Is there no end to my crucian carp conundrum?

PUBLISHED: 12:11 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:11 12 June 2018

Getting your float close to the lilies is essential in the crucian carp game Picture: John Bailey

Getting your float close to the lilies is essential in the crucian carp game Picture: John Bailey


I know more about crucian carp than nearly any other angler, I like to think.

John Bailey can catch bream these days, as this double figure fish proves Picture: John BaileyJohn Bailey can catch bream these days, as this double figure fish proves Picture: John Bailey

The only flaw in my knowledge is that I am quite incapable of catching them. Oh yes, I can write learned articles like these based on my experience last century but, these last few years, I’ve simply been crucified by crucians.

I know what baits to use, something small and soft like a wetted pellet, a piece of shredded sweetcorn, or a shard of the softest bread flake. Perhaps casters will do it, or caddis grubs, or dead maggots.

I think I’ve got the rig sorted; traditional, one BB waggler floats, tiny hooks, a number six shot just up the line from the bait. I’m very hot on location. I know that crucians love cover, particularly lily beds and overhanging trees. They like to feel secure, cradled in the protective arms of tackle-defying snags. I’m also aware that dawn and dusk are the best times to pursue crucians, when they will feed their little golden heads off.

The trouble is, though, they just don’t seem to want to feed their little heads off anywhere near me. This season, I’ve had six trips now, no, make that seven, and hooked just a single, solitary one. That is pretty bad in itself but, when the delightful owner of the water that I’ve been targeting told me that there are approximately six thousand crucians in the pool, you can imagine how I felt. Me. The crucian expert. Surely the creatures are having a laugh.

I suppose I’ve been looking for the key to unlock this crucian stronghold. You can generally do this in fishing, I’ve found over my angling life. You might struggle, but if you think it out and if you keep experimenting, sooner or later something will give and you will crack the code. For example, I spent approximately 15 years trying to catch big, cannibal trout called ferox up in Scotland. I’d been doing it all wrong and had been fishing far too deep for them, according to accepted lore. Once I moved far up the water column and started presenting lures just 10 feet from the surface, they started coming my way.

Or think about grayling. For years I struggled to hit grayling bites on the nymph until I was instructed some 25 years ago how to use strike indicators. Bingo. Overnight I became a grayling expert.

Back in the 70s, we all struggled to catch bream because our hooks and leads were too heavy. I followed the example of the match boys and used light hooks, longer hook lengths and smaller paternostered leads. Two casters on a size 16 hook began to land bream that I never believed possible in the days I was stuck with large lumps of flake on a size 6.

So far so good, but there are times that you simply have to accept that some fish, for whatever reason, are simply not going to be caught, or certainly not by you. That’s how I’m feeling now about my crucian lake, but something similar has happened very recently. I’ve discovered a magnificent tench lake, gorgeous in appearance, seemingly full of big, fat tench, but I can’t get a bite, despite being able to turn swims into a froth of bubbling water. I just have not got a clue what I’m doing wrong, especially after trying 30 different bait combinations and 10 different rigs. Like those crucians, these tench are way beyond me.

It’s well known that I do a lot of guiding these days, not for crucians I hasten to add. Last summer my clients seemed to be struggling dreadfully when it came to catching low water chub. One Sunday, I decided to have a day out on my own and come up with the answers to put things right. Result? You’ve rather guessed it. I spent 12 hours, dawn till dusk, trying every trick in JB’s chub book. I achieved two lightning pulls that were impossible to hit and that was it, the sum total.

Naturally, that’s how fishing should be. Imagine the misery if every cast of every session a good fish came your way. How tedious would that be and how pitiful the challenge? That’s the word to bear in mind if you are an angler. The great sessions are when a challenge is met, considered and, finally, triumphed over. It doesn’t happen all the time and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. I know, though, if I crack my crucian conundrum sometime this coming summer, I’ll ride a tidal wave of euphoria all the way till Christmas.

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