2006 Carp Journals Part Two: All good things come to he who waits…

At the end of the last piece I was having fun on my early morning sessions targeting carp from a few club waters close to home. The fish were not massive, but the fun in finding ways to overcome obstacles on new waters proved extremely rewarding and by the end of July it was safe to say I had the measure of the Park Lake fish. The early morning sessions proved a big hit, and fishing from dawn till 9am on midweek sessions before work saw a constant stream of quality fish brought to the bank.

The culmination was a session toward the end of July where I took around twenty-three fish off the top before going off to work at around 9am. It was just a case of applying the right method at the right time and there was little I could do to stop them taking the bait, all helped by the fact that I was the only one on the lake fishing when most people were still in bed!

One of over twenty early-morning carp taken on a short-session before going to work!

I was enjoying it, but having now found a method that not many others were adopting that seemed to work every time out, I could not help but feel the need for something a little more challenging. The obvious choice would have been to get back on the canal in search of a Caldon carp but I’d only just got back on track with the prebaiting. As such, during the last week in July, I took a trip out to another water controlled by the same club. The whole point of fishing these new waters was that they were right on my doorstep, so I could be close to home for Lisa and Izaak as he was still only twelve-weeks old and we were in the middle of a ‘steep’ learning curve. However, this water fell well outside of the ‘close to home’ category, being near to Uttoxeter, but curiosity got the better of me. It was one of those waters that I’d heard lots of whispers about over many, many, years. Nothing exceptional, but a nice water with a few lumps. The final straw was when I was chatting to a couple of lads who were fishing the Park Lake one evening as I was out walking Izaak (makes him sound like a dog!). They said they always caught well on the Park Lake but had never had fish from the other water as it was too difficult, although they’d often seen big fish swimming around. Hmmm… red rag to a bull, that one!

I started to do a little homework to try and glean as much information as I could, and it proved extremely thin on the ground, which made the water all the more intriguing. That Sunday I decided to go and investigate whilst on Izaak duty. I arrived at the water just after seven in the morning, and I have to admit I was quite excited, especially as I manoeuvred the car down a long track walled and covered by a think canopy of shrubs and trees, a proper magical moment full of anticipation of what I might find at the other end of the track. I was not disappointed. Although there were an awful lot of pegs, and therefore match orientated, there were masses of features so there would always be something to go at, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lake with so many bays and peninsulas, each swim brought something completely different. Some areas were more matured than others, but overall, you’d definitely class it as ‘carpy’. Not more than ten minutes into my reconnaissance I came across a couple of nice carp, sitting just under the branches of partly submerged bush. It was difficult to make out their exact size as I had Izaak in hand and they were just too far out to see clearly, but I was under no doubt they were good upper doubles, possibly larger – an encouraging start.

I moved from swim to swim and saw the tell tale signs of carp activity on a number of them; clouded up areas in the margins, ripples breaking out on the surface, sploshes in the reed beds. What I could not understand was why the lake was completely empty. It suddenly dawned on me that it might be closed for a match and I quickly scanned through my ticket. Sure enough there was a match organised, but according to the ticket, it should have started an hour before. I was not sure what the situation was but did not want to incur the wrath of officials if I was not supposed to be on, so decided to shoot back to the car and leave. I’d already gone over half way around the lake so it was easier to keep going. As I approached a small point swim I was immediately stopped in my tracks by two stunning lumps stirring up the margin no more than six inches from the bank in extremely shallow water. One was easily eighteen pounds and the other definitely over twenty. I could not help but watch them for a moment before continuing on my way, already forming a plan for a return visit the following week.

Another new adventure begins…

I decided on adopting the same surface tactic as the Park Lake as most of the fish I’d seen on the reccie had been up on the top, and so a few days later the alarm was ringing at 4am to get me up for another session on a new water. What followed was one of the most frustrating sessions I’ve had in years. I moved to an area that I thought would be good for a surface attack, and nothing – not one sniff. After a while I went in search of the fish and found a group of them all moving up and down the margins in about a foot and a half of water – but could I get them to take interest in a surface bait – could I heck. They never even looked up! I had a tub of particle mix in the car and twenty minutes later was back in position with liberal scattering in place and an artificial corn bait fished over the top – but again nothing. They were all over the particle mix, literally tails up and going at it like mad, clouding up the margins, but I could not get a pick up for love nor money. I don’t think I was doing anything wrong, it was just one of those days, but it was really frustrating having all these fish right in front of me, most of which were over twenty pounds, and not one slipping up on the hook bait. That said it was a joy just to watch them at such close quarters, as I could have reached out and touched any one of them from my vantage point concealed deep in the marginal undergrowth. The journey home was one of those where I was already planning tactical changes to my next session in the hope of being able to outwit my new and extremely worthy opponents. The trip home was extremely reminiscent of my early return journeys from the Top Pool; frustrated at not catching but determined to rise to the challenge on my return. I was certainly up for it on this stunning new water, even if it was a little further from home than I would have liked. However, unfortunately, that proved to be its downfall, as a sudden influx of jobs and work during the early part of August meant I never got the chance to go back and pit my wits against these intriguing carp, and to this day I’ve not managed to get back on - but I will - of that I am certain.

