Since moving to the New Forest in 2013, it has taken me a few years to make my mark on this untapped ground. My carp angling has been what I would refer to as under the radar, away from the busy banks of the well-known carp locations. I spent many months away from the rods just exploring this idyllic part of the country, trying to gather momentum for my campaign, which turned out to be one of my most rewarding years of angling.
My focus at this point was not just about setting out to target one resident within one lake but to get underneath the history of the New Forest to unlock its hidden gems. Following months of research and early morning walks around the New Forest, my first stop was a well known public park consisting of about 12 acres, not a hard-fished location but other carp anglers were present from time to time.
What attracted me the most about this location was not only the stocking and strain of carp but the beautiful scenery. If I were to be sat behind my rods for long periods then this location would surely make the job a lot more pleasurable for sure. During the warmer months, I would find myself bankside at the crack of dawn watching the morning mist rise from the water and then being greeted by an abundance of wildlife that the New Forest offers. On many occasions, I would be greeted with wild horses and cattle that were making their way down to the lake to graze on the wild gorse and late spring fruit trees.
Wildlife aside, it was time to think about my quarry, and whilst this lake had suffered from the loss of some of its biggest residents a few years back there were still a few original carp to be had – not the biggest of carp, but they certainly had that heritage appeal that I was after. Over the course of a season I managed to work my way through many carp from this lake, many of them being around the mid-twenty mark but all having what I would refer to as that notorious New Forest look – long, lean and chestnut in colour, almost wild, which made for great sport through the summer months. As the album filled up along with knowledge from local anglers, I soon realised that I had probably accomplished all that I could have from this location even after the capture of a unique mirror carp that not many of the anglers had seen before.
Shortly after making the decision to leave the public lake behind, winter had arrived, which provided me with enough time to think about my next location. Throughout the unsettled months of winter, I found myself back in front of my PC at home pondering over my options for the following season that would provide me with as much energy as my previous campaign. It was at this point that the penny dropped – what I was looking for was right under my nose, another rarely fished pond situated behind the big lake. After completing yet more research on this unique little place, it occurred to me that a small number of much larger original carp were still present. The campaign for catching those New Forest gems was back on, so much excitement ran through me, walking around the lake trying to gather as much knowledge as possible before the open season started.
|The unique Mirror Carp|
Finally, June 16th arrived, and it was time to get back behind the rods and restart my New Forest campaign. Now at this point I would love to have mentioned the endless mornings and evenings prebaiting spots, but there was one major problem to this lake that would soon become a catalyst to an ever-bigger problem and this was lake depth. The lake on average was only about 4-5ft but was also occupied by a pair of very hungry swans that were proving to be a very stressful problem since the vast amount of Canadian and silkweed was forcing me to fish white pop-ups that were very visible to my newly found pests in the crystal clear water. Some days my rods would spend more time out of the water in an attempt direct the swan’s attention away from my spots. At times, I would have given my right arm for the residents of the New Forest to come and feed these swans to distract them when the weather looked spot-on for a bite.
Being a very small and attractive pond, the wildlife wasn’t the only problem over the summer months – holidaymakers, dog walkers, and kayakers all made the job much harder than I had initially anticipated. That said, I still to this day cannot explain the excitement that I experienced when my first bite arrived. I remember it as if it were yesterday… a damp summer evening that brought in a low-pressure system, whilst pushing my time on the lake to a maximum as fishing was restricted to days only. The swans had finally pushed away from my margin spot, as the carp were obviously present, and I sat in anticipation on my unhooking mat watching the big low clouds that swamped the skyline. Moments later it was game on! The bobbin rose from the deck in a split second, releasing the line from the clip, and my alarm went into meltdown, bouncing the rod blank aggressively between the snag ears. As I ran down to the rod I could see the line entering the water at least 20 yards from my spot where I had got the bite from, so this carp was obviously steaming away trying to shed the hook. After a hard fight, I finally managed to free the carp from a large weedbed close in and guide what seemed like a large, angry looking mirror carp over the net cord.
