Jack Funnell | Planes, Trains and Originals
Jack takes us back over a superb season, fishing on both Wraysbury’s North Lake and at Frimley Pit 4, where he enjoyed some amazing results
Wraysbury needs little introduction, with it being one of the most historic waters in the country. It still has that incredible draw and with a healthy stock of carp, the nature of the pit is encapsulating and a joy to fish. There are quite a few fish in the lake now, with plenty of big fish to go at too, which makes for some fun fishing all told. It has around 45 older fish, with the rest being made up by stocked carp, some of which have climbed to just shy of 39lb in weight over the five years since they were introduced. Not only have they grown big, they are incredibly scaly fish too – and with the gin clear and weedy water, they have taken on some lovely, dark colours too.
What drew me to the lake was the handful of older carp. I knew they would be tough to catch and that I would have to wade through a lot of stocked fish along the way, but that small chance of catching one was enough to make me really want to fish the lake. I love getting bites and to be able to do that, alongside a chance of catching one of the older ones, made for the perfect scenario. You can split the lake in to two halves, with one end being deep and the other quite shallow. I soon ascertained that the deeper end was some 15-20 feet deep on average, allowing for a couple of feet either way and that the shallow end held 8-10 feet for the most part. The lakebed was so up and down too, that, mixed in with a rich weed growth, meant there was never a shortage of spots to fish. There is also an abundance of overhanging trees present, along with snags and even an out of bounds area too, which the fish spent a lot of time frequenting.
The ticket started in April, but, due to a long fishing trip abroad, I didn’t get the chance to fish it that month. I did a couple of nights, but the lake was busy, and I couldn’t get on the fish. During that time I tried to keep in touch with the water – quite often I would nip over before and after work for a walk and to see a friend, just to get an idea of what the fish were up to. I got back from my European trip and did the odd night, blanking and sneaking out the odd one, but it was still cold, and the fish hadn’t really woken up properly. I suppose it wasn’t until the middle of May that the fish were really up and about and they began to congregate in the shallow area of the lake. The weed was coming up pretty quickly and it was necessary to lead around and find those clear areas, with the dense weed making presentation a real issue. I remember fishing an overnighter, getting down on dark and the fish were starting to show in front of Springate’s. The swim commands a lot of water and luckily for me it was free. At this point, I didn’t know how they would respond to the leading around. I had to decide on whether to flick out some chods or have a lead around and risk spooking them. I sat back and had a think and decided that by leading around, even if I didn’t catch, I would still have unveiled a good area for the next trip. After a while I found a really small spot, where I got an incredible drop and only a small drag. I put five Spombs of bait over it and followed this with a couple of rigs. Over the course of the night, I landed three stocked fish to 23lb. I was topping up the spot with more bait after each bite and the carp didn’t appear to be bothered by the disturbance. At first light, I found myself in a bit of a predicament with both rods ripping off at the same time. The takes on Wraysbury are savage and if your rod isn’t secured or tied down, you can lose it – they are genuinely that ferocious.
Luckily, my friend was on hand and together we landed them both. We weighed and pictured what turned out to be a brace of low-thirties, which was a real result and a great way of knowing what I was doing was working. What I did that session shaped the season on the lake and dictated how I was going to fish it: Have a lead around, find a clear spot and don’t worry about the disturbance. I think because the weed was so dense, it was possible to get away with the disturbance and the carp didn’t seem to be affected too much by it.
Over the next few trips, I put together another few hits – nothing huge, but it was great fun to be getting so many bites. I quickly learned that these carp were bait animals and I had gone down the sweet and visual route. I used a simple mix of Manilla and corn, which was not only extremely visual, it also seemed to get the fish in to some sort of manic feeding frenzy, which allowed me to give them big hits of bait.
I had a couple of seven-fish hits and everything was going to plan, which was, as I said at the start, to play the numbers game. If I kept catching then hopefully those bigger ones would turn up at some point.
Unfortunately, the fish started their yearly ritual quite early and the fishing was put on hold for a while. Still, I had another ticket that I was eager to check out, and that was down at the Frimley complex on Pit 4. The fish at Frimley had already spawned, due to the unseasonally hot weather we’d been having, so the situation had worked out perfectly. Pit 4 is quite a bit smaller than Wraysbury One, at around 25-acres, with a big round bit of open water and a small island. It doesn’t have lots of fish, but there are some really big fish in the lake. It is considered a difficult lake, with ten-fish per season being a good result. But it was a new challenge for me and one that differed massively from Wraysbury.
