2018 has been a really memorable year, both on and away from the lake. My girlfriend ran her first marathon, running London in the spring and raising a superb £6000 for the charity Children with Cancer. I changed jobs, joining Dyson in the Autumn. Also with two young boys, Ellis (7) and Zach (3), juggling the usual life stuff around these two bigger time consuming events made both my preparation and fishing time more challenging. However, I do it for the challenge. It’s just as our children get older, I’ve have had to adapt my approach to try and maintain a healthy work/lifestyle balance.
What really does help with fishing at Wellington Country Park, is the openness of the warm and friendly syndicate members. Being away from the water, you are able to obtain a really reliable trickle of information. Being in my third and final season, that trickle of information adds up to a lot when teamed up with my own self taught archive of information.
Like many of us with a young family, winter provides that opportunity to spend time at home to rebuild the contents of our ‘brownie point’ bank and to also replenish and tidy the essentials for the fishing year ahead. That said, in recent years I have really started to enjoy ‘manning up’ and getting out on a few winter sessions; which offer a very different challenge to the more predictable spring and autumn periods. Whatever time of the year Wellington Country Park is a truly magical place to spend some time. But in winter, it offers all the same qualities but stripped back with the peace and tranquility that an absence of the public guarantees – it’s sheer bliss.
My year got under way with a very mild end of January night in the slightly deeper main arm of the lake. Although mild, the wind was fierce and I fancied being in the more sheltered deeper area. The night passed with no joy, but knowing I was coming back the following weekend I opted to spend a few hours walking around before setting off home.
The 4th February arrived and I had 36-hours to try and capitalize on the lakes recent slightly improved form, but typically the conditions had switched almost completely when compared to just the previous weekend when it had been awesome. However, when I have a window at home, I now go regardless as there is always a chance and the prizes are second to none. The initial surprise was rolling into an empty car park at 3pm on the Saturday afternoon! Instantly, I knew that would literally open up the whole lake and the plan in my head unfolded whilst I was loading up the barrow from the mountain of necessary and unnecessary equipment that was strewn in the van. With less than an hour until sunset, I made an immediate push with the barrow to one end of the lake. With the low sun already dropping out of sight, I settled quickly in to the ‘3 Trees’ swim which offered some protection from the bitterly cold north easterly breeze, also it offered a wonderful panoramic view of the lake. It really was cold, the wind chill almost making it unbearable to stand for any time in the wind. With the brolly up and two rods deployed with one to go, half way down the lake a rolling fish was impossible to ignore. So, it was inevitable that the brolly would be collapsed down, rods packed away and barrow loaded once again. With burning cold hands I was soon on the move in the dark. Mobility is always going to be pivotal to my angling; if I see or hear something I move.
Last April, the ‘Hole in the bush swim’ (which is positioned centrally) was very kind to me and consequently I know this swim well. Even though it was pitch black and I was setting up under torch light, things couldn’t have gone any better. All three leads landed with enough of a thump to feel confident that my single 12mm Pink Signature Squid hook baits were presented cleanly. It was soon time to have some warm dinner and settle down for the night. Although confident, the air outside temperature was dropping fast and the water temperature barely lifted the mercury to 3 degrees! The reality of the conditions soon kicked in. However, I woke at 5AM to a liner on the left-hand rod, but it was the right-hand bobbin that lifted a couple of inches three quarters of an hour later, then it dropped right back that saw me surface from my sleeping bag and scurry towards the rods. As soon as the bobbin lifted one more inch, I reeled down into what was evidently a decent fish. A short, wintery battle was soon won and a shine of the torch down into the landing net unveiling one of the most sought after gems, in the shape of the ‘Pretty Mirror’ at 49lb!
