James Salmons - The Spring Campaign
James reflects on a destructive spring campaign, seeing him bank a large amount of fish, including the lake's largest resident, 'Tyson'.
After a long winter away from the bank I was rearing to get going on my syndicate lake. Having watched winter slowly become spring the enthusiasm to be back on the bank was growing by the day. After what seemed like an eternity the planned winters work on the house finally came to an end and after sorting out all of my gear I planned to get out on the bank as soon as I possibly could - that being the following weekend. I couldn’t wait!
The previous year I’d been lucky enough to have a really good time on the lake and caught some very nice fish. The only two things that I really wanted to put right this time around was a better spring campaign, as I had struggled during my first, and also one of the lakes A-Team commons. Although I’d been lucky enough to catch more than my fair share, I still couldn’t help but feel like I had been a little unlucky not to have caught one of them so far.
Tactics wise I knew I’d have to do things slightly differently from last spring but also carry on using similar tactics that scored so well during the latter end of the previous year’s campaign; that was to put myself on fish as much as possible by staying mobile and getting baits on nicer areas amongst the shows.
My first trip was towards the end of March. Luckily, there had only been a few bites up until that point so I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on too much. The weekend passed without any action but I was really pleased to just be there and be back on the bank. I’d also managed to put myself on a couple of fish as well.
The next weekend I got down on the Friday after work. The lake was flat calm with a new south westerly wind due the following day which coincided with a huge air pressure drop. My eyes lit up when I turned up and saw the swim that I’d been thinking about all week was empty. I reserved it straight away but then had a couple of hours mooching to see if there was anything that looked like a better option. After not identifying anything on my travels, I decided to go with my gut instinct and set up in the swim and wait for the weather front to move in. This turned out to be a wise move.
Around 10pm that evening the wind started to pick up. Just as it did I heard a fish show. This was perfectly illuminated from some lights on the far bank and the area was duly noted. It was a little further round to the left of where I had the baits but still castable from the swim which was hindered slightly by a tree. I stayed up late to listen out for more shows but nothing happened. By the time I turned in the wind had really picked up. After seeing one out there, I was hoping something might happen during the night.
I awoke the next day to an overcast and windy morning. I saw another show a couple of hours into daylight, but that was further left than where I was fishing, and it was also unfortunately in another angler’s water. It was however a similar range to the show I’d seen the night before, so it still felt on.
My mate came down a little while after that and dropped in to my right. To make room for him, I decided to move my right-hand rod and put it in the area where I’d seen the show the previous night. It was a good job I did as half an hour later the rod was away! After a steady affair, a nice-looking mirror rolled over the net cord and at 30lbs 1oz, it opened up the years account nicely indeed. I recognised it straight away as one I’d really wanted to catch as well which was an added bonus! I got a rig back out there straight away before sorting out some photos.
The wind picked up further throughout the day and the undertow being generated was huge. All three rods were having to be fished bow tight. By the next morning the wind had dropped a little bit at first light so I took this opportunity to get a quick recast on all three rods and get them nicely settled how I wanted them. I took the gamble in putting all three rods on the one productive area staggered in a line of around 15 yards.
Just as I was packing up at dinner, one of the rods on the hot spot absolutely tore off at a frightening pace. The fish fought well and as soon as I saw it I knew it was a good one. The hook hold held and before long, a lovely long common went in the net. We hoisted it up on the scales and were all shocked when it went 36lbs 8oz! The fish was in immaculate condition too. I packed up from that session one very happy angler. What a start to the spring!
I was back down the following weekend and managed another brace; the first being an angry double figure fish which was taken after seeing some bubbling around 60 yards out. I wound in one of the rods and attached a new rig before casting well over the bubbles and winding back until just behind them, before letting the rig swing down for a nice firm drop. The rod was away within 5 minutes of getting it out!
The second capture was a little more memorable still. After packing up at the end of the session, I loaded the car behind a swim that was facing a fresh easterly wind. All of a sudden, with the sun beaming down, it felt warm. I had a couple of hours to play with and was planning on doing a little leading about in another swim but instead decided that I would watch from the swim for a while and get the rods out if I saw anything. I didn’t even make it in to the swim when a fish came up out of the waves and gave the game away around twenty yards out. So I turned around and started putting a couple of rods together. I flicked the first one out on to the show and put the rod on the ground, complete with stone on the spool. I then took the opportunity to climb a big tree overlooking the area. From up there I looked down in to the margins and even though the waves were lapping in, I managed to see a few bubbles appear on the surface. A couple of seconds later I watched as a big common came flying through the depths, popped it’s head out and then powered back down towards the lake bed. That was all I needed to see, so not long after a second rod had joined the first.
