The 5th of January 2012 marked my return to Silvermere Lake. I had spent the morning in a meeting and by late afternoon I was stuck in traffic on the M25, chewing on my fingernails and drumming the steering wheel, but not even my singing could make the traffic move any faster. Normally, traffic on the way to the lake was nothing more than an occupational hazard, but today I couldn’t afford to be late. I didn’t even have a ticket yet and if I missed the 5pm curfew I wouldn’t be able to get into the office, and purchase my ticket.
With minutes to spare, I was parked in the car park and proudly presenting my pre-completed application form and cheque and with the ticket safely in my pocket I could relax, so I headed off around the lake for a walk. As far as I could see I was the only one down to fish, so I had the pick of the lake for the three nights that lay ahead of me.
Silvermere is nestled away in the Surrey countryside, tree lined and steeped in history it is a relatively small lake of just 4-5 acres but it has always been one of the most unique venues I have ever been privileged to fish. Silvermere is an unusually shallow lake, just 1.5 to 3ft deep all over, with reed-lined margins and deep silt, and situated right in the heart of a golf course, the lake was also under, around, and often directly in, the flight path of many a stray golf ball. Adding to these issues, the bream in the lake outnumber the carp by many hundred to one, and would mercilessly feed on all bait. Even the traditional method of using large hook baits would only withstand their attentions for so long
'Silvermere is an unusually shallow lake, just 1.5 to 3ft deep all over, with reed-lined margins and deep silt, and situated right in the heart of a golf course'
The stock in 2012 was very different to when I had initially fished the venue previously in 2008, when there had been approximately 15 carp, topped by three large, old history fish: Whitescale, Polo and Clanger. The other fish comprised two low-30s and a selection of unique mirrors and commons. I always loved the fact that the Silvermere fish were so old and different; many of them were of varying strains and looks, as over the years these fish had been introduced into Silvermere from various sources. The fish were not overly cagey due to the large amount of human activity around the lake. Golf balls constantly smashing into the lake, a bar overhanging one margin and large firework displays for the clubhouse, meant they were accustomed to unusual activity. Whilst they were comfortable with human presence, the fish were also well adapted to feeding in the silt, and as such, they were adept at ejecting rigs with ease. Another anomaly was that they rarely showed, which I felt was good for them because if one of the chunks came right out of the water, they would more than likely end up ‘gill-deep’ in silt!
'15 carp, topped by three large, old history fish: Whitescale, Polo and Clanger'
To help you get the full picture, let me take you back to June 2008, when I first fished the venue. I hit the ground running after a failed spring campaign on another pit, due to the target fish getting injured from some bad angling practice and me losing my buzz for the place, but my endless amounts of youthful enthusiasm kept me searching and brought me to Silvermere.
I got off the mark pretty quickly with bream after bream, and a few sleepless nights did nothing to dampen the aforementioned youthful enthusiasm. It did, however, encourage me to use some larger baits, and rather than fishing through them on 15mm boilies I started to use larger 20mm baits. Normally, I would take the stance that I would rather go through the rigmarole of getting rigs back out in order to continue fishing effectively, but these bream were beyond a joke, and I felt that the rate that I being forced to recast was seriously affecting the chances of catching a carp.
Rig-wise, I was using my standard longshank set-up as the hooking arrangement, but I extended the hook length to around a foot long to ensure that the hook bait sat on top of the silt. This tactic accounted for my first two carp in just seven nights of fishing; a small ghostie of around 17lbs and one of the lakes bigger residents, ‘Big Tail’, a fantastic old carp that was just over 30lbs, and fought like a freight train, taking long powerful runs. This particular fish had resided in Silvermere for many years and upon further investigation I found a picture of it in Terry Hearn’s, ‘In Pursuit of the Largest’ (AKA The First Testament). These two fish boosted my morale no end and I continued to fish hard through the summer in search of the big three, and any of the other lovely Silvermere residents.
Given the lake’s incredibly shallow make-up and the size of the fish present, when the sun came up it was common to see the fish bow-waving over the spots and right up on the surface. Unlike the other fish, Clanger never seemed to have a favoured zone, and could be seen all over the lake, often on his own. I played around with the chod rig and presented bright pop-ups on top of the silt, but this did not prove effective and in retrospect, unless these rigs were on the exact right spots, the fish just didn’t seem to respond to the bright single approach.
