IFD: Steve Briggs has won the World Carp Cup an astonishing twice among his many other fishing achievements. Since we first interviewed Briggsy he has always been one of the most down to earth anglers you could hope to find and a true gentleman of the carping world. So here is how he got on with a recent trip to Hungary…
I stepped off the plane in to the warm Hungarian sunshine, it was 22 degrees and probably double of what I’d just left behind in the UK, it was a nice start to a week that I’d been looking forward to for some time. I was met by the smiling face of Atilla Pinke from catchcarphungary, who runs and organizes trips to some of the very best waters that Hungary has to offer, but it was a water called Paradise Lake that we were heading to. It was only a 40 minute drive from Debrecen airport to the lake and it made a welcome change from the many long drives that I’m normally used to doing. Of course one of the main concerns with flying is normally having all of the gear when you get there but Atilla provides the full package if needed and much of it is top quality Nash gear so it would be home from home for me.
We were soon pulling through the large wooden gates and I got my first glimpse of the lake. At around 40 acres it looked lovely in the afternoon sun and it wasn’t long before I could see the first signs of activity as a few fish showed themselves in the warm upper layers. The lake itself is roughly rectangular shaped and is divided down the middle by a string of islands, there are actually just fifteen swims on the lake so there is plenty of room for everyone. I guess where this lake differs from most though is that every swim comes with its own cabin, which is fully winterized with both heating and air conditioning, depending on conditions and fridge, microwave and power points as well as four bunk style beds. It was going to be carp fishing with a little bit of luxury thrown in – and I certainly didn’t mind that!
Each swim is provided with a small BIC rowing boat so first job as always is to have a good scout around for potential areas. The island margins were an obvious spot to check out but I guess that would be everyone’s initial reaction and I’m always conscious of trying to look for something different as well as the more obvious places. I was in swim 14, the last swim along the west bank so there was quite an area of water down to my left and the end bank itself has no swims so there was a fair bit to look at. The lake bed itself appeared to be fairly uniform, dropping down quickly to 2 meters before leveling out, after that there were more subtle variations but it’s often the case that little things make a big difference and the prodding stick showed that there were areas of soft silt and parts that were rock-hard.
I tend to find that productive areas vary from water to water so I started out looking for both hard and soft options, in reality the carp themselves showed me the starting points as there quite a few shows in the open water at range level with the end of the last island. So to begin with I spread three rods in a line starting from the island margin and out in to the open water all with Nash 4G Squid snowman set ups with about 30 or 40 4G Squid freebies around each one. It takes a day or two to get an idea of the right approach so I didn’t want to go in too heavy at the start and spoil things, but I was on fish and so I felt confident enough.
The first action came at around midnight from the rod closest to the island and from the head shaking I knew that it wasn’t a big fish but the nice surprise was that it was a koi of about mid doubles. I quite like carp with a bit of colour so it was enough to make me get the camera out and click a few self-take shots off. That was the only action for the first night, I’d expected more but it’s often the case that fish are still occupied with clearing up the bait from the previous anglers at the start of the session. As daylight took over from darkness the wind began to pick up, it was blowing directly in to me and seemed to get the fish moving. I saw several shows over the next couple of hours all over the water in front of me and sure enough two good runs saw me land two commons up to 25lb.
The lake owner popped in to say hello and funnily enough it was a familiar face as we’d both fished Rainbow Lake at the same time on a number of occasions, which reminded me once more of just what a small world we live in! He brought with him various bottles of drink – some that looked quite dangerous but it was a friendly welcome. He remarked that I was only using three rods as six are allowed in each swim between one, two or three anglers and he said I should at least put one more out. Well, it was an offer I wasn’t going to refuse and Atilla duly arrived with a small 9’ Dwarf rod for me to play about with. I didn’t want to crowd the swim but about 20 metres down to my left there was a gap in the reeds and a perfect spot for an extra rod. I stood by the reeds and thought about where to place the bait, the corner to my left looked good and so did the far margin but then literally 2 meters from the edge in front of me a fish came half out of the water and flopped back in – that was the answer I was looking for! The lake and the situation reminded me very much of fishing back in the UK so with that in mind I thought I’d try a little hinge-rigged pop up as I had some already tied up. I’d simply fish that over a handful of a large particle mix, which is supplied at the lake at a reasonable price. It couldn’t be simpler, one handful of particle and then lower the hook bait on top, one of my favourite ways of fishing.
The night passed by fairly quietly with one more fish to add to the total but first light saw a burst of action that had me scampering around. Three more fish to 28lb meant all four rods had produced fish before my first cup of tea of the day! I was particularly pleased that the margin rod had produced although little did I know what was to come! Atilla came down to see what was going on and it was just as well as one of my long range rods and the margin rod went off within seconds of each other and we were both playing hard fighting fish up to 25lb. It was great action and I said to Atilla that the one thing that had been missing from my fishing for a while was a day of hectic action – well it was happening now!
I dropped the margin rod back in position as it was easy to do and we chatted away while I sorted the rest of the gear out. We were both aware of a noise around us but it didn’t quite register for a few seconds what it was – until it dawned on me that it was the alarm from the margin rod again! By now the fish had already stripped 50 meters of line and showed little sign of stopping. As the line slowly cut through the water I began to gain some sort of control. All of the fish were fighting incredibly hard but this one was just a bit more slow and deliberate than the others. Atilla manned the cameras to record the whole sequence while I did my best to tire the fish out.
