Tales of goal setting, compulsive behavior and attempting to make carpy dreams a reality.
By Craig “Brit” Parkes
One of my favorite carp angling authors Dave Lane once wrote a book on the obsession of carp angling. This book was so popular that copies are harder to get hold of than rocking horse poop, and if you are lucky enough to find a copy the prices are huge. It is one of, if not the most popular carp books ever written, probably because we all have an obsession or fascination with the species. No longer do children in England take part in apprenticeships fishing for multiple course species like perch, roach, gudgeon like I once did as a child.
When I grew up it was hard to find a lake that contained carp. Now it is hard to find a place to fish without carp, with so many commercial fisheries and heavily stocked day ticket waters present. In fact, many modern English waters only contain fast growing strains or imported foreign carp….because hardcore carp anglers primarily want bigger and better fish. When I was a kid it was match rods and maggots down the local canal as a ten year old, with a PB roach of about 6 ounces. Today my ten year old cousin has his own bivvy, pod, alarms, uses boilies and has a PB carp of over 20lbs.
I think that carp are a species like no other in that us anglers not only enjoy catching big fish, or pretty fish…….it goes way beyond that. Many carp anglers are obsessed with bigger fish, better fish, uncaught fish, named fish and a whole host of other factors that help us set personal angling targets. Dave Lane is one of many anglers who go to extreme lengths to capture the beasts they set their minds on, another one is carping legend Terry Hearn. He sets his sights on specific special fish and does not stop fishing that water until he has caught it. Sometime these quests last multiple years, and he really excels in this type of angling.
I have to say that I have fallen into the obsession game on many an occasion. There have been times when I have been so obsessed that when I have not actually been on the bank fishing that I have been thinking about carp, and dreaming about them when I am asleep. There have been times when the obsession has reduced in severity for short periods of time. However, it always seems to reappear and cause me to develop two opposing emotions. On one side of the coin I know it will take my focus away from other things in life like spending time with my family or having a social life. But the other side of the coin feels the fire burning in the pit of my stomach and knows that exciting times are ahead. I get bored easily, so in all aspects of life I am motivated, ambitious and love achieving my goals……..or as Charlie Sheen puts it “I Love Winning”. I love the thrill of me against the carp because it is like a game of cat and mouse. Who will come out on top? Who will be crowned king? Who will get the glory? I don’t really compete with other anglers as I view carp angling as a very personal quest. It’s a bit like my golf game. I am never going to beat Tiger Woods, but I can try to improve my score from last week’s round. I view my carp angling as the same sort of challenge. It’s me versus the carp. Am I good enough to up my PB, or catch that one I really want?
Older tales of compulsive carping….
I thought I would give you a few funny stories of the lengths I have gone to in an attempt to bag the beasts I have craved after before talking about my most recent obsessions in America.
1. When I was a member on Weston Park I initially spent a lot of time in the famous swim known as the “Rhodies”. The swim was at the far end of the lake and was the swim the fish tended to visit the most. One day just before dark a friend called me and told me about his mate fishing that swim and seeing a ghost on several occasions. This really did worry me as most nights I would have the lake and the whole Weston estate to myself. Every little noise during the night would scare the hell out of me, and I was always planning my escape route should the ghost make an appearance. However, the swim was producing really well for me and I did not want to fish elsewhere. I must have spent the next three months in the swim, and could not sleep a wink at night. I would be exhausted on a Monday morning when I went back to work, but my obsession with that swim kept me going back time and time again……….and I never did ever see that ghost!
2. When on Weston again I was working as a Physical Education teacher at a school 30 minutes away and midweek during the summer I would leave work at 3pm to go fish, returning to work the next morning. The gymnasium where I worked had a shower so I would leave Weston at 7am and go straight to work and shower before teaching at 8:45am. One day I arrived at work and the water was not working in the school. I did not have enough time to go home and shower and had caught half a dozen carp in the night and stunk of fish. I taught all day smelling like a fishmonger, and the kids kept making reference to the awful smell whenever they came close by me. I just kept telling them it was the blocked drains outside, but they all knew the awful stench was coming from me lol.
