Earlier this year I was lucky enough to secure a ticket for a small syndicate water set deep in the Essex countryside. Although I'd not actually seen the water before, I'd already heard a little about it and knew it was a nice quiet place, surrounded by open farmland with only a limited membership. Nowadays the most important thing to me is fishing the quieter waters, even when the fish aren't particularly big, but this venue seemed to have it all. Not only was it peaceful, it also contained some good fish. One of which really caught my attention when I first saw it in the angling press last year. At a weight of 44lb - 45lb it's a very big carp, but more importantly it's a real good looker. Long, lean and scaley - just how I like them.
I've always enjoyed starting on a new water, and sorting out my kit for my first trip I was buzzing. Checking out the route on Google Earth I could see that it was going to be a fair old drive, close to two hours, and so I planned to leave early as arriving first thing in the morning would put me in with the best chance of finding some feeding fish.
Something that is very rarely written about nowadays is the preparation and planning, yet to me it's one of the most important parts of my fishing. If there’s something I can do at home to put me in with a better chance of catching then I'll do it - even if it’s only going to increase my chances by 1 per cent. It might be something as simple as making sure I've got enough food and water supplies, so that I don't have to reel in to go to the shops mid-session, or something more important like rolling a perfect batch of pop-ups or choosing the sharpest hooks from a packet of 10.
Without knowing the venue it's always tricky to decide on which rigs to tie but I wanted the rods set up and ready to go in case I was lucky enough to roll up and find fish from the off. In the end, I thought it best to stick with what I have most faith in and so all three rods were rigged up with leadcore leaders and my faithful hinge-stiff links. Bait needed little thinking about and I dropped a couple of kilos of Dynamite’s Crave into the bag, knowing that if I managed to get on fish it was sure to do the business.
Arriving in the car park it was nice to see that there were only two other anglers on the lake. One of these introduced himself as Steve and gave me a quick run-down of the different swims and what had been caught over the previous couple of weeks. He was also kind enough to show me some video footage of the lake’s big'un from last January, and seeing the great fish in its winter colours of oranges and reds helped to fuel the buzz no end. This is what I like most about small syndicate waters, the anglers are always friendly and willing to help out where they can.
From the exposed sections of bank it was clear to see that the water level was well down, and Steve explained that this was due to a dry summer and the local farmer who regularly pumped water from the lake. In comparison to when the lake is full it might not have been looking its best, but to me it still looked lovely, and with depths down to 10ft plus there was still plenty of areas that took my fancy.
By the time I'd completed my first stroll round I was yet to see a sign of a carp. But then on my second circuit I stopped off at a narrow, weed filled channel behind an island. Like I say, the lake seemed very quiet but when it's like that you only need a small sign, and I'd noticed a few tiny pin prick bubbles breaking the surface in a gap between the weed, no more than five feet from the bank. I must have been sat there for 10 minutes or so, trying to decide whether or not the bubbling was being caused by a carp when one pushed its head out and flopped over on the surface. A big shower of penny sized bubbles fizzed to the surface as it plunged its head back into the silty bottom, and seconds later I headed back to the car for my kit.
I'd tied on my pop-ups the evening before, and so I was ready to lower a couple of rigs in within minutes of getting my tackle in the swim. Unfortunately, the feeding spell was pretty much over by this time, but I can think of plenty of occasions in the past were making sure the rods are ready to go and then arriving at very first light has helped to catch me a carp soon after turning up.
Just to the left of the swim the weed was pretty thick, with a nice covering of miniature pads covering the surface, and I felt sure that any carp in the area would have drifted beneath their cover for the day. It wasn't until early evening that I saw the tell-tale signs of carp waking from a day of inactivity. The miniature pads twitched and trembled as a carp brushed against their stems, and as I strained to get a better look through the gaps between the leaves, I made out the ghostly outline of a fish breaking free from their cover before heading in the direction of my baits. Seconds later a big fizz of bubbles appeared over the top of my left-hand bait and I inched closer to the rods knowing a take was imminent. For the next few minutes I watched as bubbles continued to break the surface, and then just as I was beginning to worry about my presentation the buzzer let out a few bleeps and the bobbin slammed into the butt - I was into my first fish. I'd set the clutches fairly tight and so it only made it a little way into the pads before I was able to turn it and continue the fight beneath the tip in nice weed free water. A couple of minutes later it was mine. A long lean mirror of 26lb 2oz was a nice prize for my first day and first carp from the lake.
I thought there might have been a chance of catching another one during the night but by the following afternoon I'd not seen anymore signs so I moved into a different swim a bit further up the same bank. Whereas my previous swim was tight with very little water to go at, this swim had loads of carpy looking features. The most obvious was an island with overhanging willows to the left, which just screamed for a bait. To the right was a lovely little pad fringed bay, and out in front was a nice area of open water. I chose to have a rod on each spot, and the following morning I winkled out another mirror of 19lb's from the bay. Not a monster, but for my first trip to a new water it was another nice result.
I felt like I'd learnt a lot, and driving home I could feel that big carp buzz brewing up inside of me, something I'd not felt in quite some time. Although it’s possible to catch big carp just by going through the motions, for me I have to have the right mind-set, something that only a true big fish angler will understand. With thoughts of the big'un, its character and its past and present day movements all racing around in my head, along with a picture of the long scaley beast purposely placed on the passenger seat beside me as an aid to keeping the buzz going all the way home, I knew that mind-set was back. What a feeling!