I was first introduced to the one of the Carp Societies historic venues, the famous Horseshoe Lake at Lechlade, a few years ago when my good friend Jay Goodson held an annual ticket for the venue. Ever since that initial trip I have flitted back and forth, doing the odd session here and there as fortunately it’s an open access venue, with the option of purchasing a day ticket, as long as you are a member of the Carp Society.
The lake itself is a picturesque gravel pit, around 70 acres in size, set in the Cotswold Water Park. It offers a wide range of options in terms of angling styles from stalking in the gin clear weedy margins to fishing over a big bed of bait in the middle of the pond, as well as being a renowned venue for anglers wishing to target specimen sized Tench and Rudd. The latter, big beds of bait method has proven to be most successful for me on my time fishing there.
During the earlier trips I had always managed to catch a couple of fish on each visit. However, one of my first truly memorable sessions took place in the spring of 2018. I was fortunate to get in one of the going pegs in Winter Bay, getting into a swim that allowed me to fish a couple of clear spots just over 80 yards out, located on top of a gravel bar that runs through the bay, on the other side. Winter Bay is the larger and deeper side of the main point that forms the horseshoe shape, and probably accounts for about half of the lakes total surface area, whilst with the narrower and shallower “Summer Bay” is located on the other side of the point. As the names suggest the fish tend to shoal up either one side or the other depending upon prevailing weather conditions.
As usual, I only had a maximum of 24 hours at my disposal so arriving at the lake in the afternoon meant that I would bait the spots with a couple of kilos of hemp and chopped boilie, then position my rods tightly over the bed and wait for the inevitable morning ‘bobbins bonanza’. The key to this tactic was to put the kinetic spod braid through its paces and bait as accurate as possible with the Spomb and finding a likely looking clear spot closer to the bank increased the accuracy of the baited zone.
Due to the Carp Societies no leader and barbless rules, and the lake being a classic weedy pit, my setup would have to complement this testing environment. With this in mind I used a mainline that I had the utmost confidence in, GT80+ in 15lb. I have always got on well with this line, ever since I started using it on Welly. It is a tough, highly abrasion resistant line that is amazingly easy to cast. Essentially, this means it allows me to recast accurately, landing hookbaits onto the small baited areas with minimal disturbance. Essential if the bites start coming thick and fast. I protected the last couple of feet of line with a length of green Tungsten Tubing connected to a lead clip setup by pushing it into the end of a tail rubber – a simple arrangement that also reduces tangles too.
With the dreaded tufties present and the odd Tinca to contend with, I opted for Ronnie rigs with a semi stiff fluorocarbon boom material called Invisi-Link, that I knew from experience would retain its strength during battles through weed beds and reset if the hookbait was being ‘harassed’ by the birdlife.
With rods and bait all accurately set on the spots I was confident that the lake and carp would be very predictable, and when the first signs of dawn appeared my red ATTs lit up and the receiver burst into life, and after a short battle I had one of the stockies recently introduced into the lake safely engulfed in the waiting landing net. With the sun still rising and lakes surface still like a millpond, I could see subtle signs of activity on the spot still and it was as soon as I slipped that first fish back that I was immediately into another, replicating the first encounter, I soon had another stocky in the net.
My thoughts at this time were that a shoal of them had taken a liking to my baited area, but fortunately I was proven wrong when a fierce run occurred on my remaining rod that was being fished just left on the main baited spot. This battle was totally different to the previous succession of bites! It was far more brutal, and I was utterly convinced that I was attached to something that was a different league all together. Finally, after guiding the fish through a couple of big weedbeds I safely cajoled a pristine looking common over the net cord. At over 36lb it was immaculate and one of the largest, if the not the largest, common residing in the Horseshoe lake at the time.
It wasn’t long before I was back down the ‘shoe, and I chose to replicate the previous sessions tactics. with the plan of happily wading through a few smaller fish to get amongst the better stamp of carp, and maybe with a bit of luck I could connect with some of the lovely original, heavily scaled older fish that are still swimming around in there. I really wanted to fish in the main body of water in Winter Bay again, as this seemed to be a good holding area for significant groups of fish during the key early morning feeding spells. With this in mind I put on a Feature Finder lead and found a lovely, glassy silt area just big enough to position all three rods on, over a couple of kilos of bait.
On this occasion the conditions were a bit gloomier, with lower temperatures and a damp feel to the air. Not my first choice of conditions to be angling in on this venue but on the flip side of this, the lower pressure and cloud cover created what was a mild and atmospheric night. I did not have to wait long for my first fish, which predictably came just into darkness in the late evening. On this occasion I chose not to recast the rod until dawn, as I didn’t want to run the risk of not landing the hookbait accurately. Unfortunately, the rest of the hours of darkness were quiet but as soon as it was possible to see my far bank markers I recast the rod with a new super sharp covert dark Mugga on a Ronnie rig back on the spot.
Less than 5 minutes later my left-hand rod was away with a lovely looking linear in the net. With the rod quickly repositioned it was not long before the middle was away and lady luck was on my side, when one of the original Horseshoe linear mirrors gracefully slid over the net cord. I wanted to take advantage of the dawn feeding spell so with another prepared Ronnie rig clipped it was swiftly repositioned tight on the baited area. As before, to complete the hattrick of takes in less than 15 minutes, the right-hand rod was away which resulted in a stockie. What a fantastic morning’s angling and the two linears looked phenomenal in their late winter colours.
My final memorable session coincided with a venue focus article with the guys from Total Carp. With the added pressure of having cameras at the ready I was keen to fish an area where I had previously enjoyed some success, Winter Bay of course. After getting the traps set for the night, along with a nice helping of bait applied over the top I received a bite in the early hours of the morning, that unfortunately resulted in a hook pull mid battle. Unfortunately, on a lake where there is a strict barbless hook rule and quite a lot of weed there is always an increased chance of an occasional hook popping out once in a while.
With it still being dark, and knowing I still had two other rods fishing on the spot, I did not recast as we were coming into the classic first light feeding spell. Right on cue, just as dawn was breaking, my little ATTs went into meltdown and I was once again in battle with a hard fighting carp. With the pressure of the Total Carp camera snapping away I gingerly coaxed the mirror in and swooped the net under a gorgeous mirror carp that was in the upper-20lb bracket, a great carp from Horseshoe! What a lovely result, and the pressure was off.
Considering the barbless hook rule and the weedy environment I look back and think have achieved a great ‘hooked to landed’ fish ratio. I am pretty sure this is testament to the setup I have used on there, being the ultra-reliable Ronnie and ultra-sharp Covert Dark Mugga hook combination that has always done the business for me on this tackle testing venue.