As the new season became ever closer I received a call from a friend who invited me to a really special syndicate and it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. The six-acre lake in question was close to the Longfield site and offered angling unparallelled to anything I’d ever experienced. With only 10 members, access to boats and numerous stunning, characteristic fish to nearly 50 pounds, I felt I’d been given a new lease of life, something completely different to what I was used to. The Road Lake was witnessing some serious attention from numerous good anglers, so now was as good a time as ever to wave a fond farewell.
Well, I say farewell, but only from wetting a line there, because my love affair with the place meant I would continue to be part of the bailiff team which would keep me in regular contact with the regulars and, of course, the changing times of the lake.
My new lake was amazing and I became wrapped up in it so quickly. It was just me against the fish, and not the angler and the fish, which I was used to on most of my previous waters. Its gin-clear water was simply mesmerising and I’d literally lose hours out in the boat, trying to absorb every detail I could under the surface. I could bait spots I liked the look of, and check the next time before deciding where to fish, something I could never do on Longfield.
I always joked with other members about the importance of the three-day rule, and I did mean it, but seldom could I apply it to my fishing. If I could fish in the week, say a Wednesday, give them at least a kilo of bait and guarantee no lines would be in that swim for three days, I would be supremely confident of getting a fish when I returned, as it happened quite a few times. Such opportunities on heavily fished lakes often deny you this luxury, so it was more than welcomed on my new lake.
The fish in the new lake loved bait, and I was more than happy giving it to them. Such was the addiction with the place, I found myself getting in tune with it very quickly. Literally every time I fished it I had a take by fishing big silt beds with large scattering of boilies. Easy fishing really, casting chods with 2oz bolt bombs at equal distances and covering the area with boilies with the throwing stick.
That first season I went on to catch over 20 fish to nearly 44lb. It was a dream really and despite the lake lacking the social atmosphere of Longfield, I was looking forward to having another crack the following season.
Meanwhile, the Road Lake was continuing to produce record weights to so many of the big girls. Clover was pushing 46lb, The Big Lin over 42lb, Orange Spot over 40lb to name a few. It was crazy as all the fish were just massive. What’s wrong with that you may ask? Well it’s pressured, its small, and you just get the feeling something has to give and unfortunately, eventually it did.
I remember taking Dan Wildbore around there for his first look when we were doing a feature on my other syndicate. It was the close season and as we strolled around to the snags of the number one swim, Dan stumbled upon a large mirror which was obvious to me that it was the Dink. She was in very shallow water and appeared to be resting her head on a branch. I knew something wasn’t right but after a phone call to Rob the head bailiff, he explained to me that she’s been behaving like that for few weeks now, but will shoot off if you spook her, so he wasn’t overly concerned.
June 1st signalled the start of the season which was met with the usual rowdy crowd and a barbecue done by yours truly and washed down with plenty of beer. It was always the best time of the year as the lakes looked stunning with their un-trodden banks, trees filled with green leaves and the heckling of anglers just so excited to cast out at 9pm and enjoy stories of old!
Nothing felt untoward to us on the Road Lake, apart from the reservations that the Dink wasn’t looking too clever over the close season, so we were apprehensive as to how she was fairing. The weed was still not making an appearance, but we had given up hope on that one and there were the odd strands across the surface which were, no doubt, ripped up by the carp in their quest for natural food.
I continued to enjoy myself on my new-found paradise, while the Road Lake members endured a relatively slow start. The Dink continued to battle on but reports were that she was behaving badly and about a month into the season one of the regulars found her no longer able to contain whatever was wrong. The syndicate was really devastated, but they made sure they gave her a good send off and had a few beers in her honour!
That was just the beginning as it was pretty much like a light had been turned off on the Road Lake. We started losing a few, and we didn’t know what to do. Initially, CEMEX did what they could in trying to help the situation before completely disowning the place. It was really down to Rob and Sean Leverett who bust every bone in their body to stop the flow of fish dying. The situation was just awful; Sean acquired a pump but all was in vain as more and more fish just popped up. It was major, something I’ve never seen before, heartbreaking in fact. The EA were involved and my beloved Clover was removed and used to test what was wrong, which was eventually put down to gill parasite.
The rumours were obviously rife as to what, why and how this happened, but it happened, and we were left with a broken fishery in need of rebuilding. We knew roughly what should have still been in there, namely 3 Scales, Orange Spot, Pug, Micky’s Mate and a few other good fish, about 11 in total.
