With a New Year well under way, and renewed motivation saw me arriving back on the banks of Wellington Country Park, after a couple of months away from fishing due to family commitments, work and if I’m truthful I was a little burnt out after a lengthy blank spell. I just wasn’t feeling that motivated with so many other things going on around me. I did however take my son, Stanley, lure fishing on a little brook lure for a couple of hours, which resulted in a couple of Chub. We also enjoyed a morning’s fishing on a local club water where we managed 6 carp; mainly ‘doubles’, which was good fun and a lovely fishing fix during my time away from the syndicate.
My first trip back was with my friend Josh, who was over from America, and it seemed fitting to have a session together on the very special venue that is Welly. Upon arriving we set about signing in, collecting our carp care equipment and doing a lap, before heading off for a sumptuous breakfast and to pay for his guest ticket at reception. After the hearty breakfast and mug of coffee we headed off and opted to fish a swim known as ‘Boathouse’, as much of the lake was closed for Siltex application that was being carried out. The swim offers a large chunk of water, and because we had no idea how much bait had been applied by the anglers before-hand we both decided to fish with just stringers and bags of boilie crumb.
The night passed uneventful for us, but it was great to be back in good company at the lake, we’d had a lovely social with some top-notch steak and a few lemonades to wash it all down.
Typically, I couldn’t get the rods back out for a couple of weeks, but when I finally did, I was super keen and feeling the buzz once more. I’d taken Friday off work (well I popped in briefly to finish off a project) and was at the lake around 10AM. As usual I did the usual walking and looking, hoping to see something to go on, but there was no sure sign of carp. It was as if they’d vanished altogether.
There was only one other angler on at the time, so I had lots of options, and decided to do my night in a swim known as ‘Hole in the Bush’. Over the years this been a productive area and a favourite for some as it commands a large portion of water in eth middle of the lake. I decided to fish two rods in a deeper section of water at about 80yds, positioned over half a kg of 20mm’s with rigs fished with stringers and balanced bottom baits. The other was fished long on a single pop up at 130 plus yards which was a doddle with the 13’ GTD+, 15lb/0.35 GTHD line, and a 4oz Distance lead.
Later that day I was joined by the birthday boy himself, Lewis, which is always an experience. He’s certainly a one of a kind personality, that some would say is larger than life and is someone who always makes me laugh. A rare gem for sure.
That evening after Lewis had gone searching, he eventually decided to drop in next door after seeing a carp poke its head out in that central zone, in a swim known as ‘Grassy’. He got all 3 rods out just before dark, first time of asking (good skills), baited up and the traps were set, and we sat in his swim for a few cups of tea and much banter. The evening was rounded off with an Irish Cream Hot Chocolate to celebrate the near half century marker, before retiring for the night.
I fished through to the next morning with only a couple of liners to speak off, the same for Lewis. I had to get off, so bid my fair wells and returned home. The burning desire to succeed was there and by Monday morning I had started my preparation for my next overnighter, which was originally going be on Thursday night, but circumstances changed and was moved back to the Friday. Friday the 13th in fact…
I took a half day on Friday, to give myself a better chance of swim choice, and enough time to get a lap or two in before it got busy. I originally fancied the Little Lake area, but that was taken by Welly-regular and carp catching extraordinaire Ed Wade. He had just returned from breakfast, so we ended up going for a wander and having a catch up, chatting about what we’d been up to over the winter.
In the end I decided to drop into Bramble Bay after spotting some carp in a deep snaggy area known as Turtle Corner. Just the sight of those carp got me going as I hadn’t seen any carp on display for months. I considered carefully how best to angle for them, and rather than going at it like a “Bull in a China shop” and ruining my chance of a bite I elected to be as stealthy as possible in the circumstances.
Firstly, I sprinkled some chopped and whole 20mm ABS Nut boilies around the corner, carefully dotting them on the outer reaches of the snags. Then I carefully moved my gear round to the other side of the small bay, setting up in the ‘Up and Over’ swim before casting a rod across. When I got in situ, I took my time getting everything set up perfectly and really focused on casting the rod, as I only wanted to make one cast, to avoid spooking the carp.
