To ensure I could get a ticket the phone calls were made every week leading up to the date the lease was due. Sure enough the call came at the beginning of November, a time and date was set for a meet at the lake, 11am on the following Sunday.
Late as usual and I managed to pick up a speeding ticket on the way. Great start I thought!
There would be two friends joining me this year, Bruce and Wol. More eyes on the water does make things slightly easier and with us all going in on the same bait hopefully we could establish something.
Wol had almost 7 years experience guesting on the lake. Like me he had seen the fish and was prepared to fish during the closure. That was until he had a little occurrence...
One Sunday I turned up around 4pm and as I approached the third of my baited area's Wol's head popped up from behind the bushes. He had clocked me on my way down the path. I gestured to him to get a brew on and that I'd be along in a few minutes. After walking way past where Wol was fishing I put a bit of bait along the tree line. Not too much with Wol being 100yards away but enough so I could return and see if the fish had fed in the area.
I started to make my way back to Wol when suddenly I came across a huge piece of what looked like steak lying on the ground. Knowing Wol loved his steak I picked it up thinking it could be his as it was right beside the pathway into the swim. Getting closer I saw another 3 or 4-diced pieces. As I neared the swim, Wol appeared and had a look of death to him. I was wondering what the hell had happened, when he proceeded to relay the story...
He had been hidden among the undergrowth sat chilling out, and a lady had walked right past his hide carrying a huge metal cage with meat in it.
Glancing into the hole, she'd screamed at the sight of him perched on his bed chair and run like the clappers shouting "Tony
" at the top of her voice. The metal cage she was carrying turned out to be a trap, set for Mink
Wol had seen similar one's in the past. That evening we found a trap hidden under a canopy of trees and smashed it to bit's. There are loads of mink foraging about around the lake and often they would come right close to you. Wol pulled off the lake that evening for the foreseeable future - in the hope he'd get a ticket for the following year.
A truly magical place
Another thing we had a fair few visits from was the elusive terrapin that resides in the lake. He used to turn up every time I was at the lake for longer than 24hrs, it's as though he knew I would feed him. As friendly as he looked the little sod can bite - that'll teach me to try and pick him up!
Sure enough as the year drew to a close, our tickets arrived on their respective doormats. With the tickets secured, the 3 of us were itching to get started. The season would start in the January and we would be allowed boats. That was the best bit of news I'd heard in years, so Bruce and I decided to go half's on one. We had already bought an outboard between us for our trips to France. Being able to see fish in the water and go around with the echo sounder in the daylight would reveal so much to us. It would surely show us some cracking features, which possibly no one else ever knew about.
Note to self: Don't try pick up the Terrapin!
For the first month or two I spent more time looking at areas from the boat than I did actually fishing but it was a whole different ball game now; find them; fish to them; then hopefully catch them! It's nice to dream eh!
We did manage to locate a few areas early doors, and started baiting them as much as we dared at that time of year. The only thing was that the baited area's remained untouched for a good few weeks. To combat this we restricted the baiting to scattering little amounts, probably no more than a PVA bag size all over the likely looking spots so they got use to finding a little lunch pack here and there. Once we'd seen some of the bait cleared we would have something to go on.
By the time the end of March came around, only 2 fish had been spotted, with none caught. The close season was fast drawing in and so an end-of-season social was hastily organised. The social went ahead but only 4 of the 15 members fished, which surprised me. There had only been 3 other lads that had fished the water since the tickets had been issued. Would we have the place to ourselves?? Only time would tell.
The close season was long but I continued to bait up through the close but went for a different approach to what I'd done previously. I baited more areas but with minimal amounts. The logic behind my thinking was the big common, my target fish (at the time), fed very slowly when I'd observed her; she would eat one bait at a time under that tree, so each rod was going to be fished with around twelve grains of corn and a twelve chopped boilies. A minimal approach, but I needed her to get used to finding and feeding on these small patches of bait.
I went for the social before the kick-off and after getting out the car I was very surprised to see the lake devoid of anglers except for Wol and Gav who were sat on the point opposite the car park all ready to go. I think they had been there 3 days before the start to reserve their swims - and they had a good 15days left of their session! Nothing happened all through their session but they both got to see something very special. My lips are sealed!! I myself had seen it twice over the years, and hopefully by the time I write part four we might just see it.
Only two more fish were spotted up until the 10th of July when we saw three crash out on a Friday evening. All were like cows falling in again. They were about 130 yards away and they were still very loud. They were right over Wol's baits but this isn't a Terry Hearn novel and nothing occurred for the rest of the session.
My next session fell on a Friday and after darting straight from work I launched the boat and boated my gear down to the east end of the lake. The wind was due to change for the Saturday and I guessed the carp would move with it. This time I was there before them. A quick call to Bruce to tell him where I was heading and I set up camp.
I had all 4 rods sorted by the time Bruce and Wol had turned up. Bruce took the boat and headed off onto the point. Having stuck a lot of bait in that area over the last few weeks he was convinced something would be held up in the back bay. Wol jumped into a swim a few hundred yards to my left.
I had positioned my rods all with the boat; 2 rods would be fished to the jetty area, one over to the beach and one in close up to my left. The night passed quietly and following a few beers a sore head in the morning saw me taking some painkillers! Bruce headed off around 11am with no action either. Kettle on and I was just sat there chilling and wondering where they could be. I'd seen nothing and neither had Wol.
