Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Autumn Sessions

The air was still heavy with a fine, misty drizzle and I sat huddled under my brolly chain-drinking tea, intently watching the spot I’d primed the night before. It was only about 35 yards out so the occasional little patches of fizz that kept appearing were pretty visible and I knew exactly where my hookbaits were positioned. Another big set of dark head and shoulders casually shuffled themselves out just a few feet from one of them and slid silently back in, leaving a little trail of bubbles behind it as a trace of it’s direction. The glassy surface holding them there as a reminder of its momentary presence for about five minutes. The occasional liner had my heart going, I knew they were on it, everything seemed so right, the pressure was dropping and it was ever so mild, it just had to happen.

5 hours later and I was still sat huddled there, clutching what was probably my twentieth brew of the morning, over a pint of milk and half a box of teabags I’d gradually watched the clouds thin to a veil of grey that was now barely holding the sunlight back, my confidence gradually lessening by the minute. A gentle south westerly had sprung up now too, certainly not enough of one to move them but it did leave me and my area in the calm on the back of it. After a while the usual questions started drifting in…how could it not have happened? I was conscious that my first few sessions had given me an overactive sense of confidence and I had to remind myself that 7 in an entire season on here would be a respectable result. In reality, I knew all I could do was sit tight and let time run it’s course, the sight of Chris’s 41 on the mat that morning had just really fired me up though, there’s nothing like the sight of someone else grinning from behind a whacker to get the enthusiasm up though!

Midday came and went, I cooked myself a bowl of pasta and sat listening to the radio. The early morning joggers had done their bit to make me feel lazy and the park was full of the usual crowds by now, I was thankful for having my brolly up as a bit of a buffer and I could have almost convinced myself I was fishing a normal lake. As if just to remind me I wasn’t, an over enthusiastic Springer Spaniel clattered down into the swim from nowhere sniffing everything in sight, it’s owner shouting away in the distance. Next thing I know it decides it wants to squeeze under the 6” gap between my rods and the ground, taking all three clean off the rests in the process! The breed seem to be ingrained with a primal need to get through the smallest of gaps, even if there is nothing to get to on the other side…bless eh?! By now I really was starting to wonder, and felt I’d missed my chance. It was getting on for 2 o’clock and I couldn’t help but feel that if I was going to have caught it would have been this morning, the activity over the area seemed to have dried up too.

When it went at about 4.30 I was actually taken aback, entirely out of the blue my left hand rod was away, slowly up to the top and just nicely ticking away. I remember thinking at the time it was a classic big fish take. The first run steadily took a good 30-40 yards off me and I remember wincing and wondering when it would stop. The rest of the fight was a slow, plodding affair and I think I knew it was a good ‘un all along. I struggled, one handed, into my chesties and after a while under the tip she popped up and obligingly went in first go. One look down into the net and I knew instantly it was one of the big half lin’s, one of which had done 40 already this season. Obviously I dearly wanted to see one of the bigger residents in my net but it had almost seemed too right for it today. She was weighed at 38.08 and a mate, Kev, who lives locally came down to ID it and do the pics for me. An immaculate carp in every way, with barely a mark in her mouth and a big solid frame, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Chris had packed up from the bay as the fish seemed to have vacated the area after his capture that morning and after I’d got a fresh rig back out on the spot we sat back on the path chatting with a brew, with a 38 and a 41 apiece we were both rather chuffed with our mornings angling!!!

Unbelievably, barely an hour later, I was away again, this time on the middle rod which had been positioned just off the main area with a little stringer. As always for the park carp, the fight was a heavy one and it kited hard down to my right on a tight line, determined to ditch the hook into something. I buried my tip and clamped down as the margins are littered with roots and big stones but that only served to make it kite more. Begrudgingly it ran out of lake and finally had to come back around, after a few nervous minutes I gained some line, thankfully the line just plinking off the submerged snags and she headed back out into the open water. After a good few minutes of plodding around in the margins it took a few gulps of air and Chris scooped her up for me. “It’s another good ‘un Gaz” he said after taking a peek down into the net “low thirty by the looks of it!” hee hee, it was turning out to be a right ol’ day after all!

