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PASSIONATE CARP ANGLING…
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PASSIONATE CARP ANGLING… Posted by ,

A GENDERLESS OBSESSION!

So, what’s it like being a girl carp angler? No bloody different to being a male one! No, sorry, I should actually say – it shouldn’t be any different to being a male angler! There’s no reason why it should be? Although, yes, I do often get treated a little differently some of the time, despite being able to pee in the bushes just like the rest of you. Okay, so I may be five-feet-nothing tall (in my shoes), but I’m no weakling either, so to be frank, pushing a loaded barrow is well within my capabilities – hence my slight frustration at regularly being asked ‘would you like some help with that love’. No, I wouldn’t I’m quite capable, which is really my point – I, like any female angler out there, am quite capable at shifting/setting-up my own gear and fishing. My arms and legs work just the same as anyone elses!

Well that rant escalated quickly didn’t it, so I’ll get back to the whole reason I’m writing this piece, I simply love fishing, I absolutely love it! Yes, I accept there are some small, minor differences to being a female on the bank. Like being careful when fishing alone and not with my regular fishing buddies. Sadly, I’ve learnt the hard way, it doesn’t pay to announce where you’re fishing on social media if you don’t want some weirdo turning-up in your peg during your session – that shit is frightening. Thankfully my carp dog, Willow helps keep an eye on me these days, as well as making a great sleeping bag warmer on winter nights.

: Luckily, I get to fish most weekends, come rain or shine (or snow)
: Luckily, I get to fish most weekends, come rain or shine (or snow)
Even when the boats are out Upper Tamar is a peaceful place to be
Even when the boats are out Upper Tamar is a peaceful place to be

Fortunately, I’m able to fish most weekends throughout the year, mostly on the large reservoir lakes close to home where Willow is also welcome. We may not be spoilt with numbers of big fish, but we are lucky to have some lovely venues like the lakes at Tamar that generally find my bivvy footprint of a weekend. Two lakes similar in that they are both pretty big with Upper Tamer around the 75-acre mark and Lower Tamar a bit smaller, but still a good size at around 35-acres.

The swims are well spaced out in the main, all with a large expanse of water meaning you’re never too worried or bothered by where someone else might be casting and fishing. Instead you can absorb and enjoy the countryside environment in which the lakes are located – isn’t that what being on the bank and fishing is all about? I think so! I guess this is partly why I’ve been hesitant to travel to what you might call circuit waters with open access. Yes, of course I’m tempted by the thought of the bigger fish on offer, but I’m just not sure the busy, competitive aspect of fishing some of these venues is for me… maybe one day.

It’s partly a case of having little choice, but I do feel fortunate to value the capture of a carp for reasons other than size and weight. Both the Tamar lakes for example have been stocked in recent years, but they do still contain a number of proper old fish, original fish. Carp that perhaps make up for not turning the needle of the scales too far with heaps of character and the things that really excite me when I look in the net. There are a lot of commons in the lakes, so the moments when you look at an old, dark scaly mirror laying on the mat are really special. That’s the buzz!

As I’ve said the Tamar Lakes have their similarities, but vary quite dramatically with the fishing situation you’re faced with. The sheer size and shape of Upper Tamar is the greatest challenge – if the fish are on the end of southerly at the far end, well, its proper jaunt of a barrow push to get there! If a big wind is pushing or rather funneling down the valley of fields in the other direction towards the day – well you’d better make sure your bivvy is well pegged down, as you’re in for a bumpy ride! This area also holds some deep water 40ft plus, a few snags, but little to no weed.

Lower on the other hand is much shallower, very silty, but with the biggest difference being the weed growth – the lake can be absolutely choked through summer. So obviously presents a whole different set of problems. Oh, and if the long barrow journeys of Upper weren’t enough, Lower is split into three sections of fishing bank none of which are joined. There are two section leading from the main car park divided by the dam and a far bank where you use a car park at Upper and barrow down the road to the lane that leads down to the aptly named ‘Long Walk’ swim. Logistically it can be a night mare, which I suppose again adds to the satisfaction of landing carp from here.

