My winter: Part 1
By the middle of November I had caught 34 fish from the Park lake, of which 10 were over 30lb, the biggest going 35lb 12oz. I had done less time this year so was happy with my results. Last winter I fished right through and didn’t catch a single fish. Only a couple had been caught despite the lake receiving a fair bit of pressure so I decided to switch my focus to another water for my winter campaign this time.
As it turns out the park lake has actually fished very well this winter and my chosen lake has produced hardly anything, however once my mind was made up I could not let it go, so what follows is an account of my hardest winter ever……
My chosen water is in a nature reserve in deepest Norfolk and is about 8 acres in size. It contains about 60 carp including a good head of 30’s and a handful that go 40. It is probably a harder lake than the park lake but has a good winter track record and as I have had a ticket for 2 years and never fished it, I thought it was about time I tried to get something for my money!
My first session began on the last Sunday in November and resulted in a 2 night blank, however I had the lake to myself and managed to spend a good amount of time getting to know the place with a Marker float. Despite watching the water constantly during all of the daylight hours I only saw one fish, and that stuck its head out as I was packing up! I dropped a lead on the spot and marked it for next time. When I arrived for my next session I explored the area I had seen the fish show and found a small hump about the size of a bivvy that was nearly a foot shallower than the 16ft around it – absolutely perfect. Another blank followed but I saw 2 more fish, both in deep water on the back of a bar in the center of the lake. I began to bait these spots, and as it’s only a short detour on my way home from work, I baited them not only when I left the lake but also at least one night a week on my way home from work if there was no one fishing.
This became my routine, baiting twice a week and as I saw no other fish in December I spent most of my time concentring on the areas I had seen the shows, though I did try other areas to no avail. It was hard work, I fished 2 nights a week, usually setting up in the dark on the first night and leaving at first light after the second night. I had the lake to myself almost all of the time though a few people were fishing weekends and later in the week and I think only 1 or 2 fish were caught in December.
Eventually, a week or so before xmas after 8 bank nights I got my first chance. Out of the blue at about 2pm on freezing cold day one of the rods positioned in the deep water at the back of the bar signalled what I first thought was a liner but developed into a slow take. In a state of almost disbelief I picked up the rod and a fish started to kite very slowly along the bar. The fish stayed deep and slowly plodded around as I played it with cold, trembling hands. After a few minutes it went on a steady run and began to slowly take line from the clutch – It was obviously a good
fish and my heart was pounding at the prospect of seeing my first carp from the venue. I began to gain line when suddenly all went slack. Sickeningly the hook had pulled – I was absolutely devastated. Because of there was a fair bit of dying weed around I had opted to use chod rigs – was this a mistake? Would I have landed it if I had used my trusted 360 rig? I have replayed the fight in my mind a million times and asked so many questions but the fact remains that I lost the fish and had to move on. Obviously the positive note was that I had received a take, but I was still badly bruised from losing a winter lump.
I fished one more 2 nighter before Xmas and managed a quick over-nighter during the Xmas break (which is a very busy time for me at work). Both of these proved fruitless and despite the mild conditions no fish were caught by the lads who had done some time over the break. I kept the bait going in on spots, confident that the occasional fish was having a munch and that it was only a matter of time before I had another chance.
My next session was an over nighter on 2nd Jan and I managed to get down a couple of hours before dark and have a good look around before deciding on my regular swim due to nothing showing elsewhere. I had a lead about and noticed that the “hump” spot felt smoother and harder – a sure sign that the spot had been fed on and as there are few other species in the lake it was a good chance that the culprits were carp.
Despite the strong, cold northerly blowing into me I managed to get the rods on the spots perfectly and battened down the hatches ready for the gale force winds that were forecast during the night. I even closed my bivvy door that night due to the wind and with the aid of a nice curry and decent bottle of wine I slept like a baby. At 7am I was awoke by a very unfamiliar sound – a buzzer! I ran out of the bivvy and the middle rod, at
the back of the bar had pulled tight – there were several tufties that had recently arrived at the lake and I was convinced one of these were the
responsible but as I lifted the rod whatever was on the other end started taking line. I have honestly never been so nervous playing a fish – it sounds ridiculous but I had put in so much effort over the previous weeks I just did not want to blow this chance. Fortunately all went to plan and a short while later, with trembling knees I pulled the most welcome carp I have ever caught over the draw string. It wasn’t big but I didn’t care as I jumped up and down with joy – anyone watching would have thought I’d either lost my marbles or caught the biggest fish in the lake!! The fish was a lovely scaley mirror that weighed a little under 20lb and the only downer was that when I got my camera out of my bag (for the first time in weeks!) it had got moisture inside it and was basically useless. I resorted to taking a couple of snaps of the fish on the mat before
slipping her back.
I texted a couple of mates, one of whom texted back to say he thought it was a stockie that had recently gone in. As I was texting him back to say I didn’t care the most unbelievable thing happened – the right hand rod on the hump signalled a take! For the second time in an hour I found myself attached to a carp and after a much slower, deeper fight I eventually netted an impressive looking common that was clearly not a stockie! I looked in the net and it was obviously a 30. There was no way this one would be photographed on the mat. I called my girlfriend Rachel who was fortunately at home and begged her to come and do me some pictures which she agreed to. While I was waiting the 10 minutes or so for her to come I made sure the fish was secure in the net and started to realise that not only was it quite a long fish, but was also very deep….When Rachel
arrived I lifted the fish from the water and realised then just how big it was. I thought I had bagged a winter 40 but the scales fell a few ounces short and we settled on a weight of 39lb 8oz. With the pictures done we slipped her back and it was time to leave. As I packed up the wind strength increased even further and it hailed heavily – I barely noticed because I was so happy!