No Fish In There, Mate!

Imagine the scene, an angler’s dream, a perfectly secluded large overgrown mass of water, big trees all around, a warm still summers morning, where the water reflects the surroundings and it appears like a skating rink. This is the sort of place where it doesn’t matter if you had a rod in your hand or not, just merely sitting there taking in the surroundings is a real pleasure in itself. The lake we stumbled across one morning was just like this, and to add to this, it had around 20 fishing pegs all around with not a sole on one of them. It’s beginning to sound like one of those carp pits, where you could cast to the far bank easily with a waggler, but in truth the lake would take around an hour to steadily walk all the way around, through a small path way in a dense forest. Whilst walking we noticed squirrels and stopped on one of the pegs to get a better view. It was at this moment, that the smooth water surface was broken, only lightly, but enough to get our attention as the back fin of a large carp protruded above the surface and sank slowly down. By now I was picturing myself sitting there, rod in hand, reeling one of these monsters in, and little was I to know that this place would give me the most pleasurable angling experience of my whole life, and one that will never be forgotten.

Teres, my girlfriend, was with me at the time, and was not an angler. The closest she had been was sitting with me by the bankside while I fished, but this place had an instant effect on her also. The problem was, though, it was Sunday and there were no visible signs around informing us of any angling associations, or day ticket prices, nothing. The temptation to break the rules was so high you would not believe, and the thought of going home, grabbing the rods and fishing it regardless, seemed so easy. However, it was resisted.

When Monday morning arrived, our local tackle shop was no sooner open than we were in the door, to find out more information on fishing this place. When we asked about the lake, we were told it came under a local angling association permit, and we would need one to fish it. We were also told not to bother because there was nothing in it. To me this didn’t matter, not because I had seen a nice carp rise up from the depths, but just to spend a day there with a rod, catching nothing would do. The advice we were given was to fish the larger reservoir next to it if we wanted to catch any fish. We bought two permits from the shop, admittedly leading the tackle dealer to believe we were going to fish his recommended reservoir, which came under the same permit, even though we had no intentions of taking his advice. Teres, even bought a full set of tackle for herself, rod, reel, the lot, in order to fish this place! Then followed a quick dash to the post office to buy a rod license for her, and we were already, like two excited children on Christmas Eve. On the drive down to lake, I made Teres a deal. I don’t know what came over me, blame on my excitement, whatever, but I said the day she caught a fish over two pounds, I would marry her. After parking the car, there was still a walk of over a mile to get to the lake, and whilst pacing away, I began to ponder the deal I had made. By the time we arrived at the same peg, where we had previously rested, I was in no doubt that the promise I had made was correct. After all, how many anglers out there would love a wife to share the passion for this amazing sport as themselves. I was in no doubt that I had already made my biggest catch of the day!

With just a a pint of mixed maggots and a few slices of bread we cast in. Teres only needed a little instruction, as she had obviously learnt from her previous sessions watching me. We both had floats on, the water was again calm, and the appearance of the floats above the surface made the scene almost complete. They both weren’t there for long, and were under the water quicker than they’d hit it! We both missed the bites in our excitement, but instantly knew they weren’t going to be the last we’d have. Teres caught the first fish, a small perch on the next cast, while I again missed my bite. It was her first fish and a very exciting moment it was for both of us. Okay, it was only a small perch, but it was the first, that makes it special, and I reckon Teres’s beaming smile was bigger than someone who had just landed a thirty pounder on light tackle. To be honest, it did all become a bit monotonous, after reeling in loads of small perch, but the scenery and shear relaxation of it all made up for the fishing. We also had a couple of small roach and a small bream, before deciding to call it a day and return home, but the one thing that was noted was the size of these large surfacing carp all around us. I did have a go with floating bread, but they just weren’t interested. One strange thing was happening though, there were lots of bubbles rising constantly to the left of the peg, and when cast there every now and then, you would have the most long-winded and laborious bite, you’d ever seen. It was either this type of bite or a perch, taking the float straight under. I struck endlessly in an attempt to catch one, and missed every one! My diagnosis was tench, not just because of the bubbles, but also the bites were "tench bites". We returned home and I was convinced these things were tench, though I was frustrated at not hooking one. I set the alarm for 4am the next morning, thinking this would be the best time to get them. I didn’t need the alarm; I was up well before it, in anticipation. This time, I was more prepared, and had a cocktail of baits that tench would love and perch wouldn’t. Teres couldn’t come with me until later on the Tuesday afternoon, so I headed down on my own. With more room on the peg, I set up two rods, one ledgering corn, and the other float fishing meat. The ledger rod was set up, and cast while I was setting up the float rod, and by the time I managed to get the float rod set up I had had 4 bites and two fish! A small bream and a small roach. At around 9am, I was visited by the bailiff, who told me "There’s no fish in there mate, you want to be on the reservoir". A long conversation ensued, and he repeated his comment about there being no fish here. I was beginning to see his and everyone’s point now, but still persisted for the rest of the day. I did catch lots of fish, though nothing spectacular. Most came on the ledger rod, with corn, maggot and bread. These were all small bream and roach, with the biggest being a bream weighing around a pound. The float rod was a similar story to the day before, without the perch, the strange bites were still there along with the bubbles, and this time on luncheon meat, however during the whole day I didn’t hook a single one!

