Category: News

Dusk at the Carp Tournament, Chatfield Reservoir

Learning the Hard Way: Tournament Carp Fishing in Colorado

 

Dusk, Chatfield Reservoir, Carp Tournament

These past few years, the latest challenge I embarked upon, was the local tournament carp fishing scene. With thousands of hours fishing under my belt, dozens and dozens of of trophy carp banked, I was confident my success would translate into a tournament setting. How wrong this turned out to be!

In 2015 a local outfitter and tournament organizer, Tightline Outdoors, stepped up and added catch and release carp fishing events to their schedule. For Colorado this was a huge step forwards, for the promotion of carp fishing as a sport and for the fish as a positive species and resource in our waters. Having a long history in bass, walleye and ice events, the TLO tournaments differed from a typical carp tournament, being decided by the total length of common carp landed by each angler, rather than a big-4 or total weight approach. Anglers were able to fish in teams, helping to net fish, though the winner was still decided on an individual basis. The event would typically last for 6-8 hours fishing on a single day.

Their first event was held at a venue I was familiar with, Lake Arbor near Denver. I partnered up with my good friend and fishing partner, Ron Altman. We had fished the lake a few weeks before and I caught a couple of fish. Things were looking positive. However, as the tournament ended, I had blanked, my teammate Ron had caught a couple and lost a couple. He did not place high enough to finish in the $$$; those lost fish costing him dearly. My style of fishing had totally failed; the big fish waiting game.

The winners had banked 7+ fish, though only a few fish caught overall in the tournament pushed a specimen size. On the plus side, the teenage son of my good friend Daris, had won the event and the $1000 prize that went with it. Fishing with his dad, they got the job done!

This run of “luck” for me continued into future events, no matter where they were, whom I partnered with, I blanked. My partner blanked. The winners, more often than not, were using simple rigs and bait, usually sweetcorn on the hook or hair. The events were fast becoming a curse for me. I could catch fish at the venue, the days before and after the tournament, but during the actual event, my approach was not simply not working.

I learned over the next few years and after many more blanks, this style of tournament fishing was a numbers game. It was about how many fish you could catch and how fast. Size did matter but numbers mattered more. It was not my usual style specimen fishing. It seems obvious now, yet my mind was programmed to a different mode of fishing; long day sessions of 10-14 hrs, at known or well researched locations. There was also an element of randomness and luck involved. If you selected a tournament swim that held no fish, you were basically done, unless you were able to move. With the short duration of the event, the inability to chum due to Colorado fishing ordinances, you would have a hard time attracting any fish into the area especially if they weren’t already there or swimming through.

By the end of the 2016 tournament scene here in Colorado, I had fished 5 events and blanked in them all. A couple of my angling friends, some of whom I had even helped and offered advice too, had won a few of the tournaments; which did bring a big smile to my face. Though it may have been a little disappointing to always blank, the tournaments were still great to attend, an opportunity to meet and chat with all the other local and passionate carp anglers, share stories or tales.

The final event of that season was to be at Chatfield Reservoir, a location I know very well. This was to be a night tournament, starting in the early evening and finishing around midnight. My fishing partner James and I decided to get in some practice beforehand, fishing a few sessions just into the darkness. This was going to be the first tournament ever for James and I could sense he was excited to take part. We wanted to be prepared and do our best.

When the event started we were fortunate to get to one of the swims I was familiar with, very close to the event HQ. I setup to the left of the swim, James to the right. We knew the fish liked to hang out in the weeds about 40 yards out. As the evening progressed into darkness, James had a couple of runs and two fish landed. I had not even had a single beep off my alarms, even though we were using the same baits and were casting out about 15 yards apart. Around 9pm James had another monster run and the fish tore into the weeds. After a 20 minute battle we were certain the fish was never coming in, stuck fast. James did not give up or relent and 15 minutes later, after giving the fish a bit of line, he had a great fish landed and added to his score. Around 11pm, he had his 4th landed and in the cradle. Right before midnight, I finally had a blistering fast run, my first carp run in a tournament. My curse continued, the fish came off, i had blanked again.

The event was over. However, it was success for us, James had WON the event with his four fish tally. He was beyond happy and multiple cups of victory coffee were consumed. For many of the other anglers they had a rough night, loosing a lot of fish, to the weeds, snap-offs or landing them at the net.

The following season, 2017, there were only two tournaments. The first was to be another night event at Chatfield Reservoir. The second a morning and afternoon session at Lake Arbor. To prepare for the Chatfield tournament James and I fished several full overnight night sessions. We wanted to ensure our tackle and tactics were in place beforehand. We wanted more practice at landing carp during the hours of darkness. We knew we needed to improve our casting accuracy using landmarks against a back lit night sky.

The day of the event, we arrived early at the reservoir. A large storm had just finishing blowing through from the west, the skies ominous with dark clouds, the wind gusting. As the tournament started we were unable to secure one of the better swims near a point, instead we chose to make a long walk and drag our gear way down to the south end of the eastern shoreline. This was later to prove a wise decision as the point certainly produced the #s of fish, yet the anglers there split the many fish between them.

For this tournament I chose to change my approach, rather than my usual boilies, I fished with flavored maize and corn on the hair, soaked heavily in pineapple or tutti frutti flavoring; i also went with a size #8 hook, rather than the #6s I would typically be using. I had an early run, just after darkness. It was a tough battle and netting the fish proved a challenge for James in the waves, but he got her in safely. My first fish landed in a tournament. I was happy beyond belief and celebrated with a victory coffee.

My first carp in the Tournament

As the hours moved on I could see just up the bank some friends of mine catch their first fish apiece. As the night continued they had a couple more runs but unfortunately some of those fish came off or were lost right at the net. Finally, with an hour or so remaining, I had a second run, another single tone screamer. As with the first fish, it put up a great battle and this time James waded out into the water, shoes, trousers soaked to the waist, getting the fish in the net regardless of the waves crashing in. James knew how important that fish was to me and wasn’t about to let getting soaked allow the fish to come off at the net.

My 2nd carp in the Tournament

Hearing reports of the other catches around the lake, I knew I was close to first place by length, my two fish being just over and under the 30” mark. These were above average fish for Chatfield, the average being around 25-28″. As the final horn blew and the event came to an end, we made our way back to the event HQ. I was aware several anglers had also landed 2 carp each, it was going to come down to the inches, literally.

The final tally was in, I had WON my first tournament. VICTORY!

VICTORY COFFEE !!!

The margin, just 3 inches! The anglers in 2nd and 3rd place, each had lost a fish, towards the end of the event. If they had landed that 3rd fish, they would have won. Ultimately it came down to landing the fish, through the waves, around the snags and into the net. There is always be an element of luck involved in tournament fishing. However, over the years, the same familiar angler names were placing more than once in the prizes. Their approach, skill and tactics, overall leading to consistent success. This event was no different.

The final event of the year, at Lake Arbor, I blanked again. My friend Bleu won, catching the winning couple of fish with but an hour remaining in the tournament.

For me, those years of effort, learning, blanking, figuring out the tactics, making adjustments, getting in the practice on the bankside, especially in the darkness, had finally paid off. I still do not consider myself a tournament angler. I am a recreational fisherman. I enjoy the time on the bank with my friends as much as catching a specimen fish. However, pushing myself to take part in the events has opened my eyes to a whole new style of fishing and approach.

Tournament fishing has given me the opportunity to meet dozens of passionate carp anglers, to participate personally with the community of those who consider carp truly a great sports fish species and are prepared to do battle over them with rod and reel. It also brought me much laughter and playful jests and jibes, especially when I fished each event and returned at the end with a dry net and empty coffee mug.

So what have I leaned over the past 3 tournament seasons?

