Ace of Spades-The Gambler by Robbie Rea
During the winter of 2014 my mind started to reflect on the choices I had made in my angling to date. The pull of the low stocked Cheshire meres had gripped me for so long I felt like I was simply going through the motions. Big changes were needed and fast !
I like to set personal goals, both in life and my angling. For me it helps to focus on the task ahead and keep the enthusiasm levels high. This is when I made the decision to really push the boat out, both UK and abroad it was time to take a gamble.
Over the years I've been lucky enough to catch some very respectable sized carp, however this time around if I was to be in the "rat race " we call carp angling it was for the big girls.
The first task was to arrange the venues at which I stood a chance of breaking a few personal achievements. France was taken care of and a trip to Pascale Lakes booked for August with family and friends. Mentioning the family I really should say how grateful Iam of their support, without it Iam sure I wouldn't be writing this bio today. In pursuit of our passion it's easy to get caught up in it all and forget where the line should be drawn.
Anyway back to the 'Big Girls' which nicely leads me on to my good friend Chris Hopwood a man who at the time unknowingly helped me more than he's aware. Many long and repetitive phone calls were made back and forth in an attempt to secure a place on a Nene Valley syndicate. It was during one of these exchanges the topic of bait and Impulse Baits popped up. Chris had been using their products over the winter on the very syndicate I mention above. After looking at his results it did make me question if I should make the change or not.I knew Neil McComb had an involvement with the company and thought a phone call to him wouldn't hurt. After once again been greeted with positivity and a list of rather sort after carp in their gallery my mind was made up.
With the syndicate ticket sorted, the new bait from Impulse been rolled and a French trip arranged it was all starting to come together, big changes remember !
During March curiosity got the better of me and I decided to drive down to the syndicate and take a look around. Sadly the ticket didn't start till June however the waiting game was too much and a needed something to keep me going, you know how it is ! Chris had described the lake to me in great detail on many of occasion and I wasn't disappointed. With every corner I turned I could hear his words echoing in my head, increasing the smile I had upon my face. Iam not one to wish my life away but June really couldn't arrive soon enough.
Plans were made for the opening weekend and with eagerness still the driving force we arrived extra early. I had 3 days to try and tempt my first valley carp, time was of the essence. The usual laps of the lake concluded in me choosing a peg known as First Point this offered a great view of the open water. With limited knowledge I thought it best to settle for a good scope of the lake rather than be tucked away in a quite corner. That way I could note down in my black book any findings for future reference, including the features in front of the swim. It had been a very busy morning but feeling pleased with myself it was time to relax a little. Later that afternoon Chris came strolling into the swim looking rather pleased , I assumed his huge Cheshire grin was down to it been the opening weekend however it soon became apparent I was wrong.
During the warming afternoon sun a high percentage of the lakes carp had drifted into the bay directly behind my swim. Which also happened to be the peg Chris had set up in. He claimed it was for social reasons but the grin on his face when entering my peg gave the game away ! Despite the increasing shows from fish activity in front of Chris he only received one pick up that night which resulted in a hook pull. The next two days were spent watching and waiting, looking for any little signs that mite help to get this jigsaw puzzle started. The local anglers don't give their secrets up to easy but after copious amounts of brew making and waffling on it became apparent they were a little shy when it came to applying the bait. I had other ideas , the fish were extremely active on my first trip and although me and Chris drew a blank I couldn't help but feel I needed more bait !
The next trip was arranged for the following weekend. The only thing that stood between me and the carp was my week of 12 hour shifts, add to that 2 hours a day for boiling up the seed of the gods , hemp. Thursday evening came around pretty quick to be fair and it was time for me and Ashley my son to pack the car. The idea been to drive down on the Thursday night, sleep in the car park and be up watching for signs at sun rise. A little before 5am Ashley and myself were creeping into the bay that Chris had plotted up in last week. The wind had switched to a south westerly during the night, heading directly into the bay and it had brought the carp along with it. We could make out the odd patch of fizzers along the reed lined margin, I whispered to Ashley " that's the area the local lad told us about last time" it was clear the fish had a liking to this spot. Decision made it was a quick retreat back to the car to grab the gear. Now in my "wiser" age one thing has become apparent, the older I get the heavy my tackle is ?? Que young Ashley to the rescue as I am sure carrying all the bait would have resulted in me needing CPR !
