My year started well I guess. 2nd of January, rather cold with snow on the hill tops as we drove to a day ticket water about an acre and a half, known as Turner’s Pool. The session went well, with all of us catching fish into low double figures. The highlight of the day was laughing at a bloke on the far bank who set up is bivvy “because it was his Christmas present” (It’s a day only water!). A few weeks later we went again, with fish to upper singles; snow and freezing temperatures making the session that bit more awkward and depressing. Despite such harsh weather it gave me a chance to try out my new bits of kit and try some new rigs, which brought success, so I was chuffed.
YES! It was cold!!
The day after it was a day for pike fishing on a local day ticket venue, Stanley Reservoir. Renowned for its big fish throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, Stanley now only contains fish to just over 20lb. However we were determined to catch. We arrived around 7am, and within 5 minutes, my dad had baits in the water. However I was more bothered about getting my buzz bars and banksticks sorted, something which my dad, Ron did once he had his baits in the water. His rods were lay on the bank with the baitrunners on, and within 5 minutes he turned around at the sound of the baitruner clicking, and immediately bent into a fish. After a short tussle a snapper was in the net, and at 10lb 2oz. It was the only fish of the day and boy, did I wish I had put my baits out before I set my buzzers up!
“SqueekyTree” does the business: 10lb Stanley Snapper
The next few weeks were spent basically trying to catch some fish, something that was proving difficult for me with such harsh weather conditions and freezing temperatures. Despite the particular my local lake being frozen on a couple of sessions, I still managed to fish during weekends and holidays off school. I managed a small trickle of fish to around 8lb, despite losing the lakes largest resident at the net, on my second trip! - bummer. But life goes on, and back to the fishing. I managed a couple of “specimens” from the water - fish to over 8lb!! (Detect the sarcasm??)
I didn’t really get much fishing done between the end of February, and mid-march. After the “cold-spell” had ended, and we were finally getting good daytime and nighttime temperatures, I decided to perhaps start fishing somewhere different. After speaking to friend, Chris Knapper, who had already had 3 weekends on the venue, I decided to join him on his 4th weekend visit to Holden Lane Pool, aka ‘The Swamp’. However it seems my session “wasn’t to be” as arrangements at home fell through, making it impossible for me to fish. However bits n bobs of tackle were purchased, along with the required club membership of Potteries AC. Mid-afternoon on Sunday I received a text message from Chris, telling, me that he had had a 19lb’er, along with a 24lb’er.
Worth the wait - 4th weekend for Chris and a 24lb 8oz mirror
Upon the news I became desperate to get fishing and prepared my kit ready for the coming weekend. I got on the lake for about 4.45pm, and lumbered with my kit, staggered down to the lake. I arrived on the nature reserve side, and immediately spoke to Chris, and discussed which peg he would advise I fish. Two pike anglers, who had caught a 16lb’er that day, occupied the peg to his left. I spoke to them and they told me that they would be packing up within the next hour, so I decided to start setting up and wait for them to pack up, before even attempting to bait up. By 5.30 they had gone, and it was time for me to bait up and get the rods in. using three rods I covered each feature in the peg; the right hand rod fished to the back of a bar just 15 yards out, the middle rod fished to a hole about 20 yards to the left, where the bait was roughly 10 feet from the bank, and the left-hand rod was dropped off “the bush”, where the bait was less than 3-feet from the bank, but in roughly 3-4 feet of water. All three rods had fake, pop-up maize on the hairs, fished with just a couple of catapults of my special particle mix over the top. My mix included, pedigree pigeon mix, maize, hemp, and redband, all soaked, then cooked, and then ground down, to create a mix that wasn’t “heavy” yet had lots of fine goodies.
Friday was quiet, with only a few bleeps on the middle rod, but with alarms and runs being heard from the other side of the lake, I struggled to get a good night’s sleep. However by morning, this noise had stopped, and between 6am and 10am I got my head down “like a good ‘un”. That was until Shaun, aka Captain Flash appeared at the door of my bivvy, telling me to get up!
So I climbed out of my sleeping bag and put my boots on, and just as I looked out onto my rods, the right-hand indicator lifted as I received a series of bleeps. To which I jumped out and hit the rod. I bent into a kipper as it kited slowly left plodding away from the bar and into open water as I clamped down and brought her to the margins. I then saw her roll on the surface and realised it wasn’t really of any size, but still my first Swamp fish. I took the pressure off a little; bearing in mind I was using 3lb test rods and didn’t want to end up with a lost fish, and gently guided her to the net. Chris netted her sweetly and I’d had my first Swamp kipper. She went crazy on the mat, but I was well chuffed with the result, and over the moon with the great photograph by Shaun Docksey.
