My other five-night session in August 2018 was also very kind to me. In the run up to this session, as was the case with many lakes across the country, the management at Welly took the sensible precautionary step to close the lake for a few weeks to give the irreplaceable gems a chance to spawn and graze stress free in the lower oxygenated warm water, without the added risk of being caught and the inevitable stress this causes. It was a very conservation minded step, which was embraced by all of the syndicate members who are naturally extremely focused on the ongoing preservation and protection of the amazing stock of carp that swim in the ‘Lake of Dreams’. However, with the lake now re-opened I exchanged a few texts and phone calls with other syndicate members and was very surprised to learn that on the Friday prior to my planned arrival there were only 5 anglers on. So, excitedly I set the alarm for 3:30AM wakeup call, so I could be first on the gate at 5am, when we’re allowed to enter the hallowed grounds.

At first light, I did a couple of quick laps to see if anything would oblige and show itself, to give me some clue as to where to start. Location is of paramount importance at Welly, so it goes without saying that having a good look is always the first step in terms of trying to catch a few of the lakes awesome carp. The constant, refreshing south westerly wind was an instant draw. In fact, it was no surprise when I heard that the wonderful A Team member ‘The Big Sutton’ had been tripped up during the night from the windward end of the lake. Instantly it felt right and I felt that I should be seriously considering this section of the 35 acre pond.

As the morning slowly trundled along to the more sensible hours of the day I found myself sat with LewLew, up the windward end, when the bobbin on his middle rod lifted and next minute I was up and doing some video footage of him landing another one of the lake’s A-team; the impressive ‘Willow’ that we weighed in at 50lb 8oz! Wonderful angling and as always it was a real treat to witness and help care for one these special carp on their visits to the bank. I just knew then, I needed to go and move my barrow from the ‘fairly consistent’ Little Lake, out into the main lake to fish for leviathans. With Lew off shortly, it was a no brainer to drop in behind him, into a swim known as ‘Grassy’. This swim provides a fantastic panoramic view of the south westerly end and offers plenty of open water to shoot at as well as the margins of one of the lakes two islands.

At first light on morning one, two single beeps were promptly followed by a one toner. It wasn’t long until I slipped a very welcome 34lb common over the net cord. As the morning progressed, the usual procession of Sunday arrivals steadily popped in to say hello and going into the evening there were now 11 anglers on. With the sun making a more prominent appearance during Sunday, it wasn’t a huge surprise when an hour after dark one of my rods was away again. The battle was simply unbelievable! The power of some of these Welly carp is like nothing I have had the pleasure of enduring before. The faith I have in the GTHD line helps settle the worst of the anxiety in these circumstances, but every second was still fraught, as anyone that has battled a furious fighting-fit monster carp will know what I mean.

Although a repeat capture for me (the only one I had), the epic A-Team member named ‘The Chinese Common’ spun my scales round to 48lb! Randomly, I had caught the Chinese on my previous visit a few weeks earlier at 51lb 4oz, during a short session. That was the first time it had been caught for 16 months, then weirdly I caught it a second time within a few weeks.

With two nights now under my belt and two fish to boot, I just had to do another night. I reeled in at 11AM and decided to tweak things a little. I planned to move my right-hand rod, to now become my left-hand rod. This meant I now had all three rods spread out in open water at range, but hopefully not close enough to compromise each other. ‘The Grassy’ is a great social spot to exchange some chatter and banter with fellow syndicate members. With work the following morning in mind, I hit the pillow at 9pm and slept solidly until I was rudely awoken by what became my third carp of the session; all 41lb of it in the shape of ‘Single Scale’. If I had thought the fight from the Chinese was epic, then this was the same again plus some! Oh, my word. After 15 or so minutes, she was (finally) safely retained and I assembled the camera kit so that everything was ready, before I woke up the hibernating angler next door.

With only 3 hours of my session remaining, I decided not to recast this rod, choosing not to disturb the other perfectly set traps, already lying in wait. I will never know whether that decision had any part to play in what then unravelled, but 30 minutes later I was doing self takes with a 29lb common, very swiftly followed by a 22lb common on my third and final rod. It was now 5:30am and I had no rods in the water. I was totally over the moon and the carp had literally ‘smashed me up’.

The end of September 2018 was also very kind to me. With my August success still vividly etched in my mind, I was keen to make a start in Grassy, at least if I didn’t see anything else to go at. So, this is where I parked my barrow (TBH I was quite surprised to find The Grassy free) and with my angling head firmly on I was still keen to do a few laps of the lake, before even considering just setting up based on recent form.

