When the snow comes the aesthetic change is quite obvious, where as the acoustic change is more subtle and this brings a stillness to the landscape. My walk today on the marshes was a wonderful duo-tone of colour and was only broken twice, once by the flash of orange from a passing fox and nearing my journey’s end the shrill of two sparrow hawks seeing off a rather brave but very large crow.
Twenty or so years ago I walked into 61 Pall Mall and was addressed as “Sir” quite an achievement for me at that time as I was a scruffy looking art student dressed in ripped jeans and a leather biker jacket. The man who addressed me looked more like an undertaker rather than the normal tweed clad (this is how you are supposed to dress like in the countryside young man, don’t you know) shop assistant. I was addressed with respect and asked no awkward questions regarding my request, a Hardy waxed wading jacket. A suitable jacket was found, wrapped and paid for with a credit card that was on the brink of letting me down, those two dreaded words ‘card declined’ thankfully didn’t flash up and I marched triumphantly out of Hardys with a waxed jacket. I was not going to wear this on the chalk streams of southern England but in the shady bars and night clubs of Shoreditch, East London. One day I would wear it on the Itchen or Nadder but until then I was to make my rural fashion statement in the Vale of Hoxton!
Soon after Hardy’s of number 61 Pall Mall closed down, my wading jacket still hangs in the basement and has since been blessed on the rivers banks of southern England for brown trout and Scotland in search of salmon. Looking back now I never thought that 61 Pall Mall was an era on the brink of extinction, I thought this establishment was to go on for ever, sadly it didn’t. If I had known of its impending demise I would have spent more time in there.
For those who remembers the wooden panelled shop and its calm atmosphere only broken by the occasional New York accent of an excited over seas visitor, you may also remember the changing faces of the shop window…
Myself and John Andrew of Arcadia take on the bi-annual task of donning a tie and looking after the rod section at Angling Auctions at the Chiswick Town Hall, London. Twice a year we carefully un-wrap the cling film from the bundles of rods, assemble the rods while avoiding the old light sockets dangling from the town halls ceiling in wait for an excitable bunch of traditional anglers.
I do this twice a year because of my interest in old tackle, I like to hear the tall tails from some larger than life characters and generally listen to John having a moan, wouldn’t miss it for the world! If you are in the area I urge you to drop in either for the viewing on Friday 28th September and Saturday morning or try the auction from noon onwards. Each auction is an education and beyond the usual displays of Coxon’s and Silex’s are the boxes that lay under the tables, old collections of tackle and potential gold. Prices are up and down but there is always a bargain to be had, even without a penny in your pocket it is well worth a visit but don’t tell Neil I said that!
If you like the smell of old tackle shops then pop down this 28th and 29th.
When I awoke this morning there was a distinct crispness in the air as I stepped outside onto the balcony to view the clear blue sky, not a chill but it felt as if the summer had finally passed for another year. This brought a little sadness as an angler, as I was hoping to catch a central London carp from the canal just outside of our home. Over the summer I had had a few chances, on one occasion hooked and lost one but ultimately I just didn’t make the most of the opportunities. Next week we move so the chance to fish here again is zero as the wharf is private property. The good news is, we are moving further up the canal and close to the river Lea where I have been successful but this current spot will be lost forever.
By mid morning the temperature was rising and it appeared that we had an extra day of summer. Another natural occurrence that reflects warm weather was a green skin of floating weed across the canal, giving the carp a false sense of security…I had to have one last go. I started by throwing in small handfuls of mixers over a period of about three hours and gradually signs of life were showing. Small patches of water appeared from the green carpet where one, perhaps two carp gently slurped down their lunch.
Being a Monday I was officially working from home so the initial feed was done by throwing mixers from the fifth floor, this went on until around 3.30 pm when it appeared that the lurkers were feedng with confidence and happily I spotted an old friend, one of the fish swimming down from the main Regents canal and into the wharf, one from earlier this summer, the albino mixed common.
The plan was to wait until five and then fish but with missed opportunities over the summer I didn’t want this last chance to be lost and lost forever so with rod and net in hand I went down to the canal side. This year my fishing has been sparse but satisfyingly simple, usually only a single swan shot on the line or only a hook for any floater fishing. The most complicated fishing this summer was using a cage swim feeder on the River Severn which resulted in a 7 1/2 lb barbel but the rest has been simple and creeping up to the the waters edge I knew there was a carp just below my feet. With the green weed all I had to do was drop the mixer in and wait, unfortunately I made a classic mistake and let my shadow cast over a tiny gap in the weed and a huge swirl opened up the green carpet as a lurker left for safer water, I had not even cast in!
With my first mistake made I cast further out adjacent to the boats and try and connect with a carp that had not been spooked. I sat and enjoyed the warm air knowing this was pretty much the last day of summer here in central London. After about twenty minute a little nudging in the weed around my bait signalled another carp by my bait, I sat low and made sure that I was totally hidden and this time not allowing my presence to be know. Then a great swirl opened up a huge clearing as a carp must have been spooked by the hook? I struck but nothing, no resistance and no carp! I’m not too sure what happened as the weed did cover the bait, I was hoping the line would have been my indicator as it zoomed off, it didn’t!
