West Midlands based Tom Stokes had an excellent year in 2016 on a vast southern pit. Here Tom gives us an update on some incredible fish from the second half of the year — excellent angling from a dedicated angler who covers a serious amount of miles every week in pursuit of his dream.
Lee Howard has been putting his very limited time to good use again with this bruiser of a mirror last weekend. Caught from the same venue Lee had two big commons from back in November, after enduring a few frustrating trips in the intervening period where the fish were ignoring everything he tried.
However the steady introduction of bait into one spot eventually paid off resulting in this 31lb 8oz leathery mirror.
Lee’s usual set up of 15lb Syncro Loaded, original leadcore, adjuster lead clips, silt semi stiff Tungsten Loaded and size 5 Cryogen Grippers tied up as a Withy rig and a 16mm b5 pop up did the trick again. Well done Lee!
This autumn has to be the slowest I have known to date in terms of catch reports and angler success; many of the guys I have worked with have struggled over the past few weeks, despite being out on the bank most weeks. I have managed to get out a few times throughout October and November, with very little success until most recently, where I managed to tempt a truly incredible fish on a quick overnighter while out with my friend James Armstrong.
We turned up at the lake around mid– November; some slightly milder temperatures were forecast, so we decided to get out and fish/ work for a few days on the bank. James had already pre– baited a few classic spots that he had done well from previously, so like usual, I was left with the less likely areas to produce a bite. On arrival, we found a few fish milling about in a shallow bay in one corner. A slight breeze was blowing down the length of the lake and it looked prime for a bite, grey and overcast with some drizzle, perfect big fish conditions for this time of year.
After a quick look about James decided to settle on his baited haunts and got three rods to the areas pretty swiftly, scattering a good mixture of bait to three clean, well fed on areas. I spent the remainder of the day with him, shooting some material and drinking endless tea and eating waffles. With the days drawing in so quickly, I left James around 4pm with the light fading quickly. I popped back round to the bay we started the day and chose to fish an area at the same end of the lake, sheltered from the wind, which looked prime for a winter bite. With the light fading fast, I opted to fish two rods for the night, with one positioned to a firm area off an overhanging tree to the left of the swim and the other rod to a clear area in open water. My go-to hinge rigs comprising of the awesome Semi– Stiff Tungsten Loaded and size 6 Cryogen hooks, mounted with the faithful Tuna Whites were positioned among a light spread of Tuna Fishmeals.
The night past uneventful for both James and myself, with the sky clearing and the cold creeping in around mid– night, resulting in a chilly night under the brolly. The following day was completely different, the wind felt much colder, with the typical winter sun making an appearance throughout the day. I was still mega confident in the area I had the rods positioned, nicely shelter from the prevailing wind, I decided to leave the rods put in the hope no disturbance would allow the fish to drift in to the area with confidence.
I nipped back round to see James at first light, as we had planned to get some more content in the bag before leaving early afternoon. The lake is only small, so we had both areas covered in the hope of tripping one of the many gems it contained. As the day drifted by, grey clouds began to form again, so I nipped back round to my swim to pack the brolly away before it got soaked through. I was just approaching my rods when the left hand Neville burst into life and the rod bent round double as the fish kited out from the overhanging tree into open water.
I connected with the fish and instantly saw a big tail hit the surface as it glided over the shallow, weedy area in front. Instantly, I knew it was a better fish from the way its big paddle slapped the surface, trying to shed the hook as it kited across the dying weed beds. The fight was unusual, constantly rolling on the line; I was praying it would stay on as I gingerly guided it towards the waiting net. Eventually, I managed to slip the net under a big set of dark shoulders and give myself a few calm moments before I called Jimmy to come round. He appeared into the net where it sat in the margins and confirmed it was one of the known thirties in the lake, which I was over the moon with after weeks of blank results.
We hoisted it up onto the waiting mat and he rattled off some awesome photographs, before slipping it back to its ancient home. That rounded off the end of the session and before long, I was heading back up the A1 northbound towards home, buzzing with a fantastic late autumn result in difficult conditions.