Walthamstow and the Lockwood common
When he first started fishing here, nobody was even aware this fish existed. Read how he ended a 7 year quest on a London park lake.
Essex-based Nicky has been quietly going about HIS FISHING OVER THE PAST FEW SEASONS, BUILDING AN ENVIABLE PORTFOLIO OF CARP FROM SOME TOUGH VENUES. JUST RECENTLY HE MANAGED TO CAPTURE ONE THAT HAD BEEN PART OF AN ON/ OFF AFFAIR WITH A TRICKY LONDON LAKE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS
If you’ve not been to the Walthamstow complex, then I’d struggle to put into words quite how inhospitable it is
Ever since leaving my first ‘proper’ carp water, The Chase, at Dagenham, I’ve been a bit of a wanderer. I spent my formative years there, by my own admission, probably staying put for too long – five years all told. At the time it was convenient though. It was local, it had a fairly decent head of carp, was large enough to provide me with a challenge, yet small enough to allow me to hone my skills, as opposed to waste too much time just locating them.
I’m not a great reader, in fact, I think I’ve still only read the one fishing book and I’m definitely not into the mags; so when I did finally pluck up the courage to leave The Chase, it just so happened to coincide with the advent of social media and I was somewhat alarmed by the amount of carp I was seeing, many of which had been on my doorstep all that time, without me knowing!
I decided there and then that I’d never waste away so much time trying to catch every fish, in every lake, but that I’d rather spend my time chasing individual fish that I’d saved on my phone’s gallery and then move on elsewhere. I obviously wouldn’t be too bothered about any bonus fish that came my way in the mean time but for me, it’d now be about seeking fresh challenges and moving on after each. And I guess that is where this story begins...
Over the past decade, I’ve now fished all manner of places: quiet ones, pressured ones, small waters, busy circuit waters, boating lakes, some really intimate venues – and then there was the Lockwood ressie in east London! If you’ve not been to the Walthamstow complex, then I’d struggle to put into words quite how inhospitable it is. At almost 80 acres in size, a mile long, for the most part approaching 40 feet in depth and without a shred of cover around its banks, it’s definitely not scenic. In fact, you’d struggle to describe it as anything other than the proverbial hole in the ground, but, it held an incredible common! A fish I learned was called The Patch, being held aloft by Andy Maker, in a really cool setting for the catch pics. What’s more, it transpired that wasn’t the biggest. And that one wasn’t too shabby either. So Lockwood was earmarked and the quest begun...
As I’ve said above, I’m no longer one to stay put, preferring to roam. Since 2010 I have held tickets for the Snake Pit, Johnson’s Railway, the Road and Island, Aveley, the Essex Manor, Kingsmead Island and the North Met in Hertfordshire. Throughout this time I have also held season tickets for a couple of the Walthamstow reservoirs too, namely the West Warwick and, obviously, the Lockwood.
Whilst I have spent the majority of each season on whichever of the above has held my attention at that moment, I’ve always found time to wander the endless, monotonous bank of the Lockwood. Whether it be before or after work, I’d put in the graft to try and keep in touch with the place. So much so, that for the past couple of years, my van
has had a mountain bike in the back, something I picked up on fairly quickly, to save my feet!
I gave the lake a bit more time in 2015, doing a few of the bi-weekly Saturday nights and managing to get amongst ’em, but trying to locate a sparse stock of around 20 carp in that volume of water wasn’t at all easy, especially as they weren’t known for showing themselves at the best of times. As per anywhere else of a similar nature, putting in the legwork, albeit on two wheels, was paramount. I struck up friendships with the other anglers to try and keep an ear to the ground – easier said than done when there were really just three or four like-minded people giving it a go. I continued to regularly fight my way through the rush hour traffic at both ends of the day to trickle in my particular bait, in a bid to establish something, even knowing I wouldn’t or couldn’t fish around those times.
To be honest, it was a real ball-breaker. It nearly had me a few times but I’d struck lucky once or twice during the limited, short sessions I had managed when I didn’t fancy my syndicate, or if I was working locally. So I decided to bear with it and after spending last year traipsing around the M25 on a regular basis to fish the Island Lake on the Horton complex, I chose to stay closer to home for 2018, taking a ticket in the Lee Valley and once more renewing my Lockwood one. This made life much easier and through the spring and into summer, I’ve been able to walk, ride and bait both, as they’re not much more than 20 minutes apart, traffic allowing... As per previous years, I hadn’t actually seen anything of note while out on the bike, but by baiting far more often than in previous seasons, I was able to spot whether or not the fish were in the vicinity. It is typical of a large, open pit in that respect. With little or no respite, when the wind really gets up, the fish will follow it and spend a considerable amount of time foraging along the windward margin. A few handfuls of dull boilies scattered close-in, would often be enough to reveal the tell tale signs if I could get down on back-to-back days.
