Liam Duncan – The Thrill of the Chase

15th April 2020

Liam Duncan tells us about the thrill of the chase in his pursuit of a rather large and special common…

I’d first heard about this particular big common through the carping grapevine a good few years ago. I logged it in my notes and planned to save it, should I ever find myself at a loose end. 

Fast forward to late September 2017 and I’d found myself in that exact situation. I’d been told to politely move on by two members of the Cambridgeshire police force from the water I was currently “guesting”. That left me with nothing planned for the rest of autumn. Sitting at home and feeling a bit gutted by the whole scenario, I soon remembered that big old common I’d been told about down in Northamptonshire. 

Within a couple of days, the gear was prepped to the max, the van was loaded, and I was heading south on the M1 for my first session. You really can’t beat that new water buzz, and all thoughts of the previous campaign that had come to an abrupt end were quickly forgotten.

I did one night that first session and heard a couple of shows in the night down in a bay that was receiving a strong south westerly wind. Before leaving, I had a little lead about and found a nice silty area in the small bay. I popped up a float and spread a couple of kilos of boilie around it and headed off for home. 

When I got back a couple of days later, the wind was still pushing into the bay and after having a good look about and seeing nothing, I decided to flick a couple of hinges out onto the prebaited area for the day. In the early afternoon, a mate popped down for a couple of brews and a good catch up. We were just chatting away when one of the rods ripped off.  After an absolutely savage fight commenced with my mate muttering “This could be the biggun you know.” I was proper made up to see a big carp finally in the folds of the net. On inspection, it wasn’t the common at all, but the second biggest fish in the lake and a forty pounder to boot! If Carlsberg made carping campaigns eh! The mirror was not only a biggun, but a very rare one that didn’t do many captures. Catching the second biggest in the lake with a stock of only 8 carp, and on my second trip – I was well happy!

Unfortunately, my autumn didn’t really carry on with that early success. By December, I was ready for a few socials closer to home, and looked forward to getting back after the common in the spring. 

Clubbing season was soon approaching, and early March found me loading the van and heading off back to the lake, hoping to get a head start on the other anglers. I fished really hard for a couple of months, with nothing to show for it until finally, a good chance presented itself. I had found her in a shallow bay, feeding on naturals close in to a reedbed with another small common, I was soon doing my fastest “I’ve not seen anything” walk back to get my gear hoping not to raise any suspicions from the other anglers.  Back in the swim, I gently lowered a little Hinge into position right behind the two feeding fish. I watched as they both turned and began to slowly feed closer and closer to the popup.

In an ideal world I would have hooked the biggun that day in prime spring condition, had a few celebratory beers with the lads and it would of been job done. But as we all know, carp fishing is never always plain sailing. I hooked the 16lb common and the biggun shot off out of the area. Mind you, it was a hard spring’s graft and I was buzzing with that little common, I remember saying to a mate it was the best 16lb common I’ve ever caught.  

I had another good chance in mid-May, when I’d gone down for an overnighter after work in some really nice weather conditions. Strong SSW winds with low pressure and the carp were loving it! As soon as I pushed my barrow onto the popular “Party Point” I saw one clatter out. “Happy days” I thought, that’ll do! I knew it was shallow, weedy ground that the fish were showing over, so I tied up a couple of chod rigs and flicked them out to the area. An hour or so passed and I was just on the phone to my Mrs telling her what I’d seen and how confident I felt, when the right hander busted off! The phone hit the deck and I was on it in double quick time, it felt seriously powerful, with slow runs stripping line off a tight clutch and staying deep. In the back of my mind it could only be one fish. It had to be the big common. It was well due out and I’d even seen it show over the area just before the bite. When the fish finally surfaced, the flank of a big mirror carp proved me wrong once again. I couldn’t believe it, but unfortunately it was a repeat capture of the lake’s big mirror. 

The lake that the big common resides in was in the middle of a few housing estates and was by no means relaxing, if it wasn’t kids floating around over your spot in a giant inflatable swan, or a Labrador wiping out your rods it was someone ripping past your brolly on a cross bike. I’d fished hard and I was getting a bit fed up with the place and decided to have a little bit of a break and some much needed “R’n’R” in Cambridge. 

I returned later that autumn and worked hard at prepping an area, feeling confident I knew where she would slip up from. However, other than numerous tench, I had very little to show for my efforts and I was soon spending my winter fishing a small club lake closer to home. 

