Thursday, 5 September 2013

Mirror, Mirror, in the Weed...

Not at all satisfied with my score of two fish, a small roach and smaller perch, for a total of about  four ounces, in my three short trips to the Scrapyard Pond, I decided to have another cast or two this morning.  I was not going to be beaten by a  little pond in such scruffy surroundings as this one. The rods were set up last night, with float and star lights, as I had every intention on reaching the water at about 2 am.   Head torch was readied on the kitchen table, bait to hand, and all I needed to do was to wake up on time.   I failed miserably in this aim, maybe the alarm in my phone went off, the phone certainly pronounced its guilt on screen, but I heard nothing at all.  And so it was nearly 3 hours later, after waking up naturally, that I hit the bank.     Fortunately my preparation meant that I was fishing within moments.  

The swim had lilies to the right of me, lilies to the left of me, and a massive bed of weed, rising to the surface both in front and to my right, some 7 or 8 yards out.  A narrow clear channel stretched out diagonally away and to the left, although after only 15 yards it again hit solid weed.  The open space before me was small, and landing any sizeable fish was going to be a challenge, but I had an idea in mind.   If the fish went into either lily bed, then it was probably game over.  Both rods were equipped with six pound line, and lilies, big fish and light line just does not often work.  However I have occasionally found that, if a fish gets its head buried in soft weed, it can give up, and stop struggling.  Maybe any good tench hooked might get into the softer weed, allowing me to pull them in?    It was still dark but the Eastern sky was ominously light, signalling the approaching dawn.  I had cast my right hand rod, straight out, a yard or so short of the weedbed, and catapulted a couple of handfuls of maggots into the area.  Bait was 4 orange maggots on a size 10 hook.  The second rod was a side dish of half a lobworm, cast just over the lilies and to the left of the baited area.   The starlights provided just enough float illumination, certainly enough to show both were completely immobile.   A large dragonfly appeared, and slowly flew off down the bank, a sure sigh that the light had intensified somewhat.  Then a bite on the maggot rod, and I cursed myself for having struck too soon. THINK! IDIOT!   Tench, my target species, are not quick biters, and I should have allowed more time.   Bubbles were starting to appear, and only around the maggot baited area, and so I was sure that fish were responsible.   Tench bubbles they looked like, and it was obviously a small shoal, rather than a single fish.   Spirits lifted, but still no bites, just more bubbles.   The worm rod float bobbed once, but did nothing more.   Odd that, for the worm rod did the same two or three times on my last trip.   Perch cannot have been responsible, as they would surely have gulped the worm down deep into disgorger territory.  Nope: the bites on worm, together with two or three more I was to get during the session, would remain a mystery.    

At precisely 6.30  the right hand float disappeared, and a strike hit into a solid fish, which took line as it headed into the clear channel.  My thoughts turned from a tench to a good tench, as I stopped it, on the 6 pound line just before it reached the weeds that defined the limits of the open water.  It then moved to the right, recrossing the open patch, and swam directly into the weedbed in front of me.  And there it stuck, the pressure of my line preventing it from going in much further.  I kept some pressure on, so as to prevent it going any further in, and as I expected, a mass of the surface weed, together with the submerged rest of the
MOST, But Not All, of the Weedball That Encased the Fish
green iceberg, slowly started to come towards me.  The fish gave the occasional shrug of its shoulders, just to assure me that it was still on the line.  It took an age to bring a huge weedball, about a cubic yard in size, to the bank.  Although I waved a smallish landing net at it, I was still unable to see the fish.   I had to grab many handfuls of weed, and throw them onto the bank, before I saw where the fish was, and then sliding the net under both it and some more of the weed, I lifted it up the bank.  It was only at this time that I realised it was not a tench, but a mirror carp.  
A Bit of an Ugly Old Sod.
 It weighed a little under 12 pounds, and I knew that I was probably a little lucky to have landed it in such a weedy swim, on such light tackle.  The weed is unlike that at the Sunday challenge pond, it is still comprised of long strands, but the leaves are smaller, and the stalks are long, and quite stiff, with an almost twiggy feel to them.  It has as much in common with a World War I barbed wire entanglement as it has with the soft Elodea from the other pond. Nevertheless, the whole ball did come to the bank when pulled, and on looking up at the water, about 4 square yards of the weedbed had now disappeared, taking up its new residence on the bank.   As twelve year olds, my mates and I had little knowledge of the names of any of plants we saw when fishing, so Michael, one of the gang, had coined the name "Grangle weed".  I can think of nothing better to describe the huge mound now standing on platform 1 by my side: Grangle. Almost an onomatopoeic description of a truly evil weed.  

