Along the Way
After a lengthy sabbatical, we welcome Jim Wilson back into the fold. He starts back with tales from a large venue that on/off he has been pitting his wits against over the past couple of seasons
We welcome Jim Wilson back into the fold. He starts with tales from a large venue that he has been pitting his wits against over the past couple of seasons
Well, it’s been some time since I found myself sitting down to type up a diary-style piece, based around my fishing exploits, for the one and only Carpworld. So, when I was asked if I’d like to contribute again it was an absolute ‘no brainer’ for me. The thing I found hardest, while giving it some thought, was how I could make this piece relevant to the majority of anglers out there. Now contrary to what some people believe, my angling is a hobby to me, albeit a massively important one, that sometimes borders upon an obsession. Let’s be honest, it does for most of us – otherwise we wouldn’t spend so much time talking about, thinking about it, and being out on the bank doing it. But it is far from a job for me – I already have a job, one that I truly love. So my fishing does play second fiddle, which at times can be frustrating – much the same as it can be for many anglers I guess!
So, where did I decide to start this first part? I decided to take it back to the beginning of the spring. This year has been an enjoyable one in my angling. Having had some big changes over the New Year period and late winter, it turned out to be one of my most productive spring/summers for quite some time. Through late winter I had some really enjoyable trips to Linear Fisheries, mainly to get a bend in the rod – but I also had a few socials with fellow Fox consultant Tom Maker which, in all honesty, were an absolute blast. We caught some good fish between us over the course of four or five trips. These were in what can only be described as some pretty dour weather at times. The ‘beast from the east’ clearly being evident on a couple of those trips.
Once May arrived, I’d got it in my mind that I was heading back to a big boating lake that I’ve been fishing on and off for a few years now. So that is where I’ll kick this piece off. The big pit is heaven in my eyes. It comprises over 100-acres of water, relatively low-stocked, and with extensive out-ofbounds sections of the bank. There are also areas of the lake that you just can’t fish due to its layout, with massive metal cables suspended up off the lake bed for the skiers’ slalom markers. There are also masses of heavy weed growth and swarms of hungry tench – all this and more just adds to the life that is carp fishing on the big boating lake.
I arrived for my first session, a bit later in the year than usual due to other commitments. It was an early May Sunday afternoon, when the country was in the midst of some glorious sunshine. As I drove along the bottom bank of the sprawling main section of the lake, it was clear that the majority of the skiing syndicate were out in force enjoying the unseasonably hot weather. There were boats everywhere, with people getting dragged along – the skiers scything through the water along the slalom straights.
I instantly ruled out the main body of the lake, including the area we affectionately call the Ski Straight because I knew there was no chance of getting the rods out anytime soon (there’s an unwritten rule that when the boats are out the anglers reel in when fishing the communal areas of the lake).
I headed for an area known as the Dog Leg, where the lake narrows and forms a channel between two vast sections of water. It’s weird really, as the lake is well in excess of 100-acres and yet this area feels like your fishing a five or sixacre pond due to the limited visibility within the narrow channel. I started to have a walk around the area but the chop and accompanying light levels were making fish spotting hard, so I opted to gain a height advantage by climbing one of the many trees around the pit. This soon revealed two fish using the far margin of the dog leg, heading in the direction of the channel area. That was enough for me to start with, so I soon had the gear ready and the boat sorted, ready to go spot-checking.
Well, that turned into a right old disaster. I ended up falling in as I was getting out of the boat and by the time I’d got myself sorted it was nearly dark. So I had to rely on some previous notes I made about the swim and hope for a bit of luck
with weed-free areas. It wasn’t ideal but I ended up with half decent drops and settled in for the night.
By first light it was pretty obvious to me that using the boat and then falling in had clearly moved the carp away from the area. I didn’t see a fish or hear anything through the night, so a few wake-up cups of coffee were soon devoured and I was off searching for them. I eventually found a few fish in the main body of the lake, in the lee of an island that was sheltered from the halfdecent south-westerly wind that was blowing. Being a Monday, the boats weren’t out, so I was able to fetch the kit and have a quick drift around some spots I knew from previous visits. I fancied my chances, so I put a little bit of bait on each. Two of them I could cast to, but one I needed to drop the hookbait from the boat due to the fact it was tucked up in an alcove under an overhanging willow in the margin of an island.
