With the onset of another Korda Masterclass DVD looming, Darrell once more sets out to try and bank a dayticket ‘40’ – and from a northern venue!
With the onset of another Korda Masterclass DVD looming, Darrell once more sets out to try and bank a day-ticket ‘40’ – and from a northern venue!
Today is the 20th April 2018 and yesterday was the hottest April Day since the 1940s apparently! Luckily for me I spent a good proportion of it sat in traffic on the A14, with the temperature gauge reading a steady 29ºc. Typically, I had no water in the van either! The early part of 2018 has been far from tropical and then just like that, the clouds parted giving way to the most amazing spring sunshine. Literally in the space of the last three nights everything has turned from wintery bleakness to a lush green – spring has certainly sprung!
I have just returned from a twoweek family holiday, so in this piece I’ll be covering two sessions since. Last year for my Korda No Privileges section on the Masterclass DVD I tackled Kingfisher Lake on the Bluebell complex. It was well received with currently over 150K Youtube views since its February release. Although I certainly held my own, I personally felt it lacked the wow factor that a really big fish would have given. A 40-pounder is what I wanted to deliver! The concept of the section is simple; put myself in the shoes of the typical dayticket angler that dreams of catching a big fish from such a complex, without having the associated swim reserved or the privileges often associated with this type of film. Basically, I want to turn up to lakes that I don’t know and try my best to catch a big one within two or three sessions. Like I have already said, Bluebell was a success, I had my share of the bites whilst I was fishing, but I had been unlucky with the size of the fish landed. I think if memory serves me correctly, during the seven nights we filmed, I caught five and I think there were also a further five caught by other anglers. Mine consisted of four 20s and a 30-pounder but, amongst the others were at least two, maybe even three 40lb-plus carp. So you could say I’d been a little unlucky in the size department.
This year we had initially planned to go back to Kingfisher in an attempt to catch that 40, but due to how busy the lake was Tony, the owner, didn’t want us to film there this year. It was a bit of shock to be honest, and Linear Fisheries seemed the obvious replacement. However, due to the amount of video material already available about Linear I really wanted to visit somewhere slightly less publicised. Eric’s Willows was mentioned as a possible replacement venue because of the insane amount of big fish present, but the day after we found out that we couldn’t film at Kingfisher, we then saw that Willows had flooded.
I put the feelers out for suggestions and Paddy Ramsden came back with The Quarry at Baden Hall in Staffordshire. It ticked the boxes being
a popular day-ticket complex, it held numerous big fish and it also had that northern slant. Us southerners are always told “it’s harder t’up north!” Never one to shirk a challenge the calls were made and The Quarry at Baden Hall was to be the destination for this year’s No Privileges film.
I left Chelmsford at 5am on Monday 9th of April, arriving at Baden Hall some three hours later. Roy Russell was on hand to give me the lowdown on the Quarry and being the bailiff for many years I was keen to glean as much information as feasibly possible. Roy isn’t just your typical bailiff, he’s a genuinely keen angler himself and I find bailiffs that are actually into their fishing much more switched onto the behaviour of the fish.
The lake had just switched on and a few had been caught in recent weeks, including a 47lb mirror! We had a look at the map and Roy pointed out the depths in various areas but then it was up to me to make a decision on which swim I wanted, prior to even having seen the lake! The Quarry is an 18-acre gravel pit, with 18 swims, with depths ranging between 4-10 feet. Stock-wise, different people gave different figures, but forty 30s was thrown out there fairly regularly, with the total number of fish present ranging between 100-250 fish.
When I know nothing about a lake I often like to fish from a central position, as at worst you can never be more than halfway wrong. Unfortunately, the central swims, 5 and 12, that command much of the open water were taken, so after much debate I decided I’d take swim 6 instead. Swim 5 faced the widest part of the pit and was coming free the following day, so my initial plan was to take 6 because the wind was pushing that way and then move into swim 5 the next day, unless I had seen something to the contrary. Swim
6 was due to come free at 12pm as tickets run from lunchtime each day. On arriving at the swim the angler said that he was now staying for another night. Obviously, this was a bit of a spanner in the works, so I quickly called the office to let them know my situation, and let them know that I would take swim 11 instead.
Having not seen the lake until this point, I was keen to have a look around, taking it all in, getting my bearings as such. Looking at a map is one thing, but seeing it is entirely different. The guy in swim 15 had been getting liners and was also leaving so that was an option, although I wasn’t entirely certain that carp were responsible. I had already seen quite a few pike striking in the edges.
After much deliberation I pinged two short, yellow zigs, 80-odd yards out in swim 11. The water was quite coloured from the heavy rain we’d been having and although black is my favourite colour at this time of year I just felt they would need a little help finding it in this level of clarity.
