West­bourne Re­vis­ited

Keith looks back at his time on a rel­a­tively un­known, Sus­sex still­wa­ter lo­cated near Chich­ester

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Keith Fen­der

Keith looks back at his time on a rel­a­tively un­known, Sus­sex still­wa­ter lo­cated near Chich­ester

It was way back in 2010 when I first saw a pic­ture of it. As I sat brows­ing the in­ter­net one even­ing, scrolling through images of carp cap­tures, I was stopped in my tracks. There, in front of my eyes, was this per­fectly formed, old look­ing, scaly beast, clad in golden, ap­ple-slice scales. I needed to know the where­abouts of this fish! Af­ter sev­eral weeks of dig­ging and some sub­tle and not so sub­tle en­quiries I dis­cov­ered this fish was ac­tu­ally fairly lo­cal to me, in fact it resided in a lake called West­bourne House in Chich­ester. I live in Brighton and this was only 30 miles or so down the A27 – so I con­tacted the co-owner, Roger, to try and get my name down for a ticket.

Roger runs some su­perb fish­eries and guards them closely, and it wasn’t un­til around a year later that I got the call I was pray­ing for and was of­fered a tour of the lake. This, in turn, quickly be­came an ‘in­ter­view’ from him. Not know­ing if I was what Roger was look­ing for in a syn­di­cate mem­ber, once more I had a ner­vous wait for his call hop­ing I had not blown my chances. How­ever, to my re­lief, I was of­fered a ticket start­ing on 1st March that year, which was less than two months away. To say I was buzzing was an un­der­state­ment and all other plans for that year were quickly binned and I set about do­ing some proper re­search on the place.

The lake it­self is a rel­a­tively young 30 acre gravel pit, sat along­side the A27. From above it is of a fairly uni­form, rec­tan­gu­lar shape, with two large bays. My sniff­ing about had un­earthed an ap­prox­i­mate stock of around 120 fish, four of which were over 40lb with a hand­ful of 30s, and the rest be­ing made up from younger, fast­grow­ing stock fish. I’d also learnt that the fish in the orig­i­nal im­age, Scaly, as she is known, was the undis­puted queen of the lake.

The plan was to do two nights a week. At the time I usu­ally only did a sin­gle night on a Satur­day but I felt this could be a long and se­ri­ous cam­paign and I needed to put in a bit more time to try and catch this won­der­ful crea­ture. I spoke to the mis­sus as I’ve got a young fam­ily, and she agreed that I could also cram in an overnighter be­tween work as well. I can’t thank her enough for this as my daugh­ters were very young and we both have full time jobs, so free time was at a pre­mium back then. She is cer­tainly a good girl and I count my bless­ings that she tol­er­ates my ob­ses­sion.

My first ses­sion was to be on a Thurs­day night which was the open­ing day of the sea­son. I was as keen as mus­tard to get down there and wet a line for the first time. I ar­rived af­ter work and to my sur­prise and dis­ap­point­ment, the lake was pretty busy with most an­glers up around the shal­lows.

I did a quick lap to see if any­thing had oc­curred and it was ap­par­ent af­ter a few in­tro­duc­tions and speak­ing to a few of the lads, that the lake still hadn’t done a bite since the turn of the year. I de­cided to fish a swim called Dean’s as it was at the deeper end of the lake and even though the days were warm and sunny, the night was set to be clear and frosty and the tem­per­a­tures due to plum­met. That first night passed without a bleep and 6.45am saw me push­ing the bar­row back to the van and I left to bat­tle the A27 and a day at work.

My first take came on my 4th night. I had ar­rived at the lake mid-af­ter­noon on Satur­day and there was only one lad fish­ing. He was set up in the house swim called Gabriel’s and af­ter a quick chat I set about do­ing a lap. The day was mild and driz­zly with a slight breeze blow­ing from the south-west. When I even­tu­ally stood on the wind­ward bank it looked bang on, with the warm breeze push­ing in, so I dropped a bucket into a swim called Sedges and went back to the van for the gear. They just had to be there.