  • It’s a tournament. It is about catching fish and getting them in the net every time.
  • Ensure your tackle is in top condition, mainline not frayed, hooks sharp. A dull hook or line break could really cost you. Every fish is important.
  • Keep it simple, rigs, baits, your overall approach. Tournaments are not the time to experiment with something new.
  • Prepare everything in advance, rigs tied up, baits prepared. You want to be able to switch out that rig quickly, getting that hook rebaited and cast back out with the minimum time of your rod out the water. I have seen people with 3 rods setup, 2 fishing. When they catch a fish, or need to recast, they use that 3rd rod prepared and ready to go to eliminate any downtime.
  • Keep everything you need close to hand and know where it is. Organization.
  • Get plenty of rest/sleep before the event. I once worked a night shift right before a tournament, made the drive up to the event, got setup, promptly fell asleep in my chair for at least a few hours right as it started. I don’t think I had even cast out my lines. Oops!
  • Research the venue, get a map, get a topo map if you can, scour the internet for information on the venue, where the fish are being caught, what baits they are being caught on.
  • Fish to the last minute. As I mentioned above, during one 8 hour tournament, the winner actually caught all his winning fish, in the last 60 minutes of the event.
  • Make sure you have enough bait prepared for the duration and have alternatives if your primary bait simply isn’t working.
  • Plan to get to the event early, at least 30 mins to an hour before the rules meeting. If you plan to arrive on time, get stuck in traffic, something comes up at the last minute, you will be late, missing valuable fishing time at best, be unable to fish the event at all at worst. If you are way early, and have the time, spend this walking around the venue, look for signs of showing fish, bubbling, clouding in the water. This may help you in making a swim choice should you have the opportunity.
  • Travel and pack as light as possible. This has been a huge issue for me and my downfall on more than one occasion. Being able to pack-up and move quickly can be critical to success. I have taken everything but the kitchen sink with me more than once and when I should have moved spots, could have moved spots, it would have taken way too long to pack and unpack.
  • Focus on the fishing. During the actual tournament fishing is your objective, paying attention to the water, your rods, your alarms. Your eyes can be your best tool. If you are looking at your phone, chatting away on FB, posting that twitter post, snap chatting with your friends, you aren’t fishing at your best.
  • Have spare gear if possible with you, rod, spooled up reel, hooks, rig materials. I fished one tournament and had a reel break early into the event. I was basically down to one rod for the duration, reducing my effectiveness by 50%. Lesson learned. Ironically, I had 3 rods but only the 2 reels.
  • Most of all, try to have FUN !

As I write this article I am already preparing for the next TLO Tournament here in Colorado this weekend. I am looking forwards to seeing a lot of familiar faces, catching up with old friends and perhaps making some new ones.

The victory coffee mug will be with me as always!

So, when you see the details of your next local carp tournament posted, and you think to yourself, “tournaments, it’s not for me”, perhaps reconsider,

I am glad I did.

Tight-Lines,
John

 

Pictures: Courtesy of Tightline Outdoors.

Order of The Carp – 2017 Austin Team Championship

With another great event in the record books and a sliver of free time, it’s time to put together my (Zach) 2017 Austin Team Championship experience. This year I was teamed up with fellow Big Carp News contributor Evan Cartabiano. Having never fished with him before is a little nerve wracking as you never know how you’ll get along with someone on the banks. I feel that we hit it off pretty well and I’ll enjoy further time on the bank with him. The Big 6 format I think is a big improvement over an overall weight as it give everyone a chance to pull out a win or upset/comeback. It’s not as daunting going into the second day with only 1 or 2 fish on the board because a good second day can put you right in the top!

Due to family commitments I was not able to get down a day early so that left me driving straight thru and arriving after 5 pm on Wednesday the 22nd. Here’s a tip for anyone that is heading down. DO NOT go to the Walmart that is near the hotel to get your fishing license!!! I do it every year and I now average probably over 2 hours to get a license. This year the system was “down” and I had to go to a different store. Last year it took over an hour to find someone in the store that knew how to do it. Every year I think I’ll be fine going there and every year I get the same results and next year I will not be trying it! After securing my license and getting back to the hotel it was time to mingle and partake in a few drinks before hitting the bed for the early peg draw in the morning.

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Day 1.

1st peg drawn. We pull the old power plant, a peg I have caught fish before (broke my pb 35lb 9oz) and if worked can produce some decent fish. 2nd peg drawn is 18. The is a down from I35 bridge and is in a pretty unassuming area behind some luxury apartments. This is the peg we return and ends up being put back a handful of times. It also ends up producing the big carp and 1st place in the event for the team that finally chose it!! Talk about upsetting. We grab our stuff and head to the old power plant. It’s not a long haul to carry any gear and the car is withing 50 yards so it is convenient. As the sun rises Town lake returns to its river roots and is ripping current. The issue with this peg is that it’s a narrow area and we needed 6+ ounces to hold bottom as well as being loaded with snags. I lost more tackle in the first few hours than I lost all of last year. Evan managed to pick up a few grass carp from out of the current while I caught a lot of tree limbs and rocks. He struck with the first carp of the day at a lovely 23lb even. After having a bit of time to think I decided to take a rod to place it on our far right next to the old power plant building. There was an area of slack water and we knew it would have to produce a fish. After placing my rig and some bait in the area the wait was on. The rest of the afternoon was pretty quite by us and while we were sitting on the grassy hillside chatting away we hear a faint bite alarm and had forgotten that we had put the lone rod just at the edge of hearing range. The area the rod was in was quite tight for 12ft rods and I had regretted not leaving my 10ft Nash Scopes in my van. After a pretty stressful fight we got the carp netted and weighed in at 21lb even. It sure felt good to get a fish on the board and know now that I would not blank (unlike last year!).

We did the normal BCT thing after the first day and headed to the Clay Pit with a few friends. Luckily this was a pretty easy, hilarious (thanks to Mark), and sober evening which is not always the case at the ATC. We managed to get our heads down relatively early for the next morning.

Day 2.

This morning we pulled Peg 18 again, which we put back the prior morning, and was 1st place after day one. We also drew one of the I-35 swims which had zero action the day prior. It was obvious which one that we would choose. Peg 18 is a nice easy peg to fish. Located behind a luxury apartment complex with a nice running/walking path makes for easy access. The 2 “issues” would be the lack of a bathroom unless you went quite a walk to the gas station and the kayak rental place down the bank which could be a hassle if it were the weekend. We only had one lady get into our lines which for Austin is amazing. We had a few fish crashing at distance while we were setting up and we managed to hold a few in the area when we started baiting. I had the first run of the day pretty quickly. Just as Evan scooped my catch into the net his rod peeled off. Now I had to scramble to unhook and retain my fish while Evan battled his. We were totally prepared with only setting up one net as well. In quick time we had Evans fish netted and retained. We were lucky because as we netted the second fish Kevin just happened to be walking by so we were ready for photos. My fish definitely had been eating bait while swimming around as it decided to relieve itself not only inside the cradle but all over my arm when I raised it for the photo. The morning looked quite promising with a brace of 20’s. Unfortunately no matter what we tried we could not get another run and spent the day watching the scenery and talking about all things carpy and some things that weren’t.

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The fishing had come to an end and we headed back to the hotel to regroup and freshen up for the banquet. The restaurant was pretty awesome and I’ll have to go back one day. The hospitality is one of the selling aspects of the whole event as everyone feels like family. I wish I could have more positive things to say however I started to suffer from an extremely painful migraine and headed back to the hotel to crash as early as I could. I am positive that everyone had a blast at the banquet and after, I unfortunately could not join them.

All in all it was another awesome year at the ATC and the organizers were top notch again, like always! We hope to see you down there next year!

