Continuing on from my last blog, I’d had a single night session on the new water, a venue which only contains a handful of carp. My target was a historic old mirror, which was a daunting prospect in a 16 acre snag ridden and feature filled pit. The positives were that the lake was nice and quiet; in fact I only really saw two others fishing it, which gave me a decent chance of finding an area and priming it. My two friends who had caught the big mirror in the past had given me lots of help and advice, and as a consequence of this I had narrowed the area down that I wanted to fish to just two swims. With it already being October, I knew I didn’t have time to learn all of the lake before the onset of winter, so my plan was to focus on the two areas and in effect make the lake much smaller. I found three lovely spots in the swim I fancied most and over the preceding weeks I began applying my Essential B5 with the new salami flavour onto these features every other day. I made sure to do this at differing times, as already the birds were causing problems. The lake had been seriously green, which had killed all the weed and consequently all of the naturals for the coot population and my baiting was like ringing the dinner bell to them!
I had a terrific boost on my first single night session as the big one rolled in front of me, all be it over the far side but still within range. This had led me to my last spot as a cast in this area found fresh green silt weed, something that I hadn’t found anywhere else and was a big clue as to why the fish liked it in this area. This spot was nice and easy to bait as I could walk around the other side and bait up with 20 baits at a time with the catapult. My other two areas were close in to my own bank, both within 25 yards and on the back of gravel seams, each giving firm silty drops when I hit them with a light lead. One of these spots had history for producing her before, as my friend Wayne who’d caught her the previous autumn had kindly told me about it, top man! I was confident on all three now and I now had a week of night shifts to get through before I had almost a week off fishing. The bonus of working nights was that I was able to visit every day and over the course of the week I went down there as often as I could and at differing times, including straight after work at 6am in the dark. It was an eerie place during the early hours of the morning, but every time I visited I learnt little things and began to feel more comfortable and accepted.
I had another bit of fortune on one of these baiting sorties, as just after I had introduced some bait and being in no rush, I sat and watched the water for a while. As I did so within 15 minutes of having baited up, a fish rolled right on top of the right hand spot that Wayne had told me about and that he had caught her from. Knowing there were so few fish in the lake it was another massive boost, as it was definitely a carp and meant that I had actually seen fish show on two of my three spots!
In a way it loaded up the pressure as I knew I couldn’t go before the week after and I was worried that another angler might see the signs and scupper me. I made sure that every visit from then on I went in and out unnoticed. On two occasions another member was present, but by going in during darkness and not daring to switch any lights on I felt that I had left unseen. I stayed away at the weekend, knowing it was likely to be busier and I spent the time double checking all my kit. This included fining it down as much as possible, as with the narrow paths it was a tricky barrow journey to say the least. I removed everything I didn’t need and packed it in so I had the minimal gear. This is where the Levelite beds are great, and I had just got a new ELS, which gives much firmer support. It eliminates bed chair back from which I suffered for so long whilst still being able to fold the sleeping bag and spare clothes inside it is a brilliant space saver. I began counting the time until my session on Tuesday, but I did pop over there on the Monday for a look. The only eventful occurrence was someone going into the back of my car on the way home!
The following day I was there and I was in hyper drive as I pushed the barrow round there, filled with anticipation, but knowing the challenge ahead I can’t say brimming with confidence! It was certainly much colder than the previous weeks, with a cold north easterly whipping across the water from the big reservoir behind me. The rods went out well, but my most favoured area over to the far bank had the cold wind pushing into it, so it didn’t look as good as I hoped. The two close in rods both had my ever faithful hinged stiff rigs on, with razor sharp size 6 Covert Chod hooks, little 1.5 oz Bolt Bombs and 14lb Mirage fluorocarbon all the way through. I’d blobbed some big bits of Critical Mass Putty onto the main line above the helicopter set up to ensure it was all pinned down and testing it in the edge it looked exceptionally well disguised. Even more so when I slacked the line off completely as it hung off the rod tips. The long rod over the other side I’d gone in much heavier, as it was near to a dangerous looking gravel bar, so I had on 15lb GT80 with a 20lb Mirage leader and a standard naked chod. This was the area with the silt weed, so I knew the chod rig would give me the best presentation over this and although this area had been baited the most, I chose to only fish this as a single hook bait. I scattered around 30 baits around the other two close in rods and prayed the coots would leave them alone. Once the baits were out I sat in the little tucked away swim and stared at the lake as much as I could in the hope of seeing any signs, but as the day wore on the wind increased combined with the years first cold night forecast it didn’t look ideal.