Once back in the swim I had a quick lead about and there was still a lot of dead weed in po­si­tion from the pre­vi­ous year. I found three clear spots as close to the weed as pos­si­ble and po­si­tioned a rod on each. Af­ter ac­cu­rately plac­ing three medium spombs of Tails Up Pro Crab and some match­ing pel­lets over each rod I set­tled down for a brew. That felt like enough bait. I was sure they were in the area and the spots in close prox­im­ity to the weed had to have been cleared by the fish, so I’d wanted just enough bait out to try and nick a bite.

Around 11pm that night I was just drift­ing off when I re­ceived an ab­so­lute one toner. I shot out of the bag and flew to the rod then bent into a very fast-mov­ing and an­gry fish. Once I had things un­der con­trol though, it was a straight-for­ward af­fair and af­ter a few more min­utes, it was over. The fish in the net looked like it might go 20lb-plus but on the scales it went 19lb – only a small one but I was ab­so­lutely buzzing to get my first bite from the lake. The rod was soon put back on the spot and an­other three spombs of the Pro Crab fol­lowed it. The rest of the night passed un­event­fully and I was packed up and ready to hit the road at 10am, look­ing for­ward to a day out with the fam­ily with an ex­tra spring in my step.

Over the next few weeks I caught three more stock­ies of a sim­i­lar stamp to the first. I had also made a men­tal note that the fish were loving the mid­dle area of the lake and were show­ing out there most morn­ings. I be­gan to re­alise that, like a lot of the mem­bers, I was a lit­tle un­der gunned with my gear as the max­i­mum range I could ac­cu­rately bait to and fish at the time was around 100 yards. It was ob­vi­ous this needed to change and that some more ‘sweet talk­ing’ of the good lady would be re­quired!

The next chance came on a mid­week overnighter. It was now early May and the days were fi­nally very spring-like, mother na­ture was in full bloom and the lake and its sur­round­ings had come to life. The bleak, seem­ingly life­less pit I first walked around in the dead of win­ter now re­vealed it­self to be a stun­ning ma­ture fish­ery and I felt priv­i­leged to be there. This par­tic­u­lar day we had a nice south-east­erly wind blow­ing into an area called the In­let Bay. I had ar­rived at the lake af­ter work, as usual, and it was busy once again but I was shocked and pleas­antly sur­prised that no­body was fish­ing this par­tic­u­lar area. I quickly made my way round and had a chat with the lad a cou­ple of swims up af­ter I had dropped a bucket in a swim called the Num­ber 2 that con­trolled the mouth of the bay.

He told me that he hadn’t seen any­thing and also con­firmed that no­body had fished the bay that day. Soon af­ter, I ar­rived back at my bucket, a

sweaty breath­less mess, and set about map­ping the swim as dis­creetly as I could as I sus­pected some fish would be in the area. As per per­vi­ous weeks, I po­si­tioned all the rods as close to the weed as I dared, with one just off a mas­sive hump about 80 yards out in front of the swim. All the rods re­ceived five spombs of the Pro Crab over the top and I soon set­tled in for the night. De­spite the time of year I still did not want to use too much bait. As much of my fish­ing is based around ses­sions of less than 18 hours du­ra­tion it’s im­por­tant to me to be able to get bites as quickly as pos­si­ble and then go from there. Filling it in on short ses­sions could kill my chances and, over the years, my go-lightly ap­proach is a tac­tic that’s de­vel­oped into a very suc­cess­ful one for me.

Around nine that even­ing I started to re­ceive lin­ers on the mid­dle rod which went on for a cou­ple of hours. I started to think the fish must be ac­tive closer in than the range I was fish­ing. Then, at around 11pm, I got a sin­gle beep be­fore shortly af­ter­wards my alarm wailed without warn­ing. There fol­lowed the usual an­tics of stag­ger­ing down to the rods with ‘one foot on, one foot off’ and I bent into a fish that was ab­so­lutely bal­lis­tic. On the first run it stripped line against a tight clutch. This re­peated it­self a few times, but the runs soon grew less and less in num­ber and even­tu­ally it tired and I net­ted what ap­peared to be my first 20-pounder from the lake. On the scales it went mid-20s and was an­other of the Ital­ian-strain stock fish that Roger had in­tro­duced. They were young and pow­er­ful, with high, broad shoul­ders.

