ArticlesBig Carp And Memories - Martin Pick
Hunting big carp has come through natural progression. It’s that challenge to always go one better. I’m not saying for one minute that I don’t enjoy and appreciate a stunning, scaly carp, but what really lights my fire is a big specimen, something that I have to truly work for, an adventure. Like many, I started off chancing my arm at a double-figure fish, which then moved onto a twenty and so on, I always strive for more. To this day, I’m still targeting the big girls and I love it. The feeling of outwitting, catching and then cradling a 40 pounder is something that in my mind, money can’t buy.
I’m always setting myself little targets to try and better my goals and that’s what keeps me going. I thrive on the challenge, just like any big-carp hunter I guess.
I’ve been very fortunate to fish some very special venues in the past and lucky enough to outwit carp that I will hold close to my heart forever. Petals is one such fish; a beautiful, deep-bodied specimen that lurked in the depths of Christchurch which is located on the Linch Hill complex in Oxford. At the time, it was a fish that I became obsessed with, maybe a little too much. I’d seen her on the bank a few times cradled by friends and witnessed her many a time cruising along the marginal shelves. During my pursuit, I questioned as to whether I would ever catch her.
I spent a lot of time in areas that had produced Petals in the past. Spots that she visited regularly to feed. I had a list from the previous four years as to where she was captured at specific times and months. I even went to the extent of researching the types of baits she was caught on. It was all very thorough and for good reason, this was no ordinary carp she was a special one that had an agenda.
I arrived one morning and was ensconced in a swim known as The Pipes, at least I think that’s what it was called if my memory serves me right. If not, it was one of the corners, but you get my drift. I had been catching fish from about 40yrd range quite consistently when I suddenly noticed Petals ghost past in the margins in front of me. I shinned up a nearby tree to have a look at her and for two days I must have witnessed her circling the area, dropping down for a quick, cagey feed on the baits I had introduced. When the time was right, I lowered two rigs, complete with solid bags either side of a weedbed. But, after a while she slowly vanished and I was left frustrated. I remember I was actually talking to her at the top of the tree. She was breaking my heart and at the time I truly believed that my chance had gone. I let a friend on the opposite bank know that I was going to pack down and while doing so the rod down the bank near the lilies signalled a very slow, forceful take. I leaned into the fish and it was on the surface immediately about 30yrd out. I’d dreamt about this, I knew it was her and my whole mood changed. I was panicking a little because I’d visualized and daydreamed so many times on how I was going to play her. To actually see that prominent section of scales pop up and break the surface made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I grabbed my net and immediately charged into the shallow margins, while my swim began to fill with an audience of onlookers.
It bobbed around for a little while and eventually she was hammocked in the folds of the landing net.
I was in a state of euphoria, a zone without a care in the world, well apart from Petals of course. She was mine. The pressure was released, I vaguely remember people tapping me on the back, shaking my hands, talking to me, but I just didn’t notice it at the time. I was in another world. That is what big-carp fishing is all about.
I’ve been fortunate enough to fish a number of historic venues too; Elstow, Kingsmead Island, Horton to name but a few. Horton in particular holds some great memories for me; socials and lots of banter, plus of course the incredible treasures that inhabit the place. I watched Chilly land the awesome Parrot and Shoulders. I even landed Shoulders myself which I duly ended up losing my lovely, long hair over. I never thought I’d end up catching it and back then I had hair down to my shoulders. Someone said, if you do have her, can we shave your hair, to which I stupidly agreed to because I never really expected it to happen. When I landed Shoulders I knew what was coming. Out came the battery razor, which ran out halfway through the demolition of my barnet. It was Del’s dog clippers that finished off the job. Looking back now I’m glad it happened because I didn’t really like long hair although I was rather skeptical at the time. That’s the thing about carp fishing, it brings such fond memories and adventures that you will never forget. It’s not just about catching fish!
I’ve talked about the good times, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing you know and that’s just part of the quest. There will be a time that you get defeated. One such carp went by the name of Chocco. A belting, long, torpedo-shaped chap that lived in Stoneacres on the Linch Hill complex. There was a hint of irony because after the Petals saga and pursuit I told myself that I’d never put myself through that agony again. However, I did!
