Back in 2004 I was fishing on Alders Big Lake situated in the heart of the Medway Valley, I was coming to the end of my time as I had caught most of the good fish in there. Around this time some good friends of mine were fishing some lakes just down the road on the Larkfield Complex. There were at that time 5 lakes that you can fish on the Larky ticket, but the one I had my eye on was called Johnson’s Railway Lake.
The lake held around 35 to 40 carp with 9 of them going over 30lb, so a mega stock of old carp. In fact, all the Railway carp are very old historic fish and jet black in colour, so they are very special indeed and have been fished for by some great anglers over the years. Good old Rob Maylin even wrote about the lake in his book “Basil’s Bush”. The Railway is around 9 acres in size with 13 swims, very deep and gin clear and most of the year can be very weedy so it was extremely challenging fishing indeed. The one thing I learnt very quickly about the Railway Lake carp was that they have seen it all! They were very clued up old carp……
I had spent the 2004/05 season fishing on the lake right next to the Railway Larkfield No2, they are split by a causeway bank so only a few feet apart. I was keeping an eye on the Railway and when I felt the time was right the following year, I just had to have a go. In the end, it was late in the summer of 2005 when I decided to move onto the Railway, fishing 2 nights during the week, along with the odd Friday night too.
I’d just done my last night on Larky and decided to fish the first night on the Railway in a swim known as Middle Road, I found a nice silty area at about 60 yards and elected to put a couple of single yellows out for the night. I was lucky enough to catch one the following morning, a carp called the “Scaly Mirror” that was a wicked dark heavily scaled upper 20lb fish. I started to bait a few areas around the lake too, as it had quite a few of the regular guys fishing it at the time, many of whom became some really good friends over time. I pulled off for the winter, as the Railway had no winter form at all, and decided to head back there around March the following year.
Over the winter a few regulars and I had decided to start baiting up together. At the time I was using a bait made by a friend of mine named Chris Miles, that he named “The Curry”. It was a fishmeal-based bait flavoured with an Indian Spice Oil, and the Railway Carp loved it.
Rig wise I was keeping it quite simple at the time, using a lead clip set up with a 5” nylon hook link with a bottom bait. I also used to take all the coating of the lead I used back then, just to make the drops a lot clearer. It worked too! The one thing I did on the Railway, was always fish right on top of the bars, making sure that 4oz lead went down with a cracking drop. Some of the spots are 6ft on top and 16ft deep all around, and the humps can be quite small, perhaps the size of a umbrella, if not smaller, so with this in mind I would always make sure I was on the money feeling for the shallower drops.
A few weeks into the new campaign saw me land my second fish from the lake, and it was one of the A team, a fish called “The Woodgrain” that weighed in at 35lb 2oz. Once again, this one came from in the silty area of the Middle Road swim whilst I was fishing in there on the front of a chilly northly wind.
Things were going quite well for me on there, catching some of the stunning carp that lived in the lake. By the end of the summer I had my spots rocking, with the carp visiting them regularly for a little feed. There was one fish in particular that everyone was after, the mighty Single Scale. It was a cracking big framed mirror of around 38lb, a real old looking mirror carp, with wrinkly skin and a single big scale right in the middle of its body!
One Friday night that summer, all the usual suspects were down the lake, and in the usual Railway fashion the party had started (if you know the Railway it was an awesome social water). The following morning at round 4.30AM I woke to a screaming buzzer a bent into the take and as soon as the battle had started I knew I was attached to a good one as it tried its best to do me in every weed bed on the way in.
Luckily for me I eventually won and once the fish was in the net, I realised it was Single Scale! With that I let out the usual loud scream of ‘SINGLE’…. What a fish. She had not been out off the bottom in over 2 years. I was totally blown away! All of the boys were great and helped out doing the photos and the inevitable celebrations started once again. That was the last fish for me that year and I pulled off late autumn to fish my winter water again for the winter.
The following spring I returned to the Railway, but had just managed to get my (days only) CEMEX Sutton ticket that was due to started in June and I was going to have a go on there this year as I had caught most of the Railways stock by now, all baring one very old warrior named ‘Floppy’.
I was baiting a swim known as the Brambles and had two very small humps rocking, I had a few inevitable repeat captures from these two areas. One afternoon my mate Running Lead Paul called me from the lake, and I told him to get on my little spots as I was not down that night. The following morning he called me again and on answering I heard it – ‘SINGLE’… I was over the moon for him.
June was fast approaching, and I only had 3 weeks left before I was off, so I got down early on the Friday and another big social followed. In the early hours of the Saturday I woke to a blistering take that I hooked from the right-hand hump of the Brambles, and after a short battle the fish was in the net. As I peered into the net, I just saw the fold in the tail… Floppy Tail was all mine! An iconic carp that I always wanted in the album. This fish has proper character and what a lovely way to finish up on.
The Railway has to be one of the best lakes that I’ve ever fished, and I’m pleased that I angled there when I did as most of the stock has sadly passed away due to old age away during the intervening years.