Autumn has always been one of my favourite times to be beside water. As everything gets ready for the approaching frosts it can be a time of plenty, with all walks of life looking to capitalise on an end of season free for all. Carp angling is no different, and not only are the carp usually well on the feed during this gorgeous season, they are also beginning to take on their winter hue. Carp of burnished copper epitomise the fall, commons of deep chestnut and mirrors of burnt auburn can take your breath away.
Waggoners Wells on the Hampshire/Surrey border is one of my favourite places to visit through autumn. The carp, some of which are now 60 years old and were stocked by Donald Leney himself, take on those classic colours making them a much sought after quarry. WW, being a National Trust site, sees an awful lot of traffic by way of dog walkers and others who just want to savour those awesome tones. Countless trees of many different species line the banks making for a plethora of browns, golds and greens.
Last weekend I dusted off the rods and after agreeing to go in search of carp there was only one direction I was pointing the car. I set off early, but not silly early. There were already two other cars when I arrived, and being small vans and much too early for dog walkers to be up and about it was apparent from the off that it was going to be tricky. Folk being there the carp can deal with, they get used to the constant hoards of footsteps and dogs jumping in, lines on the other hand tend to be frowned upon by those wily carp and although they can seem very catchable, they are seldom that way when the anglers congregate around that little pool.
I figured out where the other anglers were, stood at the crest of the high bank a while just watching and sure enough, the carp were patrolling right under my position, groups of 3 and 4 cruising along the marginal shelf quite close in and looking wonderful, clearly avoiding where the other anglers were. My plan was to set up well away from the water, sneak into position gently and lower a rig onto a sparsely baited patch then sit back out of sight and hide quietly. A free running rig was swung out, the hook-bait a chunk of good old never let me down luncheon meat and a smattering of smaller chunks were deposited on and around the area.
Behind the tree stump I watched events unfold. Carp still cruised past, but even with my stealth and cunning, they still appeared to have pushed slightly further out. Half an hour passed and gradually they got closer, so close that they begun passing directly over the baited patch, only instead of stooping down for a feed they went about their business as if there was nothing under them at all. Whether they just weren’t up for it, whether the lines in the water had put them on edge I’m not sure. My own tackle was pinned down and out of sight, but whatever was going on, they seemed to be one step ahead.
But then that’s carp for you, at any time of year and on any venue, if they don’t want to get caught they won’t. The saving grace at Waggoners was that I had the middle pool to fall back on. The carp here tend to be slightly smaller, but just as beautiful, and with the added bonus of harbouring some clonking great roach and rudd. Oh, and it just so happened that I had a float rod with me. The day was overcast from the start and continued much the same until my departure. Light drizzle peppered my cheeks from time to time, but it never really came to much. The wind was the issue though, and with me opting to take only a small selection of very light floats, I had to find somewhere at least a little sheltered.
The carp were nowhere to be seen on the middle pool, and my banker swim, the little secret hidey hole at the head of the shallows had suffered a terrible fate. A large tree had broken from its roots and fallen head first right through the middle of the swim. No doubt there would have been carp hiding among its many submerged branches, but there was no way of angling for them, not safely anyway. I settled upon a swim just two along from this position, a little outcrop with a laurel poking out over the water a short distance. I plumbed the depth a couple of rod lengths out and 4 feet seemed just about right. Very little wind reached this spot so I felt confident I could float fish here a while.
I began fishing with bread flake whilst sprinkling pellets around the float to attract small roach, which hopefully in turn would attract the larger ones. A few dips on the float and eventually it sailed away, I struck and felt resistance momentarily, but it was short lived. I think over the following half hour I had half a dozen bites, but put them down to small fish as I missed them all. The nice thing about fishing here was that I was left alone. The banks are steep and walkers, even the dogs, tend to steer clear preferring the flatter path higher up the bank behind me.
As the drizzle returned and the bites stopped my thoughts once more surrounded the carp of the bottom pool. I gathered my things and set off, hoping that maybe the other anglers had become homesick. They hadn’t of course; in fact, there was another with two young children in two. He recognised me though and we chatted a while, a lovely chap. I bade him farewell and continued on to the shallows swim. I stood a while watching a group of carp just out using the old oak tree as cover. Leaves were strewn across the surface here too and I think the fish were enjoying the extra shelter.
It was almost 1pm by now, I felt I’d given it a decent try, and spent a glorious morning at one of the prettiest places I know. There was a time when I’d flog it to death, willing it to happen and not leave till it did. These days I’m just as happy to pop by, enjoy a morning and look forward to getting back to my girls. There’s always next time, and then perhaps things might be different, things might well be in my favour. Until then tight lines and enjoy this marvellous time of the year.