Land Of The Giants | Dave Levy
Would you go on a trip into the unknown halfway across Europe? Well Dave and friends did, and look what happened.
I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to fishing overseas for big carp I’m somewhat of a novice. Over the years my fishing outside of England has been more of a social, fishing waters for a bit of action and fun. But isn’t a carp just a carp wherever you go? The only thing that really changes is the environment that it lives in. So, when I was asked if I wanted to go on a mega trip crossing several countries stopping in Hungary for six nights on a 120-acre water unfished by the English, and then on to Lake Sumbar, in Croatia, I jumped at the chance!
The drive to Hungry is a long one but the scenery makes up for it, we stopped off in Frankfurt, in Germany for a night to recharge the batteries before getting on the road again. When we finally got to the lake in Hungary we were told we had to wait a few days to fish, which was a bit annoying after the long drive. Luckily there was a lakeside hotel that was very basic but clean.
We all spent the next day discussing tactics and people had different ideas of how they were going to approach it. At 120 acres it wasn’t a small lake, it was a long water with the far bank being a nature reserve. There was only fishing from one bank, and in total there were going to be 24 anglers along one bank! This suddenly made the lake a lot smaller and when it came to the draw for swims I wanted the wider part of the lake, as I was sure the carp would shy away from the line pressure that they weren't used to.
We came out poorly in the draw, but luckily for us, most of the anglers seemed to fancy the narrow part of the lake. Finally, we got fishing, and my partner for the trip was Danny Hawkes. We would be doubled up fishing next to each other for the next two weeks. I’d only met Dan a handful of times so in the next two weeks we would get to know each other a lot better.
I wasn’t into this alternate rod thing that some anglers do abroad where they share takes, I personally don’t want to be reeling fish in on someone else’s rigs and gear, but if any of the spots I was fishing started to really kick off then I’d be happy to share the spot. I mean, you’d have more chance of running off with my wife than sharing my rods!
So, Danny was on the left and I was on the right. We had very different tactics, Danny was fishing 120yds to some firm silty area and giving it a fair bit of bait. Whereas I was boating all three right across 280yds and fishing about a kilo of Cell over each rod. Stock-wise very little was known about Bajansenye, other than there was plenty to go at and it had done carp to over 70lb to local anglers in the past.
The first night brought a lot of anticipation with it, and the carp stayed quiet, although I did get a bite which turned out to be a demented-looking little mirror of about 16lb, not at all what we’d come for. As the days passed I managed a few more carp including a few better ones of 39lb 15oz and 34lb, not big by the lake’s standards, but at least I was doing something right.
Dan also managed a few fish, but it wasn’t until later in the week that me and Dan were sat drinking our first cup of tea of the day when Dan’s rod received a steady take. Right away Dan said it’s a bloody catfish, to be fair this fish was pulling really hard. Dan played the fish hard and after quite some time he had it under the rod tip. I reminded him that the carp we had been catching were fighting really hard, and it could be a real lump. Soon we got our first glimpse of the fish and a big brown mirror rolled on the surface and I could see Dan was in shock at its size.
On the way we had both said we would like to catch a 50 and this carp was way over that, soon it was on the surface and I stretched out getting it in the net first go. Dan was jumping up and down sure that in the net was what we had come for. We lifted her onto the waiting mat and I said she was over 60, so when the scales read 66lb I wasn't surprised. Dan, bless him, was bouncing off the walls with joy, and quite rightly so!
We celebrated Dan’s fish that night, but it was short lived as his 120yd spot produced more fish, including another lump, while I was left to catch grass carp of varying sizes. These things really are a pain and even more so at 280yds out. There were some other good fish caught around the lake including a 70lb mirror. I didn’t catch any monsters by Hungarian standards, my biggest was a lovely clean 47lb common on the last morning. We’d faired quite well, as many anglers had struggled that week, so we left for Croatia feeling confident, and still buzzing from the capture of Dan’s massive mirror.
I can’t remember how long the drive was to Croatia as it all became somewhat of a blur. I do remember the border controls and toll roads, of which there seemed to be loads. Pulling onto the road that leads down to Sumbar, I said to Danny ‘what will this week bring?’
Sumbar is around 50 acres and square in shape. There are a few small islands and bays around the lake, but it is mostly open water with high reeds separating the swims. We spent an hour walking around looking at different areas. I liked this lake a lot more than the last one, it was much kinder on the eye. We all met up at the lodge for the draw.
Me and Dan had made a shortlist of the top three swim we wanted. Surprisingly we came out third in the draw and got our first-choice swim. It was a fairly central swim with a small island on its left. Danny had somehow convinced me that I’d had first choice of sides at the last lake, so he had it at Sumbar. When he picked left I was secretly happy with his choice! They do say there’s no point in getting old if you’re not going to learn how to be sneaky with it!