With the fish safely secured in one of the parks supplied retainer, a few texts were exchanged with Wayne the Bailiff, and I was soon holding up the jewel in all its winter glory. Wow, simply lovely and more than I ever expected! If that wasn’t enough, the same rod that I’d recast to the same area (with a lighter lead to cause less disruption) was away again at 10am. WTF! Another typical short heavy wintery battle had my nerves jangling and I was soon staring down into the landing net at a new PB common, in the epic shape of ‘Clint’s Common’ at 47lb! What a morning; a morning that left me literally speechless. It had felt good when I set up the night before, but I didn’t see this astonishing series of captures coming for one millisecond. Whilst on the phone to Clint (who the common was named after when he had caught it a few years previous) my middle rod bobbin lifted tight and I was away again. I still had Clint’s Common in the retainer waiting for Charlie to turn up to assist with photos, and now I also had a bristling 25lb common to photograph too.
At Welly, we are supplied retainers and unhooking mats and being as I was on the venue on my own, for some odd reason I took two retainers from the shed. Why I don’t know? The only logic being that if I was lucky enough to catch a fish, with nobody around to assist, I might need a second one. Then by crazy fate, both were now in the water, side by side cradling carp! The rest of the day went by with no more action, but at 4am in the morning I was suddenly awoken to a full-on run. This fish was clearly not up for a photo session and was more awake than the others. Eventually I finally slipped the net under a 35lb ghostie. I took some quick self takes which didn’t turn out great, but didn’t spoil what I can only describe as my winter red letter day. I’ve had many memorable sessions in my time, but due to the time of the year, terrible weather conditions and at a venue that has inevitably become much trickier over the years, this one certainly ranks right up there with the most memorable of them all. To cap it off, both fish managed front covers of both Carp-Talk and Anglers Mail in the following week. Madness.
I had a dabble during the bleaker snowy March, but to no avail. We will all recall the bitterly cold period and the beasts from the east that extended the winter well in to April. Not many bites were had by anyone until the water temperature started to lift towards something that represented signs of Spring. After a few very wet and uneventful sessions, at the end of April I found myself back in my favourite ‘Hole In the Bush’ swim. After several attempts to get accurate placement at range, I sat back content that final cast could be the one. The rain again relentless, but this time the bobbin lifted and I was away.
From the off, I was clearly in to another of Welly’s larger residents. What a battle, which climaxed with me opting not to even risk losing the fish during the few seconds it takes to securely put on waders. A quick flick off of the shoes and I was in up to my waist in my trousers and the huge common was safely over the net cord. Being daylight, I was able to star down at what was identified as ‘The Chinese Common’ at a new PB of 51lb 4oz.
I then struggled to get back in the bush on my next visit in May, but noticed a couple of fish roll in the south westerly bay so jumped into the ‘3 trees’ swim. After settling the rods and applying a trickle of bait, it wasn’t until the following day I was rewarded with a brace of daylight 30lb mirrors. During the hot summer season we all enjoyed, I opted to spend time with the family, in the garden, enjoying summer holidays, eating copious BBQ’s etc. It was a wonderful summer.
As was the case with many lakes across the country, the management at Wellington Country Park took the sensible precautionary step to close the lake for a few weeks to give the irreplaceable gems a chance to graze in the lower oxygenated water, without the added risk of being caught and the inevitable stress this causes. It was a very sensible step, which was embraced by all of the syndicate members who are naturally extremely focused on the ongoing preservation and protection of the amazing stock of carp that swim in the ‘Lake of Dreams’. Big old warriors succumb to age over time and the number of carp now swimming in the 35 acre pond now sits in the region of 85. Of which, a mind blowing 50% are over 40lb.
I took this opportunity during the closure to have my first ever session in the Cotswolds, opting for 24 hours on Horseshoe. After a short drive up, I was soon chatting to the onsite bailiff and a couple of anglers who made me aware of a few sightings on the bank furthest from the car parks. With only 30 minutes to decide what to do, my barrow was loaded and I was pushing to said area in the absolutely draining 30+ degree heat. It was sweltering. After a short lead about, a drop off to 12 foot at 10 wraps seemed as good a spot as any. With only a consistent splattering of blanket weed to navigate around, I tweaked my Welly rig by replacing the more brittle Gardner Stiff-Link with the slightly more forgiving Gardner Trick-Link. A quick slide up of the bead and I had three Ronnies ready to go. With the heat still blazing down, I spent the next hour spombing a mix of varied sized sticky Manilla pellet and crumbed boilie and waited for the sun to cool down. Shortly before dark, I flicked all three rods to the spot, fanning them out about a rod length apart. As the sun started to rise, all hell broke loose. In a crazy two hour spell I had two cracking upper doubles and also lost one. A short but relaxing first experience of the Cotswolds and I will most definitely be going back.
