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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer



Why the unusual title? Well we will come to that in a moment but let me first introduce you to Jan.

Jan Detko, is a nine year old from Preston, Lancashire. He has been fishing for two years after seeing somebody catch some big carp in France whilst he was on holiday there. He decided that he wanted to try the sport and I volunteered to take him along.He started out by fishing his local Lancaster Canal and was successful on his very first outing. On a borrowed short pole outfit he caught roach, perch, ruffe and what I believe are bitterling.

Jan got some tackle for his birthday and Christmas and now he has a short pole and a light match rod of his own. He has fished the canal and local lakes and ponds around him. He has improved his fishing skills and along the way caught plenty of fish including bream, tench, crucians and roach. Last winter Jan tried stick float fishing on a small river near my home and caught lots of small chub as well as some roach and perch.I have purposely kept Jan away from catching big fish because it will make it too easy for him and take some of the mystery away. The other problem is that Jan is left handed and it’s a nightmare trying to fish back to front when helping him out with bigger fish!

He has seen me catch some small pike from the Lancaster Canal and has netted a 9lb common carp for me so he has seen some bigger fish and now it was time to let him have a go at the bigger fish…………A family and friends holiday to Centerparcs, Nottingham, provided the ideal opportunity for Jan to land his first big carp. There are plenty of carp to double figures and the lake is nice and snag free due to its man made construction for the watersports.It was the last morning before we had a fish due to the weather and us trying out so many of the other activities on site.

Jan was up at six and was soon fishing. The tackle was probably a little heavy for him but it comprised a 12ft 2 1/2lb test curve carp rod, shimano baitrunner with 15lb line, 4bb straight topped waggler, swivel and a short 6lb hooklink to a size 8 hook.Bait was kept simple and effective and was breadflake fished over hemp, groats, sweetcorn and maggot. For anyone who knows the lake we fished in the end swim next to the out of bounds buoys. The buoys separate the main watersports lake from the fishing area and I predicted correctly to Jan that the hooked fish would head under the buoys in their bid for freedom.

After feeding the swim close in we waited to see signs of fish and it wasn’t long before a few bubbles and a tail pattern betrayed feeding fish. A cast to the baited spot was made with a large lump of breadflake and I set the clutch lightly to help the short 6lb hooklink and Jan with his first carp. It didn’t take long for the hook to bury and Jan promptly missed the bite….

I rebaited the hook and refed the swim. The hookbait was soon sat in the centre of the baited area. It gave a few sways and a couple of sharp bobs as fished brushed past the line as they fed. Jan resisted the urge to strike until the float sunk well out of sight and whooooshhh he pulled the 12ft rod over his shoulder and it was nearly pulled out of his hands as it arched over.

The clutch was set light to help him play the fish and it screamed off under the buoys tied across the lake. I helped Jan push the rod tip under the water to stop the line grating against the buoy rope. The fish kept going and going and even when I tightened up the clutch it still took line. Eventually the fish stopped but everytime Jan leaned into the fish to pump it back it reacted and took more line. He was obviously connected to a big fish. It was difficult to help Jan play the fish as he is left handed and we also had to keep the rod top under the water but with some guidance he started gaining line although on several occasions I had to slacken off the clutch as the fish nearly pulled the rod from his hands. Finally, the fish began to tire and we managed to get it past the buoy rope and into open water. Jan was feeling the pressure of the battle and tiring also but with the rod in the air now we could now exert some pressure on the fish. It momentarily got back under the buoys but some side strain halted its escape.

It was 20 minutes before we even saw the fish and that was a brief glimpse of its tail as it turned on the surface. It was definitely a good double. The fish made a strong run to the far bank taking yet more line and when it came to the end of its run Jan started pumping the fish back and the hooked pulled. That was so close to being Jan’s first carp…..I told Jan not to be too despondent because you couldn’t win every battle and that we’d catch another. It was frustrating though because it was a big carp and he’d played it well for 25 minutes.

Rebaiting the rig he went straight back out and within minutes Jan struck into another fish. The clutch gave line but this fish made the fatal error of heading for the open water rather than under the buoy. Jan had the rod tip up and was able to exert more pressure on the fish from the start. Once, twice, three times it headed for the buoys but Jan’s tiring arms were able to place side strain on the fish and draw it back towards him. The fish put up a spirited battle in the margins but with a final heave of the rod Jan managed to draw the fish into the landing net. On the bank the fish was a beautiful plump mirror carp that weighed 6lb 4ozs. It was a handful for Jan as he proudly displayed his first carp.

Jan was keen to try and catch another and once we had sorted the pictures and rebaited the swim out went the baited rig. The disturbance of the first two fish and the fact that the early morning was now becoming daytime meant the fish weren’t feeding as hard. It took awhile for us to hook our next fish. We missed a couple of bites as they became more finicky or the fish may have been preoccupied with the hemp and started picking up the swivel on the rig. Finally, the float sunk positively and Jan struck into another carp. This one shot off and stripped line from the reel as it dashed under the buoys leaving a bow wave as it went. I decided to give Jan no assistance and let him play the fish. I just occasionally told him to keep the rod under the water whilst the fish was out in the out of bounds area and I prompted him to raise the rod when necessary. The fish kept pulling the rod down and on more than one occasion pulled the rod down flat before stripping line from the clutch.

This fish was a real scrapper and Jan had a battle on his hands. It took Jan ages to get the fish back from the out of bounds area as it had taken so much line on its initial runs. Even once the fish was in front of him it just ran and ran. I sat on the front of the wooden platform and watched as Jan played the fish from above me. This fish was fighting as hard as the first. On a couple of occasions the fish eluded the waiting net and shot off again prolonging the fight even more. I’m not sure who was most tired Jan or the fish. Finally, the carp hit the surface exhausted and Jan drew the fish to the waiting net. It was a heavily scaled torpedo of a carp weighing 5lb 10ozs After a creditable score draw we decided to call it a day as Jan was happy with his first carp and his mornings fishing.

For those who are going on holiday to Centerparcs, Nottingham, it is well worth taking your fishing gear along.

The lake is mainly stocked with carp and rudd. It is over 15 years ago since I first fished a Centerparcs and I caught plenty of carp to 8lb. These fish must have grown on now and I’m certain that there are plenty of good doubles in the lake. I presume that most of the bigger fish stay out of reach in the no fishing zone. However, the lake is heavily stocked and the fish rely to a certain extent on anglers baits meaning there are always lots of fish in the fishing zone.

The fishing zone can be a little restrictive especially if it is busy or if you are an angler that likes to roam or more natural swims. On my most recent visit I caught plenty of carp to double figures and I found that float fishing in the margins over good beds of bait drew the fish in. Ledgering with boilies accounted for only small carp to about 2lb and a surprise rudd of about a pound. It was the more traditional float fished baits that produced the carp. It is an ideal venue for the beginner as the man made lake is relatively snag free. Smaller baits and more delicate tackle will no doubt account for plenty of small fish. It is best to fish to cover as the open water appears rather featureless. Tackle hire and fishing tuition is available on site.

Martin James Fishing