August had seen another enjoyable trip to Birch Grove and yours truly winning the third Carp Match at Blackwood towards the end of the month, however, it was now September and I was eager to get back up to the Top Pool to try and bag a few autumn kippers. My first trip back on was Saturday 5th September and I arrived at the water to find it empty, bar Kev who was fishing the Left Point swim. I chatted with Kev, who had only started fishing the water this year, and was delighted to hear that he’d had his first fish from the water a few weeks earlier from the same swim, a cracking 25lb 12oz mirror from a little hole in the weed by the pad line, just a few feet from the bank.
Kev Duke with his first Top Pool fish, at 25lb 12oz.
After catching up on what I’d missed, I moved off to have a good look around to see what, if anything, was moving. The main body of the lake from the Boat House round to the Board Walk was now thick with Canadian Pond Weed which was up to the surface; it was also evident in smaller amounts throughout the lake. I spent an hour looking around the lake and spotted a few fish between the Black Hole and the Old Boards swim but they were just sitting in holes in the weed and were almost impossible to cast to. I walked back around the bay and whilst chatting to Kev again, I saw some fish movements under the main body of pads. With nothing else presenting itself I decided to set up on the Rodie Bush hoping that I could get amongst them when they ventured out from the pads later on.
Late afternoon on the Rodie Bush
I set up during the late afternoon and sat back to watch the water as the light began to fade. I had a maize rig positioned just off the Rodie Bush to my left, fished over about five pouchfuls of my particle mix. The other bait was to the right of the set of pads which run left to right in front of the swim. I was pretty tired early on so got my head down quite early. I awoke a few times during the night but things were pretty quiet until 3.30 am when a ‘bitty’ take occurred on my left hand rod from under the bush. It was distinctly tench like, so I gently lifted into the run and easily powered the fish away from the snags. The rod met only the slightest resistance and the fish came straight towards the bank. I was confident it was a decent little tench and eased off just a touch in order to bend down and pick up the torch which was by my rods - At which point all hell broke loose!
The fish, which had been sitting just out from the swim in open water, suddenly lunged back towards the bush, and I was immediately aware that I was now dealing with a carp! I arched the rod down and applied pressure with the fish now back under the bush and just kept things taught as it tried to prolong its run, it felt as if it were trying to head out from the bush so I gave it a little line and was happy to feel it move away from any potential snags. It moved out and then made for the pads and a game of give and take ensued. I was somewhat confused because when I got the upper hand it did not feel like a massive fish, but then when it wanted to go, it went! I was aware that it might have been foul-hooked so just took it steady. After a few more minutes I had it back in front of me and as it came shallow I got my first glimpse of the fish in the torchlight, at which point it all became clear, I’d hooked ‘Mental the Common’.
‘Mental’ as he is affectionately known, last made an appearance on the bank some six years ago and most of the regulars thought he was no longer. He’s from a wildie strain and has only ever attained low double figures, but what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in power! The fish used to make regular appearances on the bank, but not before towing the captor through numerous sets of pads and snags, and this time was no different!
Once I’d guided him over the cord of the waiting net I fell about in fits of laughter, humbled at how this little warrior had once again nearly had me over. I unhooked the maize rig from the middle of his bottom lip and readied the scales whilst still smirking to myself. He’s like no other fish in the water; thin and long with some scale disfigurement on both flanks… and *big* beady eyes!
It was like old times as the scales settled at 12lb 12oz. I took a quick photo on timer to capture the moment and slipped him straight back. I re-baited then sat back with a brew just soaking up the moment. To many it will just seem like another double, but to me this fish is very special, I’ve had him about five times over the years and strangely, he would only ever show on a rod that had already taken a fish that session. Each time I’ve had him he’s led me a merry dance; it was just great to know he was still kicking and still making a mockery of anyone who tried to catch him!
Alive and kicking; ‘Mental’ at 12lb 12oz
The following week saw me eager to get back up, so eager in fact, that I decided to do a mid-weeker on the Wednesday night. I arrived to find most of the lakes inhabitants stacked up in the shallows. I climbed a few trees and watched for a while to get a feel for the best places to present a bait. They were regularly skirting the overhanging tree to my left on the Top Shallows swim and all over the area to my right. I grabbed my gear and began setting up. I wanted to waste no time while the fish were all over me so quickly flicked out a couple of worm rigs before attending to the rest of my gear. Joe turned up shortly afterwards to have a look round for an hour and we chatted for a while as we watched the fish come and go.
