Many years ago, I had fished a lovely lake on the Kingsmead complex known as The Crayfish Pool. Most of the old historic fish have gone and they have been replaced by new stock. In recent years, whilst fishing the adjacent Island Lake, I had kept an eye on the little pool, and sometimes after packing up next door, I’d have a walk around. It was always as stunning as I used to remember, but many of the big snags had been removed, so in some ways the lake looked different. I did do a couple of nights one summer, without success, and I received some severe punishment, a thriving crayfish population!


I left it for a couple of years, but as the start of this year I got the ticket back, partly because I wanted somewhere more local in case of any lockdown travel restrictions. My other ticket was an hour and a half drive away, so at least it gave me the option of a quick local night too. My good friend Gavin had fished the lake off and on for a while and was a brilliant source of information about the place. Whilst dipping in and out between fishing The Island Lake, he had indeed caught most of the better residents in the pool. He even managed to brace the two biggest in one memorable February session, an awesome achievement! I had seen photos of the two biggest fish, and they were both impressive to say the least. I particularly liked the fish called SP, Lord of the Lake, and a brute of a mirror that was renowned for an arm aching fight! The more I learned, the more excited I got and I couldn’t wait to get back for another go.


My first trip back was an eventful one, as around mid-May I took a break from my Essex syndicate and scheduled a two night session in. The lake was nice and quiet when I arrived, and after a walk round I moved into a swim on the car park side of the lake. In all honesty, Gavin had told me that the fish called SP, did the bulk of its captures from that end. I knew I wasn’t going to fish the lake hard, week after week, so in an attempt to target that one, I planned to get into to that end of the lake, if possible on every trip, to increase the odds in my favour as much as possible. I knew of one spot close to the right-hand bank, a pronounced hump that came off the bottom in what is a deep lake, with areas going down to over 15 feet. These shallower spots were what I was after, and with little weed at that time of year, I wanted to fish on hard spots, rather than the silt which made up most of the bottom.

In other lakes I generally look for silt, but here I knew the fish preferred to feed on the gravel, which in turn wasn’t as attractive to the ravenous crayfish. With one rod sorted I looked for another spot, and was rewarded with a rock hard drop out to my left, but nice and close in. I had already decided to go in fairly heavily with bait, as I knew the crayfish would demolish a fair bit of it. I had put my favourite Essential K5 boilies through the crusher, and mixed that with some bloodworm pellets and hemp, which I hoped being small items would take longer for the crays to clear out. I also baited with K5 boiles in 12 and 16 mm sizes, and fished two artificial boilies soaked in Salami oil. Gavin had warned me of the crayfishes’ ability to remove baits, so I tied both boilies on with 20lb line rather than floss, and ditched the rig putty in favour of Heavy Covert Tungsten Sleeves. It was all looking good and I sat back reasonably confident.


Shortly after someone else arrived and went into a swim on my right-hand bank in the corner, which is supposed to be a margin only swim. However, several leads and baits landed right over me and I guessed the angler in there hadn’t read that rule! There wasn’t much I could do except pack up early the following morning and leave. I wasn’t really feeling the love for it as much as I had hoped!

From then on, I travelled each week to the Essex syndicate, and I really began to get into my fishing on there. I was lucky to be able to string two night sessions together and whilst I could do that I could take the longer journey, and have a decent amount of time to get things going on there.

In August I had a family holiday, and on getting back with everyone still be off work and school it was nice to spend days at home together. I gave fishing a complete miss for a while and enjoyed the break. Knowing I could do a couple of single nights, I thought it would be a good time to head back over to the Cray, as since May I hadn’t heard anything about it, or even been over there at all. I dug out my artificial baits and prepared a load of crushed K5, and was soon unlocking the big gate into the little pool. It looked stunning, but I was a bit concerned with the green coloured water, as I was used to seeing it tap water clear. There were a couple of anglers on, but the bottom end was free again, and it was an easy decision to set up there.

I checked the notes on my phone and I still had the wrap distances stored, so I wound them up without the need for a marker rod at all. I was using a new braided main line from Gardner called Hydro Sink Noir, coupled with a rod length of 20 lb Mirage fluorocarbon, which is the ultimate in feel with zero stretch, so hoping both spots were still clear I sent them out to the spots. They were indeed, and both rods smashed down first cast. That was good enough for me, and I put in a big hit of the crushed bait and plenty of whole boilies in with a catapult. It was late morning and I guessed past bite time, so I wasn’t worried about the spombing disturbance as much. I sank the lines as I like to let them sink from the lead back, allowing the heavy Mirage leader to pull the braid behind it down slowly, giving my line lay the best in stealth properties.


The lake appeared fairly lifeless and the algae green colour of the lake didn’t look appealing, so I wasn’t overly confident. It was a surprise when only 30 mins after casting out and my spombing barrage had finished, I had a ripping take on the left-hand rod. Bites, as with everything are accentuated on braid, but this one tore line from the clutch as the rod tip pulled around almost down to the spigot. I picked the rod up, and the fish powered off to the middle of the lake on a run that was simply unstoppable. Its power was unbelievable, like hooking into a Polaris missile! I remembered Gavin telling me of SP’s fighting ability, and within 20 seconds I had no doubt as to what I was attached to. It changed battle plan after 3 or 4 long runs and went hard to the right towards a margin which I knew held some savage snags. I held on without giving anything, thankful for the braid, as I knew if it made it there it was game over. It was a stalemate for what seemed ages, until finally it turned and headed back out towards the relative safety of open water. I was grateful too for the strong end tackle, not subtle, but man enough to cope with this long fight. I was using a big size 4 Covert Dark Chod hook, and a 20lb hook link, with a drop off lead C clip, and I already had confidence that the lead had gone.


It was now close in, but staying deep, and it was a further 5 minutes of arm ache before I got a look at it. I saw the cluster of scales near the tail, and the distinctive round body shape, confirming what I already knew, it was the unmistakable SP. It wasn’t finished yet though, despite me praying for it to just give up, and twice having it over my outstretched net, only for it to power off again. Never had I known a fish this strong, and when I finally had it beaten a wave a massive relief washed over me.


She went 38lb 2oz and looked mint, although slightly pale due to the coloured water. I did a few self takes as quickly as I could, before watching her swim off into the pool I had first fished some 20 years before. With autumn not far off it was great timing, but I still packed up with a hint of sadness to what is a special place to me.