Have you ever gone onto a new water and inside a few sessions started to question your tried and tested methods which have served you well on several waters for a number of years? Well I’ve always been a firm believer in sticking to what you know, until you learn otherwise, so that’s exactly what I’ve done this spring.

After a few more follow up sessions on Frimley’s Pit 3, to see if I could get lucky and bag the elusive Gregory while I was on a roll, it was time to move onto the venue for my intended Spring campaign, a campaign which I’d been planning for a long while. In some ways I sort of felt those few follow up sessions had held me back from what I had been planning, but I had to try.

Anyway, after countless walks that I started earlier in the year, the time had finally come to give the lake a go. Normally I’d have not taken the rods/gear along until I’d seen fish at close quarters, but this time around I approached things differently, as the residents in this lake were quite well known for not showing themselves, and true to form I was yet to see them with my own two eyes. My line of thinking was that I needed to start doing a few sessions and staying up at all hours to see if I could suss a display times or at the very least just see a freak one (like I’d heard had been seen on a few occasions already) just so I could work towards locating a group of fish.



Well my first session saw me do the usual, walking the lake for a few hours, but after once again not seeing any signs and considering that two favourable swim choices on the West Bank of the lake were taken, I opted to fish off the East bank in a swim with a great view and with the freezing cold easterly breeze off the back of it. Although I’d not seen any fish this seemed like a practical choice for a first session. Not knowing a great deal about that swim, I choose to just cast my ever-faithful hinge rigs to obvious looking canopies along the edge of an Island which pretty much splits the 38-acre lake in half. This might all sound a bit half-hearted but this session was more about surveillance, so after three rods were out and a few freebies were spombed out through the circling gulls, it was time to drink tea, eat biscuits and watch the water, and then watch some more…

After the first night had past I was up before light and watching some more, and this was when I clocked a few shows in areas I’d not positioned baits, so like you do, out went a couple of fresh baits on the shows to see if that would work. Now, on some waters, casting at fish sometimes works and on others it doesn’t and after a few hours of not receiving any action I started to think that maybe casting at them wasn’t such a great idea!


Like I always do, I noted the areas and later on in the day I found a nice gravely hump and a clean silty gully behind where I’d seen fish show, so with that knowledge I positioned a couple of baits and a scattering of freebies around each. I kept the other rod on a blatantly obvious spot along the island then carried on with the surveillance into the second night of this stay.

That evening a local mate (Billy) popped in to see me and he pointed out a snag along the side of the Long Island and said it was historically a good spot for catching the originals. Now Billy’s info is always worth listening to as he’s a local and knows those lakes like the back of his hand. After he’d left, I kept staring at that particular snag, then just as the light was failing I saw a big fish bosh out right on the near side edge of a bush next to that snag. Well that was it, I’d seen another area worthy of a rod for the next time I got to fish in that swim. Just before packing up the next morning I cast a lead to the edge of that bush where the fish had shown and found a lovely bar sticking out from the near side of the bush, so after several more casts I clipped the spool and then measured the distance for the next time I’d manage to get in the swim. Although I’d blanked on the first 48-hour session I felt positive as I’d seen fish and found fishable areas close to those spots.

On my next visit to the lake I once again found the same situation in regards which swims were taken and was again very similar weather conditions and luckily the swim I fished the previous week was vacant, so like anyone would do with nothing else to go on, I dropped straight back in there and actually felt excited.

With the information gleaned from the previous session in this swim, the rods were soon out and a few baits were deposited around two of the rods. The long one, against the bush, was fished as a bright single just to see what worked best. When I’m on a new lake that I know very little about I like to try slightly different baiting approaches to see what works, and on a lake like this, which can become quite busy, it was blatantly obvious to me pre-baiting a swim and being able to dominate it was well out of the question. It was clearly a case of getting in a swim, knowing the spots and fishing them, and if you are lucky enough to get back in that swim again that was a bonus. This was why I fished two rods over bait, out where I’d put bait the previous week, and the long rod stayed as a single at that spot which hadn’t been baited.

Now this is where things went to highs, then lows, then back to highs again. Not long after getting the rods settled, I saw a good fish show, not on my spots but in the area, so I was on a high and full of anticipation. A little while later I found out a couple of fish had been caught from the swim, up to 41lbs, in my absence, so I was on a bit of a low again fearing I’d missed the boat. The next time a few more fish showed I was once again up and hopeful of some action overnight or the following morning.