And that’s how the early part of August continued, too many jobs and not enough time. Commitments at home since Izaak’s arrival had put pay to regular sessions, but to be honest, this was not a problem during August as I’d been given an away pass for a week on Birch Grove in mid September, and with that just around the corner, to push for more with Izaak still making mum get up three times a night seemed a bit selfish to say the least – not that it stopped me thinking about it, mind!

I was therefore pretty gutted when Steve Burke rang to give me an update on how the syndicate lake was fishing.
We had a nice chat and he asked when I next hoped to get down there, and upon me telling him of my current situation he said it was a real shame as the place was ‘fishing its head off’. Great! Just what I wanted to hear! I was a bit downhearted over the next few days as pictures filled my head of anglers filling their boots on the syndicate lake whilst I was stuck at home working. Boo!

It was over tea later that week that Lisa announced out of the blue that she was going to go over to Suffolk for a week with her mum and Izaak to visit her Nan, who had still not seen our new arrival. It took all of about two and a half seconds, three at the outside, for the connotations of what she had just said to ferment in my mind, though obviously to have come out with my plan there and then would have been a major schoolboy error - much better to let it slide and develop a well thought out game plan - although I must admit I quickly snuck outside and made a quick call to Elton to inform him that there was an ‘outside chance’ of bagging a few days on the syndicate lake!

Over the weekend I gently slipped it into conversation when the moment was right, and with agreement made to finish off the bathroom and start work renovating the dining room, a pass was secured for three nights on the syndicate lake – Result! There was only a week before Lisa planned to go away, which in normal circumstances would have been ample time to sort tackle, but the simple fact was that I’d not done a proper session since the previous September, and in the year that had passed since, various parts of my tackle and equipment had been scattered to all four corners of the house, shed, and even other peoples houses, as various odds and sods had been begged and borrowed by a whole host of friends! This, twinned with the fact that I needed to do jobs around the house before the trip, meant things were going to be tight.

My initial plan was to just chuck everything in the car and sort it all out when I got there, but I soon realised all my rods needed re-spooling and there were various bits and pieces I would need to purchase before the off. As such, most evenings prior to the following Monday’s departure date were spent doing a few jobs around the house before pulling various bits of tackle out of cupboards and preparing everything for the trip. I was like a little kid during the build up. Having not done my usual opening week on the Top Pool this year it was as if this was my big start to the season, and anxious feelings came and went at regular intervals. The interesting thing was how all the omens seemed to be pointing towards something special - not just in the way that the whole trip had come about only days after telling the syndicate owner that there was no chance of me getting down there, but in the way that lots of little things kept dropping into place as the week progressed.

I had zero bait and both Mick at MB Baits and Mike at Essential were both pulled out of the place for orders, but both went out of their way to ensure that fresh bait was on my doorstep within 48-hours (cheers guys!). Likewise the guy at the local tackle shop had heard through the grapevine that I was off on a jolly and he’d purposely kept back a selection of fresh worms and baits from his weekly order ‘just in case I needed them’ – and I did! These strange little occurrences kept on happening on each day building up to the session, and with each thing that fell into place, my confidence grew to the point that I was just itching to get down there and get the rods in - and to top it all I even got a pass for an extra nights fishing!

And so it was, the following Monday after helping Lisa get packed up and off to her Nan’s, I was away. The journey was predictably grim, and it was almost six and a half hours later that I pulled off the small country lane onto the farm track that runs for about a mile and a half from the road to the lake. As the car splashed through big puddles left from a torrential downpour which had only just abated, the stress of the journey melted away completely, and on arrival at the lake I was like a little kid on Christmas morning. Elton had arrived some hours earlier and had been sending regular updates as my journey had progressed. He’d settled in the north west corner of the lake after seeing fish in the area so I quickly made my way around to where he was to discuss tactics. His swim was a viable two-man swim and the offer had kindly been given to set up on the same peg, but after a look around various pegs in the area and sussing out how much weed there was, I felt two of us fishing the same area might hem us in a bit if the spots did not produce from the off. As such, I decided it might be best if we fished separate swims so we could both stretch our legs, so to speak, as the session unfolded, and thus decided to drop into Middle River a few hundred yards further up the bank. I had a good idea of the contours and depths having fished the swim once before during my session the previous year, and as it had been very kind to me on that occasion (throwing up several stunning twenty-plus commons) I hoped all the positive little omens during the build up to this session would bring me luck once again on the same swim. It was far from chuck and chance mind, I had taken time to run a feature finding rod over the swim to see where the weed was and having found a few clear spots where I’d had fish from before, I decided the peg would be a good starting point as it also gave a perfect view over most of the lake – so should the fish start showing themselves elsewhere, I would soon know about it and be ready to move at the drop of a hat.

