Best Laid Plans (2006 season)



I’d been doing well on the Hereford syndicate through the spring and had made my mind up, apart from a few sessions in the Colne Valley I would see the season through on the syndicate. It’s such a nice place to be, I’ve never wanted to fish it hard in fear of fishing myself out on it, but the fish had piled the weight on over the previous two years and at £350 per year I had to get my money’s worth sooner or later, that was the plan anyhow.


I got home from work early June, the postman had been. I opened the envelope to find a permit for a lake I had been applying for, for years! That threw a spanner in the seasons plans as the opportunity had to made the most of as the future of the lake was uncertain. My mate had been a member for some years but just kept the ticket to one side as he felt the lake was definitely a “two man job”, not only that, the club was run by carp hating match anglers, with rules that made carp angling very difficult.


I went for a look that afternoon and called my mate Stez to let him know the good news. The next night I was doing an overnighter with him, just to get a feel for the lake and see just what we up against. Its about 30 acres in size, really deep (52 ft, average 30ft) with less than 20 carp in it's depths, most of which were uncaught, with a few of those fish being very big, unfortunately what the lake lacked in carp stock it made up for with nuisance fish. Bank side access was very restricted with many parts unfishable and only two swims which we could “legally” fish. Thankfully these swims offered good access to a feature about 120yds out, a bar with 9-15ft of water over it surrounded by water 25 – 30ft deep. We also had the old faithful marginal shelf, that during this particular year the fish seemed to ignore.


It was obvious much of the fishing would be “camping” not my kind of fishing to be honest, but when needs must you just got to do it. The club secretary worked on site and would often walk around when things were slack, so guesting another part of the lake was risky, we didn’t want to lose our tickets so soon after getting n the lake. Since we would be waiting for the fish to visit us most of the time it made sense to always have some bait in the area, so twice a week we made little after dark trips with a boat and baited heavily, usually with about 50kg’s of boilies, tigers, hemp and 22mm halibut pellets. It sounds excessive but let a shoal of big bream and 200 plus tufties near it and it wouldn’t leave much for the carp. After a few trips we upped the amount of bait to nearer 80kg twice a week as were worried the birds were getting it all. Looking back there is no doubt about it, as whenever the carp did visit, the birds wouldn’t come near the area. Which rarely happened, the birds liked their new food supply and knew where to find it.


Week after week we filled it in, fishing overnighters and weekends. We toured the lake often in the hope of finding the fish in a catchable mood in the margins but they seemed very wary, and where we did usually find a few they were unwilling to feed. The spot was more like their back garden where they chilled out, they chose to eat else where although where that “elsewhere” was, we never found out.

One morning I was in work when I got a text, my mate had lost one at 9.30am, a hook pull after a few seconds. After all these weeks of effort and angling to lose the first one was gut wrenching, the only saving grace was, it wasn’t me. The fish had picked up a single pop-up 24hrs after putting in 80kg of bait. The birds had moved off and he got the take, although couldn’t say if it was a lump as he hadn’t had chance to play it long enough to get an idea.


A load more bait and two weeks later, we were sat in my swim one Saturday morning cooking breakfast when at 9.30 am my mate had the run from hell, by the time he stopped it, it was 50yds beyond the bar. The fish turned around and began to come back but the line was caught in the weed that clung to the side of the bar. As the fish reached the anchor point, it rolled, the line came free and in it came, after a few short lunges I netted him, at 21.10 he was a little smaller than we had planned but on waters such as this, its not the size, it’s the capture, as this was the first fish landed from the lake for 9 months. I was made up to see one on the bank……at last.


A few more weeks passed, no sightings of carp what so ever. When early sunrise one mid week morning a carp showed at about 200yds out, 80yds beyond our area, which isn’t really that far when you think about it. The coming weekend I had planned to go to Hereford for a chill out and had booked the Friday off work. Stez and I had baited the deep lake with 120kg of bait on the Wednesday night, as the tuftie and coot population were getting bigger by the week as well as increasing in numbers. I came out of work late on the Thursday night, it was the coldest night for over a month. We had been having a heat wave with night time temperatures constantly in double figures and day temperatures mid-20’s plus. Thursday night was 7 degrees, and felt this could push the fish down a few extra feet in the water layers. I anticipated first light temperatures would be even lower, but with Fridays predicted day time temperature of 27 degrees, I felt sure the carp would move back up in the water layers as the sun rose. The only two bites had both occurred at 9.30am, so I decided to get up very early and get to the lake before first light, I would fish the morning through bite time, and then pack up and drive to Hereford for the weekend.

