It's good to talk.

The CarpLife Publications blog will embody everything we're about. We'll be running interviews with likeminded anglers, stories that capture the very essence of why we go fishing, along with opinion pieces, reviews and anything else we believe supports our cause. Feel free to comment below and don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like to contribute. Enjoy.

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Posted by CarpLife on July 9, 2015 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (0)

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Posted by CarpLife on July 6, 2015 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)



If there’s one thing I learnt from my most recent trip to Germany, it’s that you can’t catch a wild horse with a lemon. You might be thinking I’ve lost the plot with a sentence like that, but bear with me. You know the phrase, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ well the Germans translate that pretty literally, so any time you get a bit of bad luck, they say ‘only lemons’ and shrug their shoulders.


I’d been to Germany before and managed a true German warrior. I keep in constant touch with many guys around Europe and seeing the caliber of fish they catch keeps the appetite whetted for wanting to visit again. With this in mind, I’d booked to visit Avid consultant Bjorn Brandt, after questioning him about the whereabouts of some carp on his Facebook page at the Zwolle Show earlier this year. They were all dark, prehistoric looking things – my idea of the perfect carp.


My trip began, however, just as it continued, with constant bad luck. Delayed flight, loads of traffic, and when I arrived at the lake it absolutely bucketed down without warning. So with my only pair of shoes soaked to the core and the rest of my gear pretty saturated, it felt like it was going to be one of those trips.


The Horse Lake

The first afternoon it was quite muggy, the type of weather you expect to catch a few in! My host, Bjorn Brandt, had allowed me to fish one of his private venues in the wilderness – The Forgotten Germany he called it – somewhere really rural, with lots of farming and not a lot of anything else.


The two lakes we were fishing were just a few metres apart, one a small lake around 3-4 acres, with 30 carp or so, and another lake of 70 acres, with a fish per acre, at best. It was spring, though, and a good time to catch the fish just as they were waking up. Bjorn had put some time in prebaiting, so we were expecting some action during my three-night stay, despite conditions being relatively chilly for the time of year.


The smaller lake is known as the ‘Horse Lake’ as it lies in a field filled with massive horses. They’re like a Shire horse in size, but a normal horse in shape. They’re very inquisitive, too, and because they get stuck in the lake, there are long rubber ropes up to stop them entering the water. This means it’s a bit like the Krypton Factor to jump through the ropes and hit a bite, a bit of a mission when you’re fishing locked up solid with 50lb braided reel line!


On the big lake, Bjorn was manning the rods and these were boated out to areas he’d baited that had been cleaned off by fish. It was quite exciting to actually spook a fish from a large plateau on a lake with such an unknown, low stock. In fact, Bjorn knew of only half a dozen captures ever on the lake, the smallest an upper 30!


It was very different to the venue I visited last year, a difficult German syndicate lake where I met some great people. Friends Christian Kessler and Matthias Ploger both came to visit the Horse Lake with BBQ food and a few Colabiers that first afternoon. Yes, the Germans drink cola and beer like a shandy, the ‘dirty beer’. It’s surprisingly nice.


We talked for a few hours about the 22kg fish I managed last time and some other fish that lived locally to where we were fishing. I was wishing I was there for three months, not three days, and just as we were thinking our boisterousness and laughter could be spooking the fish, the middle rod nearly disappeared into the lake with a savage bite.


After two bumps and nods, the fish was gone and we were all left shaken. Bjorn could not believe that a carp could be the culprit, not as we had only placed the rods and baited them an hour or so before. I was fairly certain it wasn’t a carp, but Chris and Matthias thought it was. “Only lemons this session,” laughed Bjorn. We didn’t even know the half of it!


Tenched Out

My next eight bites were all from tench. I got absolutely soaked landing them all through the night, gamboling through the ropes barefoot and walking into the shallow margins to land them each time. It was a draining experience but as I was hearing the odd carp show, I knew it was worth persevering.


In the morning, as we reflected on the tench, Bjorn was telling me how he’d only had two tench, ever, in 10 years of fishing the lake. Granted, he only fishes it twice a year, at most, but it was still strange. I wasn’t even fishing with what I’d consider something at risk of nuisance species. It was a real eye opener.


As we spoke, the right hand rod fished at the furthest point from my bivvy let out a quick double bleep, before the bobbin settled down to its original point. We both said “Tench!” I wound the rod in and found that actually, the swivel had exploded! It had literally been torn apart on the bite. “That was no tench, “ insisted Bjorn. “More lemons,” we laughed.


One of the rods on the big lake had let out a similar couple of bleeps an hour earlier, so I checked the receiver. Of course, another lemon! The batteries were flat as a pancake. Leaving nothing to chance, we wound in the Horse Lake rods and went to check it out. What happened next will haunt me forever. As Bjorn approached the spot, you saw the marker that was left some 40yds behind the spot as a reference point was in the island snags. The panic was mixed with high hopes and expectations, but after a protracted searching exercise, following the line into the overhanging trees, we found only half of the hooklink. The leader had been wrapped around the branches and then boom, the rig had obviously parted. It was gutting for both of us. What was clearly going to be a massive fish was gone, without us even knowing it was there. Bjorn explained how most of the fish in this lake were 18kg plus. 40lbers, for the most part, with fish that had been seen and witnessed at much larger. It was a bitter lemon to swallow!


Bjorn was disheartened, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t have the cup half full or half empty. My cup is full, all the time, so I knew if we kept plugging away and didn’t leave anything to chance, we would get a result.


No Limit

We spent extra time getting everything right for the second afternoon. Bjorn insisted my German Rig was too short for the fish in this lake. From experience, regardless of the baiting situation, he had done well using longer rigs tied from fluorocarbon. I wasn’t going to ignore his advice, he knew the fish better than anyone, so some 20cm rigs tied from 25lb fluorocarbon, using braided hairs and size 6 Avid LSK hook, were quickly knocked up. I tested everything to the limit to make sure it was up to the job.


Bjorn also suggested using some bright pop-up toppers on the rigs. My bottom baits with the tight hair situation on the German Rigs was too efficient for the tench, so a longer hair and a more blatant bait was used, in an attempt to avoid them. A 15mm Code Red bottom bait tipped with one of Bjorn’s yellow specials looked great, the perfect Snowman setup.


Bjorn had also suggested not baiting so tightly. I suppose that’s a habit from the UK, so rather than baiting only around the hookbait, I threw the smaller bits of hemp and crushed tiger into the snags, leading towards the hookbait where there was more bait, almost like an arrow pointing at the hookbait. Bjorn showed me some GoPro footage of the fish creeping out from under the trees to baited areas, but showed how they only came out if they had been fed in the trees as well. Fascinating stuff, it was almost like they were forgetting where they were as they scoffed the bait.


That day my thigh waders sprung a leak and my portable charger stopped working for a while. We got soaked in the random downpours again, it was raining bloody lemons!


As night fell, I did feel closer to catching a carp. The tench didn’t put in an appearance before midnight, unlike the previous night, and sure enough, my first bite was just as the darkness was fading. The right hand rod – the one where the swivel had been torn apart the day before – let out one bleep. Luckily I was stood over the rods at the time with a brew. Well the brew disappeared rather quickly and I simply picked up the rod and held on for dear life.


The carp in Germany don’t fight like UK fish. They fight like their lives depend on it and you literally cannot do a thing to prevent them from going where they want to go. I knew it wasn’t a particularly big fish, but I still couldn’t do anything with it. The fight wasn’t long, but it was aggressive, and after wading out a short way, a clean mirror that looked like he’d been born in the lake sat in the folds of the net. He was probably the smallest carp in the lake, but I didn’t care. Lemonade was being made!


Just as I was securing him in the edge, the middle rod was away. The tip bent around to full test curve in the blink of an eye, it was so savage the bungees securing the rod pod started flexing.


This felt a little bigger, but not huge. Again, it was a powerful force on the end, charging for the snags. I was using the 2.75lb MSX rods and I was glad, as I could really turn my back to the water and crank down, without really needing to use the reel. After another powerful battle, a distinctive-coloured common was in the net. He looked like he was smothered in gold leaf, with eyes like a teddy bear rather than a carp.


Just as I was sitting there sorting out the rods to get them back out there, the receiver for the big lake stuttered into life with a slow take. Beep, beep, beep, beeeeep, beeeeeeeeeeep. I legged it over there just as Bjorn arrived at the rods himself, only to see a tufted duck going bananas over the spot. It was clear what had happened.


Bjorn shrugged his shoulders, “F*cking lemons, fuck you!” he said under his breath. He looked up at me and I was still smiling. “Why you smile?” he asked. Then it dawned on him. “You catch a fish?”


I said “No, Bjorn, I’ve had two!”


He hugged me like a lost brother, jumping up and down with excitement that I had caught. That is very much Bjorn’s character. He only wanted for me to catch a fish, to have a good trip. I did not want for anything during my stay. I reckon if I’d asked him to sing me a lullaby every night he’d have done it – one of life’s truest gentlemen.


We waited for the rain to slow down and called over the horses to try and get them in the background for the photos. They give a real sense of place and I will always remember them galloping around each day. Some photos from the past have the horses trying to lick the anglers and the carp – it’s an amazing place.


Wild Horses

After some lovely photos, we spoke of how I’d somehow managed to catch more tench and more small carp than Bjorn had managed himself. He surmised that the UK setups had more finesse and also thought maybe his prebaiting had switched on the small fish. Normally, he doesn’t prebait at all. He goes to the lake in the spring to make sure they have survived the winter and see if they bigger in the build up to spawning, and then again in the autumn, once spawning is over, the weed has died down and the algae has gone. The lake is virtually unfishable during the summer and as Bjorn is the guardian of the lake, he only really lets a few farmer boys and his father fish it from time to time. In short, the fish can go years between captures.


“No wonder they fight so hard,” I joked. “They are wild horses,” smiled Bjorn. “Like the horses in the field. Like the weather in the spring. They are free. They do what they want.”


We celebrated with an English cup of tea. The Germans love Yorkshire tea and I take boxes and boxes as gifts each time I visit. Again, the tea was thrown quickly into the air as the right hand rod burst into life. This time, I met more resistance!


Like before, the fight was so raw. I didn’t feel like I was carp fishing. I know that using the braided line gives you more direct feedback, but this was ridiculous.


This fight was longer, as I got the fish away from trees early and then played it on the deep shelf. The margins were 1ft deep for around 20yds, so you had to walk to the shelf to land anything. Bjorn was with me the whole time and as the carp kited right, nowhere near ready for the net, Bjorn simply hunted it down and scooped it up!


“It’s the Early Grey one,” Bjorn smiled. He was as excited as I was.


I was buzzing like a little child. I’d seen pictures of Bjorn with this fish and it was love at first sight. A grey fish with almost a handprint of scales, “Four fingers and one thumb” on one side, Bjorn said. “You are only the second man to catch him.”


The name amused me because I explained to Bjorn that Earl Grey was a type of tea in the UK. In translation it had been lost a little, so he was called the Early Grey. An even better name and another story to add to what is a great character fish. I was beaming during the catch photos, he was a proper old German fish, probably 30 years old. He was truly grey, with a creamy belly and blinging gold scales. It reminded me of some of the old Yateley carp, with the underslung mouth and big front end. An epic beast.


