Darkness was fast approaching as I sat on my bed chair watching the darkening water for any signs of fish. I was just about to start the fifth night of a seven nighter on a huge French gravel pit some 800 miles from home. I knew nothing about this water before I arrived other than it held “grand carpe”, a vague description given to me by a French angler I’d met on the River Lot earlier in the year. I dismissed his comment at the time as I couldn’t see why he would travel a couple of hundred miles to fish the river for average sized carp when he had these “grand carpe” on his doorstep.
So what was I doing sitting at the side of this huge pit? I’d set off to fish different water but a wrong turn in the middle of the night brought me, low on fuel, to the nearest town to this pit. Unable to get any fuel until the morning I decided to drive to the gravel pit, sleep in the car and then have a quick look at it before continuing my journey south.
As the morning mist began to burn away with the rising sun the water seemed to have a welcoming feel to it. The more of the water I saw, the more welcome I felt. The rolling hills with their picturesque buildings were quite breathtaking and made me feel at home so I decided to fish the water for a few nights and then move on to my original choice of venue.
I blanked for the first couple of nights and then spent the rest of that third day finding a more suitable swim and then moving into it. The move had been worth the effort and the first fish that I had from the new swim and in fact the pit, was a beautiful torpedo-shaped Mirror weighing 33lb 4oz and was a new personal best. I’d also had a couple of commons in the low twenties but the action seemed to have slowed down now but I had decided to stay on the pit for the remainder of my holiday.
So, here I was sitting on my bed chair contemplating another move if the action didn’t pick up again that night. There were a couple of lads fishing a swim about a quarter of a mile to my left who were leaving in the morning. They were on the fish but were loosing a lot because of the snags that they had to fish over in order to reach the feeding area. It’s not my stile of fishing, knowing that you’re going to loose some fish, but landing a few and loosing some might be better than catching nothing else. Decisions, decisions, decisions! I decided to sleep on it and if nothing happened that night I’d move at 10-00am or as soon as the going swim was vacant.
Unfortunately I slept well that night and wasn’t disturbed by a single bleep from the bite alarms. I awoke at 8-30am and stared at the motionless indicators, willing them to move but they refused. I lay there for a while, dreading the move and hoping that the alarms would sound and save me the torturous task. The trouble was though that all the action so far had come at night and it had now been daylight for a good few hours. I reluctantly got out of bed and started the process of packing away all the unnecessary bits and pieces of kit that always seem to mount up with every trip. I was just reaching into the back of the bivvy for the sleeping bag storage bag when I heard a single beep from the bite alarms. As I looked around the indicator on the middle rod rose slowly the couple of inches it needed to reach the top and stopped. “Tench, that’s all I need,” I said aloud as I walked towards the rod.
Just as I got to the rod the line came out of the clip and I picked the rod up and struck hard. The rod hooped over in to its’ full battle curve and any thoughts of tench vanished from my mind. The carp just hogged the bottom to start with and then came to the surface at about sixty yards before boring back down into the depths. The fight wasn’t very spectacular but was fairly protracted with the fish taking a bit of line every so often and me taking a bit more back. After twenty minutes of tug o war a huge flank hit the surface and was steadily drawn over the landing net cord. She was mine!
It was a well-proportioned, lightly scaled mirror in very good condition and the scales confirmed a weight of 36lb 4oz. The lads who were leaving came and did their David Bailey impersonations and the fish was returned for someone else to enjoy another day. Thoughts of moving were now canceled and I thanked the carp gods for their perfect timing. As I sat on my chair going over the capture it suddenly dawned on me just how big the fish really was. It wasn’t the fact that it was a new personal best, although that small fact did matter, it was the fact that it was the target weight that I’d hopefully set myself before I’d set off but hadn’t really expected to achieve it.
Wrapped up in the excitement of the moment I’d just lobbed the middle rod in the edge so that it would be out of harms way during the photo session. At 2-30pm I remembered this and decided it was time to get the rod fishing again. The rig and line were inspected for any damage before another bait and stringer were attached and recast to the successful spot. The rig landed a spot on the shadow that marked a small hump on the lake bed at 70 yards range. I was going to put about a pound of free offerings out to this spot with the throwing stick but decided to leave it until later because a couple of rowing boats had just started to use the area and I didn’t want to upset anyone. It was now 2-55pm. As I started to tidy the baits and throwing stick away I heard a single bleep. I thought that it would be the indicator on the recast rod settling but had a look anyway.
