Over the four years I spent on the amazing Wellington country park I was very fortunate to have bumped into a number of the residents, but this session stands out more than any other. I had already decided that it would be my last season and there was still I few fish that I dearly wanted, so I needed to make the most of the time I had left.
On this particular trip, my good mate Rob Marsh was coming on a guest session. At Welly the members are allowed to bring a guest a couple of times a year and this was Robs second trip. Unfortunately, we had both blanked on his first ‘guesty’ so I desperately wanted this trip to be more successful and for Rob to catch his first welly carp. With that in mind we set off on our first lap of the lake. When you bring a guest one of the stipulations is that they must fish in adjacent swims to you, so although the lake wasn’t that busy, it did leave us with a limited number of areas to fish. Basically, we had a choice of two, either on the animal farm bank or on the syndicate bank. As there was a bitterly cold wind blowing into Animal Farm, the syndicate bank was the choice. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, on this occasion, we actually got it right as that cold northerly was to continue throughout our trip.
We had two swims, Daisies and The Snags and I gave Rob first choice. He asked where I would go and I explained that The Snags was one of my favourite swims, so he went in there, while I set about finding some spots in Daisies. In all my time on Welly I had never fished Daisies, but I knew there was a broken bar that ran away from the Snags down towards Turtle Corner so one rod went there. An island to my left looked very carpy so one rod went into a little alcove there, and the third rod was fished into open water with a view to casting at anything that showed.
Bait wise, Welly has always been dominated by boilies so that was the obvious choice, a few whole and some halved baits catapulted around each spot. Rig wise, I love my ‘Cotton Rig,’ as lovely-Lew refers to it as. It is a very basic rig consisting of a wide gape hook, tied KD style to a supple braided hook link. I probably use this rig for 80 percent of my angling, with a critically balanced bait I just feel the supple braid allows it to behave more naturally, moving like one of the free offerings. I do use stiffer material at times, but in my head they look very one dimensional, moving on angles rather than naturally, if that makes sense. In fact, I do not want my rig pushed away from the lead, instead I want some slack so when the fish sucks in a bait it goes right inside the mouth. The further in it goes the better the chance of tagging some flesh on the way out. It does indeed look like a piece of cotton with a hook attached to the end of it!
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the geese would be a problem, picking my lines up several times as they waddled across the front of the swim, but small back leads solved that problem and we were soon both sorted, enjoying a nice dinner and soaking up the atmosphere of the home of giants.
We both turned in about 10PM and it was not long before my right hand on the broken bar went into meltdown. Lewis was fishing on the other side of the bay and said that he could actually hear my clutch screaming for a while before the alarm kicked in! After the initial power, the fight was fairly uneventful and a huge pale shape was soon wallowing on the surface ready for netting, or so I thought. By now I knew what fish it was, and my legs went to jelly. This fish had been very close to the 60lb mark on its last capture and many of us were expecting it to be the first Welly carp to officially go over that magical number (my old mate Greg had already had an unofficial one, but that’s another story). Just as it was about to roll in the net it got a second wind and powered off, around the corner towards Rob and the snags! I had no option, I had to follow it and after another battle stood out in the pond she finally shuffled into the net.
Up on the scales she went 58lb 12oz, a new PB and to say I was elated would be an understatement. With the pictures done and the Ulcer Fish safely returned to her home, I sat back and tried to take it in. I did not have much time to do that though as a short while later Rob was playing his first Welly carp. After a hairy battle in The Snags a mid-30lb common was sulking in the net. What a result, and this was our first night!
The next morning we headed off to the farm shop for a celebratory breakfast with a few of the other members and on our return I saw no reason to change anything so the rods went back on the same spots and we settled down for our second night. Now anyone that knows me will tell you that I am prone to the odd catastrophe, the occasional “how the hell did you do that?” moment, and this trip was to be no different. At around 3PM I had a take on the middle rod and a rather strange battle commenced with what was clearly a massive fish. About ten minutes in, the rig on my middle rod popped up attached to some line, a trailer I thought. I waded out into the lake to deal with it when Rob, sounding confused announced that that looked like my line too. He was right, it did! I asked him to pick up my island rod and it then became apparent that, once again, I had got myself into a bit of a predicament. I mentioned earlier that I was using back leads and what had happened, unbeknown to me, is that I had managed to slide the back lead into a submerged ball of brambles! The fish was actually on this rod, but because the back lead was jammed in the brambles it couldn’t take any line and had kited and picked up my middle rod which registered the take! As Rob frantically tried to untangle the mess the line parted, leaving me out in the pond hand lining an exceptionally large carp! I wrapped the line around my hand and slowly walked backwards, handing the line to Rob before going back out in the pond to do battle. This way I figured that if it did decide to go on a run, I would have some line to feed out from behind me and hopefully still be able to land it. Well it did go on a run, several in fact! I cut my fingers, burnt my hands but somehow, I was still connected. At one point the fish swam right in front of me and once again my legs turned to jelly. It was Little Big Head, another of the lakes big mirrors and another that was expected to be near the magical 60lb mark!
After a few more minutes I managed to bundle it into the net, and as I turned to walk back I could see Rob shaking his head and laughing “how the f**k did you manage that?”. “I’m not too sure” I responded before we both burst into laughter.
A few of the lads came round to help with the weighing, Ed, Nick the Pilot and dear old Lew, and on the scales she went 56lb 14oz. Wow a fifty-pound fish handlined to the net! The carp gods were definitely smiling on me that afternoon. A brace of carp for 115lb 10oz, that I later found out was a British record brace (if there was such a thing?) and was certainly one of my angling highlights.
I have been away from Welly for a couple of years now and I do miss it, especially all the other members. They are the best bunch of lads I have ever had the pleasure to fish with and part of the memories that I will never forget. If you ever get the opportunity to fish the iconic Wellington Country Park, grab it with both hands, you wont regret it.
Stay safe, until the next time, all the best…