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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Split cane, feathers and carp.

Some years ago we built a new pond so that children could go pond-dipping in safety. The idea was that there would be no fish in the pond so that the likes of dragonflies and tadpoles could thrive in a predator-free environment. Of course there are always predators; dragonflies and tadpoles prey on smaller species and are preyed upon by birds and even by great diving beetles.

Grey heron; definitely a predator. 
After some months we realised that the "Bentonite" liner in our pond leaked and so we drained the water out so that we could replace it with a more traditional butyl liner. To my surprise we found several quite large tench in the pond. There was no way that tench of that size could have arrived by accident so someone must have put them there on purpose. We removed them to a nearby lake.

So now we had a new pond with no fish and the vegetation around the edges was growing nicely, but there was almost no pond weed. Perhaps ducks and swans were eating it?

This summer visitors have reported seeing large fish in the pond again. I had seen carp weighing a couple of pounds but reports were coming in of pike and stripy fish that sounded to me like perch. This all demanded a wee fishing expedition but I had to wait for June 16th because we ask anglers to recognise the traditional closed season here.

Fishing for two-pound carp with bread flake is great fun for youngsters so I offered the opportunity to  two young lads from the local school who are getting their "work-experience" at our Environmental Education Centre. I set out to catch the legendary pike.

My favourite way to catch pike is on a fly and I have a hefty rod that I use for that. Some of the flies are huge, almost eight inches long, and they take a bit of casting. The heavy line and big lure whistle past your ears when you cast so I always wear a hat to prevent the big hook from catching in my scalp. Polarised glasses help me to see the fish and they protect my eyes as well. But this was bound to be a tiny pike and the pond is so small I can cast all the way across it. I hoped to get away with using trout sized lines and lures, but with the addition of a light wire trace, just in case little Esox was toothier than expected.

In the winter I restored a lovely old Milbro cane fly-rod for use in the Pennines.  I have been aching to test it out and so I rigged it up with a old reel and attached a lure to the wire trace. I tried a Zonker made of rabbit skin and a small Deceiver made of feathers, then I tried a few other fry imitations but there was no sign of a pike or of any perch, just a group of carp that patrolled the shallows. One of them followed my lures but would not take them. If I had brought a sandwich I would have shared it with him at this point, only his share would have had a hook in it.

I'm now sure that there are no pike in the pond and that the stripy fish are mirror carp, not perch.

You can catch carp on a fly, but usually the "fly" imitates a piece of bread. A well known trick is to use a fly rod to cast a trout pellet or a boilie bait glued to the hook but will they take any regular looking flies or lures? I reckoned that they might take an artificial damsel nymph so I took off the wire trace and set up a nymph on 5 pound line. I caught carp on the second cast.

That carp has now joined the tench in the big lake, but, try as I might, I could not get the other carp to take any interest in my nymph. I think he was the biggest of the fish and had learnt to actively chase prey near the surface while the smaller ones seemed to concentrate on feeding along the bottom.

I will not try for them again, but I hope that the boys have more success with bread and luncheon meat.

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