With the school holidays upon us, my fishing time became more restricted, and my mid-week time would now need to be spent splitting days off with my wife to look after the children and work. That said, I knew I’d still be able to do one overnight session per week and on these overnight sessions I would have to be leaving the lake for work by 8am each morning.
This meant that realistically I had to fish somewhere local with the minimum of travelling. This left me with the choice of only one venue; which was one that I’d not really fished for the past three years. I was fortunate to have had the lakes known ‘big one’ out in May on a one off two night trip. It was a fish that I had been after for a long time, but since then I had taken my longer session fishing elsewhere.
However, rather than not fish at all, and being desperate to get the rods out, this was the place it had to be. I knew it would be quiet too, as all of the other members were weekend anglers, so by going in the week I should have it to myself. I also deliberately didn’t let any of them know I was going down there or ask what was happening, as I’d rather go there with a clean slate and start totally from scratch.
My first trip was a Monday night. I arrived at 5pm to find that no one was there. The lake was looking lovely, all be it tinged with a slight green algae bloom. It was really good to be back and almost like fishing a new lake again. I could see the odd big weed bed just under the surface, but nothing like in previous years when you could almost walk over it. I had a wander round, but saw nothing, partly due to the colour of the water and the time of day with the temperature being really high.
I ignored the most popular swim, guessing someone would have been in it all weekend, and chose a swim that covered all the water in the centre of the lake. I’d decided that as my session was during the hours of darkness and early morning, the middle of the pond seemed to be a better bet than the margins, where the fish seem to patrol during the daytime on their way to the many snags that surround the lake.
I hadn’t fished this swim much in the past, and as it covers the biggest section of open water it certainly gave me plenty of options. That said, I did know of one spot that had produced a couple of fish for me some years ago, and I quickly cast out a lead in that direction, or at least where I remembered it to be. Whilst the weed wasn’t up on the top, it was certainly thick below the surface, and each time I cast there the lead hit weed and I was locked up trying to extract it. After a few attempts, the lead suddenly began dropping for much longer, before I felt that distinctive silty thump through the rod butt. As I tweaked the lead back towards me I could feel it slide, almost like it had come off completely, before it locked into another pile of weed. When I put a float on and popped it up I could see that it was the same spot that had been productive before.
I quickly put on a hinged stiff rig with a 16mm B5 pop-up attached and fired it out there. The first attempt went some 5 yards to the left of the marker in the cross wind (more like 10 really) and a bit beyond it, but I let it sink on a tight line anyway, to find it absolutely slammed down! By far the best drop I had found. That was staying there then, and I put my second rod on the silty gully that I had earlier found (this one was baited with a washed out pink pop up). I put a hundred or so baits out in the catapult and sat back in the sun, feeling confident but at the same time not really knowing what to expect.
This year I’ve boosted my free baits with a mixture of salt and Essential Bait’s GLM liquid with squid. It really gives the baits a high attraction level, especially in the warmer water temperatures, and I’m sure adds a great deal more pulling power, drawing the fish down to feed on the bed of freebies.
I did see several fish show though, which was encouraging, and during the night I had a number of liners on all the rods. Being a work night I wasn’t up with the early dawn, but instead was woken by a screaming take on the miscast rod on the hard spot. The clutch was going and I could see the rod tip was pulling down as the fish took off. I had it on for a minute or so until I felt the line go solid as the fish became stuck fast in the weed.
Resisting the temptation to pull hard, I went and got the boat that’s there for exactly this reason. I knew how to do this properly because when I had fished the lake regularly I’d became well practised in using the boat. I grabbed the rod and the net, and once I was afloat wound down using the line to pull me out towards the fish. When I I got above it I had to take hold of the line and gingerly pull hand over hand, clearing the weed off as I slowly regained more and more line. The fish was stuck so solidly that I couldn’t feel a thing, until with one pull the weed came free and I could feel the fish pulling the line from my hands. I was glad I was using a big size 5 Covert Chod hook, as I know these to be the strongest and sharpest I’ve used, and one that can easily take the strain of a boat battles in heavy weed.
I hurriedly picked up the rod, and piled the pressure on to keep it up and above the weed, whilst at the same time spinning round and round in the boat. Eventually it was up and on the surface, and I pulled it over the net about 70 yards out in the lake from the swim. I folded up the rod, and with my foot securing the landing net pole and the fish hanging in the water over the side I rowed back. This seemed to take an age, with the fish almost pulling back against my best efforts with one paddle. On the bank I was delighted with a mid-twenty mirror that I didn’t recognise at all. The capture gave me a chance to use the new self take kit I had recently bought. I’d only practised in the garden before, so I was delighted with the results, and is great asset on waters where you want to keep things quiet!
With that I was packing up and heading home, happy with that result and looking forward to the following week.
