The kind of carp we all dream about, and a beautiful little story to pay it the deserved dues from our friend Daniel Takken. Make a tea, sit back and enjoy the journey
Every true angler knows the feeling of waiting for the days to lengthen, flicking through books and magazines, scrolling down endless internet pages, trying to make those dark, wintery days go by just a little faster. It was on one of these days in January of the year 2014 that I came across a picture of a truly stunning carp. I recognised it as one that a friend of mine had caught back in 2010. It had sort of drifted out of my sight since then but here it was, right in my face, irresistible, and so it went and captured my full attention again. It was a truly special creature, with a huge broad back, dark chocolate in colour, fading to mahogany flanks, saturated with a reddish hue. Huge, gold-shimmering scales with perfect darkened edges form a near linear pattern to finish it off. I just couldn't stop looking at it. Not only was it stunning, but it had also grown a fair bit since 2010 and was now really huge too. Knowing this was an old fish, I realised that I may well be on borrowed time, so I made the decision that I really had to go for it this year.
'It was a truly special creature, with a huge broad back, dark chocolate in colour, fading to mahogany flanks, saturated with a reddish hue'
The mahogany mirror's home is a small sand pit, situated in a slope in the landscape, bang in the middle of a woody area that gives the place an eery, inky darkness after dusk. The water is usually quite clear, and most of the pit’s margins are covered in small pads that stretch out as far as 15 metres into the pit. All in all it’s a lovely secluded place, and being so sheltered from big winds it has a cosy feel to it, no matter what swim you are in.
As it is so small, just two anglers are enough fill the place up, so getting the right timing is critical. I decided to skip the usual spring rush, and wait for the angling activity to die right down at the beginning of summer. I have noticed that on many venues the majority of anglers seem to back off in June, after a hectic spell of angling from March through May.
And so I started my campaign in the beginning of June. I had got myself a small dinghy that could fit nearly completely inflated in the back of my van. That way, I could get it out of the van, pump a bit of extra air in it and walk it right down to the pit in double quick time. It needed to be quick and handy, seeing as I was planning to fish mostly quick overnighters. In order to get some time in and being on a tight schedule, I planned to fish two nights a week. One being a work night, where I would have to pull off at 7am and the other the usual Friday night where I could stay a little longer into the morning on Saturday.
'I planned to fish two nights a week. One being a work night, where I would have to pull off at 7am'
As it turned out, the dinghy proved to be crucial, as I was to find out during my first little boat about on a Tuesday evening after work. As I found out, most of the pit was quite featureless, the fish would hold up in the weed and pads the majority of the time, only leaving those areas on some occasions and mostly during the hours of darkness. I had heard this from other guys who had fished the venue before. Creeping up on them in the weed didn’t seem that hard a task, and it didn’t take long for me to find a few fish. What became obvious was that I needed to get my baits as close to them as possible in order to increase my chances of a pickup.
As soon as the light went, it would become impossible to cast toward the bank that had a big weedbed in front of it in order to get rigs into the little holes in the weed. That particular bank was on a slope that was filled with high trees, so it was be like casting towards a big, dense black screen at night. Using the dinghy, I could carefully creep up to their house and drop a rig in as close as I dared to get.
That first little boating trip I decided to hit a particularly nice looking spot with a big bucket of groundbait, accompanied with a good few handfuls of hemp and pellet. The spot I was putting most of the bait on was a little hole in the wall of weed, that was situated in a corner of the big weedbed. It was almost in the middle of the far bank and close to where I had seen most of the fish. To finish it off, when I dropped a lead on it to feel around it felt as clean as anything. I found another two nice looking spots and put the rest of the bait on them.
I knew the pit held little in the way of nuisance fish, and with hardly any bream or tench to compete for the bait I reckoned I’d better be a little careful putting boilies in. I scattered 30 or so baits, partly chopped up, all along the big weedbed and threw some into the holes in the weed too. This way, fish that were cruising along could pick off baits here and there, without the risk of lots of bait staying uneaten and going off.
Come Friday, all of Holland was sat in bars dressed up in orange, seeing as it was the first of a series of the football World Cup matches. I enjoy watching the matches too, but this was just too good an opportunity to miss. I knew that the chance of a weekend angler turning up on match day was slim, so I decided to take the gamble and head straight off to the lake after work. Luckily, there was nobody on and I managed to secure the swim I had in mind. I decided to fish from a small pokehole in the shrubs, seeing as the angle I had on my spots was dead on from there.