Steve happened to be on the lake when I arrived so after catching up on everything that had been happening since my last visit almost a year previous, I then went round to see Elton for a bit of a social before heading back to my own swim at around 8pm to cast the rods out for the night. To be honest I left it a little late as the overcast conditions meant darkness was drawing in quicker that I had anticipated. I was a little annoyed with myself for leaving it so late, as my short-session success had come form being on the ball from the moment I arrived at a water to the moment I left. However, I had done the groundwork in relation to finding some nice clear spots before I had gone round to Elton’s swim, yet I would have still liked a few more casts when putting the rods out just to be ultra confident, but by that time it would have been completely dark so I settled for a quick pullback on each cast and left it at that. I put a liberal amount of bait around each rod hoping to emulate the success of the scattered bait approach that had worked for me the year before and then sat back to relax and enjoy the evening.

Ready for action on the syndicate lake

An hour or two later and my eyelids felt like lead weights but I was determined to stay up and watch the water for a while. Even after the tiresome journey down I did not want to miss a minute on what is without doubt, one of the nicest waters I’ve ever fished, and I only turned in after midnight when I caught myself falling asleep for the third time!

I hit the sack with Steve’s earlier words on the lakes current big fish drifting round in my head – oh to do battle with such monsters! I must have gone out like a light as the next thing I remember is being woken to a bleeping Delkim. The unshakable confidence which had built to fever-pitch over the previous week had me convinced I was into my first carp. However, on hitting the rod it was soon apparent that this was no ordinary carp - in fact it was not a carp at all but a rather large eel! Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, I rea
lised it only had hold of the boilie and not the actual hook as it came into view right in front of the swim. I gave a little jerk on the rod which pulled the hair through the boilie and the rig came free. The eel turned about-face and headed straight back to the deep with the boilie still clenched between its jaws and as it disappeared from the torchlight I turned my attentions to the rig. I rebaited, clipped up, and made a cast back to my spot before going back to bed, chuckling to myself about how I would need to manage my expectations – hardly the big carp I was expecting!

I awoke shortly after dawn as the sun rose above the skyline away to my left – it was a beautiful sunrise with a dappled red tint applied to the scattered cover of cloud. I kept telling myself I should get up and take a few photographs but I was so tired that kept putting it off, preferring to stay snug in the sack staring out to my distance spot hoping something would develop. For what seemed like the first time in months I was able to simply rest. There was absolutely nothing I had to get up and do, so I just enjoyed the moment and drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours, waking occasionally to the relaxing chatter of birdsong or from the sounds of an unseen early-morning visitor rustling in the bushes near to my bivvy. On each occasion I would open my eyes, look straight out over my swim, remember where I was, grin to myself, and then drift back to sleep for a little longer.

Fully refreshed and ready for a full-on fishing extravaganza, I got up and made a brew around 8am. I toyed with the idea of winding in the rods and rebaiting but felt I was into ‘prime time’ as most of my fish the previous session had come between 6am and 10am. As such, I decided to sit it out until 10am before changing anything. It was warm, dry and cloudy, but there was little wind so I sat in front of my bivvy scanning the surface intently. It was not too long before I spotted something, and it was right over my distance patch in about twelve feet of water! A series of tiny but widespread bubbles moving very slowly across the liberally baited area over a period of about five minutes. I was sure this was a number of fish moving around beneath the surface rubbing up against the weed and thus releasing air bubbles to the surface. All very fishy! That said, come ten o’clock nothing had developed, and so I decided it was time to rebait.

Many of us have funny traits when fishing; little nuances or superstitions - call them what you will. Mine is that I often wait until just after the allotted time I have set myself for reeling in a rod. It stems from my time on the Top Pool, where on more than one occasion, a rod has rattled off just after I was about to reel it in. Stupid I know, but sometimes you just get ‘that’ feeling. Anyway, such was the case on this occasion, and come ten o’clock I decided to give it just a minute or two more, I don’t know why, I just did.

Fate, destiny, coincidence - you decide - but at approximately three minutes past ten, as I was knelt by the rods watching the water, the fox swinger on my middle rod rose by an inch and the Delkim gave two bleeps. Used to the signals of takes when fishing in weed I immediately focused on the line-lay in the water, and on seeing a slight lift I instinctively grabbed the rod and struck. The resistance was immediate and the rod arched over – fish on.

The resulting bend signalled a good fish but after being had over by the early morning eel attack I put all thoughts of size and shape to the back of my mind and concentrated on the job in hand, and it was a good job I did, as it was clear the fish intended to do all it could to evade capture. There were three large weedbeds between the bank and my baited spot, and the fish wasted no time in dumping me into each and every one as we both fought for every inch of line.

It was the first time out for some Fox 3lb test curve rods I’d had off Shaun for the purpose of taking to Birch, and I decided my syndicate session would be the perfect place to give them a whack to see how they performed. The all-through action was extremely impressive and I felt in-touch and in-control at all times. This twinned with my unshakable confidence in the Nash Fang hooks on all my rigs allowed me to play the fish carefully but with supreme confidence. Each time the fish dived into a weedbed I would let it go on the initial lunge before damping the spool and then slowly lifting the rod again to try and get its head up. It was a fantastic battle which lasted around ten minutes, whereupon I was able to slip the net under what was clearly a good upper twenty mirror. With the fish safely into the landing net I let out a little whoop of delight and a grin spread from ear to ear – it was good to be back! Up on the scales the fish went 27lb 12oz and was more than ample reward for my efforts thus far. Elton took a few pictures for me before slipping the fish back to the water, after which I sat in Elton’s swim for a while soaking up the moment.

