The start of 2016 was a frustrating period of my angling because it was virtually non-existent, which was very unfortunate with the mild conditions the UK was being blessed with. I had to work in amongst university life to get the funds together to renew my ticket for Wellington Country Park, it was a certainly a worthwhile investment! My first session of the year was in February and I managed to jump in on an area where the fish were being suitably clumped by fellow Gardner squad member Ian Stott. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that the fish were there in numbers, so I decided I wanted a piece of the action. I hurried to get the rods out before dark and by the time I was setting the bobbing on the third rod, the first rod was whizzing off. My suspicions were correct and I was off to a flyer with a scraper 30lb common in the net. Nothing happened until literally the same time the following day, same rod, same spot and I landed a 42lb common (well common/ghosty, same man different hat). It was an excellent start to the year and I was keen to get back again whilst they were making it easy for us anglers to locate the carps whereabouts, something that is a rare privilege on Welly!

A couple of weeks later I was hurtling down the M4 at a reasonably sensible pace praying I could get in the same zone as the previous session. The carp gods answered me sooner than I anticipated with an element of de ja vu thrown in for good measure. My first bite of the session happened again within minutes of putting the rods out just before dark and I was greeted with a lovely 37lb mirror sporting her wintry colours. This was followed up in the morning by mid 20 common, a sign that the fish were still comfortable in numbers up against the main island. I have to add at this point that bites this quickly on Welly are not common and I seemed to be turning up at the right time and getting the rods out with minimum disturbance.

The end of March was looming and the lakes residents had vacated their winter solace and started to spread out. Now I’m hoping my girlfriend shows her distinct lack of interest in my angling and doesn’t read the next part otherwise I will probably get a hefty punch to the throat! I was due to fish a three nighter, which coincided with the appearance of storm Katie fronting low pressure and big winds. It could only mean one thing, big carp! Unfortunately my better half had a minor car accident on the way home from work in the evening. Fortunately she was OK just a little shaken up, however this put me in the predicament of stay at home and be a loving boyfriend and comfort her or get up at 4am and go fishing with a horrendous storm due with the chance of a chunk. It was a tough decision (no honestly it was…..ish) but I had the attitude that if she didn’t need to go to hospital she would survive a few days without me.

I turned up at the lake swiftly followed by a few other anglers that had the hunch these conditions were worth being on the bank for. Lewis was in the bush swim and had caught a fish that night, so I opted for that swim knowing there was a chance of another bite. I had to fish shorter due to the power of the wind for both casting and baiting up purposes. At this point I was testing the Covert Dark hook range and had size 4 Mugga’s with 14mm white Tuna pop-ups on. I gave them some bait and just as the storm was gaining momentum I had a powerful fish attached to my right hand rod. After a twitchy battle where the fish must have clipped each marginal branch on the way in, the jewel of the Welly commons was lying defeated in the folds of the net. The Chesnut common weighing 52lb 8oz.

After returning the fish the heavens opened and I began to take a right good bashing off of Katie. The storm was that brutal I was holding on to an airborne Tempest at 3am albeit with a huge grin on my face as I was still flying high from the capture of the Chesnut. The following day I repositioned the rods and repaired my bivvy sewing the front back with the aid of a pack of Mugga’s acting as temporary stiches.

The afternoon was nearly over when I had an absolute whizzer on the same rod as the Chesnut, only this time it felt like it had enough power to take me water skiing! The heavens opened and my calls for help were muted by the battering wing and rain, so I had to don the waders and try to land this angry leviathan on my own. It was one of the most epic battles I have encountered with a carp and on landing it I knew why. As it finally slid over the net cord I caught a glimpse of the huge set of shoulders and width that are the characteristics of the Chinese common. A fish that hadn’t been out all winter and anticipated to be at a very big weight and it certainly didn’t disappoint as it spun the needle round to 53lb 6oz. A new pb and a brace of UK 50lb+ commons, the new Mugga’s certainly didn’t let me down!

The next significant session came early May when I had my annual five day session booked, so on the first day I baited with the intention of creating a five day platter. On day two I had a steady take from a spot I had seen a very decent fish silently slide out to its wrist the previous afternoon whilst baiting up. As I tried to net the creature it decided to swim behind me and in doing so caused me to get my arms in a spaghetti like mess. After untangling myself I had the fish in the net and it was unmistakeably ‘Shoulders’ at just over 50lb! It was the perfect start to the week and as the rest of the days passed I kept trickling in the bait hoping more carp would get snared from the baited area. It was hard going until the last morning when I was rewarded for perseverance and landed a fine looking mirror known as ‘Lumpys Mate’ at 44lb+. This was the start of a bobbin bonanza as I landed a further three fish in two hours. I must thank Lewis at this point as he was an excellent ghilly, photographer and provided great commentary and entertainment as the drama unfolded.