By mid-afternoon I was plotted up in the new swim with the rods clipped and ready to go. I waited until about 6pm to get the rods out, just to make sure none of the ski club members were intent on going to fire up their engines and head out to play for the evening. Once sorted and happy with the rods, I settled in for the evening, which passed by uneventfully. First light saw the tench arrive though and a couple of good-sized tincas soon had me scrambling for the rods. I sorted them quickly enough and soon had fresh baits back on the spots. Thankfully, the rod dropped from the boat hadn’t drawn the attention of any tench and, not long after first light, it indicated my first big-pit carp bite of the year. After a pretty fraught tussle I soon had a good 20-pounder secured in the net. I recognised it as one I’d caught before, having distinctive damage to its tail, which I’m pretty convinced is a sign of a lucky escape from an otter.
I was absolutely buzzing to have the first fish of the year under my belt, especially on my first trip. The previous spring I had fished a good 12-15 nights before I’d landed my first fish of the year from the lake.
Once the self-takes had been completed, I settled down for a celebratory brew. How is it that a cuppa can taste so much better after a capture is beyond me, but it definitely does. Whilst enjoying the brew, the middle rod, which had been recast after the tench action, absolutely melted off and I was soon connected to another big pit carp. After a bit of toing and froing amongst a number of weedbeds, another stunning, scaly mirror slipped over the net cord, and soon enough I was holding another 20lb fish up for the camera. I was as happy as
As I drove along the bottom bank of the sprawling main section of the lake, it was clear that the majority of the skiing syndicate were out in force enjoying the unseasonably hot weather
could be with a brace of fish under my belt on my first trip back and before leaving I went and baited a few zones in preparation for my return and the remainder of the spring.
Sure enough, I was back the following week for another go, and this time I arrived nice and early. Being midweek, I was hopefully that the boats wouldn’t be out to play so I could get the rods out nice and early once I’d decided where to fish. After a good five or six hours of looking, I opted for the same swim where I’d previously caught the carp. It’s a swim known as The Island due to the fact that there is, funnily enough, a great big one, about 120 yards away from the bank. The channel between the bank and the island is used regularly by the boats moving from their moorings up to the Ski Straight area of the lake. Thankfully, the skiers were being kind, so I had the rods out and sorted by around tea time, and I once again settled in to enjoy the evening. The atmosphere around the big pit is always electric and it is such a lively place to be that you can’t help but enjoy the surroundings, what with regular visits from foxes, badgers and deer. The muntjacs in particular, can be ridiculously vocal and have a habit of barking at the back of your brolly at silly times, normally scaring the life out me!
Anyway, the night passed by uneventfully, on the rod front at least. By about 8.30am it was starting to warm up and I was really questioning if I’d got the location wrong. I sat watching the water keenly, like I had been since first light and about 90 minutes later, I finally saw a carp show itself some distance beyond where I was fishing. A further three hours passed and as I was sitting having a cuppa with one of the regulars, when I had an absolute ripper of a take. After a very snatchy-type fight, with lots of short, fast, bursts of power, I ended with an upper-double common recovering in the folds of my landing net.
As you can probably imagine, I was chuffed to bits at getting another bite so quickly and those first few carp really ramped up my confidence in my tactics and how I was going about my angling.
Soon enough the day turned into another scorcher for the time of year, and the boats came out to play. So I cranked the rods in and spent most of the afternoon walking the perimeter of the pit looking for signs of fish. Eventually I arrived back in my original plot and stuck the kettle on. I hadn’t seen anything to persuade me to move so I set about tying three new hinge rigs up, balancing off the Signature Squid hookbaits and patiently waited for the boats and skiers to finish. Much to my surprise it was only about 6pm when I saw the last of the boats heading back into the moorings. The areas that I could cast to from the bank I baited using the throwing stick – the island spot had a liberal mixture of hemp, crumbed krill, krill pellet and krill liquid dropped over the baited rig from the boat.
Only a few hours later the rod dropped from the boat was away and a stressful battle in and out of numerous weedbeds followed. Once in the net the fish looked every inch a 30-pounder to me, so I secured the net and rang my mate, Josh. He was fishing a venue literally a few minutes away and he agreed to come over and play camera man in the fading light. The scales didn’t lie, and my first big-pit 30 of the year was soon being held up for the cameras. I was gobsmacked by the start to the year – four fish landed and only just going into my fourth night of the year was more than I could have ever expected.
The last night of trip passed by far from quietly but, unfortunately, it wasn’t caused by carp action – a shoal of tench moved through and had wiped all three rods out by first light.
