Last winter was certainly one of the mildest for many years, and in normal cases I would really have made efforts to get out fishing a good deal more, but sadly with the constant mild temperatures came the relentless rain that caused misery to thousands of people. Living and fishing in the Surrey area that was worst affected, meant I did little or no fishing locally, as the lakes were so flooded it was impossible to get even close to the banks. That said that was nothing compared to the amount of people whose homes were damaged by the floods and the misery that came with it.
Come March the levels began to subside and I began to get excited about finally getting out again. I had a few days on a private no publicity water where I managed to catch a couple up to 26lbs which gave me an early season confidence boost. My local water had produced a couple of fish that I was plugged into the grape vine enough to hear about, and it was there my early trips were planned for. One of the local anglers, Terry, had been barrowing through knee high flood water to actually fish the place, and fair play his effort had been rewarded. I myself had been down for a look around at this time, only to find I hadn’t even been able to get out of the car park in normal length wellies. However almost as quickly as it had risen, the levels seemed to subside, so I hastily made plans for a 48 hour session. It was mild as I arrived and with only one other angler there, I had a quick look round before making a call as to where I had hoped the fish would be. The lake had joined to the small stock pond, and also in that corner there was a flow coming in from the big ski lake next door. It looked good down that end, and in any case I knew the big one liked it down there, as I had come close the previous summer in this same spot. There was a light wind blowing over my head, and even a brief appearance of March sunshine, which had the first hint of warmth in it. It was great to be back out, and I flicked out two pop ups onto a couple of really hard spots just off a big overhanging tree. The following morning it was evident early on that the weatherman had got it completely wrong, as the wind switched to blowing straight into me coupled with rain and much colder temperatures. Taking the Tempest Air with no front this early may have been hard core, but it really wasn’t the best move, as with nowhere to move it out of the wind because of the high water levels, I got seriously cold! The 365 bag was a lifesaver, and I spent most of the next 24 hours in it trying to keep warm, except for a 15 minute spell when a tench dragged me from the warmth of the bag at 3am. Unsurprisingly I never saw a sign of a fish when I packed up and headed off for work the following morning. That had lit the spark enough though, and I was keen to follow it up.
Whilst I had a couple of waters to fish, for which I held long term tickets for, I must admit I wasn’t too excited by them. Neither one held anything capable of beating my PB, I really wanted a new challenge to test myself with. However all was to change when after several years of waiting I was offered a place on an exclusive lake that really was the dream ticket in my opinion. I hadn’t counted on getting this ticket, and had pushed it from my mind until I received the phone call. It was to be the furthest journey from home that I’ve ever had, but I made my way down for a membership interview and look around with an open mind. As soon as I was greeted by the owner and had my first glimpse of the lake I knew that if offered I would bite his hand off for a ticket. Not only was it in a beautiful place, miles from anywhere, but it also contained a seriously impressive head of big fish, up to a top weight of 50lbs plus, and was somewhere that I knew would spoil me forever afterwards!