An Irresistible Force

We replaced the rods and the weather changed. The wind was now blowing towards the right hand spot, the most productive so far, and it couldn’t have looked any better. I was living on my nerves a little bit, I could feel myself winding up like a coiled spring. Normally I’m really chilled on the bank, no panic, no stress, but I felt a pressure to catch a bigger one. It wasn’t a pressure from Bjorn or from anybody else, just a pressure on myself. I make no secret of being target driven, of wanting to do more, to be better at everything. So on this trip, I was desperate for a big fish. Bjorn told me that every carp in the lake that hadn’t been caught that year was over 15kg. He also told me that every time he’d caught the Early Grey, the next fish was one he called the Brown One, which looks more like the Black Mirror than the Black Mirror! I was ready for action at all times and for the first time in a very long time, I felt nervous.


It was a good job, too. Just as one of the more entrepreneurial farmer boys came to visit with fruit and salamis, the right hand rod folded like a cheap suit. Seriously, the tip went from 12 o clock to 5 o clock in the time it took one bleep to register. Despite the reel being cranked as tight as it could go, the fish still managed to take a few ticks of line as I picked up the rod.


With the previous two carp, I’d been able to pick it up and walk backwards, with this fish I simply got dragged down the bank, sliding in the wet mud. I kept the rod at full test, knowing that everything should hold and the fish would eventually turn. This just simply did not happen. Just at the point you would expect the fish to lose the battle, it charged again, and then again. The rod yanked in my arms like I’d hooked one of the horses, not a fish!


This rod was fished two rod lengths from the trees, but I knew he must be close. Before I even had chance to touch the reel, the fish charged again and then like the view from a train window, he was there and then gone forever. It was like the music had stopped, everything fell silent as I wound back nothing at all. The 50lb braided reel line had been cut clean. It hadn’t broken, the hook hadn’t pulled, nothing had given way, it was cut like somebody was swimming underwater with a pair of scissors.


Bjorn walked away from the lake, hands in the air, swearing under his breath. The farmer boys eyes were so wide open he looked like a cartoon character. Had his jaw dropped to the floor and his tongue rolled out like a red carpet, I wouldn’t have been surprised.


I didn’t really know what to do. Part of me was egging myself on to just get the rod back out there and fight for another bite. The other part of me knew that a fish swimming around with a leader on such a small lake was going to have a detrimental effect on the fishing. A million emotions washed over me at once, like downing too many different flavoured shots on a stag do. My head was spinning and I felt lost.


After a while, Bjorn returned looking like he needed a cuddle more than I did. “This was the Mama,” said Bjorn. “I cannot believe it. The Mama, no, no, no. Why the Mama?”


We both inspected the braid looking for the reasons and wound in all of the rods to go looking for the fish. If a decent length of braid had been left behind the fish there was every chance it could be tangled up in the trees. We didn’t see anything and Bjorn returned to the lake for a few weeks looking afterwards too, so that was a weight off my mind.


The problem was, the “Mama” was last caught at 23kg. There was every chance it was well over 50lb now and if it was, indeed, as Bjorn suggested, it would have been the best example of making lemonade with only lemons I’ve ever heard!


Bjorn told me why he thought it was the Mama, the mother of the lake, the biggest fish and the hardest to land. The last time he caught it, he did not give an inch of line but did not have the power in his arms to wind the reel. The reel simply would not budge! Instead, he walked up and down in the field, his line singing in the wind. His story didn’t make me feel any better. I knew I’d lost a donkey.


(Bjorn actually filmed the “Mama” a few weeks ago and it looked absolutely colossal. Nearer 60 than 50, and another reason why I simply must go back to the Horse Lake.)


The other reason I must go back is because I’m not used to being unlucky. I’m generally a jammy so-and-so. On the last day, more shit came my way. Right on bite time in the morning I had a take only to hook another tench. Just as it was nearing the bank, I went to pass Bjorn the net and slipped. As I flew through the air landing arse first in the mud, just half an hour before we had to leave, my feet smashed into my bite alarms, snapping them clean off the banksticks and sending them blurbling into the water.


Bjorn’s father had just arrived to fish himself, and as they both fell about laughing, Bjorn looked at his father and shrugged his shoulders. “Only lemons,” he smiled.


Bjorn’s father’s eyes brightened. He looked at me and he said in the typical matter-of-fact German way “Mat, you do know you cannot catch wild horses with only lemons. You must come back and try again.”


I can’t wait.



Not Enough Hours

Posted by CarpLife on January 11, 2015 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (1)

You may have noticed CarpLife has been quiet in recent times and that is because both Christian and I have been absolutely stacked out with work. My role changed to include managing the Avid Carp brand alongside Korum. A fantastic opportunity and one I have thrown myself into. Consequently, I've been taking the time this winter to assemble a 'supporting cast' to help us manage everything CarpLife.

To begin, we are introducing a Social Media Manager – old friend and fellow Lifer, Andy Blower. Most of you will know Andy from his fishing at Baden Hall in Staffordshire. Andy is a great example of what CarpLife is all about – only managing weekends and balancing his fishing with a busy career and social life, but still managing to sink the net under big fish every year.

Andy will be helping fuel our Facebook and Twitter push, collating a library of images for our Arcadian gallery. The best of these images will go into the first CarpLife publication, whilst the best of the rest will get posted to all our followers as often as possible.

So please welcome Andy with open arms, he's a great guy and top angler.

You can also expect to see our merchandise range being previewed later in 2015. Between now and then, expect to see a lot more from us. Like this wonderful video from Christian about the UK pit he fishes each year he visits. A special place, captured with some special visuals. Check it!

Big Pit from Chris K_ on Vimeo.


CARPology: The Best Of

Posted by CarpLife on June 26, 2014 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (1)

We love 'Ology here at CL. We've loved it since the early A5 days when you could pick one up for free from your local tackle shop, and we still love it just as much today. We've both contributed to the magazine and its little brother, Maximum Carp, and over the years the title has delivered some esquisite material. The best of which has just been leagued together in this beautiful book.

We grabbed a quick glance through a fellow Lifer's copy recently and can't wait for our own to arrive in the post with the obligatory 'Ology tee that comes with it in one of their famous unmissable deals. The layout is a real nod to Carpology's roots – the retro flavour is easy on the eye and so many of the stories feel like brand new ones.


Just like old-school 'Ology issues, it's an A5 sized gem packed with 260 pages of stellar carpy material. It really is a celebration of CARPology and its writers. Simon Scott, Peter Regan, Pete Broxup, Terry Hearn, Danny Smith, Alan Taylor, Nigel Sharp and many more feature.

Like most things with 'Ology these days, it's the extra attention to detail that makes all the difference. A bookmark, for instance – why don't all books come with one? The book is really easy to navigate, and you know that in the vaults of their editorial history there's even more to add in for Volume 2. The Best Of Carpology feels like the start of something more.

Get one. It'll wile away those balmy summer evenings nicely.

Get yours here:


Fish & Chips

Posted by CarpLife on June 16, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Lifer Roman Buczynski has been returning a few favours recently, giving one of his old French buddies a taste of Oxfordshire fishing! With scaly warriors on the menu, not to mention fish, chips and a bacon butty or two, Roman gave long-time friend Laurent a true taste of carp fishing, UK style! Read on...

I couldn’t have been further away from any body of water containing a carp in the last few weeks. The majority of my time being spent flying around Sub-Saharan Africa with work. However, I had a small window where I could recce the river Thames near to my home in Oxford prior to the season beginning as well as host a trip for a good friend of mine.


For those of you who follow CarpLife, you will have seen my writings on previous expeditions on the French rivers. The local connections in these regions I have nurtured into strong friendships. Without doubt having up-to-date local knowledge available to you certainly makes the mammoth task of tackling the large river systems slightly more manageable and logistically viable especially for shorter trips. Luckily an opportunity had arisen for me to repay some of the favours I had received in the last few years. My French fishing partner Laurent and his family were making a visit to the UK for the wedding of fellow Lifer Sam Robb, as well as a short holiday. Laurent’s plan was to try and fit in two nights fishing on a UK water so that he could target some fully scaled fish, something that is seldom seen in the Rhone valley. Concurrently his wife and son would spend this period entertaining themselves shopping and on various tourist trails. Luckily I live near to Oxford, with no shortage of water’s containing dark scaly fish and with Blenheim Palace and Bicester Village on my doorstop, I could deliver a nice little holiday for my French friends.


The plan was hatched. Laurent would use my kit and equipment and Linear Fisheries would be targeted. I would then spend the mornings and evening with his family and the days with Laurent. Once EA licenses were purchased on the web, we made the short drive to Linear. We wasted no time in securing a swim on Manor where the fish were moving around. Although it had seemed a recent algae boom and slowed the fish down. Hardwick conversely had not been affected by this and a walk around the lake suggested this would be the best place for Laurent. Spying three mid twenty fully scaled in the margins looking like they were travelling with intent to feed soon had us running for kit.


Needless to say the Frenchman was soon into the swing of things, by watching the fish and the people around him. He soon had his traps set. His first 24 hours resulting in a 32lb mirror, followed up by his dream, a 33lb scaly beast! With Fish and Chips and bacon butties replacing his standard Brie and Saucisson baguettes, Laurent was more than happy.


Honest Weather

Posted by CarpLife on June 8, 2014 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

When it comes to the weather, honesty is definitely the best policy. We all remember Michael Fish getting it wrong and chances are, you've relied on a weather app or website of some sort and it's sent you totally up the wrong end of the lake banking on a new wave of conditions.

Well if you're getting lost in a sea of wind directions, barometric pressure readings and air temperatures, what you need for some perspective is the Authentic Weather app. If it’s raining, there's no black cloud diagram and an incomprehensible numerical figure about rain fall levels – instead, will get something that calls a spade a spade.

If you want want to have a more honest overview of the weather in the future, download the Authentic Weather App. If nothing else, it'll make the glummest days more convivial.

Escape The Shit

Posted by CarpLife on June 8, 2014 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (5)

I wrote this in 2009 in the middle of an extremely fruitful winter campaign. It features a couple of really special Shropshire carp - long, lean, dark, but is written in a very lighthearted way. It'll bring a smile if, like us, you're stuck with mountains of work to do and no time to get the rods out. Let's turn back the clock...

I am living in a world of shit. There have been great volcanoes of molten seeping slithering botty snot in my life of late, the ultimate kind of arse inflation that puts sewerage and slurry to shame with it's gooey gargantua. Indeed, anyone suffering from Corophobia (the irrational fear of shit) ought stop reading right now as this crappy theme develops throughout my story.


It's true, though. Doo-doo has been my undoo-ing, I have been well and truly pebble dashed beyond the shoulder blades, dribbled down trots street, got myself a poo manicure and dare I say, a butt curry facial to go with it. The soft, squidgy and mildly temperate pile of dung that is the real world has endeavoured to keep me away from the bank but I have decided to fight back. After all, the great thing about shit is it can be simply flushed away.


And so I booked a day off work. Narrowly avoiding another barrage of bottom bilge so I could go and bloody enjoy myself.


When I arrived at the lake, new secret bait in tow, I felt confident. Colin G was due down "around 11am", whilst I wasn't due to arrive until "after midday". So obviously, some time before 8am I was already in my chosen swim and feeling rather good about my backstabbery.


The Lawnmower was calling me.


The Lawnmower is a swim, by the way.


I sort of milled around for a while checking out the pool when the illuminous Mr Olly arrived. A man armed with hair brighter than a Dyno-Rod van and a penchant for potent Scrumpy, he was just the sort of chap I was hoping might turn up. The proud Father of recently born Tilly, Olly's a similar age to me and learning quickly about this carping game. He too, was up to his elbows in shit, albeit for very different, nappy-related reasons.


Two of us had escaped the real world of faecal matter and another was soon to join us, the honourable Mr Colin Gilbert arriving right on cue at 11am.


