London Colney, Then And Now

You may have read my two previous articles on Nile Perch fishing in Uganda and my Zambezi Safari earlier this year. This piece is about one of our own waters, London Colney. It may not hold fish the size of Nile Perch and you wont see herds of Elephant and Hippo grazing on its banks, or watch 12ft crocs basking on sand bars, but it has always been one of my favourite waters, along with the river Loddon at Twyford.

London Colney was the first water I fished when I joined BADAC along with my father back in the season of 68/69. I was 13 then and, at the time, there was a long waiting list to get into the Barnet Club. The late Bill Humphries proposed my father and I, and we were over the moon when we were accepted into the club that season. Before joining Barnet I had learnt my fishing at the local ponds and lakes, such as the Brewery Pond on Hadley Green, Jacks Lake and Totteridge Long Ponds, along with most of the local boys at that time, catching small roach, perch and occasionally a nice tench or carp.

But when I first fished Colney, I was faced with a much bigger challenge. The water was so much larger, and in most places deeper than the ones I had fished before. The first few seasons I found it hard going and only had limited success with the roach and perch. But after a time I got to know the water better and learnt where the bream would shoal up in the big pit. This I found out one September, a couple of seasons after joining. I was fishing in the small pit with my father and only catching the odd roach, so we decided to move onto the big pit, and ledger the deep water, just using simple maggot & bread flake as bait and we both got into a large shoal of bream, all around the 2lb-3lb mark, fish after fish. By the time we finished, we must have caught around 30lb-40lb each in four hours or so. The next three months I spent every weekend fishing three or four swims along that stretch usually with the same results, and occasionally with a couple of good tench as well. I thought I had worked out where these bream would be most of the time, so when the next season came round I was back on the deep water stretch, only to be very disappointed. The shoals of bream had seemed to vanish. I tried the same three or four swims that had been so productive the season before through June and early July, but with only some roach and the odd bream to show for my efforts, so I decided to give those swims a rest until mid-September and it worked. The bream were back, though my bags of fish where not quite as large as the previous season.

That example of the nature of London Colney is nearly 30 years old now, but things haven't changed all that much,over the years I have had many memorable days on hot swims, catching 30lb - 50lb bags of tench or bream only to return to the same spot a few days later and to sit there for five hours without a bite! Does that sound familiar to anyone? The latest example of this happened last week. My start to the season had been okay with a couple of reasonable bags of tench (8lb-9lb) and the odd crucian carp from the big pit, but nothing special. The weather had been hot and muggy, and there was a chance of some thundery rain, with this sort of weather I have usually found that the tench feed well. So I decided to take a day of work, and make an early start, I arrived at the water at around 4.30am, the main thundery rain had just missed Colney, but conditions still looked promising. I chose one of my favourite swims midway along the big pit, I float fished sweet corn on one rod and bread flake on a ledger rig on the other, over a bed of trout pellets & corn. The first few hours were a bit slow, only two fish, a 2lb common carp and a 3lb tench, so I decided to bait up a back-up swim in the small lake just in case. Another two hours passed by with just a couple of missed bites, so I went to have a look at my reserve swim to see if any fish had moved on to the ground bait. Just before I left, I threw out another handful of pellet & corn. I then reeled in both rods and walk around to the small pit. The swim I had baited up was showing signs of activity, clusters of small bubbles were rising from above the pellets & corn, a sure sign that some tench had found the bait. It was now decision time Should I move now or stay in my first swim for a little longer? When I got back to my original swim there was some tench activity as well, more bubbles! I decided to give this swim three quarters of an hour longer and it worked. I recast both rods and I was into a 3.5lb tench on my ledger almost immediately. I then lost a carp of around 6lb on the float rod. It broke me off under a fallen willow. But, after that set back, the tench just kept coming. At the end of the session I had twelve tench between 2.5lb & 4.5lb and one carp. At a rough estimate, a 40lb bag. Two days later I returned to the same spot the conditions were about the same and I expect you have already guessed the result…I blanked! Even the back-up swim failed, but that's LC for you. You never quite know what mood it is going to be in. It is always a challenge.

I had intended to end my article at this point, but I have fished London Colney twice more since I started it and have had one good day which included a 6lb tench in a 14lb bag, and the second occasion was even more rewarding.

The weather was still muggy and hot, with low cloud cover, and a forecast of rain to come later in the day. I arrived at the water at 7.30, baited the swim, and set up one ledger rod using a medium braided line. On the other, I used a float rig fishing straight through on 4lb mono line, attached to a size 12 hook baited with a single kernel of sweet corn. My first cast of the float rig brought what looked like a typical roach bite. The float bobbed three or four times before sliding under. I struck and the water erupted! Three bow waves headed off in different directions, one with my line attached to it. No roach then! The fish I had hooked headed out into the middle of the pit, which was very lucky, as the swim I was fishing has plenty of snags. A fallen willow on one side, a bank of reeds, and over hanging bushes in front, and a dead tree on the far bank, all of which this fish ignored!

The clutch on my reel kept giving line steadily. I had around 110 meters of main line and then I was on to about 30 meters of backing. I just hoped that would be enough! The fish took around 70 metres and then stopped and just cruised about in the middle of the lake. I kept a steady pressure on the fish and, luckily, it behaved itself. No more long runs, it just seemed happy to circle around and around. After twenty minutes or so of this, it started to blow clouds of bubbles. It looked like it was starting to see my side of the argument and, slowly, I managed to gain line back onto the reel. I still didn't want to get this fish in too quickly, with all the snags around and only 4lb line. I knew that if it still had some fight left in it and it got into one of the snags, it would be game over. Ten minutes later it was close enough to net. I reached out, got the fish half into the net, but it wasn't ready. It flipped out and, luckily, the hook hold was true. The fish headed out to the middle again, but this time it only took about 25 metres of line and in a few minutes it was ready to land. I slipped the net underneath the fish and brought it
safely onto the bank. It was a fine looking mirror carp of around 20lb. I knew my set of scales would not be adequate for weighing this fish, so after unhooking it, I placed it into my keepnet and went in search of help. I found a carp angler fishing in the small pit, and he kindly came round to my swim with a weighing sling and a good set of scales. We placed the fish into the sling and checked the scales. They settled at 22lb 12oz, the sling weighed 2lbs, so 20lbs 12oz was the result.

He took some photos of the fish for me, and then we released the carp, none the worse for its little adventure. The rest of the session produced five tench, the best of which was 3.5lbs, and a crucian of around 2lbs. As I said before, London Colney can be unpredictable!

Tight Lines,

Bryan Garnett