We lifted her out and straight down onto the big grassy area away from the gravely path and tight swim. As it happens there was no way the hook was coming out and it must have been at least an inch and a half back, the balanced bottom bait set-up and longer hooklinks were doing the trick really nicely. The mushy, reddy brown Fusion goo being passed onto the mat was the only other sign I needed. The approach was working perfectly and they were really having it. After all the effort and blanking in the winter it was all coming together now and those dark, cold nights in the car were long forgotten. The lads sorted the water, sling and did the honours for me and she spun them to 31.14, another pristinely conditioned mirror with a short linear scaling on one flank. It was almost 7 by now and the light was starting to fade fast so we did a few quick flash shots and got her straight back.

I got a new rig quickly back to the spot and everyone left me to sort the swim out which was a right old state by now, I even had about 5k of boilie spread on my bedchair as we’d needed a decent sized contained to fill with water for the photo’s, the only one I had was full of bait so it had duly been dumped on top of my bag! After sorting the mess and getting into some dry clothes I put the kettle back on and sat back to collect my thoughts and reflect. I hadn’t even really been watching the water through all the activities over the afternoon but a couple of brews later I saw another good fish show in a slightly different spot, just down to the left of the area this time. I pondered for a moment and then quickly brought my right hand rod in which hadn’t seen any action, nicked on a little 2 bait stringer and flicked it back out, landing a yard or so away from the patch of fizz that the fish that had left. It went down with a nice firm thud and I guessed it must have been just out beyond the ‘hard stuff’ but not quite into the silt, probably near the bottom of the shelf. I remember feeling especially pleased with the cast and wondered if I would get another chance, they were obviously having it and I knew I probably only had another hour or so left to capitalize.

The lake was busy on this particular day, unsurprising really with the weather, and there were maybe a dozen anglers on, all the swims in the bowl were occupied and a mate Shaun had just turned up, I knew someone would be getting into the swim after me when I packed up at dusk so I told Shaun to get in there before anyone else asked, feeling sure the fish were still there and that there might even be another chance or two yet. It was about 7.30 now and I threw my few bits of kit on the barrow just leaving the rods out in the swim. I was unsure what to do to be honest, I knew there was a big northerly weather front due in sometime in the night that was bringing some rain and wind and probably a drop in temperature. I was tempted to just head off home as most of my clothes were soaked and I didn’t have an option for a move for the next day down this end. After a bit of thought I decided I’d give it a day on the end of the new wind, we hadn’t had a good northerly for ages and assuming it wasn’t too chilly I thought I might have a chan…Beep, beep beeeeeeeeee, the high pitched scream of a ‘Nev’ brought me back to the present and the re-cast rod was suddenly churning away. I’d had the take while it was still light but by the time I got her in the net it was well and truly pitch black, the fight being much harder and longer than either of the other fish that day. She’d gone round and round in circles and just flatly refused to get her head up at any point until the very end. When she did, I lifted the net under the dark swirl and she thrashed angrily into the corner of the mesh, clearly still not at all happy about being captured!

We weighed my tenth park capture of the season at 24.08 and got a few flash shots, from looking at the width of the wrist of the tail it was clearly a fish built for fighting, a typically lovely and classic shaped fish for the lake, but with a distinctive, odd shaped notch missing from the tail. I couldn’t believe I’d had 3 bites in a day, it was a mega result and all I needed now was a chicken kebab and another brew or two, I was buzzing!

Shaun set his Evo up and got his rods sorted and decided to come up to the kebab van with me for some food. I left my loaded barrow with Chris guarding it, took his order and then headed off into the darkness. After a quick trip via the garage to get a few supplies for the following day we were soon dribbling as our big chunks of freshly marinated chicken breast sizzled away on the griddle. Half way back to the lake the heavens opened, and really opened at that. It was torrential and the predicted northerly kicked up too, blowing straight down the length of the park. I didn’t even have a jacket on me so legged it back round to the swim as quickly as I could. Diving under Chris’s brolly we tucked into dinner as the rain battered down around us. In hindsight I should have just bailed for home but spurred on the days results I stubbornly wanted to stay another day or so, well when your lucks in… After a few brews I headed back off into the night, my kit now thoroughly soaked. For the first time this year it really felt autumnal, the cold rain chilling me through and the yellowed, newly turned leaves blowing around me as the first big wind for a while cleared them off the trees. I tucked myself away for the night, stripped off and crawled into my now sodden bag. For once I felt truly narked about only having a day ticket. After an uncomfortable, fitful sleep I woke just before first light, put on some much needed dry clothes and loaded the barrow up again. Arriving in a tucked away swim at the southern end of the lake I got the kettle on first and sorted the rods out second for a change! It looked good but in hindsight I think was just a bit too cold. I didn’t see any that day and no one else had any more action either, the spell had passed.

