It actually frightens the life out of me when I consider the duration of my association with the compact little complex of Colne valley lakes named ‘Longfield’. I was recently reminded that it has actually been over 11 years since I first opened the gates to what I consider to be a fantastic place to while away precious hours chasing the scaley inhabitants. In the intervening time, I’ve somehow managed to get married and become a devoted dad to a couple of wonderful children…
So, how can two lakes totalling no more than 15 acres have deserved so much of my attention over the years! I wonder? The only way I can answer that, is to explain that the overall Longfield package is perfect for what I do. It’s most probably a combination of the fish, the beauty of the lakes and the priceless camaraderie of the anglers who fish there.
The complex consists of the Road Lake and Fox Pool. These famous fisheries were once at the beating heart of Colne Valley carping and a ton of stuff has been written about both lakes over the years, and of course, like many of the great venues across the UK, they have suffered their highs and lows.
Fox Pool is steeped in history and was one of the premier big fish water during the 1990’s. Rob Maylin wrote a book on the place, but after the fish were moved to Horton, following a decision made by CEMEX Angling. After that it was the smaller ‘Road Lake’ that became the obsession for most anglers over the past decade or so.
CEMEX Angling took back the rights to fish on the Road Lake after the Rimini Syndicate had exclusive control of the special water for a number of years. The Rimini syndicate stocked the Road Lake with fish from Broadwater and Wellington Country Park; with a number of those being the Dinkelsbuehl strain of carp.
The head bailiff of the Road Lake was part of that old syndicate – and his passion for the venue is stronger now than ever. I’m pleased to say that the present owner of Longfield fully appreciates the heritage of the place too and shares the desire of those who care so much about it to see the stocks nurtured and the lakes tended and maintained. The future looks set to rival, and possibly exceed, the past, and that’s really saying something.
I moved onto the Road Lake after a difficult and testing couple of years on Horton. I caught a couple, but there was no way I could compete against anglers who could put in a solid week of night shifts and move swims as soon as they spotted the fish as they moved up and down the lake in shoals. It was only when I had a week off and dropped into one of the going swims that I realised it was just about being in the right place at the right time, and I went and caught a few in that session.
The Road Lake on the other hand offered some lovely fishing to the part-time angler. With a 48-hours on and 48 off rule brought in, it was perfect for me whilst I continued to juggle home and work life with getting out on the bank whenever I could.
Back then, when I visited the Road Lake for the first time, I remember looking at what is an intimate pond that was covered with floating Canadian pond weed above almost gin-clear tap water. A myriad insects flew around, with mayflies and midges everywhere. They were dancing in the air and bouncing off the mirror-like, magical, glistening water as the warm sun beat down hard on the surface. It was a Saturday afternoon and in addition to the real insects I also remember the butterflies that started fluttering in my stomach the moment I had time to look around and realised that I was going to be fishing this fantastic lake. I was full of excitement, mixed with a little apprehension (through lacking any knowledge of the lake whatsoever).
After walking around for a while I eventually opted for a swim called The Bar; purely based on the fact there were no other anglers near me in this part of the lake. After finding a couple of likely-looking clear areas with the marker rod, neither more than 20 yards in front of the feature that gave the swim its name, I baited with a handful of fishmeal boilies to each spot. I fished with bottom baits on each and started to think about what I’d do if the alarm was to signal a take. I didn’t really know what was in there and didn’t really want to know how tough or easy the lake was; I just wanted to treat it as something special and a venue that I could take my time fishing on, enjoying to the full.
Amazingly, just before it was time to retire for the night and stretch the bungees on my bedchair, the right-hand rod’s bobbin jiggled, pulled up and rested, trembling against the face of the warbling alarm before the clutch started to pay out line. With no shoes on and mayhem in my wake (as I’d kicked everything over in sheer panic) I lifted the rod that was connected to what felt like a carp. However, before I could possibly moan about the size of the one that got away, the hook flew back at me. My first close encounter with a Road Lake carp was brief, and to the point.
