A skylark welcomed me with a manic tune, I can normally spot them high in the sky but much as I tried, he evaded my gaze.
The wind howled as I began to set up and the lark immediately fell silent. I thought I'd never spot him now.
I'd chosen an area near some snags. Close enough to get a bite I thought, but far enough away to give a fighting chance. On the canal I rely on instinct and hunch more than any other type of water I fish.
Having suffered the curse of the carbon last week, I said I'd be back and I was taking no chances. A single rod of cane, my Mk IV, only it's second outing, the first being Redmire. This teamed up with a reliable and smooth boomerang check Mitchell 300. I do like an audible alarm when fishing for carp with a fixed spool reel because I like to look around and get waylaid if something of interest occurs, and it always does. To my mind, the Steve Neville has classic 'old school' looks and does the job effectively, especially as they now have a low volume setting.
Time chugged by, a gang of elderly ladies appeared, looking like they were the WI rambling team. Waterproofs, hiking boots and sticks, they meant business. Their loud nattering didn't cease as they passed by.
A couple of boats with friendly and thoughtful occupants passed me by, my mind drifted along with them.
These canal carp can be cagey creatures. My end tackle comprised of two grains of corn hair rigged on a size 8 Kamasan Longshank hook, fished on standard braid, 1oz inline lead. No need to complicate it, simple is best here.
In the next few hours my mind became occupied by thoughts of how my rod would respond to the power of a maniac canal common. I'd yet to hook any carp on it and there is always a little doubt before that first test. For all I knew it might explode into many pieces under stress.
A gentleman walked by, he seemed surprised to see me, it's a bit of a hike, you see. In fact he was looking for someone else and after pleasantries carried on his search.
The wind became more intense and I felt it's burn on my cheeks. The trees hissed and the water became choppy, I started to feel uncomfortable. Not with the weather, but more the situation. Like I said, I rely on instinct here.
Within half an hour, the gentleman returned saying he'd found his friend who was fishless on two rods further up. As another boat appeared, I took a drastic decision. I would upsticks and drive to the opposite side of town, around four miles to another stretch. I just knew that if I sat here all day I would catch nothing.
Arriving at the new stretch, it was once again clear to me that there were many more moored boats than I recalled from my time spent here in my youth. I looked under the old bridge, It bears the scars of past encounters.
I walked far from it and the boats, past the peeking celendine to a little spot, sheltered from the wind.
It looked carpy enough and a bait was soon sitting close to a snaggy area. The canal was choppy on both sides, but here it was calm. I hadn't pitched here for my own benefit, if I'd have thought the fish were in the teeth of the wind I'd have sat there, as I had earlier. No, this spot seemed ideal. I waited.
My mind was soon wandering again.
Trains hurtled by on the London-Birmingham main line, but my thoughts were idle and calm.
The water began to move as a lock gate at least half a mile away was opened. I turned the alarm off as the line moved with the flow.
Joggers jogged, cyclists cycled and.......
......bottle top bobbin lifted, I struck....Fish on.
The rod took on a fighting curve as the fish headed for the snags. It almost made it even though I gave it no line at all, I walked backwards to give myself some water to play with. It was then that I saw a boat coming in from my left. This gave the situation a tad more urgency and I bullied the fish to mid water.
Fortunately, the couple in the boat had spotted me, and were able to come to a wind assisted stop about twenty yards away. This gave them a grandstand view of the tussle.
By now the fish was bombing around in the margins and as I thought it might be nettable, I assumed the position and saw it for the first time just before it dived under my net. The battle endured for another five minutes before she was nettable again, and I made no mistake. In the net to much cheering from the boat. I thanked the boaters for their consideration, and they went on their way.
A beautiful common, not perfect, like the old bridge she also bore the scars from a previous encounter. Tail damage, probably otter, the river runs close.
But what a cracker, what a fighter, what a prize. The rod had passed with flying colours.
The instinct that had led me to move had paid off and though I stayed another couple of hours it was to be my only chance of the day.
I was happy with that. To me there is something special about a canal carp, and though my on/off love affair with carp isn't completely rekindled, I did walk back down the towpath with a warm glow, despite that biting wind..and a skylark sang again.