It was the 8th February 2016 and I had just finished an eleven-hour shift at work. The weather up until now had meant that it had one of the mildest winters we had experienced for a number of years, with mostly warm south-westerly winds and temperatures that had not dropped below double figures for weeks on end!
Normally, I would wait until the following morning before heading off fishing, but with a massive storm forecast I knew I needed to get down the pond ASAP! To add to this urgency, my mate Daz was already down and had informed me that another angler was also going to be heading down imminently. With the very strong winds we had forecast, my plan was to fish on the back of the wind, in a swim called the Middle Bumpy, to see out the worst of the storm, before moving sometime the next day as I figured the winds would be too strong for me to fish my baited area effectively.
I had been baiting an area very heavily, in a swim called The Lawns, for four months, making the round-trip drive of almost 250 miles in between sessions, just to keep the bait going in. Additionally, I would also bait before I left at the end of each session. I was utterly convinced that, even though the lake held a relatively low stock, the unseasonably mild weather would keep the fish feeding. Of course, to add to this, the bird life would make a huge dent in the amount of easily available food as the venue was both clear and shallow! In fact, my bait ups consisted of several buckets of bait, that was 20kg of hemp, ground bait and pigeon conditioner, with around 15kg of boilie added just for good measure.
As I set off for the 120+ mile drive to the lake I could feel the wind increasing in strength and I was constantly having to adjust the steering wheel angle on the van to compensate against the big gusts as I raced down the M25. I knew that the other angler was due to arrive at around 10PM, and just hoped I could beat him down, as I just knew he would have the same plan as I did! As I got closer to the lake the weather took a turn for the worst, just as the forecasters had predicted, as not only had the wind got up to gale force but the rain was lashing down at a biblical rate. Then the inevitable happened, some dickhead thought he could equal Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap at Silverstone and wrapped his motor round a crash barrier on the A3! My heart sank, as after sitting in a massive traffic jam for the best part of 2 hours Daz rang to confirm my worst fears – the other angler had beaten me down and, as expected, had headed straight into the middle bumpy. It was a no brainer really, but I must admit that I was a bit pissed off and even toyed with the idea of turning the van around and heading home. In the end I decided that I would park up the road in a nearby lay-by and drive to the lake for first light, weighing up my options then…
As first light loomed I was already up and standing in The Lawns, the swim that I had been baiting. Luckily, the rain had eased somewhat but the wind was absolutely savage, and I could barely stand there without being blown around! I figured it was far too strong to allow me to fish effectively, so instead I just spent most of the morning walking around, moping and poncing tea off Daz.
In the end I had pretty much made my mind up that I was going to tuck myself away in a little swim, out of the wind and at the complete opposite end of the lake, and see how this progressed as I had three nights at my deposal. Then, whilst having one last cup of tea with Daz he informed me that the angler in The Middle-Bumpy was planning to move into the lawns at midnight, when the wind was forecast to died down. Well I was not going to be outdone twice, so with Daz’s help we were soon struggling to put up my Armo bivvy in the face of the brutal conditions. The wind was so strong that I ended up having to use 16-inch bank sticks as bivvy pegs, just to keep the thing from ending up in the road behind me!!
I fished three rods, deciding to flick one to the right just next to a little overhanging tree. The middle rod went onto my baited zone and the left-hand rod was cast around 70 yards towards the apex of the reception building on the opposite bank.
Not being someone who likes to over complicate things, I decided to go with my age-old tried and trusted rigs, which were constructed using reliable and (most importantly) strong products. So, 20mm fish meal hookbaits were attached to size 4 Wide Gape Talon Tip hooks, simply knotless knotted blow back style. On Vinnie I was using around 7-8 inches of brown 25lb Ultra Skin that matched the sandy spots, with Covert lead clips and around 5 feet of 35lb Camflex leadcore. Again, brown w the colour of choice due to the fact most of the weed had already died back, and I felt the colour would match the lakebed laying just off the spots perfectly.
Due to the massive winds it was a real struggle to get the rods bang on and feeling for a drop was almost impossible. In the end I remember going to bed feeling disconsolate that night thinking that I had no chance of catching.
Up until this point Vinnetrow had not been very kind to me at all, having only had three bites so far that season, and only banking one carp. I put this down to lots of reason; mainly not being able to get on them due to angling pressure, but also over baiting when I did manage to drop onto the fish. We live and learn!
Just before first light I was woken by constant bleeping emanating from my left and middle buzzers. I lay there in my bag, blaming the wind for pushing debris onto my lines. Eventually though, I could take no more, and was busting for a pee so I got out to shake the lines clear and reset the bobbins. I had been fishing with the bobbins on the other side of the alarms, to cut the sensitivity down and to try to minimise the constant bleeping caused by the wind, and on looking at the rods both had been pulled from the clips? Assuming it was the wind and weed I just popped the lines back into the clips, reset the bobbins and climbed back into my bag to try and get some much-needed sleep. Within minutes the bleeps started again and I lay there trying to ignore them, until once again I could take no more! That was it, “I’m reeling them in and redoing them” I grumbled.
With that I reeled in the right had rod, and then noticed that once again both my other rods had been pulled from the clips. Furthermore, the bobbin on my middle was moving up and down! “Oh s*£t! I think I might need to hit that” I murmured as I started to reel the rod in, only to be met with slack line? I reeled and reeled as quickly as I could, until eventually my left-hand bobbin started to pull right up!
I had had a pickup and whilst the hooked fish was trying to make the sanctuary of the snags to my left it must have picked the line up on that rod! What a palaver, and by now I was sh*”£ing myself at the thought of losing my third fish in a row. Now with the correct rod in my hands I kept pulling what felt like a dead weight toward me, at least until a great big set of shoulders surfaced around 15 yards out – shoulders that could only belong to one fish!
The battle was all going ok, until around 10 yards out when everything just locked up. The two lines became locked together and snagged! Without a thought, and fully clothed with my thick jacket and thermal wellies on I grabbed my net and jumped straight in! I must add that although Vinnetrow is quite shallow, it is not something I would recommend for anyone to do, but I wasn’t about to let this one get away. So, I waded out, as far as I dared at full stretch, and could feel my jacket popping me up with the air that was trapped inside it. It was touch and go but I just about managed to get the whole lot into the waiting net and pull it all toward me. As I looked into the net my suspicion was confirmed, and there before me lay The Half-Lin in all her winter glory! I let out a massive shout of joy and called Daz to come round and confirm that it was indeed that fish.
That capture bought my time on the pond to an end. As despite the lake containing some cracking fish, I had really only joined for that one fish. On the scales she weighed in at a massive 57lb 8oz and I can confirm that on the drive home that morning I was beaming from ear to ear. Later, I reflected on how lucky I had been with all the ‘ifs, buts’ and maybes’ but after the effort of getting there and moving it proved to be magical session and one that inspires me to keep at it, as they really can come when you least expect it!!