As Mark arrived late at Madrid airport there was no chance to fish on night one. Instead, after a quick meal at my house, we headed out to sample the local Spanish Lager at El Parador. The heavens opened as we sat outside supping our pints, and it looked like the forecast was correct – we were in for some stormy weather.
Bright and early the following morning, we got the last few bits into my trailer, hitched it to the Navara, and we were soon driving down a dirt track to our intended destination. I had done a recce over the weekend prior to Mark’s arrival, and had pinpointed a good swim that would give access to passing carp, and also to the holding area out in the middle of the large expanse of water that hid ghostly Oak trees beneath.
Another reason Mark had booked with me was he was keen to pick up some new skills, he was prepared to work hard, and wanted to catch carp from the off. Within 30 minutes of leaving my lock-up, we were both stood staring out at a small part of Sierra Brava. “What do you think Mark,” I enquired? “It looks amazing but I can’t believe I am here to be honest!”
As my short range tactics have been working well, I decided that just because we were in a different area of the lake, I was certain they would work here too. We walked out the rods to get our accuracy matched to the spomb rod, and then Mark set about getting his end tackle sorted. I showed him the basic spod mix that has been producing the takes, and within two hours, and after Mark had decided on some landscape markers, the rods were out and the waiting game began.
I can get drinks to client’s requests if requested, and Mark had enquired whether or not I could get him some of his favourite tipple – Guinness. He sat back enjoying a cold one, whilst I prepared the dinner for the first evening. Pork chops, sauté potatoes, and chargrilled courgette was soon being devoured as we got to know each other a little better, and Flash looked on enviously, wishing his meals were as tasty!
My predictions with clients have so far been pretty accurate, in particular the times that they can expect action on the first few nights. As predicted, one of Mark’s rods tore off, and carp number one was landed. As we did the photos, another rod took off – Mark was getting a warm Sierra Brava welcome!
By the morning four carp had been landed and the fifth one, duly arrived, just as my 11am window was drawing to a close. I always recommend that clients don’t touch their rods until that time has passed. Instead, enjoy the sunrise, eat your breakfast, and expect a take, rather than reel in, rebait, and recast over fish that probably have their heads down on your already prepared spots.
Mark was on carp number six as we approached the next 24 hour stint. Would lucky carp no 7 come easily? Typically, Mark was then put through the Brava experience, suffering three hook pulls, and a breakage. I wisely told Mark from the start to respect the awesome strength of the Brava carp, and he was beginning to understand what I meant. When they want line, you have to give them some, and only if they are heading for a snag, do you try to stop them with side-strain. We had very little snags in front, so Mark learnt this lesson quickly, and was soon flying again. The action remained consistent and the bad (good) weather looked set to stay. You can certainly choose specific dates when you book a holiday but you can’t always pick the conditions. Mark could not have timed it better with regards to the weather.
Approaching the half-way point of Mark’s session, he had by now landed 16 carp and been treated to a few of Sierra Brava’s spectacular mirrors. Mark’s pb in France is a 35lb mirror, but his common carp pb was around the 26lb mark. Three nights on the trot we were treated to a upper twenty pound carp before darkness fell, the first a 27lb mirror, followed by a 28lb common, and then a gorgeous mirror arrived, promptly on the evening cue. The lone long range rod that I whacked out was delivering the goods, and Mark now had a new pb common to be happy with. Sadly the weather then changed the following morning and the barometric pressure went off the scale; clear skies and hot sunny conditions kept us company for the next couple of days. This resulted in the action slowing a little, and it was now time to possibly consider a move?
By this point however, Mark had caught a few more, but unfortunately suffered another hook pull after a long and dour fight on Saturday evening. I was certain we still had good fish, and many of them, in our area, so I asked Mark whether he wanted to move, or stay for that big fish? He didn’t need to enter the numbers game as he had already proved his capabilities, I wanted him to catch that special thirty, so after a discussion, we decided to stay put. Would Mark pull it off?