The indicator on the middle rod rose slowly to the top and the line popped out of the clip to signal the start of a very slow run. I ran to the rod and struck. Everything was solid, I had struck into a snag, or so I thought until the snag started to plod off in the opposite direction from me! I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, fish don’t take line off you at seventy yards, they just kite round one way or the other. This was different, just pure power so I started to begrudgingly give it a bit of line while trying to maintain maximum pressure. The fish didn’t take too much line before it started to come my way. It surfaced at about the same range as the 36 had done earlier and my jaw dropped. Even at that range, I could see that it was a bit bigger than the 36. I tried not to think of the size of the fish but just tried to concentrate on playing it out.
The fight was pretty similar to the 36 other than the fish felt heavier and at one point surfaced in the margin right under my right-hand rod tip. Miraculously it didn’t get entangled and a further two anxious minutes later another huge flank hit the surface. As I drew the fish towards the waiting net two thoughts went through my mind. The first was that if it fell off now my friends just wouldn’t believe me when I told them how big that fish was. The second was that I didn’t think that it would fit in the landing net. At the time I only used to use a 36” framed net as I felt that it was sufficient for any fish that I might encounter. I drew the fish over the cord until its’ lips touched the spreader block and then lifted the net as I eased off the pressure and the fish folded into the net. I couldn’t believe it and kept saying “yes, yes yessssss” under my breath as I punched the air.
I hoisted the lump onto the unhooking mat and stared at its’ bulk in disbelief, it was truly a monster. It was a deep-bodied, lightly scaled mirror with huge shoulders and had tremendous width across its’ back. I carefully unhooked the fish before wetting the sling in readiness for the moment of truth. Upon the scales, it went and the needle settled at an amazing 49lb 12oz! I kept thinking to myself that this was unreal, I just don’t catch fish this big, I mean I’d seen them in the mags with the superstars but this was me and not Rod Hutchinson or Kevin Maddocks, it was me! I thought that I must have died and gone to heaven or perhaps I must be dreaming. All I knew was that if I was dreaming I didn’t want to wake up. I sacked the fish and tied about a dozen knots in the sack so that it couldn’t escape before setting off to find someone to do the photos for me. This water is at a guess 250 acres and the nearest angler that I could see was at least half a mile away and on the other side of the water! The two lads who had been fishing to my left had gone. I settled for taking the photos using the tripod as I didn’t want to leave the fish in the sack for too long. After the photos, I carried the fish back to the water in the sling and then watched in awe as this clumsy-looking lump majestically cruised away into the murky depths.
That evening after recasting all the rods I sat back and tried to take in what had happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about the capture. I felt like a child who had been given the present of their dreams, bursting to tell someone but there was no one there to tell, apart from a friendly water rat that I’d been feeding every evening and I recounted the whole story to him. I’ll give him his dues; he listened to the whole story while munching on pieces of bread, although I don’t think he was really interested. I climbed into the sleeping bag at 10-30pm and wondered what the night might have in store for me.
I was out of the bag at 11-20pm to an absolute screamer on the right-hand rod. The strike was met with the now-familiar thump of a heavy fish on the other end of the line. The fight was shorter than the others but ended with a spectacular thrashing of the water as I netted the fish before it was really ready. The torchlight picked out a beautiful golden flanked, nicely scaled mirror in the bottom of the net. I thought that it would go mid-twenties but the scales read 35lb 8oz. I thought about sacking the fish for the night but then decided to photograph it there and then as I don’t like sacking fish for more time than is absolutely necessary. With the fish safely returned and the rod recast I retired to the sleeping bag for some much-needed sleep.
Nothing else happened that night, in fact that was the last fish that I had on that trip but I wasn’t upset one little bit. I mean, it would have been just plain greedy to expect any more. The session as a whole was beyond my wildest dreams and to have caught three fish over 35lb in a 24 hour period was something else. I learned an important lesson on that trip. I used to think that the really big fish were something that other people caught but now I knew that given the chance, I too could catch those big fish and near miracles could be achieved when it all comes good.