Pecky's Progress | Darrell Peck

Having just finished 3 nights on Abbey Lakes in France, I made the long drive to Friesland in Northern Holland, to meet up with Arjan Verkoelen. I had his trailer and he had just taken delivery of my new one. Unfortunately, the traffic around Antwerp was savage and I didn’t arrive at his until around 9.00 p.m. I had been in the car since 12.00 o’clock and I was absolutely knackered. Luckily, Arjan kindly offered me a bed for the night. The following morning, the contents of my van were strewn across his lawn for a mass sort out. Anything I didn’t need for the adventure going forward was to be left behind. I left my trailer, and all the bivvy boat-fishing equipment I didn’t need for the next venue. 

Back in the autumn, while surfing the search section of Instagram, I came across an image of a rather special carp. At the time, I didn’t know how big it was, or even the country where it lived. What I did know was that it wasn’t just big, but also exceptionally beautiful. After doing some research, I found out where he swam, and, more importantly, that I could get a ticket. Out of respect to the locals, that’s as much as I want to say about it. No reference to the country or to the lake, but I will share the story of the capture with you. 

For the past 3 years, my own angling, not filming, has been focused around long sessions in Europe, and I am always on the lookout for fresh adventures. Nothing motivates me more than when pushing the boundaries of what I have done previously. For me, at this moment, there is no better way to do this than by chasing bigger carp, or tackling bigger and more challenging venues on the mainland. 

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May, or lambing season as I like to call it, certainly offered a great opportunity to stack the odds in my favour of a quick capture of this fish, especially with 14 nights available to me. The lake isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, and to the best of my knowledge, it hadn’t produced a fish that year. Having said that, there were no other anglers present when I arrived. More often than not, the hardest thing about carp fishing is making the time, and the second most difficult thing is jostling for position with the other anglers. Without other anglers in the way as such, I always feel confident that if I can find them, catching them is the easy bit.

The first few days were spent looking hard, taking in my surroundings, and regularly taking to the boat to lightly bait marginal gravel patches with tiger nuts and crushed Activ-8 boilies. The first few dawns were frustrating, if not interesting; I chased a very small carp with single pop-ups. He would push his head clear multiple times each morning, but I just couldn’t buy a take from the little devil! The deadlock finally broke 3 days in. I spotted a fish near to a spot I’d been baiting, positioned a rod there quickly, and had a lovely 29lb common a short while later. Having caught, I was briefly confident, but the next 9 days produced absolutely nothing. 

During this period, I was totally alone on the water until I received a Facebook message with attached image of my van parked right behind my swim! Rather than say hello, somebody had snuck up behind me, took the picture, and sent it to his friends! Within a few minutes, said picture had arrived in my inbox. Small world, hey? This was 7 days in, and the first time my discretion had been compromised. 

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The following evening, the unknown van photographer fished opposite me, and while I sat chatting with a local friend, the photographer started sending him messages enquiring how long I might be staying. He also asked him not to disclose too much information to me! I’d not even met the guy and already I could sense he was very insecure about me fishing there. 

The next morning after this, a small carp topped close to where he had positioned one of his rods, but surprisingly, just a short while later he left. Probably a coincidence, but 30 minutes after this, a control officer arrived in my swim. He first checked my permit, and then enquired how long I had been there. I told him it was 7 nights. He then said that although there were no rules he could enforce for how long I could stay there fishing, the police had contacted him in order to remove me from the water because I was breaking a regional 48-hour camping law. What’s more, if I didn’t leave, the police would return and I’d be fined €380. 

Once the control officer left, I phoned around to check on the validity of this threat, and the consensus was that it was a total fraud. It was a cloak-and-dagger attempt by a jealous angler to remove me from the fishery. To my mind, if the police really wanted to remove me, they would have already, and I was willing to take a gamble on that; €380 wasn’t the end of the world.

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I went to the shops, bought some beers, and just carried on. While I sat drinking, I wondered who could possibly be so insecure that they felt the need to attempt to get me thrown off. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who was most likely responsible, and having not even met the man, I thought it best if I messaged him in an attempt to resolve the issue. As you can imagine of a carp angler who had behaved in this manner, he denied it, but I assured him that I still thought it was him. I said he should come and meet me, have a beer, and he might realise I am a nice guy.

An hour passed before he appeared in my swim. I offered him my hand and he gripped it harder and longer than was necessary, a truly embarrassing and ridiculous attempted show of masculinity. He was totally riled, there was no doubt about it. I calmly offered him a chair and the chance to cool off. The more we talked, the more I knew he was my guy. He had fished there for a couple of years, having only ever caught one fish, and was totally consumed by his desperation to catch the big one. I have come up against this type of desperation before, and I don’t get angry. I just feel sorry for those concerned. Fishing is supposed to be fun!

