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In early 2016, I found myself itching to get back down the ultra-low-key venue known as Wellington Country Park, to try and get amongst the phenomenal stock of carp whilst they were at their optimal weights. However, with all good things in life, they come at a price, and with the premium stock of carp present there was a hefty price tag to match. Once I had worked enough hours in amongst university life to fund the next years ticket renewal, I was prepping for my first trip of the year.

The winter of 2016 had been a particularly mild one with a seamlessly never ending run of mild low pressure systems moving in off the Atlantic, all of which kept the fish feeding and they proved a lot more catchable during the colder months than normal. I was rewarded for my efforts on my opening trip towards the end of February with a tidy brace of a 30lb and a 40lb commons.

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Keen to keep the early momentum going, I intended on getting back into the same zone as it was obvious the fish were holding up in between 3 swims, in the main body of the lake. Better still, they were willing to eat lots of bait!

A couple of weeks later I was hurtling down the M4, at a reasonably sensible pace, praying I could get close to the trio of open water swims where the fish were still present. With an element of de ja vu I managed to nick a bite early in the session; again, within minutes of putting the rods out just before dark. I was greeted with a lovely 37lb mirror sporting her wintry colours. This capture was followed up in the morning by mid-20 common, a sign that the fish were still comfortable in numbers, held up against the main island. I must add at this point, that getting bites this quickly on Welly were not that common and I just seemed to be turning up at the right time and getting the rods out with minimum disturbance.

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With the success of the first two trips, I seemed to be doing more right than wrong. I was using a combi rig consisting of a Subterfuge boom (invisible and stiff) and Ultra Skin stripped back for the braided hook section, allowing the ever faithful Covert Dark Mugga hook to flip and create a firm hook hold. It’s a nice balance of rig components, that means it is always fishing and there’s nothing blatant apart from the hookbait.

The end of March was looming, and the lakes residents had vacated their winter solace and started to spread out. Now, I’m hoping my girlfriend shows her distinct lack of interest in my angling and doesn’t read the next part, otherwise I will probably get a hefty punch to the throat! I was due down to fish a three nighter, which coincided with the appearance of storm Katie, fronting low pressure and big winds. This could only mean one thing, big carp!

Unfortunately, my better half had a minor car accident on the way home from work in the evening, fortunately she was OK (just a little shaken up) and this put me in the predicament of either staying home and being a loving boyfriend comforting her, or get up at 4AM and go fishing with a horrendous storm due but with the chance of a chunk. It was a tough decision (no honestly it was… ish!) but I had the attitude that if she didn’t need to go to hospital she would survive a few days without me!

So, I turned up at the lake, shortly followed by a few other anglers that had a similar hunch these conditions were worth being on the bank for. With all the excitement of the epic conditions I had unfortunately forgotten to pack any waterproofs, whilst unloading the gear in the car park Ronnie had kindly offered me a rain jacket on one proviso. This condition was that if I catch a 50lber I had to have a picture with the fish whilst wearing the jacket. With the rain lashing down I didn’t hesitate in taking him up on his kind offer, and he certainly disappoint when he whipped out a flash jacket (high-viz), a deal was a deal and I didn’t want a soaking at the start of the session!

Lewis had been in the Bush Swim and had caught a fish that night, so I opted for that swim knowing there was a chance of another bite. I had to fish shorter, due to the power of the wind, for both casting and baiting up purposes. Fortunately, my mainline was the robust (and my absolute faaaave!) GT80+ which is strong enough to be brutalised through snags, but also capable of reaching the horizon should the strong winds ease, and I had to blast them out into the open water areas.

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I gave them some bait and just as the storm was gaining momentum, I found myself attached to a powerful fish on my right-hand rod. After a ‘twitchy’ battle, where the fish must have clipped each marginal branch on the way in, the jewel of the welly commons was lying defeated in the folds of the net! The Chestnut Common weighed 52½lb, and with the pictures done in my new rain jacket I returned the fish and took another good bashing off of Katie.

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The storm was that brutal I was holding on to an airborne Tempest at 3AM, albeit with a huge grin on my face as I was still flying high myself from the capture of the Chestnut. The following morning I decided to bait the spot that I had snared the Chestnut from with a couple of kilos of boilies, in the hope that if the fish were still present they would gain confidence on the spot and create an easier chance of adding to the session’s tally.

Truth be told, for most the day I could not actually cast to that spot, as it was along the island margin and the battering wind would have just carried my mainline up into the overhanging foliage. In the end I had to wait for the last hours of daylight to cast out, as like most days, there always seems to be a lull in the weather which was a perfect opportunity to make the tricky cast and feel the thud down on the lake bed that makes a little bit of love wee come out. Very satisfied with the repositioned rig it was only a matter of minutes before I had an absolute whizzer on the same rod, only this time it felt like it had enough power to take me water skiing!

The heavens opened and my calls for help were muted by the battering wind and rain, so I had to don the waders and try to land this angry leviathan on my own. Looking back this really was one of the most epic battles I have encountered whilst attached to a carp, and upon landing it I knew why. As it finally slid over the net cord I caught a glimpse of the huge set of shoulders and a width that’s characteristics of the Chinese common, a fish that hadn’t been out all winter and was anticipated to be at a very big weight. On the scales it certainly didn’t disappoint, and she spun the needle round to 53lb 6oz, a new PB and a mind-blowing brace of UK 50lb+ commons.

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