3. A few years ago I decided last minute to go fish a place I had not been for a while the “Riddings Fishery”, which had been a good place to me for several years. I had been sick for a few days and felt awful, but still decided to go because when I was there I could just sit in my shelter and rest anyway. Also once the thought of going is in my head I have to go and I can’t go against my gut feeling (told you I was obsessed). I got the rods out, cut off the leaders, placed them on the ground outside and turned around to get some new rigs out my bag. My back was turned for literally two seconds and upon turning around I saw a lead fly past my head and down the garden. I then saw a yellow flouro pop up hanging out my dog’s mouth, with a nice size 8 wide gape hook nailing him in the bottom lip. I ended up rushing him to the vets before they closed and they sedated him and removed the hook. A nice $300 (200 pounds) vet bill meant it was already my most expensive day session ever. The next day sucked too, as I caught about 20 bream and not one carp!
The obsession continues in the good old US of A……
4. I had a four day trip planned with my mate Sean to a big lake in New York State that holds some huge fish. A few days before my car was not running right and I could not get it into gear very easily. However, as you have probably guessed I went fishing anyway. After fishing two different swims and blanking for four days in freezing weather we began the 5 hour ride home. An hour into the trip my car died on the highway and I had to get towed back which cost $500 (350 pounds) and then the transmission replacement cost $3000 ($2000 pounds). I have not been back to that place since.
5. A few months ago I was due to get married in August and my wife and I had planned a weekend a fortnight before the wedding to go and sort out the final important arrangements like the cake, decorations, photographer etc. A week before I informed her I was actually going fishing instead and buggered off for the weekend leaving her to do it all on her own. Karma came and got me though, as I blanked that session and both my mates caught great fish :( . She did thankfully turn up to the wedding :)
My current obsession……………a BIG rare American mirror!
After a very successful spring landing 3x 30lb commons and a new USA PB common of 40lb 6oz from two separate states I decided to re-evaluate my original 2012 goal of 10 fish over 30lb and a forty. I really wanted a big mirror. I had only caught a handful of small ones, as the states I was living in do not really contain mirrors. My USA PB mirror was a beauty, but only weighed 21lb. I knew a few states near to where a good friend of mine lived contained plenty of mirrors, and big ones too. He has landed numerous 30s and 40s, some being fully scaled stunners. This was the area of the country I had to fish…..even if the drive was a 15 hour round trip of almost 900 miles. I did wish gas (petrol) was not so expensive right now, but the obsession does not worry about roadblocks…..it just goes over, under, around or through them.
I had just finished my Masters Degree and had some free time off during the early part of the summer. I immediately planned a much needed week long trip to visit my friend Dean to try and bag some twenty plus mirrors as plenty had come out in the spring. The short story is that the weather was unbelievably hot, reaching 90+ degrees most days and so fish were only feeding between 10pm and 10am. Not many fish were really feeding and the first three days saw me land just one mid double mirror. It was time to move to another location. We visited several swims close together in another state and settled in one for a couple of days. Once again the fishing was tough, nothing showing and one fish a night was a good night. On the final night the fish went crazy for the Dynamite Baits Banana Nut Crunch boilies, and I landed five fish in a few hours. Unfortunately, they were all doubles and although very pretty fish not the big girls I was after. The session was actually more memorable for funny stories than carp including the naked chinese man on a bicycle, the couple having it away in a car right behind my bivvy, the homeless guy who bivvied up next to me and the bodybuilder in a thong who came down to my swim each day to bathe in the margins. Dean really does take me to the classiest of places!
July 2012 I was busy coaching soccer and also decided it really was not worth fishing until the weather cooled down. Early in August Dean, Sean and I planned a weekend session on water in the area I had been targeting. Day one it rained nonstop but there were fish showing everywhere. The trouble was the weed was up to the surface in most areas and far worse than we had expected. It was the most exciting day I have ever had observing carp in their quarry. There were some absolute monsters in the area and I saw several different strains including big dark ones with light moonscales and light colored chunky mirrors. It rained so hard we moved swims for the night to fish under a bridge to escape the rain because the river was running so fast our leads could not hold bottom. The next day it was red hot and we headed back to the original swim. The bright sun highlighted that the weed was even worse than we expected, there were no visible clear spots. The sun also got the fish up high and I spent the day chasing them on the surface, but they never even looked at my baits. Dean managed to bag a beautiful heavily plated low twenty during the hot day so it was great for us to see that they could be caught. In the middle of the night Sean called me to say he was in and he landed a torpedo of a common at 25lb. During the fight his other rod had gone off and we thought the lines were crossed and so just ignored it. When he went to wind the other rod in there was a fish on and it had gone into a thick weed bed. He expertly played the fish into the margins where I saw a big framed mirror. I netted the fish for him and it went 28lb 8oz, a new PB mirror for Sean (who named the fish “GARY”) and our confidence as a group grew now we had landed a few decent fish in very tough conditions. I landed my first snapping turtle on a zig, and that was all the action I had (serves me right for ditching my wife and the wedding commitments).
