It was one of those winter days, the type that starts off foggy and frosty and never actually clears. Certainly not the best fishing weather but by the time I had demolished a bacon butty I felt as though a day session was in order. Arriving at my local lake it became apparent I wasn't the only crazy one: a fella fishing for roach was set up near the car park. After the usual chit-chat the subject turned to other lakes in the area, and a local mere he mentioned really made my ears prick up.
"It's been left untapped for years, a lovely overgrown water - quite big, around 30 acres" he explained. Needless to say my first question was "Any carp in there?"
He then went on to explain that there used to be, before a fish kill. But since then no one had really bothered fishing for them, although he believed there were a handful left. He wasn't sure who controlled it, or how much it was but knew roughly where it was.
That was it, there was no chance I was sitting freezing my balls off for a couple of low doubles, I was on a lake hunt! After a bit of a drive around, I found the area I thought it could be in. Just as the roach angler had told me, it was in a large set of woods just after an old cottage. I figured out how to get into the woods and parked at the bottom of a long bumpy track. From the car I could just about see water through the thick foliage - this was December and it was still almost impossible to see the lake! Off I set with pockets full of bait, Polaroid's donned, and wellies on just in case.
When I arrived at the water's edge I was struck by one of the most awesome looking lakes I had ever seen, and this was winter! This was one moment I will never forget, it looked alive and I just wanted to get the rods out and fish. Weaving in and out of the woods, and wading through marshy banks I set off for a walk around The Mere. Plans on how I would fish it were running through my head, plans for little swims I would cut back, and all before I knew if I could even fish it or even if there were any carp in there!
When home, a few phone calls were made and my old man was on the scrounge for info for me in the local pubs. After quite a bit of research I still hadn't a clue who ran the lake, but I was told it was fished now and then, and carp to mid 20's had been spotted, although there was only a very small number of carp present
Before finally fishing it, I visited The Mere 5 or 6 times. Each time nobody was angling apart from a bloke guesting the water for pike (putting them back unharmed I must add) who, like me, hadn't a Scooby who ran it! I liked the pike bloke's style and decided I would do the same, get the rods out and wait for somebody to tell me where I could get a ticket.
My first session was in fact New Year's eve, as I was DJing that evening I only did an eight hour day session. Until this first session I had only seen one fish show, which was right back in the reeds, unreachable without boat or bait boat. The water was crystal clear, easily the clearest I had fished in before. The marker revealed silt, swan muscles, silt and even more silt. Because of this I fished supple hook links on all three rods, 2oz flat pears, with "chops" around two of the rods and the good old maize on the third. The first session I didn't see 'owt, didn't catch 'owt and didn't find out any more about who ran the lake! Setting up I made myself as obvious as possible, hoping a bailiff or another member would spot me, but the only person I saw was a dog walker who told me she never sees anyone fishing it!
It was my third session on there when I finally received some attention, unfortunately not from the fish but the bailiff. A dog came running into my bivvy doorway sniffing out the fermenting maize. "Can I see your ticket please mate", a voice said from behind the bivvy. Oops! I knew this was eventually going to happen but still didn't really know what to say. I explained the situation to the bailiff and to be fair to the old bastard he was very understanding and agreed that the place was very well protected from publicity making it near impossible to find out who run it! The good ol' Shropshire Secret Squirrel Act!
The bailiff, who we will fictionally name "Bob" explained how I could get a ticket and ran me through the rules. 2 rods only - oops. No boilies - oops. No hemp - oops. Barbless hooks only - oops. All anglers must carry their membership card - oops! Bob asked me to wind in one of my rods as I was using three, thoughts were running through my head to which rod had maize on. Although I wasn't to know the rules I didn't want to get off to bad of a start. The carp gods were with me and the rod I wound in had two golden grains swinging beneath the lead. After examining my bait and rigs Bob smiled and commented "Remember - no boilies, I know what colour boilies are". This explained why he didn't even notice my barbed hook, Bob was clueless on fishing and didn't even know what he was looking for!
The next week I was back with a ticket and fully abiding by the rules (ahem!). I needed someone to share the time with me on The Mere, it was true what they said, it was rock hard and four eyes are better than two. My next trip up there was to give my mate a tour of the water, and like me he instantly fell in love with the place and was soon in possession of a ticket and fishing the next swim up from me. It was on this visit I saw my second fish show, three quarters of the way down the lake in open water. It wasn't the biggest of fish, a mirror of about 20lb, but definitely a confidence booster.
Plans were soon hatched to start baiting the water for the spring and to concentrate on one specific area I had seen fish, not just carp but bream and tench as well. There was a good head of other species in the water so we decided to not go lightly with the baiting. From April onwards we were putting in between fifteen and twenty kilos of bait per week (We shared the baiting weekly, baiting up on Wednesday and after our weekend sessions.). By now a few more characters had appeared on The Mere, two of these being carp anglers. Needless to say they were a bit secretive, at first trying to put us off. Although we were all friendly with each other we left them to get on with their angling and they left us to do the same.
Through spring I was certainly seeing the fish more which gave me a great idea on what was in the lake. I also had the awesome experience of watching them spawn in a small bay which gave me a chance to see them up close and personal. It was rumoured that there were less than fifteen carp in The Mere, most anglers saying twelve. After a year of fishing the place I would say they are not far wrong, I was seeing the fish a lot and it was the same old faces getting seen. The only problem was that I kept seeing them in the margins, where they were never interested in feeding. At around 8pm in the summer they would religiously disappear from the edge into open water to feed - I hoped!
It was approximately forty nights and over a hundred bream to double figures before I got my first carp run. There I was in my undercrackers up to my waist in water and up to my knees in stinking black silt with an angry Mere kipper on the end. My mate had heard the commotion and like superman came running though the stinging nettles with the waders donned.
After a breathtaking fight the fish got its head into the thick reedbeds that lined the margins - why couldn't things be simple?! Wading through 70% water, 30% silt my mate finally got to the fish. I couldn't see him or the fish but could hear and feel a lot of flapping about. Finally a mahoosive shout came from Craig, it was good! He had her securely in the net and was wading towards me with a big grin on his face. As I unwrapped the prize I was buzzing! It wasn't a big fish, a little over 20lb but it meant so much to me, the hard work, baiting and time had paid off with a stunning old warrior that had probably never seen a hook or the camera flash treatment that was to follow. The fish was almost a leather - it had just one scale - and was in perfect nick.
My fishing continued as enthusiastically as ever, and so did the baiting. Craig also managed a fish, this time it was me in the waders and him thanking me for the 22lb 12oz Mirror I landed for him. This fish was a true old warrior covered in scars and as old as the hills.
The next spring a lot changed at The Mere. The club decided to increase memberships and stocked all of their waters. The Mere being stocked was the worst thing that could have happened: more and more anglers started appearing and amongst them were some idiots that started spoiling it for others. It was a crying shame to see The Mere turn into something I would have never expected, but I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately for me it was sooner, and just as I was starting to get to grips with the place. There is no doubting The Mere is a fantastic place, and nothing can change that. Even if there were no carp in there it would be a pleasure to fish but I just couldn't do competing with other anglers. Competing with the fish is enough!
I only managed one 'original' from The Mere but loved every minute and would love to get back on there to attend to unfinished business. If only it was a small syndicate water! I won't disclose the name or location of the place out of respect for the anglers still battling it out there, but this just goes to show there are still untapped havens out there!
Dropped to -7 that night
The Mere's true colours come out in Spring
They were often found here...
Up the 'Narrow End'
2 rods only
RIP the Mere