The weather was cool for the time of year, with rain and biting northeast winds, and I sat there twiddling my thumbs, completely bored out my mind. It had been 9 days with nothing happening, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider bailing out. These are the moments when I always remind myself that everything can change in the blink of an eye. I don’t mean just a random bite out of the blue, but the actual sighting or information that is the catalyst for the reaction that leads to the next bite. So, I dug my heels in like the stubborn man I am. When the sun finally came out and the temperatures soared, I sensed I might just get that chance.

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At 5.00 p.m. on 10th May, it had been warm all afternoon, so I took to the boat to see what I could spot. I was cruising along the reedline where the fish had shown near the van photographer almost a week previously, when I disturbed a carp which literally bolted from the reeds like a ballistic missile. Obviously, my eyes were drawn to him, and in the same moment, I heard something else. Caught by surprise, a huge boil appeared on the surface next to the boat, and in that instant, I realised I had pretty much run over a very big fish.

Luckily, the momentum carried me out of the area just as quickly. I was momentarily shocked by what had just happened, but was also plotting my next move. I turned the boat, quietly this time, and crept towards the area where I had just spooked the fish. This time, at the same point along the reeds, I caught a glimpse of The Black One. He saw me at the same time, and in the blink of an eye, he dropped from sight. I looked to the reeds and made a mental note of my position, and then crept from the area to fetch a rod. 

From where I was bivvied up, I needed to be fishing at around 200m, which was further than I could reach with the fluorocarbon I had on my reels. I needed to change the reel to one loaded with 15lb SUBbraid. Rig-wise, I wasn’t going to mess around. Everything needed to be designed to land a VERY big fish. First of all, I tied a short 5ft leader of 15lb IQ2 to my SUBbraid, purely to protect the fish from the coarse braid during the fight. This was then tied to a Hybrid lead clip with an 8oz gripper lead. When placing rigs from boats, I like to use big leads because they reduce the potential of being dislodged from position during the tow and if anything tries to lift them from the lakebed. Well, good luck with that. 

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The actual rig was tied using a prototype 20lb green semi-stiff tungsten-coated braid. It was 8ins long to a sharpened Size 4 Wide Gape X, with 10mm peeled section from the aligner-lined shrink tube. The Hair was trapped in place with a small piece of 0.5mm silicone on the bend to make the hook flip when the hooklink was tensioned. The hookbait was a double balanced large tiger nut that sat Snowman-style on the lakebed. It didn’t lift the hook in any way, but was light enough for the hooklink to kick away from the lead. 

In an ideal world, I would have liked to see the rig come to rest on the lakebed, but due to the algae, this was impossible. Visibility was to a maximum of 4ft, but the fish had been seen at around 6-7ft, about 5 yards from the reedbed. Obviously, I was conscious that it was still in the area, so I didn’t want to mess around too much in the boat. Once over the area and lined up with my previous position on the reeds, I lowered the rig over the side and gently bounced it on the bottom until the drop went from silt to stone. I then lifted it above the surface to check for debris (there was none), and bounced it twice more before it hit stone at the third attempt. A handful of tigers and Activ-8 crumb followed where the line entered the water, and I then made the steady 200m return to base.

That evening, the full moon rose over the horizon, and it reminded me of the last time I caught a personal best. The night passed quietly, until first light when my phone alarm went off. I sighed wearily as I looked at my unmoved indicators. By now I was tired of sleeping by the lake for so long, and I really missed my wife and home. I forced myself from the bag to make coffee, and as I did, I caught sight of the full moon now on the other side of the lake. It was beautiful, with the lake gently steaming with mist, but as is the way, I soon found myself perusing social media. 

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A Facebook notification reminded me that it was my mother’s birthday; she had died the previous summer. A glance to the sky was followed by another sigh, and I soon found myself back in the warmth of the bag with my thoughts. Two sharp warning beeps suddenly drew my attention, and then the clutch gave way to an absolute ripper. I threw back the sleeping bag and saw that the offending rod was the repositioned one, and in that exact moment I just knew! I soon found myself 150m out, rod hooped, with the fish boring down over the deeps. 

We battled it out for a good 20 minutes or so, but finally, my pressure told and the fight took place less and less deep. As he slipped over the cord, a rush of euphoria swept over me. I found myself nodding to the sky with eyebrows raised. Happy birthday Mum, and thank you very much.

I’d packed the wrong scales for this trip, and I knew I couldn’t self-take such a beast, so I called in the heavy artillery from the guys at Korda Europe. A big thank you to Kevin and Roy, who came to assist me in my time of need. For the record, he weighed 74lb, which is a personal best for me, and I am totally buzzed about it.

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Since then, I have had to catch up with my work commitments with Korda. There’s a new 12-month video series where I visited UK day ticket venues across the country, in an attempt to catch a 40-pounder live for the camera. At the second time of asking, you could say we exceeded all expectations at Yateley Sandhurst, with fish of 41lb, 38lb, 35lb, 30lb, 30lb, 25lb and 21lb. I won’t go into any detail because the piece will go live on the Korda site soon, but I have included a few images. 

Until next time, tight lines guys, and remember to have fun.

Tyler Lowe-Fowler