The bream created their own problems, often hooking themselves and being unable to move the lead out of the silt. After a quiet night you would occasionally reel in a small bream, meaning in effect that you had been live-baiting for the night! With the small bream causing havoc, slack lines were off the table and while many of the other anglers moved over to using running leads, I persevered with my favoured semi-fixed lead arrangement, but stuck to tight lines to ensure that I was aware of any movement of the lead.
In the summer, it was clear that the fish became line-shy and they could be seen spooking off the tight lines, so along with the brothers (Simon and Tel Hof) we started to play around with methods of keeping the lines out of the water and one tactic went on to prove devastating.
‘The washing line’ was a method I had been shown back on Tolpits many years previously. One bright summer’s day I found a few fish feeding in less than two foot of water right off the 18th green. Among scores of miss-hit golf balls, a few carpy tails broke the surface as they competed for the scattering of boilies, and it was time to execute my plan. Longshank rigs, only five-inches long were placed onto the spot by casting over on to the grass, placing the rigs inch-perfect using my baiting pole and leaving a slack line to the rig. The line was then attached to a storm pole by pulling a loop of line under a coiled elastic band. Tightening up from the rod resulted in a bizarre bow string line out to the far margin, with a slack line hanging down into the margin to the rig; perfect! As bizarre as it looks it is a truly effective manner of fishing for line-shy carp, where the situation allows. Upon receiving a take, the line would pull out from under the elastic band, the heavy bobbin taking up the slack, registering as an impressive and immediate drop back.
'One bright summer’s day I found a few fish feeding in less than two foot of water right off the 18th green. Among scores of miss-hit golf balls, a few carpy tails broke the surface as they competed for the scattering of boilies'
Despite getting the rigs out quietly and the fish still being in the area, I was made to wait patiently until just after first light when my first Silvermere carp tripped up on the washing line method. After a spirited fight a mid-double mirror known as the ‘Sheepwalk’ was sitting sulking in the net.
This fish was a known companion of the lake’s biggest resident, ‘Whitescale’, so I got the rig back on the spot with as little disturbance as possible, overcasting and lowering the rig in by hand, before arranging and tensioning the washing line trap. Barely 15 minutes later, I was attached to another fish, by which point I had convinced myself that I was attached to the Sheepwalk’s forty pound feeding companion. I was brought back to earth with a bump when my daydream turned into a low-20lb common. However, a brace of these special old fish was something to be celebrated and they were treated to a photo session worthy of any target fish; any carp from Silvermere was a major result.
As time went by, my confidence in targeting these fish on the small marginal spots I was identifying increased, and I adapted the rigs to suit. The longshank hooking arrangement remained, but the rig was shortened right down to just 3-4 inches. A change of bait to a tougher, but very high-quality fishmeal combined with bloodworm, slowed down the rate of bream.
My first 35(ish) nights on my original bait had resulted in just four carp, and confidence was high as my tactics and bait had been tweaked to the venue. As if to confirm my beliefs, the next 15 nights resulted in five fish: ‘Polo’ the lake’s third-biggest fish at 37lbs+, braced with the lake’s biggest common ‘Breamy’ at 29lbs, two commons and a repeat capture of the Sheepwalk fish. Despite confidence brimming and the rigs and baits clearly doing the business, I was back to university and unable to get back to the lake, and it was incredibly frustrating having to pull off despite feeling so close to snaring one of the lakes real big’uns’.
'the next 15 nights resulted in five fish: ‘Polo’ the lake’s third-biggest fish at 37lbs+, braced with the lake’s biggest common ‘Breamy’ at 29lbs, two commons and a repeat capture of the Sheepwalk fish'
Whitescale came out shortly after and was a well-deserved capture for Terry. It was excreting my bait all over his mat, but rather than being disgruntled because it wasn’t on my mat, I was honestly just chuffed that the fish were clearly feeding on the new bait so confidently, and being able to because it was being left for longer by the bream.
