Jake recalls a memorable session from 2009 in the Tree Line Swim at Gigantica, including some tactics and advice he was given to overcome the power from these creatures when fishing at close range.
The Tree Line Swim Has Not Disappointed!
By Jake Langley Hobbs
Firstly sorry for the delayed post. It is just as well I am going home next week, and buying a new laptop. Yesterday I had issues with my proxy settings, so the day was spent trying different places to get a connection and it proved unsuccessful. It was very frustrating. Anyway here it is and better late than never!
After a quick check on the weather forecast yesterday afternoon and judging by the warmth in the air, it looked like the predicted blue skies and sunshine was definitely on its way. The wind had eased and I had also spotted a few carp in the tree line area. I said I might stay for one more night in the Big Southerly swim, but it was make or break decision time. I have said before that packing up is not really a major hassle, so in less than an hour I was trundling round to the Tree Line swim in my van, and was unloading the gear. I could already feel the tension building up as I got my rods ready. I do believe this maybe my favourite swim that I have fished at, anywhere in my travels to date. That might sound an odd statement considering some of the beautiful, windswept and expansive waters, surrounded by stunning mountain backdrops, but it is the sheer excitement of fishing this kind of swim. The action is explosive, it comes without any warning, you have to hold on for dear life, and once you get the fish clear from the snaggy area, you pretty much can breathe a sigh of relief as you know you’re nearly home and dry. Was the building tension an anti-climax or did the first night back in the Tree Line swim deliver the action I was craving so much?
My first task was to get all my rods rigged up and ready. Since my previous encounter last week, with a couple of very powerful leviathans that broke my hook link before I even had a chance to pick up the rod, off its rest; I had been mulling over a way to fight back. Last week I said I was upping my hook link to the 50lb Arma-Cord, but over the last few days and nights whilst sitting around thinking about the ones that got away, I came up with a plan. I have been fishing a braid main line, tied to an Arma-Cord shock leader. Pretty heavy stuff, but this fishing demands bully boy tactics. It is only the ‘really’ close range rod that I have suffered the two breaks on, and I really don’t like losing fish, especially when they get left with a hook in their mouths. I needed to come up with a better method of safely extracting the carp from its den. I realised the problem lay in the braid and choice of shock leader. There is absolutely no give in either and combined with my powerful rods, I guess something had to give, and it was the weakest link. I needed to allow the fish a little legroom and myself the chance to pick up the rod before anything broke. A tough mono shock leader was obviously the answer. This would give me a little stretch but not too much. The range I am fishing is probably only 30 yards, so it seemed the easiest option to fish a leader all the way through, and this is exactly what I have done. You might say that surely the fish stands no chance against this approach, but believe me, the power I have witnessed leaves me in no doubt that this is the safest way to fish for these creatures at such close range. The only reason people generally use low diameter lines, subtle hook links and small hooks are because they are worried about presentation on pressured waters. When you are fishing in snag territory, the fish is probably more relaxed because it is in an environment it feels safe in. I think these fish are much more likely to fall foul of a tempting hook bait as a result.
One other thing I have really looked into is my choice of knots; not only for my hook link but also to join my main line or shockleader to my Safe Zone leaders. I am taking this type of fishing very seriously and I was looking for knots that would give me almost 100% strength. Fortunately, yesterday, a guy called Co from Belgium popped into Gigantica to see Danny T and also to fish for a few days. Co is very well known on the International carp show circuit and does the Korda stands. He is a ‘real’ knot expert! You are never too young or old to learn something new and you would be a fool not to take help when it is offered on a plate. I asked Co for some advice on knots and he showed me three knots to use. One was to tie your loop and the one was to tie on a ring swivel. I practised these new knots myself and once I was sure I was tying them correctly, I was then absolutely confident I was using the right product with the right kind of knot. Two of these knots I was shown by Co are specifically for use with the Korda Hybrid Stiff. I have total faith in this product, but the only ‘real’ problem I have noticed with it is – people tie unsuitable knots for its use. I guess I was falling slightly into that category. I was under the impression that a figure of eight knot was okay for my loop knot; apparently not it seems!! In fact Co explained that a very simple overhand knot tied twice is actually the strongest knot for loops with Hybrid Stiff. I know Dan T uses small crimps with this product and Korda are in fact about to launch some crimps to add to their range of terminal tackle. I suppose in some ways your knots don’t always get the true test, especially when fishing at long range as no real pressure is put on them. Close range snag fishing for monster sized carp is the real test and I can vouch for that 100%! In tomorrow’s post I shall show you in detail, with photographs, the knots Co tied up for me.
