Following on from some of the articles posted already I thought I would share my guesting experiences with you from the highs and the lows to hopefully the rewards in the end.
One thing that annoys me most is some of the comments you hear about people guesting on waters. The mad thing is half of those who bitch about things like that do not know the full details of the lakes in question and are usually jumping on the bandwagon to get their 2 pence worth in for something to do. Get out and go fishing!
Fair enough if it was in someone's back yard or you were breaking into a theme park or race circuit to fish but in reality it's nothing like that at all. (Well not quite!) All it really involves is a crafty bit of stealth angling and the passion and drive to catch some very very special fish.
They are there to be caught and if it's not me fishing for them it will be the next person who fancies his chances.
I will take you back to the 2002-3 season as around this time the lake in question closed for angling for the foreseeable future. (Great shame) It was and still is one of them waters that once you step foot on it you cannot just walk away. Something about the place makes it so special and the mystery of what is swimming around in there adds to the excitement.
I had spent almost 2 years looking and searching every nook and cranny of the huge lake in search for the elusive carp that it contained. Estimated to be around 9 to 11 fish in around 87 acres, give or take a few acres.
Fishing for such a low stock of fish in a lake this size meant you could be miles from them at any given time but as with all big waters, they are very predictable and over a space of a couple of years I could set my watch by them turning up in various areas at different times of the day and year.
As you can see from the picture they have ventured into the edge, less than 2 feet from the bank in 2-3ft of water. Getting them to feed would be a different matter altogether but just to watch them almost seemed like a privilege. Although they hung about under this tree for 16 days they never once looked at bait.
View from a tree
Walking onto any water with fishing gear or even looking like an angler is a recipe for disaster when you plan something like this. I always tended to go in my work clothes or a pair of joggers and a hoodie. I would always have a camouflage jacket hidden in one of the buckets just in case. Another thing I always took was my dog's lead.
Minus the dog of course!
Twice unfortunately I was seen by the warden near the waters edge, and both times I managed to make out I was looking for my dog, which saved my arse and my wallet from a couple of hefty fines. The second time the warden even helped me look for the dog and we both marched through the woods shouting the dog's name for a good 50 minutes!!
It's one of them things that had to be done at the time and was all I could think of doing when finding myself in that situation.
Stealth on the lake was of paramount importance when arriving and leaving, so all of my fishing equipment - rods, net, bank sticks, tea gear, brolly and bed chair - would be hidden in the undergrowth at the lake.
The kettle and tea gear was buried in a bucket and covered over. The bank sticks I would either place in the water or I would push them into the ground as deep as I could and cover with leaves. My rods and net were tied to a tree. Not to the bottom of the tree but about 10ft up and facing the water. People never seem to walk round lakes looking up in the air so it was less likely they would be spotted if someone were to venture down to that area. The brolly and bed chair would be hidden in some bushes close by and although the mice and what ever else lived there took a liking to the yellow foam in the bed chair it's still going strong today.
Before risking taking the bed chair there, a lilo would be inflated as a bed and some tarpaulin draped over me as a cover. Not ideal but I was angling. This lake was one of them places where trees and thorns jump out and grab your clothing as you walk past you so needless to say the lilo never lasted long.
During the first year of my guesting, I'd planned to bait and try and create a feeding area on the end of every wind. The problem I had was that I could only safely fish 3 out of the 4 areas due to the cover, but by baiting like this, the fish would find bait if they moved with the wind - something I found happened more and more during my time on there.
I started by introducing pellets and sweetcorn and a good helping of boilies in various areas on each end of the wind. I had planned to look as much as I could rather than fish static rods when nothing had been seen.
This may seem strange to some people but it also minimised the chances of me getting caught. If I did get caught at least I had seen something to fish for and I would only have had myself to blame if the worse came to the worse and I was caught and fined. In reality a fine would most likely cost me the price of a premier syndicate ticket.
The rods were only ever put out as it was getting dark; it was way too risky to get them out in the day with the amount of people walking around the place. Even then, the rods would be well hidden under some overhanging trees. The alarm LED's would be taped up and the sounder box on low.
