After the fish had spawned on his target water, Johnny Haars went back for a very special carp...
Iban Maes – The Small Tailed Mirror
7th October 2020
Last summer the campaign for the big common finally ended. After nearly two years of hunting I finally caught her and if that wasn’t enough, I had her twice that day! So with that done, I had to make other plans for the remainder of summer and my autumn fishing.
“I was talking to a good friend of mine from England about one of the lakes I used to fish a lot and we decided to meet there for a bit of social. As we were chatting over the events of the previous year I told him I was searching for a next target venue and he mentioned a canal some English friends of his used to fish. He showed me some photos of the fish that call this particular stretch home and I knew I’d found the place. It was a canal steeped in history with huge old Poplars each side of the bank, it held some really old mirrors, one in particular caught my attention. A huge framed mirror with a cluster of apple slice scales and a small withered tail. I knew that one alone would be worth all the effort. I made my mind up there and then!
It was already the end of July when I made my first visit to the canal. I had three nights ahead of me but couldn’t get there until I’d finished at work. I arrived late and with the light fading, I decided to fish that first night in an area which looked promising. Only tench and bream came my way that night, so I decided to spend the next day searching for signs of carp. That was how the rest of that trip played out – hours of searching but no carp. It wasn’t until the final day, as I had to go home, I saw a group of fish cruising next to some tiny openings in the reeds. I had some holiday booked, so baited the area before I left and decided I would return the following day. The next morning, I jumped in the van and expectations were high. I arrived just before dark and placed the rods on the spots I’d baited the previous day, everything went smoothly and I was feeling confident. That night I had a dozen bream, but when I checked the spots at first light, there were five carp feeding like crazy. Whilst standing there, mesmerized, my other rod was away, the fish pulling like a train! A mid 20 common was soon laying in the folds of my net and I’d managed my first fish from the venue. The next morning played out in similar fashion and another common found itself sulking, unhappy with its mistake. The spot was rocking and it would appear the fish used this zone as one of their main patrol routes in and out of the large weed beds. From there I started to understand the fish and would see their daily going-ons. I would spend a lot of time just watching them. I decided I would fish the night static and stalk them in the daytime, letting the carp tell me where to fish. I caught well like this, with a few bigger carp coming my way, including a 40 plus mirror – but no sign of the Small Tailed Mirror. By now we are end of August, I’d had over thirty carp which I was told was a good result, so was more than happy with my season’s fishing.
On one of my trips I decided to fish a gap in the reeds where I’d regularly baited with a handful of boilies. As I stood there, I caught a glimpse of a carp. As the fish came across the gap I could see exactly what fish it was, The Small Tailed Mirror and she was there feeding on my bait! This was it, it had to happen. A slightly bigger mirror came over to feed alongside her but as she gave the big mirror a nudge with her head, another smaller mirror came over and took the hookbait! I couldn’t believe what had just happened, my first sighting and I was so close. The big mirrors melted away, but as always, I was happy – it was another bite. I gave her the respect she deserved, slipped her back and went home. The following Sunday I decided to fish the same gap as before. Storm Odette was raging over Belgium and around midnight I had a bite – perfect timing! After putting the headtorch on, I saw an old mirror break the surface, I slipped the net under her and was happy with the result but again, it wasn’t her. After that night I decided to move to another swim and the move resulted in another three mirrors. The following morning, before heading home, I decided to give the reeds swim a go for a few hours. What happened next blew my mind! I placed one rod on the spot and after ten minutes, I caught a 30+ common. Whilst playing the fish I caught a glimpse of the mirror between the weed. I slipped the common straight back and repositioned the rod. Half an hour later and another common! I thought all the disturbance would’ve scared the mirror but had to give it one more go. I placed a fresh rig and baited with some chops and was shocked when she came back. Surely this was it, she was all alone. Time looked to be standing still as I watched her making her way through the chops, when finally she was over the hook bait, a shake of her head told me all I needed to know, she was hooked! The fight felt like it went on forever but in reality was only a couple of minutes. There she was, in my landing net and to see her take my bait made it even more special, like it was written in the stars. The fish is known to be over forty years old and a real special one. I was over the moon with this one. If that wasn’t enough though, the next week I went on to catch the second fish I dearly wanted from this lovely place, another of the original fish.
I’ll definitely be visiting the canal again, I like the mysterious vibe this stretch holds, plus there are a handful of amazing fish I would still like to catch. I’ve made some good friendships with the locals and that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me, it’s not just about the carp, it’s about the memories made.
Tactics wise, for the cleaner areas I used Camsoft and size 4 Curve Points, Noodle style. For the silty areas I used Stiff Hinge rigs tied with Recoil and size 4 OE hooks. Nearly half the carp I hooked I saw them take my hookbait, not once did I witness a carp spit it back out. With large weed beds and some savage snags the tackle needs to be strong and not once have I been let down.
The quest isn’t over yet!”