Hampstead carp and tench

There was a moment of drama during the recent school tuition day on Hampstead Heath, when one of the pupils connected with a large fish which eventually broke away. The general consensus was that it was probably a tench – one of my favourite species.

A few days later I came back at daybreak to try and catch one. It was warm, overcast and still:

Highgate boating pond

Nothing happened for a couple of hours, except that twice I saw large tench roll silently right over my bait. They have a way of smoothly breaking the surface with barely a ripple. As you can imagine this kept me in a state of tense expectation, but my float remained motionless.

In a shallow corner of the lake not far away, I could see signs of life – boils and splashes at the surface. I crept in quietly with my gear and after checking the depth, cast in with a piece of bread set to fish on the bottom. As a couple more fish showed I could see that they were carp, but I was still hopeful of a tench.

The float shot under and the rod started bending round before I could pick it up. When I did, there was a massive surge of power. I was only using a 4lb hook length so I had to just let it run at first. It took a few minutes to get it in the net, with the help of a mate who had turned up to fish just before – a 21lb carp:

Hampstead carp

A few days later I gave it another go. It was a misty morning:

Misty lake

I was standing there in the half light deciding where to fish, when a tench rolled right in front of me. That made my mind up for me, and I placed my bait in the exact spot where the tench had been.

An hour later, the float lifted and twitched before disappearing. A tench of 6lb 9oz was responsible – a handsome fish with its olive scales and bluish-black fins:

Hampstead tench

Soon after that, the rising sun started to burn off the mist and light up the far bank of the lake. Eventually its rays crept round to my corner, and I was glad of their warmth after the chill of the early morning.

Early morning sun on the lake

London children try fishing

I’m involved with a group called Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society which is working to preserve access for anglers on Hampstead Heath. There is some great fishing on the Heath but recently some areas you used to be able to fish have been closed off.

We’re offering tuition to local schools and these sessions have proved very popular. The first one got under way on the Boating Pond at Highgate in heavy rain, but this was no deterrent to the children:

Fishing in the rain
School kid fishing in the rain
Young girl fishing in the rain

Everyone caught plenty of fish and enjoyed themselves:

Kids like fishing
Kids like fishing
Girl fishing

After a while the rain stopped as the youngsters carried on learning new skills and enjoying the fresh air and peaceful surroundings:

Hampstead Heath fishing lesson
Youngsters fishing
Boy fishing

A couple of weeks later we ran another session. It was quite hard going with fewer fish biting. Catch of the day was a large perch – by a young girl trying fishing for the first time:

Young girl with her perch

This boy was equally happy catching small rudd:

Boy with a rudd

Let’s hope we can preserve this brilliant London angling venue for the next generation of anglers.

For more details about Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society, please contact chairman Bob Gibbs – email: robertggibbs@yahoo.co.uk tel: 07946-630045

Pond life

A rather grey and rainy day found me exploring a small pond at Rib Valley for the first time. I took a waggler rod and maggots to test the small fish potential, plus a heavier outfit in case of carp.

The pond has a fringe of reeds along the far side:

Rib Valley pond

Also some beds of lilies:

Lily pads

The maggot rod close to the lilies got off to a flying start with a constant stream of fairly small but brightly coloured rudd:

Rudd

I catapulted a few bits of bread out to float on the surface, hoping that this might attract the larger rudd. Some landed amongst the reeds, where after twenty minutes or so, gentle movements at the surface indicated that something was taking an interest. Watching more carefully, I could see a carp bumping and sucking at the bread. Occasionally it would gently take a piece, but it was cautious – never venturing out from the reeds – and it seemed reluctant to break the surface.

On my heavier rod I rigged up another float rig which would allow me to present bread either floating at the surface or sinking slowly. After a few attempts I landed it right amongst the reeds, with my bait floating in a small gap. The surface rocked gently as the carp approached, then there was a subtle swirl as it took the bait, the rod already bending as I picked it up. Only about 3 pounds, but I was glad of it:

Common carp

After that I went back to the maggot rod, throwing in some maggots and a few grains of sweetcorn with each cast to try and attract some larger fish. This seemed to work as the rudd were getting bigger, especially when I used a piece of corn as bait:

Large rudd

Sweetcorn also produced a couple more small carp:

Small carp
Head of common carp

It had been an enjoyable and interesting few hours.

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