January 50's don't come around too often, especially not rare ones that look like this one. A lovely short tale from Tommy about the capture of a lifetime, and enough to spur anyone into dusting the rods off to chance your arm at some winter gold. Kettle on, kick back, and enjoy..
Where do I start? The question from Gaz was did I fancy writing something for the Sub website, the answer was yes, of course! But what to write about was the next question. The story of ‘The Chain’, and the fish of a lifetime and a recent capture seemed the obvious choice.
Strangely, I have never really set myself the target of catching a particular fish in the 36 years I have been carp fishing. Partly because I can’t seem to focus for long enough on the job at hand as there are so many great waters in the region I live in Belgium, but also, if I fish a lake or canal I usually know some of its stock and just have a list of fish I would love to catch - my angling is not really what you would class as target fishing as I tend to flit around too much. But I like it that way.
Back in 2017 I was working with Gardner Tackle at an open day in the Carp Factory shop. That day I was shown a few pictures of some fish from a ‘deep sand pit’ - that is the name I will give to this lake out of respect for the other anglers who fish there and don’t really like too much exposure. I can’t really say I blame them, it can be a hard lake as there are not many swims and more than half of it is out of bounds for angling as well which all add to the difficulties. It was a lake I had known about for a long time, and I had even fished there one night in the late 80’s, poaching – or ‘guesting’ rather - and so I knew about the stock back then. The pit had sadly suffered a fish kill and I had lost touch with the place over the following years, but I was shown those few pictures that day and a few stood out, man they really stood out! One was a big linear, and the other one that stopped me dead in my tracks and was known as The Chain. What a carp..! I just could not stop thinking about that fish and the others I had seen over the following few weeks. The Chain gained his name because of a little row of scales on his flank that look linked, like a chain. Other than it being a very tricky fish to catch and one of the older original fish, I didn’t know too much about it's history, but he survived the fish kill over ten years ago now and is an old warrior, and I would say at least 30 to 35 years old. I could make an exception for a target like this one.
'One was a big linear, and the other one that stopped me dead in my tracks and was known as The Chain. What a carp..! I just could not stop thinking about that fish and the others I had seen over the following few weeks'
I knew I needed a ticket on there for the following year if I could get hold of one and so found out where to acquire one, and bought it at the end of December, to fish there in 2018. As I mentioned earlier, I flit around a lot though and had started fishing somewhere else with good results and so it was the end of March when I finally did my first night on the deep sand pit. I fished a swim near the reserve but that was it for a while, some of the rules didn’t quite agree with me and how I like to angle, so once again I fished elsewhere for a while. The Chain would have to wait.
Spending some time on the other club lake and a trip to the UK kept me busy for the spring and summer but The Chain was always on my mind and I started thinking about embarking on an autumn campaign on the deep sand pit - the time felt right. I started back on there on the 7th of Sept fishing some deep spots of 8 and 12 metres – that’s 26-40ft for UK readers. That first session in the Beach swim was a blank, but I got some info from a good friend who had fished there in the past and he told me I was on the right track. The lake itself is a typical big sand pit, with on one side being an out of bounds area with recreation activities and a beach, and is very busy in the summer and warmer months. At the other end, the long bank as we call it, there is another out of bounds area which is the sanctuary. Despite it being such a big lake, it doesn’t have a lot of room for angling and added to that it can be very, very busy with swimmers and walkers when the weather is good. In some ways it is not really a place to relax as it can be a busy, noisy lake to fish but I knew the lake from the past and knew its reputation for being not easy, but that all just adds to the challenge about the place.
It is a daunting prospect - with only a handful of swims on a big 86 acre pit the fish can be anywere. Location is often a bitch on the sand pit because they regularly show well out of range and boats are banned, both rowing and bait boats, so only casting is allowed and not only that, but according to the rules, no further than 60 meters - that is about 65 yards. It limits your options massively, I am not a big caster, but even fishing at my maximum casting ability was still not far enough, maybe I needed some more practice!
'It is a daunting prospect - with only a handful of swims on a big 86 acre pit the fish can be anywere. Location is often a bitch on the sand pit because they regularly show well out of range and boats are banned'
My next session was at the end of September, fishing long I blasted them as far as possible and baited over the top. Nothing happened during the night but in the morning I saw a few show, defintely carp, and so I reeled in one rod, put on an IB pop up and blasted it back out in the area I had seen them show. Just an hour or so later I had a take on the recast rod and my first fish from the pit was in the net, a stockie of around 20lb, a stunning looking scaley banger! After returning the fish, I blasted that rod back out again to the area and gave it some more bait, but nothing more happened that day, the spell had passed. The next morning I watched them show again, way too far out this time but around the same time as the bite the day before, the same rod was away again. This time a lovely low thirty common was soon in the net. With some self takes done it was soon time to pack up to head home on what felt like a very nice Sunday. On my way home I thought that was it, I had got it now, I knew what to do! Famous last words.. The next five sessions where all blanks and by now it was mid-November, so I left the big sand pit alone for a while and went back to the smaller club lakes for the rest of the autum/winter.
