After getting off the mark at the Kent Lake the previous week I was obviously keen for a swift return, however with half term coming up I had promised my 2 boys a night out fishing each. There was no way I could handle taking them both to the lake at once, so I planned on one night each and my wife swapping them over, so with that being the consideration I needed somewhere local to go. I had a lake in mind which I hadn’t fished for a while and knew that I wasn’t retaining my ticket after June, but it fitted the bill perfectly as it was quiet and local, with the chance of a fish too. That same week I had a bit of luck in that I was able to get a night in as a bit of a recce, before my planned 2 nights with the kids. It turned up to be a season changing trip too, as when I arrived on the Monday afternoon the quiet little lake I remembered had clearly changed, with at least 7 others on it all dotted round it, with several there for the whole week. I picked a swim that was left and bar a couple of liners I left the following morning early for work knowing that I wouldn’t return.

I woke early on a cool grey spring morning with a North wind blowing across the swim.

That only left one other lake that was an option to take the boys to, one that I had not fished at all for 18 months. It’s a fantastic lake but in recent years a number of the fish have either died, or simply don’t ever come out anymore. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have caught almost all of the known fish, hence one of the reasons that I had taken my fishing. However, there is one fish in that that I have always dearly wanted, and that had so far eluded me, a fish called the Little Grey, which is a chunk of a carp and also the biggest known one in the lake. It generally comes out twice a year, but was fairly territorial, in that it always comes out from a specific area in the lake. When I fished the lake regularly I didn’t often fish this area, preferring the less popular far bank, which may be why over the last 10 years or so I had never caught it. That said, I had always planned on a campaign one day to target it, and always felt that I had unfinished business there!

My favourite hinged stiff rig...

Last April I began to put some bait into one of the prime swims that the fish comes out of, and I marked all of my lines up on some spots that I found in there, before doing a few early morning baiting up visits when there was no one there. I knew that this particular fish was often the first capture from the lake each year, and at that time in early April nothing had been out at all. After 10 days of baiting I pencilled in a 3 night session starting on the Sunday afternoon after my boy had finished playing rugby. Standing on the touchline that morning the text came through that a friend Dan had it that same day, from a swim exactly opposite, a great result for him; although as a repeat he was disappointed on my behalf to be fair! As a consequence I never returned that year.

Rick's trusted size 5 Covert Chod hooks.

I arrived with my 9 year old son Thomas at around 7pm after rushing to get all our kit together to find we had the lake to ourselves. With only an hour or so to get sorted I chose a swim which I knew fairly well, and that I could fish efficiently with the kids, in other words it wasn’t margin fishing! I had a couple of casts with a lead, and found it all to be pretty clear until I locked up on a big weed bed about 60 yards out. I liked this area as the silt behind this weed was nice and firm, and without many other features out there it seemed a good place to start. With the light fading I got my baits out, just looking for firm silty thumps on each one rather than gravel crack downs. I had on my favourite hinged stiff rigs and Mirage fluorocarbon mainline, size 5 Covert Chod hooks coupled with Essential B5 pop ups, and was able to get my lines sunk perfectly giving me the stealthiest presentation. I’ve completely discarded the use of leadcore now, using a piece of hard anti tangle tube to protect the mainline between the two beads on a rotary set up, and just relying on the more subtle fluorocarbon line straight through. It was nice easy fishing too, and I was able to bait up very accurately with just a catapult, firing out around 100 B5 baits around each rod. At this time of year I’ve always boosted my free baits with a good dose of salt flakes and Essential GLM liquid with squid immediately after taking them out of the freezer, giving the baits a lovely glaze that oozes attraction.

One look inside and I knew it was the one that would make my season...

Just on dark a fish rolled to my left which was a good confidence boost, as on this lake they seldom seem to roll. This was followed a short while later by another somewhere out in the darkness in front of me, which had to be a decent one as I heard it above the snoring coming from my son. Although the fish were clearly in the area, not knowing what to expect by having no recent experience of the lake I soon fell asleep.

I woke early on a cool grey spring morning with a North wind blowing across the swim. At 6:30am I had a fast take on my right hand rod, with the bobbin smacking against the rod and the line pinging from the clip. As soon as I picked up the rod the fish felt heavy, its movements more plodding than fast runs as it made for the overhanging trees and snags that adorned the far bank. I held on not giving it anything and applied as much pressure as I dared to get line back on the spool. I knew once the fish was out in the middle and away from the snags that bar a bit of weed, it was relatively safe to out there. It stayed very deep and I instructed my son to take the net, which he excitedly thrust into the lake. As it came closer it rolled about 10 yards out, I instantly recognised the grey colouration to be the prize that I dearly wanted. I couldn’t really snatch the net back off my son now, so whilst trying to sound calm I gave him the verbal course on how to net a mid 40 lb fish that your Dad has been after for 10 plus years, without knocking it off! Seeing the fish, and now knowing what I was attached to did change things slightly, and I started to take things a bit more easily, allowing its powerful runs to tire it out against the action of the rod and the tight clutch. However, almost the first time it seemed to leave the bottom it was up and coming towards the net, and as it pulled over the cord Thomas lifted it and it was ours! One look inside and I knew it was the one that would make my season, and it looked big too. At 45lb 12oz it was too and absolutely nailed on a size 5 Covert Chod hook, the hinged stiff rig proving its outstanding hooking abilities again. It was actually so far inside that the putty and first loop of the boom section were inside the mouth. I put it in the retention sling while I summoned by wife to do some photos, when the same rod was off again only minutes after recasting. Being more than happy with my result I passed the rod to Thomas who played in a 23 lb mirror like a pro.

Being more than happy with my result I passed the rod to Thomas who played in a 23 lb mirror like a pro.

The Little Grey looked stunning in the sunshine, and as I watched it swim off I felt like I’d already had a season changing result. That afternoon my wife returned and as a family we toasted the success in the sun with fish and chips on our laps by the lake, a fantastic family moment. That night whilst my other son Matthew slept through I added a 24lb common, the first 3 fish out of the lake this year to my knowledge and a major result, all because I had nowhere else to go!

On leaving the lake that morning, I knew my rigs and baits were as perfect as I’ve ever had that combination, coupled with high confidence I couldn’t wait for a return to the Kent Lake, which held some serious prizes. I hastily booked some days off work the following week and I will let you know how I have got on soon…
That night whilst my other son Matthew slept through I added a 24lb common, the first 3 fish out of the lake this year.