A quiet night on the baited area out in the lake, saw me searching around for a chance. The spot had been rocking, bites had come in the previous few trips and I’d seen plenty of activity in the area. Providing the weather had been overcast, they would seemingly show up like clockwork, between eight and eleven and feed heavily on the area. This was useless for my overnight trip, midweek between work, but perfect for my Friday night trip, when I could stay later the following morning. Even on the bright sunny mornings they’d be about, just unwilling to feed hard enough for one to make a mistake. The spot, a gravel bar running down the centre of the lake in the main bowl section had been primed for over six weeks now, starting out with sacks of seed, gradually seeing more and more bigger food items before switching to only big Fishmeal boilies and salty peanuts, I’d lovingly raked a perfect channel from the swim the 40 or so yards out to the bar, this not only helped with line lay, it also allowed me to pull anything I’d been lucky enough to hook back through to the bank. The lake was choked with Canadian pondweed that summer, looking more and more like the cricket pitch behind my chosen area. It was a bit blatant, almost giving all my hard work away, a great big clear area with a neat channel running straight to it, but the lake had been quiet since the spring and although the high bank swim was often fished by pleasure anglers through the days, most of the ‘Carp Anglers’ preferred to stay away, due to the boy racers and local teens that would hang around right behind the swim after dark.
That morning it seemed lifeless though, except for the resident pike hounding the shoals of small roach into the deep sheltered water under my rod tips. Perhaps the chop on the water was masking the subtle signs, I wound the rods in from the spot and found the left hand rod to be impaled on what I’m pretty sure was a pikes jaw bone.
Bite time had been and gone and with a rare two night trip this weekend, I went for a wander along the bank. The only sheltered bits of water were close in along the bank I was fishing and into the car park. I’d been keeping a eye on the snaggy bay next to the car park for the past few weeks, waiting for them to turn up, as I’d heard they had done in previous Autumns. In fact the lakes most desirable carp the enigmatic Big Lin had been caught there the previous September at a huge weight of 39lb. The lake bed in the corner had seemed untouched for weeks though, the spots dark and uninviting with odd fresh leaves that had sunk through the water columns, laying over the gravel areas, a sure sign the fish hadn’t been spending any time in the area.
Suddenly that morning it changed, it had been turned over seemingly overnight, the small gravel spots were now glowing and the lakes smallest known Mirror, a fish known to us as the stocky, was in residence. This young plump Mirror had been placed in the lake a few years earlier from someone’s garden pond, it appeared it had grown well, looking perhaps twenty pounds. I waited for it to drift into the woodwork, before scattering a few baits around the area and in particular one of the glowing spots that was far enough away from the danger of the snags to be angled if needed.
It looked good in the corner and despite the quiet night on the spot, it was the October Full Moon and I’d been catching consistently from out in open water. I didn’t really want to move just for that one fish, especially when the big ones could easily be out in open water. The weather was incredible that weekend, huge south westerly winds swept over my head as I sat under my shelter in the high bank swim, pondering what to do.
A short while later I was back to check the corner, as I slid down the bank above the snag for a closer look I was greeted by the sight of the Big Lin sat right on a polished patch of gravel at my feet, this was my first definite sighting of her and was completely different to how I’d been imagining her to look in the water. She was short, dark and fat. I’d been searching for a long Scaley serpent for the previous couple of months, which is how to my mind, from the pictures I’d seen, I imagined her to look. I got out of there as quickly and quietly as I could, tackle was packed down, new rigs tied and fresh baits put on, this was my chance at her. I moved everything along the bank to the Car park swim and decided on a plan of action, there were now more fish present, most of the stock had now turned up in this tiny corner sheltered from he gusting winds, Floppy Tail the lakes angry male, The Half Lin, Cut Tail and a good Common could clearly be seen drifting around the bay amongst the falling conkers.
One rod was to be fished on balanced 22mm bottom bait with a coated braid Hooklink, over a few baits on the glowing spot which had seen bait earlier that morning. The other was fished on a long chod rig with a razor sharp size 4 Stiff rigger and a 20mm Cork ball pop up, this rod was going to placed as a single hookbait on the dark silty bottom under a Cheshnut tree. Whilst I was getting sorted, the fish seemed to somehow disappear through the maze of snags and out the other side, I’d been keeping an eye on the shallow bar that ran across the entrance to the bay and it was over this that I expected them to enter and exit the bay. This was the perfect chance to get the rods spot on while the coast was clear. A few baits were flicked out just to make sure and quietly the rods were lowered in to there places. I set up in the next swim along the bank, pulling the evo down low, the rods were fished locked up and I laid back having some lunch trying to keep quiet. Ten Minutes later the piercing tone of my Neville alarm, screamed urgently at me from the end of bed, the rod was wrenched round to its full test curve, I hung on, unable to give an inch of line, she broke the surface, slapping her tail down hard as she tried to reach the safety of the snags, I turned her and she wallowed on the surface looking ready for the net. I raced forward with the net, but managed to get the tip of my rod and line tangled in tree above my head, I couldn’t free it and the Carp was now stuck on a short length of line, thrashing about on the surface, panicking, I left the rod hanging from the tree and ran forward grabbing the line and hand lined a great big Common in to the net. The Chod rig under the chestnut tree had done the bite, biting the line, I untangled my rod out of tree and stared into the net trying to figure out which fish it was.
The lakes Big Common was a phenomenal long carp, it had only been caught a few times previously, but unfortunately it had died in the summer, a friend Matty had caught it in June looking unwell, bloated up and it had gone two-tone, as they sometimes do when there old. It had taken an age to go back and when the remains of a good Common were found a month later, it all made sense that it was the big Common..
The second biggest Common was one dubbed the second Common, a slightly fatter one than the big Common, similar in shape to the Big Linear, uncaught to everyone’s knowledge and thought be around 32lb to 35lb. I’d seen a Carp that matched this description a couple months earlier, whilst stalking on one the small Islands.
The third was a corking old looking low thirty, with big bald patches on its flanks, this was known as the Scarred Common and was one I’d caught a couple of weeks ago from the High Bank swim.
The only other Common was a small double, which seemingly never got caught, except for one capture to my mate Dave some ten years earlier and this certainly was that one.
With the fish secured in the net, I made a couple of calls to my mates Pedro and Garth, they both agreed to come down and do the pics for me. When we got the fish out on the mat, Pedro immediately reconsigned it as the Big Common and he should of known as he’d been lucky enough to catch it the year before. We weighed the Common in at 37.12, down on its springtime weights of the previous couple of years, but more than big enough, a seriously special Oxfordshire carp from a magical little water. Long and dark with big fins, which was different from the rest of the stock with there small rounded off fins. Pictures were done and I somehow fell backwards in to the water whilst returning the great carp, which of course Garth managed to capture on the DSLR. Interestingly she also had another hook mark in its mouth, I’d lost a big powerful fish a few weeks ago and with no one else losing or catching anything since June, it would make sense that it was this fish.
I sat sopping wet, buzzing from the capture and we discussed the events of the day and compared the pictures with the Common Matty had caught in June. It was actually a different fish when we looked closely at the scale pattern in detail, this all made sense now and the big dead Common that turned up in the summer was obviously Matty’s fish. Or so we thought! As the next spring my mate Prawny caught that fish at 38lb plus.
So which one died?
We all thought the lake only held the four Commons, but yet they’d now been all accounted for since the dead one was found. That fish which we presume was the second Common, looked quite long in the pictures but again looked quite short a plump in the water, it was almost identical to the Big Lin in size and shape, yet was a Common. It was to be captured again the following year by another local angler. Then a couple of springs later my mate Mitch was fishing the point swim, when he phoned to tell me he’d found a big dead Common. A few of us went down and we got it out and buried it.
It was 100% the Second Common, it was looked huge, it had obviously grown well since Prawnys capture, we matched the scales up, checked pictures of it on a phone and it had the the two tone colouration on one side, the dip in the back, it was definitely that carp, we were sure.
Then it got caught again the next summer?! We’d buried this carp three foot down and it somehow it still managed to survive. Work that one out. There must have been another common that was almost identical. It Just goes to show you never know, this was only a small water, yet it held a bit of mystery.
