In Search of Trent Carp

The first fish of my brief campaign

Glen Heinke returns to the River Trent for one last campaign before moving on to pastures new.

One day while going through my tackle, sorting some bits and bobs out for the long-awaited start of the new season, I decided I wanted to achieve something I hadn’t really tried before. I decided I was going to pull off the lakes I had been fishing so hard over winter and spring and spend all the time I had left in Nottingham on the hunt for river carp, before it was time move down south and start a new chapter in my angling life.

Where it all began

Way back when I started angling in 2010, I was only 16 and had been spending a lot of time fishing a local stretch of the River Trent in Nottingham for anything I could get to take a bait. One day on my travels to a spot that had produced a lot of barbel for me previously, I spotted two large, dark figures milling around under an overhanging tree. I was amazed in my angling naivety that fish in the river grew to such sizes. I was determined I would get one of these fish on the bank.

So much time has passed since then that all I can remember is I had gone down one day with only a very small amount of knowledge of how to even approach the task, but I did manage to hook into a 22lb mirror carp, and all I can remember was the feeling of accomplishment. What I would have given for a camera back then!

My simple presentation: an RF1 hookbait and a super-sharp hook

An expected surprise

Back to this year

With me trying to find a new job and a place to live, while still working my 50-hour-a-week head-chef job and finding enough time for my girlfriend, I realised my time on the river would have to be made up of short overnight sessions, as I just wasn’t going to have the time to sit on the bank for days on end waiting.

I had been speaking to a keen angler I knew who had been targeting the carp in the river and asked about an area I had fished before that looked absolutely perfect for a bite. He told me that past floods had allowed a lot of fish to gain access to the river from a complex that was situated just behind the area I was going to visit. With this information and a couple of hours free, I packed up light and went for a quick look.

A slack corner of the river with a deep, reed-covered margin looked like the perfect place to lay the trap of a kilo of RF1 boilies loosely scattered down the margin. I under-arm flicked a rig tight to the margin I had baited and sat back to wait, hoping the bobbin would pull up tight. I didn’t have to wait long, about an hour, in fact, before my alarm screamed into life and I connected with my first river carp in seven years. The fish tried hard to find sanctuary in the reed bed that it had been feeding against moments earlier. A short fight later I had managed to pull a lovely dark-backed common into the net. It wasn’t the biggest of river carp, but it gave me the confidence to carry on pursuing the wild ones.

For the next couple of days the only thing I could think about was getting back on the river. I called a friend I’d been fishing with since I was young and asked if he was up for an overnighter once I finished work at 10pm. To my amazement he said yes and arrived to meet me bang on 10 o’clock. After a quick chat in the car, we agreed to fish a local stretch of the river where he’d had great success fishing for barbel and somewhere that held a decent number of carp, including a couple over 25lb.

As it was now pushing 11 o’clock, we settled for a nice beach area not too far away from the car, as we knew we needed leave for about six o’clock the next morning. To the left I had a deep margin that seemed to be collecting all the scum and debris from upstream. I opted for exactly the same strategy of scattering two kilos of RF1 boilies into the scum and then flicked two rods over the top on the same simple six-inch rigs.

A gloomy urban backdrop

Thirty minutes later I heard my friend’s alarm go off and looked out to see him playing a fish that turned out to be a chub. The night was quiet for me, but then all of a sudden, just before my alarm clock was due to sound, my left-hand rod screamed into life! Quickly jumping out of bed and picking the rod up, I was met with a fish that really didn’t want to see the bank. The fight lasted no less than 20 minutes and on a couple of occasions I thought it had defeated me. Eventually, though, a good-sized barbel was guided over the lip of the net. The barbel weighed 13lb exactly, and after a few pictures we slipped it back ready to fight another day. I couldn’t decide if I was disappointed or overjoyed initially, but after walking back to the car, it dawned on me that though it wasn’t a carp, a 13lb barbel was an excellent fish to catch.

It was a while before I could even think about planning my next trip to the river. I had been speaking with one of my Instagram followers and worked out we only lived probably only a couple of miles apart. He knew a stretch that could possibly produce a fish or two, so I decided to go and check it out. Right on the split of where the river met the canal, I made a few casts to some likely looking spots to try and found a suitable place to present a couple of baits and deposit a bit of bait ahead of the following day, when I planned to head back down and give it a try.

After a long drive back from Newbury, all I had in my mind was getting back down to the spot I had looked at the previous day. On my arrival I was overjoyed to see a fish jump only a few feet from the side of a narrowboat and only metres away from the spot I had found before. I flicked a rod on to the clean spot and felt a hard ‘donk’ as the lead hit the bottom. A few handfuls of bait over the top and I was confident it wouldn’t be long until the first bite. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, as a number of bream later all the bait had been wiped out! I stuck at it, though, and rebaited for the night ahead, hoping the carp I had seen earlier in the day would return for a feed.

Mission accomplished!

As time went by the weather changed and the heavens opened, with rain pounding down on my bivvy for the majority of the night. As I awoke the next morning and looked out to the very urban background of power-plant chimneys, I glanced down at my rods and watched as the left-hander bent over and my alarm began to sound. I grabbed hold of the rod and immediately had to try and prevent the fish finding the snags on the far margin. Still only half awake, I eventually slipped my net under a fish that, in all honestly, had caught me by surprise, so much so I had forgotten to put my shoes and now had very wet feet! At 16½lb, it was probably my last river carp before leaving Nottingham, but I felt I had accomplished what I set out to achieve, and in only three short sessions.

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