After a few minutes, I climbed a smaller tree in the corner next to the swim I was in and straight away, noticed an area fifteen yards out that looked clouded up. With it being not too far from where I’d seen the first fish I decided to line it up from the swim and reposition the rod on it. The lead went down really well and I climbed the tall tree again to watch. Ten minutes later I caught a glimpse of something moving deep down along the shelf. As my eyes adjusted, I could make out two fish moving towards the clouded area. As soon as they got over it they both dropped out of sight. A minute later, I heard the stone tick as it flew off my clutch. With that, I was half descending/half falling from the tree to get to the rod that was having line stripped from its spool at a rapid rate! After a hard fight another lovely common weighing 24lbs slipped into the net. A very pleasing capture and one to leave me gagging for a return all through the next week.
I got down again following work the next Friday. The wind had continued to blow easterly all week, so I scrambled up the same tree I’d been in last week and looked into the bay. Pretty quickly, I saw two shows just in its entrance. With that, I watched as a guy fishing the opposite side jumped up and ran to his rods and lifted in to a fish. I quickly got myself round there with the kit and secured the opposite side of the bay in a swim just down from a point that doesn’t get fished too much. Within a couple of minutes I realised the fish were stacked up at fairly close range. Fifteen minutes later and I had three hookbaits cast at three shows. With the fish continuing to show I was expecting one of the clutches to burst into life at any minute.
After half an hour, I decided to have a lead about in the open water. I’d seen it a few times where the fish move back out from the bay across this area, so thought it would be a good idea to prep an area with some bait, just in case. I watched the fish showing for most of the afternoon but when it started getting dark I noticed them moving over to the other side of the bay and away from the area into another angler’s water - I couldn’t believe I hadn’t had a bite!
I made the choice to leave the two rods with the best drops out there for the night and I moved a rod out on to the area I’d baited earlier. At 3am it was this rod that was away, and a double figure mirror was in the net.
I’d been getting some light hearted banter off some of my mates mocking my inability to catch one of the big girls and it had started to become a running joke. I couldn’t help but laugh as I unhooked it and slipped it back, none the worse for its ordeal. Before I got back to sleep, I text a few of the lads saying that they can have the big-uns and I’ll keep the small ones at bay! That was my 39th bite from the lake and all the time as it was creeping towards the 40 mark I had been thinking how it should be virtually impossible to catch that many from the lake without an A Team member!
My mate Gav called me in the morning and gave me some stick about my luck but I assured him that it was just a numbers game and my turn would come. Little did I know just how soon! As I sat there, I saw a fish over the rod in the entrance of the bay. I was in a quandary now as to where to position my rods as I was unsure where would be the best area. At that point Gav turned up and I got the kettle on. Whilst drinking my brew I decided that I would move all of the rods around on to the actual point and fish the entrance from there and I’d do that after he left.
That visit turned out to be the biggest piece of fate that has probably happened in my angling. Just before the kettle boiled, a quick succession of bleeps erupted from one of the two rods I had positioned the previous day. I ran over to see the tip pulled down and the line tight and didn’t hesitate for a second as I pulled into a dead weight that was slowly moving out of the bay. I turned around straight away and told Gav that it was a big fish - I just knew it.
All the way in, the fight was a slow and heavy affair, and as it topped for the first time I caught my first glimpse of the fish, disappointed that it didn’t seem anywhere near as big as the fight had indicated as it didn’t look all that long. On second sight the fish grew a few pounds in my estimations, as it came to the surface it looked very wide indeed. Gav readied the net and with that, he informed me that the sun was blinding him, and I’d have to tell him when to lift - not what I needed on my mind at that moment! I quickly led it up over the cord and screamed at him to lift the net around the fish which he did with aplomb.
As we peered in I thought it was a fish named the Goldfish but we both agreed that it couldn’t be as it didn’t look as big as it should. As I got into the lake to unhook it in the net, it instantly grew! Grabbing the net and rolling it on to its side its huge frame and massive depth was revealed. I started instantly smiling and confirmed to Gav that it was indeed the Goldfish!
