Parco Del Brenta Sept 2016
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.