We all have very busy lives with commitments to work, our families and non-fishing events to attend year in and year out. Only once in my lifetime have I been totally and utterly immersed myself into carp fishing for a sustained period without having any of those wider (normal) life commitments to consider.

After two enjoyable years working and living in London in 2004/05, my work took me on a final 9-month project assignment up to Nottingham. After working continually straight after leaving school in 1990, I was already planning for a year’s sabbatical at the end of this contract that was due to end in May 2006.

To add some context, during this period of my life, I was single, had no children and my house back home in Thatcham was already rented out to friends, so I had no commitments so to speak. Consequently, any movements and decisions were solely mine with very little to stop me doing as I chose. The old saying “you have to be single to be single minded” never rang so true…

Back then a huge passion of mine was following the England football team home and away. My travels took me across the world for a few years; visiting countries like Israel, Belarus, Iceland, Norway, Russia and South Africa. Too many to list and it was often a proper adventure.

At the start of my sabbatical, I spent June travelling 3000+ miles by car all across Germany during the 2006 World Cup. Again, it was an amazing life experience, but having spent five weeks there living under canvas it was to end in the inevitable anti-climax on the pitch as England were knocked out by Portugal in the quarterfinals. The day after that defeat, on the 1st July, I drove back from Munich to Thatcham (850 miles) in a day.


Upon my return home (well, my Dad’s, as my house was still rented out) I was jobless, I had to return my company car and I was effectively homeless. However, the next phase of my plan was now to spring in to action. It was always the plan, to bounce between my Dad’s spare room and immersing myself completely and utterly into my local syndicate venue called Lodge Lakes, in Thatcham.

Lodge is made up of two mature gravel pits, of around five or so acres each. The Front Lake was much more populated, with around 100 or so carp originally stocked. This was compared to 50 or so fish that had been stocked into the Back Lake. It is my understanding; the original source of the stock was from Thames Water sewage plant pool. Again, it is my understanding the carp were introduced to the lakes to help combat the huge abundance of snails, in what were at the time trout fishing lakes. Over the years, the trout were caught and not replaced, and the carp thrived, growing on in the healthy environment, and the rest is history.

Prior to this sabbatical I had enjoyed many successful years on the Front Lake, and always got amongst the carp. Back then, I even held the Front Lake record for a while at 32lb, which was a fish called the Woodcarving. However, it was the Back Lake that presented the greater challenge as it contained much fewer carp and it was choked with weed. So much weed in fact, you could literally walk across it in places.


After a few successful seasons on the front lake and with my amazing journey across Germany behind me, now felt like the perfect time to go after the remaining 27 known carp from the original stock that were left swimming in the back lake. Two large mirrors, named Backer’s and the Big Girl, and two large commons, very originally named the Long Common and the Big Common being the largest residents. There were also a lovely spread of mixed size and gorgeous carp backing them up.

It has been fourteen years since I have cast my mind back to this 11-month period (July to May) of fishing, but I will share what detail I can recall.

I spent the first month or so, climbing trees, watching and learning. Avoiding the weekends was amazing, but I always chose to start the week by dropping in on a Sunday morning to scope out what, if anything, had occurred by those angling over the weekend. Just like many other small pits, the lakes at Thatcham used to generally shut up shop if there were more than four or five anglers on. Therefore, I knew if I played things correctly, I could make my midweek time really pay off. However, the weed growth now was insane, but that said when elevated in the tree canopy you could make out holes and some other channels. What was also very obviously was just how much clearer of weed the margins were. After a month or so, I mapped out most of the lake and knew all the right climbing trees and which pegs could hit particular spots etc.

Back then, I had a little love affair with large halibut pellets. I seldom used them as hook baits, but I used to stomp the larger 22mm pellets into broken pieces and feed them along with a decent grade of large grain home-cooked hempseed. My hook baits varied, I used everything from balanced tigers, plastic yellow corn and I was one of the first customers in my area to start using Cooperloy’s “Perfection Groundbaits” gear. At the time, I was using the Crayfish Mix and Alan coloured them black on my request. The colour did wash out naturally in the water over a few hours, but hours I found those few hours priceless I terms of the colour combating the relentless birdlife that were quick to home in on brighter beds of bait.

My first capture came towards the end of July, and was in the shape of a pristine 22lb common. A classic morning bite, but it wasn’t mega early, as I remember the sun starting to feel very warm very early that morning.


Both the Front and Back lakes, had islands in the corner that South Westerly winds blew into. The island on the Back Lake had a much shorter 20-yard cast from the southerly bank. At one end of the tip of the island, was a shallow pointed gravel run off down to around 5 feet. The other end of the island was a flat face and a vertical drop. I caught the common from the bottom of the pointed gravel run off. It was a nice start, to what was to unfold to be an enjoyable, relaxing and successful period of angling.

August was very kind to me and I banked four more carp in a matter of weeks, all caught from different parts of the lake, at various times of the day. All the action was midweek though, when I had a pick of swims and could prime spots and spend the day travelling from one to the next. I managed the Friendly Mirror at 28lb 12oz, the Dark Mirror at 24lb; Creamy Belly at 29lb and another unnamed mirror at 29lb 10oz. To catch five carp, in approximately the first five weeks was a right result and was more than I hoped for in all honesty. I went on to catch a few more of the lake’s jewels before winter set in, when I consciously decided to fish another local pit through what I recall being quite a harsh winter. A repeat of Creamy Belly (one of only two repeats that season) fell in October at 30lb 5oz, with one of the larger seldom-caught common, weighing in at 27lb 1oz being my last two carp until February the following year.


Between February and the May, when I was to relinquish my ticket, all my knowledge accrued from a lake full of weed was applied to a lake that now had very little weed after the long cold winter. It was a completely different dynamic all together, and I actually found it tougher to locate the carp. I think this was due to them having a greater volume of water with little underwater obstacles (the weed) so they were often more spread out and isolated from each other.

I had a couple of the smaller carp in March, and then my second and only repeat of the Friendly Mirror; this time dropping over the 30 barrier at 30lb 6oz after a classic middle of the night scrap, and she was in scale perfect condition.

However, May was to be the icing on the cake, during two consecutive Monday to Wednesday sessions, if my memory serves me correctly. In the early hours of the Tuesday morning (at around 3AM) I managed the lakes largest resident – The Big Girl at 39lb 1oz! Then, if that was not enough, after a night away I returned on the Wednesday and captured the one that was my ‘most wanted’ in the shape of Backers at 37lb 2oz. The picture of this one does not do it justice or its magnificent colours of dark red and copper. I managed to brace Backers with another one on my wanted list, a fish called Scaley at 30lb 4oz.


So, all told I managed 18 of the 27 carp in those 10-months, with just two repeat captures. Unfortunately, the two bigger commons eluded me, which was odd being I managed to tempt a couple of the less frequent commons to the bank. However, I was not complaining and had no regrets whatsoever.

It was a very memorable years angling, but the guilt of not working and the need to stay on top of things financially kicked in, and it was not long before I was back in work and staring at a screen again Monday to Friday.

The benefits of being immersed in the angling at a water, was priceless, and I found that the time spent with rods and lines out of the water was the most invaluable. It made the confidence so much higher, when you finally dropped baited rods in before nightfall knowing that you had done everything possible to have the rods in the right spots.

Be lucky, Carl.