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.