The original stock is believed to be of the Leney strain and some of its oldest residents are in the region of 50 years old. More stockings have been made over the years to replace these old dinosaurs, as unfortunately nothing lasts forever. This was my drive to crack on and see if I could land a few before it was too late.
So after spending my first year on the lake, I realised one thing, I really should have joined this lake earlier, what an incredible place! In full bloom this pit is absolutely stunning, it has everything a carp angler dreams of.
My first season consisted of many highs and lows but I was slowly piecing together the puzzle, from chatting to other members, learning by my own mistakes and spending hours observing the carps behaviour, I was starting to get a good feel for the place. The first year was always going to be a challenge but I managed to bank a few stunners and make some good friends along the way. One of these friends was Tom who would normally appear in the depths of winter when most others had decided to call it a day. After chatting to Tom and spending many a dark night wandering the banks in search of carp, he mentioned that he was going to start making his own bait. It was immediately obvious that he knew what he was talking about and my knowledge of bait was quite pathetic in comparison! A couple of weeks later I get 5 kilos of what is now known as the Amino Ester to play with. If my memory serves me well the pit had a lid on at this point so fishing was off the cards. Luckily a friend of mine was going to a local day ticket and invited me along, I thought it was a perfect time to test out the new bait. I already knew from the smell / taste and texture that it was going to be a winner and needless to say it was a successful day with quite a few carp landed from a half frozen lake. A simple wafter made with half a bottom bait and half a very early orange popup with a handful of ester over the top doing the damage. This was all the convincing I needed.
I think I had a month or so off after this point as the syndicate had pretty much shut up shop and I thought I should use this time to accumulate some brownie points for spring! I walked the lake at least once or twice a week to try and stay in touch and to be honest it was pretty lifeless, I didn’t feel I was missing much. Slowly as the temps began to creep up in late winter / early spring the carp began to move, still very elusive but the odd sun drenched reed bed would give some tell tale knocks every so often alerting me to their presence. One reed bed in particular really caught my attention, it was right at the end of the longest arm, fairly sheltered from the wind but got a good amount of sun. On a few occasions now I had seen signs so started to introduce a small amount of bait in a deepish channel between the reeds and the end of a spit, after a couple of weeks I lowered a lead off my rod tip and had a feel about and it was feeling really firm and clean. This gave me all the encouragement I needed and I was soon planning my first night of the year. A couple of days later the weather was perfect, it went really mild and the heavens opened, the lake was already well up and the spit I planned on fishing was pretty much under water. That night I loaded up the car with minimal kit so I could head down straight after work, It literally did not stop raining all day and as excited as I was a little part of me was thinking ‘what are you doing’! At 5pm I jumped in my car and headed straight down to the lake, on opening the gate the field looked that wet I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it. After slipping and sliding my way down to the lake I sat there listening to the rain lashing down on the roof of my car thinking I’m going to be soaked before I even start! With no change of clothes I made a run for the boot, grabbed my brolly and tried to pop it up as quickly and as quietly as possible on the tiny water logged spit. This was easier said than done and in the end I just accepted I was going to get drenched! After 15mins or so of getting everything under the brolly I was kind of ready, sleeping bag was soaked, bedchair feet sinking into the mud and feet squelching in shoes, perfect. But to be fair to myself I had done it like a ninja! I rigged up my rods, fished one with a wafter on a german on the clean spot and the other a pop up on a slightly less visited spot. Both spots were literally an underarm flick, ten or so freebies over the top then retreated back to my brolly.
Back in the relatively dry comfort of my tempest I thought I had better get things in order so if I was lucky enough to trip one up I was prepared. I spent the next hour crashed out on my bed staring like a zombie into my phone screen when what sounded like moby dick took to the air behind me, instantly I popped up like a meerkat to see the rings rocking the entire arm in the moonlight, this had boosted my confidence beyond belief. As I had to be off at 6am I thought it would be a good idea to try and get some sleep, rang the Mrs to keep her sweet, said good night to the boy and shut my eyes. I don’t think it was even an hour before my left hand nev indicated a single beep, I lay there with my ears pricked hoping for it to melt off, nothing happened until 10 mins later when another single beep was registered, these single random beeps continued for the next couple of hours. I must of eventually drifted off to sleep because I remember being rudely awoken but my left hand rod giving a frantic flurry of beeps which got me thrashing around in my bag desperately trying to get out, by the time I got to my rod it was hooped round the end of the spit with the fish almost getting behind me which wasn’t ideal, after a frantic and fairly explosive battle I could see a decent mirror wallowing just to the left of my net, I could see it was one that I’d not had before but wasn’t sure which one it was, after a fairly amateurish scoop she was mine! The whole fight had caused that much commotion I knew I had blown the chance for another so I just made myself a brew and text Tom a picture of its flank in the net and he confirmed it to be the mirror known as Tarmac, I was buzzing, first fish of the year from the syndicate and on a new bait.
