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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Big Carp On Pole

Solicitor Stephen Collins of Hungerford has just caught a huge carp on a pole in his recent club match. Stephen writes as follows.

Sunday 26th June and another match on the lovely river Loddon was booked for the afternoon. It had been a balmy hot day, a day when the river was going to be low and clear, and I considered a weight of about 5lbs would be needed to pick up the winnings. With that in mind I stopped off at Thatcham Angling Centre for 2 pints of red maggot and a pint of caster. I already had my usual 3 pints of hemp, kilo of dendrabaenas and a tub of lobs just in case i drew a chubby peg. I considered that I'd probably not even use a 1/4 of a pint of anything all day, but you have to have it just in case eh?. On the way I stopped for some petrol and saw a loaf of bread. "Martin would never forgive me if I didnt take that to try to start off with" I thought, so that went into the bait bag too.

I arrived at the Hut for the 1pm draw. We were fishing from 2.00 until 8.00... a pleasant 6 hours to enjoy the sun if not the fishing. I drew my peg, 43, the Directors swim as it was called. I knew this to be wide, slow paced and usually fishless. a hard 6 hours to go I thought as I heaved a mass of tackle to the peg. Behind me was a friend who has had some heart problems, so i dropped off my tackle then moved his to his peg...about 20 from me and a fair walk in the sunshine. A pair of kingfishers whistled past, the tips of their wings leaving a slice through the water as they went.

Getting back to my peg I settled the box in place, optimistically put a keepnet in and sat as I always do looking at the river for any clue as to how I should fish and where. On the far bank about 15 metres away were huge clumps of cabbage with lillies over the top of them, this gave way to deeper water and was an obvious shelf. Any fish in there will stay in there i thought to myself. I resigned myself to a day of running a 5BB stick float down the peg which was about 7ft deep looking for dace and chublets and of course the matchmans saviour, the bleak. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw something under a lilly, a big black head emerged, then another behind it. These were Carp and nice ones too. I guessed about 9 or 10lbs in weight. They too were enjoying the sun, and lazed there knowing no doubt that nobody had ever caught one, at least in the last 5 or 6 years anyway and you'd have to be a fool to try amongst all that weed wouldnt you.

My mind was made up, on a day like this a carp would win the match without question, but, how to catch the uncatchable from a weedbed that was impossible to fish? Out came my Daiwa Tournament Professional 16 metre pole, and I selected a top kit with a 14 elastic through 3 sections. Onto that I tied 5 feet of 4 kilo (9lb) line and a size 4 Fox Carp hook. I looked again at the carp and the cabbage, and decided that maybe I was asking for trouble. I changed to a Black Daiwa Hydroelastic, rated 16 to 18 and about as strong as it gets. The rig remained the same. no float. no shot. just powerful line and a big strong hook. By now a man from a neighbouring peg has wandered along and I pointed to my quarry. "not a chance" he said encouragingly. He stayed with me to watch me make a fool of myself and to watch the spooked carp bolt for the cover never to be seen aagain.

2.00pm and the whistle went for the start of the match. To my right balls of groundbait were launched by a man who clearly didnt know that what he had done would be the kiss of death for his days fishing. Onto my hook went a piece of crust about the size of a 50p piece. I carefully shipped the pole the 15 metres to where the carp lay, being sure to keep the crust off of the water lest it fell off. I gently placed the bread onto the water about 20 feet from the fish and let it slowly drift down, easing it in the direction I wanted it to go by manoeuvering the pole. The bread reached the big black shape, and, to my astonishment, it didnt spook. Nor, as I expected, did it take any interest in the crust above its nose. Past its back and tail it floated, and I carefully drew it back so it was again 2 feet in front of him. The carp drifted back and was now about 5 feet away. Suddenly it came to life, I saw its gills flare and it accelerated towards the bait. It was now 2.01pm

Up came a big pair of lips and the bait was engulfed. I swung the pole as hard as I could past the fish downstream to try to stop it hitting the weeds to its right. All hell broke loose as the fish realised its sunbathing had been disturbed, turned and bolted about 60 feet downstream, my pole taking a very alarming bend and creaking as it did so. I'd hooked a few big barbel on it before but nothing compared to this first run. The fish stopped and walllowed about 5 feet under the surface, I could see its golden flanks as it twisted and turned in the gin clear water. How it never went for those thick beds of weeds I'll never know. Slowly I eased the fish towards me, pumping the elastic back into the pole as I did. Gradually I felt confident enough to remove a few pole sections to be able to control it more easily. One section at a time I got the fish closer to me. It came to my bank and dived under a willow tree. I slammed the pole into the water to avoid the branches and the fish turned out again.

After 20 minutes of this game the fish was on just 4 sections of pole and yet there was nothing I could do to get the fish close enough to net it. Then, peering into the depths, I realised the enormity of my problem, this wasn't a 9lb fish, and although my net was designed for landing carp, the manufacturer's clearly had 5lb fish in mind, not this huge creature to which I had somehow attached myself. I immediately sent my colleague in search of a bigger net. He returned to give me bad news.... I would have to make do. The fish came to the top, saw my totally inappropriate net and bolted for the far bank. All that hard work and I started to wonder if it knew yet that it was hooked. 5 more minutes of arm wrenching runs later the fish began to relent and it swam towards me. Seizing my chance I thrust the net under it and lifted. The head slid in, then its body. alarmingly its tail would not fit in and i pulled with all my might to bring the fish in. I threw the pole sections behind me and grabbed the net head with both hands and heaved. There in front of us was an absolute clonker. We both fell about laughing hysterically. "What on earth have you done" said my friend. I tried not to swear too much when i noticed that for the last 5 minutes he had been recording the battle on his mobile phone video. It was now 2.43pm.

The carp was placed carefully into a large keepnet and I sat back shaking. "thats the match won" my friend quite rightly said, and he scurried off to round up all the cub members who came to see it weighed immediately and released. The scales were zeroed, the fish was placed into a weigh sling and the needle was pulled round to 23lb 4oz, a club record carp, a PB for me, and as far as I know, one of the largest carp to ever have been taken on a pole.

If I had known that the creature I was dangling a piece of bread for was over 20lbs, would I have used a 4000 pole to try for it? Not a chance! Thankfully the carp, like an iceberg with just the top showing, hid its secrets until it was too late.

I fished on, and indeed hooked another carp by the same method but the hook pulled, and yet another engulfed the bait and i missed it completely. I won the match, and 5lb 4oz was 2nd.

Martin James Fishing