"Midday my arse," he complained. "I f***king knew you'd be here early."


The game was up, but the day was looking good. Col couldn't join in the evening's angling as he had to deliver letters and such the following morning (more of life's shit to deal with, basically), but was still setting his stall out ready to do the following night.


Col helped me get my right hand rod into position. This involved a precarious cast onto the nearside bank, a little walk around to tie on the leader and rig, to be lowered underneath the Lawnmower bush, tight to the marginal reeds as Col kept the line pointing in the right direction back in the swim.


See I've been worried about how choddy the lakebed is this year compared to last year. A frozen pond and much less baiting means more shit on the bottom (fnar fnar), which mean the lead could be dragging everything into said detritus. By lowering the lead in by hand, I'd hoped to have navigated this problem.


Col watched as I once again struggled with my new stove, this time setting fire to my entire face, losing most of my left eyelash and some of my beard. I'd just commented how I was so excited about catching a carp I felt fit to burst into flames, and lo and behold it came true. Things coming true became a bit of a theme...


Lowey arrived just before dark, and I left him to sort his life out whilst gently persuading Olly that it would be okay to venture a few yards away from his swim to join in the drinking and socialising I'd proposed for the evening. As master raconteur for the night, I'd rallied my fluoro-headed friend and the ever-ridiculous Lowey into Colin's swim. He wasn't there, obviously, but his was the best plot for a get-together.


We began talking about the lake's inhabitants, when I described the enormous length of certain bodily parts, and later, the carp known as The Long Fish. "We measured it at 34ins," I said. "That's longer than my inside trouser leg." During the demonstration of which, my nearby right rod let out a succession of bleeps, indicating a stuttery take. I was in!


Two scoops to the wind, I managed to remove both rods from their rests as they were too close together, and couldn't seem to get my headtorch from around my neck and actually onto my head. Olly organised my face whilst Lowey shone a light across the pond, and after a couple of seconds it actually looked like I knew what I was doing.


It felt fairly hefty, and I gave the signal it was one of the lake's 'proper ones', rather than a Bobby Dazzler. There was much this-a-way and that-a-way action, and I called it as one of the lake's low 20s. Then it woke up, I saw a bit more of it, and thought I was connected to a familar face once again, though it turned out not to be the carp I'd initially thought.


"It's the Long Fish," piped up Lowey. And you know what? The boy was right!


Looking slightly bulkier across his back than our last meeting, it was indeed The Long Fish. Despite swimming under the undercut bank at my feet and charging for the bush to my right, the histrionics were soon over and I gave the nod for Lowey to do the honours.


Poor auld Olly looked astonished. Still searching for his first 20, a 34ins carp looked simply Biblical to the boy, and he passed on many genuine congratulations as I did the usual sorting of weigh slings, scales, cameras and all that bollards.



Olly was mesmerised by the carp infront of us


We weighed the lengthy bugger at 27lb 14oz, almost a pound heavier than our last meeting. I then realised said capture was almost a year to the day - from the same area of the lake - how mad's that!!



The night continued with celebration in the air. We were suitably satiated and having a jolly good time, and then Lowey fell off his chair.


It seems the boy has absolutely no tolerance of alcohol, and had to be escorted via the scruff of his jacket back to his swim, having totally lost the use of his legs. Seemingly intent on diving nose-first into the pond, or arse first into the electric otter fence. Olly followed me along with tears in his eyes, unable to breathe with laughter, as I put young Lowey to bed. Bless him.

I was just visualising the crack of Dawn, before I woke up and realised there wasn't a skinny brunette bent over in front of me and that it was all a figment of my imagination. I also realised that despite somehow performing the same cast-to-the-bank-then-lower-in-by-hand trick in the dark (the most miraculous feat of angling in my life) my little spot in Lawnmower Bay had gone quiet. The morning's first PG Tips went down like some kind of healing elixer. Ahhh it was a beautiful day, the smell of carp slime in my nose and a saturated weigh sling - happy days!


Lowey looked slightly greener than usual and apparently, whilst a mere mile or so down the road from the lake after a swift mid-morning pack-up, he decorated a farmer's field with his breakfast.


Olly was packing away just as Postman Pat arrived. Mr Gilbert was back in residence and actually looking rather large in his swim. During our evening of giggles and jiggles, we'd heard a few fish rolling about over Colin's baited area. I conjectured that he top up his spots and suggested the same cast-to-the-bank-then-lower-in-by-hand trick that'd proved successful in my swim. He agreed to agree and after the complicated manouvre was complete we sat back for copious amounts of tea.


Which, as the evening drew on, started to taste remarkably like Carlsberg.


As is our wont, we talked absolute garbage for many hours, both equally optimistic about the chances of a bite. Col was getting liners, and I was getting absolutely bugger all. I think I'd caught the only carp in the whole bay.



I once again discussed how discussing things seemed to make them come true, so we both spoke, at length, about the carp we most wanted to catch from the lake. Bent Common for me, Black Mirror for Col. We dared to dream!



Morning came and I could tell by the grease behind my ears it had been a mild night. It must've been around 7am when Col's Delkim went mental. I had predicted during the night that his rod was at such an angle that it might be ripped off it's rest, and should he get a run, he would inevitably deal with it without the use of his trainers. I guessed right again, as my first task was not to man the net, or anything reasonable like that, but to fetch his trainers for him.


After a lunging tussle, we saw what looked like a carp called The Ferret falling into the net. Another recapture. In fact, Col was so convinced it was this carp, he buggered off to get his camera and didn't give it a second thought.


I, on the other hand, was stood over said fish and when I attempted to lift it from the water, thought "Hang on a minute, this feels a bit heavy for a low 20."


As I carried the carp over into my swim, where the unhooking mat had been placed for pictures, I realised it felt heavier than the carp I'd been holding earlier in the session.


I flipped the carp over, and a distinguishing scar revealed it was, indeed, the fish I thought.


"Col...get this... it's the BLACK MIRROR!"


Col didn't say much, he just grinned and grinned and grinned as the enormity of the situation started to sink in. This carp was last caught by Ian 'Chilly' Chillcott at 29lb 15oz in the summer, so in all probability was a bit bigger this time around.


The scales confirmed our thoughts, pinging around to 30lb 9oz, a fabulous weight and a new 30 for both the lake and Colin.


In his hands, it started to sink in how great the capture was.


This carp doesn't come out much, and it's the first time Col's grassed him. A more stunning male mirror could not be imagined. It's a truly incredible carp.



After running around and jumping about a bit, Col put the kettle on about six times and told me how his fianceé was going to 'sort him out' in celebration of his capture. I couldn't bring myself to finish the sausage butty after his graphic description so packed my gear away.


All that remained was to fill out the log book, salute the pond with a few kilos of bait and bid the carp farewell, heading home with a memory card full of memories.


On my way home, I thought of Lowey suffering his usual mix of dejection and alcohol poisoning. Colin getting a celebratory ham shandy from his fianceé. Olly going back to nappy slapping. And me, arriving home with absolutely nothing to do.


So I toasted my first carp of the year, a darn good social, and great escape from all the shit in the world as any good man should do.


I sat back, pulled my trousers down, whipped out my favourite magazine...



and enjoyed a bloody good shit of my own!

Mix It Up with MIXIO

Posted by CarpLife on June 6, 2014 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (2)

We live in a world of images.

We all take hundreds of pictures through the course of the year. Whether it be a quick moment captured on the bank, or something more profound to show off your artistic side, we're all using our smartphones to snapshot our CarpLife.


Poster apps are a fairly new addition to things like Instagram, Picmix and the like, but MIXIO is something a little different, enabling you to create awesome artwork and posters with the stroke of a finger.


We saw the app advertised on the Vimeo page of Gilles Lambert, the creative influence behind the Alliance Peche angling movement. Joined by fellow Belgian designers Rémi Benault, Maxime Bonhomme and Paul Reulat they have designed a simple interface that will let you turn your photos into art.


Filters and image adjustment abounds in the app, but basically you desaturate and add a few apt words. For hipsters and rebels, it's THE app to get on your phone.


It takes a little while to get used to the features and their whereabouts, but it's a great looking app that will bring your photos to life in a whole new way. Get it on your phone!

Widen Your Horizons

Posted by CarpLife on May 15, 2014 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (1)

Check out this quick review on a cheap but effective lens converter that makes ordinary images a little more interesting...

Wide angle lenses. You could argue that there's not much place for them in carp fishing. The odd extreme wide close-up shot can be cool but for trophy shots, you just end up with a totally distorted perspective. So don't go rushing out for 8mm, 10-20mm or 14mm lenses! They cost a lot of money so unless you're extremely keen, spend it on bait!


There are, however, some alternative products available out there which are a bit of a cheat. Used to take dynamic landscape shots, close-ups of your blinging tackle or just some alternative fish pictures, they are well worth the £10-20 required to put them in your bag.

Above: £10 of wide angle converter


I've got one that fits 58mm Canon lenses, so my bog standard 'kit' lens of 18-55mm is then transformed to a makeshift wide angle lens. Don't get me wrong, these aren't shots you can expect to sell on iStock, but they will be shots you can use for social media, websites and magazine articles.


There are dozens of variations available for different camera lenses. eBay and Amazon are your friend!


The lens cost me just over a tenner and I've used it for loads of things. They're great when you're having a big social and you want to capture as much as possible in one shot. You also get quite cool results shooting your rods, reels, etc.

Above: You can see how the horizon has warped.

Above: Mind the dark edges. They creep in at max width.


One thing you will notice is that when the lens is wide open, you will get some dark corners. Sometimes I shoot at full width knowing I can crop the image down afterwards, or clone the dark corners out in photoshot, but usually I just zoom a little and the dark corners are gone.


I've not used it for trophy shots as yet but it's been useful for some alternative angles on photography and filming shoots. The shots that look like they've been taken from on top of a ladder or tree are actually just with the camera held above my head. It's a different perspective but one that can work quite nicely.

Above: Cool effects from a cheap converter. No ladder required!


For what they cost, it's worth getting one that fits your widest lens. Have a play and if you get some nice results, send them in. We always welcome nice shots for our website and social media feeds. No hate. Only love.



Long Live Carp Fishing

Posted by CarpLife on May 12, 2014 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (4)

People argue that 'print is dead'. They say that websites, blogs, apps and social media have taken its place.

Sure, there have been some big casualties in the world of publishing and many established magazines are enjoying especially poor results in all sectors, not just angling, but does that mean the format is truly six feet under?


Given the quality of online media, it's easy to think that everyone wants to consume their content scrolling casually on their tablets. For publishers, it was a no-brainer. "That's the solution," they said. "Eureka," they squealed. No print bill. Another set of ad revenue. Like taking candy from a baby, right?


But despite the high quality of most digital publications, none have been anywhere near as successful as first envisaged. They certainly haven't replaced their ink and paper counterparts on any scale.


Instead, there has been a wave of new players, both digitally and in print. Niche publications are thriving – especially those born on the internet. Websites that have taken the next step and created a permanent document the old fashioned way are doing really well, whether with a mag, bookazine or hardback. It gives me confidence that we're on the right track with CarpLife and its ambitions, but also brings deeper questions.


The more I look into the 'death of print', the more I realise it is a true misnomer. Indeed, you could argue that mainstream publishers have let the industry down and an underground rising has occurred to try to provide an alternative, giving an impression that print is dying because the big boys are all on a downward spiral.


Some new kids on the block think they can do it better. Some do. Many amateur publications , however, are exactly that. And for a stalwart of traditional publishing and design techniques, they are often painful to read. (It doesn't, however, detract from their messages and consequent popularity.)