The rod was wrapped up and whacked back out to the hump and I sat up with a warm­ing cup of tea, full of an­tic­i­pa­tion – yet noth­ing else hap­pened that night. My alarm clock went off at 6am and I sat and watched the wa­ter for 15 min­utes be­fore pack­ing up. Dur­ing this time I saw two fish show very near the hump and I knew if only I didn’t have to go to work I would have bagged an­other. Un­for­tu­nately, pulling off lakes at bite time is of­ten the way of the overnight man – so the van was soon pointed back along the A27 to­wards an­other day at work be­fore re­turn­ing to the fam­ily.

I blanked on the next night which was the Satur­day. The lake was busy and I just couldn’t get near them, so I spent my time map­ping an­other un­fa­mil­iar swim in case that knowl­edge was to prove use­ful in the fu­ture. My next bite came on the bonus night, the fol­low­ing week. It was a roast­ing hot day and when I got to lake af­ter a hard day’s graft, the tem­per­a­ture was still in the low 20s. The lake was quite busy again as a lot of the big girls were due but ev­ery­body was pretty spread out leav­ing me a few op­tions.

As I sur­veyed the scene I could see both the Car Park and Out­let swims, sit­u­ated in the other large bay right up in the shal­lows, were free so I headed that way first. I found an an­gler set up in Sedges which is also in the bay so I had a chat and he said of the two swims, he wouldn’t mind me go­ing in the Car Park swim as it was not in­ter­fer­ing with his spots. With the tem­per­a­tures so high I was sure the fish would be on the shal­lows. Af­ter a quick lead about, I found some nice spots be­tween 40 and 70 yards, again near fresh weed and with a small help­ing of gear over each rod once they were soon in place.

I set­tled down with a well-de­served cold drink and a smoke and watched the sun go down over the hori­zon. The lake was as flat as a mill pond and the odd fish started top­ping at about 80 yards, just past where I was fish­ing and I was brim­ming with con­fi­dence. I watched the sun dis­ap­pear and got into the bag, and I must have only been in it for 20 min­utes when I had a sin­gle bleep which de­vel­oped into a one toner about three min­utes later. I pounced on the rod and bent into a very heavy and pow­er­ful fish that tore 50 yards of line from a hiss­ing spool with such force it pre­vented me from get­ting the rod any­where near air­borne. This was one an­gry and pow­er­ful carp and it was ob­vi­ously sig­nif­i­cantly larger than any­thing else I had hooked from the lake to date. The fish con­tin­ued

to run me ragged for the next 20 min­utes un­til it fi­nally started to flag, and I felt like I was gain­ing the up­per hand for the first time. The fish hit the sur­face about 20 yards out and I could see it was a proper one. It then rolled and dived in an­other dash for free­dom but it was now far too tired and just bobbed back to the sur­face again. Con­fi­dent I now had the up­per hand, I slowly started to coax it to­wards the net, only for the hook to pull!

I sank to my knees ab­so­lutely gut­ted in the knowl­edge I had just lost one of the big girls. I packed up the next morn­ing and left for work with my tail well and truly be­tween my legs. I had a long, hard look at the of­fend­ing rig, which I’d slung on the dash­board of the van, dur­ing my tea break but the hook point was fine. I just had to put it down to one of those things af­ter such a long and hard fight.

The fish spawned later that week so I didn’t fish the Satur­day and left them to their orgy. For a cou­ple weeks af­ter that the lake went very quiet – they kind of dis­ap­peared, prob­a­bly sat out in the weedbeds lick­ing their wounds while they re­cov­ered from the ex­haus­tion of their an­nual sex fest. Noth­ing re­ally showed or was caught for a while and the whole syn­di­cate strug­gled for a bite in the fol­low­ing weeks.