Whilst trying to battle with shaking knees and hands, I slowly managed to empty what felt like kilos of weed from my net.The head of this old original slowly appeared, and looking at the paddle, it was clear to see how this carp had managed to put up such an aggressive battle. With nightfall upon me, it was time for a few quick photos and home to appreciate this capture on the PC.
|A large, angry looking Mirror Carp|
A few weeks passed, as I was unable to revisit the lake due to family commitments, but my passion for getting back to it only increased. As the season went by, it became apparent through inside knowledge and personal observation that there were only two or three original carp left in this pond, but these sat amongst a total lake population of about eight to ten carp, so location was playing a huge part within my angling, even on such a small lake. Reading through my journal, I began studying the weather conditions through past captures out in the New Forest, from which I slowly started to build a picture, and timing would be everything, as the season wouldn’t last forever.
I probably managed a further four or five more sessions but was again suffering from those hungry swans and tourists enjoying the surroundings of the pond. It was eventually approaching the end of September when I realised that time wasn’t on my side, and with another low-pressure system due, I began preparing my attack on the pond. It was the 10th of September when I found myself driving across the forest towards the little pond. I arrived to a dark lake, watching the cloud cover build for what turned out to be one of the wettest days of the year so far. After factoring in where I had seen carp throughout the summer, I decided on another margin spot just short of a weedbed, only about 4ft deep, but I was convinced that the carp were using this clearing in the weed to feed on. I managed to flick the rods out in the low light levels before the swans realised where my hookbaits were placed. Not being able to apply any freebies to this shallow spot was destroying my confidence, but to keep the swans away, this was my only choice.
The morning passed with no action, and with the rain well and truly in for the day, I slowly began to doubt my location and approach. A friend visited me during the afternoon, and we discussed these old original carp and why they don’t see the bank that often. We talked about one of the originals that many anglers knew was present but again could not explain why it did not get caught for many years. This carp was a common carp stocked in the mid-70s. I had seen a few very old pictures of this carp when it was around 18lb or so, and was told by an elderly and well-educated angler that he had photographed this carp for a young angler a few years back at 28lb. I know that in many carp fishing stories you wonder whether the truth has been embellished, but what happened next I am still to this day unable to explain. The bobbin on my left hand rod slowly rose to the blank, but the line did not release itself from the clip. A liner, I thought, but a few seconds passed and the bobbin dropped to the floor. I sat forward and within an instant the bobbin rose again, only this time the line pulled clear of the clip.
As I looked over the spot, an eruption occurred underneath the surface of the water, and with the reel now going into meltdown, I quickly pulled into what seemed like another angry carp. Luckily the carp had buried its head into a weedbed, which slowed it down, and after a few seconds this creature was plodding around under my rod tip. I suddenly clocked a glance of my capture, and I recognised the fish immediately; it was indeed my second original of the year, but not only that, it was the elusive common carp that many talked about. My knees were like jelly as I slowly tried to put the net under this fish, but it was by no means ready yet. With one last surge, it powered away from me, ending up in the same weedbed where it had been hooked. I was reluctant to put heavy pressure on the fish, as I noticed my little multi-rig barely hanging from the bottom corner of its lip when the fish was plodding around under the tip. Amazingly I managed to get its head up for some big gulps of air, which allowed me to slide the net underneath it. No matter how I describe the moment, only an angler can appreciate this feeling of achievement.
As I lifted the bottom of the net up, all my efforts were rewarded. It was indeed another original that I was after, and not only that, it was the one that many had told me so many stories about. To have caught a carp that has spent more days on this planet than me just blew me away, and my New Forest campaign was living up to all expectations. I immediately called a good friend who had spent many mornings with me on the pond talking about the history of these fish to come and share this special moment. As I pulled the weigh sling away from this creature, it showed all the signs of an old and wily carp – big bulbous eyes and whittled fins. I could only appreciate this carp’s life; the shape of it just amazed me, and it had all the traits of a New Forest warrior.
Beyond the excitement of this capture, I was still aware that there was one last original for me to catch, a carp known as the Ugly One due its misshaped body. Although it isn’t the prettiest of carp, its age and presence still attracted me, but unfortunately it had come to that time of year when it was time to pull away from the pond and focus on my next location that had already proved to be fruitful throughout the year. Tucked away on the south coast of the New Forest lies an historic estate lake steeped in history dating all the way back through two world wars for which I was lucky enough to obtain a ticket for earlier in the season.
