Return To The Big Pit - Part One | James Salmons
After a break of a few years James decided he’d still got some unfinished business on the Big Pit and managed to secure a ticket for a welcome return.
After a thoroughly enjoyable season on Northey Park where I was lucky enough to tick off all but one of my targets, I decided that it was time to move on again. I had already acquired a ticket for a smaller water close by but knowing that this would probably be busy at times (to a point where a swim may not even be available!) I knew I needed to look at other venues in the area as back-up.
I had fished another complex a short distance away from my newly-acquired ticket until four years ago and had enjoyed the three years I spent there immensely; taking what was probably the most desirable fish from each lake including what many people deem the king of the complex – The Brown Fish from the Big Pit. It was with that capture that I knew my time was up and I left on a high note.
However, I knew that when I pulled off there were still a fair few fish left for me to go back for, especially those which resided in the Big Pit. Over my time away I had kept a watchful eye over the complex and, through good friends, was informed that the fish were coming on leaps and bounds. There were now six fish that I had not caught that had pushed through and were in excess of 40lb. Keen to return, I was lucky enough for my mate, Matt from Northey, to put me forward to re-join the complex and when I received a message from the owner telling me I had been successful I was absolutely buzzing!
The distance between my two tickets was just six miles so the original plan was to primarily fish the smaller water and then drop back onto the Big Pit for a night or two if it got too busy. As with all best laid plans though, this didn’t turn out to be the case!
My first planned session on the small lake was due to start on a Saturday afternoon. The night before I struggled to sleep; all the kit was sorted and I was excited to get started. When I woke up on the next morning, fate was to play its hand as I looked at my phone to reveal a text from a mate fishing the small lake. With the weather scorching hot I expected the worst news and that’s what it was, the fish had started spawning in the night! I cursed my luck for a few minutes but then I realised it wasn’t the end of the world and I still had my ticket on the other complex so quickly changed my plans.
It was my Dad’s 70th Birthday present that day which was a ride in an old mosquito plane. This took place in Northants, near Sywell reservoir, so from there I drove across the Nene Valley to my intended destination – the Big Pit.
With the weather so hot I had an inkling as to where some fish would be from previous form and upon arriving at a viewing point it seemed I was correct as there was plenty of fish milling around. It turned out that the vast majority of these were the stock fish that were put in the lake the year I’d dropped off, which range from 12-20lb, although there were definitely some better fish amongst them too. It seemed like they were grouping up ready to get their yearly deed done.
I quickly parked my car in the swim that controlled that corner and went about finding spots just out of the bay in hope that that’s where I would pick them up from as they would leave in the evening and then re-enter the next morning.
That night was spent under the stars with just the cover on the bedchair. It was absolutely boiling and with the mozzies at their worst, sleep was hard to come by.By 3.00 a.m. all of my rods had been wiped out by tench. I had forgotten just how ravenous they were and I was cursing as I unhooked the last one in the edge.
The next day was swelteringly hot and although I still had a couple more nights at my disposal I decided to head home. The fish looked like they were about to start spawning and the decision to go was justified as they went at it that night.
At work on the Monday I swapped a couple of days leave around which gave me a five-night session the following week. I tend to fish three nights at the longest nowadays, but as my studies for the year had finished and having not fished much since April, I was gagging to get some proper time on the bank so I was really looking forward to it.
I arrived on the Thursday evening and as there were still a couple of fish evident in the bay I decided to drop in there. The weather was nowhere like the week before with a fair south-westerly wind blowing across. The night was uneventful and the next morning I was up at first light watching the water. I saw a few fish showing at range from the opposite bank so wound in and went around to have a look. From there I saw three fish well out of casting range. I did lead around as far as I could fish but the whole area was extremely weedy and the swim wasn’t one that I particularly liked either. In the years that I had fished the complex previously there was nearly always someone in there and the amount of rod hours that went in to bites was obscene, which really put me off.
Instead, I decided to move into a swim on the adjacent bank which faced where the fish were showing. My thinking being that if the fish were already on the side of the wind then they might travel on to the back of it as the wind was a fairly stale one.
I leaded around in the new swim and found that there was little in the way of spots out at range but as I knew that there used to be cleaner ground closer in, I located it easily and decided it was big enough for all three rods. I splayed the baits over a 10yd line and proceeded to bait up with 4kg of whole and chopped baits. I knew that it might be a waiting game and as there were limited options in the way of swim choice, I wanted to give the fish something to grab their attention if they came in.
I didn’t have to wait long though as just before dark one of the rods was away to a one toner!! After a very erratic fight an upper-double common was netted. I was extremely pleased that my hunch had paid off. Aware that there was always a good chance of another bite from a spot on there if you managed to get a rod straight back on it, I quickly unhooked the fish in the net and got a fresh rig out before doing the photos of the first capture of my return. It wasn’t long into dark that the same rod ripped off again. A similar fight resulted in a fish around the same size, this time a pretty stocky mirror.
Nothing else happened during the night or the next morning other than the obligatory tench and also what I believed to be the only bream in the lake! I knew that I should have probably put a load of bait out during darkness but thinking that there was a chance of another bite I didn’t want to disturb the area any further.
