Return To The Big Pit - Part Two | James Salmons


In the second part of his story James reveals how his run of good form continued, resulting in him landing one of the originals from this large and often tricky venue.

I was back down just a few days later on the Friday after work. I was hoping to try and get back in the same area that I had the common from but the fish dictated otherwise as I walked into a swim which was heaving with fish out in front! The forecast wind hadn’t picked up by that point and the fish were milling around everywhere on the surface so I quickly went about grabbing the floater rod from the car, and that’s where it all went wrong! As I uncovered the rod from its sleeve I realised I’d grabbed my stalking rod instead of my floater set up! I could just imagine the floater rod standing up nicely in its sleeve in my cubby hole at home as I cursed myself for being an idiot!

As I only had fluorocarbon on the spool I thought the game was over until Kasie told me he had a spare reel in his van with mono on. I grabbed it from him and started setting up the rod. Just as I went to put on a hooklink the wind picked up strongly, blowing into me and the chance was gone. Needless to say, that’s the last time I left my floater kit at home, even if it was an accident!

Back in the swim the conditions looked really promising so I went about finding some areas. A few fish had actually started to show so I was casting well over the back of them and winding back to try and find spots amongst them. I found a few areas but they were all pretty blatant. As I didn’t want to disturb the swim further I went for these for the coming night as the rest of the swim was extremely weedy.

The all-important otter fence that protects the Big Pit.  

The all-important otter fence that protects the Big Pit.

The wind got stronger through the evening and into the night and, as a result, I didn’t sleep too well. Every now and again I could hear the sound of what I thought would be fish rolling. I was up before first light with a coffee awaiting the light to improve and by this point the wind had dropped a little.

As dawn broke it was immediately clear that the fish were stacked up in front of me as I watched them showing heavily. I rubbed my hands together as a few of them were over the spots. After half an hour of watching I got the camera and tripod out and filmed some of the shows. My mate Paul came around shortly after and we stood and watched the fish continue to make their whereabouts known. I had a coot pick up my close-in rod around 7.00 a.m. and the action started to subside shortly after. I couldn’t believe I’d not had a bite!

I had noticed that the fish seem to favour a particular area, so when the activity died off I got the leading rod and investigated it. After a while I had to settle for an area of lower weed where I could get half a drop. I retackled the margin rod on a Choddy and put it on that area around 10.00 a.m.

Just half an hour later tiredness took over and I said to Kasie that I was getting my head back down for a couple of hours. I started tidying the swim a little but before I could get in the bag the rod on the Choddy was away to a steady take!

The fish were all over me.

The fish were all over me.

The fish felt good from the start and before long I had it circling in the margin. We could see it was a mirror and as Kasie slipped it into the net we knew it was a good one! I peered into the mesh to try and work out which fish it was, the penny dropped when I saw a single scale on one flank. The fish was one of the true originals of the pit known as Heart Tail. Having caught this fish 7-8 years previously it was still nice to see her again and it was apparent that she’d put a good amount of weight on in my absence and looked very plump. The scales registered 34lb 6oz and I was mega pleased to add another one of the Big Pit gems to my tally.

A few celebratory beers were consumed during the afternoon and the rods were re-done fairly early before we kicked back with a BBQ. I got to bed later than I’d planned and fell instantly into a deep sleep.

I was woken from my slumber at 3.30a.m. to a bite on the Choddy again. From the outset this felt big and I played it in gingerly for around 10 minutes. I had the fish on a short line doing whatever it pleased for what seemed like an eternity. The shakes had long since started (me, not the fish!) as I prayed that it would go in the net. As the fish came to the surface and felt almost ready for the net she dived again which was accompanied with that sickening feeling of the hook pulling. I was truly devastated and I put the rod in the bushes and climbed straight back into bed to sulk. Without a doubt, I’d lost a really good fish.

Sometimes you could pick out the bigger fish.

Sometimes you could pick out the bigger fish.

I tried for about half an hour to get some sleep but the thought of losing the fish wouldn’t go away so I got up and recast the rod. I sat back with a coffee but before I could drink it the recast rod was away yet again! Straight away the fish found a heavy weedbed and I kept the pressure on it. After a few seconds the fish kicked and it was free but then so was the hook! I wound in the offending rig, cursing while doing so. I quickly got another one back on the area and again, just twenty minutes later it was off. This fish felt completely different to the rest as it raced off,but as soon as it was turned, allowed me to wind it straight in. The inevitable stocky popped up for the net shortly after. Although a very pretty little fish it really didn’t soften the blow much. I recast the rod with the fish in the net but that was the last of that weekend’s action. By this point I was still pleased as the lake wasn’t fishing brilliantly and I was managing bites. I just hoped the next good fish I hooked stayed on!

