With my school exams over I could now dedicate my spare time to fishing on the Hartley Witney club waters at Church Farm in Yateley. I decided to fish the Back Lake which holds a good head of carp; not the biggest maybe, but it certainly holds some surprises and beautiful fish.

I was using a new Salmon based bait from Geoff at Active Bait Solutions that is a boilie that I have loads of confidence in and I started to introduce it into several spots to keep my options open for when the lake was busy or fish were held up in specific areas.

My tactics were simple – hinged stiff rigs using about seven inches of the supple brown Ultra Skin so it would settle nicely. I have found this is just about the perfect length for the boom and the silty bottom I am fishing. For the chod/hook section I have found 20lb Trip Wire is just stiff enough for the fishing I do. The hook I use is actually a size 6 Covert Incizor and I use this hook for a lot of my fishing now. For main line I use 12lb Hydro Tuff as it is just perfect being tough and sinks well – it’s an all round great line.

Weather plays a big part in my fishing as well as keeping connected to the lake I have become familiar with certain spots and know that when the weather is right the carp will be in these particular areas.

I decided to get down the lake for 48hrs and choose to fish a peg called ‘Baldies’. This area has lilies, fallen trees and an island, so I was spoilt for choice on where to put the baits. Last year I took a photo of a 28lb ghostie from this area and this was one of my targets. The lake is fairly up and down with flashes of gravel and light and heavy silt, minimal weed and tiny sand bars. After getting the rods out and on the spots I was reasonably happy, but concerned that I hadn’t seen any movement, which was unusual as I settled into the night, rods all set and watching the sun go down. I know this area can produce early hours of the morning and hoped it would continue this pattern.

In the early hours I had a few liners which gave me an indication that the carp was moving in. Just as I put the kettle on I saw an explosion from the lilies and my alarms lit up and the bobbin rose up tight to the underside of my rod. I pulled into it and she came straight to the top trying to take me through the channel! After an anxious battle I was getting the carp under control and she rolled over my net… As I looked down I saw it was one of the prettiest mirrors I have seen weighing in at 21lb+.

I packed up because I had to attend a college open day, but I couldn’t wait to get back on the bank that week.

Getting down the lake to pre-bait can be difficult as I have to rely on friends or family, so when I’m there I make the most of it. Later that same week I got back down for a 48hr session, obviously I really wanted to get back in that particular swim (Baldies), so when I arrived I loaded up my kit and pushed the barrow as fast as the wheel would take me. I couldn’t help but smile as I approached the lake and saw hardly anybody there and the swim was empty.

I quickly set up my rods already clipped up for the same spots. This time I decided to bait really heavily as I had already seen a bit of movement and wanted to keep them in this area. That afternoon I thought I had killed the swim; like they say “you can put the bait in, but can’t take it back out but” in the back of mind, but I also knew this swim produced its best results in the morning.

The night passed and morning came round quickly (without interruption) when I had a screaming run and the rod was bent round to the right. After a quick scrap I had a cracking common in the net, again weighing in at 21lb+. She was an absolute stunner and I just couldn’t believe the quality of these carp. With the photos done I quickly slid her back to her home and reset my rod back to the spot.

As I sat back and took in the wildlife and surroundings the hours past. I noticed that they were cruising tight to the island which is where my other rod was placed. There was so much activity that I was actually tempted to put the other rod there, but something in the back of my mind said to wait.

I’m glad I sat on my hands as the other rod went into action with just one beep on the alarm as it was all locked up. I lifted the rod and was once in again into one and this time the fish was heading towards the undergrowth and fallen tree. I knew if it got in there it was game over, so after some gentle pressure and direction I managed to lead the fish into open water. It felt big as the rod was pumping away and the carp was lunging in short bursts. Suddenly there was this big explosion in the water and I felt my line flick across the carp… Thinking I had lost it my heart was in my mouth! After an incredible fight in open water I was anxious but very careful to get her into the landing net. As the sun shone through the tress in the margin I got a glance of it and knew it was one of the commons I was targeting, a very wary and strong fish. I lifted up the landing net and at full stretch slid the net under this beautiful carp and allowed myself to let out a big sigh of relief. After gathering my thoughts I weighed the carp and it went over 27lb. I was over the moon that this fish had graced my net.

