Back in 2012-13 while the infamous Wasing Estates ‘Parrot’ was steadily climbing up to its colossal weight. The footfall was focusing on the pursuit of that special fish that went on to become the UK’s largest carp in January 2016 at 68lb 1oz, caught by a friend Dean Fletcher. I enjoyed a year fishing a close by Wasing Estates water called Shalford Lake. I had the lake to myself almost all year. The odd person would come and go, but the tranquillity, solitude and the intricacy I could generate from it was blissful.

Shalford is located close to a West Berkshire village called Brimpton. It has a fairly low stock compared to the adjacent 10 acre but shallower Bottle Lake that was also included on the general ticket. So, it was tricky, but I was optimistic they would be catchable especially as I was fairly confident I would not be restricted with where I could angle from and more importantly the areas I could prime with bait.


Shalford is approximately 6 acres but the water capacity fairly significant with depths to a smidge over 20ft. It was really difficult to establish any portfolio of exactly what carp were present. The biggest known mirror in the lake was named ‘Megan’ apparently. I was told that one spun the scales to just over 30lb. It was also common knowledge the lake contained large 19lb+ bream and 10lb+ tench.

The timing of fishing this pit was absolutely perfect. A short 15-minute drive from home, very quiet and a fairly untapped stock of carp that I made absolutely no effort to try and find any more information about. I literally wanted things to unravel as I moved forward.

As you drove through the main access gate, you greeted the lake half way along the southerly bank. Along this steep margined side were several man-made wooden jetties’ equally spread out. I found these really advantageous for providing unaided views and for presenting baits along the mature tree lines margins between each jetty. Moving clockwise around the lake from this mid-point, the westerly end was the shallowest with the main swim looking down the lake called “the lawns”. This end offered a gradual slope down to around 8-9 feet.

The northerly bank offered numerous carpy features. Good climbing trees, giant reed beds and margins were variable depths and likely close in spots. Knowing the warm southerly winds and blustery south westerlies would be hitting this bank, I instantly knew this would offer loads of opportunities. Then finally, the easterly bank. This bank only had three swims, but one of those positioned fairly central was slightly overgrown and has loads of character. Plus, loads of overhung tree canopy and it didn’t take long to find the same characters lurking here.

I opted to start my campaign late summer and typically it was a slow start as I initially focused on understanding the lakebed contours and substrate. Being so quiet, I always flicked out the rods in the hope something might show up while I primarily focused on flicking and dragging the marker rod around. The lakebed had everything you would expect, some light weed areas. But generally, it had a really nice 50-50 spread of gravel and silt so presenting baits wasn’t going to be the problem. Being low stock, observation and location was going to be the key.

Then early that autumn, I had my first break through. Not a huge carp, but it was a carp. From the furthest right-hand jetty looking across towards the fisherman’s hut in the north easterly corner, was a gravel plateau about half way across. From different angles running off the table top, you had everything from gradual slopes to vertical faces down to the deepest part of the lakebed. I always opted to bait the table top, but always presented my hook bait on a specific gradual slope running off the front of it to mask line lay.

Despite the water being gin clear almost all year around, the carp were not always easy to locate. But there was two specific characters that made sighting them much easier. A bright orange koi and a bright white koi. No doubt someone decided they no longer wanted them in their garden pond and felt Shalford was the ideal alternative. The southerly bank did have a public footpath running along it, so no doubt the koi’s previous owners were familiar with the area. Long story short, I got tipped off about these koi by one of the long serving bailiffs and also informed neither had ever been caught. I always spotted the white one first and if the light levels were favourable, the orange one could often be spotted within the same vicinity.

Over the autumn and in to winter a few people who dropped by often asked me if I had I seen this mysterious 30lb orange koi. Nobody had a clue how big it was and to be fair it did look really long when I did spot it. But late spring, I managed to slip the landing net cord under it and what a fish. It only turned the scales to a smidge under 23lb, but it was an opportunist capture as I watched it swim up and down this margin all one Sunday afternoon. Two tigers and a small block of cork and it was mine. The only other thing I introduced was a tiny handful of really oiled up hemp seed.


A really tidy character fish that’s body colour fluctuated along with the water temperature. The three times I managed to catch Megan, were all very different situations at variable times of the year. I had it over a large bed of bait, stalked in the edge and a single hook bait to a showing fish. My most memorable capture was in the bright mid-afternoon late spring sun at 33lb 2oz.

Winter was difficult. I managed a couple of bites and landed both in the teeth of the winter, but it really did lockdown and it was a really cold winter. Still, I was out and often again the whole place to myself. I’ll never forget one morning waking up after not having a single beep and the rods were frozen in to a lake that now had a solid one-inch lid of ice across most of it. Waders on and I had to crunch my way around the rods tips to release them. Madness. The things we do to catch a carp.

The solitude at Shalford was amazing. I really tuned in to the venue and was able to predict based on the weather where to go and what tactics to deploy. It was the adaptability I really enjoyed and I learnt allot that season. It can be so easy to rely on that same rig, or peg, or bait, that got you the last bite. But quite often, it pays to be armed with a suitable rig and bait that suits whatever peg, spot and time of the year.

I used naked chods, stiff hinged, blowback and the most basic of hair rigs. I also nailed one on a 17ft zig. In terms of captures, I ticked my way through many of its inhabitants. A complete mix mash of strains, shapes and sizes. Koi’s, zip Linears, box commons, long ones, stumpy ones and misshaped ones.

My final capture from the lake was a memorable one. It was late spring/early summer and it was roasting hot. I popped over to the lake early this Saturday morning for 24hrs. I fished a peg called “the beach” which was sandwiched between two large reed beds left and right, just off centre halfway along the northerly bank. The carp loved this margin. As the morning sun lifted across to my left, it lit up the reeds and by mid-morning it was a magnet for the carp. Within the large set of 8ft tall reeds off to my right, was a very small tight peg. Not the sort of peg you would feel comfortable night fishing, but for a daytime bite when you were completely on guard using just the one rod it would be absolutely fine.

The peg was only about 5 feet wide and was boxed in both sides by the tall reeds protruding out in to the lake several feet. Beyond the outer reed line, the water levels dropped down to 8-9feet, but they preferred patrolling along the 4ft shelf tight to the roots of the reeds. The art now, was going to be getting them to stop in their tracks for an unsuspecting and hidden snack when most of the time they just wanted to soak up the sun’s rays.

It was now pushing towards lunchtime and I had to be at a friend’s family event mid-afternoon so I knew I was pushing my luck staying on until early afternoon. I had no hook bait in position, but this shoal of carp were now taking a real liking to ground down hemp and tigers that I slipped small handfuls along the edge of the tight swim. I was tempting them in closer and closer and I had to risk being late for this family event. Thankfully, not long after introducing a bait I nailed one almost immediately. A cracking common just under 30lb that did put up one hell of a scrap. I rocked up an hour or so late at our friends laden with excuses, but sometimes you just have to do it.

That was that. A perfect way to wrap up a really memorable season. Be lucky, Carl.