End of an Era!

My first session back to the complex of small pools.

I pulled back through the rusty gate on a Monday afternoon for a walk about armed with pockets full of small bait items to bait some likely looking margin spots. The “front lake” is very shallow and incredibly weedy and has two resident swans that can be a real pain, so I quickly scuttled round the corner and entered the banks of the “back lake”. With more depth to this pool and tall drooping trees it has a lot more cover to be able to sneak round and find the carp lurking in the marginal snags and lily pads.

The otters have been awful over the past few years with the pools being so close to the river that there are only 10 resident carp left in this pool now, 9 commons and 1 mirror. I quickly found 6 of the carp in one corner cruising back and forth and circling the main snag. I dropped a small amount of pellet in to see if they would come back and have a munch. Whilst I waited for the carp to come back I had a quick look around the corner to see if there was any swims that would look into the front of this snag for any future sessions. There was one swim where I could get a single rod across the lake just off the side of the snag where the carp were investigating. As I walked back around the corner it was apparent that in the 10 minutes I was gone the carp had cleared all my pellet in a matter of minutes. With the water being all murky and the signs of tails waving back at me in 8 foot of gin clear water I was on to something straight away. I dropped a few handfuls of pellet and some small boilies in and around the snag and made a plan to come back in 48 hours to check the spot and possibly bait again. Arriving back to the lake Wednesday afternoon after work I powerwalked straight back round to the snag to see what had happened whilst I was away. It was very clear that the carp had been visiting the area very frequently as the spot was completely polished. I was due to fish another lake for the weekend ahead, so I quickly cancelled these plans and set about making a new plan to come to the “back lake” instead. So that I wasn’t seen by anybody I quickly dropped some more bait in and left the complex knowing I was on to something.

Friday arrived in a flash and I decided to leave work a few hours early to ensure I got the swim before anyone else arrived for the weekend. Upon arriving at the rusty gate I could see that there were no cars in the car park and I had the complex to myself. I quickly unloaded the car and threw everything onto the barrow and flew round to the swim I had looked at earlier on in the week. As expected the lake was empty and I had secured the swim for the weekend.

I walked round to the snag to see if there was any carp there and as expected the same 6 carp were there circling the same areas again. I walked back to the swim to make a plan as to how I was going to get a rig in place without spooking them. I decided to set up all my gear and get a rig sorted so everything was in place ready to go as soon as I had worked out how to get a rig in the area. Everything was now in place, so I decided the best way was to walk round and spook the carp off with some bait and get the rig in as quickly as possible.

A few handfuls of pellet and boilies and the carp moved off. I quickly ran back round to the swim and cast the rig in place and by some sort of luck it landed bang on first time. I placed the rod down on the rest, set the bobbin and moved back away from the water’s edge to take shelter in the brolly. All that was left to do now was sit back and take in the surroundings and watch the water for any signs of carp throughout the late summer afternoon.

Not much happened over the course of the evening so I decided to get my head down around 10pm to ensure I could be up before first light. At 1.30am the rod screamed into life pulling up to a tight clutch. The battle commenced and I managed to steer the carp away from the snag and into open water where it plodded about for 5 minutes.

The swim I had chosen to fish was very overgrown and didn’t look like it had been fished for quite some time. The front of the swim was littered with reeds and plants, so I had to get in the water to be able to net the fish. I managed to get the carp’s head up and with that my first back lake carp went into the net on my first session back. Absolutely buzzing. It was one of the smaller residents, a low 20 common but a real character with an over slung mouth and a little heart shaped tail and a big scar down one flank.

I decided as it was dark, I didn’t want to attempt to get the rod back into place, I had some quick shots of my prize and got my head back down for the remainder of the night. The next morning arrived and the lake looked completely dead. I sat there wondering if my capture in the night had anything to do with this. I strolled back round to the snag to see a few fish still swimming around and no bait left on the spot at all. I walked back round to my swim smiling to myself thinking I’ve found their home and it really was game on for the old common and the lonesome mirror. Nothing happened during the day and I decided to leave the rod out and just watch the carp. I repeated the exact same process that evening. Chucked some bait in to spook them and quickly flicked the rig back onto the spot and again, settled in for the evening. With expectation through the roof the excitement was hard to contain and sleeping wasn’t an option.