As I left that night, I was beginning to agree with what everyone had told me. I never saw another angler on the whole lake for the two days and decided to have a walk past the reservoir on the way back to the car, where I saw lots of other anglers, bivvies and all sorts, fishing away. The decision was being made for me about the two waters, and I was beginning to succumb to the popular view. However, there was one mystery which I had yet to solve, the strange bites. By now it was getting frustrating and becoming personal, I needed all the help I could get and managed to get into a conversation with another angler in the car park. He re-iterated what was being said by the others, that there was nothing worth catching in the lake. I mentioned ab
out the carp that I had seen over the two days. He said they are there, but you won’t catch them. Returning home that night, I was at a loss, I desperately needed to know what these fish were that had spent two days teasing me, but on the other hand, everyone was claiming there was nothing worth catching in the lake.

Not deterred, the following morning I was up again early and at the bankside for what was to become a magical day, where the mystery would be solved. Again, I was alone. Teres joined me later at 10 am, but by that time I had cracked it. This time, it was two ledger rods, one with corn, like the day before and the other with luncheon meat that I had fried and spiced it up a little first. I groundbaited with heavy groundbait, two spots, and casted to them, a better sized bream was the first to come on corn, not far off the two pound mark. The strange bites came again, this time, twitching my swingip endlessly, a bit like line bites that didn’t seem to take. I don’t know how many I had before I finally hooked one of these fish, and wow what an experience it was. My first impression was a small carp, or maybe a tench, all sorts were running through my mind in that short space of time, after hooking a fish, to bringing it in. I prayed and prayed it would stay on the hook, and whatever it was, was a right good fighter. All I wanted to do was bring the fish to the surface, and lifted the rod high to do so, the fish surfaced, and my first sight was a red fin and a long silvery body, that very similar to a roach.

Now, I have caught plenty of roach in the past, but this was far too big to a roach! I lowered the rod and it got off. Now I was more confused than before! But, the very next cast, I brought one into the net, and yes it was a roach, not as big as the one I had just lost, as is always the case, but a fair sized one at that. I pulled out my pathetic excuse for scales, and weighed the fish. It was around the two pound mark, but the scales are not good, and you could probably give or take around 8 ounces on the readings. To be fair, being the sort of angler I am, I have never really had that much use for them. My mind started ticking over, "If that one was two pounds, what was the one I had on before!" Teres then arrived with the camera, which I had forgotten, and didn’t believe me when I told her what I had caught. She soon would!

As Teres set up, I went back to one rod, a ledgered piece of spiced up luncheon meat, and Teres was quite content catching the perch on the float/maggot combination. I soon caught another roach, bigger than the previous one, which weighed over 2lb’s, Teres was fascinated, and changed her rod to a ledgered luncheon meat set up. I continued to catch more all between two and three pounds, I had the measure of them by now, and they were biting bolder, mixed in with this was a couple of good bream as well (around 2 to 3lbs ). Teres just couldn’t hook them, she had the bites, but every one was missed.

Then came the next strange discovery of the day, a pike was sitting less than 6 feet away from us, in the shallow water, seemingly looking at the swingtips on the end of the rods! At last, Teres finally managed to hook a roach and was bringing it in, whilst I had the net in hand, when all hell broke loose as the pike surged for her fish and nearly pulled the socket out of her arm! Both the roach and the pike got off, leaving Teres trembling. Both fish could be seen, the roach right up against the bank below us, with the pike chasing in hot pursuit. He obviously didn’t get his meal as he was back again, under the swingtips. It was now my turn to have a fish, a bream around 3lb’s, Teres swished the landing net in the water to scare the pike, while I bought in and landed the fish.

I released the bream, and no sooner had it gone, than the pike was onto it like a flash, this was to be his meal, as he held the bream in the jaws, jerking it, whiles silver scales flew off and lined the bottom. He then disappeared into the depths with his catch, not to be seen again.

The fishing quietened for a while, until around 7pm, where the roach started to come again, they were getting bigger as the evening went on! The biggest roach, yes roach, was close to the four pound mark on the scales! Teres also got one, but mysteriously the scales had disappeared!

I returned the next day with the same results, one big roach after another, with the occasional bream. They may only be roach in some anglers eyes, but these put up a real hard fight, and were big specimens. Still no other anglers on the lake, with the reservoir being popular. Now, anyone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I do consider a roach over two pounds to be a fish, yet apparently everyone else who has any knowledge on the lake doesn’t! The roach have now seemingly disappeared and are certainly not as popular as before. I still have the odd one or two, big ones though, but the attention has now turned to bream, where there are some very large specimens in there, just yesterday, I had three over eight pounds!

Another pike has been back, this time snapping up one of my roach while I was reeling it in. However, he snapped me!

I did begin to think in the last few days, that if this is what this lake fishes like, what’s the reservoir going to be like, I spent five hours on it and blanked! Every time I go fishing there now, I purposely glance over to the reservoir at the other anglers and have a little giggle at my secret. I think, on the way to the reservoir, they have a little giggle at me fishing alone on this water with nothing in it!

On a final point, I now agree that Teres’s fish was over two pounds, and have consented to marry her…that’s the biggest catch of all.

Jason Spooner – 2000