Good to be back, syndicate lake mirror of 27lb 12oz

After a visit to the clubhouse for a shower I headed back to the swim to get the rods back out and have some dinner. One of the joys about fishing the syndicate lake is the walk back to your swim from the clubhouse, only then do you really get a feel for the lake as a whole, and only then do you realise just how far from the madding crowd you really are! Words like tranquil, peaceful, and relaxing just don’t do the place justice. I always feel like pinching myself just to make sure I’m not dreaming whenever I’m there, which goes some way to describing how privileged I feel having the opportunity to fish it. Some of this magic is undoubtedly because the lake is still very new to me; this was only my third session on the lake in as many years, so the ‘adventure’ element gives that extra buzz as I poke my head through each new bush or scan the water in front of as yet, unfished swims.

As I walked back around to my swim on the far side I was already analysing how things were panning out after the first night. I was happy with my distance spot which currently had two rods fished ten years apart with bait scattered liberally over the whole area. The spot was weeded, but the weed was lighter than the surrounding area which gave me confidence that the fish would be prepared to have a good root around, and this is why I opted for the scattered bait approach. Mick’s Snail & Shell had delivered the goods on the right-hand side of the spot so I was very happy with the way things had come together and was confident of more action from the area in the not to distant future. My third rod gave me a little more concern. I had positioned a Shellfish B5 stringer about forty yards to the left of the others and perhaps another twenty yards past which had been clear of weed but as things had been left a little late the previous night I was not overly confident on its presentation. On my return to the swim I put the two distance rods back out to their marks and decided to hold fire on the third whilst I had something to eat, which would allow me to watch the water for a while before committing. As if on cue, at about 2pm, just as I was finishing some sausage and bacon butties, a big upper twenty boshed right out of the water about twenty-five yards out from the bank along my right hand margin, closer in than I’ve ever witnessed a fish on previous sessions which was all the more reason to get the feature finding rod out again. The weed was thick all along the marginal shelf and up to the surface in many areas, but just beyond there was a clear column running almost parallel to the bank from about fifteen yards out to just over twenty yards out, allowin
g a perfect presentation in the area where the fish had shown itself – result! Mick had given me a new bait to try out whilst I was there; I can’t tell you what it was called as I still don’t think it even has a name, other than “new’un” but as I have ultimate faith in anything Mick gives me, I duly baited the area with about fifty baits, placed a single hook bait out over the top and sat back with complete confidence.

The afternoon was dry and still, which allowed me to sit behind the rods constantly scanning the water. Through my binoculars I saw regular bouts of bubbles over the distance spot and I was sure that something would develop here first, I would have put money on it, especially as it had already produced the 27lb 12oz, so it was quite a surprise when the margin rod on the “new’un” rattled off no more than two hours after I’d put it in! I was right by the rods when the swinger slammed up against the rod blank with line melting from the spool. For a split second I looked on in disbelief, pondering how it could be that rod, I was so sure it should have been one of the distance rods. However, a wagging tip and a screaming reel are pretty concrete indicators in anyone’s book, and after quickly shaking the notion from my head, I lifted the rod and damped my hand down on the spool. From the initial indication to the strike was no more than a couple of seconds, it just felt like longer, which meant that the fish was still on its first powerful run moving at speed from the scene of the crime. Unsurprisingly it headed straight into a dense weedbed which flanked the clear channel and kept on going. At one point I thought it was never going to stop but eventually the energy of the initial run subsided and the fish came to a stop some fifty yards from the point at which it had been hooked. I immediately started to apply pressure to see if I could turn the fish back towards the bank and for a moment it just sat there. I was unsure if it was weeded or just a big fish holding deep so just took my time, steadily increasing the pressure until I could work out what was going on. With a full bend in the rod the fish eventually turned allowing me to draw it back towards the bank, although the fish now kited wide to my right. The margin down that side of the swim was chocked with weed and there looked to be a few decent sized rocks close in that could cause concern if I let it have its own way, so I kept the pressure up and wound like mad as it made for the bank.

By the time it reached the margin I’d cut the distance between us by half through constant drawing and winding and so was able to apply more pressure to get it up in the water as it neared the bank, at which point I realised it was another good fish as it boiled just below the surface away to my right. It was not over yet though, and before netting it weeded me several times just yards from the bank. I could not believe the power it was able to exert in quick bursts, yet I remained confident throughout, and each time it lunged deep I would let it go, before slowly pumping it back up to the surface. Once on the unhooking mat it was clear to see how the fish was able to release such bursts of power, in all my years of carp fishing I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a big tail – it was enormous!

