I really don’t know where this year has gone, but as I write this it seems the summer is nearly over and we are into autumn. As far as my fishing has gone, I haven’t done that much and until recently it’s all been a bit of a struggle. I started off in March at my favourite spring venue, but it was a waste really, as being near the coast it’s a known slow starter. Sure enough when I got down there, it was more like January than March and spring seemed a long way away. Not only was the weather bloody cold, the bird life was savage! Herds of coots and tufties were just waiting for bait to go in and when I obliged they were on me within minutes. So much so I could hardly keep a bait in the water and at times all 3 rods fished well apart were being picked up at the same time!

I wasn’t even close to a fish and the weeks after were no better, as with the better weather coming, the lake got busier and busier. I mistimed a couple of trips and although got in swims, I never really got on the fish, that’s my excuse anyway! The poor start was highlighted on one trip, when I moved 3 times in the 3 nights. After the first night I knew I’d got it wrong, as I was in a shallow bay, but the weather cooled and a strong SW wind was predicted with rain. In this bay I really needed the warm sun, so I hurriedly packed my gear and rushed down the other end, where the strong wind was supposed to stack them up in! Unfortunately the carp on this lake didn’t read that script, they simply don’t like strong winds and as the wind picked up to gale force, I never saw a thing. I spent 2 nights in 2 swims at that end convinced it was going to happen, but it wasn’t until that last morning, when the winds had calmed, that a big grey mirror lumped out right over my baited patch. I was due to leave within the hour, but on seeing that risked the rush hour M25, and drew it out for a further 3 hours, only to reel in a perfectly tangled rig, typical of how it was all going!

I also had made my mind up at about this time, to chase a big fish that was local to me. It was a really tricky one and I was mentally prepared for a hard slog all year. I had one trip on there and it was all looking fairly promising, as almost immediately I saw the big one, looking active and well catchable. However as time went on, access to the lake came more and more restricted. This made my general fishing a bit of a struggle, as each week I never knew where I was going and my plans all went array. I also found it hard to get motivated on anywhere else, as the sight of that big fish had really fired me up and I would have accepted a total year blank if it meant a crack at that one. It wasn’t to be though and I moved on to another water I had a ticket on, which didn’t seem to be much better.

On one of my early trips there I found some fish in a quiet, weed filled corner, and some of them were clearly decent ones. There was no one about, and this end was devoid of any other anglers, so I quickly changed my spools over to one with Mirage fluorocarbon on, and tackled up two rods with small 1oz leads, so as to get out fishing with minimal disturbance. I found two lovely spots, one an underarm flick that couldn’t have been more than 2 feet deep and another a lob out that cracked down, but was surrounded with thick weed. As the afternoon wore on it looked really good, as the fish began to sit lower in the water and the odd one began to jump clear, all in my area. However that all changed, when someone else turned up, and even though the lake was empty, went right next door, and proceeded to thrash the lake with a heavy lead and marker for a couple of hours, then with his actual leads, and then out came the spod, just to round it all off! Unsurprisingly I never saw another fish, but what made it worse was the guy then packed up at 6am the following morning!

It was clear by this time, that a couple of bites and some peace and quiet were going to be very welcome. I hastily arranged a couple of single night trips to another local water, that I knew would fit the profile, and I knew well too. Sure enough I arrived after work on a Monday afternoon to find there was no one else there. The weed was up and the water nice and clear, so I picked an area with a couple of clear spots that I had taken fish from before, and also had some of the thickest weed beds in the lake in. The rods went down really well and for the first time for a long time I actually felt confident. I saw several fish show and heard some in the night leap clear of the water, the only problem being they were all seemingly grouped in the swim next door. As dawn broke I had a take on the left hand rod that in true confidence sapping style came off after a few seconds, which was a rarity on the big hook/hinge rigs I use. However, as I packed up for work, I knew that I had to get back down, as I had seen more than enough shows to think a result wasn’t that far away. I was back the following week, again for a single night, and better kitted up for it too. With the heavy weed I upped my end tackle, to the super strong GT80+ in 15lb, with 20lb Mirage fluorocarbon leaders attached. I went into the swim that they’d been showing in and within half an hour two had rolled in front. I’d put two rods out onto the same clear patch at about 70 yards and was able to walk around the bank to my right and bait up with the catapult easily. After over 10 years of using the same bait from Essential, I had also changed to the new B5 Salami, after a conversation with Mike Willmott, who told me how well it had been doing and how it’s proven to trip up some of the more elusive ones. One smell of the new bait, I knew it was a winner and this was my first trip out with it.

I was able to fish my third rod in a small swim right next door and safely bivvy up between the two. This gave me another good option, as it fished out to a completely different area. That afternoon a friend popped over to see me and he showed me a photo of a cracking dark coloured half linear, that I didn’t recognise it at all, even though I thought I knew most of the fish. As the evening came, as in the pattern from last week, several fish showed in the swim and I was starting to become paranoid, as they were clearly right on me. I wondered if having the 2 rods and lines in there and that close together, was working against me, as with the heavy weed the line lay wasn’t ideal. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I came, so just on dark I bought one in and just left a single rod on the spot. That was a good call, as a few hours later I had a steady take on that rod, which I was fishing locked up. I could see the line picking up tight and the fish was kiting hard to the right, away from the far bank snags. The fish played the game and I was able to steer it between weed beds without much trouble. A couple of deep rolls told me it was a good fish and as I lead it towards the net I could clearly see a half linear row of scales. One look in the net and I recognised it from the photo that I had been shown the night before. It weighed 35lb 4oz and was indeed a stunner. It was nailed on a size 5 Covert Chod hook and I was also delighted to have one on the new bait so quickly. I couldn’t wait for the next trip and a few days later I was back again for another single night. This time I’d got it right straight away, with just the one rod on the productive spot from the start. I put out about 50 baits here and put the pop up hook bait just on the outside of the free baits. The other two I fished in the swim next door and within an hour had an 18lb mirror on one of those rods. The following morning the single rod was away, but almost immediately the fish locked up in a big weed bed. I jumped in the boat and wound down to the fish using the line tension to pull me out there. Once above it, and with minimal tension the fish began to move and as I gained line, I began tearing off balls of weed from the main line. All of the time I could feel the fish thumping below me, until it was suddenly right on the surface, before it realised, and powered off soaking me at the same time. It’s a strange feeling playing a fish from the boat and although it stayed near the top, I found it hard to put any pressure on it, as it continually made long runs away from me. I could see it was a big fish and I was praying it was going to stay on, but each time I got the fish closer to me, the boat would spin round right at the wrong time. Eventually it was on the top, thankfully with a ball of weed around it and before it could work out where it was I scooped the whole lot up in the net. This one looked a good ‘un too and when I back on the bank it went 35lb 6oz. Two 35’s in two trips was a fantastic result, and a great confidence builder. I added a jet black 23lb mirror a bit later on and packed up for work delighted.

With autumn on the way, and my fishing planned and sorted, and the confidence back I can’t wait to get back on the bank, after a family holiday first!

Good luck.