Since my childhood days, I’d always had a burning ambition to fish the historic Horton Church Lake one day. Well the opportunity finally arose when new owners (RK Leisure) took it over…

Understandably, I was full of excitement and anticipation as I set off for my first session. On arrival, and with the carp barrow loaded I headed off onto the banks of the Church Lake. I’d never even seen the lake before so came to an abrupt stop when I first gazed across the lake, almost pulling a muscle in my cheeks with this big smile on my face.

Chewy baited the rig with a new boilie currently on test from Carp Company called Purple Haze.

The gear was parked near a swim and I went for a walk – searching out my quarry – checking all the likely areas, only to find nothing! Just as I completed a lap a couple of fish rolled in open water in front of a vacant swim, so now with some activity to go at I set about getting two rods out. With a depth of around 17 feet both rods were rigged with chod rigs simply because I didn’t know the contours of the lake bed and at least the presentation would be fine. Besides, I definitely didn’t want to push ‘em away by casting too much!

As the day wore on the bobbins remained motionless and the fish stopped showing. By the evening I was on the move again trying to find the fish. That first fish from a new venue is always the tricky one to get at times. Well unfortunately as the session wore on I wasn’t rewarded, but still I’d learned a lot about the place which all helped to build up a bigger picture. I headed off home feeling like I’d failed, kicking myself like you do.

The following week I was back searching for them once again! One thing I’d learnt on my first trip was how quickly the fish moved about. Before you’re on them they’re gone. Now I’m a mobile angler, and have been known to move any time of the day or night, whatever the weather! I feel that I owe a lot of my success to this mobility over the years.

After leading around in a swim I found a couple of hard spots among the black smelly silt. Accurate angling was necessary here as I doubted anything would feed in the black stuff. I decided to knock up a couple of hinged stiff links using the Trip Wire, a size 5 Covert Chod hook, Trick-Link boom section and baited the rig with a new one currently on test from Carp Company called “Purple Haze”.

My first Horton carp was a stunning old character known as Lucy.

Just as I was going to position the rods out on the spots a big mirror turned over the area! Err, what to do? Well, I waited for 5 minutes then set the traps having put out a few offerings as tight as I could around the hookbaits.

As dusk started to settle I saw the fish showing down the other end so without hesitation I was upping sticks and on the move again. As I arrived in the zone I was greeted by the spectacular sight of loads of big fish rolling, three at once at one stage!

I quickly set up in a vacant swim near to the fish, and having got a nice drop on the first rod I was in the process of tying up a fresh bait on the second, and the other rod was away! I couldn’t believe it. After giving a good battle it finally came over the net. YESSSS!!! My first Horton carp was a stunning old character known as “Lucy”, tipping the Reuben’s at 28lb. After a few snaps I let her on her way…..

Luckily, recasting at dusk didn’t bother the fish as they were still rolling and crashing! I had a sleepless night as every time I nodded off a big girl leapt out!

Morning arrived and I couldn’t believe I’d not had another pick up, but the Church Lake is renowned for that apparently. I packed my gear away and headed off home. Work had built up and had to leave it for a week or so, but 8 days later I was back down there for a three nighter!

As I arrived there was a southerly blowing into one of the bays and despite the fact that I wanted to get in the bay it was already occupied by 3 other anglers and I felt it would push them out.

A CamFlex leader helped to pin down the end of the main line.

After seeing four fish roll I found a little gravel hump at 50yrds and decided to fish at the back of it. I felt a bottom bait was more suitable, so knocked up a simple but effective blow back rig with 15Ib Sly Skin and a sticky sharp size 8 Covert Continental Mugga hook, coupled with a CamFlex leader to pin down the end of the main line.

After knocking up a tiny stick of Purple Haze boilie crumb and pulling the hook link through it I was good to go. The cast hit the spot with a crack! I did the same with the other rod, using the same approach, but this one was cast to a hard spot at 40 yards, just behind a bed of fresh weed that was full of invertebrates.

I carefully allowed the Mirage Fluorocarbon to settle for a few minutes before setting the bobbins and putting the kettle on. I was back in the game. At 11pm the right hand rod gave out a burst of beeps followed by a one toner! I knew it was a good fish by the slow lunges as it came in. After a bit of a battle she slipped into the net and after putting on the head torch I could see it was a mirror and my initial thought was she was 40+.