Any remaining doubt over the fish’s identity was instantly dispelled as I lifted it on to the mat. As I unrolled the net, the true size of the fish was exposed and we started giggling away. My ambition had been well and truly achieved! I was blown away. With that, we got the Goldfish on to the scales and were both in shock as the needle span to 46lbs 11oz! We quickly put the fish in the retainer to prepare for some photos. I lit the kettle and sent the text to share the news with those that needed to know. It’s moments like these that are really made special by people’s reactions and how pleased they are for you. A couple of good mates Ollie and Mark even dropped everything at a moment’s notice to get straight down to the lake and share the occasion and help with the photos, which was a really nice touch. Cheers lads!
My 40th bite from the lake was the 40lb+ common that I really wanted - very fitting indeed.
I sat there for the next couple of hours just taking it all in with a couple of celebratory beers. As I watched the water I realised that there were a few fish getting in front of the point and then also realised that I needed to get the rods sorted. I cast hookbaits over the back of the shows and skipped them back onto them, feeling for firmer drops. Within two hours I was away again! After a slow, long fight, another good fish was coughing water as it was being pulled over the cord. A lovely common of 31lbs completed my biggest ever brace, capping the day off very nicely indeed! I even managed another fish before leaving the next day to make it a four fish session.
The majority of the next week was spent grinning from ear to ear about the previous weekends result. I could now relax a little bit about the rest of the spring. When I arrived at the lake for my next session, the water was flat and calm and the weather the warmest it had been. From a climbing tree, I found a number of fish in the north east corner of the lake and knowing there was a fresh wind due in the next morning, I thought it would be silly not to drop in there for the night. With fish showing as it darkened, it looked game on.
During the evening, fish seemed to be holding up a little further out from the corner and as I got up on first light the next morning, I straight away saw another in the area, followed by a few more. I decided to give it a few more hours in the corner just in case the fish moved in when the wind started. By 9am, it was trickling into the corner and within twenty minutes, I was away to a twitchy take. The fish in the lake have a habit of knowing where to head as soon as they're hooked, and this one followed suit and made for the treeline to the left. I jumped in my waders and got out as far as I could to stop my line entering the overhangs, but as I turned the fish, the hook pulled. Although it didn't feel all that big, it's still never a nice moment when you skip a rig in devoid of a fish.
The fish were still showing next door, so, I bit the bullet and moved. I found the area where they were showing and lined it up from another swim next door to ensure it was indeed the correct spot they had been showing over all morning. I put some bait out and then gave it a few hours to rest the swim before getting the rods out. I'd seen a couple of fish in the area so was confident. For some reason though, even though the wind intensified, I never saw another fish in front of me. The next morning, I realised something wasn't quite right and mentioned to my mate in jest that the majority of the fish were probably on the back of the wind and well away from the angling pressure. A couple of hours later, I caught sight of what I was sure was a fish show right up in the far bay, so I made sure to keep my eyes peeled. I kept my focus on the area and ten minutes later, I saw another subtle show. With that, the rods were quickly wound in and I raced around to watch the area. Within seconds of getting there, I saw another two subtle shows, so I threw down the water butt in the controlling swim and went back to get my gear.
By the time I got back, fish were showing well and I set up each rod and waited for them to show me where to cast. As I lined up to the first show, I went to flick the lead out, but on my back swing I saw another fish show a little further out so cast the lead straight over it and pulled back. I felt the lead down to a lovely clean drop and I was extra pleased with the way it went down. The other two were put on to shows closer in and I sat tight, with just the rods out, shielding from the wind against the high bank.
The shows slowed down a little over the next half an hour and I was concerned that the fish had moved away as I saw one a little further right. After spotting another in the same area, I decided to wind in the left rod and place it out there. After the cast, I sank the line and left it for a few minutes to settle. When I went to attach the indicator, for some reason, I couldn't see the loop of slack line. It took a second for the penny to drop but I looked up to see the tip kicking round in accompaniment of the line pinging out of the clip! I pulled in to the fish which felt decent but just as quick as the fight had started, it was all over as the hook pulled. I was extra disappointed this time seeing as it was my second loss in as many days. I soon had a new rig on and sat back to think of what could have been but didn't really get the chance as just a few minutes later, the first rod I'd put out at the longer distance went into meltdown. The take was ferocious and wedged the reel against the alarm - On lifting in to it, I was quickly emptied of 50 yards of line and started to pray that the hook hold was a better one as I was in no doubt, that this was a decent fish.