It was about 3pm by the time I was sat down in my shed behind two rods and it was only a further hour until I saw my first fish. As luck would have it, it was in my swim’s water and I quickly recast a rod to it! I had been pretty despondent when initially casting in blindly, but now that I knew the fish were about the enthusiasm levels were rising rapidly. Three more fish followed the first, slightly further left this time. After consulting
the map to check the swim boundaries it confirmed that they were showing exactly on my furthest left water. With this in mind I placed a second rod here and sat back pretty confidently.
Suddenly, the guy to my left in swim 12 was into a fish and as is the way when fishing zigs he had soon wiped out his other rod – the hooked fish kiting through his other zig. I went and gave some assistance, and between the camera guys, him and myself we helped net a lovely 35lb common. Nothing else happened that evening or night and the following morning the activity suggested the fish had moved further left. They were now entirely unreachable for me so I made the decision to move to swim 5, which is opposite swim 12. In all honesty I wasn’t any closer here as, although opposite, the lake is 215 yards wide and they were showing 90 yards out from swim 12. Roy had said that the limit from each side is 100 yards, leaving roughly three rod lengths between you. Sensible in my opinion really, as there is nothing worse than having people invade
The opening three nights had proved fruitless and I could almost sense the northerners scoffing that I had blanked ‘oop t’north’. Now keener than ever to settle the score and with the weather finally turning I had high hopes for the next session
your water when you are catching. I cast my rods out 25 wraps, or 100 yards in old money, but I was still 25 yards short of where I needed to be. The final two nights of the session were grim; the wind blew a horrible north easterly and other than the guy in swim 12 catching another one, very little else occurred!
The opening three nights had proved fruitless and I could almost sense the northerners scoffing that I had blanked “oop t’north”. Now keener than ever to settle the score and with the weather finally turning I had high hopes for the next session.
Having now seen the lake with my own eyes I was more prepared this time around. I left home at 4am to arrive at the on-site tackle shop just after 7am, thus ensuring I had first pick of swims that Monday. Unfortunately, swims 11 and 12 were both taken and neither were coming free during my session. It was a bit of a blow, but after taking swim 5 again my confidence grew when Roy said I had made a good choice. Apparently they’d been showing there the previous evening. On arriving on the bank I actually saw one myself, and not long after the previous angler had departed I had hooked a mid-20 common. Certainly not a whopper but I took it as a positive sign my location was good. The water had cleared dramatically in the four nights that had passed, and clear water means black foam for me when zigging. I had also increased the length of my zigs to four feet. Swim 5 has depths of roughly eight or nine feet and four feet down seems to be a good depth for me in the overcast, blowy conditions in springs past.
At 4pm, just like the previous week, there was a sudden flurry of shows. I actually missed the first show and it was Lewis the cameraman who had spotted it. Once my eyes were fixed in this area I quickly saw another myself. They were in front of swim 6 to my left and with nobody in swim 6 or 7 at this point I quickly dispatched a zig in that direction. The cast was true, looking to me as perfect as could be. I then marked the line with elastic as I wanted to know just how far it was should I catch. It’s funny, but I immediately expected a take. The fact that the two swims to my left were still vacant and the fish were unmolested meant I knew this was my chance.
At about 6pm the bite came. A few bleeps, followed by a drop back that I was on in a flash! As soon as I picked the rod up I knew it was a good fish, and as it took line I wondered what it might be? The biggest fish in the lake, a truly lovely 49lb common was caught on the same date, the previous year, and I was wondering if I’d got really
lucky and nailed him first bite. In the net it wasn’t quite that big but sported many of the characteristics of that incredible fish, weighing in at 38lb. A nice fish to open my account with and being I was up north, I suppose some might say it was as good as a southern 40-pounder...
The night that followed was crazy, as activity levels went through the roof. They crashed amongst the waves all night, clearly turned on by the wind and the new moon phase. I had a further two takes and Roy also had the same, as well as losing one, round in swim 9. The first of mine was a common around 20lb but the second shed the hook after about 30 seconds. To be honest I think that one was also foul-hooked, as it felt like I could feel every kick of his tail.
Because the bites had all come to my left I moved into swim 6. Tonight was to be a full house and that meant every swim would be taken with no possibility I could continue fishing to this area from swim 5. It was a good choice with quite a few fish present for the remainder of the session but no more takes came my way.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and having the benefit of the drone for filming I think had I increased the length of my Zig rigs to around seven feet, with the increasing temperatures I could have probably caught more.
Well that’s me more or less up to date for another month. I have one more session at Baden Hall this week, and I am really hoping for that 40plus. I’ll let you know how it goes next month.
Until next time, be lucky.
ABOVE Sunset over swim 6
BELOW LEFT BELOW RIGHT Swim 12 on the left, 11 on the right and swim 5 opposite The Baden map, displaying all the swim boundaries
It looked as though my location was spot on! A small one on the first night of the second session TOP ABOVE
RIGHT An alternative look at the 38lb common
TOP Roy’s 34-pounder from swim 9 It was in absolutely immaculate condition Dawn patrol on the final morning MIDDLE BOTTOM