Dan Cleary | Goslawice Gold

Dan is no stranger to a Euro adventure but as yet, he’s kept those trips limited to the north. However, in recent times he has started to look further and further afield, in this instance bypassing his intended venues in Italy and Austria, heading all the way to Poland to tackle a lake that is still relatively unknown to the UK market

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I have to start by writing that I never envisaged travelling to Poland to go carp fishing, ever! That is, until a couple of months ago, thanks in part to Steve Briggs’ wonderful video on YouTube. I had previously set aside a week for a session on my current challenge, based in Surrey, but for one thing or another, I wasn’t sure this would be the best use of my time on that particular lake. I then thought about a trip to France, or my usual autumnal trip to the Belgian canals – but I really fancied something different for a change. I already had a few waters I fancied in Italy and Austria, but they were fully booked, until 2020 in fact. I started looking elsewhere, and that’s when the idea of a trip to Goslawice came up. I then saw that they had one swim left that had a lodge (there are 3 swims offering such comparative luxury) during October – for the rest of the period the other lodges were fully booked. I spoke with my wife, Caroline, as she still had five days of holiday left to use from work and was up for joining me, so I booked it that evening, before the lodge went to someone else. I paid in full the next day, receiving an email confirming the booking just a few hours later. That was it then – we were going to be driving to Poland, a journey of nearly 1000 miles. It was scheduled to take a little over 17 hours, with little time to stop for a break!

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With the day fast approaching, we got all the food and bait required. Thankfully, all the swims come with a hard boat, and by using the lodge it meant our car was not going to be packed to the rafters, as with all our previous trips across the channel together. This was going to be our most comfortable fishing trip ever!

Having loaded the car at lunchtime, it was simply a case of meeting up at home shortly after finishing work at 5pm. We locked the house up and hit the motorway, bound for Dover – preferring the ferry over the tunnel. This would give us time to have a bite to eat, stretch out and rest on an empty ferry, before the ensuing 12-13 hour drive once we arrived at Dunkirk. With the Sat Nav only taking us onto a wrong road once, somewhere near Hanover in Germany, meaning we made it across five countries and arrived at the lake around 2pm. This would give us three or four hours of daylight to get set up and find some spots, as the lake is very weedy.

Tomasz, the head bailiff, gave us a rundown of the rules and then we set off to our lodge, home for the week and started getting everything readied. I decided to bivvy up on the decking outside the lodge, so I could keep an eye and ear on the fish during the week, while Caroline got everything else inside, so she could enjoy the relative comforts of the lodge.

I wasted no time in getting out in the boat, looking for spots. I found two very easily. There was a large potamogeton weedbed situated right in front of the swim, it started around 25-30 yards out, running some 40 yards further and it was approximately four rod lengths wide. There were two coves halfway along, one on either side, which looked ideal. The left-hander, would have to go over a section of weed, and be fished on a tight line, while the right-hand side allowed for a better angle, so the line could be fished lower in the water, but not too slack, due to the big weedbed of course.

The third rod was the challenge – trying to find a clear enough spot with the use of a marker was hard work. I don’t like the use of bait boats at the best of times, it takes away the skill of an angler in my opinion. With 24 fisherman on the lake, in pairs, except for myself and one other, and all of them using bait boats, the scene in front of me was like a miniaturised Henley Royal Regatta. They were whining and whizzing about all over the lake, finding clear spots with their GPS coordinates already programmed in from previous visits or via info from friends. There was zero angling skill or watercraft in evidence – I will leave it at that I think...

I found an area with a thinner level of weed around 17 wraps out, to the left of a thicker weed bed. I wasn’t exactly confident, but I was running out of time and energy, in all honesty.