Waiting in anticipation
I had a bit of a nightmare around this time and managed to wreck 3 sets of chest waders within 2 weeks on the barbed wire that ran across the swim I'd had been fishing. I couldn't cut the wire down without it going un-noticed, so my only option was to run a stick either side of it, which blended in perfect. I never ripped any more waders either. A few years later they closed this area up completely but that's a different story.
After watching the fish from up the tree for any length of time you do see and notice a change in their behaviour. Some days they would just sit there and others they would move around slowly. Other days they would be flying through the area but they never seemed to feed no matter how long I stood there looking at them.
One time, around the end of June, I had 3 fish absolutely ripping the bottom up around the sailing club area. This must have been the 1st time I had seen this in 3 years of chasing them. They ate everything I threw at them - boilies, corn, halibut pellets - and they couldn't get enough. The mental thing was that it was around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. With 30+ people sailing on the water there was no way of me risking fishing for them now no matter how much I wanted to!
After watching these fish feed so confidently I thought it was only a matter of time until I could get the rods out and have a go for them, but then the strangest thing happened. Within about an hour they drifted off into the depths and left me alone again.
Totally baffled by this reaction and with bait still left in the area I hoped they would return a few minutes later. Another 2 hours passed and a change in air pressure, which I even felt my self, followed by a change in wind direction, must have prompted them to move. It was almost as if they knew the weather was about to change before I did and done the off. Where they went I don't know but I never saw them again in the next 3 weeks they were that elusive. That was with me looking and baiting every single day as well.
My next chance or opportunity came on the 19th of July after finishing work at 2pm. I bolted to the lake to be greeted by 4 good fish mooching around one of my baited areas on the easterly wind. All the bait had gone from the evening before and they did look well up for a feed. It was around this time that my net had been hammered by the mice and I had borrowed one from a mate. How or why I don't know, but he still had the spreader block in his car.
After retrieving my rods and bits from the shrubbery I had everything ready to go. The fish had started to pick the odd grain of corn and pellet up but I still had no spreader block but Bruce was on his way down with it. Once he arrived he joined me in the tree and he got some video footage of the fish mooching about.
I began making my way down the tree and promptly set up the net. Bruce could guide me from up the tree so I could wade the 5ft out to position my bait and set the trap. I opted to just use the one rod for now as getting that out was a good 40 minute task while we waited for the fish to push out just enough for me to get things in place.
Finally that trap was set and Bruce went home an hour or so later leaving me to it, making me promise to call him first if anything were to happen. Shortly after he left I positioned the 2nd rod a couple of rod lengths out and further along the tree line.
Around 8.30pm what looked like a fish rolled bang over where one of the rods was positioned. It happened that quick I couldn't be sure but I had a good feeling that the carp were back in the area. How many or which particular fish was still a mystery. Not daring to climb the tree again I sat back on the unhooking mat waiting for things to happen.
It sure did happen at bang on 9.07pm with a rip-snorting take on the right-hand rod that had me flying into the water. It stripped well over 60yards of line on the first run and in a frantic bid to gain line found myself out from under the cover of the trees. As I walked out into the lake from under the cover of the overhanging trees bent into my first fish in 3 years there were fish spooking around me. Whilst I had one angry lump on the end of my line, there were a few more of the lakes residents still feeding at my feet not taking too kindly to this mad welsh-man wading over their dinner table.
Once I'd turned the fish from its first run all I could see was its tail sticking out of the water. This happened right through the fight - making me think I had hooked one of the lakes bigger residents. As I drew it closer and closer to me the lunges got softer and softer.
By now I was stood 20yards out in the lake and with some dog walkers still knocking about it needed to be fast into the net, back to the bank and into a sack. As the vortex appeared I slipped the net under him and he was mine, I screamed at the top of my voice, a little stupid really when I am not suppose to be there, but after 3 years of waiting I couldn't help myself.
Seconds after me screaming a pair of hands started clapping behind me. Oh shit!! Someone has just watched me for what must have been a good 7 minutes play a fish on a lake where fishing is banned. I briefly spun round and lowered my head to glance at them, before turning back to the net and fish. I bit the mainline and dropped the rod in the water where I stood, broke the arms of the net from the spreader block and bolted like a lunatic back under the tree with my prize in my arms. What must they have thought!
