After three thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable years on Wellington Country Park, I have now embarked on a fresh and completely new challenge.
Prior to the expiry of my Welly ticket at the end of May, I had already purchased a new ticket for a local Berkshire syndicate water. It’s a 40 acre gravel pit with the complete set of features; consisting of shallow and deep (25+ feet) areas, islands, an out of bounds area (7 acres), thick weed and a sense of the unknown when it comes to overall stock and the number of proven larger carp. Though the stock is commonly understood to run in to a couple of hundred or more fish. This water has always been on my radar, so it was mentally refreshing to start considering ideas on my approach, while I was running down the final few days at Welly.
Then totally out of the blue, the offer of another syndicate ticket was delivered by the traditional route of The Royal Mail. It was for a venue that had also always been on my carping bucket list and I have always wanted to absorb myself on a lake up in the Cotswolds. With most of my time being spent along the M4 corridor, I was well aware of what the Cotswolds Water Park had to offer. It’s a huge complex, made up of around 140 or so lakes. With so much water, comes that inevitable natural aura and ambience that just makes the air smell ‘carpy’ in the Cotswolds. Well this ticket offered a similar challenge to my other new ticket, being bigger at 45 acres, but with depths more manageable (up to 10ft), areas of dense weed, islands, but with relatively well catalogued stock, understood to be in the region of 110 or so carp, with 5 or 6 carp over the magical 40lb mark.
So now I had a tricky choice… Should I put all my eggs in one basket and defer the Cotswolds ticket, or try and get a feel for both places in parallel. I am not a huge fan of holding on to more than one ticket but I just couldn’t turn down the Cotswolds offer. It’s an incredible lake, completely natural in its surroundings, with a jungle type feel to the paths and pegs. The only noise pollution coming from the inevitable bird life and the daytime antics of the speedboat travelling clockwise around the adjacent strip of water.
In terms of my preparation and adjustment from fishing Welly, it was really all about scaling down my barrow, without compromising on the essentials. It was about considering my rigs, bait and in general, tweaking my kit to withstand the change from a very sparsely weeded lake, to two venues that had weed in large abundance.
One thing I knew I wanted to upgrade, was my spod rod. I also knew I would re-spool from the super reliable Gardner 12lb GT-HD (0.33mm) that was perfect for Welly, to the 18lb GT-HD rope (0.39mm). Purely and simply due to both the weed content but also the visible rocks and boulders in the edge and clearly anything else lying inconspicuously out on the lakebed.
Lightening up my barrow was interesting. With the manicured stone paths at Welly, there was always the temptation of taking that bit extra, just in case. Carrying all sorts of things that were deemed useful, but not essential. I now faced scaling back, without compromise. It’s way harder than you may imagine.
With my Welly ticket now expired, I decided to do an initial 36 hour session on the Berkshire syndicate. After a good mooch around the lake and a lead about here and there, the strong early summer south-westerly and overcast conditions were impossible to ignore. A couple of Tench rolling also caught the eye. On this lake, we are permitted to fish 4 rods. But the elevated plateau I found surrounded by thick weed, was from a narrow swim so I opted to scale back to just 2 rods. It just made sense. After applying a few Spombs of the trusted hemp seed from Blakes, mixed in with Sticky Manilla pellets, I soon had two 6″ rigs tied up ready to go. These were tied using the soon to be released Ultra Sink Tungsten skinned hooklink, to a super sharp Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip hook. This pattern features an almost straight eye (5 degree in-turn), making it perfect in terms of alignment with one of the new Tungsten Covert XL kickers.
What unfolded, was really not expected… Having trickled in smaller particles, it was no surprise when the first bite was from a ‘full of beans’ Tinca just after dark, followed by another at first light. Being so early, I decided to recast the rod seeing as I only had one other in the water. Then you could say ‘in rolled the carp’ and I managed three bites in three hours. Nothing huge, with the biggest weighing in at 24lb, but that was beside the point. I was up and running. Each carp well and truly nailed thanks to the rigs. I am not expecting that kind of madness going forward, but it was nice having a short burst of action as a plan came together to boost my confidence.
Having done those quick few bites close to home, the urge to be in the Cotswolds was in the forefront of my mind because I knew what big fish there were in there. Plus there it had the benefits of not being so deep, and it would most likely be quieter in terms of angling footfall. I lined up a few sessions in June, to really get a feel for the place.
I’m happy to report that so far, it’s totally lived up to expectations. It’s a wonderful lake, but one thing with being out in the wilds, is spraying up with’ Jungle Juice’ to keep the mozzies at bay, unless you have skin like leather. It’s a decent walk to all areas of the lake, so lightening my barrow has paid off hugely. The approach so far is to just learn the areas of the lake. Now that I’m 5 nights in, I know significantly more than I did when I first rocked up.
The lake is pretty weedy, but I am told (by the very few people I have bumped into) it’s not as bad as recent seasons. Of the three swims I’ve been in, all have areas of dense weed but also offer areas to get a viable type of drop. Despite having the recent success on the soon to be released Ultra Sink Tungsten hooklink, I just felt I should get back on the trusted Ronnie Rigs. Crayfish were evident in both new venues, so I have reverted to hand rolling and hardening my own cork ball pop ups. There were very few crayfish in Welly, so making hookbaits hard enough to withstand them was never a consideration.
It also presented the opportunity to try out my new weapon. Having only had the new Application (GTA) spod rod a couple of weeks, I finally had the chance to put it to the test. Partnered with a suitable big spooled reel and the ridiculously smooth and nice casting Kinetic Distance Braid with a Sinking Shock Leader. The whole set up felt incredibly lightweight, balanced and durable. I zipped out 60+ Spombs super accurately at 80 yards, with the cast and retrieval feeling more effortless than with the heavy old spod rod I have been labouring with. Honestly, it’s the same step up as when I upgraded from a standard throwing stick to its carbon equivalent. A game changer.
It was on the early evening coinciding with Glastonbury Saturday, when I was to get my first bite. After safely deploying the rods onto the spots at 2pm, I was able to sit back and relax with a quick meat feast barbecue for one. With food consumed and everything tidied away, I was stood next to my rods when the left-hand bobbin slowly started lifting. With the reel spool now slowly turning, the sound of the line coming out of the clip was the invite I was looking for. From the word go, everything just didn’t feel right. The trusty mono clearly snagged on something 20 or so yards from the rid tip. I wasn’t using back leads, but my mono was pinned to the lakebed. After a few very concerning seconds, the line simply cut. There was nothing else I could do, it was simply bad luck. On the one hand I was chuffed to get a bite, but on the other, hugely disappointed to have lost one.
The following weekend I was back again for another go. This time deciding to go for a similar area but on the opposite side of the lake. What was clearly obvious from the start was the lack of weed directly in front of the swim, as opposed to the peg from the previous weekend. No repeat action from the carp, but I did catch my first Tench. Although it wasn’t the species of choice, it was a bite and wherever there is a Tench or a Bream, I am a strong believer the carp are never that far behind.
With the school summer holidays imminent, it’s a period when I have to take an inevitable break from weekend fishing – when spending plenty of time with the kids is fantastic. But when I return mid to late August, I do feel significantly better equipped mentally and tackle wise to evolve the plan in the Cotswolds. It’s early days, and carp fishing on a special pit like this it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Be lucky, Carl.