Martin and I had been counting the days until the 2002/3 Season began. Officially, the Top Pool opened on the 16th of June, but those who had completed two work parties beforehand were able to get on club waters two weeks before. As such, we spent a pleasurable couple of days working on the River Dove, and the River Meese in order to obtain our tickets. We’d not been on the club stretch of the Meese before, so it was nice to have a look round. It was certainly a nice stretch, running for about 1km before it reaches Aqulate Mere, another of the clubs waters.

At the end of the work party we had to take a boat over to the boathouse at the far side of the Mere, so three of us had a steady row up the river and across the Mere. The river was heavily lined with reed mace and rushes, and at points it was a tough job to get the boat through, but fun nonetheless as we sighted some decent bream and several pike along the way. It was a fantastic sight that greeted us as the river joined the 189-acre Aqulate Mere – shoal upon shoal of big bream were topping all over the place, and we saw countless fish over the 5lb mark as we rowed over to the boat house. With no carp to speak of, we’d never fished Aqulate before, though the sight of all these decent bream was good enough reason to come back and fish the place sometime.

Anyway, back to the Top Pool, as the 1st of June approached we went up for a good reconnaissance. Having been off the place for so long we wanted to get up and have a good look around rather than just turning up and fishing. The first thing we noticed was that the weed problem had worsened, and pegs that before had been weed free till mid July were already completely covered, and the whole of the bay was also choked top to bottom with Canadian Pond Weed.

We’d already prepared ourselves for this, so it didn’t deter our enthusiasm, and after making our way through the woods up to the shallows the grins started to appear on our faces as we spotted a few good fish over the twenty pound mark and a number of upper doubles. I went up the next afternoon for a quick overnighter, though on arrival at the lake it was clear the fish were spawning. As such, I just dropped my gear up in the shallows, got out the binoculars and spent a few hours following the fish around and observing their antics.

By 8pm they had slowed and were now rooting around in the margins and boating round on top, they stayed in groups with the males following the females around. A number of these fish were now stacked up in the shallows, so I decided to set up on the top boards swim. We’d done well on Activ-8 in the past so I’d knocked up a two-egg mix for the session, putting both rods on the far margin with PVA bags filled with crushed boilies on fluro-carbon links.

Seconds after I’d finished setting up the heavens opened, and it absolutely poured down for the next couple of hours, and typically, during a heavy period, off went my right hand rod resulting in a tench of about 5lb. I baited up again, and now completely soaked, decided to call it a night and tucked up in bed. No further action came during the night, and next morning I reeled in the rods and went for a wander round the lake. I got chatting to a couple of lads (Dan and Matt) who had put quite a bit of time in during the previous season and I gleaned as much information as possible about what tactics and approaches had been getting results. After chatting for an hour or so it seemed nothing much had changed during our time off the water, only three or four people had been fishing it regularly, and had been concentrating on the bay swims and the shallows. They’d had a few good fish, though I was secretly pleased to hear that the big common had still not been banked!

I was soon on my way home thinking about how best to approach the water through the season ahead, thinking about all that Matt had told me. It seemed they had been sticking to the same swims, and although very polite about it all, they intimated they would like to do the same this season. I had no problem with this, as it can sometimes be a little frustrating when you do all the work to get a swim going only for someone to drop on it and bank the biggie that you’ve been waiting for! What’s more it was clear we were going to have to do a bit of graft on some clear spots, which they had already done on their chosen swims.

I went up with Mart mid-week to have a good look around again. In the past the far-bank woods swims had always been overlooked, and rarely had I seen anyone fishing them. From what Matt had been saying this was still the case, so I was keen to pay particular attention to these swims, as I was sure the fish would be moving confidently in the area.

From above, the Top Pool looks a bit like a number ‘9’ with a big bay area at the North end of around 2.5-acres, and a long tail stretching South-East up to shallows covering another 3-acres. One of the problems with this is that from most pegs you can’t see what’s going on around the rest of the lake, and with the fish moving around a lot, it can be difficult trying to work out what’s going on. As such, I wanted to find a potential woods peg on the North East bank near the point where the tail met the bay, in order that I would be able to see the whole of the water. The woods swims can get a bit boggy and very wet underfoot, which I think is why they’re overlooked a little, and as we walked through the woods we scrutinised each swim picking out the good points and bad points with each.

