I've had some pretty dire June 16ths in my time I can tell you. I try my very best to not work on this sacred day, I get all wound up like a chocolate crazed kid and charge off to the river or some venue where I've been unable to fish, with sky high expectations and in most cases it all ends being a bit of a letdown. This year I decided to not get all excited and instead of charging off to the river or something, that I would just go and fish somewhere I knew I would have a good time. Bucking the trend, I went to Napton thinking as it's been open all year it might be a bit quiet on the first day and I was right; only one other angler was in residence when I arrived.
Though I knew when I arrived that I would more than likely catch a net load of tincas, I half had it in my mind that today might be as good as any to actually have a shot at catching a crucian carp. A few days before I had witnessed Andy realize a dream and catch a cracking old fish that will stick in my head for a long time to come.
The swim I chose was shallower than the ones I normally fish and after plumbing up and fine tuning the float to register even the shyest of bites, I committed and baited heavily alongside a reed bed using Green Bait-tech super G ground bait and fresh casters. As intended to use corn as hook baits I carefully flicked out a few grains over the bed of bait to get the fish used to looking for them, but kept the amount down so as fish would hopefully not have too much choice and struggle to find the one with a hook in it.
Thankfully I had collected the repaired section of my fourteen foot power waggler rod from the kind chaps at Lanes who had got it repaired in time for the 16th. I knew this rod would be perfect for fishing this venue as it's got loads of low down power to help fight the hard fighting tench, whilst still being sensitive enough in the tip section to fish lighter float rigs.
I watched as the ground bait broke down, sending tiny bubbles up all over the area. Really, I expected the tench to get on it like white on rice but nothing occurred for the first half an hour. Then the game changed in a big way when a crucian rolled off the back of my bait. If my heart wasn't in my mouth enough then, when a second one rolled to the left of the patch my heart was literally in my mouth. They were here and if I was ever going to catch one it was going to be now. Then the float rose less than half an inch and I struck! The culprit was blatantly a tench which powered off quickly out into the lake before getting off in the blink of an eye.
One cast later the whole session became a blur... The next slight rise in the float was hit and this fish felt different, very different. After an initial dull resistance it began circling round for a short while before rolling on the top and that's when I saw a dark gold shape the size of a dinner plate. When that fish went in the net I could barely believe it. Less than week ago I was writing about how hard people have worked to catch these rare Napton Crucian carp; here I was on the first day of the season and my first fish of that season was a ancient crucian. I had to actually calm myself down to prevent myself flapping around whilst dealing with it, I was that excited. So after securing it safely in the net I engaged the other angler to help me photograph my prize.
The fish looked very much like the fish I'd seen the previous week, apart from not being as high in the back. What it lacked in height this one made up for in thickness across the shoulders. It weighed 2.10lb but some checking of my scales later confirmed them to be weighing 1oz heavy for some reason, making the fish's actual weight 2.9lb. But really, I didn't care what it weighed as I genuinely felt honoured to have such an amazing fish be my first of the season.
I considered going home after I watched my first Napton Crucian swim away in the clear water but I knew no matter how rare they were, today I stood a chance of another. The very next cast the float settled down leaving the red tip showing as the corn nestled on the bottom. Just as I was about to reposition my net next to me, the float almost swayed rising slightly as it did. I struck into a second fish that wasn't a tench either and lo and behold, moments later a very young looking second crucian of two pounds was mine.
Now, I was flabbergasted to say the least. In the very short time I'd been fishing I landed two of these Napton ghosts and from the looks of the bubbles rising in my swim there was more action on the cards. I cast again almost trembling and the float never settled fully before sliding off. The tench had moved onto the bait in a big way and were so keen to feed they were intercepting baits on the way down. I caught nine tench over the next two hours and everyone battered me senseless, tearing line off the reel and repeatedly diving in the deep water.
What a session to start a new season with! I was in pure heaven catching all these wonderful tench one after another on the lift float. Soon though all went quiet and there was a perplexing lull in the action. But it soon became clear why when the float rose preposterously high out of the water and my strike provoked a very large fish to bow wave out of the swim rather quickly. No tench, no matter how big, had this power and it confirmed its identity to be a carp when I attempted to slow it down before all the line went of my reel. In doing so the fish rose up onto the surface and came back towards me so quickly I could barely keep tension on the line. The battle under the rod tip was just way too much for my light hook link and the entire rig was soon wrappped around the tip of my rod.
This loss of the carp turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Thinking the carp had more than likely cleaned me out, I baited up again heavily with the rest of my ground bait and lashings of casters. I took my time to tie a new hook link and retune the depth of my un-baited rig in the hope it would allow the fish to move back onto the spot. Lo and behold when I was done and cast out I only waited moments before getting another tiny bite and connecting with a third old bar of Napton gold.
"Three...honestly three," I remember saying that to myself as I released the fish back into the clear water. But that wasn't it! Not ten minutes later I got exactly the same quivering rise on the float and number four was dancing around under my rod tip about to really top off the 16th of a life time.
I feel sure the shoal of crucians had been lurking round the reeds all morning just waiting for the tench that had pushed them off to do one. But it was probably the carp coming in and panicking out of the swim that moved the tench on and allowed those shy old crucians to slip back in. The tench though weren't gone for long and a trio of bigger examples up six pounds finished off the morning for me.
Happy fishmas one and all.