Anyway back to original story, once Pedro and Garth had gone I decided to move back to the High bank swim. The commotion caused in the tiny bay, clearly would of moved the fish off, I couldn’t see them coming back in the next day or so. That evening disaster struck, I’d been paranoid for weeks that the pike that lived close in would bite me off, whilst chasing the small roach about. It happened and I was now left with a perfectly presented bait on my primed spot, but not attached to the rod, the weather was awesome, I was so confident, I knew I’d be getting a bite the next morning, but there was now only a fifty percent chance that it would be the right rig. I had to get it back, the weed rake came out and was attached to my spod rod, this was cast out there for hours, well into darkness trying to somehow get it all back. Nothing, I just couldn’t get it and what’s more I’d now probably trashed the swim with all the casting. The lake held a massive head of tench, which was the reason for using such big baits, but since switching over to the 22mmers a few weeks previously I hadn’t caught a single one. Around Midnight, I had a twitchy take on the right hand rod, I coaxed it in only to find the hook wrapped round another bit of mono, which further down it came my leadcore leader with my other rig attached to a tench. How’s your luck? I had tried for hours to get that back with the rake. I hadn’t caught a single tench for weeks and when I needed one most he picked up the bait and managed to snag himself on my other line.
Sorted, now all I needed was for the carp to come back in the morning. I got the rods back out with fresh fresh rigs, both cracking down on the gravel, happy I got my head down for a few hours sleep.
Morning dawned, grey and overcast, the wind had dropped from the gale force winds of the day previous and the pressure had risen slightly. There almost wasn’t any need to wake at first light, the carp never turned up till gone Eight and this morning was no different, half a dozen cups of tea were drunk to pass the time, the old boy from the local village had been and ridiculed me for catching nothing again. ‘You’ll never catch a carp from here he used to tell me, I’ve been coming down here for 20 years and I’ve never seen anyone catch a carp’ he’d say. How I wish I could of told him, I already had, just to shut him up. But I knew he’d probably talk to every angler he saw and I couldn’t afford to give anything away.
Ten am and the right hand rod tore off, I bent into the fish, clamping down on the spool to stop the it making into the big weed beds that adjourned the back of the gravel bar. She came straight out, almost tail walking as if I’d hooked a tarpon in the Florida keys. I put the rod low and slowly wound her back through the channel I’d painstakingly raked out over the summer, the weed was now fortunately started to drop and she came straight in and into the net. Looking into the net it revealed one I’d be hoping to meet since I’d started my campaign a few moths earlier, the jaw droppingly beautiful Scattered Linear. Definitely one of the best carp you could ever imagine, blues, blacks and browns, three foot in length and a scale pattern to die for. She weighed 29.12, and looked in fine shape. Quite a crew gathered for the photos that morning, Pedro and Garth were summoned for the second time in twenty four hours. Whilst Ginge and Big Rich also appeared to see this most amazing carp.
The working week passed in a blur, dreaming of the Big Lin and my high bank swim. That Tuesday I baited heavy again, arriving just before dark, the marker would be cast the forty yards out to the spot, the dinghy pumped up then I’d paddle out and deposit 5kg of 22mm boilies and a huge great bucket of salty peanuts around the spot.
This weekend I wasn’t able to fish the nights, I’d maxed it out the weekend before by fishing the whole weekend. I’d agreed to take the wife out for dinner and spend the evenings with her, but had managed to sweet talk her into letting me fish the mornings. I arrived at first light on the Saturday, the morning was bright, with a slight chill to the air and although the odd patch of fizz was seen, it quickly passed uneventfully. I had a little plumb around before I left, the spot now felt much bigger, no doubt caused by the feeding activity and the weed starting to die back. Pulling the lead off the lead hand side of the gravel, it now slid into a nice silty area that came towards me perhaps six foot or so, before pulling up into the weed. All the bites so far had come to the right hand rod, which was cast to the cleanest highest point of the bar directly inline with an old dead tree on the end of the reef. I clipped the left hand rod up to the silty patch, instead of the gravel, and switched the rig over from the balanced bottom bait rig to Hinge rig, the boom was tied fairly long, a two inch hook section with the size four hook and I attached a 20mm Corkball pop ready for the next morning. I scattered a bit of bait out there, perhaps 2kg of the 22mers and headed home.
The next morning I over slept, but luckily the lake was only a 10minute drive from home and I arrived at just gone eight. The weather was much better, the pressure had dropped again and those big Autumn winds had returned, blowing from behind me down towards the islands and the Blair Witch corner. The rods were cast out to the clips, the right hander cracking down on the gravel and the left hander landing with a gentle thud in the silty area in front of the bar. The lines were carefully sunk through the channel and I sat back to take it all in. The kettle hadn’t even finished boiling when the left hand rod was away, stripping line from the tight clutch, it made the weed beds at the back of the spot, but a bit of pressure slowly eased her out, in and out of the weed beds she went for five minutes or so, but I was winning, slowly I coaxed her through the channel, Ginge who had been fishing on Bummers had seen me get the bite and had ran round just in time to see her slide into the net. The Big Lin. It was the one I’d come for and she sat in my net off the front of the swim as the Yellow and orange leaves fell around me.
Another truly stunning carp, perhaps the best of the four incredible linears this special little lake held, all so cool in there own way. The colours, the little fins, the dipped back and the unique pockets in the end of of her Pecs. She was special alright and still one of the magnificent carp I’ve ever seen.
Garth and Pedro were again called and between the four of us, we got her out and they took some cracking pics for me, we slipped her back into her magical weedy home.
One of my favourite spells of angling for one of the best stocks of carp Oxfordshire held, unbothered by the masses due to the tough nature of fishing and the lack of Forty pounders. Everything just went right. I’d done 24 nights angling, since late May. having a six week break to get married and honeymoon through June and July. I'd caught most of the Big known fish, except one, Cut Tail the other big Linear. Which was strange as she was the lakes friendliest resident often doing multiple captures a year and was most anglers first carp from the lake.
It mattered not though, I could always go back. It wouldn’t be chore, besides I felt I knew exactly where and how I’d catch her if I did.
My angling in 2019 is going to be a bit varied, after my target dying the previous season I have committed not to get drawn in to another target fish in a circuit water and just to enjoy my angling with the limited time I have available. Spring so far has mainly been focussed on a gravel pit in the Witney area of Oxford, typically known for its busy day ticket waters this particular pit was forgotten about for many years, I had fished it in the early 00’s when Vauxhall AC controlled it; now under Embryo’s management Stanton (as it is now known) is becoming a phenomenal water with a stock of mixed original fish and later stockings reaching close to 40lbs. In addition to my angling in Oxford I have also flitted around a bit on other waters which I’ll cover too.
My spring started at the beginning of March, I managed to get up to Stanton on Dec 23rdand lost a fish for my efforts, well I didn’t exactly lose it but rather struck a 9” drop back and when I made up the slack the fish had gone, but a bite in Dec is a result none the less. In fact some special carp came out from other waters that week and I recall a friend landed 3 from Pingewood, conditions really were perfect.
The first spring trip was a 24 hour trip to Oxford at the start of March, the weather was blustery with a strong south westerly wind pushing down to the bridal bank. I wanted to be fishing the deeper water in the middle area of the lake as the which had proven fruitful for other members in March 2018 but the wind was gusting 30+ MPH and making the range was impossible so I opted to move round to the far side and fish the back of it in to the same zone. The night was quiet but I had a few liners through the morning period and saw a few show at range in the centre of the lake, they were certainly awake but not playing ball just yet. I packed up with nothing to show for my efforts.
As every year I visited Germany for my mother-in-law’s Birthday (as well as mine) and Nowruz (Iranian new year) to celebrate with my Wife’s family. On the 20thI flew back leaving my Wife and Son for a few weeks to stay on with family, giving me some proper angling time.
I arrived back in to Heathrow and headed straight to the south coast (I have a syndicate ticket for a shallow pit in Chichester with some very big fish in), I fished the night in Chichester but the fish were evident in the out of bounds area and just waking up. I managed to foul hook a big Eel in the night on a choddie but otherwise nothing to report. Not feeling it I decided to head to Reading for a night then oxford for Fri/Sat night. Arriving at Pingewood on Thursday the lake was quiet, I chatted with a friend who was at the end of a week session and the fish were evident running the motorway bank, we watched them show in a bay where 2 banks met in a corner, not wanting to encroach I set up 2 swims down the bank from the fish, at right angles to my friend’s plot. As the day wore on the fish moved out in to the centre area of the lake and could be seen showing at range. During a brief break in the westerly wind I could see a back glistening in the weak sunshine, the Pingewood fish love a zig so I quickly tied up a small aligna with a size 12 on 10lb double strength. My friend had seen the same thing and as I stepped in to the water to make my cast I saw his lead land in the zone, lining up I sent my 7’ zig out a rod length behind his at around 100 yards. He didn’t look happy but what are friends for.. less than 20 minutes later the bobbin that rod inched down to the floor and I hooked my first fish of the year. I played it like my life depended on it, luckily the fish didn’t do much, mainly because it was a small stocky, and was quickly lying in my net. I couldn’t quite believe my luck, 3 hours at the lake and I had banked one of the first of the year, absolutely buzzing!
