Quest for the Little Linear

Back in 2016, I joined a small syndicate water which was around thirty minutes drive from my home. My wife had recently given birth to our son Xander and I knew that local fishing was a priority for the near future at least. I’d been excited to fish this little pit for a while, and at around six acres in size and with a stock of around fifty carp, it had plenty going for it. The main attraction being a big old mirror carp at over forty pounds, along with a handful of low thirty commons and mirrors. There were a couple of beautiful zip linears amongst these, the pick of the bunch being ‘Little Linear’.

The big mirror was a fairly friendly character and usually did a handful of captures each year. In fact, it was mid-September that very first season on a big harvest moon where I managed to shuffle her into the net. I’d come down the day before and found a few fish down the deeper end of the pit. The water was coloured, and it was obvious they’d been frequenting the area. I managed to prep a couple of spots once the fish moved off, which I’m certain played a huge part the following evening. At just over forty-two pounds she looked truly magnificent and in pristine condition. She was one of five bites that night and I can clearly remember playing her out in my waders under the moon-lit sky. Magic!

Apart from the obvious target of the big mirror, one I so very dearly wanted more than anything was a carp called ‘Little Linear’. It was a mind-blowing fish and one of the main reasons I wanted a ticket to fish this particular pit in the first place. It wasn’t a huge carp by today’s standards at just over thirty pounds, but it was a super cool carp with linear scaling which appeared to be etched into its flanks, a little over slung mouth and crusty old dorsal. It had also only done a couple of captures over the previous two years too, which made it all the more special! With the early capture of the big mirror, the ‘Little Linear’ started to get right under my skin!

Unfortunately, during 2017 I had hardy found time to fish at all. We’d moved to a new house and welcomed the arrival of our second child Cassius, along with being away with work a lot, I just couldn’t get angling with any regularity. It was tough going.

It was now January 2018 and I had recently been offered a job working back onshore. For the past five years or so I had been working away on the oil rigs in the North Sea. Production had recently ceased, and the rig was starting to be decommissioned and a change of job was on the cards. It had always been incredibly difficult in recent years to fish anywhere properly. You could never get anything going or do any long-term prep due to having to go back to work again. My rotation at the time was two weeks at work, then two weeks at home. Don’t get me wrong, two weeks home is great but with a young family and also having to fit in training for work on your time off, it meant targeting big carp very challenging and often frustrating. A real battle mentally, but the rewards were even more satisfying! Fishing mobile and opportunistic was the only way to do it. So, observation was everything.

I’d made a plan to start early March that spring. It’d fished particularly well the previous March and I didn’t want to miss out on them waking up from their winter slumber. As it turned out, the end of January brought temperatures of double figures in the afternoons and I just had to go and have a look.

I arrived at the lake late morning on 28th January. After a couple of hours watching, I saw a subtle disturbance out in the middle of the pit. Pretty certain it was a carp and wasting no time, I quickly moved my kit round to the nearest swim and cast two rods in the general zone of water. I was just settling the second rod on the rest when the first rod’s line pulled up tight and the tip nodded round. I couldn’t believe it, I was into one! A short battle followed, and a stunning scaly mirror was soon laying in the folds of my net. My mate Craig who was fishing opposite, nipped round and took some shots for me just before it dropped dark. I then got the rods sorted again for the night.

The first of three January carp

“Baby Little Linear”

I had just started using some early batches of bait from my good friend Tom at Pure Bait Concepts at the time, and that night I took another two carp off the same spot as the scaly mirror. Three fish in a short session was good going, especially in January. But a clear sign that the bait was proving to be something a bit special. All three fish were truly stunning, but the last one was one which looked just like ‘Little Linear’ but a smaller version. It was aptly named ‘Baby Little Linear’.

Other anglers soon cottoned on to where the fish were holding up and it became very busy throughout the rest of that winter, and into spring. They had much more time to fish than I did, and I found it difficult to get into the area with any real consistency. There were regularly four or five lads fishing it each night, and even during the week too. So, pre-baiting was pretty much out the question.

Through February and March, I busted my balls to fish overnighters and keep persevering, being sure to be there as often as I could. Even if it was to simply stay in tune with the pit as the day light hours started to lengthen. Those couple of months were really testing. Winter dragged on forever with the ‘Beast from the East’ sweeping the country, and the bleak northerly and easterly winds making fishing pretty grim. Arriving at 7pm in the darkness and packing up at 4am the next morning for work was hard going, but all I had on my mind was the ‘Little Linear’, and nothing seem to faze me in my pursuit.

Bleak!