Eventually a big set of shoulders broke the surface and as it went in to the net I knew that it was the best so far by some distance. If I’m totally honest I was just hoping that it would pass the 40lb mark, but when I lifted it on to the scales I knew that it was bigger than that and sure enough it was way bigger pulling the needle round to an incredible 55lb 12oz! There had been several 20kg fish banked already through the year but this was in fact the biggest of the lot and cause for some celebration.
If I hadn’t caught another fish then it wouldn’t have mattered one bit but the action kept coming and most of it was to the margin rod. It was quite amazing that I’d play each fish for several minutes right next to the spot where I was hooking them from and yet they would keep coming back for more, obviously it was on their patrol route or there was something there to keep drawing them back. Atilla said that he’d not seen anyone fish that spot before so that in itself could explain a lot. By the end of the day I’d landed ten fish with most of them falling to the one rod. It was a great day and I retired to the cabin tired but very happy that evening.
The following day was a lot quieter, which was hardly surprising. I had just two fish and both of them once again came to the margin rod. The wind had turned slightly and I wondered how much of an effect it would have. However, for Atilla things were improving. He was fishing the next swim down with his wife Nikki and son Atti and he was finding productive spots at mid range in his swim.
He started off as I did with the smaller average fish but in the evening he hooked something more powerful, which turned out to be another big common. He instantly recognized the fish as one of the characters of the lake and at 48lb 4oz it was also another of the big ones.
We were all really enjoying the week, the whole idea is to give people a trip to remember and of course fishing is fishing, you still have to work things out and put the effort in if you want to get the best out of it, but the rest of it is there to make it as pleasurable as possible, even to the point where there are takeaway menus from two restaurants, who will both deliver hot meals to the swims a short time later, which saves all of the effort of cooking. My favourite was chicken breasts with slices peaches and potato croquets followed by cheesecake, so there wasn’t much chance of me losing weight that week!
Paradise Lake has carp of all shapes and sizes so you never really know what the next run will bring. I had been looking at the margin of the bottom bank but had resisted putting a bait there to that point, but with several fish showing right close in to the edge I couldn’t hold back any longer and set off in my little carp boat with a rod and bait. The margin quickly dropped off to a hard bottom ledge in just over 2 meters and that was where I baited with a few boilies and some of the particle mix. It was about an hour later when the tip on that rod pulled around and just stopped there. I picked the rod up and it felt strange all the way in until near the edge where it went crazy and of course it was a grass carp, but a decent one of around 28lb.
The one other bite that day came the now dependable margin rod and this one took off like a rocket! I really had no idea what I’d hooked as it just kept powering off in to the distance. “That one must sleep in a tank of Red Bull!” Atilla said – and he had a point, my arms were killing me! Eventually we just saw this yellow glow in the water and after a few attempts we scooped up what was a stunning-looking koi/ghosty mirror of 41lb 6oz the biggest of that type that I’ve ever caught and once again we could celebrate.
Luckily for me the nights were fairly quiet, at least action-wise. Normally there would just be one take somewhere in the hours of darkness but the carp would be really active and in the silence all I could often hear were carp crashing out all over but it was good to try and take note of where they were for the following days. The long range rods weren’t quite as effective as I first thought they would be but looking at how most people fished that week it seemed that the central area does receive the most pressure, there’s something in our nature that tells us that we need to fish to the limit of our boundaries. So I did gradually move them much closer in. I did find one area later in the week about midway to the island that was slightly deeper but also very firm and the two rods that I placed there started to receive regular action.
It was quite noticeable that the average weight of our fish was going up as the session went on and in the end most of what we were catching was over 15kg (34lb), in fact the smallest fish of the trip was the very first one that I caught. Perhaps the strangest thing I noticed was that the vast majority of my fish were commons with I think only three mirrors amongst my total and yet just along the bank in the next swim most of Atilla’s fish were mirrors?!
It didn’t matter too much as long as we were catching and there was action every single day of the trip, most of it was fairly steady but there was that one crazy day with ten fish. But I wasn’t alone there as around the lake there were a couple of other swims which had similar days and one swim where it happened through the night. There were also several other fish caught over 20kg, both mirrors and commons. It seemed that through the course of a week the action did seem to even up as the fish moved around and in reality there isn’t any swim that you could say is better than any other – they are all good and can all be the best on their day.
I went out to Paradise Lake not knowing what to expect and ended up really liking the whole experience. There is no such thing as guaranteed action but there were plenty of carp on offer and plenty of good ones too. Atilla told me at the start that what he’s tried to do is to find a variety of waters that will appeal to people for different reasons but all of which have to be of a good standard. I know that there are many lakes in Hungary and so that certainly helps but if this water is anything to go by then I look forward to seeing some of the others! Fishing on the continent is becoming more desirable all the time and people are always looking for new destinations to try. Hungary might not immediately spring to mind when planning a trip but the fishing is at least every bit as good as the more popular countries and the carp are growing all the time. If you want to know more about Paradise Lake and many other possible venues then check out Atilla’s website