Real Life Carping

My first Horton forty at 40lb 10oz

Top Essex carper Dave Levy tells it how it is.

There are a few things to take into account when finding the time to go fishing. Firstly, what days am I off work? Secondly, how much can I trick the wife into believing I will get around to doing all the jobs on the house soon? Hell, what does she think January is for?

So, if you do have a busy life, organising your time and being ready to go is key to more hours spent fishing. I’ll tell you how I go about doing this and how my mindset works towards fishing for the biggest carp I can on short sessions.

This year I was lucky enough to get an RK Leisure ticket giving me access to some of the best big carp waters in the UK. I would be concentrating my efforts on Horton Church Lake. I had no target in mind other than to just catch as many of them Horton carp as I could, fishing mostly one night a week. I knew that with Horton being a 160-mile round trip from home, I’d have plenty of days where the journey would just be too much, taking the M25 car park into account! With this in mind I joined another water I’ll call the Tench Pit. The Tench Pit is a small but very tricky water with depths down to 15ft, loads of weed and, as the name suggests, it’s full of tench – and, boy, do they like boilies!

Horton Church Lake – I love it there

It was only early spring and I’d had a brace of Horton forties on a day session – well worth the 160-mile round trip

The spring went really well on Horton and I must admit to loving the place, even with the aircraft thundering over it all day. My fishing had gone more to plan than I could have hoped for and I landed a string of good fish, the biggest being a lovely dark mirror known as Scar at 46¾lb. By the time June came around I’d been lucky enough to be getting a night a week up there by driving straight from night work to the Lake. Sometimes I’d been awake 24 hours by the evening, but I was always too excited to sleep until exhaustion set in. I’ve always thought along the lines of while I’m here fishing there’s a carp feeding somewhere. All I have to do is find it, or let them tell me where they are by bubbling, rolling or jumping. My ethic is to work the whole time I’m there, hunting them down. This is how I fish and how I like to fish for carp.

I knew the time would come when work load and family commitments would mean I could only get in short day sessions and in June that happened. I visited the Tench pit for the first time this year and there were a few anglers fishing. It’s a day-only water and I like the fact there are no time bandits; every morning is a fresh start, so to speak, and there wouldn’t be a line of bivvies.

Horton’s Scar at 46¾lb

Most of the anglers were fishing for the tench on that the first trip, but I sat behind my rods cursing them as my bobbin pulled up, marking my ninth tench in two hours! I must admit to wondering why the tench anglers don’t just use boilies! Mind you, when they hook carp on sweetcorn they most likely think the same about carp anglers. There was a dilemma, though: the carp seemed to feed with the tench a lot of the time. If I was going to start getting among the carp, I’d need to come up with a way of not catching the tench while they fed over my rig, but still be fishing for the carp. The following session I tried fishing two 18mm Hybrid boilies on the hair. Add to this 25lb N-Trap Stiff coated braid and a size 4 Wide Gape hook and the rig was just too crude for the tench, and although I was still catching the odd one, it did slow them down.

My wife was going away for five nights, leaving me to look after the running of the house. The things they do every day that we take for granted… Out came this long list: feed the animals, feed your daughter, walk the dog, etc. Now, my wife saw a list, but me, all I saw was five days fishing! So, I told my daughter I’d drop her off at school and be back to pick her up, and every evening we could eat takeaway. She seemed happy with my plan.

With my wife out of the UK, I stocked up on Mainline bait and hit the Tench Pit, looking forward to five short day sessions. The first day I baited heavily very close in and, as the bobbins started to twitch, I looked at the spot. There were five or six tench, but also three carp. They all looked like twenties and they were feeding happily among the tench, as I knew they would. After about an hour I was starting to think I’d maybe overdone it with the bait size when the bobbin smacked the rod and I bent into a crazy carp. There was no letting it take line and the braided SUBline was doing its job. I could feel the carp trying to get into the snags, but I turned him on the surface and kept him moving until I hefted the net.

The Tench Pit commons are in a league of their own

A lovely Tench Pit 25-pounder

rare Tench Pit mirror of 25lb

Mint 25lb Tench Pit common

I looked in the net and remembered why I love this lake so much. The common carp in here are in a different league to any I’ve ever seen, and at 27¾lb it was a stunner. I did a few self-take photos and watched him swim away deep into the clear water. Nothing else happened that day, but I did see the biggest common in the lake sitting deep in some snags. It really was massive with a back so wide it looked like you could put a saddle on it.

