What a whirl wind year I’ve had! In fact I really can’t remember another like it. Since Christmas last year I’ve relocated to Norfolk from London, taking up a new post as Site Manager at Taverham Mill Fishery and Nature Reserve. Moving house, getting engaged to my fiancée ‘Lottie’ and picking up my first carp dog in the form of ‘Teg’ the Border Terrier has meant that fishing time has been at a premium.

Of course this hasn’t stopped me getting out on occasion though, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a great year on the bank in the limited time I’ve had. Late in the winter I managed to escape London for a short social session with a good friend on a cracking Norfolk day ticket water. I was meant to be preparing for an interview and chilling out but instead we ended up with 7 fish to 30lb 8oz and I was over the moon with some lovely fish and memories to take back to ‘the smoke’ with me (cheers Lewis and Tom).

Next up was a session that had been in the pipe line for a long time. I’d always wanted to fish the opening few days of the season on one of my favourite Norfolk estate lakes. Being back in the area I knew this was the best opportunity in a long time and I got straight on the phone to my friend Baz (fellow Norfolk bumpkin) who is now living in Bristol. After some preparation, getting the time off work and everything else we were all set for June 16th.

It felt nostalgic waiting for the start of the season again and we were full of anticipation and excitement as we rolled the cars into the dark, empty car park at silly o’clock in the morning. We grabbed a bucket each and took ‘Teg’, who was only a puppy at the time down through the woods to the expansive estate lake. We had an idea where we wanted to head and it was a relief when we had the pick of the swims. This was until we saw a rather portly, disgruntled park ranger heading our way. “I’ve got your registration plates and I’m going to phone the police – you’re here way too early” he yelled. After some calming language from Baz and me he seemed to cool off eventually, and allowed us to wait by the cars until 7am.

The rods were fired out immediately and we set about scattering bait across a far margin reed line. The idea was to form a kind of ‘bait wall’ that would seek to hold the fish (a small stock) long enough to get a bite. That was the idea anyway!

I was just nodding off on my bedchair when my alarm began to sing and it didn’t relent until I picked the rod up high over my shoulder a few seconds later. Instantly the powerful fish kited down to my left in the shallow, silty water. I couldn’t do anything but wade through the reeds along my margin. I eventually landed the long, lean fish two swims down to my left (much to the resident angler’s dismay). After such a fraught battle I was ecstatic to have taken a fish on my first day and I was even more chuffed when it turned out to be one of the older, wily residents at 33lb. An amazing start! What happened next shocked us even further when Baz had a bream like take on his right hand rod which resulted in a scale perfect, immaculate 41lb 7oz common! To round the session off I added another pristine mid-20 common. It will certainly go down as one of my most memorable day sessions and it was great to finally put the plan together.

Over the next few days Baz and I moved onto an island swim at a nearby day ticket venue. We’d thought this would be a nice way to round off the week in case we found the estate lake as tricky as it usually was. In the mild low pressure the fish played ball and I took full advantage of the lush green onion weed in front of the famous swim. I finished the session on 7 fish up to 31lb 7oz including, some beautiful, scaly mirrors that the lake is less famous for.

I was flat out with wildlife events and visitors at the fishery and nature reserve throughout a lot of the summer period. However, with serious withdrawal symptoms I ventured out again towards the end of the summer and started making the effort on my local syndicate – which is conveniently just down the road from work. It is a pretty little 3 acre gravel pit with an incredible stock of large old characters that probably won’t be around for much longer. Having had the pleasure of catching the largest resident, ‘The Big Common’ last year at 48lb 2oz, you’d have thought I’d have been given the red card. But for me the sheer amount of beautiful mirrors over the magical 30lb mark has kept the interest up. It is a great atmosphere down there with some of the best guys I’ve met in angling.

Over a couple of weeks of trying, my overnighters had proved fairly fruitless, at least until I dropped into a swim called ‘Fairy’ late in September. I couldn’t help but feel confident with the amount of shows that evening and I stayed up late drinking coffees and listing to the deep slurps out in front. Just as I was drifting off a short, rapid series of bleeps had me bolt upright. I sat by my rod just as the tip went over. We were in business! After a rather uneventful fight I had a lovely heavily scaled mirror in the net. A friendly chap called Julian helped with the pictures and I quickly fired a bait back out to the mark.

It couldn’t have been much longer than half an hour before I was in again. A slow, plodding battle ended with a beautiful, leathery mirror sulking in the net.

Once again I re-positioned my bait amongst the deep silt and within 15 minutes it was off. A powerful, slow moving fish kept me hanging on for what felt like an age! Finally, I managed to coax the long framed fish over the draw cord and I dropped to my knees with exhaustion and tiredness. As I pulled back the net to look at my prize my heart sunk. It was the big common, I couldn’t believe it!

A good friend, Lewis, was on the lake and he’d been after it for quite a while. I didn’t know how to break it to him that I’d caught it again. In the end he was a real gent and we weighed the enormous common at 46lb 8oz. I shot a quick bit of video that I’d forgotten to take the year before and we slipped him back without anymore stills (I was very happy with the first ones) hopefully to make someone else’s year. I wasn’t going to grumble at the capture of a mid 40 common though!

The autumn flew by fast, my personal highlight being the stocking of Taverham Mill Lake in October. As I write the winter doesn’t feel like it has arrived yet and it will be Christmas in a few days. I’ve been busy getting a new syndicate together at Taverham Mill and the team are really excited about the future of the fishery. I’ve taken great pleasure seeing our members achieve their targets at the Mills and I hope that 2016 will be a huge year for everyone involved.

Have a great Christmas and New Year,

Enjoy the journey,

Harry Waye-Barker