Sam Whittaker embarks on a Belgian road trip, which all came good in the end!
Lewis Read – End of Days…
30th March 2021
The dreary monotony of ‘a few hours down the river’ each day at weekends had grown tediously repetitive – I love my trotting on the mighty river Cackwater, but by God, I needed to get some carp rods out for a change.
“My lovely wife, aka The Covid Police (aka The Long-Suffering Wife) was strictly enforcing local angling to the ‘enth degree, and realistically all hope had ebbed away, like a grey winter’s evening drifting into dusk. Lock down was a bitter pill to swallow this time round, far worse than last year…
At the end of February a glimpse of salvation came in the form of the Pads Lake – less than a mile from home and it turned out that the affable Martin G had been allowing locals on the lake on a limited day ticket basis. In hindsight I had been as slow as a semi-frozen arctic explorer dragging himself across the frigid tundra – Ian, aka Peter Griffin, had captured a few fish during January, but I lived in denial and didn’t contact Martin till late on. As it turned out it was all true! Strictly days only; dawn till dusk and a return to lovely times indeed.
I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of fishing behind carp rods for the first time since the first weekend of Jan, and inevitably endured another pre-carp restless night in nervous anticipation.
In another lifetime, when I had ‘lived and breathed’ the Pads fishing for Jumbo and the other 4 inhabitants, I had loved it and grown to know the topography in fair detail. Sessions up on the Point, cocooned in quiet isolation with a wall of Pad’s Lake Bush all around ensured you could maintain a low-profile presence, whilst quietly waiting to spot a rare show or receive a liner. These times were special.
I got lucky on my first day! The fish were fairly active, considering the water was cold. I think I saw 8 from 3PM up till dusk, and a maggot bag hurled at a show out in front of the main Pads swim resulted in the capture a very healthy looking mirror of 24lb within the hour. Each afternoon at least a couple of fish would show around the withered remains of the main stand of pads on the right-hand side of the swim, but despite getting clean drops into the pads, with bags amongst the dormant tubers, the fish seemed at edge – unsurprisingly aware of our bankside presence as the swim is in close proximity – it was just like in the old days.
In fact, there’s little doubt in my mind that a lake moulds a carps behavior and habits, and as this little lake is still pressured (it has a stock of big old mirrors now – bigger than anything previously) that’s hardly surprising that it’s booked for most the year…
On the Sunday evening I met the winter stalwart ‘Peter Griffin’ (real name Ian, but he looks just like the cartoon character, so that’s his nickname sorted) and I did pics of a nice 33 and then a splendid looking chunky 44+ on Monday morning.
The following weekend Pickers accompanied me on the Sunday, enduring a biting easterly. The weather was pretty Baltic – and I’d spent the Saturday hoping for a birthday bite up, sat up on the Point reminiscing, but nothing happened. My day being enlightened by a visit from my daughter Sophie, who had wandered down to spend an hour or two with dad. She soon took over the bag to stay warm – but it made my day just spending time with her.
Lee nicked a bite off a small and quite distinct linear the next morning, after setting up on the subtlest of signs – a tiny amount of bubbling, just a few popping up to the surface now and again. Despite the fish being a bit ‘special’ (needs) it was a really good bit of angling that day, nicking a bite when we only saw the slightest of signs to go on.
The following Saturday I visited Sandy for the day after contacting Nick in the week. I walked for a couple of hours, looking for a show and eventually one sloshed out in swim 9. With an angler named Adam in 10, I left a gap and dropped in 8. Gauging the angle of the dangles I put a rod out longish and slightly left, mindful of Adam’s right-hand rod, but it seems that anglers fish a bit more left than in the past from the main car park swim and I had the venue HB asking me to wind it in a bit. Apparently, the rod had landed a little to close and I apologized profusely, reeled it in, put on a fresh one of Scotty K’s super special bon-bon Krill Wafters and slung it out again with Steve stood next to me. In all honestly, it was only a rod length or so shorter than the last one, but still a wee bit further than the 18 wraps allowed. Steve gave me a funny resigned look and I gave a cheeky grin and it was reticently allowed… The rod went on the rest and I was as close as I could get.