I took care to stay well away from the quiet banks and set up my gear in the back of the swim. Soon I had three rigs ready to go and got into the boat. I took my time to paddle along the weedbed and see if anyone was home. Sure enough, I saw some movement among the pads and I could see dark shapes swimming just under the surface, deep in the weedbed. I dropped my left and right rod first, and did the middle rod last. The chance of that one going very quickly felt a good one, and the last thing I wanted was to be out in the boat when I got a take.
One of my best all-time mates, Bart, came around shortly after and he brought some dinner – happy days! We sat back from the waters edge and enjoyed the lovely summer evening. I absolutely love fishing at the end of spring and beginning of summer. The days are long, the weather is usually really enjoyable and there is just so much to smell, see and hear. What a great difference to that bleak and grey January day that initially sparked my enthusiasm for this place.
Bart left at around 8:30 to go and see the match, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I had a couple of teas and watched the light fade. Not much of note had happened up until then. I hit the sack just before midnight, having checked the clutch on all 3 rods. I had everything screwed up tight, seeing as the last thing I wanted was a fish diving head first into that wall of weed.
I must have just dozed off when a few short bleeps had me upright on the bedchair. The middle rod had pulled up tight and the bobbin stayed there. I crept down next to the rod and felt the line – it was bowstring tight. I picked up the rod and wound down to find a solid resistance on the end. Soon I had it all moving and not much happened at all, until I found myself with a blooming great common carp’s head in front of my feet in the clear water! I quickly hussled the net under it and before I knew it was all over. I carefully turned the fish over in the net and recognised it as ‘Propellor’, the biggest known common in the lake. This was just crazy, I had only fished for a few hours up till then! On the scales she went 37 lbs 7oz, a little down on her usual weight but she still looked absolutely awesome. I cradled her on the mat and placed her in a sack. She found her balance and lay quietly in the margins, leaving me feeling quite overwhelmed.
Not much else happened that night, and after having a few cups of coffee at dawn I lifted her out to do some self takes. After that, I let her swim off into the clear corner to my left. What a way to start!
'Bart left at around 8:30 to go and see the match, leaving me alone with my thoughts'
I tried to get my two nights fishing in every week, but work and commitments at home meant that I sometimes had to skip a planned night. In those cases instead I would head down to put some more bait on the spots I had going. In the next four nights I managed to fish, I landed another three fish and lost one, which was a good average for this place. Among them were one more stunning thirty, a small mirror and a beautiful dark, lean common. I knew I was getting close, seeing as there were only about 20 carp in the pit and the big mirror was usually not the last one out.
' I knew I was getting close, seeing as there were only about 20 carp in the pit'
I just really hoped I hadn’t lost it..
I had endured some frustrating times, when I had planned to get down to fish and found the pit occupied. With up to three other anglers on, I had no other option then to fish my backup venue. Not really having my head into that place, I didn’t manage anything out of there and my thoughts were always still on the big mahogany mirror. Finally, the second week of August came round and things started to look up, big time..
I turned up on a Tuesday afternoon, straight from work. I decided to go for a lap around the pit, seeing as it had been a good week or so since I had been able to fish and I wanted to see where the fish might be holding up. When I reached the short end of the pit, I noticed some ripples coming toward the bank I was standing on. Before I could even note where they were coming from, a common popped its head out towards the big weedbed. I had not seen many shows in all the time I had spent on here before, maybe five in total. What happened in the next two hours was totally mental. I saw over thirty shows, all over the pit. It was a genuine madhouse! The majority of the fish seemed to be held up in the top end corner, and luckily it was free. I raced round and got my gear in there in double quick time and set about tying on chod rigs on all three rods. I waited for one to show and flicked a 1oz lead out into the rings. I did this for all three rods, before setting up some sticks and laying the rods on the buzzers.
It seemed to take ages, with the fish still showing, until after a good hour or so the right hand rod was away. The fish kited into the margin on my right, and buried itself in a massive weedbed. I had no other option then to get in the boat and try to dig it out. I managed to get really close, and once I was only inches away from a common’s head, I saw my little pink pop-up attached to a size six choddy literally fall out. I cursed loudly, for bites were usually not easy to come by and a chance like this was even rarer. The showing had really slowed down by this point, and I started preparing my bottom bait rigs for the night.