I was back a little over a week later, though this time I’d tagged a day’s annual leave on to my rest days so I could fit in a three-night session. Arriving late afternoon after work, I was soon
undertaking the now familiar walk around the pit and clambering up and down my favourite viewing trees. Yet again the skiers were making the most of the lovely weather we were experiencing, so it was a good old fashioned foot-patrol to try and find a few fish. I eventually found a few dark shapes drifting in and out of patches of heavy weed growth in some shallow water, between the main body of the lake and the Ski Straight. Thirty or so years ago there were two lakes and the shallow ground came about when the area between the pits were excavated, combining them.
I decided to set up right on the point, so I could fish a rod straight into the shallow water and then one rod each on either side. The boats were out until late that night but thankfully all the spots were pretty much underarm flicks to get into position. The fish were still in the area – I had seen half a dozen or more pass around the point at close range whilst I was trying to get my gear sorted.
Once the rods were out I really did think it was a matter of when, and not if, it happened. But in typical fashion for the lake, when you think you’ve cracked it, it gave me a swift reality check. Come first light, all three bobbins had remained motionless and from what I could see, nothing had been feeding on any of the baited spots.
That dented my confidence a little. So I sat still through the early part of the morning just watching the lake, as I had a fairly good view of 40 or 50 acres of water, and I didn’t see a thing. By late morning I’d swung the rigs in and set off searching for them. The ski boats weren’t out, so I decided to go afloat, searching for the fish. By the time I had done a full lap a good couple of hours had passed, so I moored up and went for a brew. Whilst I stood sipping my well-earned cuppa, I was sure I saw something roll to the west side of the island – a long way from where I was stood. I jumped back in the boat and headed for the area. Once close by, I reverted to the oars instead of the engine, so as
There, as if by magic, was a group of about eight carp. I recognised one of them instantly, a fish I’d caught the previous autumn at over 35lb. Consequently, using that fish as a measure I knew then that I was looking at a some big carp
to make as little disturbance as possible. There, as if by magic, was a group of about eight carp. I recognised one of them instantly, a fish I’d caught the previous autumn at over 35lb. Consequently, using that fish as a measure I knew then that I was looking at a some big carp. I steadied the boat as best I could and watched as the group moved in and out of the very dense weed growth. That was enough for me and I went back to my pitch as quickly as I could, got the gear together, and headed back to the island.
Eventually, I was sorted out and had the baits on familiar spots. I sat back, waiting, expectantly. I stayed up well into darkness that night, in anticipation of a bite at any time, but finally I succumbed to tiredness and climbed into the sleeping bag.
I was soon waking up to the sound of an alarm – unfortunately it was coming from my phone and not the receiver next to it. I swung my legs out of the sleeping bag and fired up the stove for the first tea of the day. Bleary-eyed and tired, I was disappointed that the bobbins hadn’t moved even an inch between them.
I love the first few hours of daylight, particularly in the spring. Everything in nature at this time of year is so fresh and vibrant and full of energy – but the carp appeared to be using their energy to avoid me! Until around 8am that is, when it finally happened and one of the rods burst into life. Soon enough I was on the rod and
wound down the slack before lifting into the fish, which was obviously a carp because as I put the pressure on I was forced to give 15-20 yards of line almost instantly. Before long, the deep, powerful runs the fish was making became shorter and shallower and I was soon stood waist deep with the net outstretched drawing a big set of scaly shoulders towards the spreader block. Then it was done – the Horse, as it’s affectionately known, the one I recognised from the group because I’d caught it before, was sulking in the landing net, the white hookbait bobbing back and forth as the fish took in and expelled water.
As much as it was a repeat, I was absolutely buzzing because anything from the big pit is a result. I popped it carefully into a retention sling and called my good mate Lewis, who lives only half an hour away and he kindly came down to help. At just over 36lb it was an absolute monster.
All too soon it was time reel in the other two rods and I set off on my now familiar route around the pit, stopping at all my usual climbing trees and snaggy overhangs, where I thought I might see fish. Within a couple of hours I was back by the rods having seen nothing to make me consider moving. I had sorted some fresh rigs and topped up the spots with some extra bait. A little later the rods were back out, waiting for the final night’s
events to unfold. Once again another relatively quiet night passed by, apart from a couple of the old red-eyed devils interrupting the peace and tranquillity of it all.
The following morning was quite productive by the lake’s standards. The weather became favourable – muggy but not hot, a light southwesterly breeze with falling pressure and rain – and the carp responded. By the time I had to wrap up and leave, just after midday, I’d landed a belting upper-double mirror and also a mid-20lb mirror – one I couldn’t place initially which I was absolutely buzzing about. Three fish in a trip was beyond my wildest expectations really, and to have caught consistently from my first visit of the season was what I was most pleased about.
