6 June, 2019 |3 Comments
Chasing Dreams – The story of a River Thames Carper
Last season Ash Geden enjoyed an incredible run of big carp on the mighty River Thames, culminating in the capture of some 40lb plus fish! In part 2 of his article Ash recalls a river carp fishing session which changed his life forever…
It had been 19 days since the capture of the 42lb 10oz Mirror from my original baited spot that I had put the main focus into at the start of my Thames campaign this year and although I had fished a further three sessions for another two bites, deep down I knew the area was coming to an end and I was more than happy with the rewards.
I couldn’t wait to get away from the stretch, give it a break and get on some other groups of carp elsewhere. Doing your homework on this daunting river is key and I had been doing plenty of that as standard and I was double keen in making up for my late start to this season by investing a lot of extra hours during the very early mornings before work and during the middle of the night spent just walking the river banks quietly whilst watching and listening to the water.
In the day light hours I like to actively search them out as much as I can as visual sightings give me more of an idea of what I’m actually fishing for in the stretch but over the last couple of years I have included night recces a lot more as during the hours of darkness they can still be located just as easily at times, you have only got to hear one give its self away!
It was whilst I was out on one of these early hours of the morning walks a couple of weeks prior to catching my first Thames forty from the other area that I had stopped in an area of the river I wanted to watch the water where it bottle necks a bit.
I could hear the geese squabble and thrash around for bank space on a small beach area in the half light on the other side of the river and I had just turned to walk off thinking to myself that I’m not going to hear or see anything here with that noisy lot causing a commotion and it was at that moment I heard a different kind of thrash of water coming from a lot closer in.
I quickly turned round to see the water disturbed about 30 yards out and I stood there watching the water for a few more minutes before there was another thrash, as a silhouette broke the surface a couple of yards to the left. I ended up watching the area like a hawk for over two hours, right up until it was fully light and I had counted over 12 shows from at least two or three different carp.
I had mentally logged a couple different zones they seemed to be favoring, where I could see them fizzing up the most, they were defiantly feeding on something down there. With time now getting on and the river starting to become busy as the new day stirred, I quickly deposited the couple of kilo of CompleX-T boilies I had on me with a catapult.
I used a mixture of 12mm, 15mm, 18mm and 20mm baits that had been heavily glugged for a couple of weeks in both a rehydration liquid and Sweet Tiger Liquid too for extra pulling power and attraction.
Ideally I didn’t want to be putting any particles and pellets out in any other areas, as I was investing it all into my original spot I was campaigning at the time so I chose to approach this new found area a bit different and spread the bait across the river. instead of baiting a tight area, no leading around and fishing highly accurate for certain drops, I already knew it was pretty weedy and uneven ground down there and as long as I got a good drop, my rigs would be presented.
Just nice and simple and by applying just boilie and a few Frenzied Chili Tigers with a catapult or spoon, baiting up only took a few minutes each time. I continued to visit and watch the area for half hour or so each time before baiting up with a couple of kilo of mixed boilie and tigers every three days over the next four weeks, conditioning the new area whilst finishing up on my other baited area on the other stretch.
Let the fishing commence….
It was 12th September and I was on my way to hit the area where they were giving their selves away. I had arrived about an hour before it was due to get dark and had only just started getting the gear off the barrow when the first one poked its head out half way across the river, I’l be having you in a bit I mumbled to myself as I went about getting the rods out the sleeves.
I was in no rush despite a racing heart and that anxious feeling that had been building up, I took my time in setting up nice and quiet with the kettle on and getting my fresh rigs sorted and CompleX-T Fluro Pop-ups finely balanced.
I felt a nervous wreck by the time I was ready to get into the water to line up for my first cast, just as the light was fading, It was obvious it was going to kick off with what I had been witnessing. Getting the drops I was happy with was very frustrating, with the left rod being a marginal area I had chosen at about 10 yards range, I took literally 15 casts around the rugged, weed covered marginal shelf until I finally got a solid crack down in about 5ft of water.
The middle rod was just as hard work but this was one that I paid most attention to, being the area that I had seen the most shows and feeding activity over previous weeks at about 30 yards range and when I finally got the clean drop that felt the one in about 9ft of water between two large weed beds out there, I really did feel quiet excited as I was really happy with that rod.
