Commons Galore at Birch Grove
Written by Chris Knapper
Finally the time had come for me to fish the legendary Birch Grove. Despite the fish kill that Birch had 3 years ago, when walking down to Mary's peg the place still had the magic from years previous when I had gone as a none fishing guest with Julian’s party. As it happened, our party arrived around lunch time on the Sunday, just as Julian' s party were pulling off.
Their week had seen a lot of warm weather, and only when it turned towards the end of the week did they start to bag a few. Julian's party always seem to do well, and the party after, when reading the log the following year, always seem to do really well also, so this had me raring to go! When Julian's party left, it was finally time to try and outwit the carp of Birch Grove. We said our farewells and within a couple of hours we were all set up and settled in ready for the week ahead. Bloo and I set up in the Compound, and Rich and Adam doubled up on the Top Boards.
The rods went in; all of us trying different tactics to see which one would work best. I went for a minimal bait approach, only scattering small amounts of bait over the spots, and fishing critically balanced hook baits. Where as the others, did anything from critically balanced small baits, to large beds of bait and bottom baits on the hook. That night we were all happy with the way the rods went out and as the sun went slowly down over the tall trees that surround the water on this beautiful afternoon, we were all full of expectations. However, the night passed with no action at all.
Looking out from the Compound Swim on Birch Grove
I awoke at around 6am.When I opened my eyes, I was amazed at where I was, and after looking out the door, I started to watch the mist roll off the water as it does every morning on Birch. Only then did I see my middle left rod bang and then the alarm made me realise what was going on! I was on it in a flash and so was Bloo, with the net by my side. After a good scrap, a decent common went over the string and into my net, and only then did I realise I had just landed my first Birch Grove fish.
After waking the other two lads, the Scales were zeroed and cameras were on the ready. It weighed 16lb 14oz, which was completely insignificant to me as it could have been 2lb and it would have been the same, any Birch fish is a massive achievement, and with only being the fist night, I was well and truly ready for the following 6 nights which lay ahead.
My first Birch Grove carp, a stunning 16lb 14oz common
The day passed with no more action to speak of, and that evening the rods went out in the same manner as the night before. I was full of expectations as the evening passed on and I went to bed a very happy person that night.
The following morning I awoke to see my hangers in the exact same position as they were when I went to sleep. We all met up in the cabin and had breakfast in the usual way and after having a chat, it was apparent that no one had caught that night. It was now Tuesday and what a red hot day it was. Bloo lost a fish that day stalking; it had fully straightened his hook. Apart from this, there was no more action to speak of. The rods went out in the exactly the same way as they did on the first night, and although my confidence was high from the first nights capture, the night was again, an uneventful one.
The following morning I decided to leave the rods in a little later as the weather was a little cooler from the previous few days. At around 10:30am, I received a belting take on the middle left rod, and after bending into the fish and walking back, I realised that the fish had done me and the line was solid! I called for assistance and within minutes had Rich in the boat with the net trying to help me on board. After winding myself to the snag, and believe me, it isn't easy when you have got two blokes in a little boat trying to keep it in a straight line, we slowly began to see below the ripples. I saw my line entering the murky brown water, and as the ripples began to steady, I saw my line wrapped round a branch, with my lead and rig just below with a decent size common on the end!
We got as close as we dared and with amazing netting from Rich; she was in the net and safely mine! We let out a couple of "hoorays", or words to that effect, and started to head back ashore. As we got back on the bank, the lads had the Scales and unhooking mat at the ready and within minutes, she was weighed, photographed and released back to the dark depths of Birch Grove, the fish turning the needle on the scales round to l8lb 10oz.
Another Birch common, this one at 18lb 10oz
The rods, as you can imagine, went out the same again, although it wasn’t until Friday morning when I had my next take. The other lads were struggling to get a bite, all I put it down to was my method, and when they started to adapt their approach accordingly, they started to get results. It was Friday morning and we only had two more nights to go, and for only two fish to come off up to now, Birch was certainly showing its tough side.
I was sat by my rods at around 11:00am when it happened, and when it did. It came as a shock as I was daydreaming of catching one of the big 20's that reside in Birch! This time it was my left hand rod fished towards the margins of Mary's peg, and as the other lads were doubled up at the top end, this wasn't a problem at all. The rod signalled a couple of bleeps, but I saw the tip of the rod slowly start to bend round so I picked the rod up and walked as far back up the swim as I could. This time the fish didn't give up as quickly as the others; it just kept its depth and chugged in the deep water about 50 yards out. I gained line slowly and before I knew it, Rich laid the net in the water to my left hand side.
The fish was now about five yards out but circling round and round under the rod tip. I applied pressure when I felt it was necessary as I didn't want it to do me on the jetty below, then after watching the rod go up and up, I saw my leader knot, then my lead, then a big pair of lips attached to a rather large common with my hook smack bang in the centre! Rich was on it in a flash and scooped up the culprit. As he lifted the fish onto the mat, I realised I had just caught one of Birch Grove's 20lb commons. Luck had it that all my fish were commons, and it took a while for it to sink in as I had been told stories of people who have fished Birch for years and not caught one!
Result! My Birch Grove PB common at 24lb 12oz
The scales confirmed my estimations of the fish, and when Rich read out the weight once the needle had stopped bouncing, I had a new PB Common, and not just any common - a Birch Grove Common! This time, the scales whipped round to 24lb l2oz. I can't describe the way I felt, to know that I had sussed out the fish within the legendary water, they are the memories that you will take to the grave.
As mentioned previously, the lads had all changed over to similar techniques as mine, and the next couple of nights, we had more takes than in the fist 5 nights. As it happens, it was only Adam that was lucky enough to land one of the takes as they were snagging us up. We were fishing fully locked up, and did everything we could to stop them, but when fishing 100 yards with mono, they can have at least 10 yards of stretch in the line, that's why we were picking the rods up and walking as quick as we could to the back of the swim. Adam’s fish was only a small common of around 121b, but like I said, any fish from Birch is a massive achievement.
Adam's 12lb common
I lost another fish on Sunday morning. It took me around a snag but this time there was nothing on the end when I got to it. Not as bad as Adam’s lost fish mind, a good upper double lost right at the net - gutted! It was obvious that my technique was the one for having them; I just wished that we’d all been on it from the start and the results could have been rather different.
Nonetheless, a great week was had by all, and if you’ve never been, I can honestly say there is nothing like watching the Sun go down and waking to great balls of mist rolling off the surface. Birch holds a big place in my heart despite the tragic fish kill. Let’s hope it gets back to how it was 5 years ago. I’ll definitely be back on in 2006.