After a couple of years fishing on the lovely (and iconic) Yateley Car Park lake, I knew that an opportunity to fish on Dinton Pastures White Swan may be coming my way for the forthcoming season. I really needed to make a decision, as there were still a couple of fish I would have liked to catch before moving on, and perhaps to even completely sign off from Yateley.

However, my last fish from the CP was to be a 32lb mirror that I captured at the very back end of October. In fact I think there were only a couple more fish that came out right up to the end of the season (the lake closes at the back end of March).

I had met some great guys and had a lot of laughs during my couple of years there, typical and reminiscent of the Yateley scene, but a mental picture of those Dinton fish was just etched on my mind. A mesmerising stock, consisting of some 200 of England’s finest carp in a 24 acre lake and this was, for me, the reason I had to go there – if only just to dream of landing one of the many jewels residing in its water.

I was also very well prepared as to what to expect in my first year, and I think for years to come for that matter, as the lake has seen some of the best anglers in the country get well and truly ‘beaten up’…White Swan seems to have its own set of rules when it comes to the fishes habits!

I knew I would probably be largely taking on the challenge by myself, although one of my friends from the CP, Ernie, would be doing some time there in his first year, but he also had a Road Lake ticket, so his time would naturally be split between the two venues. This didn’t really bother me, as I knew my spring and summer fishing would be limited time wise as I had loads of work going on my house, with builders turning it almost upside down. Consequently I treated the time I did have over there more as a learning curve, and I just wanted to absorb as much information as I could whilst trying to do ‘my thing’.

My first trip was on a cold, early April day and I set up a few swims from my good old friend Micky, who I was aware had been fishing there the season previous. The decision to fish in that swim wasn’t based on any findings, as frankly I hadn’t a clue where to go! Instead, I strategically opted for an area pretty much bang in the middle, in one of the long board swims.

I had a good flick around with the marker rod and found that this part of the lake being pretty much barren. I was still able to find a couple of nicer firm areas, some 30 yards out. I chose to fish with a couple of my favourite Specialized hookbaits on Mirage fluorocarbon hinge stiff rigs and a very light scattering of freebies. Well, scattering the bait being the only way to get any bait in as the flying vermin were a nightmare!

With the rods out, it was time to take it all in and have a good catch up with Micky; toasting the new season in with a couple of beers I listened to the wise old owl and took in some much welcomed advice. I like to think I’m of the old skool angling brigade, where I go about my angling in a way that doesn’t interfere with others and therefore, I’m not the sort of person to expect somebody to divulge what has or hasn’t worked for them. Instead, I prefer to ‘earn my spurs’ and be in a position to exchange information rather than extract it.

The one thing I took on board though, was the advice that I should be approaching the lake like a canal and stay as mobile as possible; which is probably the complete opposite approach to my angling over the last few years! I never seem able to travel light, despite trying because I like my luxuries too much, so this was going to be a test!

Luckily, the fish would often give their whereabouts away, but I quickly discovered that the anglers would often give them away as well, as they were sharp and never missed a bubble and would be on them and set up before I could contemplate what to put on the barrow first! That said, there are a lot of fish in there, so you could often see fish at one end and there would be another shoal at the other, but finding the feeding areas would be the real challenge.

Spring came and went for me. Without going into the details about how the bulk of the fish came out (out of respect to the anglers who succeeded) I wasn’t even close to buying a bite!

The fish soon turned their attention to having a spawn fest, so the lake had its customary shut down for a month, which suited me as my family and I were away for one of the weeks and the builders were due to start the work on our house.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the start on the lake and typically it fished really well for the forthcoming few weeks. Ernie struck gold, landing a stocky followed a few weeks later with a really nice 28lb mirror, and another friend, Steve, had an absolute stunner of a linear that he will struggle to find a better fish to put in his photo album!

As my mates had caught a couple, I foolishly thought that the lake was normal after all, and that had I been there I may have been in with a shout; but I wasn’t so it would be what I did next that mattered. As it happened, I was aware of a couple of fish coming out here and there, but was no closer to establishing where, what or how! So I needed to just carry on doing my thing.

By now Ernie, my partner in crime, had decided to concentrate on the Road Lake at Longfield and fair play to him, as he had a few fish, topping off his summer ‘dabble’ with the much sought after 3 Scales!

Before I knew it, I found myself dropping into different swims, fishing in different ways, and basically behaving a bit desperate for a bite.

At the beginning of the season, the goal I had set myself for the first year was to get a bite! I didn’t want to put any un-due pressure on myself as I just wanted to enjoy the time I had available, but this method I had adopted went against everything I normally practised which was further compounded when I ‘guested’ my good friend Gary Allaway. Now Gary had been very successful during the old days on White Swan, when the stock was much thinner on the ground than it is now (though arguably it’s still just as hard !). He had always said ‘just fish it mate’ (to which he meant, fish it your way) and during that overnighter he had a nice plump dark common of 26lb that he caught in the early hours…  Another lesson to learn from!

I was fishing a swim called ‘Fatty Pauls’ quite regularly at that point, as I’d seen a few fish show there. They were actually showing at differing distances, and looking back I’m not sure they were actually ‘having it’, but instead were probably pre-occupied with feeding in the neighbouring bay with its burgeoning natural food larders.