I repositioned my right hand rod around 2pm close to the jetty. There were loads of ducks there so after casting the rod I walked round to check all was in order. I jumped the fence and walked right out onto the jetty to flick some bait around the area, nothing much again, only about 20 chopped boilies were scattered in a square meter area around the hook bait until I was happy.
I was on the phone to a mate some time later when out of the blue the left rod signalled a couple of bleeps. Knowing it was locked up with over 180yards of line out, all I was expecting in the way of indication at that range was a couple of bleeps. Moving closer to the rods while still talking on the phone the left rod just whipped round. I threw the phone and jumped into the water. Grabbing the rod I immediately had to walk forward. I screamed for Wol to bring the boat and walking out a little I waited for him to arrive trying not to give any line. I opted to pull us both out there with the rod and line. There was a snag 30yards from where I had hooked the fish and with the stretch in the line I was worried it could get in there if I gave any slack. As we neared I wasn't even sure if I had anything on. Wol kept on asking if I could feel it. I couldn't feel anything apart from a dead weight; and that wasn't doing much at that moment. Then all of a sudden the fish started kiting left and out of danger. "It's still on mate
" I said joyfully, and the battle commenced.
It stripped line of the reel 3 times during the fight; I was powerless to stop it. It seemed to go one forever with its runs. Guessing I was in about 3ft of water I contemplated getting into the water and playing it from a fixed position, the boat was spinning every time it pulled. The carp surfaced around 30yards from the boat and Wol looked at me, asking if I had seen it and did I know which fish it was. I had seen it and had a good feeling it was the small fat common. Last out around 34lb mark and uncaught for 4 years, it could be a high 30.
As we drew her closer the net was cautiously lowered over the boat. As soon as she took her first gulp of air and wallowed on the surface in front of us Wol took a scoop with the net. I should have known what would happen - I always use a good 10-inch boom and 1-2 inch hooklink. As Wol lifted the net there was a huge eruption as he caught the lead clip and the fish powered off into deeper water! Great I thought, she's not mine yet! Wol couldn't apologize enough and offered me the net handle, "I trust you mate, on you go, she was not ready that's all
" I remarked. If the truth be known, I did trust him totally and at the second attempt she was mine.
Well we have never screamed and shouted so loud in our life; hugging and jumping up and down in the boat, we were ecstatic. Peering over the boat and looking at the prize that was sat in the net I was in awe, blown away again. Another absolute stunner and well over 30lb I guessed. We decided to pull her out of the water and onto the waiting mat in the boat. This seemed the best bet, as it was a good 200 yards back to the bank. It was too risky to try and hold a fish upright in the water all that way.
We hauled her onto the mat and made our way back to the bank. Immediately I knew there was something wrong, fluid was shooting out of the rear vent at an alarming rate. By the time we had got back to camp, the boat had a load of fluid all over the bottom and everything was wet. This fish had almost drained itself and we were getting very worried.
Shocked and stunned by what we had just seen we secured her in the net for a minute and the usual phone call was made. Bruce couldn't make it down for the photo shoot so we decided with the fluid problems to get pictures taken there and then and get her back. After quickly going over the camera with Wol we pulled the fish ashore for it's first pictures ever, or so we thought. As it transpired they weren't its first pictures.
The adrenaline and euphoria was immense, it's quite hard to put into words the emotion I felt at the time but lets just say it was good. Very, very good indeed!
Everything seemed to go so fast, we hoisted her up on the scales and expected the needle to push well past 30lb. I guessed 33lb as she went in the net but with all the fluid lost she pulled the needle round to 24lb 10oz. The weight is irrelevant - this is one of the lakes finest. We took a few snaps and returned her to her rightful home to fight another day.
Another one to tick off the list
As already mentioned she had in fact been pictured before in chapter one where there are three fish under the tree, she is on the left looking a good 30lb, the one with the broken rib and she was by far the biggest there that day.
To take a picture of three fish under a tree on a lake like that and to end up catching the three I pictured makes me think it was meant to be. I hope I am right and it continues next year, as I photographed something very special as well as videoing it feeding on boilies.
Only time will tell.
Around 8 pm that night Wol and I were sat in my swim talking about the days events when the right rod flew of the pod into the water. In pursuit of the rod flying into the water I picked it up and immediately struck to be connected to nothing. Gutted.
There was a few swans over the area but knowing it was 4ft deep I am 90% sure it was a carp. Who knows?
Later on that year Wol's persistence paid off and after seven years hard work he caught the same common at 28lb 10oz and looking a lot better, I missed the pictures but went down that night with the champagne to celebrate with him. Retiring to bed around 11pm I was awoken by the sound of Wol screaming for me. Running the 300yards into his swim he was connected to another lump. Out in the boat the fish gave a hell of a fight and we were excited as to what was on the end. After a good 10-minute battle I slipped the net under a stunning mirror. Not recognizing it due darkness and the excess weight it was carrying we assumed it was the BIG mirror and started bouncing about in the boat. After getting back to the bank and sorting the weighing equipment out we recognized her and the mirror I had caught three years back which had not been seen in the water since my capture. At 35lb 4oz she looked mint in the morning sun - I was so happy to be there to see it.
Nothing more happened for the rest of the year and with Christmas coming up I pulled off for some realistic fishing elsewhere.
To sit there week in week out blanking is hard, going to a runs water or for a social with a chance of a fish does keep your sanity.
Sitting here now finishing this at the end of January I can't wait to get back there. The weather is bang on and if it continues like this I will be back sooner than I thought.
To be continued hopefully! (When I catch the damn thing!)