It was April by the time I could get started night fishing, once the travel and restrictions had finished, and by then I was desperate to get out, as was everyone. I had prepared all my gear, checked it over hundreds of times in the months before, had a freezer full of fresh bait, lots of rigs tied and I headed to Essex full of anticipation.

I had also been lucky enough to have some new trial braid from Gardner called Hydro Sink Noir. I haven’t been a big fan of braid before, preferring fluorocarbon for almost all of my fishing, but with the Essex Lake being shallow and weedy in the summer, I could see why the braid could be an edge. I was really impressed with the Noir, it was a lovely black colour and had a fluorocarbon weave in it which meant it sank superbly, but with zero stretch I knew it would help me ensure I was fishing spots with maximum accuracy, as well as a feel beyond what you can achieve with any mono.


As the summer wore on this alone turned out to be a big game changer. To be honest the first few trips were disappointing. It was seriously cold at night, in fact I think the first night I did was -5c, coupled with high pressure, and with the lake being very coloured after the winter floods, I couldn’t seem to find anything however hard I looked. The first session I had 6 massive tench, and every time the buzzer went I was sure it was a carp. I stuck with it though, and as time wore on even though the water didn’t clear, the odd fish started coming out. Not to me I might add, until mid-May when I got off the mark with 2 nice mirrors both over 30 lbs. These came on little pop ups over about a dozen baits, as by then I had realised big beds of boilies wasn’t the one. With the coloured water, the weed wasn’t coming up at all, and that made the fish extremely mobile, as fast as you could locate them, they’d be off again and right up the opposite end of the lake. Being mobile was the key, and I think I fished different swims almost every night I did there that spring.

It wasn’t until June that things really came good for me. By then the fish had spawned and the lake had been shut for a while to allow them to spawn and recover. During this time the water had cleared and the weed had begun to flourish. I did the first night in a swim at the far end of the lake, but by first light the following morning I knew it wasn’t the one, as I had neither seen or heard anything at all. I was wound in by 6 am, and walked down to the car park, which gave me a look at the bottom end of the lake. I sat there for a while, and eventually one jumped right out in the weed right in the corner of the bottom bay. That was enough for me and I raced back and threw my gear on the barrow. The two areas were the furthest possible distance from each other, but with the power barrow it wasn’t too bad.

The fish had showed in the thickest weed, and that corner swim was choked with it. I could see fish drifting in and out, and there were a couple of shallow gravel areas I could easily see from the bank, that were clear at least. However, in all honesty I knew I would struggle to extract anything I hooked from there, plus the line lay over the weed would be awful. The swim next door seemed a better option, and I felt I had a chance when the fish crept out of the weed. I flicked my first rod out to the left onto the end of a shallow bar I could see, and tried my best to sink the line around the weed between the bank, and the spot. This was where the Noir was good, as I could place all 3 rigs without the need for leading the swim for ages, and possibly ruining my chance. The other two rods went out longer, onto the back of another bar that I could see, each going down with hard drops. I could catapult out some boilies, and held off using the spomb until I was sure the fish had left. The first take came within an hour, to the close in rod, and by that evening I had landed three, all spawned out 20s, but showing that making the move had paid off. That evening I went to work with the spomb, putting out 20 big ones of my K5 onto the longer spot, as it was clear the fish were now responding to more bait.


At midnight I had a slow take from the long spot, the bobbin holding at the top as I was locked up fairly tight. I wasn’t met with much resistance, and I keep hard pressure on, easily keeping it moving through the heavy weed. I was using rotary rigs with the Drop Off C Clips, and I knew the lead had discharged. The next instant it was in my margin, and I flicked the head torch on expecting the see a tench, but instead saw the pale grey flanks of a large carp. I scooped it in the net in disbelief, and immediately recognised it as the Nash fish, one of the lake’s A team. At 38.10 it was well spawned out, but I was still delighted.


The action continued and that morning before I left I had 3 more takes, landing a cracking 30lb common, a small stockie and another of the lake’s jewels, one called the fighting machine. That move on the sighting of just one fish showing, had given me 7 takes.


I was back the following week and it would have been easy to head straight for that area again, but I made sure I had a good walk round first. I was glad I did, as within 5 minutes I found fish fizzing up in a swim on the front bank. When I say fizzing, I mean massive patches continuously coming up in several different areas of the swim, all at the same time!


It was tricky trying to get my rods out, as I didn’t know the swim, but didn’t want to lead around with the fish present. I went for my favourite hinged stiff rigs on long Mirage booms and aimed at what I hoped were the darker holes between the weed, which I hoped were clear. That worked well and I got decent drops, in what I guessed to be very shallow water, not more than 4 feet. What followed was frustrating to say the least, as the fizzing continued all day relentlessly, and the odd fish would stick its head out from time to time, but I never had so much as a single bleep. I couldn’t believe it! I was up and first light, after an uneventful night, and by 8 am I hadn’t seen seen anything, even the bubbling had completely stopped. Strangely though I had 4 takes during the next 24 hours and all commons to 27lbs, which seemed bizarre.

That trip I began to do some preparation in a swim I had done well in the previous summer. It was an area that generally got neglected, and with the weed coming up I knew it was at its best then. I had a feel around in it, just with a bare lead on the Kinetic marker braid, and was pleased to quickly find the 2 spots I had caught off the year before. The entire left side of the swim was solid weed, I couldn’t even get the lead down a foot before it locked up solidly but I wasn’t too worried, as I was happy fishing just 2 rods in what was a tight swim anyway. I put some bait in before I left, and wrapped up both spots, storing the distances in my phone notes. My first trip in there coincided with heatwave conditions, and with temperatures up to 30c I knew it might be a struggle. I was grateful that the swim had a decent amount of shade, but at first light the following day I had a cracking fish at 33lb, which took me ages to extract from one weed bed after another.