I carried on fishing into spring and had a few of the stockies and a couple of repeats on the Ester. With the lake really starting to wake up and starting to bloom I needed to make a plan. Tom had told me about the fishmeal bait he was testing and asked me if I wanted to give it ago, obviously I jumped at the chance and promptly filled my freezer. Once again after playing with the bait I fell in love with the fishy marine smell with a subtle tangerine twist, I just knew it would do well. Tom supplied me with a few pop ups in white and a light pink, and a very early liquid attractant.
The previous spring I had focused my efforts on a little interception point on one of the arms, it was fairly narrow with a deeper margin and a lot of snags on the far bank. I noticed the fish using the far marginal snags to very much avoid my traps after I had caught a few. In the winter a few months previous we had a work party and the main snag on the far side was removed and had opened up the previously unfished bank, whilst the snag was gone it was still a bit of a jungle. I thought this would be the perfect place to trickle in some bait over the coming weeks, first of all I found two potential spots one where the snag was and one to the right under a willow, I gave both spots a few passes of the rake to remove anything horrible that may cause me issues with presentation. After I was happy I went down two or three times a week and baited very accurately with a spoon with some particle and 15mm amino marine. I think on the 4th or maybe 5th trip I flicked a lead out to find the spots were rock hard, almost too clean. There is a huge head of rudd, tench and bream in the lake so the spots had been well and truly polished. This I thought was the time to do my first night in my jungle swim.
Once again the car was loaded up the night before ready for a dash to the lake after work. This day couldn’t of gone quick enough I was absolutely buzzing for this trip. As soon as that clock hit 5pm I was making my long 7 minute journey to the lake like a man on a mission. Got down there to find I had the lake to myself, does it get any better than that? I parked up and peered through the trees from a distance and instantly saw a couple of carp rocking the water about 20yds to the left of my spots, it was on! I spent 10 mins getting everything setup away from the waters edge and then slowly and carefully moving it into position, all the time trying to avoid the swans line of site as these two were a right pain in the ass. Luckily my swim was pretty well hidden and they left me alone. Two of my ever faithful german rigs were lowered into postion, that was it, nothing else I could do. Traps were set and expectations were high. Literally two minutes later the left hand bobbin slammed into the blank with a crack and then just sat there, I burst through my mozzie mesh and lifted into a really weightless jagged little fight, sure enough a huge rudd emerged, FFS I thought! Hook point gone, swim disturbed and confidence shattered. I managed to convince myself that it would be fine, the carp were still about, just get it back out and chill!
Another 20 mins passed until the bobbin cracked into the blank again, heart in mouth I was on the rod again in seconds, I couldn’t believe it, another rudd! I think I had 5-6 rudd that evening, all absolute belters but not what I wanted. Then as it got dark the liners stopped, the rudd vanished and it was incredibly peaceful, at this stage I thought I’d just enjoy the night on the bank and not stress. I think it was 11 o’clock and the left hander was off again, this time slowly taking line, YES I thought! Picked up the rod to find myself attached to a turbo charged tench. By this point I’m not going to lie, I was not happy! With an early pack up on the cards to get to work I could see me getting no sleep.
With the rods back out I got what I thought impossible, a good 5 hours sleep. Until I got a bite, a proper bite, a one tone, bank stick flattening bite which to be honest scared the hell out of me. I didn’t really know where I was or what I was doing but picked the rod up and this thing wasn’t stopping, mega bow wave slowly powering its way down the arm with me praying to the gods that all would be fine! Luckily it was and soon after a lovely mid 20 common was sat in the net, I was getting the shots done of this one when the right hand rod was away, again a proper bite which resulted in a scaly scraper 20. The session that started pretty badly was now more than worth it. I think I had an hour or so before I had to pack up for work so I stuck the rods back out and slowly put everything in the boot of my car, then to my absolute surprise the left hander was off again! A small scaly I’d caught before was my prize, I wasn’t complaining! I put another 2kg of Amino Marine over the two spots and went to work a happy man.
