Waltham­stow and the Lock­wood com­mon

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Nicky Mills

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.


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

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