I knew this year was going to be tough with regards to me getting the rods out, but some things in our lives are simply more important than fishing! Moving my family from our home of ten years to a new house was not only one of the most stressful times in my life, it was obviously going to have a profound effect on my fishing.

Shortly before finally moving into our new house, I was fortunate enough to get a ticket on the infamous Yateley Car Park lake syndicate. This came as a shock really, as I had wanted to get onto the Car Park Lake for a while (ever since it was under the great management of the new owner, Martin Gardener) and the timing was absolutely spot on for me as every other door was closing on my current tickets and fisheries.

Yateley has probably been written about more times than any other water in the UK and if anyone has walked its hallowed banks, you can see why. You can’t help but think about all the great anglers that sweated blood and tears to catch the dreams that swam in the naturally rich lakes.

It was also a return for me to the complex, as I had done my apprenticeship on the Match Lake across on the south side of the road many years ago, before moving onto the Copse and then over to the North Lake. I had never actually wet a line on the Car Park lake so I was tackling something completely new, and somewhere I knew little about.

Some of my friends had fished the Car Park years ago, in its golden era, and it was useful to listen to some of their findings. Lewis knew the lake like the back of his hand, so it was very useful to get a detailed list of the traditional features from the golden era. Going onto any water blind is difficult enough, so to have friends with experience as to how it was is always a bonus. I couldn’t wait to do my first night over there!

After three trips of walking around an empty lake after work on the way home from the office, I was completely enthralled and fascinated by the place. My first night found me plotted up in a swim that offered plenty of water to go at; a swim known as ‘the Dug Out’. I found two spots that I got good drops on, at the back of a gravel bar some 70 yards out ans set my stall. It was an extremely cold April night that passed by without too much to write home about and I was up early and able to see my first CP shows. It appeared that all the fish were concentrated in an area in front of two swims, namely Dessies and Trumptons.

I had an overnighter planned the following Thursday and hoped that with a bit of luck I could get into one of those two swims. Come that Thursday, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was – and on my return I moved straight into Trumptons Island. I was aware of a ‘traditional’ spot some 20 yards out and had been told that it was good for a bite, but I didn’t want to fish two rods on it so I had a flick around with a lead along the same line until I found a spot that offered a clean drop some 10 yards to the right. The lead hit the bottom with a thud but there was no room to draw the lead along the bottom as it was in amongst some dense weed. That was how tiny the spot was, and this suited me just fine as it is my favourite kind of fishing! Definitely not a trundle spot mate.

Hinged stiff rigs were deployed on both rods, using 25lb Mirage booms to 20lb Trip wire hook sections. These were furnished with the prototype Covert Dark size 6 Chod hooks (now available and bloody awesome!) and I had 6ft Camflex Leadcore as leaders. Because of the weed that was so predominant in the area I elected to attach Bolt Bombs with the little Drop-Out Chod Clips so the lead would detach should it need to if it got lodged in weed.

These were warmed with the ever faithful Specialized Hookbaits S2’s over a couple of spods of Longfield Nutmix Boilies. I say spodded, as Yateley has to be the hardest lake I’ve ever tried to get bait into! The moment your catapult is in your hand, the sky fills with gulls and the scene metamorphosis into what looks like Brighton beach with a bag of chips on the floor. Utter madness!!

Well, the lake fell into darkness and offered little hope of anything happening. Cold and still was the picture I was faced with, so a good night’s sleep was enjoyed. Once again I was up early doors, except this time I didn’t see so much as a bubble.

At 8am it was time for me to be heading off, as I was already pushing it and I really needed to be at work. However, the right hand rod pulled down and the alarm signalled a ‘one noter’ that had me utterly shell shocked!

Carp angler automatic pilot kicked in and I picked up the rod, trying to get the fish under some semblance of control. The fight was hard and I was full of excited anticipation, not knowing what to expect on the end of my line. I was naturally shaking at the knees!

Eventually the fish started tiring after twisting and turning around the 18lb GT-HD main line in the gin clear water, whilst desperately trying to rid the hook. I instantly knew it was a chunk and a top chap known as Ernie came straight around, doing what decent fellow syndicate members do, sharing your happiness at that special moment in time.

The fish was recognised as one the originally stock fish that were introduced into the lake in the old CEMEX days, which was one of the Redmire strain commons. At a weight of 38lb 15oz it was an awesome, huge framed, character of a fish! I was pinching myself. Although privileged, I knew I was a tad fortunate to bank such an outstanding fish so early on.

I only managed a couple more nights after that before the lake closed for a month’s break, to allow the fish to spawn and recover properly, which I think is a great common sense decision by the owner. Leading up to the break I had only been able to put in a few overnighters but in that short time I instantly knew I’d joined a special syndicate – made brilliant by the lads that fish there. Such is their passion and enthusiasm for the place you simply couldn’t wish to be in a better environment whilst you while away the hours.

I’d made a start and couldn’t wait to get back to do some more as soon as I could…