As black as Tarmac!

tomwhite2Cambridgeshire based carper Tom White caught a very special carp earlier this year and this atmospheric account of an incredible battle from start to finish recounts the story perfectly, well done Tom, what a carp!

So with work finished for a couple of nights I headed off out of the car park in the direction of the old pond, along the deserted A14 and through the atmospheric Nene Valley passing numerous points of future interest, arriving at the lake around an hour later. As I unlocked the gate to the lake the air felt fresher than the previous nights that week and it was obvious the temperature had dropped a few degrees and I noticed the steel gate was damp and cold as I quietly let myself back into the old forgotten world. I crept along to the swim with just the side lights on, not wanting to alert anyone or anything of my presence.

IMG_3267As I loaded the barrow for the short walk through the trees I made sure not to make a sound and was soon stood in the swim unloading the gear overlooking the flat calm quiet central bay. The lone rod was soon flicked out onto the little spot and the tubing tucked up back into the wall of weed, followed by around 20 freebies again. With the line slackened off and the clutch screwed up tight I retired to the comfort of the brolly and the three legged stretch rack for some much needed kip. Similarly to that of the first night it was a quiet morning with the damp, misty coils not leaving the chilled surface until around 11am when the sun crept through the thin clouds and eventually I saw any signs of carp entering the primed kill zone.

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the lone rod flicked out onto the little spot’..

I was stood by the same tree as before and from the left I spotted two carp, one of them a good un, long and jet black across its wide pronounced shoulder and head, it was noticeably larger and darker than anything I had seen in the area before now and it was moving with speed, as if on a mission straight towards the little spot with the smaller one in tow almost looking as if it was trying to keep up. I started to climb the tree quickly, as I wanted a positive ID of the larger one before it shot over the plateaux and disappeared into the network of underground catacombs formed by the huge solid walls of weed.

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Xcel baits KSC — a top quality fish meal

Rather than pushing through or over the top of the weed they use these tunnels to navigate certain areas of the lake due to the density of the weed growth on the shallows. As I got about 5 feet above the ground I peered through the leaves to see the two carp within just a few feet of the spot and still not looking like they were slowing in pace but, as I paused and watched them the larger one at the front made a beeline for the spot turning toward me slightly and dropping his head into the edge of the spot. As he did so he eased up flaring his huge hand like pecs out and slowly glided down into the gin clear water of the clearing on the side of the sunlight illuminated shelf. Due to being slightly higher up in the tree and aided by the piercing spring sunlight I could now see a few the dark KSC freebies sitting on the shallower slope which dropped away towards my hookbait. I watched as if in slow motion as he tilted up and almost spun on his head taking one bait off the shelf and then another slightly off to the left and in a bit shallower water than that of my hook bait. With cheeks tightly clenched and my heart rate increasing dramatically by the second I gripped the tree not wanting to risk spooking him and just froze there holding my breath, not even blinking like a camo monkey mannequin.. Sh!t, sh!t, sh!t, sh!!!!!!ttttttt he’s gonna have it……

I needed to get out of the tree sharpish! But, then just as the other fish followed him in from the left he came up as quickly as he went down and turned away from the spot going off to the right over the weed chewing as he went obviously not keen on sharing the meal with his little mate. It was a dark old looking mirror, I could see that now and one that looked well over 30 pounds with huge fins and a long solid body, 100% one of the old originals. My muscles relaxed slightly as both the fish exited the spot going over the weed up on the surface, very nearly going out of sight as the leaves obscured my view of the right hand exit route along the edge of the weed.

The next thing that happened will stay with me as long as I live. He had travelled around 10ft from the spot, and then as if someone had called him back to the spot, the mirror turned left and started to head back in the direction of the baited spot, still chewing on the two baits that he had taken seconds earlier. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as the other smaller common turned and followed speeding up and tipping back down at the same time as the mirror entered the edge of the clear spot.

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The ‘black flag’