I was all set then. I had my new line of attack for the close range rod, my new ‘Co’ knots and a strong shock leader fished all the way through. It was time to cast out and see if it all worked. I did a couple of test casts, gradually getting closer to the spots I was aiming for and then clipped up and marked my lines with a black permanent pen. Satisfied with everything I got them finally into position and then got busy sorting out the rest of my camp. I put the bivvy up, and started to assemble my mossie net. I use a real net and tie it to the open door of my bivvy with a suitable material. This time I chose some braid! The reason I like to use a real net, is I find it easier to get out of, should I have a take. There is no door to unzip and I can rip it down quickly if it is a real, emergency take, situation. The time was now 8.30pm; I was just tying the last section of netting and actually thinking “How nice it would be, if I got a take right now!” The unthinkable happened and I did! I was on the rod so quickly and the fish was trying to dive deep into the snags. I applied side strain by holding the rod as far to my right as possible. I felt the fish kick a few times; it suddenly crashed in the overhanging bushes, and then glided away from the danger area on the surface. It was a lovely sight and my plan had worked so far. The take was savage but the extra spring in the shock leader had prevented any breakages.
The fish put up a good display of strength and stayed on the top throughout the whole fight. I could see it was a lovely scaly mirror and a decent sized fish to start off the proceedings. It is always a relief to get a fish so soon in the session, and I let out a little “yea hah” as she surrendered to the net. 32lb 4oz was the weight; I did some quick self takes and slipped her back. It was now starting to get dark, so I recast the rod back into the opening in the bushes, and got some dinner on. After all the moving, setting up and knot lessons, I was exhausted and hungry! After eating I had to get my head down. I could not keep my eyes peeled on the rod tips any longer so at about 11pm that’s just what I did.
Now when I fished this swim before I had no positive takes at night. I had a couple of twitches but nothing substantial. I had drifted off to sleep which was difficult as I did not want to close my tired eyes. At 12.30 am I heard a couple of bleeps. I looked and saw the bobbin tight to the rod and the tip was wrenching towards the tree line. I literally jumped off the bed, through the mossie net and managed to grab the rod. It was the close range one again! I grabbled with the fish in the dark, and this one came free fairly easily. I could feel it kiting to my right in the dark, and listened for my other alarms to see if it had cleared my other lines – it had! You can’t use backleads here, as you will have too much slack line for the fish to charge off with. I moved to my right to a spot five yards away from the swim. It is a flat area ideal for playing and landing a fish, and it means you can draw the fish away from your other rods so the battle at close quarters can be done more easily. This fish was a dogged character and I guessed it was a smaller specimen. A common of about 18lbs lay in the net. I very carefully unhooked the exhausted fighter in the shallow water in the net and let him go free. Two out of two, my plan was working well.
I recast the rod back into the clearing in the bushes. Using my mark on the line I clipped up, put a PVA nugget on the hook, and punched the cast low and hard. The cast to his spot is actually very tricky. There is a tree in the edge, and a couple of skinny branches hang in the way. The cast has to be done very accurately and very low. There is no way to cast other than over the small spindly branch. The line then has to be flicked off this branch once the rig has landed on its spot. It is something I have practised and I normally get it right within two casts. This cast went in the hole first time of asking. I admired the splash in the dark with my head torch. I was well happy with the end result. I placed the rod in the rests carefully, tightening up, but not too much. If you over tighten you pull the lead off the gravelly ledge. You can feel the lead dropping down inch by inch, so the trick is to tighten till you feel the slightest bit of resistance and then leave it be! I am also clipping up to give me an extra half second of time if a take comes and the bobbins are set at the top of their travel.
I sat and watched the rods for a while in the dark. The time was approaching 1.25am. It was time to hit the bag again, but before I made it off my chair, a few bleeps had me reaching for my middle rod. The rod slammed round and dropped back, but on picking the rod up I could feel a weight on the end and it was going in the other direction fast! I stood solid to the spot and heaved the rod sideways. I felt the carp budge and move forward, and the side strain took effect. It then turned and slowly came towards me. I looked at my other lines in the water and watched as the fish kited towards one of them. It was under the line of my third rod so I leant down and passed the rod underneath it and then walked to my landing spot, carefully lifting the rod and line clear of the rushes to my right. The carp plodded around slowly and after five minutes I saw a pale shape under the surface. It tried to dive down, so I turned my rod to one side and prevented it having any more line. It slowly surfaced and flopped around on the top as I inched it towards the outstretched net. In she went! 33lbs was the weight of carp number three and a stunning looking fish too. As I unhooked it I also noticed it was trailing another line and the small silver hook was caught in its neck. I unhooked the odd looking rig and I have to say that I have never seen blue braided hook link material before!!