The night was uneventful and I packed up very early to get up to Oxford for the start, the weekend ticket at Stanton starts at 1000 on a Friday so to have a choice of swim I like to be there by first light when able.
Arriving in Oxford around 0730 only one other was looking around the lake, it had produced a few fish the weekend before while I was in Germany, up to 34lb, so we were buzzing to start. We saw a fair few fish show in front of the bridal bank in the middle swim known as the stile. Andy who had arrived before me plumped for the Stile and I dropped in to the drain which is in the centre of the Meadow bank and fishes the same zone. The fish were slightly on Andy’s side on Friday and he managed 2 and lost one by mid-afternoon. I was fishing 5-Alive and Pear and Banana pop-ups on Ronnies spread at 100 yards in the deep water behind the bar which runs the length of the lake.
On Saturday the wind swung slightly and the fish came my way, we were only 30 yards apart but it can make all the difference. At around 11 the middle rod produced a small stocky mirror, one which had been stocked at the start of March (I would meet a few more in the coming weeks). 2 hours later the same rod was away again, this time a better fish was responsible and after a decent scrap I netted a lovely long common just over 20lbs.
On the Sunday the fish seemed to push back to the Bridal path side and Andy had a third fish to close the weekend. We had seen a good number show and I had some interesting areas to explore further as bait became more of a factor in the later weeks so overall I was pleased with the weekend.
The following week I was back out on the Friday, the lake was quiet with only a couple of us on Friday night. I fancied the Style as the fish seemed to favour this side but after setting 3 singles in the middle zone 24 hours passed without occurrence. On Saturday morning the weather changed from cloudy and overcast to warm and still, the fish hit the surface by 11, cruising with their humps glistening in the sun. I packed up and barrowed round to the Drain, fishing zigs at various ranges in their paths to no avail. They seemed more interested in sun bathing than eating. I had to visit the shops that afternoon for Gas and a few bits, on the way I passed the main snags at the end of the meadow bank, there were several good fish in residence so before going to the shops I moved the kit round to the point (which best fishes the area).
On my return from the shops I set traps for the night, one fished tight to the snags at around 105 yards to a shallow margin, this rod was fished on an MC nut cork ball. The other 2 were spread out in to open water toward the same zone I had fished from the Drain, each with a PB pop-up, as yellow had produced both bites last week. The wind increased through the afternoon, blowing an Easterly straight toward me, at 2am I was awoken by a 20lb stocky on the snag rod. After taking some self takes I slipped him back and re-positioned the rod, climbing back in to bed. Waking up again at around 4am I was freezing, the wind had increased to 40mph and was cold! I immediately packed up; sure they would be backing off this in to the centre of the lake. By 6am I was making a bacon sandwich watching the sun rise from the other side of the lake, just in time to see the first few shows in the teeth of the wind I had just moved off. Trying to ignore it proved fruitless and my mistake was evident, I packed up again and moved back to brave the day in the Point until I had to leave around 3pm. The fish weren’t tight to the snags but showing about 10 yards off them and out in to open water. I spread 3 rigs with PBs in the area; at around 2PM I was rewarded with another small stocky, not what I had come for but another 2 fish weekend was a good result and hard earned!
This was also the day the clocks changed which meant the hours on my local club water also change, allowing you to stay later in to the evening for the first time in the year. I decided to drop in for the last few hours and see whether I could trip one up, to cut the story short I managed to nick a 23 right at the end on an 18mm MC Nut Snowman
The following week I was back at Stanton, the fish had responded to bait during the week and one angler had managed 5 in an evening. I had fished two nights previously at Pingewood without success despite being on the fish. I had booked Friday as annual leave so arrived at the lake early to see what was happening, to my surprise I was the only one looking around, Joe was packing up on the Point so we chatted and had a few Teas. It transpired the fish had been caught from the Drain on a Westerly, but the wind had swung to a South Easterly now and they were showing slightly further up the lake, I set up in the Barbel and decided to fish over a little bait as they had clearly been feeding the day before. My mix was 50/50 MC nut halved and pellet with some corn for colour. I scolded the mix to get it down in the wind. Over the top I fished PBs. 2 rods were fished to a clean silty area at 100 yards and the last was a clay spot at 70 yards. Just before dusk I saw a few show in the middle zone from the drain, including a huge fish close to that bank. I had been very reluctant to follow the results from yesterday but the fish were telling me they wanted to be there. That night I had and lost one, probably both small stockies. The next morning I saw a few good fish show in front of the Drain again and decided to move before someone else did.
I fished the morning on singles without success so decided to have a feel with the gripper lead and check my spots, apply some bait and then go for lunch to get off the lake for a while. My spots were at 80 and 100 yards, the best bits were very clean but soft while the harder areas had onion weed and candy floss growing on it. Once happy I had the best areas marked I put 15 Spombs on the 100 yard spot and rested the swim for the day. I also checked the right margin where the large fish had shown before, after finding an area in the zone I baited lightly with the same mix. That afternoon after returning from the shops I spend a little time fishing the close spot from the neighbouring swim, the sun was on the water here and it looked perfect but the fish didn’t seem to have returned.
Around 4pm I re-positioned the rods, with two over bait and the third as a single on the 80 yard spot. I had only managed to get the first two out when the middle was away, I watched it for ages before striking to make sure it wasn’t a liner. The fish held it’s ground from the off and I could feel it wasn’t a stocky, it kited right over the other lines and hung deep in the margins, I had seen the flank and knew it was one of the older scaley ones you really want so played it as if my life depended on it. After a few more moments she was in the net, I recognised her as one I had caught the previous year but a lovely fish nonetheless and at 27.12 she was a little bigger this time. I re-positioned the rod and we photographed her in the afternoon sun before slipping her back.
The final rod was cast to its 80 yard mark, I had only just set the bobbin when it was away! This felt another decent fish, charging angrily to my right before weeding me short of the spot. I couldn’t move her and eventually put the rod down on the rest, after a few minutes she was moving again and I managed to get her away from the weed and other lines to the right of the swim; while in the water playing her to the waiting net my middle rod on the bait beeped twice and roared off! I was panicking a bit now with what I could see was a nice common on the end and a fast take on the other rod, I managed to bundle the common in to the net and grabbed the other rod which was now firmly weeded at very long range. A couple of the other lads came to give me a hand and we decided the boat was needed, while Russ the bailiff went to get it I transferred the common in to a sling and re-cast the left rod.
The weeded rod showed some movement, grabbing it I managed to knock the other two, I was unable to move the fish but seemed to have picked up the left hand rod in the process which was up tight and ticking slowly. It took us a few seconds to realise it was another take, swapping rods I felt a good fish on the other end, this one came in without too much drama and by the time Russ re-appeared in the boat I had a lovely linear in the net alongside the common in the sling. Russ managed to free the last remaining fish from the weed a long way out in the lake, shouting back to the bank ‘ you really don’t want to lose this one’. After weeding me again I managed to steer the fish in to the waiting net alongside the linear, this was a good fish which dwarfed the upper 20 it sat next to. We photographed the fish in the last of the afternoon light, the larger of the fish was known as Tyson at a top weight of 37.05 while the other 2 were both 27s.
I managed to lose another in the weed that evening at 930 which was frustrating as it seemed the better fish were certainly in the zone but it had been a phenomenal session nonetheless. I stayed until 10PM the next night in the hope of the fish returning but without success.
I had set myself a target of 20 fish in my first season at Stanton, Tyson was my 20thand fittingly one of the A team. Spring 2019 was shaping up nicely with April and May still to come!