During one of those sessions, towards the back end of the summer, I found myself being drawn to the swim again. It was during this session that I got chatting to a new angler, a guy called Adam, who happened to be successful a few weeks previous out of there, banking a nice mid twenty. I instantly had respect for him, as he was another angler who worked his socks off, walking the lake for hours, quite often at the crack of dawn after a long drive from Cambridge.

Whilst sitting in my swim, we watched a few fish show in the swim bang opposite that’s called ‘The Social’. Adam had to get himself into there and I of course had no issue with that. With literally no disturbance, I saw him position his baits onto the areas the fish were showing and sure enough, he had his reward with another stunner in the shape of a 27lb linear early that following morning.

Despite not getting that bite I felt closer, and I also was starting to feel as if I was beginning to understand the lake a little bit better. I’d started to get a few tench as well as a couple of Bream and my level of enthusiasm to be there was something I hadn’t experienced since my early Longfield days. In fact I was beginning to think about little else which, to be honest, is my kind of water!

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long, as an area I had worked in ‘Fatty Pauls’ finally produced its first fish for me, in the form of a mid double stocky that fell to my right hand rod that was cast pretty much the middle of the lake, just behind a firmly established weed bed.

The midnight run from the aforementioned fish didn’t really take me by surprise, as I said earlier, I felt closer than I ever had been to getting that first bite, but I was really pleased all the same (and a tiny bit relieved!).

With my new found mega-keen enthusiasm, and with another night in front of me I made sure that I was up at first light, which is the best time to watch the fish do there aerial displays.

In fact, it also happens to be the best time of the day full stop, as no public are walking around the lake and the nature around Dinton is purely something to behold, that you can’t help but become engrossed in what appears an entirely different place at that time of day.

With a brew in hand and whilst looking out across the top part of the lake, waiting for the sun to crawl above the distant marginal trees, I caught sight of a black back subtly break the surface in front of a swim called Leroy’s. No one was up that end of the lake, so with my eyes focused on the area, it wasn’t long before the sightings became more apparent. However, they were now covering an area across 5 swims, all on a line, no more than 20 yards out. As the morning wore on, the shows became less frequent, but subtle bubbling in the zone could still be seen some two hours later.

Without knowing the area I decided to wait for the activity to end before moving to the middle boards swim and checking the area with a 2oz lead to ensure the weed wasn’t preventing good clean drops. I found two nice softer silt areas exactly where the activity had been. Perfect.

Two stiff 25lb Mirage ‘D’ rigs, fished helicopter style on 6ft of 35lb Camflex leadcore leaders were positioned on the two spots, each with a balanced Specialized Hookbaits wafter and baited with a handful of Krill chops and whole freebies that I was buying from John Llewelyn.

Everything went to plan, and I was feeling more confident than I had ever been up to that point, so I whiled away some time with the customary bbq that I enjoyed solo as I continued to be alone at the end of the lake.

With the ATTs receiver positioned strategically right next to my ear I settled in for the night to be awoken by it playing its beautiful tune in the night, whilst everything was still dark and the new day hadn’t begun. This time I knew I was connected to something a bit bigger and thankfully the fish played ball and went into the net without too much fuss. As I peered in, I could see it was a typical special Dinton heavily plated mirror and weighed a very respectable 32lb 1oz. I was over the moon, and Adam came around and did his best for me with the camera, despite me leaving my SLR at home! I’m an absolute nightmare when it comes to cameras…

After that I had a few more mini sessions, with one of them being up that end of the lake again, after eventually finding some feeding fish after two complete round trips of the lake walking with my barrow (yes, it killed me!). The fish showed repeatedly at times right on me, yet my indicators remained stubbornly motionless. In fact I had never seen a show like it, and disappointingly had to leave the next morning. Subsequently, I found out that one of the other members, James, had a cracking 33lb common out of the swim the following evening and, unbeknown to me, he was working that swim, so it was fully deserved.

I did manage to snare one more Dinton carp, from the other end this time. Using exactly the same tactics as before, the carp came after moving onto fish without spooking them. It was a beautiful 22lb mirror with the most amazing scale pattern that had signalled his intent to grace my waiting landing net at 3 in the morning. With the mist rolling off the lake, it was beginning to have an autumnal feel and subsequently the bites the lake was giving were getting a little slower for some of the more successful boys.

I sneaked an overnighter at my other syndicate during the back end of October, where a certain well known big fish angler had a 53lb from that morning. It looked fantastic, with the water clarity being so clear that I could make out the bars from the bank – which I don’t recall being able to before.

Using a method that had always been kind to me utilising a chod rig, tied up with the new Gardner 25lb Green Stiff-Link and razor sharp size 5 BCR Rigga hooks, I landed an old regular mirror at 32lb, its best weight in a while and over the other side of the lake to where the big girl had been landed that morning. In fact I had never caught a fish from that particular swim, so I was feeling more than a tad fortunate!

With work and family commitments building up, my time at Dinton was becoming limited and I knew I needed to put 100% into it over winter if I was to get any result as White Swan really isn’t the place to nip in and out of over the colder months, so that was to be it for me in 2018.

Was I happy making the move to Dinton? You bet I was! After all, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your hard work come to fruition.

Next season presents a fresh challenge, but I hope the lessons learnt from my first year will bode me well and, one thing will never change and that is the enjoyment factor. All the best, Spring is only around the corner!