Austrian Undercover Carping
Steve Briggs visits an Austrian venue that’s so secret he doesn’t know where it is!
I’m not sure many of us can claim to have caught carp from a lake that they don’t know the location of, but I’ve just had an amazing trip to an Austrian venue whose exact location is still a secret to me, even though I had a week fishing there!
I’d had an offer to fish a lake in southern Austria, home to some of the most fabulous looking carp you’ll ever see. As soon as I saw pictures of the fish I made it a priority to get over there and, although it took a lot of effort to finalize, one week was finally put in the diary, but this wasn’t your usual sort of trip. The owner was so worried about keeping the lake secret that I couldn’t drive there myself; I had to fly and he would pick me up and take me there. I still don’t know the name of the lake or even where exactly I was! Strange maybe, but with the fish on offer I would have happily been blindfolded as well, as long as I got to fish for those impressive looking carp.
One reason I don’t fly more often is that I simply can’t take all the gear I want, and that was made worse when I arrived at Graz Airport to find my luggage was still in London... Thankfully the Austrian people were so helpful and kitted me out until my own gear arrived the following day. I’d sent out some of the new Nashbait Key Cray in advance, so at least that was there waiting for me and I could make a start.
Pole markers were already in place in my allotted swim. I could have moved them if I wanted, but they were marking good areas and had been baited regularly by the owner, who normally fished that swim. A lot of UK carpers don’t realise it, but in Austria it is not uncommon for you to ‘buy’ a specific swim for a season on a venue, rather than what we would understand as a syndicate ticket. It’s just a different way of doing things.
I had no echo sounder, so it was back to the old-school methods: drifting around in a boat with a rod, lifting and dropping a lead on a tight line. There was a fair amount of weed, but I was looking for the clear, hard areas, which didn’t take too long to locate. The fish were used to seeing plenty of bait, but a couple of regulars who put cameras down to monitor feeding activity had seen bait left uneaten in previous weeks, so I didn’t go too heavy to start with. In fact the first three days and nights passed without action. It wasn’t entirely quiet though, as I was receiving plenty of liners, some of which seemed like proper takes! It showed carp were in the area and active, but I slackened right off to avoid spooking them.
On many waters I’ve fished that many liners means action will come eventually, and on the fourth morning I was just sitting out by the rods warming myself in the sun when one of my rods suddenly burst into life! It was a bit of a shock initially, and feeling the line grating around weed, I took to the boat. It was the start of a battle that lasted over half an hour and ended up with me on the opposite side of the lake! As the fish loomed up I saw a flash of huge apple slice scales. It was the reason I’d gone there and the prize was very much in the bottom of my net! I knew it was big, but the weight still took my breath away: 71lb 10oz of gorgeous Austrian mirror and probably the best-looking seventy I’ve ever laid eyes on!
I couldn’t have asked for more, but I rebaited the rods with renewed enthusiasm and changed the swim around a bit, placing another hookbait 10 yards to the left of the producing spot and moving the marker to the right of the swim where I’d seen fish show. All rigs were being placed on the hard bottom, and they were simple as always: size 5 Fang Twisters and 20lb coated Combilink hooklinks. The first fish had fallen to a double Key Cray bottom bait, although I ended up using a snowman on the other rods.
A cold, misty night followed. The days were lovely in the warm sun, but at night it was dropping down to freezing. In the dark I could hear good fish crashing out somewhere close to the baits and it was hard to sleep with that going on. In the early hours the same rod was away again. It didn’t have the weight of the first one and, presuming it was a small one, I played it in from the bank. As it came up to the net I got another shock because it was another lump! Another beautifully scaled mirror of 60lb 10oz was safely in the net. If that wasn’t enough a short time later one of the other rods produced a 45½lb beauty.
Although the weather was gradually deteriorating, the fish had found the bait and were coming back for it regularly. In the past I might have chased the showing fish around the lake, but staying with the area and having confidence in the pulling power of the Key Cray had worked. Every day after that I received at least one or two pick-ups. A 46lb 10oz mirror was next and for once it wasn’t covered in scales, but then followed two losses. One was a hook pull after a few seconds, which happens, but the other was a freak loss around one of the marker poles – it was a real shame.
Going into the last night I just hoped to get one more fish to end on a high. At 6am on the final morning that hope became reality when I landed a superb mirror of 42lb 9oz to end what had been a remarkable week. After a tough start the trip had produced results way beyond what I could have hoped for.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be lucky enough get to fish the lake again, but I’ll need to wait to be invited because I wouldn’t know where to find it!