Tom Meager embarks on an emotional and obsessive roller coaster of a campaign...
Freddie Bartley – Cutting My Own Path
26th August 2021
“After angling with my dad for many years I decided that it was time for me to cut my own path in angling.”
So, with this in mind I purchased a ticket for a lake that had the most amazing scaly mirror, the lake was going to be very challenging, which meant that it would be a perfect place for me to learn. My first season was difficult, only catching 3 carp, which really opened my eyes. With every session I learned something new, especially which areas the carp loved to feed in. I gathered as much information from people that had previously fished the water. One thing that I noticed was the majority of the stock spent most of their time at either end, in fact I only ever managed one bite in the middle section of the lake.
After a long hard winter’s angling, with only a handful of carp coming out, I couldn’t wait for the opening day of the new season. With all the knowledge I had accrued from the previous season I knew that with some time and effort, focused in the area that I had to be in, I could catch the 2 very special target carp I wanted most. The 30th of April finally arrived! I got down to the lake early in the morning so I could walk the lake, find the fish, and hopefully spot those target fish. We couldn’t fish until the evening due to the draw for swims being at 6 o’clock, and luckily enough I came out first in the draw! I went straight into a swim called The Point and quickly got the rods out, with 2 rods in the margin, each fished with a bright single ‘Scent from Heaven’ pop up. I had a few liners throughout the night and then at 8:30 in the morning, my right-hand rod screamed off and after a 15 minutes crazy and a tense battle I landed my first A-team member, a fish known as Orange Spot. This is a very rare visitor to the bank, that we weighed in at 29lb. I knew this was the start of something special…
My next session was an ‘overnighter’ and unfortunately, I couldn’t get back in the swim. I woke up in the morning to see the fish showing in the Point area, and this left me feeling deflated, as I couldn’t get back down to lake for the next 2 weeks.
I was due back at the end month, and would you believe that the day I was due back, my main target fish came out, but I didn’t let this stop me, so I jumped back in the area. I had 3 nights on my hands, and within 10 minutes of getting there I landed a small common off the surface. Unfortunately, I blanked the rest of the day and night, but the next day I was walking up and down the dam wall spotting a lot of small commons when out of nowhere the big mirror rose from the depths of the pads. It blew my mind as I stood on dam watching her for a good hour; my first proper sighting of her. After watching her, I decided to get the rods back out, wading them onto the spot where I had caught Orange Spot. Then on the last night, I landed an 18lb common which I think blew my chances of having the mirror.
Despite looking the next day, I didn’t see her anywhere. I went for a walk up the top end (known as The Shallows) which has about 20ft of overhanging snags, which I hadn’t visited since the first day of season. In the end, I spent hours sitting in the trees and standing above the snags, in which time I noticed a glowing area and saw 2 commons around the 20lb mark come up off spot and swim back into snags. After that I baited the spot with 2kg boilie and particle.
When I got back down to the lake a week later it was blowing SW straight into shallows. I jumped into my baited swim, putting out 2 single Scent from Heaven pop ups. It was the following evening that my right-hand rod screamed off and after another crazy battle, with fish constantly trying to do me in the snags, I landed a 15lb common full of spawn. I left the following day and a good mate of mine landed the big mirror from the same end, so I knew I had been close. Just a few days after that they started spawning.
After they had spawned, I left the lake for 2 weeks and, as luck would have it, by the time they had got spawning out the way it was my summer holidays, so I did a long 4 night session. I started off down the dam end as I’d seen a few carp there. My first 24 hours resulted in 3 carp, but for the following 2 days I blanked. I was still putting bait in up the shallows and on my last night I jumped in the baited swim and within 10 minutes received a twitchy bite and struck into the rod. After a savage battle, it was mine. It was a pristine 18lb common which I had seen a few photos of and one I really wanted to catch. Coincidentally, before I’d caught this fish I had upped the baiting; instead of putting half a kilo of boilies in, I put 4kg of pellet, boilie and particle over one rod, and about 3kg boilie and tigers over the other rod.
After 3 nights away from the lake, I got my next session’s bait ready. Something I’d never done before was ‘big hit’ fishing. I knew where the carp were going to be and had the carp visiting the area. Luckily the wind and weather were both perfect for my baited area.
Arriving at the lake I saw there were a few people in the car park, so I went straight to the baited swim. There had not been bite for 48 hours, so I got the rods out with a good helping of bait. I put 2kg of bait over the rods and within a few hours the rod was away. I thought it was a bream at first, but as soon I got it back under the rod tip it went mental! I was shocked it was a carp and as I went to net the fish, the hook pulled. It was only a small common, so I wasn’t too worried and quickly got the rod back out and then landed another small common.
At this point I was convinced that I was onto something, an idea that was backed up the next morning when I landed one and lost 2. All day I was distraught, as I thought I had lost the biggun. I rang my dad, saying that I wanted to come home and he told me to keep at it. He assured me that the bigguns would come, as there was more than one to catch, and how right he was!
I was videoing showing carp out in the lake when my left-hand buzzer signalled a twitchy take. A short but hard fight ensued, with the carp getting snagged, but with steady pressure the fish finally rose up in the water and I netted the fish and realised it was the Big Common! She was mine. We weighed her at 32lb, beating my previous personal best common. I was buzzing, and the rods were quickly baited again and within 2 hours of the rod being out, I landed another small common.
After that, I went to go to sleep and at around half past 10 the same rod was away again, and after a very short battle it came in like a bream. I netted this carp and was trying to work out which fish it was. When I turned it over it was ‘Dead Eye Dick’, the big mirror’s best mate. I didn’t know what to do, and in the end, I was sat on my rod the whole night thinking it was going to happen, but all that followed were 3 commons, but I knew that ‘she’ was out there.
I had only been home one night, when I was back at it. I knew there was a match on, so there was no rush. I turned up to see there were already a few carp anglers there waiting for the match to finish, so as soon as my dad pulled the car up the barrow was out, and I was off up the path. I waited in the field, far enough back behind the peg that I didn’t interfere with the match fisherman that was set up in the swim that I had been baiting.
A couple of the other carpers came wandering up and said I didn’t mess about getting to the swim and I explained that I had been working the swim, so they were happy for me to jump back in there, which was a result. After the match finished, I got myself installed in the swim. Typically, I didn’t see a single carp during the first 24 hours in the swim, with only one bream added to my tally.
They must be somewhere, and I went for walk around the lake to try and find them, but without a fish in sight I wasn’t going to move. I was on the phone to my dad, and had said I was thinking about a move, but he told me to stay put for another 24 hours as the mirror had to be next. I had baited the swim with about 2kg bait and got both rods out perfectly on the spots. Whilst I was setting the bobbins, I was already having liners. It was crazy!
10 minutes later, the left-hand rod was away, pulling so violently that it almost flew out of the rod rest. After the best battle I had ever had with carp, it rolled in front of me and I could see the big tell-tale single scale and my legs went to jelly. It went on a 20-yard run to an overhanging oak tree, but I managed to stop it just in time. As I went to net her, she charged off to the pads 30 yards out and then carried on charging around on mental runs. After a battle Royal, I managed to land her at the first chance I had. Straight away I let out shout that echoed through forest and I made a few phone calls to arrange for pictures – my dad arriving there in no time at all. After the pics and the celebrations, the only way to describe the feeling was that it was the best moment of my life and a memory I’ll never forget!