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I’ve been working hard this May chasing down more scaly carp on the river Mayenne – then the magic happened.

Matt with a new PB river carp of 32lb
Matt with a new PB river carp of 32lbs

May is river carping time for me as the carp are there to be caught at top weights prior to spawning. Last year I had a good month banking mostly commons and finished with a new PB common of 36lbs. This year I really wanted to get among the mirrors so I made a few tweaks to my rigs to see if I could swing the scales in that direction.

Rig review

Last year I caught a lot of commons on 5” mono D-rigs. They work well for commons as they don’t need to upend as far as the deeper bodied mirrors. This year I’ve gone with 10” long, 30lb braided hook links and a simple knotless knotted hair rig with a two turn kicker. I’ve had problems in the past with 25lbs hooklink tangling in the flow but the 30lb behaves better and the addition of a 3 bait stringer help land the rig.

By mid May the river was alive with life and with air temperatures hitting 25 degrees, the carp were showing readily along my section. It had been a hot day and I’d been on the bank all afternoon. As always I set myself a deadline for winding in of 8.30pm. I’d had one bream and some shows close to the snags but fishing there is dangerous so I was baiting and fishing 10 to 15m short. At 8pm after nothing doing all afternoon I re-cast a single closer to the snags but left the back lead off so I had more direct control if I got a take.

Light carp fishing setup for an evening session on the river
Light setup for an evening session on the river

8.26pm on the clock and I was packing away accepting the fact that I’d clocked up yet another blank.

The far margin rod let out a flurry of bleeps as the line stretched tight across the flow. Spinning on my heels, I grabbed the rod in an automatic reaction and before my mind had caught up with what was happening I was connected to a carp determined to make sanctuary in the snags. There is only one thing to do in this situation and that’s to hang on! After a few heart stopping thuds and no unpleasant grating sensations, the carp kited away from danger on the current and I relaxed slightly as I knew that all being well, this one should be mine.

The carp fought well in the current and as always kited steadily towards the near margin. I’d closed the distance down somewhat but the fish still made it into a few pads and weed. My heart was in my mouth and I gingerly teased it through the weeds and as she turned I saw the unmistakable flash of a nicely scaled mirror. Oh please don’t come off now! My mouth was dry with the stress and the excitement and I had to force myself to slow my breathing. A few more feet of nerve jangling twists and turns through the weed and out she popped. In clear water she powered round in circles a few times but I could see the hook hold and there was no way she was dropping off! It was a massive relief to slide her over the cord after so many blanks!

Matt with a 26lb 8oz river carp in May
Matt with a 26lb 8oz river carp

As I readied the camera and scales, another flurry of bleeps had me staring down at my other rod. Surely I’d kicked it accidentally in my haste? Nope, it was a bit of a bream bite to be fair as the bobbin smacked up to the top then dropped and then rose slowly. As it hadn’t steamed off, I wound down and hit…. not much actually, another pump and wind and I felt a little something (got to be a bream). Then the carbon started to flex and…. wait a minute I’m into a carp and I’ve already got one in the net!

For many years now I’ve travelled with two nets no matter where I fish. Double takes are rare but they do happen. This year I’d decided to really trim down my river kit and only fish two rods. Based on the reduced possibility of a double take, I chose to ditch the 2nd net. What a mistake, I was going to have proper agg here!


Matt with a 32lb river carp in May
Matt with a new PB river carp of 32lbs

With a nice scaly mirror safely in the net, I played the 2nd carp a little harder, but the harder I pulled the harder she pulled back. This one was definitely more powerful and potentially bigger. This time the carp kited right and ended up just short of a pontoon. I already knew that there was a lot of long tall weed in between me and the carp so it was a question of teasing it through one clump at a time but there was more of the green stuff to my right and some of it was thicker too.

Things ground to a halt a few times and you’ve got to have nerves of steel to keep them moving but steady pressure won the day and she was under the tip going on short more powerful lunges for a number of minutes. Another flash of flank and it’s another mirror, looking a little chunkier this one… I managed to manoeuvre the net complete with carp into position and very carefully slid the 2nd over the top of the cord without letting the other escape.

O.K. two takes, two carp and I was just about to pack up! I now had a problem: no waders, no 2nd weigh sling. This was going to be a two man job. Time to phone a friend. I knew Mark wasn’t far away. In fact he should have been with me but other commitments scuppered his plans. Mark dropped what he was doing and came armed with the necessary extra gear. He even brought a couple of beers to celebrate… top man!

It was a bit of a juggling act sorting the fish out but things went easy enough with an experienced helper. 5 minutes later and we’d have lost the light but with the camera wacked up on a higher ISO, we got some nice images of these stunning creatures.

River carping is not easy. The blanks, the losses, the graft, the bait, the miles driven, cycled and walked along the tow paths but the elation you get when the magic happens is the very best feeling in the world!

Thanks mate, great to share that moment with you (even with my eyes closed!)

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