I live on the busy A6, between Stockport and Manchester. Apparently it has the most frequent bus service in the UK, approximately one every three minutes. And this would appear to be true, and is very convenient for those of us fortunate enough to have free bus passes. Unfortunately I cannot use the pass on weekdays before 9.30AM, which makes it a bit useless for fishing. The "one every three minutes" is of course an average, and sometimes I may wait ten minutes. To compensate, there are many times when two come at once, and the record that I have observed was no less than FIVE 192 buses, nose to tail. The old adage about buses is indeed accurate.
But it is not only buses that can come in such strangely timed fashion, fish can do exactly the same. Before my 30 odd year break from fishing, it was unheard of for carp to be caught in UK rivers. The one exception was the Electricity Cut on the River Nene, near Peterborough, which was famous for its big, hard to catch carp. So, on my return to angling, I had never seen a river carp, and certainly had no expectations of ever catching one. But, on the Trent last season, two came along at once, two mirror carp in successive casts, landed within five minutes of each other. Had I been in Liverpool, I would have been gobsmacked, but in the more gentile Midlands, I was very surprised. Not many weeks later I had a third, from a local spate river, a common of maybe ten pounds or so, hooked whilst fishing for gudgeon on three pound line, with the river going like a train. Quite a fight ensued before I landed it...by hand, as I had not considered a landing net to be needed for gudgeon. Silly me.
Today, I was warned by the wife that I have to "do something" with the compost heap. For some inexplicable reason she wants to use some of the soil it has generated over the last couple of years for planting flowers. Not wanting to miss out on fishing altogether, I decided to have a couple of early morning hours on the "Sunday Challenge Pond". And yes: I know it is Saturday, not Sunday, but the only other option was the flooded river, or a 25 mile trip to one or another tench water. So I arrived at the pond, with minimal tackle, rod, folding stool, three slices of bread, the packet of hooks that my wallet always contains, a float, shot, and a small bucket of groundbait I had left in the car for a couple of sun-warmed days. Being already moist, the groundbait was fermenting badly and the smell in the car was quite unpleasant, even by my standards for a fishing car. I also took an empty bucket, as I wanted to see if I could catch another crucian carp or two for the garden pond. Didn't bother with the landing net, instead left it in the car, as I know the pond to contain small tench to maybe 3 oz, carp, mainly under 12 ounces, small roach, rudd and perch. There are a few carp around five pounds but, in the small, yard wide gaps between thick Elodea Canadensis weedbeds, they are uncatchable on crucian carp gear, they bolt irretrievably into the weeds within a second or so of being hooked. Nothing you can do. So my mainline was set at 5 pounds breaking strain, and a small float, capped with a starlight was thrown out at what I hope would be a gap in the weeds, at about half past four. A couple of handfuls of sloppy boozy groundbait was added to the mix and thrown at the float. Set at about 2 foot 6, the float was a fair bit overdepth in this uniformly very shallow pond, and the light atop the float was soon seen to be moving sideways along the surface, as a rudd of a couple of ounces took the breadflake. That is a good rudd for this water. The next cast produced nothing, until I reeled in to find a fish attached. A crucian carp of five or six ounces. Ideal for the pond it went into the bucket, along with water and a pile of fish calming weed. Crucians are not shy biters, but they have a habit of not moving off with a bait, leading to little or no movement of the float. Maybe, had I waited, I should have seen a bite, but then again, possibly not. Daylight now, and the next cast hooks into something far bigger. It made the thick banks of weed fairly quickly, and the light tackle did not allow me to stop it. Another carp lost in the weeds. I think that is the third I have lost in such fashion over the last dozen trips to the water. But I was not fishing for carp, and to use suitable tackle for them would probably put off the crucians. The water is so weedy that even half pound carp usually get tangled up in the weed, and I often pull in a ball of weed, and then search it to find the carp, or the small tench that it contains. However I did nip back to the car for the landing net. Who knows, maybe one of the carp might behave itself and swim around in small circles for me. Fat chance!
A roach of 4 ounces is the next visitor, once again, a good fish for the water. No tench today, which is a shame for I love the little, hand sized tincas that the pond holds. Next up was a bream, always a surprise in this shallow clear pond. At 6 ounces it was no monster but still seems to be out of place in this water, long ago abandoned by the club that owned it, as being a waste of time. They were unable to control the poachers, both kids and adults, who thronged around it, dropping litter by the bucketful. Today, unusually, it seemed to be litter free, and I know that one or two conscientious locals do clean it up occasionally, as do I. The pond also holds perch which is the main attraction for the kids., Small, with pretty stripes, red fins and easy to catch, I have never caught a perch here myself, but a few minutes with a maggot baited hook would soon solve that one. Rumours abound of a few chub being present, which is reasonable considering the proximity of the pond to a local river. With anglers there is always someone wants such and such a fish in such and such a water.
The next bite was a sail away and I hooked a decent sized fish, which scrapped a bit, but not like one of the carp. In the still poor light I could see it was a chub, and quite a good one too. But as it struggled and came nearer the net, that which I had luckily recovered from the car, it looked odd. Was it.....surely not...but yes, it was a grass carp! Bloody hell! I had never before even seen a grass carp. All I really knew of them was that they were introduced into the Lincolnshire drains round about 1970, in order to keep down the weed growth, and help control flooding. I have no idea how well that plan worked. It was believed at the time that they would never actually take an angler's bait, and so would never be caught. Obviously a theory put about by the same guy who said cane toads would only eat the pest species in the Australian Maize fields. I was equally amaized by my catch. I'm sorry, honest I am! Interesting and good looking fish, the grass carp, fights very much like a chub, if mine was typical of the species. Visually it looked very much like what I imagine a chub/wild carp hybrid might look like, with maybe a touch of grey mullet about the lips. I was wearing just the detachable lining of my fishing jacket, and as I keep a number of things in the main jacket pockets I was unable to weigh the fish. So I decided to wrap the fish in a mass of weed, and leave it in the landing net, in the water, and hoped that another angler, with scales, would arrive soon.
Another roach was landed, again about four ounces. Good looking roach these, the clear water means that the fish are very colourful, and an inexperienced angler could have easily mistaken this fish for one of the rudd that are also present in the pond. Another bite, and another good fish is hooked. To my utter, jaw-dropping amazement, it was another grass carp. Two in the landing net now, together with a mass of weed. I could hardly have been more surprised had a hippo strolled out of the woods opposite, and sauntered into the pond.
I wonder whether the rumours, of chub in the pond, have been created by people who have seen these grass carp swimming around in the shallow water, and mis-identified them as chub? Might I have done the same, had I seen them? The grass carp certainly did not come from the river though! And no-one to whom I have spoken, has ever mentioned grass carp. Where were they from? Another mystery. But surprises like this are a lot to do with why I enjoy my fishing so much.