Like many of us with a young family, winter provides that opportunity to spend time at home to rebuild the contents of our ‘brownie point’ bank and to also replenish and tidy the essentials for the fishing year ahead.
That said, in recent years I have really started to enjoy ‘manning up’ and getting out on a few winter sessions; which offers a very different challenge to the more predictable spring and autumn periods.
Whatever the time of the year Wellington Country Park is a truly magical place to spend some time. In the winter, it offers all the same qualities but stripped back with the peace and tranquillity that an absence of general public guarantees – it’s sheer bliss.
With the end of January providing a short and welcome spell of blustery warm South Westerly’s and bearable overnight temperatures, I knew I had to re-organise a few things at home to make a bit more bank time than I had scheduled in.
In recent weeks, two swims at opposite ends of the 35 acre lake had done a few bites. Last winter at Welly was a non-event to most, but the slightly more productive bi-annual winter many had told me about seems to coming to fruition… That said it’s still a relatively big lake, with islands, bays and arms full of very cold water.
The 4th February arrived and I had 36 hours to try and capitalise on the lakes recent improved form, but typically the conditions had switched almost completely when compared to just the previous weekend when it had been awesome. However, when I have a window at home, I now go regardless as there is always a chance and the prizes are second to none.
The initial surprise was rolling into an empty car park at 4pm on the Saturday afternoon! Instantly, I knew that would literally open up the whole lake and the plan in my head unfolded whilst I was loading up the barrow from the mountain of necessary and unnecessary equipment that was strewn in the van.
With less than an hour until sunset, I made an immediate push with the barrow to the most recently productive end of the lake. With the sun already dropping out of sight, I settled quickly into the 3 trees swim which offered some protection from the bitterly cold North Easterly breeze, and also offered a wonderful panoramic view of the lake.
It really was cold, the wind chill almost making it unbearable to stand for any time in the wind. With the brolly up and two rods deployed with one to go, half way down the lake a rolling fish was impossible to ignore. It was inevitable that the brolly was collapsed down, rods packed away and barrow loaded once again. With burning cold hands I was soon on the move in the dark. Mobility is always going to be pivotal to my angling; if I see or hear something I move.
Last April, the ‘Hole in the bush swim’ (which is positioned fairly centrally) was very kind to me and consequently I know this swim fairly well. Even though it was pitch black and I was setting up under torch light, things couldn’t have gone any better. All three leads landed with enough of a thump to feel confident that my single 12mm pink Sticky Signature Squid hook baits were presented cleanly.
It was soon time to have some warm dinner and settle down for the night. Although fairly confident, the air outside temperature was dropping fast and the water temperature barely lifted the mercury to 3 degrees! The reality of the conditions kicked in.
However, I woke at 5am to a liner on the left hand rod, but it was the right hand bobbin that lifted a couple of inches three quarters of an hour later, then it dropped right back that saw me surfaced me from my doss bag and scurry towards the rods. As soon as the bobbin lifted one more inch, I reeled down into what was evidently a decent fish. A short, wintery battle was soon won and a shine of the torch down into the landing net unveiling one of the most sought after gems, in the shape of the Pretty Mirror at 49lb! With the fish safely secured in one of the parks supplied retainer, a few texts were exchanged with Wayne the Bailiff, and I was soon holding up the jewel in all its winter colours. Wow, simply lovely and more than I ever expected!
If that wasn’t enough, the same rod that I’d recast to the same area (with a lighter lead to cause less disruption) was away again at 10 in the morning. WTF! Another typical short heavy wintery battle had my nerves jangling and I was soon staring down into the landing net at a new PB common, in the epic shape of Clint’s Common at 47lb!
What a morning; a morning that left me literally speechless. It had felt good when I set up the night before, but I didn’t see this astonishing series of captures coming for one millisecond.
Whilst on the phone to Clint (who the common was named after when he had caught it a few years previous) my middle rod bobbin lifted up tight and I was away again. I still had Clint’s Common in the retainer waiting for Cheeky Chubby Chops Charlie to turn up to assist with photos, and now I also had a bristling 25lb common to photograph too.
At Welly we are supplied retainers and unhooking mats and being as I was on the venue on my own, for some odd reason I took two retainers from the shed. Why I don’t know? The only logic being that if I was lucky enough to catch a fish, with nobody around to assist, I might need a second one. Then by crazy fate, both were now in the water, side by side cradling carp!
The rest of the day went by with no more action, but at 4 in the morning I was suddenly awoken to a full on run. This fish was clearly not up for a photo session and was more awake than the others. Eventually I finally slipped the net under a 35lb ghostie.
I took some quick self takes which didn’t turn out great, but didn’t spoil what I can only describe as my winter red letter day. I’ve had a number of memorable sessions in my time, but due to the time of the year, terrible weather conditions and at a venue that has inevitably become much trickier over the years, this one certainly ranks right up there with the most memorable of them all.
Be lucky, Carl.