The THRILL of The Chase @ Aqua paradiso

The THRILL of The Chase @ Aqua paradiso

Ramblings & Intolerable voids are just a few things that presents itself as I sit here, pondering how to go about with this piece. A few moments later it dawns upon me that we use some crazy energy with added excitement ahead of a session to such a extent that we barely fall asleep, dreaming up all the ways to catch your dream carp or two.

With the session in full flow the following morning or night, we tend to get the rods sorted and out as quickly as possible just to sit back and wait (or rather Hope) for that screaming take.

Sound familiar….

The result of a Day session, 13.3kg of immaculate Common Carp caught on a Short Fluoro Carbon Ronnie with a homemade popup fished as a Wafter on a Size#2 Gardner tackle WideGape TalonTip.

As I Always ask-Ronnie, Berig, berig ,berig?

With a dozen or so scenarios running through our minds the previous morning or night we end up looking at the far opposite margins, find a spot and bash the feed in. So what about the close margins weed beds, drop-off, snags or water inlets at our feet, why do we neglect these so easily? Suddenly the mind games start to take over and the safe bet would be the opposite margins.

Over the last 14 months I have gone against the grain and taken a different approach towards my own angling. After a Full year of blanking for various reasons at various venues, I decided to go all out and join Jozi’s Urban Tzaneen – Aqua Paradiso.

At first glance it seemed a very daunting venue until you drive through the tunnel of trees, a very majestic water awaits you. It is a venue that requires patience and tons of it. Plenty of anglers has joined and done one session just to find it too daunting or rather mind boggling, never to be seen again for the remainder of their Membership. But if you are willing to spend time, effort and a whole lot of bait the results will follow.

So let begin the journey with a little history first.

Aqua Paradiso is the old Primrose Quarry that is surrounded with so much bush and trees that you’ll forget it is situated in Jozi. It Consists of 9 swims at the moment but will be expanded later this year to include a few bivvy swims. Ongoing snag removal has commenced this year. With varying depths at various swims there are always plenty of options. But the crystal clear water is the main obstacle. One really needs to think of every little detail through before placing a bait. It is pretty much a particle venue but the fish do love boilies and pellets. Some fish will feed on boilies, pellet and small seeds while the majority of stock will munch the particles. It’s best to mix it up, to get as much different fish feeding within the area.

AP Obstacle # 1-My Lead on my heli-setup clearly visible at 7-8ft of water

With my new membership and the beauty of the lake restoring some much needed confidence into my Carping Obsession, I booked my first session somewhere in Oct 2018 on Swim 1. Little did I know how much this venue will break me. With pretty much everybody else going the particle route I opted for a mix of particle and Boilies.

After worked I rushed to the venue trying to figure out how I will go about my session, got there decided on rigs, spots and amount of bait in a hurry as the sun was already setting. Not the ideal scenario on your first session in such a snaggy venue. Game on.

With the following morning sun creeping through the window and a uneasy night of rest, I was surprised to find no bleeps or screamers on my receiver. Kettle boiling and making a much needed kick in the ass cup of coffee I wonder what went wrong. I was so sure of at least one run. I walk around to my margin spot looking for my rig and seeing how much feed was left. I was left baffled, as almost 90% of my feed was gone and I couldn’t see my rig and hook bait anymore. Standing there thinking these bloody carp are children of Houdini.

I headed back to fetch the rod and head back out with the boat to see where my rig was. As I retrieve my line slowly, I find it 4ft away from where I had dropped it. What the hell. With that thought barely spoken, here comes  Mr Carp drifting slowly into the swim, dives underneath the boat into the depths.

Dumbstruck I think to myself, “you bloody idiot”! I head back to the swim, not sure what just happened. The next moment instinct takes over, I grab the feed bucket and run towards the margin hiding behind a big tree. I keep a close eye on the spot hoping to see Mr Carp, to my amazement it is watching me just as much as I am watching him. Drifting in from a nearby overhanging bush it goes straight for a boilie, picks it up drifts 1ft any chucks it down the slope. What? The next moment it goes for some maize, starts chewing on his way back to the bush. This goes on for more than 40min, exactly the same thing. I am in awe of Mr Carp who looks like a old warrior common with white flecked fins. So much that I almost didn’t spot the dark figures at the bottom of the slope munching on all the safe boilies. No matter what I did, I still ended it with a blank, but that session and lessons set me up for the future as there was plenty of problems but I had to find a solution to all my obstacles at Aqua.

