Monsters And Myths | Jack Funnel

For the last few seasons, I have fished on some very busy lakes. From Kingsmead 1, to Farlows and Linear. A lot of the lakes were hectic, and often tricky to fish how I would have liked. I loved it and caught some lovely carp along the way, and big ones too, but after years of fishing that type of lake, I craved something totally different. I wanted somewhere I could be lost in the surroundings, see few anglers, and target the unknown.

The opportunity came when I looked into obtaining an RK Leisure Kingsmead Island Lake permit. I had heard little about it, despite fishing only a stone’s throw away a few years previous. The guys on there kept it quiet, and understandably so. Rumours of real whackers lurking in its depth would sprout up in conversion, and the odd picture would be passed round when one was revealed. 

I wanted a target, something to fish for and do a campaign. I desired something that I hadn’t had for a long time – a certain one to target, a place I could fish regularly and get something going. It was to be a place I could learn about more and more with every week I was there. The Island Lake had everything I wanted. I spoke to a few of the lads and got a bit of an idea of some of the stock. To this day, I still don’t know it in its entirety, but I like that. 

It was also boat fishing, which is something I always wanted to do and add to my armoury, if you like. With it being over 60 acres in size, and varied depths and gin-clear water, it was a carp-fishing haven. The banks weren’t worn down, just a small track snaked its way through the vegetation. Most of the swims required boat access only, so it was almost like detaching yourself from the world. 

It was a slice of heaven before I even got the rods out, and I felt relaxed as soon as the boat set off across the lake. It wasn’t just an open round bowl either, the place had islands, intricate bays, and jungles of snags. It made finding the fish a challenge, especially with how little they showed. Occasionally, they would bless us with a display, perhaps due to a hatch or a weather change, but rarely would they reveal their presence. If they did show it would often be early-morning, which gave very little to go on during the day. With less weed present in the centre of the lake, there weren’t the areas for them to hold up out in the pond. 

On my first session, I fished in open water, in an area called the Lagoon. I fished over bait and waited, watching the lake as much as I could. I didn’t catch, but I learned a lot after a good scout about. I fine-tuned my tackle, reduced the length of the rods, and spooled up with heavy mono and braid on the spares. Everything was building momentum for the best chance of hooking a carp, and landing it. I acquired an aquascope, H-blocks and other boating essentials, and trimmed the kit right back to the bare essentials. This allowed me to move quickly and only carry what was needed. 

For my second trip, I had a good look around in the boat and saw a few fish in the snags, but they were moving very slowly and looked really lethargic. It was late-afternoon, and other than the fish in the snags, I didn’t see a thing. I got everything sorted, and just as I was about to cast out, I realised that I had left my alarms at work. I decided to spend the night sitting up and listening, trying to track down the carp.

I sat out the morning show time, but didn’t see anything. I loaded up the boat, and went back to the car so I could go and get my alarms. I was soon back out on the water, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something show about 50 yards off a set of snags. I slowly drifted over towards them, turned off the outboard, and peered into the treeline depths. I could make out seven carp, a couple of which were considerably larger than the rest. 

I settled in the nearest swim, known as Vipers. I got the gear in there and went out in the boat to investigate the area where I had seen the carp show. I peered through the scope and could make out a plateau which came up to around 12ft. I marked the spot and put in a couple of kilos of Krill, whole and crushed, some hemp, and a few tigers. I had both rods on large in-line leads, with my faithful Ronnie Rigs and big old Muggas to help with the job. I put a pop-up on one and a wafter on the other, just to cover my options more than anything. 

Nothing happened that day or through the night, and it wasn’t until the following morning that I received a dropback. I wound in frantically until I made connection with it, and that was when all hell broke loose. This thing stripped me of a crazy amount of line.

It charged from one weedbed to another. Luckily, Dan Leney was with me to give me a hand, and when I got above the fish in the boat, it came free. It had immense power and I couldn’t help but shake. I was nervous, petrified in fact – this could be anything and it felt huge.

