My Slumber was somehow unexpectedly interrupted and I glided across to my rods, seamlessly slipping on my life jacket on and lifted into the protagonist creating a washing machine by the snags. Five long strides back and I’m at the entrance to my bivvy, well clear of the fire ants nests and having compensated for line stretch. I cranked the reel to guide her into open water, then tiptoed into the newly named “Chunkasaurus” and launched it fluidly.
I used the fish as an anchor point, swaying the rod left and right, like a flag bearer. Net at hand, and knees protected, the fight was over without drama and I set sail (motor) for home, trolling my prize. Well that was how it happened on my final morning for the fifth time!
The four takes prior weren’t anything like above! The problem with taking on a new style of fishing on a new low stocked lake, and with the added variables of boating and scoping and it being a good six times larger than my previous syndicate is it’s bloody hard – with a steep learning curve!
Having arrived at my large Colne Valley syndicate for the first time since having a boat at my disposal, my first choice was where to fish. With no visible signs and 70 acres to find them in location was key. I knew we had the hottest days of the year coming up so had planned (if no sightings took me elsewhere) on fishing a swim called ‘The Snags’. This swim lies opposite the no fishing bank and I’d imagined it was the perfect patrol route for them to get into the shallows at the north end of the lake undeterred.
Having watched the water there were no signs of carp, what there was, however, the beginnings of what looked like a daphnia bloom. I know from past experiences that fish tend to switch off when the “pea soup” starts to get a hold and as the margins seemed least affected which also ticked the “snags swim” box.
Having spoken to Z the bailiff, he informed me that my logic was sound, he also went onto inform me that the “Snags swim” was already occupied by what he termed “fire ants”. “Red ants don’t bother me” my internal monologue announced but still listened intently as he kindly gave me some “fire ant” 101. Whilst absorbing the information he shared, I watched a couple of fellow anglers glide effortlessly on their boats to their chosen swims, standing up, sea legs primed, as cool as a venetian James bond. “You might wanna sit down for your first trip, till ya get ya sea legs” Z suggested knowingly. “I’ll be reet” (northern for ‘alright – Ed) I blurted with unjustified confidence.
Now it was my turn. He thankfully and politely vacated as I nervously loaded the gear into the boat for my first voyage. Spurred on by pride, I proceeded to try and copy the 007 look. As ‘Z’ had predicted I zig-zagged embarrassingly along until a sudden list to one side put me into Z’s suggested ride position. I quickly ‘owled’ my head around, inducing whiplash, scanning the bank for chuckling carpers that had spotted my near miss… Phewww! No one had clocked 00egit! I decided to stay in my fell posture and sheepishly proceeded across the water to island one to set up.
Upon arrival straight away I encountered the bitey bleeders, and they were huge! However, having followed my “101” I was soon set up, ant free, and ready to fish. This swim had that feeling, I can’t explain it fully, a feeling, where you look at your rods and knowingly ooze confidence of a take.
Meandering across to the far margin with my rod and Aquascope, it was clear that the combination of 16 feet of water and daphnia would not allow me to scope effectively in open water, so Instead I found three cleaner spots ranging from 110-140 yards, they spanned over 80 yards from left to right, close in to the snags.
After a bit of head scratching (what’s the best way to do this moments) I managed to place two snowman rigs and one tiger nut all tied on to Covert Mugga’s and Sink Skin hook links, close to the underwater features. I added a Covert Hook Aligner to two of my rigs and left the third rig ‘nude’ as I wanted a head to head test to gauge the effectiveness of these components on my rigs, hoping to note any difference in hook holds etc. If I was fortunate enough to get a take.
A handful of corn, water snails and new Grange boilies over the snowmen was the baiting approach, and to my credit all three rods were done and the fishing scope confirmed beautifully. I’d even graduated, to boating on my knees by this point!
I fished all three rods locked up and fantastically I had a take at 7am the following morning, I stumbled out of my bed barefoot and jumped on the rod. I struck, adrenaline pumping and felt the resistance of what seemed a decent carp, it had surprisingly come straight out from the snag and had kited right. Three or four clutch grinding runs later the sickening moment happened. My line lost tension, and in a haze of devastation I reeled back a fishless hook and dumped lead, for whatever reason the hook had slipped.