I managed to turn it and started to gain a little more control as I wound in what felt like a dead weight. It was a really strange fight with the fish not really kicking about too much but just using its bulk to make getting every inch of line back on the spool a hard process. After ten minutes, the fish sent up a big tail pattern to the surface and my thoughts of it being a good one was confirmed. The fish came straight up to the surface and the first time of asking I had it in the net. I peered in and recognised the fish instantly and knew that another of the lakes bigger commons was mine. At a weight of 38lbs 12oz, it was another result. Just as we got the fish onto the mat to do the photos, my recast rod from the lost fish burst into life! I put the fish down and waited for the lads to come and take care of it before running down to get to the rod! The first fish was quickly back in the water in a retainer and I played the other one in, which turned out to be a mid-twenty.
With that fish sorted the photographers gathered for a second time. This time the shoot went without any disturbances and the fish was quickly back in its home. Two of the lake’s big girls in consecutive Saturdays, I was absolutely over the moon!!
The following trip couldn't come around quickly enough and before I knew it, I was on my way down the motorway after work on the Thursday night. Arriving at the lake, I could see that it was pretty quiet with just a handful of anglers on. As there had been an easterly blowing all week, I was keen to get off the back of it and managed to get in the swim that gave me good access to the open water in this area. A friend informed me he'd seen a couple up that end earlier in the day and I saw one as I was watching so that was my sign to get the rods out. I put two out at range onto spots I had found previously, and one a little closer and scattered some bait over all three. As night drew in, the temperatures plummeted really quickly. I heard one fish out to my right at around midnight but it was an otherwise silent night.
I got up just before first light the following morning and readied myself for a move just in case the fish started showing anywhere. By 7am, the easterly wind had sprung up again and as I watched it blow up the other end I hoped I had got my tactics right by being off the back of it. At 8.45am I saw a fish show in between my two long rods and just fifteen minutes later the middle one was away. The fight was pretty slow and heavy, and the fish turned out to be one of the lakes real characters, at 33lbs 9oz. The hunch had paid off. I got the rod back out on the spot and sat back keeping an eye out on the lake.
As the day went on, weekend anglers were turning up and the wind was progressively intensifying. I had not seen anything in front of me all day and was slightly worried that the fish had moved out. At 4pm, just after some anglers were looking on the end of the wind, they started showing in the middle of the bay in the teeth of it. Before I knew it, all of the swims were taken and I was sat in my chair feeling helpless! Talk about typical! I sat and watched as leads quickly filled the bay and hoped that this would move them out and back towards my area. This was confirmed on dark when a couple of fish showed in front of me.
Nothing happened overnight and the wind didn’t drop either. I kept my eyes peeled all morning and then saw my first fish out in the middle of the bay on the wind right up the other end - they were still in there.
At 11am one of the members fishing right in the corner of the top bay moved to a quieter part of the lake. I took the chance to pack my kit down just in case something showed in there again. I saw a couple on the edge of the bay around midday and then at 2pm, my hopes were answered as a nose stuck out of the water in front of the now vacant swim. With that, the rods were frantically cranked in and I was soon bolting round the other end of the lake with my bucket to watch the water and hopefully reserve the swim.
Within 5 minutes of standing there, I had seen all I needed to as another three fish showed. I planted the bucket and raced back round to grab the gear in the hope of a quick bite. The only thing nagging at me was how I had fished a few nights in this area the previous spring and failed miserably to get a bite from it despite finding fish there numerous times! I got back around and put two rigs out on where I had seen the fish at close range. Both landed nicely but it was the rod cast straight out towards another swim that grabbed my attention as it cracked down. For some reason, I just knew this was going to be the one that did the bite, especially after seeing three shows right on the money.
A few more fished showed throughout the day, but as darkness crept in the activity slowed down. The wind dropped overnight and I awoke the next morning to a set of perfect conditions. The wind had eased right off and there had been some rain overnight as a new weather front came in bringing with it low air pressure. I was starting to think the fish wouldn't be back due to the wind dropping and the thoughts of doing another blank night in the swim were soon dawning on me. That theory was quickly dispelled as a fish showed over one of the rods, followed by another few over the next hour. At 9.45am, there was a show close to the left rod and at 10am, the middle rod absolutely tore off! The fish fought really hard in the clear, deep margins and before long, I had it on a short line under my feet and could see a lovely bronze common, twisting and doing somersaults down on the shelf trying to rid itself of the hook. Luckily, everything held, and I was soon looking down on a lovely clean common weighing 30lbs 6oz. The move had definitely paid off. I packed up straight after that and made the trip back home, yet again, pleased with how the session had gone.