My next chance fi­nally came on a Friday night. I had tried to avoid them as much as pos­si­ble as they tend to be a lot busier than Satur­days, but I was due out with the wife on Satur­day and needed to get a night un­der my belt – so I bit the bul­let.

I ar­rived af­ter work and as I was driv­ing my van down the track I saw one stick its head out in front of a swim called The Point – what a touch! I drove straight to the swim and put my gear in it. That was the hard part and lo­ca­tion was sorted. I popped to have a chat with the lads in the next cou­ple of swims down who were hav­ing a so­cial and they in­formed me that Two Tone had been out at low 40s in the week and it had a fresh hook mark in its mouth. From what I knew there had been no other losses of late and I started to won­der if that was what I had hooked a cou­ple of weeks pre­vi­ously. This fish was known to give its all dur­ing the fight and I went back to the swim to set up won­der­ing what might have been.

The rods were soon sorted in their usual man­ner – clear spots, as tight to weed as pos­si­ble – and I set­tled down with a cou­ple of beers and a smoke. The night passed sur­pris­ingly without a sniff and I woke to a beau­ti­ful sum­mer’s morn­ing. I sat and watched the wa­ter with a brew and started to see the odd fish roll near the spots. Over the next hour I some­how man­aged to lose two more fish to hook pulls! Hav­ing not lost a fish in an ab­so­lute age, I had now lost three in a row and to say I was pissed off was an un­der­state­ment – a change of rigs was def­i­nitely on the cards. I also started to won­der about the pre­vi­ous takes? I had re­ceived no more than a sin­gle bleep fol­lowed by a screamer and won­dered if the fish were a lit­tle more riggy than I

I sank to my knees ab­so­lutely gut­ted in the knowl­edge I had just lost one of the big girls

had given them credit for. I im­me­di­ately changed all three rods to blow­back rigs, put them back out and hoped for an­other chance. It was glar­ingly ob­vi­ous that the chance had now gone. I packed up at my usual time and left with the right hump and spent the rest of the day mop­ing about and gen­er­ally be­ing grumpy!

It was now mid­sum­mer and I had been strug­gling to get an­other bite, de­spite my reg­u­lar ses­sions, and didn’t feel like I was get­ting any closer to an­other take. I turned up again on an­other Satur­day – it was breezy but warm and the weed was now well up with two huge beds that dom­i­nated ei­ther end of the lake. The rest of the lake was fairly clear which ap­par­ently was not the norm for West­bourne – usu­ally the whole lake is like a foot­ball pitch. This par­tic­u­lar year it was dif­fer­ent and it was ob­vi­ous those two huge beds held most of the fish. It was the week­end of the London to Brighton Bike Ride and the wind was blow­ing a south-east­erly, blow­ing straight into the In­let Bay.

The swims that con­trol the area were for­tu­nately free so I sat my­self in Num­ber 2 for half an hour, but saw noth­ing. So I set off for a lap af­ter buck­et­ing the swim. I didn’t see any­thing on my trav­els, so as the nice wind was still blow­ing into the In­let Bay I de­cided to set up in my first choice of swim. Once ev­ery­thing was set-up I sat and watched the wa­ter and af­ter a few hours I saw one poke its head out be­hind the hump, and it looked a good fish. Well, at least I’m on them, I thought to my­self. I knew the spots were good, I knew the bait was good but also knew the rigs still had some­thing to prove and this nag­ging doubt was al­ways in the back of my mind.