The Italian Job

Parco Del Brenta Sept 2016

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The carp mecca of Parco Del Brenta can be found an hour’s drive to the North West of Venice not far from the famed walled city of Citadella in the Padua region of Italy. This 35 acre gravel pit is fed by the cool waters of streams originating in the Dolomite region of the Alps to the north. The high mineral content and alkaline pH result in a remarkable environment that provides the ideal conditions for carp to reach immense size. I first heard about this extraordinary venue from my good mate Frank Warwick after he first fished there last year. The photos he shared of some of the incredible inhabitants plus his enthusiasm for the lake were truly infectious. Frank’s kind invitation to join a group of anglers he’d put together to rent the whole lake for a week this past Sept was too good to miss.

All I had to do was get there!

 

Finally after weeks of anticipation I’m desperately weighing and reweighing my bags to squeeze in every last item of tackle before heading off for my flight to Europe and arrival at Venice’s Marco Polo airport. Once I’m checked in my only concern would be a not insignificant amount of carp gear going AWOL…

As I emerged from passport control into the chaotic crush of the baggage claim area I was relieved to see some familiar faces. After anxiously waiting on our bags and with everyone’s present and correct we made our way outside to meet up with our hosts and mini bus driver. Our first (and last) night would be spent at a nearby farmhouse B&B before heading to the lake the following morning. After settling in and grabbing a shower it was to time to head in to the local town for dinner followed by a good nights sleep.

Saturday

We woke refreshed and ready for the week ahead. But  first things first… Guy Aitkins and myself jumped aboard Chris Thompson’s van for a run to the local supermarket to get some extra supplies. Suitably loaded with beer, rum, soft drinks, snacks, cans of tuna & sweetcorn aboard we headed off to Parco to join the rest of the crew.

After months of anticipation we’d finally arrived and promptly set off for a walk around the lake perimeter. At each of the swims Frank and local expert Nicholas Holzer gave us their ideas on how to approach them. Even though we’d all studied the lake map and pestered Frank for details in advance there still seemed to be a load more questions to ask! The Parco water is a chalky blue green coloration and the banks are lined with bushes and reeds as well as some quite large overhanging trees in a few places. Many of the swims are suitably reinforced along their edges as the bank drops down steeply to depths of at least 12-14 feet and in the southern part of the lake to around 30 ft.  In the warm afternoon sunshine the lake looked stunning and I couldn’t wait to get started!

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As most of us had chosen to ‘pair up’ and with 22 swims to divide up among 15 of us it was agreed that a peg draw was the fairest way to decide who would fish where. All our names went into a bucket and the first drawn would get their choice of swim and so on. Guy Warwick’s name was first out so he and dad Frank naturally went straight for Peg #1 – a peninsula that has a commanding position and is known for doing very well.  And so the draw continued until finally Guy Aitkins and myself chose peg 20 from the few remaining. I’d been looking forward to sharing a swim with Guy after first fishing with him and Frank in Romania. He’s not only a first class angler but more importantly a pleasure to be with, plus he might just come in handy making cups of tea and netting my fish…

It was almost 4pm by the time our gear had been transported around the lake and dropped into the swim. However we soon concluded that fishing six rods from #20 would be a potential nightmare with so many lines in the water plus it was likely to put us in conflict with the swims immediately to our right. In the end we agreed that it would be better if I moved further down the bank and set up in #21 and hopefully we could still socialize and help each other land fish etc.

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Swim #21 Looking across to the peninsula. The bay to the left and the tree and roots in the margins clearly visible.

If you look at the lake map you’ll see that Peg # 21 has a bay to the left which is well known as a ‘refuge’ for bigger fish, especially at night. There are two water inlets at the end of the bay that flow in from an adjacent stock pond. The entrance to the bay is about 100 yds wide and is bounded on the opposite side by the peninsula which has peg #22 half way along and Peg #1 on the end. The tip of the peninsula has a submerged bar at 12-14 ft deep that extends across the lake to the opposite bank. Since Frank & Guy had their lines out along the other side of the bar I decided I should put a couple of rods close to my side of the bar and then also place baits across the entrance of the bay in the hope I might be able to intercept any fish coming in and out with my left hand rod. The dense bushes, trees and submerged roots to my left would mean that it could be a big problem if I hooked a fish that decided to run into the bay as there would be no way to follow it!

By now it was getting dark and with only two rods out I decided to leave the third till morning and make myself comfortable for the night. I soon had the bivvy up, gear & bait stowed and then, receiver in hand,  I wandered up to chat with Guy were we sat back to enjoy the very tasty ragu pasta delivered to our swims as part of the meal package. Sunday morning arrived and as the sun rose I looked out over Parco and saw several huge forms break the surface before crashing back into the depths. Sadly these fish were nowhere near my baits!

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Guy Aitkins, Nicholas Holzer & Frank Warwick

 

Sunday

The morning soon gave way to a hot sunny day and I figured it was time to get on with the game plan. Guy & I made up a stick mix with 4mm pellets, tuna, hemp oil, sweetcorn plus some finely ground hemp seed along with a few other ‘goodies’. Once we got going it didn’t take long to knock out a couple of dozen PVA mesh bags each. We also got some 10mm halibut pellets from our good friend Henrik that would soon prove to be hugely attractive to the carp in Parco!

Back in my swim I began to catapult out the halibut pellets toward the left hand side of the swim in a line starting from the margins out to about 50 yds. I set up a #6 PB long shank rig complete with hair and line aligners on an 8” hook length of 25lb PB Jelly Wire. On the hair went two pieces of Enterprise washed out pop up corn balanced out with some tungsten putty. A 2-3” PVA 35mm mesh bag of our stick mix on the hook bend completed the deal and was cast out about 15yds. I didn’t want to fish any closer to the margins as the fish could all too easily hit the snags.

On the middle rod went a blow back rig with one of Guy’s special home made pop-ups while on the other a 20mm Spotted Fin Catalyst bottom bait. These were cast out about 85 yds to the near edge of the gravel bar in about 20 feet of water and free samples scattered over the area with a throwing stick.

As the heat of the day receded and welcome shadows made sitting by the rods more comfortable I began to look forward to getting stuck into my first fish. At about 4:30pm the left hand rod beeped once then slammed round hard. I was on it immediately and even with the clutch wound down tight this fish kited straight into the near margin. I could feel it ploughing through the tree roots etc and despite trying all the usual tricks for a couple of minutes it became clear that it was gone. I wound back in, checked the line for damage and put on a fresh rig before casting back out. A couple more pouches of pellet went in and I sat back hoping I’d be luckier with the next fish. 30 mins later and the same rod went off again and this time the fish tried the same trick as the first but I clamped my hand hard on the spool and backed up the bank hoping that everything would hold together. I could feel the line rubbing against the roots but finally the fish did the decent thing and headed out into deeper water. The power of this fish took me quite by surprise and I was truly relieved when Guy turned up and did the honors with the net. After weighing and photographing I gently released a stunning mirror. At 37lb it was not big by Parco standards but a good start and a sign of bigger things to come… I hoped!

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At 37lb this was my first Parco fish!

 

There were already reports of some cracking fish being caught around the lake. Guy had had two mirrors to 46lb while Mark Brain had scored big time with his first Parco fish at almost 68lb. Steve Briggs had had a 45lb fish on his first, but as it sadly turned out, only night before having to head back to England. Meanwhile Frank & Guy in #1 and Henrik & Chris in #13 were starting a run fest of big fish!

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Guy Aitkins getting it done with a stunning 46lb mirror

 

Monday

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In the dawn mist an encouraging sign over my baits..