Thankfully the right hand rod went out a bit smoother taking only three casts to land the rig in a nice silty area in about 7ft of water at about 45 yards range. I was cursing myself a bit due the amount of disturbance I had just caused in getting the rods out, I really should have leaded around in the area a lot more during bait up trips prior to the session but I had always left the leading rod in the motor to stop the temptation of becoming too picky about what I was landing on.
I wanted to target this area different from the start and didn’t want to be creating a tight feeding spot as the shows and feeding activity I had seen had been all the way across that section of river. The rods were finally out anyway followed by three pouches of mixed sized CompleX-T over each rod. It was pitch black by now and I was starved so went about getting some dinner on and settled in for the night and ready for action.
Strange goings on…
I dozed off early that night and remember waking up confused a couple of hours later around 12:30am to the LED on my receiver flashing, upon checking the rods it had just stopped flashing on the marginal left hand rod and the line was out the clip with the bobbin hanging by its chain still attached to a now limp line. I sat there for a few seconds slowly tightening up to the rig, feeling for any movement with my finger tips as I couldn’t get my head around on what had happened, surely if that was a pick up then it would have been an absolute one toner with how close in that rod was cast.
I reeled the rig in and inspected it, all was perfectly fine, not even any weed had built up on the leadcore or rig components but the top bead had popped off the silicone, I had been done, you what! After checking the line for damage and rechecking and resetting the popup rig, it went straight back out on the same spot first cast followed by another three pouches of heavily glugged boilies.
I sat back drinking tea and coffee whilst looking out over the rods as the mist started to roll in, an eerie atmosphere started to build in strength and the liners started. It was just after 3am when the middle rod took off, I had been perched on the edge of the bed chair just waiting for it but had sort of half expected the left hand rod to be the one that would go first with the earlier occurrence and recent liners.
I was into my first one from the spot and after a really good scrap, I soon had a lovely scaly hammer in the net of what looked to be a low 20. I had seen this fish in the margins a few times with a ghostie and it was definitely one of the more active fish that I had been watching show in the area since starting the baiting campaign.
I unhooked it in the water and secured the fish in a retainer and quickly attached a fresh rig and pop-up to that rod and got it back out there. To my surprise first time between the weed beds and it landed absolutely lovely. Three pouches of glugged boilies then followed it down.
It would be getting light in a couple of hours, the fish was safe and there was still the chance of another as the liners instantly started again on the rod I had just recast, I thought I would make the most of it, take it all in and waited for what was to come with great anticipation, the atmosphere was electric, it felt like one of those proper big fish nights we have all experienced at some point.
The next take..
The next take came at around 4am, the left hand rod just buckled on the set up and as I picked up the rod a powerful fish roared off from the margin and out into the middle of the river, thrashing at the surface as it rolled on the line whilst shaking its head violently in an attempt to free itself. It really did not appreciate being hooked and was seriously throwing its self about as we rucked it out.
A short while later it was getting close to netting distance and I flicked on the head torch to see where we was at and I glimpsed sight of the ‘Big Ghostie Common’ I had been seeing with the mirror I already had retained, after a couple more fast paced charges up and down the marginal shelf I managed to bundle it into the net, the rig had taken hold so well there was no way it was getting away with it that time!
To get a bite from the Thames is a right result as it is any day but despite having fished the river seriously for the carp for over 10 years now, braces really haven’t happened that often for me so I was absolutely made up for the effort I had put into the area, it really makes it all worth while when a plan comes together that could have gone either way.
After making sure the ghostie was safely recovering and secured temporarily in the landing net after unhooking it in the water, I went about getting a fresh rig and pop-up sorted and got the rod back out on the marginal area followed by another three pouches of bait spread around it. It would be light in about an hour now and as the morning song chorus started as dawn came round, that feeling of something very special about to happen just completely overwhelmed my senses.
It gets better…
It was just before 5am when the EOS let out a short series of bleeps as the line pinged from the clip and the rod tip started to arch over on the middle rod, I was on it before it had a chance to even take any line and upon picking up the rod I connected with some seriously heavy resistance.