One peg stood out above all the rest, right at the point where the tail meets the bay giving a great vantage point over most of the lake, virtually cutting the water in two. The peg was very well camouflaged and overgrown with loads of marginal tree cover, and didn’t look to have been fished for a very long time. With regard to features it was perfect, pads to each side in the margins, and on the far bank more pads with a wide channel – all very carpy!

The best thing with this peg was that with a little work we could get two sets of rods in it, so we would be able to work all the features well. We decided we would each put a rod on the margin either side, and share the channel on the far bank, with Mart fishing the left side, and myself the right. The pondweed was right to the top
throughout so we spent a couple of hours making a few clear spots in the margins then clearing the far-bank channel from the other side of the lake, we then put a few kilos of hemp over each spot in the hope that the tench would start feeding and tidy up the clear spots of any weed we’d missed.
In most scenarios I’d say that picking a swim before you fish is a big no-no, but on the Top Pool it’s often the case that you have to lay a trap and wait for the fish to come to you, and we hoped that through an extensive pre-baiting campaign we could get them visiting our areas on a regular basis.

The ‘new’ Swim

7th-9th June 2002.

Friday soon arrived, and after a busy week in the Anglers’ Net office I was eager to get out fishing for the weekend. I arrived to find the lake completely deserted, and on reaching our swim was eager to have a look at the clear spots. The tree to the right of the swim gave an excellent vantage point as it grows up and out over the lake. From here I could clearly see our far bank channel, and look right down over the margin spots. Straight away I was able to see five or six good tench on the far bank, and my margin spot directly underneath looked excellent.

Mart soon arrived and we quietly set up keeping well away from the front of the swim. The fish spook very easily so we always try to stay back and set up the bivvy’s behind tree cover well out of the way. We also set the rods low and back from the boards, again so we can keep out of sight as much as possible.

We heavily baited all the spots with hemp, maggots, and casters, and then put out single Activ-8 hook baits on each rod. We then sat back and relaxed with a couple of beers and watched the water for a few hours. The hemp certainly had the fish fizzing, and after only half an hour swirls started to develop all over the channel on the far bank. From up the tree I could make out some good tench and a couple of big bream – hopefully the carp would soon be getting in on the act!

Over the next couple of hours we saw a number of carp moving near our areas so we went to bed quite confident, but come next morning there had been no action, so we baited up again for the day and just sat back from the swim watching the water. Action can be very slow on the Top Pool so there’s no point getting disappointed when nothing happens, I think once you start getting despondent you rarely catch, much better to stay calm, think positive and the fish will come – I find confidence in your approach is key to catching wherever you fish. I was half way through brewing up at about 2pm when my right hand margin rod gave a couple of bleeps. I quickly got down to my rod just in time to see a huge bow wave going out of the area as the run picked up. I lifted into the run only to feel nothing on the strike – gutted! I checked the rig and everything seemed fine, so I just put it down to bad luck and put the rod back out.

Mid afternoon and we spotted a couple of fish over our margin areas again so as the second evening approached we again went to bed quietly confident. Sunday morning arrived and still no action, so we slowly packed up and made our way home.

14th – 16th June 2002.

I was happy with the way the previous session had gone, as daft as it sounds, one take per weekend is good going, and for only my second session back on, I was confident that the swim and approach would work given a little time and patience. We had been up midweek again putting out a big bed of hemp over all the spots, and on arrival at the swim on Friday night I spotted a good 20lb carp mooching around my margin spot.

Out went the hemp, and we put the rods out to the same spots. We chatted for a couple of hours about the week’s events before calling it a night at around 1am. About half an hour later my far bank rod gave two single bleeps. When fishing over so much weed it’s difficult to tell what’s going on sometimes, and I stood over my rod not sure if I should hit it or not. I held the line between my fingers to see if I could feel anything, and on feeling a little tremble I immediately lifted the rod and wound down. I felt a thud on the other end as a fish suddenly woke up and tried to make it to the pad line. With masses of weed between me and the fish, I adopted the hit and hold approach, slowly walking backwards up the boards. The fish turned and came most of the way in pretty easily. It didn’t feel massive but still gave a good account of itself when it reached the margin, and after a brief scrap I slipped the net under my first Top Pool carp of the season – result!

