Time for a change and a few new experiences were my goals for 2018, so I had a new water that was sure to set me a few challenges, a couple of trips over to France and a pledge to try a few different day tickets and guest sessions along the way.

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year, fishing a guest session on a local syndicate in the first week of January. The key focus was to have a good winter social with a few mates and enjoy getting back on the bank after Xmas. I knew the venue had good winter form, but I had only walked the lake once in the past, even though it’s less than a mile from my house. We decided to set up along a long spit, with me getting the end swim that gave me a nice stretch of open water and a large bay to my left. Tapping into the local knowledge from the lads that had fished the lake for the last couple of years I found a nice spot at 40 yards and dropped a couple of rods onto the area. A few Spombs of particle over the top and everything was sorted just before dark on the Friday night.

During the night and through Saturday morning I received a good few liners and I even saw a few fish showing 20 or 30 yards behind my spots. The rest of the lads went off stalking for the day and Dan managed a nice little stockie, so things were looking good for the night ahead.

Nothing happened during the night, but just before first light I had my first fish from the lake, a nice dark common of 27lb. With the light levels still a bit low, we decided to keep it in a retainer and have a brew. Just as I lifted the retainer out to do some pictures the recast rod was away again, resulting in a 19lb mirror and a winter brace, result! After we finished the photos, I topped the spot up with a few more spods of bait and within an hour the same rod was away again. As I bundled that one into the net the other rod ticked off and it looked like another brace was on the cards. Both fish went into the retainers and I recast both rods and topped up with some more bait. As I was spodding some more bait out one of the rods ripped off and I soon had another one in the net. An absolutely mental morning and we managed some great shots with us all holding up a fish for the cameras.

The action continued through the day with me getting steady action every hour, with the highlight being a beautiful dark scaly linear of 42lb that I later found out was a new lake record. I finished the day with 9 fish, all from a crazy 12 hour spell. It was such a memorable session for me and it was made all the better sharing it with a great bunch of mates.

After a month of flitting around on day tickets, catching the odd one here and there I decided to make a start on my new venture, a large open 65 acre lake that gets mega busy, but also holds some huge fish, so well worth the frustrations that it would throw up. I struggled for a month, but with a trip to France due during the first week in April, I didn’t really get into it. The trip to France proved to be quite eventful, with a massive electrical storm and torrential rain and wind for the first few nights.

Most of the time was spent holding onto the bivvy to stop it getting destroyed. After the storm passed and the water level got back to normal we managed a few fish between us. I ended the trip with four fish, the best being a cracking looking 36lb mirror and a nice dark 46lb mirror.

Once back at home I was keen to get back to the new lake and get things going. The biggest challenge was getting a swim, so most trips were spent dropping in for a night in whatever was left, which was a massive change from the nice quiet syndicate I was used to. I managed to find a swim one Friday evening that actually had a few fish showing and it looked like it could be my first chance. I only had the night and through to lunchtime on the Saturday and it was by far the most active I had seen the fish, with fish crashing out all through the night and still showing in the morning. I was fishing two rods close together on a nice clear spot next to a large weed bed and I had a savage liner on my left hand rod that had me running down to the rods. As I stood willing it to move again, the right had bobbin slowly pulled up and pinged out the clip and as it did a large fished boiled on the surface above my spot. I picked up the rod and began to slowly coax the fish back trying to steer it away from the weed and not shake off what was clearly a very large fish. It all went well and I soon had it in the shallow margin, wallowing on the surface prompting me to jump in and slide it into the net. What a start! My first fish from the venue and it was a new pb of 52lb. I was totally blown away! I remember the size 4 hook looking tiny in the fish’s mouth, but it was truly nailed and never coming out.

The rest of the year was a bit of a let down on the new lake. My only other action was unfortunately losing one to a cut off. With a lot of the fishing being at range, I needed to learn a new skill, so I booked some casting lessons with Terry Edmonds and what an eye opener that was. I can thoroughly recommend getting some proper coaching. Not only did my distance improve, I also learned technique meaning better accuracy and less chance of things going wrong – thanks Terry!

I had another trip to France in September, travelling down to Teillatts with a coach load of reprobates that had previous for causing utter carnage. True to form it was great trip, with loads of banter and a few pb’s smashed along the way. I managed a fish early on the first day, a nice golden 50lb common. After such a great start I struggled for the rest of the week managing one more early on the last morning.

The rest of the year has been spent starring at the water, praying for some action, failing miserably, but enjoying every minute of my precious time by the lake.