When Less Equals More
Laurence Smart tackles the historic Silver End complex in Essex.
I joined Silver End after seeing pictures and footage (check out the Nash 2015 DVD) of Tom Forman with the Front Pit’s ‘jewel in the crown’, an ancient old mirror known as Scatter. It was one that just had to be in the album and my campaign got off to a good start just after new year.
Only a stone’s throw away from the Front Pit is the Back Pit, which not only contains larger fish but also more fish and, being a similar size, it sees a great deal more attention. It was not just the lack of angling pressure that encouraged me to the Front Pit, but the surroundings too. For two lakes that are so close together, they couldn’t be further apart. The Front Pit is a classic old excavation pit with high steep banks lined with trees and bushes, great oaks and willows dappling the swims in broken sunlight. The Back Pit is far more exposed, and a real grueller on a wet, windy winter’s night. Although there are some incredible fish to be caught from the Back Pit, I had fallen in love with the Front.
My first visit was a quick midweek overnighter after work. I’d managed to get down and have a lead around the previous evening and had found some nice deep margin areas with plenty of cover: a perfect little winter hold-up for a carp or two. I was the only one on the lake and I crept into the swim and flicked out two baits less than a rod-length from the bank. That session saw me off to a flyer. At about 3am I had a slow juddery take, and when I lifted into the fish I was sure I was attached to a bream. It came straight up under the rod tip, with not so much as a lunge, and straight into the net, but it certainly was not a bream! A 23lb common – first blood. That fish gave me confidence in my chosen approach.
The lake sees regular anglers and to be honest the variation in angling isn’t vast. You can usually guarantee that if there’s a car or two in the car park, you know which swims are being fished and also which spots! These areas were earmarked to avoid. Now I could formulate a plan, which involved being a bit secretive. I would fish regularly and keep the bait trickling in, but also keep any captures as quiet as possible. From what I had heard from Tom, it didn’t take much to draw attention to your spots and methods, as is the way with many venues nowadays.
I picked a handful of margin areas, tucked away from the regular crashing of leads. My bait choice was The Key. I’m sure you will have heard a lot about it recently. It’s not to everyone’s taste, mainly due to the price, but it’s the same with a lot of things in life: you get what you pay for. This is an exceptional bait and a worthy investment. It is pure honest carp food and rammed full of goodness. Because of this, best results seem to come when using less of it, just like going out for a good meal; the portions seem tiny but you always end up stuffed! So, in reality it’s very competitively priced and this reduced-volume approach was also perfect as it meant I could trickle in some bait without drawing too much attention to myself! Just a handful or two on the spot each time when I arrive and when I leave is enough. I see this bait as a true, no-compromise, quality food source. It’s not just packed full of attractors that draw them in for a quick bite, and it’s not just what you can see, smell and taste that does the damage; it’s the stuff you can’t see that makes the biggest difference! This was going to be a sustained baiting campaign so I wanted to introduce bait that the fish would recognise as proper food.
I caught steadily and consistently, managing a fish every couple of sessions from my spots without alerting too much attention, mainly upper doubles/low twenties and all commons. When asked, my reply was always the same: “Nah, nuthin mate, blanked again.”
I like to keep things fairly simple rig-wise, so opted for a classic blow-back rig with a size 6 Fang X and a 20mm Cultured Hookbait fished on the deck as the spots were nice and clean. The Cultured Hookbaits have become an integral part of my fishing, and where I can present them I will, either with a handful of whole and broken Key around them or as single hookbaits. The core is a critically balanced hookbait which is perfectly weighted down by a size 6, and they just seem to have that edge which really gets a bite.
So, that was the game plan and it was working. I was catching and I was happy, then something changed... I’m not sure exactly why, but the bites just dried up and I couldn’t buy one. It was not just for me but all around the lake. Over the course of nearly two weeks of regular nights I didn’t get a sniff from my usual spots. I decided that what was needed was a good bit of investigation, so I made a rare weekend trip. I usually avoid weekends but I felt that it was important to spend a day there to observe the lake and figure out what was going on. The Saturday turned out to be clear and bright, and it felt warm for once. I found the fish immediately. Most of the lake’s stock were sunning themselves in a snaggy corner in a swim called the Oak. Knowing they were getting in there was enough for me, as I had nothing else to go on.
I focused all my efforts on that particular swim and I baited one spot in particular each session, getting myself and the fish focused on that spot alone. It was a nice deep area at the bottom of the shelf right under an overhanging willow at the end of a reed line. My reason for focusing on one spot was that if I tried to get the whole area going or a couple of different spots, then it would be more likely someone could strike it lucky and drop right on one when I wasn’t in there. I was putting all my eggs in one basket.
The next week passed fishless, but I kept The Key trickling in; a couple of good handfuls at the start and end of each session. I started to hear of fish being caught from the swim during the days. It was over five months since Scatter had last been out and I was getting twitchy. The lake was getting busier with these daytime captures and I knew it was a countdown until she came out. The second week was in progress and the swim was beginning to wake up in the hours of darkness. I could feel it; with each night that passed there was slightly more activity than the last.
I managed to get Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights penned in, but would have to pull off early Saturday morning and miss the daytime spell again. Wednesday night saw a couple of fish roll on the spot during the evening. Thursday night and a couple showed again, bang on the spot, but this time fully crashing out. It was Friday night and it felt good; it really did feel like it was going to do a fish and after such a run of blanks it felt like it was coming together. I managed to beat one of the guys to the swim by about 10minutes – things were looking good.
I stayed up watching and waiting until the early hours, and with each passing hour I thought the chance was slipping away. I awoke at 6am to motionless rods. I was quite despondent with that gut feeling you get when you know it’s so close but you have to leave soon. I lay there watching the water, and, as the mist rolled off of the surface film, I found myself thinking about who was going to drop in and catch her that weekend. I was in a bit of a daydream when suddenly the right-hand alarm let out a short sharp burst as the indicator whacked the rod and the tip began to bend around. I was fishing almost locked up, and it was clear that this fish was not at all happy about being nailed. I leant into the fish and knew it was a good one. The fight was a strong and powerful one, keeping deep and making confident runs, but she tired quickly. As it flanked some way out in the clear water I saw that it was a mirror, which considerably narrowed down the list of potential culprits. She surfaced just in front of the net, coming up from the depths like a gliding submarine and she was done. I knew it was her as she slipped over the net cord. Job done! Scatter, the jewel of the Front Pit, and 33¼lb of true Essex warrior. Happy days! I love it when a plan comes together!
So, now it’s time to turn my attention to another member of the Silver End A-Team, the Big Common. I think it’s a good time to start having a play with our new ready-to-go particle range; I think a little marginal particle trap has got “Big Common” written all over it. Hopefully, I’ll be telling you about it soon!