De­ci­sions Made and Am­bi­tions Achieved

Al gets itchy feet and wan­ders back over the road for an­other stab at Wrays­bury 1 and three of its in­hab­i­tants in par­tic­u­lar

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Al White

Al gets itchy feet and wan­ders back over the road for an­other stab at Wrays­bury 1 and three of its in­hab­i­tants in par­tic­u­lar

As may have been in­ferred from my last piece, sev­eral years ago my­self and a hand­ful of other RK Leisure bailiffs had been for­tu­nate to be given per­mis­sion to fish Wrays­bury 2 prior to it re­open­ing as a syn­di­cate in 2017. For the pre­vi­ous two years I had an­gled on this won­der­ful venue and ex­pe­ri­enced some of my hard­est and most en­joy­able fish­ing to date, although dur­ing that time I had still not made the ac­quain­tance of ‘that com­mon’. And so it was even­tu­ally de­cided that 1st April would see the lake re­open as a syn­di­cate. Through­out win­ter the long list of prospec­tive mem­bers had been taken on walks round the lake and I found my­self at times be­sieged with ques­tions and mes­sages from a num­ber of peo­ple on so­cial me­dia. Be­fore the sea­son started I was ap­pointed head bailiff of the lake and the open­ing week­end found me spend­ing the ma­jor­ity of the first day car­ry­ing out safety checks and ar­rang­ing boat dis­claimers for new mem­bers, be­fore fi­nally set­tling into a very un­fan­cied swim for the night. Although a long way from ei­ther of the ar­eas I wanted to be in, I did man­age to fluke a flaw­less, low 20lb stockie in the early hours, which was a nice wel­come back be­fore things then started go­ing very wrong for me...

Although the lake it­self is around 140 acres and a labyrinth of chan­nels, bays and is­lands, it soon be­came ap­par­ent that the mo­bil­ity and qual­ity of the an­glers who had joined meant there was some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion, seem­ingly shrink­ing the avail­able wa­ter by half. The fact it had opened as a boat syn­di­cate meant some swims in the main body of the lake could feel like a ship­ping chan­nel some days due to num­bers of peo­ple spend­ing their days look­ing for fish. Un­for­tu­nately for me, this meant I was un­able to get any­where near the main parts of the lake where the fish were holed up be­fore they spawned. I man­aged to ac­cu­mu­late 12 con­sec­u­tive blank nights, which was as many as I had suf­fered in the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons com­bined. Due to the num­ber of peo­ple able to fish mid­week it was even prov­ing fruit­less to book leave from work to try and get into one of these ar­eas, as they were well and truly stitched up. My head was now firmly wedged up my back­side and I was suf­fer­ing a bit of a hump about the fact that in my eyes, my pri­vate par­adise had been in­vaded. As a re­sult I lit­er­ally hung the rods up for a few months and could not face go­ing back out.

It sounds churl­ish when I read it back now but, hav­ing had the place al­most to my­self for two years, it felt as if un­wel­come in­trud­ers had im­pinged on my lit­tle part of heaven. This is ab­so­lutely no re­flec­tion what­so­ever on the lads on the syn­di­cate who are a crack­ing bunch of like­minded guys. I couldn’t wish for a bet­ter group of lads on there re­ally, but for me it had changed.

Af­ter a few months of hardly fish­ing how­ever, the fires start­ing to feel like they were slowly be­ing rekin­dled. Given the lack of de­sire to re­ally want to give Wrays­bury 2 an­other go, I felt a long over­due proper crack at Wrays­bury 1 was in or­der. I say ‘proper crack’ as for three years I have fished the lake on a bailiffs’ rota of one week­end in ev­ery six or seven. As the lake was start­ing to qui­eten off in late sum­mer, I had a chat with Jim Roberts who is the head bailiff on there, a good mate and all round top bloke, and dis­cussed my rapidly form­ing plans about hav­ing a go for one or more of the big ’uns that resided in there.

When I first started fish­ing it sev­eral years ear­lier I had a men­tal list of five fish that I would have loved to catch from there. Namely, two of the Scot­tie stock­ies, Paw­print and No Name – Sin­gle Scale Il­le­gal and the Long Sut­ton from the Sut­ton stock­ing and then any one of the big Red­mire strain com­mons that were in the lake. By big I mean 35lb-plus. De­spite not fish­ing it that reg­u­larly I have been for­tu­nate to have al­ready ticked three off the list so far, and only Paw­print and the Long Sut­ton were left – and most re­cently I’d landed a stun­ning, bronzed 39lb-plus com­mon back in the spring on one of my rota week­ends, the other two hav­ing been net­ted early on in my time there.

