My friend Paul, who I have known for many years is a keen carp angler. Along with his two companions, Paul and Henry, they touched down on the tarmac, slightly late, but full of fire. I have a taxi service for transfers, but as Bristol flights are late in the day, it meant they either hired a car, or I chauffeured them in my 4 x 4. Judging by their beaming smiles as they floated through the arrivals lounge, I suspected they probably weren’t in a fit state to drive, after a beverage or three on the plane, so the chauffeured option was a wise choice.
Back at my house and after a hearty meal, we got our heads down for an early start the following day. I had done a recce earlier in the week, and from previous experience, and a hunch, I knew where I was heading for at the lake. Fuelled with Spanish coffee, and secured into my Navara, we set off, towing the ‘uber’ trailer filled to the brim with tackle, bait, food, and lots of beer! Flash was obviously onboard, keeping a watchful eye over the guys luggage in the back of my truck, and after a short drive we soon approached the turn off, and neared closer to our destination.
Henry, a fishing companion of Paul back in the UK, was particularly keen, and after guiding at a lake in Gran Canaria for a few years, I was starting to feel the pressure as we made our way across the dam. Guiding is all about delivering a service, and although you can’t guarantee anything in fishing, with a friend on board, and an ex-guide, I was going to have to hope that my intended swim would come up trumps.
The lake had a few anglers present as we bumped our way along the dusty tracks, and eventually we made our way down the last part of the descent to the swim. It was free, which brought a broad smile to my face, and I felt a good omen was possibly on the cards for my first group booking of the year. This was also my first ever group of three, so in order to keep standards high, I was going to have to work very hard indeed.
I had communicated extensively with the guys through the group leader before they arrived. Once the booking is confirmed, and deposits are paid, I nominate a group leader who is responsible for passing on information to the rest of the group. With two Paul’s on the trip, Paul senior was the nominated leader, and after meeting him briefly in Ibiza last year on a stag weekend for my Irish friend Greg, and after listening to his countless tales of other fishing trips he had experienced, I was confident he would prove a good choice. My mate, the other Paul, probably only checks his email once a quarter, so he was tactfully not given the responsibility!
Communication leading up to the trip is important, and I pride myself on giving regular updates on how the lake is fishing, and also what the group need to bring with them. Yellow pop-ups are always a winner at Sierra Brava, so after parking up by the side of the lake, I was pleased to see the lads had come prepared, and they had read the SBD website thoroughly before leaving England. My new choice of boilie (Vital Baits Banana GLM) has proved succesful and Dynamite Baits fluro banana and pineapple pop-ups would certainly compliment them well, but I was given a surprise. A few years ago when I was briefly involved in selling bait, I imported Imperial Baits from Germany. When I left the UK in 2008 with half a tonne of the stuff in the back of my van, I left several boxes of sundry items with a friend. I told him to give it all to Paul a year later, so when he produced 5 year old yellow V-pops from his bag, I was intrigued to see whether the old yellow pop-ups would work. They aren’t flavoured but being bright in colour, I was confident they would, but I couldn’t help laugh at the fact that my friend had bought them with him.
The trio had been briefed on fishing tactics, so in my usual manner I told them to either listen to me, or they were free to try their own methods first. I have no problem with confident anglers who want to try their preferred methods, but I also know my method is proven, and sometimes listening to the guide can give you a head-start. All waters are different, and Sierra Brava is huge, so a few pointers in the right direction are often worth digesting. I started setting up camp as the lads prepared their rods and rigs, and as always there was an air of confidence, shadowed by nerves and uncertainty.
The two Pauls took the left hand side of the swim and Henry opted for the last peg to the right. I am always fascinated to watch other anglers and listen to their ideas, and Henry was certainly sure of his tactics. I always recommend areas to fish to, and then like to hear the views of the angler concerned. Where to fish can be a hunch, a feeling, or gut instinct, and reading your swim is half the battle. Sierra Brava is a beautiful water to fish as it always offers plenty of options and although anglers may have different ideas about where to place a bait, I have recognised a formula at Brava, as the carp are creatures of habit and can usually be relied upon to turn up on cue. The weather was the only niggling problem though and creatures of habit can sometimes play hard to get when conditions look bleak.