The following week I was in, and I left home at 4am to get there for dawn and the chance to look around. After several laps I had seen nothing, which wasn’t surprising as it was blowing a strong westerly that had waves with white caps on racing down the lake, and my rods were constantly being blown off the rests. To add to that I wasn’t sure if the fish actually showed on there, as I really knew very little about the lake despite my efforts to research it. However the following morning dawned flat calm, although it was dull and damp from incessant rain that had been hitting the brolly roof all night. My swim was central to the lake, and gave me a fantastic view of almost all of the water. Within 10 minutes I had seen several shows in one area, predictably out of the wind, in fact right on the back of it. Some of the shows were very subtle, and if I hadn’t known that there were no bream or tench present I would have thought they were responsible. But others were full right out of the water leaps, and by about the eighth roll I was packing my gear as fast as I could do so. With no finesse I was chucking it in everywhere, and sure enough none of it would fit back in, but I needed to get round there as soon as I could, as being a Friday I feared someone may arrive and beat me to it. I barrowed my gear round there in the lashing rain and needed have worried as beside me the lake remained empty of other anglers. This was a really tasty looking swim, with an island out in front at about 70 yards and a big visible bar running off it out into the lake. It is funny how looks across a lake are deceiving, as I first thought from my original swim that the fish had been showing in the swim next door, and I initially put my gear in there. On going back though I could see that I had it all wrong, and went back again and popped up a marker to be absolutely sure. In true style just as I put the Tempest up the sun came out, allowing me a chance to put my soaked kit out in the sun to dry. As the sun rose I could clearly see the area that the fish had been showing was a dark silty area between two bars at around 60 yards. One cast with a lead hit firmly down and I fanned my three rods in this area just feeling each one down with a nice hard thud. Such was the strength of the wind from behind I could easily get 12mm B5 boilies out there in the catapult, and I sat back confident that I was at least in the right area and fishing to my best. At around 2am I had a steady take on the right had rod that had me giving line as it tried to get over the bar behind where I had cast. It felt decent, until after a few minutes I felt a strange pinging and the hook came out. I’ve no idea why, but that was my only chance in what was my first session, all be it in pretty poor conditions, however I couldn’t wait for a return.
I was back two weeks later and at last the sun was out and the weather seemed to be on my side. I spoke with the other angler there, a genuinely helpful guy called Will, who gave me a few ideas on what to start with. I set up in the middle again, but this area held a number of shallow bars and plateaus which with the warm sun I felt may well see the fish move on to. However by the following morning I’d clearly got it wrong, as bar a horde of hungry birds I had seen nothing. I wound in early and had a cup of tea with Will, who told me he had seen a couple show further down from him. As we stood talking a huge black mirror carp jumped three times in quick succession clear out of the water, which had me sprinting Usain Bolt style down the bank to pinpoint where it was. That was good enough for me and I made the quick pack up again and moved as rapidly as I could. I fired out a bare lead which locked up on a bar at about 60 yards, telling me that the fish had clearly shown just behind this, and I soon had three baits placed in the trough behind, with about a kilo of B5 baits around. I was fishing my favoured hinge pop up rigs with a size 6 Covert Chod hook, and Mirage fluorocarbon mainline that sank beautifully giving me the best line lay. I pulled off several feet once all was settled and had the line drooping from the rod tips, and the bobbins hanging flat on the slack line. As the day went on I saw several patches of bubbles, but no actual shows, although the birds were on me most of the day. They had picked up each rod just before darkness came, and although I had them out perfectly I forced myself to recast and tie on fresh baits. That was the beauty of the stiff hook link, in that even when picked up it would always reset itself again. In truth the baits went out ok, but not as well as before I felt. I put the last of my free baits out, quartering as many as I could to make them go further and hopefully avoid the ducks attentions for longer.
At 2am I was woken by my buzzer in meltdown, as it was one noting for as long as it took me to get my boots on a wade out to the rod. I’ve never fished anywhere as dark as this, with no light pollution from anywhere it means you literally can’t see your hand in front of your face! From being fast asleep one minute to being stood knee deep out in the lake attached to what felt a serious fish was certainly a wake up, and the fish had the clutch going even when it had to be 80 plus yards out. The fish kited hard right towards the island and I piled on the side strain and wound as furiously as possible to get as much line back onto the spool as I could. Then it rolled directly in front of me, but remained deep and went off on a slow plodding run, the sign of a big fish. I was shaking, a first from a water is always exciting, but knowing what monsters this lake held I was praying for it just to give up and come in! As it got closer I flicked on the head torch to see a wide pair of shoulders coming towards the outstretched net, and then it was in and mine! At 35lb 2oz it was a great start, and I packed away the following morning delighted. But in the meantime I have a couple of nights arranged with my sons, and hopefully a couple of single nights to a local lake, all of which I can’t wait for at what is the best and most exciting time of year.