In late August I had started a new dream job and immediately sorted my diary out and planned a session for September and October again in the same region. I knew this was the time when the temperature would drop, the weed would die back and the fish would begin to feed heavily. I felt that my hard work of driving up there so many times was about to pay off. One Friday after work I drove 8 hours to the swim I wanted to fish, arriving at 10pm and absolutely shattered. I decided to just stick two rods out in areas where I had visible night markers and I would concentrate on my baiting approaches in the morning when my eyes were open. I had both rods in about 11pm on two Dynamite Baits Tiger Nuts topped with a piece of fake corn, on a Nash Twister blowback rig.
I was just nodding off about 11:30pm when a rod was away. It felt like a decent fish and went on a long powerful run and then something cut right through my 40lb braided mainline. My first run from this water and I had lost it, gutted. Rod back out and half an hour later another run on the same rod, this time I landed the fish and it was a mirror weighing ounces under 20lb. Now I was excited, I was off the mark and knew I had fish in front of me. I put both rods on the producing spot, stuck out a couple of catapults of tigers and ground bait balls and hit the sack. I had a few more fish that night to upper doubles but nothing over 20lb. Early in the morning just before it went light I had a screaming take. This immediately felt like a heavy fish as it plodded around in front of me and hugged the lake bed. It rolled close in after a ten minute fight and I saw a huge mouth and a big line of linear scales. This was it, the one I was after, the 30lb mirror I had been obsessed with since the late spring. The margin was relatively shallow so rather than risk losing it I just went right in up to my waist and she was mine. She was beyond beautiful, linear scales on both sides and a new USA PB mirror of 33lb 14oz. My wife likes naming her fish so I asked her to name it for me. She said I should name it Philbert. “No chance” I said, and so it is named “Zippy”.
The daylight produced the odd fish but mainly smaller ones, and the following night did not produce one single fish for me. I knew I had to move from the swim that I had just caught my PB from because I knew the carp were no longer passing through the area. I drove around for an hour or so and cast the lead around and decided to set up in another swim I fancied the fish to be held up in. I spread 2 kilos of Dynamite Carptech Pineapple boilies over the area and stuck two rods out at distance.
I’m glad I moved because four hours later I was hooked into another beast. The fish kited 100 yards down the bank and I was off running with my rod and net in hand. The Saxon rods have not yet let me down, with zero hook pulls all year and so I do not panic when fish go on crazy runs like this as the blank just soaks it all up and keeps steady pressure on the fish. Fifteen minutes later after wading through poison ivy (that sucked for the next three days) I managed to get her in the margins but she was still on the bottom and feeling heavy. Eventually a huge mouth popped up and a chunky body followed. I once again entered the water and netted another big mirror. I immediately felt that I knew this fish and thought it was ‘GARY’, the fish Sean had caught in August as it was covered in similar starburst scales. The beauty weighed 30lb 12oz, and upon checking the pictures it was indeed “GARY” the mirror.
I had a couple more double figure fish that day and night and then packed up the next morning a very happy man. The 8 hour drive home that morning did not seem too bad after a result like that. Finally, all that hard work and obsessive behavior had paid off with not only one target fish but two, from two separate swims.
I will be back soon with more carpy tales, including the best session of my life from my October session, which follows on as part two of this “Obsession Article”. Please feel free to check out some new interesting sites here in America. I have recently taken on the role of Chief Editor of Big Carp News, an outlet for carp media in America and beyond. We will have reviews, articles, catch reports and video blogs etc for you to enjoy. I also have my own carp angling page on Facebook you can check out. (http://bigcarpnews.com/web/ , http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigCarpNews?fref=ts , http://www.facebook.com/#!/craig.parkescarpangler ).
Big thanks as always to my sponsors Dynamite Baits (www.dynamitebaits.eu.com), Nash Tackle (www.nashtackle.co.uk/), Big Carp USA (www.bigcarpusa.com) and Saxon Tackle (www.saxontackle.com).
I hope you enjoyed this article. Enjoy your angling and tight lines!
Craig “Brit” Parkes