Tested to the Max

At nearly 85lbs this magnificent cat tested my gear to the limit

If you are a carp angler Etang Bertie is a fabulous place to spend a week with the family. It’s a lovely venue, about 4 acres in size, with a small central island, brilliantly maintained by the Miller family. It’s mainly stocked with carp to over forty pounds, but there are also other species that can feature in the week, such as catfish and sturgeon, so from a tactical point of view do you set up for the carp or go a bit heavier in case the cats come along? I opted to stick with my standard carp gear.
These days a lot of carp anglers favour powerful rods with 3lb plus test curves, but I’ve always liked less powerful rods and my first choice set up is the Infinity Magnum 2¾ tc rod teamed with a Tournament Basia QD reel. For many this would be a suspect choice of rod, as in theory it would struggle with the bigger fish, but from past experience I was confident that the gear would be ok, and so it proved.
I’ve written before about family holiday carping, I love it, because if you get it right you can have some great fishing combined with some quality family time. On the right venue you don’t have to work too hard on the fishing so its easy to find a balance between the fishing and trips out etc.
So I soon settled into a routine of baiting up my chosen swims late afternoon, having a meal/barbi in the evening, getting the rods out till I’d had enough, then off to bed for some sleep. Up early morning for a bit more fishing, wind in late morning, shower, change, out for a meal or a bit of sight seeing, back late afternoon and do it all again.
So I was ticking over very nicely, catching some lovely hard fighting mirrors and commons, and a couple of small cats, then Wednesday evening came along, and with it one of the bigger cats.
Our evenings were very pleasant, once I’d got the rods out, Tony and Jean Miller would come down to the lake, and we’d all pass the time chatting, sharing a bottle of wine, and generally enjoying the atmosphere. Then I had a slow steady take on my right hand open water rod. I tightened the QD and suddenly had a screaming clutch on my hands. For some reason, I tried to slow it with my finger rather than the clutch knob, big mistake, as friction between spool and finger made me wince, this was no carp. I turned to everyone and said big cat, from past experience I knew I was in for a battle. That first run took me well across the lake, but eventually it slowed and I can finally adjust the clutch and try to make line. It was classic cat, gain a little, lose a little. Fortunately I had plenty of space behind me so I used my favourite tactic in these situations, which is to slowly walk back piling on maximum pressure, then walk forward rapidly winding fast to keep the pressure on. Against big powerful fish I find it’s the most efficient way to apply consistent pressure which keeps the fish coming towards me.
Over a period of time, I gradually got the fish back in front of me, but I still had some way to go before this cat was in the net. I bent into the fish, and the rod took on its maximum curve. For some time it was stalemate as the big cat just circled in front of me, making huge sub surface vortexes in the water, but patience and pressure told and for the first time this huge head broke surface.
I had my daughter Karen ready with the net, and first time it was in, or nearly in. The head was touching the spreader block, but the tail was far from over the net, so it was drop the rod and man handle the tail over the net cord, at long last we could relax, it was ours. I had really tested the gear to its maximum, and the only damage, a blistered finger! This was not the first time I have pushed the rods and reels well past the intended purpose, and I know from many conversations that the other consultants have on occasions done the same. I’ve seen the rod testing equipment (the Terminator) in Scotland push rods to unbelievable extremes and they have coped.
Experienced anglers know how to maximise the performance of their gear, but for those who might be lucky enough to hook into that fish of a lifetime for the first time a few basic hints.
1) Aim to apply steady consistent pressure.
2) Keep the rod high, to maximise its test curve.
3) Use the reel clutch and rod as a team. I tend to ease off the clutch the closer in a fish gets.
4) There is more chance of losing a big fish when you have got it close in, so don’t panic, be patient.
5) If you’ve got the option/open water don’t be too bothered if the fish takes off on a first powerful run, it can work in your favour, it helps tire the fish and gives you time to get the clutch fine tuned etc.
6) Trying to pump a fish to gain line, can at times work against you, giving the fish a chance to turn its head and gain momentum. Sometimes it is better to just keep the pressure on until you feel the fish is ready to come towards you.
7) Have the weighing and photographing gear ready before you lift the fish out, it’s so much more efficient. By the way the Daiwa weigh pod is a brilliant bit of kit and makes accurate weighing of big fish that much more easier.
Good luck when your fish of a lifetime comes along.
Brian Skoyles