Thursday evening heralded the end of ‘time out’ on the 3 day 4 day off rule at Welly and as always (as a habitual carp addict) I was eager to get home and pop to the lake. Too eager it would seem, as I rushed in grabbed the gear and was back in the van in no time at all, after enduring a very hot and sweaty day sat at the desk in work.

As I drove through Eversley the Car Play on the old wagon read out a rather tart message from the long suffering wife that went something like ‘you could have waited 5 minutes!’. How was I to know the lovely Mrs R was nearly home?! I like to be in a happy place when I’m off frolicking down the lake and this was certainly not the case tonight. Not yet anyway…

Anyway, a quick chat with ’er in doors when I pulled up in the car park, cleared the air and I refocused on trying to find a work night carp or two to fish for somewhere in the 35 acres pit. I had a quick check in the arm and off Boat House point like normal, but with no visual cues I was soon pushing the barrow anti-clockwise checking out Animal Farm and then The Wides and Three Trees. There were silver fish plinking here and there but no carpy movements to get the old juices flowing.

It had been another scorching day and the wind was gently pushing up the Road Bank, one of my favourite areas, and as I slowly walked past the Stump Swim a movement caught my eye and I suddenly noticed a wide swath of bubbles fizzing and popping on the surface as a fish or two flanked in the gassy sediment close in, lifting and disturbing the lake bed as the fish foraged for some invertebrates in the black filth. This was an opportunity that needed to be approached with care as the fish were so close in and in an area that receives the late evening sun, which was due to disappear behind the trees imminently – and this normally sees the fish drift out the corner and out into the main lake.

A plan needed to be hatched pretty quickly as time was ticking away and it was already pushing 9:30pm. Instead of setting up on them I hedged my bets that they would follow their normal routine and elected to set up further up the bank, in the Reeds Gap (or as it is known to some the ‘Is it – isn’t it swim’) and set traps on the edge of the plateaux and a hook bait out in the zone I had caught Willow from a few weeks ago.

The attack would be the ultra reliable scattering of boilies and three bait stringers as this would allow minimal casting and negligible disturbance. Everything else was the ‘usual’, 15lb GT-HD with size 4 Mugga Ronnies on long Ultra Skin hooklinks in conjunction lead clips arrangements primed with the ever faithful 12mm pink Caviar and Cranberry pop up cast and feathered so the rig hit the water laid out and with minimal force. With that done the bed was erected and I stuffed yesterdays Tuna Fish sandwich down my throat and crashed down swiping mozzies away and lay there sweating. B’jesus it was too hot!

Beep beep beep the first of a long series of liners had my neck craning and a slosh just to my left had me sat up again. They were here…

Well that’s how the night continued – liners galore and mozzies buzzing in keeping me awake – at least until 3am when the middle rod pulled up tight and popped out the line clip. With line ticking really slowly off a tight clutch I picked up the rod and paddled out on top the wide gravel/clay shelf so I could meet the fish rather than play it up onto really shallow water. It didn’t feel like a beast but bites from the main lake have been scarce for me lately so this was lovely, simply lovely.

After a bit of too’ing and fro’ing a lively mirror was soon engulfed in the net and I set about sorting out weighing and doing a few self takes. A ‘baby’ at 27lb it was a clean looking fish with a small mouth and some odd red speckling on one flank (I spayed loads of Intensive Care on it just in case it was a bacterial issue) and I sorted her out as quickly as I could and got her back as the water was still warm and I didn’t want to risk her well-being. As quickly as I could I re-did the rod and got back into bed, wide awake again.

Inwardly, at this time I probably already knew that the chances of being in work later that morning would be pretty bloody slim, I was already knackered and a day’s annual leave was called for – especially after I woke to another liner at 4am and saw the area in front of me covered by carp activity! There must have been 20 fish bubbling and occasionally popping their heads out over the middle rod so that was decision made. Strangely the morning activity subsided by 7 and I didn’t have the second bite I craved. A few of the shows had been from proverbial ‘cows’ and I felt certain that I would get another chance the next night if the fish followed a similar routine.

The next morning I trickled in a kilo of boilies; 7 for the fish and one for the angry white boilie stealing birds and went home for a cold shower and to grab some provisions. There were fish bumbling about in open water and under the bush so I was happy to leave them to it and get the rods in on dusk as the lack of lines might help the fish build a little confidence.

The fish didn’t stick to their routine – instead they changed, but only slightly, if that makes sense. They were still up my end, but this time the bulk hung about in the Reeds corner (nearer me if anything) and this seeded a little doubt in my mind as to what they would do in the late evening and whether they would come past.

The traps were re-set on spots I had seen fish show and a further scattering of small baits were stick’d out into the zone and I settled back on the bed and lay there being kept awake by liners again.

At midnight the middle rod pulled up tight and we were away again – right in the time frame I expected. This fish felt a bit livelier and weighty and fought like a ‘mofo’ as it didn’t want to come up the shelf to where I stood shaking, playing a rare ‘second night in the same swim’ fish. A moment to be savoured.

As soon as I got the fish in the net I rang Neil the Solicitor as I knew he was skulking about looking for fish and when he didn’t answer (pushing his barrow) I gave Blake’s Baits head man Gavin ‘NTC’ Neal a buzz asking for assistance. He was soon in the swim and helpful as ever and then Neil turned up too so the fish was dealt with and returned with minimal fuss. At 40lb 8ounces it was a lovely mirror that bore signs of spawning – but otherwise was in great condition.

Unsurprisingly, Neil slipped into Pole Position (as near as anyone could get) and I was soon in the land of nod dreaming of big fat carp and oblivious to anything else as I was well and truly shattered by now.

I woke, utterly baked in my sleeping bag by the morning sun at 8:30 and headed off home happy to get out the sun and crash on my sofa for an hour before heading out to celebrate my friend Smudge’s 40th in Winchester (bloomin’ nipper) with Mrs R. A Saturday night away from the pond! Whatever next?

Well, with the lake closed now for a few weeks I have a feeling I know where next – and with the lakes legendary big’un just coming out I’m hoping the banks will be quiet so I can start learning and building a foundation knowledge for the start of a new adventure magical venue.

How exciting! [waving hands excitedly icon] – I can’t wait…