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Coming Out of Lock-down

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The lock down period for me was very hard, just as it was for so many others. I live alone, I have a health issue, so I had to self isolate. Sadly I lost friends which really hit home that this invisible war is for real and not just figures quoted on the television. As much as I am happy in my own company, it took me until this isolated period to realise I actually missed people watching. If it wasn't for the fact that I was still able to take my daily field, wood and hill walk away from everyone else, as well as being fortunate enough to have developed a mini nature reserve in the garden to hide away in. I don't think I would have coped. I really did feel for those who live in city centre flats. It was bad enough working, living and isolating within the little plot of land I have, I couldn't imagine being trapped indoors as well, not having any outdoor space. 

Finally, once allowed back out the carp gods smiled upon me.

On a roll

I'd been on a roll prior to lock down

Running into the lock down period I had been on a bit of a roll catching carp on relatively simple tactics of 1 x 15 mm Magnum Maple bottom bait straight out of the bag, apple cored and with a paste wrap complete with two more intact Magnum Maple's and one Spicy Spirulina PVA’d to it. Coming out of the winter this gives a good visual for the fish increasing their mobility and opportunist feeding, without being quite such an obvious ‘in your face’ pop-up presentation that they come across all the time that so many favour. It is rare I ever cast a pop up out myself, after all, every safe boilie the carp has ever eaten is a normal bottom bait. 

I see lots of PVA bags and mesh sticks cast around these days but rarely see anyone casting a good old fashioned stringer, so, in my mind, it is all the more reason to use one. I so dislike being just another with similar tactics awaiting my turn. To my mind you are sharing captures that way instead of going out on a limb and doing it your way. You may fall flat on your face but you will learn. When you get it right though and have a method a little different to others...

Things were going really well, 2 rods on a bed of bait and the other roving around, to be fair I was catching on them all, so my small cluster of baits either in isolation or among bait was certainly appealing to the carp. But then came the dreaded lock down which put a total and abrupt halt on my angling. 

I couldn’t get a grocery delivery so had to make one rather paranoid shopping trip a week. This I am still doing and for the lock down period it was the only time the Land Rover was being fired up. I must admit I found it a real strain being stuck within my property borders and actually found it difficult to self motivate myself which is very unlike me. All the jobs at home that could do with doing remain not done. I was basically working, listening to a little music then sleeping. Yes, I was able to keep taking my pre-work head clearing field, wood and hill walk each day, but that was it. Fortunately I rarely pass anyone on my walk. Sometimes a dog walker will be seen from afar and even during the ‘normal times’, I used to make a point of not crossing paths with them because my walk is my head clearing time and a time to then plan my working day ahead.


At least I was able to continue my morning walks

Running my office from home made me start to feel like a prisoner come the week-end, with no escape. With more people about at the weekend I only attempted my walk once and vowed never again after a gang of cyclists seemingly oblivious to any issue the world may have were let us say 'inconsiderate to all' as they barged past very close puffing and panting whilst one actually fired snot out of his nose! The congestion they caused negotiating gates inches from each other (and with snot on their fingers no doubt). But hey, I survived that encounter which I was real uncomfortable with being snuck upon, so not being able to keep my distance.

Some just don’t seem to have taken this virus seriously at all. I have lost 5 friends during it. This really hit home hard. I guess to start with I was watching the news and thinking how bad things were, but when the first phone call came, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly from figures on the TV, this was most definitely suddenly very real in my world and within the week 2 more friends had died.

I was so missing being outdoors and wasn’t sleeping well at all during the week-end self-isolating period. In the end out of desperation I hung my hammock from a couple of trees in the garden and decided to try sleeping outdoors as I usually would. I am fortunate that I have an area of my garden at the top of my pool that isn’t overlooked by anyone.

nature reserve

My mini garden nature reserve

The result of my night in the garden was that I had the longest night’s sleep I’d had in ages. That was a Friday night and Saturday night was the same.
It seemed all my body needed was to sleep in the fresh cool air and wake to the sound of birds.


