A Complex Approach | Haydn Hoskins
With several water’s on RK Leisure’s Horton Complex, Haydn reveals why keeping your options open when it comes to where you are fishing can pay dividends.
The past few years have seen me back on my old stomping grounds of the RK Leisure's Horton complex. I decided to focus solely on one lake for each different season of the year. For example, fish the Church Lake in the spring, the Island Lake in summer, and Kingsmead 1 in the autumn and winter. In fact, taking this approach led to one of my most memorable captures. A true winter 40 in the shape on Mr Pink at 46lb. It came just two days before Christmas and saw me achieve one of my carp angling targets and dreams of catching a winter 40, a fish I'd failed to catch on my first successful mission on that particular lake some years previous. In the interest of providing some equilibrium here, it hasn't all been as easy as it sometimes sounds when condensed to the written word.
My go on Horton Church lake was a disaster. That spring I went in with the ‘bait heavily with boilies’ approach, and two stockies was all I had to show for my efforts! I was literally piling the bait in and it wasn't until several big ones came out of areas I'd heavily baited (up to a week later) that I clicked what was happening. I'd get back to the lake and never be able to get back in the area I'd baited so would bait another and this would just keep happening. Mind you, other anglers seemed to have some very good results out of swims that aren't normally deemed spring hotspots. I really wasn't enjoying it, I was used to being able to lay down a good spread of bait and draw the fish to me quite quickly, these Horton fish seemed to react quite differently. The lake was heavily-pressured and my love affair with the Church Lake had got off to a somewhat jittery start, although I did manage to salvage that year with some arm-aching Kingsmead 1 action.
My brother had caught several good fish from the Church Lake, in fact, he seemed to catch whenever he turned up. Along with his fishing buddy, Wagner, they actually made it look quite easy. Looking at their captures kept the fire burning and it was when I saw the results that Oli Davies had last year stalking on Church, that I decided I would give the lake some proper time. The carp were both too big and/or too good looking to ignore, and I set about formulating a plan for the coming season. At the back of my mind I always had and maintained one key thought, be prepared to not fish the lake you were intending on fishing, but also go with the idea of focusing on one lake. It's all about what is actually happening when I arrive.
Thus, for the early part of the new season I decided to concentrate my efforts on the famous Horton Church Lake. I got off to a great start on my first session bagging and old original named Sid at 36lb, followed by a gorgeous, dark mirror at 33lb. The lake was quite busy but as I was able to get on the fish, I was quite happy. For me the approach had changed significantly. I was now looking to get on the fish and fish for them with small amounts of quality food, as opposed to the mass baiting I used to employ. As always, I never really use a marker float and haven't quite got into the whole ‘how many wraps’game. I simply cast out a 2oz lead, find a good spot, clip up andrecast to the area. I allow 2ft per second so a 6-second drop works out at around 12foot deep. A few boilies sprayed around the area is often enough to entice even the wariest of carp.
The following session saw me turn up to be greeted by an even busier lake with very few options of swim choice. I managed to get on the fish on my final morning and lost one just as I was packing down. Putting it down to misfortune, I was excited to return. The following week I had a single night ahead of me and upon walking around the lake, it became apparent that I wasn't going to get anywhere near the fish. This is where the complex approach comes in. Normally I would be stuck on a single lake but now I had options, I just had to take advantage. I decided to take a walk around Kingsmead 1 and came across a friend in the car park who was just packing down, as we stood there talking, I noticed several carp show in front of the swim that was about to be vacated. That made my mind up for me, a bigger lake, with slightly less angler pressure and able to get on the fish. Yes please!
Having used TG Active pop-ups on K1 in the past, I decided to fish one rod on a Citruz pop-up and the other on a TG Active pop-up. Both were to be fished over a bed of Key Cray freebies, a tactic that had seen me reap the rewards on Horton a few weeks previously. I was surprised when I woke in the morning having had no action. Carp were still showing in front of me so I decided to recast just in case my rig wasn't presented properly. I was slowly packing down my gear just before lunchtime when I received a take. After a spirited battle, I soon had what looked like a good upper-30 common charging around in front of me in the margins. It came up to the surface and took a gulp of air, looking defeated. As I was about to slide the net under the carp, it shook its head violently and the hook pulled. I watched in agony, as a wide-backed common swam back out into the depths.