There was also one other de­sire in my mind and that was to try and catch a 40lb fish from both Wrays­bury 1 and Wrays­bury 2 – hav­ing landed the in­cred­i­ble Scaly from 2 the pre­vi­ous sum­mer. So for me the die was cast, this was how I was go­ing to spend my late sum­mer and au­tumn–chas­ing Paw­print, The Long Sut­ton or any of the other 40lb-plus fish that swam in the lake.

My head was now firmly wedged up my back­side and I was suf­fer­ing a bit of a hump about the fact that in my eyes, my pri­vate par­adise had been in­vaded

Be­ing some­thing of a fish statto, I had no­ticed that Paw­print in par­tic­u­lar had a his­tory of be­ing caught the ma­jor­ity of the time in cer­tain ar­eas of the lake and mostly very close to a cer­tain phase of the moon – which I hoped would nar­row my chances sig­nif­i­cantly (if you can do such a thing in over 40 acres of wa­ter with a stock of over 400 fish). One can but try...

With this in mind my first ses­sion was planned to co­in­cide with the end of the Au­gust bank hol­i­day and I booked the Tues­day and Wed­nes­day off work a few weeks be­fore­hand to give me a few un­in­ter­rupted nights. I had wanted to book some time the pre­vi­ous week due to a favourable moon phase but was un­able to, as my boss was on leave. As ex­pected Paw­print was caught on one of those days and the stats had run true to form once again.

When I ar­rived at the lake for a three night stint it tran­spired it had been fish­ing very poorly and I could see im­me­di­ately it had changed a lot in the weeks since I had last vis­ited. It was sti­flingly hot and weed was hit­ting the sur­face in many ar­eas of the lake. I left the car park clutch­ing a wa­ter butt and set off for a clock­wise stroll around the lake to see what was what, al­most im­me­di­ately bump­ing into a fel­low bailiff. Whilst stood chat­ting to Big Al in the Giants Foot­steps, over one of his shoul­ders I could see a num­ber of dark shad­ows cruis­ing around just be­low the sur­face look­ing prime for a floater. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I was soon leg­ging it back to the car for the floater gear and less than five min­utes later was fir­ing PVA bags of mix­ers into the ar­eas where the fish were seen. Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite spend­ing the next two hours try­ing as hard as I could, the only fish I could get feed­ing con­fi­dently enough to put a bait near were to the left of the swim – at such a range that if hooked they could eas­ily have kited into the mar­ginal snags. Due to the wind di­rec­tion they were im­pos­si­ble to bring any closer. Given their prox­im­ity to the snags and the line an­gles in­volved, putting a hook­bait to them was a dis­tinct no-no so, with dark­ness rapidly ap­proach­ing, I left them to their sup­per and trudged back to the car be­fore load­ing the bar­row.

For no other rea­son than it has been kind to me in the past, and be­cause it com­mands a great view of the lake, I moved into the Stile for the night, dropped three rods onto some known spots and scat­tered some 18mm Pro Ma­rine boilies over the area just as night fell. The hook­baits were all Stinky Squidz pop-ups, fished as usual on hinged soft rigs and lead clips. Due to the ex­ceed­ingly low wa­ter lev­els I clipped some small back­leads onto the line and slid them onto the clean gravel in the mar­gins.

The first night passed un­event­fully and I swung my legs out of bed shortly af­ter the alarm went off. I made the first brew of the morn­ing and sat on the step by the rods, watch­ing the sun rise over the op­po­site bank, feel­ing its warmth work its way slowly down my torso and legs as it rose into the clear morn­ing sky. It was only a few min­utes be­fore the first fish showed, then an­other and an­other so I was def­i­nitely on them for now. Most of them were show­ing a lot longer than the 65-70 yards I was fish­ing but, know­ing how se­vere the weed was in that part of the lake, there was no way I was chanc­ing plac­ing a rig near them. I sim­ply hoped they would move through the chan­nels I was fish­ing into. Un­for­tu­nately, it proved not to be the case. As I chain drank tea and cof­fee through­out the early morn­ing, bite-time slowly passed, the sun rose ever higher in the azure sky and as it did, so did the tem­per­a­ture.