I didn’t want to go in heavy with the bait, as I could see quite a few of the other anglers with buckets stacked up four or five high at the side of their swims. My bait comprised a mix of 15 and 18mm Complex-T boilies, both whole and broken, some 8mm trout pellets, mixed particles and a tin of snails and hemp. In total I guess there was around 3kg mixed up in a bucket, I spombed about 1kg around each spot, nicely spread about, so it didn’t look like it was dumped by a bait boat. The other advantage of not going big with the bait, was that I could easily move the rods on any showing fish I might see, and not leave a large bed of bits in the middle of my swim, waiting for something that may not even happen. It was my first time there after all, and, ideally, I needed the fish to tell me where they wanted to be first and I would take action accordingly the next morning, after some much needed sleep first!

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I rigged up all three rods with a snowman set-up, a 15mm Complex-T hardened hookbait on all three, two topped with 10mm Crave pink pop-ups, and one with a 10mm Pineapple and Banana. With the rods set and in position, I could sit in the lodge and have dinner, which Caroline had cooked up, I was shattered and crashed out in the bivvy not long after and the lights went out very quickly.


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Sunday

I didn’t have to wait too long for my first bite in Poland – at just after midnight the middle rod was away, with line being taken from the spool at a steady pace, I bent into the fish, and I felt it pull back, but soon it all went solid, with the fish lodged firmly in the middle of the weedbed. I jumped into the boat and wound myself over to the fish, where slowly but surely I could ping my line free from the grasp of the potamogeton vines and leaves. I worked cautiously, moving from one set to another and after a few minutes, I was directly above the fish. Suddenly the line started moving again, accompanied by boils on the surface, and the fish made its way through the weedbed, with me now above it, the line didn’t snag again and eventually the fish tired and I slid the net under both it and a large clump of weed. With the net handle secured beneath my legs, I rowed out of the fronds and into open water, where I could turn on the outboard and slowly make my way back to the swim.

Caroline was waiting patiently and with the aid of her head torch, grabbed the boat as I drifted in, slowly. She had got everything ready, so it was a simple matter of biting the line and carrying the fish to the mat. We got a reading of 22lb from the scales – not a monster, but my first ever Polish mirror carp. A few quick snaps were all that were required and it was returned back to the lake, I was back out in the boat placing my rig back into position within minutes, eager for more. With no real chance of casting to this spot, I gave it a little top-up of bait and was soon back inside my nice, warm sleeping bag.

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I awoke to a gloriously sunny, autumn day, more akin to summer to be honest. Whilst sitting there having my cornflakes, the right-hand alarm let out a flurry of beeps and I was soon playing my second carp of the trip. I managed to play this one in to the bank from the comfort of the staging. It made the weedbed a couple of times, but only along the fringes, from where I managed to coax it back each time. After a fairly short fight, I had what looked like a mid-20 mirror sitting at the bottom on the net. I was just grabbing the scales, when the middle rod was away, this time another boat battle ensued, and after a few hairy moments, I had another 20 in the second net, this time a common. They weighed 26lb and 22lb respectively and after another brief photo shoot, they were returned and I was out in the boat, placing new rigs onto the spots once more.

Thankfully those few hours of sleep had done me the world of good. I felt recharged and ready to go for round four. By Sunday afternoon, I’d still yet to receive a bleep on the left-hand rod in open water. I wasn’t happy about that and on retrieving the rig it was covered in silkweed. I needed to spend some time finding a good spot to place it. After several exploratory casts, the marker lead clonked down on something as I was retrieving it, I pulled off a rod-length of line, clipped up and recast, it was firm, but, as I pulled back, I felt some big rocks or boulders as it temporarily got caught up, before bouncing over them. I could feel a firmer, flat spot beyond the snaggy area, so I popped the marker float up, and went for a more detailed check in the boat. I leaded about all around the float and it appeared I had found the side of the plateau that the weed bed was on. If I went any further left, it was deeper, yet still very weedy. The only decent bit of ground was a rod length past the original spot I had discovered, and so I placed around a kilo of Complex-T and some pellets over quite a wide area, then returned to place my rig down. I could then retrieve the marker rod. Thankfully, it was flat calm, as I was placing the rig very close to the marker, and it could easily have tangled. With that sorted, I felt I was now fishing with all three rods. We were tucking into dinner in the lodge that evening, when the middle rod signalled another bite, and I soon had another 26-pounder nestled in the net. Once again I caused it the minimum of stress with a quick shot of each side, before slipping it back and returning to my pasta – it was still warm! The rig was then placed back into position and topped up with boilies, pellets and mixed particles. I was now feeling the effects of the long drive and crashed out early.