I didn’t see any­thing else and I sat back and watched dark­ness fall in the usual man­ner, from my spot in front of the bed­chair. I awoke at first light to watch the wa­ter and straight away I started to see they were still about, pok­ing their heads out be­hind the hump – but now they had moved an­other 30 yards fur­ther away. They were now show­ing in front of Gabriel’s, which was free, so I started to pack up straight away and made my way round there while ev­ery­one else slept. Once I was in the swim I put fresh baits on. The fish were only about 60 yards out, so I flicked a cou­ple of sin­gles out on light leads and felt them down, with nice clean drops on each rod. Thirty min­utes had

passed since I had cast out and it was ob­vi­ous that, de­spite my ap­par­ent stealth, I had spooked them. Bloody typ­i­cal. All that ef­fort and care set­ting up and I had still hammed it up. An­other fish­less hour passed and a mate walked into my swim who had just turned up to fish. He men­tioned he had seen a few fish in the In­let Bay but they were only lit­tle stock­ies so he wasn’t in­tend­ing to fish for them. I asked him to sit with my rods for five min­utes as I needed the toi­let. On my way for a sit down and some think­ing time, I made a quick di­ver­sion and had a sneaky look in the In­let. Well, blow me, there were about ten fish present and one was an ab­so­lute beast. I was 100% sure it was a 40-pounder so si­mul­ta­ne­ously clench­ing my teeth I ran back to my swim. I told my mate what I’d seen and that I was go­ing to have a go for them. He gave me a funny look and said “What about us fish­ing one rod each, as I found them, you cheeky sod?” Af­ter con­tem­plat­ing this for all of about five sec­onds I agreed and like two ex­cited school­boys we set off.

Hav­ing com­pleted my over­due de­tour to the toi­let, we crept up to the in­let to have a butch­ers and there were now over twenty fish there, all about a rod length out, sat in the oxy­gen-rich wa­ter. I broke up a few baits and chucked them in the flow. Straight away a few dropped on the bait, so we qui­etly flicked our baits out. A few more bro­ken baits fol­lowed and we sat watch­ing for what seemed like hours. We iden­ti­fied the lump as be­ing The Fat One, a known 40-pounder. By this time the fish were re­ally root­ing around look­ing for the bait and we saw the Fat One move to­wards my friend’s hook­bait. We froze as it wad­dled straight up to it, sucked it in then in­stantly spat it straight back out again. It sounds harsh now but I couldn’t stop laugh­ing. He was gut­ted and then, about five min­utes later, he nailed an eight­pounder. “How’s your luck?” I asked. I watched him play this stockie which was go­ing mad in amongst all these fish but only a few of them spooked. Once it was net­ted and re­turned, I put an­other ten or so bro­ken up boilies in and the fish hap­pily started to feed again. De­spite me goad­ing him about his crap bait and pasty rigs, he flicked his rod back out and we sat and chat­ted whilst we waited for an­other chance. Out of the blue my rod ripped off and by the time I picked it up the fish was mo­tor­ing out of the bay. The fish was go­ing mad and put up a right old scrap – this time spook­ing ev­ery­thing else in its path. Af­ter ten min­utes or so the fish tired and I drew it over the net cord. It was an­other mid-20. Af­ter a few quick shots we re­turned it and I packed my bits and pieces up and left matey to it.

Whilst all this had oc­curred I couldn’t help feel­ing I was not re­ally any closer to catch­ing the mag­nif­i­cent Scaly, and started to think about the au­tumn and the weed dy­ing off when I was sure the fish would re­treat to the mid­dle ar­eas again. This time I knew I had to get my baits on the dance floor wait­ing for them – and the only way

I told my mate what I’d seen and that I was go­ing to have a go for them. He gave me a funny look and said “What about us fish­ing one rod each, as I found them, you cheeky sod?”

I was go­ing to do this was with new rods. I dusted off my charms and got to work.

As sum­mer slowly turned into au­tumn I had two more fish un­der my belt up to 27lb, and by this time my charms had worked their magic. At the start of Oc­to­ber, via good mate Dun­can at Tackle Fa­nat­ics, I found my­self in pos­ses­sion of three, newly-re­leased Greys Air Curves and a Free Spirit LRS Spod Rod. I was con­fi­dent that armed with my new toys I now had a mas­sive ad­van­tage over the other chaps head­ing into the rest of the au­tumn and win­ter.