 

10mm Halibut Pellets
10mm Halibut Pellets

As Monday morning broke I watched several fish crash over the left hand rod and at around 7:30 am it was away. Sadly I lost two fish in quick succession as they kited hard left and once again buried themselves in the margin roots. Eventually I landed a couple of fish in the low to mid twenties before the heat of the day brought the action to a close. The late afternoon bite started with another run on the left hand rod and I found myself connected to a fish that simply tore off 50 – 60 yds of line with contemptuous ease as it powered towards opposite bank. For the next 20 minutes we did battle and at no point did I believe I was anywhere near getting the upper hand. It would simply peel of 20 -30 yds of line whenever it wanted and all I could do was work it back towards me before it took off once again. The 3.50 rod was continually bent hard around and I could feel the rod butt digging into my thigh. There was something about the raw power of this fish that was truly remarkable. Just as Frank came around from his swim to see what was going on it turned to make another run and the hook pulled. There was a deathly silence and all I could do was drop the rod in utter frustration and walk away. I was simply gutted. Guy and I saw this fish a couple of times and while our estimates of its weight varied we both agreed this was indeed a very big common of around 48” in length.

Once I’d regained my composure and re-rigged (this time with a #4 instead of a #6 hook) I got the rod back out and catapulted out several more pouch fulls of the Halibut pellet. Another run soon followed and after a rather less intense battle I was rewarded with a stunning common that went 39.12 on the scales (It measured 39” in length which gives some idea as to what the fish I lost might have weighed).

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A cracking common at 39lb

Tuesday

Tuesday morning passed quietly so I decided to wind in, grab a much needed shower then take a wander around the lake. Chris Thompson and Henrik Hansen had been working their swim with almost non stop Spombing and had been well rewarded for their efforts. Chris had also landed a new PB common of 69lb – just one of four fish he’d had over 50lb! Meanwhile Frank and his son Guy were continuing to land some cracking fish to just under 50.

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Henrik Hansen & Chris Thompson enjoying non stop action on #13

I returned to my swim around 2:30pm and Spombed out some bait over the two right hand rods then catapulted more pellets over the left. Over the next 4 hours I had a 23 mirror on guy’s special pop up at range near the bar as well as a 29 lb mirror plus two more commons at 35 & 37lb on the left hand rod. It then went quiet for a couple of hours before another run on the left hand rod produced my fifth fish of the evening and the first at 40lb plus – a picture perfect near scale less mirror. I was elated!

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Wednesday

When I woke up on Wednesday morning I reflected on the advice from both Frank and Nicholas that I should move swim. While #21 was producing some nice fish they thought I should move to #22 as Nicholas had had some proper beasts from there in the past. A quiet morning with no further action finally convinced me and I was soon loading up the gear to make the move. Nicholas warned me that the action only started after dark so once he’d helped me move my gear and set up my bivvy (properly this time… as Nicholas is quite a perfectionist!) I went to chat with my new neighbors, Frank & Guy, who were continuing to haul some impressive fish. They would cast out 8-10 Spombs of bait and often before they’d finish one of the rods would be away and quite often two more would roar off while one fish was being landed. It’s one thing to be enjoying the action on a ‘runs’ water but quite another when the fish are mostly in the 30 – 50lb range!

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Swim #22 The bait was being cast to just a few feet out from the bank just to the right of the weeping willow.

As the evening drew in Nicholas returned and brought me a couple of Fox tri-lobe method feeders. I’d already passed the test on making up a pellet method so now it was just down to finding a suitable rig. In the end I borrowed one of Nick’s which comprised a supple 5-6” braid hook length tied to a #6 Fox SSBP Arma Point with a piece of neutral buoyancy imitation corn on the hair. The key would be casting the loaded feeder with the hook buried in the side to a spot on a narrow shelf just a few feet from the reed lined bank. A couple of casts soon had the distance worked out and a piece of electrical tape on the line with a distant tree top as a background marker would ensure that it would be easy to clip up and recast in the darkness. I walked along the path behind the bank I would be casting to and gently tossed in a few handfuls of the halibut pellets. Now it was time to wait. Nick advised I hold off until after 9pm before casting out so we sat back, chatted and enjoyed our Lasagne dinners. Finally it was time and I nervously lined up the tree marker and fired the heavy method feeder into the inky blackness. I swept the rod over to my left and allowed the tip to be pulled back gently as the line tightened on the clip and everything landed nicely on target. At around 10:30 pm my Delkim began to beep intermittently as the nitelite bounced up and down. This seemed to continue for at least a couple of minutes before finally the nitelite rose steadily and the rod bent around. I wound down and immediately felt everything go solid. I was convinced the fish had buried itself in a snag but slowly, very slowly I began to feel it move toward me. After about 5 minutes of slow progress I finally had the fish in the depths in front of me where it proceeded to make some powerful runs for another 10 minutes and giving me some extremely nerve wracking moments, especially once I’d caught a glimpse of its immense bulk in the light of my head torch! Finally, and with typical professional efficiency from Nicholas, it was in safely net and I could breath again. After zeroing the sling we lifted it carefully into position and watched the dial hover just a fraction over 55lbs to record my new PB mirror. The sheer bulk of this fish was astounding and I struggled to stop it toppling over as I tried to balance it for the photos. As we watched it swim away into the dark depths I thanked Nicholas for his help and we celebrated with a large & well deserved tot of rum.

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A new PB mirror (just a few scales along either side of the dorsal) at 55.02lb

At around 2:30 am with fish crashing along the far bank I had another run that resulted in yet another stunning mirror. This one at 40:12 – what an amazing place! At 4 am and with no further activity I reluctantly wound in my rods and slept soundly till past 8am.

 

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Pellet Method was devastatingly effective!
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Only a 40:12 this time…

 

Thursday

As there was no likely hood of a day time bite I relaxed, showered, caught up on some emails then wandered around the lake. I spent the afternoon chatting and taking photos for Frank & Guy as they continued to haul at an amazing rate. Since I was only fishing one rod in #22 I also baited up the swim #2 immediately behind me (on the peninsula). I positioned one rod just in front of a gap between two overhanging trees and the other at about 60 yds to the right.

 

 

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The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… Guy Warwick with a stunning common

 

BBQ Social

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At 6pm everyone wound in and gathered for a social and BBQ under the awning of the ‘club house’ hosted by owner Antonio Pettenuzzo & his family. We were treated to some first class ribs, sausages and pork steaks cooked by Riccardo and of course there were plenty of new PB’s to be toasted & celebrated! At around 9pm I dragged myself away from the partying and got ready to take advantage of the night time bite in my swim. I’d already baited up in the afternoon with some more halibut pellets along the margins and again before casting out. I soon had a method ball in place and the indicator began twitching almost immediately. Barely two minutes later I was into the first of 7 fish that were to come over the next 5 hours which included four twenties, a 33 mirror, 33 common and a 43 mirror. At around 3:30 am with no further action I wound in and was soon fast asleep. I woke just before dawn to an alarm sounding from #2 and found myself attached to a solid feeling fish from the margin swim. This turned out to be an immense American channel catfish – one of several that have been stocked (along with a few sturgeon to over 50 lb). In my haste to get back to sleep I slid this beast back without thinking to take a photo. A little after daylight I caught a second much smaller cat that weighed 16lb so I can only guess that the first was easily around 25lb!

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Struggling with the 43 mirror
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The smaller channel cat at 16 lb

Friday

With just one more day and night remaining I decided to spend the afternoon fishing a couple of rods back towards my old swim (#21) from the side of Frank & Guys Peg #1 as we’d seen some serious fizzing over the area I’d originally been baiting. I was casting almost 90 yds to place the bait just off the far margin and after a couple of hours I saw the line tighten and was on it just as the alarm sounded. A battle royal ensued with the fish making a desperate attempt to reach the snags. I finally managed to drag it away from the immediate danger and thought I had everything in hand as it kited back and forth about half away across the entrance to bay. Then I felt something seesawing on the line and realized the fish had taken me around an obstruction of some sort. I tried everything but after several minutes it was obviously deadlocked and was finally forced to pull for a break. After re-rigging I was back in action and soon had a second run that took me straight in to the snags and came off. Fortunately it proved to be third time lucky on the next take and after another epic battle I happily steered a lovely photogenic mirror into the net that went 32lb.