Before leaving I made sure to have a good lead around in the area I’d taken the fish. It took ages until I finally found what I was looking for, a tiny little hard spot that was clean enough to put a bait on. I pinpointed it accurately and then put some bait tightly on the spot as the lake was quiet. I hoped the fish would move in and clean it a little further.

I’d booked the following Friday off work so managed to get back to the lake on the Thursday. I arrived to find what I thought to be ideal conditions. A fresh westerly wind was pushing into the area that I had caught the Silver Common from a couple of weeks before, so I dropped my kit in the swim and went looking. It took me ages to locate a couple of fish but I could clearly see some feeding in front of the swim next door, sending up plumes of bubbles as they foraged in the weed. I was unsure what species the culprits were and stood and watched until a couple of fish nosed out in the now flat calm water. With that I quickly rushed the rods out in the swim I was already in, this was because I knew the spots and didn’t have time to lead around. Also, one of the spots was in next door’s water anyway so I didn’t feel far away at all.

 A change of tactics resulted in another Big-Pit jewel.

 A change of tactics resulted in another Big-Pit jewel.

The wind picked up again in the morning and it felt somewhat cooler than the previous night. I’d wound in by 7.30a.m. and went for a couple of laps of the pit. The swim I fancied most was taken but I knew the guy was moving out in the afternoon so that was an option. I finally located a few fish in a corner down the other end of the lake though, again sending large amounts of bubbles to the surface and taking quite a while for one to give the game away as a mid-20 rolled on the spot. That was enough for me to bolt around the other side and retrieve the tackle.

I got a couple of hookbaits in position by casting 1oz leads well over the fish and winding them back over the bubbling before feeling them down. One landed with a nice tap right on the money whereas the other landed soft in light weed. I decided that two casts were enough.

The next few hours were extremely frustrating as the slack lines constantly picked up the savage line bites. The fish were still in the area and feeding but after seeing one spook off one of the spots I knew the game was up. I’d also spent a little time up a tree in the corner and noticed that all the fish present were stockies. With the wind pushing back up towards the swim I fancied and the angler having packed up, I did the same and got round there.

One of the originals – Heart Tail.

One of the originals – Heart Tail.

Watching from the swim I saw three fish in quick succession and what’s more, they were directly over the spot I’d baited before leaving the previous week! I quickly wrapped up a rod and although landing a few feet to the right of the mark it cracked down, meaning the baiting the week before had done the required job!

It was only twenty minutes later that the rod was away and I pulled into the fish which promptly weeded me. I gave it a bit of pressure and in a similar way to the week before, it shook its head and the hook pulled as I got it through the weed. Gutted!

My friend Marcus turned up around 11.00 a.m. for a guest session. I’d had a tench off the new spot before he’d arrived so when he got there I wound the rods in while he leaded about. The plan was to pop a marker float on the spot then walk down the bank and bait accurately and rest the area for the day. I piled about 3kg of bait tight on the mark and got back to Marcus to make us a cup of tea to drink before we left for a lap of the complex. However, that lap never happened! Looking out onto the area I’d baited just ten minutes before, it was alive with activity! Big frothy patches of bubbles were hitting the surface. I asked Marcus if he’d be OK with getting set up, which he was. I quickly wrapped up the rod and got it out bang on the money first cast, the lead smashing down on the spot. I left just the one line out there and sat back.

The rod couldn’t have been in the water for twenty minutes when the tip slammed around as a fish tried to get away. Luckily, I managed to get it past the danger of the adjacent weedbeds and before long a common was circling around on a tight line under the tip. Marcus duly did the honours and engulfed the fish into the mesh. Another Big Pit common in the bag – result!

Once on the mat we could see it was a unique fish, white tips to her fins and a couple of patches of merged scales. She weighed 26lb 8oz and the lads gathered to take some shots before slipping it back. I nipped to the shop straight after to get some BBQ food and a few beers and a good social was had that night!

A very unique carp.  

A very unique carp.

Amazingly nothing else happened fishing-wise. After winding in the following day, I spent another hour leading around before finding another spot out in the weed, again the lead cracking down on a tiny clearing. I put a bit of bait out on both spots hoping it would have the same effect as the previous sessions.

I managed to claim the same area again the following Friday. Kasie was already set up next door and with our good mate Stu who’d been struggling for fishing time due to having his first baby. He was coming down for a weekend guest session, so it seemed like a good idea to at least do another night in the area. The temptation of a BBQ and a few beers may have enhanced that choice more than the fishing prospects! The first thing I did was check the new spot I’d found the previous week. The first cast to the spot was slightly left but the lead went down with an almighty crack which was accompanied with a knowing smile. A few casts later and I was more than pleased with the results of the previous week’s ‘little baiting’ as the spot had been battered but hadn’t become too blatant size-wise which is exactly what I had wanted.

The rods went out quickly on the spots and I followed them up with a decent hit of bait. We’d just retired to bed around midnight when the rod placed on the new spot raced off. From the speed of the take and the ease I had over bringing the fish back I knew I was playing a stocky and that was confirmed as it popped up for the net. A stunning little 17lb mirror was the reward but I was more pleased that the new spot had paid dividends already.