Everyone was super keen, which is often the case early on in the year. However, I knew I just had to be patient and stick with it. Once the weather improved and the weed started to grow, people would slowly fade away and I’d get my chance to start priming some spots and build a picture of what was happening round the pit. It was an incredibly shallow lake, the sun easily penetrated the gin clear water and the weed would become savage by the middle of May. I’d need to bide my time…

Fortunately, I’d caught a handful of fish through those early couple of months and I’d began to see a pattern of what the fish were doing. With my fishing usually limited to quick overnighters between work, I’d occasionally do the odd day session when I could to observe the carp’s activities. I’d always tried so hard to keep the balance with my family time, not taking the piss too much. Whenever I could, I’d nip down early morning to trickle some bait in before the wife and kids were awake which would give me a good chance for my next overnighter.

It was one day in early May, I managed to catch my first sighting of the ‘Little Linear’ along with a couple of good commons feeding hard on a gravely ledge under the cover of some trees. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was unable to react to the sighting at the time due to two other anglers fishing. I had to work a night shift that night so planned to call in at the lake again in the morning on my way home. I remember praying those two anglers had gone as I approached the gate. With my fingers crossed, I was absolutely buzzing to see the lake empty as I drove down the track.

Without hesitation and making sure no one was about, I quickly baited that spot with around a kilo of broken and whole 18mm Amino Marine boilies and a few scoops of seed. I was able to fish on the Tuesday night, so It would give the fish chance to get a good taste of the bait and confidence in the area.

Tuesday evening soon arrived, and I got to the lake around 6:30pm. The spot was quite tricky to fish from the nearest swim. By slipping into the water in chest waders, I could just about clear the tree branches above and flick the rig onto the spot. Luckily it only took the one attempt, and it swung down on a tight line to the base of the gravel ledge. Perfect I thought. I quickly nipped around the corner with a handful of chops and the trap was set.

I just fished with the one rod that night. I had a good feeling there were fish about and I didn’t want to ruin it with extra lines in the area. The weed was starting to get up now, so it’ll only make things more complicated. With an early 4am pack up for work, I unfolded the bed chair and dozed off under the stars.

Just the one rod

The next thing I remember were a few short bleeps from the Neville and the rod being wrenched at full curve, almost pulling it off the rest. Luckily, I’d positioned a storm stick next to the rod to prevent this happening. I was fishing almost locked up due to some nasty snags further down the margin so all I could do was hold on and try and walk backwards. What a savage bite and clearly an angry powerful carp. After a couple of minutes of pure resistance and heavy lunges, I managed to gain some line and lead the fish towards me. Slowly and surely, applying constant steady pressure and with the help of some weed over the fish’s head, I drew the bulky frame of a carp over the net cord.

Until now I’d not even really seen the fish, but I saw it’s outline in the darkness and knew it was a good un. I flicked on the head torch and was pleased to see an immaculate common which was clearly over thirty pounds. I unhooked and secured her in the margins, taking a moment to reflect and take it all in. It wasn’t the ‘Little Linear’ but it was one of the big uns. Probably one of her feeding mates from the day before. I was elated with the capture and I started to feel close.

After a quick brew and recasting the rod, I rattled off a few self takes and slipped her back. What a corker!

Immaculate Common

Over the next couple of weeks, the weed really began to grow, covering the majority of the lake’s surface. The fishing became limited to just a few small areas and only a handful of anglers were continuing to fish with any regularity. Things were looking up!

With the warmer temperatures and increased fish activity, I was starting to struggle keeping my carefully placed rigs in position long enough to catch the better fish. There is a big head of large rudd in the lake and also a few small carp which seemed to have grown on naturally from previous years spawn. They were beginning to be a real pain. Fishing very short overnighters, the last thing I wanted was to be picked up by these in the middle of the night. It was hard enough fishing accurately in small weed encased spots in daylight, never mind repositioning them during darkness.

I’d tried all sorts. Double 15mm hook baits, 18mm hook baits, Tiger nuts, hinge stiff links. You name it, nothing seemed to be stopping them. I even caught a 3lb 6oz rudd on an 18mm boilie with a tiger nut. It was time for a change. I needed some very large hard hook baits fast.

A quick call to my mate Tom, and he sorted me some custom 24mm Amino Marine and Amino Ester hard hook baits. That’ll single out the better fish I thought! Along with this, I decided to really ramp things up on the baiting prep.

There was a small area of clear ground to the side of some lily pads around thirty yards out of a swim called the snags. I knew the fish were using these lilies regularly and my plan was to pre-bait heavily and consistently with large quantities of seed, tiger nuts and 18mm Marine and Ester boilies. Now less anglers were about, I’d plan to nip in and out to bait up with my little inflatable dinghy and tip the buckets of goodness over the spot every three days or so.

After around a week of baiting I could wait no longer to start fishing the spot. Armed with some super sharp size two hooks, 25lb Thinking Anglers Tungskin with lead core leaders on heli set ups. 4oz flat pear leads were tied on with light mono and I was set and ready to go.