First-blood 14lb 2oz

After pulling a mass of pondweed out of the landing net we were able to transfer a nice double figure mirror into the weigh sling, which went 14lb 2oz on the scales, and after a celebratory brew we retired again, with no more action coming that night.
More bait went in the next morning and come early afternoon we had fish showing in the margins again. Shortly after, the tip of Mart’s margin rod whipped round as a full-blooded screamer developed. Mart immediately hit it, and the next thing I know, a one-ounce lead sails right past the end of my nose!!

Saturday night passed with no further action, and I went home the next morning happy with my double, Mart a little peeved with his missed chance.

21st – 22nd June 2002

We pre-baited again in the week and come Friday there were plenty of fish over the far bank. It seemed as if the fish were now getting used to a regular supply of hemp, maggots, and casters, and within 10-minutes of the bait going in the tench were all over it. We were only on for the night so we tried to get the rods out as quick as possible to make the most of our time on the water. Not long after dark we heard Matt’s alarms sounding across the bay. He shouted ov
er that he was in, but the fish had weeded him not far out from the bank.

We reeled in and went round to offer some assistance, and on getting round to the swim found Matt preparing to go in after his fish. On most pegs, a foot out from the bank and you’re up to your neck in silt, so going into the water is a big no-no. However Matt was on the fence swim, which has a nice firm and shallow bottom, so he was able to go in after the fish with us on hand for backup.

Minutes later he had a nice 16lb fish on the bank, a cracking specimen with shoulders like Arnie. After a couple of quick photos we headed back round to our swim and put the rods back out. Nothing more came during the night, and on the way home the next morning I was happy that at least one of us had had a fish!

28th – 30th June 2002

Although the previous session had been fruitless, I was full of confidence when I arrived at the water early on the Friday evening. By now, each session was following a similar pattern. Heavy baiting mid-week and more bait going in over the weekend with single hook baits fished over the top. The carp, along with the tench and bream, were certainly moving over our baited spots, and we always seemed to have more action to report than the other lads fishing the water in the bay area. Yet nothing big had yet taken the bait.

This week I’d decided to move away from the Activ-8, which had previously done so well for me, in favor of Brazil nuts. I just felt I needed to be experimenting a bit more to try and get amongst the fish. Not long after dark Mart’s far bank rod burst into life and he quickly hit into a fish that was doing it’s best to get into the pads to his left. Mart soon got the upper hand and soon had a little mirror on the unhooking mat. Although the fish only went 9lb 10oz, Mart was happy to open his account for the season, and with three of us now having had doubles, we thought the bigger fish must surly be just around the corner.

Saturday morning and I awoke around 5am to the sound of something scurrying around at the back of my shelter. Fishing in the woods we get all kinds of strange beetles and bugs, and I certainly hadn’t seen one of these before, it looked like a cross between a ground beetle and a scorpion (I later identified it as a devil’s coach horse beetle) and after sending this rather large carnivore on it’s way I got up to make a brew. I’m a light sleeper at the best of times, and during the summer months I’m always up by 6am, I just hate to waste valuable fishing time by sleeping through it – unlike Mart who’s number one pastime is sleeping!

I quietly sat at the back of the boards, brew in hand, watching the water. There’s a black-headed gull that’s made the Top Pool it’s home. From what I’ve seen it’s had less fish out than us, so I’m surprised it’s still alive! It’s quite funny though as it constantly tries to go for the big carp off the surface. Each time the gull gets close to the surface the carp erupt, scaring the life out of the gull, yet it carries on regardless!

Time spent up trees is never wasted

I sat watching the gull as my thoughts tuned to my margin rod. Bar the missed take the first week on the peg, nothing had yet developed. I was confident that it would but I guess I was just getting anxious for some action. I decided to nip up the tree for a look around, and on getting on the first branch peered down over my margin spot to see two fat mirrors mooching around right over my baited spot not more than 10 feet from the bank. I quietly went back down and hovered near my rods, heart pumping, but nothing developed.

