Gaz and Marcus make a return trip to a secluded and blissfully quiet old canal over in Europe...
Gaz and Marcus – The September Session
4th December 2018
Gaz Fareham and Marcus Howarth venture to Belgium for their annual road trip.
The summer was mainly spent finding some shade and beating off the mozzies, and whilst it was lovely to spend a few months angling under a blazing sun, if I’m honest, I was really looking forward to some falling temperatures and the start of the leaves turning, not just from an angling point of view, but also from being able to keep a pint of milk for more than 12 hours without it turning into cheese! I had already decided back in late spring to forfeit my UK angling this year in exchange for a few big road trips over into Europe and the more angling I do over there, the more I want to do, it has become a self fulfilling and perpetuating adventure. Possibilities seem endless, the carp incredible, and it has rekindled the boy scout attitude within me to search out and explore. Whilst I have fished a lot of different venues in the last few years over the water, one or two have kept drawing me back for more – what started out as just fishing into the unknown suddenly started to become familiar again after we found out more about the stock and characters that lived in the waters. Maybe it’s the deep seated ‘English’ way of targeting certain big carp, twenty years or more of having one or two in mind from a venue to keep you going through the hard times or maybe something else, but before we knew it we were going back to the same few lakes again and again.
Over the last few years I had caught a number of the biggest carp in this one particular set of pits, but there was still one or two I’d have liked to have in my album, not just the biggest, far from it in fact, but some of the real characters that had kept drawing us back each year. That said, I was also really conscious that it was time to move on, we’d caught a lot of the stock, had even started to see repeats and so one last big trip was planned for the autumn to try and winkle a last couple of the characters out before heading off to pastures new once and for all. Without any real way to target the big fish, and over a dozen pits they could be in that are all joined together, it was always a bit of a lottery unless you could actually find them visually, which often you couldn’t, so I hatched a plan to give one of the spots that I felt gave me a good chance of some of the big uns a big hit of bait and spend the week working it, rather than fishing for a bite at a time as we had done previously and staying on our toes.
With my good mate Marcus in tow as usual, and a stack of Krill and the new test bait loaded up, along with a weeks supply of UHT milk, pasta and rice we headed off, full of dreams and high hopes. After a long drive and far too many coffees as per usual on arrival I was gutted to find a brolly in the swim I had planned to do the week in. Best laid plans and all that… only one angler on the entire complex of pits and they were in there! After spending the day walking, looking and debating we almost cut our losses for elsewhere as we saw almost nothing, but in the end after little sleep and a big drive we decided to plot up near the van and decide in the morning. Marcus dropped in the area I’d had the lovely big forty pound mirror from on my last trip, and to be honest, I was shattered after the drive so just chucked them out half heartedly in a swim nearby. The night proved fruitful, they showed one after another after dark in front of Marcus and he had one of the big mirrors and a lovely common in the sack by morning and the trip started with a bang. After a shop run to get a few supplies I got myself sorted, moved round onto some of the previous nights shows and got settled in for the night. After a social and half a dozen Baileys coffees we turned in, I’d still had very little sleep and was done in. Three bites during the night didn’t help much on the sleep front, but it helped the buzz no end! The first came adrift after a savage battle, and to be honest I was convinced it was one of the really big fish and was gutted. I’d hooked it off a snaggy tree line, and whereas most kite out into the open, this one refused to give ground and drove itself all the way along the snags, headed for the corner of doom that was a massive tangle of sunken bushes and branches. I gave it no quarter, hoping it would turn but she didn’t, and in the end the hookhold gave. Shortly after a beautiful forty pound common redressed the balance, followed by a mega little character mirror with only half a tail and withered little fins. Marcus notched up two more nice commons and after filming and shooting them all in the soft morning drizzle we packed up, looking for a move and somewhere to soak up the buzz of the captures so far.
As I rounded the corner, suddenly there was a void where there was a brolly the day before. Within ten minutes I was back with my kit. Usually I would avoid dropping into a recently vacated swim, but this one just offered the chunk of water and options I needed for the big hit of bait. Within another thirty minutes, and with just a single rod on the deck, flicked out at some big sheets of fizz close in and with last nights hookbait still on, I was attached to another. After a fraught battle in the weed we were peering down into the net at one of the big characters I really wanted, a lovely plump, little finned mirror that reaches upper thirties at its peak. We didn’t weigh her, but estimated her at roughly mid thirties before shooting some more film and slipping her back. What a start, and my kit was still on the barrow!
With the plan back on, the brolly chucked up, some spots were carefully located out in the middle, the lead being left out there for 15-20 minutes at a time to check the cleanliness of the silt. Most of it felt reasonably similar but it was obvious some of it was rancid, so once I’d got the drops and clips I wanted, I switched for a new lead and left it out there, smelling the lead after 20 minutes on retrieval, it is immediately obvious what a nice spot smells like, and what a sour one is. Once a couple of completely clean, smooth silty spots were located, I gave them a big hit of the GLM dusted Krill, a favourite summer and autumn tactic and one I have 100% faith in. Rigs were the faithful soft boom hinges, tied with the new size 5 OE test patterns, and a 35lb Tungskin boom.
The rest of the four nights of the trip played out beautifully, with another nine carp falling to the traps, a 41lb Linear, 35lb Mirror, 35lb Common and a couple of the real characters in amongst them as well, without a single hook pull and some savage battles in the weed the OE’s held firm under really tough conditions. Marcus struggled for the remainder of the week, even nipping off one day for a day session elsewhere but struck gold on the last night with one of the really special ones at 43lb, making for a memorable end to one of the most exciting spells of angling I have had in recent years, adventures with my closest mates, on waters with few rules, no politics and for some of the nicest carp I’ve angled for. It was beautiful while it lasted, but for now though, something wilder and bigger is calling.