The guys at GT towers have had many a laugh at my expense, because of my endless hours spent decorating, which has prevented me mingling with other keenies on the Yateley Car Park lake. I actually think I told them I was nearly finished last year!

The Easter break was particularly busy down at the Car Park, and my timings were inevitably terrible. It turned out that I arranged my first 2-night session of the new season at the same time as most of the rest of syndicate, who apparently had exactly the same idea. It was like a countdown as to how many swims would be left as the weekend slowly approached. In the end, I gave it a wide berth and decided to head down to my other syndicate lake, which is situated in the carp oasis that is the Colne Valley.

I hadn’t fished it in over a year, so it was nice to return to the peace and tranquility that the lake offers in abundance (give or take the odd low-flying 747 and the monotonous drone of the M25). So, I had a lovely tranquil lake all to myself, and somewhere I could uninterruptedly lose myself in my favourite Wickes catalogue, fastidiously studying the array of tools and materials I would need to initiate my next 18-month DIY project. How exciting…!

The night passed and the indicators remained motionless, and in all honesty, I didn’t feel particularly confident with my first swim choice. The realisation dawned that I was looking at an area of water devoid of activity, and this was cemented when I saw a number of carp showing right over the other side of the lake at 5.30 a.m. With another night at my disposal, I gathered my hotchpotch of tatty old gear and moved round on to the fish – only to sit there for a further 24 hours, wondering what I had done wrong.

After the Easter break had passed, the Car Park remained busy most weekends. This was understandable, I suppose, considering it coincided with the new season starting and the fact that the weather was good for a chunk or two. I was quite happy to go back to the Colne Valley lake for the odd night, especially after my cousin Jason landed the awesome Little Grey at a best-ever weight of over 49lb. He really wanted that one, and with the lake being rather difficult to target specific fish, the last thing I wanted was to deny someone the opportunity of landing the great one when I’d been fortunate to land it before.

An almost perfect Colne Valley common of 30lb 1oz.

An almost perfect Colne Valley common of 30lb 1oz.

With just a single night ahead of me, I returned to the Colne Valley pit, where I elected to set the traps right up at the opposite end of the lake to where I had dangled previously. I knew the swim really well, having spent an inordinate amount of time in there before I discovered plastering, woodwork, carpentry, electrics and other home-based DIY activities. The upshot of this was that there was no real need to thrash the water to a furious foam looking for spots. Instead, I flopped out a long-running Naked Chod mounted on a long 20lb Mirage leader that was knotted to 14lb Mirage main line. The hookbait went out nicely and landed exactly where I wanted it, on a relatively hard area some 50 yards out.

The lake was like tap water, and looking at the whole setup in the margins filled me with confidence, as all I could see was the pop-up. Out went 50 Longfield Baits’ Nutmix boilies with a Specialized S2 pop-up tied on the sharp end. The other rods were fished on the deck, cast across a small bay towards a renowned feeding area along a tree-lined far margin. The fact that everyone else fishes there means that at least the fish see bait regularly, if nothing else!

On this occasion, there were two other anglers fishing, so things were looking good in terms of getting a bite or two. I actually prefer a few anglers fishing, as opposed to having none at all. Not too many though, mind. Just enough to keep the fish moving between areas when I’m fishing on relatively small lakes.

As is often the case, the nomadic carp weren’t giving away their whereabouts during the night, so a peaceful sleep was granted. It was a rare morning for me in that it wasn’t raining, so it was thoroughly pleasant to be looking at the area that tended to get most bites. However, even that looked as dead as the proverbial dodo, as did the rest of the lake.

The view from the Curly

The view from the Curly

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly shocked to see the middle rod (the one with the Naked Chod) try to swap places with the left rod on the buzzer bar as a carp tore off at ludicrous speed, and headed towards the horrendous far-bank marginal snags. The left-hand rod flew in the air and I hastily picked up the middle one. I had to apply heavy pressure side-strain, with the rod held over to the right-hand side, to counter the carp’s powerful surges. In fact, I had to do this for the whole battle, as the fish was determined to reach the safe haven of a rusty old sunken Morris Marina that had met its maker in the lake many moons ago!

It was only when I landed the fish that I realised I wasn’t using my favourite 18lb GT-HD line. Not that I was totally surprised, but wow! The Mirage is ridiculously tough. There in the folds of my net was a beautiful common which was almost perfect, and at 30lb 1oz, I was made up. I set off on my merry way to go back to painting another wall, in another room in the house that keeps on giving!