With the barrow loaded I rolled in behind the hibernating Gavin Carter, who was sound asleep pitched up in the Little Lake (where he had been having some success). I then did a quick couple of laps to see if anything would oblige and show itself to give me some clue as to where to start. Location is of paramount importance so it goes without saying that having a good look is always the first step in terms of trying to catch a few of the lakes awesome carp. The consistent, refreshing south westerly wind was an instant draw. In fact, it was no surprise when I heard that the wonderful A Team member ‘The Big Sutton’ had been tripped up by Steve Chapman during the night from the windward end of the lake. Instantly it felt right and I felt that I should be seriously considering this section. As the morning slowly trundled along to the more sensible hours of the day I found myself sat with LewLew, up the windward end almost opposite Steve, when the bobbin on his middle rod lifted and next minute I was up and doing some video footage of him landing another one of the lake’s A-team; the impressive ‘Willow’ that we weighed in at 50lb 8oz! Wonderful angling and it’s always a real treat to witness and help care for these special carp on their visits to the bank. I just knew then, I needed to go and move my barrow from the ‘fairly consistent’ Little Lake, out into the Main Lake to fish for leviathans.
With Lew off shortly, it was a no brainer to drop in behind him into a swim known as ‘Grassy’. This swim provides a fantastic panoramic view of the south westerly end and offers plenty of open water to shoot at. Having left my house so early that morning, I goofed up and discovered I’d left my rig board at home. Having invested 3 or so hours during the week on rigs, this was a bit of a kick in the teeth, so my first task was to set about tying up a few more Ronnie’s with the usual size 4 Mugga hooks but this time I married them to the new Gardner Stiff-Link as a super rigid boom section. I very quickly applied 4-5kg of Sticky Baits boilies of various sizes and stages of breakdown (some washed out, some not) using a Spomb. Even with the added complication of an increasingly strong south westerly cross wind whipping up, giving it an autumn feel, I was really pleased with the accuracy and relatively minimal disturbance.
As we moved through Saturday, I was very surprised that I remained the only new arrival that day! With Lew and Gavatar now departed, it was now only Steve, new member Mike Bridges and I on for the night. With all three Ronnie’s deployed, I was very confident of a bite. During the night, the wind really did pick up! In fact it was strong enough for me to hold onto my brolly, just in case. At first light, two single beeps were promptly followed by a one toner. It wasn’t long until I slipped a very welcome 34lb common over the net cord. As the morning daylight hours progressed, the usual procession of Sunday arrivals steadily popped in to say hello, and going into the evening there were now 11 anglers on. With the sun making a more prominent appearance during Sunday, it wasn’t a huge surprise when an hour after dark one of my rods was away again. The battle that then occurred was simply unbelievable. The power of some of these Welly carp, is like nothing I have had the pleasure of enduring before. The faith I have in the Gardner GT-HD line in these circumstances, gives me every confidence to control elements of these fights. Anyone that has battled a furious fighting-fit monster carp will know what I mean. Although a repeat capture for me, the epic A-Team member named ‘The Chinese Common’ spun my scales round to 48lb! As always, other members were happy to help with the pictures and to help with handling her on the bank. Thank you to Mike and Kris for the assistance.
With two nights now under my belt and two fish to boot, I just had to do another night. I reeled in at 11am and decided to tweak things around. I planned to move my right hand rod, to now become my left hand rod. This meant I now had all three rods in open water at range, but not close enough to compromise each other. Before shooting off to the local shop for some much needed provisions, I quickly applied another 10 or so Spombs of free offerings per rod. After a short period away from the lake, all three Ronnie’s were now accurately recast over the baited spots and the lines sunk and everything set. ‘The Grassy’ is a great social spot to exchange some chatter and banter with fellow syndicate members.