Even­tu­ally around 11am I reeled the rods in, took the hook­baits off and placed the rods back in the rests. It was now bank hol­i­day Mon­day

and the lake was very quiet with a num­ber of the guys de­part­ing that morn­ing – so it ap­peared that un­usu­ally, some stalk­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties might be on the cards. The first stop was to be the area in the Giants Bay where I had failed the pre­vi­ous even­ing, but this time I in­tended to ap­proach them from the op­po­site bank to see if I could lure them out of their haunts along the snags with some care­fully ap­plied floaters. It took over three hours, but even­tu­ally I had sev­eral fish tak­ing free­bies in two dif­fer­ent ar­eas and there were def­i­nitely a few groups of fish us­ing very dis­tinct pa­trol routes through­out the weedbeds in front of the two swims I had been flit­ting be­tween.

What fol­lowed was a frus­trat­ing few hours. I won’t bore you with the de­tails but it was one of those typ­i­cal days when they would dis­ap­pear, turn up next door, you would move only for the op­po­site thing to oc­cur and so on. We’ve all been there! Af­ter they had done this for what must have been the tenth time I de­cided to be pa­tient, stop fol­low­ing them and just wait, as surely they would re­turn to the swim I was sat in and a chance would present it­self. For­tu­nately, my home-made floater hook­baits last hours in the wa­ter (thanks for the tip and les­son in mak­ing them Uncle Jed). Around two hours later, af­ter an­chor­ing the con­troller against the edge of a weedbed I got a take. The fight was a fairly sav­age af­fair. Be­cause of the weed present, you just couldn’t let them get a head of steam up, es­pe­cially at rel­a­tively close range. I had to quickly bully it into the deep mar­gins, hop­ing the small Mixa hook would hold. It did its job and a few min­utes later I was care­fully re­mov­ing the lit­tle size 8 and hold­ing a dark and scaly, prob­a­ble mid twenty (I didn’t weigh it) up for the cam­era, as one of the syn­di­cate lads kindly popped round to give me a hand with the pic­tures.

The above may all sound sim­ple and straight­for­ward enough in a few para­graphs, but it was the end re­sult of al­most eight hours graft and con­cen­tra­tion in tem­per­a­tures ap­proach­ing 28ºc, with noth­ing to eat since my break­fast. Of course it was more than worth it.

Prior to set­ting off in the morn­ing I had given a bucket full of baits a lib­eral coat­ing of Pro Ma­rine Slick Oil and the baits now had a lovely dark glaze and fin­ish. My think­ing was that as fish had been, and were still in the area, a nice slick com­ing off a big bed of bait might draw them down to feed if they passed over. I repo­si­tioned the rods and on dusk got busy with the stick, spread­ing al­most 5kg of baits around the area be­fore sit­ting down for a brew and some food whilst rub­bing my sore el­bow...

De­spite hav­ing a few lin­ers in the night I again I woke to my alarm clock just be­fore sun­rise and re­peated the drill of the pre­vi­ous morn­ing. This time, how­ever, the rou­tine was to be in­ter­rupted as I was hav­ing my third brew – the mid­dle rod pulled up and was away. I gen­er­ally al­ways fish ei­ther locked up, or as good as, in heavy weed and even be­ing sat next to the rods the fish had al­ready dropped the lead and boiled on the sur­face by the time I lifted the rod. Af­ter a spir­ited fight, a large ball of weed and a high-backed mir­ror were scooped into the net and on first in­spec­tion I thought it may be a scraper twenty – so I popped it on the scales and weighed it in at 19lb and ounces. Hav­ing now had a take I re­peated the drill late morn­ing with an­other bucket of glugged bait and then grabbed the floater gear to tie up a few more hook­lengths. As soon as bite time had passed I was again march­ing round the lake look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties on the top.

The tem­per­a­ture was even higher than the

pre­vi­ous day and as a re­sult the fish were not nearly as ac­tive, pre­fer­ring to spend the day sat in var­i­ous, im­pen­e­tra­ble weedbeds at range. It was not un­til my third lap that I found some fish that looked up for a munch and were able to be safely fished for.