The following night I had an upper 20 mirror, and it seemed the baiting in here was picking me out the better fish. By now each 2-night trip I was using between 10-15 kilos of the K5, and as I was so confident in this swim, I was putting most of that out as soon as I got there. I had also changed to my favourite Stiff Hinge Rigs, with big size 4 Chod hooks, because I’ve always found this rig seems to trip up the bigger ones.

In fact, the next few trips I continued in there. I kept baiting and fishing the two spots, and the results kept coming. One still warm morning at first light, after I’d sat and watched the odd bubble come up over my left-hand rod, it tore off and I had another cracker, one known as Diesel at 34 lbs, a proper brute of a mirror.


Sadly, I lost what I’m pretty sure was the lakes big common one day, and most annoyingly, through my own stupidity. I had managed to coax the fish out of one mass of weed after another, before it got stuck right up against a big bank that came across the left side of the swim. It was lying there on the top, but it wouldn’t come over it, probably due to the fish’s depth. Instead of just going to get the boat, I tried one last go and getting it moving, at which point the hook came out, and I watched in almost in slow motion the fish slowly dropped down and disappeared.

By now we were into August, and with school holidays I planned on doing a few single night sessions close to home, rather than travel to Essex for 48 hours. I had specifically got a ticket on the Crayfish Pool, as it was fairly close to home in case of any travel restrictions. Until then I had only done one night in the spring, so I was looking forward to a change, and new challenge. I had been shown a photo of a fish from there called SP, and it was the one I really wanted. Renowned for massive fighting ability, and the Lord of the Lake, it was worth giving it a decent campaign. I knew the crayfish were still a problem, so I arrived at the lake armed with rubber artificial boilies soaked in salami liquid. I threaded these on with 20lb line and blobbed that off, rather than floss in an effort to make sure the crays couldn’t get them off. I also had a bit of information that SP liked a particular end of the small pool, and I planned on fishing there if I could, just to increase my chances. The lake looked lovely that summer morning, but I must admit to being slightly concerned about the green coloured water, as I was used to seeing it crystal clear. I had a walk round but saw nothing, the lake appeared lifeless, so I made a guess really and went in a swim I had fished on my one previous trip. I knew of two spots in here and I checked my notes to see I had still had the wrap distances. Both rods went out first cast each, thumping down hard which I clearly felt through the braid. I knew the crayfish would be on my bait, so I went in fairly heavily, most of it crushed up, which I hoped would stay out there longer than whole boilies. 30 minutes after casting out I had a ripping take on my left-hand rod, and on picking it up, I knew within a few seconds what I was attached to. Its power was unreal, and it ripped line of the clutch on run after run, left and right, at one point I just held on without giving anything in an attempt to stop it reaching a big bank of snags to my right. Eventually it turned, and I had another 5 minutes of battle before I even got a look at it. Once roll and it confirmed what I already knew, before I finally scooped SP into my outstretched net with a massive sigh of relief. She went 38.10 lbs, and although I stayed the night to celebrate, my Crayfish Pool campaign was over.


With that I was back to Essex, and as autumn was fast approaching I began think about where my best chance to get the lakes big one from. It had a history of autumn captures, and from what I could see, from a couple of specific areas. What was strange were the two were at completely different ends of the lake. However, they were both popular, and I wondered if it was just because they were more heavily fished. One swim I really had my eye on, as she had come out there the previous November, at a massive 55lbs! I didn’t know this swim well, but as it was now September, I vowed to get in there and get to learn it.

My first session was a Sunday afternoon until Tuesday. I don’t usually do Sundays, but I had a commitment on the Tuesday afternoon, so at least this way I could still get a couple of nights in. I had done well with the traffic, until I got half a mile from the lake to find the road closed due to a fallen tree right across it. The way round was really long, and the Police Officer there told me it would be cleared soon. That turned out to be an hour, which left me little time to get sorted before dark. Going into a swim I didn’t know, which was really weedy, and rushing wasn’t ideal. I found two spots, but my third was difficult, and in the end, I managed to get a very slight drop well out to my right, but it was a tiny hole I wasn’t particularly confident with it. The harder I tried the less I could find, so I stuck with the tiny soft spot thinking I’d have another go the following morning.

I heard a few that night, but they all seemed to be a long way out, closer to the far bank, which is no fishing. As it was getting light I had a few bleeps on the right-hand rod on the tiny spot. It must have been so small the bobbin went to the top and held there, as soon as I picked up the rod it was in solid weed. I managed to get it moving, and in no time at all I netted a big ball of weed, with just a tail sticking out showing me I did indeed have a carp attached. It was a good one and a common known as Dyson, at 40.05 lbs, and a rare visitor to the bank. It was nailed on the stiff hinge, my 16mm pop up looking tiny in its huge mouth. The next morning, I had a stunning jet black linear from one of the other spots. A great session that I hoped would serve me well for later on.


It was a while before I could get back, and I fancied giving the other end a go, a swim which I knew well, and again had a history of producing the big one. I had 4 that trip back in there, the best a drop headed 33 lb mirror. I knew that was a good call from then on, and I was right, as soon after he came out of there!


I wasn’t going to let that put me off, as he had been out twice in both October and November last year. I knew the other end was the one, and to that end every trip I fished down there, regardless of what I saw anywhere else on the lake. This probably cost me fish, but I was determined to give myself the best chance of the one bite I so desperately wanted. In 4 sessions there I had 2 cracking 30+ commons and a couple of small stockies, but the big one didn’t come my way. That is one for next year hopefully, along with a couple of new challenges.

Rick Golder.