2014 was a fantastic fishing year for me, and I hope the luck that I had during the past 12 months continues into 2015!
The floods in the early part of the year greatly affected all the lakes in my local area, in fact I can remember going to have a look round one of my waters in early February, only to find the water level so high I couldn’t even get out of the car park, let alone walk round the lake. All the banks and swims were totally under water and the little river next to the lake had burst its banks and was pouring a chocolate coloured torrent across the path and into the lake. Living in Surrey, it was one of the worst affected areas and I wondered if the levels would ever get back to normal. It was frustrating though, as the weather was incredibly mild, it was just the constant relentless rain and the damage that may well have done along with it.
In mid February I had a few days on a lake down in Hampshire, which was luckily unaffected by the floods. I was with a friend Dan and we had a fantastic trip, including a few BBQ’s and I managed a couple of fish up to 28lbs. This was a great confidence boost, as this is a tricky water and the weather wasn’t ideal. We suffered several days and nights of heavy rain, that turned the swims horrendously muddy and on getting home I had mud everywhere, plastered all over every bit of clothing I’d taken and all of my tackle.
Being the first trip out of the year, I quickly realised that the combination of Mirage fluorocarbon as a mainline and my favourite hinged stiff rig with a razor sharp size 5 Covert Chod hook was a winner. The hook holds that I had were awesome, in my mind the proof of how effective your rigs are and the clear sinking fluorocarbon was outstanding for line lay and making the whole rig set up far more covert. As usual I’d stuck to the Essential B5 as my bait and I had no reason to change, as my results seemed to be improving as time went on. It didn’t matter if it was for one off trips, or long term establishment I had so much confidence in this bait and it was one aspect of my approach that I had absolutely no worries about. With baits and rigs sorted, all I had to worry about was finding the fish from now on.
At Easter I’d promised to take my two boys fishing with the onset of better weather and I took a reece trip up to a water in the Colne valley that same week, with a view to bringing the kids up for a night each. Sadly the lovely quiet venue that I had remembered was packed, so I had to come up with a new plan. There was only one other water that was child friendly as it was, but it was a place with which I had lost most of my interest in, for a number of reasons. However, it was the only choice and it held one fish that I dearly wanted, as for at least the last 12 years it had eluded me. Quite why I’d never had it I didn’t know, but it was a territorial one and was often the first fish out every season. I knew from talking to another member that even though it was April, nothing had been out, when I arrived with my older boy with only an hour to go before dark. With no real time to look around,and margin fishing being out of the question with the boys there, I picked a proven swim and fired out 2 rods onto a silty spot at about 60 yards range. I didn’t need a marker, I could see lines of dense weed out there, with dark channels between them, so I cast up to the edge of this before holding the lead back and feeling that distinctive firm thud. With the light fading fast I was grateful for the rods going out so easily first time, and my older son Thomas and I set up the bivvy not really knowing what to expect. I did hear a couple of fish roll in the night, somewhere nearby and on this lake they don’t often show, so it all seemed fairly promising. At first light one of the rods was away, a slow steady take and with the deep heavy thumping I could tell immediately that I was attached to something good. After several minutes I saw the distinctive grey flank roll in the clear water and knew it was the one I so wanted. Thomas expertly netted it and I already felt that I had my seasons result. At 45lb 12oz it was awesome and made better soon after when I had another take and gave the rod to Thomas who played in a 24lb mirror. That night I swapped over with the boys and my wife came down with fish and chips which we all sat and ate in the early spring sun, a magical moment. That night I added a 25lb common, which my younger boy slept through oblivious!
Around this time I had the offer of a dream ticket on a fantastic water, that I had been on the waiting list for some time and to be honest had almost discounted. I went down for a look around and to meet the owner and instantly knew that this place ticked every box, not only was it a beautiful and peaceful place, it also held a superb head of big fish to over 50lbs! I couldn’t wait for the ticket to start and quickly changed any plans I had for anywhere else. It was exciting too, as I really knew nothing about the place or indeed anyone who had really fished it, so it was a great chance to go in blind and test myself with a new challenge. The first session was a blank, but not without incident, in that on my second morning I moved onto some showing fish, only to lose one the following night that felt seriously heavy before I got cut off on some lost line which still had the lead and rig attached. However, after that things really picked up, and I got off the mark next time out with a cracking mid 30, which was followed it up with a few more absolute stunners. It was so exciting too, not knowing what you were going to get next and it was a lovely place to spend time, like going on holiday every time I went there. I had a great final trip there in June in hot conditions, where I caught 5 fish to over 30lbs from a couple of clear spots in the weed only feet from the bank and in water so shallow I could hardly believe fish that size could creep in undetected.
I also had a guest trip arranged to Ashmead in mid summer and I couldn’t wait to see this place that I had heard so much about, so early one Saturday I was pulling in the gates to meet my friend and have a look around. Mind blowing comes to mind and I’d never seen anything like it, in fact I got lost in the mass of channels and bays at one point, but what a beautiful and unspoilt place. I was lucky too, as I managed to set up on a number of the lakes residents who were sunning themselves in the dense weed. The big one himself was there too and he sat out above my baits in the weed all day, with me willing a take, until he drifted out as the sun was setting. However, shortly after I had a steady take and after a bit of guiding from out of one weed bed to another my friend John netted an Ashmead common for me, which was definitely one of the years highlights.
During summer school holidays I only fished single work nights and as I needed somewhere local, I went back to the water that I’d had the 45 from in the spring. This place was certainly kind to me and on the first night I had a 28lb mirror after taking to the boat to extract it from the weed. My luck carried on, as over the next 6 single work nights I landed 7 fish, including a stunning ancient mirror that hadn’t been out for some 10 years. It was great fishing too and I began to enjoy these short nights as much as the longer sessions. On one of these trips I also saw a massive common in the snags, I knew which fish it was immediately and was one I hadn’t seen for a long time, but to my knowledge one that has never been caught, but a challenge that is there for one day in the future.
After a family summer holiday, I knew where I wanted to be fishing in the autumn, a lake less than 5 minutes from home, but one that contained a beast of a mirror that had a history of October/November captures. I made a plan though, as I knew this fish didn’t tolerate being chased round, so I picked an area that I knew it would pass me by at some point at least. I spent many hours leading about in there until I located an area that I was happy with. It was a boring tactic though and after 2 solid blanks I was beginning to lose patience with sitting in one swim, until on the third session I had 3 fish, including a cracking 32 lb common. All of these fish came from a silty spot at about 80 yards. I had switched back to GT80+ mono to consistently get the required distance but I attached a Mirage leader. I was delighted with this and followed it with a small stockie on the next trip. I saw the big one a couple of times and once he leapt completely clear of the water about 20 yards to the right of my baits. There was no mistaking him and even 80 plus yards out the ripples still made it to my bank! Sadly by the end of November the weather began to deteriorate and I must admit to losing a bit of enthusiasm for longer sessions, with lots of rain and the never ending hours of darkness. The big one hadn’t made an appearance at all, but at least it will still be there as a target for next year, I won’t miss the bream though, as towards the end I was averaging 4 a night!
From there I had a couple of sessions on a local water that was always a good bet for some bites in the winter. It was great, as after the hardship of fishing the other place, I managed 8 bites in 2 nights up to 28lb, which was great fun and a good way to see me out until the New Year. With Christmas fast approaching it’s all exciting and I’m already looking forward to next spring.