 

 

 

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A truly photogenic 32 lb mirror glows in the late afternoon sun

 

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Giorgio collecting dinner…

As the day wound down Frank, Guy and myself sat back and enjoyed a fabulous sunset as we reminisced on what had been a truly incredible week. After yet another memorable supper, this time a risotto made with the wild mushrooms collected by Giorgio earlier, I prepared myself for a final night of action with a double espresso followed by a tot of rum in an effort to keep me going till dawn. On peg #22 it was back to the single rod fishing imitation corn & pellet method while on the other side from #2 it was the same method plus a 10mm wafter in the margin and a 20mm SF bottom bait with one of Frank’s soon to be launched special pop-up range as a snowman on the distance rod. At around 10pm the single rod on #22 came to life with the nitelite doing its familiar dance as a fish plucked and sucked at the method ball. After a couple of minutes the Nitelite fell still and remained motionless for a couple minutes more. As I bent down to pick up the rod for a bait & recast it was quite suddenly and violently pulled around. Fish on! Another battle royal ensued with this fish absolutely refusing to give up. I struggled to get it into the net on my own but after a couple of attempts and some anxious moments it was finally in. Yet another cracking fish. This time a two tone mirror that tipped the scales at 42.02. Sadly this was to be my last fish from #22. Instead of the usual fish crashing of previous nights it became ominously quiet and my only other run came from the distance rod on #2 which turned out to be a small mirror of around 17-18lb. The one & only fish I’d had under twenty pounds all week.

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The two tone mirror at 42.02 lb

Saturday

And so my week on Parco had come to an end. As the dawn heralded in a new day it was time to pack up and make way for another group of lucky anglers to enjoy this extraordinary lake. Over the past 22 years living in the USA I figured there was no way a European fish could possibly match some of the long, lean & mean carp we encounter, especially in the big rivers. But I’ve gained a totally new respect as a result of how hard these Parco carp can do battle. They simply don’t want to give up – Ever! In the end I landed 8 twenties, 8 thirties, 4 forties and a new PB at 55lb and captured a host of memories that will last a lifetime. But best of all and as with all great angling adventures I got to share time on the bank with some great friends, both new & old.

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A visit to Venice – a great way to finish the trip to Parco!

 

 

The anglers…

Frank & Guy Warwick, Guy Aitkins, Chris Thompson & Henrik Hansen, Bill Rawlins & Mark Thompson, Dayle Davenport, Mark Brain & Garry Turner, Chris Hoppley & Derek (Dez) Bell, Steve Featherstone, , Steve Briggs, Iain Sorrell.

 

The details…

Once you arrive at Marco Polo airport in Venice the folk at Parco have everything organized. Our package included transport to and from the airport plus two nights at a local bed & breakfast. On top of this I added the food (which included a cooked breakfast and evening meal delivered to your swim) and tackle rental options. The amount will depend on the number of anglers fishing the lake but you can expect to pay (in Euros) somewhere in the region of US$ 1,000 for everything.

The tackle package certainly makes traveling a breeze. It included a set of three Free Spirit CTX 3.50 rods plus a matching Spomb / Marker Rod, landing net, weigh sling, mat or cradle, a very nice Nash Bivvy, Bed Chair, Sleeping bag, even a regular bank side chair & table. They even give you a box with a kettle, stove, gas canister, mug, knife, fork & spoon plus condiments, a water container & cooler (on request). So in the end I only had to take a set of reels (loaded with a minimum 0.35 mm monofilament line) a spomb/spod reel, my Delkims, bank sticks, Spomb, marker float together with a selection of rigs, end tackle plus some leads & back leads. One item I did not bring that was certainly needed… a set of scales! Hopefully Parco will make a few sets available in the future.

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A spacious & properly erected (thanks to Nicholas) Nash bivy  – complete with mozzy mesh, vents etc.

The folks at Parco also give you a bag of 15mm hook bait boilies, 12mm boilies and some pellet to get started. You can buy additional bait as needed which also includes prepared hemp and maize. Fortunately some of our group were driving to Parco and offered to bring extra bait which included some of the excellent Spotted Fin Catalyst range that Frank is helping to develop.

A trip to the local supermarket to grab, snacks, milk, fruit and some beers added another $40 plus I also bought a few tackle items, coffees and beers on-sight.

Lastly it would be crazy not to visit Venice when you have such an ideal opportunity. After our last night at the B&B we arrived back at Marco Polo airport mid morning and dropped our bags (6 euro each) at the luggage storage. It was then a short 5 minute walk before hopping on a water taxi for a 15 minute ride straight into the middle of Venice for the day. We ate lunch by one of the canals, wandered over bridges, around the local stores along the maze of narrow lanes and admired the architecture that surrounded the many squares before heading back for our flights home.

 

 

 

 

Creating your own leadcore leaders

There have been several inquiries on creating a how-to on creating leadcore leaders and how to splice different materials. This is something I do quite often as I do like using leadcore when the situation calls for it. Purchasing the leadcore in bulk spools can help save a little bit of money as well as letting you create longer lengths than the pre-tied leaders.

First step is to get the items you need together. For splicing leadcore or other materials you will need a gated needle. Using a regular gated baiting needle can work however using a specific splicing needle makes it quite easier as they are much finer than a regular needle. For this demonstration I used the Solar Micro Splicing needle which come 2 in a pack.

leadcore 1

 

Next you need to pull back the braided material to expose the leadcore. The amount of lead to cut off will be up to you and after some practice you will find what works the best for you.

Leadcore 2

 

I will create 2 different connections that I use. The first is attaching a swivel/link clip to one end. You will now take the splicing needle and tread it onto the braided section which is now hollow from removing the lead from the center. Like before this will become easier with practice and you will figure out the best for you situation. Leadcore 3

 

Next is adding the swivel to the tag end of the braided section. You then latch the tag end with the needle and start to pull the tag end back through the hollow braid with the needle.IMG_2317IMG_2318

 

It takes a little bit of work to pull the tag end though the rest of the braid. Just continue to work it until the tag end is fully inside the braid. Depending on how long the tag end was you may be able to pull it back through the hole that the needle created where you inserted it.IMG_2319

 

The final step is to tease the material so that you get a smooth transition from the thicker section to the main part of the braid. This connection will have the swivel directly in contact with the leadcore and there will not be a loop for free movement. This is how I prefer my connections to the swivel.

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The second method I will show you will create a loop in the end. You can still attach a swivel with the loop or create it to have a loop to loop connection with your mainline.

Everything you need will be the same except you will need an item to create the size of loop that you require, most of the time I use a tail rubber. The first few steps are the same. Remove the inner leadcore and thread the needle through the braid.

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As before latch the needle to the tag end. This time you place your item, tail rubber in my case, into the looped section and pull the tag end back through the braided section.IMG_2324

 

Tease the tag end through the braid once again until you can pull the needle out and finish the splice. Now you have an open loop to use for a loop to loop connection. If you wanted a swivel/clip attached to the loop you would thread it onto the tag end before placing the tail rubber and pulling the tag end though.IMG_2325

 

I hope this article will help you if you ever need to splice leadcore. It’s something that is very easy and once you do 2 or three of them you’ve pretty much got it figured out.