First session, first fish: Not bad at 11lb!
I was over the moon as I slipped her back, and that lovely feeling of knowing that you haven’t blanked filled me. The rest of the day was lovely and warm as we all sat and took in the warm hazy sunshine. With little action, we sat watching a pair of ghost carp cruise around in front of us.
With the exception of a couple of bleeps between the two of us, Chris and I had no further action that day. However Shaun Docksey managed a small stockie like my first 11lb’er. That night we turned in at around 10pm.
Next morning, and I was wide awake around 6am, and so turned on
the radio to listen to Keith Arthur’s “Fisherman Blues”, to which I was interrupted at the sound of Chris telling me that he had a fish on the bank. It transpires that at first a pike around 10lb, had gone through two of Chris’s lines and through one of Shaun’s. After bringing the fish in, Chris turned off his alarms, and untangled the pike and returned it. Shaun, instead of using Chris’s bait boat, just decided to cast his bait straight to the middle, and then left it. Chris however noticed the indicator on his right-hand rod still moving, so he hit it.
Of course, all of this happened when I was in my bivvy, and by the time I arrived, the fish was on the bank and weighed at 17lb 8oz. Chris was relieved that he had caught, and I was amazed at the condition of the fish - it was a minter!
Minter: Chris’s 17lb’er, his 3rd fish this year!
After returning such a cracking fish, I was starting to think that three fish and Shaun’s Tench was a result for a weekend, but I didn’t know what was in store……….
Shaun’s left hand rod that he had cast out, decided to burst into life just 15minutes after returning Chris’s 17lb’e, which he powered from the middle of the lake, and within minutes Shaun had another fish in the bag. This time it was something bigger. At first one of the other anglers claimed that he had caught the same fish at 22lb, but after putting her to the scales she turned out to weigh 18lb 12oz - still a top result. We started to rattle off some shots on the camera, when Chris left the camera and ran, as he had a run. So within minutes we had two fish on the bank at the same time, Chris’s stockie at around 6lb, and Shaun’s 18lb’er.
The start of many: Shaun’s 18lb 12oz Mirror
After returning the fish that was it really, and soon after we all started to pack up. Happy that we had caught we all left the water, looking forward to the next weekend and the extra-long bank holiday weekend - get in!
In the week however, I was informed that Shaun had been fishing the Swamp, and had some impressive results; two twenties and seven doubles, a great result. I had the Thursday off school, and so prepared my kit, ready to get down there mid-afternoon. After arriving, we decided to fish the School-bank, and I dropped in one peg to Chris’s left. Seeing that Shaun was already fully set-up and fishing, I got the feeling that he had been there a little longer. It turned out that he had been fishing all day, and also managed yet another twenty that morning, this time a common of 22lb. So in one week Shaun had caught 18 fish, three of which were over twenty: 21lb 6oz Mirror, 22lb 12oz Mirror, and a 22lb Common. The rest of the fish being between 13lb and 18lb. Top result for Captain Flash!
I set-up and decided to get the marker out, and Chris directed me to a point around 40-50 yards out. We cast the marker a couple of times and found that it was weedy in most places, until we found a clear patch, with a firm bottom between 3-4 feet deep. So out came the spod rod, along with the special particle mix, and I put about 10 spods of bait on the patch. I cast my left-hand rod, and middle rod over the bait, and put a PVA bag full of pellets on the right-hand rod to my right about 25 yards out. All were baited with the pop-up maize again, and I sat back and enjoyed the sunset.
A friend, Grant, turned up and had decided to fish the night, and dropped in the same peg as me, so we set him up for his first ever night, so he was bound to need a hand. We put his left-hand rod on the spodded patch, and dropped his right-hand rod short, about 25 yards into the bay, both rods with bottom baits. The night was quiet for us, with not even a bleep, however Miffer managed a proper’un; a 24lb 8oz Mirror, around midnight - well in mate!
Next morning I got the rods out again, and looked forward to the day ahead, as already there were signs of fish moving in the bay that I was fishing. The day passed and I had managed a few “stockies”, with nothing above 11lb, but great fun, and at least I hadn’t blanked! I also had the joy of helping someone else who was “coming through the ranks”, Grant who was fishing for the first time. Not long past midday and he had a real screamer on the left-hand rod, and hit into a hard-fighting fish. It steadily kited round, occasionally kicking, but he played the fish well, and bullied all the way, which helped to stop the fish from weeding him up. The fish rolled not far out we could see that it was a common around 8lb. He allowed her to kick under the rod tip, and not long after he had his first ever carp in the net - Corker. We laid her on the mat, and folded back the net to see what a beautiful fish it was. He couldn’t have asked for a nicer first fish and was chuffed to see the needle go past 9lb.