With work the following morning in mind, I hit the pillow at 9pm and slept solidly until I was rudely awoken by what became my third carp of the session; all 41lb of it in the shape of ‘Single Scale’. If I had thought the fight from the Chinese was epic, then this was the same again plus some! Oh my word. After 15 or so minutes, she was (finally) safely retained and I was assembling the camera kit on the bank so everything was ready before I woke ‘KKK’ from his deep sleep. Kris very kindly duly obliged with photos of this lovely looking mirror. With only 3 hours of my session remaining, I decided not to recast this rod, choosing to not disturb the other perfectly set traps already lying in wait. Whether that decision had any part to play in what then unraveled, I will never know. But 30 minutes later, I was doing self takes with a 29lb common very swiftly followed by a 22lb common on my third and final rod. It was now 5:30am and I had no rods in the water. I was totally over the moon and the carp had literally ‘smashed me up’.
Clearly with my recent success in ‘Grassy’, I was keen to jump back in the swim at my next opportunity. After a few texts, I knew the swim was empty so I made my way over. A short while after dark, I was assisting the consistent LewLew with photos of a pristine mirror shortly after casting into the edge in Bramble Bay. It was then a couple of hours later, I was calling him to return the favour. I couldn’t believe it. Only a few hours after midnight, a few hours in to my mother’s birthday. I was in my waders and cradling the impressive mirror in the shape of ‘The Birthday Fish’ at 50lb 8oz. I then followed that with ‘Melted Tail’ at 34lb and another upper 20lb common. Wow, grassy was being incredibly kind. 8 fish in 4 nights.
September didn’t see me on the bank very often, but I did manage a couple more nights and one more bite until my inaugural 5 nighter started the day after my birthday at the very end of September. With my August success still vivid, I was keen to make a start in ‘Grassy’ if I see nothing else to go at. This is where I parked my barrow (which I was surprised to find free), but was still keen to do a few laps before just settling up just based on past performance. With no solid sightings, my decision was to start in ‘Grassy’ as I was very confident of my methods and distances. It wasn’t long and I was holding up a pristine, dark and heavily tail scaled 40lb mirror. I was absolutely over the moon and it was the perfect way of settling in to the remainder of the session. A 36lb common followed early the next morning, but then a period of silence started making me restless. Knowing this swim like I had become custom too in recent months, indicated the fish were not present in numbers. I had seen a few, very subtle rolls in the very south westerly corner, near ‘The Cold Swim’. With two nights remaining, I had to risk it and move and having had fish in ‘Grassy’ until up to 11am I had to wait. Literally seconds past 11am and my barrow was pushed towards the far westerly corner. I then see another very subtle roll, but a bit further up towards ‘3 trees’. Opting for 3 trees, I dropped in my barrow and shot off to the shop for a few provisions to see me comfortably through. Oh, and a shower to recharge my increasing enthusiasm.
After a mad dash to the shop and shower, I was flicking out lighter 1.5oz Gardner dung coated leads attached to the ever reliable 9″ Gardner Stiff-Link Ronnies. In my last 12 months on Welly, the only thing I tweak in my end set up is the weight of lead. I only use the size needed to reach the spot, because I am that confident the sharpness of the size 4 Dark Mugga hook point will do the rest.
Only two hours after re-casting (which was spent ruing if I had made the right decision), my middle rod was away. After a short ploddy fight, I was holding up another banging 42lb chestnut mirror in the mid afternoon autumn sunshine. As I was playing it, I noticed two more subtle rolls up to my right (towards the Cold Swim). So it was no surprise, when at first light my left had rod pulled up and it was another 40lb mirror. A hat-trick of 40lb mirrors and a brace of commons, I was absolutely made up. 5 nights, 5 carp!
Mid October and it was time to start my new job at Dyson. That kept me exceptionally busy, but I did manage a few more nights to no avail which was common to most who have been trying. It’s now time to sit back and weigh up my options for 2019. Although I love the park, it’s time to move on. I have my eye on two waters; one with unfinished business for a rather large un-caught common and another, offering a much bigger challenge.
Be lucky in 2019!