That afternoon I put another hit of bait out before resting the swim for a few hours. I got the rods out before dark and relaxed that evening hoping that some more fish would move in. Luckily, I wasn’t bothered by any tench during the night. The next morning I watched as a pair of coots kept venturing out onto my baited spot but they didn’t dive down once. I had a feeling something was happening below and so it proved at 9.00 a.m. when the same rod was away again. The fish stripped plenty of line on its first run and then kited around to the left which left me frantically putting the chesties on so I could wade around the reeds at the side of the swim before coaxing it into the net. I couldn’t believe that it was another stocky; the way it took off I was really hoping it was something else but I was still fairly happy with another fish.
I slipped the fish back and got the rod straight back out there. It wasn’t out there for longer than 20 minutes when I had another take, this one completely different to the other as it pulled up tight and was slowly pulling away from me as I got to the rod. The fish felt heavy as it hit a weed bed and then just seconds later the line parted! To say I was gutted was an understatement! I knew the weed held some zebra mussels and it looked as though these were the culprits. It was just sod’s law that out of the four bites I really wanted to land, it was that one! Thoroughly dejected I recast the rod and then suffered a run of tench and, believe it or not, added another bream to the tally – I was gobsmacked when it hit the surface!
I put out another hit of bait out in the afternoon and got the rods sorted early evening. I was a little concerned that I had started catching the tench and bream as I was positive the carp were holding them off. Even the coots had started visiting the spot frequently upon dark.
Nothing else happened that night but I added some tench early in the morning. I then sat and watched as the coots enjoyed the fine banquet I had laid for them on the spot. With that, I wound in the rods. I had one further night left if I wanted it so went for a good look around the lake to see if I could find anything worth moving onto. My mate Kasie joined me as it was his first time on the complex.
The mooch around the pit didn’t take too long as I found plenty of fish in the small bay that I fished on my first night of the trip. As usual, the vast majority present were stockies but on closer inspection I saw two of the big girls. I quite quickly identified them as Moonscale and the Silver Common, two of the lake’s A-Team.
Unfortunately, the controlling swim was taken so I was left in a quandary on where to go. I either had to move one swim to my right, which fished across to this area or move on to the adjacent bank to fish out that way instead. I stood chatting with Kasie and knew I had to move when I saw a fish show in the swim I fancied on the adjacent bank, quickly followed by another. I’d seen both fish clearly and neither were stockies so I quickly made my way around to the swim to watch the water.
Standing at the front of the swim I watched for 20 minutes. In that time I saw a few more shows. After mentally noting the areas where they were I dropped a bucket in the swim and went about moving quickly.
Once back, I knew with the amount of weed present that I had to take the risk of having a lead about, something that isn’t ideal when there’s obviously a few fish in front of a swim. What did help though was noting the areas in which the fish were showing as before long I found three areas to present a bait. Two of these were good drops in deeper water in front of dense weed but the remaining rod was the one I was confident in. Having seen three fish show towards a mark it took far longer to finally get what I was after as the lead cracked down on harder, shallower ground. I got the rods out quickly after and scattered some bait around them with the throwing stick.
With the rods out I sat back and cooked dinner and had a couple of well-earned beers. As I watched I started receiving savage line bites. These continued right up until dark, the slack lines picking up bow tight before gently falling back. With the weed thick in front of the swim I guessed that there were plenty of tench moving by close in and causing the majority of them, but with carp obviously still present. Looking back now they were obviously the culprits due to the severity of the liners. In the end I had to jack the rods right up in the air, and tighten up the lines which, although didn’t fully do the trick, did let me get some broken sleep.
It was just before dawn when the rod on the shallower spot tightened up and woke me with a few bleeps. Putting my trainers on I cursed at the responsible tench. I picked up the rod and held it skywards. I felt a slight pull so hoping it wasn’t a line bite I wound down and was met with a solid resistance.
Whatever was on the end let itself be led all the way back to the bank. I believed that a tench was the guilty party along with a big ball of weed. I didn’t bother putting my waders on as I expected to just unhook it in the edge but when it neared I saw it was a common so quickly grabbed the net. It was only as I went to lift the cord clear of the water that I realised I’d massively underestimated the size of the fish and on clicking on the headtorch a unit of a common was sat at my feet! For a fish of that size I was genuinely staggered at its lack of fight! After rolling her onto her side I could see the tell-tale cluster of scales and realised it was the one I’d been watching just a few hours previously –the Silver Common!
I rested the fish for a few minutes whilst sorting out the mat. Lifting her out I knew she’d be close to 40 but the needle settled at 39lb 4oz, not that I was bothered as one of the fish that I had come back for was quickly secured in a retainer whilst I called Kasie to see if he’d do the honours at first light to which he replied: “Only if you do the honours for the one I’ve caught in return.” Lovely!
After doing the photos for Kaise we made our way around to my swim. The fish beat me up something rotten on the bank and before long she was back. Kasie had a quick coffee with me before shooting off to work and leaving me to it.
I had planned on being away from the lake by 9.00 a.m. that morning to finish off an assignment but with a large number of fish showing in front of me I was going nowhere! I must have seen 100 shows, mostly from good fish, with some of them directly over the hookbaits. I gave it until 2.00 p.m. when it started raining heavily before it was time to wind in. I was absolutely amazed that I hadn’t had another bite, especially on my middle rod as I saw plenty of fish in that area. Winding in I realised why! The lead was off the clip and the rig had been pulled tight, I’d been well and truly done! I was pretty gutted as I’d hung it out so long thinking that rod was going to go when all the time it probably wasn’t even fishing! I couldn’t moan too much though, and although I left looking like a drowned rat, I couldn’t stop smiling.
Next month read about James’ continued run of success on the Big Pit, culminating in something rather special.