When I arrived at the lake the following Thursday, I straight away saw that it was busier than previous weeks. The fish seemed to be having a preference for certain areas of the lake and I couldn't get in any of them. Another member moved out of one of the swims that gave me access to the area and I was tempted to drop in behind him. I put my kit there but walked down the bank and sat in a gap in between that swim and another that the wind was blowing in to, which was in a corner. Time was starting to get on, and just as I was going to set up, I saw two fish in quick succession down in the corner. I knew the swim very well from the previous year, so knew I could get round there and have the rods out in no time. I quickly moved down and got them out just on dark, then watched as a couple more fish showed in the now flat, calm water in front. I was fairly confident of a night bite as that seemed to be the best time in this swim.
Nothing happened in the night and I was awake at daybreak and packed away ready for a move. The thought of being stuck in a little corner, without any fish present didn’t enthuse me all that much! I did see two fish in front of me but saw a couple more out in open water. Knowing someone had helped themselves to a fish during the night in the open, I was getting itchy feet. I'd packed up and moved in to the swim I decided against the previous evening by 8am and spent the majority of the day looking around. There was still an angler in there though who was debating whether or not to go home. As the day progressed, there seemed to be less and less activity, so decided to bite the bullet and get myself set up in the swim I had reserved earlier. Conditions were getting better out there all the time, and I guessed the fish thought the same.
From where I was watching the fish from during the morning, they seemed to be on an area I was familiar with from the previous autumn, which was a nice area of firm silt just over the back of a gravel area at 90 yards range. I clipped up two of the rods and got the required drops then placed the other to the left. The wind was over my head which helped me put a fair amount of bait out over the longer area and as the evening progressed the conditions changed for the better.
At 6.15pm I saw a fish show over the longer rods, then at 7.30pm the right-hand rod on that area pulled up and was away to a steady take. After a dogged fight, I bundled the fish in to the net and recognised it straight away as one that unfortunately has a broken back, which was caught a month before at over 30lbs. I was well pleased with it and quickly unhooked the fish and left it in the net in the edge whilst I clipped on another rig and got the rod back out. I called Ollie over to do some photos but as I was readying the mat I noticed the net move forward in the edge, followed quickly by the fish slipping over the cord and back into the lake! I had to laugh as it was pretty comical and Ollie seemed to think the same!
I didn't have too long for that to sink in though, as just half an hour after recasting the rod, when talking on the phone, out of the corner of my eye I saw the tip bounce and pull down, swiftly proceeded by the line pinging from the clip and the reel peeling it off at a steady pace. Realising that I hadn't turned the alarm back on I despatched the phone to the back of the shelter and ran down to get the rod. I played the fish in and was soon gazing at a lovely dark mirror. This one didn't do a Houdini on me and I weighed it in at 26lbs 12oz and got some lovely shots.
The rod was cast back out and I had a further two bites during the night. One resulted in a double figure common which was unhooked and let go in the net and the other one managed to cut me off right near the rig end, which I was gutted about. I was shattered from the lack of sleep, so instead of retackling decided to wind in the shorter rod and blast it back out to the longer area. It was this rod that awoke me from my slumber the next morning to a flyer! Luckily this one went more smoothly and as it popped up for the net I could see it was a familiar face from the previous year. I quickly weighed the mirror at 33lbs 8oz and slipped her back, none the worse for her ordeal.
That day and night was spent having a social with my mate next door and watching the fish show out of my water in areas that I unfortunately couldn't get near to due to the swims being taken. I knew that I probably wouldn't have any more action, and so it proved but with a further 4 fish under my belt, I wasn't complaining! By this point, all I felt I needed to do was get on to fish and get rigs out on the areas that they were comfortable feeding on and I'd catch. My confidence was at an all-time high and I just hoped that I could keep the run going and another of the lakes A-Team would turn up.
The usual routine followed, the next week as I was away from work and hurtling down the motorway on the Thursday afternoon. Keeping an eye on the forecast I had seen that a fresh north easterly had come in bringing plenty of rain with it. A particular swim that controlled the entrance of the larger bay was all I could think about on my way down and I was soon round in the swim in full waterproofs watching the water for shows. The fish had been spending a large amount of time in that area and I was sure that's where they would be. Knowing a couple of areas out in front of it I was confident that I'd be able to get the rods out quickly without too much disturbance. Although I had the hunch that they'd be there, I still wanted to ensure they were before setting up so stood and watched in the now driving rain.
