Darenth Tip Lake – The case of Lady Luck, the commons and some elusive mirrors
We visit the famous Darenth Tip Lake with Paul this month, to learn about Lady Luck, commons and some rather elusive mirrors
After being fortunate enough to have caught the big common from Darenth Tip Lake so early in my campaign on the historic water, I was obviously keen to get up close and personal with some of the other stunning carp that the venue holds. Before any of that sort of thing could happen though Mrs F and I were off on our holidays to our favourite destination, the Greek islands. Although it is during prime fishing time in late May, we find Greece is not only much quieter tourist-wise but the temperatures are more comfortable and it is also considerably cheaper too.
The holiday was truly fabulous, everything we’d hoped for and more, meaning we were sad to come home – me not quite as sad as the wife. Anyhow, once back home, as always there was a mountain of roofing work to catch up with and so, sadly, my fishing would have to go on the back burner until the next bank holiday which was frustrating to say the least. Especially when I knew that the carp would be right up for it!
When I finally got out on the Sunday morning, all sorts of random thoughts were running through my head after two whole weeks away. My main fear though, was that it would be busy. Although I do normally like to choose a swim on merit and then only after a good look around, for some reason I’d decided en route that I rather fancied getting back in a swim called The Pallets. Choosing a swim before even arriving at the water is, I know, a really silly thing to do, and can and usually does lead to disappointment when we find the chosen swim is taken. But for some strange reason during the hour-long journey it
just kept popping up in my head. Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find only half a dozen vehicles in the car park – imagine then, the deep joy and relief when I walked around the path to see that said Pallets was still free. So without so much as a second thought, I sat a bucket down in there – most unlike me too.
With my swim secured, I set of to see what else was occurring and to have a catch up on what I’d missed whilst I’d been away. The swim is a narrow spit of land facing up the lake, with a back channel or bay on the left-hand side. In fact, the bay is exactly where I’d caught the big common from last month, so without further ado, I set about rigging up the ten footer for that very same job. The back bay/channel is between 10 and 20 feet wide and about 50 yards in length and can only be fished with an underarm swing from the left-hand side. Otherwise it is deemed ‘out of bounds’ – the tree canopy is also very low, therefore necessitating the shorter rod and underarm swing.
The carp do venture in there... that much I already knew, so although I couldn’t see any signs in there at the time, I thought it was well worth a gamble – as with any spot there are no guarantees. Yet again, tactics were a couple of grains of sweetcorn on the rig, fished over a few handfuls of fresh hemp and corn which I’d top up every hour due to the vast shoals of roach and rudd. Job done.
I set up two other rods to fish the open water in front of the swim, where I’d yet to find a spot where I could get a bite. The lake bottom is weedy, in actual fact, there is hardly any clean bottom on the whole venue. Eventually, I did manage to find a couple of spots where, although there was weed, both sparse eel grass and blanket weed, it was low and short enough to make it fishable. On one such area, a shallow plateau to my right, I’d already seen a couple of long, grey shadows swim over! Here I chose to fish a white pop-up on a helicopter setup with a light-ish lead. The top bead was pushed up a foot or so, just to be sure of presenting properly. After scattering a dozen boilies around the rig I felt I’d give it a couple of hours and see what happened. Then, after a good deal of flicking around with a light lead, I found another spot a little further out at about 30 yards. Again not clean, but presentable. For some strange reason this new spot just felt right – so much so, that I put 50 freebies over exactly the same set up as before.
With everything sorted now, I sat down for a well-earned brew. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting that much to happen until the temperature cooled down a tad in the evening but feeling content with my spots, I could think of nothing finer than having another brew, chilling out and watching the lake. Much to my surprise the little rod in the back bay burst into life before I’d even finished my cuppa, the rod tip lurching round violently on such a tight clutch! I was on
What a result I thought whilst secretly smiling to myself. I’d only been there an hour or so. Maybe, just maybe, there was more to come?
it in a flash and clamping down on the spool, I turned the fish away from the treacherous tree roots and snags that lurk deeper in the bay. Now, with the danger over I could relax and take it easy and soon enough had my first fish of the day – a cracking low 20lb common, like a bar of gold, in the net. What a result I thought whilst secretly smiling to myself. I’d only been there an hour or so. Maybe, just maybe, there was more to come?
When the sun broke through early in the afternoon making it feel unpleasantly hot ‘n’ sticky, I sort of knew that the chances of another fish had gone for the moment. But, then, gradually carp of all shapes and sizes started popping up like corks and could now be seen basking in the warm sunshine on the shallow plateaus, both to my right and straight out near the first island. There were some good fish about too, which was not only encouraging for later on but tempted me into having a go with a the floaters – which turned out to be a waste of time.
As evening approached and the sun dipped behind the trees, so the carp began to liven up and forage in the weed – small patches of bubbling giving the game away. As the time passed and the light began to fade so the bubbling intensified. I couldn’t help but notice a fair bit of it occurring around the middle rod to the point where I was poised, expecting it to go at any time. When it did finally rip off just before dark, it really flew off,
The first of three commons As the sun burnt through, so grey shadows appeared
almost pulling the rod from the rests. It fought like an absolute demon, taking me through virtually every weed bed. Confidence in my tackle, plus a bit of brute strength, helped win an epic battle which saw me scooping up a mountain of weed and yet another fabulous common, considerably bigger than my first.
Darren, the bailiff, who was fishing the opposite bank had witnessed the whole drama unfold so popped around. He immediately recognised the deep-flanked fish as the Terrapin Common which normally goes around the 33lb mark. To be honest, it was such a fabulous-looking carp that I didn’t really care what it weighed and so slipped it straight back after Darren had taken a few pictures. What pleased me most about the capture was that I’d found another spot where I could present a bait well enough to get a pick up, meaning I now had two rods in which I felt confident... which, in my book, is much better than one and infinitely better than none at all!