The following weekend, I had a visit with my daughter planned where she would be staying with me for her first night fishing trip. As she's only four, and wanting to keep her comfortable, I opted to fish one of the dog kennel/car park swims. To my surprise, the carp still seemed to be holding up in the middle of the lake, on the back of the wind. The swim I’d lost one in the week before was free and carp were in the area. I didn't need to ask myself where to go. I knew the spots in this swim and was confident about the night ahead.
The night passed quietly and I was woken in the early morning by my daughter saying:“Daddy, I think it's morning now.” By 8.00 a.m. breakfast had been eaten, dandelions had been picked and my daughter needed a new activity to occupy her mind. We decided that the splash made by throwing stones in the margins was quite fun. As we were doing this, a flurry of beeps called us back to my swim. I was soon connected to a carp and my daughter was itching with excitement. I was just hoping that I would land this one and that she would get to see a carp on her first night trip. Fortunately, luck was on my side this time and a lean, hard-fighting mirror slipped over the net cord. I could see it was a good size and a good-looking carp, making the moment all the more special and memorable. At 37lb, it's one of lake’s rarer visitors to the bank, a fish named Trio due to its three scales in the middle on one side. I was made up to get a picture of such a special carp with my daughter and I think it's fair to say that she was quite happy too.
I was now in a bit of a dilemma. My initial plan was to fish Horton Church for the spring and the Island Lake in the summer, before heading back to the Church for the autumn, finishing the year on K1 in the winter. However, only having a night at weekends meant that I am competing with other anglers more than I was the fish. I’d already decided that I would be returning to K1 the following week and to that end, I kept my eye on the weather and tried to imagine where the carp would be and what they might be doing as the week wore on. Afresh easterly wind was forecast for the weekend and judging by the predicted temperatures, I had a hunch that the carp would be following this fresh wind.
When the weekend came, I turned up at the lake on Saturday morning and with no signs to go on, opted for a swim in the teeth of a fresh easterly. Often on K1 the carp follow a fresh wind, especially in spring, regardless of direction. I saw a couple of shows in the middle of the lake at around 11.00 a.m. but the swims commanding that area were taken and other than that there was very little to go on. Almost out of nowhere, the carp then started showing on the back of the wind about 20 yards in front of a swim that was taken. The swim next to it was free, but I wasn't about to head over that direction just yet as I wasn't sure which direction they would move in. I decided to watch and wait, knowing I could move quickly as I was fishing off my barrow. An hour or two passed and suddenly I noticed several shows in quick succession in front of an empty swim. I quickly reeled in, put the rods back on my barrow and headed off to the other side of the lake, praying that no-one else had seen what I had and beat me too it.
Having a rough idea of where they were topping, I sprayed a few boilies in the areas I thought I saw the carp show and flicked the rods out. As I sat down for a brew, a fish topped slightly to my right so I quickly reeled in my right-hand rod and cast it closer to where I'd just seen the carp. Another small handful of boilies were then dispatched around the area. About 10 minutes later another topped slightly to my left, that was my second rod sorted. Interested in ringing the changes, I had both rods on pop-ups, one on a dull TG Active pop-up and the other on Citruz, as trialed in previous weeks. I didn't have to wait long for a take, 30 mins or so, and my right-hand bobbin lifted up to the blank. After yet another battle of epic proportions, I finally slipped the net under a carp I knew could well break that magical 40lb barrier. As I called Rupert (Whiteman) to come and do some pictures and as we were about to lift the carp for weighing and photos, my other rod was away. I couldn't believe it, I was still shaking from the excitement of having landed and about to weigh a potential 40lb scaley. With a crowd now formed, this carp gave me the right old run around, until eventually, Higgsy hopped into the margins to scoop up an upper 20lb with my spare landing net. There was no time to dismantle the pole from the other net so it's a good job another angler was willing to get his feet wet to help me and the carp out.
On the scales, the magnificent Sutton strain of carp spun the needle around to 40lb 12oz. I was, and still am, in awe every time I look at the photos. The other mirror, clearly an angry male, weighed in at just over 28lb, making for some back-breakingphotography taking the shots one after another.
The walk back to my car the next morning was much tougher than normal. I couldn't figure out if it was due to lack of sleep or the photo shoot the night before. Getting about three quarters of the way back to the car, I just had to stop to see what the problem was. A serious flat on my tyre saw my barrow limp back to the car. Mind you, the thought of the magnificent 40 kept me going strong. Thinking it was a simple puncture, I bought some Tyreweld-type stuff in attempt to conduct a self-repair.