I set­tled into some reeds and af­ter a few hours ob­ser­va­tion I had got their pa­trol routes nailed – fish were paus­ing to feed al­most ev­ery time they came through a cer­tain chan­nel. They would never stay long but would al­ways pick a few baits off when com­ing through ei­ther side of an enor­mous weedbed. It was clear this was one of those times where less free­bies would maybe do me a favour, as they lit­er­ally picked off just two or three baits on each pass. With a num­ber of baits still in the area it was time to take a punt and I fired a mas­sive PVA bag out as high as I could to de­lib­er­ately at­tract the gulls. True to form they quickly ap­peared and ravenously cleared all the re­main­ing free­bies up for me. For once they had done me a favour as I now had a blank can­vas to work from.

I waited an­other half hour then started fir­ing two free­bies at a time into the chan­nel... it worked a treat and by do­ing this I was able to get them re­turn­ing to the same area each time they came through, nearly al­ways pick­ing a few baits up. This was all very hot, sweaty, time-con­sum­ing work but I felt like I could cre­ate a chance if I stayed pa­tient. When it came it was fright­en­ing. De­spite be­ing sat only a few feet from the rod, there was an almighty ex­plo­sion on the sur­face, the In­ter­cep­tor dis­ap­peared and in­stan­ta­neously the line whipped up tight. The rod was al­most dragged in as line was be­ing sav­agely stripped from the tight clutch at an im­pres­sive rate of knots. I leapt for­wards, grabbed the butt, slowed the spool with my thumb as the fish made for the first weedbed and ap­plied as much pres­sure as I dared. Alas it was too much. The line fell slack as the hook pulled and I felt that sick­en­ing cold feel­ing at the pit of my stom­ach as my heart thumped and adren­a­line coursed through my veins. I cursed aloud but there was lit­tle else I could do as I reeled the life­less line back onto the spool be­fore ex­am­in­ing the hook which was still pin sharp. It was just one of those things un­for­tu­nately, although it felt like it was most def­i­nitely un­de­served af­ter the amount of time and work that had been put into craft­ing out that one op­por­tu­nity.

I soon re­turned, de­flated to my pitch in the

Alas it was too much. The line fell slack as the hook pulled and I felt that sick­en­ing cold feel­ing at the pit of my stom­ach as my heart thumped and adren­a­line coursed through my veins

Stile to re­peat the pre­vi­ous even­ing’s en­deav­ours. Un­for­tu­nately, dur­ing my ab­sence an un­ex­pected change of wind had led to some huge rafts of weed, any­thing up to six feet deep, drift­ing around the lake which had then got caught up in the ex­ist­ing and nu­mer­ous sub­sur­face beds, all-round the lake. To get to two of my spots I had to spend a few hours ‘rak­ing’ chan­nels through the weed us­ing the spod rod and, even­tu­ally, had two, four feet high piles of weed ei­ther side of the rods which at least al­lowed me to cast out. I then rus­tled up my oblig­a­tory pasta for tea and again turn­ing to abuse the ket­tle some more, be­fore feed­ing the res­i­dent robins and get­ting my head down.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing was al­most a car­bon copy of the last. I say al­most, as the only dis­cernible dif­fer­ence be­ing when the take came, it came to the left-hand rod. Un­for­tu­nately, the fish also soon came adrift. Dur­ing the night an­other float­ing raft of weed, about 20 feet in di­am­e­ter, had set­tled over one of my lines. On the take, the line cut up straight into it and it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the fish, which again was al­ready on the sur­face some 40 yards fur­ther out, came off.

As such my first ses­sion ended. In one re­spect it had gone well, as four takes when the lake was not fish­ing well was a good re­sult but, the losses had se­verely damp­ened my mood and, as the green gates closed be­hind me, I was al­ready swear­ing vengeance and plot­ting my re­turn in a few weeks time...

