Coming off the back of a very successful 2018, I was brimming with confidence and I had high expectations for the forthcoming year. I had the evening of New Year’s Day free, so I opted for a quick night at the Quarry, which was both work and fishing at the time. There was nothing major to report other than a stockie on dusk, and it was a very cold night with a harsh frost and consequently it past quietly.

I had a plan to go hard on the Bayeswater Syndicate, from the 1st of March, to try and end unfinished business. So until this time, I dotted around on a few club lakes for day session with mates, catching up and drinking endless amounts of tea.

January 19th was a Saturday, and I was on the bank with an old friend Mr Fisher. Fisher by name, but not too sure about Fisher by nature! It was a quiet day, with nothing to go on other than lots of refreshments and laughs. Mr Fisher gave in at around 3PM as he had decided that a warm home with beer and football was a better option than a cold lake and I thought I would give it until 5PM and then follow suit. Eventually, I loaded everything onto the barrow apart from two rods and a net. It’s always the million-dollar question, which one to wind in first? I decided on the left and as I was putting the hook in the eye of the rod to break it down the hanger on the right rod hit the blank and surprisingly, I was in.

A short scrap soon saw me slipping the net under a nice long January common! By now it was dark, so I set the camera gear up ready for a self-take and I got the fish out and weighed it. 27lb 12oz, I was pleased with that. A couple of snaps and the fish was returned to the cold water. My unhooking mat had instantly frozen, so it was definitely on the ‘fresh’ side. Everything got thrown on the barrow and trundled to the van, and I was soon homeward bound.

February was a fairly quiet month for me. I was exceptionally busy with improvement work at the Quarry for Mr Spencer, so fishing time was minimal, but most of my spare time was spent prepping for my spring campaign.

At just about every lake I have fished I always struggle to catch the easier ones! Why this is, I have no idea. It’s very frustrating at times but I’m always grateful for the bites that do come my way. March was soon upon me and I was trundling down the track to the Bayeswater syndicate. It’s always been a funny one as Sir Gary Bayes runs tickets from 1st April, so right at prime time you get an injection of eager beavers, and this year was to be no different.

My first bite came on Friday 29th March on a Ronnie rig fished with tigers positioned against the snags. The problem was there were plenty of eyes there watching whats going on and when you’re catching there everyone wants to be your ‘friend’. Either way it was a repeat (surprise surprise), being a 29lb 2oz two tone mirror.

I didn’t have to wait long for my next bite, in fact it was the next trip, which resulted in a heavily plated mirror 29lb 8oz, and yes you guested it, it was another repeat.

My next trip was Friday 12th April, with the next day being my birthday, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a birthday carp! Who was I to disappoint, my favourite area by the snags gave me an afternoon bite that resulted in the lovely Sparkles at 34lb 12 ounces and yet another repeat capture. You can’t pick and choose what picks your hook bait up I guess. Sunday the 14th see me have another repeat! This time Gracie at 37lb 12oz. All I knew was that I had to keep rolling the dice as my target, the Coconut was calling.

carp fishing ringing the changes ultra sink
carp fishing ringing the changes hook stone

It was Thursday 18th and I had done the previous night, that had passed quietly. Then at around 7am it sounded like someone had thrown a cow in off the snags, I missed the fish but see the aftermath, then as I admired the disturbance again, bosh, a big deep lightly scaled mirror said “morning”. I had a great view of it and was certain it was the mighty ‘Buggies’. Ten minutes went by and my right rod went into meltdown, and a powerful fish snagged me up. I was straight in the boat and when I got to the snag and could see a near 50lber wallowing in snag with my hook buried in its lip! My line had gone through the snag and the fish was the other side of the snag, and quickly I decided there was one thing for it, the un-graceful swoop. Things are never easy, my net broke at the spreader block and I had to manipulate Buggies into my net with no pole, thankfully it went well. I then flopped back in the boat with a sigh of relief and was proper charged by this one.