Is CarpLife better than current carp angling material? That's not the point. Is it different? Of course it is, otherwise what would be the point at all?


Carp fishing history won't take place on the internet. It will take place in books and magazines. It always has. Our famous venues and carp, our successful anglers and their friends – you know them because they've been in print for so many years.

There's an old French saying: "Cherchez le creneaux," which means to look for the hole and fill it. That's what we're here for.


It's great that there are so many new ways to absorb carpy material. But can it realistically be argued that these are the reason angling magazines don't sell in numbers any more?


I'm not so sure.


For online brands, print gives you something permanent; something that establishes your brand on a deeper level than a piece of merchandise or a free sticker. They've chosen your book, your magazine, your paper.


For print-only brands, online media gives them a wider voice. Or at least it should.


Look at one of the most successful online retailers in the world, Amazon. What do they sell? Books. Millions of them. Do they advertise themselves in books? Didn't think so. So why does a magazine consistently rely on itself to promote itself, it's subscriptions offers and its website? Why are the websites not setting a benchmark? Why are the social media sites following other cooler, more popular sites like sheep instead of setting their own trends and pushing their own brands?


Interestingly, E-books have just overtaken printed books for the first time at Amazon. Does that mean print is dead? It still means that millions of people are buying books, it's just half of them prefer the convenience of reading it on a tablet. Where the printed words move about a bit. Those people are still reading. They're still absorbing the same words the author penned with print in mind. So how can print be dead?


Print is special. Immortal, almost. But without the newer mediums to support it, print may as well be burning in the fire with grammar phones and penny farthings.


In the grand battle of media, printed material, as a solo enterprise, is pretty weak. It's a one-dimensional approach to your brand. How can that have longevity? It's like fighting a war with only foot soldiers and swords when your enemy has archers, cannons and flame throwers. And a nuclear bomb.


Bemoaning sales figures when all you've done is stand still is shortsighted. A magazine I used to work for – one with a predominately ageing readership I might add – embraced the online world and they take a sensible view of where they are. They print fewer copies now. Sales are down by almost 2,000 copies on three years ago. But they sell a greater percentage of what they print than they used to – which is more profitable – they have a heavily engaged Facebook audience and their website hits are through the roof. Taken figure for figure, the company makes more money and their audience reach, when you include the online numbers, is much bigger than they ever achieved with a printed magazine alone. That means more confident advertisers and a readership that can get a daily fix of the things they love about their favourite monthly magazine.


Truly integrated multimedia success stories abound. Tweets, posts, blogs – they support what is right and good about what you do in print. Or at least what you're trying to do.


I think it's been hard for some publications to apply what they stand for onto their websites and social media feeds because they are frightened. In many instances I think there's even a reluctance, born from fear that it would actually fuel the continuing drop in sales. Why buy the magazine when there's so much free content online?


There's a counter-argument that publishers should concentrate on what they're good at rather than optimising their web-ready content. Is that swimming with the tide? I'm not so sure.


For some the dwindling presence on shelves is because the magazines don't actually stand for anything, so on their websites and social media pages they just melt into the ether. These are titles without followers, without a hook to hang their hat on. This happens over time and there are dozens of factors behind it. Staff turnover, the non-existence of contributor loyalty, no goal, no destination. You end up with a totally generic identity. That goes for the entire magazine industry!


Does angling have culprits? Comment if you think so.


For the most part, these titles are serving a great purpose in the grand scheme of things and most of us will have been influenced by their content in some form during our lives. Are they here to stay? Only they can answer that question, because history tells them their way is best. Unfortunately, in the world of publishing, history is exactly that.


You could write a series of books about how online and print should co-exist – how one feeds the other and the other feeds back – but done badly, you may as well have no online presence at all.


Throwaway media is a poison. Too much of what is online is just a repetitive process of liking, sharing and retweeting where the message has been missed due to the often unconscious browsing that takes place stroking a smartphone. It's fun. It's relaxing. There's nothing wrong with it. But is it a positive influence on your positioning? 500,000 likes with 5% interaction is just vanity. Spamming your database with a subscription offer is not forward thinking.


What's better? 20,000 'likes' or 2,000 website hits? 200 magazine sales? In truth, you want them all, and you want all of them to be 'involved' in what you are doing.


There are magazines with more Facebook followers than they have sales. Is that a good thing for them? It all depends how they use the format, and how 'involved' those followers actually are.


Social media is just like print, I suppose. The more you love it, and the more you understand what is so good about it, the better the end product is. Results, after all, are everything.


It's why CarpLife exists now as a website, with a regularly updated blog. It's why our Twitter and Facebook feeds receive daily interaction. It's our mission statement. It establishes who we are and what we are all about. We have better website hits than some very established magazines. Primarily, we are there to generate interest in what we are putting together – the first Anglo-German book project in carp fishing. What better way to make people aware of that than the internet? Where there are loads of anglers who love carp fishing?


Our slogan #NoHaters is born from the love in carp fishing. We abide by a simple principle: "Do not judge or you too will be judged," because, truth be told, we have a judgemental scene. The Holier Than Thou attitude just breeds negativity. Bad energy, bad vibes. We even have rebellion against the rebellion – what's that all about?


Fish for what you want, wherever you want. Read whatever you want, however you want. Only you can decide what type of carp fishing you are going to enjoy – forget the haters, forget the judgement. You don't need to prove anything, not even to yourself.


Just remember what makes carp fishing so special. Cherish it, embrace it and document it. To our mind, the best way to do that is both online and in print, because without one, the other will struggle to exist.


Long live nothing. Nothing but carp fishing.



Seeking Sweet Sixties

Posted by CarpLife on May 9, 2014 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (1)

Lifer Roman Buczynski has just returned from a very mobile trip chasing unknown river whackers in France. Here's a summary of his latest trip, which saw him discover the whereabouts of some truly enormous uncaught carp...

The objective of the session was to try and latch into a 60lb river fish. Basically trying to connect with one of the big pre- spawning river females, which tend to group up at this time of year! So with 30kg of bait in my case, reeking of Mainline Hybrid, I set off for France.

Originally i was planning to hit the Grand Rhone, however due to higher levels of snow falls in the Alps this winter (which was evident from the sky as I flew into France) the snow meltwater was keeping the main river temperature slightly lower than is usually anticipated for the year. Not dissuaded, myself and my french fishing partner began our recces. Starting immediately via vehicle visiting various known spawning areas that historically have been known for fish to visit. However, as all experienced anglers all know, the fluvial movements of rivers change the topography annually, so no area is the same year in year out.

The initial recces and weather reports indicated that things would be tough for the first few days especially with 80km plus Mistral winds that would make accessing some areas very dangerous. So the first night we settled on a known area that always holds fish. An uneventful night catching up on 36hrs missed sleep found us loading the boat on the roof and making tracks again. It was much the same for the preceding four nights. Which found us only catching one fish! It seemed that on the stretch of river we had now zoned in on, we seemed to be about a day behind the fish, equating to 500m as they migrated to the area they wanted to be in.

Finally another midday recce in 25 degree blazing sunshine, gently cruising in the boat we found the fish. A huge group of fish spread across a large area of shallow water. A mixture of males and huge females.

With many fish between over the benchmark 20kg mark as well a couple of submarines we estimated on or near the 30kg mark, we watched hearts in mouthes and beating like crazy! We spent an hour or so watching these fish and rushed back for our 5th move of the session.

It didn't take long for us to catch and we were in for a busy night with fish to over 40lb. With a few lost fish as the fish ripped off over the shallow rocks cutting us off immediately. Again at 0900 the fish had moved and we pushed a few more hours out, before we moved again. On this new area we were catching the carp no further than a metre from the bank on glowing spots that had been fed on heavily. Fish to low 40s with no big girls to show.

The last day found us back on the Grand Rhone to try and nick a bite off a snaggy town centre stretch that holds resident fish to over the sweet 60 mark. We fished into dark with the usual alcoholics and drug dealing wankers passing us in the night until, reluctantly, we wound the rods in before we attracted any unwanted attention. I flew home the next morning, with the first few minutes of the flight following the route northwards over the river course that I have become so fond of over the last few years.

We didn't latch into any of the big girls, but again the trips are seldom wasted and the information gleaned from this trip will pay dividends for future trips. The fish I saw have truly opened my eyes on the possibilities of this river.

I'm now back in the UK, trying to catch up on a week's missed sleep and nursing the cuts from brambles and sticks. I am raring to go back to get myself a lump. Sweet 60lber here we come!

Rhone Warrior

Posted by CarpLife on April 30, 2014 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (1)

Sam Robb's just been on another Rhone Valley adventure. This river beast is something else!

Well, I am back at work now and it’s time to reflect on what was a good trip all in all. A fair few 20s, two 30s and as I suspected, my biggest fish came from one of the night spots that I had saved until late in the session after regular baiting.


All the fish were commons as is often (but not always) the case in this area of France. The fishing was great fun and always exciting – you never know how big the next one could be!

My largest weighed in at 44lb 5oz, a solid panel of gold. This lovely fish came to me after a mighty thunder-storm had raged for hours and lightning had hit trees on the opposite bank from me, illuminating the night into a ghostly and surreal state as it did so.


While all my day time runs came from rods fished tight up against overhanging or dead trees close to the bank the night time fish including the big one had come from stony mid river spots. These areas could be found using the boat and polarized glasses as they averaged about 10ft in depth and the water was quite clear. Once I found small stones that looked cleaned off by recent feeing I would scatter some of the 20mm SLR boilies around and then fish the 25mm Rosehip Isotonic as hook baits.


Other attractors/feeds used included buckets of hemp (kindly provided by friend, Laurent), PVA funnel web containing broken boilies and ‘Ten pellet’ mix and also some new fluoro pellets that Alan Parbury had given me a bag of while I was at the Mistral factory collecting my bait. And yes, they worked!


Another positive trip to my favourite part of the world.

Be lucky, Sam.


Wrong Side of the Camera

Posted by CarpLife on April 29, 2014 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (4)

Below is an adapted version of a recent corporate blog entry. It goes further into the emotions, thoughts and feelings from a session where I watched a friend catch Staffordshire's finest carp. This fish is the bar of gold I desire more than any other. A truly mesmerising quest just got a whole lot deeper! They were fantastic moments and ones that deserve preserving in the time-fashioned way: with beautiful words that attempt to portray the rollercoast ride that we live every day – our CarpLife.


I lay there wide awake. Thoughts of what it would feel like to land the object of my desires running through my mind. Ripples of unease that it may get caught before my arrival haunted me, my heart beating out of my chest with the expectation, anxiety like I've never felt, as the stars aligned.


She's coming out this week - I know - What if she comes out tonight? - Don't - She could though - Stop it, just, don't - Someone could have her in the sling right now - They could - A new Staffordshire record - I know - She's going to come out isn't she? - I'd put my house on it - What makes you so sure? - History - What will you do if she comes out? - Go home, I think - What about if you catch her? - I'll lose it - But why? - I don't know - You're shaking… - ...I know.


In summary, it was an eyeball swivelling night in the dark, head on the pillow, heart pumping blood around my body like an out of control rollercoaster. I didn't toss and turn the night away, I lay there in resignation, knowing my sleep would at best be fitful.


See big fish are no more predictable than small fish, but the fact their visits are so well documented means you can do your homework and put yourself in pole position.


I have a wall planner at work with the dates of all the captures that I can find for Baden Hall's big common. I know that at a certain period of a certain annual moon phase in the Spring, she graces the bank. Just like lots of other fish at this time of year. I don't think it's because the moon phase triggers big carp to feed – that's cobblers – I just think it switches all of the carp on, and as the bigger ones are big for a reason, they tend to get caught.