Through the early part of the year, the bird life was horrendous. Almost enough to tip you over the edge on its own! But as the weather has warmed, so they’ve drifted away and I’d managed to start including a bit of seed and a few grains of corn to my twice-weekly buckets as well. As May merged into June and in readiness of the Met fish gathering for their annual ritual, I set aside a day or so a week and even took the opportunity to line up a couple of the Saturday nights that Thames Water offer. In amongst all this, I had an impending trip to Belgium, which I couldn’t swerve. I was really concerned that the pre-baiting
routine I had worked so hard to establish, was all going to go to waste during my absence.
Upon my return, the last few days of the month looked pretty cock-on. The weather, although warm, had been a bit topsy-turvy but appeared to be settling down, with a fresh (strong) wind forecast. I didn’t need asking twice and spent the week before, doubling my efforts. I was carrying two 15 litre buckets on my bike, a long bloody way, each morning to lay on a spread in advance of the impending blow! I repeated this every other day, also making the effort to travel back in the evenings to see if there had been any activity.
I saw a couple of fish on the Monday morning, cursing as they cruised in under the radar, just as I ladled another baiting spoon of boilies right over their heads. They didn’t hang about! It was enough of a sign for me though, so the next 24 hours were spent tying rigs, prepping bait and streamlining everything for the arduous barrow run to where I’d found them/they had found me...
I suppose I really should have mentioned the fact Lockwood is a day-only venue a little earlier. From my perspective it’s just another little kick in the b*llocks that the water gives you. You’re not allowed on site prior to 7am throughout the year and you need to be off again between 5-7.30pm, depending how far into winter we are between September and the end of April. Although you can stay later once the evenings draw out through summer.
I was on the gate with plenty of time to spare on the Wednesday – I needn’t have worried, Lockwood isn’t the busiest lake you’ll come across. Having shunted all my gear the thick end of a mile to my chosen swim, I had to turn around and repeat the process to fetch my bike! I spent the best part of the day with my gear sat on the barrow,
I was carrying two 15 litre buckets on my bike, a long bloody way, each morning to lay on a spread in advance of the impending blow!
while I rode from corner to corner, checking the various pre-baited areas. After a fruitless day in the saddle, where I didn’t even get the rods out until after lunch (as much to go through the motions as anything), by early evening I had decided to call it quits and go and get a good night’s sleep before doing it all over again the following morning.
As I neared the tower at the southern end, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. There at my feet were three carp – and big ones at that! As bold as brass, the common was there, brazenly ambling along on the nearside of the band of weed I’d been baiting the back of for all this time. It was no more than a rod length out. Alongside it was another large fish, a mirror known as Big Bum, and a stunning linear that I didn’t recognise. It was considerably smaller than the others, but its dark colour looked amazing in the clear water.
I hustled the barrow back to the van and then hurried back as quickly as I could. The common and the larger of the two mirrors had drifted away, back into the deep waters I guessed, but the linear was still here. I watched for an hour; it didn’t appear to be actively feeding but it was obviously comfortable where it was, following the same route – an arc around the weedbed and back along the margin, three or four times. I reached into my pocket and retrieved a few baits, splitting them in half and flicking 15 or so at one end of the weedbed, watching as they fluttered down in a race against time, prior to the mirror’s return.
They didn’t provoke a reaction, good or bad, so I crept backwards out of harm’s way and repeated the process on two more spots, 20 yards apart,
I spent the best part of the day with my gear sat on the barrow, while I rode from corner to corner, checking the various pre-baited areas
further along the bank. With this done and the day ending on a much more positive note, I left them be, itching to return at first light.
I was the only one down the following morning. And for once the Met Office had got it right. The wind had indeed switched and was hacking into the southern bank. At the risk of sounding lazy, I wasn’t wasting any time or energy, I didn’t go a metre past where I’d seen them the previous night. It proved the right decision. I saw the small linear before I’d even got a fresh bait on the first rod.
I opted to spread the rods at well-spaced intervals along the bank as you’re not restricted to the confines of a swim like you would be on most places. Fishing at such close range meant this was ideal, I could have the rods right in front of where each bait was, with the perfect line-lay making them virtually undetectable.
