During the early part of the year, I’ve always found myself starting on small intimate waters rather than big pits. I’ve made the mistake before, whist friends of mine have caught their target in March and moved on before I’ve even seen my first show of the year. Those bigger venues seem to take longer to wake up, but autumn last until almost Christmas. I learnt the hard way!
A slice of heaven
During the winter I met an old boy down the river who kindly, or stupidly, told me about a little lake in the middle of countryside. Apparently he had fished it with his son years ago and had never seen another person, let alone angler. He mentioned how they had caught huge pike there in the past and that I should go there right now. Usually I wouldn’t take any notice of tales, especially from old men, but there was something about this fella. I don’t seem to do it very often but for some reason I actually believed him. Either he was completely full of it or he had just told me about a little piece of paradise, I just had to find out for myself.
When arriving at the lay-by he had told me to park in, I looked at my maps and planned my route across fields towards what looked like two lakes. It was February, I had a bucket of big live baits in the van, but deep down all I was thinking about was carp. I eventually arrived at the most stunning of old English estate lakes, it was incredible, and I instantly fell in love with the place. The old boy told me the lake had been there a while, but I wasn’t ready for what was in front of me. That was it, the pike fishing went straight out the window. I ran back across the meadow, to van, to get my glasses and a dog lead, just incase. If only I could be put onto venues like this at the start of every season. As you can imagine, it was bleak, the wind was bitter and my chances of seeing anything was slim to say the least.
All tucked away
I left that afternoon full of anticipation and couldn’t wait to return, spring couldn’t come soon enough. Even if there was two carp in there, I was having them. I spent the next two weeks briefly dropping in for an hour or two at a time, hoping to get a sight of something incredible. The lake was stream fed and from past experience, these lakes are normally the ones that suffer most come the floods. Once the rivers burst their banks the otters travel up the drains and ditches seeking pastures new. These little, clear, naturally filtered lakes are prime to say the least. After half a dozen trips over the space of a few weeks I began to think the worse. Maybe it’s never had carp? Maybe they’ve all been eaten? Either way, I was still excited but knew I wouldn’t apply any bait until I had at least seen one carp. Over the next two weeks things changed a lot, the snow drops were out, buds were forming and the sun was just about high enough in the sky to make a difference. It was almost time and I had to start putting together a plan, whether it was going to be at the estate lake or not. I was thinking maybe I will need to come back in July and hope to find them spawning, or not, I just didn’t know what to do if I’m honest.
No giants, but fantastic virgin commons making an appearance
April arrived and the plan was to start fishing a park lake in Cambridge, the bigun hadn’t been out since the previous April and I felt like it was my time. The estate lake was only twenty minutes or so out of the way on my journey home, so that was the plan, fish in the park, but check the estate lake every week without fail. Deep down that’s where I wanted to be but I couldn’t fish an empty lake.
Two weeks later, after three nights in the park I head back to the estate lake, I had been a bit lazy and hadn’t been there for over a week. I remember walking across the meadow and seeing wind covering the whole lake, inside I felt as if this mile hike and the risk of leaving the gear in the van just wasn’t going to be worth it. I was on the phone to a mate at the time, telling him how uneventful the last few nights had been, when I noticed an area of reeds, right over the other side of the lake. Maybe it was where the greens had started coming out, but it was like I had never seen it before. Half of the lake was accessible and the other half was completely overgrown, I climbed over a small fence covered in wool, and made my way through the rotten moss-ridden forest. It was clear that it was going to be almost impossible to get anywhere near the water. I was still on the phone at this point, as I stared through a small gap between two trees at a small bit of flat water. I remember saying to my mate, if there’s carp in here I will find them now, there’s no doubt about it. The sun was beaming down on the reeds, the reeds sheltered the water from the wind and it looked prime to say the least. I clambered up a tree as close as I could possibly get to the reed bed and stood there looking across the water, almost heron like. To my amazement, there they were, stacked up like sardines next to the reeds. I was so overwhelmed by the whole situation I almost fell out the tree. There was twelve carp, ten commons and two mirrors, it’s was on! I stood there for as long as I possible could before my ankle couldn’t take it anymore, slid down the trunk of the moss infested tree and ran off like a kid at Christmas! As far as I was concerned, my spring started right there and then. It really was the ultimate buzz, I had been there so much, and seen so little, I was beginning to doubt it all and question my sanity.
Self takes in the rain!