The first night I fished the spot I caught a lovely dark mid twenty common off the left-hand rod. A promising sign that my new strategy was working. The size two hook was nailed bang in the centre of the bottom lip which also ensured the rigs were performing correctly. Before leaving the next morning, I deposited another couple of buckets of the mix onto the spot. I could clearly see from the boat that the bottom was becoming cleaned off and could just imagine those bigger residents not wanting to miss out on the action! Surely ‘Little Linear’ was visiting.

24mm hook baits with big strong hooks

A couple of days later and I was back again. It was a humid, muggy night. I remember rushing around and getting the rods sorted only just before dark. To ensure the rigs were bang on and positioned without too much disturbance, I towed them out in my little dinghy. I could ever so quietly drift over the spot and drop both rigs in one journey. The rods were only fished about ten yards apart. I’d drop the right-hand rod first, putting a couple of scoops of the mix right on top, before drifting round to the left to do exactly the same with the second rod.

Little Dinghy

The stealthy approach seemed to work a treat. That night I caught another two carp. Mirrors of twenty-two and twenty-nine pounds. Another positive piece of evidence that the big hook baits were picking out the better fish. With momentum and confidence building, I knew it was my best chance of catching the ‘Little Linear’. I’d seen her swimming about a fair bit in those last two weeks, so I felt she must have been visiting the heavily pre-baited patch. At this point I was pretty convinced they hadn’t spawned either. The twenty-nine pound mirror was almost bursting, so another big bucket of mix got deposited from the dinghy in the hope my timing was just right.

 

Almost bursting

Another two days passed, and I was working a day shift. For some strange reason I had an overwhelming sense of needing to be fishing that night. To be honest though, I was exhausted. I just needed some sleep. I’d put a lot of effort in over those past few months. The constant baiting, short overnighters in between work, the balance of quality family time. I was at my limits! But I just knew I had to be there…

I talked myself into it, knowing I had a 4am pack up for work again the following morning. I thought all this effort would be worthwhile when I get my reward. I left work at 6pm and cranked up the drum & bass, grabbed a Red Bull from the garage and I was on route.

Arriving at the lake I was pleased to see nobody about. I carefully attached my rigs ensuring the hook points were absolutely perfect. Nothing was left to chance and everything was done meticulously. Both rods were lowered as quietly as possible and with no dramas. Exactly as before, they were towed out with the little inflatable, and a few scoops emptied over each rig.

I vividly remember that evening being a beautiful one. It was warm with a lovely clear sky, and I watched as the sun set behind the hillside. I cracked open a bottle of beer and tried to unwind before bed.

The atmosphere was electric. I had already received some subtle liners within the first hour after getting the rods done. I just couldn’t settle! Eventually I must have dozed off under the stars.

It was about 11pm the next thing I knew. The right-hand rod had absolutely torn off. The tight clutch was being forced to give line and it was clearly another good un. I managed to turn the fish fairly quickly, but it charged straight in to a weed bed to the right of the swim just in front of those lilies. Knowing how bad that weed was I almost jumped straight into the dinghy. The trouble is, I didn’t want to lose contact and give the fish chance to not only bury further into the weed, but also find those dense lily pads. For that split second, I just thought it was best to walk backwards with solid steady pressure.

With the rod being well compressed for what seemed like an eternity, something finally gave. Unsure if the fish was still attached, I carefully cranked the mass of weed towards me. I could see under the moonlit sky the huge vortex on the surface, but I really wasn’t sure the fish was still on. At that moment I kicked off my boots and donned the chest waders. Ensuring I remained in contact and with the rod tip held high, I gathered the whole lot in the waiting net.

Opening up the sack

With my veins pumping full of adrenaline, I quickly grabbed the head torch from off my bucket and began removing the weed, strand by strand. Shortly after, I caught a glimpse of the etched linear scaling on the fish’s right-hand flank. With a creamy white belly, and withered shark like dorsal fin, there really was no mistaking it. I’d got her. What a euphoric feeling, I’d got her!!!

I roared out loud. COMMEEEE ONNN!!!! The plan had come together, and the effort was all worth it.

I unhooked her and slipped her into a sack in the deep margins for a few hours. I tied a good few knots in the sack cord, double and treble checking the zip was fully closed and everything was in order. I sent a couple of close mates a message that I’d got ‘Little Linear’.

It was due to get light soon after 3am, so I set the alarm to pack all my kit away for then. That way it’ll give me an hour before I had to leave for work, and I could get some decent self takes done.

As you can imagine, I never slept a wink that night. I was so buzzed up you won’t believe. At around 4am I laid the ‘Little Linear’ on the mat and opened up the sack. She absolutely blew me away. What an incredible carp! She was so dark, with unique golden scales scribed into her skin. Immaculate in every way.

I took my time to capture some lovely self takes on my camera. For a moment I just looked in awe, and with a wry smile I thought to myself. This is what it’s all about…

This is what it’s all about!