Encounters with carp, Sussex Micky recalls from past to present

The Farmer’s Pond Where Micky First Fished Back In The Late 1950’s

Living on the edge of extensive countryside my friends and l would often fish other ponds in our area, we never asked permission to do so and in those days land owners never seemed to mind, these ponds held mainly rudd but a few had lovely tench

The Early Years

I remember the first carp that I ever caught; and it was all of 65 years ago. My friend and I would ride our bicycles most evenings after school to a small pond that was shrouded by tree’s next to a country lane not far from where we lived. 

The only fish in the pond that we knew of were beautiful golden rudd. Looking back I guess we caught nothing bigger than half a pound, but in our eyes it was wonderful! the warm summer evenings, overhanging leaves gently touching the water’s mirrored surface in which our quill floats stood still before bobbing then sliding under, what beautiful memories were made then and they are forever with me.

One day the farmer stopped his tractor in the field directly behind the pond and came over and asked us what we had caught. I can still remember the conversation after all these years;

“Have you caught anything?” the farmer enquired

“Lots of rudd which is all we ever we catch here”

“So, no Carp yet?

“No, we never knew there were any carp in here.”

“Well there used to be a few in here years ago” he replied.

“What bait are you using?”

“Flour paste we exclaimed.”

“Well, you won’t catch any on that boy!”

Another View Of The Farmer’s Pond

Time had past sufficiently enough for us to forget the farmers conversation and the carp, after several weeks of fishing the pond mainly in the evening we were still catching the lovely rudd. Then one day I was watching my float and it quickly slid under. l was instantly shocked when I connected to what felt a much bigger fish a monster Rudd maybe? But this was no rudd. It was an actual carp of at least 4lbs I couldn’t believe it. Of course a monster to a young boy! this was my first encounter with the ‘king of fishes,’ a fish that I had only dreamed of catching after seeing that wonderful picture in the book my sister had given me on my birthday ‘The observer book of freshwater fishes.

The farmers words came echoing back and after l finally had the fish on the bank my friend and I stared at the wonderful sight before us, We never did catch another carp that I can remember from the pond but l still often think of that fish even after all these years.

The pond is still there and l often pass it in my car, but it has been long neglected, almost dry and full of weed, I think that any fish that were there are sadly long gone.

Living on the edge of extensive countryside my friends and l would often fish other ponds in our area, we never asked permission to do so and in those days land owners never seemed to mind, these ponds held mainly rudd but a few had lovely tench which were a few pounds in weight but really good fun to catch, it was so good to have another little world we could go to and fish, and just to be in the countryside. I never liked school, not one bit and have bad memories of teachers that l feared who ruled by the cane (ironically), so the love of nature, fishing and bird nesting was more important to me in those years than my education.

The next encounter with carp was in the 1960’s when a few friends and I started fishing Clive Vale Reservoirs in nearby Hastings and in those days there were no commercial carp fisheries. Many of my friends would fish these reservoirs which held a good selection of fishes such as tench, bream, gudgeon, perch and roach but very few carp and they were hardly ever caught.

Very occasionally one of these carp were hooked and although most averaged about four to five pounds it was a major occasion when one was landed as the other envious boys fishing at the time would come to see the lucky captors prize in all its glory before it was released. That is how it was back then full of magic. Today the Reservoir is still controlled by the ‘Clive Vale Angling Club‘ but it holds many carp weighing ten to twenty pounds and often when one is caught by a young angler it does not raise an eyebrow. How times have changed!

With the arrival of the commercial fisheries and with just about every lake or pond full of carp, that wonderful excitement that existed all those years ago to a young angler to catch one of these beautiful fish no longer seems to exist as it is all been made so easy now to do so, in fact it is possible to catch a carp within ten minutes at one such place not far from where l live.

Recent Times

I have always considered myself to be lucky living within fifteen minutes from an extensive gravel pit that holds an extremely good head of fish. The water lies within a vast area which has a marvellous diversity of fauna and flora with many rare plants and birdlife inhabiting the area.

I have visited this water for the last thirty odd years and not a day’s fishing has passed without being pleasantly distracted from the sight of one’s float with the presence of its rich birdlife, whether that be the piping oystercatchers flying overhead or a stunning marsh harrier floating by to the beautiful song high above from a skylark. 