After a good walk, and with no solid sightings to go on, my decision swung back to starting in Grassy as I was very confident of my methods and spots. It wasn’t long and I was holding up a pristine, dark and heavily tail-scaled 40lb mirror. I was absolutely over the moon and it was the perfect way of settling into the remainder of the session.

A 36lb common followed early the next morning, but then a period with no sightings or line bites started making me restless. Knowing this swim, that I had become accustom too in recent months, indicated the fish were not present in numbers. I had seen a few, very subtle rolls in the east corner, near ‘The Cold Swim’. So with a single night remaining I had to risk it and move but having had fish in ‘Grassy’ until up to 11am I hung it out through the productive period.

Literally seconds past 11am and I was on my toes and pushing my barrow towards the far corner, that received the Westerly. Just as I got around there, I saw another very subtle roll, but a bit further up towards ‘Three Trees’. Opting for The Three Trees, I dropped in my barrow and shot off to the shop for a few provisions to see me comfortably through. Oh, and a quick shower to recharge my energy levels and resurging enthusiasm.

After the mad dash to the shop and shower, I was flicking out lighter 1.5oz leads attached to the ever reliable 9″ Gardner Stiff-Link Ronnie’s. The only thing I tweak in my end set up was the weight of lead. I only use the size needed to reach the spot, because I am more than confident in the sharpness of the size 4 Dark Mugga hook point, and happy that will do the rest.

Only two hours after re-casting, which was entirely spent questioning if I had made the right decision, my middle rod was away. After a short ‘ploddy’ fight I was holding up another banging 42lb chestnut mirror in the mid-afternoon autumn sunshine. As I was playing it, I noticed two more subtle rolls up to my right (towards the Cold Swim). Hence, it was no surprise, when at first light my left had rod pulled up and it was another 40lb mirror. A hat-trick of 40lb mirrors and a brace of commons, I was absolutely made up.

I tell you what I miss the most in retrospect, is winter fishing at Welly.

Like most lakes, things become much harder as the carp just disappear into the chilly abyss. But when the public are permanently locked out of the park, it offers all the same qualities but stripped back of all the daytime din. Instead the buzz of thronging crowds is replaced with the peace and tranquillity that an absence of the hoards that the public guarantees – it was sheer bliss.

In February 2018, I had what can only be described as a winter red letter session. Most winters at Welly were a bit of a non-event, but the slightly more productive bi-annual winter many had told me about seemed to come to fruition. That said it’s still a relatively big lake, with islands, bays and arms full of very cold water. In my three years, it was pretty hard to predict how many anglers would be descending for a dabble, although most years there would be a few dedicated disciples braving the whole winter.

On the 4th February I arrived and had the initial surprise of rolling into an empty car park at 4pm on the Saturday afternoon. Instantly, I knew that would literally open the whole lake and a plan unfolded in my head, whilst I was hastily loading up the barrow with the mountain of necessary and unnecessary equipment that was strewn in the van.

With less than an hour until sunset, I made an immediate push with the barrow to the recently productive end of the lake. With the low sun already dropping out of sight, I settled quickly into the ‘Three Trees’ swim which offered some protection from the bitterly cold north easterly breeze. It also offered a wonderful panoramic view of the lake.

It really was cold, the wind chill almost making it unbearable to stand for any time out in the wind. With the brolly up and two rods deployed with one to go, halfway down the lake a rolling fish was impossible to ignore. It was inevitable that the brolly would immediately be collapsed down, rods packed away and barrow loaded once again. With burning cold hands, I was soon on the move in the dark. Mobility is always pivotal to my angling; if I see or hear something I move. The ‘Hole in the Bush’ swim, which is positioned centrally, was historically kind to me and consequently I knew the swim pretty well. Even though it was pitch black and I was setting up under torch light, things couldn’t have gone any better. All three leads landed with enough of a thump to feel confident that my single 12mm hook baits were presented cleanly.

After a chilly 3-degree night, I woke at 5am to a liner on the left-hand rod, but it was the right-hand bobbin that lifted a couple of inches three quarters of an hour later. Then it dropped right back! That saw me surface from my sleeping bag and scurry towards the rods. As soon as the bobbin lifted one more inch, I reeled down into what was evidently a decent fish. A short, wintery battle was soon won and a shine of the torch down into the landing net unveiling one of the most sought-after gems, in the shape of the ‘Pretty Mirror’ at 49lb! With the fish safely secured in a retainer, a few texts were exchanged and I was soon holding up the magnificent fish in all its winter glory. Wow, simply lovely and more than I ever expected!

If that wasn’t enough, the same rod that I’d recast to the same area with a lighter lead to cause less disruption was away again at 10am. WTF! Another typical short heavy wintery battle had my nerves jangling and I was soon staring down into the landing net at a new PB common, in the shape of the epic ‘Clint’s Common’ at 47lb!

