The Pursuit of a Personal Best
You could call it ‘hocus-pocus’, but as I stepped down into one of the swims at Nazeing Carp Lake, I just knew that I was going to catch a personal best carp from there. As it subsequently turned out, and despite some major drama and unbelievable coincidences over a 13-month period, I was right………. September 2000.
I arrived at the lake on a mild Friday September afternoon with just one thought on my mind; to spend the next 72 hours in that swim. As it turned out, there was only one other person fishing on the lake when I arrived, which was brilliant; but you’ve guessed it, he was fishing in ‘my’ swim. However as luck would have it, it was somebody that I knew, and he was possibly leaving the next morning, so disaster potentially avoided, I set up in another swim for hopefully just one night, and with a good chance of moving the following morning.
An uneventful night followed and early the next morning I looked across the lake and saw my friend walking around to me; excellent, it looked like I’d be moving after all. At that very moment, the buzzer on my right hand rod screamed into life and my first thought was whether I should move after all. However when I struck the rod into thin air, that decided it, I was moving!. Looking back, it must have been the fastest pack-down, load up the barrow and leg it around the lake episode that I’ve ever achieved, because I was still wondering about that ‘ghost run’ of mine when I suddenly found myself in ‘my swim’ right across the other side of the lake.
Right, it’s 10am Saturday morning, let’s get sorted. Now this particular swim offers a very wide fishing area with many potential hotspots, including a gravel bar at approximately 20 yards and some lily pads at 80 yards. With a 2-rod limit, I decided to put my left hand rod on the 20-yard spot, and the right hand rod out to the lilies. The left hand rod was offered with an Activ 8 15mm boilie on a size 8 Drennan Boilie Continental Hook, knotless knotted to 30cm of 15lb Supanova and a 2 ounce Korda lead with a safety clip. The right hand rod was fished Method style with a method base mix plus some hemp and trout pellets. This was also presented with a short Supanova hooklink and size 8 Continental hook and Activ 8 boilie.
After putting out the marker float briefly just to confirm precise location, and to aid accurate baiting and casting, I introduced 30 boilies around the left rod, and catapulted out half a dozen method balls around the right. So the rods were out, the Power Gum marker clips were positioned, and I settled down for the first cup of tea of the day feeling confident about the session ahead.
The weather since arriving had progressively become more restless, and as if mimicking the onset of a major migraine headache, dark and angry clouds started a determined Westward march across the skyline, and the wind quickened in a counter response as if trying to escape the ominous approaching thunderheads. No doubt about it; it was time to get the Bivvie up, and quickly; the tea would have to wait.
I’d only just bought the Fox Classic Easy Dome and had been told that it was a rigid set-up. Well the wind obviously didn’t get out of the way fast enough, because within 30 seconds of a last-ditch mega-wind evade-the-clouds charge, the rain arrived in a torrent, made a hasty deal with the wind and decided that they’d wipe my Bivvy of the face of the lake in a combination effort!
The first that I knew about their pact was when I was inside the Bivvie and halfway through putting it up when the storm door blew in so hard that it attached itself like Sellotape around the end of my nose and wouldn’t let go. For the next 20 minutes, after detaching myself from the door and hastily getting the pegs in the ground, I sat in the Bivvie and waited for the storm to pass. Eventually, and despite their best efforts, the wind and rain threw in the towel, and thundered on like two good friends out to pick a fight with an easier prey. The Bivvie had passed the test.
At 4p.m. I had my first run to the left-hand rod on the 20-yard mark. I struck the rod and a powerful fish tore off in a determined run. The 13-foot Armalite bent into an immediate fighting arc and the Shimano reel clutch spun uncontrollably as the fish shot off to the right. This was a big fish, and I was just wondering if it was the ‘big one’ when the line suddenly went slack, the arc in the rod disappeared and I was left just standing there fully detached from the fish and thoroughly disappointed! Unbelievable… 2 runs from 2 different swims and the landing net was still dry. Oh well, nothing else to do except re-cast and try again.
After re-positioning the rod, I was scanning the lake and an area to the right hand side of the swim at about 80 yards caught my attention. There was a large weed bed that had mostly died back, but having already positioned the 2 rods, I was reluctant to change anything.
I drank a new cup of tea and rolled a cigarette, but still my eyes were drawn to the spot. Why? Hmmm. I then made a decision that would prove to be a landmark one. Instead of recasting and rebaiting, I made some more method mix as before, and this time after adding some sweetcorn to the final mix, I decided to prepare some method balls and catapult them out to this area at a rate of 5 balls or so every few hours. I was going to bait this area for the next 24 hours, but not fish it.
At just after 6p.m. my right hand Delkim screeched into life; it didn’t give a couple of cautionary beeps, it went full decibel, all out ballistic and I grabbed the rod fully intent on getting this one onto the bank. After a great fight, the landing net finally came out of retirement (third time lucky!), and I slipped it under a beautiful Common of 22.5 pounds. Excellent hookhold into the bottom lip and perfect condition; yes my luck had turned.
‘Brilliant!!’ I shouted at the Moorhen who looked at me as if I’d gone insane and swam off shaking it’s feathery head.
It was only when I went to get the camera that I realised that it wasn’t in the bag! What a session this was turning out to be; oh well I’d had one on the bank and hopefully still had enough time left for another chance. More settled weather arrived, the afternoon gave way to evening and I climbed into the sleeping bag for a well-deserved good nights sleep feeling very confident.