After half an hour of getting soaked I saw a movement over the other side of the lake followed a couple of minutes later by another subtle show on the back of the wind. I quickly made my way around and stood in the swim controlling the water and in the space of 10 minutes saw a few more fish show at short range. That was enough for me and I quickly got the gear round there and the three rods flicked out on to shows. I left the rods on the deck with just stones on the spools; sometimes the fish can move on so I didn’t want to set up fully until I was positive it was where I needed to stay the night.
The fish kept showing well for a further hour and I was fully expecting one of the lines to whip up tight and pull from the clip but as the rain subsided and night started to close in there was a distinct lull in activity. About half an hour before dark the rain stopped so, happy with the rods, I set up camp and hoped the fish hadn't done the off.
After I'd sorted everything out, I put the stove on for a brew and started eating dinner. As I looked out in front, I saw a fish pop its head out towards the swim that I was originally stood in when I arrived at the lake. Instantly I started to get second thoughts and with this came the itchy feet about a move. I turned off the stove and went and stood at the front of the swim.
I saw a couple more shows pushing further over that side about ten minutes before dark and then just as the light had gone another couple occurred in quick succession. With that, I was packing the kit down as quickly as I could and was on the move! By the time I made it to the swim darkness had set in by a long way. As the waves of the fresh wind hit the bank I listened out for ten minutes whilst sorting the rods and heard some fish rolling out in the waves.
Grabbing my trusty notepad of spots, I worked out the three areas that I wanted to fish and quickly got them all wrapped up using the distance sticks. I attached marker elastic to each rod and left the line out of the clip. By doing this it allowed me to cast over the fish and wind back quickly until the elastic was in position before feeling the lead down. All three rods went out well and I put a hundred or so baits around each. By the time I'd had a brew, tidied the swim and set up shelter it was midnight. I retired to bed hoping the effort to move would be rewarded.
I didn't have long to wait as at around 12.45am, just as I was getting to sleep, the middle rod was away to a fast take!! The fish went absolutely mental on its first couple of runs and I was wondering what the hell I was attached to. As it came up in the edge, on first sight I could see it was a long fish. Another five minutes of arm aching fight ensued under the tip before I finally landed it. Looking in the net I could see it was a long common and looked like a 30+ fish all day long. When I put it on the scales I was shocked to see it go 28lbs 2oz! I quickly realised why though as it had no depth to it whatsoever! I did a couple of quick self-take night shots and got the fish back before recasting the rod and getting some much needed sleep.
Up again at first light, the first thing I noticed was that the wind had stopped and the sky was clear. I saw a couple of fish show straight away on the far side and as I could see that the day was going to be one of the warmest of the year so far, I had an inkling they'd move down in to the narrow arm; an area they tended to like when it's warm and devoid of pressure.
Around 10am I skipped in the rods and went around to the arm. I walked right down to the end swim, climbed a couple of trees and spotted a couple but nothing of any size. I carried on walking around the bottom of the arm and along the far bank on which there is a little bay in the reed line which is reachable from the swim opposite. There is a nice big tree overlooking it and I started to climb it. I got two steps up and immediately froze - there were fish everywhere!!!
I slowly climbed to the top to look down on the fish. There must have been 20 in the little bay and what's more, the majority of them were good uns. Luckily I’d bought some bait round with me and waited for the fish to move to the other side of the reeds before putting some in. After quietly descending the tree I bolted around to the swim opposite to secure it. This was done about a minute before another angler turned up to reserve it!
I got around to the swim with the kit and clipped the rods up to areas I knew. Fortunately I had Ollie on hand who was up the tree in the bay some 90 yards over and gave me the thumbs up when to cast. All went well and they went out first time. With this the fish seemed to stay put. As evening drew in I could see that the fish were leaving the bay but knowing that the next morning would be sunny I hoped they'd reappear.
After seeing nothing in the swim for the morning I went over to see Jamie, who was fishing the point area behind me. As we were watching I saw a couple in open water out to the right. With this I decided to start throwing the kit together to move in to a vacant swim on the adjacent bank. I went back to see Jamie for a coffee before I taking the shelter down and noticed another member had turned up and dropped in the swim I had planned on moving in to. This really limited my options and I was wondering what to do. The next thing, I heard the sound of a buzzer going in to meltdown behind us and I was soon sprinting the short distance down to the rods! The fish had been hooked on the corner of the opposite little bay and was really pulling hard towards the rushes in the far side. I clamped down and refused to give it any more line. With that the rod bucked round again and what was obviously a big fish rolled on the edge of them before swimming back towards me in to the safer water of the channel. After that it was a classic big fish fight and as it came up in the water column I saw that it was. Jamie soon had the net under it and we looked down to see which one it was. I really hoped it was one of the two commons I really wanted but my heart sank as I realised it was the same 46 from the previous month! This time she weighed 45lbs 8oz and was quickly back in the water. Although this was one of the fish I’d seen in the area the previous day, I felt pretty unlucky to have hooked it again and I’m not one for recaptures as I don’t enjoy taking the moment away from others that deserve it.