Ducks and geese are well represented from Canadian and grey lag to the mallards and tufted duck. If one is lucky a sighting of the rare garganey can be had, these birds have been known to breed here. Fishing the gravel pit can be very relaxing and the time will pass very quickly with sightings of egret, little grebe (or dab chick), the great crested grebe to the kingfisher all make for a pleasant day here at the water’s edge.

The gravel pit has several bays some small and some large, all these hold fish being mainly roach, bream and tench. These bays can have an average depth of around eight feet or a little more in some parts. Normally there is a depth of about two feet around the margins then a shelf sharply drops off to its final depth.

A Heavy Ghostly Mist

I have fished this gravel pit and caught all species of fish over the years from good sized bream and tench to the beautiful roach with some over the magical two pounds. My fishing has been mostly static usually fishing the bottom with a goose quill float, however for the last few years l have concentrated my fishing on this water to the margins opting to rove and stalk for the many fine carps..

My tactics have been to target these fish mostly at first light onwards. Quite often a heavy ghostly mist will blanket the water and in these conditions I have found these generally elusive carp willing to investigate an offering of luncheon meat, corn or bread usually under a crow quill.

Tackle is kept very simple consisting of a Chapman 550, Rapidex Centrepin reel loaded with 12lb line. Arriving at this early hour of the morning any wind is normally non existent but within a short time a strong breeze often picks up. This then dictates my approach and timing.

What A Sight – A Margin Carp

The carp can be seen moving around the pit’s edge and can be seen feeding within the margin reed before the drop off. The obvious giveaways of such fish feeding being the moving reeds, powerful swirls, silt clouds and the wonderful glimpse of a waving tail breaking the surface.

Sometimes a fair distance is roved in order to locate the fish, but once found a quiet approach is essential in order to get close enough to drop a bait in. Any sudden movement will be game over and ensure the carp will instantly bolt disappearing like torpedoes in the shallows.

The Present

Using a very slow, precise underarm swing the baited hook would normally drop a few feet away from the feeding carp. I have found that most fish will soon find the bait and placing a float to close is always prone to pronounced line bites mostly caused by a carp’s upturned wavering tail. 

A Quill Float Waits Patiently

Once the bait is taken the float sails away so fast that most fish hook themselves resulting in a steaming run. Although I use a Chapman 550 and a narrow drum Rapidex which some anglers may believe is an unsuitable combination for Carp. All I can say on the matter is l have lost very few fish indeed and landed many large carp up to 30 lbs in the last three years, hence the saying “if it’s not broken don’t fix it!”

A close friend phoned one evening informing me that he had spotted several carp feeding in one of the bay’s the evening before and he had taken a couple of nice sized fish stalking them.

A Thick Mist Hung Over The Gravel Pit

So next morning at first light I arrived at the water, a thick mist hung over the gravel pit with the sound of distant geese passing below the dismal sky. Walking slowly along the edge of the glass like surface water which was interrupted occasionally by the ripples of wading waterfowl, one often feels fishing becomes secondary to the peacefulness and solitude of one’s surroundings and this was already becoming one such morning.

Pure Gold – One Of The Gravel Pits Carp

l approached the bay at last and instantly observed to my delight several carp feeding in the reeded margins, creeping up on what appeared to be two good fish and positioning myself behind a clump of rushes a few grains of corn were scattered without spooking the fish, the float and baited hook being gently swung out about three feet from several few powerful swirls.

Carp Were Feeding In The Margins

At this moment my heart was pounding with the excitement of what l hoped what might happen, this is the magic of true traditional fishing by using watercraft that seems often so sadly missing in these modern times.

Faster than a blink of an eye my crow quill had gone! and my Chapman rod was bent in a perfect curve as a powerful fish took off with my centre pin screaming. Sometime later after a hectic battle the fish was netted; A large beautiful common carp slid over the waiting landing net. On the scales it went to just over 24 lbs!

It was an absolutely stunning gravel pit fish. I gently returned it to his home little knowing that this morning would be a red-letter day. Within the next few hours l was to go on and catch a further four fish weighing 17, 19, 20 and 22lb and all were pristine fish. 

24 lb’s Of Pure Gold

When the session came to an end l was of course very pleased and contented. After all it’s not everyday you get to catch such magnificent fish on cane, pin and a quill. l had given the king of fishes the respect they deserve.

All Writing & Images Sussex Micky – March 2022