ISSUE 1 ARCHIVES
Sit back to enjoy the concluding part of Scotty's chess games with the tricky White Swan residents. Strange occurrences with hooking dead rabbits, a string of incredible mirrors and three foot long linears abound. Fire up the kettle, and enjoy
A fresh south-westerly was due to arrive, so on the Sunday I positioned the bivvy in such a way that I could see all the way to the top end of the lake from my bed, and lay back with the binoculars. Monki had already gone up into Six on the Saturday, having deployed a mountain of bait to the spots. I spent the weekend focused intently up the pit, and it wasn’t until the Sunday that a huge plume of water burst into the air some half a kilometre in the distance. Convinced that it was a very big fish that had showed, I stared even more intently through the bin’s while on the phone to Matty Birkitt in the Twin Trees. He said they were going barmy in front of him, too, but even with the binoculars they were nearly impossible to make out. Then, there it was; the unmistakable form of a solid-looking carp exiting the pond in a vertical fashion. This was getting a bit much. I couldn’t really get that close but peg Eight was soon to be free and I wasn’t sure the fish I had seen were as far up as peg Six, anyway. Right on cue, another big’un launched itself skywards up in the distance where the lake bends round the corner. Seconds later I could make out Pete’s leads skipping across the surface in peg Eight as he began his early departure. Wasting no time, I rang Monki, asked him to reserve the swim with a bucket while I packed up immediately, and raced the best part of a mile round the pit to peg Eight.
'even with the binoculars they were nearly impossible to make out. Then, there it was; the unmistakable form of a solid-looking carp exiting the pond in a vertical fashion'
While I regained some composure after the gruelling slog with my hastily loaded barrow, we drank tea and discussed the events of the session. Monki had been kept up all night by liners, before a lone coot made its way over from the distant reeds of the far bank and picked up his pop-up hookbait instantly as it stopped over the spot. Having obviously been cleared out and ‘done’ through the night, a new bait was dispatched to the spot, and shortly after, the same old coot made his way back across the bay. Pre-empting a second pick-up, Monki’s marker rod was launched at the offending bird, resulting in a vicious line bite as the heavy lead smashed onto the surface, almost definitely spooking a big fish off the spot. After another recast, a big, black mirror showed right in front of the Twin Trees, where Matty was soon to latch into a 20lb common, the disturbance of which was to push the big frenzied fish back out into the bay.
I’d long since departed to ready my rods, as had all the weekenders, leaving Monki, Byron and me as the only anglers on the pit. I hadn’t even cast my first lead in peg Eight, when I heard the guttural roar of ‘BERNIE’S!’ emanating from the centre of the bay where Nige and Byron were out in the boat with the defeated cyprinid. What an historic fish to photograph in the afternoon sun! Three-feet of pure muscle, as dark as you like, with a large, beady, black eye that looked knowingly at us as we went about the ritual. At 44lbs 8oz, the impressive beast had stunned us all, before kicking off strongly and giving Nige a good hard slap round the bollocks as a parting gesture. Monki stood there dripping, half-naked in his pants, grinning from ear to ear. That was quite enough for me, so I shot off to cast out before I vomited in my mouth at the sight of it.
'I hadn’t even cast my first lead in peg Eight, when I heard the guttural roar of ‘BERNIE’S!’ emanating from the centre of the bay where Nige and Byron were out in the boat with the defeated cyprinid'
It hadn’t gone unnoticed that the weekends had become a bit of a bitch to catch anything at all. There was often something out Friday morning, or late Sunday afternoon, but the Saturdays had become somewhat of a bogey day for catching anything but dogs and weedbeds. This didn’t inspire me one bit; turning up on Saturdays every weekend for a two-nighter had started to grind me down come the end of August. Thankfully, I had some strategic dates planned off work for the midweeks throughout September, October and early November, when I hoped to rectify the situation before the entire season had passed me by.
I moved on from Jay’s Boards to close-range showing fish in the Social on the Friday before the weekly bombardments and it wasn’t long before the crowds descended and things were looking decidedly dead for the weekend ahead. Neil had turned up and gone in the recently vacated Jay’s. Now, I should probably explain that Neil is one of those people who seem to have very strange things happen to him on a regular basis. Hooking grebes, foul-hooking carp, being narrowly missed by lightning and encountering weird naked men are all stories that feature in Neil’s vast repertoire of strange goings-on. Well, this particular day Neil managed to one-up himself by extracting the sodden and decaying corpse of a rabbit from the very spot where I’d just moved from, some 30-odd yards out into the pit, much to our amusement of course!