One afternoon I nipped back to my base to replenish food, drink, and bait stocks. I returned with a different rod, topped up my big baitrunner with more line, and we were now getting a few extra yards on the long range chuck. This made all the difference, and in the next couple of hours Mark had four takes, landing three. As we approached the final 24 hours, Mark had landed 22 carp and lost eight. Would the last night be kind or cruel?
Mark displayed consistency and accuracy during the whole of his time at Brava and he learnt very quickly. The one thing I admired about Mark was the fact he put his trust in the guide. Mark used 30kg of Vital K-12 boilies, 35kg of maize and tigers, 10kg of maize flour, and other additions, such as Dynamite Baits Pineapple liquid attractor, Vital’s K-12 glug, and Mainline’s Tiger Nut liquid attractor. There is no point spending all the money booking a holiday and then scrimping on bait when you actually get here. The carp in Brava can soon mop up beds of food, and although you don’t need to chuck in massive amounts, you would be ill advised to try and sit on a 5kg tub all week! Mark knocked up spod mixes as and when he needed them, never running out, and always had pva bags and new rigs ready, waiting to be attached if necessary. Speed is of the essence when you have a shoal of hungry Brava carp clearing you out, and Mark caught more fish, by rapidly getting his rod back out after a capture, and topping it up with more spombs of bait. It was a good display of angling.
Hooks are very important at Brava and I would always recommend clients bring curved patterns such as the Korda Kurvs, or long shanked curved patterns such as the Fox series 5 or Arma points. I am paranoid about hook sharpness, and big hooks, tend to keep their effectiveness longer than smaller patterns. Mark tried one of his own hooks with the blow-back rig, which was a straight shanked version. After three hook pulls, I firmly told him, to stop using them, and bang on a Kurv. He didn’t drop another fish after that and he will be pleased he did as he was told, as the final afternoon at Brava proved the perfect ending to Mark’s personal quest at Sierra Brava.
After a take on his right hand rod, and a slow, protracted fight; I slipped the net under Mark’s first thirty common. I didn’t tell Mark he had caught a thirty; instead telling him to get the rod back out to his mark. I carried the carp to the weighing tripod and watched as the scales swung round and settled on 15kg/33lb. To say Mark was made up would be an understatement!
The action continued and an hour later Mark was holding his second thrity pound common, a 30lb 14oz specimen. This fish put up a tremendous display of power, and I was glad Mark had experienced the unbelievable power of the smaller ones first; as he now looked calm, and in control, when playing a fish, and was prepared for any possible and sudden response from the carp.
As we prepared for the final few hours, I packed away most of the kit, ready for a quick getaway. Mark’s final carp of his session proved to be the icing on the cake that he hoped for. Yes, he had already had, not one, but two thirties; but his final fish was yet another pb common – this time a beautiful two-toned 34lb’er. Three thirties in the last twelve hours – Mark could not believe it!
In total Mark caught 28 carp and had 38 takes. One lost fish got snagged, and the rest were down to hook pulls. Yellow once again proved a winning hook bait colour and Mark used a combination of pop-ups, and the snowman arrangement. His DNA PB Candy Sticks that he bought with him, resulted in a lot of his captures at close range, and it is always a good idea to bring a few of your favourite hook baits with you.
While Mark was in my care, he improved his casting action by 100%, and really tightened up on his accuracy with the spomb, taking into account wind direction, and casting confidently to the clip, whilst applying the brakes at the last minute. I really enjoyed watching Mark grow in confidence as the session progressed, so much so in fact, that I felt I could give Mark free reign and as a result, I pulled back a little towards the end of his session, letting him get on with it. His last fish was expertly played and skilfully netted, all by himself, and as it was another new pb, and a big personal goal achieved, I am sure it was a much more memorable moment, rather than having the ‘yapping’ guide stood by his side trying to assist!
Well Done Mark – see you next year, or later this year if you can sweet talk your wife Louise!