Mitch Hammonds takes us through his step by step guide on how to avoid nuisance species and catching carp
Thames Magic - Text Only
On limited time, Jack Funnel took on the enigmatic Thames in search of treasured carp hidden in its famous depths.
We had been working on a job, restoring a river near Richmond Park, and because of the traffic, it was almost a waste of time trying to get home every night, so a friend and I decided to fish overnighters on the Thames. Before we started, we did as much research as possible, and asked a few people we knew for their take on it. Neither of us had much experience fishing the rivers, and we wanted to make sure everything was in our favour before we tried to tackle the Thames.
We picked a nice sunny Sunday afternoon to have a good walk down the river to find some likely-looking areas. It really is quite surreal, walking round London, watching the madness of modern-day life unfold, while leisurely strolling at the side of a beautiful river which holds some incredible carp. We chose to concentrate on the non-tidal stretch, and the area we picked was right at the end of it in Teddington, which looked prime. From what we had been told, there seem to be more fish in the tidal stretch, but the average size is less than the non-tidal.
We fished the first few nights near Canbury Park Gardens, but after a few nights of catching endless bream and snagging up on the wires and ropes near the barges, we decided it wasn’t the one. It seemed that the fish held up under boats, bridges, trees, or anywhere they could take cover. We then moved down to the Teddington stretch, and it looked lovely.
I had to think a bit more about how I was going to fish there. Everything had been stepped up, from boilie size to leads. I didn’t want the flow take anything away. Generally, the flow remains the same, but should it rain, this can change and it picks up dramatically, depending on the amount. Just to be sure, I stuck to using 5oz leads, as well as backleads to keep the lines away from the relentless boat traffic.
The plan was to bait as much as we could, and we wanted it to stay there until it was eaten. The Krill in 20mm was what we went for, all in shelf life to make life easier, and it could be kept in the van. Not only did we not want the flow to take the bait away, there were also loads of bream to deal with. They tend not to eat a big bait, so this was key because they can be an absolute nightmare. Four or five better ones might be caught a night, but there is not much you can do about it. There are also mitten crabs to deal with, which are even more annoying than crayfish. They actually take slices out of the bait, and there are millions of them out there! I had to wrap the baits in shrink wrap, just to extend the life of my hookbaits. If they are on you en masse, there isn’t much you can do about it, just recast every couple of hours.
We did 4 nights the first week, and just caught bream. We kept baiting heavily, as much as we could afford really. I went back on the Sunday, when I would actually fish through the day and night. There were a lot of people walking around, but it was the day when I had my first fish. It wasn’t massive, but it was incredible to get off the mark with my first Thames carp. In fact, a young kid came over and was gobsmacked to see how big it was, calling it a monster. He got in on the picture too, and a small crowd gathered to witness this huge fish. Nothing happened that night, but I gave them another hit of bait when I left that morning. I had two buckets of boilies always on the go, both laced in Pure Krill Liquid, and I gave the baits a couple of days to soak. I do that anyway, regardless of whether or not I’m fishing the river. That liquid is something else, and even more useful on the river to send the fishy scent across the river.
The rigs were simple, with a stiff boom section to make up a combi-rig. I wanted a stiff section to enable the rig to reset itself should any bream or crabs disturb it. This was down to a big Size 4 hook; it would be harder for the bream to hook themselves, and if I hooked a carp, I didn’t want to lose it. The hookbait was a 20mm Krill bottom bait and a 14mm Signature pink pop-up. This is what did me all my bites in the end, and it seemed the best combination for sure.
Later on in the week, after catching my first one, I had the next bite. I was convinced it was a bream after a weak dropback bite, but after reeling like mad, I made contact with a carp. It stripped a load of line off me and made a dart for the boats. I managed to turn it and eventually netted my second River Thames carp. It was a mid-double common, and after a couple of snaps, I put her back and packed up for work.
The next week, we carried on baiting and plugging away with it. We seemed to notice that every time we caught, there was a bit more flow and colour in the water. The following week looked prime. There was a lot of flow and I struggled to even hold bottom. So far the two bites had come from a long spot, but there was an area next to a concrete pillar which looked perfect, but was yet to do a bite. I tried to get the rigs as tight to the features as possible. This meant clipping up as near as I could, and then when the lead hit the water, I put the rod forward to try to get it as close as possible.
The rods went out well, as usual, and I baited fairly heavily. Nothing happened during the night, but not far off dawn, the rod on the lock side was away. I knew it was a carp, but it didn’t put up much of a fight. It came to the surface and I could see it wallowing on the top. I knew it was a good fish and I almost froze, praying for it to stay on. I really wanted to land it because I could see how wide it was. Eventually she was mine, and I stood gazing down into the net at my prize. She looked incredible, and my friend was convinced it could be a 40. I wasn’t sure; I estimated it at high-30s. We hoisted her ashore and she went 37lb. He did me the honours and got some lovely shots. It isn’t my biggest fish I have caught, but it’s up there as one of my most memorable captures. To have such a special carp from the Thames is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
By now the clocks had changed, and we were arriving in the dark. It meant that we had to leave the throwing sticks in the bags and use the Spomb to get the bait out. We bumped into some interesting characters along the way, and also met a few helpful guys who have fished the river for years. They explained that it had been a really poor season. They usually caught over 30 fish, but this year had managed only four. This was quite satisfying, knowing that good anglers with experience of the river had struggled, and I had managed to nick a few.
A few days went by before my next bite. Again, just before first light I had a mirror which was a little over 20lb. This was my last fish from the river, because the job at Richmond was completed. It was time to finish my fishing on the Thames, and chase some whackers back on Kingsmead.