'Hooking grebes, foul-hooking carp, being narrowly missed by lightning and encountering weird naked men are all stories that feature in Neil’s vast repertoire of strange goings-on'
As I sat with Byron in Les’ in the Car Park Bay on the Sunday afternoon, a reasonable mirror stuck its head out in the weed behind the area. Having not seen much in my swim, or anywhere else for that matter, I decided to move in after him for my last night. I was sitting back in my swim when Byron shouted that he had a fish on. Running down to assist, we soon had what we thought was a ball of weed with a small common twisting in front. With Byron on the board and me playing ghillie in the chest waders below him, I assumed he could see better than me. A glimpse of a long, scaly carp flanked deep down in the layers, but I could still hear protests of, “It’s only a little common,” from behind me.
Scooping the lot up first go, I assured him that this was no common as a very familiar-looking black eye stared back at me. Now convinced that this was none other than Bernie’s Linear, I left Byron in his state of denial and fetched Monki, who was still firmly installed in peg Six, to help dispel the delirium.
“Mate, it’s a three-foot-long linear, with scum down its back, and a great, big, black eye on it – there aren’t many fish it can be.”
'I left Byron in his state of denial and fetched Monki, who was still firmly installed in peg Six, to help dispel the delirium'
So, once again, the three of us were the only people on the lake to witness the classic creature. We joked that it would be my turn next, but only when the three of us were the sole anglers present. With Byron obliging and letting me into Les’ with plenty of time, I soon had the rods out absolutely ‘ding-dong’ on the marks, taking extra care to spod the freebies out to the spots and accurately catapult the rest around the spod in the dwindling evening light.
The subtle tweaks and plucks at the bobbins betrayed their presence in the increasing light of dawn. Monki had moved into the Anti, a couple of swims to my right, the previous evening, so we drank tea and scoured the surface for signs of life. Aside from the odd bubble popping in the weed behind the left-hand rod, the carp were keeping their heads down, although it was pretty obvious that they were still out and about in the swim. The large head of a donkey-carp rose to the left, indulging me with the early morning rush of adrenalin that only an ardent carper knows.
While the line lay into the right-hand spot was clear, the frequent indications had intensified, leaving me unsure whether the lead had become dislodged in the commotion. Matt Eaton turned up early for his weekly three-nighter, plotting in the Social swim; a renowned producer of his target fish, the mighty Twin. I was due to leave by 6pm, and thankfully, the conditions continued to looked spot on throughout the afternoon. With a whole afternoon of sunning myself to look forward to I tried to take my mind off the obvious feeding activity in the swim and let nature run its course.
It wasn’t until 2pm that a bite materialised, pulling up tight and wrenching the rod down in the stage stands as the tightened clutch refused to surrender. With continual pressure from my end, the lead had detached itself from the set-p and a decent-looking mirror was soon lunging underneath the rod tip in the deep margin. The 30lb 8oz corker was deep chestnut across the back, with a single scale on its lateral line where the colour blended into mahogany red.
'The 30lb 8oz corker was deep chestnut across the back, with a single scale on its lateral line where the colour blended into mahogany red'
I took the opportunity to recast both rods, after pacing them down the gravel path to the line clip markers. Determined not to disturb the swim too much, I’d agreed only to cast each rod once. The right landed bang on line but bounced on the clip a touch too hard, landing with a sandy thud just short of the sweet spot. The left-hand rod was something else, going down with such a crack it felt like the rod had jumped out of my hands in shock as the lead smacked down on to what felt like a patio slab on the bottom. I turned to Matty and said, “I’m having another one!”
“I’m not surprised, with drops like that!” he retorted.
At 4pm, the left-hand buzzer emitted a single bleep, giving Nige just enough time to pick up his sounder box from its resting place across my rod butts, before an identical take occurred on the same rod.
Once again, the lead had been lost and the angry carp was manhandled away from the weed forest and into the deep, clear margin. A faint yellow glow twisted and turned round to the right in a bid to gain sanctuary in the dense, reed-lined margin.