I didn’t think it was a big fish but it did make me wonder if the lake was a lot easier than I’d thought it might be. How wrong could a carper be! As the season unfolded, I realised I’d have to adapt and learn, listen to the regulars, then use the right gear, and the right bait, in exactly the right way. That first night taught me that if something seems too good to be true – it probably is!
Over the years, the Road Lake has seen the best in terms of who’s-who in the angling world; with the likes of Terry Hearn, Nigel Sharp, Fireman Dan, Frogger, Beadle, Ben Hamilton, Sean Leverett and Dave Mag’ to name but a few notable anglers that have fished on the lake – and every one of them has a different story to tell and has nothing but fond memories of their experiences. No one came and ‘turned it over’ from the onset, and with there being seven sought after A-team fish back then, it was always going to take a while to get them all. Simply because most of them didn’t visit the bank more than a couple of times a season.
The hardest thing to get my head around was that everything I’d learned the previous year, in terms of rigs and baits, just seemed to count for nothing once the new season opened. It was almost as if the fish had organised a meeting and said, ‘we got clumped a few times on those fishmeals guys, so ignore that this year. Oh, and no bottom bait rigs, yeah!?’
A couple of years into my campaign whilst dropping onto the Road Lake, fishing maybe one night or sometimes two, I started to get some things right and caught a few, namely the Missing Starburst and the strangely named Not The Brown. Both these carp were above 33lbs, and I caught hem using methods adopted from a couple of other successful anglers. They were clearly on a winning formula with their bait and I could see a trend appearing where everyone using this bait was catching a few. But, the one thing that really worked for me at the time was a rig which consisted of a 6-inch long 30lb Amnesia stiff-type hook link tied straight to a size 6 Gardner Mugga hook – with the hair being an extension of the same material. I won’t lie, this rig looked utterly hideous! The hook almost turned back on itself, and I wondered how on earth the Mugga actually acted as the claw taking hold, but it worked unbelievably well and really nailed a number of the A-team.
I persisted with this rig, but had to ditch it after I lost a few good fish through the Amnesia cut on the pea mussels that abounded in the weedy water. The hook link had parted like cotton and the risk was just too much, so I had to try to figure out what else would work, but it felt like another season’s edge had gone. So, lacking in confidence, I was back again the following year with a new approach, yet again competing for the A-team against those scarily talented top anglers!
As with most venues, there was always one fish everyone really wanted. Of course I wanted all of them, but realistically you end up setting yourself a target of one or two particular fish. Mine was always Clover; a huge-framed, magnificent looking specimen with a big head and an amazing over-slung ‘curtain’ mouth.
It seemed that most anglers were infatuated by the Dink, which was indisputably the king of the pond and nearly always the heaviest of them all. It was predominantly caught from the Number 1 swim, a plot that I always hated because it demanded hook-and-hold tactics due to the proximity of some pretty nasty snags, but it was without doubt the most prolific swim. She was quite a characteristic fish, but not what I would call a looker! The Dink quite often broke the 40-pound mark as did Clover. Whereas the others, namely Orange Spot, Scattered Lin, Big Lin, and Three Scales averaged mid to high 30’s, but they were all so unique in their looks.
As is necessary on all fisheries, securing the long term future of the venue required the introduction of new fish to complement the existing stock. So it was that CEMEX Angling introduced a small number of Sutton strain fish each winter during the mid 2000’s, with these young fish ranging from low to mid doubles. The young fish did really well with them being hand selected from the fishery’s farm at Horton. They were to be a significant part of the future of the complex. Little did we know exactly what they would become one day, but that is for later…
Leading up to the season of 2008, I’d had my fair share of the fish including some of the A-team in the form of Orange Spot more than once at over 36lb, The Pug at 33lb, The Fully Scaled, Little Dink, Fergie, Bare Patch and a number of the newer fish too. However, I was also losing my fair share of what felt like good fish, and quite frankly I was disappointed with myself for failing to learn and being unable to rectify the problem.