The fish at the pond went through a phase of not really knowing whether they wanted to spawn or not and bites became hard to come by. I gave the infamous Ronnie rig a try for a session to see what the fuss was about and low and behold it nailed the biggest ghostie in the lake at 49lb. Although it was a re-capture it was just extra confirmation that the Covert Dark Mugga hooks were nailing the fish in a variation of rig arrangements!

The lake was subsequently shut for spawning after the session and I was back in July to try carry on the luck I had during the spring. The lake was still really moody and tracking the fish down was proving difficult, so I had to step it up a gear and work a bit harder for a bite. I got to the lake after work and refused to setup anywhere until I heard a definite sign of a carp. It was 11 o’clock in the evening when the sound I had been waiting for happened. I was on it in a flash and aided by the moonlight I set some traps consisting of Ultra Skin and the ever faithful Mugga’s along a tree line with a light scattering of bait. These tactics proved to be spot on as I landed one of Welly’s finest mirrors at just over 40lbs. I had a spring in my step once again whilst Welly was dealing raw hands to a fair amount of anglers.

Feeling back in the groove of things I was back at the lake in August for a couple of nights for some more fun and games. I spotted the odd fish in a set of snags, so I decided to do a night in the swim accessing these and introduce some bait. The following morning the baited areas were untouched, so I had to get on the move elsewhere. Whilst wandering around the lake I found a patch of bubbles prickling the still surface of a snaggy margin with the culprit obviously being a carp. A simple pop up rig with a size 6 Covert Dark Mugga and a stick of crumbed up boilies was cast next to the bubbles and luckily it went in sweet first time. A few hours passed with the carp still present when my ATTs let out a bleep of panic. Fishing locked up I was on the rod and enduring a tug of war to keep the carp from finding sanctuary in the snags. The longer the battle progressed the more apparent it became that it was a decent one and as it rolled close to the net I caught a glimpse of the scar on its flank, meaning I had the queen of the pond swirling around below me and at this point I started to shake furiously. I’ve never had nerves like this playing a fish before and I let out an almighty roar when I engulfed her in the net. I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little emotional when I realised my achievement (obviously whilst I was on my own and nobody could see me!) this for me was the pinnacle of my angling life so far and one I may never beat. A little underweight from what we guessed it to be but a new pb again at 54lb 04oz.

We held a match on Welly this year to raise money for charities in aid of a Steve Mason, a legend of a member who lost his battle with cancer and for little Layla who has had a difficult time of illness in recent years. The draw was done and I came out last! This turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I was left with the little lake. I thought with all the 20 members bombarding the main lake with leads and Spombs the fish might seek sanctuary in the little lake. My partner for the match hadn’t turned up yet, so I primed a few areas for us both to fish and kept things nice and quiet. These tactics paid dividends over the course of the match as I went on to land six carp and my partner Chris landing the biggest of the match. We romped home catching seven out of the eight carp landed throughout the duration of the match.

Feeling rather satisfied I was off to France for a social and bit of a holiday. It was perfect timing and an excellent line up of friends. I spent the week at Etang de Pierre and although it was a beautiful lake, the temperatures were scalding and fishing was slow. I luckily drew a decent swim which accessed a large weedbed, where carp were holding up ready for a night time feast when the temperatures cooled. I carried on with the same rig tactics that I had used on Welly, which consisted of a combi-rig and Ultra Skin snowman rigs with a big size 4 Mugga on to ensure I had the fire power to land these potentially big residents. I winkled out a couple of fish each day to end a finally tally of 14 which was very respectable given the conditions. There were some lovely unique looking hogs amongst these so I was a happy bunny.

I was soon back at Welly for some final punishment of the year. It was Halloween and I was in the little lake where the public were enjoying some pumpkin carving. I had seen some ever so subtle signs of carp feeding in the sanctuary of the pads and decided to stick a night out in there. This was a wise move because I went on to land a 42lb ghosty, which was a fitting capture for the surrounding pumpkins and time of the year. During November the lake was really starting to slow down and it hadn’t done a bite for 13 days, when I was as shocked as anyone when I had a whizzer on a rod where I had actually heard a fish during the night. I landed a fine looking common using a multi rig tied using some of the new Stiff Ultra Skin stiff and a Covert Dark Chod hook. Once again the end tackle didn’t let me down.

After catching the biggest ghosty in the lake, the best common in the lake, the biggest common in the lake and the queen of the pond is something you only dream of on doing on any lake. Doing this on Welly where they are carp of ludicrous size is an obvious bonus. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to use strong reliable components from the Gardner Tackle range and firmly believe they have been a vital factor in a year’s angling I’m unlikely to ever surpass.