Once the winter came, I enjoyed a few sessions on a local lake fishing with an old friend, Adam. It was great to have some social trips, as the rest of the year I never do it, my fishing is normally always done totally on my own. We had some success too! With my best going 27lb, and Adam having a stunning 34lb common on one of the colder days of what was generally a nice mild winter. These trips also gave me the chance to try out some new things for the season ahead, some of which I liked and have taken into my angling full time.
Once mid February came, and the days started to draw out, I began my proper session fishing again. I had a couple of trips to Kingsmead, enthused with the knowledge that it had produced a few, and hopefully there was a chance of an early fish. However, the first trip was a bit of a disaster, in that I lost a good fish. It happened at the height of a huge wind that had bits of branches falling from the trees, and waves hitting the boards at the front of the swim and sending spray right up the bank. Twice already that night I’d had the rods blown off the rests, and when the buzzer let out another series of bleeps in the early hours (whilst I was almost hanging on to the brolly) I naturally imagined it was just another branch blowing through the lines. In truth I wasn’t that quick to get out, and when I did I found myself attached to a fish that was plodding round out in what looked more like the North Sea than a decent sized gravel pit. It was hard holding the rod vertical in the wind, and I got it all the way back, only for it to drop off at the net!
The next trip wasn’t much better either! The first night was one of solid rain; whilst on the second night the sky finally cleared and it dropped down to -3! Unsurprisingly, I was already getting fed up with poor weather, and the spring couldn’t come quick enough…
The lake closed in mid-march, but I had other plans for another local lake that I don’t fish much now, but is always good for an early bite as it seems to wake up earlier than most of the ones in the same area. I had a couple of walks round, each time with the marker rod and a kilo or so of my favourite Essential B5, but in reality I already had a good idea of the first places to look for them. At one end there is a small sheltered bay, full of snags and overhanging trees that are off the cold winds and a real suntrap. I was stood on the high bank looking down into the mass of tangled branches below, when deep down, right on the bottom, a good fish glided slowly under them. This was followed soon after by another, and that was good enough for me. I spent a while with just a lead finding something to fish to, and I wanted to do this when I wasn’t actually fishing as I knew I needed to keep the disturbance to a minimum within the enclosed confines of the bay on my actual session.
This was limiting too, as there were a number of areas that I could fish, but would have presented serious problems trying to get anything out as the snags are just too severe. I wasn’t doing that, and although I was kitted up with strong gear, I was only going to fish spots I knew I was going to land fish from. In fact I knew of a spot from many years ago, one that had produced a couple of fish for me, but had disappeared over time when I started fishing lakes elsewhere. What it had produced historically was some of the rarer fish, and I concentrated my efforts on that first recce trip trying to find it again. About 20 casts in, I suddenly got one to crack down, and on pulling the lead I got the gentle tapping of broken ground that I remembered from all those years before. It was tiny though, and with one slight pull I was off it and in surprisingly thick weed – the legacy of a mild winter. I clipped the rod up and measured it against my rod at home using the distance sticks in the garden.
Finally, after I had done another bait up visit, I was back pushing my barrow fully loaded across the flooded field towards the lake. I was just starting to use the new GT-HD mainline in 18lb (0.39mm), and straight away I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. Super strong, but with sinking abilities nearly matching fluorocarbon and a lovely subtle colour – this was just what I needed in this snaggy situation. The rods went out well, both with short stiff rigs with pink pop ups.
The nice thing with that spot was you were either on it or not, it was really that easy to tell. I slackened the lines off, and had them hanging vertically down from the rod tips with the bobbins resting on the floor.
During the night I didn’t see or hear anything, but just before first light I had a take on the rod fished on the old spot. It was only half a run, as when I picked the rod up it was already in the weed behind the spot. With steady pressure it came out, discharged the lead and I gave it as much as I dared to keep it in the safe (open) water in front of the swim. I could tell it wasn’t a monster, but it was a cracking jet black long mirror and a real confidence boost so early in the new campaign. I left that morning, but kept the bait trickling in knowing I was back for another single night the week after.
The next trip came around, and the weather was still cold and dull, but my tucked away swim was protected from the wind, and once again looked good for a bite as I flicked the baits out with little 1.5oz leads. I was fishing within a few minutes of my dawn arrival.
A friend came down to see me, and whilst we sat there drinking tea I had a screaming run on one of the other rods cast over to the far bank. This one really rucked, going hard for the far bank trees, and then kiting round almost behind me deep into the bay. I piled on the side strain and had a good 10 minutes of deep runs up and down to contend with. Once I’d got it somewhere near my bank Jim netted it for me and one look at the size of its paddle and I could see why it had fought so hard! It weighed 28lb 8oz and I was delighted. Two trips and two fish was a real result.
Anyway, having had one so early in the session looked like I was bound for more, but as is the pattern, one fish out of the bay seems to completely kill it. I wasn’t complaining, and felt full of self belief; such is the power of catching a couple of nice fish quickly from what is in reality a pretty tricky venue. Typically, I was bought back down to earth soon after, when I went back over to the Mead for a two nighter, only to have the fish show on me repeatedly, and not have a single bleep – meanwhile my neighbour had 2, so somehow I’d clearly got something wrong!
I had a new challenge lined up for this year, and I was busy building up to it all winter. By that I mean I was buying the bits I needed! I was able to use a boat on this lake, which I had already, but not much else. I sat down and put a list together; leisure batteries, an outboard, gas inflation life jacket, markers, battery charger, it went on and on, so I spent the winter slowing acquiring it all with a view to being ready to start come the spring. It all took a fair amount of time, but eventually the list was ticked off, and my boat was down at the lake, and all ready to go.
This week was my first trip, and what an eye opener it was! 60 plus acres, three islands and a mass of carpy looking features and areas. Loading the boat at dawn, and motoring out through the mist was enough to raise the feelings of excitement and anticipation to whole new levels, and a cracking common on my first morning session was a great start on what promises to be a massive challenge. I have loads to learn and I can’t wait for more.
I’ll let you know how it all goes.