I should have known what to ex­pect when a freak shower soaked me to the skin as I walked to the lake as quickly as I could. The car park was rammed with around 15 cars. My mood in­stantly dark­ened and turn­ing the air blue again. I grabbed a wa­ter butt and set off round the lake. I paused for a brief chin­wag with a few mates who were al­ready set up, and also Andy who was bailiff­ing for the week­end. Ideally, I wanted to be in the Turfs, Run­way, Springate’s or Rocky Barge swims – typ­i­cally they all had lit­tle green mush­rooms en­sconced in them al­ready. Once I had bored the lads with my tales of woe, I sulked into the Grassy Point for the night, for no other rea­son than it com­manded a great view of the lake. From here, if they turned up al­most any­where, I would know about it. I did not feel at all con­fi­dent and so spread the rods around the swim aim­ing to try and am­bush any­thing mov­ing be­tween me and the is­land in front. I spread a few hun­dred Pro Ma­rine free­bies around with the stick and turned in early for the night. Not feel­ing con­fi­dent at all I set my alarm for 1am and got my head down for a few hours shut-eye.

The rea­son for this early alarm call was that, over the years, I have no­ticed on many oc­ca­sions the fish’s propen­sity for show­ing at night, es­pe­cially to­wards au­tumn. It’s a lit­tle trick a good friend of mine, Se­cret Frank (ssssh­h­h­hhh), had used to good ef­fect on some busy syn­di­cate wa­ters in the past. Lis­ten­ing to his wise words and sage coun­sel had paid div­i­dends for me more than once on Wrays­bury 1.

At a few min­utes past 1am I made a brew and sat ea­gerly watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to see if they be­trayed their where­abouts. A huge moon hung in the sky, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the swim, the full moon hav­ing passed a few days be­fore­hand. That and the millpond-like sur­face of the lake meant if they were putting on a dis­play they shouldn’t be hard to find. Know­ing that a high per­cent­age of re­cent bites had been com­ing in the day­time I took the re­mote and went for a stroll a few swims away. Stand­ing on the track to the rear of the Run­way, it soon be­came ob­vi­ous they were still in the mid­dle area of the lake where I had seen them that morn­ing. Soon af­ter I turned in ex­pect­ing to wake to mo­tion­less bob­bins.

I woke shortly be­fore my alarm to the afore­men­tioned sta­tion­ary bob­bins and set about the usual rit­ual of pre­par­ing the brew kit. An­other very good and more than slightly clan­des­tine mate and fel­low bailiff, Se­cret

I should have known what to ex­pect when a freak shower soaked me to the skin as I walked to the lake as quickly as I could. The car park was rammed with around 15 cars

Mike, was due down for tea and a wan­der at first light. He has form of be­ing a won­der­fully lucky omen for me in the past, so I hoped he would once more bring me some good for­tune that morn­ing. As we sat chew­ing the fat on brew num­ber three (or was it four?), putting the world to rights and dis­cussing the point­less­ness of fold­ing reel han­dles for the hun­dredth time, we watched on as pis­ca­to­rial voyeurs, whilst the guys fish­ing the mid­dle sec­tion all seemed to get a take or two. Shortly af­ter­wards, through the bi­nos, I spot­ted a sin­gle mag­pie land at the back of the Rocky Barge. This may seem in­signif­i­cant but given that was where a bivvy had been lo­cated the pre­vi­ous day, this could have meant its res­i­dent had packed up... With Mike watch­ing the rods I ran down the bank to con­firm it was in­deed empty and needed to do some­thing quickly.

I thought it was un­likely any­one else would be mov­ing at bite time so, af­ter filling the ket­tle for my guest (we’re very well man­nered), I picked up the wa­ter butt and set off to stake my claim to the Rocky Barge leav­ing Mike to make a fresh brew. I would like to say I ath­let­i­cally and grace­fully sprinted round the lake to claim the swim but the re­al­ity was far from this. Upon wheez­ing and pant­ing into the Bus Stop, around half­way, I found Andy play­ing a fish which dev­as­tat­ingly was to come off within a minute or so of my ar­rival. Be­ing the bailiff on rota that week­end he had a Kub­ota buggy with him (which saves huge amounts of time when hav­ing to go out in the boat for weeded fish) and as he was hav­ing to sort one of his rods out I quickly pro­cured it and high­tailed it round to the Rocky to drop my wa­ter butt off. I sat there smil­ing, watch­ing on as fish af­ter fish showed at range, and in my mind rubbed my hands to­gether with glee at my good for­tune. Now the swim was se­cured I had an hour to move into it, so took my time pack­ing down and mov­ing round once Mike had de­parted, hop­ing his usual dose of good for­tune would also off­set the sin­gle mag­pie ef­fect!