A week later I had the best bit of news for a long while drop onto my doormat, my long, long awaited night permit had finally come through…With the approaching autumn and drawing in of the nights I was incredibly glad to see it I can tell you and I can’t say I was looking forward to another winter kipping in the car. Now I was keener than ever and only a few days later I was back on the M5 southbound giving my poor old Astra far more grief than it deserves. I arrived in the dark and found a relatively quiet park so stood and watched for half an hour as dawn began to break. Nothing showed so I dropped back into the same swim as I’d caught from last week, just putting a few stringers back onto the spots hoping to see something during the course of the morning to give me a clue to move onto. As I’d baited it so heavily the week previous I thought it made sense, at least for a few hours anyway.

I left all my kit loaded on the barrow and just put the rods out, thinking I’d give it until the evening and then maybe head off down to the southern end if nothing had occurred. At 10 o’clock that morning the left hand bobbin slowly pulled up tight and held at the top. I hit it and was met with a solid resistance; amazingly, I’d got a bite and couldn’t quite believe I was attached to another carp already. The fight was a nightmare, it charged around kiting left, then right, then left again and neatly tied the other two lines together! I turned the buzzers off, loosened the clutches, and struggled into my waders. After a ponderous 20 minutes I’d finally got what was clearly a big fish near the net, my two other lines wound up together and, with the leads still out in the lake, pulling at a horrible angle on my mainline. I really thought I was going to lose it and started getting panicky, I’d already seen the fish and knew it was a good one but couldn’t get a proper angle on it to get it to the net because of the other two tight lines. One angry shake of the head and I expect something would have cut through but thankfully it seemed to have had enough of tearing around by this time. Slowly but surely I edged it closer, the big mirror wallowing along the surface inch by inch until it was close enough to clumsily bundle into the net complete with yards and yards of mangled line, drama!

I recognised it straight away as a fish called Two-Tone and knew it was over thirty seven and a half on it’s last visit to the bank, I sacked her up briefly and organised myself and a photographer. Paul came round to do the honours for me and did a sterling job. She isn’t the prettiest carp in the lake but one of the old original characters and, at 38lb on the button, I could hardly complain! I was buzzing and the campaign was really starting to come together now, the bait was going down a treat, the spots were ‘going’ and, without wanting to tempt fate, I hadn’t lost one yet either. Making the effort to do the days had paid off handsomely, it had been a right old graft and I know I’d missed out on a few chances when I had to move but thankfully it had worked and making the effort to stay mobile and keep a few spots baited had caught me 11 carp so far, a seasons result in itself. None of the really big girls as yet, but I hoped with the best times of the year to come I might be able winkle another one or two out along the way. As it was I had another couple of days in front of me to focus on first.

All 3 rods were stripped, the kinky, mangled line removed, leadcore leaders re-tied and new rigs attached. Within half an hour the kettle was on and I was angling again. Nothing else occurred that day and I didn’t see any show either despite the weather being ideal for the bowl end with a gentle southerly now pushing through down to the café corner. I decided to stay put and for the first time since I’d started on the venue I could actually settle down for the night in a swim, to be honest it was bit of a relief to not have to wind in for once!

