I feel blessed to have been privy to watching a 4-acre gravel pit, located close to home, evolve into the amazing venue it is now. This transformation has happened since 2012; and the deep-water venue (up to 32 feet in depth) is now a wonderful mature syndicate lake that is extremely well managed and a pleasure to visit. All of its members are approachable and friendly, and the carp are now a well-integrated mix of originals and a batch of very special new stock of carp that have been trickled in over the last couple of winters.

During my time on the water, I have been lucky to capture its larger residents and have, by some good fortune, frequently held the lake record for periods as the carp inevitably climbed in weight during the last eight or so years.

Having gallivanted around two large 40-acre pits through the summer and into early autumn, I made the conscious decision to return to the deep pit for the autumn and winter. Having fished Wellington Country Park for the previous three winters, I wanted to have a go back on there as three of its largest residents were now 40lb+, and one other was knocking on the door of that magical milestone. Admittedly, I have had all four of these fish before, but I felt setting myself the target of catching these four special originals at these weights in the colder and less predictable months of the season, would keep me really focused.

This short story is going to focus on one of those special fish, a fish that holds significant personal importance to me; a fish I was very privileged to name ‘Smithy’ back in the spring of 2014. Back then, the lake had a reasonable number of upper 20lb+ carp, but nothing had yet tipped over the 30lb barrier. Also, back then the lake had fewer members, and many of those with a ticket were more interested in the course fishing rather than solely going in pursuit of the carp. I felt extremely lucky to almost have the place to myself. It was heaven.

I recall working a particular spot, that had a large heavy plastic tube left behind [embedded in the lakebed or lying on th lake bed?] from when the lake was dug. I would deposit kilos of mixed pellets, chopped boilies, sweetcorn, hemp with tinned tuna fish added every couple of days around this tube. It was the 3rd October 2013, and I had landed a couple of carp during my previous trip, a couple of very wet at the end of September, when I caught the lakes first 30lb carp. Weighed at 31lb on the nose, at the time the carp was unnamed, at least until the spring. I will share why…


We have all lost cherished family and close friends. It was late 2013 when a close friend of mine and many other people sadly lost his battle with cancer. Paul Smith (aka Smithy) loved his family, friends and his carp fishing. Over the years we fished many waters together, and we would travel across the channel fishing in France too. It was at a very cold winter session in March of that year, whilst we were on a Wasing lake, that year Smithy shared his diagnosis with a few of us. What none of us expected at that time was how quickly the cancer was to challenge him, and ultimately he sadly passed away just before Christmas. He left a huge hole amongst our group of friends and as personally as my fishing buddie. I miss you pal; we all do.

When Paul passed, I asked if I could name that 31lb ’er, that I had caught two months previous ‘Smithy’. It was clearly greeted with no opposition. I caught ’Smithy’ again in April 2014 and with the capture duly bumped up the lake record to 32lb 8oz. This time I had tripped him up in very shallow water, literally caught from almost under my rod tips, this was a very different capture from when I nailed it over a large bed of bait in 15ft of water on the previous capture. It was nice to see the carp looking so healthy and still growing. Then, over the next few years, I was bouncing around other waters but I was aware Smithy was climbing inexorably upwards in weight, settling up to around 35lb. She did not really kick on from there but remained super healthy and made all of its captors feel very privileged.


However, with the new stock of carp trickled in over the last couple of winters it has kicked on the big originals, as they seem more eager to get amongst the abundance of natural food in the lake. I was aware Smithy was now just over the magical 40lb mark but had not been caught for a while. Therefore, I just had to go back and have a go late last autumn. After trickling a kilo of Blake’s Baits 12mm HNV-Pro boilies into an area close to an overhanging bush every couple of days for two weeks, I started catching regularly during mid-October. I kept my captures quiet, to not draw too much attention to this productive area whilst I was working it. Despite successfully tripping up a run of fish, all coming at night between 11pm and 5am, the largest one was a 27lb common.


On this lake, we are permitted to use 2 rods, so I opted to fish both with 7″ rigs tied using Gardner Ultra Sink Tungsten skinned hooklink, to a gently beaked super sharp Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip hook. This pattern features an almost straight eye (5 degree in-turn), making it perfect in terms of alignment with one of the new Tungsten Covert XL kickers. Hook bait wise, knowing the fish were on the bait I wanted to avoid a blatant pop up, so a 15mm HNV wafter and a tiny narrow micromesh PVA bag of crumbed boilie kept the trap subtle, matching the hatch so to speak. All the fish I had caught were well and truly nailed. So, I had the carp feeding and I was catching regularly, but the bigger fish were being frustratingly elusive.


After a very wet night on the 25th October, when the rod remained motionless, it was very early the following morning that I tricked a carp and got a bite, and immediately knew I was connected to something much bigger. You see, after the blank the night before, I did something I have done before and I am sure got me the bite, I moved one rod a good rod length off to the side from the baited area. I was not concentrating my 12mm HNV free offerings in one tight spot; I was spreading it in an area roughly two-rod lengths square, encouraging the fish to forage about over a sizeable area. I have found before, one rod positioned right on the back edge of the area can pick up the more cautious carp that are sitting a little further off the area. That morning, so it proved.

The capture of ‘Smithy’ was almost textbook carp fishing from start to finish. I woke early, whilst it was still dark. It had been mildly moist in the night, but not nearly as wet as the night before. I made a very early coffee and sat watching the light lift from the eastern corner of the lake. The birds build to full dawn-chorus song, and the morning mist was rolling across the surface of the lake from left to right. It felt bang on for a bite, despite the Bug indicators only twitching with the odd liner during the 36 hours so far. However, literally, while I was sat looking at the rods, the right-hand indicator lifted aggressively, but then stopped at the top. Then slowly, the line clicked out of the line clip and line started being drawn off the spool on click at a time. With the lake being so deep, when battle commenced the fish remained down deep for several minutes. I knew this was one of the good ones, but clearly I didn’t know which one it was. When it did eventually roll over the net cord, I knew instantly. In fact, that’s a lie. I knew a few seconds before it went over the cord but tried to block it out of my mind.

I was all alone at the lake that morning and I had a wonderful big carp safely in the net, and I knew which one it was. It looked really big too, but size at that point, as often is the case with a target fish, is quite irrelevant. I literally sat there, on the slope down to the water looking down on it, holding back a bit of emotion. Recasting that one-rod to the back of the area had worked a treat. It does not always pan out like that, but that morning it absolutely did!

The fishery manager kindly came down and assisted with photos and some video footage. Smithy behaved impeccably on the mat and looked in pristine condition. At 43lb 4oz, she was now also a new lake record (again)! So, my third capture of this fish and each time she had taken the crown as the king of the lake. Packing up that morning was slow, reflective and effortless. It sounds random, but the smell of my drying mat, sling and jacket on the fence was even pleasurable.


What a start to my autumn and winter campaign! I now had two of the four already under my belt within the first four weeks, having banked another carp at 39lb 14oz a month before. That was two down, two to go.

I will share more deep pit adventures in time.

Be Lucky, SBL x