Tight Lines,

Zach

JAG Hook Sharpening Kit Review by Josef Raguro

Well I’m retiring my Berkley hook sharpener. After seeing Zach retouch his hook points on the bank I decided to get a JAG hook sharpening kit. It comes in a small pouch. The kit includes a vice , jeweler file ,2 polishing stones , jeweler’s eye / magnifying glass and the solution marker for coating the exposed hook.
I like sharpening my hook trokar style for one reason. I don’t want the tip of the hook breaking off in the fishes mouth. By doing this style the hook will actually go through with less resistance. It’s like a hypodermic needle.
How I sharpen the hook. I get my hook of choice which is a size 2 Korda wide gape hook for demonstration. Put on the supplied hook vice. I start out with the jeweler’s file .I tilt the vise up and start doing passes at a 45°angle on both sides of the hook point till I get my desired trokar style shape . Then I finish I up with the two polishing stones. Afterwards I’ll coat it with “the solution ” marker to make it rust proof again. Most manufacturer’s use water proof coating from paint to teflon. Or you can use petroleum jelly or chap stick. Do your self a favor and get one. It can give you a better “edge” on fishing.

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Seek adventure and reap the rewards!

Long and painful hours of planning, anticipation, overthinking melt away when your alarm cries out of the silence for the first time.

Around the end of February, we started to plan an epic adventure. Erick, Joseph, and myself were looking to get away for a week in a remote corner of the country and catch some beautiful, relatively untapped carp of Wild West. We set forth on planning the logistic nightmare to travel over 1300-mile one-way trip. We spent countless hours on Google Maps and Navionics looking for new unfished areas. While we found many great looking areas on the map we had already had a backup plan in mind if they washed out. Fast forward to June.
The day has finally come. Erick and Josef leave early Sunday morning to embark on the drive from Texas to the mecca of carp fishing in the United States. The one, the only BIG CARP TACKLE!!! After some “shopping” as Erick likes to call it as he pockets some Solar Popups and tries to walk out with a 10kg bag of boilies; we spend a bit of time chatting and loading up the truck. I will take full responsibility with the loading issue. The original plan was to rent a small enclosed trailer to take up all the gear in however in the anticipation I forgot to actually reserve it and there was no one available to rent one from on a Sunday. I caught a good bit of flak for forgetting even though we still managed to fit everything and on a side note, Josef is awesome at loading a vehicle! We finally take off around 1:30 pm and begin to embark towards our destination. Hopes are high, energy drinks are flowing, and vaping machines are vaping as we start the 20-hour drive to get to our first destination.

Erick and Josef

Erick and Josef

 

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He tried

We had several areas we were looking to scout and hopefully fish. After the 20+ hours and countless Redbulls later (we should have asked them to sponsor the trip!) we came to our first stop. There is a parallel to The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with us selecting a spot and it turns out that we chose correctly. As we traveled around to the North side of the lake on a dirt road we came to a point where we had to stop as it turned into a nature preserve. This was not even a quarter of the way we wanted to travel so we were pretty disappointed. The campground also looked pretty busy so we decided that it was not the spot for us. One of the downsides for the first spot falling through is that our 2nd choice is over 2 hours west of our first. So we decide to scout several river spots along the way. Surprise, none of those spots pan out either as the river has a ripping current and the access is not what it seemed like on Google Maps. After the river is a washout we make our way to the second spot. Just like the rest of the river we could not find adequate bank space and the areas we found did not allow overnight camping. At this time, we have been in the truck for almost 30 hours with very little sleep and plenty of anticipation which is fueled by energy drinks and images of large fish dancing in our heads. We make the tough albeit easy decision to head to the third and final spot which happens to be almost 5 hours back to the East. Needless to say we were not very happy about the drive but we know we will be somewhere with a good chance to bank some beautiful fish. Now after around 40 hours of driving we arrive at our final destination. Just as Goldilocks found out, the third spot was just right. The wait is over.

unpacking

We arrive late afternoon/early evening to a strong, southerly windstorm right into our faces and the chosen swim. Talk about getting a confidence booster! Without a soul in sight we start unloading and choosing our respective swims. We are fishing a gentle point that faces into the south/southwest with a small, slightly deeper cove to our right and a shallow flat to our left. Erick chooses the center swim hoping to allow Josef (on his left) and I (on the right) to pickup any fish coming from our flanks. Our pods are setup about 20 yards from each other as we fan the rods across the point. We haphazardly cast our rods out for the night and finish setting up camp unknowingly needing the rest for it will be a long, eventful week on the bank.

We rise pretty early for having been driving almost 2 days without a break. Bypassing breakfast and getting our baiting sorted out it isn’t long until the first take. Shortly after we wake my rod is the first to go. Now there is a little backstory to this trip. I have been exclusively targeting carp since 1993/1994 and in all these years I have netted and been witness to countless mirror carp however I have not once, in probably tens of thousands of carp, ever caught my own mirror carp. Well that ended at 7:15 am on this particular morning. After a short but very nerve racking fight as it is the first hookup of the trip and I would never live it down if I were to loose the first fish. As she slips into the net we are all relieved and excited that we are into the fish within hours of having lines in the water. Now in good faith for the trip we I release the fish, my new mirror PB around 16lbs, back without an official weight in anticipation of bigger things to come.

My first Mirror Carp. It only took 20 years!

My first Mirror Carp. It only took 20 years!

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Beautiful native species

Shortly after my new Pb I receive a second run. This time is is a sucker and another new PB for me. I end up with a second sucker as well before things take a turn.For what seems like the rest of this day and most of the next Erick had the lucky swim. Cranking out fish after fish. Feeling bad for Josef as he has yet to have a run. Josef catches a break while Erick is off “taking care of business” and takes a fish away from Erick on his crazy left handed reels. If you have never tried to play a fish on your off hand with a 12 ft rod you should try it because it’s borderline comedy. Now that we have all had a fish the rest of the trip turns into insanity. We averaged 2-3 fish an hour for almost every daylight hour we had. The night bite was not very effective and while we caught it was actually nice to have a break! After 3 days of almost non stop catches the real magic happens. After catching fish from 3 rod lengths out to around 60 yards out I decided to try a single fluoro hook bait approach. Tying up a 15 inch stiff hinge rig with a 3 in hook length section and a Nash baits 15mm Citruz popup I blast the middle rod to as far as I can. I have not baited out past 60 yards or so and this cast is about double that. It didn’t take long before I have a fish on, another average fish for the trip around 24/25lbs. I bring the rig back to the brolly and touch up the hook point with my Jag file and stones, add a PVA nugget for protection and proceed to blast it out into the same area. Less than an hour goes by before the same rod rips off again. This time the fish feels much heavier. With multiple slow, powerful runs I know I have hooked into a much better fish than the rest. Now I had told Erick early on into the trip that if he sees the fish and it’s big to not say anything as I don’t want to get anxious and do something wrong. Well he messed that up! While waist deep in water turns around and gives me a big smile and a thumbs up! Great now I know that I cannot lose this one. After a brutal battle back and forth along with Erick’s superhero net skills and the largest fish of the trip so far is into the net. This fish made the trip for me, hands down. My new PB of 36 lbs 4 oz and it’s a magnificent mirror! Not only have I caught my first mirror and many in the 24/25lb range this fish left me in amazement! Time stood still as I knelt in the water next to the cradle and gazed upon a beast of carp. Now as an American I’m not quite sure what the carpy English phrase “chuffed to bits” means however it seems to be good and you could say that was how I felt haha. After quite a few photos and a celebratory Coors I took a small break and let everything set in. What more could you ask for a trip that started with 40+ hours in a truck, close to 2000 miles of driving one way?

In Awe

In Awe

 

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This is what carp angling to me is all about.  36 lb 4 oz new PB

 

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Wild carp at their best.

 

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Safely released until we meet again.