A large ball of weed rose from the depths, and Dan scooped it and the fish up in one go. I dropped the rod and began to peel back the weed, just to make sure she was in. It was in alright, and the stripped Canadian revealed a huge carp. It wasn’t until we got her on the bank that we realised how big it was. On the scales she went a huge 54lb 2oz. I was totally blown away, and Dan confirmed it was a fish known as Roids, one which hadn’t been out for over 2 years, and 6 years before that. A few of the lads came over to do the pictures, and they did a sterling job too. 

We had a traditional barbecue that evening, and I really was on cloud nine. It seemed to be a day for big carp, as Scott Lloyd landed the Burghfield Common, so it was an evening filled with joyous celebrations. It’s one of the reasons that made this lake so special. 

That was it for the session, but I didn’t care. I was totally euphoric and had fallen deeply in love with the place. I couldn’t wait to get back down there, and it was nice going in to work after catching such a special carp.

I was back on Monday afternoon the following week, but couldn’t find anything. There were no shows and no sightings in the snags, so with nothing to go on, I set up in an area that had done fish a few days before. It also had access to an area where I thought they might be. 

I did the night, but to no avail. I went looking again, but couldn’t find them, and on the second night, again nothing happened, although I did see a fish show around 200 yards out. I reeled the rods in and rigged them up with Chods and 12mm white Signature pop-ups. I planned to fish single pop-ups spread across the area, hoping that it might nick a bite. 

Within an hour, I received a bite from a very angry carp. This thing went absolutely crazy, and towed me from one end of the lake to another. Eventually it surfaced, and just as she went over the net – bang! I thought something had gone, maybe my line or something, but it wasn’t. I had snapped my rod. It must have been under so much pressure for so long that it couldn’t take any more. My arms knew how the rod felt, I can tell you. It turned out to be a cracking 28lb mirror, which was well worth the broken rod. 

I went into the last night feeling confident, even though I only had a couple of rods out. I got the bite as I was packing up, with half the gear already in the boat. Another epic battle ensued, and I soon had a pristine-looking common in the net. 

She was in immaculate condition and weighed 31lb 6oz. It was all coming together nicely, and I couldn’t describe to my friends just how much I loved the place. 

I was due to meet Dan Wildbore on the Monday to do some shots for this feature. He was delayed, due to Myles Gibson catching yet another big carp from Dinton, so I carried on as usual and ended up setting up in the same swim. I was sure that the fish were still in the area, despite nothing showing at all.

I couldn’t cast from the bank, due to the long lengths of Camflex that I was using and the nature of the swim, so I drifted 20 yards out in the boat and cast them a further 60. A couple of rods on the small bright White Ones, and I was fishing. I didn’t expect to catch, but felt confident that I might be in with a chance of one when Dan arrived. 

No less than 10 minutes after casting out, I was away. It kited slowly to the left, before locking me up solid. I got above the fish and there was already weed surfacing where it was trying to burrow into the jungle. By the time I eventually got her up, it was like she had already exerted all her energy, and she went in the net at the first attempt. 

I got back to the bank, made sure the fish was secure and safe, and then gave Dan a call to see where he was. Fortunately, he was just down the road, and was soon in the swim. I had told him that I had a low-30 in the net, and he seemed shocked because he thought it was bigger. I explained that these fish can be deceiving, and tend to shrink when you get them on the bank.

However, this one didn’t shrink, in fact in grew. It soon dawned on us that we were looking at a low-40, not a 30, and it ended up being 41lb 2oz. It was such a special fish, with huge pectoral fins, broad shoulders, deep browns and purple hues, which all added to her majesty. 

We rattled off some shots, and it felt such a pleasure to hold it. For all I knew, it didn’t have a name, it was just a special old fish which had most likely only been held by a few. She went back perfectly and I was ecstatic, and I think Dan could see why I loved the place so much. 

Take away the constant air traffic from Heathrow, and it was like a land that time had forgotten. I did the night, confident of another one, as you never know on somewhere like this. The following morning, I received another bite. It didn’t fight as hard, but not knowing what could be on the end is such a rush. It turned out to be a dark 26lb mirror, a fitting way to end another memorable session on the Island Lake. CW