The occassonal fish poked their heads out in the usual middle for diddle zone, in the golden triangle between The Pipe swim, the car park and 10, and it was just magic to be on the bank, proper fishing. Sandy is another great little venue with a stock of excellent fish, so I sat and drank tea and watched the day unfold – interspersed with a chat now and again with the very friendly natives.
I was just tying a few fresh rigs, ready for a potential move, when I had an absolute belter of a bite on the cheeky cast rod. No prelude bleeps, just a click and whizz (very light bobbins and back leads to avoid wind bleeps) that took me by surprise. WICKEDDDD!!!
After a slightly protracted and exciting battle, we could see a decent size long mirror rolling about a couple of rods length out, and I asked Adam to do the honors with the net, as my poor old knees were playing havoc after a monster mash up on Christmas day, when I drank too much and jumped around like a nipper at a rave… He skillfully scooped a nice mirror, and I was bloomin’ thrilled. That’ll do for me sunshine! 35lb 12oz of lush Sandy mirror. I could have hugged Nick if he had been unlucky enough to walk around that day!
After that, the fish seemed to drift my way, with a carp showing over my middle rod, and then a couple of fish showed up the lake in front of Bailiffs swim, just before we had the hailstorm from hell. The lake was pounded for 20 minutes and the banks ended up looking like chocolate slush puppy. And just as things were livening up too – isn’t that always the way. With that influx of icy water, the activity stopped, but I’d already had a mega result for a March day trip.
HRH Pickers joined me for the day on the Sunday – and we elected to double up in the Bailiffs swims, as the RH Island was empty and there was definitely a group of active carp in the area. I wouldn’t be interfering with anyone else (except Lee!) up there and we had some nice water to angle in..
As the day wore on the odd fish showed and I moved a 12mm pineapple about, flopping it near shows. This culminated in a whizzer on that rod just as my egg was fried to perfection ready for consumption. This one turned out to be a lovely high backed VS Harrow stocky of a scrape over 20lb. *I love seeing these fish, as I was on Harrow the day the brood fish was captured and taken away by VS, and it’s awesome to see the strain proliferating and doing so well.
The following week we did another session on Sandy, but despite fish slopping out nearby, the carp were in flighty mood and despite reacting to shows from a big unit all I ended up was a shivering post Covid Jab.
For the last weekend of lockdown, I elected to ask Martin if we could do the days on the Pads again and we were pleased that he gave us the nod and the wink. Arriving just after dawn there were a few lads on already, all clustered down the Pads end, so we elected to drop onto the Point and Lee set up on the Causeway (fishing Weedy Bay) so we could have a social and watch the lake with the blustery mild SW at our backs.
On the point I had a little cast about to confirm the sight line on the gullies that run up from bank from the Pole position bank, and flopped out noodled maggot clusters and PVA sock bags of germs into areas where I had reasonable drops. A couple of fish showed, and it was the run up to the full moon we were both in buoyant mood, confident one or other of us would nick a bite. The fish were spread and most the angler pressure was up the other end. These Pad Lake fish don’t like too much casting (what pressured small venue fish do?) so with the rods out with fresh leaders and new rigs incorporating our Noodle Kickers on size 6 SE hooks and Camstiff hook links. Life was good.
I’d just wandered down to Pickers an hour or two later to cadge a cup of tea, as he makes the best beverages ever, when the trot box stuttered into life and I legged it back doing the full ‘turkey run’ to find the middle rod clicking away steadily… After a nice slow ‘chuggy’ battle a decent mirror rolled into the net and a wry grin spread from ear to ear. At 35lb 14oz it was making March more than bearable – this day fishing lark weren’t all bad after all…
With the fish treated, photographed and returned, I flopped the same rod back to the same spot (using guesswork and the force, no wrap sticks needed) and got a drop and elected to have a celebratory beverage and thank my photographer/ghillie for his assistance….