A few years ago, I had spent the Spring through to late Autumn, fishing in the Colne Valley on the Mets & Thorney Weir complex on a joint syndicate ticket. Although these two lakes are classed as day ticket fisheries, the season ticket option worked well for me. I was living 10 mins away and working less than a mile from the lakes, I could do as many overnighters as I wished. Plus the countless short morning & evening sessions, without having to keep finding pound coins (for the day ticket machine) meant I also saved a bit of money too. I had a very good season using a mixture if the GS Crab & MC Nut boilies in 16mm & 18mm sizes. I felt like the more bait I was using the more successful the session was, and I caught plenty of good fish up to and around the 33ib mark. However, as the season went on I did spend more time fishing the Mets Lake, rather than Thorney Weir. It was far less pressured at the time, and the Mets had more of a syndicate feel to the lake, which is the way I prefer my own fishing to be. That said, with the winter fast approaching I decided I was actually going to change tactics, for this season, and concentrate my efforts on the Thorney Weir lake. Thorney Weir is a very shallow lake with a good cold-water form. The lake also held a very good head of carp and was known to be generally far more productive than the neighbouring Mets Lake. So, catching a few winter carp could be a far more achievable target. Fishing a few sessions throughout the season, and speaking to some of the locals, I had mapped out some of the deeper areas of the lake knowing these were the areas I would be looking to fish through the colder months.
A 32lb Mirror from the Autumn
So, as January was soon approaching, I decided to concentrate my efforts on a snaggy tree lined margin area that was actually around 8 – 9 foot deep. The margin to my left was a perfect distance for applying bait with a catapult, along with having the benefits of being on the end of a south facing wind so I was very happy with my selected area. If I can find deep snags in the winter these would always be areas I will head for, as I feel snags provide good cover for the fish to hold up during the colder months. The tactic, I went with to maximise my short winter sessions, was to pre-bait the area three to four times a week with around a kilo of boilies each time. I was pre-baiting with the smaller 14mm MC Nut boilies and still using matching pop ups for hook baits. This bait also works extremely well in colder months, as its very easily digestible for the fish. I firmly believe pre-baiting during the colder months is an essential edge to my fishing; consistent application of free bait not only gains the confidence of the fish to your chosen area, but it gives them no reason to move away from the areas once there.
As the daylight hours are very short this time of year, I was purposely staying on a little later at work and arriving to the lake in the dark. This allowed me to keep baiting the swim without other anglers seeing my approach. Although, I must add, if there were anglers present (in swims nearby) I would actually abort baiting that night and try again the next evening if possible. Finally, after 5 or 6 baiting trips I was set for my first overnighter. I rushed down the lake, after work, around 3:30pm and it was just light enough to get the rods out in place on my selected spots. At this point, I also applied around 10/15 free bait offerings, as the baiting up had already been done in the previous weeks. By around 8pm, that night, I received a take which resulted in a lovely 23ib 8oz Mirror. Delighted with this result, I also noticed on the unhooking matt, it was also passing my bait. Which confirmed to me that the fish were extremely confident eating the bait and my plan was working! I followed this up with a small common in the early hours and was happy with my result on a freezing cold January overnighter.
MC Nut: Highly Digestible
I carried on my process (pre-baiting 3-4 times) during the week and was due to do a full day session the following Sunday. However arriving for my final pre-bait, ahead of the weekend, on the Thursday night unfortunately someone was already in residence in my chosen swim; which is guess is to be expected on a day ticket venue. As I planned to turn around and drive home (which I did more than once over the two months), I recalled catching a small mirror from the Mets Lake in early November. The area in question was another deep margin channel, with depths of around 8 foot, which ran behind the back of a snaggy island. Like Thorney, the Mets is a relatively shallow lake and this deeper channel seemed another good area for holding fish during the colder months. As I already had the bait with me I thought I would pre bait this swim as a second option. Also, after observing how quiet the lake was between Spring-Autumn, I knew there would be very little chance of someone fishing this swim during the winter months.
The margin channel was close enough to the bank allowing me to walk approx. 30 yards alongside it and pre-bait using a bait scoop. Not pre-baiting this area, before that night, I decided to go back again on the Saturday night. This also allowed me to check if the swim on Thorney was still taken, it was, so I baited up again on the Mets. As this was only my second time pre-baiting this swim, I used around 1 kilo of the 14mm MC Nut boilies. That Sunday day session proved to be very successful, catching two scaly mirrors of 16 and 18lbs. During the session my brother Scott also popped down, for a cup a tea and a chat, he also did the honours with the photos.
I carried on religiously 3-4 times a week, pre-baiting the deep channel on the Mets, either before or after work. Along with a kilo of whole boilies, I also introduced cooked hemp and chopped MC Nut (chopped boilies) to increase the volume of bait to the area.
At the end of my mini winter campaign, I managed to get in 6 short day sessions (some only 2 hours long) and 1 overnighter, rewarding me with 9 carp weighing up to 23lb 8oz. Although they weren’t huge fish, by the lake’s standard, this really didn’t bother me as I managed to catch on most sessions. And I don’t think, even this amount of fish, would have been achievable by standalone fishing. The effort put into my pre-baiting, including breaking ice on occasion, I feel lead to my consistent success… As the saying goes, good things come to those who bait….
So, my angling year started with a certain amount of uncertainty after not being able to justify the ticket for a syndicate that I’d been fishing for the previous couple of years. After a winter of deliberation, I eventually decided to purchase a cheap club book and just see how the year progressed without putting any pressure on my fishing at all.
I don’t get an awful amount of time on the bank, perhaps 2 nights a month on average with weeknights being out of the question. As a result, I never put much emphasis on targeting specific fish, preferring to simply enjoy my time away from the rigours of a hectic work and social life and trying my best to catch the odd one along the way.
The venue I eventually decided to spend the Spring on was sure to be a different prospect to what I was used to. Being set in amongst a very busy public park I’d have all manner of runners, cyclists, dog walkers and the odd herbert to keep me on my toes. The stock was significantly higher than I was used to as well with 99% being commons in the mid double – low twenty bracket, nice looking fish but nothing to set the world on fire. Amongst these were a smattering of mirrors including a few nicely proportioned fullys and one incredible, scaly mirror that dwarfed the rest of them and stood out like a sore thumb. I’d always likened it picking out a needle from a massive haystack and so never expected it to come along. To be honest I was just looking forward to getting a few more bites than I had done for quite a while.
My first session fell on a Friday night after work in early April. I’d managed to get off work at a decent time and so arrived at the lake by 4pm or so, giving me 16 hours or so before I had to be off in the morning. I had no idea how busy it was likely to get but after a quick lap I decided that watching hard should be the priority for my initial trip and catching one was put to the back of my mind. I settled into a swim that sat just off the busy footpath, offering me a view of 90% of the lake and a lovely fresh south-easterly pushing into a set of snags to my right. Just on dusk one quietly rolled over near to said snags and within seconds a hinge and a faithful white, 5alive pop up was skipping its way in from out in the pond and was soon dispatched into the rings with a handful of bait scattered around the general vicinity. I forced myself to watch properly that evening and soon became aware of a few fish showing in the same general area, roughly half way down the lake. The swims had filled up with anglers since I’d got the rods out so moving wasn’t an option but their whereabouts was noted for future reference.
At some point in the early hours the snag rod bucked in the rests and thankfully, whatever was attached decided to kite out into the lake away from any danger. After a uneventful scrap I slipped the net under the first one of the campaign. Small as it was, the low double common was in pristine nick and was duly unhooked in the net and slipped back home without leaving the water.
It was a couple of weeks before I had the opportunity to get back, this time on a Saturday afternoon, after earning a few brownie points in the morning. Unfortunately, I turned up to the sickening sight of a rammed-out lake and ended up slotting into one of the last swims available after seeing one clear the water a swim down as I was chatting to the angler in there. Within minutes of flicking a couple of rods out one slipped its head out down the edge from me, not 5 yards from the rod tips. It looked a little hairy to be fishing overnight so I dusted a bit of bait in there with the intention of having a go the following morning. An hour or so later I was reminded why I tended to stay away from such open access venues. A group of 3 lads turned up and made one hell of a racket tripling up in probably the last free swim, 70 yards across the bay from me. Within 5 minutes a big dog of a lead landed almost bang on top of the spot I’d just baited yards from my tips. The next cast ended up in the tree a few feet above my head and after cracking that off what followed was nothing short of an onslaught. I counted at least 5000 spombs going into an area not far off the size of the village I grew up in over the next hour!! They left at 7am too!