My first sighting of the lake was when I arrived to fish it. I love open water and looking out over an large expanse of it, so knew this lake would tick all the boxes for me. I spent the first few hours lapping the lake, walking it over and over again. Those first few visits ended up being mainly recce trips, plotting in a swim that gave me a good view of the lake so that I could watch for any carp and keep an eye out for how the other lads were fishing. This wasn’t to copy them as such, it was actually just to try and be different. For example, if they all flicked rods in close and scattered boilies, I wanted to be spombing out at range. As it happened, a lot of the other anglers didn’t fish at range and this was just what I was hoping to see. I wanted to fish at range and as it turned out, this would mean that I would be fishing it differently to the majority.
Every morning I was up at first light and what I figured out was that the carp were either right under your feet, in the edge, or they would be right out in the middle – which is around 140 yards out.
One afternoon, with no one else fishing, I walked round the lake with a leading rod. I wanted to fish the middle of the lake and find a sweet spot. There were three swims that accessed that middle area. The first swim had a few sharp bars between me and the middle, which would have made landing fish an issue. The next was a popular swim and it would often be taken, so I kind of dismissed it straight away. The third was on the bottom bank and nobody seemed to fish it, but you were able to cast to the middle, around the area where I had seen lots of carp show. After about 20 casts I had found a spot that ticked the boxes. I didn’t confirm this until later, but it was a raised sandy hump, about the size of a bivvy. You could see weed to the surface all around it but in the midst of it all was this lovely, clean, hard spot.
Once I had located it, at about 120 yards, I then had to decide on two key points. Firstly, what bait to use and secondly, how much? I knew that the carp loved their bait in Frimley 4 and I hadn’t seen many people really applying it in any great quantity – so I wanted to really give it to them. I decided to introduce a full 15 litre bucket per day. Then, when I wasn’t fishing it, if I could get down and it didn’t affect anyone, I would give them another bucket too. I had already caught a 30lb common before finding this spot, but once I started fishing it after giving them a hit of bait, it took off. Between 6am and 10am, I would get a bite a day, which was crazy for that lake. Keeping that bait going in, and fishing it as much as I could, I ended up doing 16 nights on the lake for 16-bites – with six of the carp going over 30lb. I was using the same mix that I had been using on Wraysbury, the only difference being the addition of some of the recently released Ellipse pellets, which turned out to be the key, in my opinion. They are extremely rich and high in oil, and, post-spawning, the fish seemed to be addicted to them. I could also see the flat spots coming off the area and could predict the bites. I was giving them more and more pellets as the trips went on and the spot just built up over time.
A lot of the guys were fishing with a ‘match the hatch’ bait, so I went for bright ones – with the 12mm Signatures proving the most productive. They hadn’t really been used that much before and they seemed to be getting me plenty of bites.
I absolutely loved my time at Frimley, it really was a period in my fishing that I will always look back at with fondness, but I knew I had to get back to Wraysbury. This was around the end of August and an algae bloom on Frimley helped speed up that decision.
On my return to Wraysbury I tried various options, even beds of natural baits such as maggots – but the method that worked best was what had been successful for me in the spring, Manilla boilies and corn. After the BCAC final, I carried on fishing the lake and a good friend had been fishing a swim called The Stile. Every time I called in to see him there were carp showing at around 20 yards past a small island, close in and to the right of his swim. I asked him why he hadn’t put a rod there and he didn’t really know, so the plan was to follow him in and have a go at this area. I found a large weed bed, but just in front of it was an area of low-lying weed. It wasn’t ideal, but with pop-ups it could be fished effectively. I put 20 spombs of bait over it and it was only about three hours later when the rod went. It turned out to be a fish called Mike’s Pet, and despite clearly having spawned right out, it still weighed over 44lb. I was absolutely blown away and the observations had paid off with one of the biggest carp in the lake.
I sensed this spot had potential – carp were showing regularly in the area and so it would be worth persevering with it. Within another hour I had had another bite and the spot was rocking. Over the next few days there was a big drop in pressure, and the wind and rain spurred the fish on to feed harder. I opted to stay and fish my full quota of days (four) and in the end I managed 15 fish – including another A-Team member at over 38lb, a fish known as Paw Print.
It appeared to be a spot frequented by big fish and I did my best to keep it quiet. I fished the same swim the following week but the clear area seemed to have increased considerable in size – perhaps to the detriment of the fishing. As it happened it had, and the carp no longer fed as confidently. I did catch a few though, one of which was an incredible scaly 30lb mirror, but I felt the action had slowed right down and with it my time at the lake had come to an end. I had thoroughly enjoyed my season and am itching to get back to Frimley next year, in search of those elusive, large commons.