It's why I was there, again, using up precious annual leave to fish for her.


You can throw a blanket over these captures. It's not like I've done a monstrous amount of research, the information is available to anybody who knows what to look for. Seek and you shall find.


I had to plan my trips this year around two things – the busy nature of the Quarry Pool now it holds so many nice fish, but also my lovely fianceé. I don't take the piss. Or at least I endeavour not to! But getting the diary out and planning all my sessions after Christmas means I get less ear-ache when I do actually disappear for a couple of nights. Suffice to say, my trips are all booked around the times the big girl traditionally makes an appearance. I missed both of the major windows last year due to work commitments – this year, I made sure the holiday dates were on the wall in permanent marker, not pencil.


It was why I was so eager to be there. If Baden were a normal venue, I'd have been there after work on Tuesday, but as it was I've had to wait till Wednesday. Even then I arrived and the gates were locked! Roy, the bailiff, was fishing the lake on his days off and had caught a couple. A nice 34lb mirror I'm calling 'Roy's Mate' because I think he's had it three times now, and a couple of early morning fish he'd bagged by moving swims in the wee small hours. Stalking fish whilst the other anglers still had the doors shut – top angling.


Roy's fish had come on the windward margin. He'd watched them show there all night and in the morning couldn't help it any more. Despite being able to reach from where he was, there's nothing like dropping them in quietly exactly where you want. Top skills from a top angler – Roy really is a Heron of a man.


I didn't, however, fancy going all the way down there myself – not for two nights – as I know what these carp are like. (Sure enough, they didn't put in an appearance on the end of the southerly again for the next three days, but I didn't know that at the time). It would have been easy to jump down there, but with a wind change due and very fickle carp, it wasn't worth the gamble.


I knew a central peg would work and peg 15 looked good. Peg 5 and 6 looked better, but were occupied for another night. I expected the fish to be around the peg 5-6 area after my observations on the previous trip, and they were. Frustratingly so! They showed in that area all day and try as I might to poach the lads swims, I couldn't get close enough without really extracting the Michael!


That night I stood at the front of the swim watching the carp put on a real display. They were launching out of the water like dolphins, like they were having their first real clean-off after the winter. With a slick following their display, I figured they were on some old bait rather than a hatch. I had rods fished as close as I dared and stare at them, willing an alarm into life.


As I absorbed myself in the cool evening, I tried my utmost to imagine myself catching the big common. I couldn't get the vibe, though. I couldn't see the picture. What I feared more was someone else catching her. My buddy Dave Bailey was due down, and I had this silly thought that he might catch it on his first ever trip. It was a picture in my mind that I quickly erased from my imagination. The inner monologue with my brain continued long into the night.


She's out there you know - I know - She's seen that moon and knows, you know - I know - I wonder who's bait she'll pick up - Mine, I hope - But she came from here last time - I know - She'll probably come out somewhere else this time - I know - A lot of anglers on tonight - I know - Any one of them could strike it lucky - Don't - She could be out before morning - I know! Alright?!


That morning, I knew I needed to move. I am an early riser when carp fishing, 5am is my standard wake-up time and I stood watching fish show in peg 6 repeatedly with the first barrista coffee of the day. It was too cold to stand out in the swim in that cold westerly, but I knew lounging around in bed would do me no good. Well, that's what I thought.


At 8.30am no sooner had the office opened I rang and informed them I was moving swims. I shouldn't have been so eager, really, because had I waited – had I procrastinated in my sleeping bag – I'd have seen the fish later in the morning, and actually seen that they were moving down the lake a little and pegs 4-5 would have been a better option than Peg 6, my intended destination. In fact, Peg 15 would have been ideal.


In retrospect, I think I moved because I didn't want to be lazy. Twice I abandoned my slow pack away – I should have listened to my gut.


As I mentioned previously, Dave was coming down for his first crack at Baden. Good timing, given the big girl's usual appearance times, I thought. I knew he was going to catch, Baden is always good to newcomers and the big fish often come to anglers who have never been before.


Dave came over for a brew and a chin wag. I'd told him Peg 5 was a no brainer given the early morning display.


We couldn't get in the swims until the guys had vacated them and it was heartening to know they'd not caught anything, despite the shows. They'd been using standard boilie tactics, nothing interesting really, and I figured they just weren't fishing for the fish. Given I'd seen 50-60 shows in total, and they'd seen four or five, I entered the swim with great optimism. To begin I cast a Zig and a single hookbait out. Nice and quietly to try and maximise my chances if the fish were still around.


Dave did the same, and within an hour or so the fish were showing like crazy in front of him, clearly on a fly hatch or natural food bloom up in the water. There's something about the way gravel pit carp show when they're up near the surface, and we'd clocked this was clearly going on.


You've got it wrong Mathew - I think you're right - You should've gone in Peg 5, Mathew - You're right - They've moved on the wind Mathew. You won't catch any over here - I will - You won't. They're moving - I will - The big girl likes Peg 5 though doesn't she? - And Peg 6 - Who are you trying to convince Mathew? - Just, leave me alone..


Dave plopped a Zig out and as he did, a fish showed right next to it, just as his lead hit the water. I knew he was going to get one. There was an air of inevitability about it, if there wasn't, I would have been in my own swim, and not Dave's.


Half hour later, the spool clicked, Dave was away. As soon as he hit into the fish, he said to me "This feels massive" even though it wasn't fighting much.


I joked that it wasn't a Drayton Reservoir 13lber so it was bound to feel big.


Deep down, I think I knew what was coming next before it even happened.


Dave soon had the fish in the margin and I clocked the broad shoulders, huge golden scales and small tail as he pulled her clear of his other line. "It's a good 'un I told him," which just sent Dave into a panic about trying to land it.


He needn't have worried. As the huge fish neared the net, I knew. It was her.


It's her Mathew… - ...I know.


"I think it's the big girl Dave," I said, as she nestled into the folds of the awaiting net. Dave's whole demeanour changed. He was visibly shaking, out of breath, and didn't know what to say. I think him knowing of my burning desire to catch the fish didn't help, but that aside, he was glowing with excitement.


I turned the fish to double check, as it looked so similar to the 38 I'd had the year before. There was no missing scale, though. I checked three times to make sure – I definitely wanted it to be that one and not the big girl, but Dave's reaction totally changed my feelings.


I expected to be gutted, but I really wasn't. Seeing Dave's excitement, shock and awe – it was a special moment you couldn't help but enjoy. He was physically and emotionally moved by the moment.


I immediately rang Roy, the bailiff, who was there in a heartbeat with his camera. I knew he'd want to be there to see her and his inimitable comedy really made those moments something very memorable indeed. My cheeks hurt from smiling, at a time when I expected to be having a tantrum.


I left Dave with the carp in the water, as I dashed for my camera and waders. I felt giddy with excitement. When I returned, Dave was just staring deep into the ground, hypnotised by the moment. I couldn't stop smiling.


With the fish heaved out of the water and laid on the awaiting unhooking mat, Roy and I both joked how we'd now have to wait till August to catch her ourselves! Dave just grinned and grinned, not knowing what to do, or say.


Interestingly, Dave couldn't find his hook or hookbait in her mouth. The hooklink had parted in the net!


I posted a picture to Instagram right away and all our phones went ballistic. This continued all day. Offers of congratulations for Dave and consolidation for me.


I took plenty of pictures to try and do it all justice. Laughs, jokes, smiles – it was a special time. I must have taken 30 photographs before we'd even put her in the weigh sling.


The weighing ceremony was quickly done and at 45lb 15oz she was still at a good weight after the winter. There were a few scuffs and marks on her – Lord knows what she's been up to – but still, she blew our minds.


As Dave held her aloft, it really sank in how special this carp is. Her scales are so big. Stupidly big compared to other carp, even those of a similar size. Her golden hue is incredibly impressive and her frame, a bulky, but lengthy affair – just how carp ought to be.


I inspected her like a jeweller inspects gold, looking for every scale's unique pattern, for every glitch in the paving, for every dent, nook and cranny. Her surprisingly small fins and tail gave her such character. She is a true jewel.

Looks good doesn't she?


Dave was almost completely silent for the trophy shots and spent the whole time caring for her attentively. Well done mate, what a great capture – I'm so glad I was there to share it with you.


At one moment I had to put the camera to one side, the view through the lens was so breathtaking. As the sun kissed her golden body, my eyes had to close for a moment as they took their own images. Images that will forever be immortalised on my soul, as my journey towards catching her grows longer, my desire, deeper.


We attempted some return shots but a mixture of the big girl sensing home and Dave losing his balance saw me and Roy falling about with laughter, as the common slapped Dave square in the mush! He fell in backwards, completely under the water, I didn't know where to look! He was soaked, but it was properly funny – I can't remember laughing so much on the bank.


More man hugs and hearty handshakes were shared and Dave was just sat, a gibbering wreck. A mix of shock and having a cold bath, I reckon.


I was wow-ing at every photograph on the back of the camera and holding the best of them up to Dave, who just kept saying either 'sorry' or 'thank you'.


Nothing to be sorry about Dave! Right place, right time, right angler. The catch of a lifetime.


We enjoyed that evening with a few glasses of wine and lashings of tea and biscuits. Good biscuits too, not the usual garbage that I take with me.


As we both ran out of steam, I went to bed with mixed emotions. I thought I'd be gutted, but I wasn't. I thought I'd be annoyed, but I wasn't. Truth be told, I didn't know what I was.


Dave bagged a couple more on Zigs through the hours of darkness, and I was sitting there thinking what did I need to do to catch one! I'd been so in a daze myself about seeing my prize from the wrong side of the camera, that I was fishing like a complete buffoon.


I was casting probably 20yds left of where Dave was getting his fish, and as he was leaving at 9am I decided to send a rod about 2yds away! Suffice to say, that sufficiently 'Wolfganged' cast produced a carp – a last gasp 26lber.


The lovely tanned mirror arrived with other good friends, Andy Blower and Daz Bailey (no relation). More fantastic moments with friends, what a great buzz and camaraderie. I played that fish so gingerly. If he'd fallen off I think there would have been one rod and reel still wedged atop Baden's tallest tree!


Dave had been encouraging me to cast out into his swim all morning and I had a wry smirk each time because I already had! Not my proudest capture but it put a nice shine on an already memorable trip.


And now, following a few days of rest and recuperation over the Easter holiday at home, I have had time to sit and reflect.


That inner monologue that has haunted me this Spring: "What if you'd gone in peg 5 and not 6", "what if you'd put Zigs on the first night?", it's nonsensical. 


It's easy to think that somehow you could have caught the fish instead if you'd done things differently. Well the chances of that are slimmer than winning the lottery. Putting a 5mm piece of foam in the exact 5mm of water to catch that carp? Don't be bloody daft! It's virtually an impossibility that I would have caught it. It's like the hardest game of Battleships in the Universe, a total irrelevance to what actually happened.


What happened is a damn fine angler and friend caught a staggering common carp, and I was there to shake his hand and enjoy the memories.


What's more, I was able to see that incredible creature in 3D for the first time, to inspect every inch of her and learn more about what makes her my most wanted carp.


I'll be back, that's for certain. And when I catch her, I know one angler who will probably be happier for me than any other.