Monday

At a little after 4am, I was in on the left-hander, just past the boulders, I played the fish most of the way in from the decking of the swim, but as it was getting increasingly close to the reeds down to my left, I decided to jump into the boat. It had made fast in a small weedbed there but once I was above the fish, it popped up like a cork, then proceeded to take me on a merry old dance in the boat, turning me around several times. Eventually the fish tired and slid over the cord – this looked a fair bit bigger than the previous fish. Back in the swim and the scales confirmed as much, reading 35lb and ounces. I was over the moon, we shot a bit of video, took some photos then back it went. With the spot now marked out, I clipped the rod up and cast it back from dry land.

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Nothing else occurred for me on the Monday, at least not during the day. The rigs were put into position again, and topped up with around 1kg of bait each. The left-hand rod that I had cast out, had snagged up, and I couldn’t free it. Assuming it was caught on a rock or large stone, I went out in the boat, and pulled from above. Ever so slowly I started to lift a heavy weight, however, it fell off before I could see it. Maybe it wasn’t a rock after all – possibly a large branch? I lowered a fresh rig down from the boat, to the right of the snag, and hoped that if I received any more action the fish would lift the line away from whatever it was down there. A little after 9pm that same rod burst into life. This fish was really pulling and had taken quite a bit of line and by the time I managed to get the lifejacket and head torch on. With bent rod in one hand, it was some 100 or so yards out to the left of the swim. Yet again, this one had sought sanctuary in a weedbed, and once I got it moving, the fight really started. This fish used all its weight and strength, and on a few occasions I saw the outline of a large creamy-coloured mirror through the mist-covered surface with my head torch. I turned it off, as the fish really didn’t seem to want to make my acquaintance. It was another ten or so minutes, before the head popped up on the surface and I could guide it into the waiting net. The Reubens settled on a weight of 37½lb – happy days. Two hours later and I’m in again, this time on the middle rod. There was another protracted battle from the boat, producing a mirror just shy of 36lb – a lovely, dark mirror.

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The next bite came to the same rod just before midday. The wind had really grown in strength, and whatever I tried, I could not get near the fish in the middle of the potamogeton. The outboard was on full, and as soon as I got anywhere near the weed, I had to cut the engine to stop it getting caught up. Initially, I tried to use leverage from the rod but without success, then I tried to hand-line myself towards it, but the wind was just too strong. I tried these various options over again for a period of about 15 minutes. In the end I had to go back and pick up Caroline, so she could steer the boat and I could concentrate on the fish – that was assuming it was still on the end of the line, which I now doubted. Finally, we reached where the line entered the weed, and as I was pulling at the strands to free whatever might be below, the line was torn from my hands and, miraculously, we were back in contact! These new Korda Kamakura hooks had kept a good hold and eventually having guided the fish out of the weed and into open water, where I could breathe again, I had what looked like a nice common in the net. With all the commotion, a group of German anglers who were fishing next door to us thought it was a real monster. As it turned out I was still happy to hoist up my first 30lb-plus common of the trip at 31lb.

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Once again, I went through my usual procedure of getting out fresh hookbaits, and topped up the spots with a further kilo over each. My marker rod got caught on the left-hand snag, and so I reversed in the boat, went around a couple of times, hoping the braid would wrap round whatever it was and it worked – slowly I lifted a heavy object towards the boat – the base of a big old tree trunk and some of its roots which were covered in mussels, hove into view. I grabbed hold with one hand, and turned on the outboard with the other. It was an effort to get onto the bank, but I managed and was glad to clear the swim, hoping the disturbance on the bottom might attract the fish into the area.