The swim now died, and the mist, rising from the pond, started to envelop it.  The ghostly figure of another angler walked to a swim on the far bank, his camouflaged jacket aiding the mist, and he rapidly disappeared from the visible world.  He had been moving slowly along, making a great deal of quiet, and so I  instantly diagnosed him as a carp angler, one that was stalking his fish. A guerilla in the mist. A heron landed atop a tree at the far end of the pool. The little grebe did not show itself again this morning.  The day already had an Autumn like feel to it, with the temperature dropping noticeably.   It wasn't until about 8.00 am that the swim started to pick up its pulse again.  More bubbles appeared, and the worm float gave yet another single bob.   But no fish resulted, and I left for home at about 9.00 am, the sun having risen quite high, and dispersed the mist.   I felt that my chances of catching another fish had diminished.  The missing mist allowed me to see the other angler clearly.  I was surprised to see him on a seat basket with a roach pole. So much for the carp stalking stealthy approach.   I was mistaken yet again.

The Post Mortem:

Had that carp fought as well as the seven pound fish I caught from the tench lake a few days ago, I would have been unlikely to have landed it.   The tench lake is big, with clear water, having little weed, and I could afford to let it run with the same rod and line strength as I used today.   The scrapyard pond is full of lilies, rushes, grangle weed, with at least 80% of the surface covered.  Today was a risk.  A tench would have been in itself a fair old problem, but to have intentionally fished with such gear, in such heavy weed, for carp would have been foolhardy indeed. But the fact remains, I landed the fish.   But it was a mirror.   And there seems to be widespread acceptance that mirror carp do not fight as well as common carp.   Would I have had it so easy if the fish had been a common?   I suspect not.    But why should mirrors not fight as hard as commons?  And indeed, do they really not fight as hard as commons, or I am just looking more benevolently at the far prettier commons in the landing net, when compared to the mirrors?   What do leathers scrap like? Commons or mirrors? I cannot remember: it is a long time since my last leather carp.

So now for the truly wild theory, based on nothing more than an idea that flitted through my head as |I looked at that mirror carp, a fish which was certainly not the fairest of all, for if truth be told, I thought it looked a bit of an ugly old sod.  Definitely no Snow White, not even a wicked witch.  But, with it living so near the council tip, maybe I should have expected that. Mirrors and commons are usually more or less the same shape, they certainly have the same muscle groups, and so in theory might be expected to fight equally well as each other. So what is different about the two varieties?  Only the scale pattern.    Fish scales are designed such that, as the fish flexes its body, so the scales slide over and under each other, the overlap between adjacent scales changing slightly.   Is it possible that mirror carp, with their much enlarged scales, might feel some discomfort when swimming?  The larger scales would flex less easily, and might not be able to slide across each other quite so much. Might they "dig in" as the fish flexes its body to its full extent, and actually restrict how much the fish can bend its body? Is it possible that the very pattern of a carp's scales therefore have a direct effect on how hard it fights when hooked?   As I said, a fairly wild theory, but one maybe worthy of some discussion.   Maybe I need to catch a couple of leathers now for comparison.  I really don't know why people had to mess with the genetics of carp so as to alter their scale patterns.   And as far as looks go, I have only ever seen ONE mirror carp that I thought looked really fantastic, and worth all the genetic modification of the species.   I can understand why the Asians messed about so as to produce highly coloured and decorative Koi carp, but as for mucking about with scale sizes and numbers....WHY?

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