When it all comes good – Alex Grice

'Like many, I had been prepping my kit, bait and making plans for the season ahead during lockdown, uncertain as to when restrictions would be lifted, and we could hit the bank once again. I had the week booked off the week of the 18th May and luckily, restrictions were lifted the week before on the Wednesday, so as you can imagine, that weekend was all systems go thinking about fishing, sorting my gear and just making sure I had everything in place for the week ahead. If anything, I was a little over prepared, but you know what they say…'

I got down to the lake on the Sunday night, there were a few other anglers on, and I wasn’t intending on getting into a swim I fancied, more of just being there, soaking it up and then making a better more informed decision the following day. I had some close friends joining me for the week as of the Monday, so I settled into a swim for the night on the Sunday and got some rods fishing tight to a far bank, on the drop off close to some marginal reeds. I spent the evening drinking tea and just taking it in to be honest, appreciating being back by the water and watching intently ready for a morning move. The night passed by quietly, but I was up at first light clutching a coffee and watching the areas I could see of the lake from where I was set- up. I had a view down the longest section of the small pit but couldn’t see round into the shallows from where I was, so I made the most of my view and sat by the water’s edge as the sun rose. 

By mid- morning, I was packed up and ready to move, having seen a handful of fish head and shoulder down the opposite end, I just knew I needed to be down there. As I was packing the last few bits onto the barrow, the middle rod pulled up tight and I was bent into a carp! To begin with, I kinda forgot what to do, but with pressure applied and the braided mainline, I was able to steer the fish away from the snaggy margin on the far bank. Moments later, I was slipping the net under a stunning fully scaled mirror and things were up and running on the first morning, I couldn’t have been more chuffed and relieved to be honest!

A fantastic fully-scaled mirror

After slipping that first one back, I made my way around to the far bank and got settled ready for the afternoon ahead. I knew roughly where I needed to be out in front and following a brief lead about, I had three rods sorted and ready to go for three different spots at short range, with my left hander being placed down the near margin. Two hinges were sorted, both tied up in my usual multi- rig style with a length of Tungsten Loaded X-Stiff and short doubled over section of bristled, attached to a size 5 Grip Rigger hook. These were both mounted with Odyssey XXX corkballs and the remaining margin rod had a short link set- up, coupled with a matching barrel wafter. By around 2pm I was sorted, baited and kicking back with a lovely cold pale ale- just how I like it!

Hinges and nice buoyant pop-ups!

A closer look at Alex's 'quick change' hinge

It didn’t take long for things to switch on in this new swim, when my margin rod wrapped round and burst into life, quite unexpectedly! Frantically I donned the waders and got in the edge to get a better line angle on the fish, steering it towards the waiting net. On inspection, it looked to be a good fish, so I called my mate to pop round and help with some photos. The scales confirmed it at over 37lbs and one know as ‘the Teddy bear’; I was over the moon and less than an hour into fishing the new spot, things were looking up! We rattled some pics off and I went about sorting that rod again, as I just knew there was a chance of more to come! I wasn’t wrong, but this time, my right hander positioned over some low- lying silkweed was away and after a jagged, strange fight I was slipping the net under another awesome looking common! Leaving it safely in the net, I quickly changed the hook on my rig, flossed on a fresh bait and pinged it back out to the clip first time. Lovely!

A fish known as the 'Teddy Bear' at 37lb

A hefty 30lb+ common also made an appearance

As the afternoon drew to a close, I was confident going into the evening. By now, I had three spots, two of which had produced and I was confident of another bite before dark, with the afternoon conditions ideal; a warm, SSW wind blowing down into the corner I was fishing and the odd patch of fizz hitting the surface in the late afternoon sun. I cracked out the BBQ and a can of craft beer, mesmerised by the beautiful sight of water once again and just being able to appreciate being out on the bank and enjoying what we love to do!

About halfway down my can of craft, my left hander was away again, yet another savage take at close quarters, this time taking me under an overhanging branch. I quickly donned the waders and clamped down on the fish, but all I could feel was grating of the braid against the branch. Moments later, a huge eruption appeared around 3 rod lengths past where I had hooked the fish and from then on, I managed to gain line until I had the carp my side of the snaggy branch. As I gained line on the fish, suddenly it popped up right in front of where I was stood in the water, much to my surprise! I caught sight of a line of scales down the flank of the fish and knew it was one of three fish in the lake, one of which I dearly wanted to catch. Moments later and after a brief tussle under the tip, I managed to slip the net cord under the fish. At that moment, Sam and Ollie who were also fishing the lake walked into my swim to see what the commotion was all about and on inspection, they were both blown away by the long, very dark half- lin that lay in the bottom of my net. 

Awaiting photos

Together we got the fish up onto the mat and rattled some shots off as the sun set behind the trees, lighting the flanks up nicely of the old, battle scarred linear. At over 32lbs I was more than made up…

The margin rod produced well too, with this incredible 32lb+ half lin!

I managed another long, jet- black common before nightfall and I hit the sack fairly early that evening; a combination of tiredness and sun had certainly caught up on me. As sun rose, a fresh, spring morning entailed and the AeroPress was on the go to get me in gear for the day ahead… It was due to be another hot one and I was quite thankful of the cool, morning shade as I enjoyed my coffee whilst watching the water intently. 

It got to around 10am and my right-hand rod bobbin began to pull up slowly; I wasn’t quite sure whether it was a take or a savage liner, but as it rose further I clocked the braid pulling up tight through the water- that’s a fish! I lifted gently into a solid weight, shortly followed by the fish flat rodding me and doing the off as it propelled out into the lake across the shallow water. Yep, that’s definitely a fish! After what can only be described as a tear about the lake, the size 4 Grip Rigger held solid and I was coaxing another big Elsons fish towards the net, shoulders breaking the surface as it bow- waved in. I could clearly see it was a chunk as I peered into the net, Odyssey XXX corkball hanging from its mouth before I quickly unhooked it ready to get the rod back out onto the mark. I left the fish resting in the net while I waited for my mate Matt to pop round and help with some pics. After getting that rod back onto the short-range mark, Matt hoisted the big girl up as I passed him the net from down in the water. It became apparent the carp was one known as baby Dave and on the scales it went 38+, my 3rd 30 of the trip and yet another unit from the lake- I was buzzing.

After slipping the he framed mirror back, I hung up the sling and matt to dry, before making my way back down the bank towards the swim. As I did, I could hear the faint cry of my Nev receiver coming from my brolly and straight away I knew I was in again! This fish, like the previous one took off into the lake, going right up the bank towards some snags down the margin. I clamped down quickly and managed to steer it clear of the snags, before it rutted under the tip for a few more minutes in the beautiful, clear margins. 

I could make out a line of scales on the fish as I lifted it to net it, another linear by the look of it! On the mat, we were taken back by how dark and pristine this fish was, unique with its high back and inky black back- I don’t think this session could have got any better…

Well, it did! The next few days were a little slower than the first couple, but I managed to catch another couple of 30lb+ fish; one a deep bodied common and the other, a lovely grey coloured mirror, both on the open water spots over the faithful XXX boilies. It was a great session all in and having not fished since March due to lockdown, I certainly enjoyed being back out there and enjoying the small things you often take for granted with what carp fishing brings; the sound of the birds, the lovely fresh clear environment the carp live in, it was a pleasure to be back. I have plans to get out again at the end of June, so here’s hoping my lucks in once again.

Alex Grice

My favourite of the trip!