Like every fish I’ve ever banked from the lake it was immaculate, and I was pleased as punch with the result, what’s more it was another good fish, registering 27lb exactly, to give two 27lb’ers in under six hours fishing! I burst into Elton’s swim to deliver the news but he was nowhere to be seen. I glanced over to the far side of his swim to see him hovering over his unhooking mat with an uncertain look upon his face, “…I’ve been expecting you, Mr. Bond” he offered, part of a creditable Blofeld impersonation complete with imaginary Persian cat, which, at that very moment, was receiving some very heavy petting. Once I’d stopped laughing Elton explained that he’d heard much of the commotion emanating from my swim and had assumed I’d banked another.

27lb of tail!

Without wanting to sound cocksure, I was convinced more fish were on the cards; my last session the year before had proved they had a taste for Mick’s bait and judging by my results so far, this had not changed. I decided to rebait all my rods just after tea as a wind started to pick up which in turn whipped up the surface a little, and although all my rods had the distances marked on the lines for clipping up, I preferred to cast to some visual markers I had set on the surface which were landing me ‘on the money’ and as these were about to disappear, I took the opportunity to get the rods in early for the night. I spent most of the evening watching the water. Having been so limited to short sessions throughout the year, I was almost at a loss as to what to do with myself, as I now had ample time to relax and soak up the joys of a long session. For the most part I simply placed my chair behind the rods for hours on end, and just sat contentedly… fishing.

Watching the water on the second afternoon

I stayed up quite late, such was my confidence in something happening, though having now had a fish from the margin spot I was keeping an open mind about which rod might produce next! The rip on the water had reduced the ability to spot fish, but before I turned in, a few fish rolled in promising areas and one huge lump crashed out just off the island, further down the lake towards Elton - I hoped it might venture somewhere near his bait before morning! I hardly slept at all, I was in one of my ‘nature boy’ moods where I just wanted to savour every moment, and so I kept getting up to have a brew or watch the water under the cool night sky – the simple truth was that I was too excited – I was loving every minute of it!

At approximately 3am the Delkim positioned under my margin rod gave a single bleep. I was awake on my bedchair at the time and so immediately got up to investigate. I had a look at the swinger and felt the line and nothing seemed to be amiss. I had a stretch and debated whether to make another brew when the Delkim bleeped again, but this time the swinger rose by half an inch – I hit it. The sound of a clicking spool filled the night air as a fish bolted from the area at speed. Like the last, it took me through a few weedbeds before trying to go deep, but now having the measure of their attempts, I applied some heavy side strain to stop it going too far to my right before pumping it back up the margin. The battle was heated and I was sure this was another good fish. I distinctly remember standing there, shin deep in water as the flanks of a stunning golden common came into view. I remember it well because I was unable to stop a huge grin forming on my face which resulted in me dropping my torch into the water, which up until that point had been gripped between my teeth! However, with torch recovered I was able to guide the fish into the net and again I gave out a little whoop of satisfaction as it came to rest in the bottom. Was I a happy boy!?

Another stunning fish on the “new’un” at 26lb

It was a stunning fish, probably one of the nicest commons I’d had, and at 26lb on the nose it was worth its weight in gold. I woke Elton to take a few shots before slipping it back to the water and heading off back to my s
wim. Elton was obviously made up for me, though I hoped he would be the next to catch as he’d put quite a lot of effort in thus far. At the start he’d opted for PVA bags cast to various spots, but he’d since got to work with a feature finding set-up in a bid to locate a few areas that might allow him to intercept carp moving between the weedbeds in front of his swim. Eventually he found a nice clear patch about sixty-yards out from the bank and about twenty-yards off the island – a spot where we had both seen a few signs of fish, and although it was a very tight patch which required an accurate cast, the area looked promising.

Once back in my swim I snatched a few hours sleep before rising for a hearty breakfast. The plan was to leave the rods in till after ten again before nipping around to the clubhouse to charge my mobile and grab a shower. As ten o’clock came and went I held on in anticipation - and then it happened - another fish just after ten o’clock! However, this one picked up a bait a little further down the lake – from a previously mentioned clear spot sixty-yards out from the bank and twenty-yards off the island! Elton’s feature finding had paid off with a mint 18lb 4oz common, and once we’d taken a few photos and slipped it back, we had a little celebration before going round to the clubhouse for a scrub-up.

The planning pays off, Elton with his 18lb 4oz common

On the way back from the clubhouse we spotted a few fish mooching over a shallow plateaux to the right of Elton’s swim. We’d been baiting it with particle mix since our arrival but this was the first clear sign of action in the area, and as we crouched amongst the marginal undergrowth a nice twenty plus common came in and started tearing up the bottom just feet from the bank where we had been sprinkling a little bit of bait. Of course we were back within minutes, stalking set-up at the ready, but the first fish had moved out and a few other smaller fish which came and went proved ultimately too tricky to tempt, but it was fun nonetheless and I remain determined to bank one from that plateaux before long! As late afternoon turned into evening we both got our rods out, and confident with our spots, hoped that the night would bring us more fish.

