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THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD… BY DUNCAN MACLEAN

THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD… BY DUNCAN MACLEAN

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Its certainly been one of the most challenging waters I’ve ever fished, and at times has tested my resolve and patience to the max. It’s not that the carp are particularly hard to locate, but given the pressure the water is under, being able to consistently be on fish is a real challenge, with the main swims which control the bulk of the lake being occupied virtually every night of the year.

In addition to this, the weed can be pretty horrendous too, and with no access to a boat often hooking them was the easy part, getting them in the net provided the biggest challenge. I cringe just thinking about the misfortune I’ve suffered whilst fishing the venue, from tackle failures to sleeping through runs not to mention the multiple hookpulls, my luck had definitely run out this time. 

The experience which almost left me in tears has to be losing my main target just feet from the net after 3 years worth of angling. I remember the fight was fairly uneventful and the carp was wallowing like a dead weight on the surface all the way in, at the time I likened it to a drowned pig. I knew id hooked into something a little special from the sheer weight behind it and had a feeling what fish it was from the way it was fighting. To cut a long story short I’d got the fish all the way in and had the net primed ready for the swoop.

By this stage I really thought I’d won the battle, its mouth was gulping for air and seemed to have given up the fight, still wallowing about on the surface, and sure enough it was my target; looking absolutely gigantic. I was a shivering wreck, and sadly as the carp turned its head from side to side on the surface one last time the hook pulled. It was one of those moments where it’s so close to the net you almost instinctively jump in after it, but sadly this time it just turned and sulked off into the gloomy depths before I had the chance. That fish didn’t grace the bank that season, but when it was landed just ounces under the 50lb mark the following summer I must admit I felt a little gutted to say the least.

Last year was my final summer on the venue, and after an enjoyable spring and early summer chasing after a mysterious brute of a common I was in two minds of whether to go back at all. I had several friends fishing the venue at the time who were experiencing the same situation which seems to happen every year but this year to the extreme. One swim had produced very well at the start of the season with one of my friends in fine style landing the lakes first ever 50lber.

He has a real laid back approach and I think this time he had left the lake briefly to watch a bit of Eastenders during his session before lazily reappearing and subsequently catching the lake record, showing everyone how its done (true hit man).  Following on from this, as happens on many lakes, this became THE swim to be in, and became occupied quite literally 24:7 for the next couple of months. Because of the bucket loads of bait going into this swim daily, this area became the feeding zone for probably 95% of the carp and I don’t think a carp got caught anywhere else for nearly a month!

Gradually however this swim began to slow down, almost certainly due to over baiting, as baits were starting to smell rancid when reeled in off the spot, and carp began to get caught in other areas. This was what I was waiting for, and decided now was the time to get back on there and have another go for some of my few remaining targets.

On my first trip back the dreaded curse of the lake was to strike again. I had received an absolute meltdown of a take some time after midnight and must have been one of those occasions when you’re in a really deep sleep, because in a confused daze I struck into the rod only for the other rod to take off a few seconds later.

I’m a little unsure of exactly what I was thinking but I must have still been half asleep because clearly the rod which had ripped off had wiped out my second rod. At the time I hadn’t realised this so proceeded to ‘play’ the non existent fish on my wiped out rod leaving the rod which actually had the fish on to get in all sorts of trouble. When I had finally awoken enough to comprehend what was going on I picked up the rod which actually had the fish on once more, and after a couple of minutes of gaining a bit of line the hook pulled. I must have been seriously tired because I just put both rods back on the rest and went back to sleep.

I awoke in the morning forgetting about the disaster in the night and when I glanced out of the evo to check the rods I jumped out in a state of shock wandering what had happened. Then last night’s chaos all began to sink in… just typical I had thought, when would this lake ever be kind to me? I didn’t have to wait long on this occasion however, and after redoing the rods soon after first light an hour or so later the same rod tore off once more and turned out to be one of my few remaining targets, an awesome 43lb mirror. Due to the swim fight which inevitably unravels on this particular lake when a carp gets caught, I tended to do a lot of self takes, and I felt in this circumstance it would be wise as I felt the swim could do a few more fish so didn’t want to attract any further attention to it.

This would be no easy feat however as with anglers in swims either side, and opposite me I had to be pretty sly!  No one had noticed me netting the carp so I gave it a go and managed to successfully return the carp unnoticed. This decision to self take paid off as I managed to land several more carp from the same area over the next few weeks.

From late August to around November the lake fished extremely poorly and very few carp were landed, typically only one or two each week despite intense angling pressure. Due to the success a few of us have had on the venue fishing over reasonably large beds of bait in certain circumstances, a lot of anglers had felt that was the only way to catch them and would put in shed loads of bait regardless of the situation.

It really was getting quite ridiculous, and I was witnessing anglers regularly turning up after work for a quick night, spodding out a whole bucket of bait and then leaving early in the morning. With a dozen or so anglers doing this every night its no surprise the bites dried up, as the whole lake bed was littered with bait. It was incredibly frustrating as even if you managed to get on the fish getting a pick up was near impossible because of the amount of bait the carp had to choose from.

Nevertheless I persevered most of the autumn with little to show for my efforts. One of the benefits of being on a venue for several seasons is that you get to observe seasonal habits and trends and this lake was certainly no exception, and certain knowledge could enable you to stay one step ahead of a lot of anglers. The lake has an inflow pipe which is setup to improve the drainage of a field adjacent to the lake. After periods of prolonged rainfall, and on saturated ground, this pipe gushes water into the lake amongst an extensive set of overhanging snags and acts like a magnet to the carp in the lake.