The day was pretty uneventful bar an interesting run in with some mink. There have been mink on the water for some time but you only ever used to see them on the swims near the boathouse, now however, they’re all over the place, and in large numbers. Around midday I was walking round to the far bank to bait up when I came across quite a large rabbit twitching in the field right next to the fence by the path. I thought it a bit odd, as usually it would have ‘done-one’ by now. However, I quickly realised it was in it’s final death throws, and as I watched, it’s eyes glazed over and it lay still. I went on my way looking for the possible culprit, maybe a fox or bird. Just as I started to bait up the catapult broke, so I had to walk back round to the swim to get another. As I approached the place where the rabbit had been, it had gone. I carried on walking slightly bemused, wondering if it had in fact died. I then nearly trod on the damn thing as I approached the rodie-bush swim. I was now intrigued as to what was going on, and as I stood there I heard the distinct call of a mink, and the penny suddenly dropped.

Then, as bold as brass, four mink appear less than a three feet away from me. They stop for a second, look up at me as if to weigh me up, and then, on deciding that if it came down to a fight they could probably handle me, they marched right up to my feet and dragged the rabbit off into the undergrowth. I was speechless – the cheek of it! I guess the only saving grace for the fish stocks (at present) is the sheer number of rabbits around the lake, there is literally thousands of them so it must be relatively easy pickings for the mink, lets hope it stays that way!

As night approached we baited up in anticipation. We had a light scatter of rain which freshened things up a little, and we went to bed confident in our approach. Morning arrived and again there had been no action. I climbed the tree to view my margin rod, and I could clearly see the hook bait and a few freebies, so I climbed back down had a brew and went back to sleep for an hour or two.

At around 10am I was in two minds about packing up or staying for a while. Mart was in the same indecisive mood and decided to have a look up the tree to see if anything was moving. I decided I’d make a brew whilst we thought about it and toppe
d up the kettle as Mart went up the tree. As I filled the kettle I could hear a strange noise, and on looking up the tree, I could see Mart was trying to get my attention.
His face was a picture, eyes wide and frantic looking. He then motioned that there was a fish right over my margin spot. I tried to ask how big and when he held his hands over two feet apart I suddenly took notice!

Obviously I didn’t want to spook the fish, but I couldn’t resist peeking through the marginal cover to see what was going on. From ground level you would not have known a fish was there, even though it’s only about two feet deep. For a minute I thought Mart was having me on, but then a series of bubbles appeared on the surface right over my bait. At this point my heart started pounding, and I was unsure what to do. I reckoned that if I stood waiting for the take it would never come, so decided to carry on making the brew. I slowly turned to make my way back up to the stove when Mart cried out “He’s nailed!” and a split second later the Delkim gave a bleep.

Standing right over the rod, I was able to strike before the fish had taken much line and it boiled on the surface just past the point of the pads. Mart was down the tree in seconds offering encouragement as I held the rod not giving an inch of line. The rod arched over as I bent into the fish and after a brief stalemate I was able to guide her towards the margin. Mart did the honors with the net and informed me that somewhere under a ton of pondweed, the fish was in the net – result!

Getting better – 19lb 4oz mirror

Mart gently lifted the net onto the unhooking mat and we slowly pulled away the weed to reveal a cracking mirror. It certainly looked an old warrior, though it was difficult to put a weight on it as it looked quite long in the body. Mart reckoned it would scrape 20lb, though I was saying nothing, waiting for the scales to decide. Seconds later the needle settled at 19lb 4oz, and it was grins all round!

Having heard the commotion Matt arrived in the swim to find me with the fish in my hands as Mart rattled of a few pictures. After releasing the fish, I finally got to finish making the brew I started, as Mart begun telling us how he saw the fish take the bait whilst up the tree – He’d climbed up the tree not noticing the fish until he was right on top of it. At that point he froze for fear of spooking the fish, and just waited to see what it did next. He said it had most of it’s body under cover of the pads, and every now and again it would come out, circle over the bait then go back under the pads. After doing this two or three times it then went down taking a freebie before going back under the pads. He said it did this three more times (until all the free baits were gone) then hovered over the hook bait for a while before going down. Mart continued, explaining that the fish then went down over the bait fanning the bottom with it’s pectoral fins, then up ending, taking in the hook bait, after which it immediately shot back up violently moving it’s head around (at which point he shouted I’d hooked him) before bolting out of the area as the alarm kicked in – amazing!