So, our plan was to fish 110yds where there was a bar, it wasn’t gravel, but clay, and carried on right in front of the swims along that bank at the same range. We baited really heavily with a mix of Mainline Cell and the new Link fishmeal bait. We also bulked it out with the maize that was supplied very cheaply by the people who ran the lake. Within a few hours we had six rods along the bar which were only 8 to10ft apart with a lot of bait over them.
We didn’t know if this was the way to fish the lake but had been told the stock was massive and you couldn’t put enough bait in to hold them. Within 20 minutes Dan was into his first Sumbar carp that turned out to be a 29lb leather, so we really thought we’d cracked it. Come the next morning when we’d not had another take our minds had changed a bit.
I sat looking out and I could see the carp showing right out in the middle. I couldn’t go out that far as we’d been told it was once an orchard and the tree stumps still remained out there. By midday I couldn’t sit and watch those carp show anymore. So, I cast a bare lead as far as I could, as I pulled it back I could feel the snags as the lead bounced over them, then, suddenly it became clear as the lead slide over clay. I put the rod in the clip and reeled it in. On the wrap sticks it was 38 wraps. I wrapped all three rods up and dropped them at that distance with just a half a kilo of Link, and a few handfuls of pellet.
The rods had been out less than ten minutes when the bobbin pulled up tight and I was into my first Croatian carp. The carp was heavy and soon I had it in the margin when the hook suddenly pulled! I was totally gutted, it felt big and was most likely a PB! Pissed off I tied a new rig, but before I had time to get the rod out one of the other rods was away. This time it all went to plan, and I was soon holding up a chunky 42lb common, and it was again only minutes before the remaining alarm screamed, this time a mirror of 42lb. Dan didn’t need any telling, and was soon wrapping up two of his rods to 37 wraps.
Over the next few days we received steady action, and both caught plenty of good carp. We even had double takes and Dan caught a new PB common of 52lb, and finally I saw a massive common roll in to my net. As I looked in net I just knew it was big, and at 63lb 12oz, it was a new PB, and I was over the moon. This had been a brilliant trip and if it had ended then I’d have been happy, but what was to happen the next day I think will stay with me for a very long time.
Although the October days were hot, in the mid-20s, the nights were still, and thick fog would engulf the whole area.Wild boar would visit the swims most nights making more noise than a bunch of pissed teenagers. This particular morning, we were sat chatting and laughing about what a nuisance they had been that night when I got my first bite. Right away the carp found a snag, eventually I retrieved my tackle without a carp, half-an-hour later the very same thing happened again. Although I got all my tackle back I decided to move that rod closer to 36 wraps.
It was a quiet morning and with the heat of the day increasing we all sat in the shade in just our shorts trying to keep cool. Suddenly the rod I’d moved to 36 wraps received a take. Running over to the rod in flips flops and laughing. I asked Simon who had been filming the whole two-week session for a Ridgemonkey DVD, to film the battle.
On lifting the rod I was met with solid resistance, different to anything I’ve ever hooked. I thought at first it was a snag then slowly there was a lunge as the carp moved off the bottom before coming to rest again. Dan had a phone call and sat in his bivvy as I’m sure he thought I was snagged, but very slowly the carp moved towards me. I could feel my 15lb line grating as it came over the bar at 110yds, dropping back down into deep water it still came ever so slowly towards me.
It was a good 20 minutes before I had it 20yds out and the angler in the next swim, Jon, looked at me and said: “Is that fish on the bottom.” “Yes,why?” I replied. Jon said:“Because it’s sending up tail patterns in 14ft of water, that’s a very big fish!”
Soon she started to come up in the water and the top of my tubing came up, with a tail a good 3ft away. I turned to Dan who was still chatting away on his phone, and said ‘mate get yourself down here, I have a massive fish on. Dan ended his call and waded out to his knees, now the carp was down to my right and again started to come up in the water. This time its back broke the surface, and I heard Dan say:“Oh my god!”It was slowly wallowing 6ft off the net and I kept it moving until Dan had to double scoop to get her in the net. Jesus did I shout! I couldn’t believe what I’d just caught.
We looked in the net and I was in absolute shock! After I’d calmed down we sorted out the scales and I was thinking I’ve caught a mid-70. It wasn’t until three of us had to lift it onto the scales that I realised how heavy it was. Dan and Jon read the scales, 88lb 2oz!! What? I honestly couldn’t believe it. Never have I dreamt I’d catch a carp this big.
Soon a lot of the anglers on the trip were round to help. I looked down at that carp and for the first time it started to sink in, and I was thinking how am I going to lift this. Lucky for me Big Jay was on hand and he hoisted the massive fish into my arms.
We watched her swim away and I couldn't stop smiling. The rest of the trip was a blur, and now I’m home sitting here typing away telling you all about it.I think back to my first 20, 30, 40, even a UK 50, and I remember catching them like it was yesterday. Every time I’ve reached these milestones the angler inside me says, ‘this will not be the last, I want more.’88lb 2ozis a huge carp, but guess what, I’m not going to let it be my last.
A big thank you must go to to my boss, and good friend Paul Getty, for making this trip possible, and the celebrations we had were simply the best.