Paul Claridge’s Purple Patch…

21st December 2021

Paul Claridge concludes his season with a tale about his purple patch of success on Burghfield lake.

With so many captivating stories written about the angling on Burghfield, shared by some amazing anglers, many of whom have conveyed the essence of angling on this most historic venue. It’s with some trepidation that I put my fingertips to keyboard in an attempt to add my own experience to this library… 

To condense everything that I experienced in the last few seasons into a single article would be a massive undertaking, and would necessarily encompass some great angling experiences, as well as stories of camaraderie (beers and BBQ’s, fun and frolics). All of which inexorably led to my enjoying the type of angling results that I have only dreamt about or read about this year on there. 

With a lot of determination, a build-up of knowledge and experience on key areas of the lake, a little bit of common sense and a lot of effort, I achieved a level of consistency that saw a run of captures that made me buzz with enthusiasm and energy throughout the summer and autumn. To be honest spring was a pig, like normal though!

Through lots of trial and error I’d finally found a tactic that worked. You’ll have to forgive me for keeping some things close to my chest, but these are edges that will be kept a closely guarded secret for the time being, as being an angler who tries to balance work, home and fishing life. I hope you’ll understand why this has to be the case…

Throughout the late summer and autumn I had enjoyed a tremendous run of fish that included a fantastic PB, finally eclipsing the Car Park’s ‘Arfur Tail’ (my PB since 2003!), followed the very next day by a hugely memorable capture of The Classic! I was on cloud nine, and even after the area slowed down I had a ‘cunning plan’ for the late autumn. That plan involved an escape from the popular and historically productive bait boat swims, that inevitably get hammered for a month or so when the syndicate is allowed to use them from 1st October. I had caught all my carp so far this year by casting and felt a deep compulsion to continue fishing my old school approach, for now anyway…

There were a couple of areas that I had in mind, away from the madding crowds, zones that were largely ignored by most of the syndicate. I found an area alive with fizzing and ended up hearing a couple of fish on that trip, so I had a good lead about on that area and found 2 spots with firm drops that I was really happy with, and then trickled some Krill Active boilies onto those two spots, with a view to trying to build up the fish’s confidence.

After hearing those fish, I knew that I was on the right track, even though I hadn’t received any action as such. I packed the tackle down on that first Sunday morning, knowing that I had identified a golden opportunity. All I could do was fish carefully, remaining mindful of avoiding any unnecessary noise or bankside disturbance, using just a couple of rods (sometimes just one) and introducing a regular trickle of boilies, that I already knew they loved…   

The following weekend saw the capture of a rarely caught, immaculate long floppy-tailed common weighing in at 38lb 8oz. This fish came from one of the spots that I’d found the week before and was cleaning up nicely, indicated by the drops becoming noticeably crisper and more defined. It’s funny, but looking back I had also swapped over from my usual hinged stiff rigs to D’s, simply because I felt a balanced D rig would be more subtle – the size 5 OE hook had been rock solidly embedded in the common’s lip. Even if it had fought (which it didn’t) it was going nowhere! Absolutely nailed…

With no one immediately at hand to help with pictures, the self-takes were fun! I was trying out a self-take app for the first time, that relied on me whistling to set the shutter on my smart phone off, and all whilst it was precariously balanced on a bucket… I’m hopeful that I’ll get the hang of that one day, but on that morning it just gave me a very ‘special’ look – as if the excitement wasn’t enough!

During the 2 weeks that followed that capture and my next angling excursion, I made the time to pop in and bait the spots in readiness. I always hoped that the coast would be clear, the gulls distracted elsewhere, and that the carp would still be sneaking in at some point to snaffle a boilie or two, hopefully before the dreaded Tufted ducks homed in and found them…

On my next trip I again enjoyed the thrill of a late autumn covert carp capture! This time an identical D-rig nailed a chunky and distinct looking high-backed mirror, again off the same baited spot as the last fish. Once again, I was all alone and cracked a couple of self-takes off on my phone and returned the carp, tucking away my sling and mat just in case…

Considering the area, two captures this late in the year were really very significant, and I felt like something very special was on the cards. As if my season hadn’t already gone way beyond my own expectations, I felt like the next bite could be ‘the one’ and I felt in my heart that she (the ultimate dream) was using the area. The success I’d had inevitably heightened my excitement and anticipation – I literally couldn’t wait to get back to the tucked away swim for at least one last trip. Karen had been amazing, allowing me to extend my angling several weeks on from the time I had promised her I would pull the plug on the relentless weekends away (so thank you Sweetheart xx).

