From The Brook to The Mere. In part two of our interview with Si Bater, Oz and Si talk about his time targeting, what many saw to be the ultimate prize in carp fishing at that time, the ‘Black Mirror’.

From The Brook to The Mere. In part two of our interview with Si Bater, Oz and Si talk about his time targeting, what many saw to be the ultimate prize in carp fishing at that time, the ‘Black Mirror’.

‘It was freedom! As you know Ozzy, the lake at that point was pretty heavy with the pressure. It was full on. I wanted to go somewhere out of the way. I suddenly had a huge bag of confidence and I really wanted to just keep the roll going and get out of the way without competing with so many other anglers. It’s bloody hard work fishing those busy lakes, setting the alarm at 2AM just to get bait in, etc! I took a bit of a sabbatical that winter and legged it off down the south coast to Vinnetrow. There were still a few old Leney’s left in there, and a good crowd of lads on during the colder months. Andy Kidd and Watto spurred me on to give it a go and it was great! It’s a real shallow lake with loads of good fish which were still very active during December, which was encouraging. I did the winter and had a couple of nice 30lb commons going into spring. Crinkle tail was one and I think the other is now the big common in there they call Arnie. So that was the start of the travelling for my fishing, and of course, from Vinnie I started looking at Colnemere and by June that was it… It was now or never!’

‘Well, I just found it all so exciting, you needed a new set of fishing kit, a little one-man tent, everything had to be sprayed up and camouflaged. The kit also needed to be scaled down, so I even had some 8 1/2ft rods made up from Free Spirit. Keith Sykes was working at Cotswold Aquarius and he made me a special little sling which was awesome! So that was that, off I went after the Black Mirror. I remember the first time I got there with the kit, I mean it was a bit of a grey area in regard to being there of course, but it was guesting, you were not nicking anyone else’s fishing let’s say! I would never fish anywhere where others had a ticket on a lake because you are stealing someone’s fishing. This place had no club and the only people who even picked the litter up were the ones doing a spot of fishing if you like, we certainly weren’t doing any harm. As I walked down a little track, this vista opened up from what we called the White Stick swim… Thirty odd acres of water with big 70ft trees, it was like a theatre back in Roman times! Considering how close you were to urbanization it was like another world. I lifted this old branch that covered a tunnel like opening, suddenly it was like a jungle world with parakeets flying around and the humidity was intense! Everything clung to your kit, thorns grabbing you from all angles as you crawled through tiny tunnels. After the spring, when it hadn’t been walked a lot, the brambles almost became honed to extra sharpness and we always said you had never done a proper lap until you drew blood. That first trip was fairly uneventful, but the second was pivotal. I met old Mike Willmott, and that day we watched them as they became a bit spawny. I clapped eyes on the Black Mirror for the first time and the big mystical common. Most of them were there and I counted 14 odd fish in the zone. That was it, seeing that mirror! It swam almost like a serpent, it was so long, and that tail! Eight weeks passed before I caught him, I started June 16th, as it was SSSI, and I had the bite middle of the New Moon in August – 8 weeks of bliss!’

‘It was unreal! After a few trips, I ended up taking a small one-man boat, just to get a good look around as the fish were incredibly mobile. Due to them being so active you had to do a lot of manoeuvring. I had a tiny rucksack, a small inflatable, sleeping mat and my rods. I stashed an unhooking mat up there and carried everything else. So, the little boat came in handy for drifting about the margins and made life a little easier.’

‘Oh man it was amazing. It all accumulated over a week or so. I had seen the mirror launch out right up to its tail whilst standing with Dave Slowen. We both pretended nothing had happened and just carried on talking about whatever (laughing)! I knew I had to get back ready for the moon on the Wednesday. I managed to get there on the Tuesday, but the area where I last saw the Black Mirror was busy so I walked back up to a zone I had been trickling a bit of bait in. I had noticed with the mirror (which I found on most days) that he would usually just be mooching about, but around those moons his behaviour was noticeably different. He became all bristly and aggressive! He would flank off the bottom in big arcs, pushing other fish out of the way to eat the food. He was a real aggressive feeder. So, I had upped the bait in the three areas I fancied, The Beach, The Spindly Tree and the Rat Hole. I did the first night and at 4AM got myself up to see them showing down the other end. I packed and moved straight away. After getting the rods in position, I crashed out in the bushes in my little tent to catch up on some sleep and shortly after I got the bite from the Black Mirror! Amazing buzz!’

'Trouble was mate, it would have been easy to hit a bit of a rut after that, but I found plenty to be getting on with that autumn. I started on the Swan Lake pretty much straight away which was back on the Mid-Kent ticket. I had a lovely bit of fishing over there, chasing the old Rasta which I caught and kept the ball rolling. Half the battle was getting hold of the tickets. These days you seem to need a fund of about five grand and be on just about every waiting list. It really is a difficult time to plan and get on anywhere you fancy without either a long wait or a lot of money.'

‘I just look at the bigger picture all the time. I spend a lot of time researching lakes through maps, friends, areas, websites, whatever… Like yourself, there’s this big jumble of fish floating about in your head which you’d love to catch, but every now and then that special fish might come up. You want a year when that lake has an available ticket and is a bit quieter. You notice lakes peak and trough in popularity. All manner of things can dictate which one you go for next on your list. It’s usually a sequence of events that unfold. But it can work both ways, so you always need a plan B!’

‘Oh, you’re absolutely right! For a start it makes the job that much harder! Competing against more people once again for a limited number of bites, and maybe they have a lot more time than you, so sometimes, it’s best left and just go back another year. Of course, sometimes you have to bite the bullet with these really old fish. You just have to evaluate the circumstances as to how much you want to put yourself through it. You know yourself, once they start getting older their body changes and timing can be crucial. They seem to start getting caught more and that’s usually a bad sign. There’s always a window for most waters though. I get fascinated by these old club waters, they often get forgotten, especially if they suffer a bit of a fish kill, but that may have turned 500 fish into 20 and now they have flourished in that environment. But seemingly, once a water has been tarnished it gets left alone, if someone mentions it all they remember is the fish kill. Sometimes you have to go over the same venues time and time again before you hit the jackpot. These are normally cheap tickets as well, which I love.’

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