I was back only do­ing the sin­gle night each week, on the Satur­day, as it was get­ting too dark to get the rods out in time af­ter work and the lake had be­come re­ally busy. The weed had died off and the fish had started to get their heads down to fat­ten up for the times that lay ahead. I strug­gled to get into a swim that con­trolled the mid­dle part of the lake for a month or so, and like many syn­di­cate mem­bers I was re­ally strug­gling. There were only a few swims do­ing fish and they were the ones that con­trolled the mid­dle of the lake. I was des­per­ate for an op­por­tu­nity to get in one of them.

It was now late Oc­to­ber and I was think­ing about chang­ing baits for the win­ter and leav­ing the rich fish­meal-based Pro Crab as the tem­per­a­tures started to drop. I spoke to Ash at Tails Up about my dilemma and he told me about a new bait called the Pro Seed that had been evolv­ing over the last few years. It needed test­ing and I agreed to give it a go. It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent bait to the Crab, be­ing a blend of ground nuts and Red Band with a won­der­fully sweet, banof­fee aroma and to me – it just screamed carp!

My next visit was the first Satur­day in Novem­ber and I re­mem­ber turn­ing up and it was bit­terly cold. As luck would have it, there was a swim free that was in the mid­dle zone called the Reeds. I had a good lead about and there was weed still present but only low ly­ing beds which were quite sparse, so find­ing spots was easy. I clipped all three rods up at some­where past 120 yards in a clear strip and spread them about 30 yards apart. Once the rods were in place, I put a kilo of bro­ken and whole Pro Seed over each one. The new tackle was bang on the money and fish­ing ef­fec­tively at this range was now a dod­dle. This change of bait­ing strat­egy co­in­cided with their feed-up and I knew the time was right to give them a bit more bait.

The night was freez­ing cold, the sky was clear and a frost was soon all over the in­side of my brolly. Shortly af­ter 11pm, I had a sin­gle beep and heard the line clip on the rod ping. So I hopped out of the bag and was met with a solid re­sis­tance from the other end. It kited from the mid­dle all the way in un­til it hit the de­cay­ing weed in the mar­gin about 80 yards to my left. Luck­ily, the swim in be­tween was empty. Af­ter steady pres­sure I got it mov­ing again and reeled in what felt like a sack of spuds. I net­ted the fish and had a quick look at my prize – it was an ab­so­lute pig of a fish. It was one of the group of Sim­mos known af­fec­tion­ately by the mem­bers as The Mingers. It went 28lb and that was the my last bite that year, but con­fi­dence in the new bait was high and con­fi­dence in the rigs was, for the time be­ing at least, re­stored.

That win­ter was one of the wettest on record and by Christ­mas the lake was flooded. All the swims were un­der wa­ter and the lake was closed. It didn’t re­open again un­til March but, even then,

it was still shut for the first week of the sea­son be­cause the banks were that muddy and slip­pery.

My brother now had a ticket for the com­ing sea­son so there were go­ing to be a few so­cials along the way, and I was buzzing to get started again. I blanked the first week­end, but my next night was to be a Tues­day and we were hop­ing we could have a so­cial and get ad­ja­cent swims. We both ar­rived in the dark and the lake was packed – there were only the Shal­lows, End of the Road, Gabriel’s and School Gate left. There was a big wind on the lake from the south-west with gusts over 40mph, and it was al­ready very mild for the time of year. Check­ing my phone I saw it was go­ing to be above 11ºc all night. I opted for Gabriel’s as this would al­low me to bang the rods out to the mid­dle of the lake again.

I humped all my gear into the swim and no­ticed the banks were still sat­u­rated – it was re­ally slip­pery un­der foot but I got the gear sorted and be­gan to lead about. I found some nice hard spots at around 130 yards, so I gave them a lit­tle mix of bro­ken and whole Pro Seed and opted to fish bot­tom baits on each rod. The wind was sav­age but it was go­ing straight off my back and over my head. Af­ter a bit of grub, a few beers and a smoke with my brother, we said our good­nights and set­tled in for the dark hours. It must have been around half-past twelve when I got two sin­gle bleeps then an ab­so­lute one toner. I slid down to the rods and fell arse over tit in all the mud. It knocked the stuff­ing out of me and the next thing I re­mem­ber I was stood with rod in hand coated in mud, play­ing what felt like an­other very good fish.

