At the start of the year I was at a bit of a loss as of where to fish, and with no tickets acquired for the coming season, I decided to spend some time fishing day ticket venue Hollybush Lakes on the Hampshire/Surrey border. I really enjoyed my fishing on the venue, catching some lovely old carp and I also learnt of a very secluded syndicate that was steeped in history which was also controlled by the owner of the day ticket venue. As luck would have it I got very friendly with the owner, over my many trips to Hollybush, and when a couple of spaces became available later that summer he kindly offered myself and a friend a ticket for the venue. To say we “bit his hand off” would have been an understatement, in fact we paid our ticket fee before even looking at the lake we were that keen!

We had both done plenty of homework on the venue and seen pictures of some incredible old leney mirrors that were as old as the hills and highly desirable! Not only did it contain a very special stock of carp but it was like a carp angler’s dream with the lake comprising of a maze of islands, channels, bay, lillys, snags, it really did have it all and was one of those “if Carlsberg did carp lakes”! The first walk around was really exciting as it was a hot day and we managed to spot several decent fish including one real good one down one of the back channels. Lots of exploring was done and it really was difficult to navigate being very overgrown but we covered every inch that day and planned a return the following week with some tackle.

The first few trips didn’t really yield too much, but we had a lot to learn and the more time we spent there the more we started to notice. I think the first few trips we probably spent more time with the rods out of the water than actually fishing. I decided that the best approach would be to start baiting spots in the edge all the way around the lake on a regular basis, hoping the fish would start to bump into them wherever they travelled. I hoped if I could start getting them cleaned regularly the fish would also start getting used to accepting my bait amongst the plethora of naturals I had to compete with. I was baiting with a mixture of 6mm and 8mm trout pellets and chopped and whole Caviar and Cranberry boilies in a variety of sizes. The whole lot was also covered in Aminol+ shaken up and then covered in Krill powder to further boost attraction and appeal to the fish.

I kept baiting the spots regularly and after a few weeks it was noticeable that some of the spots were getting turned over regularly as the light silt covered gravel was now glowing on the bottom. One spot in particular looked recently turned over and as I had seen a fish in the same channel 20 yards further down I decided to drop one rod on it for the night and see what happened. The spot was very close, so I set up way back and kept as quiet as I could and at 5am the following morning my ATT burst into life as a very angry carp tried to bolt down the channel towards a snag. I applied steady pressure and managed to turn the fish and before long it was coughing water as it slid over the spreader block. To say I was pleased would be an understatement and I immediately called my friend Mike who had joined with me to tell him the news. I also called the owner of the lake to see if he could assist with capturing this special moment for me, which he kindly did and we weighed and photographed the stunning common in the morning sunlight.

Over the course of the next few weeks I kept the bait going in on various spots around the lake and unfortunately was “done” on several occasions when fish had managed to throw my 4oz inlines. I decided to make a tactical change and use a lead clip with a dirty great big 8oz Grappler Lead, which was coupled with a short 4 inch Trickster Heavy braided rig and a super sharp size 6 Covert Dark Mugga. The hookbait was an 18mm Caviar and Cranberry bottom bait fished back to back chop.

On the following trip everything was put into practice and the tweaked set up was lowered by hand onto one of my little one rod spots. It really was exciting as I could almost see the rig on the spot from my bedchair in the daylight. But before it was light enough to see, a few beeps followed by a very fast take signalled the heavier lead had done the job. The fish ran me ragged for the next five minutes as it tried to find sanctuary in every obstacle in the vicinity but eventually I got the upper hand and a long mirror was slid over the net cord. I quickly weighed the fish at 28lb and slipped it into a retainer before making a few calls for some assistance with the photographs. I was proper buzzing as it was one of the really old ones I had really hoped to catch. Before long Alan Stagg from Gardner turned up and we managed to get some great stills and video of the incredible old carp before slipping her back. I was really pleased with how things were going and it seemed the fish were regularly visiting several of my spots and providing I kept the bait going in hopefully wouldn’t change.

The following week the same routine was carried out and I was tucked away in the bushes once more with one 9 foot stalking rod and a hand placed rig a few feet out on my pre-baited spot. The fish seemed to be visiting this particular area of the lake around first light and this week was no different. I was watching two sets of bubblers moving over the bait when all of a sudden the rod hooped around as another angry carp had slipped up. The fight was again very much dominated by the fish but everything held good and another old looking mirror lay beaten in the bottom of my net. The fish was weighed at 23lb 4oz and I slipped it into a retainer to await Alan’s assistance once more on his way to work. As always I did a lap of the lake before leaving adding plenty of bait in the usual haunts, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to return for a few weeks as I was off to Portugal with my Mrs and my friend who was also on the syndicate and his Mrs.

We had a great time away in the sunshine and enjoyed some superb food and drink and we even managed a small amount of angling from one of the local marinas. The topic over many beverages was getting back to the lake once back in England as we had both more than whetted our appetite. My friend Mike had managed to catch his first fish after suffering a couple of losses and it just so happened that he had also caught the much sought after Scattered Linear I had also caught as my second fish from the lake. I managed to squeeze in a quick night on our return but suffered a blank and felt this was due to the fact the bait hadn’t been going in for the last few weeks. I baited heavy on leaving and again during the week before returning after work on the Thursday night. The normal routine was carried out like clockwork and I was tucked up in the bushes out of sight of any wary carp before nightfall. The night passed uneventfully and I was starting to worry as the normal 5-6am bite time came and went. Around 7am I peered over the edge from behind the bush and could clearly see two good fish feeding over the spot, so I hastily retreated back to the safety of my brolly where I couldn’t be seen.

Around five minutes later the silence was shattered as my ATT was once again singing its merry tune and another fish powered out of the channel to my left. The fight was not as aggressive this time around, everything went really smoothly and I soon had a plump jet black common in the net. Alan once again kindly obliged with the photos and the fish was a proper character with a twisty tail and weighed 23lb 14oz. I felt I was on a roll at the lake and things could only get better, however things were about to take a turn for the worst.

Unfortunately I suffer with Crohns disease and not long after catching the common I suffered a really bad series of flare ups that have seen me in hospital and not out on the bank since! Health takes priority though and there will be plenty of time to outwit a few more of those special inhabitants next year when I start back on there in the early spring. I can’t see myself getting out much before then as currently its -7 outside and many of my local lakes have a lid on them. I’m still resting up after being unwell, so my time has been well spent tying rigs, hand rolling hookbaits and generally have a good sort out before my next assault!