never really passed my mind before, as I’ve been fortunate to have caught several 30lb-plus UK commons up to 51lb. The longer the Emmo crusade has gone on, therefore, it’s actually become more than just a passing thought: quite a few times I’ve wondered if I was destined to not catch one from Yorkshire. Every time I visit Emmo my mind is focused on only one fish: Big C, which weighs around 37-40lb. It’s a carp I have come very close to catching, but never actually achieved. I’ve tried everything to try and tempt it. I’ve gone in with lots of bait, small traps, pellets, boilies, corn, maggots, PVA bags, sticks, stringers… you name it, it’s been used. I’ve fished every part of the Lake, too, and even racked my brains to come up with baits which have been more selective with commons over mirrors – if such a thing exists in carp fishing (which I don’t think it does).
I’ve certainly applied the effort, driving the 45 minutes to and from the Lake hundreds of times, mostly for overnighters or just a few hours here and there whenever there is space. Every time I hook a fish I kind of expect to know what is on the end. Bar the biggie, I must have caught every carp in the Lake at least once: “Oh, it’s that one,” is what usually goes through my mind.
On the positive side, it is nice seeing the fish in Emmo progress year on year. When I started fishing the water there was only one thirty to go after. Now there are at least five including two over 35lb. The latest one to add to the list, I’m pleased to say, is one I caught myself a couple of weeks ago – a fish which finally put me in the YC30 club. It came right out of the blue, too, which made it even more of an enjoyable moment.
The Lake had been fairly busy towards the end of February, but I managed to get on for a couple of days in between bookings. Nothing had been caught from the Lake since I’d last been down when I had three fish in an overnighter. Conditions had been pretty grim, too, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy frosts overnight.
Although I had caught three doubles in the night, unlike previous trips I’d not seen anything show out in front during the first 24 hours. All three fish had come from the same deep part of the Lake where I’d baited with some chopped The Key boilies from Nashbait. I’d not gone overboard with the baiting, spreading a kilo over a wide area where I know the fish have been over-wintering.
At 1.30pm I was just sat having a spot of dinner when my deep water rod was away for the fourth time. It was a totally different bite to the others, which had been very twitchy and sudden. This one just tightened up, indicating it might be a heavy fish. Almost immediately I knew it was better than the doubles I’d netted; it felt like a dead weight from the moment my rod arched over. I will admit to wondering if I’d finally got the one I wanted, especially when it slowly kited right like a sack of spuds was on the other end.
I’d hooked it from an 11ft deep hole which was surrounded by open clear water. There were no obstructions nearby and all of the other fish I’d hooked from that spot had come in relatively easily. This one, however, headed right in an arc and eventually buried itself in a thick weedbed. I had to put the rod back down on the rest for a few minutes, as it was stuck solid. I didn’t want to risk losing it, preferring the fish to make its own way out.
After a few minutes I picked up the rod and tried again, but it was still solid. I repeated the process, leaving the rod on the rest for another 10 minutes before trying again. At this point I contemplated getting the boat and giving it some encouragement from above. Being such a small water, though, this was my last resort as I didn’t want to spook the lake. I still had another few hours of fishing left.
As luck would have it, the fish then started to move again. My bobbin hit the deck as the R3 bleeped a couple of times and the tip began to twitch. I was back in contact once again as the fish began to move and a big lump of dead weed hit the surface directly above it. It was only 20 yards from the bank.
The fish held its position for almost a minute before it slowly chugged towards me. A few minutes later I caught sight of it for the first time – it was a decent common. I could tell it wasn’t the one I ‘most’ wanted, as Big C is a very distinguishable fish with huge shoulders. This one looked a good size, though, and at first glance I wondered if it was the number three fish in the lake, known as the Lovely Common around the 32lb mark.
It spiralled its way towards the net before going off on another surge out towards open water. Another five minutes passed before I had it anywhere close to netting and a short while later eventually I was able to take a closer look at which one I’d got as I scooped it up with the net.
With it being cold and the fish still in their winter condition, there were a few mould patches across its back, making it difficult for me to identify straight away. I gave it a quick lift with the net to feel its weight and I could tell it was the biggest I’d caught from the lake since having a 35lb mirror in December. It looked like a possible thirty and I continued with thoughts of it being the number three fish, which put that skip in my walk that all carp anglers can relate to. I was very happy indeed, especially with the weight of 31¼lb! It felt great to have had my first Yorkshire 30lb-plus common.
It wasn’t until I’d shot the photos off and I sat looking through the camera that I realized I’d been mistaken; it wasn’t the Lovely Common, but instead one of the smaller fish up in weight. I’d previously caught it last winter at 26lb. I didn’t care. I’m usually not a fan of repeat captures, but on this occasion it was a great personal milestone achieved and a capture which certainly put a smile on my face.