Arrows on Target - Tommy De Cleen


Our good friend Tommy De Cleen relives a great little spell of angling, on a great little set of lakes. Make a tea, kick back, and enjoy!

I was never really that into target fishing, but not so long ago I got myself a ticket on lake to catch a single fish and in the end I did, one a cold February day and I wrote a little bit for Sub about my journey to catch that fish. I still have my ticket on there as there are more fish I want from that big lake, but in the meantime I was also fishing a complex of lakes, local to me.

I am very lucky to live in an area with a lot of water and some very good fish so I had been walking this complex for a very long time, and always wanted to fish here, but the bad reputation of local anglers claiming swims and other such stories kept me from fishing this place for years as that just isn’t my kind of angling. I need some freedom, and I like to fish around and not be in one swim all year but I kept seeing fish form these lakes, and good fish from guys I know, who fish there and one local guy by the name of Wes told me to just go for it - as it wasn’t the place it used to be with the old locals with the wrong mindset! He told me it was quite friendly these days, and it turned out to be a magical place.

I started fishing there around end of Feb of 2019 and hit the ground running quite quickly after some one told me they like a fishmeal bait in there … I had a lot of Link base mix to roll and that’s what I did, and left the Cell for what it was - a good bait, but not on there. That second session it was bingo, with a good fish under my belt - this was the end of March, and I had two more fish before the close season came around that year, one called Heinz - a fish I can call a friend.

'the bad reputation of local anglers claiming swims and other such stories kept me from fishing this place for years'

First from the 'front' lakes

Heinz - One that would later become a 'friend'

The 16th April came along and the close season on the public waters in Belgium was upon us, a UK trip came along, and before I knew it, it was the 1st of June and the season was open again. By then there was so much weed it was nearly impossible to fish the ‘front’ lakes of the complex, so I fished another lake a few times and did ok on there as well. Other fishing got in the way, as having too much water in the area I live often does - so I only fished a few more sessions on the front lakes and had a few more, but it all dried up eventually, and at the back end of the year I blanked a few times. But I had got my first proper taste of the complex and I liked it a lot; ‘edge’ fishing, medium range casting - my kind of fishing and by now I got to know a bid more about the stock too. I set my target on a dark slate grey mirror called ‘Arrow Tail’ - a fifty pounder at its top weight, but I go by the looks and character of the fish, and not the number on the scales. It is nice to catch a big fish, but as soon they go over 15kg they are all big fish in my book. I did eleven sessions in the end, and loved every minute of it and I planned to do the autumn on there the following year, as I was told it was the best time for Arrow!

'I set my target on a dark slate grey mirror called ‘Arrow Tail’ - a fifty pounder at its top weight, but I go by the looks and character of the fish, and not the number on the scales'

I fished the big lake in the spring again, the ‘AK’ in the summer and I started on the front side at the complex late in September and had four good trips. By November it slowed right down, but I had a mega few trips with around 6 or 7 fish and as it goes a few good ones - Heinz again, The Tourist, the Unknown and a few others. ‘A Team’ fish but not Arrow Tail. In ‘21 I had also done three trips on the ‘back’ lakes of the complex, as this complex consists of six lakes on the front and six lakes at the back (lets call it the dark side). The six front lakes are all connected to each other and on the dark side it’s the same - all six lakes all connected to each other! Our own little ‘Yateley’ complex you could say. Some local anglers might not like this article, as over the years many an English angler has come down to the complex, but I need to tell my story and the layout or set up of this complex is important, as the fish can be in any one of the six lakes at any time. Location is important, as they say, but at times very tricky. If I set my stall out for a 48-hour session I would normally catch as by then I knew the swims to be in to have a chance of a fish or two. So I started on the front lakes and only did three sessions on the back, I wanted to finish what I had started and catch Arrow before I moved to the dark side to target the others over there.

'Our own little ‘Yateley’ complex, you could say'

The Sargent

The Tourist - another one I would meet a few times

On September the 25th - my birthday - the Unknown Common came along

Once again the rest of the spring was fished elsewhere and only got back in between trips to France in September to fish another autumn on the front side, catching five during that autumn stint - a few new ones I hadn’t caught before, the Tourist again and losing Arrow. I had got to know the way that one fights from other anglers who caught her before me, and that was exactly the way that lost one had fought … gutted! But life goes on, and I was hopeful we would meet in the end. The year ended with another few more blank sessions at the big sand pit where and after that I had kinda lost my drive a bit and it took me some time to get back in the groove of angling. A very nice trip to the UK in April ‘22 and catching a new UK pb in the form of my first ever fully - buzzing and on cloud 9 with that one! I was waiting for the 1st of June, and the opening of the season on the complex. It was my first session of the year in Belgium (second in total) so was a bit rusty. After a walk around with the gear still in the car there was people in the area I wanted to fish, and I was a bit under-gunned with the mono on the reels in the savagely weedy conditions, so back home it was! To get braid, and start fresh the next day.