When I eventually got back to the van, the plan was simple, I was going to wait for the light to fall and go back with a few kilos of boilies. I knew to had to get as close as I possibly could to the reeds, but knew it wasn’t going to be an easy ask, it was hard enough to look at that area, let alone fish it. After two hours sat in the van planning my attack, I walked back through the long grass to the lake, landing net pole and bucket in one hand and waders in the other. Suddenly the walk didn’t seem that far and I was soon back up that same tree counting the carp again. The plan was simple, I needed to clear an area so I could get a rod in, right there where they were sat, that way the hard work would done, ready for when I return. From the tree I could see what looked like cabbages forming no more than a rod-length from the bank, so I would have no choice but to fish under my rod tip. I spent the next hour or so clearly dead branches from under the canopy, the area was extremely soft and littered with sticks, in an ideal world I would of raked the whole area under the tree before I baited but this just wasn’t possible. Firstly, I didn’t have a rake, and secondly there was no way I was leaving without dumping these boilies. So I had done the best I could with my feet and landing net pole, barring in mind I was no more than twenty yards away from what was potentially the entire stock. Before long I had baited and was charging back across the meadow, full of joy and thinking about my return. This was it, I had just primed a zone yards away from a group of virgin carp, it was game on.
I was back the following day, knowing full well, unless those carp left due to the disturbance they would of visited the margin spot. I clambered up the tree, mainly to see if I had removed all the branches, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The whole area was brown, almost as if it was weeping out from under the tree. For a minute I thought it might of been where I had been in the water, but only for a minute. There was no way the water wouldn’t of settled in fifteen hours, it was clear the spot had been trashed. It was time to repeat the process, and get away and prepare my gear ready for the first mission in. The plan was to carry it all in, and leave half of it hidden away, to make life easier for regular trips throughout April and May.
My first trip was the following week, after five heavy baiting missions. The idea was I was going to fish bottom baits due to the tight baiting. This was soon made clear to me it was a bad idea, after having the rod lowered into position for less than an hour. I watched a fish from the tree make a b-line for the spot and start ripping the floor up with no hesitation. During this intense few minutes, I must of seen a dozen leaves float up to the surface, I knew from the off I was in trouble. To make the situation worse, another fish visited the area and the liners started. As the light fell, all I was thinking about was my presentation. I sat frying my brain under my brolly till midnight, fishing one rod, slack lines listening to constant beeps in the distance. I’d had enough, I was soon in bed with my bag pulled over my head going through all the emotions. Had I over baited? Had I baited to close to my first trip? I just didn’t know, but I was getting trashed out that was for sure. The following morning was quiet and no sooner had I woken up I was lifting the rod back out to find the worst had happened. Leaves, lots of big brown leaving smothering my rig. I stashed my bed and my brolly and was out of there, this time I wasn’t going to bait and return with two rods and hinges the following night. Now I knew the spot was absolute filth there was no way I could fish it with bait still on the floor. The plan had changed, as usual. The following night I was back and it was game on, the rigs were lowered into position, rods slackened off and I was back into the woods for my second night. No sooner had I sat down and opened a can of cider one of the rods was in absolute meltdown. I jumped up just in time to see the bow wave leave the spot at an alarming rate, whist running at the rod i knew I had to bring my bed closer to water. I lifted into the most powerful of carp, stripping line out of the bay much further than I was ever expecting. I was in trouble, again, but this time for a different reason. I buried the rod tip into the water and pump for what felt like a lifetime. I was terrified of losing it, knowing it could well be my only chance of the night. After a hectic few minutes of relentless pumping I felt the leadcore knock against my rod tip. I lift the rod and frantically scooped up the wallowing carp into my net. There she was, carp number one and what a carp it was too. I was over the moon. After a few rushed self takes in the rain I returned her and reset both my rods, just before it was completely dark. For me this is what fishing was all about, me against the carp deep in the woods with not a care in the world. The hinges had changed the game and I went on to catch three carp that night. A lovely start to the campaign to say the least.
More fish falling to the prebaited area
The following day was set to be the warmest day of the year yet, I was pretty certain that I would be able to find the fish and know exactly what I’m fishing for. Even though I had seen those fish the week before I was desperate for another look. I needed to know how seriously I needed to take this guesting. In other words, I didn’t want to take the piss and arrive early, or long out the mornings if i was going to be fishing for a bigun. I returned to the van with my rods and alarms and headed up the cafe. The plan was to return with my dog lead again, this time I needed to know for certain what, or if, I had any particular targets. I spent the day sat by the water waiting for the mid-day sun to start lighting up the reeds again. The water was tap clear and seemed shallow due to the amount of cabbage and pads I could see climbing towards the surface, even in the middle of the lake. During my countless laps, up and down trees I found two mirrors, no doubt the same two mirrors from the previous week, but this time I got to have a good look at them both. One of them stood out massively to me, it was a big long linear, one of the longest carp I had ever seen. I estimated it to be 30lb, give or take a pound. Given the nature of the place, and the effort that had it go into it I knew I would burn out pretty quick unless there was a proper biggun floating around. As much as I enjoy catching wild carp on my own terms deep down inside I want to be fishing for a bigun, or at least a real old special one, especially in May. The idea was I was going to go ‘all out’ over for the next week, fishing most nights between work. I knew if I could catch ten carp that linear would be amongst them. So that was it, I had a plan, a rig, and the spot was ready to go. All I needed to do now was put in the rod hours. Something of which I’ve got no problem in doing, I’m sure my mates will agree!