Proper sleep at last

I had to laugh at myself on the second night, I was lying in the hammock, slowly drifting off when one of my carp clattered out down at the dam end. Immediately I swung my legs out only to halt myself and smile. I guess it was an in-built reaction to get up and try and pin point where the show had been. Old habits hey?

After two great night’s sleep, it made sense to spend a third night in the hammock. Big mistake, I overslept so had to miss my walk which was very much the highlight of my day during lock down. Usually I get up just before 7 am to listen to the news, rarely do I need an alarm as my natural body clock usually kicks in. I have a cup of tea, then go off on my walk in order to be back and ready for the telephones by 9 am. That Monday morning I rolled over in the hammock checked the time on my phone and it was 8.55! After this I only allowed myself the week-ends sleeping out in the garden and to be fair, it actually gave me a bit of something to look forward to - as silly as it may sound.


Preparing branches to cook over.

I also spent some of this week-end time experimenting with different outdoor cooking. Anyone who follows me on social media will be well aware of my love for outdoor cooking over twigs and branches over real flames. There had been things I’d wanted to try but never got around to doing so because of possibly messing my food up whilst angling. It didn’t matter so much at home with a chest freezer to raid should I come unstuck.


Experiment time, a pie in the Billy Can over the Bush Box Stove

But alas, this is supposed to be an angling blog/diary, so I had better get back onto the angling trail. I had lost a week in Italy at Parco Del Brenta during the shut-down period. I had got to the stage before the lock-down that I was so desperate for a break away from the desk as well. It was an exclusive full lake booking which meant we would all know each other which saves any concern of how others might behave. With the main arm at Parco being relatively narrow, you really do need the anglers on the far bank to angle sensibly. So, I was at home earning just about zero money, depressed and a lost holiday. Don't bother getting the violins out, many had it much worse than me.

Finally that speech from Prime Minister Boris we had all been hoping for. Angling would be allowed again as from Wednesday 13th May. Typically I was suddenly snowed under with work, so little chance of me getting away and joining the masses. Things did turn out nicely though as ‘The Paradise Pit’ wasn’t going to open until Friday evening, which allowed me to complete a normal working week hours wise and be there ready for the draw. Rarely am I lucky in a draw, but this time, although not first out the bucket, I still managed to get in the swim I wanted to be in.

That first night back on the bank felt like a massive pressure valve had been released. I caught that trip so was back off the mark. Although conditions were far different to those before lock down I still kept one rod on that same little cluster approach that had worked so well coming out of winter. 

welcome back

First trip after lock down

As I had predicted, just days after being allowed back out on the bank the carp started to spawn, so the following weekend I had to choose a deeper venue where the water would not be quite as warm yet. This is something I am always conscious of when choosing waters to join. I like a couple of very different type places so as one closes the other is usually still open and vice versa.

On this other water I built a bed of spread ‘bit bait’, lots of small chopped up bits ground in a Ridge Monkey Boilie Crusher with just a few handfuls of intact 10 and 15 mm boilies. These were a combination of Magnum Maple and Spicy Spirulina. I purposely kept the baiting quite wide rather than real tight so that the carp needed to keep moving to feed. Plus it gave a visual in the deep water over a much wider range and made it more difficult for the tufties to wipe everything out.

Again I was fortunate to catch a fish here too on my first trip back on that little cluster hook bait presentation. The first of a new season two weeks on the trot from different venues is always a relief that you are semi getting things right and certainly have something to build upon.


I caught on the deep pit too

So came my final session of the month. I arrived at the deep pit at lunch time as the Paradise Pit fish were still showing signs of spawning, although people were fishing it. The deep pit was incredibly busy and I didn’t really have a choice of swim. I stood in the one I could get in and after a short time spotted a carp break surface, so that was good enough for me and soon all the gear was sat awaiting to be assembled.