When it rains it pours, and I soon discovered that there wasn’t an oar in the boat, but I had the boat padlock in the boat and my rod and line… I threaded my line through the eyes of my rod and tied the padlock on, then cast it to the bank and wound myself and Buggies to safety. I then double bagged buggies in two nets in the edge of the swim. The funny thing was that I now had the biggest mirror in the pond in my net, and not one person on the lake had seen a thing!

I headed off to the van to get my camera and gave everyone there the courtesy nod as to what was sulking in my net. As you can imagine I was not short of volunteers to assist, which was great. There was around 7 of us there for photos, weighing and general taking the piss! Great times.

Buggies was looking big and turned the scales to 48lb 12 ounces. I was super-charged with this capture as I hadn’t expected to catch it. I got some epic photos and two ice cold buckets of lake water for my efforts. I then ventured up the local breakfast bar and treated everyone on the lake to a breakfast roll.

A few days later I repeated Sparkles again, and simply ‘flopped it back’ to minimise stress. By this time, we were getting close to spawning and the lake was ridiculously busy. On some nights I could not even get a swim, and the Coconut was caught before spawning, by Jon Mac at 54 plus. This spring it was not meant to be mine, but I could hardly complain with Buggies under my belt.

The evening before I caught Buggies I had a phone call from SR regarding a ticket on his syndicate, so it kind of happened all at once. Obviously, I couldn’t say no to the new ticket. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get offered a chance to fish there because the locals don’t like ‘full timers’, ‘time bandits’ or anyone who pays the money and actually wants to fish.

In the end I decided to let Bayeswater be through the summer, as it’s like the Sahara Desert or as some call it ‘treeless’, so I was going to fish the new ticket through the hotter months.

Buggies 48lb 12oz water throw
Buggies 48lb 12oz

My first trip to the new ticket was a success! I’d seen some pictures of a guy called Craig Stones holding some of the lakes’ residents. Craig is a great guy who is very ‘old school’ (which I really respect) and his photos where my motivation for wanting to angle there. First trip first bite, a fish called The Warrior, a gnarly old mirror that weighed at 31lb 12oz was mine and the ball was rolling.

After that I did a lot of overnighters at this lake, as it was mid-summer and was much cooler under a Mozi-mesh compared to being tucked up with the ball and chain at home; well that’s my excuse anyway. I fished this lake for 3 months with two weeks in that spell being shut for the great British spunk off. It was a really enjoyable and I managed 50 bites, landing 45, which was good going as the venue was very weedy.

When I had viewed Craig’s pictures there was one fish that stood out for me; a fish called The Nash Fish. For me, that was the one.

Nash Fish 39lb 11oz

On 31st July I was doing an overnighter and a mutual friend of Craig’s and mine was also at the lake, The Polar Bear. My rods hadn’t been fishing for long before the right rod pulled up tight, it was very weedy, so the bites were poor takes. I jumped in the boat and wound myself out to the weeded culprit. After wrestling with what seemed like ten tonnes of weed, I had a net full of weed and hopefully a fish too.

As I was pulling the weed away and then my hand stroked a long smooth flank of a carp, the more weed I took off the more it revealed the mighty Nash Fish, a shout of excitement and the Polar Bear was soon standing in my swim to greet me with the boat and the fish – another Ronnie Rig victim. On this occasion weight was utterly irrelevant, she was well spawned out at 39lb 11oz, but that made no difference to my buzz. The Polar Bear manned the camera and did me proud. Genuinely, I didn’t sleep a wink that night, although I had no more bites, but was high on life!

September was soon upon us and Bayeswater was calling… I did the first weekend of September and got royally mugged off by the fish, they were showing me the proverbial middle-fin. Leaving Sunday morning beaten, but I decided that I would go back that afternoon for an overnighter, the real boss was out with her friends, so my pass was ‘go go go’!

Having arrived at 4PM I was pleasantly surprised to see only one person on. I strolled round to the bay; with the sun high I climbed the one and only climbing tree at Treeless and nearly fell out! There must have been 80 percent of the stock in a 20 square meter area. Without looking like I had seen what I had, I trotted back to the van to get the weaponry. Soon in pole position I had a rod in the mix and before the second rod was out the sleeve the first one was away… Yet another repeat, Gracie at just under 38lb. The fish had now disappeared, so I opted to call it a day and leave victorious.