I sat up watching that night with little to report until at 11:30 I heard the unmistakeably horrifying shriek of an Otter. A stark reminder that these fish were living on borrowed time. Indeed, the big girl had been caught early on in the Spring with the trademark squared off damage to its tail. There was an awful atmosphere from then on in, the normally prevalent birdlife seemed all but non-existent and the fish wisely kept a low profile, but for a couple of subtle shows at first light, both in the middle area again. Not a single bite was had that weekend despite the lake being full of anglers. A lad on Insta had messaged me that evening and before leaving I popped round for a brew where we quickly found common ground wetting ourselves over the spomb brigade. It transpired ol’ Dave had been doing a bit of time a little down from where I’d been seeing them and had caught a few on the quiet. He’d fished and caught consistently and we both felt that the bigg’un could have been close. If anyone deserved it, this was the man.
Once again, I was unable to get down for a few weeks but did manage to nip down for a brew with Dave in the week. A number of fish showed on as the light went, both in the area he’d been working and up to the left where I’d seen them before. It was clear that they were loving that general zone, and this was proven when he had a good hit that night before work the next morning.
A week or so later I finally managed to secure another session… a whole weekend this time which is a rarity in itself as I only get a handful a year at best. I even manged to get down on the Wednesday night with a leading rod and a bag full of fresh GS Crab that I’d had delivered that afternoon. The weed had started to come up by this point and anything closer in was moody presentation wise. The middle section however was adorned with a line of buoys that the water sports guys use, and this activity seemed to keep the area relatively weed free. I found a couple of nice spots out there, hedging my bets with one rod on a shallower gravelly area and one in slightly deeper water in the silt. The spots were only 5 yards apart, so I spread roughly 2k of the Crab nice and wide with the stick before buzzing my way off home.
A couple of days later I was back. Work had held me up a bit, but I still arrived by 6pm and skipped down the path, pleading that nobody was in the way. As luck would have it I needn’t have worried as the lake was almost devoid of anglers and after proudly claiming my swim I paddled out to have a look and saw a disturbance over the spot. Nope, not the airborne 40lb carp I longed for but one of 10 swimmers churning both my area and my confidence to shreds in one fell swoop. Trying to take some positives from the situation I spent my time getting the rigs just how I wanted them. And an hour or two later, just as the light was going, my two trimmed up pink Ocean X pop ups were flicked out to the clips at the first time of asking. The drops were cock on and a hundred more baits were scattered over the area.
At about 2 am one of the rods tore off and my second torpedo shaped common of the campaign was soon in the net. Nothing to write home about, a mid double perhaps which was slipped straight back before re-doing the rod and getting back to sleep.
I was up early that morning watching the odd one stick its head out both around the area and in closer when the other rod tore off out of the blue at around 6am. A slightly better scrap this time and another was laying in the folds. It was a slightly better fish this time, upper doubles I guess. I still can’t decide whether it’s a fully a common or a mommon.
They had clearly got on the bait and if truth be told I was expecting a few more that morning. That was until the mental swimmers re-appeared at 7am on a cold morning and once again churned my spot into oblivion.
Later that morning I was feeling the effects of a 50 hour week and broken sleep on the footpath so decided to get my head down for a few hours. Half an hour later and the recast rod had absolutely ripped leaving me wondering whether a swimmer had managed to get his tackle caught in mine. Fortunately, for us both, it turned out to be yet another little common, the smallest of them all so far. He looked ancient with tiny melted down fins and a lovely rounded tail so I got a few quick self takes without drawing any more attention to myself and slipped it back.
Dave was due down for 3 nights later that evening, so I got the rods sorted early and we sat there in the early evening watching when fish started to show past the bouys. Over a period of roughly an hour we must have seen 30 odd shows and though tempted to move, decided to stay put. They were obviously enjoying the bait the previous night and with them only being 15 – 20 yards behind the spot I lazily expected them to return in the early hours. How wrong was I… nothing else occurred and a few continued to show behind the spot at first light. BAD angling.
A week later I’d made a bit a of a cheeky request to sneak out for the Saturday night. It was bank holiday and my seeing as my girlfriend was busy on the Sunday, I said I’d go out early evening after spending the day with her. Whilst in the town centre that afternoon we walked past a homeless chap that had written a touching note about saving for a flat deposit. I walked past, as did all the other thousands of ignorant shoppers, but my conscience got the better of me and I turned around and gave him all the cash I had in my wallet. As we walked off I said to my girlfriend “hopefully karma repays me with a good’un tonight”.
I had the gear ready so after chucking it in the motor I managed to get down to the lake by 6ish. Being bank holiday, I was half expecting to turn around and go straight home again but for some reason the banks were quiet. After seeing what we had the previous week I was straight around the far side to have a lead around in the swim opposite where I’d caught them. Once again, the weed was problematic closer in so after half an hour of thrashing about I flicked them out long and simply fished on the back of the spots from the previous week. The right-hand rod in particular went down fantastically, one of them where you grin and convincingly say to yourself “that’s a bite”. Once again, the stick came out and 150 or so baits were spread over the two rods before the barbeque was lit and I settled down for the night.
The birds woke me to a cracking dawn the following morning as mist rolled over the lake at 5am. I begrudgingly pulled myself out of bed and sparked the burner for that all important first coffee when, before I’d had a chance to pull myself together, the rod that had gone down so positively the previous evening pulled tight slowly and arced the tip around against a tight clutch.
It was difficult to get a gauge from the initial stages of the fight. It felt slow and heavy for sure but was in and out of weed all the way in until it was under the tip. I’d always said to people that you’d never expect to be attached to the big’un in a lake with so many smaller commons. The fish plodded away under the tip, sending up unnaturally large vortex’s that should have made me realise something substantial was attached. Then, just as it started to tire, one last lunge had it almost making a snag to my right before it pugged up in something just out of sight down the shelf. One big heave and a sizeable ball of weed filled with branches and all sorts hit the top so I nonchalantly handlined the mass up to the edge of the swim and tore away the weed, fully expecting it to have either come off or to see a little common poking out. Eventually a dark old head appeared amongst the weed and, not thinking much of it, I grabbed the net and shuffled the lot in calmly. At that moment the fish flanked, and a handful of ridiculously large scales winked at me as it sank into the mesh. It wasn’t a little common after all and there was only one mirror with anywhere near that many scales on it. Sure enough, after frantically tearing the rest of the weed out of the way, there it was, the big’un, sat in the bottom of my net looking absolutely colossal. Of all the fish in the lake I’d only gone and caught it as my 5thfish on my 5thnight. All I could think to do was burst into fits of laughter.
Everyone I could think of was pestered that morning and after a few pleas a couple of top lads came to help out with the pics. Big ups to Mitch for reeling in at bite time from elsewhere with no hesitation and to Dave for not losing the plot when he woke up to 10 missed calls and a picture of the fish’s tail. Before they arrived, I found myself a suitable tree to hang the scales off and quickly got it weighed before slipping it into a sack to recuperate for a couple of hours. At 41lb 2oz it was a new pb and exactly a pound bigger than the common I’d caught the previous May. A mix of emotions came over me at that moment… the absolute elation was shadowed with a slight feeling of guilt. Poor Dave had deserved that bite far more than I did and the first thing I did when he arrived to help out was to apologise. The lads did a sterling job with the pics and as I slipped it back I couldn’t help but think that karma had dealt me a massive hand that morning!! Long live the big carp buzz, there really is no other feeling like it.
The time of year to renew my syndicate had come back around and I decided that this should be my last season before moving onto to pastures new. Although, this would not be done at the expense of catching my target! I wanted to give myself maximum opportunity of catching her and so I booked numerous dates off of work including enough time to allow me a week long session.
The morning of the session came around and I was full of optimism. A few fish had come out over the weekend; they had finally begun to wake up, although zigs accounted for the majority of them.
I arrived at the lake, grabbing the water butt out of the car and went in search of carp, hoping to find the Penny common frequenting an area. I checked all the likely areas and she wasn’t to be found, however, one area I couldn’t check as it was occupied. I found a large group of fish in a very snaggy area of the lake, I reserved the swim with my water bottle and returned to the car and loaded the barrow. I barrowed my gear into the swim and went see my friend Will, fishing two swims up. Walking into his swim I noticed peg 2 had just become available and so I went to check the snaggy margin you can access from the swim. Standing on one of the fallen trees, there she was clear as day, waddling straight past and over the spot. Needless to say, I moved swims instantly!