One of those was the change in tactic in terms of feed. Smaller items such as hemp, sorghum, pellet, broken boilies and later on sweetcorn. Buffet meal of note.

After a few weeks of non fishing, I had booked swim 9 for 5 days during December with a peg mate. What a change of scenery, suddenly no more intimate margins or stalking areas. Distance fishing. Across we go at 150m ignoring the close margins. We were just not comfortable at fishing such a acute angle going from 5 ft down to 40ft within 10m. Keep in mind that to the left is hectic sunken tree snags and to the right too. Armed with only boilies chops trying to avoid the cats we had 3 takes within 24hrs,  all snagged up but hooking into your first Aqua fish was massive. You’re doing something right. A 35cm Supple braid Multi-rig made from Gardner Tackle Trickster had done the job. Next obstacle getting the fish Safely out of the Snags. By the 3RD Morning we were broken to such a extent that we decided to pack up and leave. During the day the flies would be all rage, while the mosquito’s lie and wait inside the fishermen’s hut to pester you beyond hell. With almost no sleep, a burned speed controller on the motor and 3 popped seams on the inflatable just to name a few, We headed home.

A recent uncaught mirror on a new Homemade Popup. My recent success is a culmination of the effort, time and bait of the previous 14 months. The paddle power in all these fish is astounding.
The mirror.

All was not lost as on the first night we had fed a small weedy patch in the margins, two hours later to find a beautiful litlle mirror feeding within the spotlight of the headlamp. Not fazed at all. On the second morning we walked around the swim just looking for something to guide us.

Stopping at a overhanging tree we see some carp hanging about in the surface layers. Our first thought, they are not feeding with the extreme high pressure, so there is no point in fishing for them during the day while they are lurking underneath the foliage. We introduce some feed, and they are not phased one bit. The next moment we see a BIG common rise from the depths and drift away, right behind it there is one almost double in size following suit. We couldn’t believe it. At 10m away it was about 40cm Wide, with such a deep body underneath. We didn’t know it at the time but that was our first encounter with a very possible 50-60lb fish. I was lucky to see it recently again in full sunlight knowing full and well what it was doing. There is a mirror that is as old as the hills as well, a possible 50lb fish. It is as long as it tall and wide with a huge set of shoulders on it, Almost European like build. Got no idea how that will fit into my landing net. Hmmmmmm

The Puzzle was starting to come along.

With work obligations getting the better of me and a unplanned session at Donaldson Bottom Lake, my next session would only be towards the end of March, my BDay weekend. After a quite weekend fishing wise and only a single fish coming out in the form of a stunning Israeli caught by Ashley Goddard and knowing the weather was going to turn, I felt very optimistic about the following 48 hours.

On the Monday morning we had 4 Runs but all was Lost to the snags. Frustrating in all senses. By Monday 14:15 there was life again as the alarm screamed, the rod hopping op the alarm and pulling out of the butt gripper. Very luckily the real had gotten snagged on the snagears. Well they are called snagears but not really meant for catching your reel. A scary scene indeed, Running like a hooligan with a severe heart rate spike and a mishap lurking somewhere for you (Pretty sure everybody can relate – hahaha) With the rod picked up and a very heavy weight on the opposite end, I managed to turn it right underneath a overhanging acacia branch. With huge splashes to follow, that sudden wobbly legs sets in-‘BIGUN’! With the fish suddenly heading towards my diagonal right where there is a sunken tree in between swim 7 and 8. I pull with everything but still get flat-rodded regardless to such a extent that the small bait-runner starts Slipping gears. Panic sets in, I hand over the rod to the old man so that I can fetch the boat 10m away and hoping to just get it away from this snag. As I get there and take control of the rod, I can feel the grating, that feeling sets in and you know what is to follow – GUTTED. I move above the snag hoping to try and force it out at least, pulling with might I feel movement and….Plonk. It’s Off,  bringing up the leader hoping the rig is still there-relief sets in that only the hook had pulled open. Gardner Tackle Camflex 45lb Leadless leader, coupled to a Safety Clip and a Ronnie rig consisting of the same Gardner Tackle Camflex coupled to a Gardner Tackle #6 Mugga.