I was back a week later. Once again, it was a warm day, but as I unloaded the car a threatening sky began to come over, and as I rushed to get sorted the rain started to fall. I put up the Tempest Air, and threw my kit beneath it as the heavens opened. As it eased off, I quickly put my rods out on the same spots as before, just lining each rod up with marks on the far bank and feeling for the hard drops that told me my rigs were presented in the clear. It’s funny, but when you’re confident in your methods it all seems to be easy, and I can remember both of the rods went down perfectly first cast, exactly where I had them the last time.
Once the rain had stopped the lake suddenly seemed to come alive as fish after fish crashed out. The only thing was they were everywhere, with no discernible pattern as to where they were showing. One would lump out in the bay behind me, only for another to show straight after right up the other end. This began to play on me, as it was difficult to see the wood for the trees, and I began to wonder if I was missing something by not moving. It was one of those occasions where I had to just sit still and let it all go on. It definitely seemed that the period between 5 and 7am was the time though, as after a very quiet night I was in again on the same rod and back out in the boat, trying to extract it from a weed bed the size of a small car. Once the weed was off the line I could see I was attached to a golden common that seemed to have a bit of ghostie in it. At 25lb it was another result on a short session and a new fish too. I packed up and quickly hung up the wet mat and sling in the garden before rushing off to work.
For the next trip I picked an area at the other end of the lake, one that I had seen a few fish show in regularly over the previous weeks. It was nice to have a change too, and it was close in fishing, my favourite style. However, one of the rods required getting into the water and a sideways cast onto a tiny clear spot surrounded by thick weed. This looked easy from high up on the raised bank, but was really hard to judge from down at water level! In the end it took me about twenty attempts; two went up the tree, and the rest hung up in the weed before I finally got one to bang down onto the clear hole. I was especially confident on this rod.
It had been another warm day and there were several fish loitering about high up in the water in and around this area; one of which was an enormous common, that looked to be well over the 40lb mark. I knew which fish this was, it’s one that had only been out once in the last 15 years (as a mid 30), but in my few trips this year I had seen it almost every time! Excitingly, I had actually seen it feeding on a few baits I had dropped in next to it one day, so at least it was a boilie eater. Why it hasn’t been caught I don’t know, but it went for years without me even seeing it in the lake, so maybe with the recent sightings it may well come out again.
As the evening drew in a couple of fish showed, with the odd patch of bubbles coming up in the area, and at 3am the rod to the side was away and the fish shot off towards the middle of the lake well above the weed. I was expecting it to get tangled up at any time but it kept going and going, until it stuck solid about 30 yards out. I was soon out in the boat, but this one took ages to get out, and three times I had it moving and only for it to become entangled in more weed, and each time I had to move the boat above it and hand line it up. Eventually I had it coming up, and as I felt the swivel above the hook link, I sank the net and scooped the lot up.
I still didn’t knowing what I had caught and couldn’t wait to find out, but I must admit to be slightly disappointed with a 10lb stocky. By the time I’d got sorted it all out dawn was breaking, there was to be no more sleep night, and as I packed up for work I knew it was going to be a hard day after being up since the early hours!
I was back once again the following week, but as it was school holidays I had both my son’s with me. I’d taken them individually before, but never both at the same time. I was in my 2 man Armo, with my boys tucked under the Tempest (but only about 2 feet away).
It was a lovely warm evening and I was back in the first swim, which was easily big enough to accommodate all of us. We had a great BBQ sat in the sun, and both boys were enjoying a night out. It was dead on the fishing front though, and I had not seen a night as quiet as this for fish shows, in fact I saw next to nothing. I dearly wanted to catch one with the boys there, but the usual bite time passed without a bleep. However, just I was thinking of packing up the first fish of the session lumped out right over my middle rod. The boys were willing a take, and my youngest even had the remote in his hand talking to it, when that rod was away!
This one stuck fast in weed very early, and Matthew and I put our life jackets on and paddled out. This one was fairly straightforward, and once I’d initially got it out of the weed, I played it as normal, with it taking line from the clutch and staying above the weed. We got a few good looks at it, and in the sunshine it was clearly a stunning dark scaley mirror. After a few runs it was mine, and asking Matthew to pass me the paddle I gave him the net, only for him to tell me he’d dropped the one paddle we had over the side some minutes before! There it was floating about 10 yards away, so with the rod, a fish in the net and my boy I was paddling with my hands until I was close enough to use the rod to pull the paddle over, nightmare!
When we got the fish out and placed it on the mat we all gasped in awe. There was probably one of the best looking carp I’d ever caught, jet black with petal scales and tiny slits for eyes; I had last seen it some 10 years before when another member had landed it, so it was an elusive one too. It was a great team effort and a very special family moment. I let the kids slip it back wondering how long it would be before it was caught again.
With that it’s time for a family holiday, and on return the autumn will be with us. I know where I’m fishing when I get back, angling for a very special carp and the biggest I’ve ever had the chance to have a go for. I can’t wait…