The lake was closed for the entire season and it was not long after we all learned of the sale of all of CEMEX waters. This was met by complete shock from us all, because no one knew what the future of all the great fisheries would be. In our case, a chap called Simon Hancock came down to view the Longfield land with a view to setting up a permaculture business. Not long into his visit he was accosted by a number of the passionate anglers and, fascinated by their enjoyment of our beloved sport, he was inclined to purchase the lake, and with the help of the original head bailiffs, Tony on Fox and Rob on the Road, a new dawn was to break on Longfield.
After a few successful seasons on my quiet water, I fancied having a go on Fox Pool because it was throwing up some really nice fish. I also fancied fishing on a lake with some company, something I was deprived of at my syndicate, which although lovely, it can get a bit tedious at times!
My friend Wayne was doing really well on Fox over the winter months, and he’d had something like 13 fish in a few months over the cold months and using plenty of bait, but applying it strategically. Wayne’s a very good angler and he really got me interested with some of the pictures of the fish he’d had.
Longfield always closes for a few months to let the fish have a break. The previous season saw lots of hard work go into the Road Lake and carefully selected fish from Viv Shears and Dinton were picked and introduced. The entire lake was also treated with Siltex and Viv’s expertise was called upon to identify what trees were needed to be removed in order to improve light levels and get that much-needed breeze across the venue.
As another new season beckoned, Simon the Longfield landlord set a trend by purchasing a pig the size of a pony and set about cooking it hog roast style for the traditional opening night gathering. That pig was the gift that just kept giving and everyone was fed, full and totally impressed by this whole new level of social standards. It had to be said that my opening night barbecue gig looked seriously under threat!
I fished the opening night on Fox, but didn’t get the best of swims. I’m utterly useless in draws, usually coming out last, or very near offer! However, it didn’t take me too long to get in on the action. I found some appealing dense weed growth in front of a few of the swims and felt I could get a bite fishing directly over the stuff. Using chod rigs comprising my favourite Gardner small bolt bombs, the finer 25lb Gardner Plummet leadcore and the highly successful S2 pop-ups from Specialized Hookbaits fished over a scattering of Perfection Choc Orange boilies, I was over the moon when I had one of the biggest in the pond, the Dark One at just a smidgen under 39lbs. I then had another fish the following morning at 23lbs, so I knew I was onto something.
Fox was similar to the Road Lake in that the fish bosh, fizz, and just generally keep you on your toes. The fizzing displays were often incredible, you’d have mallards sitting over the top of them picking up what the fish were kicking up! That first season was really enjoyable for me; I ended catching a few of the larger fish and knew that my tactics were working really well. Above all, it was good to share the better times with other anglers.
The Road Lake was also coming on and new weed growth was developing courtesy of the Siltex treatment. The fish were already growing and we got to see some of the older fish that were all looking good. The Pretty One in particular, which was going over 40lb, looked stunning and the Orange Spot was also pushing on through at over 40lbs. What amazed me about the Road Lake, was that despite losing all of the fish we were still able to maintain a healthy waiting list, such was the desire from everyone to fish the place.
Over the course of the winter, Wraysbury was to witness some of the worst floods the area had ever seen. All access areas were closed with the Army striking a daunting pose to each entry road. The Thames had broken its banks and went straight into Fox and the neighbouring syndicate. Thankfully it didn’t interfere with the Road Lake, because the knock-on effect of the flooding turned out to be significant.
Fox had a pretty poor season following the floods. The silt had turned rancid, the weed all but disappeared and hook baits permanently stank when retrieved. The venue also lost a couple of the better fish in the close season. My nearby syndicate also suffered from the flooding and we lost a number of our bigger fish, which was just more heartbreak we could do without. To be honest, I really felt for the owner as he had one obstacle after another on Longfield, but he always gave 100% effort in repairing any damage done, as did the members and bailiff team.
I persevered half-hearted on Fox, but I could only get a bite from one area, and despite having a nice little hit on a fine summer’s trip, with fish up to 33lb, I ventured back to my other syndicate in an attempt to catch a couple of fish I wanted to snare, especially one, known as the Chinese Common. It was quite an elusive fish and as was always the way on that lake, targeting one individual was difficult, so it came down to a huge slice of luck being required.
For some reason, I wasn’t really enjoying it over my other syndicate either, possibly due to best laid plans and all that but, surprisingly, I landed the Chinese Common fairly quickly, although it was ridiculously spawned out at just over 28lb. This fish normally goes over 36, so it was looking very lean.