Today the 2012 London Olympics open in East London, seven years ago I witnessed one of the first workers entering the site armed with a chain saw. The Bow Back Waters were netted and the residing fish were put in the near by Lea Navigation.
For my previous piece on the lost Bow Back Waters see here.
Since my last close call with a feeding frenzy of a few doubles, the carp have disappeared! Over the last two weeks I have spotted one lone carp despite feeding the same two spots. My baiting plan has been broken by my new arrival but the bait is still going in so I’m quite surprised no lurker’s have been spotted over the two baited areas. In addition the wind has made it hard to spot the carp but there now seems to be a break in the wind so I have prepared a few kilos of chick peas for a proper bash at pre-baiting. The weather forecast is to be warm but rainy, for me this is ideal so long as the wind stays away, I just find it un-settles me when trying to fish especially on the canal where the wind can really blow down the canal channel.
So where have they gone? The stretch of canal that I’m fishing has two locks both of which are equal distance away for my baited areas, about 200 meters, so we are looking at an overall length of less than half a kilometre where the carp will be patrolling, location should not be a huge undertaking especially with a regular food source smack bang in the middle?
Update: I’m now throwing in three or four big handfuls of chick peas in two spots with a general handful flung across the canal to intercept any patrolling fish…I am now waiting for a sighting…but so far nothing seen!
In the meantime if anyone wants to see and hear what catching a canal carp is all about, fellow blogger Jeff at the Idler’s Quest has had some better news than The Tuesday Swim. Well done Jeff, I hope to share notes soon and thanks for the message.
Looking out from my balcony this morning I saw the return of two familiar shapes, in my hand coincidently was some left over mixers from yesterdays fishing trip. I was clearing up the tackle and about to throw the pre-soaked mixers in the canal when the lurker’s halted my actions.
Below me the dark shapes looked hungary so I catapulted a few mixers into the air, raining down over sixty feet from the heavens onto the two carps heads. They were not bothered by the rain feast and after two minutes they were on the feed, so immediately I picked up the Aspindale and Slater Latch from yesterdays fishing trip and made my way down to the canal side.
Keeping low and throwing in a few more offerings (now with only the largest of the two carp starting to slowly move around) she started slurping down the mixers with startling confidence, I was hopeful she had no idea of my presence. I was now caught between the electric shock of excitement and trying to keep calm enough to cast out a bait without spooking the lone carp at my feet. The landing net was slowly set up, a mixer placed on the hook and then I crouched low beside a tree only five feet from the carp in preparation to cast. With nothing on my line apart from a hook and a bait, the cast landed two feet in front of her, she immediately came up and engulfed the bait, “one, two, three” I counted, hoping the bait was not ejected. I then struck, the carp turned and set off towards the canal boats just fifteen feet away on the far side, I thought “how easy is this?” Looking down on the carp as it propelled away, my rod hooped over and gave me a sense of her power for two seconds, with a final shake of her tail she was gone, the 10 lb line had snapped like cotton!
Knowing the commotion would have disturbed the carp’s confidence, I returned home to rest the swim and set up a new stepped up rod and centre pin with 12 lb line, the palomar knot was double checked and then laid to rest in the corner of my balcony ready for round two.
These carp can be caught and I shall catch one soon, I have no interest in day ticket stockies, this is the type of angling that truly excites me, the only problem is, it ain’t easy!
With four days off this Jubilee weekend I had to get out and fish, I am now pre-occupied with catching a London canal carp. The trick is stay mobile, travel light and keeping looking.
This weekend I was out twice, on one occasion I didn’t wet a line and on the other occasion I did after spotting three ‘doubles’. So far the results are in the favour of carpus maximus! But this is a cathartic practice, the process is to be embraced, the results will come soon…I’m sure of it! I am starting to sense the carp and their where abouts.
With summer coming and going at present, the carp are up on top and here in central London I have come across a small quiet spot where access is limited, private infact.
Urban carp are always exciting as they exist in a very secretive world where most people would be surprised to see a small bream let alone a twenty pound carp swimming around in so called ‘dirty water’. The simple truth is our canals hold some of the best and un-known specimens in England. Its just a case of finding them…
I pretty much dragged this box around lake and river throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, it could take a lot of tackle and an impressive float collection. It was only when I discovered a low-fi approach to angling that this box was shelved, but it still remains the tackle box that has shared more personal angling experiences than any other. The interior wood is still stained with strawberry flavourings from my early days of carp fishing on a small pond near Ansty in West Sussex, in search of my first ‘double’. Eventually with the help of Carp Fever it did happen, a 11 1/4 lb specimen.
Even now, twenty five years on a light waft of strawberry essence mixed with pilchard oil lifts the nostrils as the lid is opened and a memory ignited, this box shall never be passed on!