I managed to get out the following Friday for an overnight session after work. Turning up at the K1 Kennels car park, I was thinking of doing the night on K1 to see if I could emulate my success from the week before. I knew where the fish were but the areas seemed pretty stitched up. Not even bothering to walk the rest of lake, I took a wander around the Church with a bucket. Immediately upon walking through the gate, I just got the feeling, here was where I would be spending the night. I came across a swim in an area of the lake I was sure the carp regularly visit. Knowing how busy Horton can get, I dropped my bucket in there feeling confident that I'd be able to get a bite within my allotted time period. I loaded my barrow and filled the tyre with the weld foam. The tyre went solid and all looked to be well. A continuous hiss indicated to the contrary. Decision time. Some 20 seconds later and I was almost regretting my decision as a fully flat tyre came to haunt me again. I had a good feeling about the session and ploughed on, getting to my swim by what seemed like an endless journey, would I even be rewarded for the extra effort?
I did my usual trick of casting a bare lead and decided to present on bait in a soft area that provided no resistance on the retrieve. I'm was not looking for the usual donk, thud or crack that many anglers search out. Quite the opposite in fact, I want it to be firm enough for my lead and hookbait not to be pulled into, yet not so firm that my pop-up is to blatant. I truly find this to be a tactic that singles out big fish. Just off the edge of the obvious clear spots and in low lying silkweed is another good area to target.
As I chatted to my brother on the phone, I mentioned how it would be nice to catch a Church Lake 40 this session. I then made a hopeful joke, “Nah I'll probably catch the big one first, it's still around 50lb+.” We joked about it for a moment and my brother said he wouldn't be surprised. A nice homemade chilli con carne was just settling as all hell broke loose, my right-hand rod, the one on the soft spot, hooped over with my bite alarm going into meltdown. I jumped up and tried to slow the carp down. After about 40 yards of line being taken, I finally turned what was clearly a very powerful carp back towards me. I clamped down hard and retrieved line getting the carp to about 20 yards out in front of me. I hadn't caught a glimpse yet, but knew it was big due to the pressure it was exerting on the line.
Unlike many of the big fish I've caught, this one did not just plod around. It stripped line off me again and headed hard right. I then realised how far out it still was and shouted to the angler a couple of swims up I had a fish heading his way. Too late, it picked up both of his lines, sending him hurtling out of his bivvy before he heard me and realised what was going on. Thankfully he undid his bail arms and came running around to help. At this point the carp had swam back towards me and was trying to rid itself of my rig in the snaggy margins and overhanging willow tree. I could see a dark carp of giant proportions dashing about in the margins before it came up for a breath. At this point I knew it was at least a good upper-40, and feared losing it as I could also see a tangle of lines around my rig. As the angler from next door approached with the net I shouted just please net it as it took another gulp of air. In she went first time and I knew something special had just happened. Another angler came along and confirmed it to be the biggest fish in the lake, Fingers, which should definitely be over 50lb. I let out a scream of delight, “FIIINNNNGEEEEERRRRSSS.”
I was later told this shout was heard from as far away as the Island Lake. Quite impressive right underneath Heathrow flight path. I watched as the needle flew past the 50lb mark when we lifted the carp on the scales. I usually find that the bigger the carp, the better behaved they are when having photos taken. Fingers changed that for me to. Sitting beautifully on the mat and trying to beat me when I picked her up made for some seriously difficult picture taking, but that is all part of the memory. At 51lb 8oz, the capture of Fingers was a dream come true on two accounts. 1, To catch a UK 50 and 2, to up my PB. Therefore, by not having a fixed mindset on where to fish, I was able to make single overnight sessions successful in the most satisfactory of manners.
In conclusion, it may be interesting to take a brief look at my most recent story featuring the complex approach. I'd not fished the Crayfish Pool for 10years and after a quiet night on Kingsmead, decided to go for a walk. I couldn't find anything in the edges so ventured over to the Crayfish Pool with a pocketful of Scopex Squid boilies. I baited a couple of spots in the edge like I used to and within an hour had carp feeding. Just 10 minutes later I was lowering my rig in and only about 60 seconds after that my line tightened and I hooked into a carp. At just over 33lb, a gorgeous carp and one that illustrates how the complex approach can work. Sit there and wait for it to happen or go and make it happen. Where possible, I try to make it happen.