The Grand Finale | David Gaskin

A successful spell through February and March led me to believe that the excellent results I’d enjoyed at the lake during this period, with less angler pressure, would unfortunately soon be coming to an end as the weather improved and more of the other syndicate members came out of their winter slumber.

I was more than content with the fish I had caught so far this year, and although my ticket at the lake came to an end in June, I wasn’t going to ease up on the obsession. The quest for just one more Welly jewel was still burning brightly. 

Out of the big carp in the lake which I hadn’t caught, one stood out that I dearly wanted, and that was the Linear. It had previously topped 50lb, carries historic battle scars, and is simply an amazing-looking beast. 

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It was the beginning of April, one of my favourite times of the year. The carp were becoming more active due to the gentle rise in water temperature and the increasing daylight hours. Slowly but surely, the huge carp which reside in the lake were making an appearance as the winter turned to spring. They were not giving themselves away easily, but the stamp of carp caught was breathtaking.

On this particular session, the joy of trying to finish my degree meant it was an extremely demanding time. I was working to complete assignment submissions and knuckle down with exam revision, and as a result of being in the library getting everything in order, I arrived at the lake mid-afternoon. This was a bit of a nuisance because it meant that the morning arrivals had filled the main swims, leaving me with a restricted choice. As well as uni being a constant distraction from my angling, due to my overly efficient reproduction capabilities, I also had a heavily pregnant girlfriend to care for. 

I opted for the last remaining main swim called the Grassy, which wasn’t a bad consolation because I had been angling to a similar area in the swim next door over the previous weeks. It was evident, from rare shows of carp silently sliding up through the lake’s surface, that they were using the island as a holding area, or as a route to navigate from one end of the lake to the other in the relatively safe confines of the margins, out of most anglers’ reach. As for the lake’s form, afternoons were a good time to get a bite, so I put out two singles tight to the island, in the hope of attracting the attention of any carp which may still be in the area. 

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Being in a manic rush, I had somehow left my sounder box in the van, so I had to make do with the classic old-school method of stones on the spools with a frying pan underneath. Listen for a clink on the pan if the spool starts whizzing and causes the stones to drop off. This was a slightly lazy approach, but a convenient temporary solution, at least until I thought bite time had passed for the afternoon and I could retrieve my ATT receiver from the van.

Due to my distinct lack of ability to ever feel satisfied, I had been tinkering about with the perfectly effective Ronnie Rig on previous sessions. I wanted to create a rig that had the effectiveness of the Ronnie and the ease of changing hooks like a Multi-Rig. The reason for this was that casting at range required a few tries to get the correct distance and land exactly on the spot, and consequently, I occasionally brought the rig in after a couple of casts with the hookpoint turned over. So, out came the Munnie Rig (Multi + Ronnie = Munnie), and I had caught fish on this rig on the two previous sessions. The only thing was that the hookholds were not as convincing as the Ronnie Rig captures, so I decided that the time for experimentation was over, and two Ronnie rigs were dispatched out to the island.

Within an hour of casting out, a carp had taken a liking to my 12mm pink pop-up as it sat on the sunny island margin, and the clonk of stone on the frying pan indicated that a spool was spinning away. I was carrying on from where I had left off, which boosted my confidence further, and I felt like I couldn’t put a foot wrong. The fish immediately felt like a big one, and as I coaxed it in, the pale shape of a big ghostie broke the surface. As much I like catching this slightly psychotic strain of carp, the novelty had started to wear off. Quite frankly, I wanted to be greedy and get through more of the big mirrors! The carp turned out to be a football-shaped ghostie of 45lb 8oz, and while it may not be the most desirable carp the lake has to offer, it is still a big fish, and was an excellent start to the session. 

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At times, the carp in Welly can really frustrate the anglers who fish on the lake, simply because they can be elusive and hard to track down, despite there being so many HUGE specimens. Nonetheless, on this occasion I felt so in tune with the lake that I was certain I knew where the fish were, and I also had an effective approach that was doing the business. 

After receiving no more action, I was up at first light to scan the island, where I suspected the carp were still loitering. Like clockwork, they were there in the vicinity, but I could get closer to them by a quick move of swims, to the Hole in the Bush next door. The benefits of this move included being able to fish and keep bait going in on recent productive spots, and being on fish which were seeking the safety of the longer island spots.

I stuck with the same tactics of casting out singles on a simple Helicopter setup. The streamline setup once again helped to get the necessary casts, about 130-140 yards’ range, to intrude into the carp’s safe area. Almost instantly, another quick bite occurred, and a feisty battle resulted in a typically angry common of 24lb on the bank. 

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After this I decided to introduce a kilo of Odyssey XXX boilies on a couple of spots. One was an island margin that is conveniently within catapult range, which I regularly bait whether I fish it or not. The other was a well-known area that sees bait literally every day. 