The rules of the lake state that you are only al­lowed off the fish­ery for a cer­tain pe­riod of time without pack­ing your gear away. That day, how­ever, a num­ber of an­glers had been given per­mis­sion to ex­tend this across all the RK fish­eries, due to the cer­e­mony be­ing con­ducted at Hor­ton to com­mem­o­rate the life of the leg­end that was Del Smith, who had sadly passed away. I never knew Del any­where near as well as a lot of the lads on the com­plex, how­ever, I had a lot of time for his dry wit and al­ways lis­tened in­tently to what he had to say. Although a quiet man, he was an ab­so­lute or­a­cle of knowl­edge about the lakes on the Hor­ton com­plex. The qual­ity of the lakes there to­day are a fit­ting and last­ing trib­ute to what was his life’s work and dur­ing his stew­ard­ship of the site, he en­sured this le­gacy will en­dure for gen­er­a­tions to come. The fish rear­ing pro­gram he in­sti­gated with the bailiff team on the com­plex has led to the birth of some amaz­ing look­ing carp which will one day swim in the lakes there, and will grace many an an­glers al­bum in the fu­ture. The end of the cer­e­mony saw the unveiling of a bench ded­i­cated to him, which now over­looks his beloved Church Lake and his ashes were also in­terned at the lake as his fi­nal rest­ing place. Shortly af­ter­wards his daugh­ter (who gave a very mov­ing speech prior to the bench unveiling) and grand­child re­leased two hand-picked carp from his rear­ing pro­gram into the lake, named Del­boy and Rod­ney, which will no doubt grow on to be­come se­ri­ous mon­sters of the fu­ture.

I re­turned to the lake mid-af­ter­noon and set about get­ting the rods in po­si­tion. The Rocky Barge these days is gen­er­ally known as a swim to fish at rea­son­able dis­tances and most of the lads can be found fish­ing to the end of the Is­land to the left, and some well fished spots at around 95 yards in line with the Run­way.

I had a lead around off the end of the Is­land and although clean as a whis­tle, the size and den­sity of the sub­merged weedbeds be­tween me and the spot meant I wouldn’t be fish­ing it. In my opin­ion, I just couldn’t do so safely enough. I then put a lead out to the usual spot in the mid­dle area and, as ever, the lead cracked down right where the fish were show­ing on both that and the pre­vi­ous morn­ing. That was one rod sorted. It came back weed free all the way in on a slow re­trieve so I deemed it safe to fish. The weed to the right was a lot denser and I had trou­ble find­ing an area both clean enough and safe enough to fish in. Even­tu­ally, af­ter an hour or so, I moved the mid­dle rod slightly left and fished them both to the same area where the fish had been show­ing. I then spombed about 2kg of slicked-up free­bies over each rod know­ing the fish had been very much on the munch in the area and would surely de­mol­ish these in no time when they re­turned (I was now feel­ing that con­fi­dent).

Af­ter some de­lib­er­a­tion, I con­sulted some email notes taken from a pre­vi­ous ses­sion in the swim and looked for an­other spot I had caught from be­fore, but at much closer range. I de­cided to buck the trend with the fi­nal rod. This spot was

Un­be­liev­ably, it was 21 years since a young chap from Sur­rey, one Mr Ter­ence Hearn, broke the UK record with Mary cap­tured from this very swim

much deeper than the oth­ers, around the 18-20 feet mark. When you’re not used to fish­ing in deeper wa­ter like this you can think the lead has hit weed on its way through the wa­ter col­umn then, af­ter what seems like far too many sec­onds, it ab­so­lutely cracks down – bingo, it’s just what I was search­ing for! The rod was clipped up, and fol­low­ing an­other two casts, con­firmed what the ini­tial one had – and I soon had a rig on the spot.

The Rocky pro­vides some great sun­sets – that even­ing I sat with the cam­era on the tri­pod get­ting some great shots and re­flect­ing on past events in the swim. Un­be­liev­ably, it was 21 years since a young chap from Sur­rey, one Mr Ter­ence Hearn, broke the UK record with Mary cap­tured from this very swim. That chap­ter from In Pur­suit of The Largest re­mains one of my favourite pas­sages in an an­gling book and vividly de­scribes his or­deal as he bat­tled se­vere weather con­di­tions and the big­gest carp in the land, from his small, storm­tossed boat. If you haven’t read it, do so. Whilst to­day Wrays­bury 1 is a very dif­fer­ent lake, the his­tory will al­ways re­main.