My next trip was about 10 days later, due to work commitments, and it was to be a filming trip with my good mate Lewis Porter. I managed to get down the night before Lew and Harry the cameraman, which I thought was good angling. I didn’t arrive until late in the afternoon, but it still left me plenty of time to have a good look around. It was a hot, and I mean really hot, June day, but the carp were actually pretty helpful as it turned out. The boats were out in numbers and I kept seeing fish showing in the wakes that the boats left behind them. I’d seen this behaviour before and had gone on to catch, so my confidence was already starting to climb.
The majority of the shows were well to the left
of the island swim, in an area where we haven’t got permission to have swims. So, once again, I opted for the island swim, figuring I could wade as far left of the swim as I could safely negotiate, then cast onto the shows before walking the rods back to the swim – which went particularly smoothly once the boats had moored up for the evening. All I did was ensure my hookbaits were criticallybalanced on the hinge rigs and then I moved the top beads on my helicopter set-ups as far up the leader as I could get them, to ensure that I would be fishing effectively providing I could get the smallest of drops on the cast.
Around 8pm I was sorted and settled, and full of anticipation for the trip. I love the feeling I get when I think I’m fishing well and my confidence is high. It makes the time fly by on the bank and I almost expect something to happen, which it did around midnight. One of the rods fished well left was picked up, and after a dogged fight I saw what I thought was a very familiar set of shoulders slide over the net cord. On closer inspection I was right – there was the Horse again.
It was just after first light when I received my next indication. I had fished one rod up against the island, on the spot that had been doing me proud through the spring sessions, and it was this that was now away. During the whole time I was playing the fish it felt heavy, plodding back and forth, and when I first caught sight of it I was convinced it was a certain scaly beauty that I was
Under the rod tip the fish just would not give up, stripping line off on several occasions – and with me stood there, promising to be a good boy forever and ever, if I could just land this one fish!
desperate to catch. Upon seeing a photo of it a few years previously, I’d said there and then that I couldn’t move on until I’d caught that fish – and here I was attached to it on a misty June morning. Under the rod tip the fish just would not give up, stripping line off on several occasions – and with me stood there, promising to be a good boy forever and ever, if I could just land this one fish!
After what seemed like an eternity, I eventually guided the fish over the waiting net and scooped up my prize. I quickly peered into the net desperate to confirm it was the one I so dearly, dearly wanted from the pit.
I rang Lewis who I knew wouldn’t be far away by then, and soon enough both he and Harry joined me, and we weighed and photographed the incredible creature – all 34lb of it. A scaly carp that is nearly 40 years old, and, to be perfectly honest, I was absolutely blown away.
We all sat together, celebrating with a brew. Soon enough the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was heading north rapidly. I readied myself for the usual big pit routine. The rods were reeled in and I set to, searching, both from the bank and the boat, finding a number of fish passing over the shallow ground between the main body of the lake and the Ski Straight. Foolishly, I didn’t move onto these fish for some reason and decided to stay put in the same swim. I suffered a very quiet night as a result!
The following day the weather followed the same pattern and the temperature hit some very
high numbers for this country. Sure enough the fish turned up in the shallow, weedy water again, and this time I made the obvious decision and moved.
Once the skiers had finished for the day I set about getting the rods out, and under-armed them into position – one I even dropped from the rod tip as I waded it out, which feels weird on such a big pit. Once the rods were all in position, Lew, Harry and I settled down for a BBQ and a catch up. No sooner had we finished eating, than my right-hand rod was away, and after a very arduous fight in the dense weed, I had a mid20lb mirror waiting for the cameras. The effort moving had paid off and it certainly rounded off a brilliant trip and a very productive period of fishing for me.
The following week the big pit carp spawned, and that was my invitation to leave them to it for a while. I had a new water to fish, which is fairly local to me for once, and holds a number of good fish. I’ll bring you up to speed with that next time.
BELOW When the boats are out in force
ABOVE Second fish of the sesssion FAR RIGHT Rods out in the Island
BOTTOM RIGHT An upper double common from an early session in the campaign BELOW The weed was up and heavy this year
LEFT TOP THE FIRST REAL BIG UN OF the big pit campaign
ABOVE TOP The Horse about to be returned
ABOVE Hoisting up a prize for the camera
ABOVE Moody night skies
BELOW Bending into a big pit carp
ABOVE The buzz of a big pit capture
ABOVE RIGHT Weighing my prize
ABOVE Misty morning VICTORY flag