Every Second Counts
Briggsy hangs on for a UK whacker
Although I get to do more fishing than most people, the one part of that which often suffers is my fishing on UK waters. People sometimes ask if I still fish at home and the answer is yes, but with so much of my time taken up abroad my options are often limited. So, when I do get my chances, I like to make the most of them.
One of the best waters I’ve ever fished is Grenville’s Lake up in Cambridgeshire and, although it’s not always the easiest prospect, what the owner Paul Ward has done with that piece of water is nothing short of amazing. There are lots of good fish for sure, but it’s a big lake at around 72 acres and also very deep, going down 30ft and even 40ft in places. All of that together makes it a tricky proposition and later in the year things only become more difficult, but any chance to fish there is always gratefully accepted and 48 hours were organized in the hope that I might get my hands on a Grenville’s carp. The Cabin swim is one part of the lake which isn’t covered by the syndicate; instead it is leased out through the year on a weekly basis, but for the week in question it was going spare so that was the obvious place to head for. There are three swims in the Cabin area and I’d be fishing alongside Rob Hales and his son Harry, so we could have a swim each whilst still enjoying the social side of things.
The great thing about the Cabin area is that it contains some of the best features on the Lake. In front of my swim the water drops off very quickly down to over 30ft, but then at around 120 yards range it rises again sharply to form a large plateau. It goes without saying that everyone who fishes that swim targets the plateau, which can be a plus and a minus. The fish are certainly used to seeing bait there, and there are even pole markers left in place which are baited regularly, but it also means that the plateau sees its fair share of pressure, which could cause the fish to be wary and maybe even avoid the area.
You might expect the top of the plateau to be fairly clean, but it’s actually got quite a covering of that dark brown silkweed, the stuff that covers your rigs when you pull back through it. Ideally I wouldn’t choose to fish amongst that, but I do know that it doesn’t hold the fish back from feeding and I’ve caught several fish before by dropping baits right in the middle of it. The important thing is that you just let the rig drop down to the bottom on a tight line on the cast and don’t pull it back at all.
Once a day Paul offered to put some bait out for us from the boat. It made real sense to get some bait out that way, as it’s both easier and more accurate, plus the Grenville carp are used to seeing bait arrive over their heads like that. I actually went a little lighter on the baiting front than I normally would there, whereas Rob and Harry went in far heavier. To me it just felt right to go lighter. The carp seemed to be slowing down a little after a spell of activity a week or two earlier and I knew that plenty of bait had been spread over the area previously; it was possible that a fair amount of it could still be out there. Don’t get me wrong, the fish can arrive in big numbers and clear an area in no time, but the flip side of that is they don’t always visit in big numbers. In the conditions I felt in reality I was fishing for one or two bites.
I was spooled up with 15lb mono main line, so with my moderate casting ability the plateau was getting close to my limit. Couple that with a crosswind and on the first day I didn’t really feel that I’d got the hookbaits in exactly the right spots. The following morning it was flat calm and, although it looked like a good time for a bite, I took the chance of recasting in the knowledge that the baits would at least be presented as well as they could be and I could leave them there until the end if I had to.
There were no surprises on the rig front. I have caught Grenville’s carp on pop-ups in the past, but I prefer fishing with snowman or bottom baits most times. I went for a slow-sinking snowman setup, so that it would just sink slowly enough to come to rest on top of the weed. I also made the hooklinks slightly longer with around 14 inches of fully coated 20lb Combilink, and that was simply to make sure that I had enough surplus for it not to get buried on the drop. A size 5 Fang Twister completed the rig. As always, my thoughts behind everything were not whether the rig would get me a bite, but whether it would land the biggest fish I had the chance of hooking. The bait is what gets the bite and for me it was of course Nashbait’s Key Cray.
Then it happened
Although we all constantly scoured the surface for signs of movement, the only carp activity we saw was a long way off to my left, right out towards the middle of the Lake and way out of our range. Our spots looked quite lifeless and after two nights without a bleep for any of us Rob and Harry decided to head off mid-afternoon to beat the traffic. It was a nice afternoon, so I decided to stick it out until last knockings on dark.
With time nearly up I’d made one last cup of tea and had just sat down when I heard a bleep. I looked up to see the middle tip pulling down before the alarm screamed into life! I was a bit shocked, but found myself holding on to a strong fish that was ripping line off the spool. It kited left into deep water, but as I started gaining line I had to pull it back up over the plateau, which gave me some nervy moments before I finally had it under control. It was a lovely big chunky mirror of 46¼lb – my biggest UK carp of the year!
The fish had come out of the blue when really it didn’t seem likely, but when I look back it’s amazing how many times that has happened. It’s an old cliché to say that we have a chance of catching all the time we have a bait in the water, but it’s so true. If I’d packed up a couple of hours earlier I would have just put it down to a blank session where the fish just weren’t in front of me. Instead just hanging on for that extra bit of time had not only made a difference to the session, it had made a difference to my whole year.