CARP AMID THE STORM
I arrived back at the Mere mid afternoon on the third Friday in March 2007, the lake was devoid of anglers thanks to the carp having kept a low profile over the previous five months. I was also pleased at the lack of bird life as the lake only averaged 4ft in depth so anything resembling food was easy pickings.
I took a slow walk around, stopping in every swim to assess every potential option. It was a mild and overcast afternoon with a light south westerly wind blowing and the lake looked prime for doing a fish or two.
After careful consideration I opted to fish the house bank in a swim called “Treecreepers”. I hadn’t seen anything but just had a gut feeling that the house bank was the place to be. As I unpacked the car, the farmer in his strong Welsh accent happily informed me that winds up to 90mph and structural damage was the local forecast for the weekend, nice!
The Mere had a climate all of its own due to its location so bad weather forecasts were never that accurate, it was usually worse! After getting the rods sorted, I made some tea and then sat watching the water. An hour or so into dark I turned in, I'd had a week of 4.30am starts so an early night was well on the cards but I decided to get up well before first light and see what was occurring.
I awoke around 4.45am on the Saturday morning and straight away heard a good fish crash out quite close to my bank and to my right. I jumped out of my bag, put on my boots and walked next door to “The eel” swim. After half an hour or so, I thought I'd make myself a brew and as I reached my bivvy I heard another fish in the darkness again to my right. I made my brew and stood in the eel swim until the sky began to lighten. Through the bare branches of the tree that separated the eel from The New Swim that was situated further right, I saw a good fish leave the water around 30yds out. Quickly I ran next door and watched. Over the following 20 minutes I saw four more shows, so I decided to move there and then, which only involved upping sticks and carrying my gear about 30yds. After moving my gear there was only the water bottle to get, as I walked back to get it I glanced out over the eel swim water just in time to see a 30lb+ fish seemingly frozen in mid air with its nose pointing to the sky, its re-entry awoke the valley.
On reflection it could have only been one fish “The Advert Common”, The Mere biggie. That was it, the rods were retrieved from the New Swim and two of them were despatched to the area the common had shown at about 40yds range, one rod with a white “Imperial” pop up attached, the other with a bottom bait and a 2 bait stringer, both rods were placed on the ground. I then moved my gear into the swim, set up the house and settled back with a cup of tea. I was about to take a sip when my mate Dave poked his head in the door and confirmed my suspicions at his ability to smell a kettle on the go. I told him what I had seen and that he should get in the New Swim next door. With the wind still quite warm and pushing through the swim he didn’t need me to tell him twice, and as always once the rods were sorted we began a right good social.
Dave Griff arrived and after a brew he went opposite me in The Pine swim, another chap we had named Banjo arrived shortly after and also headed for the woods bank so we were all nicely spread, a good thing on the Mere.
As the day wore on the wind began to get stronger and although the sun had come out the temperature was dropping and it seemed that we could well be in for a rough night ahead. I was still fishing with 2 rods that hadn’t moved since I had cast them earlier that day, I had leaned the 3rd up behind my bivvy. I was just pondering a recast and putting out all three, when the pop-up rod pulled up tight, a tap tap on the end gave away the fact I had hooked a Tinca. It came in without a fuss so I unhooked it in the margins and decided I may as well sort myself out for the night ahead.
I flicked a very light marker and lead out to the spot where the biggun had shown, this was for a reference point only so once it was on the money I cast a pop-up and a bottom bait either side. Using a pocket rocket I spodded out a mix totalling about half a pound of feed comprising of crushed and whole hemp, crushed and whole boilies and small pellets all over the area to get some smell in the zone. The 3rd rod was cast well away from the lightly baited zone up towards the shallows in 2ft of water, just in case the fish backed off the gale force winds that were on their way.
By 8pm the sky was clear and full of stars, the wind was strong and so loud in the trees I knew sleep would be hard to come by and on top of that it was absolutely bitter cold.
At about 8.45pm the pop-up rod over the bait at 40yds tore off and I soon had a mid double common in the net, it was a welcome start. I waited for a gap in the gusts and recast. At around 10.30pm the same rod was off again and in came an upper double. The rod was recast once more and I turned in for the night or tried to, the conditions were frightening, on the local radio station they said it was reaching 90mph.
