Finally, the last day at work came and the Christmas break was upon me. I had a few days before the festivities were to begin, and as all the shopping and wrapping was done and dusted, I felt that a few nights on the bank was in order, to start the holidays.
The following morning, I got a few things sorted at home and then loaded the van ready to head over to the lake. I wanted to get there by 12 at the latest, as it would be getting dark by 3.30 and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to look around before setting up.
After putting the last few bits in the van my phone went, and I took a quick look before heading off. It was a message from Nigel asking me to pop over before I went. I had about 10 minutes to spare (you can only get into the lakes over a level crossing which opens on the hour) so I quickly locked the van and went to knock on his door. He had just had a delivery from Blake’s of some of his new pineapple pop-ups that they have been working on and he wanted me to take a look. They smelt fantastic and a were a good visual hook bait so I grabbed one of the pots and said I would take them and give them a go, then I had to race off to make the crossing in time.
On arriving at the lake, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were only three other anglers were fishing, so I had plenty of choice. I headed off to do a slow lap of the lake, hoping to get a clue as to where the carp were hiding. I stopped to speak to one of the anglers fishing and discovered nothing had been caught for a while. All the anglers who were there were fishing around the main bar that cuts across the Pit 3 in front of The Double Boards, so I headed down the other end of the lake and away from everyone else to take a look.
I walked into a swim called “The Catwalk” and straight away it looked good. Not that I saw any major signs of fish, but the water was coloured, and it was on the back of the wind. It just felt right, like that was where I needed to be. I carried on round, just in case there was anything else to go on but saw nothing, so I returned to my van to grab my gear out and I pushed my barrow round the lake to my chosen swim. All the paths were thick with mud and the rain had started once again, so it was a race to get to the swim and put my brolly up before everything got wet, including me. Once I was there the brolly went up first. I would normally prefer to get the rods sorted first but there is nothing worse than everything being soaked at the start of your winter session.
The swim was like a bog, thick mud was everywhere, but I pushed on, getting everything sorted, all the while keeping an eye on the water for any signs.
After getting the first rod ready and tying on a new hook onto my hinged rig it was baited with one of the new pineapple pop-ups and I decided to put this one out to an area I had seen a few bubblers on my last visit a few weeks before, as when you don’t see anything to go on recent sightings are always a good starting point. I cast it out but didn’t quite get the drop I was after so brought it back in for another try. While reeling it in I caught a movement on the far margin out of the corner of my eye which I thought was a fish and looked to see a small disturbance still visible on the surface there.
I stood and watched for a few minutes to see if a bird surfaced, but nothing materialized so I quickly took the rod in my hand and cast into the zone that I had seen the disturbance. I got a good drop so that was the middle rod sorted. Then I returned to sorting out the other two rods, tying new hooks on hinged rigs and put one round to the area I had initially cast to and the third rod went to the left to the back end of a gravel bar, dropping onto firm silt that I have caught from before. With all the rods settled I sat down to make myself a most welcome cup of tea.
It wasn’t long before I thought I was away on the middle rod, but alas it was a very good liner which only boosted my confidence, as at least I knew there were fish here and I had made the right swim choice. I brought the rod in and decided to put it a little shorter, as I had received a liner on it and I found a nice spot about a rod length back. As the light started to fade I put about 15-20 HNV Pro boilies around each rod and sat back feeling quietly confident. After having some food and chatting with Nigel I got my head down quite early, as it had been a long week.
As I was drifting off, I had a couple of bleeps on my middle rod and I immediately sat up and I could just make out the isotope in my bobbin. It had lifted a fraction, so I started to pull on my boots. Before I had got both boots on it was away, lifting right up and the line pulled out of the clip. I picked up the rod and could feel the fish kiting round to my right, it fought well and went on a couple of spirited runs before I slipped the net under a very nice-looking mirror carp.
I was chuffed to bits! Not only for catching one, but also that it had come off the new pop ups. I quickly wet the sling and zeroed the scales then lifted the fish out onto the mat. It really was an awesome looking fish with its gorgeous winter colours, and it weighed in at a respectable 28lb 2oz; not that the weight really mattered when it looked like that. I carefully slipped it into the retainer and put it back in the water while I turned to grab my camera out of my bag…
Before my hand had grasped the camera, I had a few bleeps on my left-hand rod, thinking it was the mice that ran backwards and forwards across the front of the swim I turned to see the bobbin slowly lifting up. I stood poised over the rod then as the line pulled out of the clip, I lifted the rod to find myself into another carp, but this one felt a bit bigger. It was slower, more plodding, and stripping line as it went on a solid run. As I looked around for the net, I realized my dilemma. I had the handle at my feet, but the mesh was by the mat, as I hadn’t even had time to put it back together. I reached for the mesh and dragged it towards me while trying to keep control of the fish in the open water. As it powered off again, I quickly jammed the butt of the rod between my knees and wrapped my arm around the rod to free up my hands to put the net together. Once done, I quickly returned my attention to the fish and slowly started to bring it back towards me. It kited round to the right and tried to take me into some snags, but I managed to steer it away and eventually it rolled over the cord into the net, a very nice looking fully scaled with a fat belly.
Initially I thought it was a fully that I had had before so I left it resting in the net while I ran to the swim next door to grab the retainer (we are lucky enough to have them in every swim on the venue). I wet the sling and zeroed the scales again and went to get the fish from the water. After rolling down the net I went to lift it out and it was only then I realized it was heavier than I thought. I gently lay the fish down on the mat and popped out the hook and then took a closer look at it. This fish was much bigger than I had originally thought, I estimated a good upper 30 and was pretty sure it was one of the A-team known as the Football Fully. I placed it on the scales, and they swung round to bounce between 42 and 43lb. I lifted the fish off then placed it back on just to make sure and the Rueben’s needle swung straight back round, and finally settled on 42.4. My first 40lb fully scaled mirror. What a result and what a winter session.
My swim was in ruins with two rods slung against the brolly and everything covered in thick mud, but I had two retainers bobbing in the water in front of me and two awesome Christmas crackers awaiting photographs.
Once the photos were done and I had got my rods back out, I sat drinking tea and thinking back over the events of the evening, watching the ripples coming back from far over to my left, where the group of fish had moved to.
Christmas had certainly come a few days early for me!