It didn’t do too much in the way of fight­ing, it was just a sheer weight, plod­ding slowly to­wards me. The fish hit the sur­face a lit­tle un­der half­way back, mov­ing a lot of wa­ter. I started to panic a bit know­ing that I had hooked an­other good one and hop­ing to even the score for last year’s loss which still grated. Around 20 yards out it woke up and be­gan charg­ing up and down the mar­gins – in the process man­ag­ing to take my other two rods out. Even­tu­ally it be­gan to tire. As I read­ied it for net­ting and it rose up in the wa­ter, my legs went as I could see it was in­deed big. I also could see the of­fend­ing lines were at­tached in a jum­bled mess so, without think­ing I jumped in fully clothed and, af­ter a sharp in­take of breath, I fi­nally got the fish in the net.

I could not be­lieve my eyes when I saw those big fa­mil­iar ap­ple slice scales re­flect­ing in the beam of my head­torch. “It’s Scaly, it’s Scaly, it’s ac­tu­ally fu*king Scaly!” I se­cured the fish in the mar­gins in a re­tainer and rang a few peo­ple for help to weigh and pho­to­graph the fish.

Dur­ing the next few min­utes I was a ner­vous wreck and the whole thing is still a blur when I think back to it, even now. I don’t re­ally re­mem­ber tak­ing the pho­to­graphs but there were plenty of

help­ing hands – so thanks lads. My heart was beat­ing out of my chest but the carp looked ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful and lived up to it rep­u­ta­tion in ev­ery way. It is def­i­nitely the most beau­ti­ful carp I’ve ever had the plea­sure to catch and by far my great­est cap­ture to date.

Af­ter we slipped it back and I was all alone I stripped off and got into the bag. I was bloody freez­ing and didn’t even re­cast the rods. What did I care, I had just caught the one I wanted more than any other.

The next morn­ing I rang my old man to tell him the news and told him I wouldn’t be into work. I stayed at the lake for a few hours to revel in my mo­ment be­fore head­ing off home.

I stayed on in what is a won­der­ful syn­di­cate for an­other few years, go­ing on to catch a few more of the lakes big ’uns in turn – in­clud­ing Clus­ter twice (on one cap­ture she was over 41lb), a few of the big, rarely-caught com­mons up to 35½lb, a shed load of 30s and even Scaly once again – al­most ex­actly a year later. For the record the big­gest weight I had it at was 46lb 8oz – not that it mat­ters.

I loved my time on West­bourne and I made some friends for life there and the lake con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength. I’m sure I will be back one day as Two Tone has now reached over 52lb, is still putting on weight and I feel like I have an old score to set­tle with her.

ABOVE The Sedges was good to me, although it never pro­duced any of THE RE­ALLY BIG fish

BE­LOW A 31lb com­mon from the No.2

TOP One of my favourite carp. The fully-scaled Leney

ABOVE A lovely, scaly near 30

TOP This 26 pounder was the big­gest of six fish from a week­day overnighter be­tween work

ABOVE A fish called The Nearly Leather at 31lb 8oz

ABOVE Look­ing out from the car park swim. The scene of my bat­tle with two tone

ABOVE An up­per 20 that re­quired the use of a boat to ex­tract from the thick weed TOP LEFT A rare one. This 35 8oz com­mon hasn’t been caught since I had it two years ago BOT­TOM LEFT A wa­ter shot of a mid 30 com­mon

BE­LOW My rea­son for be­ing. SCALY!

BE­LOW My sec­ond cap­ture of Scaly came from the end of the road swim

Clus­ter at 41lb 8oz from the car park ABOVE

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