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Tuesday

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Nothing else occurred during the night, even though fish were lumping out all over the lake. The temperature had dropped during the night – the coldest of the session so far, but the forecast was to get hotter for the rest of the week. Now I would like to report that I managed a good night’s sleep – but no, I was kept awake by a beaver, frantically chopping away some 12ft behind me, on the log I’d dragged in the day before. He visited us every night for the remainder of the trip!

It was nearly 24-hours until the next bite and it had me scrabbling about to exit the bivvy. Yet again it was the middle rod requiring my attention and as I lifted into it, it immediately buckled over under the power of the fish. Unbelievably, as I clambered into the boat, the right-hand rod was away too. Caroline picked it up and I shouted her basic instructions over my shoulder as I left, as she had never played a fish before this moment. In typical fashion, the fish I was attached too, wasn’t going to come quietly. It went through the entire weedbed, out of the far end, into clear water, then buried itself deep into another weedbed! Meanwhile, Caroline’s fish was in a reed bed a little way down the margin, so I instructed her to just keep a tight line on it for now.

The fish I was attached to looked big as it came past the boat. It tried to get into the dense weed again, picking up a couple of strands, which actually did me a favour, as it slowed the fish up and finally it slid into the net. This was a definitely a bigger carp, filling the net. I bit the line and made my way back to the swim. I took over the other rod and found the line was wrapped round three reed stems. Once I’d managed to untangle the line and then wound the slack line up, I was taken to within just a few feet of where Caroline was standing. Deep into the reeds, the water’s surface boiled, as the carp made a break for open water – but the line had cut into a reed stem, and tangled around another, whilst the fish had gone underneath me in the boat. I frantically got the line clear of the reed stems and with a tight line I could play the fish out in open water. This carp was still full of beans and had me all over the place – but finally I won the day, and had a nice scaly mirror in the second net, and the tenth of the trip.

Once back in the swim, we dealt with the first and larger fish, weighing it in at 55lb 12oz. We slipped the fish into the retainer and called Tomasz, as every fish over 20kg had to be called in and witnessed. While he made his way round, we dealt with the other fish, which weighed just over 28lb – even getting a joint photo as we both had a hand in playing it to the bank. We returned the fish and got everything ready for Tomasz to arrive and deal with the big girl. I was more than made up with this one – a 50lb-plus fish was what I had hoped for the most and what a cracker it was too, with perfect proportions and lovely colours.

I had a leisurely lunch before getting all three rods back out. The rods were out for less than hour before I was in again. The prolific middle rod was the culprit, which meant I took straight to the boat. This one turned out to be lovely and dark, a near linear of 30lb. We rounded the day off with dinner in the lodge and popped open a nice bottle of Prosecco to celebrate.

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Wednesday

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I had to wait a whole 12-hours, until three in the morning, for the next take. Yet again it was the productive middle rod, fished to that little clear cove on the left-hand side on the weed bed. Sadly, as I got out over the fish and freed it, it powered off and with the clutch set tighter than I normally have it, I couldn’t slacken off in time and the inevitable parting of the ways followed. I really hate losses under any circumstances, but even more so when they’re my own fault!

The day started out a bright and sunny, becoming the hottest of the trip. It was in the mid-20s, which for mid-October is a bit mad really. As with the previous few days, just before lunchtime we had a take – this time the right-hand alarm signalling a bite. This was a quick affair, with a smallish 20 soon lying in the folds of the net.

Just as I finished off the last of my main course that evening, I received another take – pudding would have to wait! Thankfully the fight was short-lived as the carp had got caught around the weed stems, just a few feet from where it was hooked. I managed to bundle the fish into the net, along with a load of weed – it looked like another mid-30 that could be happily held aloft for the camera.

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Thursday

My first action on Thursday came to the right-hand rod at just after 3am. This one was the smallest of the session so far, at 17lb, yet fought like a tiger. Two hours later and I received yet another – this proved to be a common of 32lb, the biggest common of the trip so far. This rod was away again at 10:30am, an hour ahead of schedule – instead of the four previous morning bites at 11:30.