Arriving with good time to get the rods in before dark, I carefully set everything up in stealth mode, wrapping up and getting the hookbaits perfectly in position with plenty of time. No rushing and thrashing, just a gentle lob and a wonderful drop as the lead hit the bottom cleanly on the first cast. The first night was quiet in my zone, but I definitely heard a carp show nearby and rang my mate Lewis, who I knew was somewhere round the lakes delivering tackle to a couple of TA consultants who were fishing adjoining venues. When he finally arrived, he needed several moments to recover from the walk before continuing his arduous push to go and set up. As it turned out he spent most the night walking around the lake looking for his lost wallet – a wallet that I had unknowingly tucked in my own bag as I’d felt a wallet on my bed and put it away without a second thought… Ooops!

Anyway, after a night only punctuated by the odd crayfish tug and bleep, I reeled in my rods and rested the swim. The previous bites had been after dark, so I felt that keeping the lines out the water, so I could absolutely guarantee that no fish drifting around the area could be aware of my lines. After a few hours of chatting with Lew and drinking his tea (and watching him getting his own rods out) I slipped off to my quiet little plot and crept quietly out onto the marginal shelf. With a single flick, the lead went out precisely where I wanted and got a mega drop. The line was settled, and the rod set firmly in its rest and was followed by a little spread of baits over the top, just a few. I sat back full of anticipation. Would tonight be the night?

As the day had progressed, I’d developed a banging headache (listening to Lew!). Consequently, just a couple of hours later, when the bobbin smacked up to the top I was laid on my bed, relaxing with my eyelids closed. I was on the rod in a flash and a heavy fish ponderously kited left, before picking up a bit of weed and then grinding to a halt for a moment. From my time angling in that swim, I knew that the area the fish had gone round to contains a few submerged dead branches; old windfall that had sunk to the lakebed, and the fish bogged down as it dived deep into the danger zone. From this point on it felt like there was a dead weight on the line and a massive sawn-off set of branches popped up, illuminated by the moonlight. As I grabbed the branches, I could see a carp’s tail waving by my knees and thought for one deluded moment that I could net it from under the branch that was well and truly snared up on my line!! As I tried to lift the net it shot forward just beyond the branch I was holding and just went mental! At that point I called out to Lewis for help – this was a scary moment – it was touch and go…

Don’t ask me how to describe the process by which the fish found its way into the folds of my waiting landing net, but it was both precarious and fully tested my resolve (and the tackle) to the max, but into the net the fish somehow went! Lew arrived in the swim with his headtorch on and we just looked on in awe at the huge expanse of bronze scales that were now illuminated. Wow!!!

I simply exclaimed “It’s MASSIVE!”. It was…

We soon identified her as a rare old beast named ‘Patch’, the lake’s second largest common – as far as we knew its last capture was over a year before, weighing in at 50lbs plus. It was with a real buzz that we thoroughly wet the sling and mat, zeroed the scales, and went to lift the fish out. As soon as we took the strain it was evident that this was a BIG carp, and at the same time we rolled her over to confirm the fishes ID. It was Patch! What an awesome and humbling experience…

We popped the OE hook out and made sure she was cradled safely – all fins tucked flush to the fish’s sides and its weight evenly supported by the sling. Up she went and the dial on Lew’s Rueben’s went round a mindboggling distance, eventually settling at just over the 55lb mark! 55lb 2oz to be exact.  

She was oh so carefully returned to the water in the sling whilst Lew popped the short distance back to his van to grab his camera flash – there’d be no long retention of such a special and unique beast by us, and we did the pictures soon after he arrived back. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with a mega carp without a swim full of people trying to be helpful. As it went, she behaved impeccably and soon it was just a glorious, stupendous, marvellous memory…

What a carp! It’s hard to recount the story without a tingle going down my spine. People wonder why we go fishing. I know why – for the whole journey and those spectacular (and rare) moments when the stars align, and you’re left in a state of abject euphoria. It’s time to recharge at home now and try and think of another cunning plan for the new year on the amazing lake that is Burghfield…

Thanks to Lew for his help on the night (though I think that debt was settled with the 45lb 8oz you caught 2 hours later) and Ben for all his support throughout the whole campaign.

LATEST NEWS

Off The Mark

Guy Turnbull had a great start to the year using when he ventured out in storm Freya...

Queen of The Valley

An in-depth account of Oz Holness's run up to catching the famous old common known as 'Swirly' - The Queen of the Stour Valley.

TA Brand Reboot

Our new and improved products now come repackaged in minimalist styling, with cool dark greys and fresh green geometric patterns.

Oz Holness spreads his wings

An insight into what Oz Holness has been up to over the past 6 months since he left the fire service to become an integral part of the TA team.