Although my efforts had focused mainly on catching carp from low stocked and intimate waters, the estate lake was a little bit of a different scene with more anglers present and more of a vibe, but I was still committed to catching some seriously old carp that again had spent more time on this planet than me. In fact many of the carp were twice my age.
During the start of season towards the end of the winter, I spent many hours of darkness listening and waiting for signs of carp that were awakening from their long winter slumber. With the lake again being quite shallow, my hunch was that any warm weather system would quickly spur them into feeding, but again it would be down to timing and rod hours. After a couple of quick overnight sessions, I soon located most the carp held up in a secluded part of the lake that was filled with overhanging trees and dead roots. On warmer days, I could see from a high vantage point numbers of carp cruising in and out of this area, which provided me with enough evidence to target this location.
After a long tactical think, I concluded that I would only have a couple of chances at catching these carp before the secret of their location was out, so I opted to fish with a very delicate snowman presentation consisting of a 2oz lead, as I knew that this would settle over the soft Angel Delight like silt patches that were present just inches from the snags where cover had hindered any weed growth. It wasn’t long before the bites came. During a quick overnight session in early March, I woke to motionless rods but was certain that the carp would enter these snags during the spring sunlight. It was around 7.30am that morning when my left-hand rod, fished tight to an overhanging tree, was away, the bobbin tight to the rod blank and the spool slowly releasing line. I sprang into action watching the rod tip slowly buckle over. After a short fight, I slid my first estate lake carp over the net, not the biggest of residents and by no means my target from this pond but a lovely old chestnut coloured mirror carp bearing many battle scars obtained throughout its life.
|A lovely old chestnut coloured Mirror!|
As spring continued the album slowly filled with several very old estate lake carp, but I knew that this spot would soon dry up, as I noticed a few carp moving slowly out into the pond as the water temperatures increased.As my environment around me changed, it was time for a tactical change as I soon realised that my delicate bottom bait presentation wasn’t the one anymore in the fast-growing weedbeds present throughout the lake. I remember my next bite as if it was yesterday due to the timing. Two weeks before I was about to get married, I found myself back on the pond trying to catch a certain carp known as Orange Spot, a lovely old carp that I had observed in a friend’s album following a brief discussion in regards to the lake stocking. At this point in the season the clocks had gone forward, and I was making the most of every daylight hour to watch my quarry and predict where it would be.
After deciding to fish a swim that positioned me in the centre of the lake, I was happy that the carp were now using the spots that I had located in the weed to feed on when they were not hanging out in the snags. I attempted to improve my hookbait presentation by deploying multi-rigs fished approximately 1.5ins off the deck whilst still using very light leads. With wedding plans filling my head, it was hard to keep focused on the job in hand. Another action free night passed, but I knew that the carp were using these areas throughout the day.
Again right on cue at about 8am my right hand rod was away, only this time getting me into a bit of trouble as the butt of the rod had been pulled aggressively from the butt rest. The rod was now slowly slipping forward, only being stopped from entering the lake by the reel locking up in front of the alarm head. After releasing my tangled bobbin chain from the moving line, I quickly pulled into the fish, which was now luckily fighting on top of the weed due to lead dropping off as planned. Whilst playing the fish, it never really occurred to me as to which resident it would be, as at this point, I was more focused on putting the net under it. As a passionate carp angler, its always difficult to explain to people why we do it and what motivates us to target individual fish, but I never have trouble trying to justify this to myself, as the feeling of catching that carp that you have seen others enjoy the moment of catching just takes over. I really did at this point feel like giving myself a huge pat on the back, as in my net lie the notorious Orange Spot.
At this point in the year, I was now feeling that true sensation of satisfaction within my angling. All that I had worked for over the last two years had paid off, and I was enjoying every moment. After the capture of Orange Spot, it was now time for me to experience one of the proudest moments of my life outside of carp fishing, which was to marry my wonderful wife. On May 20th 2016 my wonderful partner Stephanie, who has supported me throughout my passion for angling, became Mrs Bruton. After a lovely honeymoon spent in St Lucia catching some awesome sea creatures such as the notorious dorado it was time to return home to family and friends, and of course the New Forest campaign, which was by no means over.