“Steady with that net, Nige. There’s a dirty great big yellow glow down there.”
Although it wasn’t the monster I’d first thought, a mint scaly beast surrendered to the pressure and was soon waiting for its own photo shoot. It looked every ounce like another 30, and sure enough the needle pulled round to 32lbs 8oz. Nige grabbed his own waders, so we could get some pukka shots with the fixed 50mm lens in the bright sunshine.
After a quick recast on the left again, I gawped at my new brace of 30s on the DSLR before having a slow pack-up and making way for Monki, who dived in after me like the proverbial rat up a drainpipe. The barrow felt as light as air on the way back, an effect that only the capture of a beautiful carp can achieve; I could get used to this midweek fishing! Monki went on to extract the elusive Dark One the following morning, completing a quartet of White Swan’s finest for the three of us.
'Monki went on to extract the elusive Dark One the following morning, completing a quartet of White Swan’s finest for the three of us'
The following week found me out in the boat with Nige to retrieve a carp from the weed-choked Twin Trees, where the surface weed had quite frankly become a joke. A solid mat of green spread across the front of the swim, up to 15 yards wide in places and what wasn’t out of the water was only inches below. I boated across with Matty Eaton to the famous long board where poor old Nige paced around anxiously, in wait. Having noted some tasty-looking close-in spots on the way through a thinner channel into the swim, Matt jumped out and Nige took the helm with the rod as I tried to shuffle us over the football pitch of weed that lay ahead of us. A 4oz lead was soon whistling past our ears as we got over the fish and the hook popped out. Nige threw his rod down in disgust, before taking a very stern, philosophical pose at the bow, while I rowed us back, trying to open a little channel through the gigantic finger of weed on the way.
It was the last weekend of September and I arrived on the Sunday for a three-night session, having booked the first three days of the week off work. The conditions looked spot-on for the top bay, with a fresh south-westerly pushing through peg Six, where I’d stopped with Lew. Lewis was due to leave but tipped me off that Twin Trees would be a better bet anyway, and as much as I loved Six, I had to agree, having promised myself not to get too obsessed with it for another season. The lifejackets and hard-bottomed boat lay dormant after the midweek loss anyway, and it certainly looked a better option as the swim had been vacant for three days. Typically, a small head popped out over the back of the Twin Trees weed band as soon as I stopped at the end of the board, followed by a much better roll about 50 yards out a few minutes later; the decision was made.
'To put into perspective how bad the weed was, the right-hand buzzer bleeped continually for three hours while coots trampled my lines into the surface weed, and the left-hand rod was not much better'
To put into perspective how bad the weed was, the right-hand buzzer bleeped continually for three hours while coots trampled my lines into the surface weed, and the left-hand rod was not much better, but the surface weed was parted from the remnants of our boat entry the week before. Despite this, the line was more or less going vertically into the hole where my short lead core set-up lay on the rock-hard patch among a little horseshoe in the weed. A hung-over Neil had turned up in Six, a little late and slightly the worse for wear after a big birthday drink. Byron arrived even later, even more hanging and was spitting feathers about not getting down sooner.
After sorting out the rods for the first night among the weed jungle, I dunked the bait bag in the margins to let the remaining baits soak at the same rate as the recently deposited kilo and a half on each spot. While Byron kicked himself and watched, big black mirror carp flashed out in the waves between Neil and my right-hand area, but aside from the odd liner there were no bites to be had.
On the second day, the sky was shrouded in an even blanket of grey cloud. The sun burned a perfectly formed hole above, illuminating the entire bay’s weedbeds like luminous continents, which stretched as far as the eye could see across the glass-like surface. The shorter, left-hand spot shone with a yellowish hue, while a group of fish paraded over the silkweed-topped Canadian that surrounded the spot.
The wind started back up as usual, later in the day, and I’d left the rods until late to recast, after a black and orange chunk had sloshed out in the weed behind the short spot. A curry was planned in peg Four, where we sat on the second night, and we heard heavy footsteps that stomped up the gravel path, which we thought belonged to Al going about his evening visit. The footsteps went past us, towards my swim, stopped and then began to return. Byron had tucked his shelter under the tree and as the footsteps came past I stuck my head out to see a white-trousered weirdo staggering up the path, bawling his eyes out.