12th – 14th July

We were unable to get up the weekend before, but we’d been up three times since the last session to pre-bait, so come the Friday I was itching to get back on. By 6.00pm the baits were out in the usual manner and we sat back taking in all the sites as a beautiful summers evening unfolded. This is probably the smallest tench I’ve had from the Top PoolThe tench were all over the far bank rods, so it was no surprise when the Dekim burst into life about an hour later resulting in a nice tench of about 6lb. However, I was surprised it took a Brazil nut!

As dusk approached the water went very quiet, and with little fish movement to speak of, I went to bed not all that confident. I awoke a few times between 3-6am as a light rain shower came down around us, before receiving a slow steady take on the far bank rod at around 7am. I hit in hard but the fish just kept going, way under the pads to the right of the channel. I wound down and locked-up, slowly walking backwards up the boards trying to turn the fish before it reached the point of no return.

At this point everything went solid, but I was still in contact with the fish. I bided my time, and after a while I was able to get the fish moving again, and luckily it moved my way. I just kept the rod down low with a full battle curve applying maximum pressure, and after a while the fish was back near the pad line, although it kept lunging around and I had to give line on a couple of occasions. After what seemed like an eternity I was able to get the fish up on top, and shortly afterwards its efforts subsided and it was virtually ready for netting. The only problem was that it was still a good 25yards out! So I had to guide it through mountains of weed back to the margin. Every now and then it would go solid but after another five minutes it was safely in the net, along with half the pondweed in the lake!

Early morning mirror – 21lb 7oz

Pulling the weed back it was clear this baby would go over 20lb, and sure enough the needle bounced round to 21lb 7oz – Winner!
I was made-up, we’d not been back on the water long, and I was already starting to get into some good fish from what can only be described as a tough water. As such, I mellowed for the rest of the session trying my hand at some of the bream and tench using a poppe
d-up sweetcorn rig.
I had some quality fish during the afternoon, several bream averaging 4lb, and countless tench averaging 4-5lb. Twinned with the carp, a day’s fishing just doesn’t get much better!

Quality bream every chuck!

19th-21st July

The previous week we’d got the feeling that the fish may have been getting pre-occupied on the hemp and casters we’d been bucketing in, and although it had bought results we’d decided not to pre-bait during the week. When I got up to the water I was stopped in my tracks – there were fish everywhere! I quietly dropped my gear and made straight up the tree to see groups of carp all over the place in two’s and three’s. I quickly spotted the big common with two smaller mirrors milling around in the channel on the far bank, and three decent carp were all over my margin area.

Having used my last couple of Brazils the previous week (and forgetting to get anymore) I had to wait for Mart to arrive before I could put the rods out. As such, I just sat up the tree for over an hour watching the fish, it certainly looked as if knocking the hemp on the head had done the trick. Mart soon arrived, and on seeing the grin on my face he knew we had fish in the area. Again we were the only one’s on the lake, and as dusk approached we were on tenterhooks as the fish boiled on the surface right in front of us.

After the best part of a week with no rain, we suddenly had a downpour, which seemed to send the carp mental – jumping and crashing everywhere! It was still very warm come 11pm as the rain started to ease, and we just sat on Mart’s bedchair watching the water. After a brew we decided to turn in, and only seconds after my head hit the pillow my far bank rod burst into life.

The rain had made the boards very greasy and I proceeded to fall flat on my backside as I attempted to get down to my rods! I eventually struck in to find the fish had taken quite a bit of line and was now well under the pads on the far bank. I kept the rod low, applied pressure and to my surprise the fish came straight out. It soon became apparent it was a small fish but it still gave me a bit of wake up call when I got it near the margin, on netting the fish it covered me in water, though the rain had already soaked me head to foot!