Fair play to my Evo, it was standing up to it, although it was tucked behind a few trees. I tried everything to drown out the sound of the wind in the trees but it was impossible so I sat up and made a tea and hoped the wind would die out sooner rather than later.
About 3am a gust hit the house bank so hard I thought the huge beech tree just to my left was sure to come down, so I ran out of the bivvy and up the bank, it was sometime before I got back inside my little green house.
At 4.30am the rod that had given all the action pulled up tight so I ran out and hit into thin air, I was a bit gutted by this as there was no way the rod could be cast accurately enough to get it anywhere near the money, so reluctantly I hung the rig in the rings and put it on the rest. About 15 minutes later the gusts ceased and the wind dropped to what could be described as moderate, it all happened so quick it had to be the calm before the storm. As quickly as I could I recast the rod, checked the line angle and it was spot on. As I set the bobbin I heard the wind returning as it swept through the valley, it got louder and louder until it hit us and the strength of that particular gust will never be forgotten, hell itself had been unleashed, branches crashed down all around us, through my night scope I could see the waves were the biggest I had ever seen on the Mere, they were hitting the dam wall and smashing straight over it. After 5 minutes or so of one seemingly relentless gust it eased to a mere gale force and as it did so, the recast rod was away. Initially it felt tench like but in the fierce cross wind it wasn’t clear what was on the end. After a while I could tell the fish was kiting to the left on what line it had, I dropped the other rod tips and knelt on the stage at the front of the swim. Although I had gained a bit of line I couldn’t make out where the hell it was, I heard a big powerful roll quite close to my position and knew then that it was a decent fish. A few more turns of the reel handle and it rolled in the torch light about a rod length out but as it did so it was swamped by a huge wave. It didn’t look that big after all, was my thought. After a powerful run the fish turned and came straight into me and popped up ready for netting, I scooped it up and peered inside the net. As I gathered up the mesh the fish seemed to grow until it was clear I had a good 30lb common in the net. I secured the net and ran next door to wake up Dave, it turned out he hadn’t slept but despite being only 10yds to my right had been oblivious to my night of action due to the noise of the wind in the trees. The wind chill was icy but the excitement made it bearable, I lifted the fish onto the mat and Dave said “Yeah mate, you have the Advert”. On the scales he went 33.10 (the fish not Dave) and was a new lake record, we popped him into a sack and retired back to our bivvies until dawn. I text the syndicate leader who said he’d be down at first light.
As the sky began to lighten I thought I heard a swish of a rod being recast so wondered next door to see what was going on, Dave was grinning and although he had just lost a fish, almost straight away he had evened the score by banking a big beautiful common that was named “Arnie” due to its shoulders, a very rare bank visitor, I think this was its 2nd ever capture.
As the sun began to rise Dave Griff and Banjo came over. Dave Griff had lost a fish in the night and had also been lifted up on his bed by that extreme 4.30am gust. We got the cameras ready and as I peeled back the sack to reveal a stunning golden common I began suffering from 'tourettes' and turn the air blue. We were all blown away, he behaved very well and on being returned swam away with a powerful flick of his tail. We then photographed Dave’s prize and after its release it was time to brew up. We were all stood in Dave’s swim enjoying our 2nd brew of the day when I had a screaming drop back, I ran around the tree into my swim and the left had bobbin was on the deck, I looked up and there must have been at least a hundred coots and tufted ducks over the area (where had they come from) and being only 2ft deep it could only mean one thing, or could it? I picked up the rod and wound down, I felt a kick then no resistance and it was coming in just like a duck. The rod had been cast about 100yds, so when my leadcore leader appeared at about 50yds indicating that whatever was on the end was coming up in the water, I thought I'd drowned the poor duck. It was at this point a big bronze mirror pushed the front half of its body out of the water and in what appeared to be slow motion, shook itself from side to side before rolling beneath the waves, it then put up a hell of a fight. Long runs, powerfully charging up and down my margin for a good 10 minutes, it certainly had me twitching a bit. Thankfully though, Dave got it in the net at the first attempt. It was in fantastic winter condition I grinned away during the photo session as the first of many lumps of hailstones fell from the darkening sky.
We stayed on through the rest
of Sunday but no more takes were forthcoming but we didn’t care, the session had been an unforgettable one for a number of reasons.