Over the past few years a lot of my blogging brethren and friends have ventured to the hallowed banks of Marsh Farm in search of big crucians. They have all done this as it is one of the only truly viable fisheries where anglers stand a chance of connecting with specimen true crucian. Why until now it is that I have not found myself looking over this meticulous manicured fishery I do not know. But just last week the opportunity arose for me to tag along with Martin Roberts and Jeff Hatt on a foray down south for a mid week session, and frankly it would of been rude for me to decline.
After an inordinately early start and disconcertingly easy passage along the M25 we found ourselves at the gates to our venue for the day. Only problem was that they were looked and not due to open for another hour as our journey had been predicted to be a little more hassle than it actually turned out to be.
The general look of the day ticket lakes was much as I expected it and whilst waiting for the tackle shop to open so we could obtain our tickets we took a amble around the lakes to scope out possible pegs. Harris lake I think was always going to be where we fished, as according to most information, this was where the better sized crucians reside. But I for one wasn't expecting the sight that met me! At seven thirty in the morning with a heavily overcast sky filled with incessant drizzle and a decent ripple I could see not only into the shallows but right down to the marginal shelf and beyond.
From everything I had read and heard regarding the day ticket waters at marsh farm I had built up a picture of margin fishing in well coloured water, whereas this looked more like gravel pit water, where the idea of getting a crucian into the margin may have had to involve me getting camo'd up like a sniper whilst hiding in the undergrowth all day.
As I waited in the queue for my ticket my pre-planned tactics seemed all wrong, and seeing a bait fridge loaded with casters I began reforming a different plan of attack. So loaded up with my gear I headed to the windward end of the lake accompanied by Jeff, away from every other angler on Harris. Here I knew it would be hard to contend with the ripple, but my thinking was that that ripple might offer me some cover in these clear water conditions.
The next step was to follow a little of Jeff's sage advice. He had said to me that one of the best sessions he had had here was when he simply found feeding bubbles and fished that swim. So we did exactly that and after locating what looked like a few feeding tench about two rod lengths out I plonked myself down in the swim close to opposite a gap in between two islands.
It was by no mean an easy start to the session as I struggled to settle. The wind cutting from my right was not only cold for the time of year but also made presentation impossible. When I had set up my rigs before arriving I had been banking on fishing the margin using a pole float to show all those slight touches associated with crucian carp. That rig never got wet and was superceded by a canal dart with a very fine antenna, which too was cast aside after it would not hold position with a hint of line on the bottom and got dragged under when laid on heavily. The next candidate was a crystal waggler which would hold bottom when laid on hard but with minimal line on the bottom slowly drifted with the ripple.
I was losing all hope of getting any where until I found a small Drennan tench float hidden at the bottom of my float tube. This was perfect. The fine peacock antenna was stabilised by a bulbous body well under the surface. The combination of me locking it in place with float stops so I could put all my shot low down the line, and the three inches of line on the bottom was enough to combat the worst tow. Finally I was fishing comfortably for the first time on the session and now bites could be indicated by dips and rises. I was performing a fine balancing act in the worst of conditions.
With having to fish a few rod lengths out I had to depend on the casters I had purchased from the onsite tackle shop. Normally I like to fish soft pellets for crucians but they stood little chance of staying on the hook in these windy conditions, and the last thing I needed was no bait on my hook when everything already seemed to be against me. My regular catapulting of shells through the air attracted not only fish to my swim.
This cheeky sparrow obviously had many mouths to feed as she danced under my chair all day picking fallen casters here and there.
As I found out marsh farm is not only renowned for crucian carp but tench as well, as I banked fifteen through the day whilst bumping off one or two and getting snapped off by a few as well. But the best by far was this immaculate chuck of a female which gave me a right run around and ended up stuck in a bush in my right hand margin. Luckily for me Jeff appeared just in time to help me scoop her out in a less than dignified manner.
The crucians unlike the tench were a different and awkward matter entirely...! From very early on in the day I suspected their presence in my swim and although that seems a blindingly stupid statement in a lake renowned for them, the fact remains that they were giving little away bar a few different bubbles. Tench fizz is my pornography, it really gets me excited. But those exciting fizzes of bubbles can only be tench. Individual small bubbles rising though is a great sign of feeding crucians, and I had a fare few emanating from my baited patch.
Slowly but surely my constant feeding of a pouch full of casters began to garner me some interesting bites. Even fishing a heavy rig at two rod lengths out I just detect the slight rising of my float. I must of struck at twenty of more hardly perceptible bites and a couple of tench sail aways before my float raised a good inch and half out of the water as a fish mouthed my bait. Half expecting it to slide away attached to another tench I waited, but the float just sat cock eyed and I had to strike. I wont lie and say I did not think it was a tench as it surged away sounding my lightly set clutch. But then low and behold a miracle happened and it gave up, surfacing for a quick roll in the ripple. I had been quite blasé about fighting the tench but a flash of real gold stopped me in my tracks.
It was undoubtedly a big crucian and the sight of it fighting me through clear water really had my arse going for sure. Then out of nowhere it just gave up totally and good as gold slid straight into my waiting net. No self takes were going to be struggled with on this one, so I was straight on the phone to get Jeff down to do the honours. Then who should turn up with him but my good mate Baz who had dropped by as he returned north after doing a job in the area.
Just seeing the fish resting under the water in my landing net I knew it was a PB but how big I could not say as I think crucians are a very hard species to estimate weights of due to their solid deep bodies. Baz though guessed it on the nose at 2.6lb just before it even went onto the scales.
That was it for me. If I did not catch another fish it would have been a great trip. But even after watching that one swim away in the clear water I looked up to see more crucian like bubbles appearing in my swim. For the rest of the afternoon I had them bubbling rolling and rising my float annoyingly just enough for me to strike but never enough for me to hit.
Finally after a slew of tench my float did a slight rise before moving left a little and my strike contacted another crucian of maybe ten ounces at best. This did however went some way to proving that a number of smaller fish were responsible for turning me over. Another hour later I hooked and lost what I am sure was a second good fish before I landed my third and final cute little crucian of the day.
I had set myself a packing up time so as to be ready to go when Martin, who had driven, was ready to go and just as that time neared Jeff strolled over for a chat. After a quick con-flab he turned and headed back for one last shot for a fish. Just as he turned tail a massive crucian came half out of the water only two feet from my spot. The sight of that certain three pounder turned my planned packing up into a very protracted affair, with my float rod staying firmly in position until the very end as I packed up everything else around whilst trying to watch the float out of the corner of my eye.
That big one never did grace me with a biet and nether did anything else. Even with my first experience of Marsh Farm being on a day when everything seemed to be against me, I know I worked hard to fish in a way I am not used to, and this hard work paid off landing me a whole mess of tench and the only crucians that were caught on Harris lake that day as far as I know. As for whether it was worth the long journey down from the Midlands. Well that's simple isn't it! First session there and new PB crucian, whereas on most waters you struggle to find them, if you can find a water that holds them. So yes, I will be back, and hopefully when I do return the conditions might be little more favourable.