An action-packed year
When I joined Avid last year I was asked to fish as far and wide as I could to help promote the brand. Travelling was something I was used to, having caught carp from plenty of destinations around the world. I was excited for the year ahead, and planned lots of adventures both home and away.
I began 2019 with some syndicate fishing close to my home in Yorkshire, followed by a short trip to Orchid Lakes in Oxfordshire. I was fortunate to catch from both venues which made for a nice start to the year. The trip to Orchid was particularly enjoyable as the weather was very cold and it’s always nice to catch one from somewhere as hard-fished as there.
As February drew to a close, I set off on my first adventure of the year when I was invited to spend ten days in California with rockstar carper Christian OldeWolbers (Fear factory guitarist). It was a great trip, fishing three different waters close to Los Angeles, albeit not in the sunny conditions the famous city is known for. The weather was unusually cold and wet, which made the bigger fish very elusive. Nevertheless it was a great place to catch carp from, with the best of the trip caught from Castaic Lower Lake, weighing upper-twenties.
Like LA, the UK spring was a bit slow to get going. March was particularly cold and miserable. I spent much of the month on Acton’s Top Lake run by RH Fisheries, with not much to show for my efforts. I then started April with a blank on the ultra-hard Spitfire Pool in Norfolk. With only a dozen old Leney-strain carp to go at in a frost-filled trip, it was always going to be difficult. The legendary small water hadn’t done a carp since the previous autumn, but I did take something from the trip which was to work in my favour when I returned a couple of weeks later. The venue’s famous Wood Common had spent the entire seven days in the Back Bay close to a marginal bush. I hadn’t been able to fish that spot as it was covered by another angler. However, when I returned a week later, I knew exactly where I wanted to be, and on my second day at 9am I was attached to one of the most sought-after carp in England! To say I was over the moon when it rolled into my net is an understatement. Weighing in at a lake record 53lb 4oz, it was the perfect way to start the spring!
April continued to be kind. I put the slow start on Acton’s Top Lake behind me and went on to land some lovely fish from there before the season came to a close at the end of April. I left it late, with the venue’s Big Leather making an appearance on the last morning of the syndicate. This was a fish I set my sights on catching when I first joined the venue as it’s one of the oldest in there, having been stocked almost thirty years ago.
From Acton, I went to the mighty Lac de Orient in central France where the Avid Stormshield range fitted in perfectly. I’ve fished the demanding venue a few times before, so I knew what to expect. It turned out to be a right gruel, with water levels very high and strong wind and rain hitting the lake for much of the ten days. It needed a ‘never give up’ attitude to get the rewards, with lots of time spent rowing and searching out the fish. There were times when I honestly thought I had no chance of getting a result, until right at the end when my fortunes changed. The weather warmed up which in turn brought out the carp. They took some finding, but four fish and one lost in the last 36h was just what the doctor ordered. None of them were the monsters the lake is famous for, but with two of them weighing over forty-pounds I was more than made up. If ever a trip summed up the saying ‘effort equals reward’ it was this one.
In June I made my first ever carp fishing trip to Germany. At the beginning of the year I was offered a place on one of the country’s most famous waters. This venue has produced some of the best carp in the world, including the legendary Mary which went on to break the world record for a common in the late Noughties. Today the lake continues to produce good fish, even though it is hard-fished and as tricky as any English water. I visited for ten days, the aim being to just catch my first German carp which I was lucky enough to do on my first night. The rest of the trip was as difficult as I expected, but on my penultimate day I pulled it out the bag with a cracking mirror of 50lb 10oz; the seventh country I’ve caught fifties from.
The arrival of summer saw me back on Acton, focussing my efforts on the Bottom Lake more than the Top. With only a dozen or so original fish to go at, I managed five special ones, topped by a couple of 36-pounders. I also bagged a few of the new stockies that are doing well, several of which are now closing in on the oldies. The most striking of these was the one they call the Princess of Acton which is covered in the most awesome apple slice scales. It certainly ranks as one of my favourite carp of the year.
Another RH Fisheries venue I had a few trips to was the gorgeous Weston Park. I’ve flitted with this venue for several years now, but one fish which has always avoided me is a mirror known as Five Star. I’ve wanted this one for a while, having seen a photo of it on the wall in the Boathouse. At long last it made my album when I netted it during an overnighter. I also found success at Weston on the top during July and August. They are a real sucker for mixers and the highlight was the big common known as White Tips during a short afternoon trip.
I was off on my travels again in September, visiting the River Lot in France to chase its wild carp. What a delight it was too, fishing off a boat with my mate Jim Lightfoot, not knowing what was in front of us. We caught steadily throughout the trip, with some absolute beasts up to 39lb. They were like torpedoes, and fought like them too; every bite being an absolute ripper followed by a proper tussle. It gave me the perfect opportunity to put the new Traction Pro 10ft rods to the test. Of all the fishing I did in 2019, this was by far my favourite. I loved every second of the ten days I spent on The Lot; it was a real adventure from start to finish.
To round off a memorable year, I had a few trips to the big pit at Girton as well as Acton. The highlight of the autumn, however, was fishing a tiny park lake containing some very old Leney descendants. I saw a picture of a stunning linear from there a few years back, and for a couple of weeks in October I was addicted to catching it. I only fished it for a few hours here and there when I was passing. It was completely different to the type of carping I’d been doing most of the year as the lake was only half an acre in size. It was most enjoyable though; culminating in the one I most wanted weighing an impressive 27lb 12oz. Catching such a stunning fish was right up there with the Wood Common, proving that carp fishing is as much about making memories as it is chasing monsters.
As I look back at 2019, it’s fair to say I’ve had an action-packed year. When you fish as much as I do and visit such a wide variety of venues, you need tackle that’s reliable and up to the job. Avid is known for its high quality, and I’ve used and abused its gear during the last twelve months at some of the most demanding carp waters on the planet. I’m pleased to say it hasn’t let me down once.