The spots were only an underarm flick out but I wanted a really tight patch of particles, so I put the spod out a couple of times to the desired spots then flicked the worms back over the top. During the hours up to dark I had a couple of good tugs on the lines but nothing you could strike at so opted to put maize on both rigs for the night ahead. I had a nice tench just after dark from my left hand rod, and then at around 3.00am had a wake up call from something
much bigger! A blistering take had me back on the left hand rod as a fish powered off; line left the spool at an alarming rate. It tried to make it to the back of the snags but fishing a decent shock leader allowed me to beef the fish back out into open water where I let it tire itself. I then eased it towards the net, the fish behaved impeccably and swam straight into the waiting net on the first attempt, mind you there’s not much else they can do in the shallows as it’s only about a foot deep!
I lifted the fish, which was a good twenty pounder onto the mat where I got my first proper look at it. It was a cracking mirror; heavily scaled with an almost linear line of big scales down each side. It also had a really light beige belly. It was certainly not a fish I’d seen on the bank before but alarm bells were ringing in the back of my head, as it somehow seemed very familiar. Then the penny dropped. This was the fish that had been taunting me for most of the season thus far, continually moping up my particle mix but refusing to slip up with a hook bait. I’d spotted it time and time again on the fringes when I’d been stalking in the shallows. It always had a cheeky scoff before heading off.
The funny thing was, I’d spotted it the night before just as I was setting up and an hour or so later had been joking with Joe about how it was now near the top of my wish list – nine hours later and he’s on the bank, somebody somewhere must have been listening! The capture was twinned with regret though; I could not get the camera to work and soon realised I had left the memory card plugged into the PC at home. Grrrrrr!
A few days later and I was back up again for a Friday to Sunday session with Nigel; I know his dad from the SOTAS Committee and had promised to take him on the Top Pool as he was really eager to have a go. It was a strange session really; we set up in the shallows where all the fish were stacked up again, it was just like a re-run of the Wednesday night apart from the fact the buzzers remained silent! There were fish all over us and on several occasions I could make them out, tails in the air as they moped up the particles, but nothing! We did a bit of stalking on the Saturday down off the Old Boards swim where we found a group of twenty pound plus fish milling about but again, nothing doing. We had them feeding, and feeding confidently; no more than a rod length out from the bank, but for some reason they managed to avoid the hookbait each time. Sometimes it just happens like that, I guess it makes the captures all that more memorable when they do occur.
If anything, the weekend blank made me all that more determined. I knew everything was right in terms of presentation, so I *would* make them have it from the shallows! As such, I went back on to do another mid-weeker on the Wednesday night, however, the fish had other ideas. When I got up to the shallows I found that the heavy rain we’d had during the early part of the week had really coloured up water in the shallows, but there was a nice fresh wind pushing right down to the spots I fancied. Perfect, I thought - The only thing missing were the fish!
I sat it out for almost an hour in the tree but only saw a couple of bream for my troubles so set off around the bay. I saw a number of swirls and movements under the main set of pads in the bay so decided to set up on the Rodie Bush where I’d had Mental from previously. There was definitely a chill in the air and something was niggling me about putting maize on both rods. I’d had Mental off the bush on maize but decided to fish a single critically balanced B5 boilie; soaked in soluble fish protein, fished over a couple of spods of particle mix. This was the first time I’d used a boilie for a month or two and these baits had been soaking for ages - just the job. Not long after setting up I had a few in front of me, right under my feet, which on the Rodie is very strange. As time went on more and more fish showed; more in fact, than I’d ever had in front of me on that swim before, so I was mega-confident as the evening progressed. It was with no small amount of frustration then that I awoke to my alarm clock going off at 6.30am the following morning telling me it was time to pack up and head home for work! I made a quick brew and then started to break my kit down.
I fish with the bare minimum on quick overnighters and within ten minutes had the Titan put away my bag packed, all that remained was to take out and break down the rods. I reeled in the right hand rod from the padline and broke it down. I’d just fastened the Velcro strap on the quiver and was in the process of turning round to pick up my second rod when the tip slammed right round towards the bush and it was away… “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!”