For many people who don’t fish, the concept of spending 72 hours in inclement weather by a lake seems at best undesirable, and at worst clinically insane. However for the addicted all weather Carp anglers, there's a special feeling of contentment when you’re fully set up in a favourite swim, with one fish on the bank already and still 24 hours to go.
Time seems to become less relevant, everyday problems seem to be forgotten and you become more finely tuned to Nature and your surroundings.
For me, that’s my favourite type of therapy, and the reason that I so much prefer longer sessions to shorter ones.
The morning cruised into lunchtime, and I decided that the time had come to re-position the right hand rod into the area that I’d been pre-baiting for the past 24 hours. I also decided on a modification to the hookbait, swopping the Boilie for three pieces of sweetcorn and a piece of popup foam to balance it nicely.
After an accurate cast to the baited area, I was in the process of putting out a few more method balls when I saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like to be 2 or 3 people come through one of the entrance gates to the lake. Thinking no more of it, I continued to catapult out my remaining method balls, when a few minutes later, into my swim walked both of my brothers on a surprise visit.
An even greater surprise was that my Uncle Fred, who I hadn’t seen for more than 10 years, and who was responsible for introducing us to the club, was with them. What a fantastic and unexpected visit; and one look at the beers that they’d brought with them confirmed that it was a major cause for celebration. I placed the rod on the pod, quickly attached the bite indicator, and opened a beer. Then began a great family conversation and a trip down memory lane.10 years was a lot to catch up on!!!
A few minutes later, and no more than 10 minutes after casting the rod to the pre-baited swim, my brother Paul, who was sitting on the ground next to my rod pod suddenly said ‘You’ve got a run Gary !’. I looked down at the rod, the swinger was right up and the baitrunner was spinning. The buzzer hadn’t sounded because in the excitement of the visit, I’d forgotten to turn the volume back up after the re-cast. I struck the rod and immediately knew that I’d connected with a good fish; this was a solid weight that slowly and purposefully moved off to the right.
Well the pressure wasn’t just on the fish now; it was also on me because I had a captive family audience standing right behind me witnessing my every move. This was the first time ever that all four of us had been on the same lake at the same time. It was a prolonged and difficult fight, as on a couple of occasions the fish managed to find some weed beds and displayed a passionate resistance to being banked.
There ended up being an enormous weight on the end of my line, as the method feeder had collected huge amounts of weed on its trip around the lake, but slowly and surely, I managed to gain line and move the fish in towards the bank.
After what seemed a titanic struggle, I asked my other brother Daren to grab the landing net as a huge ball of weed came to the surface.
My heart sank as there was no sign of a fish though, and as I heaved the weed mass across the arms of the net, I could feel the disappointment all around me. We all peered down at what appeared to be an entire weed bed lodged into the bottom of my landing net and started to pull it out. That’s when we saw a huge gold scale, and then as if unwrapping a Christmas present from the Carp Gods, several pairs of hands started to move away the weed with increasing excitement as the golden flank of a huge Common revealed itself.
My brothers looked at each other and almost said in unison ‘He’s caught the big Common!’
‘What’s the big Common?’ I asked, ‘The biggest fish in the lake!’ they replied.
Initial disappointment at the possibility of a lost fish had become extreme excitement, and I dug the weighing scales out my bag with trembling fingers. The Avon scales went up to 32lbs and the dial went past the 32lb mark and rested, without quite bottoming out, at a massive 32lb 12oz.
Euphoria would be an understatement as to how I felt at that moment; I felt ready to conquer the world. That was until the question ‘Where’s your camera?’ brought me back to earth with a resounding crash.
Oh no……… I didn’t have the camera!!
My heart began to sink at the thought of not capturing this once in a lifetime moment, when I suddenly remembered that I did have a £5 holiday camera hidden somewhere in the depths of my holdall.
O.K, not the worlds best camera, but at least thankfully, a chance of a commemorative photo.
The commotion on the bank had attracted another angler on the lake around to the swim, and after an admiring look at the fish, he almost did a double take when I handed him my £5 multi-coloured holiday camera and asked him to take some photos with it.
Photos swiftly taken, the fish was lovingly returned to the lake, and we all watched together as it slowly disappeared back into the mysterious depths of its watery home………..
And so there nearly ends my story of what will always be without any doubt, my fondest fishing memory……… except.
Just over 12 months later, I caught it again!
After a season of fine-tuning my approach and applying diligence, patience and perseverance to the same lake, I’d caught a number of 20lb fish and a personal best 29.6lb Mirror called ‘Split Pec’. Then unbelievably, lady luck stepped in and blessed me yet again.
From the same swim, using the same tactics and after a long and arduous fight, the big monster slipped grudgingly across the landing net for the 2nd time at 9.pm. on a very wet and very dark Sunday night.
This time I was fully prepared, I was taking no chances. I’d bought an expensive camera, upgraded the scales to 60 lb Reuben Heaton’s and even bought a spare mobile phone battery just in case.
The fish had grown substantially and after a quick and breathless phone call to my brother Daren, he arrived to help me photograph and weigh the fish at its new all-time high weight of 37.8 lbs.
And so finally, my story ends. In just over 12 months, I’d managed to capture the lakes largest fish twice and not only broke my personal best twice, but also established the new lake and club record at the time.
I think that for me the best word to describe carp fishing is the word passion.
Passion has been described as combination of anger and love, and what a potent mix it is.
by Gary Jennings