By the time I had done some self takes and got everything done and dusted the time was 4am. I was exhausted and I fell on my bed. Not surprisingly I soon fell asleep, but in what seemed like seconds was woken by a single bleep. I rolled over and looked at the blue latching led on my ATT. It went out and I rolled back over. A minute later it beeped again. I repeated the process! Another minute passed and then a few bleeps signalled the take. The rod tip was starting to pull round hard and I leapt off the bed and grabbed the rod as it reached its full curve. The fish came away from the tree line quite easily. I presumed it must be a smaller fish and watched it as it kited on the top. My lead release system is working really well, and in this kind of fishing it is so essential to your success. The price of a lead is a small price to pay for a landed fish, or worse than that, a lost carp that is trailing a 5oz lead around!?
I played the fish watching the sun rise. It was a lovely feeling although the tiredness slightly ruined the occasion!! Through bleary eyes I watched as a common carp turned over on the surface. I estimated thirties as I netted her. I then looked again! Width, depth and length equals more than thirty pounds! This was definitely a forty for sure! I carried the fish from the water in the net, which I had first put inside the retaining sling for safety. It makes carrying the fish more comfortable as you can use the handles on the sling. I gently placed her on the unhooking mat and admired my catch. What a gorgeous common. I have been lucky with common carp and this is no 11 over the 40lb mark, since I started my trip last. My biggest being 50lb 8oz caught in Italy. I now just need one more 40+ carp to break my fifty 40’s barrier. Come on number 50!!
I weighed the golden scaled lump and 43lbs was recorded. 19.5kg in European weights, but the fact it did not make 20kg mattered not. It was a great looking fish. I slipped her into the retention sling and put her in the water. I wanted some assistance with the photos, and knew someone would be up very soon. Dan Turtle is always on call if you catch a 40+ at Gigantica and can be summoned at any time during the night. As it was first light I decided to capitalise on the run of action and got the rod back out. I catapulted a few pouches of tigers to my near spots and settled down into my chair and got the kettle on. I decided to give it till 7am and then I would go and get a picture taker for my common.
I don’t know whether it’s greed or the hunter in me, but I wanted another carp and a bigger one. I was thinking it would be great if I got a fifty now and I had to go and get Dan to photograph both. Imagine a 43lb’er in the retention sling and a big fifty in the landing net. What a perfect start to the day. Suddenly, the recast close range rod absolutely smashed round in a tight curve. The rod tip was pulling tighter and tighter by the nanosecond as I reached for the handle. I stood up with the rod in one movement and jumped to my side. The fish felt very heavy and pulled me back towards the tree line. This was an extremely powerful carp! I held on for dear life as it pulled harder and harder. I felt something knock and had that awful feeling something was going to give, and one of us was going to end up the loser! Unfortunately it was me! The line went slack and I reeled back in my defeated line. To my surprise my Safe Zone leader had cut on something. My knots had obviously done their job and my shock leader material stood the test of all tests. There was obviously something sharp under the surface and the Safe Zone leader could take no more! I suppose you could say that was one battle you could call a fair loss and four out of five carp isn’t anything to grumble about.
Did I lose the fifty I had been thinking about; possibly, possibly not? The 43 I caught came in quite easily, compared to the two smaller thirties. It was quite conceivable that it was a long torpedo mirror with a huge rudder, but also it could have been a big fat mirror that I hope to catch at some point this week. I have a few days left to achieve my Gigantica dream and bank a 50+ carp. Ideally one of the mirror strains with the small head and large shoulders. Keep reading to see if I achieve my mission!!
NB I am going to start videoing my remaining time in the Tree Line swim, in the daytime, to hopefully capture a savage carp take, live on film. It really has to be done, and I am sure it will make for enjoyable and explosive viewing should it happen. If I manage to successfully get one, I will post it on the blog in due course. I will also go and film the big Gigantica carp in their snaggy quarters at some point this week. When you see these, I guarantee you will be reaching for the Angling Lines telephone number or website address to book a place to fish here in the future. If you’re very lucky you may pull out number one in the peg draw and get a chance to fish in the Tree Line swim. If you do though be afraid, be very afraid, as it can be nail biting stuff and you probably won’t get a wink of sleep all week!
Footnote: As this post is delayed I shall just let you know…I have caught another 5 carp from the Tree Line swim since writing this post yesterday…you will have to come back tomorrow to find out what exactly!!
Catch you tomorrow.
Jake & the dogs.