Puffing like a pensioner on 40 fags a day we rolled into the swim. Camp could wait, I was eager to check out the spots we had been told about on our first trip so the marker rod came out. The first area I found with great ease, a smooth silty patch at the back of a large weed bed, the second took a little more work but was again a silty area next too weed bed. When I say weed I really mean to say jungle, this stuff was savage ! Quickly rethinking my rig choice it was clear too see strong tackle was needed. Leads needed to be dropped and hooks big enough for shark fishing. To eliminate any weak spots at the business end i decided to fish 20lb flurocarbon straight through. Too a size 4 hook I mounted an Impulse Baits Apex Hardened Hooker bottom bait tipped with a High Attract Pepper Squid pop up. The first two rods were to be fished on the silty patches over 15 kilo of mixed Apex Formula and Choc Banana Nut bottom baits add to that 20 kilos of hemp that I had lovingly prepared. I had 4 acres of water to myself and with carp in the area singles would normally be my preferred choice of attack.Knowing the carp were there in numbers and not wanting to miss the opportunity to keep them there I gambled on baiting heavy. My third rod was cast some 70 yards down my margin in the area me and Ashley had seen the fizzers. Choosing to bait a little lighter, 3 kilos of mixed Apex and Choc Banana Nut followed the rig out, finally I was angling. Settling down for the night my confidence was high. The fish could clearly be seen but did they want too feed ?
Around 4.30am my middle rod let out a single bleep, the type of bleep that is normally followed by .... To late, the rod was away and the clutch spinning at a healthy pace. Instincts took over and before I knew where or what the rod was in hand and bent over. The first few cranks of the reel signified I was weed free and connected directly to the fish, something I didn't expect. With fish to over 40lb residing in the lake you can understand the cautious nature in which I tried to guide the fish around each weed bed. With more luck than skill the fish found its way into the margin and after a few attempts of escape he gently slipped over the cord ! With a few deep breaths I calmed myself, disconnected the landing net pole and proceeded to roll the net down. I placed my left hand under the net to check he was sitting correctly and then it hit me , like a bolt of lighting had struck ! my whole body started to buzz and the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention. This was it , that moment we search all our angling life for, that euphoric feeling of joy where every trouble in the world simply melts away and true happiness is achieved. I wanted to share this moment with my son Ashley, a memory we could both have as farther and son. I refrained from weighing him straight away and opted to slip him in the retention sling while I went to wake sleeping beauty, who had slept through the entire event. Cheers for your help son !
In my mind I knew I had the biggest carp I had ever caught in the UK sitting in the retainer but Ashley didn't quite know how big he was. After suggesting he should wade out to retrieve the retention sling i set about sorting the camera and scales out. Not a minute later I could hear Ashley's excited laughter and repeating the words " you have done it dad , you have done it "
It still makes me shiver thinking about his voice, if catching a chunk wasn't enough the pride it gave me to have my son look at me with an expression of approval on his face, Priceless !
Ashley waded back to shore and placed the sling onto the mat. The water drained leaving the out line of what surely had to be a 40lb carp. The scales registered 40lb 2oz and signified the completion of number 1 on my to do list, catch a U.K. 40+ .... From 4.30am my life had been a blur, with so many emotions all flooding my body at once it was pretty tiring work. A conversation later that day with another angler revealed not only had I caught one of the 40's it just so happened to be one of the sort after males in the lake known as The Red Fish !
After all the congratulations and relevant phone calls made I decided to pull the rods in around midd day. Topping the spots up with a few kilo of Apex Formula and hemp first. I really should say how I was resting the swim and all that Carpy business but the truth was the local shop has a habit of shutting for dinner and I was in a celebratory mood, a soggy tea just wasn't going to cut it !
With time ticking away and still enthusiastic as ever the rods were returned to there watery plots. Still revelling in my success it caught me by surprise when I didn't have to wait long for the next bite. Sadly my luck had dipped and the offending carp gained freedom in one of the many weed beds. The night times had been a little more productive than the days and as if to wave me on my way the lake rewarded me with two further fish before morning. Another of the well know residents was held up for the camera, a fish known as "big fins" a common weighing in at 34lb. Lastly a 28lb common which had very dark characteristics.
With only a handful of nights spent at the syndicate and fish too over 40lb I knew the choices I had made with the help of good friends was right. Changes can be unsettling especially when it comes to bait however on reflection things couldn't have worked out better. It was a gamble that paid off and continues too every time Iam on the bank.
My next trip to the syndicate was two weeks later. One of the lakes smaller commons fell to the same tactics I had used in the silty areas, at 20lb I wasn't going to complain but there was a rather scary boat battle involved to retrieve her.
I have used the term 'gamble' within this article however with all the action I received you could be forgiven for thinking I was on a dead cert !
I would like to end part 1 by extending my gratitude to both Chris Hopwood & Impulse Baits. Chris for his constant banter and little support along the way and Impulse Baits for the consistent supply of excellent products.
I have recently returned from my French trip to Pascale Lake which if you remember was also on my to do list. I will end the tale there as part 2 'The French Gambler' really is something special .
Until next time