The Bude canal is another favourite venue of mine. No longer an operational canal and more of a tourist attraction, again this stretch of water is picturesque and welcoming – especially for short sessions after work. A single rod limit means that little kit is needed, you’re fishing within minutes of arrival and consuming the mind clearing anticipation of a take.

This aspect, almost what you might call spiritual side of fishing where it removes you from everyday life is really important to me. I think it’s one of the things that makes carp fishing so addictive. Everything is simplified when you’re faced with nothing more than beautiful surroundings – free from the pressures of work and modern life the excitement and challenge of catching carp is amplified with your mind little else to focus upon. As anglers we truly are lucky to not only experience the thrill of the chase when trying to catch carp, but also the amazing environments in which we find them.
One venue that typifies this for me is another South West Trust Lake, Old Mill. I only go there once maybe twice a year; anymore and I’d be frightened I might dilute how big a treat a session there really is. I’ve fished there in winter, summer and once in torrential rain, but the place has never been any less stunning in its beauty or tranquil with its atmosphere. The icing that sits on top of this delicious cake of a venue is the stock of stunning old carp, again not massive, but you’re truly spoilt with the array of dark scaly mirrors that live there.

It’s the venue where Mainline filmed a chapter of The Carp Project Vol:01 with me that showed last year, so I guess this is as good a place as any for me to talk about sponsorship and I suppose the female angler tag.

A blue hour Upper common typical of the stock there
A blue hour Upper common typical of the stock there
You can soon rack-up some steps on a lake the size of Upper
You can soon rack-up some steps on a lake the size of Upper
Tucked away in ‘The Long Walk’ on Lower Tamar
Tucked away in ‘The Long Walk’ on Lower Tamar
You’ll catch a few commons at Lower on your way to the old mirrors
You’ll catch a few commons at Lower on your way to the old mirrors
Fishing on Lower isn’t always straight forward, not when you find the fish at the back of ‘no carp bay’
Fishing on Lower isn’t always straight forward, not when you find the fish at the back of ‘no carp bay’
The weed growth on the shallow Lower Tamar Lake can be a serious challenge
The weed growth on the shallow Lower Tamar Lake can be a serious challenge

Reiterating my point made earlier, I don’t want to be treated any differently as an angler simply because I’m a girl, but unfortunately, I sometimes do. One thing that happened a lot was the offer of sponsorship and nearly always from companies I’d not even heard. It was pretty clear that there was a belief that the attention (unwanted in my case) that some girls were getting just for holding up a fish would give these companies a lot of exposure. This wasn’t my bag at all, not just because I didn’t really feel like I deserved it, well I knew I didn’t but mostly because I was quite happy just doing my own thing. I’m quite happy buying my own gear and enjoy going to the tackle shop and picking out a few bits, so saying thanks but no thanks to these offers wasn’t too difficult.

Fast forward to a few years back, and Mainline offered me some support, and again and perhaps to your surprise I wasn’t in any rush to accept. Yes, it was nice to be given such an offer, but as I’ve said I’m not keen on being a show piece of getting loads of attention just for being a female angler. Luckily with Mainline they were fine with this, we staying in contact and it over time it became apparent they did genuinely see me as little ole me - another normal carp angler just like anyone else. It was breath of fresh air to be honest.

Then to my complete surprise I was asked to do some filming for Volume One of The Carp Project, which I have to say was a nerve-racking experience from start to finish. Like I don’t like things to get the better of me so said yes, despite being so scared at being taken so far out of my comfort zone, along with plenty of self-doubts about why the hell would anyone want to watch me fishing?

They reassured me that, people would and that they just wanted to show someone who simply loved their fishing, and I’d like to think that does describe me. So, I gave it a go, and although I’m still amazed anyone watched it, people did, Mainline were pleased with how it went and I think the chapter did show how I fish – plus we did have a great session, catching some really nice old carp.