The TC Fully from Roach Pit on my first session of the year in '22

It was early the next morning, on June 2nd when I returned. After a good walk around and standing in a few swims it was clear it was really weedy and the Point was empty. After feeling around with a light lead to find a few spots I put two rods out - one to the left under the old, almost dead overhanging tree and one to the right, half a rod length from a weed bed on nice bit of firm silt. By late morning the rods where in place. I used the baiting pole the get the left hander in - loving to how stealthy it is to get rigs in positions where casting is impossible. Nothing happened through the night and by first light I was a little despondent – feeling sure I should’ve had one. Out of the blue, to banish my worries, the left hand rod screamed off and I was in ... the power of the fish made me think … then I thought, don’t think - just play it safe and see when it is in the net. As it rolled I caught a glimpse of a lot of scales - it was a common, a very good common, perhaps the Unknown again.

'the power of the fish made me think … then I thought, don’t think - just play it safe'

It went in the net with no dramas and on inspection of the tail it was clear it wasn’t the Unknown, but another great big common. Over the moon as it was a new one for me, one called the Naked Spot common, and definitely one of the A Team at mid forty! What a fish, what a creature … and did I lose my drive? No, I was on that cloud9 again. That afternoon I caught Heinz again, the second night I had a common and that morning before going home I had the Sargent again - as you see, targeting fish unfortunately means catch a few of the others again along the way. I want them all in the end, but not multiple times ... I got home that afternoon buzzing like HELL and my drive was back as I was already looking forward to next weekend - I work 4/5 days a week, so always Friday off and the weekend - yes I am a weekend angler just like 95% of all other anglers.

First session on the complex in '22 and bingo, one I did not now about - Naked Spot at 45+

More bait prep; more boilie crumb ‘crumbed’ and a few handfuls of pellet in the mix and a jar of the Proper Carp Baits Maple Mix was put ready to go. More Activ 8 prepped with Fosoil, Liquid Liver and Calanus over it. By adding the liquids it almost ‘preserves’ the bait for longer as well. Those four days took forever to pass that week, which was ok as we had lots to do at work, but my thoughts were nowhere else but at the lake … hoping and praying that the big fish didn’t get caught during my absence. Friday came along, eventually, and I could head out fishing again.

The car park was empty and a dog walker confirmed that he hadn’t seen any other anglers, so the barrow was loaded and I shot straight off back to the Point, and settled in and put the rods out on the same spots as the week before. The weather was hotter than the weekend before, but confidence was still high and going into the night the atmosphere was electric. Around 1pm that night I had a bite on the right hand rod, and a nice thirty pound mirror was soon put back after taking a few self takes. The rest of the night was quiet, apart from a few liners on both rods. At first light I kept seeing fizzing in the area of the left hand rod and I was sure I was going to get a bite any min … but it took a little longer. I keep seeing fizzing, kept crossing my fingers, and then all hell broke loose!

It must have been around 9am by then. After a few min I think I knew what was on the other end of the line, but I kept my cool and played that violent fish in as carefully as I could. It took about 25 minutes in the end to land it, and it was a big relief when she finally rolled into the net. I knew what I had caught. After 5 minutes I text Wes on whatsapp to say I think I had her … AT! Wes came around to help with the shots but I am fairly handy at doing the self takes - only me who can fuck things up then! - and that’s the way I like doing it. Wes took the water shots for me though, so thanks for that mate! Oh and btw … I had just caught Arrow Tail and I was in a state of haze! Buzzing like hell, and on bloody cloud 9 again. I didn’t come off it, and I was back on it … what a great feeling it was catch this fantastic creature. She is an old one, and was a bit down in weight, but I couldn’t have cared less. I had caught that amazing old slate grey animal, and she was mine for just a few minutes. After the water shots, she swam of powerfully to fight another day, and to make another angler very happy I hoped. I was over the moon, and still am writing this now.

 'I had caught that amazing old slate grey animal, and she was mine for just a few minutes'

The jewel in the front lakes - Arrow Tail

There were still a few left in the front lakes I hadn’t caught … but that dark side was looking damn interesting as well, with a few that are definitely on my target list. The hunt never stops, and there is always another target! But one thing that is paramount for me is to have a great time and enjoy my time on the bank and in between, doing the prep as that is also part of my angling, writing this now is all part of creating the memories … until next time, as I will definitely write another story one day about whatever happens next.

Thanks for reading, tight lines and hope you catch the one your after


Tommy De Cleen

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