After getting both my rods out around the island things had settled down and gone quiet. I don’t know why (just instincts I suppose) but I decided to bait this area heavy ready for the evening.

The venue started to get busy for the weekend and didn’t see or get another take throughout the day or evening. I had to pull off the following day to get back home but I was sure there was still a really good chance of another take; maybe in the morning as the sun came up around 5:00am.

The following morning I started to slowly pack away all the bits and bobs that I didn’t need and the hours just seemed to fly by on the bank. It’s like a different time frame, if that makes sense. With just the rods left to pack away I started to get small indications on the bite alarms – just little single bleeps, so I was sure they were back munching. After about 30 minutes my alarm went into melt down and you could see the line tighten up. As I lifted the rod for the third time that trip I was once again into a fish that came straight at me. Trying to keep the line tight and the rod high it was in my margin in no time so I grabbed the net and it was if it knew to swim straight over it – my third carp of the session and what a stunner immaculate ghostie weighing 22lb.

After that I packed up my rods and went home I was buzzing that everything had just come together for the perfect session.

During the week I had a call from my mate Harry Wright asking me if I wanted to do a social over the South Lake (Farnham Angling Society) and as I have only fished this water twice I was excited to do a 48 hr session. It was very pressured and busy but we managed to find two swims. I picked a swim called ‘The Graveyard’ as there were a lot of fish holding up in corner. This time I was using one rod on a Chod Rig as it was very weedy. Once again it was the super reliable Trip Wire and size 6 Covert Incizor combination but this time it was fished on a 4 foot of weedy green Camflex Leadfree leader. On the second rod I decided to use a snowman rig as I’d found a nice little gravel patch along my right margin. Simple and effective, I tied it using 6 inches of brown Ultra Skin and a size 6 Covert Incizor.

From that session I came away with two takes and one fish landed which was a beautiful two tone Yateley ‘original’.

Once again the ABS and Gardner Tackle were doing the business and I had so much confidence!

In the back of mind I was just thinking about getting back on Church Farm as I still wanted the big ghostie out before the fish started spawning.

After finishing my session on Yateley South I decided to start preparing to get back down the Back Lake. When the Friday finally came I got down midday and after a good look around I decided to once again set up in the same swim as the last few trips as there were a lot of fish holding up in there. After getting the rods clipped up on the spots and the rigs sorted I was once fishing.

I wasn’t really expecting anything till the evening time or the early morning as it was still very hot. Going into evening I noticed the fish were starting to move out into different areas of the lake and after a quiet night I had a screaming take on the left hand rod at 4am. As I picked up the rod I thought it was only a small carp or a tench as it didn’t put up much of a fight at all, but as it was getting closer to the net the fish woke up and took me all up the margins. After an epic battle I looked down in the net to see the one I wanted – the big ghostie was in my net! YES!

When weighed the fish went 28lb+ and was in mint condition.

After having my target fish I decided to pack up early and head home. I wanted to do a quick 24hr down there later that week (before going to Linear fisheries). I set up in a swim called ‘Moorings’ as it hadn’t had a lot of pressure over the weekend and there were fish in there around the lilies. This time I elected to put one rod to the left hand margin and one to the island and the last one to the lilies. Overnight nothing had happened and there were no signs of any fish. At 9:30am I redid the rod near the lilies and it wasn’t long until I had another one on that rod.0 After a mad battle I had the fish in the net and it looked a to be another which proved right as well after weighing it and getting some pictures it came in at 26lb!

It’s a lovely complex of lakes that I really enjoy fishing, and these fish are exactly why I continue to fish the complex as it has loads of gems.