From the first time I saw pictures of the Big Lin I knew that it was the one I would really like to catch. Little did I know that it would start a five-year quest for me to finally hold it up in front of the camera.
I’d been fishing the Roach Pit for a couple of years, slowly building up a picture of the lake and learning about the incredible stock of fish that lived in this 25 acre gravel pit. I’d caught a few fish in the first few years, including a couple of the sought-after A-team. The one that had really caught my eye was a mid-forty dark scaly Linear, known as the Big Lin, a hard fighting, tricky to catch customer. During this time fishing a busy syndicate water, and mainly fishing weekends, meant that it was proving difficult to get anything going.
My circumstances changed when I moved to Ringwood. Now being only ten minutes walk from the lake meant that I could visit regularly, which meant that I could start baiting a few spots in the margins and generally keep in touch with what was going on. Being close to the lake also meant that I could start to fish more overnighters and this, coupled with my increased knowledge, helped my catch rate increase. Most of my sessions tended to be short and mobile, looking for fish and fishing a Choddie over a scattering of bait.
These tactics seemed to work, and I managed to catch most of the A-team, with the Big Lin proving to be my Nemesis! I had been close on a couple of occasions, actually watching it pick up my hookbait and spit it out whilst stalking. I’d started to look at a few other waters close by, thinking it was time to move on, as I was racking up a few repeats and the red card was looming. I couldn’t get the Lin out of my head, having photographed it 3 times for friends, so I just had to catch it before I moved on.
Then disaster struck and the lake suffered a substantial fish kill, losing a good number of the originals. There was an air of despair and general depression surrounding the Roach Pit and I completely lost my buzz for fishing. With the lake closed and my motivation gone, I didn’t fish for about 6 months. Being one of the bailiffs, I was still walking the lake regularly, keeping an eye on proceedings, maintaining the otter fence and keeping the remaining stock safe. We had been feeding the fish some antibiotic pellet on a few marginal spots and we started to see the fish close in, and on one of these trips I thought that I caught a glimpse of the Big Lin! That was more than enough to get my hopes up and re-ignite my dreams.
After 6 months of being closed, Alan decided to open it for a few weeks, for the bailiffs to try and catch a few to gauge how the fish were doing. During this short window Alan managed to catch the Big Lin, with me again being the photographer. The Lin looked magnificent and surely my time would come. The lake was then closed for the winter and was due to re-open in April.
The new season came around, with a new syndicate and all the anticipation of a new challenge for many. Everyone arrived mega early for the draw and the fish put on a massive show in the shallows, everyone was chomping at the bit to get going. For me, it was all about that one fish. I had started to pre-bait an area that I thought might be the one and was lucky enough to come out first in the draw for the opening night. I set up in the Sanctuary Swim for the first night of the new syndicate, feeling really positive, although I only had the night and had to be away at 8AM the next morning. After all the prebaiting and preparation the opening night was a massive anti-climax, not even a bleep for me.
Hardly surprising that the fish shut up shop, after being left in peace and quiet for so long. The sudden influx of anglers probably sent them all into hiding. I had a holiday booked in a week’s time, a trip to Les Telliatts in France and managed to tag a couple of extra days on before I left. This gave me 2 days to track down the Lin. During the next week I kept my fingers crossed that the Lin would wait for me and not slip up to anyone else. I was so sure that it would come out early in the season. So, my plan was set; catch the Big Lin, then off to Telliats for a 50lb common – the perfect holiday.
I turned up on a drab, grey overcast Wednesday morning just before first light and spent a few hours walking and looking for some signs of activity. A few fish had been caught the previous night, all down the bottom end of the lake and with only 3 anglers on I felt confident of getting on the fish. After a couple of hours looking and walking I hadn’t seen much and was still unsure of where to go, so I popped round to see Coops, hoping he would have a cup of tea on offer and to pick his brains on what was happening. I was stood in Caravan having a brew with Coops, when I noticed a show in front of Webbleys, by the time I’d finished my tea I must have seen a dozen shows. The shows were mainly smaller fish, but I did see one lump poke it’s head out. That’ll do, so of I rushed to get them out while they were still hanging around.
I had already decided to fish with bottom baits this year, rather than my usual pop ups, as I felt that based on previous captures this may give me a better chance of the Lin. I’d got hold of some new Covert Dark Mugga hooks in a size 4, ready for my trip to France and was really impressed with them. The rig was pretty simple, an 8 inch length of Disruption coated braid with a snowman on a line aligner, coupled with a 5oz lead on a lead clip
The water levels were still a little higher than usual, meaning the swim was flooded and I needed to wade out on the crunchy gravel to get the rods out. Not ideal when the fish are feeding so close in. As I was pushing the sticks in one of the stocky mirrors crashed out 10 yards in front of me and I had to decide where to put the rods as there were clearly fish all over the area. With it being so early in the year there was very little weed about and based on previous experience I was sure the fish were moving around and were unlikely to stay in one area for too long. Luckily, I knew the swim well and fished to a shallow hump to the left at about 30 yards and a clear area to the right, where the fish were showing. No leading around, only 2 casts needed on each rod, and then I baited up with about 10 pouchfulls of CO2 boilies over each rod and I was fishing.
I think I may have spooked the fish a little, as Coops caught a couple of stockies within the next hour, both off his left-hand rod that was fishing between the two of us. I really thought I had blown it and started to beat myself up for making too much noise – maybe I shouldn’t have put so much bait out.
I needn’t have worried as within a couple of hours my left-hand rod, fished on the hump was away, with a nice steady take. No warnings, no liners, in fact it caught me a little by surprise and a few things went flying around the swim as I jumped into the waders and made my way out into the flooded margins. The fish went on a long powerful run, out into open water and was already about 60 yards out when I managed to gain some control and slow the beast down a little. It then kited to my right and was making its way into “No Carp Corner”, towards a line of snaggy trees down the margin. As I tried to stop it but was flat rodded on two occasions, at the back of my mind I think I knew what fish it was, it was such a powerful fight. Surely it had to be one of a big angry males.
All the time I was praying it was the one and hoping that everything held firm. Wading out to the top of my waders I managed to get a better angle on the fish and kept it out of the tree branches, slowly guiding it back towards me. As it reached the last of the trees it rolled over on the surface and the big scaly flank confirmed my thoughts, I was playing the Big Lin! Then everything became intensified, every lunge, every ping of the line had my heart in my mouth. I so desperately wanted this in the net, more than any other fish I’d caught. It then proceeded to charge up and down the margin, trying to shed the hook on the gravelly slope in front of me. All the time I could see it perfectly in the clear shallow water, twisting, rolling and trying every trick in the book to get away. Gradually, he started to tire, and the runs and lunges slowed right down. I piled on the pressure and up it popped on the surface before I was able to glide its scaley bulk over the net cord.
Finally, I had the fish of my dreams. Then I went a little bit crazy, had a little dance in the waders, with a little bit of shouting thrown in for good measure. Then I called Coops to let him know what was going on and ask if he would be kind enough to come and share the moment. He called Carl over to help too, so I now had a photographer and goalkeeper ready for the pictures and to share in the special moment. The Big Lin looked amazing and we got some great photos to remember the special day.
To cap off my perfect holiday, I had a great week in France, bagging a 53lb common and spending time with a great bunch of lads. Even now I’m still buzzing from my capture of the Lin and the capture fired me up for a new challenge on a new lake.