For the past year, I had been at a loss as to what venue to target. I had recently moved jobs, starting at Korda in April 2019, which brought plenty of travelling around the country, including a 3 hour round trip to the office. This made my personal fishing extremely limited, making it that more difficult to pick a water for my 2020 campaign.
Ideally, I wanted a water between home and the office, somewhere I could break the journey up, trickle some bait in and get away with mid-week overnighters. When picking a water, I always look for something I feel is realistic, that suits my situation at the time. Knowing I would be limited to one or two nights a week, I was sceptical of biting of more than I could chew so wanted a water I could drop onto with a reasonable chance of catching from the off.
A small pit of no more than 3 acres seemed an ideal choice. It was located exactly half way between home and work and in early December, I took my first visit to the lake for a recce. It was a typical club lake pit, plenty of swims grouped tightly together and being such a small, shallow lake, I knew I’d never be far from the big girl.
I made a few enquiries and made the decision to begin my campaign in the spring of 2020. I knew very little about the pit prior to my first session but had been informed the lake contained around 40 carp, with the big girl doing around 43lb at her peak. She hadn’t been out since the autumn, so was well due and from what I’d been told, she loved a spring capture, so I felt extremely confident. Asides from the big girl, the pit contained an expected 6 other 30lb plus carp, quite an impressive stock for a club lake of only 3 acres in size.
The lake was simple in its set up, an almost irregular rectangle, with the furthest bank being a no fishing bank and therefore an obvious feature. For my first session, I turned up after work on a Friday afternoon, ready for a 2-night session in early March. I had walked the pit the previous evening to get an idea of where the carp may be hiding and was pleased to find the pit empty. However, when I pulled into the car park the following day, I was greeted by five other cars, not the site anyone wants to see, but this is to be expected on club lakes and is part of the challenge.
I left the kit in the van and went for a lap of the lake with my Polaroid glasses to see what was occurring. I quickly befriended a bailiff, Rob, who was more than helpful and gave me a run-down of the place and how it had been fishing. By all accounts, it had been a slow winter, with only a handful of fish being caught. This was just what I wanted to hear, knowing then that all of the A-Team were due out, including the big girl. Rob ran through the lake’s typography and it became quite clear just how varied the lake was. Plenty of features, including bars and humps, surrounded by weed, just how I liked it!
As is always the case on a new venue, I was eager to get fishing, and with five anglers already set up, it didn’t leave much space for me. I decided to drop into a swim in the centre of the lake, a good starting point as I felt I could cover a reasonable area of water and have eyes on pretty much the whole lake.
To begin, I cast a bare 2oz lead around the zone and into the vacant swims either side of me, just to get an idea of depths and features. By using the 2oz lead, I was hoping to cause minimal disturbance, but it was a good way of quickly mapping the area. I was surprised at just how shallow it was, with depths of around 5ft in front of me. I found a lovely bar running across the length of my swim, just 20 yards out, so baited a line of sweetcorn and staggered 3 rods across the back of the bar. With the water still being cold, I kept my baiting light, with just a few pouches of corn peppered over the rods. I’ve found that even in the coldest of conditions, sweetcorn can be a real edge, the carp just seem to continue eating it in all conditions, hence my approach.
I stayed up late into the night listening but awoke takeless the following morning. Nothing had been out for 3 weeks, and nothing had been seen in that time and as the snow fell onto my bivvy, my confidence drained. I got the rods sorted again for the night and as I was looking at across the pond holding my first beer of the day, I saw a carp leap from the water in the far corner of the lake, amazingly, in a vacant swim. I wasted not a second and the rods were quickly wound in and my kit was piled onto my barrow as I pushed it through the muddy slop. To make matters worse, the snow had now turned into hail, and it flew painfully into my face in the bitter easterly.
I made it into my new swim, hands red with cold, but the adrenaline was pumping, and I soon had two single hookbaits cast into the zone of the showing fish. It was annoyingly shallow and weedy where the carp had shown, and I was left questioning my presentation as night fell. It was a cold, clear night, conditions were far from ideal and it was of no surprise I remained takeless that first trip. The other members had all now left, so it was only myself on the lake. I took the opportunity to have a good lead around, and with just a few acres of water, it wasn’t long before I’d cast around most areas of the pond, quickly establishing where the deeper zones were. I found a lovely smooth area of around 7ft, located in quite a central area of the pit and knowing I was returning in a few days for an overnighter, I deposited a few handfuls of Cell boilie to the area.