Old Mill; a piece of carp fishing heaven!
Old Mill; a piece of carp fishing heaven!
Stunning summer Old Mill carp
Stunning summer Old Mill carp
: The Old Mill carp just get that little bit better in winter
: The Old Mill carp just get that little bit better in winter
Old Mill was a treat to fish even on a rainy day
Old Mill was a treat to fish even on a rainy day
The action at Old Mill could be pretty hectic
The action at Old Mill could be pretty hectic
The Old Mill carp were full of character
The Old Mill carp were full of character
Returning one from another Devon ressy on the SWLT books - Melbury
Returning one from another Devon ressy on the SWLT books - Melbury

Perhaps I then should have been less surprised the following year when they asked me to do some filming again for Volume Two of The Carp Project. This time fishing alongside Adam Reed on his Hampshire syndicate water as a guest. Now I knew from seeing some the fish that Adam had caught that was a bit of me, the carp looked amazing – big bronze commons and some huge mirrors with varied scale patterns and colouration from dark grey to chocolate brown. If that wasn’t enough to fuel my excitement, a number of these carp also had the potential to break, no, smash my PB.

Arriving at the lake late in the evening along with John the cameraman, I decided to keep to my initial plan and just set the bivvy up and not fish, so I could begin my session fresh in the morning. Blimey, that was a tough call though, the lake around 12-acres in size and surrounded by woodland trees was simply stunning. I couldn’t wait to get the rods out, especially after listening to Adam’s brew-time talk about the stock, as well as the forty-pound-plus common he’d already caught early that day.

The following day began as most do when fishing, sat looking at the water for showing fish, drinking a freshly filtered coffee (my Aeropress is an edge trust me), but the tranquility didn’t last for long. The early morning feeding spell Adam had enjoyed the previous day had repeated itself and he was attached to a powerful carp steaming its way through the flourishing weed. A tense stalemate between Adam’s steady rod pressure and a carp locked in weed soon induced, giving me a big indication of what to expect should I be lucky enough to receive a bite.

Luck then began to play a big part, firstly for Adam as he was lucky to have me on hand to help him get into his chest waders, when the strong carp he was attached to decided to put on another run required Adam to take to the water, but also well… sort of, as it turned out bad luck for me. Because all the while the cameraman is obviously trying to film what’s going on, but has also said to me please don’t set-up yet as we need to film that too! This is probably a good example of when filming while you’re fishing can be… well a giant pain in the bum! I do have to admit, John does do a pretty good job I think of allowing you to get on a fish as much as possible, and says himself, if he holds up the angler he’s with too much they don’t end up fishing effectively and the filming then also suffers.

This was now the situation I was enduring and by the time Adam thankfully banked his fish, then another soon after, and all this was filmed etc. the morning feeding spell for me was long gone! Although at this point my excitement and expectations were absolutely soring – Adam’s fish was an absolute banger, and I had seen a few fish show first thing in my neighboring swim. It was finally time to get my rods out – deciding not to start off with a light baiting approach. Just in case a few fish were still in the area. So, a single Pineapple Juice pop-up was dispatched to a clear gravel spot to my right – butting up to some weed. My remaining two rods were then fished together on the same spot within the weed more central to the lake, with a few Spombs of whole and crushed Cell this time – just to get a little smell in the water.

Things were still quite by late afternoon/early evening so I topped-up both my spots a couple more Spombs just to try and liven things up a bit. All in all, by the time I hit the bag I was pretty happy, the rods were out on good spots, all the bait had gone out well – I was pretty confidence. Sadly, 24hrs later my confidence remained unfounded and I’d still not received any action. Adam’s spot on the other hand was absolutely rocking now! Not long after first light he’d received another flurry of action producing a good sized tench ahead of three beautiful mirror carp.

It was now clear that his swim, in which he’d already done a couple of nights ahead of our session was now really well established where bait and his regular and now heavy feed of Cell boilies was concerned. With less than 24hrs of the session left I decided to try and do some catching up, baiting heavily through the afternoon once bite time was over. Again, using whole and crushed Cell boilies mixed with matching Response Pellets and coated in the Cell Activator liquid. Similar to the previous night I felt super-confident with no doubts over my approach with the rods again going out bang on the money. Despite my best efforts the night and following morning was quiet, this time for Adam and myself. My session had resulted in a blank, but a plan was already being hatched for another trip and for my part some revenge.