With only five of the A-team fish left to catch, I really couldn’t afford to be losing anything and coming into the colder months I decided to knuckle down and really get my fishing head on. You see, it was very easy to get wrapped up in the social scene back then and quite often the fishing was an afterthought because the craic was so good! A number of beers were shared around a never-ending barbecue and solid friendships were formed for years to come. Every angler was happy for the next who’d had a result. There was no bitterness, even though we knew each capture put our own chances back for quite some time.
Over that winter I visited the pond at least twice a week, every time watching the fish show at exactly 15.30 in an area in front of Chestnuts. I baited small silt pockets in a couple of swims with an excellent winter boilie from Essential Baits, Winterised Squid and Black Pepper. The big baiting approach was unheard of back then on the Road, with successful anglers only using seven boilies per rod. Yes, seven, and to be honest, I didn’t put much more than 20-30 baits out in total on each visit. The rig I was using was unique, too. I continued to present my bait hard on the bottom because for some reason, pop-ups just weren’t nailing them. It consisted of an 8-inch skinned hook link with the tail stripped back to allow for movement and for continuation of the hair, to which two, 12mm boilies were fixed.
The hook was still an uber reliable Gardner Mugga, only this time scaled down to a size 8. On the hook, I positioned a hard, yellow Enterprise Maggot (just as you would a mag aligner). Whether it was just coincidence or pure luck, it was the yellow that did the business, because I did try other colours. I seemed to be doing well, sneaking a few fish out of a swim called The Reeds, and while they were only the smaller, newer fish, they were all most welcome.
As we got into March, with time running out on the current season, the rest of the syndicate started to filter back onto the lake. I knew that my chance to bank what was now an infatuation was getting slimmer, so I needed to work an area away from where most of the attention was being applied. I decided that a swim called the Grassy Knoll gave me that opportunity and over the course of three weeks of a similar ‘little and often’ baiting program on a couple of close-in silt spots, it was clear to see it was working because I could feel the area hardening up with each visit. I refrained from fishing it though, deciding to completely finish what I was doing in the Reeds.
As March drew to a close on one cold Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting extremely confidently ensconced in the Grassy Knoll, with a moderate breeze blowing directly in my face; so much so, that I couldn’t even socialise with my dear late friend, Micky. My confidence was confirmed when the left-hand rod’s line tightened up and after a spirited battle, the now large group of friends that had gathered around my swim put me out of my misery by confirming Clover was in the net! We all partied well into the early hours of the Sunday morning, but that was the Road Lake for you; everyone sharing in someone else’s celebration.
Other fish trickled out; the wonderful 3 Scales made an appearance at high 30 and my cousin Jason banked his first 40 in the form of The Dink from an area not too far away from the Grassy. All in all, it was another brilliant season for so many good anglers. Nigel Sharp returned to take care of some unfinished business at that time as well, and started doing what he does best, working an area in front of a swim called Dogleg to its maximum potential. Probably one of the best sights I’ve seen was Nige on the last week of that season, out of breath and almost dying after legging it around to my swim to help me with a fish called Split Pec. What a good man!
After Nigel caught all of his target fish, things on the Road Lake changed somewhat and it became a far cry from the place I remembered on that sunny Saturday afternoon some five years previously. The weed was almost non-existent, the water clarity was all but gone, but the fish, well, they were just huge. The majority of the stock was either nudging or over 30 pounds, which was crazy when you consider there were almost 40 fish in a small, highly-pressured circuit water.
The fish were being heavily fed by the influx of anglers, and the carp just destroyed the weed the moment it started to grow. Anglers were casting all over each other, due to the lack of weed defining areas in front of each swim. It got too much for me, and despite watching a fish I dearly wanted called 3 Scales pick up my hook bait, only for it to fall off, the prospect of another water very close to the Longfield complex became far more appealing and I decided that the Road Lake would offer a welcome return in a few years time.