Like clockwork at 1.30 I received another vicious take and again I found myself doing battle with another angry carp in the hours of darkness. I managed to steer this one into open water again and did battle with him in the deep but weedy open water section of the lake. Her head came up and I slipped her into the net to be faced with another common but this time a slightly bigger one. Completely spawned out at 27.15 it was nice to see this one I had been watching in the snag the previous day. Easily recognisable as after spawning it looked like a banana in the water. Again a really old warrior and the complete opposite to the first fish. Really long with a massive mouth and a huge tail.

It was now Sunday morning and I had to get home that day to prepare for work the following morning. I dropped a few handfuls of bait onto the spot in preparation for the following week. I was sat at work on the Monday and all I could think about was getting back down to the lake. I decided I was going to go back down that night and do a quick overnighter in and between work. 5pm couldn’t come quick enough and before I knew it I was back down the lake getting sorted for the quick night ahead. Exactly the same process as before and the rig was back on the spot. I sat there in anticipation of another take when 1.30 passed with no bite. I thought to myself had the spot blown already. I managed to nod off for a few hours when sometime around 5am the alarm signalled another bite. This time the carp had managed to get under the snag, but luckily walking back it freed itself and I once again was doing battle with a very angry carp in the open water. I slipped the net under the carp and could instantly tell this one was of a different stamp. Its sunken scales and mahogany colour body I knew I had one of the elusive ones. Once it was on the mat I sat there looking at this carp in awe before weighing her and taking some photos. Again at a completely spawned out weight of 29.14 but it really was irrelevant to me as these fish are probably double my age and very rarely caught. Another night, another bite, I sat there thinking, soaking wet from releasing the fish.

I repeated the process of baiting the snag before setting off for work. As I was on such a roll, I couldn’t feel any closer to the elusive mirror if I had tried. I had to get back down there again tonight I thought. The phone call to the wife was made and I had bagged myself another night. I arrived at the lake again around 6pm to find a car in the car park and instantly my heart sank. I jumped out the car and had a walk round the corner to see my swim free but someone over the other side just setting up. A quick chat with the local angler and he was happy for me to do a night in my swim as it was the other side of the lake to where he was setting up. As I walked round to the snag to drop some bait in, I could clearly make out a fish with only a few scales on it waving it tail in the air. That’s the mirror I stood there thinking. A few handfuls of bait later and I was walking back to my swim buzzing with what the night could bring. I was absolutely knackered from the previous few days fishing with minimal sleep I crashed out early around 10pm. I was awoken by a few single bleeps around 4.30am. I sat straight up, slid out the bag in anticipation of another take. 5 minutes later the bobbin cracked the rod blank and we were away again. A savage battle through the front side of the snags in a hit and hold situation, it then decided to burst in the open water and kite hard for the lily pads. I managed to hold on and steer it into open water again. A long battle of it going from weed bed to weed bed and it was finally coughing water in front of me. In the gin clear water, I could see it was the mirror and instantly my knee’s starting knocking.

This is my chance I thought as I’m stood there in the water up to my waist with the net at full stretch sliding down the silty margins. It went straight into the net first time of asking and I let out a massive roar of emotion. I scrambled back to the front of the swim sacked her up and jumped back in the brolly to compose myself for ten minutes before walking round to see if the local angler would do a few shots for me. He happily obliged to come round and do a few shots and some video footage for me. We got her out of the water and onto the mat. We managed to weigh her in at a weight of 33lb, again around 4-5lb down on what she normally is but none of that mattered. I’m sat there staring at a fish that is probably 45+ years old and in the best condition ever. The emotions were out of this world and even the local angler behind the camera was buzzing to just see her. Just how it should be. I drove out of the gate that morning absolutely buzzing but also a bit sad that I wouldn’t be back again as that was the job complete. A very swift Summer campaign but it just goes to show, if you can find out where they spend a lot of time it doesn’t take long to catch them. I stumbled across a real gem of an area this summer and I’m not sure if it will ever be repeated.

The end of an era!! 

Dan Chappell


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