One of my good mates, John Bartley, has a little saying and that’s “things happen for a reason”. Well, I don’t disagree with John as I’ve found that if you’ve a long term plan in angling, quite often things don’t go quite to plan due to many reasons i.e. dealing with nature, weather and other anglers, let alone life! Some might say live each day as it comes and never plan too far ahead, but poor planning often results in a poor performance.


As you’d have read in the last two Big Carp Mindset articles, I’m definitely one who prefers to plan things out, and when things don’t go quite to plan I adapt but still stay focused and often reflect on John’s saying to keep me going…

Last month I finished up by saying that I had been walking, prepping and learning a new water ready for the Spring. I also mentioned how I had a thing about wanting to master catching big fish on zigs and hopefully catch a February 40. Well despite my efforts I failed at both. As for the zigs I tried all sorts from changing depths, colours and hooking arrangements, but the closest I got to catching on them was a few weird takes, and I only connected with a couple of them. Unfortunately, they both fell off mid battle so a zig expert I am not! And as for how the February 40 went? Well it didn’t! I still think that if I were going to tick that box, it probably would have fallen to a zig. Maybe it was one which fell off? I do not know, and never will do but both were fails.

Anyway, moving on, I continued to press on with my Winter campaign and as we all know we were getting some awesome record-breaking mild weather during late February and into early March. This weather had my head in a bit of a spin because, although I don’t believe for one minute that the Frimley fish had stopped moving all winter, they were really starting to show. With the Winter tickets coming to an end and more of the full syndicate members getting the itch to go to the lake, it started to become busier by the day. This in turn made it a little bit harder to frequent a few swims I’d been concentrating on, so by the end of February it was time to adapt my approach and start fishing for opportunities rather than relying on the baited areas located where fish had become localised throughout the Winter. As I mentioned in part one, a busier lake forces the fish to move around and after a whole Winter staring at pretty much the same views, I was quite happy that during my last few sessions I would see me moving about with the fish, chasing a few opportunities as and when they arose.

To be able to fish like this I find I need to be a bit more focused, rather than in ‘camping mode’, so comforts and distractions have to go or be limited through a bit of personal discipline. With this in mind, the first things to be taken out of my kit are luxuries like DVD players and iPads, and I put a restriction on the amount of time that I spend surfing social media and looking at things like YouTube. Without all these distractions, it is inevitable that my eyes are on the water more, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that you’ll see more signs of fish.

At the end of February, Wayne who photographed the mirror in my last column, paid me a late-night visit and as we sat chatting and watching the water, I told him about my plans and changes. Wayne was always one to push me and he always said I had incredible mental strength for carp fishing and that is why I’m one of the few who keeps going year in, year out, all year round. Wayne had fished a lot of top waters, mixing amongst some of the best anglers, so he had seen a few things and learned a lot along the way. It wasn’t uncommon for Wayne to sit up and walk a water at night, so we would often sit up late watching the water while keeping warm around a Coleman stove, eating ginger nuts and sipping copious amounts of tea.

Sadly, that night I just spoke of, was to be Wayne’s last late-night visit to my swim, as he suddenly died a few days later. Several weeks after I was still coming to terms with losing such a good mate, but I keep hearing his words of encouragement about my mental strength. To be completely honest his death was a massive blow to me. Wayne knew of my obsession to catch two of the big commons in Frimley, fish known as Gregory and Lily, so I vowed to achieve this for him.


My next session after Wayne’s death saw me just going through the motions of setting up in the Double Boards swim. To be completely honest I wasn’t really into fishing, but just had to get out after sitting at home for a few days. It seemed like everyone else on the lake was in the same frame of mind, and Wayne’s departure was the main topic of sombre discussion. The whole venue was in mourning.

On the last night of that 48 hour stay I gave myself a good talking to and stayed up, with Wayne’s words ringing in my ears and John’s saying ‘things happen for a reason’ in mind. I was rewarded when I saw something going on during the small hours of that night over on the far side of the lake, so I had a plan for my next visit and the Gravely was to be my next port of call.

Luckily, on my next visit the swim was vacant, so I claimed it by pushing my kit in there and then had a chat with a chap in the neighbouring “Sticks swim”. Whilst chatting to Nick I noticed gill bubbles popping up at close range between the two swims. With this sighting, my mind was already made up, but to boost my confidence I checked out the Gravelly’s bush. Straight away I could see carp in the snags, so this had me buzzing to get the rods out. Having fished The Gravelly several times, I wasted no time in getting two hinged rigs out on spots I already knew. Those were just given a standard light wide scattering of 12mm boilies and left to settle for the next 24 hours, or until something happened. The other rod which was to be my left rod was to be fished on a zig as that’s what I thought to be the best approach to angle for the fish, which were clearly adjusting their depths between our swims.

Not long after I’d set up Nick packed up, so this gave me more water to play with the zig in so that’s basically what I did during that afternoon. Unfortunately, my efforts didn’t win me a quick bite this time, which zigs often can…

During the night the carp put on a display which had me in the starting blocks for several hours and by about 10AM after the expected bite time had passed, just when I was starting to lose hope, the middle rod ripped off! After a good marginal battle I had a lovely mid-20 common to do self takes with.