Well I’m glad you asked! Something even more spectacular happened the next day. We have all seen photos and heard stories of catching braces and triples. Folks I believe we may have one you might have not heard of because we can’t recall it either. Within 30 minutes we had caught a heptad of carp. Don’t worry we looked up the proper term and a heptad is a group or set of seven…. We managed to have 4 fish in the cradle and 3 of the 4 nets we had also had fish in them (safely in the water still). In the interest of fish safety we release 4 of them to get a group photo of 3. Among the 3 that we took in the group photo is also the largest fish which eclipsed my PB and was caught by Erick at 38 lbs. A gorgeous and long fish we took some great photos that he will share with you all.

Part of the heptad of fish. 4 in the cradle! All fish were release unharmed.

A heptad of carp! These 4 in the cradle and another 3 in separate nets at one time. All fish were released unharmed.

3 of the 7 fish we landed in quick succession.

 

One of many braces

One of many braces that graced our nets.

 

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One day she’ll grow up and be a 30+

 

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Lets call her Marilyn for the “beauty mark” on her scale.

 

Another Proper Brace

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Josef scored 2 fish while we were visited by Officer Scott of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. He had no idea that this lake is such a special place for carp anglers that make the journey and stayed around for an hour asking questions and taking photos to show his co-workers. Make sure you get your proper licenses!

capThank you to a random Coors bottle cap for giving us the motto of the trip.

Overall the tripwas a huge success! We captured 90+ carp, only 10 were under 20 lbs with an average of 24/25 lbs. 3 thirties including my new PB. My fish were caught on the multi rig, chod rig, and stiff hinge rig. From distances of 30 feet to over 100 yards. Bait wise almost all of mine were on Nash Citruz 15mm popups, a few on Nash Key 20mm cultured hookbaits and a few on CC Moore 15mm White Pacific Tuna Popups. The fish seem to have a very visual feeding response and the bright baits produce throughout the trip.

End Tackle: Nash, Kryston, Ambush
Rods: Saxon Hexalite 3.0tc and one prototype rod
Reels: Daiwa Basia
Pod: Original Solar Sod Pod
Alarms/Indicators: ATTs crystal body/Solar Titanium short arm indicators

This trip is now my greatest trip to date not only because of the fishing but also because of the camaraderie between good friends and the overall experience which we will not forget any time soon. Since returning back home there hasn’t been a day go by that I don’t flip through the photos and smile and wonder why we even came back at all!

In the immortal words of Sir Izaak Walton, “I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing.”

See you on the banks! Tight lines!

Review: Solar Mega Big Shots for big baiting.

Currently there is no shortage of flavors, additives, dips, glugs, sprays, and enhancers available to the American Carp angler. The selection is overwhelming, you have the option of sticking with old familiar favorites such as strawberry and upping the complexity to Scopex to Ambergris and Vetiver for all I know.

With full shopping baskets and smiling faces pleased with this never ending cornucopia of flavoring there is one thing all Carp anglers contend with in the US at some point and that is QUANTITY. It’s highly unlikely I am the only person who has used their favorite flavors in such moderation that it felt as though it was a bottle of champagne being cracked open only for special occasions. Fortunately the Solar Mega Big Shots have put an end to this conservative usage of flavoring.

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A 30lb Common Caught on a Candy Floss Pop-Up

 

With 1 litre of flavoring you no longer have to be savvy with your baiting applications. Most carp fishermen I speak with fish a variety of waters requiring different amounts of bait going from a few balls of groundbait to half a dozen or more 5 gallon buckets filled to the brim with particle. Speaking of flavoring 5 gallon buckets of particle it seems as though one full cup of the Big Shot flavors will flavor this amount just fine, and if more is needed there is still plenty to spare.  If you’re feeling adventurous I highly recommend taking a look into the new Candy Floss, and Chili Club flavors. The Chili Club is a mild spicy/fishy smell where the Candy Floss is incredible and hard to put a finger on what it is composed of, but it’s certainly a potent creamy, and nutty flavor very unique and original, and sure to be a favorite in the US.

Big Shot

NGT Carp Cradle 304.

Affordable Carping: NGT Carp Care products

When I returned to the sport of carp fishing I knew nothing of the modern accepted standards of carp care. Back when I first started fishing, in the late 70s, early 80s, weigh and retainer slings, cradles and mats, dedicated nets for carp, medicated kits to treat wounds and sores, simply did not exist. The fish were often placed upon a grassy bank and weighed in a simple plastic bag. Kevin Nash had only just pioneered the first commercially available carp sack in the late 70s. We have learned so much in the decades since Richard Walker landed the UKs first 40 lb’er back in 1952 from the Redmire Pool, ironically the very same County I was born in, Hertfordshire.

As I began to catch carp again, my first in nearly three decades, I proudly displayed my capture photos to the members of the Carp Anglers Group here in North America. I had joined CAG but a few months earlier to learn more about carping here in the USA. The feedback I received was not something I expected, or was prepared for; members politely sending me private messages to let me know that the standards of carp care I was demonstrating was sorely lacking!

Learning about carp care, from others.
Learning about carp care, from others.

Surprisingly, especially in a world full of keyboard warriors, this was not done in a hostile manner. There were no personal attacks, no vitriolic replies.

Instead, CAG’s members offered encouragement and provided a more gentle message of how carp care has evolved over the past few decades. They helped me learn the appropriate techniques and tools available to catch, unhook and return the carp to the water in as good, or better condition, than it was caught.

 

 

 

Honestly, if instead I had received a hate storm of feedback it is unlikely I would have continued on with the same passion in my angling endeavors today. Any enthusiasm I had for sharing my captures would have stopped, as would my contributions to the many forums and local fishing communities.

Over the past few years I have learned so much more and now endeavor to share this with others, encouraging and educating on what is appropriate or recommended, especially with new anglers to the sport.

The most common feedback I now receive when recommending the use of mats, cradles, slings and carp friendly nets to new anglers is,“it’s too expensive!”

I can appreciate where this is coming from. My first round of carp care equipment, retainer sling, carp cradle, a good net, cost me well over $300. This may not sound like a terrific sum of money to some, but to me, it certainly was. However, years later, there are now good companies out there providing affordable ranges of quality carp care products that even the most frugal of anglers can afford.

Over the past couple of seasons I have been putting Next Generation Tackle’s (NGT) range of carp care products to the test, both in my own angling and when out with others on the bankside. I was especially interested in both their functionality, durability and price point with a focus on those new to the sport, or the budget conscious angler.

Carp Cradle and Weigh Sling in Use

 

I am passionate about demonstrating that carp angling can be affordable for all and NGT’s products fill this niche for me. I use their products in my everyday angling and when taking new anglers out onto the bank for their first time carp fishing.  This allows me advocate to the new angler that they don’t need to sell their car, or children, just to get into the sport to see if they enjoy it !

 

 

Nets:

I have been using the NGT 6 ft Carp net handle, the 42” Carp net with metal spreader block and a basic net float.

NGT 6ft Net HandleNET Net with Metal Block

Personally I prefer a net with the metal spreader block and threading. These are the two components most prone to failure, especially when a new angler tries to lift the fish out of the water still in the net, by the handle. The single piece handle is sturdy with little flex and the net arms fit easily into the spreader block. Sometimes I do regret not getting NGT’s net, with the longer telescopic handle. There always seems to be times when a 6 ft reach is just is not enough. The mesh is not as fine, or soft, as that of a more expensive product but it still lands the fish without their fins getting caught.

After 2 years use, with well over 150 carp landed, the mesh is now worn and ready to be replaced. Consequently, with NGT constantly working on their products and innovations, this year I will be upgrading to the new 42″ Specimen Net, with a Dual Net Float System, eliminating the need for a separate float.

NGT 42in Dual Net Float System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mats & Cradles:

I have used many of NGT range of mats, and their 2015 award winning Cradle, for over a season now. The most simple, and affordable of which, would be the Quickfish Mat. An inexpensive, no frills lightly padded mat, that folds down for easy storage and transportation.

