How do you go about chasing the most desirable carp in the country? We ask SCOTT LLOYD why a focused approach to targeting big carp is so important.
ACF: So Scott, you travel hundreds of miles to fish Burghfield, passing hundreds of carp lakes on the way. What drives you to undertake such a task?
SL: Firstly, I see the big common as the best carp in the UK. It is revered in the same way as the likes of Mary and The Black mirror. These fish are few and far between these days, so I would love to be on the list of lucky captors.
When it comes to the lake itself, it is nothing short of a head banger. It has seen a huge change since the early CEMEX days, where fishing was available around most of the lake. Now many of the best swims are out of bounds and this has meant that the fish can often be miles away from where you can physically cast.
ACF: What were your thoughts when you first set foot on the lake?
SL: Firstly I familiarised myself with the lake, then I set about finding fish. I found them in an area known as Pit Two. There were around 50 fish in the small area. My initial thoughts were that they looked catchable. I caught one on the first day. Although it was good to get off the mark, I thought to myself: “The common isn’t here, so why am I fishing in here?”
The big-fish angler in me kicked in and rather than fish for them I opted to search out the ultimate prize. I found it that session. It was swimming up to the entrance of Pit Two, a small channel of only one and a half feet. It came onto the gravel and promptly turned round and shot off at 100mph! From then on I aimed to find the common as much as possible.
ACF: Have you managed to find it a lot?
SL: In 32 nights I have seen it on four occasions out of around 10 sessions. I have used the sun and my tree climbing to find it as much as possible. I have even managed to get it feeding on my bait too.
I watched it from a tree. It gave me the chance to watch its behaviour and how it acted around other carp. All of a sudden it broke off from the group and dropped down on the right-hand margin and cleared it out, right before my eyes. Sod’s Law had it that I didn’t have a rig on the spot, but it did tell me that the fish was well up for a feed. It doesn’t maintain its highs of 57lb by eating nothing after all.
ACF: Did you get another chance?
SL: I rebaited with a handful of crushed tiger nuts and Krill boilie chops. While the fish was away I even managed to tread the lead in and get it all pinned down for the common’s return. I sat there for two days watching the fish. The common would always do the same thing. It would never feed with the main pack, preferring to separate itself from the crowd. It was only a matter of time before I got a bite.
Eventually it left the bay, so I ended up casting a couple of chod rigs to a plateau where the bulk of the fish were. Within the hour I was taking self-takes of a mid-twenty.
ACF: That went against your plan of sticking to a single-track approach, right?
SL: The common soon returned after I slipped the mid-twenty back. I kicked myself that I hadn’t put the chod rig out sooner because the common was looking well catchable. As I slipped it back I saw that the fish were still in residence and hadn’t spooked, so I whipped the chod rig back out.
A little later The Burghfield Common came back into the bay with a couple of its mates. It’s this time of year that the common is the most catchable, pre-spawning.
You must keep searching until you find your target fish.
I was up the tree watching the common as it broke off from the main pack and dropped into the hole in the weed where my choddy was placed. The white pop-up disappeared into its mouth. I scurried down the tree as the fish shook its head. There was a massive eruption on the surface as I picked the rod up and I proceeded to reel in a chod rig. It had spat my rig out.
ACF: What went through your mind at this point?
SL: I was devastated and worried that I’d missed my chance. Normally I would have thought my chance had blown, but the common returned the next day and I sat there with one chod rig sat on the plateau. It kept circling the rig, so I decided to sit on the rod in the hope that I could react to it better.
Watching for that one impoprtant sign that may lead to a capture.
Thirty minutes passed and I got a savage take. The fish went for the island margin and I dipped the rod tip and applied all the pressure I could. The fish flat rodded me and I managed to turn it. It got within 10 yards of the net, spitting water, covered in weed. As I brought it ever closer the hook suddenly pulled and my knees hit the ground in despair. I was pretty certain that I had just lost The Burghfield Common.
ACF: Did your approach change at all after spawning?
SL: With the light levels being elevated in summer, it was the perfect time to spot the fish. As a result, I was aiming to hunt the fish down. I would settle in places for the evening if I couldn’t find it, but they would always be areas that I thought she would turn up in. I started baiting areas that were underfished that no-one else was fishing, in the hope of getting her feeding in them. They were mainly margin areas that I could monitor. The sole aim was to get rigs near the common as much as possible. The main issue was how mobile it was. I would find it in one bay early in the day and by the afternoon it was in another at the other end of the lake. It would travel up to a mile in the 90-acre pit in one day.
Checking that tckle is perfect before a cast. Scott wants to ensure he lands the Burghfield common should he hook it.
ACF: How do you prepare for fishing a carp that moves so much?
SL: I try and pre-empt where it will turn up and try and get a rig in this areas. I will obviously aim to find it beforehand. I have found it eating bait on a couple of spots in some of the bays and placed a rig. Once I’ve placed a rig in position where I have seen the common, I sit back in the hope that it returns at some point in the session.
ACF: How do you keep focused in these situations?
SL: You have to have tunnel vision. I have come to catch that carp, so I will try my best to put my rigs in front of it as much as possible. I admit it can be hard to not follow the bulk of the fish, especially when some of them go up to 50lb and you see them showing at first light. I always remind myself that I do all the driving and make all the effort for one carp. I also know that the fish stays separate from the bulk of the fish, so I am reducing my chance of catching it by fishing for the pack fish. I have even gone as far as ignoring big, feeding carp in the margin in favour of finding the common.
ACF: How much notice do you take of previous captures?
SL: The lake is different in terms of the amount of fishable bank that you can fish, but I still take notice of them. Each one holds important knowledge but I like to combine it with the knowledge I have gained myself.
For instance, it likes a bright bait and the way that it moves off the bulk of the carp to feed on its own means that I fish my rigs off the main bed of bait.
Another thing I feel is that the common is the first fish to move on new conditions; this is backed up by previous captures too. Dave Lane caught it on a change of weather conditions. It suggests that it’s the first fish to react to a change in weather; the bulk of the stock will follow. You have to be one step ahead of the bulk of the fish.
It explains its weird bite time too. Often, captures of the common occur midday or early afternoon, suggesting that it gets caught as it moves on a change in conditions. I am most confident when I don’t see anything, unless it’s the common.
ACF: Now we are into autumn, how do you target it when you can’t spot it visually?
SL: I have to settle down in areas that I think it will turn up and bait a few spots. I will then fish the area for the duration of my stay. I try to put the odds in my favour when fishing over bait, preferring to cast the rig to the edge of the baited spot using a bright hook bait.
ACF: Do you always have a rough plan?
SL: I think you always have to have a plan. If you don’t you can waste hours. At least with a rough plan you are not second-guessing. The plan is adaptable but only to give me the best chance. It’s no good baiting one area because the lake can be busy and you might not get in the swim again for a long time. You are better off priming a few areas lightly in the hope that you can drop on them when the conditions are right.
ACF: How do you stay motivated?
SL: I keep looking at the catch shots and piecing together the puzzle. Every clue I get as to the common’s behaviour is motivation. In the downtime, it’s good to have the odd social. Once the rods are out, all you can do is wait, so it’s important to value this time when the fishing is hard. After all, I am here for one reason, to catch the best common carp in the world. The common of all common carp, and that’s all the motivation I need.
Scott isn’t fishing for numbers but sometimes the odd fish keeps the motivation alive.