I’d booked another Friday off the following week which allowed me to arrive on Thursday evening to a fairly quiet lake. I dropped in the same swim as time wasn’t on my side but, even then, I had to wait to set up as a huge storm passed over. The rain was extremely heavy and I took shelter in my car waiting for it to subside before quickly getting the rods and then a decent hit of bait out. Knowing the spots well proved advantageous in getting everything sorted before dark.

The fish were clearly on the bait.

The fish were clearly on the bait.

I was awoken at first light as another tench hung itself on the same rod. I wound it in and unhooked it in the edge knowing that all the disturbance on the spot would no doubt ruin it for the morning. Another two tench followed quickly after and I sat tying up another couple of fresh rigs after before getting the rod back out, although I knew I was pissing in the wind with the amount of tench I was catching!

Just after 8.00 a.m. the middle rod that was being fished on the newer spot was away to a positive bite. My tackle box went up in the air and I got to the rod in a flash. The fight was pretty strange with it heading straight towards me before causing a nuisance of itself as it powered up and down the margins. Just a few minutes later a common appeared and went straight in the net at the first time of asking. Looking down I realised I’d caught another of the Big Pit originals and although just over the 20lb mark I was buzzing!

My mate from back home, John, was due down for a weekend guest session with me and was already on his way so I quickly slipped the fish in to a retainer so I could surprise him when he arrived and get him to do some shots.

When he arrived I opened up the retainer to be met with more bait than I’ve ever seen! The fish was crapping it out everywhere and it seemed like it had eaten the lot by itself! Before long the angry common was slipped back and I got the kettle on.

John dropped in next door and a good social day was had. The planned BBQ that evening was cancelled due to the persistent rain, so we got a takeaway instead, which was started and then ended with me catching more tench!

John had his rods out at first light the next morning and was quickly rewarded with a lovely stocky common. We got the photos sorted and sat in my swim while I had a couple more of the red eyed devils. By this point I was really starting to let it get to me that they were ruining any chances I had during the morning period. I’d seen a few fish show down the other end of the lake and was starting to think that a move would be the best option.

We wound in around midday and spent a couple of hours looking around the complex. We managed to get a couple of fish feeding in the edge of one of the other lakes and tried for half an hour to no avail. Although we did get fish feeding hard on another spot, but time was ticking by,and we knew that if we were to move then we’d need plenty of time to do so.

I saw a flash of scales behind it! With that, the trainers were kicked off and I jumped in the margins.

When back around on the Big Pit we started packing up the kit. Just as soon as I’d unpegged the shelter, one decided to launch itself out in front of me and with that the shelter was back up in a flash. The rods were back on the spots shortly after and the BBQ was lit.

John had to head home after the BBQ and left me to it. Fortunately, the tench also decided to leave me alone that night and a decent sleep was had. Early the next morning and the ninth tench of the session hung itself. Shortly after, the same rod that had produced the first morning was away again. The bite was fairly twitchy and I thought my tally of tench was heading into double figures. I wound the culprit back and managed to pick up a massive raft of floating weed on the way back which made things tricky. As the weed bed neared the bank I saw a flash of scales behind it! With that, the trainers were kicked off and I jumped in the margins. I ripped at the weed on my line for an age before I managed to get some control of the fish and a little while later I bundled it into the net. I ripped at the weed and was pleasantly surprised to find a stunning scaly mirror in there. Although obviously a stock fish, I was mega pleased, and it had to be held up for a few shots shortly after!

Not long after that I packed away the kit and went for a wander on the lake that John and I had stalked the previous day. I managed to get fish feeding quickly on a spot and watched countless fish coming up the margin and going tails up. I luckily got a rig in place without spooking them and after just a few minutes I watched a common come in and drop on the spot before instantly flying off the bottom with the hookbait attached to its bottom lip! I was in the lake straight away and after a hairy battle I netted a lovely common of upper double. After returning it I was away for home a happy man.

The following two sessions were brief affairs which saw me getting the rods out as the light faded. Tench on both mornings were the result, one managing to wipe out all of the rods just to add insult to injury. I had originally planned to drop off the lake in August to fish the other lake I have a ticket for during the autumn. But the more I fished the Big Pit it became apparent that the one A-Team member I craved the most, the Italian, hadn’t been out since the spring. So, I planned to carry on until it was caught. Kasie quickly saw to that, catching it at 43lb, which gave me the boot up the backside to move on to the other lake.

Driving away from the complex I couldn’t help but feel pleased with how my return had gone. It far outweighed expectations and with a new member of the A-Team under my belt I can firmly say that it was a successful return to the Big Pit and I’m already looking forward to giving it another go.

I waited for John to do the honours.

I waited for John to do the honours.

Mick Clifford