'On my way home I thought that was it, I had got it now, I knew what to do! Famous last words.. The next five sessions where all blanks'
I bought my 2019 ticket for the big sand pit once again but I never actually fished it that year, I’d had a slow start on there and had a fantastic run of good fish from elsewhere so I just never got around to fishing the deep pit that year, and before I knew it the year had gone. Once again I stared at that image of The Chain… it still haunted me and so once again I bought my ticket for 2020 and was keen on going back. My timing was out again, and after a blank first session in March we were faced with the Corona outbreak and were soon into lockdown and a fishing ban here in Belgium. The spring ticked by slowly. After lockdown I did three more blank sessions and gave up once again, although strangely enough to start fishing what was an even more challenging water - the renowned Albert Canal. The Albert lived up to its reputation and I blanked some more and by the end of September I was fed up of struggling on the AK and went back to fish the club lake complex and had an great autumn’s angling, catching some amazing fish and really enjoying myself. The break was just what I needed after a difficult year. I did seven sessions up until the end of December and then finally blanked on the last session. The few fish I’ve had up to now have all been great looking carp and I have been collecting my own little album of the stock and I must say, there are some amazing looking creatures in this pit.
'The break was just what I needed after a difficult year'
I decided there and than that my last session of the year would be back at the big sand pit, confidence was high after my roll at the club pit and I had a rough idea on how I was going to fish it; hemp, maize, small amounts of tigers, three different types of boilie crumb and a few handfulls of whole 15 millers, plus some pellets, powders and liquids for good measure! Lots of attraction, and not much in the way of real food items. I made up three short 4” booms to fish Ronnies and out they went - all three rods in the same area and a dozen spombs followed. Late that evening I heard a few show, but couldn’t quite see where, but in the morning I moved all the rods closer as I had felt sure the shows in the night where closer in than where I was fishing. That afternoon I saw a few more show and could pin point exactly where they were, so all three went in that area and just half a dozen more spombs fired up. Around 4’oclock in the afternoon I was away and a very welcome mid twenty stockie was mine, an orange Tutti on the short boomed Ronnie doing the trick nicely. The rest of the session was kind of over before I knew it - catching does strange things to me and the crazy Corona year turned out ok in the end for me, fishing wise. I had plans to spend the winter on the big lake and once again bought my ticket for 2021, another year on the deep sand pit lay ahead.
'I had plans to spend the winter on the big lake and once again bought my ticket for 2021, another year on the deep sand pit lay ahead'
With New Year soon out of the way and life back to normal, it was quite mild for January and I needed my fix, although I had planned to fish around the moon phase, it was not quite here yet but I just needed to fish, and so on Friday the 22nd of January I was back at the deep big pit.
Bait prep was on point and the same as last time and three orange Tutti’s went out over the top. It was around midday by the time the rods were out on the dance floor doing their thing and with some bait out there, it was just time to sit back and wait. The afternoon drifted on with a few coots diving, not on the bait but closer in on the remains of the weed. One must have touched the line and the bobbin dropped a little so, I went out to pull it back up. Before I could, the line lifted up tight and I was suddenly into a fish. It was a strange, and unexpected bite after such a short time, the rods only haveing been in a few hours … I pulled into the fish and connected with a heavy dead weight. It didn’t do much, and 30 yards out it broke the surface before turning and diving back down but I had the control and before long he wallowed into the net. I could see straight away from the width of the shoulders it was a very good fish and I was in that kind of a mess only a fish of that proportions has the capability to do to you. But I got my head together and took care of my prize on the mat – straight away I knew which fish it was, and I was buzzing like hell.
'I could see straight away from the width of the shoulders it was a very good fish and I was in that kind of a mess only a fish of that proportions has the capability to do to you'
I am not really bothered by weights usually, but for this one I just had to know. 53lb 2oz he went. A new Belgian pb for myself, the best weight ever for this fish, and a winter capture too, amazing really! It had been 18 months since it had last been on the bank as well. I cant really discribe how I felt, but I was over the moon. With the self take kit set up ready I lifted him out, and could admire this magical creature for a moment. He looked amazing with full winter colours and looked better than any pictures I had seen of him before. After the pics and some film I returned him to his big, deep home. An incredible carp, and for me one of the undoubted highlights in my angling - a true fish of a lifetime and awesome to finally have my moment with him after a few years dreaming about it and that moment will always stay with me. The rest of the session slipped by with me on cloud 9 and I went home on the Sunday a very happy man. It is now a few weeks after my capture of The Chain, but I am still buzzing …