It was a very cold start during the early part of 2017 and a lot of the waters local to me were under a lid of ice for the most part of it. I think the vast majority of us were eagerly waiting to get a break in the weather to get out and wet a line.

Finally, the weather improved and on the 4th of February I went out for the day and managed to catch my first of the year, only a low double figure common, but still very welcome all the same.

Over the coming weeks I managed to string a few more sessions together, kept the bait going in and in turn managed several more bites with the best being a 23lb 14oz common.

March finally arrived and I had a new custom mix fishmeal boilie, aptly named ‘SuperFrank’ (SF8) to try. It was time to get back to the syndicate in pursuit of the bigguns, and in particular a big common known as Penny that had been eluding me. As luck would have it, on my first overnight session back I managed to get on the fish thanks to a little tip off from a mate ‘Marco’. He had fished the previous night and seen a fair bit of activity in the corner bay of the main lake, and he was packing his kit up as I arrived with mine. This was an area I’d spent hours and hours of my own time in the winter removing old fallen branches and having a general tidy up, firstly to make it safer to fish and to rid the bottom of unwanted debris, in turn making it suitable to present a baited rig on effectively.

The following morning looked promising with plenty of fish activity starting at first light and in turn resulted in two bites. The first was unfortunately lost to a hook pull sadly (due to some old tackle trapped on the bottom which fortunately came free on the second bite), the second bite rewarded me with a lovely dark mid 20 mirror still in its winter glory. I was absolutely elated to catch on my first night back after a lengthy time away from the lake.

My next 24 hour trip resulted in me chasing the fish around the pond like a man possessed, but with no bites forthcoming. At the very end of March I was rewarded with three carp, a 23lb common a 20lb 4oz mirror and a stonking mirror aptly named ‘Tyson’ at 37lb 14oz. I initially gave out the shout – ‘Snow Fish’, which is its bigger sibling at 42+ (RIP). After a fair bit of banter for my mistaken identity by the lads (mostly Scooba Mark), we got some pics and returned her no worse for wear, the second night was also special because it was my sons first ever night on the bank. Unfortunately no more carp were forthcoming but a few happy memories were forged.

Over the coming months I was managing to get out generally once a week and I started to catch fairly consistently albeit from the same areas, with around another nine carp up to mid-thirties.

On one particular day session I knew we were forecast heavy rain, which meant my external job would be a no go, so I headed to the pond mid-week full of hope and anticipation. I had a gut feeling about the big common and my mate Josh even called me and said I reckon today is the day. Well after a quick look, it was obvious where a lot of the carp were held up, and it was only a matter of 10 minutes after setting a trap on a double bottom bait presentation that the first bite came about which turned out to be an absolutely stunning upper double common. As it transpired, I wasn’t the only one who was rained off and Wayne a fellow member turned up and after a look around asked if he could drop in next door, which I was cool with. He’s a decent guy and I know he’d have been kind enough to let me fish in the neighbouring swim if I’d have asked after finding the carp whereabouts.

By mid-morning the fish were going mental, crashing and rolling over both swims, it was only a matter of time. The left hand rod pulled round but I lifted into nothing, as a big bow wave erupted from the marginal shelf. I’m certain a carp had got away with it and shook the rig or something. Only an hour or so had passed and I was into another as the rain cascaded down in a monsoon fashion. After a spirited fight I landed a nice mid-twenty common. Just as it laid beaten in the net, Wayne had run down full of excitement and said ‘Oh you got one too?’ to which I said ‘Yeah a reasonable common’. He then replied ‘Fair play, I’ve got The Penny in the net’. My heart sank as I dearly wanted that fish. We quickly pictured my carp, and then myself and another member went round and helped with the weighing and photographing of the mighty common. It looked enormous and in stunning condition, which was no surprise as she hadn’t been out for around 11 months from what I recall, and was at a very healthy weight of 44lb and ounces. I was so happy for Wayne, envious – very, jealous no, he deserved it just as much as anyone else. Good for him I thought and what a privilege it was to be part of something so special. I made sure he got some excellent pictures even though the rain nearly ruined my camera. It’s a weird feeling seeing your target fish caught by others especially when you’ve been so damn close on three or more occasions.

That weekend the kids and I went out on a few very short coarse fishing trips, which was great fun. It was great seeing their little faces light up whenever they caught one. Strangely Stanley’s favourite fish was a Gudgeon, and Ferns unquestionably being the small Crucian/Hybrids we caught. To me this is how fishing should start and progress slowly appreciating whatever you catch.