That night past uneventfully, but whilst drinking the first few teas of the day, watching the dawn break and the odd carp show amongst the tench rolling, the long rod signalled a locked-up take. I was on it quickly and walking back taking the stretch out of the line, and hopefully in doing so steered the hooked fish away from the snags and bushes along the island. All this went to plan and what felt like a large and educated fish kited out into open water whilst holding its ground. After a short while I noticed this fish seemed to know where it was going and I feared it was going to wrap me around a snaggy island to my right, so I tried an old trick of pulling it towards that island, hoping it would go against the pressure. Although I’d started to gain by doing this, unfortunately the ploy didn’t work and the fish stayed deep and then cut me off on the bar I’d seen fish showing around on the previous session. As you can imagine I was gutted about losing the first fish I had hooked. It took I while to pick myself up from that loss, but like I do when I’m encouraging mates to carry on, I kept telling myself to look at the plus side, and that’s what I eventually did and got myself back in the game.

As an experiment I tried a different tactic and put a few freebies around that spot, just to see if I’d gain more bites by introducing freebies, and continued fishing two rods on the bar. As you can imagine I was back down to a low but hoped my efforts would pay off. Then things went from bad to worse and just on dusk when the same rod went again. Again, I walked back and took the stretch up and not wanting a repeat of the last loss I wound hard to gain on the fish. This time the fish went left along the side of the island and although I thought I’d gained enough on it, all went solid when the fish found a mass of lost braid tangled in the woodwork, cutting my hooklink in the process just as I got out to the fish. What a bloody wounder. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the following morning the same rod went again, and I instantly bumped a fish. Now I rarely ever lose fish and now I found myself sat wondering what on earth was going on and trying to find a plus out of a session where I’d lost fish for 3 different reasons. The only plus I could come up with, was that I was getting bites and not losing fish for the same reasons, which really is bad angling. As mad as it sounds this gave me a boost and whilst feeling a positive another bite came from the remaining rod next to the bush. This fish followed the same path as the one which cut me off, so once in the deeper open water and with the lead dumped, I eased off and allowed the fish to wallow in over that shallow bar. Luckily, this all went to plan and soon an old mirror of 21lbs opened my account on the lake.


With that session done I looked back and rationalised that I had learned a bit about baiting situations and how cruel the lake (which resembles a mini Burghfield) can be. I went home with my head full of questions and only a few answers. One thing that kept getting in my head was should I be using braided main lines. Now that’s a whole new minefield if you don’t know braided main lines and I for one definitely don’t. All I do know is distance one’s float, and the sinking ones aren’t that great for casting and I needed a mixture of both – a hybrid that isn’t available.

The braid thing kept my head occupied for a while and I did have a dabble by spooling up with several types and taking them over a local pit to cast around and ended up nearly cutting my finger off when a stall failed. Oh, the joys of experimentation eh?

Anyway, due to word getting out that the lake was fishing well, I was unable to get back in that swim again for a couple of weeks. In some ways this was disappointing, but it forced my hand to fish and learn another swim, which is never a bad thing. Again, I learned some more about the lake and learned how responsive they were to heavy baiting, as I had a couple more bites after applying this tactic in a different swim. Unfortunately, both fish were lost, one was a typical pop-up type loss and happened quickly after the take. It seems that if they stay on for more than a few seconds they generally stay on. The other was a gutter as I lost it at the net after seeing that it was one of the few known 40s. This loss happened after the fish got tangled in one of my other lines about halfway in. I did all the usual tricks of opening the bail arm and using side strain to keep its head down, but unfortunately being on my own without a nets man, the bugger left it’s departure right until the last minute and with one shake of its head unhooked itself right at the cord. Gutted is an understatement, I could have cried. Again, I was losing more fish and for different reasons, so I started questioning things even though I was getting bites. What do you do eh? Was it just damn bad luck? I didn’t know, but it hurt!

As per usual, on a busy lake, that swim was hot news so I couldn’t get another session in and ended up back in the swim on the East bank and hearing how so and so had caught this and that from the two swims I’d fished. Now this can be damn bloody annoying to some but what I do is learn from it! Yes, people might catch fish from spots I’ve put bait on, and I could feel robbed (and in the past I have felt like that) but these days I’m older and wiser, and tend to think that I probably know more about why they’re catching those fish than they do themselves. I class this as watercraft and if I’m wrong then so be it, but I doubt it as once I get in touch with a water that’s how I see things. It’s all part of the bigger picture and I gain strength from my observations.

