My initial introduction to Decoy Lake was back in May of 2011, through my involvement with Inland Fisheries Ireland and a chance meeting with local angler and instructor Philip Maher. We had been successfully surveying the possibility of Twaite Shad on the River Suir, when Philip offered the opportunity of an angling session on this famous syndicate water. Renowned these days as an extremely tough water, with current syndicate members complaining of little action, I couldn’t wait to give it a go, field testing a range of Gulp baits and attractors into the bargain. Although never having seen this famous and arguably oldest Irish carp water before, I had certainly heard numerous tales of the largest natural carp in Ireland that once resided there. Otters were a huge problem, taking many of the larger fish, but the owners have recently fitted an electric fence that keeps the beggars out of the fishery.
Having arranged to meet three of my carp buddies at the parking area on the private and wonderfully serene Gurteen Estate, we could not wait to take a walk around the lake’s perimeter and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient water first hand. It looked shallow with excessive weed growth, but every bit the carp water I have heard so much about. On first impressions, it would blend in seamlessly with any mature carp water in the south of England. Once bivvied in, it was clear that some swim raking was called for, followed by a small amount of pre-baiting.
By first light, although fishless, our situation seemed to be improving. A number of carp were active over the previously raked and cleared areas, obviously interested in their new landscape, not to mention the Gulp pellets and boilies scattered about. We counted eleven simultaneous surface disturbances from reasonable sized fish, some within a few feet from the bank-side; surely a run was on the cards? Do we freshen our baits and re-cast, or remain patient and leave well alone?
Patience was rewarded when my left hand alarm told me a fish had taken the baited “chod-rig” and was on its way through the clearing and heading for the densest weed beds. The JRC Razor did its job, as I applied controlled pressure to turn the fish and play it on the surface. After a few spirited minutes involving several heart-stopping moments, Andrew slipped the net under my first Decoy carp, and what a beautiful specimen it was, pushing the scales close to the twenty pound mark, and in fighting fit condition.
Ross was next with an immaculate common just making double figures, and Bill quickly followed with a very pretty mirror, again breaking into the double figure weight-band.
We all desperately wanted Andrew to find a fish before the end of our session, but that’s fishing as they say. The last fish came to me on the same chod-rig as earlier, and tipped the scales at ten pounds. It was an absolutely immaculate common, and bloody hell, could it fight! For a second or two, we thought that I had maybe found one of the thirties. Unfortunately not, but pound for pound, probably the best scrapper I have ever had the pleasure to run into with the carp rods, and quite possibly a French-Irish cross. We ended the single night and morning session with three stunning commons, one cute little mirror, two dropped runs and a missed koi carp on float tactics.
My angling buddies, Ross and Bill, who also happen to be fresh-water biologists, scrutinised all four fish, including weight, length, girth and especially the scale growth patterns. A small scale was carefully removed from each fish, adding anti-sceptic to the area. Although carp regularly lose scales, especially during spawning time, it is better to err on the side of caution to avoid infection.
Later studies showed incredible, recent growth spurts. The larger common was only six summers old, and the smaller commons and mirror only five summers old. Losing some of the stock through predation may have allowed the remaining fish to show their true growth potential, certainly, the carp we managed to tempt were in superb condition. This possibly bodes well for the remaining fish at Decoy, with the potential to reach huge proportions by Irish standards.