Upon close inspection my Point Doctored hook was still as sharp as the moment I’d submerged it, and the rig that had snared many more before it, had dropped my first Colne Valley carp. It was the snowman rig without the Covert Hook Aligner that had slipped, so I filed it in my rig wallet and put the third rod back out – this time with a Covert Hook Aligner on it. I realised at this point that bare feet and fire ants really don’t mix – WOW being bitten between the toes hurt!
11:30pm that evening my left hand rod screams into action, this time (shoes on) I strike into the night sky. I’m in a state of shock as a take per session, is considered extremely good going and here’s me, first session in, having my second.
Due to the dense weed that touches the surface in places, battles are best fought by boat. Soon enough I realised that retrieving my lifejacket from my bivvy and placing my net into the boat is not easily done one handed whilst tangling with an angry carp.
Thankfully my pal Ash was on hand to support me and after a shaky launch I started to retrieve line, drawing myself and the carp to a mutual rendezvous point in the centre of the lake. With the boat slowly rotating in circles under the pressure of the fight, it was a real challenge to keep my prize directly in front of me. Thankfully some weed had slipped down the Hydro Sink braided leader covering her eyes and this had sedated her enough for me to be able to net my first Colne Valley carp.
I slowly towed her in as the adrenaline rush started to subside. First fish, and first boat battle in pitch black conditions had got me super pumped. Just as I got within mooring distance, my right hand alarm beeped, followed quickly by a double beep, my wide eyes trained on Ash’s, and a one toner followed!
““Hit it! Hit it!” I barked. Sure enough he followed the instruction. The next couple of minutes were a blur as I handed him the fish in the net and we traded rods. The boat was re-launched, with the second net in the boat and me getting a lovely boot full of water on the way as I missed the staging in the inky darkness.
Again I towed myself towards the fish, however this time the weed sedative that I’d been fortunate enough to have happened last time wasn’t administered and the carp fought like a demon. The two takes, coupled with fifteen minute battles, whilst spinning in circles had taken its toll on me. Knees raw and with my body replacing adrenaline with lactic acid, resulted in four missed netting attempts that had me on the verge of a coronary!
I was spent…
Finally with my arms limp, and knowing if I missed this time I would have had to lay my rod down. I thankfully engulfed the fish in the soft Out Reach mesh. My reward was a brace of Colne Valley fish. I towed her in and after half an hour of getting my head together, we weighed and photographed both fish. The first being a 29lb 2oz original Leney, and the second a stunning and dark 33lb+ mirror.
By 1am I had all three rods ready to be re-positioned, but due to rules about boating at night, (except for fish landing) I set my alarm for 3:30am to get them out there at first light.
Cutting through the mist was a wonderful experience and by 4:30am the traps were set. This time however, shoes were immediately accessible, net was already in boat, life jacket was positioned in a suitably accessible spot and my unhooking mat lined the base of my boat.
I crawled back into my pit and tried to catch up on some sleep. Thankfully the carp had other ideas and at 6am I was once again awoken by another take. Once again it’s my right hand rod, I strike and see it hit the surface in the snag. I crank on the reel but my line chases all the way to the snag and I realise that I’m now fighting a branch. I climbed into the boat and this time the launch is poetry, instead of congratulating myself on my launch however, I chose to berate myself “ I should have walked back, I should have walked back” my monologue repeats as I tow myself across. The stretch even in flourocarbon at 100 yards plus is around 10%, meaning under tension it’s like giving the carp 10 yards even when locked up.
Another thing I notice is the fixed point of the branch makes me realise that by gently swaying my rod left to right I can keep the boat nice and straight using it as a sort of reverse rudder.
After five minutes untangling my line from the fist bit of the snag I can see that the fish had jumped over the first branch and then gone right under the meat of the snag, I hold the leader tight feeling for tell tale tugs but nothing happens, I got out the Aquascope and after a few minutes adjusting my eyes I could see my snowman rig firmly hooked 8 foot down at the back of the snag.
As you know the story didn’t end there and the final take outlined at the start of this piece was another cracking big pit stunner. It showed how far I’d come in terms of learning my swim and the nuances that come with boating, It always amazes me how much you can learn each time you go on the bank. That was 72 hours. Imagine what I will know after the next trip!
I may even be able to stand up in my boat!