Shall we go back next week Mathew? - No, she's not like that - Yes but can't catch her fishing somewhere else, can you? - That's true - Book another session Mathew, go on! - No, I can't - Nobody will judge you. Book another session - That's not how it works - Just book it Mathew, book it now…


*Reaches for the phone*

NB: Funnily enough, the big common did indeed come out the week after Dave's capture. I was in Germany at the time and wondered when some good news would be coming my way? Well the good Karma did come around in the shape of a stalked 22kg German warhammer. A proper old German warrior that hadn't come out of the tricky syndicate lake I was fishing with Christian for three years. An immense moment and one that will form the basis of my chapter for the first edition. Till then, enjoy your fishing gents. You never know what might happen next...

Chasing Moments

Posted by CarpLife on April 3, 2014 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I met Rich Onions whilst fishing one of Shropshire's most incredible venues. He was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and always amongst the fish. Today, he's part of the Yateley new breed, chasing Car Park leviathans old and new. It's a long old trip from north Wales, but one he tells me is very, very worth it. With a winter CP 40 already under his belt – the story of which we will be running in the first edition – 'Welsh Lad' as he's always been known to me has been remembering what it was that put the fire in his belly to aim higher in his fishing.

The following story is a heartfelt tale of a session that brought rich rewards. Enjoy.

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” – Ashley Montagu.




Some moments change everything. They grab you like a train and whisk you away to a new place. A new state of mind.


Back in 2008, something happened that changed the reason why I went fishing. What I wanted to achieve from my angling was totally transformed when I felt that moment. And I knew, just what it meant to land a ‘proper’ old warrior from a difficult lake.


See I’d been coarse fishing all my life. I’d got the bug for carp fishing when I was in my early teens and from then on I fished day ticket waters and was generally just happy to land whatever took my bait.


I started dabbling on some more demanding waters and was quite successful, landing some stunning old Welsh originals.


I then remembered a lake that I had done some water skiing on when I was a kid and remembered seeing the signs for fishing and the odd bivvy here and there. One summer’s day I went for a scout about and ended up doing the night, feeling like I was punching well above my weight. Little did I know what was in store for me both in the near future and over the next 18 months of my time there.


After visiting the venue a number of times during the closed season I studied the lake and began to decide the best way to go once it opened. The week after opening I managed a quick 24hr session on the Saturday night but only managed a small tench. There were a few anglers on as it was the beginning of the season – just like always. The regulars said there’s always a fair few the first couple of weeks but once they have blanked a few times they soon fade away. It had a nice vibe that like – a group of hardcore devotees that had this look in their eyes unlike other anglers. I was soon to discover what that was.


The following week, I had to take my Dad to Leicester to pick up a Land Rover he had bought and on the way back I couldn't resist a quick gander and see if anything had been coming out. There was only one angler on the lake that had blanked all weekend and said that nothing had been out since the two fish on opening weekend. As I was the 'newbie' on the lake, I thought that they were just saying that to put me off.


After another relentless week of work – where everything had gone wrong – I loaded the car Thursday night ready for take off on Friday. Just before leaving, I said to my Uncle and my Dad that with everything that had gone wrong this week "I have blanked before I've even gone!" Joking and laughing, I left for the mere.


With the rain hammering down, I didn’t reach Newtown till 5. I knew it would be a crap journey. As I crossed into the English countryside, the weather brightened up and I arrived at the lake around an hour later.


I had a quick walk around the lake to find no-one fishing. Perfect!


I opted for a snaggy corner where I could fish without interference should any other anglers arrive. I set up the bivvy and got the rods ready whilst waiting for the boats to finish.


I got the throwing stick out and placed a few boilies around the margin further up the corner where I could get more leverage to get the fish out should I be lucky enough to hook one. Eventually the boat buggered off and I was able to place my rigs: three of which were along the margin at various distances around the corner and the fourth off an overhanging tree just in front of me. Within half an hour of the boats finishing, perch began showing in front of me and around the snags to my right as they were taking the small fry and roach.




That ain’t no perch!


My heart was racing. Knowing that fish were in the area kept me awake up till midnight.


I was woken by the morning sun at around 6am but was still knackered so turned over and went back to sleep for an hour. Bad angling, really, but with fish still present, me pacing up and down or worse, recasting, was probably a bad idea!


Around 7am I got up and sat on my chair admiring the surroundings when the right hand rod bleeped three times. I could see the rod tip slightly twitching, just like a small tench, so I picked up the rod and wound down expecting a tinca. It wasn't any small tench, I can assure you!


The rod bent double and I couldn't believe it! I hung on for grim death as it made for the snags but I managed to turn it last minute. Now slightly more under control I began to gain a bit of line and guide the fish to open water. My heart was racing now and my legs were trembling, knowing what was attached. See at the time, the venue was probably home to 25-30 carp, pretty much all of which were over 25lb.


Now under the rod tips I caught my first glimpse of the beast. It was an immense common, larger than any I’d hooked before.


I reached for the net and once in the water the fish saw it and turned and bolted of for open water, which was better than the margin snags to my left! After another 10 minutes of steady plodding, my legs slowly turning into jellied eels, I slipped the net under the fish and shouted for all I was worth.

“YES!!!!! COME ON!!!!!!!”


I had a quick look and my legs stopped shaking. The relief was enormous.


I sorted the mat and sling and then once I tried to lift the fish I knew I had underestimated it. As I lowered it into the mat and unravelled the mesh I began to think about this possibly being my first 30, and a true English one at that, one golder than any gold I’d ever seen and angry as anything.


I slipped it into the sling and the scales went sailing past 30 and settled on 32lb 14oz. I was bouncing now so I sacked it up for a couple of minutes while I went to see if anyone had turned up who could do the pics for me. I couldn't spot anyone so made a few calls to people I knew as close by as possible without any joy! Gutted, I went for a walk around the lake to make sure nobody was hiding. At the time, it was very easy to hide here!


Lo and behold, a pike angler was set up in a hidden swim from where I was, so he kindly came round to do the pics.


The bar of gold in my hands was something else. It was a moment that changed everything. After taking it all in I lowered her into the water. She soaked me as she gracefully swam off back to the snags to sulk.

Above: Texture like sun.


Absolutely buzzing, I repositioned the rod ready for action again. About midday the same rod bleeped a couple of times and again the tip bounced slightly. I bent into what was a seemingly immoveable object – which it was. I had been 'done' and the fish had dumped the rig in a tree before the alarm had registered the pick up. Two chances already? I had to pinch myself.


That afternoon a couple locals had turned up and they had been telling the truth as the owner confirmed that it was the first fish out in over a fortnight.

That evening I stayed awake until 2:30 waiting for a run as I had seen a couple of shows near the bait and one fish must have been a 35+ mirror – it was huge! The following morning I was awoken by my Delkim putting in a bit more of an effort to beep so I scuttled to the rod and was instantly flat-rodded. After that instant burst of energy it kited out into open water. Great, I thought, until it carried on and on and on when it suddenly dawned on me – the snags to my left! With no control over this monster I couldn't change his mind. He was going in the snags and that was it!


I could still feel him slightly so one of the guys held the rod whilst I took some serious action. Knowing it was 20ft + deep in the margins I got my Euro Cradle unhooking mat, whipped off my trousers and tested to see if it kept me afloat. Which it did! I don’t know how, like, but it did! I ain’t the smallest at 6ft 2 and 14 stone either!

Above: Not recommended.


Using my hands I paddled out to the first offending branch and the next and the next until the line went down to another tree! The fish had wrapped the line twice around this six inch diameter branch and left the rig and lead lying on the top as to say “you aren’t getting me sunshine!"


Absolutely gutted I retrieved the rig and returned to land stinking of lake. But at least I know that the fish wasn't tethered.


I was soon to learn that sessions like that were extremely rare. Three chances! It gave me a whole new perspective on the demands of extreme venues like this. I totally refocused my approach and I guess, in a way, became a more discerning, attentive angler. I learnt that the hard way, and reflecting after the session I knew I needed to take it all more seriously.  


It was an amazing weekend and I realised that you can't win them all! But that’s what makes you go back. That look you get in your eye when you’re totally driven, that’s what those anglers had, because they too had been submitted to the pain of loss, and the elation in victory. Today, that’s exactly what I have – chasing new dreams, reaching new targets, and endeavouring on every step of the way to make all those opportunities count.




People Say We Monkey Around

Posted by CarpLife on March 7, 2014 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (3)

Monkey Climber. It used to be something we used as a bite indicator, but now it’s something we wear on our backs with pride. It’s a mug we drink from, a magazine we read and a social media revolution we follow with fervour.

My first contact with Gio Vanhooren, the man behind Belgian cult carp magazine Monkey Climber, was a commercial one. Ad spend, support articles – the side of our lives we both cannot (but would probably rather) live without. Little did I know how powerful MC would become, not only as a magazine, but as a global brand.

As a Brand Manager myself, I find this shit fascinating. I love success stories. My bookshelf has more marketing and branding books on it than it does angling literature, and I’ve got a lot of angling literature!

Monkey Climber is more than a magazine, it’s a whole brand, one with its own scene, a mass of followers and a slick merchandise offering.

I asked Gio if we could speak about this facet of his business. Building the brand. I was expecting an analytical view of the carp world – this fresh and creative mind must have a grand plan – but the story, it seems, is beautifully organic. It has all come naturally. No plan, no destination, no fame. Just a group of cool people, doing very cool things:

Above: Old school pose, new school vibe. What Monkey Climber is all about.

Gio, I'm sure we're not the only ones who have fallen in love with Monkey Climber. It's so fresh and exciting to see some passion back in publishing. If you had to sum up the philosophy behind your project, how would you describe it?


Thanks for your kind words Mat! Although there was no real plan for the magazine – and hell no business plan – there’s a clear philosophy behind our project.


I mean, the whole thing about Monkey Climber is that it arose totally naturally. About four years ago, I met my girlfriend Eve who happens to be a designer. Honestly, I didn’t know she was - lol. At some point we were flicking through some surf and skate magazines when she asked me why never before I had started up a fresh carp magazine with my background as a translator and copywriter. I had looked into the idea, but without a publisher it would be ultra hard. We kept talking until I came up with the title ‘Monkey Climber’ as, with due respect, I didn’t want another name like the ones that were around.

Above: Happy Birthday, Gio.


That was that and it was not until my birthday, months later, that Eve presented me a dummy of the magazine with my humble self on the cover. And that was the moment when I thought: “Fuck it, let’s do this!” For so long, I had not been happy with how soulless carp media had become and how much more there could be done. I missed the early VBK mags of the nineties, or the old books. There was nothing like it anymore. Rather than keep dwelling in the past, we decided to mix it with new stuff as well and that is how we came up with the ‘old school meets new school’ vibe that runs totally through the mag.


I had been working a bit extra as a freelancer up until then and I put all my savings from that into the project. Monkey Climber #1 wasn’t released until one year later and the rest is, as they say, history.

Above: Gio and Eve. Une force formidable.


Monkey Climber has evolved into more than a magazine in a short space of time. All over Europe anglers are buying your merchandise without even being able to read the Belgian content in the mag! Was that a conscious branding decision?


We have just taken up our third year now and apart from a difficult start, it went from strength to strength really. As we were wearing a few bits and bobs ourselves at shows, people wanted to buy it and that is how we currently have a whole array of fresh merchandise in the carp angling world.


Again, there was no plan for it at all, and we think that’s one of the main reasons why it’s been so successful. We did have a few limited editions, a few company’s firsts like our Pocket Tees, and we believe no one here ever did a proper Lookbook with their Merch before. Others are now following too, but we couldn’t care less. We have so many plans and ideas, it’s only a matter of time to get it all right.

Above: MC as a brand just keeps on growing.


Monkey Climber is establishing itself as a brand, something few other titles have achieved, even with decades of history. How does that feel?