Light rain sets in again on Middle River

I stayed up late again, just relaxing and enjoying the session. We’d had small bouts of light rain since we arrived but during the evening they became a little more frequent, though it remained quite warm. Between the showers I would stand by the rods and look for signs of action before retiring to the bivvy when the rains came again. I had a few hours sleep during the early evening, soothed by the constant pitter patter of light rain falling on the roof of the bivvy. At around 10pm I awoke to the fact that something had changed and got up to find a clear night sky. The air felt really fresh and I decided to make a brew just to warm me up a touch. The wind had dropped to leave the surface of the water like glass, and as I stood in the darkness I could hear fish topping out in the distance. I went back to bed feeling extremely confident and as such, struggled to sleep.

Less than an hour later, two bleeps on my left-hand distance rod gave me the excuse I was after to get up again. The swinger had lifted perhaps half an inch, and as I neared the rod it again moved upwards by about half as much again. Fishing over weed this was more than enough to tell me there was a fish on, so I lifted the rod from the rest and struck. I was pleased to feel a resounding thump on the end, however, unlike all the fish hooked so far which had gone on powerful runs, this one stayed right where it was. By the bend in the rod and the fact that it had not moved an inch I was pretty sure it was another good fish, and after a little coaxing I eventually got it moving but it proved extremely hard work. I could go on for hours explaining how the fish dumped me in one weedbed and then another, but suffice to say it was an extremely long and drawn-out affair. At one point I was convinced I’d foul hooked it, such was its power, but having earlier been led a merry dance by the twenty-seven with the huge tail, I was more than aware I might simply have hooked a bigger version! After a long game of give-and-take with my taught mainline singing in the cool night air, I heaved with all my might to bring the fish closer in. The fish came up to the surface about ten yards out and rolled to my left. I did not have time to turn to jelly as the fish immediately buried itself again in the weedbed just off the marginal shelf, though had I the time, I probably would, for this was one big kipper. It was not its likely weight that stunned me, it was its sheer length – without doubt the longest fish I’d ever seen. And as it sat there with its head buried deep in the weed, its tail could clearly be seen wafting purposefully just below the surface in over four feet of water!!

What followed was indeed a heated affair. It wasn’t that I lost the ability to play the fish; it was simply that I couldn’t move it. A fierce battle ensued at close quarters as I applied maximum pressure in a bid to get its head up, and each time it came up, it would thrash its tail wildly and go straight back down. It went on like this for some time until I finally had my moment. It wasn’t a ‘last chance saloon’ affair, but I definitely wanted this lump in the net, and the sooner the better as it showed absolutely no sign of tiring. I raised its head once more just a few feet out in front of me, lifting the rod high to my right under heavy pressure with one hand, whilst the other extended the net as far as I could reach with fingers outstretched grasping the tip of the handle. The fish rolled up on the surface and turned towards the net and started to head towards it. However, just as its head went over the net cord, the rig appeared to snag on the net and unbelievably, the hook shot free! The rig zipped up out of the water and with no tension to keep me balanced; I wavered momentarily, ankle-deep in water. For a split second, all I could do was look on in abject horror. Had the fish stopped its forward momentum and reared backwards, or lunged to either side of the net, it’s highly likely it would have been away, but thankfully, and I mean thankfully, the carp gods smiled and the huge fish continued dead-ahead sailing straight over the cord before dropping down into the folds of the waiting net.

All good things come to he who waits… a new personal best at 33lb 4oz

In that same instant I let go of the rod, fell to my knees, and grabbed the net in both hands. I remember letting out a sort of elated whimper, the nervous tension finally released. I remember holding the net handle aloft and peering into the net just to double check the fish had in fact gone in! Looking down I saw an absolutely huge flank and a tail even bigger than that of the twenty-seven, at which point I started to laugh uncontrollably. I felt physically drained and it was only sheer adrenalin that allowed me to get the fish up onto the mat and to sort myself out. It had been a real ordeal, which was a fitting tribute, as I had no doubt on transferring the fish to the weigh sling that it was the biggest carp I had ever caught. That said, my mind was not on the weight, for throughout the whole process of zeroing
the scales and weighing the fish, all I could think about was its length – it was an awesome fish, and I mean that in the true sense of the word.

It never gave up, even on the mat!

Once up on the scales the needle whipped past the 30lb indicator, eventually settling on 33lb 4oz. It was my first UK fish over the thirty pound mark, although it did not sink in, not for a while anyway. I remember going round to Elton’s swim and on waking him simply said “I’ve done it”. He took one look at me, dropped his gaze to the enormous lump safely held within the confines of mat, and said… well, I can’t actually repeat what he said, but it was very funny, I can assure you! We sat up for a while as I relayed the epic battle and told of the anxious moments throughout, particularly when the hook came out at the end. Having inspected the mouth afterwards I could clearly see that the hook hold had been only just inside the mouth and with just a neat prick where it had been, I was certain the rig came free after coming into contact with the net as the pressure on the line had waned. Luck had certainly been on my side – the pre-trip omens had proved correct.