Out in the gloomy half-light through the mist and drizzle I could see there was a huge swirl over the area followed by the deepest, echoing roll of water you could imagine which left the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. For a moment there I was flat-rodded as the fish lunged and charged off left downstream from where I had hooked it, only taking a few yards of line but with such power, my heart started to race.
I quickly managed to gain control and as if life was going in slow motion, I carefully led the unseen beast the 30 yards back towards me, with the fish literally just wallowing at the surface all the way in, only making a couple more attempts to turn and waddle off, I knew this was a serious fish.
What I was to see next, will stay with me forever, when after its last attempt to turn and waddle off once more, a linear of just massive proportions broke the surface, coughing water as it lazily threw its head from side to side, completely beaten. The bloody length of it! I tell you, it was great fun trying to shuffle it into the net with a near 30lb ghostie common already occupying it, which by this stage was now eager to get out but after a couple of attempts at getting them both in the right position and so that the ghostie couldn’t escape and when it wasn’t looking, I sank the net and quickly scooped, she was mine.
After carefully unhooking the lin in the net, I jammed the net pole into a tuft of reeds in the margin to secure the net in a position so they were safely recovering and couldn’t get out over the net cord and quickly got that middle rod back out on the spot again with a fresh rig and pop-up I had ready to go and another three pouches of CompleX-T followed behind it.
I then took a couple of minutes to have a smoke and reflect back and try take in what had actually just happened here. All I knew is not so long ago I had no carp in my net and the next thing, I have had over 90lb of River Thames carp!
By the time I had got sorted, wet cradle and sling and scales zeroed with water supply and carp care treatment at the ready it was now light enough and the mist had burnt off just enough to not steam the lens up. I set up the camera tripod and took a couple of test takes to get everything in the right position so that I was happy with the shots and one by one, I set about dealing with my hard earned prize in order of capture.
First up was the one I had seen showing most over the last few days, a proper scaly hammer going 23lb 12oz, just having this gem its self I would have been well happy with any day! Next up was the ghostie Common, which I had seen mooching about in the margins with the mirror a few days previous. He spun the needle round to 28lb 12oz, go on mate!
With both of them treated for damage, dealt with and safely released back into the depths of the Old Father, I fetched the cradle from up the bank and carefully secured the ultimate prize I have ever had the honor of catching from this amazing river of dreams, safe and ready for the short walk up the bank to where the camera was.
She was a PB alright, I didn’t even have to get the scales out to know that but by using the net pole and spreader block as a weighing crook for absolute accuracy, for the record, the needle settled on 44lb 14oz, the cream of the crop and the absolute pinnacle of my Thames carping campaigns.
Such a majestic creature, so well behaved on the bank and after checking the fish over for damage with some treatment applied to where the rig had done its job, I cradled her in my arms a clicked away with the remote. This is why I fish the Thames, this is what its all about! With shots and film quickly completed, I thanked her for the memories and wished her farewell as she waddled off over the marginal shelf and down into those magical depths, ever to be seen again? I wondered…
It was one of those days that never seems to start, the sky was moody and visibility was hazy and in my trance like state, I felt lost in that little bubble, completely blown away and quite frankly in shock. I didn’t know what to do with my self, I didn’t care really, I felt high as a kite and I just sat there dazed on the bedchair staring out over the rods sucking in the accolade as I came to terms of realisation of what I had just achieved.
By now the phone was absolutely pinging, having let a handful of close mates know the news and dropped Dynamite Baits HQ a message, word was getting round and traveling like wild fire. It was now around 13:30, the rods were still out there prime and had remained silent since the mornings action, some weed had built up on the line of the right hand rod fished at around 45 yards range. This was something that would normally really bug me and would normally have been removed straightaway but as I sat there staring at the line bowing in the current, it started pulling up tight and the EOS signaled a couple of bleeps as the rod compressed on the set up, here we go again!
I picked up the rod and tightened up to something that was savagely throwing its head about and after a moment of no give or no take, it just took off up river. It was going absolutely ballistic, the fight was so fast paced and I just remember huge plumes of bubbles and sediment coming up off the bottom as this wild creature proper threw its weight about, charging around down in the depths, twisting and turning on the line with strands of ribbon weed floating up to the surface all in front of me as the line sliced through and I slowly teased it back in.
