Craig Edwards – Big Pit Boating

13th April 2020

Craig Edwards reflects on a frustrating week’s angling afloat from a few years back on a large boating lake…

“Following on from recent success I dropped back into the swim I had caught from last. I had the whole week ahead of me and it gave a fantastic view of the lake to see where they were showing the next morning and where I needed to be. After a brief chat with my mate Mick, I’d semi-convinced him to get down, as although the Dink had been out recently, some of the other gooduns were due.

The first night passed to no avail and I awoke to a message that Mick had just returned a small one. With the wind turning and increasing in strength later, I upped sticks and moved halfway down the lake next to Mick, as in true big pit fashion they were showing well and after all location is key.

After dropping all four rods that evening, we sat back chatting about the prospects for the season ahead, the banging weather and the ever-powerful moon. At first light Mick was afloat, having an epic battle which I watched from the comfort of my bedchair. His face as he brought the fish ashore said it all – a special one, the Tench fish; an unbelievably cool carp that blew everyone away that morning.The night was spent sinking a few ciders to celebrate and having a burn up in classic bit pit style.

The night passed uneventfully. Mick departed and I was alone on the pit. It was clearly evident the fish had moved, most likely with the wind. After having a walk around I’d spotted a small one clatter out in the area at range I’d expected them to be ­– game on.

I spent the afternoon dropping the rods with precision now the wind had eased up. Two into the bay off the wind (a known sanctuary) and two out at range to the area where I’d seen the show. With nothing else to do I sat back with the dog in anticipation, quietly confident of a bite. I didn’t have to wait long, as the left rod fished in open water beeped once, levitated off the alarm before the clutch purred. Life jacket on, into the boat and away we go! After a short-lived tussle, I met the fish halfway to the spot. I soon realised it was one of the ‘Shrunkens’, ‘Perch Back’ a repeat capture but a bite all the same. After re-dropping the rod on the cusp of darkness, it was time to get some sleep. I couldn’t help but think I was on for another one, as the deep howling gusts battered the brolly on the end of the island.

Half an hour before first light I had single beep, then nothing, no rod tip levitation, nothing, which I thought was odd. I slung the kettle on for a coffee, but before it had boiled the bobbin dropped to the floor. I wound down to feel little resistance, thinking it was a tench or bream, I was surprised when one of the recent stockies bobbed in the marginal waves. After unhooking it in the net and sending it on its way, I’d realised it hadn’t dumped the 8oz lead. No wonder it was such a strange bite. I finished my coffee, tied up a fresh rig and jumped into the boat to drop the rig. The wind was really spicy by this point, but after numerous attempts I managed to get it bang on and quickly 5th geared it back to base. A few teas later whilst on the phone to Mick, I’d seen one show over the recently dropped rod. Ten minutes later and the old levitation of the rod tip magic trick happened again. It looked too windy to go out in the boat to the fish so after a drawn-out battle with the fish relentlessly taking line and swimming up the lake against the wind, a lovely mirror finally rolled over into the net. A new fish for me and another upper twenty for the tally. After some sketchy self-takes, I slipped it back and really took stock of the situation – I didn’t have enough power left in the batteries to re-drop the rod, let alone boat the mile back to the boat berth, head on against the wind. I decided the safest option was putting all my kit in the boat and ‘poodling’ into the bay hugging the island margin to get ashore. I then had the laborious task of unloading all the kit, walking it to the car park, rowing the boat back to the island for storage and then wading back through the channel to the bank and walk to the van.

Once all the kit was loaded, I was on the M25 when for some reason I took a detour down the M3 to Yateley. In brief, I did a quick night, saw loads, and got cast all over, but vowed to return another time, a story for another day.

I left the lake for home, stopping at another park lake enroute, which resulted in losing a small one within an hour – I decided it was time for a night at home to refresh, charge the batteries, get some fresh bait, and head back to the lake the following day.

I got back to the pit early afternoon, after strategically basing my arrival around a lull in the strong south-westerly to make my life easier. After driving round to retrieve the boat from the island, I found a friend had taken up residence in the swim I had been in a few days previous. After a quick chat and discussing options and where he was fishing, we had soon sorted out the boundaries before I went to load the boat and set sail for a swim on the very end of the wind, with the view to fishing head on into it.

With everything set up, I got out in the boat and found the spots at range, dropping the H-Blocks on the back edge of them, so I knew I could float back past them with the rod and rig lowering them precisely, and ensuring my lines would be clear when I retrieved the H-Blocks. After repeating this process four times, baiting and retrieving the floats on each trip out, I eventually had everything ‘rocking and rolling’.