Trust is earned, there is no more such a thing as bad tackle – ONLY BAD APPLICATION!!

After a decent chat with Deon From Mean Baits, something got stuck in my head – “Fish are not really smart but by means of association towards danger, fish are more susceptible or wary to certain danger areas and/or certain baits. Suddenly my light bulb starting flickering- (Thanks For the flickering Deon).

With that said and the fact that in all my previous sessions I had fed various margin spots around the lake to try and find comfortable feeding areas as well as looking for other signs to carry on building my puzzle of the lake. After seeing fish feeding on one of these spots it reminded me off the legendary Steve Fantuzzi from the UK with his stalking exploits. If I can Present bait at regular times but something that is different from the norm that the fish have not been caught on and I can get them feeding confidently they would be easier to catch.

A Recent uncovered rig from the ongoing snag removal shows the lack of application From a brilliant product. After all the Media available how can we still get this wrong. RESPONSIBLE angling is up to each and every one of us.

With any wary carp you need to get them feeding confidently before you can catch them. Having seen it multiple times  over the last few months it became evident that the carp will feed on the smaller food items before getting unto the bulky items while still remaining wary and feeling constantly for lines.

They know that small pellet and seeds such as hemp n sorghum are safe items and they will feed on that with gusto.   I have had the privilege of watching both current lake records feeding underneath my feet. That was a truly eye opening experience that I will cherish forever.

The common idea of how we think big carp are feeding is so way off track, it’s like walking in the bush surrounded with pitch black skies.

Back in April was another weekend session where things started falling into place after a few lost fish I had a funny take on swim 6, picked the rod up and straight away I am snagged, into the boat and out we go. As I get closer to the opposite margin with the sun breaking through the trees I suddenly see a bright orange koi swimming circles around a sunken tree, my first hooked fish that I can see and it’s a koi with the utter intent of snagging me up. A Sick feeling gets to you like never before. After a uphill battle and about 40min later my Prize awaits me in the landing net with a 3m branch of said snag laying over the net. A Shout of relief and gratitude is released, and I’m sure Uncle Theo was not too impressed with the noise. Oops!!!

Seasonal natural food source vs artificial food source (MY Favoured Boilies from SNZ) over a sustained time period. 14 Months of sustained baiting and I’m expecting massive results this coming winter. This is my Base for my AP success, Crushed boilies are the way to go……

In May, I was there for only one or two day sessions where I kept the baiting of in and around 19 spots going with the future in mind. While in June I was kept busy with work. I tried making up for it in July where I did 5 day sessions and really started to see the fish respond towards the baited areas, to such a extent that I had fish selectively feeding on certain food items at the same time in the same area. As I went over to another member Casper to greet him, pointing out the big fish feeding close to him. We went to watch her feed for a few seconds, once she had noticed us, she slowly drifted away to a nearby snag. puzzle piece indeed. By That time I had spent the majority of said sessions just feeding and watching closely. There was one area where the fish had cleared away all the debris right through to the gravel. As there was overhanging branches covering the spot it was perfect coverage from the harsh winter sun. By that time I knew exactly what time they would start to feed within the margins. With feed put in very early it was just a matter of waiting for the second feeding spell of the day. After watching the fish feeding upon one of the other spots I knew it was time to get back to the one in focus, once I got there half they feed had been wiped.

For a moment I think it was over, then the first carp appeared and soon another, not feeding with gusto. Just picking up some bait and leaving, after fish #13 I managed to get the rig in place and with the noise from the lead and splash the 2 carp that drifted out suddenly turned around and came back investigating the area again. Wow, not what I expected. I was fishing a drop-off inline setup with a supple braided Multi-rig and a dark red Bloodworm wafter. A smallish fully scaled and a common was feeding on the opposite side of a fallen branch but kept a wide eye towards my hook bait. The next moment it just headed straight towards the hook bait out of all the freebies around.