It’s a swim I have caught a fair few from before, but never really felt that I had anything properly going in it. There is quite a bit of feature and it seemed that each time I had a result I would struggle on the same spot on another session, strange really as I have had some big fish from it but from all over the swim. Usually when I find a spot they will remain consistent for a few years if not forever. Not in this swim though, well, not for me anyway.

With the weather being nothing short of blisteringly hot I had positioned all three hook baits on the shallower spots thinking the deep water fish will be enjoying getting a little sun on their backs as the deeper water takes so much longer to warm. I held back with the bait, just giving them a few mouthfuls so to speak, enough to be more than aware that there was a small meal for them if they wanted it, but not that much that a load of fish would need to feed heavy to clear it. Friday night and Saturday passed without action. It really was uncomfortably hot but the alternative of going home would mean noise from the neighbours in their gardens and lots of screaming kids. I don’t mind kids, but screaming kids I really dislike. So, it seemed more sensible to stay where I was, cook another meal and chill out enjoying my free time away from the desk.

I needed to change things though. Carp had passed me by, but not so much as a flicker on the alarms. Okay, they could have been getting away with it, but usually with the way I fish I can register liners etc. So, with nothing to lose, I decided to move the rods off the shallower stony areas and drop them down into the deeper and cooler water into the silt. I also decided to go much more drab and natural with the bait and only put out Spicy Spirulina with just enough freebies for them to stumble across a few safe baits. The carp clearly weren’t feeding heavy by how few of the older fish appeared to be getting caught. The younger ones were turning up, but they always do and tactics for the younger and older fish can vary so much.

Saturday night I felt good about the changes I’d made. It had taken me 24 hours to actually start to think my way into the session about what was going on. It was a cold night, down to 7 c on the forecast and usually a little colder out away from towns next to water.

I settled in for the night in a more relaxed state of mind, enjoying the falling temperatures. Next thing, it wasn’t properly light but I found myself playing a powerful carp that had found my subtle drab bottom bait in the silt. This fish just went and went and by the time I had landed it, the sun was poking its head above the horizon. It was clearly well over 30 lb and a gorgeous looking common at that. The self-takes in the early morning sun was a lovely shared moment, just me, the bird song which kept triggering my Whistle App on the phone camera and the carp. I haven't had the birds take pictures for me many times before. It all seemed quite surreal. The scales reduced the carp to a number and confirmed to me that it was indeed well over 30 lb.

Common 1

A lovely welcome back but more was in store

I returned it, re-cast, tidied the swim and decided as it was still quite an unearthly hour to climb back in the bag. After all, it was Sunday morning and my mission to put one on the bank was accomplished.

Before I knew it I was back in a deep contented sleep. I actually slept until gone 8 am and was just sorting out the Kelly Kettle for a brew when the ECU alarm under the same rod as had produced the carp earlier screamed to attract my attention again. The previous fish had been fast during the fight, this one was much slower but felt much larger fish, it wasn’t such an angry line stripping fight but it still had its moments. These days I prefer to back wind when playing fish to look after the line a little more, keeping more twist out of it. The first fish I’d had trouble keeping up with smoothly so a couple of times had resorted to using the clutch. This one, although I had to give a fair bit of line, it was easier to keep up with in a smooth action. Eventually in the latter stages of the fight, after I had eventually coaxed it from the deep water, I could indeed see I was connected to a much larger fish and could see the small size 8 PB Products hook nailed in the bottom lip as I coaxed it those agonising last few feet through the water and into the net. If only we knew how the hook hold was when we first hook them. I’m sure many fish would be landed so much quicker. But then again, that would kill the excitement and the nerves when playing a good fish.

common 2

The larger of the two completing my first 70 lb plus brace of U.K. commons

So, my first brace of English commons to go over 70 lb seemed like the most perfect welcome back onto the bank. The half the month of May I was able to angle turned out as good as I could possibly have hoped it to be. Roll on next week-end.

Best wishes as always
Shaun Harrison.

About the Author: Shaun Harrison

shaun profile pic

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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