During the commotion Mart hadn’t moved an inch and was still snugly tucked up in bed in fits of laughter at my bedraggled state. No sooner had I lifted the fish out of the water, Mart’s far bank rod burst into life – a proper one-toner. It was now Mart’s turn to get wet as he made his way down to the rods and hit into a fish which was clearly bigger than the one in my hands. I returned my fish to the water for a second, so as to help Mart net his.

Mart’s fish had kited left under the pads on the far bank and he had to apply heavy side-strain in order to stay in control. Shortly afterwards the golden flanks of a stunning common came into the torchlight – It was ‘Crinkle Tail!’. We weighed the fish, my mirror going 11lb 4oz, and Crinkle tail going 19lb 13oz, which surprised us both, as we had reckoned her it to be well over the 20lb mark, but no matter – a target fish is a target fish!

Mart with Crinkle Tail

The fish were quickly returned leaving us to bait up the far margin rods again. Both fish had dragged weed over the clear spots but we were confident enough to just leave them be till morning. After drying off we stayed up for a while to celebrate Mart’s fish with a couple of cans before calling it a night as the rain continued to fall.
By 5am the rain had eased and as the sun started poking through the low lying cloud we knew it was going to be a warm day. By 9am the fish were all over us again, and having had no further action in the night I was contemplating putting my far bank rod out again.

I went up the tree to see what the weed situation was like on the far-bank clear spots after the fish we’d had during the night. No sooner had I got onto the second branch I saw a decent mirror move right in over my margin rod. I was unsure what to do, if I climbed back down quickly, I would risk spooking it, and on seeing Mart close to my rods I just stayed put for a second, and it was only a second – the fish were defiantly on heat, not meandering in their usual manner, today they were moving with vigor searching out food wherever they went, and as I looked down at the mirror right under me it went straight down over my baited area, moved right over the hook bait, up-ended, picked up the hook bait, and was away!

The Delkim sounded immediately, and I jumped from the tree to have Mart pass me the rod and I was in again! The fish went mental, trying to get under the pads. It’s a weird situation when you’re playing a fish that you’ve just seen pick up your bait, not least because you know how big it is! I’d estimated it to be around the 20lb mark and the fight it was giving me certainly seemed to back it up.

After a heated battle I slipped the net under the fish and on lifting the net thought I’d estimated wrong, it felt like a thirty with all the weed in there. On pulling back the weed from the net I got a strong feeling of déjà vu, for on closer inspect
ion it was the same fish that I’d had three weeks previous at 19lb 4oz.

Déjà vu, this time 19lb 5oz

Amazing. Same fish, same spot, same bait, however this time I’d seen it take the bait as a pose to Mart – weird or what?!
By 10am I’d had a few more fish boil over my margin rod and I was sure it was only a matter of time. With carp taking quite a long time to digest Brazil nuts, I only fish one as hook bait and break up one more nut as free offering. I knew the fish were over the area but felt they needed a little encouragement to go down, so I catapulted a few pouches of maggots tight to the spot right on the edge of the pad line.

Less than 10minutes later the tip of my margin rod whipped right round nearly pulling the rod off the pod. I hit in hard applying heavy side strain to stop the fish from going right under the pads. I just kept the power on and backed up the boards not giving an inch. I cleared the fish from the pad line and just kept on the pressure. It seemed to be coming in over the top of the weed, which was a bonus, and within seconds Mart was ready with the net and with one deft movement it was banked. The whole event from start to finish probably took no longer than a minute!

We pulled back the weed in the net to reveal an absolutely stunning fish – without doubt one of the prettiest I’ve ever banked. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat as we removed the last strands of weed to reveal a perfect scattered mirror, dark upper body with a beige underside and a huge shoulder on it. Now out of the water it decided to wake up big-time, and was all over the place, we always use two large unhooking mats when dealing with fish so it was safe, but boy, it certainly was a handful!

Pure class; ‘Red October’ @ 19lb 6oz

It looked like a torpedo – all muscle, I’d estimated it to be a good 15-16lb, as it was much smaller than the 19lb’er I’d had a couple of hours before, and so was amazed when it went 19lb 6oz on the scales!
Once we’d returned the fish I just went into autopilot, baiting-up and placing the rod back in exactly the same place. My head was elsewhere thinking about the session we were having. The best I’d ever done on the Top Pool was two fish in a session, and having now taken three, added to that Mart’s common, I was simply stunned!

