Darrell Peck - The Black Mirror
Darrell Peck recounts when he went in pursuit of one of Europe's most desired carp, 'The Black One ' aka 'The Black Mirror'.
Back in the autumn, whilst surfing the search section of Instagram, I came across an image of a rather special carp. At the time I didn’t know how big it was, or even the country where it swam. What I did know was that not only was it very big, but also exceptionally beautiful.
No matter how long you’ve been a carp angler, the day you catch your biggest ever carp will always be a good day!
After doing a little research I found out where he lived, and more importantly that I could get a ticket to fish there. Out of respect to the locals, that’s as much as I want to say about that, no reference to the country or to the lake itself, but the story of the capture I would like to share.
For the past three years my own angling - not filming - has been focused around long sessions to Europe, and this seems to have surprised many close to me. Previously I had exclusively targeted big carp in the UK. The thing is I had been doing this relentlessly since the age of 18, and if I am totally honest I was beginning to lose the hunger. Nothing motivates me more than pushing the boundary of what I have already done, and to my mind there is no better way to do this than target bigger, tougher lakes, or even bigger carp.
I decided to arrive in May for my first session in pursuit of the mirror known as “The Black One”. Without being disrespectful, “lambing season” certainly offered the best opportunity to stack the odds in my favour. The lake isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, and to the best of my knowledge it hadn’t produced a fish so far that year.
Having said that, there were no other anglers present when I arrived. More often than not the hardest thing about carp fishing is making the time, and the next is jostling for position with the other anglers. Without other anglers in the way, as such, I always feel confident that if I can locate carp then I can generally catch them to.
The first few days were spent looking hard and lightly baiting every margin gravel patch with a handful of tiger nuts and crushed Mainline Activ-8 boilies. Initially I spent each morning chasing a very active small carp with single pop-ups. He would show multiple times every morning, but I just couldn’t buy a take off him.
The deadlock finally broke three days in when I spotted a fish near to a spot I’d been baiting and then quickly positioned a rod there, catching a 29lb common a short while later.
Having caught, I was briefly confident of more to come, but the next nine days produced absolutely nothing. The weather was cooler with rain and biting north-easterly winds, and I just sat there twiddling my thumbs bored out my mind.
With nine days of nothing happening, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider bailing out, but these are the moments where I remind myself that all it takes is one, just one, sighting. I dug my heels in like the stubbon man that I am, and when the sun finally came out, and the temperatures soared, I sensed I’d get my next chance.
It had been warm all afternoon on May 10, so at 5pm I took to the boat to see what I could spot. Whilst cruising along the reed line, possibly a little quicker than I should have been, I disturbed a carp, literally bolting from the reeds like a ballistic missile!
Obviously my eyes were drawn to him and in that moment I suddenly heard something. Caught by surprise, a huge boil appeared on the surface next to the boat and in that instant I realised I had pretty much run over a very big fish. Luckily though, the momentum had taken me out of the area. I paused momentarily plotting what I should do next, and then turned the boat, quietly this time, I crept towards the area where I had just spooked the fish.
At the same point along the reeds I caught a very brief glimpse of a fish at the same time that he saw me. The length, not to mention the width of its slate grey coloured back, left me with no doubt as to which fish it was. Looking to the reeds I made a mental note of its position and crept from the area to fetch a rod.
From where I was bivvied up I would need to be fishing at around 200 meters, which was further than I could reach with my Contour fluorocarbon. I changed reels to some Daiwa Black Tournament QDAs, as these were loaded with 15lb SUBbraid.
Rig-wise, I wasn’t going to mess around as everything needed to be designed to land a very big fish. First of all, I tied a short 5ft leader of 15lb IQ2 to my braid - this was purely to protect the fins and flanks of the fish from the coarse braid during the fight. This was then tied to a Hybrid lead clip, with an 8oz Grippa lead attached. When placing rigs from the boat I think using big leads is an advantage, as not only do they reduce the potential of being dislodged from position during the tow back to your swim, but should anything lift them from the lake bed, then they are sure to be in a whole world of trouble!
The actual rig itself was tied using a eight inches of a prototype 20lb green, semi-stiff, tungsten coated braid to a sharpened size 4 Wide Gape X hook, with a 10mm stripped section from the line aligner shrink tube. The hair was also trapped in place with a small piece of 0.5mm silicon on the bend, to make the hook flip when the hook link tightened. The hookbait was double balanced large tiger nuts, which sat snowman style on the lakebed, not lifting the hook at all but light enough for the hook link to kick away from the lead.
In an ideal world I’d have liked to see exactly where I placed the rig, but due to the algae this was totally impossible. Visibility was to a maximum of 4ft, but the fish had been seen over around 6-7ft of water, around five yards from the reeds. Obviously I was conscious that he could easily still be in the area, so I didn’t want to mess around too much in boat.
Once over the area, I lowered the rig over the side and gently bounced it on the bottom until the drop went from silt to stone. I then lifted it above the surface to check for debris, which there wasn’t, and then I bounced it twice more before at the third attempt it hit stone. A handful of tigers and Activ-8 crumb went around where the line entered the water before I made the steady 200 meter return back to base.
That evening the full moon rose over the horizon and it reminded me of the last time I caught a personal best, back in November 2014. The night passed quietly, and as my phone alarm went off at first light I sighed wearily. By now I was tired from such a long session and I don’t mind admitting I was missing my wife and home.
I forced myself from the bag to make coffee, and as I did I caught sight of the full moon once again, but now on the other side of the lake. It was beautiful no doubt, but as is the way I soon found myself cycling social media. A Facebook notification reminded me today was my mothers birthday, but she had died the previous summer. A glance to the sky once more was followed by another sigh, and I soon found myself back within the warmth of the bag, drifting with my thoughts.
Two sharp warning beeps suddenly drew my attention, and then the clutch gave way to an absolute ripper. Thrusting back the sleeping bag I saw the offending rod was the re-positioned one, and in that exact moment I just knew! Moments later I was 150 meters out, rod hooped and fish boring down over the deeps. We battled it out for a good 20 minutes or so but I wasn’t overly worried, today was destined to be a very good day!