I baited one of the spots really heavily with the 18mm Fusions just after dark and within an hour the liners had started up, up the top and all the way back down. The swim is such a tight one and you are only feet from your rods so I taped up the speakers on my roller buzzers to quieten them down. I’d been jumping out of my skin each time thinking it was away, a couple of bream got the heart going but by the early hours the liners had dried up and I’d finally drifted off for a bit of kip. The night had passed quietly, in carp terms, but in reality the nights are never quiet on the park. It’s generally a pleasant, friendly place during the day but at night takes on a seriously unwelcoming, dark atmosphere. There’s always some kind of nocturnal activity to keep you on your toes and the beating that of one of the lads took while fishing one night just a month or so earlier was always in the back of my mind, he’d been smacked about, all his gear trashed and it had ended with him being threatened with a gun to the head…lovely. Fortunately no serious harm was done but the drunken mobs of kids getting aggressive, random weirdos, wacky races and shady dealings going on in the car park always made for interesting, and often nervous nights one way or another. The youths would often pass within a few yards of the back of you during the night and all you could really do was sit tight and hope they didn’t bother you. Usually they were just a bit mouthy but most of the anglers keep a baseball bat or big heavy implement handy just in case it ever got serious. Faced with ten or twenty drunk teenagers, unless you’re a damn good Bruce Lee impersonator, you’re always going to be in trouble really though! The bins were set alight a few times and they even tried torching the café one night, a sorry state of affairs and one you could only try you’re your best to ignore.

Back to the fishing…I re-did the rods early on and wondered if most of the liners might have been bream, with slack lines and the spot being a relatively short one I told myself they could well have been and put the kettle on. One of the regulars, a chap nicknamed Richard ‘the Barbel’ for his river fishing prowess, turned up in late morning and got in the swim next to me for a few hours. I nipped around for a chat and we sat with a brew talking carp and discussing river tactics for chub and the whiskered ones. A plane roared by overhead and the park was bustling with dog walkers and families. Richard paused mid sentence…“that sounds like a buzzer to me, can you hear it?”, “Na, don’t think so mate” I replied, “you’d hear mine easily from here”. The plane passed after a minute or so and then the strangely familiar noise suddenly dawned on me…my speakers were still taped up from last night weren’t they! Sh*t, the tea hit the floor and I scrambled back up onto the path and back down into my swim. The reel was jammed up against the buzzer and line was still pouring out off the tight clutch, the shrill tone of my buzzer nicely muffled by the insulation tape! I hit into the fish and the line cut up through the water until it boiled on the surface about 100 yards out, at least 60 yards past where it had hooked itself! Bad angling…I cursed myself and prayed it wouldn’t cost me, at the end of the day it could have been a near 50 as easily as anything else. Thankfully the fish had gone directly away from me and didn’t kite around the buoy on the way back. After gaining all my line back and resuming a normal fight a golden common was soon nestled in the mesh of my net. Just over 22lb it went and we got some lovely shots in the low evening sun, it was a pretty fish and without a mark in its mouth. I baited the areas heavily just after dark again and tucked myself away hoping for a ‘quiet’ night.

The evening and most of the night passed quickly and uneventfully but I was woken in the early hours to a steady take off the bait. Fumbling into my waders I was soon up to my chest out in the darkness attached to another park carp. The wind had gotten up during the night and a lovely warm southerly was pushing straight through, the waves lapping against my chest. Although the early part of the night is a bit hectic by 3 or 4 o’clock it is almost as quiet as anywhere, I took it all in while my clutch ticked away as the carp took line in heavy, deep lunges. The park fish always fight way above their stature and when I finally netted the fish and turned my headtorch on I was half expecting to see a mid forty in there. I t wasn’t quite that big but I was still incredibly pleased to see the lovely deep, chestnut flank of a good mirror. She went 30.02 on the Rueben’s, my fourth 30 in the last 7 days, and I sacked her for a short while I organised everything and got the rod back out.

Paul did the honours with the camera for me again and she looked lovely tucked in amongst in the dewy morning greenery. It was a really short, chunky mirror, and not one I recognised, but nevertheless immaculate and with a few big plate sized scales on her shoulders. The rest of the day passed quickly and before I knew it I was heading back up the M5 northbound grinning to myself and already planning my next trip back.

The next trip didn’t quite go to plan. It was early and thankfully the M6 was in its pre-rush hour state because I didn’t realise until the very last minute that my battery had died. The dash lights dimmed, my tunes faded to nothing and before I knew it the engine had cut out! I coasted into the hard shoulder after weaving across 2 lanes and then everything went dark. The alternator had packed in. The next hour was spent stood behind the barrier in the wind and rain waiting for the RAC. After a few days spent sorting that out I had work to catch up on and it was 10 days or so, and into October before I got down again.

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