Paul Claridge concludes his season with a tale about his purple patch of success on Burghfield lake.
Lewis Read – Flitting Around Again
10th August 2021
“Somehow, I have contrived to fish a wider variety of waters this year. To be honest I normally struggle like hell when I flit about, but this year has been more than a little bit different on so many levels…”
What with dangling on the local lakes that allowed limited day angling earlier in the year, and then an inordinate amount of work nights in the spring (that was both hard work in terms of effort but was also a hugely enjoyable/rewarding spell of angling) I seem to have gone on a bit of a mission.
After that concerted campaign, I elected to have a little dabble back on Burgerworld (Burghfield) and have been loving it on there. It’s just so captivating and slightly overawing. Is it perverse to feel out your depth? It seems I often do, but I also seem to be inexorably drawn back each year, usually in the height of summer when the syndicate cannot use the remote boats and historically the BC occasionally gets caught…
With the capture of the most magnificent of Common Carp in the land, by Si Scott, during the week I thought I would visit a lovely little very special Oxfordshire still-water; after all it’s true when they say ‘a change is as good as a rest’, and so I headed off up the motorway after work.
It’s a lovely picturesque clear-water venue, for which I have held a ticket for a couple of years, but generally only fish it in the winter. The lake’s Gaffer had treated the blanket weed this year (no, not with blue poison stuff that I detest) and the water level was still up. As it’s spring fed the fish haven’t spawned this year – apparently something that is a fairly common occurrence on summers when the aquifers that feed the cool pure spring water to the pool keep gurgling …
Having caught a few summer ‘crisp packets’ already this summer, the thought of fishing for carp bristling with vibrant health and glowing vitality was pretty appealing to be honest!
I got to the lake at just gone 7 and was immediately taken aback by the carp feeding activity! Large sections in the deep end were thoroughly milked, with several distinct groups of carp truffling vigorously in the sediment, largely in the channels between the tallest weed beds. I barely knew what to do with myself with so much choice but plumped for the spot that looked like it was being hit the hardest – plopping in plastic-fantastic hookbaits fished on D-Rigs tied with a prototype Fluorocarbon hooklinks and the soon to be released Beaked Chod hooks. As soon as the rods went in (using tiny leads to get the range and then swapping up in an effort to minimise disturbance) the activity dipped off and I knew I’d made a bad choice – again… The last time I set up on them ‘milking up’ they did exactly the same…
I desperately needed to make a change and woke up before first light so that I could watch and listen for any carpy activity, in an attempt try to correct my buffoonery. As a monochromatic dawn gently crept in the fish were far less active, and another member (a very lovely man named Icky) arrived early and we sat chatting for an hour or so – in which time I had a bite from one the lake’s home-grown scamps, that promptly fell off!
As we chatted, I noticed a little zone of fish activity a couple of swims down and elected to have a little swap around, whipping a rod with a short choddy into the area. Despite being a bit awkward, the lead (luckily) plopped absolutely cock-on perfect in the zone and as I sank the SBX braid I was chuffed that the rod was fishing. In fact, I was super confident that it would nick a bite.
Within 10 minutes that rod wrapped round to the right, and an angry carp shredded me as it charged across the lake, making my legs wobble! (I’m still getting used to the braid!) After a few exciting minutes I netted a pretty 24lb 2oz mirror and we quickly took the pics and returned a lovely little scaley peach of a carp.
I slung another chod into the area, but the activity had stopped so it was time to search another opportunity. Down the bank, in the deepest weediest section of the lake I found a few fish milling over the thickest weed beds and elected to play with the ‘weedernosters’ for a while, but after one finnicky pick up the weather broke (pissed down again) and I moved my gear to another swim – one that I had judiciously baited upon arrival the evening before and then again at first light. Just hedging my bets… Each time I popped round to have a quick gander from the climbing tree I saw carp visiting, flanking and browsing, so I was super confident that plan C was a goer.
In the meantime, Icky caught a cracking 33lb’er from the island and it was lovely to buzz off his obvious huge excitement…
The cast across to the overhangs is a bit of an awkward bugger, but eventually the rods went in tight under the canopies, and I could sit down and chillax again. It’s like a lovely little holiday retreat when I visit the lake and having had my bit of bouncy-dangling I kind of fancied a bit of a siesta. I blame the early start… George (the catching machine) arrived to congratulate Icky and the heavens opened. I sat sheltered and content, praying that the rods would stay static, at least until the weather broke.
Beep beep beep.
The left-hand rod received an extremely violent take that had me scrambling to grab the rod butt before it ‘Exoceted’ into the lake! You know when the reel catches the buzzer on the way…
A hugely powerful carp bore heavily under the overhangs and then powerfully went on a sweeping kite towards a nearby island, but luckily, I managed to draw it my side and soon George was on hand to help pass me the net as I stood out in the lake – and all the time it was still absolutely lashing down! Looking like the proverbial drowned rat, I played the carp gently back and when the fish waddled past it looked very substantial indeed! I was confused. The big’un had only recently been out for the first time this year to Cav, so I just never thought it couldn’t happen again… [spoiler!]
I was wrong, and as soon as she went in the net, I suspected it was Patch – and George excitedly confirmed its identity as soon as I unrolled the net. How’s your luck Lewlew!!!
The Beaked Chod was firmly embedded in the carp’s bottom lip and was never going to move… Nailed! I was totally in awe of her condition. She was glistening with health and veritably sparkled, typical of a carp living a lovely life in really high-quality spring water.
After the fish was weighed (46lb), smiley trophy shots taken and then the great carp returned I rebaited the far bank spots and reset the rods and sat intently watching the water as carp dimpled, lifted and rocked the water under the canopy. The pesky Coots had drifted away, as more carp homed in on the feed, big grey shapes browsing on the marginal slope below them….
During the afternoon, as the activity peaked, I was fortunate to capture another 24 mirror, which again tested the hook and braid with its violent initial bite and battle. I do love Oxland! That fish was followed by a striking upper double that was utterly beautiful – and I was almost as happy to make her acquaintance as I had been Patch….
After that fish the majority of the carp seemed to back off the spots, so I rebaited again and chilled for the evening happy that the spots would be rocking again sometime before departure the following morning. During the night I hit a liner (you utter NODDY Lewis) and then dropped what was definitely a small fish that was jingling around more and obviously a tiddler. Consequently, I got up again at first light – rebaited the spots and redid the rods. This time they went in far easier so I was super happy that the fish would remain more settled, and that the spots would do bites again, hopefully quickly…
As it turned out the better ones had drifted off up to the shallows (where I could see they were turning several spots over) as during the mid-morning I nicked bites off of a couple more little ones, just to round off a lovely little chilled trip.
As I tidied my kit up and packed down, I reflected on how lucky I was. Not just to catch Patch, but also to have access to this little piece of Oxfordshire paradise. I’d enjoyed a thoroughly lush couple of days and caught a whacker – how lucky is that! Very…