2019 and once again I started in early spring but seemed to really struggle getting into it and ended up getting distracted by my other water down in Cambridge. I’d been doing my homework over the winter and had worked out that even though the common could do up to seven or eight captures a year, the bulk of them where in the summer when she had spawned. Even more interestingly, I’d discovered that most of the captures that I’d managed to get exact dates for were on a certain two parts of the moon phase. The plan was hatched, and I felt that if I was there in prime time on those two parts of the moon phases, there was only one outcome!

Towards the end of May, I had unfortunately found myself jobless, so after persuading my Mrs to let me have a couple of weeks off work before finding a job, I made my return to the lake. I was happy to find the lake surprisingly quiet for the time of year. After a couple of sessions just trying to find my feet again, I finally saw what I had been hoping for. I had just finished my first coffee of the morning when I saw the common slowly slide out, tight to a reedbed in a small bay. The rods were cranked in and I was soon round there. I could see a few small patches of bubbles breaking the surface and decided to shimmy up a small tree to have a better look. From my new vantage point I could see the big common and another two fish were happily grubbing about. This was a serious opportunity, but not wanting to spook them and still with one night ahead of me I decided to get my gear around there and let them go about their business. They eventually moved off and I managed to flick a short D-rig out onto the spot. The rest of the day passed without any fish visiting the area again, so I swung a fresh rig out, followed by a couple of small handfuls of bait. As the banker rod was in a small gap in the reeds between swims, I decided to flick my second rod out onto the back of a bar in the peg to the left. 

At 2am I found myself scrambling down the bank towards the banker rod that was absolutely melting off. A short battle and I soon had a nice upper twenty common in the net. I soon identified it as a fish called the Long Common, and one I had been seeing with the big common on a regular basis. As soon as the sun came up, I photographed the Long Common and slipped her back. A couple of hours had passed, when the left hand rod fished over the back of the bar was away as well! It was going off! After another short-spirited battle, I slipped another one of the lakes real characters into the net, a mirror known as ‘the mellow yellow’. 

Before leaving, I baited the spots with the remainder of my bait and made my way home to tile the kitchen floor and earn some brownie points in the hope of a quick return! 

A couple of days later and I was heading back to the lake for a big baiting mission. The moon phase was due to be perfect, the weather was turning and it just felt so right for that big common to slip up. Both spots got two buckets of bait each and my confidence was at an all-time high. 

Another day of DIY passed and all I could think about was if that biggun was on the spots. 4pm and Emma walked in from work and kindly said “you can get yourself off to the lake tonight if you want, I know how badly you want to be there”. I couldn’t believe my luck! The gear was chucked in the van and off I went!

That was the longest hours’ drive I’ve ever experienced, worried sick all the way that there might be someone in the peg. I needn’t have worried, as upon arrival I realised there was only one other guy on and he was up the other end. Due to the quantity of bait I had put in just over 24 hours before, I can’t say I was expecting  too much to happen, but I was there and that’s all that mattered! I flicked single D-rig wafters onto both areas and settled in for the night with a couple of beers. Just on dark as I was sat there, thinking how good it felt with the prep, the moon phase and the serious weather that the country was experiencing, I saw the big common slowly shuffle out 20 yards out. The atmosphere was electric and I turned in for the night, struggling to sleep.

Almost like an exact replay from my previous session, the banker rod signalled a bite again in the early hours, however this time it was more “stuttery” and I casually walked over to the rod cursing, the lake’s big head of tench. As soon as I picked the rod up, I realised that unless I was attached to a British record, then this was no tench. It slowly kited around on a short line and made deep, heavy lunges for a while, before deciding to give up. The silhouette of a big head and shoulders broke the surface and I managed to get the net under it, first time of asking. I quickly flicked my head torch on and there she was. 

After all the time spent angling for that carp over the last couple of years she was finally in my net and that overwhelming feeling of accomplishment swept over me. I unhooked her in the net and made her safe and ran to get my phone so I could scream my excitement at anyone who was willing to answer at that ridiculous hour! 

I sat up until it got light enough to do the photos drinking tea and pondering how life was so good at that moment in time. You really can’t beat that big carp buzz! 

June 16th was only a couple of days away and I was off to pastures new!

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