I was able to get back down to the lake for a three-night session in the middle of November, and set up in my favourite swim, the Goose. It was situated on an island and covered a large amount of water, which as a bonus could not be fished from any other swims. This swim also covered the productive deep margin that was directly in front of the golf course’s bar. When the bar’s patio was built, the excavation created a deep margin, sloping down to a six-foot depth in places. The swim had a real reputation for throwing up the big fish, but it had also proved it could be very cruel to anglers as well. The Goose’s water would be visited by most of the fish every day, but they were so used to seeing rigs in the deeper water by the bar, that I knew I had to come up with a way of swinging the odds in my favour.
I spent a whole afternoon in the late summer, climbing over the rocks in front of the clubhouse with my marker rod, and by using a bare lead I could identify the spots that existed. There were a number of spots that I noted as particularly firm, and several spots I found just off the rocky margin with unique depth changes. These spots were very small, many as tiny as half a Nix mat, but this intimate knowledge of the margin meant I had a clear advantage over many anglers who merely used a bait boat or cast at the ‘lights’, which as darkness fell would throw bright shafts of light out onto the lake. The margin was about 70 yards from the swim, so my knowledge would have been wasted by simply casting to the spots because at that range, the small spots would be difficult to identify and the casting in the shallow water after bream captures could risk chances on the other rods in close proximity.
Using the washing line method, that had been working so well, to fish the spot was out of the question, as the bow in the line from rod tip to the storm pole and the tension required on the line would inhibit the clip pulling out on a take. However, by casting on to the 18th green and walking the rig over to the margin, I could then drop the rig in using my marker rod and a loop of PVA tape. This method was by no means easier than casting, as the casting and dropping process had to be timed between golfers, and a bream at 2am could often incur 25 minutes of effort to get the rig accurately back onto the spot. The accuracy and finesse that this method offered, though, meant that I always went the extra mile to get the rigs out perfectly on the spots.
'by casting on to the 18th green and walking the rig over to the margin, I could then drop the rig in using my marker rod and a loop of PVA tape. This method was by no means easier than casting, as the casting and dropping process had to be timed between golfers, and a bream at 2am could often incur 25 minutes of effort to get the rig accurately back onto the spot'
The rigs were working well; the longshank hooking arrangement on a shorter hook length was now down to only 3-4 inches long, with the lead set to drop off on an inline set-up. The final part of the conundrum was getting the line lay spot-on; with the bream still causing havoc, a slack line would not suffice.
The topography of the lake was a hindrance and a blessing because from the deep water spots in front of the bar, the lake bed remained comparatively flat for a few rod lengths before shelving up to the ‘original margin’ and to a depth of two feet, and from here back to the swim it remained essentially flat. I found that the perfect method of concealing the line was by sliding a backlead up the line when placing the rig, guestimating where lake started to shallow up. The rig could then be fished on a tight line but the backlead would hold the line at the rig end, tight to the bottom. Combined with leadcore, the line was held tight to the bottom as it shelved up and by getting the rod tips low, the line would run flush to the bottom to the drop off, in theory anyway.
On Remembrance Day, and the first morning of my session, I reacquainted myself with Polo at a weight of 39lbs 6oz. The fish had been showing all night and for the following 24 hours I watched show after show; the atmosphere was electric and I was sure there was more to come.
'On Remembrance Day, and the first morning of my session, I reacquainted myself with Polo at a weight of 39lbs 6oz'
On the final evening of my session, after getting the rods out for the final time I saw an absolute cheese show off the 18th green over a deep hole I had fished previously. I quickly repositioned a rod to this spot, and the following morning I hung on as late as humanly possible before heading off to work. For my awkward persistence I was rewarded with the queen of the lake; Whitescale at a huge 46lb 2oz, a lake record and personal best.
That session I left with a heavy heart, partially because I felt that if I had stayed on another bite may well have been on the cards, a bite that may have allowed me to complete the trio in one session. However, my reticence was mainly due to the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to return that season. With my time restrictions, and having caught two of the trio, I knew it was best to leave on a high. I had always wanted to catch all three; Polo, Whitescale and Clanger, but with Clanger’s reputation for going long periods without capture, that was never going to be an easy task, and I knew it.
'For my awkward persistence I was rewarded with the queen of the lake'
'I had always wanted to catch all three; Polo, Whitescale and Clanger, but with Clanger’s reputation for going long periods without capture, that was never going to be an easy task, and I knew it'
Join us for Part 2 in a week or so..