Anybody that knows me and has fished with me will be aware that I will try my hand at any kind of rod and reel fishing. Last week, for example, saw me plugging for bass, jigging for mackerel and then dropping them to the bottom in search of tope, fly fishing for trout and trotting for roach. I’m not fussy, if I’m fishing I’ll be happy enough! Apart from one setting….. I have never been enthusiastic about fishing commercials for carp. I like the wild venues and wild fishing and the challenge that it offers. That’s not to say I would berate or deride any angler that chooses to fish them, they are just not for me, each to their own. So when a few of the anglers on www.irelandscoarsefishing.com invited me down to the Oaklands Fishery in New Ross to fish for carp with them for the day, it came as no surprise that I said, “No thanks”.
But when one of the site members mentioned to me that you can catch carp off the surface down there, the fly fisherman in me coupled with curiosity really got the better of me. I love my fly fishing and I fish for trout a lot. With locals waters close enough to the house I can get out three or four, sometimes up to five times a week for a couple of hours. I am very lucky in that respect but the only downside is that the trout never grow huge. Three quarters of a pound would be a very good fish, nothing like the averages in the midlands or the great western lakes. I had caught carp before. I’d fished for them once and caught them to 8.5lb on a waggler. I knew they fought hard so I was very curious to see what they could do on a fly rod. I changed my tune and told the lads that I would meet them down in New Ross after all.
A day towards the end of June was chosen for the “meet”. It was a dull, overcast morning with a moody looking sky. The weather for the week prior to the trip had seen plenty of precipitation but the temperature had been rising steadily and the forecast for the day was to be good so we were hopeful. On arrival at Oaklands I took a couple of minutes to take in the view of the first commercial I was to fish in. I must admit, it was a pretty little place, surrounded by old foresty, the lake is sheltered from the worst of the winds from any direction. Islands and lily beds provide features within the water. The far end of the lake has a small inflow and the entrance end has an outflow which makes for constant renewal of water and oxygenation of the venue. There is a small tackle shop on site which is very well stocked and they also do teas/coffees. There are toilet facilities, ample car parking spaces and a large plastic vat full of disinfectant on the way in where nets have to be dunked to assist halting the spread of water bourne diseases and pests. Any staff that I encountered seemed to be friendly and most helpful.
Having paid our fees we settled into various sections of the lake. I had been told that the carp would not come to surface baits until the early afternoon so I had a bit of fun in the morning catching a few of them on my centrepin reel and float rod. They were good scrappers on that set up and I really couldn’t wait to sample them on the fly rod. As the day progressed the weather improved, by three o’clock the sun was shining brightly so I started catapulting “Pedigree Chum Mixers” onto the surface of the water, in the hopes of raising some of the carp to the free offerings. It wasn’t long before loud, slurping noises indicated that some of them had found the bait. Real excitement started to creep in and I started to think about setting up the trout gear. First thing I had to think about was presenting a bait to them. I had settled on the idea of supergluing a mixer biscuit to a size 12 “korum S3” hook. I set about making up a couple of these and while the glue was being given time to set, I strolled over in the direction of the barbeque, which a couple of the lads were kindly looking after for us.
With food sorted and fuel in my belly it was time for action. I collected my gear and headed to the far end of the lake because I had noticed a fair bit of surface activity up there. There was nothing complicated about the tackle I was carrying, in fact many trout anglers will possess the bare essentials that I had in my hands and pockets. First up was the rod; a standard #7wt trout rod, 10 feet in length. I do a bit of sea trout fishing and I figured that if this has the backbone for them and the sometimes very large flies I cast with it, then it should be ok for the carp. The line was a double tapered floating line, connected to a tapered braided leader which was five feet long, which in turn was connected to a six foot tippet of clear maxima in the 6lb breaking strain. I carried a landing net, a spool of tippet which I did not need, a couple of hooks and a pocket crammed full of mixer biscuits and a catapult. That was the total kit apart from a small camera – how lightweight and simple is that?!?!
My plan was to catapult a few loose mixers onto the surface and cast mine in amongst them. By now the carp were coming up freely to the ones that had been introduced and I figured this was the best plan of action. I could pick out individual fish coming to the surface and taking in the mixers, one at a time. They would lift their heads, just break the surface with their lips, suck in the mixer sometimes with a loud slurping sound and right themselves for a second or two before commencing on to the next free offering. I fired in about ten mixres and with a sidways cast – space can be a bit tight on this venue for fly casting – I managed to land my mixer in amongst the others, where it sat for a couple of minutes. But after those couple of minutes arrived the point where I ran into a problem. Due to the weight of the hook and the superglue and my mixer bait soaking up water, the bait at the end of my line had started to sink. No amount of false casting would dry it out so I was forced to retreat and come up with another plan.
I needed something that would look like a mixer biscuit but had the bouyancy to stay afloat and also be able to withstand the rigours of constant fly casting. Had I driven myself to the venue I would have had an arsenal of trout flies to choose from but I had gotten a lift and figuring that I wouldn’t need trout flies on a carp lake, I had left them behind. I already knew what fly would probably do the job too – a “G&H sedge”. A small fly tied by spinning deerhair around the shank of the hook to allow it to flare in every direction. On completion of tying the flared deerhair is clipped short into the shape of a sedge wing case and the result is a very effective sedge pattern that does not really require floatant with the deerhair being so naturally bouyant. But realising that my sedge box was at home my humour became far from bouyant! Enter John Rigney from Coolock who had a couple of similar imitations and who kindly let me scrounge one from him and it was game, well and truly, back on!!
Out went another catapult of loose offerings and out went the deerhair “fly” in amongst them. Along came the shadows, cruising just beneath the surface, pausing and rising occasionally to munch on a mixer, getting ever closer to my offering. The next couple of seconds seemed like an eternity; my excitement reached fever pitch as I observed a carp that had spotted the “fly” and slowly and deliberately he rose to inspect it. His upper lip broke the surface of the water and he inched towards the “fly”, ready to consume it in a gentle swirl of water. Too eager, I stuck too soon and sent the fish charging off up the other end of the lake. Crushed with disappointment and calling myself every name under the sun, I figured that the only thing for it was to get back in and try again. Eight or nine times I repeated that fiasco until i finally struck gold. A watery shadow sidled up underneath the “fly” and took it down perfectly. I exercised restraint this time and waited an extra second before tightening up.
All I can say is “Wow”. I never knew a fly rod could bend like that. You think you have the better of the fish and it takes you right down to the backing again. The carp stay deep and fight hard but anything I write here would not do the scrap any justice at all. The best way to get a good idea for it is to go and experience it. I took a couple off the surface that day and missed a whole lot more but that’s the joy of fishing – it mixes the joy of the catch with the excitement of anticipation, the thrill of seeing the take, the frustration of faulty rigs and disappointment of missing a fish all into one action packed day. I thoroughly enjoyed my day out trying something different and I most certainly will try it again. There are many stocked carp lakes around the country at this stage and for a trout man, in particular, looking to for something different, I urge you to try this. Do check locally though with the fishery first because unlike Oaklands, many of them do not allow surface baits to be used. And be aware that carp commercials can be busy places, bear this in ind when you are trying to put out twenty yards of fly line – make sure there is nobody behind you first! If you can find one that “ticks the boxes”, treat yourself to a day with a difference with your fly rod. Like any other day you can spend beside the water’s edge – it will be a day well spent.