The summer has been a dizzying mixture of the wonderfully sublime and the downright painful.

Life away from the lakes has been wondrous, with a great family holiday; our first with our beloved Chocolate Labrador Kevin in tow, and was day after day of ‘bimbling’ about on Cornish beaches and frolicking on body boards in the surf with my amazing daughter Sophie.

Unfortunately, life at the venues I have fished has become quite distressing after a series of mortalities amongst the A-Team at Welly has left me feeling unsettled in my angling for the first time in a LONG time. The big’un died at my second lake too – and lakes all around the area suffered largely unexplained mortalities.

The penultimate head do’er was finding the Turtle dead! The King of the Pond’s lifeless corpse floating in the margin of the little lake and I called over Wayne and Chris P to get it out. To say we (the collective syndicate) were devastated by this body blow would be an understatement of megalithic proportions! I sat with the lovely Dr Dave and we drank a few glasses of wine and bemoaned the loss that evening. Honestly I could have cried!

I had personally helped to identify another 4 big irreplaceable – amazing old fish. Each one truly unique and the ultimate expression of carp that have pushed the boundaries of what was believed possible in UK carp scene (and we still have little idea on the 6th one).

It still seems that there was no single factor, like a pathogen or any identifiable water quality issue that we could identify and address. A combination of depleted naturals and a massive boom in the Roach stock seems to have just tipped the balance for these special old carp and there is no remedy (except perhaps the obviously netting out the excess silvers). It seems that despite my impassioned protestations that something needed to be done, pestering poor Ross with ideas and suggestions, sometimes you need to let nature take its course.

A cessation of the issues seems to have arrived with the longer nights and cooling water temperatures. The lake seems to have settled and the fish have got on the bait just as they would normally leading up to the September equinox, feeding with gusto so most of the syndicate have fed heavily and with bigger baits to get as much through to the carp as possible. Those that are left are prospering and so the last few weeks have been up lifting in terms of seeing the lake recover and seeing the fish looking in A1 condition.

There have been a few notable captures – top of the list Clint aka Stumpy who timed his annual 5 day’er to perfection having been working an area over the last month or so. All his determination and baiting ended up with him reaping the almost unbelievable reward of 7 fish that included 3 50+ fish and another that has done it in the past too. To see that ‘Scruffy Bob’ was alive and well was a game changer and the doubts I had about staying on next year evaporated as the pics appeared on FaceAche. Just wow! Other key old characters, like Greg with The Thick Wristed and Special Pete with the Lin from Bramble Bay were reassuring, as every capture being a great sign that the lake is recovering and prospering.

In terms of my own fishing front I have ticked the odd regular bite off through the summer – being consistent has been the best I could do really as the fish were very flighty. Still, that’s what keeps fishing interesting, the challenge and the fact that the angling scenario is always in a state of flux.

The last weekend feels like a bit of a turning point. I had been in and out of the ‘Hole in The Bush’ swim, doing the odd night over the last few weeks with no real result (whereas Neil ‘the Conveyancer’ had been hauling out of there with amazing regularity!) so when I arrived at a very quiet lake late Saturday morning I was determined to have a really good look round. After sharing a lovely cold Pear Cider with Gav and then peering into every nook and cranny in every bay, and looking across the lake till my eyes bled, I gave up and decided that the fish must be out long in the main body water and somewhat begrudgingly set the tackle up in The Bush with a view to spombing in a few kilos of Caviar and Cranberry just over 100 yards out over a huge mussel bed, and then sticking one rod on the long chuck up against the island.

About an hour later and the bait had been deposited quite nicely and I had 2 hook baits sat amongst the freebies waiting for a few great big lovely Welly carp to come browsing through the area during the early hours, when suddenly a tremendous chunk flopped out by the island Willow and I quickly reassessed my plan. It would be 2 rods on the island and one on the bait and I hurriedly reeled a rod in to fling as long and hard as I could on my old TE’s and 15lb GTHD straight through. Luckily, I got one tight to the muddy slope in a few casts and one right under the willow after another couple so I was content to let the hook baits soak.

The fish in Welly have been caught numerous times on Ronnies, and whilst the lion share of my angling is still done with this amazing hook arrangement I felt that the firmer lake bed close to the island would allow wafters on Clone rigs and that is what I elected to use cutting down the hooklink from 12 inches to just 8. With 3 ½ ounce Torpedo Distance leads I could get these out there, and the Trick-Link or Invisi-Link would be very unlikely to tangle as long as I watched it fly out…

A cold clear night with occasional showers passed by and I was just tidying stuff away when I had a lovely, stereotypical island margin bite; one bleep up and then a drop back. I pounced on the rod quickly winding down until the tackle made direct contact with a heavy weight on the end, which then came in fairly trouble free until it reached the bottom of the shelf and then it battled like a lunatic for the next 20 minutes.

Finally, a nice sized mirror gurgled and nodded as I gently led it over the net cord I was chuffed and weighed her at exactly 40lb on the button. It was a new one too (that I hadn’t caught before) and the hook was firmly embedded in the scissors as usual on this rig/hook combo. I sent a picture of the fish in the net to TLSW (the long suffering wife’) and she knew what I was angling for. Another night was begrudgingly agreed and I messaged Martin in the office to say I would be late in on a half day as I was eager to stay till bite time at 10:30 AM. A degree of flexibility that I appreciate…

After being granted permission (thank you thank you thank you) I popped home for an hour or two and did a couple of duties/chores, then came back with some fresh bait and got the rods sorted again. The rods flew out perfectly (practice makes perfect when it comes to flinging leads) I tried to get the bait in but the putrid evil flying rats were relentless and after about 50 boilies and Spud telling me to stop I gave up trying!

I’m glad I gave up, as I was just scoffing my dinner when the same rod pulled tight and popped out the clip! The clutches were pretty well locked up and the line was just bowstring tight and lifting in the water as I picked up the rod and felt that slow ponderous heavy feel of a big fish at range. Another heavy fight ensued with Spud dipping the rods and helping with the netting of another new one – this time in the form of a cracking 38lb common!

I quickly checked the rig and hurriedly put on a new wafter hook bait and whipped it out there – first time on the longer ‘muddy slope’ this time (mini fist pump moment) and then we weighed and photographed the fish. The light was fading but the fish still looked awesome and I was happy I’d begged pleaded and finally been allowed a second night by Mrs Read!

With the New moon phase coming up tomorrow I suspect another big fish window is just opening, and hopefully another couple of Welly monsters that have been so elusive over the last few months will slip up and make a bankside appearance for some lucky syndicate member. Fingers crossed for anyone that’s out on the bank during this prime period whatever lake you’re angling on. I’ll be counting down the hours until I get out on the bank again and hopefully I’ll search out another chance – and if I can’t find ‘em a bit of luck will always be welcome!