Adam Whittington – Wasing Estate Diaries Part 3
In this three part series, carp angler Adam Whittington reflects on his time fishing the famous Wasing Estate. In his incredible final instalment, he shares stories of an acquaintance with an angling legend, the capture of the UK’s most sought-after carp and a hilarious encounter with a dwarf…
DWARVES, VIKINGS AND A GIANT – PART THREE
Wasing days continued to roll by in the best of ways. Warm winds causing Mexican waves amongst the strands of bulrushes, the ever present Hobbies harassing any dragonfly brave enough to risk a little jaunt, and carp, always the carp. Such a brilliant strain of fish in that valley and invariably dark as conkers.
There is a lot written about the importance of always finding the fish first. My days on Yateley Match Lake were memorable for many reasons, one being the endless stream of bobble-hatted keenies going round and round, mumbling some mantra about finding the fish whilst waiting for a sign, or perhaps the onset of puberty, whichever came first.
And despite my slightly barbed teasing, they were right – damn true, finding the carp was number one priority. What’s talked about less is what happens then.
I’ve read many an article where our intrepid hero finds some fish, casts at them and fills his proverbial sacks. I would suggest on all but the most overstocked or under pressured of our carp waters, casting right on top of fish will cause those same fish to drift away.
The secret is to get there before them. Many years ago at Cutt Mill a few of us caught the lion’s share of fish by mounting our binoculars on tripods and then sitting for hours watching the endless bubbling the shallow, silty lake threw up.
You could identify individual clusters of bubbles and follow their progress. They generally follow a pattern, usually along a contour that matches the bank rather than random zig-zagging. Once a target was selected, the rickety bait boats we used at the time were dispatched a couple of rod lengths along the imagined route. It worked spectacularly well.
Wasing had some similarities but on a different scale. In the crystal clear, shallow water you could track the progress of groups of carp. Dark shapes, each one mirrored by its own shadow on the bottom, and again following the contours of the lake.
This lake, due to the extreme clarity, meant a few rods lengths away was rarely forgiven by the carp as a place to drop the bait. You generally had to pick the next swim along, after figuring the likely direction of travel out, and lay your traps there.
Brilliant fun and hugely exciting. I landed one of the most desirable Wasing carp known as BiPolar doing exactly this. He was in a hurry though, feeding and moving like a thing possessed. I had a comical race to throw the bare essentials from one swim to the next before managing to swing a PVA bag out some thirty seconds before he rounded a bush and was on me. I think he swallowed the bag whilst it was only partially dissolved!
I’ve mentioned just how beautiful the Wasing lakes are and, during my third season, I decided to have a wander around with my family and show them the sights I rattled on about at home.
Whilst doing the rounds, my youngest happily wandered about poking sticks in badger crap and collecting feathers whilst my wife and I exchanged pleasantries with a few anglers. A judgemental woman at the best of times, I sensed she was less than impressed at the fragrant, camouflaged, farting creatures that I called friends.
“You ok?” I enquired, feeling it may be time to retire to a country pub. “They’re like hobbits” is all she said, nodding towards the gathered anglers behind us. We then passed the legend that is Terry Hearn on the way back to the car. He was sat, cross legged, outside his bivvy, nibbling gently on the roasted leg of a muntjac. Pleasantries exchanged with Tel and we carried on our way.
So back to the fishing, I get easily side-tracked.
I mentioned only ever seeing The Parrot twice in the water. Once when it half jumped out, thirty yards in front on me on a huge November westerly. I say half jumped out as it was an ungainly sort of flop really, but unmistakably him.
The second occasion was more significant. I was in my usual position, wedged forty feet up a tree and scanning a half acre bay just next to a swim on a heavily wooded peninsular. The bay was between two and three feet deep and held the odd protruding stump with a sturdy snag tree in its deepest recess.
I saw what looked like two groups of two or three fish approaching. The sun was against me and it was initially hard to make them out as I could mainly see silver, reflected light in the ripple. Once about fifty yards away my steep angle helped and they came into perfect focus. The first group was a perfectly synchronised pair, a mirror and a common, both around thirty pounds. ‘That’ll do’ I thought and was even more encouraged when they both dipped down and found the odd morsel.
The second group of fish wasn’t a group at all. It was The Parrot in all his glory. Four feet plus of simply ridiculous carp. When you think that this fish was long, male and had no belly, it helps give an idea of what the length and width was like. You’ve got a couple of decent thirties glued together in the one skin. I can only apologise to the Reed Buntings that were within earshot of me. I didn’t handle the moment with any grace or dignity, instead I simply chose to repeat my favourite swear word seventy times in a row without pausing.
He fed as well, like a dog on hot chips. Clouds of silt spewed out of his massive gills and every time he turned, I could see the thick, white lines where his scales lifted from his flank. I’m actually glad for the swearing or I’m pretty sure I’d have forgotten to breathe and eventually tumbled, stone dead from the tree.