I guessed that a 2oz Bolt Bomb would be just enough to get the range with accuracy and minimal disturbance. Rig wise I decided to fish a Ronnie Rig constructed with a size 4 Covert Dark Mugga. The cast went out perfectly and swung back on a tight line into a deep area registering a clean crack on the touch down. Then I carefully sunk the line and fed out a small back lead to keep the line pinned down as best as I could.
With the prime rod done I decided to fish the other rods on other marks I’ve fished in the past, again over a light sprinkling of bait, this time with balanced bottom baits on each rig.
I sorted out my kit, put the bivvy up and then put the kettle on for a well needed cuppa. As I drunk my tea looking out across the lake I could see other anglers arriving, and slowly the lake was getting fuller. Soon after a couple of the park workers dropped in to say hello and one of the lads recognised me from years ago when I was very involved in another Angling Society. That was almost a decade ago, and we reminisced about the old days and caught up on what we’d been up to, where we’d fished etc. I went onto tell them how I was on a 23-night blank, with only 2 Tench and a Pike to speak off and how it seemed to just switch off for me. The heavens opened and the lads got off and I retreated to the confines of my bivvy. Shortly afterwards the sun burnt through the clouds and it started to feel like Spring, I sat there feeling quietly confident.
Suddenly the ambience was broken with a couple of bleeps being omitted from the receiver! A short a drop back followed by the hanger pulling up and the tip of the rod bouncing. ‘That’s a bite’ I thought, and I picked up the rod and pulled into heavy resistance. To start with it came in like dog on a lead with steady pressure, then as I gained line the fish came up towards a shallower bar and suddenly the beast awoke and stripped 50yds of line off me, charging along the far margin and then powering out into the open water in Bramble Bay. It felt like it was never going to stop running!
By this point my legs went to jelly and my heart was in my mouth. With snaggy bushes to my left and right and several shallow gravelly raised areas in front of me I just prayed it stayed on. The battle felt as though it went on for ages, just as I gained a few yards it would power off with surging force, it was angry as hell. Minutes later my arms felt pumped and heavy, but fortunately the carp started to tire too. After doing its level best to test the tackle in its bids for freedom, it finally boiled up on the surface and it was only then I realised I was attached to what looked like the fish of a lifetime. It didn’t end there though, as the fish got a second wind and went on another crazy run, then it changed direction and came back on a different path crossing over the other rods, which luckily were back leaded and concealed.
I managed to pump it back towards me and it rolled again, and I now knew it was huge, although for some reason I still thought it was a mirror. When it came close in again I could see its golden flanks gleaming in the sunlight. Just when I thought it was ready for the net it gave one last pull for freedom, heading towards a snag so I clamped down and held on for dear life. Luckily, I turned the carp and drew it towards me, and with the tip pulled back over my shoulder I carefully led the giant inch by inch over the cord of the net! Once I had secured the fish in the net, I gave out a cry of emotion.
After hearing me my mates Ali (Chubby Spooner) and Steve (Geriatric Laney) called over from Laurie’s Mate swim opposite, and I said “I’ve got a chunk”.
“How big?” they asked.
“Well over forty” I replied, “could be fifty!”.
Soon after, Head Bailiff Jamie who fishing nearby and had heard the commotion, came over to lend a hand too. I gazed into the net and I could feel the energy drain out of me – I genuinely didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. All those blanks were finally put to bed.
Jamie and I transferred the colossal common into the sling and onto the mat that was floating in the water. We carefully made sure she was safely cocooned, with all her fins laying flush to her body, and proceeded to distribute the weight between us and negotiate the steps out of the cramped swim and onto higher, flatter ground. He had already said before we got her out “that’s a fifty” and gave me a proper hug, and it was awesome that he was genuinely happy for me.
We unhooked her and we then set about weighing and photographing my new personal best. On Friday 13th of all days, and weirdly almost to the day 6 years on from my long-standing personal best of 46lb 4oz. The weight was recorded as 52lb’s and I was utterly blown away. This was true Welly magic.
Many thanks to Jamie, as he did a sterling job on the buttons and we returned the most sought after common in the lake, the ‘Chestnut Common’ back to the water no worse for wear.
Soon afterwards Lewis popped down to congratulate me (“fair play”) and I went into the night buzzing, not being able to sleep a wink. Nevertheless, I was off early the next day with a spring in my step having ended my blank run with what is unquestionably my greatest capture to date and hardest earnt fish for sure.