Back she goes… A treasured moment I’ll never forget

I returned to my swim and smiled at the scene in front of me; hastily reeled in rods lay awkwardly on rests with another still buried somewhere in the margin as yet unseen. Once located I retrieved the rod and inspected the fluorocarbon hooklink which had bagged me my first thirty. The hook was as sharp as ever but I decided I would tie a new rig just for safety’s sake – the only question was whether to do it now, or have a few hours rest and deal with everything in the morning. It took no more than three seconds to decide that if the gods were shining, I’d be stupid not to get all the rods back out and make the most of it – and in retrospect, I’m so glad I did!

It was a bit of a mare, and I was totally knackered by the time I’d made up new rigs, clipped-up all three rods and put them back out to their respective marks, before topping up with bait – but an hour or so later and I was straight. I had a final brew and just sat on my bedchair trying to come to terms with what was probably one of my most memorable angling achievements to date. I was so pleased I’d had to work for it, I would have been a tad disappointed if my first thirty had been a reel in and weigh job.

I was dead on my feet. I made the brew but I don’t think I ever finished it. I remember waking up just as it came light. The rain had moved back in and I was now glad all my rods were sorted as I didn’t fancy getting wet just yet. I drifted in and out of sleep for a while until a bleep on the middle rod had me out of the bivvy again. It was an exact rerun of the thirty - and on the same rod, too. The swinger rose fractionally, and then quivered before moving up a fraction more. I lifted the rod and a thud on the other end had my mind doing somersaults, I could not believe it, I was in again! I slipped straight into battle mode and concentrating on taming the fish, which at that point was kiting to my right. I kept reeling and pumping and eventually had the fish not too far out in front of me. It held deep and made a real show of not wanting to come near the net, which after a while led me to think it could be yet another good fish, and after a few minutes of it charging up and down the marginal shelf in front of me, I’d still not set eyes on it. After a while I was able to ease it toward the surface, at which point I had to pinch myself, as the head of a huge fish came into view - another very big fish and a common to boot!

“Err….you’re not gonna believe this…”

A few minutes later and it was in the net, and on lifting it from the water my mind was racing, would this one go thirty too? It certainly felt like it, and looked like it. I put the thought to the back of my mind. One was enough - more than enough - to even contemplate a brace of thirties was plain selfish, surly? I started thinking upper twenty just to calm myself, only to be completely dumbfounded when the scales took up the weight and the needle on the Avon’s pushed round to settle on 30lb 8oz.

In a word; Speechless!

I went round to Elton who had heard the commotion, grinned, and uttered word to the effect “Err... you’re not gonna believe this mate…”

The rain was still coming down. I never even noticed it. We took a few shots behind the swim before I went into the water with the fish to send it on its way, and then we had another little celebration. I then headed back round to get the rods out again – well, when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll!

I had a brace of thirties, just hours apart, on the same rod – which was nice!

It was now approaching 7am, which meant there were still a few ‘hot’ morning hours to go so I rebaited all the rods and put them out again, topping up on bait once more. I was sure there were still fish in the area as I had a feeling they were now really getting on to the bait. When I’d had the first thirty on the mat it was excreting Snail & Shell all over the place and it must have been gorging on it for quite some time. My theory with the scattered bait approach is that lots of fish would be passing over the area and would pick off a few baits before moving on again, which would give them confidence to come back looking for more when they got hungry, and as I was on for a few days, there was every chance of one slipping up at some point – it certainly seemed to be working thus far. As I steadied my rod overhead and took aim to cast to my mark, a fish boshed right over the spot I was about to cast to, which only went to strengthen my feeling that they were on it - big-time!

All the fish were excreting Mick's bait – a sure sign they were on it... big-time!

I waited a while before putting the distance rods out for fear of spooking fish and instead baited up and recast my margin rod before turning my attentions back to the distance rods. No more than twenty minutes after topping up with bait again, I began to see small bubbles rising to the surface, and shortly after that, another fish boiled right over the spot that had produced the two thirties. I had to put the binoculars down and sit on my hands for a while – it was all getting too much!

Sometimes you just know it’s going to happen! My ten o’ clock 26lb 6oz mirror.

As the magical ten o’ clock loomed I waited with baited breath – I just knew something was about to happen. When it did, it was a little early, not that I was complaining. At approximately twenty to ten, the swinger on the same distance rod n
udged up yet again as the Delkim gave out a bleep, though this time the spool proceeded to melt as line was ripped from the spool – a proper one-toner. I remember calmly picking up the rod and getting ready to do battle again as if on auto-pilot; moving the other rods off their rests, stripping off my trousers and stepping into the margin to pit my wits against the quarry once more, like a gladiator entering the ring ready to face his foe. OK, a little melodramatic, but you know what I mean – having now had the same thing happen a number of times it was as if I knew exactly what was going to happen and I felt the outcome had already been decided – I would land it no matter what, and it was going to be another good fish – I did, and it was - A stunning mirror of 26lb 6oz!

It later transpired that Elton was waiting for something to scream off in much the same way, and he too was proved right when just after we’d taken the photos of mine, off went his rod, resulting in a pristine 21lb 8oz common, again from his clear patch off the island.