As dinner was served hopes were high, and friendly banter was dished up for dessert. The lads had decided on a few bets between themselves on the flight, and a competitive atmosphere was clearly evident. I have never seen my friend Paul fish but his skills were evident. His casting was adequate, and after tuition with the throwing stick, baiting up was soon achieved with modest accuracy. However, as always, I am always keen to see how anglers deliver a spomb, and how consistent they are. Only time would tell how precise they had been, but after keeping a watchful eye on them all as I got everything arranged, I already had a fair idea who had paid most attention to my advice.
I am always tired on the first night after much planning and preparation, but when the alarm sounds, I am as excited as the angler concerned. His second carp of the session put up a great fight and we stood quietly as he played the carp like an expert. I netted the fish as it admitted defeat and couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing. Two good commons on the trot and this one was definately a new PB. I don’t think Paul could quite take in what had just occurred either, as 34lb 7oz was read out. After shaking hands with my long-time friend, who had put his faith in me to deliver a good holiday, this was then followed by photos of the carp in question. “You can relax now”, I said, and realised that I too could breathe a sigh of relief. Fish were here and they were being caught.
Group leader Paul got off the mark with a pretty mirror and ‘tother Paul added a couple more to his belt. Henry on the other hand was scratching his head and although there was nothing at fault with his angling ability, it just wasn’t happening where it mattered.
Moving swims is an anglers choice first and foremost, but giving the swim a chance to build is sometimes the key. The conditions on the second night were a stark contrast to night one, and although carp were caught by good fishing, it couldn’t have looked less inviting. Henry decided a move was on the cards so by mid-afternoon he was set up in his new stall to the left of Top Rod Paul. A new wave of confidence was showering Henry and we all hoped his strategic plan would pay off.
Group leader Paul had now aquired a new name or nickname rather – Mole. For the purposes of the write-up it will make life easier, and happy with his new label, he was equally happy with his carp he had caught. Mole has fished for many species all over the world and has held some big fish in his arms but I could see some areas in his angling that could be improved. I took the Mole under my wing for a day or so, and we worked on his accuracy with his casting and baiting up. I can’t stress enough how important this aspect is at Sierra Brava, and over the next few nights his tally of carp grew, as did his confidence and smile for the camera. The other thing you could always rely on with both Paul’s was their staggering snoring skills, so much so that they were named the ‘Chain-saw Brothers’ by Henry which aptly described the noise made by both sleepers!
The last night beckoned and a good mood was echoing round the camp. The boys enjoyed the food that was served up by myself and pork chop, saute potatoes and carrots were wolfed down as darkness enveloped the water. The place was now empty after the weekend anglers had departed and with the thought of packing up the following morning, all three anglers were wishing for their hopeful targets.
As it turned out the night could not have gone better. An hour after the moon had appeared in the sky, Paul had his first fish. Mole was next as he dealt with a 20lb common. Mole was soon weighing another Brava carp and this one was rather special – another mirror and another personal best at 29lb 5oz. The fish looked stunning and is a classic example of the quality of the Brava carp.
Paul was next to add to his list of fish and a fine common was hooked and landed; it was now all down to Henry, and I had joked with him that he also needed a PB as he was letting the side down. The carp must have heard me, and Henry’s prayers were met as a plump, deep common, was successfully defeated, and I had a great deal of admiration for Henry as his joy became apparent. He had had a tough week and admitted he should have done things differently from the start, but he turned it around at the final whistle, and also returns to Bristol with a new PB in his fishing log – a 27.5lb common. Well done Henry!
Apart from their impressive three carp a day catch they also made a few new records.180 cans of drink were consumed, several gallons of tea was drunk, they did not lose a fish whilst playing, no fish were snagged, and they only lost a single set of terminal tackle during the whole week.
Repeat bookings are something I strive for and I have my Dutch clients returning at the end of the month. I am also thrilled to say that Paul, Mole, and Henry have already booked a return week in November, such was their satisfaction from the trip. I have devised an offer for clients during their trip to secure return bookings, as all of my clients to date have hinted at returning.
As from today if you want a return booking you will be given 5kg of boilies each, and if you pay the deposit within a week of returning home, a free case of lager per person is also included. That will save you 74 Euros per person and once the deposit is received you can then relax till your holiday dates arrives.
The yellow V-pops did work in case you are wondering? Any yellow bait seems to get a pick up, and most of the fish fell to single 20mm or trimmed yellow pop-ups and also to snowmen arrangements using blow-back rigs. I supply 15 and 20mm boilies and either size can be used as a bottom bait. The fact there are no nuisance species to bother you means the bait stays on the hair.
It just remains me to say thanks guys – it was one hell of a week!