Once the sun dipped be­low the tree­line, the oblig­a­tory, ca­cophonous mur­der of crows passed on the way to their nightly roost­ing spots and the bats started their twi­light hunt­ing. I got my head down early, an­tic­i­pat­ing some ac­tion as well as some oc­cur­rences from above the wa­ter­line (for those that don’t know there is a sim­ple math­e­mat­i­cal for­mula: bats + braid + Delkims = very lit­tle sleep).

True to form the winged crit­ters had me up a few times, although both longer rods had re­ceived what seemed like a few gen­uine lin­ers. Each time I tried to go back to sleep it was a lit­tle harder, as my hopes were raised with each in­ci­dent. Just af­ter first light and a tad bleary-eyed, I was light­ing the stove as the carp started putting on a good show all over the mid­dle sec­tion of the lake again.

They were lit­er­ally all over the two long rods and I sat ner­vously wait­ing for the in­evitable take – it just had to hap­pen. Around half past seven an­other one of the bailiff team, Job­bie, popped by for a chat and a brew. The twin­kle in his eye told me he was prob­a­bly en route to bait some spots on the South Lake. As a fel­low Gooner we were soon be­moan­ing our woe­ful start to the sea­son (which seems to have con­tin­ued in the same vein), in­ter­spersed with me rant­ing non­sen­si­cally about how I was about to get a take any minute, when the short rod sur­pris­ingly pulled up, pinged out of the clip and was away... Re­sult.

De­spite weed­ing me up on the way in, con­stant pres­sure soon saw it mov­ing again and shortly af­ter­wards we had the sprightly mir­ror in the net. On a first glace we thought he might scrape twenty but for the sec­ond ses­sion run­ning I was out on my weights a lit­tle. Its high shoul­ders and width be­lied the lack of depth and we ‘guessti­mated’ its weight around 18lb. Job­bie rat­tled a few shots off and it was quickly re­turned to the wa­ter to get on with eat­ing more boilies and dou­bling in size.

An­other Stinky Squid hook­bait was soon despatched to the spot and a fur­ther 100 or so oily baits sticked out on top of it. Two hours later, like déjà vu, Andy stopped off for a chat on his way back to the car, hav­ing packed away early due to fam­ily com­mit­ments that day. As we stood chat­ting, mugs in hand, I had an­other take on the

re­cently re­cast rod. It’s al­ways a cliché to say it but this felt dif­fer­ent from the off. It was a clas­sic, big fish take and fight, pur­pose­ful, slow, weighty and stayed deep al­most the en­tire way in. About three rod lengths out it then went to­tally solid. My usual tech­nique, if you can call it that, in this sit­u­a­tion is to com­press the rod to a full curve and then very slowly walk back­wards un­der max­i­mum ten­sion. Over the years I have found this to be the best method for free­ing weeded fish. Af­ter a few steps back­wards and with the line singing in the breeze I felt move­ment, the brief kick of a fish and a dull weight on the end started inch­ing slowly to­wards me. Re­peat­ing the process of walk­ing back­wards and then step­ping for­wards un­der pres­sure to gain line, a large weedbed even­tu­ally broke the sur­face and at this point we didn’t know if the fish was still on or not.

As it neared the bank we could make out the lead­clip just above the front of the weedbed, which had to mean the fish was still on. As a re­sult, Andy dipped the net as far as he could and I heaved the weedbed and, hope­fully, fish over the chord. When the front of the weed hit the spreader block Andy quickly lifted the net (as much as you can around an enor­mous ball of weed) and con­firmed there was def­i­nitely a fish in there some­where!

I flicked the baitrun­ner on, put the rod on the rest and jumped down to the step Andy was on to give him a hand. When I say the weed was in the net, it was in it, over it, out of it and just about ev­ery­where else. Due to the enor­mous weight we couldn’t even lift the chord above the wa­ter level. I lay on my belly tear­ing at the weed, throw­ing it to one side, be­hind me and all over poor Andy bless him. I soon re­vealed a tail, fol­lowed by a long body and even­tu­ally a broad set of shoul­ders. Andy was the first to say it – “F*ck­ing hell that’s a big fish mate, and way over thirty!” I stood up and stepped back to take in the full length of it and thought it could only be one of two fish. I gen­tly rolled the fish to the side to see a flank and con­firmed to Andy I thought it was the Bro­ken Lin which, on its last few cap­tures, had been ounces ei­ther side of 40lb – so this would be in­ter­est­ing.