The rain soon started to come in, so I got the house set up and took the time to get the rods out properly. Two rods rigged up with Ronnie’s, mounted with MC Nut pop ups were to be placed along the snag line and one on a 6ft zig in open water. Before casting the rods out I went round to both spots and baited with whole and chopped 12mm and 14mm MC Nut along with a few handfuls of matching 2.3mm and 6mm pellet. Each rod went out perfectly and I sat down for the evening and enjoyed a good social and catch up with Will, now next door to me. Deep in conversation, a few beeps on the right hand rod were followed by a screaming delk! A short, hard fight ensued before Will seamlessly netted my first one of the trip; what a great start! Leaving the fish in the net, I re-baited and got the rig back out on the spot first time. Hoisting the fish onto the mat revealed a lovely, boxy common of 27lb 4oz.
Surprisingly, the rest of the night and the following 48 hours passed by uneventful. I checked the spots regularly but was always met with fish in the area and one of the spots; they were feet from the rig! Every day, around midday, I reeled in to look for bigger groups of carp that may be up for a munch. I found nothing more convincing than where I was already plotted, but decided to bait a few different spots around the lake ready for a move.
Going into the third night I decided that if I hadn’t put another carp in the net by 8:30am I was to up sticks and move. Around 7:30am the following morning I received a savage liner which I was sure would materialise into run. The next hour passed without any action, the barrow was loaded and I was off! It was now Wednesday and the first day of the extremely hot weather.
I found an area of the lake with a number of carp present. Many of them within the sanctuary of the near margin snag and when I scaled a large tree, it also revealed many cruising around the surface of the lake. Confidence was rife. Before getting the rods out, I revisited the other baited spots and topped them up with a few more handfuls of whole and chopped boilie. The day was passing by and I was growing increasingly frustrated, I had carp all over me and I just couldn’t entice a bite. All of my gear was still loaded on the barrow, with only rods and alarms in the swim. Before I settled in for the night, I reeled in to pop to the shop and get some much needed beer. Walking to the car park I passed one of my pre-baited spots, as I passed I noticed a swirl on the surface, looking closer a few fish were feeding and others were in the area. I ran back to the swim, put the rods onto the barrow and shot round to the new swim. The swim in question is the entrance to the shallowest expanse of water on the lake, known as the match lake (the lake is divided into three: Main lake, Back Bay and Match lake all connected as one) and is subject to a lot of carp traffic.
Arriving back from the shop, I quickly set about getting the rods out in the new swim. A mate, Woodsy, popped down to see me and whilst cooking my dinner, the middle rod positioned in the baited area was away! Shouting Woodsy to finish cooking my dinner, I played a hard fighting mirror. Soon a stunning dark mirror lay in the bottom of the net, I quickly transferred it into the sling, got the rod back out with another half a kilo on the spot and set about eating my dinner. Within minutes the same rod was away again with a simply sublime, heavily plated scattered linear with huge fins. What’s more, I didn’t even know it resided in there! Repeating the same procedure as before, a newly baited rig was placed onto the spot.
The first of the brace 21lb 14oz (left)
The second part of the brace at 25lb 6oz (right)
The rest of the night and the following morning past by without so much as a bleep. It was now Thursday and another scorching day was in store. I had ran out of food and so the plan was too reel in at midday, heavily bait the area and let the fish pass through and get some free grub; building their confidence in the process. It’s a tactic that’s served me well, having already done so for the two bites the day previous.
I returned back from the shop and topped the spot up with a couple more handfuls of whole and chopped boilie. Following this, I walked around the lake and found groups of fish sunning themselves in almost all corners of the lake.
It wasn’t until I arrived into weedy corner and climbed the dead tree that I found almost 30% of the lakes stock. I spent about an hour here and plotted a move. Two things were holding me back from making the switch of swims: 1) The fish don’t tend to stay there at night and it was now 4 O’clock, they were due to make their move back into the main lake for nightfall and 2) I risked spooking the lot of them. Instead I opted to bait three spots I had caught fish from before and return back to my existing swim, with the option to get up early and move swims. This would allow me to get the rods in position before they arrived.
Rods back out on the spots in my existing swim, it wasn’t long before the bobbin pulled up tight and I was into another angry carp. This one turned out to be a small common of around 17lb with a distinct set of missing scales. Whilst taking a few photos, the same rod was away again with a low twenty common. This again highlighted the importance of baiting often and getting the rod back out as soon as landing the fish.
Nothing else occurred and first light saw me in the new swim; Weedy Corner. Two rods were placed on the shallow adjacent margin and one out in the middle on a zig. I sat back and watched the water in front of me, sooner rather than later the fish started to arrive; swirling and bow waving as they entered the bay. I remember photographing one such disturbance no more than a rod length from where my middle rod laid. I sent it to a few mates, captioned “they’re coming”. Within minutes the middle rod signalled a few bleeps before the bobbin slammed against the blank and I was bent into the first of the new swim and my sixth of the session. I enjoyed a long, hard battle, the fish stayed deep and I even deployed the waders to get out closer to the fish. I knew it was a good’en. At the second time of asking I scooped up a very large common.
My good friend Glenn was on his way down to see me, so I transferred the fish into the retainer and quickly got the rod back out again. Glenn arrived shortly after, buzzing, I told him what I had and couldn’t wait to get it out and take a closer look. Hoisting it from the lake and to the mat, it dawned on me this could be a new PB common, potentially beating my existing PB common of 36lb 10oz. On the scales Glenn read out to me 38lb 10oz, confirming a new personal best common. I was chuffed and couldn’t wait to lift it up for the photos. I rolled back the sling and lifted it for the first photo; before Glenn could press the shutter... the same rod was away again!! I lowered the fish into the sling again and instructed Glenn to deal with the fish. This fish put up a really great fight, stripping line from the spool as it powered off into the middle of the lake. Once netted, a mid twenty common lay before me. I could see the fish was quite distressed, so I wasted no time in removing the hook, treating the mouth and getting a few snaps before returning her without weighing. This time I left the rod on the bank as I wanted to get the big common back soon after getting some photos.
Later that day I caught a very small common, of around 8lb off of the same spot. Throughout the day I had baited two other silt spots, in the deeper water within the same swim. These spots had good night form and were spots I knew well. Before dark I moved two rods off of the shallow margin and into the deeper water. Much like the previous days, the night was uneventful and I banked on the fish getting back into the corner. The weather wasn’t to be as hot or bright as the beginning of the week and so the fish didn’t really arrive in numbers.
Returning to the spot in my previous swim, I noticed a large group of fish hanging around the willow. I quickly transferred my gear back into this swim and set about placing the rigs back out and baited heavily for the evening action. Well the rods were in the water 45 minutes before I had another large common in the net. This one was epic, long and lean, packed with muscle and on the scales she went 31lb exactly! This turned out to be my last fish of what proved to be a very hard worked session.
Over the seven days I got through 10kg of MC Nut boilie, catching on MC Nut and Linch Special pop ups mounted on Ronnie’s. This session highlighted the importance of baiting regularly,being mobile and maximising opputunities.
Good things come to those who bait...
One thing I look forward to most each year is my annual trip to France and more often than not, this will be to Les Teillatts. The majority of my time spent when I was a student was on local club waters and syndicates but now I'm in the real world with a full time job, my trips to France are definitely more appreciated due to limited time in England. The group of lads I go with are what make the trip for me but obviously we all go out there to catch fish and the fact all 12 of us caught, made it a memorable one.
For me one of the worst parts of the trip is the draw, as it can make a huge difference to your weeks fishing. I usually come out in the top 10 but when I pulled out number one, I knew the pressure was on! I choose a swim which had previously done me well, called New Biffos and I was soon setting about getting my rigs in the zone. MC Nut was my bait of choice, which I had full confidence in due to my recent success on the same venue, where I’d caught mirrors to 68lb and commons to 81lb. MC Nut pellets and chilli hemp completed my mix and I was soon spombing this out to a plateaux at 110 yards.
Two nights in and all was quiet and although a few fish had been out I still felt confident, as there were clearly fish out in front of me. From previous experience at les Teillatts, I knew how important it was to stick to your spots and to not start panicking and changing things around. More often than not on these heavily pressured venues, the fish will turn up at some point and once they do, you can be fairly confident of a few more. Two awesome looking mirrors that morning eased the pressure. One went 35lb and the other 44lb, so it was a good start! The first fish or 2 of a week-long trip always help to settle the nerves and ease the pressure somewhat, so the rest of the day was spent drinking everyone else’s beer!