Anyway, up to this date my score card wasn’t looking too great, 5-1 to the carp, which was not good. Luckily, this session saw me do better, and after an epic battle with an angry male full of milt I won what I thought was going to be another loss, after the bristling mirror had run me ragged and gone around some snags on an island to my right. This was a major plus for me, as I was starting to feel like the lake did not like me and maybe I should just cut my losses and go to another syndicate I had a ticket for. Nah, that will not ever happen because I’m not a quitter, but I was close.

Well, my next session saw a lovely warm easterly wind pick up and with both the other swims I’d fished taken, I chose a swim I’d had my eye on for a while, purely based that choice on knowing how the carp in this lake loved an easterly. This was also the first warm easterly of the year, so I grabbed the leading rod and checked a couple of areas I’d found and fished the previous autumn. Unfortunately, those areas were gone, but slightly shorter than the bar I was looking for, I found a lovely clear gully which was big enough to get two rods into. This left me looking for a spot for the 3rd rod and despite looking for bits I’d found in the autumn, I couldn’t find anything other than a gravely slope off the side of the island. Now, knowing the island was still good for a bite, as it offered shelter until the weed came right up, I decided that if I was going to fish that swim they would be the spots I’d fish. Just as I’d finished leading around a couple of good mates from a neighbouring big pit popped over for a chat, and as we stood there and looking out into the waves rolling down the lake, we started spotting carp showing up. This was a ‘red rag to a bull’ and I was soon back with my gear and setting up. Once everything was ready to go in the distances were noted and hinge rigs were put on the spots I’d found. Then, both areas received a good helping of bait, which included mixed sized and flavoured boilies, along with hemp and tigers, which were mainly crushed.


Once I was settled and sorted, more carp seemed to me showing up in the area, so I was confident of some action. That evening Billy showed up, just as they put on a display and after seeing what was going on, his parting words to me were “I want to hear you’ve had at least two in the morning”! Do you know what, despite all my bad luck I actually felt confident of this and no sooner had Billy left, the island my rod signalled a bite and after a controlled battle I had a lovely 23 pounder in my net, festooned with a yellow popup as mouth decoration. Being an island chuck, I couldn’t be too accurate in the dark, so that rod received no further action and neither did the other two during the night. What they did all receive were constant liners which kept me up all night, so I got to see an awesome all-night display and I was confident of another bite. Just on dawn the next bite came and a small but welcome common was soon in my net. After quickly recasting both that and the island rod, it was Tench o’clock from 6AM to 9AM. I don’t know how many I caught, but my past experience as a Tench angler told me to keep recasting, as Tench activity tends to bring the carp in, and that’s exactly what happened. Just after 9AM a cracking mid 20 fell to a fishmeal popup.


This was great because not only could I brag to Billy when he called me, I also felt I was about to even up the score. Everything went a tad quieter after the carp bite, so at midday, when I thought bit time was over, I decided to reload the swim, cast fresh hookbaits out onto the spots and leave the swim to settle for the afternoon and evening as I hoped the fish would stay with me just like the warm wind had.

As soon as the light started to fail the evening display started and so did the liners, so it was looking like another sleepless night. When you’re on fish this isn’t a ‘problem’, so I just sat up buzzing and thinking what might be coming. A fish called ‘Smiley’ kept entering my thoughts as it was known to like the swim I was fishing, so although one of the fish I’d seen showing looked like the long common, I was sat hoping Smiley would pay me a visit, while listening to some old rave tunes. I finally got my head down at gone midnight!

For about an hour I suffered a fitful sleep due to the continuous liners and mozzies buzzing about stirring me. Then, at just gone 1AM a bite came and after a very controlled battle a huge mirror appeared in the torch light and then rolled over the cord of the net. I don’t normally use a torch at night but due to the nature of the swim I was fishing it was a safer option for getting to the rods. There, for a rare occasion in the dark, was a target fish, clearly lit up for me to see. Good ole Smiley was there in my net, and looking vey plump as well.


Well I won’t go into too much detail but I had my little moment with Smiley and after doing a few self takes and recording a weight of 41lb 6oz I watched her fat belly waddle off into the darkness during the small hours. Not only had Smiley added to an incredible run of 40s over the last year, she had evened up the score in my favour at 6-5. As you can imagine I was pumped right up by this capture, so no sleep was had and just lots of thoughts. I’d learned that there’s nothing wrong with my rigs, the fish in the lake clearly respond to bait and the fact that I was getting bites on various pop ups over heavily baited areas tells me that they aren’t at all riggy fish, which is actually quite normal for big pit carp especially during the Spring.

One thing is for sure, I’ll not be questioning my methods for a while yet and I’ll just put the losses down to bad luck and the nature of the lake.