Taking photo’s for Adam was as close as I got to a carp on our first guest session
Taking photo’s for Adam was as close as I got to a carp on our first guest session
Having a cameraman in tow can be a real pain in the bum especially when you have to feed them too
Having a cameraman in tow can be a real pain in the bum especially when you have to feed them too

By the time the second trip in September came around I was desperate to catch one of the carp I’d seen Adam enjoy, and I was not going to leave myself playing catch up like the first session. My plan was to establish my baited spots the moment I arrived and cameraman John had also messaged me to say this time around just crack on, and man did I plan to do exactly that. Fortunately, Adam and I found ourselves in the same two swims as before when again we met up late in the day. Only this time I wasn’t interested in recharging from the long drive with a brew – no way Jose, I was getting the rods along with a good level of bait!

The draw of my fresh Aeopressed coffee already had the cameraman in my swim early the following morning, although this we didn’t get as far as drinking it before John turned my attention to my rods. Urgently repeating my name as he noticed one of the semi slack lines pulling up tight fractionally ahead of Stevie letting out his welcome cry! I could try and explain the mixed feelings of excitement and nerves as the fish was negotiated to the net through its weedy home, but I’m sure you all know exactly the feelings I’m talking about! Feeling which finally turned to elation with big, chunky mirror turning my scales to 32lb 8oz and a new PB!

For me, an amazing mirror, and if the session had ended there and then I’d have easily flown my way home on cloud-9 grinning from ear to ear, but the session wasn’t over, not by a long way! With my PB safely returned to the water and the spots topped-up with another helping of our Cell boilie mix, the rest of the day was spent in retreat – sheltering in the bivvy from the heavy and persistent rain. We couldn’t really complain because the conditions looked amazing, perfect for carp feeding activity. Yet somehow by morning the next day another bite had not materialised. The rain was still not showing any signs of letting up, the conditions were just stupidly good – something just had to happen, and finally it did when Adam received the bite we’d been expecting!

Wrapped in weed the carp he’d hooked came to the net without too much drama, and the rain even began to ease giving John a bit of a lift who I think had enough of trying to film in the constant rain by this point. When suddenly I was rushing back to my swim just a short distance away to the sounds of a screaming Nevil and what felt like a good carp powering into the weed! To begin with it was all I could do to hang on to this powerful run, before eventually I began to make some ground and return some line to my spool. Slowly but surely a huge ball of weed edged towards us, with Adam having slipped his prize in the retainer to come and help. He was pretty calm until within the mass of weed he saw what I was attached too. His sudden, silent look of concentration adding to my already trashed nerves, as eventually we had the carp mostly hidden close too, and in the net!

Adam, down in the water cleared the weed from the netted fish and high above on the edge of the swim I took my first look at my prize… Oh my god! The carp, a mirror with scales the size of my hand literally took my breath away, leaving me no expression over than euphoric, nervous laughter! I had achieved something that if I’m honest I’d believed to be unachievable for a long time chasing the Cornish carp of home – I had caught a monster, a carp weighing 45lb 6oz! This amazing trip was sweetened further with the stunning mirror waiting in Adam’s retainer - finishing off our filming for The Carp Project Vol:02 and for me the session of a lifetime!

A new PB at 32lb 8oz but not for long!
A new PB at 32lb 8oz but not for long!
Image © Mainline Baits
Image © Mainline Baits
A huge mirror lay in my mat with scales the size of my hand!
A huge mirror lay in my mat with scales the size of my hand!
45lb 6oz! My PB had been smashed and my mind blown!
45lb 6oz! My PB had been smashed and my mind blown!
One last look
One last look
A stunning mirror for Adam to wrap-up our session and chapter of The Carp Project Vol:02
A stunning mirror for Adam to wrap-up our session and chapter of The Carp Project Vol:02

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