After those 2 fish, it all went quiet until the following afternoon. A take just after midday in scorching heat took me by surprise and after a hectic battle in the 30 degrees heat a long leathery looking mid 40 mirror was in the net. I wiped the sweat from my face as a crowd had gathered in my swim by this point. We were all in agreement that it was an awesome looking fish and at 44lb 8 I was more than happy. The week before the trip I'd actually put an Instagram post up of a carp I'd caught 2 years previously saying that 'I wouldn't mind seeing this one again'. As soon as it went in the net I knew it was exactly the same fish and although I don't normally like recaptures, when they look like this I'm not too bothered!
A few hours later and for the first time that week my right hand rod was away, which on a different spot, so all 3 rods had now done bites. Ideal!
It was a weird fight, with the fish just waddling around. It wasn't until we bundled it in the net that I realised why it gave such a weird fight. It was undoubtedly one of the most ugliest and demented looking carp I'd ever caught and me and Dougers next door had a right old laugh at its expense. Poor thing! We decided to name it 'Ricky' as it held a lot of similarities to one of the lads on our trip and that was his name.
The following day only one mid 30 slipped up from the 110 mark on the plateaux. The Thursday was the most productive day of the week for me. Late afternoon I noticed a lot of activity over my right hand rod with numerous fish crashing right over the top of it. I'd introduced about 15k of mc Nut over the course of the week and they were clearly loving it, after eventually finding it. I knew it was only a matter of time before one got nailed and a frustrating couple of hours followed and finally the Neville started screaming. This spot had only done 1 fish all week but within a few hours I caught three fish from it, topped by a banger of a common at 41lb and my one and only common of the week.
It was clear that the fish in the lake had a routine as and come mid-afternoon, there were always fish over me before the moved down into the bay in the evening, so I just hoped they would return the following as I was still yet to catch anything over 50 and considering I’d now had 7 bites I felt confident that my luck my change. I was praying one of the big girls turned before I left but it wasn't to be. One more mid 30 completed yet another memorable week on the incredible les Teillatts.
Somehow the place just keeps getting better and better! All 12 of us caught with 9 PBs smashed, so it has to be up there with one of the best trips yet. Loads of carp caught, loads of beer drank and loads of laughs had- what's it's all about! Roll on the next one...
After a short 4 days at work and the pressure set to drop, I thought a trip to a club water I fished most weekends back in spring was worth a return. Usually I do next to no night fishing between the end of June and end of August as I love my floater fishing, but mostly because I don't like mosquitoes as much as they like me! With the weather we've had this July it's knocked the surface fishing on the head on the venues I fancy most so a couple of friday nights have been spent in the bivvy swatting flies.
I turned up to the lake on Friday mid-day and saw plenty of fizzers in front of the high numbered pegs. I quickly cast a few singles out with a light lead past the bubbles and wound back dropping beside them. One on a Scopex and Peach, the other on an MC Nut. I'd had success on a whittled Scopex and Peach earlier on in the spring with 2 of the 'A Team 30's' banked along with some of the other residents.
With the fish still fizzing, flanking on the bottom and a few small fish showing, I was massively confident I'd get a take soon. 30 minutes passed and I saw another angler turn up opposite me psuhing his gear followed by his two dogs stopping in every other peg to have a look at the lake. I turned up to the lake with a plan for a particular peg in mind which is often a curse, but I'd fished one peg up from this swim the weekend before in the rain and had a couple of bites fishing the same overhanging tree. With only 2 other anglers on the lake I had a feeling that the guy that had turned up would jump in the swim I wanted to be in, so with that paranoia I wound in and legged it down to the swim to settle in for the night...
I got the rods out, one on an MC Nut Special Hookbait bottom bait, and one on the faithful whittled Scopex and Peach pop up on a Ronnie rig. Both fishing up against an island with overhanging trees amongst a bed of pellet and 16mm GS Crab boilies. The depth is just over 3ft against the island so the darkness of the pellet and GS Crab boilies don't attract the eye of the coots or mallards so my bait and rig presentation stays set for any passing fish moving along the island margin.
A few hours passed, 5 o'clock on the nose and with a few beeps and a crack of the bobbin hitting the rod I was into my first fish of the session, a nice 26lb 13oz common on the left-hand rod fishing the MC Nut hookbait on the bottom.
After a few self takes I got the rod back out on the spot with another small helping of pellet and GS Crab boilies.
A few hours later and the heavens opened and it began to poor down with rain, as promised with the low pressure we were getting. Just before 8pm my left-hand rod was away again with a heavier fish on the end, after playing it most of the way in under the brolly it decided to kite left hard along the margin. After getting a soaking, I slipped it into the net only to find it was the 36lb mirror I caught back in spring, so I unhooked her and slipped her back into the lake. Again, I reset the rod, put some more pellet and GS Crab back out and tried to get some sleep.
After a rough night of fighting off mosquitoes, liners, raining heavily on and off and a 12lb ish stocky at 1am I wound both rods back in. I wasn't happy after I caught the stocky on the left-hand rod that it was presenting well, so I changed the MC Nut hookbait and put that back out on the spot. My right-hand rod hadn't had so much as a liner so I switched the Scopex & Peach pop up to an MC Nut Hookbait, still on a Ronnie rig as I've used this rig with wafters fishing over on Frimley and caught so I'm confident in the mechanics of the rig with more or less any hookbait. Within 10 minutes of the right hand blanker rod going out, it sprung to life with line being stripped from the spool. The fish kited right along the margin and then started swimming towards me pushing deep with a line of bubbles rising from the bottom as it tried to shed the hook. After a good scrap under the rod tip a quick rise and a row of scales along it's flank I recognized the fish instantly. It was one of the jewels of the lake and with wobbly knees, shaking hands and praying for her to stay on I managed to slip her into the net!
Just that night me and a friend of mine Jack, who at the time was fishing another lake nearby were teasing each other about this fish. And I don't think either of us actually beleived it when I sent him the text saying it was in the net! He obligingly came round to do the pictures and he did a good job of it too! The big mirror was in the net and we were both buzzing as we looked into the bottom of it. The fish is ounces under 40lb at the right time of year but I'll more than make do with it tipping the scales at just over 36lbs any day of the week!
After photo's and few texts went out as it was still before 7am I thought I'd get the rod back out on the right hand spot and see if my run of luck was still going for the next few hours. By this point I was scraping the bottom of my bucket to get the last few pellets and GS Crab boilies out as I had clearly underestimated the amount of bait I needed to bring! Less than an hour later my right hand rod was away again with a stocky common slipping up on the MC Nut. 9:45am and it was the left hand rods turn and after another battle under the rod tip a named 26lbs 4oz mirror swam into the block of the net. 11am came and I decided to head back home happy with the decision of moving off showing fish to make plan work.
6 bites, 6 fish and an empty bait bucket, it was time to go home...
The Spring had already been kind to me in the previous week’s, but one trip in May turned out to be particularly productive.
I turned up on the Thursday with four whole nights ahead of me. Despite my best efforts, the first two nights turned out to be fruitless, but then a stroke of luck in disguise eventually put me on some fish.
I had moved into a swim known as the Murder’s, I had done well to get in there, as it was a popular choice in Spring. A fresh Northerly had sprung up and the fish were showing out there; long on the end of it. It looked really good for a bite or two, until disaster struck.... or so I though at the time!
Basically, to cut a long story short, the wind intensified, the weed growth below the surface was higher than I expected, and unfortunately, despite several attempts, my little Baitboat just couldn’t make the range in those conditions. Frustrating at the time... Especially with fish still showing out there!
So I decided there and then to cut my losses and pack up, although there was obviously fish out there I couldn’t see the point in fishing the swim if I couldn’t reach them. So I packed up quickly and headed up the other end, right off the back of the wind to a swim I had done a lot of time in the past and I was familiar with. Although I hadn’t seen anything here I knew I could get my rods out quickly and efficiently for the night and at least I would be fishing effectively come morning.
As it happens, the previous afternoon’s nightmare turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as in the early hours of that first morning I caught a lovely 38+ mirror, I also heard quite a few through the night as well so there was obviously a few about.
The following day the boats came out early, meaning I had to reel in for the day, but as I had caught one and heard a few throughout the night, I was more than happy to stay put. That evening I recast all the rods, fishing the middle rod slightly further than I would of done usually, as the fish I had heard the night before sounded that little further away than what my rigs were. Everything went smoothly and I settled down for my final night in anticipation....... but never did I anticipate quite what was to come the next morning.