As mentioned earlier, I had fished a snowman set-up on all three rods, with a yellow Pineapple and Banana pop-up on the right-hander. This set-up had produced the smallest fish of the session, in the form of two doubles and two twenties. Was it the spot, or the yellow pop-up I wondered? I chose to try a different pop-up for the last 48-hours – a home-made white, incorporating two oils (one being the Dynamite Essential Citrus Oil, and another that I’d sourced myself). I then got the rigs freshly baited and added a small ‘stick’ to each, choosing to drop them from the boat again.

Thursday was the first day that the middle rod hadn’t produced a bite, so I decided to top up the spot with just a few boilies sprinkled in the vicinity. After another fine meal that evening, the rod that had seen a change of hookbait trundled off. It felt a better fish straight away, trying every trick in the book – charging one way and then the other, ploughing from one weedbed to the next, until, after a real tug-of-war, it wallowed, beaten, on the surface. At an ounce shy of 36lb I was pleased that it had fallen to one of my home-made pop-ups.

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Friday

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With crystal clear skies from the moment I opened my eyes, it was obviously going to be a scorcher – a predicted 28ºC I had been told. It was our final, full-day and I was doing some filming, when I received a take on the right-hand rod. I struck, felt the fish pull and then it simply fell off, painful yet thankfully only the second loss of the trip. I dropped the rig back into position and then got back to my filming. Blow me down, if just as I got into shot than that same rod was off again! This time I felt the fish as it took me into the weed like all the others. The fight lasted a little longer, but sadly I retrieved the hook from a reed stem. Two losses in an hour was not how I wanted to sign off!

And so, an hour later, I received yet another take. This time it was the left-hand rod, in open water. I managed to play this fish in from the decking, for only the second time of the trip. A lot of the fight was at close quarters, but finally I managed to flick the tail into the net. I knew it was a good fish straight away – and a common as well. We got it unhooked and weighed, all 51lb 12oz of golden Goslawice common.

We roped in our new friend from the next swim door to assist with the photos, as he was a media pro for a German tackle company, and he did a fantastic job of the photos and filming. I donned my waders for some ‘returning shots’, and got soaked in the process. That fish was the 19th of the trip – I didn’t really care, but one more would be a nice way to round the trip up. Not long after getting everything in position for the last night, and before teatime, the middle-rod alarm bleeped away. It had been 36-hours since the last bite on that spot, and the rod had only been out a few minutes. At 28lb it was hardly ground breaking, but my 20th carp from 23 bites was a nice feeling. Another bottle of Prosecco was polished off that evening too!

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Saturday

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The only action during the final night was a small tench in the early hours. The carp were really active, especially to my left, and I left the rods out, right to the death. Just before 10am I could see someone playing a fish from the boat out to my left. Talk about a last minute bite – and at a smidgen shy of 50lb it transpired as well.

I had a bit of a nightmare in the end. With the car packed and the lodge cleared, and the heavy boat heaved up onto the decking, it was time to wind in the rods. The middle-rod came in fine, but the right-hand rod was snagged and I had to resort to the boat. After a bit of pulling with an old sock over my hand, it came free. I could only assume it was a root of the potamogeton weed.

Back to the swim, and with the boat back on dry land again, I picked up the last rod. This was also snagged! Could you believe it? So, off out I went again. Sadly the sock trick didn’t work this time – this was stuck solid and wasn’t budging. Eventually the line parted, not really how I wanted the trip to finish. With eight 30s and two 50s I wasn’t grumbling, but I did think it a bit odd that no 40s turned up.

My next two summer trips have already been booked for France and Italy, but we really did enjoy ourselves and can fully recommend this Polish venue. If you fancy something different to your usual French trip then you could well give Goslawice a serious look. With fish having been caught to 76lb and most of them still growing, I’d say it’s well worth the effort.

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Mick Clifford