What a morning! A morning that left me literally speechless. It had felt good when I set up the night before, but I didn’t see this astonishing series of captures coming for one millisecond. Whilst waiting for Charlie to turn up to assist with photos of Clint’s, I also snared a bristling 25lb common to photograph too.

At Welly, we are supplied retainers and unhooking mats and being as I was on the venue on my own, for some odd reason I took two retainers from the shed. Why I don’t know? The only logic being that if I was lucky enough to catch a fish, with nobody around to assist, I might need a second one. Then by crazy fate, both were now in the water, side by side cradling carp! I’ve had many memorable sessions in my time, but due to the time of the year, terrible weather this one certainly ranks right up there with the most memorable of them all. To cap it off, both fish managed front covers of both Carp-Talk and Anglers Mail in the following week. Then, to top it off, before I wrapped up I managed a 35lb common on my final morning. Utter madness.

With only a handful of months to go now until the expiry of my ticket at the end of May 2019, I had one carp very much in the forefront of my mind, that was still my most wanted. Plonking myself into the surprisingly vacant swim called ‘Goose Point’ for my penultimate session, after a couple of quiet nights I reeled in and walking around the lake for a couple of hours feeling a bit despondent. At the tail end of that two hours I noticed one roll in the very area of water I was already set up in, whilst watching from a totally different area of the lake. I literally ran back to my rods, threaded on a fresh hook bait and out went the rod within that vicinity of water that the fish had shown in.

Within ten minutes of casting, my most wanted was in the net. I am so glad I didn’t up and move that day. I had the ‘Linear’ at 46lb 8oz. As it went over the net cord, I was waist deep in water and literally punched the air and shouted “get the f**k in there”. I then vividly remember a mixed chuckle of laughs behind me. A family of five had drifted across from the nearby crazy golf course and had been quietly watching me do battle. Apologies were given for the language, while trying to give them some context of what that fish meant to me. I felt so incredibly lucky to be cradling this one very special carp. Someone was looking down on me that day, that’s for sure.

With my final session now all planned in, in rolled the hot late spring/early summer weather, and with that spawning started and the lake was to shut. Obviously, the fish welfare comes first, but sadly maybe my time was already up. However, very mindful of a handful of us wanting one final chance the ‘simply-lovely’ head bailiff, Jamie, suggested it could re-open with 3 nights to go until expiry of our tickets.

After juggling things round at work, holiday was booked and a strong band of members descended at first light for a draw for swims. Of the 13 or so anglers in the draw, I was third to pull a number from the hat. I only went and picked out number one. It felt like fate and the right thing to do was to pick ‘Hole in the Bush’. That swim was so kind to me, during all four seasons. Even if I was to blank, it just felt right to be camped up in that swim to counting down my final 72hrs.

For me to reach my optimum spot from ‘The Bush’ I ideally needed a wind assisted north westerly to help my helicopter rig on its way out 140+ yards to a spot close to the island. After 24hrs of being in the swim, the gods were with me and in the north westerly blew. After several attempts to get it bang on, my left-hand rod was on THE spot. Whenever I was in that swim, I would cast until I felt like that was 100% a bite. With that feeling now felt, I settled back and absorbed the atmosphere for the final 46hrs.

Over the course of the next couple of days, I said my goodbyes to the steady stream of anglers popping in and a mega curry was consumed. The lake did throw up a couple of fish in those last few nights, but it wasn’t as prolific as we all hoped. With only two hours to go and after my left-hand rod had been on that spot for 44hrs, the bobbin pulled up the inch in to the mouth of the alarm and I was away. It was a really lovely way to finish, catching a pristine up and coming chestnut looking mirror, with the typical love heart tail that went 38lb.

If you ever get the chance, seriously consider fishing Welly. Ask anyone who has fished it, seldom will you hear a negative word. But after three thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable years, I have now embarked on a fresh and completely new challenge. Prior to the expiry of my ticket, I had already purchased a new ticket for a local Berkshire syndicate water. A 40 acre gravel pit with the complete set of features consisting of shallow and deep (25+ feet) areas, islands, out of bounds (7 acres), thick weed and a sense of unknown when it comes to overall stock and the number of proven larger carp, although stock fairly commonly understood to run to a couple of hundred or more. This water has always been on my radar, so it was mentally refreshing to start considering ideas on how I would approach the lake, 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 Royal Mail. It’s a lake that has also always been on my carping bucket list, and definitely a venue that I’m looking forward to approaching soon – so it’s a case of onwards and upwards I go.

Be lucky, Carl x