New Season On An Old Water…
There’s a handful of angling traditions that have now fallen by the wayside for numerous reasons, most of them for rational and sensible reasons, the world moves on, times change and fishing follows suit. Yet, there are a few that I feel are still important and very relevant in the modern age of fishing, even if they must adapt and evolve with the times. One of these I still consider a “sacred” day, is opening day. In years gone by, lakes and rivers all over the country would be swarmed with eager anglers on the famous June 16th, but with things having moved on the date itself is no longer concrete, so open and closed seasons vary depending on each individual water and what their controlling body deems suitable. But I still feel that special day on which anglers are again allowed to tread the banks of their own chosen water, after possibly weeks or months away, is as exciting as ever and still holds the same gravitas.
I belong to a very special little, local angling club (more accurately a “society”), which is steeped in history and was founded nearly 60 years ago! One of the waters they own is my own personal little piece of paradise, nicely tucked away from the usual carp fishing circuit, and with a near 10 year waiting list, it holds a certain amount of exclusivity which is a rare thing to find nowadays. It’s not unusual at all for me to have the lake to myself, and to see 2 or 3 other anglers on the water at the same time is an incredibly uncommon occurrence.
I had decided in advance that I was going to fish the opening of the new season, something I’d been promising myself for the past few years, but always being busy I had yet to follow through. Throughout the closed season I made a concious effort to start a little bit of a pre-baiting campaign, regularly and generously baiting a spot I knew held fish on a regular basis, and I was hoping my bait would just keep them in the area in preparation for the start of the coming season. I was also confident I would be the only person putting in such efforts, so I could be confident in knowing I wouldn’t be competing with someone else’s bait, which may split the fish.
To be completely positive I was going to get the swim I wanted, I decided to arrive early evening the day before the opening day, set up base camp and put a little bit more bait in, and then be able to give it time to rest before putting any lines in the water. I spent the next few hours trying to occupy myself and more so stay awake, anticipating midnight and getting the rigs placed the very minute the new season started. I had the lake to myself, as was realistically expected, and was just enjoying the tranquillity of spending time beside this water which holds a very special place in my heart.
Stay awake I did, and on the stroke of midnight I put both rods on their respective spots, and then settled back down to hopefully get a couple of hours sleep before being up for day break. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t quite go to plan, as I started getting single bleeps and liners straight away! It was encouraging as it meant there was definitely fish in the area, and coupled with the more visual signs of fish poking their heads out over my bait, bubbling and knocking the reed line I was fishing to, I was positive I had a good number of fish preoccupied on my bait. The down side to this was I was fully expecting either rod to just rip off any second, so sleep was nigh on impossible! I had a take with 45 minutes, but unfortunately struck in to nothing. I knew there was a fair few tench and bream in the lake, so put this initial pick up to a nuisance fish. I was fishing large bottom baits on a very simple rig consisting of a size 4 Atomic Tackle ‘Claw’ hook, mounted on 25lb ‘Jel-E-Wyre and an 18mm A.M. Baits glugged up ‘Bounty Hunter’, with added krill, hookbait. I like to keep things very simple with my rigs, choosing to concentrate more on ensuring I’m placing them in the right place. But, knowing I was fishing tight a reed line and a large patch of pads, I was starting to question my presentation and whether my baits were being masked or buried by the reed stubble and lily roots.
Come around 5am and light just starting to welcomingly creep over the mature tree line which
surrounds the lake, having been awake all night without a single wink of sleep, listening to persistent beeps and indications, I made the decision to ring the changes and alter my presentation. I tied a couple of simple ‘Multi’ rigs, comprising 25lbs ‘Jel-E-Wyre’ again, but this time opting for a smaller and slightly different pattern of hook in the size 6 ‘Grabba’, with a 16mm ‘Bounty Hunter’ pop up being the hookbait of choice this time. I opted to use this slightly more supple hooklength material rather than the 35lb version, or even the ‘Stiff’un’ material, I would normally use, due to the fact I had taken in to consideration the possibility of the debris I may be fishing over, and didn’t want my rig to kick up or be lifted too much by anything sitting on the bottom.
This slight change of tactic was vindicated very quickly, with one of the rods only having a 20 minute soak before giving indication of a fish picking up my hookbait, unfortunately it was only a small Tench. So rig re-placed it wasn’t long at all before it was tearing off and I was slipping the net under a lovely looking, and dumpy, 16lb Common. Still being the only person on the lake, I sorted my self-take photos, released the fish and placed the rod back on the spot. Topping up with another handful of baits to hopefully keep the fish in the area.
I was just settling back down as another angler arrived and almost in synchronisation, my other rod burst in to life and I had another, yet slightly smaller, Common residing temporarily in my net. I would possibly not have taken photos of fish of a similar size on other waters, but with the average stamp of fish smaller here than some of my other waters, every one counts and it is by far from a frequent occurrence to have big hits of fish on this lake. Not only that, but since I have very few other anglers records of fish to go by, I like to keep my own personal recordings of all Carp I land from there, just for referencing purposes in the future and try to gain some sort of idea of stock levels.