I continued to fish on what felt like a very difficult lake from what I was used to, for which I’ll explain. The fish became more nomadic to what I was used to, however; I put this down to the lack of bait going into the pond, quite simply, the syndicate was too small, so the fish would seek the naturals. The flooding didn’t help and Fox Pool also got harder but, on a positive note the fish really were pushing on over there with some quite incredible weights being reported with a few going well over 40lb.
I found myself being controlled by them. I concentrated on three spots but I did use over 40 kilos of bait in a three-month period, catching a couple of good fish and a few not-so-good ones. The reason I felt controlled is that the fish were coming in and smashing the spots in a very narrow timeframe. I seemed to constantly miss it and, it had nothing to do with lines in the water because I’d sometimes leave the spots baited for a week at a time, view them out in the boat, all of it still there and then a few days later, all gone! It was driving me mad and with the limited time I had, it was hard going.
As winter got a grip, well, it never really got a grip as most lakes around the country continued to fish well due to the mild temperatures. However, for the first in a long time, I decided I wouldn’t fish that much because I had so much to be getting on with at home, but you know what it’s like, you end up chewing the walls, desperate to be huddled around a Coleman while your family questions your sanity, such are the joys of winter angling.
The mild weather continued, and for some reason everybody on Longfield was descending on Fox Pool. The Road Lake, however, was quiet. Wayne was doing a bit over there and, doing extremely well, catching some of the ones he wanted after a brief return from a successful season a couple of years ago. I fancied it, the lake was stunning as always, and it’s a cracking place to spend time in the colder months, but I only wanted to return if there was a chance of catching 3 Scales. In order for that to happen, I needed to fish a couple of zones I thought he was likely to come out of. The last thing I wanted was to catch one of the other big fish that I may have had a few years ago, and that’s not me, so with the lack of anglers I felt the time right to have a dabble.
My first trip was on another mild February day. I had one night and I fished two areas that had brought me success in the past in the Reeds swim. My usual S2 pop-ups fished over 20 freebies to each rod, using Gardner Covert end tackle to Mirage Flouro booms, hinge rig style. I was gassing on my phone to my friend about the prospect of rejoining the infamous Yateley complex, when the LED of my left-hand rod lit up the sky. Bidding my mate a swift fairwell, I landed a cracking Harrow stocky just over 19lb. ‘Rock ‘n’ roll’, as Road Lake regular, Slippery John, would say. Strangely enough, I had another, almost identical, fish ten minutes later on the other rod. Two fish on my return, lovely, I thought!
I was back a week later and opted for the same swim, repeating what I did on my return with almost identical tactics, this time with a small common and a stunning 23lb fully-plated mirror. Things were looking good and still it was stupidly quiet and that was at weekends!
I had a night the following week, this time in the week, however, somebody was in the Reeds swim, and there were a couple of other anglers on, so I had to fish in an area I wasn’t overly sure was right for 3 Scales, but with it being a night, I wasn’t too concerned. As it happened, I saw a few fish in the area where I wanted to be and the swim I was in I subsequently blanked. I was returning next week and I had some holiday, so I was hoping I could get back to the zone where I’d had a few from the previous weeks.
That day came, and someone was in the Reeds again, so I wasn’t going in there. I wasn’t feeling good anyway, and was questioning why I was there, but I felt confident in bagging 3 Scales. I opted for a swim that many of my friends have been fortunate in, but I hadn’t, which was the Hump. This was the same swim 3 Scales got the better of me all those years ago, except for this time I wanted to fish out in the pond and with the same successful tactics I deployed before, I confidently fished a couple of spots that felt very well polished and the Bolt Bombs came crashing down on.
In an attempt to burn off the horrible bug I was carrying, I cooked this stupidly hot curry that was just awful, but I was saved from finishing it when the left rod bobbin casually smacked against the alarm before it signalled that lovely consistent tone. Initially, I thought I was into a smaller fish because it was scrapping about on the surface. Fortunately, it was just after a good old tear-up and after about ten minutes I had it the net. I parted the carp-scented mesh and, as I peered into the folds, I realised it was 3 Scales. The shock made me scream his name, which gave me a sore throat on top of everything else that ached! The legend that is Ladders was around to help me do the photos and record a weight of 38.15lb; not that I cared – I had 3 Scales!
The old Longfield has gone, but the new Longfield, in my opinion, is better than ever. It’s run with passion, as is the new complex I’ve joined at Yateley, and I’ve been fortunate to bag one of the big chunks already. This is another lake that has gone through transition and has managed to provide a fantastic future for anglers old and new. Hopefully, I can be lucky enough to hold up some of its sparkling jewels and smile as they catch the light. May we all enjoy that priceless feeling, and if I do, I’ll tell you all about it!