As it was a fish known as “Spotty” and as I check the hook hold it’s fair to say she wasn’t coming off. Shortly after the Reuben’s settled on 38lb and I had a few pictures before letting her on her way to make someone else happy one day.

I carefully allowed the Mirage Fluorocarbon to settle for a few minutes before setting the bobbins.

I repositioned the rod back out to the spot and climbed back into bed “well tried”. I couldn’t believe my luck when the other rod sprang to life shortly followed by a scaley stocky of 17lb which was very welcome.

Nothing else showed apart from the occasional tench slapping the surface. As morning arrived I thought I was in for a chance, but it turned out they’d moved yet again. I decided to call it a day, but before I left I crushed up half of the bait I had left and decided to pre-bait a margin spot with intentions of getting a spot going….

During that week I managed to get back down and noticed that the bay I’d pre bait was void of anglers and there were fish in the area again. After sorting out the rods I checked out the marginal spot but due to a big southerly the day before the pussy willow i.e. white fluff had gathered like a thick blanket covering the spot. Straightaway I got out some glugged oily pop-ups and threw five on the fluff to make it part it slightly. It worked a treat, but all I saw was tench so I decided to concentrate on open water spots knowing we were due for a bit of rain.

Chewy with Spotty weighing 38lb 8oz.

The first night was quiet but thankfully the fluff over my spot was gone thanks to the rain in the morning. I carefully inched through the dense undergrowth and spotted four tench and an upper thirty sitting over the spot. It was clear that the tench were spawning as one came flying over the spot upside down discharging eggs and spooking that chunky mirror (that must of been waiting to feed on the eggs).

With this in mind I put in 5kg of boilie and bits over the spot and left the tench to do their thing and headed off up the other end of the lake in search of the elusive carp. All was quiet….

After checking the forecast during the following week it was prime and conditions looked good for the bay so I raced to get there hoping to get in it. On arrival the wind wasn’t doing much knowing but it was coming though I trickled more bait over the spot and did a night up the other end after seeing a few grass carp on the surface. Usually they’re not alone!!

That night was very still and as morning arrived I upped sticks and headed down to the bay to find that the prevailing wind had blown a band of weed across in front of the area. After a couple of drags with a small spod I managed to make a break in it and then the wind moved it further along and I was ready to set my traps.

Having to fire the lead right under the bush without tangling the rig I decided to use a Gardner 30lb Mirage hooklink as its stiffness would help push the bait away from the lead. The ‘Purple Haze’ pop-up was mounted on a D formed on the size 6 Gardner Covert Incizor hook with a piece of Critical Mass putty pushed inside the hook-bait so it just sits over the hook. Final touch was use a piece of fake corn as a visual as I wanted to see if it was presented correctly over the spot.

The Rig that fooled Fingers.

After two sneaky casts it was in there and after laying the rod on the deck with a clutch loose I grabbed a hand full of freebies and shot around to check how and where the hook bait had settled. It was bang on!

Clearly seeing my hook bait I placed the bait at the back of the hook bait hoping it would be one of the first to get picked up. What a mission!

As they say one rod in the right spot is better than ten in the wrong and after shooting back around with the kettle on I decided to have a brew before sticking the 2nd rod out. I’d noticed my hook point was dulled on the retrieve in the last swim so sat there giving it a touch up and the rod was away! It felt a reasonable fish, but due to the weed that had drifted into my right I was convinced it may be dragging some with it. After a couple of powerful lunges it charged up and down the margin peeling line off on a tight clutch and with steady pressure it slipped in the net.

I took a look, smiling like a kid as I realised it was a forty! The hard work had paid off and after a few minutes sorting the scales, etc, a couple of anglers arrived to witness the weighing. Carefully resting her on the mat it felt more than reasonable and as we placed it on the Reuben’s they stopped at 46lb 4oz.

After making a call to the bailiff to confirm the big fish’s identity, it turned out to be a fish known as “Fingers”. After thanking her and letting her on her way I slowly got both the rods out again, hoping for another one but as the session went on the weather deteriorated and the chances of another was looking slim. By 10AM the following morning I’d set off for home, earlier than expected, looking forward to venturing back before they started spawning. Fingers crossed that the carp gods keep looking after me for the rest of the season….
Chewy cradles Fingers at 46lb 4oz.