My next trip out was again with my son, a few friends and one of their children. We’d kindly been invited to fish a private lake not far from Wraysbury. Upon arriving at this intimate slice of carp heaven I immediately noticed the deep margins, gin clear clarity and abundance of weed. The lake was said to contain a head of around seventy odd carp and turned out to be a very memorable trip indeed. I ended the two nights with twenty two bites, nineteen Carp and a Tench and two lost fish. Amongst the haul were mirrors to 32lb+ and commons to 28lb+, with many of them being absolute woodcarvings. All caught using a Multi-Chod arrangement with a size 4 Covert Dark Chod hook or a prototype (Rigga BCR) hook which is has just been released. It was also a great test for the GT-HD due to the amount of weed and nature of how I’d be fishing (locked up) and it stood up to all the punishment it was put through and some.

The fish clearly loved the custom fishmeal I was using as I went through around 9 kg’s or more of 15mm’s and a pot of matching corkball pop-ups. I topped up the spot after every bite or when the action slowed and giving it a good hit of bait before resting it for a few hours helped to promote confident/competitive feeding. I was told there were a lot of bream and tench present, so other than a bit of floater fishing early on, I opted for a boilie only approach which clearly worked as the bream left me alone and I only had the one Tinca. Even Chelsea losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup final that weekend, couldn’t bring our spirits down and that’s saying something, believe me!

I returned back to the syndicate full of confidence around a week or two later and the inevitable had happened and my target fish had done its second capture of the year while I was off gallivanting. This time at a record weight of 45lb on the same bank holiday weekend I had my success and once again I congratulated the captor (Jamie P), hoping his luck might rub off on me one day!

The Syndicate closed for spawning shortly after and then re-opened with a draw for swims before the start, allowing members to bait and prepare their drawn swim ready for the open. Sadly for almost all including myself it was an anti- climax with the fishing being very slow despite the build up looking very promising.

My next trip was to Junction 12 in Theale with my son and some friends on a weekend group booking. It was was a great laugh, but only resulted in four bites, two of which came to me. Sadly I only banked one, which was a mid- double. The other two bites fell to ‘Azza’ with both being decent twenties. All in all though it was a fun social on a new lake I’d never stepped foot on before.

Soon after things went proper ‘Pete Tong’ around the local area and many big fish from a number of venues suffered fatalities. Over the next few weeks the syndicate was shut down awaiting tests and conclusive answers. I didn’t have any other tickets, so I found myself doing the odd session over at Tri-Lakes, which naturally brought about a lot of bites and fun with the biggest being low 20’s, but I really wanted to get back to chasing the common to be honest.

Several weeks passed and once the syndicate was given the all clear and good to go by the relevant people, I was back on, doing a night a week right up until late autumn. I managed fifteen nights in total for one tench. This was my hardest and leanest spell ever in all my years of angling and certainly scratching time for sure. The lake was literally doing just a few odd bites here and there and at times I felt I’d fished well too, making the most of any opportunity and what’s more being on fish.

My mate Will managed to bank the big common for the second time as it did its third and final capture of the year and Billy managed to catch the much sort after ‘Enoch’ the one he dearly wanted, so well done those two. Bizarrely both Enoch and Korda came out towards the end of the year to a fairly new member Jeff, who landed both mirrors in fairly close succession. The vast majority of fish were totally uninterested and just didn’t get caught with almost all of the members ramping up a lot of nights without anything to speak off, still that’s fishing!

Winter was soon upon us and I was offered a Bailiff ticket for a few venues close to home, in return for me to keep an eye out whilst walking the dogs in the evening. On my preferred lake, I baited every day for 3 weeks with boilie including a new test bait which is due to be released this year. I raked and prepared spots meticulously with a Gardner castable weed rakes – one I use for weed removal and the other for clearing twigs, leaves and general debris. This winter campaign came good with eleven bites in around six or seven short day sessions, with some spectacular looking commons amongst them and the spots had been well polished judging by the drops I got towards the end. Sadly, just as everything was going to plan and more bites looked inevitable with the mild weather that came in I had some family health issues and unfortunately the rods have been put to rest until all is well again.

In summary, the year started as well as I could have hoped, with some results along the way but due to a plethora of reasons it went a bit south for me but started to come good again in the final weeks of the year. Let’s hope 2018 is a good one!

Tight lines – Ian Lewis