When I went back to Snitterfield the other night I had the preconceived idea that as dusk crept in it might be the best possible time to ambush some big crucians. On a more idyllic evening that might well of been the case, but the night in question was less than idyllic by far. The day leading into the night was a real doozie. Swirling winds and interment squally showers had cooled not only the air but the water too.
My first real inkling that a major change had happened was when I dipped a bait box into the edge to damp down some ground bait. The moment my hand touched the water I realised the temperature had fallen by a good few degrees. When I last dipped my hand in the clear water four days prior it was noticeably hot, like an indoor swimming pool. Today, although not shockingly cold, it was much cooler and that alone was enough to rise my suspicions.
When I cast my uber light pole float rig out over the weed the random wind towed it all over the shop and when set over depth by my normal inch or two, the movement was enough to submerge my delicate float. A bit of perseverance resulted in two respectable silver roach, but that in itself was a worry as if the marauding roach were over my bait then the crucians weren't likely to get a look in. A quick change of float was made. A still fine but slightly more weighty Drennan antenna would enable me to hold fast against the tow, whilst still registering those tiny hints of bite crucians give should they be able to get on my feed.
Re-rigged I swung a small cast over the spot, reeled down hard to sink the line and put the rod on the rest. Moments later the float rose a little, the tell tale bottom shot weight removed as a fish mouthed my bait, and in the blink of an eye it disappeared and I go to strike. But the rod never got higher than my shoulder as the fish powered off. As I was setting up the new float I had seen a patch of tench bubbles further down the bank, so I assumed that a good tench had moved onto my bait and was now attached to the end of my line.
Even using a light match rod, three pound line and size 18 to 2.8lb silver fish pellet hook link I thought if I went easy I could maybe, just maybe, land the fish. Moments later my idea it was a tench went out the window when I saw a white belly flash deep in the lake. Now thinking it was a small carp I reassessed my predicament and concluded yes, as long I am very, very careful I should be able to beat a small carp.
Fifteen minutes later my rod was hooped in a very worrying way and my line was singing as it cut through the wind. This was by far a much larger carp than I thought and my little 20" net was looking a little under gunned for the job ahead. Luckily Thad the bailiff was fishing not far around the lake and quick call had him scampering in my direction with a much larger specimen net in hand.
How I did it I will never truly understand, but after a monumental and very careful fight I finally managed to get it onto the surface after a couple of abortive attempts. Fish always look smaller in water and as it passed over the cord we both exclaimed it might be a bit bigger than we thought. When we took a hold of the net and lifted, it suddenly looked huge. On my diminutive unhooking mat it looked even bigger... quite possibly a twenty. The scales don't lie though and after carefully zeroing the wet sling the digital display flickered between 19.10 and 19.12, before sticking on the latter.
I was in shock for the rest of the session, as was my swim which had not only been smashed to bits by the carp, but I suspect had also been cleaned out by its cavernous mouth. More ground bait and pellets were potted in but as the night drew in I saw no signs of crucians, and the only fish to pull my float under were a few overzealous tiny tench. Mind you I didn't really care as the thought of that seemingly impossible capture more than made up for the lack of crucians whose activity seemed to have dropped right off with the fall in temperature.