The Bramble Effect
Luke Bowns talks best friends, big fires, socials and plenty of beautiful carp.
I've had the pleasure of fishing the now well known fishery Bramble Mere for more than 10 years. When I first joined the syndicate the lake was a wild and overgrown hush-hush type of place. There was no publicity apart from the catch diary in the old shed, which we would go straight to look at upon arrival and fill out on the way home. As well as the catch diary, there was a pinboard with a few pictures of the lake's residents, a glimpse into the special carp that lurked in the weedy pit.
To cut a long story short, several of my best friends also joined the syndicate, and around five years ago one of them, Steve, managed to purchase the site. He now runs the lake on an exclusive booking basis, and it is one of the places I work with Steve.
Recently I've been waiting on a few tickets, so without another lake to get stuck into, I had a dabble on Bramble. With the lake's new-found popularity, my fishing on there is mainly limited to socials, which normally revolve around lake maintenance during the day and getting the rods out at night, and also the odd gap between bookings.
Since Steve took over, Bramble Mere has seen some huge changes, including major snag removal, aggressive management of the crayfish, gaining control of the weed and a restocking programme, not to mention our most important addition: the otter-proof fence!
Since the lake used to be so overrun by weed, the winter fishing was a bit of a non-ðstarter, the fish hiding for months on end in deep, unfishable weedbeds, but last winter and early spring were a little different. The weed had died right back, the crayfish had been removed, and younger fish had been introduced. All of these factors meant there was a chance of a bite or two.
Until the clocks changed, my angling was restricted to week nights when the lake wasn't booked (I don't often get the luxury of fishing a weekend). Casting in the dark and leaving for work by 7.30am meant it was fairly hard graft, but knowing the lake well, I had a good idea where the fish would be in the harsh, cold weather: sitting in the deeper water off the north-facing nature reserve bank. To maximise my chances all the usual bits were done; rigs tied ready, rods clipped up and kit minimised. Where possible I was sticking a bit of bait out along this bank and it didn't take long for the bites to start, my good mate Curly hooking the first original of the year on a short session. Bites were by no means guaranteed, with the fish typically starting to show at the time to leave for work, but with Curly's fish as motivation, it didn't take long to even it out and have one myself, taken at close range on a bright, glugged CC Moore Northern Special over the prebaited area of Live System.
With daylight hours increasing, the better fish slowly started waking up and pushing out of the deep water into shallower areas. With lake owner Steve's birthday social on the horizon, I knew I had chance to do a 'proper' session when I could put some sort of plan together on what I had seen over the previous weeks.
Steve had kept a lake booking free and an open invite had gone out to the boys; the lake was ours from Monday until Thursday. Weather permitting, we also had lake maintenance planned, but this was still to be my longest session in a long time. With this in mind I opted to pitch myself in a swim known as Party Point in the middle of the east-facing bank. It dictates a large area of the lake and I was confident I'd have fish in the area at some point over the session.
Monday started slowly, with heavy rain and getting caught in conversation with the other guys who had come down. The rods went out just on dusk and, not feeling too confident in my efforts, I just ended up with a very good night's sleep! During the night a couple of fish came from the complete opposite side of the lake, and with a lot of fish showing there at dawn, I was not too happy in my swim choice. However, with a couple of guys fishing that end, I didn't have much choice other than to hope the fish would push out and give me a shot.
Tuesday was mostly spent cutting limbs off trees and giving the banks a tidy, but I was still able to keep an eye on the lake and see the odd fish showing in Party Point's water. After a quick lead about on dusk, I found a clean pea shingle spot where the fish had been showing. Rods were slung out on the bar, each armed with a critically balanced snowman. I had a couple of stockies through the night, in my eyes a step closer to a bigger fish, so a couple of kilos of mixed sized Live System boilies were thrown out in the morning. If the fish were in the area I wanted to keep them there.
Over the next 24 hours the fish definitely moved over me and the bites came thick and fast, including two double takes, with both braces containing one of the prized quarries: a Bramble original.
My trip ended with me landing 13 fish, including a couple of the old girls. I'm fairly confident a few more would have graced my net if I'd have taken enough bait, but once the bait was gone I was happy to pack down early Thursday morning, stinking of a toxic concoction of bonfire and fish, and severely lacking sleep - but more than happy.
I must confess that I'd been guilty of taking the fish in Bramble for granted over the years and never fished the place hard, but I now have a new-found respect for the residents developed for various reasons, from seeing so many anglers come to catch these mega fish to the otter predation that has hit the Water Park hard over the past few years, meaning prized target fish are becoming hard to find. Now, I'm not saying the fish in the lake are the biggest - far from it - but they are old, scaly carp. I've been very lucky to fish here for so long, and with the security of the fence, long may it continue.