As the mirror tipped up on his head into the deeper part of the spot the top lobe of his tail was thrust out of the water and was waving around like a black shiny flag as he gorged on the bait that had rolled down the slope. I glanced away from the fish to my rod for a split second and as I looked back to see the tail still waving there was a huge explosion as the water dropped and line ripped up through the water as a bow wave surged away from the spot onto the plateaux. With the old Rx wailing in confirmation that I was in deep trouble and was about to get a hiding from this angry old male doing its best to rip my rod from the backrest! I jumped backwards off the tree and scrambled down the bank grabbing the rod before it parted company with the rest. As I lifted into the fish, the rod slammed back down and the clutch squealed in wretched torture as the carp dived down over the far side of the shallows and into the dense weed then exiting the other side on the surface as I grabbed the spool and applied some side strain. The rod arced round and bucked again and again as the carp tried to kick deeper into the weed but he had gone far enough, I held the rod low and didn’t give an inch. He continued to kick hard with deep powerful lunges on the long length of line stretching back and forth, eventually bringing him up in the water the other side of the weed. Quickly I cranked a few turns back on the spool and bullied him towards the shallows. He was wallowing on the surface and had lost his balance as I was gaining line fast, then he managed to right himself and powered down towards me into the weed, deep out of sight where he came to a sudden stop, and then all was solid, he was stuck deep in the weed bed subdued for now.

We both took the opportunity to breathe and gain composure, he was solid and wasn’t moving at all, so I kept the pressure on hoping for the weed to ease or for him to kick and free himself but, he knew better than that and stalemate ensued. After what seemed like an hour but can’t have been more than five minutes I needed to do something. So I waded out to the left to the angle where I thought he had entered the weedbed on the take and gave it some hammer. As I sunk the tip down to straighten the line angle out as it entered the weed I felt something move. Ever so slightly the tip stated to inch backwards, gaining momentum I cranked and then pulled hard with the rod at full test curve, s**t or bust time I thought.

And with that thought he was off again with a fast powerful lunge he hit the surface thrashing around in a couple of feet of water on top of the plateaux just beyond where he was hooked. I knew what he would do as soon as he gained his balance again so wound down and bullied him over the remaining surface weed on the fringe of the shallows, keeping his head up before he could gain momentum and it seemed to work. As I drew him over the weed, into the deeper water he kicked down hard again but going down and left which was fine by me. I eased off slightly and let him take some line as there was a good few feet of weed free water for him to wear himself out in front of me. He tried again and again to go left though, taking line numerous times and then kiting right in close on the tight line trying to find sanctuary in the marginal pads and sparse reeds but to no avail. He was tiring slowly and back in front of me now just a couple of feet down plodding around up and down on a tight line sending huge vortex’s up but still keeping his head well below the surface. After another agonising four or five minutes with a him using every last ounce of energy he had trying to find a way out it was as if he had absolutely nothing left to give and he suddenly rose to the surface, his huge head and shoulders breached coming out of the water like a black scaley submarine right in front of me taking big gulps of air..

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Gnarly old skin as black as tarmac

I reacted quickly being taken aback slightly and maybe giving it a bit more than I should have, whilst leaning back I pushed the net right out to its limit just rolling him over the cord at my maximum stretch. As his flank touched the cord he bolted across the surface but, it was too late he was in, angry AF and thrashing around powering into the corner of the net in defiance but, he was in at last, thank god! What a rush it was, after such a fraught battle in and out of the weed, with much of it being on the surface I was in bits, shaking with adrenaline. It really meant a lot getting him in the net after a tough spring and the uncertainty of what may have been attacked or taken by the otters over the winter. I quickly checked him over in the net and popped the Cryogen Curve Shanx out that hadn’t moved a single mm from the centre of the bottom lip.

tomwhiteAlthough I didn’t recognise him at first it was clear he was one of the big originals and most importantly he was in immaculate condition. I made the call again to Dave my good friend who I knew would relish the opportunity of seeing one of the old ones in such pristine condition after the worrying winter we had all been through. And for Dave the owner who had gone to great lengths and forked out personally for the otter fence that now protects these precious carp for generations to come, it was a big deal seeing these creatures in prime condition. As members and anglers that hold our quarry in such high regard it was really pleasing to see that they had come through the winter unscathed. And this old mirror was in my opinion at its peak at over 40 years old, its condition was mind-blowing and something I will never forget. Its skin was like tarmac to look at and to touch, so dark you could hardly make out the sunken scales along its back and dorsal. Its fins huge almost looking oversize, with its saucer like pecs that were melted around the edges, worn away over many years feeding on the bottom of its old silty home. We could have admired the fish or hours but a few shots were taken and we slipped him back, none the worse for the couple of minutes we shared on the bank. As he slid away into the gin clear water through the cabbages and weed I wondered if we would ever see him again such was his antisocial characteristics and the rarity between his bank visits (this was only his 3rd capture in 13 years), and to be honest I wouldn’t mind if we didn’t. I’d had my turn and was grateful, also safe in the knowledge that he could remain safe now and see out his days in this magical place where he has lived all his long life’.

Tom used 18lb Syncro Loaded and a size 4 Cryogen Curve tied to a Tungsten Loaded hooklink to help tame the old warrior.

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