I assumed the fish were no longer in attendance as a result of the fight so wound in and had a good look around the lake. Nothing was happening and all the likely swims were taken so I decided to drive over and see my mate on another lake then head home a day early.
The following week was the end of May Bank Holiday weekend. With the lake having a three night rule I'd made the choice to book the Friday off work but get down there for first light rather than the Thursday after work. I knew the lake was pretty quiet and assumed it would get busy on the Friday but quieten off on the Sunday afternoon as the normal weekenders pulled off. Sunday nights were always the quietest which is why I wanted to make sure I could fish.
I was down there by 3.30am and made a cup of coffee and sat in a swim watching the lake come to life. I say the lake as the fish certainly weren't giving anything away! I saw Mark stir on the far side around 4.30am and was soon punishing him for more coffee. From his swim we saw just a couple of fish up until 10am. I had seen that a fresh Westerly was due in to him later in the day and knew that he was in the right swim. With the swim next door vacant and after seeing a few shows it was a no brainer to get in there so I quickly got a couple of hookbaits in position.
Fish showed over me all afternoon and I couldn't believe I hadn't caught!! Mark fared much better and helped himself to a lovely brace of fish as the wind started to pick up. I had nothing through the night and was up early the next morning to photo another for him. This was followed up by yet another just before he left.
Being one of the main open water swims I knew that I had to get myself in there as it looked good for a couple more fish. During the morning whilst sat with him, I’d noted fish showing on one particular area out in front so as soon as possible after he left I had a quick lead around to locate what was out there. This is something I like to do if I can get away with it, as I believe finding what I feel like is the feeding spot amongst an area is the place that I want my rig on.
The one thing I’d noticed during the recent weeks was the weed in the lake had started to really only come up in certain swims, this being one of them. After leading around I found a small hard silt spot in and amongst the light onion weed so placed one bait there and two out in open water just behind it, in between a heavier weed bed. My lead was actually locking up behind one certain area so I soon came to the conclusion that this was why the fish kept coming back there as the weed growth was the most abundant I had found so far. One half of the lake seemed to be barren with little weed growth and on the other half it was really coming up.
I had the rods in place by about 1pm and sat back on my bedchair knowing that I couldn’t do much more. I saw a couple of shows out in front of me and a few more in a swim around to my left which was also taken.
The first morning at 3.30am I had a take on one of the open water rods. The fish came in among a mass of weed but I managed to net it with no dramas. Just as I was picking the weed away from it I heard a ping behind me. A few seconds later, the clutch on one of the other rods that I had dropped off the alarms to keep the line down started peeling and I was in to another fish! Luckily I managed to set up a second net and get it in without any mishaps. The resulting brace of commons weighed in at 23lbs 2oz and 19lbs 8oz.
As I knew there was a decent wind coming in later in the morning, I took the chance to re-do all of the rods and stick out a few of kilos of bait over the areas whilst the lake was flat calm. I knew it would be difficult to get any quantity out there once it had arrived. Just as I was doing the last rod, the wind started picking up and I sat back happy with the mornings work and waited for the wind to increase, which it duly did.
At 11.30am the rod on the silt spot amongst the weed tore off, resulting in a lovely 25lbs 8oz mirror. I got the rod back out straight away and then left them all out as there was no need to disturb the swim. Something that I think is very important once the traps are set.
During the last hour of light I saw a few fish show straight over the open water rods. One looked a real good fish too. However, fish had just started showing often up the other end of the lake in front of a vacant swim. I packed everything down as it was getting late, deciding what to do. At this point Steve turned up so we were both watching them. I told him to get over there and turned away to hear him say “that was a big fish!”. Once turned back around I could see the rings coming away bang over my two long rods! The decision to stay was made there and then! Steve left to get set up and a little while later I watched pair of tufties go down over the area. The next minute they shot to the surface and left in blind panic so I knew something was kicking off down there!
That evening I was texting my friend Stu and told him I’d had a couple of fish. The reply came through ‘Tyson next mate!’, Tyson being the lakes big girl. Having already being out to Mark early in the Spring I text him back and told him I couldn’t see it happening any time soon!
