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April 2023 Blog Diary

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 11 May 2023 |

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April 2023 was a strange old month. It signified one year since the passing of my Father, followed two days later by my birthday. The two dates are so close that I guess they will forever give me the very mixed emotions I experienced this year. For most of my working life I have tried hard not to work on my birthday. This has been quite easy for a lot of them as it usually falls on or around the Easter bank holiday. This year it was to fall on the Thursday before Good Friday. So, I arranged most of my work around this and made sure I had escaped bricks and mortar and all the rest of the concrete jungle I am forced to live most of my life in by Wednesday evening.

Yes, I went camping and fishing in my preferred way with plenty of tasty bits and bobs to cook over real fire. Over the years I have found April 6th to not be a particularly good day to catch carp. A couple of years have been exceptional, but overall, I have always struggled to catch on my actual birthday. This year was to prove no exception. I did save the blank though with an 8 lb tench which set my mind at ease as I’d had a couple of strange takes which had resulted in me first lengthening the hook link and then shortening the hair. I thought the carp were getting away with it, but in hindsight, I now think they were probably tench.


Birthday Tench

I did end the session with a carp after moving and at the most unsociable time imaginable. It was an upper double I guess; I was desperate for sleep so didn’t mess around with it which is unusual for me on ‘The Paradise Pit’ as I like to see how the fish are faring and with some young fish coming through, I regretted not recording it with at least a quick snap on the mobile. The pit has been difficult and had only produced its first carp since the beginning of last winter a couple of days before my planned birthday session. So, I guess I should be and was, rather pleased to have banked one myself.

The following weekend was work party time at another of the syndicates I am a member of and time to catch up with Fennel who I had not seen since a Nightwish concert we had both been to just before Xmas.

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Finally I had got to see my favourite band perform live and they had not let me down

Fennel also loves his bushcraft cooking over an open fire as much as I do, so our rather infrequent meet ups are usually centred around a campfire than actually angling. This time, I had a haunch of venison for us to tackle, something neither of us had cooked before. Obviously, the leg of a deer would be too much for even us two to consume in a sitting, so we invited two other syndicate members for a royal feast. The work party was to take place Saturday and we had planned to make a full weekend of it staying over until Sunday to enjoy a bit of outdoor life in the woods.

So, we met up Friday and the two we had invited for venison had volunteered to cook us a curry on the Friday night. This suited us well as torrential rain was forecast for most of Friday and indeed, the weather people were right. But the dry evening forecast for Saturday would allow for a proper fire.

Back to Friday and the curry was cooked for us in bivvies with huge canopies over gas stoves. The four of us sat in one sheltering from the rain. I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep in one of them as the condensation drip must have been almost as bad as sleeping out in the rain.

Back at our camp around 11.30 pm I decided to cast a couple of rods out. I got out of the waterproofs and got into bed, nice and snug and dry listening to the rain on the cover of my open fronted brolly set up. The sound of rain always starts to send me off to sleep and I was in that strange ‘in-between’ stage when one of my alarms sounded. Out, in the rain I was battling a carp and semi regretting casting a rod out. I guess after all these years it becomes habit.


I wound the rods in after this one

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Ancient withered fins, worn away over the years

I landed an ancient looking common with the smallest fins imaginable. A quick snap on the mat to be able to prove to Fennel who I could already hear snoring that I had caught one, then off it went and in came the other rod. I really didn’t want to catch another.

fennel and I

Saturday evening cooking and reminiscing some of my old stories with Fennel

Saturday saw some serious graft with all but one of the 12-person syndicate turning up. By the end of the work, it was so nice to simply head back to camp and chill for a while, rather than gather tools and drive home. We didn’t chill for long as we had a deer leg to cook, along with various roasted vegetables, pigs in blankets and a whole host of other goodies. To be fair to Fennel, he did almost all the cooking, it seemed strange having someone else cooking outdoors for me for the second evening on the trot. I was kept busy with various tasks such as building a frame for the deflector oven and generally reminiscing and talking a load of nonsense of old memories which seemed to be well received. Dave and Spinner joined us to eat, and everything was quite superb. Big thumbs up to Fennel and for the company of the others.


Not too shabby for a bankside meal cooked over real flames


Good food and great company too

Sunday, we spent all morning doing very little around the campfire. Breakfast was cooked and eaten, copious amounts of tea were drunk, but not a lot else other than gathering and preparing dead wood for the fire. A real enjoyable and relaxed time though, with little to have to think about.


Breakfast and a real idle Sunday morning around the campfire

My final trip of the month was never really planned but turned out to be a bit of a result. I have been suffering with Meralgia Paresthetica since the Big One, angling show. I only ever used to get this on show weekends and would always manage to get rid of it within a couple of days, but here I am a couple of months later and still struggling with it. I had seemed to make it worse after the work party I have mentioned above and the other water I spend a lot of time at was due a work party the following weekend. Now I am not one for shying away from work party stuff but did not want to risk making things even worse with my leg, so opted from fishing where I really wanted to be. I knew if I went that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from working. I’m not good at just watching others work.

So, it was back to my winter venue, a water I wasn’t expecting to be back on for some time.

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The largest pike I have seen caught there wanted a boilie.

Well, my weekend started off in a strange sort of way with a slow stuttering take. I wound down and was pretty sure straight away what I had on the end. It was heavy, but not carp like at all. After a bit of line had been taken and a little more won back, a long-spotted thing hurled itself through the surface film shaking it head in anger. A pike had decided my Rock Pool Rahja boilie was to its liking. Funnily enough the few pike I have had over the years on boilies have all given the same twitch type stuttering take.

A quick side track, I often hear people say that pike caught on boilies are probably taking small fish that are trying to eat the boilie. Well, on two separate occasions now I have watched pike eat boilies whilst I have fed them. For what it is worth I have caught two zander on boilies too and had a report of a 22 lb zander landed in a carp match in France on one of our Rahja Spice boilies.

Back to my diary notes and the pike turned out to be the biggest I have seen caught at the venue. I decided not to weigh it as it had clearly only recently spawned but did take a quick picture for the memory.

The following night I was dragged from my bed at some unearthly hour and found myself playing a decent carp. The fight was not over spectacular, but the water it was turning over in the margins was really impressive as I strained my eyes when ready to net it. I don’t like shining lights at them whilst playing them. As soon as it was in the net though I flicked on the torch and saw I had a decent mirror in the net. It turned out to be a fish that has always evaded capture to me. It has taken me over 15 years to land that fish. Last capture was 40 plus and as much as my scales were trying to convince me it was a 40, I was having none of it. The middle of the pointer wasn’t quite covering the 40lb line on my scales, so I settled for 39.15 and a half!

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39.15 and a 1/2

Well, a mixed month for me, my tactics have remained the same with just light catapult baiting and either small bags or stringers attached to the hook. The 39.15 had been on a Rock Pool Rahja hook bait with two more PVA’d and a Magnum White as well. All plain bottom baits straight out the bag as is my usual approach. Freebies were mainly Rock Pool Rahja but with possibly 1 in 20 or so being a Magnum White.


It had been nice to fish under a tarp again too and feel the breeze but still keep dry

That’s about it really for April, not as productive for me as a lot of previous April’s, but that’s angling. I really shouldn't complain with 3 nice fish of 3 different species so I won't. But, the weather has been so mixed that the carp don’t appear to have been as predictable as they usually are in April. Perhaps they will do what they usually do in April now we have moved into May.

Best wishes as always

About the Author: Shaun Harrison

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Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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