It was a waiting game amongst the anglers in the know, and sure enough as soon as we received some rain in the beginning of November the pipe came to life and carp began to appear in the area. A close friend of mine had caught his personal best fishing a spot in this area this time last year and had informed me of his intention to prebait and fish this spot again this year. I must admit I was a little disappointed when he told me as I was also hoping to do a fair bit in the area this season myself, however by this stage the lake had begun to quieten down as the winter approached, and as he is a good friend I planned to focus on another area across the bay.

Perhaps unsurprisingly however the pipe swim didn’t go unnoticed this year and other anglers had twigged that carp were turning up under the snags and began fishing the area. Because of the situation my friend realised he couldn’t realistically keep the spot to himself this year and so gave myself and another mate the green light to fish the area, after all if we weren’t in there, somebody else would be anyway!  We began to bait the area pretty heavily between trips with a mix of CCMoore’s Livesystem, Betaine Ultramix, frozen water snail and hemp to encourage the carp to visit and stay in the area.

It was really working and before long a couple of the lakes biggest residents turned up, one being my main target which I had lost at the net the previous year, the other the big pale mirror which I had caught twice previously, and both were looking huge! I would sit up the tree for hours just watching the fish drift underneath the snags, and was quite a unique situation I’ve not seen on that lake before. The two big mirrors really did just linger in the area in relative isolation. I’ve found normally when fish group up in an area on this lake there’s typically larger groups, maybe 6-10 fish.

This time it was just the two big mirrors occasionally with one or two other smaller fish. The pale fish was a lot easier to notice in the snags partly because of her colour, but she was also a lot braver, and would venture right out of the snags and directly under the inflow pipe bathing in the foaming water. This was behaviour I tried to discourage by flicking small twigs alongside her; just enough to spook her away from the blatant area underneath the pipe where even the least observant passing anglers couldn’t fail to notice, and worked a treat! Luckily the other mirror was a lot more cautious and harder to spot as it tended to be a real loner and stay deeper under the snags a lot further off the bank. It was an incredible situation as I knew I had a 50:50 chance of catching my main target from the area which given the high stock is as a good a chance as it gets!

A week or so had passed and neither of the big fish had been banked and I managed to get in the swim for 3 nights. I had been in two minds of whether to fish as I was suffering from a fairly bad chest infection and feeling pretty awful, but I just knew I had to be there. I spent the whole of the afternoon in the snags to see if the fish were still about but I didn’t see a single fish. Great, I was thinking, the pressure has pushed them out of the area. I fished the night feeling a little despondent but hoped they were so in tune with the bait they’d be back.

The next morning I got awoken by a few bleeps on the rod. When I went to investigate a hoard of coots were gathered guiltily over the spot, I had been done; this was not going to plan! After an extra strong coffee, dosed up on paracetemol and ibuprofen, I began my sentry duty in the snags watching the water like a hawk. I hadn’t seen a single fish all morning and went for a walk round the lake to see a mate. I was losing confidence with each hour but I remember him saying to me ‘they’re creatures of habit, they’ll be back’. Dwelling on his words I got the one rod back on the spot in the afternoon and returned reluctantly to my watch post in the snags for a few more hours.

Just before dark the pale mirror waddled into sight right beneath my feet before drifting along the margin out of sight. They were back, definitely one of them at least. Once again my confidence rocketed and I retreated to my evo for the rest of the evening not wanting to risk spooking them from their sanctuary. That night the rod ripped off a couple of hours after dark. I was shaking like a leaf during the fight expecting one of the large mirrors to pop up in the moon light. Much to my surprise it turned out to be a low 30 common. I hadn’t seen him in the snags?

Maybe other fish were visiting the spot at night? Either way I rushed to get the rod back on the spot, just when I was tying up the new rig an immense fish crashed out off the snags breaking the silence of the night, only 15 or so yards off the baited spot! I was absolutely buzzing.

The following morning I noticed every few minutes clumps of several tiny bubbles would rise up off the spot. On closer inspection the bubbles would move several inches each time. There was without a doubt fish on the spot. I sat there all day keeping the coots away from the area sure I was going to receive a take at any minute. By the afternoon the fizzing died off completely and there was nothing to be seen in the snags for the rest of the day.

I still felt pretty confident one of the big mirrors would be back, especially after hearing the fish crash the night before and so that evening I baited the spot once more with half a small bucket of hemp, frozen water snail and crushed up Livesystem, enough to get even the biggest of carp excited! Nothing materialised during the night and in the morning I sat by my rod having a cup of tea wondering whether id blown my chance when the alarm made a couple of bleeps. Bugger, I thought; I’d forgotten to spook the birds off the spot! But a few seconds later the bobbin slammed up tight and the rod began to arch round aggressively only stopped from going in by the storm pole which I had wedged tight against the rod, and the delkim burst into life, this wasn’t a coot! After a cautious fight that seemed to last forever, I soon netted a yellow bellied beast of a carp.

It was my old pale friend, looking huge! She went 50lb 4oz. a new personal best and what a magnificent carp, I was elated. For some reason at that moment it felt right to call it a day on the venue, perhaps after all the heartache the place had caused me I was determined to leave on a high, and what a high to leave on! Having not seen the other large mirror in the area for a couple of days I was unsure whether it would return now the pale mirror had been banked and spooked out of the area. I left that afternoon planning a new adventure, and to celebrate with a drink or two.

Maybe I should have listened a little closer to my friend that had told me ‘they’re creatures of habit, they’ll be back’ and had the confidence to stick at it a little longer, because rather comically the very next fish off the spot sure enough was my target mirror that I had lost at the net the previous year, all 52lb of her..!

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get the urge to return for my revenge!


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