It’s a real dark, gnarly old-look­ing carp with won­der­ful scal­ing and pro­por­tions. Andy kept a watch­ful eye on the fish as I called Ru­pert to see if he was still at Hor­ton to come and do some shots of the fish. Un­for­tu­nately, he was in Hert­ford­shire

I stood up and stepped back to take in the full length of it and thought it could only be one of two fish. I gen­tly rolled the fish to the side to see a flank and con­firmed to Andy I thought it was the Bro­ken Lin which, on its last few cap­tures, had been ounces ei­ther side of 40lb

look­ing af­ter his daugh­ter for the day, although he did sign off with “I’m com­ing if it’s over 40, so let me know.”

For those of you who don’t know him (although you prob­a­bly fol­low him on In­sta­gram: @clone_­val­ley_­carper), Ru is the guy who looks af­ter RK Leisure’s so­cial me­dia pages and is an ab­so­lute wiz­ard with a cam­era. He is a hugely tal­ented pho­tog­ra­pher and now also edi­tor of this won­der­ful mag. Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be­come a good friend of his and as a re­sult he has gone above and be­yond his pro­fes­sional du­ties and taken some un­be­liev­able shots for me and, hope­fully, was about to again – if the scales were kind, and we could drag him round the M25.

I rang a mate, Joel, who was fish­ing next door, to let him know what we had in the net and he reeled in to come and see the weigh­ing. We soon had the fish on the mat and it looked big. I knew whilst car­ry­ing it up the steps that this was go­ing to be very close to 40lb. Af­ter un­hook­ing it we treated the hook-hold, ze­roed the sling and sus­pended the scales from a storm pole be­tween Andy and Joel’s shoul­ders. I de­lib­er­ately faced the dial away from me and then asked them to call it as they took the strain.

“40lb 10oz, mate” was Joel’s sum­ma­tion. Andy con­firmed it and that was that – those sim­ple few words meant I had caught my Wrays­bury 1 40-pounder. I’m not much of a shouter (aside from when I had my first 40 which ac­tu­ally in­jured my throat for a week), so I gave it a fist pump, thanked the guys for their help and af­ter slip­ping it into a re­tainer I hit re­dial on my phone...

The con­ver­sa­tion went some­thing like this:

“Well?”

“40lb 10oz mate”

“Bol­locks, I’m on my way”

“Thanks Ru, you’re a leg­end”

“Sod off, I’ll see you in 45 min­utes – oh, and well done!”

Bless him. Due to the va­garies of the M25 he ar­rived a lit­tle af­ter 45 min­utes with his daugh­ter Lily in tow, by which time I had packed up. His good lady was at work so he was due to take Lily to the park for the day although I’m not sure this was what Michelle had in mind – but it seemed to fit the bill!

He took his usual awe­some shots whilst Carl, one of the other syn­di­cate mem­bers, rat­tled off some pic­tures on my cam­era as well.

Once the eu­pho­ria from this cap­ture had sub­sided, I then had to de­cide what to do for the rest of the au­tumn and, with the chance of both the Long Sut­ton and Paw­print mak­ing one more ap­pear­ance each be­fore win­ter, I just had to carry on... so carry on I did.

I’m not much of a shouter (aside from when I had my first 40 which ac­tu­ally in­jured my throat for a week), so I gave it a fist pump, thanked the guys for their help and af­ter slip­ping it into a re­tainer I hit re­dial on my phone...

al White

ABOVE A 21lb wel­come back present to Wrays­bury 2

BE­LOWThe 39lb Red­mire that had crowned an­other FEW MONTHS BAILIFF­ING on Wrays­bury 1

BE­LOW A scaly 20-some­thing caught off the sur­face

RIGHT The chunky, not quite 20-pounder

The friendly and en­ter­tain­ing robins in the stiler TOP LEFT

Weed-rak­ing – a back-break­ing, thank­less task BOT­TOM LEFT

BE­LOW Look­ing out from the Grassy Point on Wrays­bury 1

BE­LOWWrays­bury 1’s Bro­ken Lin – an am­bi­tion achieved

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