At the beginning of May, the Car Park appeared to settle down in terms of numbers of anglers, and it wasn’t long before I got the urge, so I squeezed a night in. As is usually the case when I go fishing, the rain continued to pour as I was setting up in the Curly Wurly, a swim that commands a vast amount of water in the middle of the pond. I knew of several spots in front, with one particular popular area at 80 yards’ range, but decided to fish it shorter because a friend said he’d spotted a few fish showing close in that morning.

I looked out early the next morning, with just my head poking out of the luxurious comfort of my sleeping bag, and it was just typical that I could see a few fizzers at the 80-yard area. The vermin gulls were circling above in anticipation of any free offerings that were being kicked up by the fish below. My despondency was cut short when my good friend Ernie popped his head around the umbrella to say he’d caught the Big Linear. At 35lb, it was a great moment to witness, and a well-deserved capture to one of the syndicate’s top lads.

I packed up shortly after that, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time I’d had. I couldn’t wait to return the following week, despite knowing that I’d only have Thursday night at my disposal.

With only five other anglers on, I had a few options, and after seeing several fish swimming over the bar to the left of the swim, aptly named the Bars, I chose to set up in a nearby swim called the Chair. I hadn’t fished in there before, but was aware of a couple of spots which I decided to fish. It was no surprise that the whole setting-up procedure was once again done in the pouring rain, even though it wasn’t forecast.

Ernie with the Big Lin at 35lb

Ernie with the Big Lin at 35lb

I fished only 30 yards out, to the base of the bars that run parallel with the North Lake bank. The water colour wasn’t brilliant, so I went back to my favourite 18lb GT-HD main line and fished two balanced baits on heavy 4oz in-line drop-out leads. It’s a lead arrangement I always prefer on rock-hard bottom due to the instant bolt effect that can be achieved.

At midnight, a good fish rolled to my left. Despite it still raining, I was certain I was in the right swim. I had baited with a kilo of pellet and John Llewellyn’s Big Carp Krill boilies, and my confidence was high. Unfortunately, the poxy rain continued unabated all night, and no one around the lake reported anything happening.

Phill, the bailiff of the North Lake, dropped a bucket into my swim because I was leaving relatively early in the morning. I was certain that he was in with a good shout, but even I didn’t expect him to bag three out of there in 24 hours, which included a PB of 44lb 12oz to finish off with. A tremendous result for him; he was naturally buzzing and probably still is now!

After that, I was back down on the Saturday, and even though I could have moved back into the Chair Swim after Phill, that isn’t really my style. Instead, I opted for the End Works, which is a swim along to the left and just around a shallow corner. Phill was staying until 8.00 p.m., so I elected not to cast out until then because there were still a number of fish in front of him.

During that time I spent a few hours up the tree, where I was able to watch several fish frequent a close-in bar. I put the largest fish in the group at mid-30; it had a very bright belly and kept dropping down onto an area on the far side of the bar.
From up the tree, I thought the spot was about 3ft deep, and it wasn’t until close on dark, when I cast out after Phill had gone, that I realised it was actually less than 2ft. Initially, I was concerned at how shallow it was, and to be honest, I felt like I tried too hard to find somewhere else and had possibly ruined any chance of a bite.

Two Scales at 44lb 12oz

Two Scales at 44lb 12oz

It was the birdlife that concerned me the most, and I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of being connected to an errant angry Canadian goose or swan in the early hours of the morning, so I had to be extra vigilant because they were rampant in this area. Both traps were set, and the fish were still in the area despite my attempts to drive them out. At 1.00 a.m. the rod on the shallow spot where I had seen the bright belly fish drop down was off and away at full speed. It took me by surprise but was most welcome.

Once it finally graced the folds of the net, and with the moon shining down and illuminating my prize, I recognised the fish as the one I had seen from up the tree. It went 28lb 15oz, quite a bit smaller than I thought, but then I thought the spot was twice the depth it was from up the tree, so in retrospect, it all kind of made sense. The carp had fallen to a balanced Krill bottom bait presented with a heavy drop-off in-line pear setup. This was tied to 5ft of 35lb Camflex leadcore, an ultra-sharp Size 6 Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip, and 15lb Ultra Skin hooklink.

Chris, my neighbour, was an absolute star in helping with the fish on the bank, which is what makes the Car Park so special. Anglers are genuinely happy to help each other and look after the welfare of the fish. The first fish of a new season is always a very special one to behold. You know something has worked and it gives you the confidence to build a strategy because you know they have eaten the bait and that the rig works.

