Marcus Howarth gives us a retrospective look back on a cold winter trip to Ringwood's Roach Pit that all came good in the end...
Oz Holness – A Meeting with Ollie
7th August 2020
Oz Holness relays the tale of what he described as the best welcome back to angling he could have wished for, post lockdown!
“On the evening of the 12th, straight after Boris released us, I loaded the kit into the van along with a bucket of bait and enough food to last a few days. I set the alarm for 2am although I knew I wouldn’t need it; I wouldn’t get much sleep that night! By 1am I’d had enough so I awoke little Jim the terrier from his slumber and we made our way up the motorways to the destination, a good few hours away! It was like a release from a weird dream and almost apocalyptic with so little life around on the roads!
“So, we had a few days ahead of us, the weather looked prime, sunny warm days with brisk winds but cool nights which never bothers me once we are into May… they are up and about and time is of utmost importance to carp preparing themselves for the forthcoming spawning ritual.
“The skies were still dark as I pulled up at the entrance to the pit with that faint purple and pink glow to the horizon as the sun began its accent. I sat in the van watching for a while, there seemed no rush, I just poured a tea from my flask and drank in the atmosphere as dawn unfolded. The wind was blowing whitecaps up to the far end of the pit, the area I had earmarked for attention if the conditions were favorable and an area that had been kind to me on many occasions the previous year. I drove to the windward end and pulled on a coat to shield me from the effects of that early morning chill and made my way around the bank to a favorite viewing area. Another cup of tea from the flask and I sat scanning the choppy water for signs. I didn’t take long. A huge head and bulky shoulders broke the surface chop, disrupting those rhythmic patterns of swell and I knew I had to act quickly. It was the sign I needed, and I knew things would get busy as the day wore on. There really was no time to lose! Walking back to the van I glanced back down the pit and there again, a huge set of shoulders breached the surface… the walk soon became a run!
“I was soon ensconced in the swim covering the bay and the spots I had been feeding for a few weeks prior to lockdown in preparation for the ‘spring that never happened’! I was chatting on the phone to my mate Si Bater who had also got out that very morning and we were like kids at the sweetshop… full of it! I told him of my early sighting and he wished me luck as I set about getting organized for the day ahead. Three rods were quickly spread over the bay onto known spots, so it was all pretty straightforward. As I say, the swim was well known to me having spent many nights in there over the past year. Two rods were lightly baited with a handful of the Krill Active and the third rod got a couple of kilos, as I intended to stay in the zone for the duration of the trip, knowing the lake would fill up rapidly as the day wore on.
“The morning passed with a couple of smaller fish showing on the strengthening breeze and the sun shone with intensity over the scene in the bay. Around midday a violent take on one of the lightly baited rods sent me scurrying from behind the reedbed for the waders! I ploughed into the crystal-clear waters and did battle with a long, dark, ancient looking common so typical of the pit. A few self-takes behind the old birch trees and I slipped him back home as the adrenaline flushed through my veins. Exactly the feeling I had been awaiting all those weeks before, now a reality and so welcome!
“I re-baited a fresh rig with an oily Krill cork-ball, made in my garage during those weeks of imprisonment and flicked the rod back to the mark between the fresh weed-growth. I was using my favorite Heli leaders and rigged up with an on test semi-stiff hook link fished Multi rig style with my favorite size 5 TAOE hooks, bullet proof end tackle I have ultimate faith in. All was good and I savored the moment after that first capture.
“I stuck the brolly up and made myself comfortable for the coming night as Jim languished in the sun enjoying his first trip for some considerable time. A mate dropped by on his way home and we sat at distance, just catching up on the year’s weird events, speculating on the forthcoming months ahead.
“By mid-afternoon, the heavily baited rod fired into life. I scrambled into the waders and was flat rodded immediately by a heavy old carp in a seemingly unstoppable mood! I eventually slowed the spool with my thumb on fire and the fish held ground before kiting powerfully right, out across the bay, heading around an island! I piled on the pressure and turned the yet unseen force in the nick of time and she surged around in front for a few minutes before heading to a small gap on the inside of the same island. I waded out a little further to get an angle on her and Lance waded out with the net in readiness. I could see her bulk twisting on the edge of the reeds as she tried to bury her head in a bid for freedom… but it was all over! I turned her head once again, and Lance swiftly put her in the net…it was done! She was huge across the shoulders and I gently tilted the net as it could have been one of two fish… the semi linear line of scales said it all … Ollie the Otter Dodger was mine! She tipped the scales at 50lb 8oz and was in absolutely prime spring condition, huge, immaculate and bristling with attitude… a fine welcome back to angling and the best possible start to the year’s adventures wherever they were going to take me!”