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...