We have an expression here, that it kind of ‘grew above our heads’, which means you could never have dreamed that it would be like this three years down the line and that it grew now to the stage where it is difficult to control. It’s also taken us to a stage where it is difficult for me to combine everything: my normal job with the Belgian Angling Trust, my freelance activities for a couple of advertising agencies, and my own fishing which has been reduced to work nights only.


For us, it’s mental to see the massive support we get. Both in the Benelux, but all over Europe. I don’t want to sound like a cock, but having distributors in different European countries and even in the UK is something we could never have hoped for. Normally all UK brands just come to the Continent, not vice versa. This is why our next challenge is to start with an English version of the mag.

Above: Right time, right place. TV coverage for MC was not planned.


Why Monkey Climber?


From the start, there was an old school group of anglers who knew about the project and they were totally happy with the idea of doing something fresh. Until they heard the name of our title and seen the logo! To them, it was utter shit and it could never work. We needed something like 'A Passion for Angling'. Some of these guys were Benelux pioneers, which I respected in every way. Still, I was so convinced such a different title could and eventually would work so I ignored their comments. Not sure if they still feel the name is inappropriate, but they support MC in every way. It's good to have your peers looking over your shoulder. Thanks, you know who you are!


You mention that there 'is no plan' and you'd rather get the timing right, following trends and going with the flow. Living in the moment?


Summed up well, Mat! We just see where one thing brings us and then move to the other. It’s been such hard work and since I turned 30 and started with the mag, time has flown really.


On more than one occasion we’ve been so lucky too, like the filming on national TV with the launch of our latest issue (You can see the clip here: it gives a great flavour of how Gio works with Eve - Ed). Or us being the only ones to do the honours when the Benelux record carp got caught at 40.1kg right before the launch of our first issue.


It doesn’t all go smoothly, though. When finalising MC#1, we had two weeks left, were totally on schedule, until we lost 1/3 of the layout. It came all good in the end, with Eve working 24/7 on it, but sure we never made that mistake of not backing up enough again!


Thanks to the mag I’ve also met a lot of great people who have only the best intentions with our sport. It’s hard to find them on the bank these days… Basically, Monkey Climber nowadays is friends helping friends. Without them, we would be nowhere. You know who you are, guys!

Above: Gio's work has introduced him to longtime heroes.


Is your fishing very much like this? I suppose you are so busy you daren't make too many plans?


Haha, my fishing has changed totally since coming up with Monkey Climber. It’s either work overnights only, or short hours on the canal where I bait up everyday to maximize my chances. Before the mag, I used to do around 100 nights a year max, including 4-5 trips to France. Last year was the first time I didn’t manage to get out to the South though…


On the other hand, I got the chance to interview some of my greatest angling inspirations ever, with the likes of Phil Cottenier and Rod Hutchinson. And I am more than happy to reduce my own fishing for that, and for a greater cause which is to inspire other people in this great sport.

Above: Fresh layouts, fresh vibes. Everything is done the MC way.


What is your overall ambition for Monkey Climber?


In the end, as a counterculture we hope to have a bit of a positive influence in a scene that was dying. We hope to have our impact on the kids, to cheer up some of the old school guys that thought all hope was lost…


We’re not in this for fame or recognition, only for the love of carp and good journalism.


Focus on the light!



Dreams of Gold

Posted by CarpLife on March 5, 2014 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The Tigers of Cassien

Posted by CarpLife on March 4, 2014 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (1)

This inspiring story tells of a remarkable Cassien catch where Lifer Sam Robb enjoyed the haul of a lifetime. Careful planning and his typically strategic approach saw him landing a staggering number of carp from this historic angling mecca. Cassien remains as one of the most truly exciting venues in Europe. Read on as Sam details his mind-blowing experience of this premium Euro big-pit.

After months of waiting patiently it was time to set off on my five- week spring fishing session. The trip was due to kick off with a week on Lake Salagou in the south of France after which I planned to move on to the rivers or other large lakes in that region. A great deal of preparation had gone into this trip to ensure that I would be able to fish a variety of different venues. Reels needed to be loaded with fresh line, bait air- dried, maps organised, batteries changed in GPS’s and head torches, new hooks and rig materials purchased and a good general check of all other equipment carried out. After all this it’s all about ensuring ferries are booked, passports located, money and/or credit cards sorted, chargers for phones and cameras organised together with whatever else you consider essential for the trip. Personally, I always get my car serviced prior to departure too.

Salagou Signs

My good friends Charles Doucement (aka Roman Buczynski) and Jaques Broughton had arrived at Salagou five days before me in the end as I had some unavoidable last minute work commitments – involving going to a party in London – it’s a tough life! Anyway, I finally arrived on the red rocky shores of the lake and wasted no time in getting all the stuff into my Canadian canoe and paddling across the lake to where Charles and Jaques were awaiting my arrival. The lads had been really struggling so far – managing to catch just one fish between them. Basically, the lake just hadn’t woken up yet from a long cold winter and late spring.

I really felt for Charles and Jaques because they only had a few days left and had obviously been unlucky with the water temperature. For myself, I was confident I could have a result somewhere as time was on my side. However, my options were limited to some extent because my beloved River Rhone was in flood, and if Salagou was still in winter mode, the other huge lake down that way that I’d planned to fish was, more than likely, also still a bit on the cold side.

After the lads had set of for home and left me alone on my adventures, I decided to pop over to the legendary Cassien as I felt that it would be a good place to fish while the other places warmed up a bit. Also, I reckoned that I was owed a fish or two by Cassien after a cruel winter session there only a few months previously. I only had one run during the winter session – on Christmas Eve – and lost the fish to a snag. This piece of misfortune was followed a few days later by a freak gust of wind picking my boat up and hurling it on to my rods, smashing one of them into three pieces!


Kevin Ellis Point

As luck would have it I bumped into Malc Miller at chez Gerard’s on my first day back at Cassien, and after chatting to him I decided to head down the west arm to fish opposite Malc who was on Kevin Ellis Point with his mates ‘Nobby Nobster’ and the ‘Braidiater’. These lads were very hospitable to me and it was while talking with Malc one day that I realised the potential for Kevin Ellis Point doing a big hit soon as the rest of the West Arm from that swim onwards would be shut to carpers for the first time ever. My Dutch friend Ruud Fisher (cool name, eh?) was due to be coming down to meet up with me soon so I phoned and asked him what he thought of getting on Kevin Ellis and going for it big time. Ruud had fished this swim before, and liked it. He’s also a good angler, and was quick to see the potential for some very good fishing – the plan was born. I would get on the swim when Malc and the lads went home in four days time and Ruud would turn up a few days later with a serious pile of good bait and other long session essentials – which for the Dutch means lots of mayonnaise.

Chancing The West Arm

I’d had a good look around with my echo sounder earlier that day and using the information from that, as well as knowledge of the results of the other lads captures over the previous two weeks helped me to decide exactly where I wanted to be fishing. The area out infront of the swim is dominated by a big plateau, which at this time had an average depth of 2-3 metres of water on it. I positioned my baits on the far side of this feature in depths of 5-8 metres, hoping to intercept the fish as they came out of deep water heading for the sanctuary of the West Arm. Fishing over the back of a feature like this has its difficulties, especially as the plateau is covered in line-grabbing tree stumps. My preferred method of fishing a feature like this is to have a ping pong ball attached to my main line by a small swivel. A power gum stop- knot is put in place at a suitable distance from the lead to stop the ping pong ball from sliding any further up the main line. If I was fishing a spot of 20 ft depth for example, the power gum stopper is placed at 21 ft from the lead so that the ball just floats on the surface after the lead has been dropped. You can then bait up around the temporary marker, before tightening up so that the ball disappears a couple of feet under the surface out of the way of passing boats, but is still holding your line well away from all those tree stumps. After positioning the rods I spread some four kilos of 24mm boilies around, concentrating a little extra at each hookbait. I felt confident of some action that first night as there was now more bait in the swim and a lot fewer lines.

I remember lying in my bivvy watching night-time descend on the lake, feeling warm and comfortable in my sleeping bag. I must have dozed off pretty quickly because the next thing I knew I was on auto-pilot, flying out into the darkness towards the sound of a Steve Neville that was screaming for attention. The boat was already prepped for action, and my head torch was hanging round my neck as usual so within seconds I was winding myself out towards my first fish of the trip. I still had to ping the line off of a couple of tree stumps on route to the deep water on the far side of the plateau where the fish was making its bid for freedom. It’s a real relief when you finally realise that you are direct to the fish with nothing grating on the line inbetween. Some 10 minutes later I slipped the net under a 26lb mirror and headed back to the unhooking mat feeling pleased.

I had two more fish that night, the biggest being a 34lb mirror that came at first light and looked great in the dawn sunshine for the photos. A pleasing result for the first night, but also some useful information gained. The fish had all come to the rods fished on the deeper spots, and the four kilo’s of bait had obviously not spooked them, which had been one of my concerns as usually at Cassien regulars feel that baiting very lightly is the best policy.           

Team Tiger

By the time Ruud arrived I’d had some more good action and taken fish up to 45lb so I was all smiles as we started the epic task unloading Ruud’s van. Our main plan involved the application of lots of good quality boilies, namely the Solution mix from our friend Mitz at Waterland Baits. A lot of hard work has gone into developing this bait and it really is a boilie we trust to do the business, which is why we had invested in 130k of the stuff! Anyway we eventually got Ruud’s stuff across the lake to the swim and as he sorted his bivvy out I started the task of getting all those boilies out of their cardboard boxes and into the air- dry bags. It took all afternoon to get everything squared away, after which it was time to sit down and discuss the final details of our plan and our team name. A small boy in Amsterdam had asked Ruud to catch a big fish and call it Tiger, so we settled on ‘Team Tiger’ in his honour.

Capsized Canoes and Ping Pong Balls

Our plan had three main aspects to it; firstly we would apply large quantities of the boilies into the closed- off west arm. This bait would be only be put in at the same depths we intended to fish at in our swim, thus getting the fish really on the bait and searching for it in the right depths. Secondly, we would not fish during the day, to rest the swim as much as possible – too much line in the water is never good at Cassien. Incidently, neither of us use permanently positioned markers at Cassien for the same reason. Thirdly; the ping-pong ball method would mean losing less fish to the tree stumps, and negate the need for snag leaders – better for us, better for the fish.

Our investment started to pay off from the word go, both of us getting runs each night as fish either came into the West Arm from the main lake or came out of the reserve looking for the boilies. Sometimes the action was frantic as groups of carp came through from one side of the swim or the other.

One such time me and Ruud were sitting down in the darkness having a brew and a chat when one of Ruud’s rods exploded into life. He was quick to be in his boat and heading out to ‘drill’ his fish as the Dutch call it. After a few minutes I heard Ruud calling to me that he had some kind of problem and could I go out to give assistance. I jumped in the old canoe and was soon floating about next to Ruud who had managed to get loads of line tangled around his propeller. Thankfully we got it all sorted in the end, managing to catch the fish as well. As I was paddling back to the shore one of my alarms let out a single ‘beep’ and then roared into life, leaving me paddling back like a maniac, trying not to wipe all the other rods out en route. I scrambled on to the bank and ran to the rod, which was still shaking violently as an angry carp ripped line from the baitrunner. It was now my turn to ask for assistance as I needed my boat and landing net which where strewn around behind me. Ruud then arrived out of the darkness and got me and my landing net into the canoe. “Are you ready?” he asked. “Yes, push me off, push me off” I replied. Ruud then pushed me off so enthusiastically that I instantly capsized and found myself well under water, canoe and net on top of me, still trying to play the fish! I bobbed to the surface coughing and spluttering, crawled up onto the rocks and managed to land the fish from the bank. Me and Ruud were soon in fits of uncontrollable laughter. I’ve used my Canadian canoe all over the world, for fishing as well as other expeditions, and that was the first time I have ever unintentionally capsized – cheers Ruud!