After the school run the next day, my first stop was looking at where the big common had been the previous day, but she was nowhere to be seen. I set up in a corner, again fishing very close in and, as before, I put in a fair bit of bait. Within the hour the spot had turned to mud, but I’d not seen a carp in the area, so I was surprised when the rod tore off and I was doing battle with another carp. As it rolled I saw it was a mirror – there are only a few mirrors in the lake, so I really didn’t want to lose it. I needn’t have worried, as it was well hooked and I was soon asking the guy in the next swim to photograph a nice lean 25¼lb mirror. Shortly after this I hooked another carp only to lose it when my hooklink got cut.

Everything was going to plan and on the third day I landed another two at 21lb and 20lb. My only problem was I was going through bait like a tackle shop on a weekend! I decided to mix the boilies up with some Response Pellets rather than let the tench get fatter on my boilie stock.

40¼lb Horton mirror

20lb-plus common off the top

I got down to find the swim I’d been getting the takes from taken. The guy told me he’d done the last five evenings in there and had hooked one and got cut off, likely on the same snag I’d found. Rather than filling it in and then being followed in, I went looking for a new spot. The carp weren’t in the edges at all that day, so I walked up and down until I spotted a few sitting on the edge of a weedbed. I grabbed some mixers from the van and started trickling a few down towards them. Within half an hour I had all three taking mixers. I always keep my Surface Creeper rod set up in the rod bag at this time of year, so I was soon casting a controller out and one of the carp took the cut-down pop-up right away. I struck and quickly held the rod to the side. Side strain will always move a carp out of an area, so if the other carp haven’t noticed, you can keep them feeding. I got the carp in quite quickly. It was a really old looking 20lb common, and I did a quick self-take in between firing out more mixers. I was soon fishing again, only I had to move a few swims down as the fish had moved. Again my controller drifted into the zone and up came a carp and took my hookbait. I struck, but this time the surface erupted, spooking the other carp. After a short fight another mirror rolled into my net, this time a stunner of 22lb. It was soon time to shoot off on the school run and on the drive there I thought the lake was being very kind, as it can be a real bugger and I’ve had many blanks there in the past.

Back at Horton and things are going well

The 33¾lb common from the Tench Pit

Surface-caught Horton 28-pounder

On the fourth day I had to go in to work as someone was off sick, so I had only one more short day to fish before the wife returned. When I got down I found the carp still hanging around the big weedbed, only a little way out too. However, there was a mallard with six ducklings, and as the first pouch of mixers hit the water they were eating them, so on to plan B. I fished as close to the weedbed as I could and filled it in with the Response Pellets and boilies. It was an underarm cast, so baiting up wasn’t hard and I really let them have it. For a while I thought I’d messed up, as not even the tench seemed to be interested.

Then the liners started and it wasn’t long before the bobbin was buried in the alarm and a carp was on. It had shot deep into the weed and steady pressure brought a big ball of weed to the net. I netted the whole lot, and in the bottom was a beautiful dark 25lb common. Shortly afterwards the other rod was away with another 20lb-plus common, and while I was packing away I got another take from a 22lb mirror. That evening I thought how the last four short sessions had gone and how the continuity of baiting and getting back on it had made carp fishing seem almost easy.

My wife came home the next day and we were all pleased to see her. My girl, Lottie, couldn’t face another of my dinners, and I had done the washing and turned everything pink… How does that happen? My wife asked what I’d been up to. “Well, you know, I’ve been stuck in all week,” I said and told her how bored I’d been. She said, “Ahh, I feel bad. Why don’t you go fishing tomorrow?” “Oh, okay then,” I said – a carp angler’s got to do what a carp angler’s got to do!

So, I was on the way down to the Tench Pit for a 6am start fishing until nine that evening! I got back in the weedbed and put out a good five kilos of boilies followed by three of pellets. I just had a feeling one of those big old commons was close. At 10am the bobbin lifted slowly and I leaned into the carp. Right away I knew it was one of the old ones, as it did its best to weed me. I kept the pressure on, confident that I had a big hook and strong tackle. It rolled, confirming it was indeed one of the better carp, and I stepped in to the lake, pushing the net out, and slipped her in first go. I sorted the camera out and weighed her at 33¾lb, a deep bodied common probably 40 years old.

I did go back a few more times and caught a few more, but as I said at the beginning this water is only my back-up lake for short sessions. Maybe I’ll go back and have another go at that big old common – who knows?

A week later I was back to Horton, and my drive was the same and things have been going so well. One night a week and working my butt off – it’s the only way I know.

My seventh fish over 40lb this year

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