With that, I returned for an overnighter the following weekend. I had yet another wedding to attend the next day, so it needed to be short and sweet. The bottom end of the lake was far too busy, so I opted to set up my stall in a very productive swim called Dessies. The swim hadn’t been fished for over a week, so I knew it was prime for a bite. Despite many of the lake’s stock being at the other end, I still saw a couple cruising up the centre of the lake and almost dropping to the famous spot some 70 yards out.

With a similar setup to the one I had used to catch the last fish, I cast a balanced Specialized S2 barrel about 10 times until I was 100% happy my hookbait positioning was right. Oh, and did I mention that yet again it was raining very hard, and yet again this deluge was totally not forecast! I was not happy, as firing up the barbecue was a nightmare – I do love a bit of slightly seared meat!

Tucked away out of sight on the Car Park

Tucked away out of sight on the Car Park

In actual fact, every time it rains I get very despondent, and that night was no exception. I went to bed a miserable, whinging old man, only to be awakened by a very loud ATT sounder box bleeping away in my left ear. By-passing the strategically placed boots, I picked up the rod and knew I was instantly in trouble. The fish kited right around an island that is about 40 yards out and just to the right of the swim. Despite managing to bring the fish closer to me, the line was firmly in the tree branches. It was really hairy stuff because the fish was wallowing on the top with restricted line movement, so I thought I was doomed.

I released line and paced back to get my phone. I rang my friend Dom, who was in the Snags. Without hesitation, he was by my side armed with life jackets and the emergency carp-retrieval boat. A comedy double act then ensued, as the Chuckle Brothers were getting towed around by a fish which was obviously very powerful; luckily, it hadn’t moved much while the line was in the trees. Removing the line from the tree wasn’t that hard, and despite having a lot of experience with landing fish from a boat, it seems that if you take the weed out of the equation and place an island and overhanging margins into the mix, you are in for some fun and games.

At one point, poor Dom was getting whacked around the head by my reel as the fish went 360 around the boat and ploughed back down into the depths once more. When it eventually tired, I couldn’t believe the width of it, and the panic mode kicked in. The netting wasn’t pretty, but the Wide Gape was holding firm, and Dom and I laughed at the hilarious spectacle we provided for the other anglers on the lake. A load of good friends came around to drink lots of tea, all of whom had reeled in at what was essentially bite time.

We recognised the fish as 2 Scales, which had only been out the week before, but was obviously troughing hard, so someone else was bound to catch it. It’s a stunning fish of great proportions, and I was naturally over the moon. We weighed her at 44lb 12oz, so it was a new personal best for me, and made the wedding of one of my best friends all the better that weekend. Silly season it may be, but even just grabbing the odd night here and there makes the effort much more worthwhile.

The carp in all the other lakes on the complex were now responding to the prolonged hot spell of weather by getting frisky - and the North and Split were both closed due to spawning. I was quietly hoping that the Car Park would close as well, because of a family holiday we had planned for the week. There was no such luck, and instead it threw up a few of the cherished fish while I was away with the family. The captures going to a few of the more dedicated syndicate members.

The scales bounced to reveal my new PB

The scales bounced to reveal my new PB

I always find it hard to motivate myself to lift my game and try extra hard with my angling when I know they are due to spawn, so I casually planned to go down there on the Friday afternoon, after leaving work early. Typically, as with all the best-laid plans, I arrived at the lake only to realise I had misplaced my wallet. I ended up leaving my opted Dug-Out Swim to venture forth and find it. After battling through the heinous late-afternoon traffic, my wife rang to say she’d just found it – exactly as I pulled up outside the house! Ouch…

Undeterred, I returned to the lake. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have nearly as many options available, and had to settle for the Curly. I knew Dom had captured one of the lovely linear mirrors out of there at 27lb the day before, so I was a little reluctant to drop in behind him. Being the top bloke he is, he put me on the spots that I needed to be on, and the rods went out nicely with crisp drops.

Despite an eventful evening with my nice new brolly blowing up, and eating a highly anticipated barbecue in the dark, I was rewarded with a nice 31lb 1oz fish which rattled off at 2.30 a.m. This meant I had been fortunate enough to catch three Car Park carp in three consecutive work-style overnighters.

Tony B, who was set up behind me on the Split Lake, was also up at this unearthly hour playing a nice 27lb fish, so on this occasion there was no need to wake someone up from a delicious deep slumber. That was handy, as even though everyone’s always extremely obliging in helping to do photos, the truth is they’re not always at 3.00 a.m.

Until next time, tight lines to you all.

Three from three overnighters – 31lb 1oz

Three from three overnighters – 31lb 1oz