When bottom baits get lost in the debris its time to crack out the 'hinges'!
The following night I was back in the zone, ready to go, but this time I had set up much closer to my rods. I had landed everything I had hooked so far but I knew that linear was going to be a different breed all together. After two more nights and two more commons I finally got the bite I had been waiting for, and I knew what I had hooked as soon as I picked the rod up. The spool was emptying faster than I could get my waders on, this was it, my chance at the linear as it grated through the branches as I desperately tried to retrieve it. Il be honest, I thought I had blown it as it came to a holt under the overhangs. I stood in the water, full test curve for a few moments when suddenly something gave and I was back in contact with the fish. After a little bit of ‘to me to you’ under the tip she was mine, and what a carp it turned out to be. Longer than I could have ever imagined and scale perfect from top to tail, she was amazing and my time on the estate lake was over, for now. Two trips back to the van on dusk was what it took to get my gear out, but it was worth it.
The mirror was in the bag, job done! Or was it?
A few days later, knowing I was at a loose end earlier than expected, my friend send me a photo of another linear, this time in the lea valley. This fish was on in a different league to anything I had seen. It was long and lean with a tiny tail, almost Bishop like but twenty pound smaller. It was the closest I had seen to a true Leney for years. Straight away I was on the phone asking all the questions under the sun. I had to know where this carp lived. Fully expecting him to tell me it was in some huge no fishing lake somewhere I was shocked when he told me. There’s only so much I can actually say about this venue and capture out of respect for the other anglers fishing for it, but this is what happened. He told where it was, and told me I could have a ticket tomorrow. If only they were all so easy to get on, hey? The following day I’m in the van on my way to meet Terry in his local cafe, I thought this was surly to good to be true? Frantically driving towards the valley to purchase my ticket, I soon forgot about what I was leaving behind at the estate lake. This carp was different, on so many levels. Whist picking up my ticket I found out there was a picture floating around with Jack Hilton holding one of the carp that still resides in the pond, this was pretty incredible to say the least and heightened my excitement some what. Soon after collecting my ticket I arrived at the lake to find a tiny little pond, no more than an acre in size. I assumed from the off there had to be another lake somewhere. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked round to find carp basking in the May sun in and round the pads. This was incredible, but I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as it looked, well, so I thought. I’ve fished small lakes before and they can be a pain in the ass. I must of done a dozen laps over the space of a few hours. This place was special and steeped in history and I loved it. I thrive for a new challenge like most people but I wasn’t ready for how the day was going to unfold.
During the day a strong northerly built up and pumped down into a corner, furthest away from the pads where I had seen these carp. I knew the longer this wind blew the greater the chance of them turning up would be. I was half feeling it and half not, I didn’t know enough to just be lowering rods in and hoping for the best, but I also couldn’t get that old linear out of my head. After lots of ‘um’s and arr’s’ and back and forth’s I decided to stand on the wind and take it all in. I had time, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to fish or not… then the weather changed! The cloud rolled in and rain started, I thought to myself it was May and I’ve got nowhere else to go, I must fish. No sooner had I persuaded myself to stay I saw a tail patten a foot from the bank, right in the teeth of the wind. I was right, they had arrived and it was game on. I ran back to the car in the rain and scrambled my barrow together. I was excited, this was going to be my first night of the year on a venue I was actually allowed to be at. I could feel a twelve hour kip coming on if nothing else.
Before I unloaded my barrow I lowered two rods down in front of where I had seen the boil, no more than two foot from the bank. Two small hinges and five baits, silently along the width of the swim was all it needed and I was creeping back to my barrow. I sat down on the floor and rolled a smoke, taking it all in and planning my attack. There was something about this little lake, the swims were undisturbed, it felt so personal. I had been there half a day and it felt like my lake. Before I knew it I was snapped out of my day-dream by the sound of a Neville in the distance. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I jumped up, my reel was in the alarm and churning! ‘As if this was happening’ I thought. A pond with less than than ten carp in and I’m in already. I know it was May but I really wasn’t expecting it to happen like that. After a huge initial run out into the middle of the pond, a back broke the surface and I recognised the little pointy fin on its back. Uncaught for two years, presumed dead and I had hook it within an hour of having the rods out. I retrieved her from the middle of the lake like a dog on a lead and slid her into the net. As if this had actually happened, my gear wasn’t even off the barrow and it was all over. I’ve never in my life caught the target fish first bite, let alone first night, or even first hour. I rang Terry to tell him the news and the first thing he asked was if I had found it yet. Whether or not he meant the lake or the linear I don’t know, but he genuinely thought I was having him on when I asked him to come down to do photos. There she was, the best mirror I’ve ever caught laying in the bottom of my net. If only it was always that easy.
The bits Dave uses for his hinges
A perfect carp in every way on the short hinge
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