We slipped her back and he soon whacked out another Milk and Ice Cream pop up. Not long after, in the same fashion the right-hand rod screamed off, and again he bent into a lump. The fish kicked and kited round the bay, and before long he was pumping the fish in, and she was ready for netting. After seeing the colour of the fish, Chris knew it would be a decent “kipper” and I was happy for Grant, yet gutted, when the scales went round to 15lb 10oz - result, yet I’m the teacher!
Well chuffed for him - Grant, 15lb 10oz
We rattled off a few shots, with the rest of the gang on hand giving the good old congratulations. We got the rods out again before dark, with freshly baited rigs, and a couple of spod-fulls over the top. The traps were set. Despite one more stockie for myself just before the darkness, it was a quiet evening, and I had a gut feeling that the fish had moved down towards the deeper end of the lake. This made no surprise when I awoke next morning to realise that there had been no action. I was up and made a brew, and watched the sun come up and burn the mist off the lake. Time seemed to be rushing on and soon it was breakfast, and then dinner, without so much as a bleep. I decided to put more bait in, with about 20 minutes spent spodding. Whilst rebaiting the rigs I decided to this time drop my right-hand rod short, baited only with two pieces of fake maize with a PVA bag of pelts around it. I felt confident that this rod would scream off, as the fish were showing further down the lake where it was deeper, so I cast this rig to my right. My suspicions proved right when I received a few bleeps, and as I turned round, the bleeps turned into a screamer as i
t rattled off. A few minutes and lunges later I had yet another stockie on the bank, and Chris was amazed at just how many little’uns I’d had without a decent fish. I put the rod out again and decided for a change on the other rods. I brought the fluorocarbon hooklinks in and changed them both to 15lb snake-skin, accompanied with a size 6 nailer. I put the rods out again, with just a couple of spodfulls over the top.
A couple of hours passed, and we listened to the England game on the radio. A cheer or so later and the score was 4-0 to England and we were all chuffed. But then, to add to my happiness the left-hand rod rattled off in the dying minutes of the game. I hit it and straight away knew that this fish was something else. After playing the lump for a couple of minutes, I knew that this was no stockie just plodding around and kiting through the swim, not making it possible for me to gain any line. Chris noticed the excitement and wandered round to see what was going on. Alex, aka ‘Skimmy’ also turned up, and was on hand to net the fish, minutes later after I gave it some real pressure, to “keep it coming” through the weed, weed which had already nearly cost me one fish already. She came up a few rod-lengths out, and I didn’t believe Alex when he said that it was one of the originals. She came up for her final gasp, and Alex slipped the net under what to me seemed like a “good double”. Only until we had her on the mat and I was jumping up and down, did we see that it was a good fish. We estimated that it would go around 18lb, but I was delighted when the needle went dead-on 20lb. Chris was on hand, and said it was “too close to call”, and went for Miffer’s Reuben Heaton’s to verify the weight. We weighed the fish on Miffer’s scales and she weighed slightly over 20lb, and Chris, delighted for me, congratulated me on my first English 20lb’er, incidentally he gave me the average weight, 20lb dead-on!
My first English twenty - 20lb dead-on
Grant unfortunately had to pack-up, however Alex soon jumped in the peg and I was then doubled up with Alex. He took his time ridding the weed from the swim, but managed to get his rods in the water, creating more space on the peg. We all had a good night that night, and despite the warm weather, the fish just weren’t having any of it! We had a good laugh and a bit of a social and were all tucked up by around midnight. Shaun was back after packing up earlier that day, so once again, we had all options covered.
Next morning I was awoken as the rain started to fall, and continued on into drizzle as I dosed off again. I was then awoken by a steady pick-up which steadily speeded into a bit of a screamer, Alex was out before me, seeing that it was his left hand rod. I was out and on hand to repay Alex for his netting the day previous, however it managed to kite round and spit the hook - unlucky mate. He cast out again, and reset the traps with a few spodfulls over the top. I then offered to put out some particle for Alex, and somehow managed to break my spod rod!?
It must have only been an hour, and the rod rattled off again, this time, the fish managed to weed him up after a five-minute battle, which was a real disappointment to the both of us, as it seemed a good fish. It wasn’t long before the session was over, and we were all rapidly packing up for around midday, only interrupted by the bloke fishing the point, frantically shouting, to which when we got round there, we found that he had got two decent fish on at once, and that he had lost one that he estimated to be a low-twenty. Apart from that there were no more interruptions, and all too soon was I pushing my barrow up the path toward the car park.
I was then looking to my return to the River Ebro just a week later, and I’ll be back soon to let you know how I went on.
Until then, keep a bend in the rod!
Nige Weston, aka, “Blank”