Elton was in much the same mind, taking a mint 21lb 8oz common

The day remained wet throughout, though our spirits could not be dampened. After a stop of in the clubhouse for showers and a couple of brews, we headed back to our swims for the final foray with just one more night ahead. Were we confident? Were we ever! Elton was the first to score, taking one of the nicest mirrors I’ve ever seen at about three in the afternoon. Although a respectable 19lb, weight mattered little with such looks (the fish, that is). After a quick photo call the plated mirror was returned to its watery home, although with the continual rain now falling around us it would have remained just as wet on the bank!

One of the nicest you’ll see…

I must admit to having pangs of reality kick-in on thinking of having to pack up the following morning. It’s one of those waters where you just wish you could stay forever. With rods in place just after tea I sat back wondering what delights the final night might bring and reminisced over all that had happened in just a few short days. It was difficult to take it all in, and as if to seal the incredulity of it all, the swinger on the same rod gave another little knock just after 8pm. The result, as you’ve no doubt already guessed, was another good fish from my distance spot! It seemed a liberal scattering of Snail & Shell, topped up every few hours, could do no wrong. The culprit this time was a lovely mirror of 21lb, which put a smile on my face just as big as any of those that had come before. By now it was all I could do to keep a straight face – they just kept on coming!

You’ll never guess what happened next… The Snail & Shell tempts another at 21lb

On returning the fish to the water I felt I was done, and strangely, for the first time since arrival, I had a feeling that I might have had my lot. It was not a negative feeling, just the opposite, I felt so content that I could not see myself pushing for another. If it came, fine, but I was about spent on energy. It’s quite funny that when I return home after a fishing trip, Lisa thinks I must be totally relaxed, refreshed, and ready to tackle any number of jobs that are awaiting my attention the moment I walk through the door. Usually the opposite is the case; after a few days fishing in a state of constant alert, I often feel I need a few days rest in order to recover!

I’m not sure who was bringing who luck, but the Kingfisher had his fill too!

I think I was also trying to bring in a touch of reality to the situation, in preparation for what I knew was going to be a heavy-hearted pack up in the morning. That was the worst thing about the syndicate lake – leaving. However, at approximately 1.30am, my left-hand distance rod decided it should get in on the act. The swinger rose by an inch giving a couple of bleeps and on lifting the rod I connected with a fish hell bent on putting as much distance between me and it as possible. After an incredible first run heading directly away from the baited spot I eventually managed to slow and stop its run. On turning the fish I then had a good deal of line to retrieve as the fish started kiting from side to side in big sweeping movements. By its actions I had a feeling it was a relatively small but feisty fish, and having let it take the lead on the initial run, I was now able to dictate proceedings. A few minutes later I had a pristine torpedo shaped common reflecting in the torchlight just a few feet out from the bank, and on slipping the net under to scoop up my prize, I could not help shaking my head in disbelief as I gently lifted my eighth fish from the water.

A late night common makes an appearance

The stocky common put a real smile on my face, and the fact that it was my first fish under twenty did not even register, all I could think about was how nice it looked. I decided to do a quick self take on my camera rather than going round to wake Elton, which also meant I would not have to reel in my other rods only to have to put them all back out again in ten minutes time - I really didn’t have the energy!

Once the fish had been returned and the rod placed back out onto the spot I went back to bed for a few hours and woke at around 5.30am, just as the sun was attempting to creep over the trees far away to my left. The rain had gone completely, and as the sun edged higher into a clear blue sky, clouds of mist came up off the lake like ghostly apparitions rising from graveyard tombstones before being gently whisked away on the soft morning breeze. It was an awesome picture to behold as I looked out over the flat calm lake with the sun bursting through, and to all the people who ask why I go fishing, I just wish they could have been right there beside me - words would not have been needed.

Who needs words?

Shortly afterwards I received a text message from Elton which read ‘Don’t tell me you forgot to catch one in the night’. At which point I laughed to myself and replied with the news of my late night common – I don’t think he believed me at first! After that it was a case of beginning the slow pack up. So slow in fact, that I did it over the course of about four hours – well, there was no way I was taking my rods out until after ten o’clock!

Steve called over just as we were leaving to see how we had finished up, and on recounting the events of the past couple of days it slowly started to sink in. Over four nights I’d had a 33lb 4oz Mirror, 30lb 8oz Common, 27lb 12oz Mirror, 27lb Mirror, 26lb 6oz Mirror, 26lb Common, 21lb Mirror, and my final night 14lb Common. A session indeed!

Drying off the gear during a very slow pack up.

Soon after, having expressed sincere thanks to Steve for making it all happen and saying my goodbyes to Elton, I was pulling out of the fishery to start the return leg of the 500 mile round trip. The traffic was just as dire on the homeward journey, though somehow I seemed not to notice.

Once home I found myself in a funny sort of mood over the coming days. My confidence for our upcoming Birch Grove trip was sky high. But my main thought was in trying to find a little time to get back on the canal. Having just returned from a long session and with Birch just a week or two away, I knew time would be limited, but when you’re on a bit of a roll you can’t help but wonder what’s round the corner.

On both fronts the roll certainly seemed to continue, but I’ll save all that for the next piece.

Until then,

Tight Lines…

Julian Grattidge
November 2006