I’d seen carp in this bay before, but I’d never seen them stay long. On this occasion, they were there two hours before calling it a day and drifting back into the main body of the pit. I’m often a little slow on the uptake but not this time and I set my gear up on the wooded peninsular and made a plan.
Deep in the bay was almost suicidal fishing, due to the protruding stumps and snaggy tree. The mouth of the bay was lovely though, with the dense weedbeds of open water giving way to sparser areas of silkweed, silt and gravel.
I pretty much formed a carp-style road block across the mouth of the bay, with about twenty yards between each of my traps. For a massive fish, The Parrot had a surprisingly tiny mouth, due to some historic damage before it had even become a double in this special valley. Therefore, I opted for 12mm pop-ups on all rods over a pound per rod of disced CompleX-T boilies.
An early hours take had me scrambling and a common just ounces away from 30 pounds resulted. I can’t say for certain if this is the one I’d seen the previous day, but I suspect it was. The reflected light that morning made it pointless climbing my favoured tree again, so I had to sit on my hands and wait.
The timing suited beautifully though as I was wiping the last crumbs of a bacon sandwich from my mouth when the middle rod trundled off. Solid is the best word to describe what I then felt.
Nothing spectacular, no mental runs the common gave me some hours earlier, just that feeling when you pull harder your rod bends more and nothing else. I pulled my chesties on with no grace – I would even say that if any man reckons he can pull that move off whilst playing a fish AND looking cool, he is a liar.
I threw the net in front of me and headed out to do battle at the same moment the huge tail of the fish emerged and slapped the surface, just like a catfish. I should point out there are no catfish in Wasing and The Parrot is famous for doing exactly that.
I’ve played an awful lot of carp in my lifetime and like to think I’m competent at the job yet I suddenly felt anything but that. Terrified and gibbering better suited me.
The great fish also decided to wake up, bow waving repeatedly away from me each time I gained a little. When the moment came, the great fish slipped over my net cord just as surely as the cold water rushed in my chesties, having recklessly over extended myself in sheer, bloody terror that I might lose it at the last minute.
It was mine, and I took a moment or two just to look down at its great, grey back. I remember pulling my mobile from my chesties to call my nearest and dearest, then not really being able to speak.
I can’t lie, I shed a little tear. Three years of working extra shifts to pay for tickets and stupid bait boats, a million(ish) hours up trees and a lot of graft suddenly hit home. Obviously I grew a pair and sorted myself out way before the inevitable paparazzi like horde of willing hands turned up to help weigh and admire the most magnificent carp. Sixty two and a half of the Queens pounds if it matters.
Having caught my target, that was my last season at Wasing and I almost enjoyed it more now the pressure was off! I dearly cherish the laughs, some great fish, the lake, and many friends.
Having included dwarves in the title of a three part article I am contractually obliged to mention them. However, this is tricky territory indeed in these times where it’s hard to mention anything without offending someone. Don’t judge me here.
Carping has long been associated with superstitions. Everyone knows magpies are magic and stating a fish is huge before it’s in the net is a sure fire way of making them fall off. But who knew that dwarves are also potential game changers when it comes to matters of bad juju!
We all have those purple patches at times, where it seems you can do no wrong. Many years ago, whilst I was on a run of big fish and flushed with both confidence and success, I started fishing a lake in the Colne Valley.
Picture me reclined on the far bank of this lake, expectantly waiting a bite as a number of fish were showing right on the money. I was a little surprised to spot what appeared to be a large unhooking mat on its side making its own way along the far bank.
Moments later I realised that I now had company in the form of another carp angler, clad entirely in camouflage, who also happened to be a dwarf. He huffed and puffed his way around the lake and finally deposited a small mountain of gear in the swim right next door to me.
The lake was otherwise empty and the angler came round for a chat, apologising for being so close but explaining that he too had seen the fish around this area. He showed me a few pics of him holding some of the ancient carp the lake held and he made all the right noises when I showed him pics of a couple I’d been lucky enough to snare.
We spoke the universal language of carpers, shared a beer and got on well enough. My new friend then went to get sorted in the swim next door, plopping his baits out a respectful distance from mine.
A short while later, my attention was drawn to a gentle snoring from his swim and I could see through the hedge like foliage between us that he was fast asleep. He was also curled up, like a camouflaged cat, on his unhooking mat.
Now please focus, if you will, on the “not judging me” agreement we made. In hindsight, I could have, no should have, reacted differently. Without hindsight, my immediate reaction was to tape my phone to the end of a storm pole with the aim of just taking one, innocent photo as this may have been the best thing I’d ever seen.
A combination of getting the giggles and bottling it meant that the photo never did get taken, yet the damage was already done, I was struck down by the worst run of luck that lasted more than a year. I hooked a fish that very afternoon. It fell off. Then another. The next few months I was cursed with every bit of bad luck imaginable and my high flying confidence was replaced with utter despair. Coincidence perhaps, or evil dwarf magic?
Anyway, enough from me, Summer’s with us and there’s carp to be caught. Very best of luck to you.