March 29, 2018 6 min read

The beast had finally returned to the East and given way to a lesser pain, not to say the weather was anything to write home about, temperatures were still only just above freezing. Eventually the local waters began to defrost and started turning back into their liquid form. I’d been visiting the Zuil (local club water) twice a day, willing the ice away in the evening only to see it reappear in the morning. On one of my visits, it finally dawned on me, as I stood there watching a group of the school kids ice skating around the island, as if from a walk-on part in a Christmas scene. This was going to take some time before I’d be able to return with the rods. I’d caught a nice brace of carp at the Zuil before the big freeze and I felt in a good place mentally, the pre-baited areas were taking shape and the last recording of where the big mirror had been caught was where I’d had the fish. So I really wanted to invest in a longer session at the Zuil to see if I could entice out one its larger residents.

A window of opportunity finally opened and I decided; you guess it, to fish a different venue. The Valkenswaard complex is a group of four man-made match fishing lakes, the largest being the jewel in its crown holding carp up to 50lbs. The quarry shaped lake with a central island is where during the colder months the chance of bite is the greatest.

So not been one to sit behind motionless rods, especially when I’d finally got time off, I plumped for the island lake. My good friend and carp guru Marco had talked me into joining him at Valkenswaard for the three-day session convincing me that we should take full advantage of the winter and early spring fishing there before all the other carp anglers arrive on the lakes. As I lifted the bait boat out of the water’s edge, one of the regular carp anglers whilst doing his daily walk around stopped for a chat, more out of curiosity of the two new guys than a catch report I think.

I took the opportunity, making it obvious that I was new to the complex and was very interested in any information. He was very accommodating, giving me the rundown on the do’s and don’ts and a brief history of the lakes. I asked if there had been anything caught during the previous weeks. There’d been a group of six on last week and two of them had stuck it out for four days. All going home with dry landing nets.

Hearing this I gave that “rolling eyes to the back of the head look”, two words came rushing out my mouth “The Zuil”; and then two more came “kill Marco”.Fortunately, Marco hadn’t heard a word of this, as he was busy tying rigs in his bivy. My informer must have realized that a week of blanking was not the answer I was looking for, so he duly calmed the situation and brought out his iPhone, swiping photos of his previous catches.

Instantly a calm ascended upon me at the sight of some of the best looking and sort after carp in Holland. So after storing all the info that I’d received, I concluded that the two Nut 365 15mm chods that I’d boated out to the island margins were going to stay put for the first night.

The six previous anglers had logically fished the deeper areas, but I feel when the water temperature rises, (it only has to be a degree or so) the carp can be caught on the fringes of these areas as they move out in search of food or be caught in the comfort of the marginal snags. Using the bait boat I was able to keep the baited area nice and tight, using a super buoyant pop-up surrounded by a dozen crushed and whole Nut 365 boilies. Thus the chod pop-up being the prominent food source, I settled into my first night.

It was during the re-baiting of a bream encounter (some additional info that I perforce fully tried to ignore BREAM and big ones and lots of them) one of Marco’s Sirens wailed out the sound of a definite carp take.

A common, from his rod fished close to the island. Interesting I thought. It’s now three in the morning, the latest weather forecast on the phone is telling me that an extreme cold and wet weather front was approaching again from the east within the next couple of days, when my right-hand rod reels off on a tight line going right, suddenly it was scramble stations and this was no bream this time.

The fish felt good as it dived down into the deeper water between the island and myself. In the darkness of night its long and lean shaped body broke the surface, a typical long Dutch common, I thought; a canal type, pure muscle and built for tackling the backdraft from the canal boats.

I don’t use a light when it’s time to land because I don’t want to spook the fish. So you can imagine the sense of relief and joy I felt as the dark shadow of the fish rolled over the cord of the landing net.On cue Marco walked into my swim asking what I’d caught. Looks like a long common. I replied.Armed with a torch he peered into the open landing net.Nice looking mirror. After 20 years at this game; l know! I should now know the difference, I’ll put it down to the old eyesight.

My first Valkenswaard carp just short of 20lbs at 19lbs 2oz. The morning arrived and I could feel the wind was creeping around the side of the bivy sucking out the steam from my kettle. The air temperature was falling, I tried to reassure myself by saying “as long as there’s a wind blowing the chance of the lake freezing over was not going to happen” as I peered over towards the mallards on the sheltered side of island where I was fishing.

Driving sleet and rain was now putting off my afternoon re-baiting, every time I poked my head above the bivy, I’d be driven back in by the icy wind. The atrocious rain finally broke and I took the opportunity to quickly re-bait and stretch my legs. The commotion in my swim attracted one of the retired members of the club and it gave him the chance to stop him from doing from what he was doing and we chatted for a while.

He was surprised to hear that we’d already caught and a friendly banter began between the three of us,teasing and joking, he suggests that if we were that good we’d be able to catch on demand and doing as if to pick up my landings net to net the next capture. At that point the two single notes from my Delkim turned into a one toner.

For a split second we all looked at each other as if we were the proverbial joke. Just as the mirror, this carp also kited right but this time I had to suddenly loosen the clutch as I could feel the power of the fish kicking in. A “to and fro” fight commenced, where I gained line on the fish only having to give it back and on his terms. With an audience behind me, the carp began to lunge into the deeper water causing me to frantically loosening the reel clutch, each time my fraying nerves getting worse, especially with the comments that were now being made about the 30lbs plus weight assessments. Eventually I obtained a submission when his wide shoulders broke through the surface water and in turn began to gasp for air making it easier to slip the net under its bronze flank (this time it was a common). 34lbs 3oz of pure common carp, enough said.

It wasn’t long before the warmth of a winter sleeping bag was calling as the temperature was now below freezing and beginning to rain. The rain bouncing off my bivy turned into a more muffled sound, that of snow then back to the awakening sound of driving rain. Suddenly I was reaching for the door zips, my fumbling getting worse as the right-hand rod went into recoil. Forward momentum pushing me towards a neon blue flashing and singing Delkim. I pull into another Valkenswaard carp, once again from the same corner of the island as the others in about a meter of water adjacent to the moss green covered tree in between the two silver birches.

This one felt a little smaller and easier to control, not to say less enjoyable but sometimes it’s nice to be the boss for once. We quickly weighed and took a few photos of the best looking carp of the session, exactly 20lb. I returned to my stretcher to finish the pre-writing for this article, all the factors of a successful session had come together. Confidence in my fishing abilities, listening to the locals and a quality bait as in Nut 365.

The bait is definitely proving itself not only in name but in the most adverse conditions. Well that is me finished here for a couple of weeks I’m heading back to the Zuil to see if I can’t entice the big common or the mirror onto the bank.

Tight lines and see you next time.