The following dawn was clear and cold and my trusty temperature gauge read 4c. Soon a cold wind picked up and once again I saw or heard nothing as I sat huddled under the shelter. At lunchtime I wound in to get some more water from the car and had a walk around the whole lake, stopping for a while in one of the big swims that gave me a view up the entire lake. I remember looking at the big expanse of water and thinking I could be trying on here for years. It was my biggest ever angling challenge, but I tried to push any self doubt thoughts out of my mind. Arriving back in the swim after a quick chat with another angler who was fishing further down, I put the rods back out to the same spots. I was especially pleased with the left hand rod, as it cracked down much harder than any previous casts there, with the rod springing back with a thump that I could feel all the way down to the rod butt. I put out a few B5 baits around it and took cover under the brolly.
At around 6pm, I was staring at the rods contemplating leaving a day early due to the poor conditions, when the left hand one absolutely ripped off. The tip pulled down and the buzzer went straight into a continuous tone without any precluding single bleeps. I bent into a fish which immediately felt heavy and it began plodding towards a dangerous looking branch protruding from the left margin. I immediately buried the rod tip and applied side strain in an attempt to divert it. Never before in my fishing career have I been so sure at the early stage of a fight to what fish I was attached to. The way it stayed deep and knowing the venue contained only one really big fish, I knew it just had to be her. In all honesty I was shaking and my heart was thumping as I prayed she would just give up. She obviously hadn’t read that script though, as she charged off on a deep run after run up and down in front of me. It was a full 5 minutes before she rolled on the surface, showing her big grey bulk with a creamy under side that confirmed what I already knew. It all went a bit wrong then, as she caught one of my other lines, causing that buzzer to bleep repeatedly and the panic in me to rise as I was playing another rod too! I didn’t know whether to really bully her in, or just play her out as normal. I prayed the hook hold was good and sunk the net in the narrow confines of the swim. The fight went on and I don’t recall ever being so nervous, but after several minutes she was up on the top and coming towards the outstretched net. As she rolled over the cord I frantically flicked the mesh down and she was mine. With shaking hands I looked inside and it was clear from her bulk it was indeed the big girl. During the fight the light had gone, so I secured the net over a scaffold pole in the front of the swim and went back to the car to get my mat and scales that were a few of the items I’d taken out to reduce the load. I passed the other angler on the way and told him I’d got her, before phoning my two friends who had been such an influence on the capture.
On the scales she went 48lb 8oz and was so well hooked I had to use the forceps to carefully remove the hook. I’d already bought the rods in and I had even packed them away in the holdall, knowing I’d already made my last ever cast on that lake. Wayne and another friend Jim came down and we did the photos immediately. It was early evening and there was no way I would ever retain a fish for that long just to get daylight pictures. We took a few night shots before I slowly released her into the inky blackness, watching her drop down into the dark water and swim away strongly.
I shared a drink with my friends and we sat there talking for some time, until they left and I spent the night there, with no rods out in a state of happiness that can’t be matched. It was easily my greatest angling achievement, but one with a lot of help from my friends.
The following day I packed up slowly and left for the last time. The lake is such a magical place that was so kind to me and in only two nights I had managed the unthinkable. Without doubt there is a fair bit of luck involved in these captures, right time right place, but it shows that it can be done on limited time if you at least give yourself the opportunity.
To my friends Wayne and Adam, Essential Baits, Trakker and Gardner Tackle my sincere thanks. With winter coming I knew where I was going for some relaxing social fishing and I can’t wait for a new challenge this spring, but I’ll never forget this special place.
Good luck to all.