Cause For Celebration

After about one week into the session we had caught plenty of 30lb+ fish and a handful over the 40lb mark and were justifiably happy with how things were working out. We had put huge amounts of the boilie into our swim and the reserve and it was obvious that the carp really loved it. At about six o’clock one evening I decided to put a rod out in the deep water in our left- hand margin. This was earlier that normal and not a spot that I’d paid too much attention to before now. When I got a few bleeps on that rod about an hour later I assumed it was bream nailing the pellets in the PVA bag that I’d attached to my rig before casting out. I picked up the rod anyway and bent in to a fish that soon had me very excited because of its seemingly immoveable weight and slow movement. Ruud was there with the net and in the evening sunshine we landed Team Tiger’s new record fish from the bank. I was ecstatic, she went 27kg which later that night Mr Charles Doucement happily informed me over the phone was 59lb 12oz. My bottle of champagne was cracked open after we had done the photos and I promptly jumped in the lake, a very happy carper indeed.

The Beat Goes On

For the rest of the trip we kept at it and had to have another 50kg of bait sent out when stocks got low. We’d also been piling in hemp and pellets by the bucket full as our confidence and catch rates grew. It was hard to believe just how much bait we’d got through but we did start to believe that we could break the 100 fish mark if we could keep it going for the last five days. Ruud had now been catching well from the deeper water, also managing to catch a new PB of 25kg plus and a massive two- tone common. My most notable capture of the latter half of the session was ‘La Fleur’ an old Cassien classic that came to me in the middle of a violent rain storm. Also with us at this stage was my mate Banger who flew in at short notice and managed a new PB of 46lb – well done mate.

Over the last few days we got the Team Tiger total up to 117  fish, 11 of which had been over the 20k mark. It had been hard work at times considering that we’d been up catching fish every night and it was often too hot to sleep during the day but the rewards far outweighed all the time and effort put in.

So, after Ruud had headed off in the direction of Holland and I had dropped Banger at Nice airport I was, once again, alone on my adventures.

Best wishes to everyone out there on the big and wild places, keep at it and if you catch a big one, call it Tiger!

European Bob, aka Sam Robb             



It's A Hard Knock Life

Posted by CarpLife on February 27, 2014 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Research is important. I knew full well when we started CarpLife that Mike Willmott's book from a few years ago had the same name. I found nothing else relating to the name and as I felt it summed up what we were all about so well, didn't look further.

What I didn't know was that Mike was launching Carp Life 2. I feel slightly embarrassed by the situation and inclined to postpone our publication, as I have a massive amount of respect for Mike and what he does as an angler, writer, and bait baron. It will look a little bizarre if we are both stood at Sandown selling books with the same name, won't it?

Those of you who read Mike's first book will know he is a very special angler, with special carp to write about and great stories to tell. I'm looking forward to his next offering, as I'm sure you are too.

It's also been brought to our attention there are other Carp Lifes popping up in various guises. I'd guess these guys are oblivious to the world of social media and hashtagging, otherwise they'd have discovered our existence and perhaps thought of a different name? We're actually in the throes of registering CarpLife as a trademark with IPO. But of course, nobody knew that! I suppose that's just the way it goes.

It's also part of the reason why CarpLife was put together – something to break up the cliques and bubbles in carp fishing and make things more accessible and available on a wider level.

Don't worry, though. We're still here. Still doing our thing and forging ahead with all our plans. Next stop for us is Germany. I can't wait to go over some of the material we've gathered so far with Christian, and of course, get the rods out.

Forget the haters and the imitators. We're doing it our way. With our CarpLife.


Wooster's Big Wahey

Posted by CarpLife on February 18, 2014 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (1)

I've been lucky in my time as a journalist to meet some very talented writers. Some seem to simply play with words for their own amusement, whereas others are real students of the English language and take a rather more austere approach to it all. Me? Well I'm somewhere between the two. I like to read about puritanical prose, just so I know exactly what rules to throw out of the window.

I've asked a fair few of my more gifted friends to get creative on the angling theme and eagerly await the results. We've had great fun discussing potential angles and themes.

Here's a nice example of how clever mimicry can bring a smile to your face...

Bertie Wooster Goes Carping

By jingo if I didn't go fishing? Well, sort of.

Jeeves and I set off a-pace in the wee small hours, wind in our hair and bugs in our teeth, chottering away through the hills and vales until we arrived to find the glorious Mr Woods suffering an insufferable hangover with the good, rightful and honorable Mr Gilbert. They'd had a bit of a knees-up the night before apparently, all a bit of a blur by the sounds of it.

But anyway. There we were, the four of us staring gallantly across a pond known locally as The Abyss. Crumbs! It was a whopper! A giant blue devil of a thing, the lake – really rather exciting. Top-hole, even.

 So with a chizz and a whizz and a sturdy resolve we set about selecting our 'pegs' and it seemed the gloatful Mr Woods was dictating who might fish where. Jeeves disapproves terribly of the old chap, thinks he's a "bad influence". And as I was hurried into a dark, deep corner of this frightening pool I was inclined to agree – damn bossy boots.

As it was, it was the bashful Mr Gilbert in the best plot, a huge peg it was, handcrafted for comfort and other such nonsense. I often think these anglers get so comfortable fishing they forget about the luxury of home. Hardly escapism, is it?

Either way, 

I marvelled at their expertise. My rudimentary tackle and approach seemed really quite inadequate I suppose, but I soldiered on gallantly, braving the stiff wind and even stiffer liquor being shared about. I must say, I was actually pretty darned tipsy by mid-afternoon – those blasted commoners!

"I'm using one of those boiled bananas," I blurted. "No, hang on. A Banalie Boilana," I tried again. "Crikey, this hasn't gone well has it chaps? "Boinana Balie – whoa!" I stumbled. "Almost there then, almost bloody had it. Blasted whiskey."

"Banana boilie, sir?" interupted Jeeves.

"That's the fellow!"

Well chin's up, pant's down and blow me over with a sailfin, I was more drunk than Timmy Tonic the untrustworthy tee-total that time he tasted Tommy Tequila's Tropical Tahitan Treat. Gee-whizzer!

The chaps seemed in good spirits – fnar – and I was merrily prancing my way around seemingly unable to operate my legs in a gentlemanly fashion. Jeeves, sensibly, retired early to his sleeping quarters.

In the morning I woke with a head sorer than Sammy Shinsplint that time he shaved his Scharzenegger's with shears and a shelayleigh. What a shenanigan!

 Mr Gilbert appeared to have caught something too.

Well shiver my timbers and coat them with cocoa, it was just about the most impressive-looking beast I've ever seen. Darker than a downtown dingo with scales golder than gold itself. By Neddie Jingo, Jeepers Jimminy Cricket and Jeppetto, what a creature.

Apparently, it was something called a 'Linear'. Great corking scar down one side, though, looked to have been in a spot of bother at some stage. Poor old thing.

I think I caused a bit of a scene. The Gilbert and Woods pair looked all serious and professional whilst I hopped from foot to foot trying my damned darndest not to soil my trousers!

"You're mad Bertie," suggested Gilbert, referring to a moment the previous evening where I'd described in minute detail how I might enjoy being a teapot.

"Just my Artistic Temperament, Gilbert, now hurry on posing with that there carp eh?"

Crikey, what a thing it was. A real jewel. And then, like the picture from a moving train, one glance and it was gone forever. Or, well, until some other blighter manhandles it anyway!

My Banana Boilie wasn't doing the trick at all, and I must admit that despite the constant distraction of Gilbert, Woods and even, at times, Jeeves, I was still alive with excitement at the prospect of a big carp.

I watched as they hurled themselves from the water just out of harm's way. Quite clever, carp, eh? Quite why they were so acrobatic I was unsure, really. Seemed quite ungentlemantly, or unladylike, even. Very brash, loud, ostentatious things, carp. Aren't they?

 Miffed, I hurled a "damn and blast" at the sheer cheek of the display from the fish.

"Would sir care for a change of tactics," asked Jeeves.

"What do you have in mind  old pal?"

"One might suggest that you put your bait in the water, sir."

"What...? You mean...?" I said, turning to my rod. My face blushed with crimson.

 My face went redder than Billy Bashful that time he bathed in a bowl of buttered beetroot. In all the fervour and frivolities, I'd completely forgotten to cast out! Bloody rod was propped against the same tree as when I arrived!

"You know what Jeeves?" I begged. "I'm beginning to think I'm not quite cut out for this serious business of catching carp, you know."

"Quite, sir."



Review 001

Posted by CarpLife on February 10, 2014 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (4)

Right. We're steering clear of reviewing things from the tackle industry in the interests of independence, but it won't stop us from reviewing those awesome little essentials we come across along the way. From camera gear, to camping equipment, our favourite bankside treats and beyond, we want to deliver recommendations for things you can add to your armoury that might enrich your CarpLife.

If you find something worthy of inclusion, email us your review with a few pictures or catch up with us on Facebook and Twitter.

First up, here's a lovely little camo bag we found that's up there with the best. For the money, it's a belter.

The search for the ultimate day session bag has been an ongoing plight. There are loads of bags that will take a tackle box, my Thermos, my sticks and alarms, and still have room for scales, slings and other bits and pieces, but most are way too big or just not very functional.


I wanted something fairly compartmentalised, but where the compartments were the right sizes and shapes for my kit. I know from product development experiences on luggage that there are certain measurements that lend themselves to many other tackle items, and in my searching around for luggage ideas, I found this. Easily, the best day session bag I've ever found.



The bag cost me £12 and is a 30 litre rucksack, perfectly shaped to take the Korum ITM Maxi Rig Manager tackle box I use for all my fishing. You can get 50 litre versions too, if you want to take a bit more kit.


There are two main compartments and the whole thing opens out, so it's not just top-loaded like most cheap rucksacks. I put my Rig Manager in the front of the two main compartments, then my weighing gear, flask and lunch in the main body of the compartment with bait and hookbaits. The whole bag expands and seems to take more than 30 litres of stuff, despite remaining small.


The outer pockets are perfectly shaped to take my digi scales, PVA, lead pouch and a Multi-Accessory box.


The sides have webbing perfectly sized to take two banksticks on each side, so that is where my buzzers and rear banksticks live whilst on the move.


The rucksack straps are a tad complicated and need attaching properly – they arrive a little loose on the cheaper version I bought – and there's a few extra webbing and straps that I don't have a use for, but they are there if you need them. Some of the more advanced, expensive versions of these bags are less convoluted.


The zips are chunky and strong and it can be lifted by the carry handle at the top with one hand when moving across shorter distances. In fact, this is often how I carry the bag around, given that I've a backpack full of camera with me usually, too.


All in all, a beautiful little bag that serves a multitude of purposes. Given there's a clip on the front, I reckon you could clip on an unhooking mat if you liked too.


I'll likely use the bag for more than day sessions in the future, swapping the flask for some compact cooking gear. I can easily fit the essentials inside and be fishing effectively when in 'guest' mode.


You can get these bags in a few sizes through companies like Mil-Tec, in all manner of camo, olive green and desert fabrics. Have a search on eBay or, they all differ slightly but essentially serve the same purpose with the same features.


Well worth a look.

Mat Woods