The fish got hooked but not sure how to react it just shook its head until it felt the lead and bam, it bolted off. I had watched every detail with intent, that I did not check where I placed my Canon camera and my phone. After netting the fish I was looking for my phone and camera to get things sorted while my first stalked carp was waiting inside the net, just to find my camera had been shoved into the landing net. Gutted but Super Happy! At least I got some awesome pictures while I was downloading them via Canon connect. PUZZLE PIECE Collected.

So with each session regardless if it is a day or weekend session I opt to start feeding all my spots first before I even unpack. You may wonder why, but it’s actually very easy.

The first question I want you to ask yourself, is where does a angler really put unused bait after a session. The second, does fish really scare off with noise from within margins and the third, what do you do when bite or feeding time have passed. More importantly what does the fish do when feeding times have passed. These questions are all relevant to other venues, but requires a different outlook from yourself.

My first stalked carp. Can’t wait for this little one to grow up and being a Famous SA 40lber. Great to have family to share these moments with. Let’s make the most of the time we have together.

So what I do when a feeding spell has ended or passed, go find them, feed them again and try to outwit them. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but there is few things in life that is more rewarding and stressful at the same time. One moment you anticipate the fish picking up your hook bait with the sheer feeling of your heart bursting through your chest to the disappointment that it has just sussed you in front of your very eyes. Just for the next carp to start your whole process all over again, again and again. All of this within 10-20 seconds.

You will curse like someone possessed but at the same time you’ve already started thinking of improving on rig mechanic presentation and everything that flow.

With everything Mentioned up to now, I would like to remind everyone that responsible angling should always prevail. There is absolutely no point in fishing a area where you know it’s impossible to land that fish safely.

When all the action dies off, it’s back to the norm and Looking ahead for the afternoon prepping the rods for the night and following morning. What started out as a bit of history, has turned into a little of opinionated conclusions. But I will leave that to you to ponder about.

With a little and often approach in terms of baiting, I have started getting the fish grubbing at different times of the day while other have been sitting and blanking. That is my idea of fish conditioning heading into autumn and winter. My mindset has always been with winter in mind and working towards that where the carp’s behaviour changes from night to day feeding.

Through all me observations and hours spent watching, learning I have picked up a few things that might help others at the venue.

  • With the gin clear water there is no reason to put extra pressure on yourself or the fish as they see everything even from a distance. After 10am I remove my lines from the swim and top up the feed getting them confident for the night ahead.
  • There are more cats than carp, and usually onto the feed within 2-7min. Don’t be scared to overfeed. The carp tend to cruise about during the day seeing the bait to return later for a slumber feeding session. Multiple hands or scoops of feed get a different reaction from the fish, coming to investigate sooner.
  • As long as there is enough small food items to move in between the gravel, rocks, weed, branches and any other cavity there will still be plenty of food signals to keep them scoffing and create a feeding frenzy.
  • Usually the cats and smaller carp compete to such a extent that they kick up a dust cloud, keep a eye open for that, bigger fish will start coming into the swim not long after. But they will only start to feed when they have total confidence.
  • Look where the fish are hiding during daytime, it will give you a starting point for a Quick afternoon or evening bite.
  • Keep a eye on the coots, they usually give the carp away and if there is still feed within a swim.
  • Make rig and line concealment a priority.
  • Mix up your feed, give yourself options.
  • Bait placement is critical, it’s really hit n miss by a fraction. Think before you just place a hook bait, why are you putting it there?

Who knows what lies ahead, as there are still plenty of success to discuss and unspoken tales. Hopefully this is only part 1. My success at AP has been build upon these little stepping stones that I have discussed and thought it relevant for the greater understanding of what is to come. Hopefully I can stand Proud of having either caught the resident 50lb+ mirror or even bigger common I have witnessed

In short I have used the time awarded to us as anglers as much as I could, not knowing when my next session might be. Some has been weekend sessions, while others have been short morning, afternoon or day sessions. But every second has been used to find Carp and catch them. Size is irrelevant, each character tells a different story – THE Thrill of the CHASE.

A Recent 32.4lb Common, Falling to a Sticky Bait 12mm Pineapple Popup on a Heli Setup fished way beyond my comfort Zone at 37ft.


Just a Shout-out for the Support and Backing – Gilbert Foxcroft, Dwight Kruger and Shiraz Ismail and Brandon Frazer for this opportunity.