There are probably around 35 fish from the original stocking in Bayes that are worth catching in my eyes, and Gary has added around 15 stockies, which are growing really well. From a selfish point of view, I didn’t want them in there as it is more bites to go through to get to the one.

38lb Mirror
Black Leaf 39lb 2oz

On the 13th September there were fish in numbers in the back of the bay, which is no-one’s water really. With this in mind I opted to go view from the little island, where I saw a carp called Black Leaf, which is one of the older fish I hadn’t had. I did a naughty and tried stalking from the island, but they were cagey, after a hour of trying I let them do their own thing. I put rods out for the night and sat cooking my rib-eye steak with a cool bottle of Perroni.

My right rod suddenly indicted a flurry of bleeps and I was soon connected to a slow-moving heavy weight. After a short battle, where I bullied the carp away from the snags, I was looking down at Black Leaf in my net! What were the chances hey. After a quick trip to the van to get my camera, I called upon the outstanding photographic skills of Mr Maximillian Hendry and Mr Randal. This carp looked insane and weighed in at 39lb 2oz, which was a top weight for her, and I was so happy.

The next two nights passed quietly, and I was just packing down when the rod that I had left out for 72 hours was away! After another deep battle I netted a fish called Tolly’s; which was another one I had not had. I quickly staked the net out and headed to the van for my camera, on return Tolly’s had become Houdini and jumped out my net! Luckily, it still had my rig in its mouth and she was still connected to my main line. In my absence it had stripped line from the reel whilst the rod was laying in the reeds! In the end I had to play it in and net it again.

When your luck is in, your lucks in and the size 2 Continental Mugga sunk in its lip helped save the day. Then, after all the dramas we took a few snaps and a weigh-in of 37lb 4oz. It was not a bad weekend after all, capturing two I haven’t had before and both upper thirties. Over the next month I managed another 8 bites, all repeats so I just unhooked them and returned them.

Unfortunately, The Coconut Common has zero form for a winter bite, with the latest in the year it has been caught being November 1st and earliest it has been caught being 1st march. With this in mind, after the 1st November and sightings being very limited, I decided that I’d have to return back to Bayeswater for another crack at The Coconut in the spring of 2020.

With plans to go back to the new ticket for the winter, which has depths of 5 to 7 feet all over, I hoped that it would mean that it would be good for some decent winter fishing. I was soon having a change of heart because after a couple of nights I could see that the weed was still strong and fresh, and in my experience weedy waters in winter have zero form. So I had to resort to a Plan B, and headed back to the ‘House of Commons’ in search of some winter 30’s.

Last week was my first visit there and managed two bites, which I covered in my recent piece on the Gardner web page. I sit here now writing this piece with just 6 weeks until Christmas. I fished last night at the House of Commons and my attention was drawn to showing fish at 1AM down the other end of the lake, and an early morning move put me on the fish, but bite time passed with no action. Then at around 11AM, with all my gear bar my rods on the wheel barrow and I was almost ready for home, my right rod signalled a bite and after a twenty minute scrap I had a nice common in my net.

I wound my other rod in and ventured to the van to get my camera. With that all set up and the sling zeroed, I got the fish out and it was just shy of 34lb’s! Awesome. After a few shots it was sent on its way.

I’ve opted to do my yearly round up now, because I’m hoping I will be able to do a decent piece on winter carping over the Christmas period. I’ve managed over 70 fish so far this year, which has made for another great years angling. The quest for the Coconut Common will continue in the spring. Many thanks to Gardner tackle, Lewis Read, and Alan ‘Norma’ Stagg, for their ongoing support and hard work; it never goes unnoticed by me and I’m always humbled to be part of such a great firm. Also many thanks to DT bait developments for their backing and support too.

Be lucky,

Common 33lb 14oz