Although I’d not caught, that first session was a real eye opener and from spending just a few hours with the leading rod, I already felt more confident for my next trip, which turned out to be a quick overnighter the following Wednesday. Arriving in the dark and packing up in the dark is never ideal, and I dropped into the area I had baited, flicking 2 rods on the bait and my third was a single hookbait, cast to the area I had seen the show the previous weekend. All was quiet that trip, but with warm weather pushing in that weekend, I knew there’d be a very good chance.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get down the pit until Sunday afternoon, but had been informed there had been a few fish out over the weekend, a positive sign they were finally waking up. Sunday afternoons are great times to get down the lake, often the weekender’s are packing up and you can establish where the fish are holding and quite often, you’ll have the lake to yourself.
This was exactly the case for me and I soon had the lake to myself by mid-afternoon. I dropped into my baited patch, positioning two hinge rigs over the bait, 40 yards out directly in front of the swim. I decided to flick my third rod to the left, where I’d been told had produced fish over the weekend. I had a good lead around in the area and after a dozen or so casts, finally got the drop I desired. It was flicked well down to the left and I had to actually wade out to hit the spot. I clipped on a long 15-inch braided hooklink and cast a yellow Essential Cell wafter to the spot, hitting the clip perfectly as my lead went down with a perfect donk on a small gravel patch. I had used a PVA foam nugget so quickly jogged to the swim to my left, where the nugget had graced the surface, just a stones throw out, acting as an ideal marker. I baited the area loosely by hand, with around 50 Cell boilies and the trap was set.
After a slow cooked curry, I snuggled into the warmth of my sleeping bag, feeling quietly confident for the night ahead. I needed to be off the lake by 6.30am for work, so made sure I got my head down at a decent time. The night was quiet, but an hour before first light, a screaming take broke my slumber.
I was soon in the waders as an angry fish tore line from my left-hand clutch. On her first run, she must have stripped 30 yards of line before stopping, allowing me to ease her back towards me, so easily in fact, I was convinced it was a stocky. As she neared in front of me, she surfaced in the shallow water, exploding in front of me and powering off across the surface, forcing me to backwind. Quite clearly a powerful fish, I waded out a little further, lifting the folds of my net around her bulk. I safely secured the net and excitedly waded back to dry land where I grabbed the torch to check my prize. I was buzzing to see a wide framed mirror, sulking in the net and for a moment, I thought the big girl was mine.
I sorted my kit, wetting the mat and sling, before zeroing the scales. As I broke down the net, I realised it wasn’t the big girl, but at 35lb, I was delighted. It was one of the lakes rarer ones, ‘The Grey Lady’ and third in command, a very lucky start.
Kev Wyatt came down shortly after to secure some cracking shots, before I reeled in and headed to work with a huge smile on my face, not before depositing a helping of bait on my spots!
I was back two days later on the Friday afternoon, with another weekend at my disposal. With a busy Spring and Summer imminent with work, it was crucial I made the most of the time I had, so I planned to give it my all during March and April. The lake was busy as expected, and I fancied dropping in a swim where I had seen the bulk of the shows. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the swim was occupied, although upon speaking to the angler, he was then packing up, and had endured a 2-night blank. There hadn’t been any fish out all week since my last capture, game on.
I made sure I got the rigs out exactly right and with a bit of hassle hitting the clips and getting the perfect drops, I finally had 3 rods in position. A light trickling of boilies followed, and the traps were set. I was pleasantly surprised when that evening, an hour or so before sunset, my right-hand rod tore off as a huge boil broke the surface over the spot. With the lead ejecting on the take, the fish came straight to the surface and I simply guided her in, straight into the net! At 27lb, I was more than happy with the start to the session, a well-proportioned common to get things started. The rod was flicked back out as I sat back with anticipation.
The following day was hectic, with 9 anglers in total surrounding the 3-acre pit, and in typical club lake manner, there were rods being cast everywhere. I had all three rods wiped out before 8am, not ideal, but it’s one of those things. Rather than lose my head, I wound the rods in and went for a few laps of the lake, in hope to find the big girl sulking. It all looked very quiet on the fishing front, but I stuck it out another night, in hope more than anything and I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen. The following few days saw the UK go into lockdown and as time went on, I realised the spring was gone! It was very frustrating as I felt the big girl was due any day and I was growing increased confidence in my spots. But with the world going through an extremely serious situation, I realised there was much more to life than angling, so spent the next two months at home, dreaming of the club lake biggun.
I made the most of the lockdown period, sorting out the carp shed and preparing all my kit, ready to go again. Fresh 15lb Kontor was loaded onto each reel, rigs were tied, and the van was loaded as I awaited the good news from Boris.
In early June, the lockdown was eased and it was game on. I arrived to a full car park, as bivvies were set up around the lake, with just two swims free. I really fancied one of the vacant swims, an area that covered a good portion of open water, that fished to the back of a shallow plateau. The weed in this area was particularly bad and given the angling pressure, I really felt the big girl would be using this weed as refuge.