I overslept, missing first light, instead I awoke at 5.30 am to a bite on that middle rod fishing slightly longer, this turned out to be a 41lb mirror.
Mirror rolled into the net. This one weighed almost 43lb, 42.14 to be precise. This made my first brace of 40s and as you can imagine I was buzzing, but it wasn’t to end there.
Three more bites followed in quick succession. One i unfortunately lost when the hooklink parted on an unseen snag, but the other two I managed to bundle into the same net, both being mid-20 mirrors.
So at that point I had four fish waiting to be photographed when the left hand rod was away again!
I could tell this was another good fish from the off, and with two twenty pounders already sat in the net I was a little unsure what I was going to do. I did consider letting them go at one point, as maneuvering the net into position with two fish already in there is by no means easy... especially when every time you let go of the handle they’re trying to swim away with it!. But with a little patience I somehow managed to bundle yet another big mirror in there with he’s two smaller pals.
I didn’t weigh the two smaller fish, estimating them to be around 23/24lb, but incredibly the third mirror weighed 41lb 15oz... I couldn’t believe it, a hat-trick of 40lbers in just a few short hours!
I managed two more bites later that morning, both mirrors again at 31 and 27lb, so in total I had eight bites, landing seven... plus the 38 pounder I had landed the previous morning. Quite an incredible haul for that lake, and having fished there for almost four years now I had never experienced anything quite like it before, and I doubt I ever will again... a true red letter day!
All the fish were caught over large amounts of 14mm MC Nut, with ‘Untouchaballs’ on simple hinges fished over the top due to the Crayfish issues.
The frosts had cleared for a few weeks and the time to select my campaign water for the year had come. Being 17, not able to drive yet, and working a laborious job straight from leaving school, working life hit me hard and I needed somewhere which I could get to easily on the barrow from my house on a Friday night after work. This would also allow me to keep in sync with the lake throughout the week, making the short time I actually had on the bank fishing all the more worthy. An 8 acre small urban mere, with pylon wires all over the lake, and set next to an industrial estate it's not the most aesthetic but the originals in there are different gravy for where I live in Warrington. I spent a few weeks lapping in the week after work, just learning the routines of fish, how they moved on to certain winds and in to certain areas. I held back from baiting heavily at first, the lake was fishing slow and I endured a few blank nights but I was still just getting to grips with the place. A starting point for me was the few fish that were coming out were mainly on match the hatch hookbaits, and i quickly adapted to that, fishing straight bottom baits produced my first few fish of the year, a banging 21 leathery stocky, followed by another clean big scaled linear the weekend after. I was using the Tange Marine at the time, and the fish were getting on it. Watching them feed in snags proved to me that the fish was reacting to it instantly. Another weekend provided a chunky fella known as Cyril at 22.8, and I felt momentum was on my side. But then I pulled off for a few weeks after this as the fish had began to spawn.
Once the spawning had quietened down and anglers were back on fishing, the bites were few and far between for everyone. This was around the time Joe had sent out a sample of a new red spicy fish meal test bait, and It looked brilliant and I decided to go for it, an order was made and it seemed the right time to give them some bait. As I mentioned bites were few and far between and in my mind, they just needed some top grub and a lot of it, on a dance floor where they could come and smash it up, to regain all this depleted energy they had used during spawning. Doing my normal rekkies after work I had found a good group of 15-16 different fish in a small quiet corner, I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually fish the swim in the 2-3 years I've been looking round the lake. The plan was to find a spot close in, as these fish was literally turning up boils of water within inches of the bank, and to fill it in. A small hole in a set of pads and a few kilo of the testbait along with some hemp, pellet and the rock salt was all deposited for several nights under the cover of darkness. Turning up friday after work I just knew they had been on it. The whole clarity of the water in this corner was completely different to the rest of the lake. And setting up the brolly at the back of the swim I heard one fly out just yards from the bank, and then the fizzing started on the spot. I was rubbing my hands. Got the rods out mega and I was away within 20 minutes. A mid double mirror lost at the net and I thought I had ruined my chances. The lake hadn't done a bite for almost a week at this point, and I'd just lost one before I'd even got the kettle on. I stuck with it in the hope they'd move back in at first light and another bite would be on the cards. 12:30 am and the rods away, stripping line off me and heading straight in to a set of pads. After a dogged fight in the darkness I could just make out a big gob and head roll over the net cord. Get in there "it's Split Tail" I said to myself and giving it the big fist pump to myself, like a kid at Christmas. I was straight on the hooter to my mate who was fishing a lake a few miles away. I'd had full confidence in the test bait from this moment on.
Over the next month or so I continued this success and over in the adjacent swims, which was basically a mirrored style of fishing from the current swim. None of the big girls turned up unfortunately. Until after a few stalking sessions I was checking my spots and the big girl, my target fish cruised over. I spent the next few weekends in that swim to no avail and the area turned stale. I fished a central swim the following week and was giving some yellow 12mm test bait pop ups a go, fishing snowman style with a 2 bait stringer and I managed one of my targets 2 scale, spawned out but still buzzing all the same, and this just gave me such belief in the bait, knowing if I put it in the right area the fish would 100% feed on it.
I went to Leeds festival the following weekend and after a long day in a sweaty tent I was running low on energy to say the least. On the train journey home I just knew I had to get back out, and once home Id packed the barrow after a relieving shower and made the 2 mile walk. The rods were set in a central swim of the lake and the place was rather empty, I decided to fill it in and started off with 3kg of bait, hoping to get a long well needed kip and a bite at first light. How wrong was I! I think I was playing my 5th fish at around 8am the next morning! A few mid doubles and a cracking 23lb linear being the pick of the bunch. I was buzzing as the spot had done 2 scale the week before and this proved it wasn't just a fluke. I stuck it out in that area of the lake for the next few weekends and only managed one more fish. During the time I'd been fishing this small area of the lake, I'd noticed how a certain end of the lake had been getting completely ignored, and a few evenings sat down there revealed how many fish was actually down there! The fact the swims are the furthest walk from the car park might be the reason for this. After a week of prebaiting I went down and a fresh new wind was hacking down there, and the next morning there was 1 fish in the sack, which turned out to be a repeat of a stockie from early on in the year once I'd looked at all the pics, and another fish in the retainer which turned out to be a banging old original linear! Not on my list but one I really wanted to catch just to get some awesome pics of it.
The following weekend produced a low 20 from the same swim and then I pulled off as I was going to a gig in Manchester. I told my mate Nabs the wraps to the spot and he dropped in that weekend having a small common. So I knew the spot was still producing. Me and Nabs decided to have a social the following weekend down that bank, as it was still empty 9 out of 10 times when we was doing laps in the week. We dropped on after work on the Friday and after dropping the rigs on to the spots I was away within 20 mins with a lovely old leathery low 20. Fresh rig back on and the spot topped up i got about doing some photos when halfway through the same rod was melting off! With Nabs on net duty and another of my mates who had come down to get involved with pics looking after the fish and returning her, I was bent in to another fish, which turned out to be a heavily full scaled fish which none of us even know was in the lake! While the mats and slings were all sorted we got him out quickly and got the pics sorted. I finally managed to get an hour of peace and get the kettle on and have some food, until halfway through my pot noodle the rod pulled up tight and I could see the tip pulling round as the fish kited. After a heavy and long fight the fish rolled over the cord and Nabs straight away called it as 2 scale! But with a full belly on her this time. 24.1 she went and I got some top trophy shots before slipping her back. That's the same fish on the test bait for a second time, she certainly likes it...
The swim went quiet for a while and the next bite came around 3 am ended up being a nice mid double linear stocked fish so she got slipped back quickly so I could get some more shut eye. The following weekend I travelled down to the Warwickshire Avon for 2 nights with my old mate Whitham for some barbel and chub fishing before heading out to Australia for a holiday. We managed a few fish, all mine taken on the 10mm test bait, proving to be quality for all situations of specimen fishing. That just about brings me up to date as I'm sat writing this on the sandy beach of Perth. This year so far has totally opened my eyes to how much a good top quality bait can really make such a big difference to your angling and the way in which you apply it, let's not forget alongside your watercraft and rig mechanics! But it's certainly a huge part of it! I'm looking forward to a good winter on the MC Nut and Banoffee, 2 quality winter baits which I'm 100% sure will bring the results coming! Then getting back on to the testbait in the spring of 2018. If your not on the Oxford Carp Baits already, then get on it!