Well, it’s been a long time coming, but the temperature has finally crept up! Seriously, I was beginning to think that my annual carp pilgrimage would never come to pass, and worse still, that the frozen waters would actually cause some fish fatalities. Bearing in mind that it was the coldest winter this generation of carp have had to endure, it was a worrying reality that many fish could perish in these adverse conditions.
A two hundred and fifty mile journey behind me, I finally arrived at the lake-side. Yes, carp fishing in Ireland isn’t quite as widespread as it is in the UK! As I set up the JRC J4 rods I could feel the wind easing and consequent drop in temperature that does not bode well at this shallow water.
I managed to find one decent common of thirteen pounds, at mid-night, which un-fortunately marked the end of the feeding spell. I had apparently brought the cold weather down with me from the north and put paid to any hopes of finding another fish in the foreseeable future! All I could do now was put the STi-RS bivvy together, set the rods on the pod and crash out for the night.
The following morning brought clear skies and gentle northerly breezes. You could feel the bite in the wind and I suspected it would be a long, fish-less day. This is such a big journey for me that heading home and returning another day is an option I did not wish to consider. I persevered on my mark, feeding sparingly and casting accurately to hand-picked areas within casting distance, but to be honest, with temperatures falling, I expected nothing in return. This shallow lake switches on and off so rapidly when air temperatures fluctuate.
The day dragged on, but was eased somewhat with great company and a constant supply of tea, old stories, rig-making and meeting new acquaintances. It was like a scene from “the tale of the ancient mariner” as we sat looking at glass-like water hoping and praying for a strong southerly to appear and take us out of the doldrums. With two days gone and only one carp to show for my efforts, the drop in temperature was becoming tiresome to say the least!
I began to despair, by now even contemplating the dreaded journey home, but a call from Sid, a mate that lives local to the water, offered a small ray of hope. If I could hang on for one more day and night, I would catch a huge low pressure weather system moving in from the south, with strong winds and rain forecast. I never thought such drastic weather would bring such a feeling of relief. Of course I would stay!
Sid would join me for the last night, pulling out all the stops in an attempt to catch a few larger specimens. He had “chod” rigs that are primarily designed for fishing over silt, but can be useful for distance, pre-made PVA bags packed with un-told secret goodies and a selection of strong scented boilies that simply had to work. Although my STi bivvy is a one man version, it is large enough to house two bed chairs and we decided to share. Apart from that, the gale force winds and rain that were imminent would prove a great test for the new shelter.
Sid arrived late afternoon and we relaxed into bait preparation and making spare rigs ready for the evening session ahead. For me, it was a last desperate shot at achieving a result.
There was a definite change in wind direction, and the noticeably warmer air temperature brought with it a mood of optimism. Even the light spits of rain appearing ahead of the dark clouds gave me the feeling that we had a chance of picking out some decent fish tonight. Sid was confident, and on his local water, that meant a great deal! To re-enforce our optimism, carp could now be seen breaking the surface and at times leaping clean out of the water. They were well out of casting range, almost teasing us it seemed, and without a bait boat to reach the active fish, we could only hope that they would move closer during the hours of darkness.
Never-the-less, it was worth streamlining the tackle and punching baits out as far as possible. Distance rigs and small PVA bags were the ticket, and the 3lb test curve J4’s were impressive in getting the bait close to the feeding area. Even before the light faded, Sid took a blistering run on his left hand rod and lifted into the first carp of our final session. This was a small fish at ten pounds but definitely an encouraging start. He claimed that he was clearing out the small ones and leaving me the big fish! Maybe he was right, as ten minutes later it was my turn, landing a common just less than fourteen pounds for specimen number two. This fish came from a quiet spot under the bushes on the island, away from the showing fish. It is amazing how a small rise in air temperature can instantly switch the fish on! The J4 performed superbly, piling on the pressure to stop the fish running to the safety of the island, yet still keeping a firm hook-hold.
A third fish for me from open water at distance weighed in at fifteen pounds, and with the three specimens landed, the pressure was off. Sid was well pleased, his knowledge of this water proved invaluable yet again, and we could both relax and enjoy whatever the lough threw at us through-out this last session. With a touch of poetic justice, it gave Sid the largest fish thus far, a cracking common that pushed the scales round to the twenty pound mark. Despite the fact that Sid holds the current Irish Record, and having caught more carp than I’ve had hot dinners, the twenty left him like a kid in a sweet shop. The buzz was back and he was grinning from ear to ear!
As the wind increased dramatically, I picked out another specimen just before the heavens opened and emptied the entire Irish rainfall quota in one night! This was enough for me, and the last few days must have caught up with me. I crashed out in the bed-chair and quietly drifted off to carp heaven with the background sounds of torrential rain beating off the bivvy, leaving the feeding fish in Sid’s capable hands. I knew Sid had a good night session, because I heard him cursing yet another “run” sometime during the night, as he threw on his water-proofs and climbed out into the deluge.
The following morning gave us clear blue skies, scorching sunshine and light winds. Not great for carp angling but no-one cared. We had done enough and the sun was a welcome means of drying out the gear before packing up. Sid had excellent sport with seven fish through the night, all averaging the fifteen pound mark. With such a long journey ahead, it was time to pack away the kit. The last items to put away, as usual, were the rods, and as I thought about this final task, the left alarm screamed out with line ripping from the Abu Free-Runner. This felt like a good fish and as the last fish of the session, I tentatively guided it closer to the net, enjoying every last second of the battle.
From the landing net to the weigh sling, I don’t think I drew a single breath, and could not believe my luck as the scales pushed round to twenty pounds on the button. Exactly the same weight as Sid’s previous fish, and a new personal best for me. What a way to end my long awaited carp session, and christen the new gear! Thanks go, as always, to Sid Kennedy for his expert advice and to JRC and Abu for producing top class tackle.