Whilst deep in thought making a brew, I suddenly awoke to the fact that the margin rod was off again, it had been in for less than 5minutes – I was gob smacked. I struck to find nothing there, then realised the fish had bolted straight towards the bank, and as I franticly wound in, a 20lb fish was sat right in front of us trying to spit out the hook – and it did. Another valuable lesson learnt – never take your eye of the ball!

The fish dispersed for a while during the latter part of the afternoon but as dusk fell they were all over us again. The rain had also returned and as we retired to our respective bivvy’s, conditions were an exact re-run of the night before, we just hoped we’d have similar results!

I awoke at 5am to see the tip of my margin rod wagging away as yet another run developed, I hit in and the rod bent double as a big fish powered out into open water. I tried in vain to slow the run, but the fish just kept going, and the next think I know, the line pings and the fish was gone!

I wound in to find the fluro hooklink had snapped right at the point where it went through the eye of the hook – gutted! It was a real shame to end the session with two lost fish, but I had to be happy with 3 fish for the session, with two over 19lb! However, I could not help but wonder what the tally might have been without the losses, never mind, there’s always next time!

26th-27th July

The following week I was up on my own. Mart was away for a weeklong session on Birch Grove, and with family commitments on the Saturday and Sunday I had decided to nip up for a quick overnighter on the Friday. I got to the swim to find it quiet all over, not a fish in sight. I dumped the gear in the swim and went in search of the fish. After an hour walking round the lake and climbing various trees I was still none the wiser. I’d only spotted two fish and they were at opposite ends of the lake!

No place I’d rather be…

I went back round to the swim and spotted a mid-double cruising on top near the far bank channel, and decided I may as well stick with our chosen swim and continued to set-up. Whilst it’s always nice to fish with a mate, I also like fishing on my own, especially on the Top Pool when chances are, you’re the only one on the lake.

As the light started to fade I just sat with a brew feeling at one with nature, and over the next couple of hours whilst I sat watching the water I had a family of seven mink make an appearance right by my rods, pheasants wandering about right behind my bivvy, rabbits all over the place, and as darkness fell, I ended up making friends with a little mouse that lived under the boards, feeding it chewed up brazil nuts no more than a foot from where I was sitting – and people ask why I like fishing..!!

Everything was still very quiet when I called it a night, if nothing else I reckoned I’d get a good nights sleep. I awoke at about 4am to hear something scurrying around in the back of the bivvy, and after sending a large toad on it’s way, I went back to sleep. An hour later the Delkim burst into life as a run picked up on the margin rod. I hit in but the fish was already buried in a mass of weed a few rod lengths beyond the pads, and as I struck I felt nothing, and slowly wound in the rig minus the fish. I was a bit gutted as I stood there reeling in, three fish lost on the bounce. Since the beginning of the season on the Top Pool I reckoned I’d lost around 5 fish, with six banked. Three of the missed takes were defiantly carp though I couldn’t be sure of the rest.

Up until that point It hadn’t bothered me much, but it was getting a little worrying now. I decided to have a play with some rigs, so put the kettle on and pulled out my tackle pouch. Whilst I was making the brew I noticed a fish boil right over what was in normal sessions, Mart’s side of the margin. I crept to the edge of the marginal cover and peered through the bushes to see a good fish well over 20lb, no more than three feet from the bank, loitering around in about 15” of water.

My heart started pounding as I wondered how to tempt this beauty. I ever so slowly made my way back to my bivvy to get my rod, which was still leaning against the bivvy. I had no floaters with me, and no bread, so it would have to be a bottom bait. The previous week I’d been up to visit Ian Cracknell at Merlin Baits, and he’d given me a selection of boilies to try out from his new X-Factor range. I’d already singled out the Seafood Special as potential bait for the top Pool and quickly rummaged around my bag to find them.