Naturally, this buzzed me up for the next 24hrs of my stay, so after sorting the fish I got the rod back out and introduced a few more freebies with my little match catapult, keeping the disturbance down to a minimum. The other two rods were recast a bit later in the day and after I opted to keep the disturbance down to a minimum, I dropped the zig fishing.

I don’t know why, but I’ve got this thing about zigs being a rig that should be worked/cast regularly. Maybe, because I look at them like they should win quick bites like chods or PVA bag fishing can do. I don’t know, I’m no expert that’s for sure, but I didn’t want to spook my swim by repetitively casting them.

Anyway, in hindsight I’m convinced my plan worked because at midnight I had another take on the middle rod, fished on a plateau. After another epic marginal battle, with what I was convinced would be another small fish, I netted one of the larger commons known as Crinkle tail at 39lbs 12oz. Now, I’m pretty good at self takes, but this was quite a large fish so rather than try to balance a big fish and push a button at the same time I used my intervalometer. Well if you haven’t got one of these for our camera I recommend you get one because they really are the dogs nuts and better than a human.


Anyway, that was it for that session and my head was re-focused. The following week I realised I had to go hard at the fishing because the week after I had Wayne’s funeral and The Big One fishing show at Farnborough to attend, so the fishing time was going to suffer that week.

Due to a 48-hour rule on the lake I worked out that if I did 24 hours from Monday until Tuesday, I could then go home for Tuesday night and return on Wednesday until Friday. By doing this I could pretty much be on the lake for 5 days and be well in touch, ready for what could be my last big push before moving onto two other waters. Well that was the plan, and with a big low and storm Gareth forecast I was buzzing to get out and on it.

Monday came and I was fully focused and at the lake early, looking and watching for signs to go on. After several hours of not seeing any signs I opted to return to the scene of the previous weeks success and set up in the Gravely, which was slightly off the back of the wind which meant I was comfortable and had a good view of the wind battered end further down the lake. Well good choice or not I got the rods went out bang on and I felt half confident, but the carp just simply weren’t there anymore. Where they were was more than quite evident the following morning, when they were repeatedly showing right on the end of the storm force winds Gareth was smashing down the lake.

At around 10AM I saw a huge silvery common (possibly Lily) show along the tree line, which could be fished from the Lawns; a swim I’d been baiting regularly throughout the Winter and a known haunt of Lily’s. Part of the reason I had been baiting that swim was as a back-up plan if Gregory had been caught, so now with this sighting I had to make a choice. Should I move around and do another night, that in turn would see me having to adapt my days, or pack up, nip round and bait up and return on the Wednesday? Well, after pondering my options I decided to go with the latter. Just after I’d baited up, I tucked a twig in the landing net, which all our swims have, just to see if the swim got fished that night…

The following day I returned fully focused, with total tunnel vision, and the first thing I did upon arrival with my barrow in the Lawns swim was check that net. Well the twig hadn’t moved, so I was confident those fish hadn’t been disturbed and with the conditions the same I set about setting up whilst being battered by storm Gareth rolling down the lake at me. After a few dodgy casts in the cross wind, I managed to get my rigs in where I wanted them and even the one in the alcove along the tree line went in without drama.

Once again, I scattered a few 12 millers around each rod with the match catty before settling down for the next 24-48 hours of my stay. Now if I’d had an iPad or DVD player I’d have been distracted, but I didn’t so I spent the next 24 hours staring out into the whitecaps but saw nothing except further down the railway bank in front of another angler, so that meant a move was out of the question.

Just as my confidence was starting to wobble and when I was considering a move back up the lake to the Gravely, where they sometimes go to shelter, the rod in the alcove melted off. This in itself was a worry, because it was fishing between snags on a tight clutch. On picking it up I expected to feel that horrible grating of line around woodwork, but to my surprise it swung clear and kited out from under the snags moving into open water. This is where the next worry came in, as the gusts were bellying the line as the fish headed up wind. Quick thinking saw me drop the rod tip sideways and with this the attached carp came in like a dog on a lead, then took up the rest of the battle under the rod tip whilst we were both being smashed by the waves.


During the latter part of the fight I could see it was a big common, so just let the rod do the work and netted the fish when it was good and ready. This all went to plan and as text-book as it sounds, there in the bottom of my net laid Lily. Now, over the last year, I’d caught 4 other fish over 45lb and 3 of them had been repeat captures, all whilst trying to catch Lily or Gregory. Although they are still big fish they don’t necessarily mean as much as a new one and a target. I was literally buzzing, and after weighing and photographing Lily at 46lbs 8oz I was in shock! In fact, I was that much in shock I nearly rung Wayne up to tell him how he was right about where I’d catch her from… Well, we celebrated that capture with tea and ginger nuts, I even threw one in the lake for Wayne.


After that session I’ve did a few more follow up trips, in the hope I could continue the roll and catch Gregory, but guess what? It did get caught recently on a blooming zig by an angler who’d previously already caught him. Oh well, as John says “things happen for a reason”, so now that one has been caught and the weathers warming up again it’s time to put my other plans into action over the next few months and remain mentally focused without distractions.