Quickfish Mat

 

 

 

If the beginning carp angler can afford nothing else, then the Quickfish Mat works and is a huge upgrade from simply lying the fish in the dirt or upon the rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, when I am using a mat, I do prefer one with sides. This helps to stop the fish from sliding off the mat and keeps some water on the fish. Thus, I have also used the Beanie Unhooking Mat.

NGT Beanie unhooking mat

 

 

 

This mat has plenty of support beads for padding and side walls. Measuring in at 24″ x 48″ x 5″ it is plenty big enough to accommodate a pretty decent sized carp though with the beads it does not roll up all that well (end up folding mine in half for transport atop the wagon).

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me personally, I prefer to use a cradle over a mat. I like to keep the fish elevated off the ground, padded, secure and at a height better suited to me for handling the fish. I also enjoy having the cradle stable and level, especially on uneven ground. Thus adjustable leg height is a must. When taking that important capture shot, I only need to lift the fish a foot or so up above the cradle and can easily lower it back down if it becomes too lively. Perhaps i’m getting old but leaning over at mat on the ground wears my back out quickly!

In 2015 NGT released a new product that immediately caught my eye, the framed Carp Cradle. This proved to be well worth the investment. Made with a strong, yet light weight aluminum frame, soft PVC durable material, the cradle folds down easily for transport and is very quick to setup.

NGT Carp Cradle 304

The height adjustable legs come with mud feet. The attached cover folds down and be used as a knee pad. The cradle incorporates soft, but strong, rubber mesh in the bottom corners allowing for drainage.

Having used a few other styles of cradle in the past the NGT Cradle hits just about every mark for me.

 

 

 

If I had to find a criticism,  I would be that NGT needs to release a larger version!

The current 304 model is 101 centimeters wide, including side walls and frame. The cradle easily holds carp of up to 36″ in length comfortably. Perhaps an XL model will eventually be made for those real big slender torpedoes?

Having used this cradle now for over a season I can see why it was voted for, and won, the Angler’s Mail Award as “Best Cradle of 2015”.

 

Weigh Slings:

Never, ever, weigh a carp using a scale with the hook through the carp’s lip or use lip grips. This is so totally unnecessary and causes damage to the mouth of the fish. For a big heavy carp, they could easily rip through mouth causing permanent and disfiguring damage to the fish. It’s simple, please, just don’t do it, instead get yourself a weigh sling or combination weigh / retainer sling.

Having previously used a retainer style sling it was a change to use the NGT Carp Sling System. The sling comes with zips on either side allowing you to put it on the mat (or in my case, the cradle), place the fish on the sling, zip up, weigh via the handles and release it again safely afterwards. There are fiber glass rods running through the two upper seams for added strength. The system even comes with a stink bag, which I highly recommend the use of after a long hot day of catching.

NGT Carp Sling System

 

 

 

I did find during the prior seasons fishing that I missed the retainer element of a sling system, when I had a double run for myself or when with a guest we both had fish on. Yes I could sack a capture if necessary but i’d rather use a retainer sling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the 2016 season I am looking forwards to getting myself the newly released, NGT Captur Floating Sling and Holding System. This sling incorporates 8 independent floats to ensure it stays afloat even in the harshest of conditions. With a double zip and locking clip there is zero chance for the fish to escape the sling in the water.

NGT Captur

 

 

 

Included are a 6 ft rope and peg to secure the system to the bank. There are removable bars that hold the system open at all times. Constructed of fish friendly materials, with a fine mesh running along both the sides and bottom of the system, there should be fast drainage for weighing and after the release. There are 6 Carry handles which cover all contingencies and yes, this sling is large in size, ideal for specimen fish. Heck it even comes with a carry case!

 

 

 

In closing, carp have a protective slime coat over their scales. This is the carp’s first line of defense against infection and disease, shielding the fish against such organisms in the water. The coat also prevents the loss of internal electrolytes and fluids. Any removal of the slime coat can make the carp more susceptible to disease, bacteria or fungal infections. This could potentially lead to the death or disfigurement of the fish.

Carp should never be placed upon a dry surface such as the ground, dirt, rocks, a boat deck or anything that could pull the slime coat from the fish. Everything that touches the carp needs to be wet first, from your net, to your mat, sling or cradle, including your hands. Carp care does not have to be expensive. There are plenty of products available at very affordable prices.

I would also recommend for the new carp angler reading this article, checkout this great essay by BCN Contributor, Iain Sorrell. Carp Safety – Going Beyond the Mat

So when you next see a post, or image, or angler on the bank that does not portray the standards of carp care you expect to see, please take just minute to pause. To think of how you first learned or were helped to understand by others. Encourage others, offer advice in a positive and non-confrontational manner.

The majority of anglers are usually open to feedback depending on how it is presented to them. Catch & release anglers do really care about the welfare of the fish. Perhaps they just need a gentle nudge in the right direction.

We all started our carp care careers somewhere.

Tight-Lines,
John

California Carping!

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Living in California is not only about fun and games it’s about chasing huge carp. After several years of progressing my carp tactics, catching hundreds of fish , fishing countless body’s of water I now hold my PB common. Fishing a SoCal desert lake doing some work to the swim my buddy and I plan to fish for the next two days. After a sore forearm and burning shoulder we head to camp. The next morning up and early heading down to the water we can hear fish crashing. Immediately we get our rods in not to long after my alarm starts to beep which seemed to go in slow motion I pick up the rod set the hook feels like I hooked anchor steady weight and a battle of tug of war is in place. After 10-15 min I get the fish close in reach for my buddy to net him being closer gets the first glimpse of the beast and yells “ohh dude”!! That moment my stomach dropped and hands start to shake. The fish rolls one last time and bam! In the net weighing in at 38.2 lbs biggest fish I’ve cought and seen. Seconds later snap a few photos and back she went to get even bigger to only hope of catching , and perusing my dream of an enormous record setting carp.

Alex Martinez

 

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Evan Cartabiano Year in Review 2015

Some years are easy and others are more difficult. 2015 started off easy, and then got harder as things like moving twice, getting a new job, and 2x small kids took up time that would have been more pleasantly spent on the bank. Nonetheless it was a productive year and I was able to catch a few  fish as well as writing a number of posts here on BCN (and a few elsewhere) and a getting a video up on YouTube. I also got a couple of really sweet sponsorships that are going to be really helpful going forward – a big thanks to my sponsors Gardner Tackle and Century Rods!

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First fish of 2015 during CAGs FFF. Getting out on New Years is always the right way to start the year!
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When fishing in South Carolina you will catch grass carp. This one stood out because it actually put up a bit of a fight!

Much of my fishing in 2015 was in the company of my 2yo son. This shortened the length of the sessions considerably but was also lots of fun! He really enjoyed fighting them (with help) and was very excited every time the alarms went off. Some of the fish he landed were nearly as big as he was but he did his best to hold them for pics. His PB is now 25lbs – it took me many years to catch one that size!

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The next generation of carp anglers perhaps? Fish this size are always a big hit and I try to make sure there is a a chance for everyone to be able to examine the fish.

In May I participated in the Wild Carp Classic (read about it here). It was a blast and I am looking forward to doing it again this year. Maybe this year our luck will be better in the peg draw. If you have not fished tournaments, which peg you get makes all the difference. If you have a good peg you are set…if not–well, you are in for a lot of work!

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Our biggest fish caught during the WCC. Sadly I do not have some of the better pics that were taken.

 

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I had never had to use 8oz before…and even that was not enough
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When the fish came through we would often get runs in quick secession.

Back in SC, I spent most of the time catching fish much like the one below. This was mostly river fishing and was again short sessions. Life had really started cutting into my fishing time and the weather had gotten really hot and the fishing was slower.

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Looking forward to another great year with more time on the bank and bigger fish in the net!