Brunch was chucked in the pan and as the pan sizzled its sweet melody, the sounder box piped up again and I did a lazy lolloping sprint the few yards back to the rods. Middle rod again and after a more athletic battle a bristling common of 23lb 14oz was netted by Leelee McGilly! Oh, joy of joys, a couple of bites and still the afternoon to go! I joked that “all I needed was a forty now, for the set” just to wind the old boy up… Poor Pickers! He doesn’t deserve the ongoing pain of being my bestie, but he has no choice.
An hour or two later whilst sipping a delicious cuppa in Leelee’s swim the sounder box blurted a stuttery slow bite, that was ticking line slowly off the clutch as I picked the rod up. Ooooooh. “It’s a chugger” I excitedly squawked, convinced I’d hooked another one of better fish. It trundled about, slow and deep like an aging porn-star, and offered solid resistance, especially as I tried to coax it over the split bar at the mouth of Grebes Head Bay.
Eventually a wide old gnarly carps back broke the surface and Pickers did the super-scoop! There in the net was a big old back with an equally big old belly attached. I was euphoric, convinced she was a forty and already thinking it was the same one that I had done pictures for ‘Family Guy’ a few weeks before, and so it was! Up a little in weight, she turned the scales to a handsome 45lb 4oz and eclipsed my previous best from the Pads, that having been Jumbo caught on March 7th all those years ago…. What a day! Three bites in March and a bit of luck. Life was good! She was in great condition, and the pics came out really well in the overcast conditions. Thanks Leelee.
We were back the next morning, and had decided we would have to be early to be certain to claim the Point. This time Pickers would have the pick and unsurprisingly he was in the swim like a shot, whilst I elected to fish the path bank (End of the Pads) and use the big blustery SW wind to carry my maggot bags over to the Split lake causeway bank….
A few other anglers turned up just after dawn and TBH one did a little bit too much casting near the zone. Consequently, the lake didn’t switch on until later in the afternoon, after lunchtime when the lake emptied off leaving the two of us with rods out settled, after necessarily resetting with new maggot bags after the coots had found them and dispersed the contents (reducing the effectiveness of that kind of trap).
I’ll hold my hands up, the re-chuck with the left hander was VERY close to the productive Point swim spot! Lee rung my mobile instantly claiming I had crossed him, but my sight line was clear – it was an absolute liberty of a cast, but no way was she coming in as the few fish we had seen were over on that bank. At 4PM the lad (another Lee) in Ray’s swim popped up for a natter and the swervy cast hookbait rattled off! Now this fish rucked and took a massive kiting arc swimming right round, eventually ploughing into the right hand set of pads further up the bank, so we did a knit one pearl one, passing the rod round the trees whereupon I played the fish from the Pads Swim proper on a much kinder angle.
Lee grumbled jokingly about the cast, but still did an exemplary job on the net (as usual) and we weighed the fish, did the pics and treated her and before allowing her freedom. Another dark chunky mirror of 35lb 4oz fish and I was doing my best impression of a Cheshire cat… Poor Lee.
I had told him I was convinced they were going to feed, and I was also convinced he’d get a bite… And would you believe it, that’s just what big boy Roy in the hot swim only went and did! Right on last knockings I spied him across the lake doing battle and nipped round there to find him gingerly playing a nice carp! Go on my son… I scooped a nice chunky-monkey mirror into his net, and we did the necessaries, having to put the flash unit on as even at 1000ISO the light was way too dim to get workable shutter speeds.
It was the perfect end to a great weekend, and it was great to see him have his fish – but then again it was even ‘betterer’ to have had 4!
Oh, hello – now we can do nights. Oh, it’s been so long… I wonder what this year will bring? Hopefully, that’s not all my luck spent early. We’ll see in the fullness of time…”