'Byron had tucked his shelter under the tree and as the footsteps came past I stuck my head out to see a white-trousered weirdo staggering up the path, bawling his eyes out'
Neil was standing, recasting after the wind had eased off in the half-light of dusk as this peculiar character stumbled like a baby giraffe toward peg Six. I stuck my head in and said, “Mate, I think we should go down there. Neil is just about to have one of those weird things happen to him".
As we got up and walked along the path, the sobbing man spooked, stumbled forward and completely stacked it face first in a heap alongside Neil’s bivvy, before getting up and crashing straight to the bramble bushes. By the time we got there, the bloke had run off down the path and a bemused Neil stood wondering what on earth had just occurred.
I rebaited with 40 saturated, washed-out baits on the third evening. The carp had clearly got away with it so far, despite two days of regular head pokes and lolloping around the areas. The mozzies were as persistent as ever, but the Mosicoil smoke kept them at bay as the cooling breeze wafted down the board. I lay back in the dappled shade of the bivvy, soaking up the atmosphere and feeling rather at one with nature. Sometimes, I wonder why I put myself through it every weekend, but this was what it was all about, not necessarily the catching but being away from the stresses of the outside world. A truly big fish showing over the rods or receiving a take is all I need for that immediate change of mood and the adrenalin buzz that we crave. I really didn’t have a care in the world at that moment, I was just grateful to be angling and not working.
The Delkim woke me from my hazy afternoon doze in the sun. The short rod was bent down in the stage stands at the end of the board, but the clutch was screwed down tight. Bending into the fish, I shouted at Neil for some assistance as a heavy fish plodded on the tight line, before locking up solid. Thankfully, no one else had needed the boat during the session, which had been a worry, as I was pretty sure another boat outing might knock my chances on the head for a couple of days. Everything was ready by the time Neil had appeared from round the corner, with the two Mattys, Eaton and Birkitt, in tow. As we stepped into the boat where the net and mat lay, the lead came off, and the rod began to straighten as the fish wallowed on the surface. I thought better than to try to drag that one across the top - it looked like it might dive back into the weed at any moment - so we made our way out to the fish which was attached to a big crop circle of weed.
Both of us watched a big, scaly mirror slip into the net, and I let out a sigh of relief after the awkward scooping fiasco. Looking down, I discovered to my horror that what we thought was the carp’s back in the bottom of the net was in fact the algae-coated mesh ballooning up on top of the weedbed below us. A glimpse of black tail glistened in the sun and how I’d missed it the first time, I still don’t know, but I made sure the second time, heaving the arms clear of the pond once I was sure. I was pretty certain the culprit was the stunning, unique, and rarely caught fish known as, ‘Son of Triple Row’, which just had to have been the black and orange mirror that had been sloshing around. You’ll notice the scuff on its cheek in the photo; this was where my swivel had rubbed away as the carp tried to bury its face into the bottom of the net the whole time, waddling its arse in the air as it bobbed up and down. It was only its fifth known capture and it weighed-in at a modest 36lbs. It had made my frustrating season of losses and tackle destruction worthwhile.
'Looking down, I discovered to my horror that what we thought was the carp’s back in the bottom of the net was in fact the algae-coated mesh ballooning up on top of the weedbed below us. A glimpse of black tail glistened in the sun and how I’d missed it the first time, I still don’t know'
'My swansong came in late October, in the shape of the Small Fully Scaled at 30lbs-odd, completing the set of three I had always hoped for'
My swansong came in late October, in the shape of the Small Fully Scaled at 30lbs-odd, completing the set of three I had always hoped for. This was followed by a savage take the next night that absolutely brutalised me and went solid. The weed was fiercer than ever, but now you couldn’t retrieve a lead from the bay without it being encased in slimy green silkweed. Fishing the same spots but with long running chods had the desired effect, but I knew from past experience that the weed would soon be breaking up and wiping out my rods all day long, so after a gracious ‘thank you’ and a temporary wave goodbye, I left them to it for the winter to concentrate on my local sheltered club lake for a few mild winter weekends. Here I was to witness an historic turn of events, but that, as they say, is another story. It’s the first week of March as I write, and those White Swan jewels are more than due out. Wish me luck; I think I’m going to need it this year. I might even be able to walk out across the weed and place my baits at this rate!