I was on the phone to a friend, supping on a cold beer and discussing the potential that lay ahead that night when one of the rods beeped, pinged out of the clip and the bobbin sat proud against the Neville. At first, I thought it was a tench, slowly pumping it back towards me in the ever-increasing wind, making it slightly easier to manage. A small stockie rolled over, just shy of the net cord, before the wind pushed it the final distance into the net. Quickly unhooking the fish then slipping it back, I prepared another rig, with the view to dropping the rod before the light faded. This was made somewhat difficult by the wind, and I had to ‘freestyle’ it onto the spot without the aid of an H-block, but the reassuring ‘donk’ rattling the rod confirmed I had it right. I let the wind push me clear and motored it back to the swim just before dusk, double securing the boat for the night ahead. Rods set; I had a breather before a different rod signalled a drop-back, unceremoniously I wound in a rather inconvenient slab of a bream.

Heading off into the twilight and re-dropping this rod took some time. I was fishing on top of a hump that had a sharp drop either side, so a donk didn’t necessarily mean I was on the shallowest mark. I set the rod to the approximate depth and kept lowering and raising the rod like mad-man, mackerel fishing. Eventually I got the shallow ‘crack-down’ I wanted and retreated back to camp to bed. Within minutes of getting into bed, the first re-dropped rod let out a single beep, before line peeled from the reel. Upon picking up the rod, the fish continued to strip line from me at range, which quite frankly had me shaken. I waited for it to ease, and began pumping it back towards the bank. I’d gain 20 yards but it would take another 30 before that dreaded grating sensation started vibrating up the line – I was in trouble! This unseen monster was now locked up solid, but by looking at the spool, it couldn’t have been too far out in the grand scheme of things. I donned the life jacket and headed out, taking a wide berth of the swim and avoiding the other lines, whilst the waves ferociously slapped against the hull. I got halfway towards the fish, before it came free, stripping more line from me… then nothing. It had cut me off!!! I let the wind blow my deflated self for a moment before returning to shore, tail well and truly between my legs.

Re-dropping the rod was out of the question now, so I got into bed to sulk, before being awoken around 4am to one of the rods letting out a few beeps and dropping back slightly. This was nowhere near like the previous bite, and I soon had a big tench darting around the margins. I left it in the net and got back into bed, I was shattered! Less than an hour later, the rod I had the bream on the night before beeped and dropped back to the floor. ‘Bloody Bream!!’ I picked it up, wound down and gave it a good old dig – to my surprise, the rod arched right over and took a bit of line. Oops!

Realising I now had a carp on, I wasn’t losing this one for love nor money after the night I’d had. Dawn was breaking, so I jumped into the boat, fighting the hooligan wind to get towards it. I played the fish for a while before spotting something wrapped around my line near the tip, so I swung the tip back behind me. Seeing it was small H-Block marker, I began untangling it from the line. A big gust of wind spun the boat and I then became aware of my rod tip now bending over my shoulder into the outboard! Instinctively I cut the engine and popped the propeller up from under the water to see a mass of line locking up in the prop. Out the corner of my eye, I could see line still disappearing off into the deeps, I leant further out, plucking the line, and it pulled back. “Bloody hell, it’s still on!!” I bit the line, wrapped it around my arm and started hand-lining it in like it was a crab line, all the while being blown into a snaggy corner, well away from my swim.

At times the fish would pull the boat against the wind and turn it like a horse and cart. It soon bobbed up a couple of rod lengths from the boat, beaten but without the aid of a rod, I didn’t have the leverage to sweep it closer to me, so I waited what seemed an eternity for it to float towards me before ‘Salmon scooping’ it first time. A big old mirror, thank goodness for that! I rowed with all my might to get back to my swim, hugging the snaggy and reedy margins. I just didn’t have the energy or power to get any further out than that. Back in the swim, I secured the boat, and the fish, laying back on the floor, taking a well-deserved rest, both mentally and physically.

A quick call to Mick had him set sail from his swim up the other end of the lake, whilst I had a coffee or ten to wake me up and get me ‘ship-shape.’ Whilst waiting for Mick to arrive I actually weighed and photographed the tench at just over 10lb – I had to marvel at its glory although not an intended a specimen, it was rather impressive. Once a few pleasantries and a cuppa or two were done with, we set about weighing and photographing the infamous ‘Baby Dink’ which once returned, idled off into the frothy waves and no doubt to the lagoon to sulk. I rode the rest of the morning out with two rods left, one of which hadn’t even beeped for the duration.

All power was zapped from the leisure batteries after the aforementioned shenanigans and a return trip to the berth involved myself and Mick having to row my boat head on in the wind like a couple of Colne Valley pirates.

Mother Nature will always throw all it can at you, but determination and perseverance will always prevail!

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