It didn’t take long to really start getting under my skin. It would get caught from the next swim and I’d get so close that I felt it was one fish away all the time. Unfortunately, the longer the campaign went on the more things started to change. The rules and many others things were actually beginning to make my enthusiasm wane, which is not what fishing is about; it’s my passion and my love. I got into the mentality that I had to go on the Sunday because if I wasn’t there it might come out. I hate fishing under pressure like that and it was taking all the enjoyment out of it. In some cases, if it came out while I was there, I’d simply pack up and go home. I never had the hump or anything of the sort that someone else caught it, but I’d worked so hard that I really felt I deserved it. In the end, I just had to bite the bullet and walk away from it. I felt like it was holding me back and it was time for a change. Sometimes it just has to be done. I was spending a huge part of my life there, near enough full timing and it was, had, burnt me out.
Full time angling can do this, it really can. In the past I fished from Sunday right through until Thursday, which is a huge chunk of your week gone. Doing that week in week out really does grate on you eventually. As a consequence, I haven’t got a house or anything in particular to show for my full time angling and sometimes security in life is important. Many people ask me what I suggest when they want to go full time and I always state that they should finish school, get a job and go on your days off. Although my situation is okay, I’ve never really had any money so I don’t expect any different, it’s a way of life for me. I live with my mother and as long as I’ve got enough to go fishing, I’m happy enough. I’d love to have what everybody else has as much as they’d love to fish as much as I’d do, but it’s not possible to do both. Full timing is a big sacrifice.
Big-carp angling takes dedication and it takes drive. Sometimes you have no idea as to what extent you have to go in order to reach your goal. If I’m coming down to Welly, in Reading, on a Sunday from Leicester, I set my alarm for 3am while everyone else is in bed, and I’m in the van bound for big carp. It still excites me to this day but I think it takes a lot of dedication and also a lot of discipline to do this. The main reason is to secure a good swim before someone else gets there before you. If you’re one step ahead, you’ll pinpoint the fish and be setup before many anglers have arose. As I grew up, the likes of Rod Hutchinson, Pete Springate and Terry Hearn really inspired me and still do to this day. The latter is one of the best anglers I have ever seen. On Stoneacres, when I was struggling, Terry went in pursuit of Chocco. His words were that he had until July to catch it and at the time it was spring. On his third trip, Chocco was in the net! It’s amazing that someone can do it so consistently and the thing I like is the fact that it shows that it can be done. It inspires me to better!
Big-carp angling is about upping your game and there are many things that I adhere to. Nothing can be left to chance. You cannot have any worries about rigs or anything. You need to know your hooks are sharp, your bait is appealing and your gear won’t let you down when you finally hook your quarry. When targeting carp such as this in Welly I won’t ever use anything smaller than a size 6 hook. They’re big, powerful carp with huge rubbery mouths. On such a venue where there’s 40 odd 40lb plus fish, you need to be getting them in. There is absolutely no room for error.
The rigs that I use are ultra reliable, they don’t tangle, they’re hard to eject and they present over a variety of lake beds. I pay particular attention to the lengths of my rigs. If I was on a runs water for instance I’d shorten the rigs right down. Conversely, for bigger carp, I may lengthen the rigs and hair. Of course, it does depend on the lake bed I’m fishing over too!
Much of my angling is on boilies. Big carp consistently get caught on boilies. It’s plainly obvious on here at Welly, the anglers consistently using a good, nutritious boilie will catch their fair share of bigguns. If I was using hemp and corn, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would catch more, but I certainly don’t think that I would be as consistent in singling out the big girls. Anglers around me may catch more fish but I’m consistent in catching the big ones. I’m adamant that’s because boilies play such a part. My rigs are tailored to boilie fishing; big-carp rigs such as the hinge-stiffy or a version that I’m using which is the reverse combi rig. Alternatively, a chod rig – that’s a consistent big-carp catcher for me. It’s all about confidence and I know that when a carp does suck in the rig, it will work successfully and reliably!
It’s all these thoughts and processes that turn you into a consistent angler and last year I was lucky enough to win Carp Angler Of The Year. It was very special. It meant the world to me. I feel so fortunate to have won it because there are so many great anglers out there that I consider them to be better. I don’t think I’m anything special, it feels like the underdog won. I was fortunate to have caught the fish at the right times of year. My first session resulted in my PB, which broke my original PB, which was Petals all those years ago. Every time I went angling something just worked and clicked into place. I’m a great believer that every dog has its day and that was me. This year however, things are very different haha, it’s much harder. It was a personal achievement and one of the best things that has happened in my life, I hope maybe something else like that might happen again one day, but if not I’m happy enough.