I hit in and held on for dear life as the fish burst away from the bush and went straight out into the pads. I knew it was a good one from the off and so took it nice and steady throughout. Eventually I got the upper hand and guided the fish into the net. As I lifted the fish from the water I had to let out a laugh as it was clearly a good mid-twenty. Talk about ‘at the death’. The scales confirmed a weight of 25lb 2oz. The interesting thing was that it was not a fish I’d seen on the bank before; it’s nice that after so many years on the venue it still never ceases to amaze me with hidden gems like this! I was pretty late by now and as all the stuff was packed away I just took a quick image for the record and slipped it back. Work was a happy affair that day.
25lb 2oz ‘at the death’ mirror - Work was a happy affair that day!
With the final Blackwood Carp Match just round the corner I wanted to put a couple of sessions in on the venue in the hope of keeping my lead until the end of the Championship. I went up with Miff and Nige during the last weekend of September and we all managed to take a few fish so things were looking good for the final match. The following Saturday and the decider was upon us. Once the draw was out of the way, which saw me coming out towards the end of the nine people fishing (surprise, surprise!) I opted for Peg 17 as this would give me options for both shallow and deeper water. The Match got of to a flier when John Smith had two double figure fish in two minutes from the Dam, which lifted him back into the thick of it and placed him in a commanding position for the Match and overall trophy win. Later that night John Salt got amongst the fish taking a nice double figure mirror and then he went on to bank the Parrot shortly after at 15lb 6oz from Peg 5, which pushed him into the lead for the match.
The pressure was now on for the overall trophy win and I finally got the break I needed early on the Sunday morning; taking a small 6lb’er to push me back into the overall lead. From then on it was a tense and drawn out affair; only interrupted when John missed a chance to seal the overall title when he lost a fish an hour before the end. All of which left me to take the 2004 Championship title with over a pound to
spare – Result!
John Salt with a cracking Blackwood double taken during the Final.
Miffer was keen to get up to Bolesworth Castle before it closed for shooting at the end of October. It’s a beautiful old estate lake controlled by Stoke-on-Trent AS, which is about a mile long and 20 yards wide; it’s got features from every peg and is stocked full of quality carp and silver fish. I’d not been on the water for possibly two years so decided to join Miffer for a session. In the end I was able to fish the Friday night as well as the Saturday, so joined Shaun for the Friday night. We settled on swims a little way up on the woods side after spotting fish milling around in the dieing back pads. I opted for maize rigs fished over my ever-consistent particle mix in about two feet of water and one of them did the business just after darkness. It was a belting run which saw the rod arc over as I eased the baitrunner off. I gave it a little line to stop it going all the way through the pads and turned it before it had gone too far. After a good tussle I slipped the net under a nice mid-double.
One of six doubles taken on the first night; this one at 14lb
The scales registered 14lb on the nose, not a bad start as the rods had only been out for an hour or so. The baited spots then produced regularly through the night, I took another three fish, all good doubles and Shaun took another two doubles before he had to shoot off to work early in the morning. The conditions changed from wet and windy to very wet and windy as the day progressed, a squally wind kept coming and going and every now and then it would drop completely. The sun even managed to break through on a couple of occasions; I guess you would call it ‘changeable!’
Miffer arrived just after lunch and set up on the swim Shaun had vacated, as it had already produced a couple of fish. Miffer opted for popped-up corn rigs, which he’d soaked in some natural Elderflower essence I’d blagged for him a few years before during my time at the soft drinks company. When fishing for carp I tend to stay away from corn as the tench and bream love it just as much as the carp. However, maize seems to pick up much fewer bream and tench but the carp love it. This seemed to be proved by late afternoon as Miffer had had half a dozen bream to my none!
Miffer with a typical Bolesworth bream
It was shortly after dark that Miffer received another bitty bream like take; the bobbin on his left hand rod jigged up and down but no line was taken. Then however, the line started peeling off as a fish made off with his hookbait. Moments later the battle was on and a nice curve in his rod ruled out all but a decent carp. Miffer took no prisoners and soon had the upper hand, guiding a good sized common into the waiting net. It looked quite short but it certainly had a belly on it. It was in pristine condition and looked fantastic on the mat. The common went 15lb 8oz on the scales and Miffer was well pleased with the result.
Less than an hour later my right hand alarm signalled a take and I was soon doing battle with another Bolesworth double in the pouring rain. After a protracted fight I netted a nice mirror of around 13lb, however, I opted to return in straight back without weighing as the rain was really coming down and my coat was still in the bivvy! Once the fish had gone back I pulled on my Poncho on carefully baited up, dropping the bait right back on the spot where I’d put some particle mix out. Before long the same rod rattled off again as another carp made off with my grain of maize. The rain had eased and although it was distinctly chilly, it also felt nice and fresh and I soaked up my surroundings as the carp banged away out in open water. The fish was no slouch and kept charging up and down the margin just out from the pads, doubtless another good double. Sure enough, a nice double figure common soon came in view, its golden flanks easily visible in the torchlight. I was amazed at the quality of the fish, this was about the ninth carp we’d had and every one had been a good double. The fish was a proper little barrel, very short but very wide.
