Most stillwaters controlled by clubs that also had rivers on their books shut up shop a couple of weeks before 14 March and are not due to open before 1st June at earliest.

It was the clubs that usually open their waters in spring that had the hardest decision. Obviously if the lakes were in the middle of farmland with grazing animals then they had to be closed, but the many waters which could be accessed from roads and did not border animal farmland were completely safe to fish. It is interesting to note the various decisions taken. The large clubs have closed all their waters regardless; the smaller clubs that need the money have remained open for the spring.

It will be interesting to see, come June, what happens. Without a doubt Foot and Mouth will still be around in June, what will the clubs do then? What bet that waters that were out of bounds due to Foot and Mouth in March will suddenly be okay to fish in June despite Foot and Mouth still being around. Money talks!

I made a decision where to fish during the spring back in December and fortunately that water has remained open. It is a small gravel pit that was once part of a much larger one but is now about 2 acres. It nestles between houses and the fields that remain after the infill of the bigger portion of the pit. The carp are recently stocked but have, as is usual in a new water, grown well and are now in that superb fighting size of 8 to 20 lb. The tench are big with 10lbers rumoured - though a more realistic size of 8lb maximum is what I was planning on; the bream too are approaching double figures. The jewels in the lake are the head of big perch, never fished for specifically, only caught by accident 3 and 4lbers are a very realistic target. Who knows, a real monster could be in there.

I am looking forward to some real fun fishing, a refreshing break away from the hard slog after big carp on pressured hard waters, there will be plenty of time for that June onwards. What I wanted was some uncaught, superbly conditioned carp and some big tench, also in pristine condition as they too are rarely fished for or caught in this pit.

The first session was a bit of an unknown. My previous visit to the lake was last November on a frosty night, escaping the floods, when I fished out of the back of the car. Before that I had visited the lake only on a work party, now I had the chance to look at the water with a fishing head on. I knew that in summer there were several sets of lilies dotted around the lake but I had no idea where so I wandered around the lake looking for margin features. The pit is quite deep, averaging 8 feet with the deepest parts being 12 to 14 feet. The north side of the pit had the deepest margins plus, I guessed, it would perhaps be the most likely place to find the carp and tench, given that, when we got that rare glimpse of sun, that is where it would hit, warming up the water.

On my second wander around I chose a swim that had a large hawthorn bush leaning into the water next to it. Under the bush, the water was 6 feet deep, an ideal starting spot. The banks were grassy and the little swims tidy, I guessed the water had been virtually unfished since last autumn. After two trips round with my gear I found the first problem. A pair of swans that I remembered from my November trip had four cygnets then, now there were just the two adults but they were very possessive of their lake and followed me around, the cob with head and neck back and wings raised. I just waited for him to get near and then barked at him, if swans could show confusion that what he showed and he sauntered back to his missus, probably telling her how brave he had been, he never came near again on that session though.

Due to the relatively small size of my carp quarry and the lack of snags I scaled right down to 8lb mainline and size 8 barbless hooks. I wanted to catch some of the large tench as well so this was a compromise given that if I hooked a good carp I would need some reserve power to steer it from danger. I flicked out a single hair-rigged liver boilie of 12mm with a three bait stringer, to avoid tangles, by the edge of the bush and felt it fall down, swinging right under the bush, feeling the lead touch down on the gravel shelf with a thud. The line was set slack but I did use a swinger type butt indicator with virtually no weight on it. I wanted all to be slack and easy. Over the top I threw in four handfuls of oily trout pellets but no more boilies. The other rod I cast to open water a couple of rodlengths out on the same set up, so it landed in 12 foot of water at the bottom of the marginal shelf.

As dusk fell the rain began to fall, soon after turning to heavy drizzle. It was at least mild, superb for some carp and tench. With all set up I sat back on my bedchair and found the next problem, the legs of the bedchair disappeared 10 inches into the soft ground like a knife through butter. The banks may have been grassy but the incessant rain over the last 6 months had made the earth very soft. As I pulled the bedchair out of its trap two of the rubber feet stayed deep under ground. In the darkness I had to dig holes with a bank stick to retrieve them. Digging around in my rucksack I found two plastic mud feet from an old chair I used to have, these did a partial job for two legs, hunting around I found two bits of wood to put under the other two legs and at last, covered in mud, I settled down again under the shelter.
As the evening drew on, the drizzle increased but I received several line bites on both rods. Then fish rolled right over the baited areas, the trout pellets were working, it was, at last, looking good.

Next week Ill tell you about the fun and games of the rest of the session and a guide of how to extract a car from deep mud!

Have fun!