I returned a couple of days later, pretty sure it was a Friday as I got there at lunchtime, a real treat! I decided to walk down the whole arm from the very end until I reached my spots, just to see where the fish were. I was probably 20yds from my spots the other side of the willow and I saw a vortex inches from the bank, I crept up pretty close and could see a decent mirror feeding right in the edge, at this point I was convinced it was a mirror called sea horse that was probably now my number one target as a couple of the old originals had passed away the previous year. I made a hasty retreat back to my car and grabbed a rod and net, clipped on my rig of choice with a tiny bag of crumbed up Marine. I got myself into position and lowered my rig right in the edge a little away from where I saw the carp as it was slightly cleaner. I stuck the rod on the deck, loosened the clutch so it wasn’t mega tight but still gave some good resistance. I sat on the deck in my waders, checking out facebook/insta as you do until my little SS2600 started ticking away like a scene from jaws, I wasn’t sure what I was connected to or if it was the same fish but it was a bizarre fight, a really powerful run in a straight line and then just gave up, as it neared the net I could see it was a long mirror and I was 99% sure it was the seahorse mirror, I was over the moon when it went in the net! Absolutely buzzing I left it in the net and got all my self take stuff setup perfectly, really looking forward to seeing it. I hoisted her out and lay her on the mat, peeled back the mesh and was a little shocked! It wasn’t seahorse or any carp I had seen before in any pictures, it was I imagine in its day an absolute stunner. BUT it had clearly had a run in with Mr Otter in the past (pre fence days), both pecs completely chewed away, bad scaring around its throat and nearly all of its mouth was missing. I felt this fish deserved the best pics I could manage on my own so worked the angles so she was remembered in all her scaly gorgeous glory!
I didn’t get a great deal of fishing done that summer, the fish spawned a fair few times and the lake was rightly shut for quite some time, this was followed by that hideously hot summer which caused problems all round the country. I had a baby girl due at the end of September so was almost out of time but managed to convince my good wife to let me have a full 24hrs which is quite rare. I remember arriving at the lake, still bloody hot and looking fairly grim and spent an hour walking around to try and find some fish, the arm I had previously fished eventually turns into quite a big area of water (for this lake anyway) and I could see a bit of fizzing right up in the far margin. This was an area I had fished before so I knew it was clear. I grabbed my gear and pushed my way though the undergrowth until I got to the bank where I had seen the fizzing. Now this is a classic case of being a jammy sod, I grabbed a rod out of my quiver, stuck a fresh hookbait on an old rig just to get fishing quickly. I flicked it out to the area and got a lovely drop. I lay the rod on the floor, turned round to sort all my kit out and in a matter of seconds out the corner of my eye saw the rod jump slightly, sure enough the line was bow tight and I was in. It was an incredibly short fight and I think in the net in under 20 seconds, but there lay the sea horse mirror, on my last session within minutes of casting out. Sometimes its just the way it happens. She had been out a month previous at 30lb on the nose and when I lifted her up I knew she was nowhere near that, the needle went round to 24.8. She was very old and clearly struggling with the extreme heat of the summer. I was so glad she paid me a visit before I hung up the rods.
So now it’s 12 months later and that was to be my last session of the year, unfortunately the sea horse and another mirror I would of love to have caught both passed away. That’s the scary thing, these special old carp won’t last forever even in a well protected pit like this, and as for those lakes without otter fences, it’s a genuine worry.
My daughter is now 15 months and keeping her bigger brother on his toes, and while it was probably the least I’ve fished in a season for quite some time, I managed a handful of nights and lots of short stalking sessions resulting in more carp than I thought possible with the time available. My confidence in the bait couldn’t be any higher right now, and seeing all the other guys absolutely smashing it has got me chomping at the bit to get back and catch the ones that still elude me! Massive thanks to Tom for supplying me with some serious bait and plenty of much appreciated advice along the way.