Earlier this year, around March time, I kindly got an invite from the Crown Estate Fishery Team at Windsor Great Park who run the carp syndicate on the two lakes in the Park.
The Lake they wanted me to fish also just so happened to be the same lake I’ve dreamt about angling on since I was a teenager. A dream which all stemmed from when I first visited Virginia Water with my uncle, aunt and cousin to walk their dog in the early 90’s; this was etched in my memory ever since.
I remember walking the South bank and looking across the huge body of water, imagining what special fish it might hold, but also thinking ‘where on earth would you even begin to start?’ as there’s a number of bays and areas that split away from the main body of water. Consequently, there is an absolute abundance of features just from what the eye can see. It’s tree lined, snaggy, clear water, weedy and there are reed beds, lilies, shallows, deep areas and even bridges spanning some of the finger bays. Carp Heaven… What’s more, it’s centuries old making it steeped in history and local folklore, it’s literally a place that captures the imagination, a proper full blooded adventure for any angler. The Lake in question is none other than the Windsor Great Park’s Virginia Water, which spans a whopping 140 acres and is around a 4.5 mile walk around the perimeter of the bank.
In all honesty, up until recent years I don’t think I’d have had the guts to fish it, through fear of not having enough bank time or experience to confidently tackle the monumental variation of angling scenarios and situations that you must learn to overcome to succeed. I truly believe that all the different lakes I’ve fished over the years have helped me to approach each different piece of the big puzzle that is Virginia Waters. So I’m slowly piecing the puzzle together, but still nearly always finish my sessions with more questions than answers.
The stock itself is relatively unknown, with no actual recorded stocking documentation, only a mention in a book in which none other than Donald Leney himself mentioned stocking the largest Lake in Surrey!
Well the syndicate has been running now for about 2 1/2 years and in that time a number of amazing looking carp up to upper 30’s have been caught. It would appear that the fish are very nomadic and get caught from all over, I’m sure they have their favourite places of interest giving particular weather conditions times of the year – although I’m very much still in the searching and learning stage.
The stock itself based on my findings is quite varied, containing a few different strains, mostly commons with the mirrors being the most special prizes.
It can’t be coincidence that a number of people I’ve spoken to have seen big carp – in particular an enormous Common (even by modern day standards). Due to the size and nature of the lake there are a number of fish that have almost certainly never been caught, and the mystery surrounding this place is unreal. It’s like no other I’ve angled on before.
So I made a tentative start at the beginning of June. A week prior I had a recce trip with my kids, wandering around on foot to get a handle on the place and an initial idea of tackle and tactics. When I started my first session it coincided with doing a magazine feature for Total Carp, which went swimmingly well and saw me go on to bank 4 carp and a number of bream during my stay.
During that first session in June, the weather started overcast but warm with a slight southerly wind tricking into a bay known as the American Arm. I found some carp in the shallow water amongst the lily pads and low lying weed, and it was to prove to be a good choice because as the day wore on more carp arrived, with a few good’uns being amongst them.
I gingerly waded one rod out lowering the rig it in amongst some weed. The other two rigs were carefully flicked out with light leads and Ronnie rigs and each rod was initially baited with just a handful of 15mm boilies.
It was a good choice of swim, resulting in 4 bites and 3 carp landed, I stayed the night but the Bream moved in and the carp ebbed away back into the main lake. I went onto fish a further two more swims about half a mile apart during my stay resulting in more Bream and then (finally) a lovely chunky Common to round off the trip.
Considering the weed, snags and pads a major consideration was the strength of tackle being used, and as always I placed my faith into GTHD in both the 18lb (0.39mm) and 15lb (0.35mm) for any distance work. I fished mostly the helicopter rig combined with either a Ronnie rig or more recently D-Rigs tied with the very strong Rigga BCR hooks. I’ve also had a couple on the Hinged stiff, but these have all been spot dependant.
By combining these excellent effective rigs with a Helicopter lead arrangement I think that it has helped me maintain excellent presentation on all sorts of spots, simply by pushing the top bead up or down a few inches.
My baiting strategy in the main has been boilies, lots of them! In this case I have been applying Active Bait Solutions ‘Hydra-K’, which is a very attractive fishmeal.
Well during my first session the guys who run the fishery, namely Andy and Rob were amazingly helpful and friendly. In turn I was so taken by the place that I immediately decided to join the syndicate! (They twisted my arm).
Three months on and I’m still chipping away at the place. I’ve now managed 24 carp with a few losses, which isn’t a bad return when you think I do one night and the odd day session each week.
However it’s been hard graft suffering no sleep on night sessions due to the wildlife and insects keeping you awake during the dark hours and of course a monumental amount of walking and priming areas as and when I can fit it in before or after work.
Amongst the 24 carp there’s been 3 stand out carp, with the biggest being a lovely dark gnarly old common and 2 truly magnificent looking mirrors, a proper old dark one and a stunning linear. I’m yet to surpass the 30lb barrier, but I’m hoping if I continue to put in the leg work and keep the bait going in, staying focused and driven it’ll come good in the end.
Fingers crossed and tight lines ‘till next time.