'I cursed loudly, for bites were usually not easy to come by and a chance like this was even rarer'
From the space this swim provided, I could reach my hot spot, but the angle was a little awkward. I had my line running just off the corner of the weedbed, which meant if a fish kited right it could possibly bury itself in there. Still, I wanted to stay in this swim as it had an option to fish one rod really close in, on a spot I had seen one feeding the previous session. Just before dark I had all three rods sorted and set up the house, well away from the waters edge again. Because I was fishing so close in with one rod and I needed to be off the next day before 7am, I decided to hit the sack early and leave everything nice and quiet. It was now pitch black and I had everything absolutely spot on, not much more I could be doing then!
It must have been well past midnight when a violent take on my middle rod, once again off the hot spot, had me stumbling down the slope and leaning into a very powerful fish. I managed to coax it out of the weedbed and had it coming under heavy pressure. Whatever was on the end kept shaking it’s head violently, and my knees started to go weak, seeing as Bart had told me that was a true signature way of fighting for the big mirror. “It’s like you’re playing a giant Perch mate!”
'that was a true signature way of fighting for the big mirror. “It’s like you’re playing a giant Perch mate!”
When it first approached the net, I noticed a flank filled with scales and almost felt a little relieved as it charged off once again. I managed to get it in the net and ended up with another lovely thirty pound common. I quickly slipped that one in a sack and set about getting the rod positioned on the hot spot once again. As I had only six hours left, I went easy on the bait and only dropped a few scoops of the hemp and groundbait mix on top of the rig. I broke up a couple baits and spread them along the weedbed, throwing a few in between the pads as well. Carefully I lead the line past the corner and sunk it down, before paddling back to the swim. All went well and soon I was back in the bag, trying to get a little bit of shut-eye before another gruelling day at the office was in order!
It must have been about two hours later, around 4 am, when three bleeps had me upright in bed. The middle rod again, and I shone my headlight on the rod to see what was up. I could see the Stow had dropped off so I scrambled down and felt the line. Again, it was tight as can be so I picked up the rod, only to feel massive resistance. I just knew this one had made it past the corner, and after piling on the pressure and slackening off again a few times to no avail, I decided to grab the boat. It really isn’t always the best thing to do if you are battling fish in weed, seeing as you have hardly any control and the fish can keep pulling you from weedbed to weedbed, but seeing as this one was well and truly stuck I had no other options.
Winding myself into the opposite bank using the weight of the weed on the line, I approached the scene of disaster. I was only using about 2 rodlenghts of fluorocarbon, tied to a neutral density braid. When I was near to the weedbed, I noticed the leader knot passing through the tip ring. I flicked on the headlight and followed the line down, seeing it going around a few big strands of weed. Once I had gone round them, out of the depths came this big, dark, angry looking whale! As the fish nearly hit the surface it charged off again, leaving me with the sight of a long, dark mirror with a set of huge plated scales along its body. By this time I was shaking and the last thing I wanted was for it to make it back in to the weed. I decided to give it the heave, and piled on the pressure. As soon as I had it up again I smashed my floppy old net under it and somehow managed to scoop it up! I could hardly believe I had done it, but there in front of me, clearly not happy with it’s situation, sat my reason for being here. I took a moment in order to take it all in, and then set sail toward my swim, carefully leading the old fish in the net next to the boat.
'I took a moment in order to take it all in, and then set sail toward my swim, carefully leading the old fish in the net next to the boat'
Back on the shore, I carefully laid the old beauty on the mat and admired her wonderful flanks, illuminated by my headlight. Hoisting her up on the scales, I watched the needle settle just a hair under 42 lb. What a creature! I found another sack under the bedchair and laid her next to the common in the crystal clear margins for the last hours until daylight.
I checked the light levels around 6:30 and decided to do the self-takes then. I had to be off around 7, in order to make it in time for work. Luckily, both fish behaved lovely and I managed to get some cracking shots. The pictures I have from the mirror all have this distinct glare over them, It looked like the great old fish had been varnished. It’s dark flanks looking absolutely pristine in the early morning light. Those pictures remain my all time favourite shots of a carp.
As I walked up the sandy slope for the last time that Wednesday morning, Dinghy on my shoulder, I could only think… That one’s off the wanted list!
'It looked like the great old fish had been varnished. It’s dark flanks looking absolutely pristine in the early morning light'