The alarm went off at 3.45am, less than 4hrs after I had set it. The car was packed and I drove through the dark winding lanes to the lake. I can’t describe it but there are times when you have a sixth sense that things are going to happen. The sky began to lighten as I pushed my bank sticks in. The forever present horde of tufties began to come across the lake through the rising mist for breakfast at “their” bar. I tied on three fresh rigs with what are now “tropical essence” pop-ups in the torch light as it was still too dark to tie a knot unaided. No rush, I just knew today was my turn. The air and sense of anticipation was electrifying. With both rigs ready and the kettle on the time was now right, I would just be able to see my leads land on their spots. Both rigs landed perfectly first time, on the highest point of the bar (9ft) and frightened the tufties back out to the centre of the lake.


I settled down on my bedchair, in sit up position, warm and snug in my sleeping bag drinking a brew, the morning was very cold as although light, the sun was yet to come up. The birds began to return and dive en masse, I prayed they wouldn’t pick me up. God knows how much bait was left out there from Wednesday but I guess it was a lot as my alarms didn’t beep once, so the birds had plenty of choice food items before having to fight over my hook baits.


As the sun began to rise, I watched the water, “bloody birds” I cursed, my eyes were heavy and calling for sleep, I was unaware that I was actually dropping off into the land of nod, but as my vision narrowed a large black shape slid out of the water silently 10yds behind the birds. I lifted my head and stared hard at the spot. The birds had stopped diving in an instant but before I knew it I was asleep. I awoke shortly after to a single beep, I looked out to see two gangs of birds at each end of the bar, it appeared none dare cross the middle let alone dive. I received another single beep on my other rod. Line bites? the time was 8.15am. My phone rang, it was my mate on his way to work, asking how things were going, I told him of the carp sighting and as we talked I was getting intense line bites. Suddenly the middle bobbin pulled up tight and the rod hammered off. I threw the phone down and bent into the fish, it pulled the rod almost flat and had to give line, before I knew it the fish had taken over 80yds of line, my spool was very low, if it kited right at this point it would have gone round the corner that formed the bay and all would have been lost. Just as I began to think I wouldn’t land it, as I was certainly not in control, the fish began to head back towards me. The line was caught in the weed on the bar, so I eased off as the fish neared the anchor point, attempting to pump it clear would risk a hook pull (it had certainly caused the loss of my mates first bite). The fish continued to come all the way back to where he had been hooked, through his own doing the line pinged free from the weed and I was in direct contact. He sunk down into 20ft of water. I was gaining line slowly as he zig-zagged his way in, until he was 30yds out. I could feel him coming up in the water and as he broke through the glass like surface and rolled, my bottle went. He looked stunning as his chestnut flanks caught the sun, I could see his random scale pattern and colour, ohh the colour of him was awesome. He rolled again but on his other side, linear scale pattern this time, I muttered “Jesus, please don’t fall off” this one was special. I got him within 10yds of me, I was in up to my waist on the edge of the marginal shelf, I thought I could net him early but he once more dived down into the depths. A further 10 minutes passed before he was ready, chugging up and down, twisting and turning in the crystal clear water. As he eventually surfaced I scooped him up and shouted “YESSSS”. I weighed him at 27.14, not one of the biguns I’d seen but certainly the best looking. I only know of one previous capture, some 8 years previously. I sacked him up and a mate came down to do the pictures. I couldn’t believe it, this carp broke the mould, no doubt of that. I got in the water to return him, and just didn’t want to let him go. Thanks for the memory.


We fished on into the Autumn, with nothing else to show for it. Two fish had been caught from the lake that season and we had caught both of them. It was to be 8 months before the lake gave up its next fish to the bank. But that’s not my story to tell.


Thanks for reading, be lucky.



Neil McComb