I purposely rested the baited areas in the day, with the intention to fish them through the night. This is a tactic that is often overlooked, but I firmly believe it had been pivotal in luring some of the bigger residents of the pond into my net. The theory is that the fish have the whole day to find and feast on the spots, and get confident that the spot is safe while there is no end tackle present. 

As the light levels dipped low enough to avoid the coots from picking up my rig, I prayed that one cast would be enough to get the rods out on the spots for the night. Without any wind causing a hindrance to my casting, I delicately got them out perfectly first time. Once the rods had settled, I chatted to the chap next door, who mentioned that he thought he saw a fish poke its head out over the close-in margin spot a little while earlier. 

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I tend to take these comments with a pinch of salt, but his sighting was fully justified when it turned out that the plan had obviously worked an absolute treat, which was borne out by the events that were about to unfold. As it turned out, it didn’t take long before my right-hand rod was almost being wrenched from the buzzers. 

Amusingly for Lewis (but not for my kneecaps or face), as I ran to my rod at an impressive pace, I performed a full-face plant with a cross somersault, and lost a trainer in the process! I stumbled about with one shoe on and mud in my eye, and Lewis was wetting himself, but I got control of the fish and instantly felt a much more powerful creature pulling on the end. 

The fish kited and then furiously pulled line off the clutch as it tore along the near margin of the swim. As more and more line was stripped from the spool, my concerns naturally grew. I could feel the GT80+ main line grating along what felt like discarded line, left over from a lost fish perhaps, or an unfortunate cast. The sensation wasn’t a pleasant one, but I kept faith in my tackle and began to turn the carp. I steered it towards open water, and eventually gained direct contact. 

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A lengthy fight resulted in a huge common rolling into the net. It was certainly one of the monsters, but it was difficult to identify which one of the four resident 50+ commons it was at first. Just as we lost the light, a few of the other lads arrived to lend a hand. It turned out to be the Small-Tailed Common at 51lb, which is an infrequent visitor to the bank, and a new fish for me, so I was absolutely over the moon. With all the handshakes complete and a quick celebratory can of 7-Up (is there a carpier fizzy drink?), I got the rod back out and slipped into the bag. 

The rest of the night passed by quietly, which surprised me, as the common the evening before was excreting bait on the mat. Knowing that it was my bait, and knowing how long the bait was out there, it was obvious that it was hungry, and must have really got its head down.

With this in mind, I decided to bait up with the throwing stick, using 18mm baits to get the range required. I did this right on first light to avoid the attention of the gulls, and with the strategic aim of keeping the swim free of commotion for the remaining 24hrs of the session, with just a recast necessary before dark. 

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I had certainly relaxed throughout the day, and was content after having a colossal common from the previous evening, but I still wanted to be greedy and catch more fish. The signs of activity in the swim were subtle, but were still evident within my swim, and I felt confident that I would get lucky one more time before the session ended. The rods were once again put out with the same successful presentations, namely the winning combination of a 12mm pop-up on a Size 4 Mugga Ronnie Rig. 

It wasn’t until 2.00 a.m. when I had a take from the lodge spot. This happened to make it a fish off each spot in the swim at this point, and after enjoying another spirited fight, I was soon guiding the fish into the confines of the net without wiping out any of the other rods (which can occur in this tight swim). It turned out to be a common of 32lb 4oz, which had obviously taken a liking to the XXX, and it was more than welcome. 

With it still being the small hours of darkness, I wrapped up the rod and cast it back out on the lodge spot at 100 yards with minimal fuss. I feared that there was no bait out there, so I decided to top up the spot with 30 baits. It was a chilly night, but the upside was it was clear and still, and I was confident with the accuracy of the bait and the repositioned hookbait. 

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Strangely, probably because of how the session had gone so far, I was confident of another bite before leaving in the morning. The repositioned rod woke me up at first light, causing the little ATTs to go into meltdown. When I pulled into the fish, it halted immediately and seemed to hold its ground. I slowly gained line and some momentum, and the carp felt awfully heavy while almost waddling in. To be honest, at this point I thought it was one of the big mirrors which is known for fighting like this. Thankfully, it kept coming in as my nerves became more and more frail. The Size 4 Covert Dark Mugga held firm, as always, and I knew exactly which carp it was as it rolled over the net cord. It was the Linear, a fish which was always at the very top of my Welly whacker wish list.

I really couldn’t believe what had happened. With a fish like this, size is irrelevant, but at 50lb 6oz, I’d be lying if I said the weight didn’t make the capture even more special. Just like all the other carp, the Linear was in absolutely immaculate condition, and is truly one of the most spectacular fish I will ever see.

The Linear was a fitting end to my Wellington campaign. It topped off 3 great years of catching over 100 carp, including nine different 50s. It’s not only the outrageous stock which makes this venue so special, it’s the whole package of decent gentlemanly anglers set in a picturesque park estate. However, as one door closes, another opens, and the Parrot is squawking! 

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Tyler Lowe-Fowlersecond