The wind wasn’t making things easy though. I actually had to redo both the first two before I’d even got around to removing the third rod from its sleeve. The floating weed was proving a nightmare!
The take caught me unawares as I was unravelling the last rod. A savage one-toner took me completely by surprise. I’d only been fishing for 20 minutes! The fish led me on a merry old dance way off up to my left, eventually succumbing some 50 yards from where I’d hooked it. It was the linear and it looked immense. A proper old ’un, chestnut in colour, with a short, sloping head, an immaculate mouth and just the one war wound – a lifted scale on the right flank from some time previous.
After taking a few shots with the tower over my shoulder, I slid her back and set about getting all three rods in the water...
What followed will stay with me forever. Having redone the second rod, I was stood at the water’s edge trying to work out what to do with the third when the common ghosted into view, much as it had done a few days before. I felt like a spectator as I watched the carp move off to my right-hand side and my subconscious decided to make me plop a fairly conspicuous rig and lead about eight feet ahead of where it appeared to be travelling. It was akin to something we’ve all done as kids when you chased carp around a pond with a bit of crust, or a couple of grains of corn under a float, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) quite believe I had done it now...
The chance had obviously gone. I didn’t see the common spook, it merely changed course, flicked its tail and once more I was alone. The morning went past all too quickly, as things tend to when you think you’re on to a good thing. I ate my lunch and had my ‘celebratory’ Kopparberg in a sombre mood, ruing the schoolboy error.
Early afternoon saw me pacing up and down, checking each spot in turn, much as I had the previous day. Nothing seemed to be occurring, although I thought I saw the back end of something as it turned under the heavy, broken ripple over the left hander at about 3pm-ish. A couple of bleeps, an hour or so later, drew my attention to my right-hand rod and as I put my Polaroids on
The first minute of the fight was a torrid affair, with me hanging on for dear life as a very powerful fish kept boring toward the weedbed just a few feet further out
and wandered over for a closer look, the tip hooped over and the clutch started hissing.
The first minute of the fight was a torrid affair, with me hanging on for dear life as a very powerful fish kept boring toward the weedbed just a few feet further out. Repeatedly it tried to gain sanctuary and every time I turned it. Shortly afterwards I saw which one it was as it changed tack and tore off along the margin, presenting me with a clear view of its flank! As is the way with fishing on the ‘stow, I went with it, walking slowly behind, keeping a firm pressure on it but not trying to bully it.
When it popped up, seemingly ready for the net, I realised my landing net was actually still about 70-odd yards away – I’d left it propped against the lifebuoy, up to the left side of my swim whilst doing the pictures of the mirror earlier in the day! And they say lightning can’t strike twice, eh? I had no option but to backwind, and back pedal, while maintaining a steady bend in the rod, all the way up the bank. And then back again, pausing briefly every few strides to take up any potential slack in advance. Soon enough the fish was safely ensconced in the folds of the net and all the potential dramas and misdemeanours of the past couple of days were forgotten!
The weight of fish like this seems so immaterial, it’s neither a PB, nor even the largest common I’ve caught but in terms of the effort I put in over the past seven years and for what it represents, it is the highlight of my angling journey so far...
BELOW BOTTOM The Essex Manor’s Stella at 49lb 4oz, part of a winter campaign that yielded 16 fish
BELOW TOP Aveley’s Whisky’s Mate. One of the first carp I caught on my travels and one I’d dearly wanted since I’d first seen it on social media RIGHT First blood, a few years ago now
ABOVE Last autumn saw me pitting my wits against some truly stunning fish ON A SOUTHERN BOATING LAKE, like this upper 30
TOP RIGHT The boating lake’s big common at 48lb 2oz
INSET I tried to keep the baiting STRATEGY AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE, feeding them on a little-andOFTEN BASIS, WHENEVER TIME would allow. In the end this was all it took
BELOW Keeping a low profile. Not easy when there isn’t a strand of cover to be found
LEFT The Lockwood by night. Not much more inspiring than it is in the daytime
TOP On the odd occasion, I had some company ABOVE The smallest of the three I found. A really rare one that wasn’t known amongst the regulars
TOP LEFT Chestnut in colour, with a short, sloping head and an immaculate mouth
ABOVE It wasn’t the longest fish, JUST BEING INCREDIBLY THICKSET
BELOW The Lockwood common. For the record it weighed 43lb 8oz
ABOVE Seven years of blood, sweat and tears