Both rods back on the spots, I barely had time to boil the kettle before one of them was off again, with an obviously larger and more spirited fish. It seemed like it took an age to tame this fish, with it taking complete control for most of the fight and me just being along for the ride. I have to admit to being a tad shocked to see the fish recuperating in the folds of my net, and being a hell of a lot smaller than it’s fight had me believe. Still, at 17lb I was far from disappointed with it, and it truly was a warrior of a Common, completely different shape to the others, with a severe and steep head.
The last fish had me fairly perplexed. In all the times I’d fished this lake in the previous years, I’d only ever had 2 Commons, and in merely a couple of hours I’d had 3! It did have me wondering where the nice, dark, scaly Mirrors were hiding? Those were the fish I was after really, and with the biggest confirmed fish I knew of only going just over 26lb, I really was fishing for “lookers” rather than monsters of the deep.
As if the ‘Carp Gods’ had heard my musings, the next take took the form of a very pretty and nicely proportioned Mirror. These were the fish I was more used to seeing, and now being 4 fish in I was hoping to see some of the lakes larger and better looking fish grace my mat. Consistently keeping the bait trickling in with every fish landed, it seemed I was keeping fish in the vicinity, and they didn’t seem to be spooking off the disturbance of the fights too much.
Having watched a fish roll a little bit further in to the gap in the reeds than what I was fishing, I opted to recast my right rod, which had sat quiet for a little while, and try to put it as close to where I saw the fish show as I dared without potentially increasing the risk of losing fish. It appeared to have been beneficial, as pretty quickly I was in to my 5th fish of the day, this one being obviously bigger, with a much more dogged, slow and deep fight than any of the fish I’d had earlier in the day. My assumption was founded when a very deep bellied Mirror came to the surface, shortly before I scooped it up with my net at full reach. Weighing in at 22lb, it was the biggest fish so far, and getting closer to some of the lakes older and bigger residents.
Now coming on for midday, it seemed like the fish switched off a little bit, which perhaps coincidentally, although I suspect not, occurred simultaneously with a few other anglers turning up to the lake and a few leads crashing around. As is often the case with the lake, the anglers that had arrived only stayed for a couple of hours and then slowly all drifted off again. And, maybe predictably, the fish started showing signs of being in and around my spots again as soon as there was less people walking about and general noise/disturbance.
Having been sat on the edge of my bedchair all day, trying to anticipate takes and being on the rods quickly as possible due to fishing tight to the snags, with my reels locked up, I made the schoolboy error of switching my concentration of slightly and laid back to try and pinch a short nap. And, of course, it was now that I get the most vicious and powerful take I’ve ever witnessed! Before I could even jump up off my bedchair I was watching the rod getting wrenched out of the buttrest and disappear over the top of my alarms…. I was dumbstruck! There was only ripples on the surface indicating where my rod had taken a nosedive…
After a couple of split seconds of shock and awe, and perhaps a couple of expletives, my brain switched back on and I quickly picked up my other rod, slowly reeling and creeping the lead and rig back across the area I thought the rod may have landed. Unbelievably, I felt weight, and slowly lifting I saw the butt of my rod appear back through the surface of the water. Very tentatively I pulled it closer until I could stretch my arm out and just grab the very end. Somehow, the hook on my rig miraculously managed to find the ‘hook-keep’ eye just above the butt of the rod! It is literally millimetres wide, and I’m sure I will never quite comprehend how I got so lucky! Having the rod now firmly in my grasp, I realised the fish was still attached! It had managed to make it a fair way in to the reeds I was fishing tight up against, but after a bit of firm, steady pressure, I teased it back out and then continued the fight in open water. I was pretty sure I was attached to a good fish, judging by the ferocity of the take and then the following fight, I was also a bit worried it may have weakened to hook hold at some point during the chaos. Those concerns were not founded though, and I safely bagged it. I can honestly say I was flabbergasted to peer in to the net and be met with the sight of what, at best, was a mid double! Where on earth did this fish get it’s power from??? Still, after all the trouble it caused, I was just pleased I managed to land it safely, get a few snaps and see it swim off as powerfully as it did.
The last couple of hours went by with some truly mental weather conditions, which I guess are typical of late April. One minute it was warm enough to maybe be referred to as “t-shirt weather”, the next an insanely heavy hale shower! I’m fairly convinced that the unstable weather conditions put the fish off the feed for the rest of the time I was there, yet I did still manage to nail a couple more before packing up. One a torpedo shaped Common, and the other a mint, dark, scaley Mirror which was only small, but a good sign for the future of this little water. With no recent stocking, this would be a homegrown fish, spawned in the lake and slowly building up to the size it is. I can only hope there’s a few more fish like that in there and they continue to provide fantastic sport for myself and others in time to come.
Home and trying to dry myself off from the intermittent rain and hale, I had a chance to sit back and take stock of the days fishing. I honestly can say it was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had for a long time, and even though the fish were mostly what would be usually classed as “small”, it made little to no difference to me and I was just happy to be there catching them.
I think it also went some way to cement in my mind that some of these traditions, that are slowly fading out of our wonderful sport, and may seem a little antiquated, are truly worth trying to preserve. I would highly recommend to anyone, that should you have the opportunity, give it a go! That magical “Opening Day”, once experienced, will more than likely firmly plant it’s spot in your
yearly fishing diary and hopefully rekindle that youthful excitement that you just may have lost overyouranglinglif