Miffer’s 15lb 8oz common
I had two more takes during the night, both on my left rod which was just off the pad line. The first I managed to lose, although I’m still not sure how! It was a belting run and I had the fish on for a while before everything went slack. All was fine with the hook and rig so I re-baited and placed it back out. It was just before light when the swinger dropped to the deck; the bait was only about four feet from the bank so the fish was right under my feet as I lifted into it. The result was yet another good double!
The session finished with me taking seven double figure fish between eleven and fourteen pounds, all on maize over particle. You couldn’t really ask for a better session at the tail end of October and as I drove home I was already planning a return session for the following weekend!
The following Friday night I was back, fishing one of the first pegs up on the woods side. The approach was exactly the same as the week previous, no need to change a winning formula. I placed baits on either side of the swim, again in shallow water just off the pad lines. I was on my own on the Friday night with a few of the lads due up on the Saturday. The conditions were much the same as the week before, very wet and windy, yet I still managed three fish during the Friday night, all doubles. From 7am to 11am I did not have another touch so I wo
und in the rods and went for a look around. There were still fish in front of me so I had no real intention of moving but it never hurts to have a quick look around, you never know what you’ll see!
Shortly afterwards I arrived back at my swim and saw the distinct movements of a carp off my left hand spot. It was following the edge of the padline up towards my left hand baited spot. Quickly and quietly I broke out my tub of worms and selected the biggest I could see, and slid it onto the hook as fast as I could. I then gently flicked the rig with a half ounce lead into the path of the oncoming fish. The lead landed bang on target with a little plop and the trap was set. The fish was in no rush and was still a rod length or more from the spot when the lead went in. It carried on regardless, making the odd swirl with its back occasionally breaking the surface. As I crouched by the undergrowth rod in hand, the fish eventually came onto the baited patch and to my delight immediately tipped up to feed. Its tail broke the surface and cut the water over the baited patch like a sharks fin as it made continued passes over the bed of particles. After each pass it then swirled round and repeated the process. The adrenalin was pumping as it continued to feed and then I received the first tell tale twitch on the line, then another… and then…Bang! It was on.
The surface erupted as I lifted into the fish and the battle was on. It was not a large fish but it put up a very good account of itself nonetheless. I soon had it wallowing in open water and netted a nice little mirror. After ten doubles from the water on the trot, this little one went shy at around 7lb. Not important though, I was well pleased with the quick baiting that had led to its downfall. So happy in fact, that I took a quick self-portrait with the camera to record the moment before slipping the chucky little mirror back to the water.
Ten Bolesworth doubles on the trot followed by this chunky 7lb’er!
Shortly afterwards Miffer, John, Big Daz and Shaun turned up for the Saturday night. The rain came down as they set up whilst I stayed tucked up in my bivvy with a brew. The conditions got steadily worse as the day wore on and my swim looked distinctly un-fishy by early afternoon. Miffer was the first of the newcomers to score, taking a nice double figure mirror during the afternoon.
I decided to ‘have five’ during the afternoon and as I lay on the bedchair mid-stretch, all I remember was a loud “Crack!” as both upper sides of the bedchair snapped off! The back collapsed and I cracked my ribs on the crossbar as it did so. Not a happy bunny. There was no way I was going home, so I just decided to sleep at the other end and make do. Not long after that Big Daz got amongst it with a cracking double figure common just before dark. I got back in the swing of things with another fish during a brief rest bite from the rain, another double figure mirror at 11lb 3oz. This was the last of the session as the conditions steadily worsened.
Big Daz with a typical Bolesworth common
After what I can only describe as my worst nights sleep ever, I packed up and went home, but not before Shaun had robbed most of the bits off my now defunct bedchair which was then unceremoniously dumped at the tip on the way home!
The lads went back to Bolesworth the following week and managed a couple more before the close, but as I had no bed and had jobs to do around the house I stayed in. I’m now eager to get back up to the Top Pool to have a go at bagging a winter lump.
I’ll let you know how I go on in the next piece.
Until Then, tight lines…