Our own Ben Wales finds himself irresistably drawn to deepest Essex...
So, what would make an angler from East Yorkshire want to travel 200 miles to go fishing in Essex? There’s plenty of good fishing in my home county, and there’s plenty more on the run down; in fact I was questioning my own sanity whilst passing through Cambridgeshire, thinking about the colossal carp that inhabit its many pits.
However, once I arrived at The Quarry I remembered why I’d set off on such a long journey: the chance to angle for some really good looking carp, and some good sized ones too! It’s hard to not be drawn to a venue like The Quarry when you repeatedly see it producing the goods.
The water spans some 21 acres and is surrounded by mature trees on all banks. The narrow pointy end of the wedge-shaped lake is known as the Shallows, two large islands dissect the centre of the lake, and the deepest water can be found in front of the first swims you encounter after coming up the undulating lane. The water level fluctuates throughout the year, so many of the swims have a number of different height stagings, making waders indispensable. One thing I immediately liked about the lake is its rugged nature; many of the swims have been carefully cut into the tree line, or rather the trees have been left to grow up around the swims without being over managed. This will not suit everyone and I understand work will be carried out later this year to make the fishing more ‘comfortable’. You will find 22 swims around the lake, each offering plenty of opportunities without having to cast to the horizon. Fishing has to be booked in advance and fishery manager Ben Lofting allows up to 15 anglers on at a time, meaning there is always ample room to move swims.
Joining me on my pilgrimage was Carp-Talk’s Paul Monkman. Travelling down early on a Sunday morning ensured we had a near-trouble-free run; a small diversion and a couple of hiccups with our satnav destination merely bemused us along the way. Once at the lake we found most of the shallows occupied, but almost all the rest of the lake was free. On our walk around we spotted quite a lot of fizzing around Weedy Bay, and a chat with the bailiff revealed he had just seen a couple of fish close to the island in the same area. With nothing else to go on we acted upon this info. Paul had first choice, opting to go in Weedy, whilst I went on the Point. It’s funny because whilst researching the lake I’d seen several very odd looking images of a swim with a bench actually in the lake and, as it happened, this is the Point swim.
Whilst getting my rods out, a local called Harry Ridler explained the swim’s topography in great detail. This was an enormous help and led me to fishing two rods at 65 yards straight out to some gravel and one rod to the left where I’d seen two fish show. As the night drew in, more and more fish showed in the deep water to my left. At one point they were coming up in twos and threes, and we sat listening to fish lumping out one after the other; it was clear someone was going to have to move. After mulling over the options, we quickly gathered Paul’s gear and just before midnight he was all set up in Deep Bay. Retiring for the night I felt very confident knowing the fish were stacked up in front of us.
A little after 4am my left-hander was away with a spirited mirror. Once safely retained I got the kettle on and soon heard Paul’s buzzer burst into life, producing a lengthy 17lb mirror. Less than an hour later my recast rod was away again with a 20½lb mirror. Pleased with our perfect start, we set about getting some trophy shots in the early morning sun. I was standing in the water getting a nice return shot of the last fish when one of the rods on the baited gravel spot let out a shrill tone. Unceremoniously I bid the fish in my arms farewell and clambered out. Leaning into the rod it was instantly obvious this was a better fish. Whenever you visit a new water you always hope to catch, but I was over the moon to catch one of the lake’s known characters, an original known as Hoover.
That evening I managed another fish of 25lb off the gravel spot, but the activity from the previous night had vaporised and it was clear the fish had moved out. The next day was much warmer and Paul moved to a more central area, but after much deliberation I opted to stay put for the last night. In hindsight when the weather warmed considerably on the last day I should have made the effort to get up towards the shallows, but that’s easy to see after the event.
Many notable anglers have fished the Quarry; Darrell Peck has even written about his Misspent Youth there. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect to see Jon Mann, who I know from many Korda trade shows and other such events, ambling up the path that evening. He’d popped along for an overnighter and was keen to find some spots before it got dark. I quickly shared what little info I knew and wished him well. Jon dropped into a swim at the back of the islands and wasted no time bagging himself a lovely mirror before packing up early the following morning. He had only done one other night at The Quarry sometime last summer and he caught then too, so the venue clearly isn’t somewhere that requires long sessions to crack.
Our drive home was painfully slow, getting stuck in rush-hour traffic and endless roadworks up the A1. I said I wouldn’t go back, but as I write this, secretly I’m already planning my return!