THE ESTATE OF PLAY
Fishing Heaven on estate lakes
Estate lakes in breathtaking surroundings that lift the spirits are a favourite of IYCF Editor James Furness. And you can fish them, too
AS VENUE types go, in my mind there are none that can top estate lakes. There’s something magical about these waters. They offer unrivalled scenery and the history behind the grounds only serves to add to the mystique. Nestled in the Leicestershire countryside sits Belvoir – meaning beautiful view – Castle, which is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. The family have lived at Belvoir in an unbroken line of almost a thousand years. The land was originally a gift from William the Conqueror to one of his Norman barons – Robert de Todeni – who was his Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Since then the castle has been rebuilt four times, and the current incarnation which you see today was constructed in the early 1800s for the fifth Duke and Duchess of Rutland. Crowning a hill, its turrets and towers rise over the lake below and, landscaped by Capability Brown, it is an inspiring place to fish.
But don’t be fooled by the grandeur. You don’t have to join an expensive syndicate to fish the venue and anyone can enjoy a session at Belvoir from as little as £7. The 12-acre venue is a typical estate lake; shallow and silty with various features including the old stream bed that runs along the centre, overhanging trees, bloodworm beds, reedy margins and a bridge. And similar to most estate lakes it is home to a wide range of species. It was once famed for its bream and tench fishing it is now home to several hundred carp to over 30lb. Add to that perch, roach and pike and you have the opportunity for some excellent mixed fishing. As myself and IYCF features editor, Mark Parker, drove down the track, the lake emerged before us with the castle sat at the top of the hill. With a few anglers bivvied up along the dam wall we made our way towards the centre of the lake where we’d have a good view of the whole water. Using polarised glasses, we could clearly see a patch of coloured water towards the middle of the venue as the silt was disturbed by something obviously feeding on the bottom. An encouraging sign. As tempting as it was to get out the brew kit and just enjoy the scenery, we were here to try and catch a fish or two. It didn’t take long to locate the old stream bed with a few casts of the marker float and, after letting the float up to surface and counting the depth we found it dropped down to about 3ft 6in as opposed to the 2ft everywhere else.
“The castles, turrets and towers rise over the lake below and it is an inspiring place to fish”
Both rods were soon clipped up to the spot and lines marked with a small piece of electrical tape at the butt ring to ensure I could land my rigs back in the same place every cast. As expected, the stream bed was pretty much in line with where we’d seen the clouded water as the fish clearly used this blatant feature as a patrol route to move up and down the lake.
Keeping my options open
With carp, tench and bream on the menu, I’d hedged my bets to give myself a chance of catching all three. Both rods featured large 25g Drennan flatbed Method feeders with 4in hooklinks and size 10 Super Specialist Barbel hooks. One was baited with a single grain of fake corn and the other with a couple of rubber casters, perfectly balanced by the hook. Once on the lakebed the groundbait would fall off the feeder and leave a perfect mouthful of bait with the hookbait sat bang in the middle. Hopefully this would be enough to entice any fish that happened to cruise over the trap. The groundbait mix wasn’t too fancy, just a bag of Sonubaits 50/50 Method Paste, a tin of sweetcorn, and a liberal helping of dead white maggots and casters. After 20 minutes both rods were recast with fresh groundbait to keep the swim active. I also hoped the disturbance might tempt any inquisitive tench in the vicinity to come and investigate. After a couple more recasts the bobbin on the left-hand rod lifted slightly and then dropped back to its original position. An encouraging sign that fish were in the area and, more than likely, brushed up against my line.
A welcome visitor
When fishing these sort of venues you can’t expect bite after bite like at a heavily-stocked commercial. But with fish obviously in front of us, I was beginning to get slightly concerned that a bite hadn’t developed. My attentions were briefly distracted by one the estate’s friendly pheasants which had wandered over to see what we were up to and scrounge a bit of groundbait.
One of the estate’s pheasants arrived to distract us just before the fish showed up!
Fake baits stop small nuisance fish ruining your hookbait
Tackle and bait to cover tench, bream and carp