2019 has been a year of two very different halves. The first half saw the inevitable running down of the final 6 months of a wonderful three years angling on the awesome Wellington Country Park (aka Welly).

I have written a comprehensive account of my time on this special venue that will be published in the New Year, but in those last few months I managed to snare a few more carp, including my ‘most wanted’ in the shape of the ‘Linear’ at a weight irrelevant 46lb 8oz. That was an incredible feeling, holding that one up for the camera on the end of a very cold north easterly. Then in my final session, with just two hours to go until the expiry of my ticket I found myself in one of my favourite swims at the lake, the infamous ‘Hole in the Bush’. I caught a pristine up and coming chestnut looking mirror, with the typical love heart tail that went 38lb. Pushing the barrow back to the van after that final session was both incredibly emotional as I thought of the endless memories I take with me, that will last forever.

When I pushed my barrow back to the van that day, I actually had a week off work. So, I literally drove from Welly straight to one of my new venues, a lake on the famous Wasing Estate, called ‘Rowneys’. It’s a 40 acre gravel pit with the complete set of features, consisting of shallow and deep (25+ feet) water areas, islands, an extensive out of bounds area (7 acres), thick weed and a sense of the unknown when it comes to fish stock.

Randomly, on my first night on the venue I managed a hat-trick of carp in a mentally hectic three-hour spell at first light. Clearly a group of fish rolled in and took a liking to the large grained, garlic infused hemp seed plateau that was on offer.

This was when my confidence in then on-test ‘Ultra Sink’ Tungsten hooklink spiked literally overnight. I’ve always been exceedingly particular about skinned hooklink materials; but luckily this stuff has proven to be superb! It clearly sinks, but it also knots superbly and straightens well under pressure without necessarily using a kettle – if you do use a kettle it straightens perfectly, and the heat sets the memory. The outer skin doesn’t split as you bed down loop knots (always lubricate knots with go-faster saliva before pulling down knots). If you critically balance your rigs and hook baits too, you will find it kicks out and resets like a stiff boom section should. All three of the fish I had in that mental three hours, were proper nailed.

Although I was really happy at moving on to Wasing, when a ticket landed out of the blue for a very special lake up in the Cotswolds, that venue was to become my focal point from that point until mid-Autumn.

I have never been a huge fan of fishing through the summer, but I chose this period to get my bearings on this wonderful, mature and rustic looking 35-acre pit. It’s a decent walk to all areas of the lake and every swim offers something different. My approach in these four or so months, was to just learn the areas of the lake. With 15 or so nights now under my belt, I know significantly more than I did when I first rocked up. Sadly, I only have only one lost carp (on Glastonbury Saturday) to really show for my efforts. Well, apart from the 17 tench that have all disrupted my best laid plans at the most unwanted times, typically at last or first light. Although it’s pleasing at times to nail a tinker, I have found them to be a bit of a pest. Seven of them coming in one 24 hour period, was far from ideal. But I was catching fish, right! Ha-ha.

With the shape and contours of the Cotswolds pit mentally noted, and work demands for me at Dyson becoming almost untenable at times, I chose to retreat to a syndicate lake that is very close to home for the autumn/early winter. It suited my work patterns and with four of the bigger residents now turning the dial very close to, or just past the magical 40lb barrier were certainly tempting me to have a bit of a mission on there. It just felt right.

It’s a lake I know well, having had the ticket since 2013. But it’s also a lake that has proven harder to read and predict than British politics. It’s small, at around 4 acres, but it’s deep, weedy. Being small it reacts adversely to angling pressure, and rapidly switches off as soon as the carp come under any a significant pressure. However, knowing somewhere has its advantages, but coupling this knowledge with good tackle and also moving to a new bait, brought a run of results which surpassed my expectations.

I managed 17 bites, landing 15 including two of the biggest four residents from the lake. A fish known as ‘Delilah’ at 39lb 14oz and ‘Smithy’ at a new lake record 43lb 4oz. Smithy is a special fish to me, as I named it after losing a very close friend, Paul Smith, to cancer 6 years ago. I knew instantly when it went over the net cord, which one it was. It was impeccably behaved for the camera. What a fish; she’s a proper A-team original and it was an unforgettable morning for me.

Leaving Sticky Baits, who have been incredibly kind and supportive to me was not a decision I took lightly. But getting to know Gavin from Blake’s during my final season on Welly, was to start to shape my thoughts in an irresistible direction for future bait. The conversation about bait wasn’t forced on me, it was a natural and easy flowing series of short conversations. Listening to his wisdom and knowledge, was almost infectious. You just know its quality! Using sensibly applied quantities of the popular HNV-Pro in 12mm, I have observed fish literally competing to get on it. On two separate occasions, I had fish rolling on my bait that was reminiscent of a shoal of fish in a feeding frenzy.

Both Delilah and Smithy, fell to a simple 9” Gardner Ultra Sink hooklink with a size 4 Dark Mugga hook, set up German style. The German has become a firm favourite for presenting a single Blake’s HNV-Pro wafter – and when it’s combined with a tiny Micro Mesh PVA bag of blended/dusted boilie crumb you have a fantastic trap that rarely tangles and reacts like lightening. An important little tweak, that I like to incorporate to the finished rig, is positioning a Covert Tungsten Link-Sinker (low bore) about 2” up from the hook on the hooklink. This addition just gives me that little extra confidence, as it both helps to pin down the hooklink, but then the weight (and the magic of gravity) helps the hook react even faster when it’s picked up by an unsuspecting carp.

As we roll into winter, I am going to bounce between all my venues through the long, dark, wet and cold nights of winter. There is always a bite to be had at the right venue, at the right time. I’ll have my hot water bottle and turbo hot chocolates (hot chocolate, with a drop of whiskey) at the ready!

Be Lucky, Carl