I have been fishing Rockford on and off for the last 2 years with only 1 capture, and one loss to a cut off. This year I decided to give it my full focus and hopefully capture another one of the gems of the lake. I started early, with a few trips in January and February, mainly to explore different areas of the lake and start to work a few things out. This came to an abrupt halt as the lake shut down during lockdown and when it reopened the banks were rammed, as many anglers made the most of the Furlough scheme, turning what was an already busy lake into a complete nightmare. I ended up doing a few weeks over the Roach Pit to escape the madness, having a few nice fish and enjoying the space, but deep down I knew I had to bite the bullet and fight my way through the crowd on Rockford.


I went at it full bore, fishing 2-3 overnighters every week, and most weekends. The blanks were mounting up and the torture of early morning pack ups was killing me, but I was learning bits and pieces and getting to know a few areas. I kept the bait going in and tried a few different tactics, but still had no joy.

I had a week’s holiday booked following the bank holiday, so the plan was to get in an area and put a good hit of bait out and see if the fish came to me.

Tuesday morning at 3:30am the alarm dragged me out of bed and after a quick coffee I was at the lake by 4AM, wandering the banks looking for signs of fish. With only 8 anglers on there was plenty of swims to choose from and after a couple of laps I found a few fish showing in front of an extremely popular swim that commands a huge chunk of water. By chance, I had done a night in the swim a few weeks before and found a couple of good areas, and this was where the fish had been showing.


It was nice to have some time to sit and watch the sunrise and let the fish do their thing, instead of the usual mad dash to get it all sorted before dark. I took my time to set up, checked the area with the marker rod and settled on a couple of spots at 120 yards. I prefer to use mono, rather than the braid that most of the anglers use on here, though not entirely sure it makes any difference, but I’m more confident using it. 0.35mm GT-HD (15lb) casts lovely and using a helicopter set up with 4oz distance leads I had no trouble hitting the marks and I was totally confident that the set-up works. After playing around with a couple of different rigs I had settled on the rig that worked so well for me on the Roach Pit last year, a 6 inch boom and a Ronnie rig, the only tweak being a size 4 CVR Rigga, instead of the usual size 6.


I decided to put a good hit of bait out and get all the disturbance out of the way, so a 3-hour spodding mission followed. 5kgs of boilies, a bucket of particle and a bucket of pellet – all dosed with a bottle of hemp oil. I had prepped the particle a few days before, giving the buckwheat time to absorb the oil and the boilies had been giving a good soaking too. The massive slick on the surface flattened off half the lake!

The first day was baking hot and after the early start and the spodding I was knackered, so collapsed on the bed for the afternoon. The first night passed with nothing to show for my efforts, but the fish were active the next morning, with the weather changing on the second day and the full moon due that night I felt I was in with a chance.

At 2AM I had a classic bream bite with 1 bleep up, followed by a massive drop back. I reeled in the snotty giant, swore at it and slipped it back. I decided not to recast that rod, as the light was really poor, and I wasn’t confident that I’d get it back on the spot. About an hour later the same thing happened on my other rod and I slipped another big bream back. Now, both my open water rods were propped up on the bivvy, so I decided to chuck them both back out and hope for the best. To my surprise both went back out first time, hitting the clip and the left-hand rod cracked down on a nice firm area.

I was just getting back in the bag when only 30 minutes later a single bleep had me cursing the bream, and as I slowly put my shoes on it ripped off – obviously not a bream then!

It felt heavy right from the off and slowly plodded about as I gradually eased it back towards me. There were a few tense moments as it dived into a couple of the bigger strips of weed, but after about 10 minutes I had it within 10 yards of the bank and I was hoping to slip it straight into the waiting net. No chance!

The fish powered off to my left, stripping line and flat rodding me. The sudden burst of power surprised me, and had my knees knocking and my heart pounding. I dearly wanted to land this fish and it was trying it is hardest to shed the hook, ploughing up and down the deep margin. At times I could feel my line grating on the weed along the marginal shelf so I waded out as far as I could to try and get my line away from the ledge. After five or six powerful runs I saw it for the first time, a massively framed fish rolling over in the torch light. This was one of the special ones, I eased it closer and got a better look this time and could see the distinct features of the big leather. Knowing what I was attached too did me no favours whatsoever, I was in bits. After one more powerful surge I felt I had it under control but still muttered one last prayer for the hook to hold, as I dragged the massive beast over the net cord. Yes!!


At last, after all the blanks and early pack ups, I finally had one. After a few early morning calls I managed to get a mate to come down to do the pictures – thanks Will, you got some epic shots.


48lb of old English leather carp. She is an absolutely stunning creature and without doubt one of my all-time favourite captures.

Gardner Products Used