After a flick around with a light lead and braided line, I found a lovely smooth channel between two large weedbeds at just 8 wraps. Two rods were positioned either side of the channel with around 30 baits scattered in the channel. Other anglers were piling the bait in, and I just felt this tactic was too obvious and wanted to adopt a bite at a time approach. I’d washed my cell hookbaits out a few days previous, coating them in salt and GLM and they were looking perfect. The rods had gone out perfectly and I sat back quietly confident, as the chorus of bite alarms and spombs echoed around me.
I was up at first light, smashing the coffees as I wanted to establish where the carp were and soon noticed patches of fizz in the clear channel, getting closer to my right hand hookbait. Another huge patch erupted, and I gazed at the rod willingly. The bobbin smashed the blank and a fish tore line from my clutch. I lifted into a heavy fish as she slowly kited right, using her bulk to stay deep in the water. She plodded in the depths in front for ten minutes and my knees began to shake as I saw a large framed mirror beneath the surface. Finally, her head surfaced, and I slipped her into the net first time. I recognised her as the second in command, looking in fine spring condition. I weighed her at a new top weight of 39lb 2oz and we photographed her before the sun came up, a proper buzz and a great opening morning after two months off!
As the day developed, the temperature really rose, in excess of 20 degrees, and the carp pushed to the out of bounds bank and the bites were coming from the far end of the lake, in an area I was unable to get to. Despite this, I still felt confident in my open water channel, feeling there was a real chance of the biggun from this zone amongst the weed. The traps were set again for another night, but by the following morning, I was left without a bite. The fish had been over me, fizzing and rolling and I knew it was a chance missed. The activity continued through the day yet the bobbins remained static. I knew something needed to change, so opted to fish a low-lying pop up on a multi-d rig, incorporating a size 4 Kamakura Choddy hook and a long 18-inch hooklink, made form N-Trap soft. I had been fishing a bottom bait, but feared the area was just too dirty to be presented effectively. Despite already catching a 39 on the bottom bait, I felt I should be catching more, and a pop up presented just above the weed may get me an extra bite.
The rig adjustment must have worked as in the early hours, I received a steady take on the multi-d rig and after a short battle, I had a lovely coloured mirror in my net, one known as ‘Yellow Belly’. At ounces under 30, she looked mega in the morning light and a proper buzz to get another named resident.
The day turned into an absolute scorcher and the fear of spawning was dwelling on us all. The big girl was yet to be out and we all new she was so due. She was active, and we had all seen her throughout the last few days, pretty much all over the lake, so everyone stood a chance. It was really exciting stuff and all eyes were fixed nervously should someone receive a take.
The heat over the next few days really slowed the fishing up, and I found a large group of fish to my left, holding above the weed in car park bay. They looked well up for a mixer, and one of the other lads, Logan, had a spare floater rod in his van which he kindly let me borrow. I had the odd fish taking but they were far from confident, it took a few hours but finally, I hooked one, a dumpy mirror of 28lb+. I kept her in the net and continued to feed mixers, as the fish slowly began taking again. We quickly photographed the 28 and got her straight back. The sun was uncomfortably hot and by the afternoon, I realised all I had eaten and drank that day was a stale pastry and bottle of stella. I was so focused on the fishing I didn’t care, and a few dark shapes out in the pond had me buzzing. A particularly large shape was moving quickly from right to left, and I positioned a bait right in its path. She came up and took it perfectly and as I lifted into her, my line was caught around a tree root in the margin. It was horrible, and it happened so quick, the line locked up and the hooklink parted. Bad angling as I had been so focused on the hookbait, I’d not been looking at my main line. I was left furious with myself and after a few swear words and throwing the rod in the nettles, I tied a fresh rig and tried again. The next bite came not long after, a lovely mirror of 24lb, which helped ease the pain of the loss a little.
I’d been stood floater fishing in the sun for seven hours and was severely dehydrated. I wanted to get back to my main swim, but with fish still held in the weed in front of me, I knew there was another bite to be had. Soon enough, I had my third fish of the day in the net, an epic looking mirror of around 18lb, dark and prehistoric looking, he was a real cool one. With that, I headed back to the bivvy and devoured a few litres of water!
Fresh rigs were tied as I flicked them out into the pond yet again, praying that the big’un would be mine! In the early hours, we all awoke to the horrible thrashing sound of spawning carp, and we knew the chance was over! It was a shame the big girl never graced the bank, I would have loved to have seen her, but it was a very enjoyable few weeks indeed, and with two of the big three to my name, I really couldn’t complain! It was a strange spring with Covid-19 and social distancing in place, but it’s a period of angling I won’t forget!
About The Author
Korda – Sponsored Angler Coordinator
Passionate angler from early childhood, a carp fishing enthusiast working for Korda as the Sponsored Angler Coordinator.