After baiting up again on all rods and enjoying a few celebratory chilled ales I turned in around midnight. I was fast asleep when the alarm signalled another customer on the little bay rod. Again I was on it in seconds, though barefooted and wearing just my pants. This one felt like a good fish from the off – never at any point did I feel like the fish was tiring or I was in control. It stayed deep, making powerful runs in and out of the entrance to the bay testing my nerves to the maximum. Eventually though, thankfully, it did roll over the net cord, where in the moonlight I could make out it was yet another big golden common. Realising that daybreak was nearly upon us, I put her in a retainer, made sure she was comfortable and fired up the stove for a brew. Again Darren, bless him, did the pictures informing me that yet again I’d been a lucky so-and-so to have caught this rare and stunningly beautiful common called The Hearttailed Common – definitely one on the most wanted list.
It is certainly one of the most stunninglooking commons I’ve ever witnessed and at just over 34lb you can no doubt imagine how I felt, obviously chuffed to bits and privileged to have encountered such an amazing brace, nay trio, of stunning common carp from the little bay.
Rather spookily it had been a full moon too – just what is it with big commons and the lunar cycle? I really have no idea but there’s definitely something in it. Just in case, I did stay on for a while, but by mid-morning it was clearly all over. The sun was up high again and they’d melted away. I packed and did likewise, knowing I’d be back asap – especially now I was really starting to get a feel for the place. And perhaps more importantly, enjoying my fishing on this intimate venue.
My next visit to the Tip Lake was the following week, on Wednesday 6th June to be precise. I’d managed to finish the slate roof I’d been working on the day before, got my stuff packed and ready
for an early start. Whilst driving there I realised that so far this year I’d managed six fish from the venue which, considering how little time I’d actually done and how tricky the venue can be, I was more than happy with, especially considering they’d all been stunning fish including the big girl at 53lb 12oz a few weeks back. So, no complaints there, but rather strangely, all six had been common carp which is hardly representative of the lake’s stock. Mirror carp, I decided, is what was needed. Taking my mind away from the tedium of driving, I began flicking through a photo album that lives inside my head of the Tip’s most desirable mirrors, most of which I’d dearly love to hold. By the time I swung through the gate, I’d decided that the largest mirror called The Box, which is a mid-40, and another real stunner of a carp called Satan’s Linear, a low-40, were my new targets. In reality, every single one of the mirrors were dark, almost black and fabulous-looking carp to boot, so I wasn’t going to be to be too fussy... but... and this was very clear in my mind, I was definitely due a mirror carp!
Yet again my favourite swim, The Pallets, was free. In fact the whole venue was very quiet angler-wise, with only two others on, so the same as the last trip – I dropped a bucket in there and then went for a good look round. As ever, the fish, at least the few I saw, were spread all over. I saw a couple in the Point, three or four in the Rushes and then the odd one all over – but then, back at base, I could also see the odd one or two. Another scorcher was forecast and bearing in mind that the fish here definitely like this mainly shallow area when it’s hot, I decided to give it a few hours at least and so set up with just my day gear.
It was the same sketch as the last trip really – same spots, one in the back bay, one straight out,
then my third out to my right on the plateau. The first fish, a double-figure mirror, came about an hour or so after casting out and surprisingly, off the plateau – my first from there. By midday it was baking hot, with little in the way of a breeze but, on the plus side, there were still a few carp milling around, especially to my left. I’d been feeding a few cat biscuits every so often and now and then a group of five or six carp were showing interest, even slurping the odd one down.
With nothing to lose I rigged up a floater rod with a small controller, 10lb line, a size 10 hook and a cut down pop-up as a hookbait. The carp seemed uninterested and a bit cagey but eventually I did manage a take which resulted in another mirror, this time slightly bigger and a wonderful dark, chestnut colour. On the light gear it ran me ragged from weedbed to weedbed and, to be honest, I felt lucky to land it. What happened next was quite bizarre. Whilst floater fishing I noticed a piece of weed moving along the surface a fair way down the lake. As it came closer I realised it must be a fish, more specifically, a carp towing tackle! After watching for a few moments more, I decided a plan was needed to free the fish which was obviously getting stressed. Darren was again on the opposite bank, so I told him what was occurring and that I was going to do my best to catch hold of the trailing line with my spare rod. Somehow I achieved this on the second cast and then, very carefully and patiently, I teased the whole bundle of line and weed to the bank, where Darren eventually managed to scoop the lot into the net. Peeling back the weed we discovered the huge frame of the Box mirror, the venue’s largest mirror! With the utmost care, I unhooked it and slipped it back letting it know that sometime in the near future it definitely owed me a favour!
By this time, mid-afternoon, the carp that had been taking the odd floater were well spooky and, to be honest, I was ready for a sit down with a cool beer. I got the rods back on the spots and re-baited with a few more freebies. I suppose it was about 7pm when the sun dipped behind the trees and the heat eventually subsided. Once more a few bits of bubbling started to appear, then a few more around the first island, not too far from my middle rod. Soon the odd one could be seen poking its head and shoulders out – the more time went by, the more likely it looked. And then, amid a jacuzzi of bubbling the middle rod absolutely roared off, resulting in a breeze block of a mirror around 28lb, that didn’t put up much of a struggle at all. ABOVE A dragonfly, laying her eggs in the Tip Lake
ABOVE The view from The Pallets swim
LEFT When your luck’s in. ONE ON A FLOATER
ABOVE Long overdue (in my EYES). THE FIRST OF THE mirrors
BELOW With deep-chestnut flanks