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An Incredible Milestone

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Last Updated: 12th July 2013

With that glorious date, June 16th, fast approaching and no plans set in stone I was a little unprepared for the start of the season on the river  this year. All I knew for certain was that with a freezer full of Solar bait plus a box full of Solar hooks, the net would not be staying dry for long.

Saturday June the 15th came around and the buzz was electric. I was bouncing off the walls at work all day and could not wait to finish for the day. I had the full week off to tackle the river and hopefully get among some big, old, Thames carp. As soon as the clock struck five o’clock, I was out of the door and on my way home to get sorted for the midnight cast.

There is nothing like the build up to a new season and up until this point I had been quite chilled, but all of a sudden I was in panic mode. I had not baited any spots or even been out looking for fish. Looking would have been pointless anyway due to the diatom algae bloom the Thames was currently experiencing, making visibility non-existent and the chance of seeing fish from the bank a big fat zero.
On the way home from work, while sat on the bus, I was slowly conjuring up a plan as to where I was going to fish the opening night and by this point I had narrowed it down to four swims. All have a good history of producing fish in the opening week and it would just be a case of fishing them all until I had a bite. If the fish were there I was sure that I would catch them. After all, what carp can resist the awesome Club Mix? I had also pinched a few kilos of the new Seafood Take-Away from my mate to have a little play about with and after seeing all the catch reports it’s generated, it would have been rude not to give it a go. Also, this season I was going to use the Contour Unleaded as a hook length due to having a few other materials cut off with ease through the winter.

I was all set up on the end of my little island for the first night, eagerly awaiting the church bells in the distance to strike midnight. It seemed to take an eternity, but as soon as they made their first chime the rods were cast to the clips and I was back on the river, full of expectations of what the new season would bring.

The first night passed by without event and it was soon time to head home to spend the day with my little girl for Father’s day.  By late afternoon I was getting agitated and the long-suffering other half gave me the nod that meant I could head back out to the river. I was out the door in a flash! With my boat loaded I was off to swim number two for a full night to see if the carp were hiding there.   Another night of blanking meant that I moved on quickly the next day. I have found that at this time of year most of the carp are getting ready to spawn and will be in larger-than-normal groups, so find one and you should be in for a few.

The weather was warming up and I did wonder if the carp had done their dirty deed and were maybe in the weir getting some nice oxygenated water. A quick night in a weir pool seemed a good idea, but not before shooting off to look at a swim that was very kind to me in the opening week last year.  This was a swim I had been saving until last to fish, as I just had a feeling it was going to be the spot they were hiding in. I had saved the few kilo of the Seafood Take-Away to try and tempt them, so I quickly stuck half a kilo on each spot and headed to the weir swim for the night.  Finally my buzzer sounded, but only to signal that the bream had moved into the weir and were going to try their best to keep me awake all night. I switched to using three 18mm baits on the hair and that soon quietened the buzzers down until first light when the tip pulled down and the alarm let out its battle cry. Fish on, but not a carp! Instead, a rather unwelcome barbel had picked up the bait. 

It was time to head home for some supplies and a bit of family time before going back out on the river, to what I was now calling my banker swim. At least I was hoping it was going to be my banker swim as it was the last spot, and I had in my mind that it would do a fish the opening week. As I slowly pulled the boat into the spot and gently lowered the anchors to hold me in place for the night, I didn’t really know what to expect. This was to be my forth night back on the river and I had yet to even see a carp let alone feel close to catching one. Reports from up and down the river were the same and only a few fish had been caught since the start.

I baited the rods with the 18mm Seafood Take-Away boilies that I had nicked off my mate (cheers buddy I could not have done it without your kindness!). With the rods both on the spots I quickly threw the brolly over the front of the boat and laid my bed out ready for an uncomfortable night cramped on the boat. I was just getting settled when the first rod smacked round and the reel started to sing. There was no mistaking it - this time it just had to be a carp, the take was so ferocious. After grabbing the rod I realised the fish was now solid in among the cabbage weed that surrounded the spot. Gently I teased her out until she was free and back on the move.  She felt big and heavy. Just as I felt I was gaining some control I saw the tip on the other rod slam round and line started to rush off the spool. Four nights I had been out and not had a touch. Now I was stood holding a rod in each hand, each one with an angry Thames carp trying its best to get as far away from me as it could. I was a bit unsure as to what to do first, but quickly decided that I should concentrate on the first one I had hooked as it just had that ‘lump’ feel to it. As it made its way upstream and drew level with the boat I gave it an almighty heave and it popped up I and slipped it in to the net. CHUNK indeed. Momentarily stunned, it took me a moment to remember the other rod that I had lay down, with the Baitrunner still slowly ticking away. There was no time to admire what was in the net already as there was still another one with my name on it waiting to join his mate! An energetic battle followed as an angry male common broke the surface and sent a huge spray of water up into the air in a bid to lose the hook. “No chance” I muttered to myself. I was using Solar 101s, they don’t come out without the use of forceps. With that, the fish gave up and rolled straight into the net with his mate.

Blown away was not the phrase, I was a shaking mess and didn’t know what to do next. I was just standing there looking into the net at the result of my battle after all the blank hours.  A quick call to my brother soon had him on his way to help, but first I had to get to dry land. Carefully making sure the fish were safe, I untied the anchors and secured all the ropes to an old oar which I had wedged into the river bed, as I didn’t want to have to drag them in and risk spooking any other fish that may be about.  With two Thames carp sat next to each other in the folds of my net, heads facing upstream, I slowly towed them alongside the boat to the far bank where my brother Jak was stood waiting for my arrival.  Once the boat was tied up and secure Jak sprang into action by sorting the scales and picking somewhere with a discreet backdrop to take some photographs while I made sure the fish were okay.  At this point I took the decision to let the common go without a picture as a small crowd had gathered to see what we were up to and I didn’t fancy risking the mirror getting out of the net while we did the pictures of the common. I quickly removed the hook as well as giving him a once over to be sure he was no worse for wear after meeting me.  A quick guess on the weight had Jak and I agreeing that it was a low twenty. I then let him go to fight another day. Now it was time to get a proper look at the big fat mirror that was still laid in my net.  At first I was not that impressed and thought it was a modern strain lake escapee, but on closer inspection I could see that she was an old one. Where from is anyone’s guess. If only they could talk.

Up on the scales, she spun the needle to just over 30lb so we settled on 30lb 1oz. The icing on the cake being that she was my tenth River Thames 30lb carp. Cloud nine is such a good place, I just wish I could go there every week.
What a way to kick off the 2013 River season.  Unfortunately though, the fish didn’t return to the spot despite me deciding to do another night there just to be sure. I moved on to try some new areas but the rest of my week was a blank. Now it’s back to work and real life, well at least until the weekend.

Cheers, Ben Hinton (AKA River Junkie)



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