It surfaced around 15 yards out and I could instantly see it was another one of the rivers gems, possibly another PB, if not then its got to be close! After a couple more minutes getting proper beaten up as it charged off up and down the margin a couple more times, I finally had it under control and at the first opportunity of netting, I took it, number four of the session, have it!
This proper scaly, wild, river beast spun the needle round to 35lb 10oz, not as big as it looked but that was irrelevant, this was the cherry on top and rounded up a not even once in a lifetime session fishing the Thames but a truly rare event. Things like this just don’t happen here, 130lb of carp from the River Thames in a session including a new personal best, just let that sink in! It still hasn’t.
Back to the spot…
I had topped up the area before leaving and was back two days later to hopefully see what other surprises may be waiting out there for me but it wasn’t to be as just like that, they had vanished. I fished three separate blank sessions over the next week whilst sticking to my baiting ratio but there was absolutely no signs of them in the area.
I decided to get back on the hunt for a couple of days, fishing a couple of other different interesting areas on the stretch and it was in one of these areas that I was able to locate a group of six carp one morning on the 25th September, 13 days on from the capture of the Lin and from what I could see, there was at least three 20’s, one good 30 and a couple that looked to be well over 40lb, from what I could see of the dark shapes moving down there.
The bottom is just out sight in that area of margin they were patrolling and I could just make out the cleaner areas amongst the bottom as they ghosted about, clearly feeding down there. I was only set up about 50 yards away downstream and it was strange how I had already fished the night in the area and had seen or heard absolutely nothing, if it wasn’t for the fact of me going for a mooch along the margin that morning at that particular time I would have been none the wiser and they could have quite easily gone unnoticed.
I sprinted the short distance back to the rods and cranked all three of them in and literally cut the stiff hinge popup rig off one of the rods and using a length of 20lb amnesia and a size 4 chod pattern hook, I tied up the most simple bottom bait rig, the quickest thing I could tie, and equipped it with a 20mm CompleX-T boilie straight from the bag, grabbed the net and crept back into the area.
They were still down there but had moved slightly down from the spot and were disappearing now and then under a raft of weed that had built up around an overhanging bush so upon seeing the opportunity when there was nothing in the area I had planned to lower the rig in.
I back wound the rig quickly onto the spot and laid the rod down on the concrete deck. Instantly the squad reacted and they made their way out from under the weed raft, bee lining straight towards my single hookbait, with the two biggest ones down there out of the group taking the lead, almost racing towards 20mm of CompleX-T goodness.
Lightning strikes twice…
The rig had been down there no more than 60 seconds by this stage when I could tell by the body language of the smaller one of the two obvious 40lb+ carp down there that it had made its mistake, I looked up at the rod tip to see it pluck and nod twice, to which it then just started sliding along the deck so I snatched the rod and stood up to instantly see the linear roll on its side and surface, lazily throwing its head about from side to side again coughing water.
I felt absolutely gutted in a way to watch all five others bolt off the spot and the fact that I had hooked the Lin again and there was a completely different and possibly even bigger, unknown one down there, I couldn’t help but feel slightly unlucky but you can’t always choose them and what an awesome way to recapture such a special creature, a real opportunist bit of stalking.
I don’t think I would change things even if I could, some things aren’t meant to be and what is to be, will be. I did return the next morning with the one rod to try my luck but after just half an hour of being there it was obvious they had done the off like they do and it was back to reality of hunting those highly nomadic and mysteries Thames carp.
They say when you lucks in, your lucks in and just as how quickly these carp can turn up and vanish from your highly primed, baited and well sourced out carp fishing spots, including the known areas from past and present of the whereabouts they like to hang out, your luck goes just as easy and it really has been the case of back to tracking them down, they really have done the disappearing trick.
Since the recapture of the Lin, my last bite from the Thames was on the 25th October on a work overnighter on another section of river I had also been putting a bit of time into, a common of around 15lb, they are all welcome.
Maybe there will be a part 3 this coming season you never know what might turn up on the Thames…