I’m not really a big fan of ready-mades, having made my own for as many years as I can remember, but these looked and tasted keen, very oily and they absolutely stunk! I broke one of the 14mm baits in two, and threaded the half’s end to end on the hair, I then slipped the bomb off the clip so I could free line into the margin. All the time I’d been rigging up I kept glancing back to the margin and the fish was still milling around but had moved a little further out from the bank.

I slowly crept back to the waters edge to see where the fish was. It had moved back out a little and was now about a rod length out, just under the edge of the pads. Mart had been placing baits there over the past couple of weeks so I knew it was free of weed. I gently flicked it out, with the bait landing about 8” from the pad line. I broke up another couple of baits and flicked them around the hook bait and slowly placed the rod on the pod with a slack line.

I sat back up from the swim, waited, and watched. The fish was still in the area but seemed oblivious to the bait just a few feet away from it, after what seemed like an eternity it’s head appeared at the edge of the pad line as it slowly came out into open water. The bait was only in about two feet of water, and the fish was now almost over it.

The fish then dropped away from sight and my heart started pounding, though nothing happened. I did not want to move from my spot for fear of spooking the fish so just sat next to my rods watching the line. Ten minutes must have passed with no action and no sign off the fish. I was almost at the point where I thought the moment had passed when the rod tip trembled and the line lifted slightly. Seconds later the line suddenly tightened, the rod whipped round, and I struck as the fish bow waved out off the area. This time the fish was well hooked and it powered off into open water. I gave a little line and slowly tried to stop the run. The fish soon turned and I was able to gain the upper hand. I kept on the pressure and soon had the fish wallowing in the margin ready for netting.

It was a bit of a struggle to get the net under the weed and the fish, and after ensuring the fish was well in the net I let out a shout of elation. I pulled the weed from around the fish to reveal a perfect near-leather.

Free lined 23lb 14oz near-leather

On the scales the fish went 23lb 14oz and I was well chuffed. The tripod was already set up near the stile so I got the rest of the camera stuff and did a few shots on the timer before releasing her back to the water.
Having now had takes from either side of the margin I pulled the far bank rod in to maximise my chances fishing one on boilie the other on Brazil. It was getting on for 8am by now and I knew I’d have to be away by 10am, so I made some breakfast and sat with a brew happily reliving the past couple of hours.

After I’d had some food I decided to hop up the tree and see if anything was moving and as I got to the base of the tree I spotted a fish cruising over the weed towards my right hand margin rod. I lifted myself slightly to get a better view, and only then did I spot the two other fish with it. Two were clearly 20 with one perhaps upper double; it was a little hard to tell. They were now nearing the clear spot and on clearing the last lump of pondweed all three fish dropped out of sight together.

Moments later the Delkim bleeped although the swinger stayed motionless. With three fish in the area I was aware it could well be a liner, but then it bleeped a couple more times and the swinger dropped an inch or so. That was enough for me, and I struck. All hell broke loose on the surface as I hit in with fish scattering everywhere, and the hooked fish powering off into open water. It went deep through the thick weed then just held bottom about 30yards out. I managed to ping the line through the weed until luckily I made contact with the fish again, at which point it immediately moved off towards the far margin holding bottom. I wound down and beefed the fish trying to keep the rod way up high to try and stop it weeding me again and eventually it moved up near the surface.

After a long game of give and take the fish finall
y gave up the ghost about 10 yards out still in heavy weed. I stripped off, laid the rod on the boards, and went into the margin.
After about 8 foot of leader I knew I was close and so got the net and tried to scoop up the weed and fish. It was near impossible and I had no idea where the fish was under all the weed. I wedged the net and pulled away at the weed.

Eventually I found the fish and had to virtually lift it into the landing net with a mass of pondweed. At this stage I still had no idea which of the three fish had taken the bait though I hedged my bets that it was one of the 20’s.

When I eventually got to it, I was in no doubt this was my biggest fish so far for the season from the water, and sure enough the scales bounced round to 25lb4oz!

I left for home that morning with a spring in my step; after all, it’s not every session you have a brace of Estate Lake twenties. My luck was certainly in at the moment and I seemed to be on decent run of fish, I just hoped the big common would show itself before my lucky streak came to an end!

Julian Grattidge

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