At 3am an open water rod pulled up. As I leant in to the fish, I thought it was in solid weed as it felt like a dead weight coming towards me that was making me earn every inch of line. After 5 minutes of winding the fish came to the surface 20 yards out and wallowed. It sounded like a real lump and what’s more, I couldn’t see any weed on my line whatsoever. I managed to bring the fish to the net soon after and as it went over the cord I realised it was indeed a good fish.
I looked down in to the net and it took me a while to work my way through all of the fish that it could be… leaving only one! I As I rolled the fish on to its side for the final time and got a better look at its shape the reality hit me! It was the big girl!!! I stood there for a couple of minutes in the lake with it whilst repeating “I’ve got Tyson, I’ve got Tyson!”. I was in shock as it was the last fish I’d expected to turn up!
I called Ollie who was fishing a lake nearby to wake him with the news and we were both buzzing. He told me to get it weighed and sorted so I put the phone down and went about business. I hoisted her up on the scales to record a massive weight of 49lbs 14oz! She looked so impressive and huge under the torchlight. After quickly slipping her in to a sack I sent out a message to everyone, including one specifically to Stu saying, ‘you called it mate!’. This resulted with congratulatory phone calls straight away! I sat there totally blown away and drinking coffee awaiting dawn and the arrival of the lads to get down to do the honours with the cameras.
When I opened up the sack, the first thing that was apparent was the fish’s condition; it was immaculate in every single way and not a single blemish on it. The other thing that was apparent was that the fish had been well on the bait as it was all over the sack! With the shots done and Ollie and Gav doing me proud, she bolted off back in to her home.
The rest of the day was spent on a massive high and sleep was hard to come by. I was shattered by the previous two nights events and hadn’t slept much at all. Seeing as I was off home at 2pm I thought I would try to get my head down. That didn’t last long and I was awoken at midday by the sound of a huge fish clattering out in the waves over the rods. Mark called just after to congratulate me and also warning me off a repeat capture of the Goldfish, which he really wanted. However the phone call was cut short as the rod on the silt spot absolutely roared off!!
The fish felt big straight away and kited on a long line at range whilst still taking line. When I gained some sort of control I managed to get it in. It surfaced 30 yards out I could see that it was a big fish and as it slipped in the net I knew my day had got even better!! I thought the fish was the other that I desperately wanted at first, but I soon realised it was the Goldfish again!!! I couldn’t believe my luck, it certainly liked my approach! I weighed her for the record at 44lbs 9oz and called Mark back to tell him the bad news and apologise.
I decided over the next week that that I only had a couple of more sessions left in me before I packed the rods away for the summer. The following weekend the fish just wouldn't play ball due to the weather changing on what seemed like a daily basis. I never find that to be a good thing in the spring especially if the fish haven't spawned. Luckily I managed to bag a little common to save a blank session and I decided to do an extra night after moving on to fish for the third time, however that proved fruitless. The next morning I moved again to the opposite end of the lake on to some shows but after getting the rods out they soon stopped. I was absolutely shattered by the time I decided to head home!
My next night was to be my last on the lake and I got down late on the Saturday afternoon after a day working at a lake nearby. I walked around for a couple of hours before finding a few fish right on the end of an old South Westerly wind. There hadn't been a fish out all week and I knew this was a good chance to put that right. I flicked out the rods well over the back of the fish and skipped the rigs back on to the areas. I don’t see the point of casting a lead straight on to fish if you're able to overcast and wind it back on to them with little disturbance. When doing so I just make sure that this doesn't affect other anglers.
The rods went on to the spots in the little bay and although I saw another couple of shows, the activity subsided and I was left wondering if they'd moved. As the wind was due to stay up all night I stayed in the area.
I woke up to a clear sky and the sun beaming down, not ideal! Especially with the wind pushing northerly and away from the area I was fishing! Well done Mr weatherman!
I climbed a tree in the corner of the bay at 9am and saw nothing at all. I decided to get some breakfast and then pack away before having a mooch around with the floater tackle. I was half way through cooking when the rod fished on the reeds opposite was away!! The fish fought well and I had to play it hard to stop it getting in to the near side trees next to the swim. Luckily the hook held and I was soon slipping a sizeable fish over the cord! At 36lbs 2oz it was a lovely way to end the spring on the lake. I did have a chance off the surface but the crosswind proved a nightmare and I couldn't get the hookbait where I needed it.
As I left the lake that day I left a very happy bloke. Those couple of months had been the best spell of fishing I've ever had. Truly a spring to remember.