Back under the cover of my tree I gazed into the net to view my prize. It was then that I found my luck had held out just long enough - the barbless hook had been shed in the net!
I had taken my son to a local water in the week and it's a rule I didn't break this time, although I totally forgot about it putting the rods out that day. It was on the bank and I was very lucky.
Relieved and still as excited as a kid at Christmas, I jammed the net into the bank and grabbed the sack from inside the mat. I slipped him in the sack as fast as I could, tying it in about 40 knots until I was happy he was not going to escape. I had no extra bank sticks to stake him out with and the only 2 there had my buzzers on them.
Taking of one of the bank sticks, complete with Delkim, I rammed it into the lakebed at the tree line and frantically tied the sack to it. Once I was happy it was secure I returned to the bank to get on the phone.
I think Bruce knew as soon as he seen my name come up on his phone that I had finally cracked it and within 40 minutes he appeared with his camera and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the capture.
Collecting my Prize
After gathering everything ready for the weighing from the car I waded out to the tree line and pulled the fish onto the bank for what could possibly be its first time ever. The buzz and adrenalin rush of catching an 'uncaught' wild fish is immense.
Undoing a load of knots in the cord I revealed a stunning golden common.
We hoisted it up on the scales and it pulled the needle round to 29lb 15oz, not a huge monster but after 3 years he was very welcome indeed. With a fish like that the weight was really irrelevant and I was over to moon to say the least.
Effort = Reward. 29lb 15oz of it!
Once we'd let him free, back into his vast home it took a few minutes for us to get things together. We were totally blown away, just stood there like fools giggling at each other saying we can't believe it when the Delkim signaled a positive couple of bleeps. As I stood hovering over the waters edge ready to jump in again it let out another single bleep and everything held tight with the bobbin jammed up to the alarm. Sod it I thought, and in I went.
As I reached the rod the vortex from over the bait was huge. I had just literally ploughed in and took 4 steps towards the rod. I had spooked something and blown my chances big time. When I sit back now it makes me think if I had only have waited a little longer that fish might have tore off attached to my rod and not spooked by me crashing in the edge, but I honestly thought it was on and sat there trying to get rid of the hook. We live and learn I guess!
With no spare clothing and having to leave at 7am for work anyway, I decided to call it a day and waded out to retrieve the rod I'd dumped just after the capture. I was to return the following day in the hope they would still be in the area.
As I trotted along the pathway the following day to the scene of last night's action I had a strange feeling about things. The weather had picked up with a nice warm wind blowing, and I thought to myself that conditions were perfect for fish to be there.
Sure enough as I climbed the first tree I spotted 2 fish moving from the snags to the right into the area I had caught from the night before. Rather than put a rod straight out I opted to flick a few baits out from up the tree once they moved out of the area a little. After a short while I had put out about 10 halibut pellets and 12 grains of corn scattered in a two-meter area.
From the height of the tree I could clearly make out each bait and no matter how many times the fish passed over they never once dropped down to feed or even look at what was on offer. The fish didn't hang about for too long today. They drifted in and out a few times leaving just enough time for me to get a couple of traps set for the night. Setting up just before dark and walking the rods out to the spots, I spooked a huge pike from under the trees. I don't know who was more scared at the time - the pike or me. Damn it was huge and I thought the quicker I'm back on the bank the better.
Nothing occurred that night or the night after although I did hear one crash out around 2am on the 2nd night. I could have mistaken the sound for a cow falling in it was that loud. Sat bolt upright I could just make out the rings about 50yards out into the deeper area of the lake. As it transpired this was to be another frustrating 9 days of seeing fish but with them having no interest in feeding or any of the baits I threw at them.
Getting to the lake every day took some serious time and commitment and the future wife was starting to nag about the amount of time I had been spending there.
Depending on what shift I would be on that week my usual routine was up at 6 to work for 7 and of to the lake at 3 and return home around 10pm every night if I had nothing to go on or seen anything. This went on for about 4 months but I had the bug big time. It was not good in reality but Tracey knew how much it meant to and watching the footage we had she could see for herself how much it meant. With the possibility of a club getting it in a year or 2 time and the chance of me not getting a ticket she wished me well making me promise to have a winter with the kids and her. With her backing my quest continued.
Somewhere, beneath the surface